Posts Tagged Tiny Living

Compost Toilets and Biogas Systems

biogas systemTop question when someone hears we live in a tiny house? What do you do about the bathroom? Everyone is curious what the is deal with waste disposal. We use a composting system-some folks buy incinerators, others buy fancy compost toilets and then there are those on a budget who use the bucket system.  After taking a permaculture course I became fascinated with going a step beyond the composting system. We had a lecture on biogas systems and the biofuels made available by the anaerobic decomposition of waste. Since that day I’ve been researching systems that have been widely used throughout India, Africa, and Latin America. In the US these systems have been used for some time by water treatement plants as an alternative form of energy for generators  in the case of emergencies.

biogas systemBiogas systems take waste and capture the methane from the anaerobic decomposition of the effluent and supplies you with fertilizer and fuel when the cycle is complete. A digester is the apparatus that controls the decomposition and consists of a sealed tank or pit and a means by which to gather and store the methane. I’m so interested in these systems for reasons of sustainability and efficiency. Composting waste is an alternative to the current system of polluting a finite resource but biogas systems take it a  step further by gathering fuel that does not require invasive collection from the depths of the earth. It takes toxic waste, keeps it out of the environment and allows it to be used in multiple ways to human benefit.

 

There are many different shapes and models of biogas plants but by far the most popular and wide spread design is the Indian cylindrical pit design. It has proven to be reliable in many different environs and it’s widespread use dates to the 1970’s. There are two basic parts to the design, a tank that holds the slurry (manure and water) and a gas cap or drum on the tank to capture the gas.

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My dreams were dashed for building one of these for our tiny house when I discovered that two people don’t make enough poop biogas feederto fuel even a small system. You need around 6 people and 6-8 cows for the system to function in a way that meets fuel needs. The first step of building such a system is getting community support and finding other folks who want to use such a system together. In a city this would make a lot sense but in our current situation out in a rural area, just me, Cedric and the pup it’s not a realistic option.

 

This technology is one that I will keep on the back burner for now but if this article has peaked your interest at all then definitely check out the via link at the bottom of this page. There is a detailed construction manual for the Indian cylindrical pit system that provides advantages, disadvantages, considerations, costs, labor input and more excellent graphics as well as charts on building this biogas system. I hope to be assisting with the construction of such a system in the near future so until then share you interest and experience if you have it with biogas and biofuel systems. I’d love to hear what folks think of the implementation of these systems and how the social perspective on waste treatment can be altered toward regenerative design.

 

Your Turn!

  • How do you see alternative systems fitting in to the philosophy and living of the tiny life?

Via

Accessory Dwelling Units: Guest Garden Shed

WaldenSpring has sprung up here in the Northeast! While Ryan huddles in the wet and chilly weather that has descended on the Carolinas I’m getting sunburned in Vermont! (Sorry Ryan!) The weather has been amazing the past couple weeks and we’ve been relishing sunny, mid-70’s days as the buds on the trees explode in a panorama of green! Folks are out in their gardens working away, tulips are blooming and bees are buzzing. This is my favorite time of year in a tiny house because you can really get outside, enjoy the weather and take a break from the cabin fever that winter can bring.

This was a tough winter for Cedric and I, mostly because we wrenched ourselves from theWalden1 balmy winter weather of Charleston, South Carolina to the frigid northern landscape of Vermont! The sudden change and necessity of staying indoors for extensive periods took their toll but now all is green and right with the world. As inspiration for the season, I want to share with you this incredible garden shed created by German designer Nils Holger Moormann. He calls it Walden after Henry David Thoreau’s story of life and his relationship with nature while living a simple, more self-sufficient life in the woods. I think Moormann’s interpretation of simplicity is stunning and as a tiny lifer and gardener, I have to admit some envy for the efficiency and beauty of this project!

Walden4This design is my dream guest house. To me, it’s the perfect tiny house extension. The description on Moormann’s site explains how he looked to the concept of simple life as well as Walden2creating a space that invited you outdoors. There’s no doubt you’d be invited by it’s cozy, convertible indoor/outdoor eating area, easy reach of garden tools and sliding sunroof that beckons you to experience the sky! There is an upper level with a double bed for those mid-day, summer siestas and space for a campfire or cooking on a hung grill. He includes lots of space for storage of tools and materials, including firewood, a wheelbarrow and garden hose to name a few. In our tiny house we struggle with storage as well as guest space and this design is one of my all-time favorite answers to those predicaments!

