Cold Weather Makes You Crazy!

And by “crazy” I mean it makes you update your blog in like… forever. It’s been so long I’ve forgotten how long it’s been. Definitely months. How cold is it here in Northern Minnesota you ask? Try -30 and that’s without the wind-chill. I feel bad for my dogs that have to suffer through this. Poor things with their cold feet. Bella, my little Chihuahua mix, will just give up and sit  and wait for me to rush over and pick her up after only a few seconds. She runs out of time looking for a place to poop. Rusty is a bit more husky but he still gives up after only a few minutes. I hate having to pick him up and carry him across the yard, being how he is so undeniably over weight; like carrying a #50 sack of potatoes.

Things have been going okay. I’ve been working a lot (hence the lack of attention to the blog), that and the fact that I don’t get many comments makes me pay less attention to it than I probably should. The bees are settled in for the winter- I checked on them last month and gave them a whole bag of granular sugar just incase they run out of stocked honey. With the temperatures we have, it will be a miracle if they survive. I’m torn by two separate teachings- one says they will be fine, the other says they will perish. I don’t know who to believe. I guess I just wait till spring to find out. I’d like to think that they will survive. I mean how do the wild bees do it? We do have wild honey bees in Northern MN don’t cha know!

The garden never got planted last spring because I was dealing with some health issues. I’m already thinking about what to do with it come this spring. Come hell or high water it will get planted. I still don’t have any chickens. My Father is dead set against any chickens being on the property because they will, “shit everywhere.” He does have a valid point but he never walks in the yard anyway so what’s the big deal? If I do get chickens they will have to be penned up and I’m not sure how I feel about that. The greatest thing about raising chickens is free-ranging them. They don’t want to be penned up digging in the same shit pile all day long. They need to roam and find/eatall the bugs and wild plants- that’s what makes the eggs taste so much better than the store bought.

The tiny house is still the bomb! I love living in it. I don’t pinch myself when I wake up anymore but it still feels like a dream come true. A few minor things I decided were not a great idea and would change include: a shower; a carpeted loft (I have a rug); a pellet stove instead of a wood stove; power supply.

(1) A shower. I chose not to have a working shower because I wanted to be all rugged and outdoorsmen like and take my showers outside, or just sponge bath in the winter months like the old timers. I wanted to be as off-grid and rugged as I could get. Well, I didn’t plan on going back to work and needing showers daily. It’s just impractical now. I wind up running to my parents house and using theirs. I have closet space that is 4×3 that I can turn into a shower if I move my bookcase and put my dresser in the loft. I’m considering this renovation for next summer.

(2) Carpeted loft. I have a nifty rug left over from the tipi that I have on the loft floor. The problem is that it’s too stiff. You spend a lot of time on your knees in the loft and it would be nice to have some plush carpet to soften the blow.

(3) Pellet stove. Cutting your own wood is a pain in the ass. Buying it is costly. Keeping the fire going all night is also a pain in the ass. I currently have to run power from my parents house to run a small electric heater when I’m gone to work so I don’t freeze out. The wood stove takes up a lot of space- about 1/4 of the living room. I found a nice pellet stove that mounts on the wall for about $1,500 that would let me run heat for 12 hours straight at a very minimal cost. Pellets are more convenient than wood and burn just as efficiently as natural gas.

(4) Power supply. Yeah. Big bummer here. There is no way I can run my electric off of my system with out a huge investment in solar panels and batteries. This technology still has a loooooooong way to go before it can even compete to the normal power grid. I have a fridge; microwave; lights; heater; computer; fan; stereo and clock all trying to run on my system and it doesn’t keep up. I’ve been supplementing my power usage from my parents. I should have just bypassed all the solar and hooked everything up like a motor home.

These things are all every day complaints. My tiny house was designed with the off-grid lifestyle in mind and most things I mentioned are comfort features. I started wanting comfort features after I began working again because that in itself, kicks my ass. It’s hard to keep a fire going and do anything physical when you work a 9-5. Look at it this way. If shit hits the fan… I’m set up golden.

