Posts Tagged Design

Setting Up Your Land To Start A Homestead

When you’re just starting out and setting up your homestead there are a lot of things that you need to think about.  We all have big aspirations of what we want to do on our land, but there is a lot of work that needs to go into it all before we can really do anything.

land to homestead

In some cases we are coming into a piece of property, or our property that we already live on has certain elements, layouts or assets that we need to work with or around.  While I am always looking to capitalize on what I already have in place, I’m also not afraid to make changes or remove something if it doesn’t work in the way I need it to.

Get A Plan In Place

When it comes to setting up your land, I always ask myself a few key questions:

  • What is the land telling me?
  • What are the very specific things I want to do on the land?
  • What are the workflows that are going to happen on the land?
  • How can I reduce effort, improve ergonomics, and make it more efficient?
  • How can I design it to be flexible?

These are some really important questions to ask yourself because if we are just starting out, we can nail these few considerations and make our lives easier, our design will work for us, we will have less frustrations, and we can prevent burnout or injuries.

What Is The Land Telling Me?

take time to listen to the landWhen it comes to setting up land or starting on a new piece of property we need to make some observations before we begin.  If you have the chance, try to live on the land for a year before committing a lot of time or money.  It also gives us time to take a bunch of soil samples and get them analyzed.  That isn’t always possible, but if you can manage it, it’s well worth your time.

By taking the time to see how each season works with the land you’ll understand it’s character.  You’ll learn where the warm sunny spots are and where cold air settles in low spots. You’ll learn where water pools in the rainy season, where it soaks into the ground well and other areas that it just seems to sit on the surface for a long time.  All these things tell you how the land naturally behaves and it’s our job to work with that, not against it.

Two things I’ll do on a new property is in the cooler months, go walking in shorts despite the cold.  This let’s me sense with my legs what parts are warmer or colder than others.  If it starts to rain a whole lot, I’ll put on a rain jacket and go out walking; looking for how the water flows on the land, where it pools, where it gets boggy.  All these things are helpful in your planning.

What Are You Going To Do On The Land?

writing in notebookBefore we even begin to plan what our homestead is going to be like, we need to know what we are going to do on that land.  We can’t figure out a direction to walk if we don’t even know where we are going!  Take the time to be honest about you and your life.  If you’re going to homestead and work a full time job, what can you honestly dedicate to your farmstead when you’re pulling 40 or 50 hours a week?

Plan for your worst day, not your best day.  When you’re tired from work, it’s raining out and very cold in January, what do you want your life on that land to be like on that day where you want to do nothing?  If you plan for that, every other day will be a pleasure and it will make it viable for the long term.

When I was planning my future homestead I realized that a lot of what I thought I wanted to do just didn’t fit with my lifestyle.  I wanted to travel some, not have to wake up at the crack of dawn, and have a place that I could easily keep up so I could relax sometimes.  This meant certain things were ruled out and other things became more realistic.  What life do you want to lead on that land?

What Are The Workflows?

If we are planning to homestead, we are the kinds of people that don’t shy away from hard work, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be smart about our work either.  I started out with a list of everything I wanted to do on my homestead and then broke each one down into that activities and actions that needed to take place for those things to happen.

feeding chickens

We want to be super efficient and be smart about everything we do, because there is never enough time in the day and a little planning up front will pay off big on the back end.  So come up with your list and then start to envision in your mind how you’re going to do everything.  What are you doing, what do you need to do those things, where are you lifting, moving, pulling, pushing.  Play out these things in your mind to figure out how you’re going to do work on your stead.

Reduce Effort, Improve Ergonomics, and Make it More Efficient

We want to be smart about how we get things done on the farm. A really great primer to this way of thinking is 2 second lean principles, which we did a post on.  On our farm, we want to always be looking for ways to be better, work smart and reduce possibility of injury.

An example would be chickens.  Let’s say you want 5 birds in a chicken tractor, in my mind I’d play out a day in the life of taking care of them. I wake up at my normal time and get ready.  I walk out to the tractor, it’s raining outside so the ground is wet. I go to a bin in the garage to get their feed and fill their feeder which is clogged so I have to climb into the tractor, and I drag the hose across the yard to top of the waterer.  I reach into the nesting boxes to get any eggs and I move the tractor a few feet to fresh grass.

improvement on the land

So from this example I’d analyze what work happened and how I might make it better.  Starting out with it’s raining and the grass is wet (remember plan for your worst day) it would be really good if I had some farm boots to wear out to the coop so I don’t get my professional job shoes dirty and wet.  I needed to get some feed, where did that feed come from? Is there a way that I could back my truck right up to where I need to unload it?  Do I have to bend or lift things, is there a way I could reduce it or prevent injuries/strains?

