Tiny House, Tiny Living, The Tiny Life.

My First Winter In A Tiny House

After getting back from Croatia I’ve been learning a good bit about living in my tiny house in the winter.  This December in Charlotte has been breaking records left and right for how cold it has been.  Most mornings when I wake up it’s been in the 20’s which is very cold for this time of year.

The real issue for me has been right now I’m running off a generator and propane heater for my heat.  Soon my solar panels will be installed and I can shift to my mini split.  The generator has been working well, but because of how energy intensive the heater is and how cold it is, a full tank will only last about 3-4 hours.  The propane heater works great too, a 1 lb propane tank will last about three hours.

My strategy has been mainly to heat the house up for about an hour while I get ready for bed and then shut things off.  With the propane heater, its a “catalytic” heater that while is technically a flame, it is more efficient and doesn’t use up as much oxygen as a open flame would.  I don’t want to leave it running when I sleep because of it being a flame and also the danger of low oxygen.  The heater has a low oxygen detector that will shut it off if it comes to that, but I don’t want to chance it regardless.  Once I fall asleep, I’m fine until I wake up anyway.

One thing that I’ve learned is that the floor is always cold.  Being on a trailer there is obviously an air gap below the trailer.  I know a lot of people have used skirts for their house, but I’m not a fan of the look and its not windy in my location, so I’m not sure how effective it would be.  It may come to be installing a skirt of a sort, but I think I’d like to start with trying an area rug.  I think this might be an easy way because I noticed that when I stepped on a piece of cardboard that I happened to have on the floor, it seemed to do a pretty good job of feeling warm on my bare feet.

So far it’s been a pretty cold winter in my tiny house.  That’s about to change.

Very soon a solar panel system is going in that will change my heating situation drastically.  I will have a huge battery bank that will let me run my mini split and keep my space heated and on a timer, without the danger of an open flame or running the generator.  The timer will be really helpful because I can drop the temperature when I’m asleep nestled under my covers, but then ramp back up right before I wake up and have to get out of bed.  I’ll also be able to set it to maintain a minimum temperature, which will be nice because I can keep it a reasonable temperature, but not draw a ton of power.

The other thing I’ve noticed is since its been so cold outside, I’ve been inside my house more and wanting to go outside.  Nothing really bad, but I’ve been so used to be going for long walks and just enjoying the weather since its so much warmer in Croatia, right now its a little too cold to just spend time outside.  I have been spending some time at the gym, at cafes and I also went out and bought an outdoor fire place to have a fire pit at my tiny house.  All of these have been great for handling this need to get up and do something.  I think this will subside when I get power setup because I can then get internet hooked up and set up my desk.  That will help a lot.

A Cabin In Six Days

There is perhaps nothing better than a simple cabin tucked away in the woods. That is not true. There is nothing better than a simple cabin tucked away in the woods, built by hand in less than one pay period at a corporate job, and large enough to satisfy the desires of those that live within it. The Six Day Cabin – like the Baubit Mini Cabin before it – is one of those cabins. Build by a set of friends who in the fall of this year ditched their cramped conditions in New York City, Chicago, and Raleigh, to meet just outside of Portland, Oregon, the Six Day Cabin was, in fact, built in just six days so these buddies could give up the rat race if even for a few days and trade in their laptops for hammers and mouses for nails.

In only six days a group of four twenty-somethings manage to turn a week of vacation time into a 200 sq.ft. cabin. By the numbers the project took 40 working hours, 264 – 2x4s, and about $6,065.62 in materials (excluding the land). The group leader is a builder by trade so he had the right experience. The others? Not so much. A group of young, corporate types, they are self-described “novices.” But where there is a will there is a way and these fellas wanted to “use our hands for something other than tapping away at a keyboard or smartphone; to be directly responsible for building a place that we can enjoy together in the coming years; to use vacation for creation rather than escape; and, above all, to learn something new.”

1

2

3

There is nothing inherently special about the cabin. It is a square living space with no visible plumbing or electric. It features a sleeping loft and not much else. But in the case of this project it seems that some of the lessons the guys learned are even more important than their finished project.

In building (as in anything) mistakes are inevitable, and most can be fixed!

The team – at one point or another – managed to make quite a few mistakes. They bought the wrong lumber from Home Depot. They hammered nails crooked. One of them even fell from a stepladder. They did danced with their reciprocating saw. They measured improperly for door and window cutouts. And these are just the ones they mention on their website. The remarkable thing is that after every mishap the builder of the group, William, would show how to fix the mistake and then tell a story of how he had seen the same mistake before and assured the team they wouldn’t be the last to make it.