Well, that’s enough for now. I’m tired and I have to work again in the morning. Thanks for taking the time to check our my blog. Please feel free to ask questions or leave a comment. And as always… Live simply and follow your dreams!

-Supertramp

 

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Living Tiny & The First Fire (ooohhhh, aaaahhhh)

So I’ve been doing this “tinyhouse” thing for awhile now. I feel like I’m educated enough at this point to have some viable input on what it’s like to live in a tinyouse. So here is my take thus far.

First, it’s small. If you don’t like small spaces you’re better off somewhere else. Try living in one room of your house for two months and you will soon see. Every time I turn around the dog is in the way. I’m constantly moving object A,B,C,D to get to object E, then realize I need object A but, objects B,C and D have now just been put in front of it. It’s like a Circus of discord. But… you do get used to it. I’ve learned over these past few months how to deal with these frustrations.

Second, lofts suck. Up, down, up, down. Rusty, my dog, needs to be carried up at night and carried down in the morning. He’s fat (well husky at least). Myles was a one hand lift. Rusty needs to be “fireman” carried up and down from the loft. My upper arms are getting a workout and so are my legs. And here’s a kicker- middle of the night bathroom breaks! Do you understand how frustrating it is getting out of the cozy bed in the brisk midnight air and have to climb down from the loft so you can piss? Even worse, Rusty needs to piss too! It didn’t take me long doing this routine until I had the bright idea of getting a urinal. Problem solved. Except for Rusty.

Third, it can get b-o-a-r-I-n-g. Living in such a tiny space FORCES you to get out and do “something.” I’d like to tell you how outdoorsy I’ve become but, alas. Don’t get me wrong I do fish, ride the 4-wheeler, garden and hike. Just not as much as I should. Mostly because of the weather being too hot or too cold. I have a television in the tinyhouse but there is no cable or antenna yet so it’s a useless “wall ornament.” I get a weak internet signal in the loft where I can twitter or watch Netflix but, in the summer the loft is scorching during the day even with the windows open and the fans going. I need air conditioning! So most of the time I spend my days in the big house with Ma and Pa where the internet is strong, the television gets channels and the air is cooled.

Fourth, daily chores. Small spaces get dirty QUICK. Everyday I vacuum the loft and sweep the main floor. Next I have to empty the urinal and composting toilet “liquids” bottle. This is a nasty job and quite stinky too. If you don’t do it everyday the whole damn house will smell like piss. Then I do any dishes and empty the catch bucket under the sink. A light dusting. Then back up to the loft to make the bed. Normally this isn’t such a chore, but when your celling is only 4ft. high it’s a nightmare on your back and knees. It’s not much but, having to do these things daily gets to be a pain… literally.

Those are my biggest complaints. Yep, that’s it. Everything else is BEAUTIFUL. I pretty much knew about the things above before I signed up, having read blogs and spoken to so many people before going this route. I am living my dream and everyday I DO pinch myself to make sure I’m in reality. It’s quiet, peaceful and best of all… PAID FOR. Tinyhouse living allows me time to do the things in life that I choose to do. I will get a job this winter to keep busy and to build my savings back up. I won’t be constrained to my job like I was before, working only part time and doing things that I find enjoyable. I wont be worrying about creditors and debt collectors and I wont be busting my ass trying to stay afloat and ahead of the “game.”

I’ve been getting along splendidly with my parents. I’ve taken over all the yard duties for my Dad and help my Mom with house chores. It’s kind of cool actually- we’ve become quite the “tribe.” I look at other cultures and see this type of lifestyle a lot. The family unit all living together and helping each other out. I get land to live on and in return they get help keeping the place up. And it’s a big place. 32 acres of lakeshore property and a house with 4 bedrooms 3 bathrooms plus an upstairs and downstairs living area. That’s a lot of vacuuming, scrubbing and dusting. So it’s not like I sit on my ass and watch t.v. and play on the internet all day.

