Posts Tagged Tiny Home

Design Inspirations For The Perfect Tiny House On Wheels

Design Inspirations For The Perfect Tiny House On Wheels

Looking forward to building your own tiny house on wheels? Before you ever start build your tiny house, the first step is to figure out the perfect design for you!  Here are inspirations for your future tiny house design.

Tiny House Models You’ll Love

The outside of your tiny house is almost as important the inside.  One of the reasons tiny houses have been so successful is that they pay attention to details.  The outside of a tiny house if often a modern aesthetic or a more traditional look, coming from the roof lines, window selections, color pallet and other important architectural features.

Click Here For Our How To Build A Tiny House Book!

 

Tiny House Storage Ideas

Storage is a big deal in a tiny house because you don’t have a lot of space.  It’s important to capitalize on every nook.  For storage in your tiny house make sure that you design the storage around what you need to store.  This begins with downsizing your possessions now so you know what to store later.

  • Use vertical space to maximize storage: extending the storage area up adds up
  • Have a home for everything:  Everything has a place and everything in its place
  • Capitalize on any empty spaces: under stairs is a great place to add storage
  • Use multi-function items to maximize the impact of an item in your tiny house
  • Ask yourself do you even need the item?  Less you have, the less you store

 

Click Here for our free tiny house plans including materials list and budget sheet!

 

Amazing Tiny House Kitchens

The kitchen is the hub of the house.  Nothing brings family and friends together like a good meal.  For your tiny house kitchen consider how much you like to cook, if you’re a master chef wannabe then it makes sense to build out a bigger kitchen.  If you manage to burn toast, then a kitchenette might be right for you.

  • Consider your favorite dishes and how they impact your kitchen setup
  • Even if you like to get fancy, keep a minimalist kitchen
  • Consider your stove heat source: gas, electric or induction burner
  • Choose your kitchen equipment and build your storage around that
  • Don’t forget to have a place for trash that’s out of the way
  • When it doubt, have a pantry that’s bigger than you think you’ll need

Click here to learn more about how to wire a tiny house the easy way!

Great Video Tours Of Tiny Houses

 

Here’s more from The Tiny Life

Tiny House PlansThe complete tiny house plan reviews, find the right one for you!

solar oven review guideEver wanted to find the best solar oven?  Here is our complete guide and reviews!

building codes and zoning for tiny houses

Click here to learn all about tiny house building codes!

Tiny House Building Codes: Top 5 Myths BUSTED

Tiny House Building Codes: Top 5 Myths BUSTED

It’s been a while since I did a post about how owners of tiny houses deal with building codes, but coding questions come up often. There’s more regulation on tiny houses and dwellings than you may think. In fact, understanding building codes, zoning, and regulation is one of the areas that really trip up new tiny homeowners when they first start out. So today I wanted to go over several of the questions and myths that arise with tiny house code compliance.

It seems there are a lot of tiny house building code misconceptions out there. Knowing how to navigate through the tiny house regulations and codes will help you avoid headaches later. So here are the top 5 myths about building codes, zoning, and tiny houses.

Busting Building Code Myths(1)

Tiny House Building Code Myth 1:

I don’t need a building permit if my tiny house is under ___ sq/ft.

This myth is true, but with caveats. Typically, if you’re building a structure under a certain square footage you don’t need to acquire a building permit. So do you need a permit to build a tiny house if it falls under that square footage? There’s a catch: the exception to the building permit rule is in the term “house.” When you want to dwell or live in the home it shifts from a tiny structure to a tiny house, and you run into building permit issues.

The second you place any personal property in your structure, your small house is classified as “dwelling.” Building regulations dictate it doesn’t matter if a dwelling is 10,000 square feet or 10 square feet, you need a permit to build a livable space. Tiny house laws by state vary, as do tiny house size requirements and limits…BUT if you plan to live in your house, you’re going to need a building permit.

Tiny House Building Code Myth 2:

My tiny home is an RV, mobile home or camper—No tiny dwelling code compliance is required!

