Thinking Spring

We had such a mild winter this year! But let me tell you, it’s a welcomed change from the severe cold we experienced since my transition to tiny house living.

Early spring-like weather means early winter clean-up: organizing wood piles for next year, doing needed outside house repairs, and planning for upcoming summer projects. The LSC has already been meeting and organizing gardens for this year’s Food Share. They’ve been repairing and building greenhouses, prepping beds, building storage, putting up fencing, and working on a “micro house” made from 100% reclaimed materials.

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The teeny, tiny “micro house”!

Chase has been thinking of ways to utilized slab wood (the wood left over from milling trees) besides just as firewood. Last year the LSC used slab wood to make raised beds at the community garden, and they were very unique and beautiful. Chase started making some slab wood raised beds at our property so that we can have our own little garden this year.

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Ryder hoping for a game of frisbee

As for upcoming projects, there’s a lot we want to tackle: redesigning the composting area, installing the pretty red gutters we were gifted for a rain-catch system, seeing if my perennials survived and planting more, figuring out what deep-cycle batteries will work best for powering our little d/c refrigerator and, as always, attempting to perfect our water storage system so it won’t freeze next winter.

Here’s to the sunny days ahead. 🙂

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Winter Prep

The last few weeks have been busy! In October we started prepping for the winter months ahead.

As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, I moved into my tiny house for the first time during January of 2012 – the coldest winter the Northeast had seen in decades. Because of all the work that was needed to finish the house before the really heavy snow hit, we did not have enough time to get our wood prepared ahead of time. Chase and I made it through that frigid winter, but the entire experience made an indelible mark on me. Ever since that winter  I’ve been fanatical about having enough cords of seasoned wood on hand and ready. This year Chase, with the help of the LSC and volunteers from Bard, definitely came through.

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Chase splitting wood and Ryder trying to play frisbee.

The picture above captures just a bit of what we have ready this year. I think we have more than enough wood for this winter, and enough to take us into next winter, too!

The other important project that we are finishing is setting up our new water system. Last fall we we buried two tanks in the ground to get us through the winter and used a hand-pump to bring water into the house. This worked well enough, but the water table around our house is too high to keep tanks buried in the ground as a long term solution (they were floating!), and so this year we decided to find a way to store them above ground instead.

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Working on the water box.

Chase decided to build an insulated box in which to store the tanks. The box was built on the wall against our wood stove and we have a heat protected vent directs air into the box in order to keep the water tanks above freezing.

The box is complete. We’re using a remote temperature sensor to monitor the heat inside of the box and so far so good. The last step is to fill the two water tanks with water from the well, and then secure the hand pump.

So far things are working well. The box definitely holds the heat from the wood stove. But we won’t truly know if it will keep the water in the tanks above freezing until our first stretch of below zero weather. Keep your fingers crossed! 🙂

Spring Cleaning

Now that the weather is cooperating it’s time to get things done outside.

Tiny House - May 2015

Tiny House – May 2015

We’ve tidied-up the yard and Chase did some season repair and cleaning on the chimney. We also had the water tanks we buried last fall exhumed. The plan to bury water tanks in the ground in order to get us through the winter definitely worked, but accessing the water was still a pain. This fall we want to build a green house off the southern side of the tiny house and see if the sun (along with the heat from our wood stove) will keep the water above freezing. It would be much easier for us to access and we’d have the added bonus of our own green house/mud room to start seedlings.

On that note, I’ve been attempting to garden. Unlike Chase, I do NOT have a green thumb, so we’ll see how this goes. The excavator we used to bury (then re-fill) the hole for the water tanks left some barren patches in the shade. My plan is to fill these spaces with flowering shade plants and shrubs for privacy.

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Some of the plants I’ve put in the ground look like they are doing well … and some not so well. And I have to keep reminding Ryder not to pee on the heucheras! But we’re both learning and it’s been a fun experiment so far lol.

Ryder enjoying the porch.

Ryder enjoying the porch.

Ryder!

We have a new addition to the family – an Australian Cattle Dog named Ryder!

Ryder smiling.

Ryder smiling.

Chase and I had been thinking about getting a dog for quite some time. After our recent black bear visitation we actively began to look for a medium-sized dog who not only would be a great companion, but also a working dog who could help guard the chickens and whose presence could deter other animals. We finally determined that the Australian Cattle Dog (ACD) or an ACD mix would really fit our lifestyle the best.

After my cat of 18 years passed away in March I knew that I could not get another feline for a while. But both Chase and I missed animal companionship, and that sent me to the Australian Cattle Dog Rescue Association, where I found Ryder.

Ryder at work with the guys.

Ryder at work with the guys.

He is three and a half years old and has been a wonderful dog: protective, playful, loving, active, and hilarious. We are so happy to have him in our lives and in our tiny house.