I lit my first fire in the woodstove this morning. Which means that yes, I did finally get the stove hooked up. Everything worked the way it should, meaning I didn’t burn the place down. I’m surprised how little wood I had to use to warm it up. A few sticks the size of my thumb and a 12″ piece about the thickness of my wrist. This lasted almost 4 hours. I’m hoping I can get away with not having to use more than a few cords of wood this winter, which would be good being as how I’ve yet to split any. That’s next weeks project along with pulling the boats and dock out for the season. I didn’t build a deck yet but, I did fashion a fancier set of stairs that will get me by until spring. I added a few shutters to “fancy” up the façade and I put in a new table and some new décor. It has an amazing felling inside, very tranquil especially at night.

After spending some time grieving the loss of Myles, I’ve decided to take in another dog. I’m traveling to the cities on Monday to pick up a three year old rat terrier named Bella who is in need of a good home. She is tan and white in color and is supposed to be a “cuddler” and gets along well with other dogs. Hopefully everything works out and I’ll be posting pics of her next week.

Rusty and I took a walk along the beach this morning and he somehow lost his collar? Todays task is to try to find it. I may cut some wood (probably not… I’m a procrastinator ya know). I’m already working on my other “get er done” for the day (this update). I think maybe I will take out the camera and snap a few shots of the changing leaves. Other than that… it’s wide open. I’m living the tiny life. And man, life is good!

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Just a quick tip for you herb gardeners out there. Instead of using twine and tying a bunch of knots to bundle your herbs for drying. Tie a bunch of clothes pins on a piece of string spaced about 8 inches apart. Clip your herbs into these and hang to dry. Now you aren’t tying knots constantly and wasting your twine 🙂

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It Feels Like A Home! 1st Night in Tiny Home

Unpacking and getting things “just right” has been a week-long process and I’m still going. Friday was the first night sleeping in the tiny home and it was wonderful! The house takes on a whole new feeling at night with the soft glow from the candles and oil lamps (yes I have real lights too, but they don’t impart the same “feel”). It was a bit stuffy and warm in the loft the other night because I don’t have a fan going yet. The space feels so cozy, not unlike the feeling I had sleeping in the tipi. I was able to purchase and install some cabinets in the kitchen and get the sink put in. I don’t have water yet because I’m still waiting for Doug to finish up the bump-out for the propane and water heater. I pick that up on Tuesday. I’m pretty much all decorated up, there are a few things in boxes that I haven’t decided if I’m going to keep or not.

Here is the current “TO DO” list:

  • Hook up propane and water
  • Order and install solar panels
  • Build custom couch for living room
  • Hook up wood stove
  • purchase and hang drapes
  • Build deck
  • Install some type of paneling around outside to hide trailer/wheels
  • Hook up television and stereo

That’s pretty much the list. Then it’s time to start splitting wood and getting ready for winter. LOL

Here are some pictures of what’s been done thus far. I hope everyone had a fun 4th and your puppies were not too shook-up from the loud booms!

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View from the front door

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Living room

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Living room

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Kitchen (check out that awesome countertop)

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Kitchen

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Bath

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Bath

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Pantry on right side

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closet

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Loft

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Kitchen

 

Tiny House Update: Nearing Completion!

Things are still going strong on the tiny house build. The roof is on, the loft window is in, some of the cedar shake has been completed on the outside, the door was installed and trimmed out and we’ve started tackling the cedar tongue and groove on the interior walls. We are hoping we can have this puppy on the road this coming Wednesday.

Doug spent today working on some of the interior while I hauled some things to my parents. Today I also installed a break controller in my pickup… I sure hope I’m able to pull this thing! Worse case scenario: call in backup.

Not tiny house related: went to the show with Mom and saw Jurassic World in 3D. I thought it was pretty good, Mom was bored. Figures.

Hopefully by this time next week I will have some “finished” photos for you to see. For now here is the recap of last week!

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Tiny House Construction Update. Days 2-10

It’s been pretty hectic these past few weeks. Things are going amazing and surprisingly very fast. I see no reason that we can’t have this project completed and moved to the property by June 19th.

Here is a recap of the following weeks with some pictures. Pay no mind to the date & time on the photos… I didn’t have it set right LOL.