Is there a way to locate the feed and water closer to the chickens?  I might consider if a mobile coop is worth it, or would a fixed coop allow me to run a water line to it and have a little storage area right there to keep feed in and back my truck bed right up to it?  If I have to get in the coop, maybe it’s better to make it 6 feet tall so I don’t have to stoop inside, and how can I set it up so I don’t have to go inside often and cleaning is a breeze?

golden comet chicken

Think through all these things, look for places where a tweak can save your from extra work, walking back and forth, repetitive tasks, or not having things right where you need them.  If we are starting from scratch, let’s make our lives easier!

A Flexible Design

When we are starting, out we are operating under a lot of assumptions and even with careful planning and experience, we may find that our plans need to change.  Being flexible is a huge part of being able to solve problems and as homesteaders at our core, we are good problem solvers.

If I’m spending time to build something, paying money to install something or other big decisions, I ask myself what if I had to move this, change it or expand it? If we ask these things we can think about the future and bring flexibility into our design.

be flexible with your plans

A real good example is running water lines for spigots.  When I ran mine I had the trencher rented for a day. That meant I could keep trenching to add more hydrants.  At that point adding 100 feet more of water line and putting in three more hydrants was very easy and pretty cheap.  Hydrants are $70 each and I can buy a 100 foot roll of pex for $40.  So I ran my water lines where I needed them, then added one in the back corner, one near where I could build another garden bed in the future, and one next to my driveway to wash my car.

Think about if you had to change things, move things and what happens if my plans don’t work.

Access Is Key

There are a few things I always look for when considering land and access is critical. The first step to getting the land to the point where you can live on it is simply being able to access it. This comes in the form of roads, driveways, turnarounds and parking pads.

Before you even think about laying down the road, you must first clear the way, remove trees, level the dirt and make your path to your new home. You have a couple of options: gravel, cement, and asphalt. Gravel is the most economical and I’ve found if you know how to build a gravel drive properly it can last for a long time.

road access to land is important

Always go bigger than you think you need. You want to make sure that you can easily fit a dump truck, cement truck or trailer and have good places to park and turn around for the bigger vehicles and trailers.  I would also clear 4 to 5 feet on either side of the driveway and grade it somewhat. When you open up the woods you’ll find that trees start to push into the opening as they make a bid for sunlight, this will give you a buffer so you don’t instantly need to start cutting it back.  I give myself this buffer so I can just run a bush hog down either side and make quick work of it.

If you can get your water, sewer, internet, phone and power installed before you put down your final grade of gravel, you’ll save yourself a lot of work in many cases.  I’ve had it where the power company came in and said they would put in the line for free, but they needed to trench right down the middle of the drive.  If you allow 4-5 feet on either side, you can give yourself room to trench utilities into the property without tearing up your road and make it easier when repairs are needed.  I always try to put my sewer on one side of the road and drinking water on the other. For power lines if buried, I try to put power on one side of the road and data/phone on the other so there is no EM interference.

Here is a video of the installation of my road, turnaround and parking pad. Note I had a much easier time because there used to be an old dirt road in this location, so it was simply a matter of cleaning it up and leveling it out. The whole process took about 6 hours of hard work.

Infrastructure

There are a few things that are critical to actually making a piece of land or a home viable, this all comes down to installing critical infrastructure right off the bat and doing it the right way.  This is one of those things that doing it half measured is not going to cut it.  The saying is “buy one, cry once” and when it comes to getting your infrastructure in, this couldn’t be truer.

Water

No matter what you’re going to do or how you’re doing it, you need to have a very reliable, high quality water source that brings it right to where you need it.  I have seen people who tried to save a few bucks, had a water truck deliver water to them, do water catchment, try something alternative or temporary and it never works out.  If you can get tied into a municipal water line or have a good well dug for you, I’d save up for it or skip that land.  Water is life and you can’t compromise on it, you’ll just end up frustrated, broke, and doing it the right way like you should have the first time.

water connection

For water I am connected to the city water. The meter and installation cost me $2,200 (city sets price), but that is only from the water main to the closest edge of your property. You then need to connect it from there to your house, which, for me, was $700 for materials, $800 for ditch witch rental, and $1500 for a plumber to do all the connections, fittings and other tasks.  For running water lines; once you have your main connections you can do most of the work yourself and it isn’t too difficult if you’re willing to work hard.  I used PEX water line and ring crimps, buried below the frost line and frost proof hydrants for hose connections.

