Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Community Supported Agriculture

Since gift giving is such a persistent theme during the winter holidays, it becomes a topic of conversation among tiny house enthusiasts.  I spent quite a bit of time deciding what to get for my partner this year. I wanted something creative and thoughtful, of course, but also something very practical for Life in 120 Square Feet.

Enter the CSA or Community Supported Agriculture.

CSA is a way to purchase a share of a farm's crops for the growing season. During your entire subscription period you receive a set amount of food each week. Vegetables are the most common, but meats and dairy products are also available through some CSAs.  I thought to myself that this was perfect for a lot of reasons. First, it wasn't just another thing to add to our collective stuff. Second, because we have never lived this way before we don't automatically know how to grow and harvest our own food. We certainly want to do that, but considering we failed to grow tomatoes and peppers in containers on our balcony this year we figure we may not get the results we are hoping for immediately. The CSA offers that immediate gratification. For a small price we own part of the harvest from that farm.

If you're interested in Community Supported Agriculture, there are plenty of sites that can point you in the right direction to find one in your area.  Such as here.  We found a couple near our tiny house that seem like they will be a good fit for us. We picked one that sounded right, added our name to the information list and will purchase it. Then, just about the time we will be moving into our little house the subscription will begin and we can pick up fresh fruits and vegetables to enjoy.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Farewell Tiny House for 2011

We just got back from our last trip to our Tiny House for this year.  It was a really nice trip. We had just a few things to do - some additional trim. There are still a couple more pieces to install but nothing that will take a lot of time. This time we did the built in shelf boxes on the closet walls and framed out Piglet's litterbox door.  We decided not to sleep at the tiny house this time, mostly because it was going to get down to 20 degrees over night. The little house would have been warm enough to sleep in, but we didn't want to have to go outside in that cold in the middle of the night or first thing in the morning. 

In fact, speaking of temperature, I got a photo of our indoor/outdoor thermometer while it was still heating up.  When we arrived at the house it was 27 outside and 33 inside. We turned on our little heater and it got up to 72.  Here is a slightly blurry photo while it was still in the process of heating up. 

Also, while we were there I put up the tiny stockings my sister bought us for Christmas last year.

But here is our real work.  First we built the boxes to fit in the spaces we left for shelves on those two walls.

Then we trimmed them.
Eventually they will have small shelves inside. 

Then we also framed and trimmed Piglet's litterbox door.
Here is the inside of the closet with the cedar wall.

Before we left for the day, I was up in the loft playing around with the camera and got this photo.

At dusk, we closed up the little house and wished it Happy Holidays and trekked back down the mountain.  We stayed at a hotel in Biltmore Village and walked to a local bar the

re for dinner. Then the next day we went to see the Lions play the Vikings - oh thank goodness we pulled that one off. It was the definition of a nail-biter.  

Big plans for next yet, as always. We have just a tad more interior trim to finish. Then put up the kitchen shelves.  Then we have to finish the bathroom.  Once all that is done inside, we'll work on the exterior trim (we are waiting until it is warmer to do that).  Then there is just some accessorizing to make the place 100% done and livable. 

We would like to wish all of our readers a safe and happy Holiday. And, if you find yourself in the mood to be charitable for the season please consider donating to the Zulu Orphan Alliance

I hope your holiday season is wonderful, whatever it is that you celebrate. 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

wheezinggirl's photostream

Most of the houseChristmas Doordown stairscoffee windowmaking coffeeour heater
christmas Lightsolympian treenew fancy stepsFlor on LadderOlympian Treearchway trim
finished cabinet doorsperspectivecloset floor triminside the housecabinet doorsinstalling doors
trim on doorsnew showerwe built a showerGreen Countersa look insideladder on loft

I finally updated the photos since the 4th of July. Enjoy!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Thanksgiving Weekend and Trim

It is hard to show the progress these days. Back when we just had a shell of a house, it was easy to see when we finished something new. Now, for all intents and purposes, the house is complete we are just finishing up the trim. 

After our trip to South Africa, we stayed home for a quiet Thanksgiving with friends. On Friday we went out to see The Muppets. But that left us with a whole weekend free. We decided to go up to Asheville. There was some business that needed to be attended to. When we arrived we had a meeting with all the neighbors in our little mountain hollow to discuss road maintenance. Once that was done, we headed up to the tiny house to get some work done.

Saturday was beautiful in the mountains. The temperature was in the 60s all day (and didn't get below 50 overnight either).  So we set out to complete two primary tasks. Matt cut and installed much of the last remaining trim and I put up our Holiday Decorations. It seems silly to decorate a small house that we might only see one more time before the end of the year, but it really made us feel good to get the house in the holiday spirit. 

Here is Matt installing some of the trim around the kitchen archway.
 Here is the finished trim on the cabinets.

Here is the little lime green tree up in the loft with a collection of glass ornaments.