Day #2 Subfloor insulation and sheeting.

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Day #3 Framing the side walls.

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Day#4 Installing the rafters and framing the end wall (tongue side).

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Day#5 Framing end wall (tail end), sheeting and tar papering the roof.

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Day#6 Tyvek installation, electrical, roof gables, installing end window.

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Day #7 Installing remaining windows and end wall sheeting (tongue side).

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Day #8 (Rain Day) Staining wall sheeting.

 

Day#9 Sheeting remaining walls.

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Day #10 Spraying interior with insulation.

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As you can see… we’ve been busy. I can’t wait to start on the interior.

Construction Begins!

After a one month delay waiting for the trailer arrive from the manufacturer, construction has finally started. Yesterday I went with my builder Doug Dobson, to pick up the trailer. It was the first time I’ve ever pulled anything besides a boat behind my truck and it took a bit of getting used to. The trailer actually added a bit more stability to my pickup and I suggest Ford starts adding trailers to all their vehicles. If you recall from the previous post, the tiny home was scheduled to be completed by the end of next week. I’m still optimistic that we will be able to have things caught up and I will be able to move to my new place in mid June. Everyone cross their fingers!

Last week Doug and I took a trip to town to procure most of the materials. It was fun picking out the cedar tongue and groove boards for the interior, the wood flooring, windows and my front door. So many choices, colors, textures, shapes, patterns, sizes so many different options… my head is spinning. I’m beside myself just thinking about what I’m going to do for curtains. There have been many a sleepless night laying in bed… dreaming. It’s finally here and time to get to work!

Bright and early today I took the 4-wheeler and camera over to Doug’s and he was already out and getting things set up. I was impressed at his enthusiasm on our little project. Within a matter of hours we had already completed most of the subfloor. Doug had to run to the lumber yard to get the oak boards for the loft floor, so I decided to take the opportunity to update the blog. I know, it took long enough. I finally have something worth merit to start writing about… are you excited? I am.

Tomorrow I’m driving to my parents property and will decide on the final resting place of my tiny home. Hopefully everyone can come to an agreement on it’s placement. I need a nice clear view of the sun to power my solar panels and a clearing big enough, so as not interfere with the wind that will power the wind generator. I also need to be close enough to the house to run a hose for my water supply. All this and yet not impede on my parents. It’s not going to be tucked away in the woods like I’d hoped, but rater on the side lot overlooking the lake.

If you are considering building a tiny home in the future, or live in one now please don’t hesitate to contact me. Doug is hoping that by building this tiny home for me, more opportunities for this type of construction will come his way. His information and other useful resources for those that are interested can be found here: https://returntothewild.net/tiny-home-resources.

As a side note: I’ recovering from a broken elbow at the moment and have “a gimp arm” as Doug calls it. I’m NOT in a cast and can use my arm in a limited fashion so long as I don’t bump it. Isn’t it funny how these things happen when it’s most inopportune? And to all you smart asses out there who know me… YES I’m accident prone. Enjoy the pictures 🙂

Day #1 of construction. Pulled trailer in garage so we weren’t in the sun. We began by removing every other board on the bed of the trailer to help lighten the end weight and because they aren’t needed for support. The sub floor is then built on top of the remaining boards in 3 separate sections that will be joined together once we install a layer of metal flashing (under the sub floor and on top of the existing trailer bed boards) to protect the subfloor from beneath. Next we will cut insulation to fit between the 2×4’s and finish by laying down plywood sheeting. The trailer is a 8×20 straight deck “Buggy Hauler”, custom built for tiny homes by PJ Trailers in Sumner, TX. DSC_1069 . DSC_1071 DSC_1074 DSC_1075 DSC_1076 DSC_1077 DSC_1078 DSC_1079DSC_1085

Peaceful Disconnect

It’s been a while since I’ve updated… and I’m not going to apologize. My laptop broke last month and I’ve been avoiding the internet like the plague. I haven’t checked my e-mail or my twitter and I have even stopped watching the news. The world could be ending and I would be the last to know. Life is much more enjoyable when I’m not glued to a computer screen or television. I do however enjoy playing the PS3 and watching a few DVD’s from time-to-time… hopefully, this will soon be replaced by reading more.