Again, this tiny house myth is somewhat true… IF your tiny home is being built by a certified RV or mobile home manufacturer. It’s possible to live in a homemade trailer house, but to get around the building code compliance, you’ll need to become a certified manufacturer. To become a certified tiny home manufacturer, the certification will cost you several thousand dollars, require you get an LLC and go through a rigorous inspection process to ensure you meet all 500+ requirements.

So you can’t build a tiny homemade trailer house on wheels and say, “Look—I built an RV or mobile home.”  To top it off once your dwelling has passed inspection to classify as a certified RV or mobile home, you can often only park and reside in specifically zoned areas, which are fast disappearing. There is an exception: if your state has a “home-built RV” classification, but these are few and far between and more and more campgrounds and trailer parks refuse entry for home-built RVs. As you see, the answer is more complex than simply saying RVs and mobile homes “don’t count” when it comes to tiny home building codes.

Tiny House Building Code Myth 3:

I will say I’m “camping” if any issues come up.

This tiny house coding myth is once again, somewhat true. You could, in theory, get around any regulatory issues by saying you were camping (which is allowed in dwellings regardless of coding compliance—like lean-tos, tents and pop up shelters).

Where the camping excuse runs into problems, is when you realize most municipalities have very specific limits on how long you can camp. The limit is often between 2-30 days in one spot or parcel of land, if camping is allowed at all. Typically, it’s limited to designated campsites. For example, in the city I live in, you aren’t legally allowed to camp at all unless FEMA has declared a state of emergency. In certain cases, you may get around the camp restriction if you move your tiny home every few days, depending on the camping laws. Then again, the city could also say, “You’re not camping, you’re dwelling in your tiny house,” and you’d face a big problem.

Tiny House Building Code Myth 4:

“They can’t stop me from building my tiny house!  I’ll do what I want.”

In certain cities and states, you’re partially right. The question isn’t if they can or can’t stop you (they can). Your city inspectors won’t stop you unless your tiny house becomes a big public issue. If you don’t create too much buzz, or cause any complaints, they may turn a blind eye even if you don’t comply with building codes.

It’s important to note here that a city inspector holds all the power, if they decide they don’t want you in your tiny house, they can choose an array of legal justifications to enforce it.  The saying is you can’t fight town hall, because they’re the final say on all things.

But not complying is certainly a risk. The truth of the matter is, in most places they can stop you. The city inspectors will come through and condemn your tiny house. What condemnation means, is if you enter your house, you could legally get arrested for being in your own home!  The city regulators may also fine you for not complying with building codes. They may deny you utilities like they did to me (read about it here). In the worst cases, they may even run a bulldozer through your house to destroy it and tear it down. All of these actions they can legally do and have done.  Worst of all you have no recourse for these actions, especially if your tiny house isn’t up to code. If you decide to risk it, it’s still important to learn and understand coding and zoning laws for your specific area. Then, if someone does complain or issues arise, you’ll be familiar with your rights.

Tiny House Building Code Myth 5:

My tiny house is on wheels, so codes and zoning regulations don’t apply.

The idea that wheels mean your tiny house is exempt from codes and zoning regulations is a big myth perpetrated by those who want to earn a quick buck off selling pre-made homes and plans to tiny house people.

It’s true, wheels will help your tiny house comply with loopholes and certain regulations, generally because it confuses the bureaucrats. There’s little official regulation out there specific to tiny home zoning. Plus, wheels mean your tiny home is easier to move, so there’s always the possibility of working around the regulations. But the hard truth is, the second you dwell in a structure it becomes a home, and when it comes to homes, all bets are off and the city will do what they want.

So what’s a tiny homeowner (or potential owner) to do?!?

It’s frustrating when you realize there are few ways (if any) to legally live in a tiny home. Even if your tiny home passes inspection, chances are high it’s technically still not legal in the full language of the law.

So, what’s your best approach to live in a tiny house? Well, there are two approaches:  1) Beat the city at their own game and know how to leverage the codes, 2) Roll the dice and try to fly under the radar.