Cut

Behind any finished product are dozens of provisional steps no one will ever see.

A foundation and framing are carefully measured, cut, plumbed, leveled, etc. only to be hidden with sheathing and a roof. You put an entire sheet of plywood up where you will eventually carve out a door. Roofing felt is laid down only to be covered by shingles and hidden forever. But in true fashion sometimes creation rises out of destruction.

4

6

7

 A shared goal, even briefly held, can deepen long-term friendships.

The build team all agrees that while friends may hang out regularly or go out to dinner or go to a party there is something inherently different about a shared goal. While best buddies may have years’ worth of stories to tell and experiences in common they all too often become “normal” and less than spectacular. But when you are mutually invested in a project with a singular goal there is an intimacy that is built and a bond that is made.

8

9

10

Your Turn!

  • Have you ever built something with your best friends?
  • Do you long for a place of your own where only nature surrounds you?

 

Via

The Next Housing Crunch May Be Here Sooner Than We Thought

One of the big questions when it came to tiny houses was “is this just a fad because of the recession of 2008?”   Now that we are out of the slump and down the road to recovery we are able to see that it is certainly not a passing trend.  If it was because of the recession, we’d see a slump in metrics, but in the past year the traffic on The Tiny Life has doubled, houses are being built at an ever increasing rate, and media attention has been strong.

One thing in the back of my mind during the whole recession is will we learn our lesson?  While there lies much blame with banks, lenders and Wall Street, the collective population also played their part.  In the end, I don’t think Americans in general have learned much, their actions tell a story that isn’t much different from life leading up to 2008.  I think if you’re reading this blog, you’ve woken up from the “American Dream” to find a nightmare; you get that we need to make changes and by living tiny, you’re taking significant steps to that end.

In the past few months I’ve been following a large number of stories pointing to another recession coming sooner than we expected.  The most recent I saw was this article.  Places like Forbes, Bloomberg, and other big names have spelt out why they think we’ll see a downturn soon.  Estimates range from end of 2015 to early 2017.  Reasons are varied, but all seem to point to the same thing: recession.

Now I’m not going to claim that there will be a recession sometime soon, obviously at some point there will be another, but I think the message is still the same: we know there will be ups and downs in life, how can we best setup our lives to make the journey smoother and less likely to get ourselves into a bad situation?

Hope for the bestPrepare for the worst

With wages stagnating, costs rising, wage gaps ever increasing, wealth concentrating into a scant few bank accounts and our economy being based on an ever increasing capital despite living on a finite planet, something has got to give.   We see these forces in play and know that they aren’t sustainable, we know they will catch up to us at some point.

So far in this life of mine I’ve discovered a few truths:

  1. Building in resiliency in your life will help you today, but also in bad times
  2. Peace of mind is something that is invaluable
  3. The more control we have over our life, our money, our decisions, and our time the better

So what can we do to prepare for a potential slump? 

1. Get into your tiny house

2. Get out of debt

3. Consider your employment, how stable would it be in a downturn and what can you do now to build your network

4. Can you make the jump to solar, partial food production, or other self sustaining practices

5. Can you put away more money for the rainy day we know is coming

 

Your Turn!

  • What are you doing to prepare for the next slump?
  • How are you becoming more resilient or self sufficient?

Paul’s Wofati: the 2nd winter

On November 2, 2013 we first talked about Paul’s Wofati and its permaculture design and building standards. But who is Paul?

Paul Wheaton is a contemporary permaculture theorist, master gardener, software engineer, and disciple of natural agriculturist Sepp Holzer. Geoff Lawton has called Paul Wheaton “The Duke of Permaculture” for being known as the founder of websites forums, articles,videos and podcasts such as Permies.com which is believed to be the largest website devoted to permaculture. And that is where the Wofati was found.

So is this house a log cabin? Is it a turf shed? Is it a earth berm? And why all the trees scattered about? Just imagine living in something that looks like a log cabin from the inside, but:

  • it has more light
  • it doesn’t need heat or A/C
  • it is three times faster to build
  • it costs about five times less

In the fall of 1970, Mike Oehler lived in a run down shack and constantly struggled to stay warm. During the winter he spent an enormous amount of time crafting better designs and calculating heat efficiency. He also had a goal of keeping material costs low. That next spring he did just that and built a home in 1971 for just $50. The initial home was just 120 sq.ft.  (one of the only existing photos of that first build is shown below, taken with natural light)

1980house

Mike’s design – which heavily influences Paul Wheaton – eliminates many of the complexities of conventional, sticks ‘n bricks construction. Basically, Mike’s design is a pole structure with a green roof. A green roof is usally more expensive than a conventional roof, but, if you can follow one simple design principle, you can dramatically cut the costs of the whole structure! The one simple design principle is:

Every drop of rain must always have a complete downhill soil path. Encountering the edge of the roof is not okay.