While you have your trencher, go ahead and future proof your system, put in a few extra connections, make sure you bury everything below the frost line and I’d recommend not using PVC or Poly Tube; go with PEX, it’s much more durable and cheap too!

Power

Having power is another major consideration you need to make.  In some cases getting tied into grid power can be expensive. Other times they will run the power line for free.  This is one of those things that I’d save up for and do it right the first time.  I currently live off the grid with my power, getting it only from my solar panels, but there are times where a grid connection would be nice.

tiny house solar panels

Heating (air, stove/oven, water heater)  and cooling take around 60%-80% of a home’s power consumption, the rest is all pretty easy.  If you’re going more off grid, starting out smaller is better and making sure your system can scale.  Check out my post on how I set up solar for my home here.

Since we are on a homestead consider if you need certain special hook ups like a 220 volt outlet for a welder, a 50 amp plug for a tiny house or camper, or running power to different parts of the yard where you need it.  Again, when you’re trenching it’s often just a little extra work and a few hundred dollars to add extra hook ups.  When I trench for power I try to put it on the edges and go a little deeper so I don’t have to worry about hitting the line with a tiller.

Places to consider to run power are: to your outbuildings or workshops for tools, finding things in storage or for those late nights of work.  I’ll also make sure I have lighting to illuminate areas I have animals really well; in case a predator is lurking I can flip on some really bright lights to spot them quickly.  In some cases it’s good to have power near the pens and paddocks so you can power a waterer to stop from freezing, a power washer for cleaning or corded tools for repairs.

I’ll also light areas for my infrastructure: a well, septic pumps, driveways, and other areas that if something breaks down I can flip on a good light to see what I’m doing while I fix it. Additionally consider some motion detection lights so that if someone wanders on to your property it will light them up and keep thieves at bay.

All these things can be done more easily ahead of time with some planning and for a cheaper cost since you already have trenchers or trades people on site.

Sewage

There are a few ways to handle this, it mainly depends on your local laws, so be sure to check with your township on what the rules are.  For many it will either be a septic or city connection.  In some cases you may be using a composting toilet or even an outhouse; these are often subject to local laws so make sure you know what you can and cannot do.

Internet/Phone

internet on the homesteadWhile this may not be at the top of musts for most people I like to include it here because often when you’re setting up everything else, it’s a good time to get this setup as well.  Having a connection to the outside world will allow you to set up security cameras to keep an eye on things while you’re away, or may allow you to work from home or remotely for better job opportunities.  Your homestead may start selling things and online order, customer emails/call and website stuff are easier when you have a connection.  Finally in many rural areas cell phone signal isn’t great, so being able to watch a YouTube video or call for help is a consideration.

Outbuildings, Animal Shelters And Storage

With any property you’ll need a place to put things, store things, or covered areas to work on things that you don’t want inside your house.  For me I have a place to keep all my tools, gardening supplies, lumber and things I need to work the land.  If you have animals, they’ll need housing appropriate to them. You’ll need storage for feed and hay, and other things to raise those animals.

If you have equipment like lawn mowers, tractors, generators etc you want to make sure those can be kept out of the elements. These expensive pieces of equipment can be made to last a lot longer if they aren’t subjected to the rain or snow.

Fencing

One major cost that people don’t anticipate is fencing.  If you have a large property a good fence around the perimeter is a large cost even if you do it yourself.  I try to get my fencing setup so I can run a bush hog or mower on either side of it while still being on my property.  This will make maintenance easier, define your property line, and allow you to walk or ride along it regularly to make sure no breaks have happened.

fencing your land

So those are some things you need to consider when it comes to setting up your land for a farm, a homestead, or a tiny house.  Keep our basic tenants of learning from the land, having a solid plan, focusing on work flow and staying flexible and you’ll have a great piece of land that will work for you.

Your Turn!

  • What are you plans for starting a garden, farm, or homestead on some land?
  • What have you learned at tips and trick when setting up your land?

New Design Guide: Planning Your Tiny House

Over the years I’ve learned a lot of tips and tricks to designing tiny houses – things that can make a house feel like home, common mistakes to avoid and making the build process smooth sailing.

I’ve finally put together all this wisdom into a single guide to help you figure out exactly what you need in your home, how to place the elements and not forget critical things.  I’ve written this guide to help you design the perfect tiny house or small home.

tiny house desing and layout

Design your perfect tiny house with this in-depth planning guide. This step by step guide shows you how to determine your needs, develop a successful design and refine it to perfection. Included is our floor plan kit which has windows, doors, appliances, furniture and much more for you arrange into your dream home.