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Walden6Your Turn!

  • What tiny house accessory unit do you wish for?

Via

Small Space Design: A Societal Bridge

I found this project out of Italy working on  small space design and was intrigued by it. The difference between this project, dubbed the Freedom Room, and the slew of others out there: it was designed by prisoners.freedom room A training program was created through a collaboration with the research center Cibicworkshop and the research and design cooperative Comodo to provide the necessary tools to the prisoners of Spoleto, Italy’s correctional facility to create functional, beautiful and innovative small space design.

freedom room1 While their motivation is driven by forced small space accommodation the project is a reflection of far-reaching opportunities. The collaborators envision the rise of new social dynamics and innovative solutions to re-shaping communities and neighborhoods. That’s definitely in line with what I heard Jay Shafer speak about at a workshop last summer. It’s what many small space designers and tiny house builders are searching for. A shift in consciousness and the wider societal embrace of less is more.

freedom room2That such a project is coming out of a correctional facility really struck a cord with me. Prisons are places that are often tucked away and hidden from the daily life of citizens yet it’s impact and reflection on our society is poignant. That these inmates became the designers and project consultants of this prototype reflects innovation in design as well as social involvement and prison reform. 

Some of the issues that small space design is addressing includes inflated housing markets, high unemployment, increased underemployment, capitalist consumerism and the overt display of materialism of McMansions among other ills. Many folks interested in tiny houses can attest to this, including myself. The Freedom Room is a project design based on living under restraint but has shown what ingenuity born of necessity can initiate. It can be directed for use in the everyday life of people around the world and the collaborators hope that the project will serve as inspiration not only for other prisons but all manners of needs within society. It is another model expressing the simplicity and beauty that small space design is capable of achieving across the societal board-from inmates, to student dormitories, to hotel rooms to tiny living spaces.freedom room3

I find this project to be an inspiration in many ways.  As a prototype it addresses the major issues of decent living within penitentiaries and educational rehabilitation of inmates within the prison system. It reflects the viability of small space design in ways I’d never even considered. That somehow gives me hope that, eventually, more and more people will come around, give tiny living a try themselves, whether that means 100, 300, 500 or 1000 sq. feet, and perhaps consider reducing their footprint and finding the joy in simpler living. freedom room4

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Asheville Tiny House

A few years ago I met Rhodes Waite when we attended a tiny house group talk hosted at a Permaculture gathering. She was in the beginning stages of designing her own tiny house. We fell out of touch but just recently ran in to each other at Yestermorrow Design and Build School in Vermont. She happened to be at the school for a week-long tiny house design workshop and I was there on a work-study for Permaculture design! It was great to catch up and hear about what she was learning in the class and see her completed tiny house. Below are pictures of her home in Asheville, North Carolina and her thoughts on tiny living and the workshop she took at Yestermorrow.

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How do you power your tiny house?

 It is wired just like a “normal” house, 12/20 wiring and a small breaker box.  I have a female recessed outlet in the exterior wall that an extension cord plugs right into.  So I run it to the house who’s yard I’m in.  I set it up so that an inverter and solar panel could be added in the future, but for now it’s on the grid, so to speak. Electric bill runs $5-$10 a month.

What is the biggest challenge for you living in a tiny house?

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This is probably the hardest question you asked, as nothing comes to mind right away. Hmmm…it’s probably that I haven’t been settled in one location long enough to really feel stable as I’d like to. That’s more of a life circumstance and choice thing than a tiny house thing, but ideally I’d like to live in a tiny house in one location (I’ve moved it twice in 6 months). Other than that there aren’t really any challenges. I find myself wanting more space sometimes just to be able to stack a few boxes or get into projects, but it’s not a big deal.

What are some of the advantages?