Each of these approaches to living the tiny life, have their pros and cons.  To get a better understanding of all aspects of building codes and tiny homes, I’ve created an eBook. This book will help you understand how to work within the system to gain legal status with your tiny house as much as possible. In the book, Cracking the Code: A Guide to Building Codes and Zoning for Tiny Houses, I’ll show you the key barriers faced by tiny house folks. I’ll offer possible solutions to overcome these common tiny house coding conundrums and issues.

In the book, I’ll also share with you a few strategies to help you beat the system. I’ll explain what you need to do if you choose to fly under the radar and how to live in your tiny house safely, without getting caught.

Whichever approach you choose to deal with the tiny house building code issues and regulations, both are covered in Cracking the Code: A Guide to Building Codes and Zoning for Tiny Houses. If you’re wondering how to understand codes and enjoy life in your tiny home hassle-free, you need this book!

Cracking the Code by Ryan Mitchell

 

 

27 Great Hobbies for Small Spaces & Minimalist Lifestyles (+ 7 Bonus Tips!)

27 Great Hobbies for Small Spaces & Minimalist Lifestyles (+ 7 Bonus Tips!)

Building a tiny house, downsizing, organizing and simplifying are all time-consuming projects. Over the last several years, my tiny house journey has consumed a big chunk of my free time and focus. However, everyone needs a hobby or two, even when living in a small space.

hobbies for small spaces

Of course, I can only speak for myself and I realize not everyone enjoys the same great hobbies I do. Fun hobbies for me might not be the same as fun hobbies for you. So, explore these simple hobbies for small spaces and apply them to your own taste.

If there was an activity you enjoyed before you moved toward a minimalist way of living, chances are, you’ll still enjoy it. The only problem you face is that…well, hobbies often take up a lot of space.

I’ve known people with entire rooms dedicated to crafts: studios for art, sound rooms for recording and game rooms for playing. In a small space, you can still enjoy fulfilling and entertaining activities. If you’re looking for great hobbies to fit minimalist lifestyles, you simply need to shift your approach to your pastime of choice.

So before I get to the list of hobbies, here’s how to make almost any hobby work in a small space.

How to Pursue Your Hobbies in Small Spaces: 7 Tips to Help

1. Stay Organized

First and foremost, one of the keys to hobby success is staying organized. A huge, overflowing and messy workspace won’t fit into a minimalist lifestyle or a small space. If you love paper crafts, organize supplies into a small binder. If your hobbies involve computers and electronics, keep cords and supplies neatly tucked into a container or bin.  Whatever your hobby, don’t neglect the organization of it.

2. Don’t Hold on to Leftovers

When you finish a project—a piece of art, a completed puzzle or a sewing project—don’t’ keep all the leftover scraps. Donate them, trade them or give them away. Use up only what you need for the project at hand. Storing extra bits takes up too much space. Besides, many of us forget about these items when we’re ready to start the next project.

3. Work on One Project and One Hobby at a Time

hobbies do them one at a time

If you love model building, RPGs and fly tying, you may need to focus on one hobby at a time. Depending on your storage capacity and time constraints, it makes sense to focus your efforts in one area. This is a different mentality from the “I’m bored, move to the next source of entertainment,” approach many of us are familiar with. Instead of multitasking, mindfully focus on the single project at hand.  This is what I’m trying to do this year, enjoy the hobbies I already have, not add new ones.

4. Scale Your Hobby to Your Space

Look at the hobby you love and scale it to your space. If you play an instrument, is there a smaller version you’d like to explore (guitar to ukulele or cello to violin)? If you enjoy woodworking, learning to carve and whittle give you a similar sense of satisfaction on a smaller scale?

5. Move Your Hobby Outdoors

geocaching as hobby

Depending on the climate, some great hobbies fit in very well outdoors. Taking your easel and paints outside, for example, could give you a new subject matter to explore and eliminate the stress and clutter of an indoor studio. Similarly, there are many great hobbies like birdwatching and geocaching that require time outside.