Check out the details at our store, click here

 

 

 

 

Ten Things I Keep Outside Of My Tiny House

When it comes to living in such a small space or living a minimalist life, it’s very important to think about your possessions.  Minimalism doesn’t inherently mean not having stuff, it’s about being intentional with the things I do have.  Part of that is recognizing that there are things I will own that don’t have a place in the home, or shouldn’t be in the house even if I have the space.

These are items that you need, but don’t use much.  They could be things you need keep separate from your main space to maintain a balance in your life.  These are things that I want access to, but don’t want to see.  So here is a list of 10 things I own, but don’t keep in my house.

1. Internet

Ten things to keep out of a tiny home: Internet

This seems crazy, even to me. Those that know me know that I’m a unapologetic nerd.  The internet is an amazing thing, filled with interesting, informative and hilarious stuff.  But, I don’t have internet in my house.  This affords me a work life separation.  The truth is I love my work, it’s amazing.  I just love working and therein lies the problem.  When I go to work I am almost always hyper focused, a tad intense and get sucked into the work in a very big way.  Not having internet lets me disconnect and take a break.

2. Bulk Storage

I always like to keep a year’s worth of every day items on hand. I store these items in my enclosed trailer that I setup like a storage building, things like shampoo, TP, propane, batteries, etc. It is an odd habit I started a while back when I decided to try an experiment and track everything that I used for an entire year.  Whenever I run out of something, I have another on hand. I buy a replacement and put the newest at the back, grabbing from the front, which is the oldest.  What I’ve found is that after an initial stocking, it doesn’t cost you anymore to have.  I find this helpful because I’m never out of anything and when life gets crazy, I can focus on the task at hand, not the fact that I ran out of TP and suddenly need to go to the store.

3. Composting Toilet

Ten things to keep out of a tiny home: Composting toiletThis is another odd one, that I think I’m alone on (maybe?).  When I first moved into my tiny house, I was trying to figure out tile for my bathroom, so I just put the composting toilet (bucket) outside.  It’s been two years now and I think I actually prefer to have it outside.  I live on a large plot of land, so none of my neighbors can see my house.  As a result, I just put my bucket where there is a really nice view.  I don’t ever have to worry about smells, flies or the like, plus I have extra space in the house where the toilet would have gone.  I’ve gotten so used to it, that I can climb down my ladder, go outside and then get back in bed without really waking up.

4. Work Materials & Home Office

Being self employed meant that for a long time, I didn’t have an office.  I used to work from home and venture out to various coffee shops.   That changed about a year ago when I opened my coworking space and splurged by giving myself my very own office space.

Ten things to keep out of a tiny home: Work materials

I still operate out of my backpack for most things, but I now have a place to keep a few books and an extra computer. I keep items for the Tiny House Conference in the office storage space.  I think the best thing I like about having an office space outside of my house is that I now have a white board. There’s something about laying out strategy on a whiteboard that I love.

5. Laundry

Ten things to keep out of a tiny home: Laundry

You all know this about me, I hate folding laundry with a fiery passion.  I long ago decided that I was going to have a laundry service here in Charlotte called 2ULaundry come and handle my laundry.  For about $15 bucks a week, someone comes to pick it up, wash/dry/fold, then brings it back.  The best money I’ve spent all year.

6. Tools

This is an obvious one, you don’t want to drag all the sawdust into your house, but I thought it was worth mentioning.  I keep an enclosed cargo trailer for things I want to own, but not keep in the house.  My power tools from building my tiny house take up a good bit of room. I like to do small projects, fixing things and I don’t want the mess inside the house.

7. Camping Gear

When it comes to camping gear, I’ve been very careful to keep food smell away from them. When you cook in a tiny house, the whole house fills with the delicious scents of your cooking. That’s fine for cooking, but you don’t want your camping gear smelling like garlic chicken or soup. For that reason, I keep all my gear in plastic containers in the cargo trailer.

8. People I don’t want to host

Ten things to keep out of a tiny home: Ungrateful people

It’s the ultimate excuse, “Oh sorry, my house is too small. Guess we’ll have to have it somewhere else…”  It means I don’t have to deal with having people over unless its a really small group of close friends that I really like.

9. Living Space (some of it)

Part of living in a small space is extending your living room to the world outside.  Right when you walk out of my house, I have an outdoor living area complete with tables, chairs, fire pit, grill, pizza oven and much more.  When the weather is nice, I’m outside.  Beyond that I extend my need for a guest bedroom to a local hotel, my dining room is at the best restaurant in town, and other needs to the best that my city has to offer.