Last we left the Wofati at Wheaton Laboratories it was being framed out using just natural logs.

IMG_20131005_133653

 

Since then quite a bit of work has been done including bringing up dirt to the top of the house, cobbing up gaps in the logs, building out a kitchen and main living space, and adding the green roof.

Wofati Top

Wofati Cobbing

Wofati kitchen

At the current time the owners/builders of the home are living in it in Missoula, Montana and documenting interior (and some exterior) temps over the winter. They are living without a centralized heat source but rather a localized heater combined with the body heat of three adults and heat “storage” from the actual home. The dialogue around this method is intense and can be found over at permies.com.  The build will continue after winter and more photos will be added. Stay tuned for a third update as information becomes available.

Your Turn!

  • Have you experienced permaculture first hand?
  • Would you live in a berm-style home?

Via

 

Building A Capsule Wardrobe

cap·sule

noun \ˈkap-sÉ™l, -(ËŒ)sül also -ËŒsyül\   ::  an extremely brief condensation

The notion of capsule wardrobes has become a bit of a fad in recent months. In fact, for the last two years a number of lifestyle blogs, periodicals, and style eZines have covered the topic. And while it may seem like a rabbit hole topic for a tiny house blog it is actually an important micro-conversation for the tiny house set. The main idea is this. Instead of having a walk-in closet or some enormous array of closets, bins, baskets, boxes, and storage containers, constantly adding new pieces of clothing and rarely discarding old, you pick practical pieces that make you look good, make you feel good, and are well made.Capsule Closet

Then you rotate in a few select “seasonal” pieces that jazz up the standards and thereby create a “capsule” of clothing with which to take on the world in. When autumn (also known as pumpkin spice latte season) arrives and summer is but a distant memory you put away the pastel polos, the sun dresses, and anything in white, and add in a good scarf, a favorite sweater, and perhaps a pair of leggings. This way you are minimizing your regular spending and teaching yourself to shop your own closet.

When considering life in a tiny house capsule wardrobes just make sense. Mostly because you are dealing with very limited closet and clothing storage space but also because one of the largest reasons for moving into a tiny house is to have less of a carbon footprint, learn to love what you have, and create a larger understanding of ethically made products. Far too many Americans prefer to fall back on retail therapy or spend a hard-earned paycheck each Friday night on cheap, trendy clothing from some chain retail outlet instead of searching out regionally made, well tailored, quality wardrobe pieces.

Buy less, choose well

~ Vivienne Westwood

One of the earliest capsule training regimens was the brainchild of minimalist blogger Courtney Carver. Carver is a wife, a mother, an author, a photographer, and an inspiration to many. With her website bemorewithless and her Project 333 she has taught countless consumers to simplify life and really start living.

Capsule Wardrobe Layout

Project 333 is aptly named as it is makes consumers focus on creating a capsule wardrobe for 3 months consisting of just 33 pieces. This capsule does not include under garments or workout attire (within reasonable parameters) but does not include scarves, jewelry, neck ties, belts, etc. Each participant is recommended to shoot for having 4 capsules by the end of the project; one for each season. Items overlap the capsules. Courtney herself says that she only uses “one small side of my closet, whenever I am creating a new collection, I hang the pieces that I know I will keep on one side, and the maybe’s on the other. If the maybes aren’t put into the mix, out the door they go.”

Her initial capsule included:

1 Sunglasses
1 Purse
1 Laptop/Camera Bag
2 Dresses
2 Skirts
1 Jeans
2 Shorts/Capri
1 Dress pants
2 Light Sweaters
2 Blazers
2 Tanks
1 Button Down Shirt
5 Shirts
1 Sweatshirt
4 Shoes
1 Trench Coat
2 Bracelets
1 Necklace
1 Scarf
__________
33 Total Items

Carver then spent a few weeks determining which pieces would fill the aforementioned slots. What sunglasses would she keep? What shoes would give her the most flexibility while also giving her the most comfort and support? And which scarf would she hold on to? Would it be warm enough on cold days but light enough for merely windy ones? Before she knew it she had turned her generalities into specifics and her closet included pieces such as an emerald green open cardigan, a blue V-neck short sleeved shirt, purple heels, and a necklace her sister gave her.

Your Turn!

  • What pieces would be in your capsule wardrobe?
  • Have you seriously considered revamping your day-to-day clothing?

 

Via