6. Share Your Finished Product

If you’re a creative person, share your finished project with others. Many people build models or paint large canvasses or design, with nowhere to store the finished project. If you’ve got a talent you want to share, consider donating your work once it’s completed. You could even set up an online store, but keep in mind, turning your hobby into a business may require even more time, space and energy.

7. Focus on the Core Value of the Hobby

If you’re looking for a satisfying hobby to pursue, consider the core value of what you already enjoy. For example, if you love to design and build, could you put those same skills to work by exploring culinary arts, making models or miniatures, or gardening? If you’re analytical, would you find puzzle games, escape rooms or web development interesting? Many hobbies use the same values and traits, in different applications.

The List: 27 Great Hobbies for Small Spaces

Ready to get started with a new pursuit? Again, not every hobby fits every personality or aptitude, but here are some ideas for great hobbies that fit well with minimalist lifestyles and small spaces.

1. Gardening

gardening on land

Gardening is one of the oldest hobbies. It’s extremely useful—growing plants and herbs for food or to beauty your home and yard. If you’re leasing property, you may not be able to plant a full garden (or if you’re living in a space without a yard). Fortunately, there are container gardens and even hydroponics that require very little space to produce a bounty. Start with a few plants on a windowsill and let your green thumb grow.

 

2. Stitching & Sewing

Similar to paper crafts, stitching and sewing are great hobbies that can also spiral out of control with supplies and projects. If you’re working on a textile craft in a small space, it’s important to stick to one project at a time, keep your supplies organized and only store what you need for the project at hand. When it comes down to it, needles, thread, yarn and felting tools don’t require a lot of space. It’s the yards of fabric and skeins of yarn that take over a space.

If you enjoy handicrafts and stitchery, consider embroidery, needle felting, tatting, and crochet, which use minimal supplies. Cross stitch is another fabric craft that doesn’t call for a lot of space. Tutorials on these projects are found on YouTube or Craftsy.

 

3. Culinary Arts

The world of culinary arts offers a wide hobby area to explore. While a small kitchen is a challenge, some chefs see it as an opportunity to really push themselves. The best part of cooking as a hobby is the end results are edible (and don’t require much storage). Hosting outdoor dinners to show off your creations is always an option if indoor entertaining doesn’t work for your space.

food dehydrator excalibur

Areas to explore are food preservation like canning, dehydration, and pickling. Bread baking is another popular small-space culinary pursuit. If the science of food fascinates you, explore nutrition or even molecular gastronomy.

4. Woodworking

Woodworking and carpentry becomes a passion for many who build and craft their own home. Once the work is complete, you may realize continuing carpentry requires many supplies and large-scale storage. Rather than give up the skills, consider shifting your focus to small-scale woodworking. Whittling and wood carving are great hobbies that don’t require much space. The results of a skilled woodcarver’s work are truly stunning.

5. Gaming

The world of gaming is huge and encompasses a vast number of interests. Not all games are perfect for minimalist lifestyles and small spaces, but many are. Role playing games (RPGs) require little more than a dice set and a group of friends. Board and card games are another excellent options. Check out the International Gamers Award winners, to find the best games. Chess is another great option for beginners.

Video games are another popular hobby. Most gaming units are relatively small, including handheld devices like the Nintendo Switch (which is a handheld and console unit) or the Sony PlayStation Vita. You can also get started playing video games on your phone or computer. Online gaming offers the option to play with others around the world, right from your own screen.

6. Writing

Writing is a fantastic minimalist hobby. As a blogger and writer, myself, I must admit it’s ideal for small spaces. You can write from anywhere—all you need is a laptop and an idea. Blogging, journaling, and creative writing are all great hobbies and getting started is easy!

writing notebook

If you’re living in a small, or minimalist space, you don’t need to give up your hobbies. With a few adjustments and modifications, you’ll enjoy plenty of great hobbies to fit your small-space lifestyle and help you relax and enjoy life.