10. Formal wear

I wear a suit once every couple years, which means that instead of owning and storing a suit, I just rent one.  The best part is that it always fits me well because they size it for you, plus I can match the formality of the event I’m going to.  It also means I don’t have to worry about storing it or cleaning it because they take care of it.  For women, they have online dress rental services where you can find lots of options in style that you can rent that are pretty affordable.

Your Turn!

  • What things are you thinking about keeping outside your house?
  • What things are you going to outsource?

Ryan’s Tiny House Kitchen

It’s been a long time since I’ve done an update on my house, I had my kitchen done a long time ago, but never really took any photos.  So today I wanted to share some of those photos and the design that went into my kitchen.

tiny-house-kitchen-8

I started by putting together a Pinterest board of ideas I liked (I’ve since deleted it).  This let me consider features I wanted to bake into my design. I also narrowed down my color scheme for the tiny house interior.  I have such a hard time choosing colors so this was a big hurdle for me.

I then got into the design:

tiny-house-kitchen-layout

Some renderings before hand (note the colors aren’t correct here):

tiny-house-kitchen-rendering

With this rendering you can see the main cabinet which will house the sink, the hot water heater and it has this pull out storage bin which was designed for cans.

tiny-house-kitchen-cabinet

This is the main storage cabinet which allows me to keep pots, pans, food below.  I custom designed the top drawers for utensils and spices.

The whole thing came together like this:

tiny-house-kitchen-1

tiny-house-kitchen-7

tiny-house-kitchen-4

tiny-house-kitchen-3

tiny-house-kitchen-2

tiny-house-kitchen-10

tiny-house-kitchen-11

tiny-house-kitchen-12

tiny-hous-kitchen-13

tiny-house-kitchen-14

Your Turn!

  • What features do you want in your tiny house kitchen?

 

Determining The Needs Of Your Space

Understanding what you do in your home and work is an important step to designing any space for the perfect place for you.  The greatest thing about living The Tiny Life is that you get to design your space and your life from the ground up.  Today we’re going to focus on our physical space and what need in a built environment that sets the stage for our best life.

Determining

In some cases understanding your needs will show you that all you need to do is tweak a few things in the space you’re already in.  It may be the case that more drastic changes or starting from scratch may be required.  You may also be looking towards building a new space anyway so it’s time to consider what that design will be.  It’s important to understand that to live The Tiny Life, you don’t necessarily need to live in a tiny house and what you have right now may be adapted.

room-trackingThe first step in understanding what your space needs to have in it, you need to understand how you actually use it already.  We often have ideas of what we would do if… or if only I had ____ I do more of this one thing.  It can be easy to fall into the trap of future planning so let’s focus on what you do right now.

To do this I use my Room Tracking method: to start, gather a bunch of pens and some post-it notes.    Go around to each of your rooms in your house or apartment and close every door.  Put a post-it note on the door and a pen on top of the door frame of each door.  When you go into a room, write down what you are going into that room for and estimate how long it will take.  On your front door (or your main door) put a post it note on it and write things down that you leave your house to do with time estimates.  Do this for a week.

This will create a comprehensive list of what you actually do in your home, not just what you think you do in your home.  You can even re-purpose this exercise for your work space.  Take all the post-it notes and combine them into a list.

I put together this free worksheet to help, click here.

Once you’ve compiled a list of what you do and how long you do it, start estimating the amount of space you’ll need to do that one thing.  You can even rank your activities by which you do the longest and ask yourself, “Are the things I spend the most time on the most important to me?” Just think about that.

What can you outsource?

With your list consider things that could happen outside the home.  A gym membership is one example.  Instead of having a home gym, would a gym work just as well or even better?  Or if you haven’t stepped foot in your home gym in several months, do you even need it at all?  For me I realized while I was effective at working from home, it was lonely; so I started working at a coworking space.

What things can you cut out all together?

I realized that I really didn’t read a book twice, so keeping books was often a waste of space. So, I replaced my bookshelf with a kindle.  I did keep about 10 books that were more reference books, but the rest went.

What things can pull double duty?

Think about things that are on your list that can happen in a single area or what things are important enough to have a dedicated space.  For me I knew I wanted a work space that was just for work, but my living room could serve as a place to read, to watch TV, to hang out with friends, and to setup a table for meals.

Whittling down the list

Consider the above questions and think critically about what you really do need.  Avoid what you “hope” to do, but focus on what you actually do.  With this you can come up with a solid list of activities that can help you design your space more effectively.

Your Turn!

  • What was your most important activity in your house?
  • What other tricks have you used to determine your true needs?