Good Night, Scout

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I’ve had my cat, Scout, since my Milwaukee days – he moved with me to New York back in 2003 and had quite the experience transitioning from a city/apartment cat to living tiny and off-grid here at the foot of the Catskill Mountains. Although frail in appearance, he was in good health for such an elderly cat. He still loved to play, steal food and, of course, sleep.

My, Scout, and my tiny house - by my friend, Alex B.

Me, Scout, and my tiny house – by my friend, Alex B.

At the end of March he suddenly became ill. It started off as a simple cold that he just couldn’t seem to shake. He’d bounce back and then, a few days later, he was back to being lethargic with no appetite. He loss the use of his back legs and was having acute stomach pain. At the start of spring, just shy of his 18th birthday, I made the difficult decision to let him go. Scout_missyou

He was a wonderful companion, and had a long life filled with adventure and mischief. I am glad I had the chance to share my journey with such a sweet little soul. I will miss you, Scout.

Nighttime Visitors

It’s late at night. The skies are clear and light from the first full moon of spring is shining in the windows. You’ve just settled into bed when suddenly you hear the sound of footsteps rustling the leaves behind your tiny house. You sit up, listening intently as the rustling gets louder and louder – multiple feet heading straight toward your house. Thinking you must have visitors, maybe some campers who lost their way, you head downstairs. Just as you reach the front door you hear loud thumping, shuffling and snuffling noises on your porch. The full moon is so brilliant you don’t need the porch light to make out who has stopped by and is now checking out your house:

Photo credit: National Park Service.

Photo credit: National Park Service.

O_O

Last night we were visited by a mother black bear and her THREE cubs! I’m guessing the cubs must have been about 1 to 2 years old because they were almost as big as she was. They played around the yard, drank the water out of the French drain, walked on the porch, rolled around on the wood pile, ripped open a garbage bag full of old plastic and cardboard – and then left.

It was breathtaking to see the black bears close up. You are suppose to make loud noises (like banging pots and pans together) when you see a bear in order to scare them off, but Chase and I were a bit frozen. Having them so close, literally on the other side of the door, and it being a mother and her cubs, made us cautious. I know black bears are typically docile and run away, but I wasn’t sure if the mother would just get angry and charge the house – testing the strength of our front door. They stayed for less than ten minutes, playing in the moonlight and checking things out. We turned on the porch light thinking it would scare them off, but they weren’t phased by the light at all. That’s actually when one of the cubs decided to stand up and look in the door window!

They were not aggressive, just curious. I regret being too shocked to take an actual picture! We moved our tiny house here in November when they were already hibernating. Yesterday was April 1st, right when black bears typically start waking up and foraging, and I am sure they are familiar with the human hiking path behind our home. They must have waken from their winter nap, walked down the path and been like “Where did this house come from?! This wasn’t here last year!”

The American Bear Association has has great tips for folks like me who live in black bear country. It was a beautiful, and humbling, experience to see them. The bears were so cute and were just playing/looking around, but even so we were hyper-aware that huge wild animals had surrounded our home! Black bears cover many, many miles of territory when they roam, so it’s more than likely that we will never see those bears again. Still, Chase and I will be taking further precautions. If a bear does wander nearby I don’t want them getting comfortable around the house. Black Goldilocks I am NOT! I will be picking up an air horn for a noise maker, a bell to put on my keychain for when I’m walking to my car, and some “bear spray”, just in case. And it just might be time to look into getting that dog we’ve been musing about …

Lights! And info on our d/c system

Our tiny house runs almost exclusively on a 12volt d/c system powered by one 200 watt solar panel and two deep cycle marine batteries. The whole system – panel, batteries, and wiring – cost us about $700 in total.

We have a small a/c inverter that we use for charging the laptop and blender, but everything else in our house runs on d/c. D/c uses less energy and is more efficient than a/c. The wiring is easier to install by yourself and is much safer to handle than a/c electricity.

RVs, boats, and cars run on 12volt systems and so you can reclaim automotive lights and use RV appliances in your house.

Chase and I have RV flush mount lights in our bathroom, kitchen, and back room (“office”). In the sleeping loft we placed two reclaimed automotive  lights as a temperary fix until we could agree on how we wanted the loft lights to be.

 

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The automotive lights work perfectly with our system – but aren’t attractive. We didn’t want to use standard, store-bought fixtures for the loft, but wanted to create something to camouflage the automotive lights. Chase has been adding natural wood touches throughout the tiny house. A friend gave us a roll of faux rice paper and we made a quick cover.

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Very simple! The ironwood around the light matches the ironwood accents Chase made on the loft stairs, and the rice paper creates a lovely glow. 🙂

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