7. Mindfulness Pursuits

Yoga, meditation, and spiritual exploration are excellent pursuits for small spaces. Many of these studies and practices help you explore your mind-body connection and learn to be present, connected and aware of your surroundings. Yet, most mindfulness pursuits require very little in the way of equipment or supplies.  You can start with a book or by following yoga tutorial videos. You may also want to download a mindfulness app, such as Headspace.

8. Ham Radio

Amateur or ham radio is a popular hobby that’s been around for many years. It’s a way to communicate with people around the world (English is the universal language of ham radio). Ham radio is also used for emergency communication, such as weather watching, so it’s a helpful hobby to learn. Because radio transmissions are sent internationally (and can receive communications from emergency personnel and law enforcement) the hobby is regulated by the International Telecommunication Union and licensure is required. Learn more from the ARRL (National Association for Amateur Radio).

9. Jewelry Making

Jewelry making covers a variety of great hobbies from beading, to lampwork and metalwork. Many jewelry makers start simply by creating necklaces and bracelets for themselves, friends and family. As the craft grows, you can move to more expensive mediums and a variety of substrates such as glass, acrylic, fine metals, jewels, and gemstones. Explore the classes available on sites like Craftsy to learn to create a wearable work of art.

10. Knots

knot tying

Knot tying may seem like a dying art, but many people still enjoy learning knot tying and it’s particularly useful for sailing and outdoor survival. Believe it or not, there are thousands of knots and the oldest example of knot tying was used in a fishing net dated 8000 BC. You can use knot tying skills to for paracord tying; knots are also a key part of fly tying, both of which are great hobbies for minimalist spaces.

11. Leather Working

Leather goods hold up to years of use. You can create beautiful belts, bracelets, pouches, and bags out of leather. Large leather work requires quite a bit of space and larger tools, but on the small-scale leatherworking is a fun project for anyone. To get started in leatherworking, you may want to purchase a kit for a small item like a coin purse or bracelet and explore online videos and tutorials to help you get started.

12. Illusions & Cards

Magic, card tricks, sleight of hand and optical illusions are fun for many people, but they often require practice. Fortunately, this practice doesn’t require much space or equipment. You can learn by watching simple YouTube videos or taking an online course. Professional card dealers often attend classes and even go to casino gaming school, but you’ll get far with regular practice and self-study.

13. Model Building

model planThe world of model building is huge and combines the art of sculpture, painting, and design as well as engineering. Model-makers create miniature replicas of everything from spaceships to ships-in-a-bottle. A popular model building area is in repainting and redesigning figures with incredible attention to detail. There are even conventions such as WonderFest USA to showcase and award top model-makers.

Similarly, creating miniatures, whether for a dollhouse, terrarium or simply a display is another small-scale hobby many people enjoy. Using polymer clay or other materials they recreate and “miniaturize” everyday items.

14. Music

If music is your hobby, there are many ways to adapt your creative outlet to fit in a minimal space. Singing, music writing, and many instruments are still easily incorporated into many different sized homes and lifestyles. Of course, you may need to pare down a collection of instruments (and a piano is much harder to fit in a small space than a ukulele), but many people embrace music as a hobby.

15. Nail Art

Now, I can’t speak to this personally, but I’ve heard nail art is one of the preferred hobbies for women. Painting designs as part of a manicure or pedicure requires few supplies. Your fingers and toes are your canvas and nail artists get quite into their craft—some nail artists even add jewels to accent their designs.

16. Paper Crafts

When it comes to paper crafts, it’s a hobby that can quickly take over a space. After all, paper can result in a lot of clutter. Yet, there are ways to enjoy paper craft on a small scale. Origami (the art of paper folding) is one such example. Quilling, or paper rolling is another. When pursuing a hobby such as paper crafting, it’s important to remember the seven guidelines above to keep your supplies organized and only keep the project you’re working on at the time.

17. Photography

camera and photography

Of all the great hobbies for small spaces, photography is one of the easiest to pursue—particularly because of the advance of digital photography. With little more than a camera and photo editing software, you can capture and design incredible photographs. Learning how to alter and edit photos using Photoshop (or any free editing software) is another way to explore the hobby even further. Many of us carry a camera all the time, via our phone, so learning to take great photos is the next logical step.