Things are continuing to go well. The rabbits are all with litters, the bees are putting away honey, the chickens are busy being chickens… and I’m enjoying all of it! We’ve finally gotten out of our “wet” spell and now the heat is starting in. Thankfully the tipi stays nice and cool. Little projects are getting done now that all the big ones are finished. I’ve got a cozy hammock hanging under some trees, a nice outdoor cook pit, and I made myself a small archery range. We built a deck off the front of the tipi to cover the “mote” we had to dig to combat the run-off from the rain. I’ve started collecting and splitting wood- this will be a continuous chore throughout the summer. The garden is doing well and the tomatoes are growing like weeds. I think everything will be ready to harvest just as winter begins to set. I’m looking forward to the canning season! I still need to bury some coolers for a make-shift root cellar and build my solar dehydrator. I’ve also been thinking of building a sweat lodge.

I bought a boat a while back and have been doing some fishing with Gene. Unfortunately the trim/tilt motor went out and it’s currently in the shop for repair… this is the reason I’m not out fishing and instead, sitting here typing this! We’ve had quite a few visitors over the Holiday weekend and I’ve enjoyed showing everyone what I’ve been up to these past few months (sorry you couldn’t make it Irma, I miss you!). Gene is busy repairing an old hot tub and hopefully it’s done soon… my muscles are sore.

There is a lot going on, too much in fact to write down here. I feel a breeze and the hammock is calling me… I’ll leave you with some pictures! Take care 🙂

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Nocking Arrows Off-Grid in the Rain

The weather Gods are playing their tricks again. I’m wondering if I should start building an ark and gathering animals… rain, rain and still more rain. I think we should build a water pipeline from the tipi to California. I made the mistake of going to town and leaving the door open during our latest 28hr. downpour. Let’s just say I’m glad I bought indoor/outdoor carpet and have plenty of towels. The front of the tipi got a little wet. I am also getting some water dripping in from the stove pipe. I need to find a way to seal the canvas around the pipe so that the water has no way to sneak in. The back of the tipi where the bed is set up, and the side of the tipi where the T.V. and battery bank is, stays completely dry… thankfully. The wind can really whip the canvas and it’s quite impressive listening to the storms raging outside. As I explained to my Dad, I don’t have to worry so much about the wind because of the conical shape of the tipi, it’s not a flat wall like a house and the wind simply goes around me. I also have a rope that is lashed around the top of the poles and can be anchored to the center of the tipi if we get any serious straight line winds.

Yesterday we finished getting the wind generator lifted into place and wired up. We wound up blowing a fuse bank when we attempted to connect to the batteries. The wiring for the generator is three phase and the instructions were sketchy on how the two systems (battery powerhub and wind generator MPPT) connected together. A simple phone call to the manufacturer got us on the right track and everything is connected properly now. Of course yesterday there was no wind, and today the wind is blowing so hard that the over-speed protection on the wind generator has shut down the blades. Tonight I’m disconnecting from the main power and will be running completely off-grid… an experiment that is sure to present some issues that will need to be problem solved. EVERYTHING is a learning experience.

Today I picked up my new Hoyt Charger compound bow from Itasca Archery Supply (http:www.itascaarchery.com). I’m telling you, the people in the Northland are about the most friendly and interesting folks you could wish to meet. Gary, the shop owner, set me up with a great bow package. I’ve never felt more comfortable about making such an “investment” in my life. I was even able to get a free archery lesson with Arne Moe, who is a level 4 USA Archery Coach. To top it all off, Gary’s son is going to connect me with some local bee keepers in the Itasca area. Northland networking at it’s finest! I have faith that I’m going to get a deer this season… cross your fingers and wish me luck, I’m hoping to brain tan some buckskin this fall.

Well, the rain has died down a little. I think I’m going to find a spot to hang my target and practice my form. Nothing like nocking arrows off-grid in the rain. Stay dry!