 I love it, I love it, I love it!!!!  I have no mortgage or rent (just a tiny tiny house payment), and I own my house! Wherever I go my space stays the same, and it’s an amazing space.  It feels so good to live so small, because it doesn’t feel small at all.  The title of the class I just took at Yestermorrow sums it up well…”Less is More”!  There’s really not a way to describe the feeling of lightness and freedom that comes with simplifying one’s life. I love knowing where everything is all the time. I love being able to clean my

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entire house in 5 minutes. I love feeling so connected to the resources I use and don’t use to live my life and power my house.  I love the simplicity of where my “wastes” go…to the backyard. I love the life and character my home holds, it feels great.  I love everything being within arms reach.I love the coziness. I love loving where I live.

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How to entertain, the tiny life way!

Ever since I was little, I loved to throw a party! As a kid I thought, who doesn’t want to come over, swim in the pool, listen to music and sip koolaid? Now it’s more like who doesn’t want to hang out, listen to music, eat delicious food and drink beer? Since living in a tiny house our parties have gone from large affairs to more intimate gatherings and it has been a big adjustment. I’ve definitely got some tips and tricks though for those of you out there trying to figure out the entertainment aspects of living the tiny life!

bouncy castleTip #1: Get creative! We had a Halloween party one year and it was a cold one (for Charleston). So what did we do? We built a bonfire, invited friends with marshmallows, rented a jump castle and stocked a cooler full of beverages! Talk about immediate outdoor entertainment! Sometimes, the trick to partying the tiny life way is to keep everyone out of doors. This is really easy in the summer when the weather is great but what about when it’s chillier? Cedric has a winter birthday so we have to come up with alternatives. Perhaps an ice skating party or snowman building contest! It’s all about how you can creatively use your outdoor space. Another great trick is follow local outdoor customs. We got a keg, invited neighbors and had an oyster roast, an open air event in the South that you enjoy during the winter harvesting months. Rent a tent, make it an event! Here in Vermont we’re debating a sugar shack for a warmer type of entertainment!

Tip #2: Throw a dinner party! Or Sunday brunch! Everyone loves to be fed. I know of very few people who turn down free food. Plus, dinner parties are perfect for inviting one or two people and having a wonderful, more intimate event. Two is definitely the max number of folks we can invite and still serve comfortably. In the case of tiny 215912_2019225800037_2119919_nhouse living, my trick is to prepare as much in advance as I can. I make soup that I can re-heat, bake a crusty bread beforehand or put together a one-pot pasta dish. This makes prep easier and more manageable in a tiny kitchen plus it gives you more time with your guest(s). Also, if you are hosting in the winter months clear your hooks and storage area for guest items. I tend to stash Cedric and I’s clutter and winter wear, including shoes, in the loft. If we are having 1-2 people over plus their dog and our dog we remove Asher’s kennel and sometimes our ladder as well so we have plenty of room for 2 and 4-legged friends!

Tip #3: Rent out the roller rink! Or any other such venue for larger parties such as engagement celebrations, baby showers or blowout birthdays. You only have so much you can do in a tiny house. Cedric and I have had our birthdays at our favorite restaurants and then invited folks back for cake. We can’t serve more than two people a whole dinner but we can serve 4-6 a piece of cake. Going somewhere were many folks can join in a dinner or game of bowling and then having a smaller crew for a short period, such as sharing dessert, can assure that you end a birthday or any evening with those folks closest to you.

Tip #4: Foldable, storagable entertainment! Sturdy folding chairs and easy to store entertainment is a must in a small folding-islandspace! We have a 4 player Catan game, playing cards and a compact, homemade version of Rumicub that we break out for game nights. Trick with games? Buy a traveler’s version if they have one! They are compact and easy to store! We have a folding chair we keep handy hung on hooks. A small, folding side table can do wonders for increasing your space for games and dinners. Space savers are essential and they can make putting together a fun evening super easy!

Tip #5:  Relax and have fun! Don’t stress your event. The process should559707_10151266255539322_919314180_n be as enjoyable as possible. Putting together a tiny house gathering has it’s perks in that it’s very manageable. When you have a large space you can easily invite too many people and end up with an event that takes more time and money than you planned. The more casual and laid-back your approach to entertaining the more fun you’ll have hosting and enjoying your next tiny house party!

Your Turn!

  • How do you party tiny life style?
  • What kind of entertainment have you hosted in a small dwelling?
  • Any tips or tricks to share about organizing a tiny house event?

Via