18. Puzzles & Deduction

Many hobbyists enjoy cracking codes, figuring out puzzles and playing logic games.  While boxes of jigsaw puzzles may not fit with a minimalist lifestyle, there are plenty of digital puzzle games, books of crosswords, Sudoku and logic puzzles you can check out. If you enjoy forensics, check out Hunt a Killer, which is a monthly detective puzzle game.

Brain benders, meta, and wooden box puzzles are also a fun pursuit to stretch your brain and turn the gears. Rubik’s cubes and other combination puzzles will keep you occupied for hours. Similarly, lockpicking is a popular pursuit, where you apply the same techniques to locks (check out Locksport International for information on getting started).

19. Outdoor Exercise

Perhaps one of the easiest ways to pursue great hobbies is to do them outdoors. Outdoor hobbies can be split into two categories: active and leisure. On the active side, of course, the options are limitless but bear in mind, many outdoor hobbies require equipment: skiing, kayaking, golfing and so on. Fortunately, if there’s a hobby you really love, you can possibly rent the equipment to cut back on the need for extra storage.

A few outdoor pursuits that don’t require much in terms of supplies are swimming, jogging, running and hiking. Fishing, tennis, Frisbee golf, and even snorkeling is possible, provided you parse down the extra supplies you need to the bare minimum. Team sports like soccer, softball, and volleyball are other great options, where all you need are some friends and a ball to play.

20. Outdoor Leisure

Outdoor leisure pursuits include walking and spending time outdoors. You can enrich your outdoor exploration by including an element you wish to study, such as plant identification or birdwatching. Foraging for wild edibles is another hobby you can leisurely pursue outdoors.

hiking with gps and a moutain view

Geocaching is a fun option many outdoor explorers enjoy. Geocaching is essentially a big outdoor treasure hunt using GPS. They keep a log book, recording whenever they discover an item (using GPS coordinates) in a cache. They take an item, leaving behind an item of greater value (items are typically small toys).

21. Reading

Perhaps the ultimate minimalist hobby, reading is a favorite pastime of many people. That said, books take up a lot of space. If you’re cutting back, downsizing and decluttering, you may want to sell your used books as you finish them. Other options for avid readers are using an eReader (like a Nook or Kindle) or borrowing books from the library. Check your neighborhood for Little Free Libraries as well—you can drop off and pick up books any time. If reading is your preferred pastime, you can easily enjoy it and still embrace a minimalist lifestyle.

22. Computers & Technology

Computers and technology are great hobbies for minimalists. With cloud storage, web, app and game development is possible from nearly anywhere with very little equipment. Frontend developers focus on design and user experience and generally need to learn to code (like HTML or JavaScript). Backend developers work use logic and problem solving to improve the function of an app or site, using server language like Python.

On the DIY building side, Raspberry PI is a small programmable computer that’s a lot of fun for beginners. Arduino, is a micro-controller motherboard popular in the DIY computing community. If you’re interested in computer technology, it can become an excellent and even lucrative hobby.

23. Video & Recording

Similar to photography, videography and recording works well with a small, minimalist space, provided the hobby stays on the small scale. Cameras like the GoPro Hero are used to film some really fun videos with very little extra equipment needed.

If you enjoy making videos, you could start a YouTube channel and vlog, or record tutorial videos for others (those who are camera shy, may prefer to explore podcasting instead). There are a vast number of topics and ideas for videos, so the options are endless. If video and filmmaking is high on your interest list, you could also try your hand at digital or stop-motion animation.

24. Visual Arts

Visual artists often worry they’ll need to give up their art if they move toward a minimalist lifestyle. After all, tubes of paint, easels, and brushes can take over a space pretty quickly. If art is your outlet and one of your preferred hobbies, consider drawing and sketching which are more portable and only require a notebook and graphite.

Other options for visual artists are to explore the world of graphic design. Apply your art skills in the digital world and learn to create on a computer. You could also do micro portfolio work. Artist Trading Cards (ATCs) and ACEOs (Art Cards Editions and Originals) are miniature works of art measuring 2.5” x 3.5” and they’ve become quite popular. Many artists swap them online and at swap events. The collectors market is rising for these miniature treasures.

25. Wine, Beer & Spirits

I’ve seen brewing listed time and time again as a suggested hobby for homesteaders and tiny lifers. It’s interesting because brewing wine and beer (and fermenting drinks such as kombucha) can take up quite a bit of space. Homebrewing also has specific temperature and sanitation requirements and it can give off a smell you may find overpowering in a small space.
beer and homebrewing

If you’re a hobbyist who loves homebrewing or the culture of beer, wine, and spirits, you may want to explore other areas of the beverage field. Wine pairing, beer tasting, and appreciation can become quite a fun and pleasurable hobby. Bartending and learning mixology is another great area of focus. Not only can you learn a (possibly) marketable skill but it’s useful knowledge for many situations.

26. Floral Arranging

Floral arranging is a beautiful and useful hobby, particularly if you enjoy growing flowers in a garden, or have access to fresh flowers. Flowers are temporary, and the arrangement is enjoyed for a while and then transitioned to a different look. The short-term aspect of flowers makes floral arranging a good option for those who live the tiny life. One place to get started is by exploring Ikebana, the traditional Japanese style of flower arranging.

27. Astronomy

Amateur astronomy doesn’t require much equipment or setup, other than a telescope and a notebook. If you live in a rural area (away from city light) this is a fascinating hobby where you can really explore the universe. Sky & Telescope is a great place to get started.

Your Turn!

  • What are some of your favorite hobbies for minimalist lifestyles?

 

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?

The Ultimate Guide To Finding Land for Your Tiny House or Homestead

It could be to build your tiny house on or to start a homestead, many of us want a little place to call our own.  Finding and buying land is a tricky thing, but there are some things we can do to help making finding land a little easier.

finding land

Before we start looking it’s really important to understand what we actually are looking for and to that we need to understand what we actually need our land to do. Many of us dream of a 100 beautiful acres with a nice river, great views and easy access, but the reality of managing that much land would be too much for most people.

Determining Your Needs

writing in notebook

In my own search for land I thought I wanted 20-30 acres, but after some careful examination all I really needs was 3 really good acres, anything beyond that was bonus in my mind.  It can be hard to figure out what we really figure out exactly how much you need, so start with understanding that an acre is a square that is 209 feet long and 209 feet wide.  That really helped me grasp the true size of an acre.

From there I sat down and listed all the things I wanted to do on that land.  For me it was the following:

  • 1 small home
  • 1 big workshop/outbuilding
  • 10 chickens
  • 2 pigs
  • 2 bee hives
  • 10 fruit trees
  • 1000 square feet of garden

It took me a while to really nail down what I wanted to do now and in the future, but those things were critical to do on the land I want to buy.  From there I was able to estimate how many square feet I need for each and any spacing requirements (like I wanted the shop and pigs to be hidden from the house).  From that I concluded I needed  three main areas: the house (1 acre), the animals/garden section (half acre) and the shop area (1 acre).  Adding in some buffer space I came up with my 3 acre target if all the land was totally usable.

gardening on land

The important part here is to figure out what you are actually going to do. Being realistic, too often people dream of a place with lots of cows, horses, and other animals or a little house miles away from their neighbors.  Be honest with yourself and realize that you most likely don’t need massive swaths of land unless you have a very specific need which you already have experience with (ie: you’ve raised cattle before and want your own ranch).

Determine the area

When it comes to land we all know the saying: “location, location, location”.  For me it all comes down to two main factors: proximity to employment and my willingness to drive a certain length of time on a daily basis.  For other people there will be other factors, but all I really care about is if I need a job, can I find one and how long do I want to be in car.

location location location

Don’t get caught up in the trendy areas or close to the city center because those places often have more rules, higher prices and more buyer competition.  Being open to more areas and being flexible will improve your likelihood of finding a great spot.

Figure Out Your Budget

Before you get into the search figure out how much you can afford and agree on a upper limit.   This may be the time you get pre-approved for a mortgage or land loan if you’re going that route.  If you don’t have much money, check out our post on how to buy land with no money.

Use Online Tools

At the time of writing this post, Zillow.com is my favorite tool to find land.  I’ve setup several saved searches that automatically find and highlight properties that meet my criteria.  The one major downside to this tool is there is no option to filter properties without restrictions or HOAs, that was a big one for me and will be for many of you.  Since I did my homework on what I wanted I knew that what I wanted to do on the land wasn’t going to be allowed in a community with restrictions.

Some people have had luck with Land Watch or Craigslist, I personally haven’t found much luck there and the usability of their sites is a deal breaker for me.

Check this video out below about how I search for land and evaluate listings.  I’ll dig into the tools, plus some awesome tricks.

Drive Around

rent to own signThere comes a point where you just need to get out there and driving around the area you want to be in can give you some good leads.  You’ll find “for sale by owner” signs which most likely aren’t listed online anywhere. You’ll see a property that you like that you could approach the owners about if they own a large parcel and you want to buy a part of it.  There is a lot to be gained by driving around even if you don’t find any leads, you learn more about the area you’re thinking of buying in.

Work Your Networks

People always discount the opportunities that might be sitting right in front of them the whole time.  Get clear on what you’re looking for, what you can afford and the areas you’re looking in and create a digital flyer.  Take that flyer and post it on all your social networks, email your friends asking them if they have any leads and if you know any old timers or farmers, reach out to them too.  All these people know other people and by getting the word out there, you might find some great options.

Use A Realtor

searching for landA Realtor is some that you can use to find land if you’re ready to buy.  Since you’re the buyer, there is no fee to use one since the seller will pay all the commissions.

It took me about a month to find someone that I liked working with, that was helpful, communicated well and we clicked pretty well.  I found that there are a lot of realtors that will just try to get a quick sale or only kind of listen, I weeded those out quickly if they kept bringing me poor listings.

Once you do find a good realtor, understand they are investing their time to help you find your land and they don’t get paid unless they close.  If you go this route, make sure you’re ready to buy and respect their time.  It is fine to end a working relationship if they aren’t delivering what you need, but if they’re doing a good job make sure you close with them as your agent so they can get their commission.

I found mine through doing inquiries through Zillow; there was one agent that stood out from the rest for me and I stuck with him.

Go Old School

If you’re in smaller towns, looking for farm land, or if you’re really scrapping for leads check out the newspaper or local print listings.  These are often a lot of older listings, duplicates of online, but you may be able to find some new leads.

Check out local shops and community centers for bulletin boards. While your at it, leave your flyer you made earlier to see if you stir up any new leads.  Again, we may not find a lot of options, but if you do get a call the person might be willing to strike a deal or know someone who is selling land.

Talk With Farmers

Land is a tool of the trade for farmers and they usually have more of it than most people.  I find that they are also very practical people, so if you’re a younger person with dreams of building a homestead or small farm, they might be willing to do owner financing.  In some cases you can also rent land for a while until you do find the right property.

talking with farmers

Farming folks are also really great to have as friends. They’re handy, they have a lot of local connections and they have equipment that they might be willing to lend you.  You might even hit it off with some of them and offer to help out on their farms for free at times to learn some particular skill.  I remember weeding strawberry beds with one farmer and while we were working I’d ask a bunch of questions.

Take A Break

Sometimes things just aren’t working for you or the market is over-valued.  It’s better to buy during low periods because you can find more options and better deals.  If we buy at the height of a market, we might end up paying too much for that property and will have to wait a long time, if ever, to get out from under a property we paid too much for.

So those are some of my suggestions on how to find land to purchase for your tiny house or homestead.  Let me know in the comments what you’ve learned in your own search!

Your Turn!

  • What tricks and tips have you learned to find land?