Also while we were working, I had the brilliant idea of putting some of the left over FLOR on the ladder rungs. It brings some of the color of the FLOR down to the main living area and is nice and soft on your feet if you're coming down the ladder in the morning with no socks on.

At night, I wanted to get a picture of the tree in the loft from outside. It was really cool to see it all lit up like that. Makes the place feel really homey.  

The next morning, we got up and took our time. We boiled some water and made coffee and hot cocoa.

One day soon we'll be able to move our real pots and pans and dishes into the house so we don't have to use the camping kettle.  

We sat and enjoyed the beautiful mountain morning.

We got to work mid-morning and did the trim around the door, the closets and front archway.

We finished up around lunch time, had some sandwiches and then spent a little bit of time reorganizing our tools and wood, since we are almost done with the house as a whole.  We took some things back down to the barn as we were leaving so they weren't in the way at the tiny house any more. It doesn't take much for the tiny house to get cluttered, it being tiny and all. Now that it is livable and nearly done, we don't need all the supplies inside any more. 

On the way home we finally figured out the easiest way to do the built in shelves. If we had figured that out before we left we might have installed them.  But otherwise, we only have a short list of things to be done. We have to install the kitchen shelves, finish the built ins, trim around Piglet's litterbox door, and finish the closets.   I don't think any of that will take a ton of time.  I am so excited to have this little place finished.  We do still have to do the bathroom, but we were leaving that until last inside. Then we have to do the exterior trim, but we don't have to hurry on that either - plus we'd rather do that in the spring. 

We'll probably be back up once more this year barring any major ice or snow storms preventing us from getting up to the house. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

South Africa Trip, Part Four

It is strange to me that the last two days in South Africa were more of a blur than the first five. 

On Thursday (I think it was Thursday) we went out to Mildred's in the morning to drop off some things and to pick her up. We stopped to pick up things to make dinner, which Matt and I were planning to do. We picked up Priscilla's daughter after her exams at school and drove up to the mountains.We stopped at a little shopping village and walked around.

Then we stopped at the house of Priscilla's daughter's birth mom.  That is a pretty incredible story, but really not mine to tell. But what I will say is that girl has so many women who love her and that is an incredible thing to see.

Eventually we ended up at the house of Margaret, a woman who had dedicated her life to helping children. She helps get them out of dangerous situations and brings them to live with her.  On top of that, she also breeds dachshunds.
Here is another photo that Priscilla took.

She use to breed Sphynx Cats, like Piglet, and if she were still doing that Matt and I may have never left. We would have sat there covered in kittens.  As it was, Matt and I started making dinner as soon as we got there. We made penne pasta, red sauce and home made meat balls.   We enjoyed spending the afternoon making dinner and we fed about 15 people, maybe more. I kind of lost count. 

I love this photo of Mildred and the cat.

Priscilla made the salad!

Our masterpiece in the making

Also, at some point that day, we were able to look at the soil test. We did the shake test that you'll see on page four of the PDF link. There were very interesting results.  We expected to see a mixture of sand, silt and clay, but that wasn't what we got.   
The black clay was really just entirely clay. The redder sand had no clay whatsoever, just silt and sand. What this means, though, is that the mixture of the two types of dirt should make pretty good filler for the earth bags.  

Our last full day in South Africa has been a little more difficult to process. I have been contemplating exactly what I wanted to say about it since I got home, and I don't know that I can really articulate everything that happened. I am also not certain that I should articulate it in detail.  

The morning started early. We left at 6am to drive out to a game park called Tala. Here are a couple of the cool things we saw driving around the park.

He was standing right next to the car, I didn't have to zoom in with the camera or anything.

While we were there, we got a couple of phone calls. The first was a pretty large NGO in the area that wanted to having a meeting with our group. The other was to set up a meeting with one of the Councilors from the Zulu community to get his blessing to build the shelter on the land next to Mildred's.  So, after we ate a lovely breakfast at the park restaurant, we headed back to the city to get ready for those meetings.  
The meeting with the Councilor went very well.  We met him at Durban city hall and Mildred explained to him why we were there and what we were planning to do. She is very well respected and he told us that we had his blessing to do anything we could to help her and to help the children. We showed him the plans for the earthbag structure as well as a sketch of the long term vision which would include a separate boys and girls dorm, a kitchen and a community space. 

After that meeting, we went to a bar on the pier over the harbor and had some snacks and drinks before heading back to the flats to get ready for the meeting with the other NGO.

Here is where things got a little crazy. I don't want to share a lot of information, but the meeting was pretty harrowing. All of us felt a little ambushed and caught up in the middle of a personal and political battle for which there appeared to be no solution. In the end, we were essentially told that our plans might not be able to happen as we expected.  The upsetting part about that is our project and the mission of the other organization are quite complimentary and we don't understand why we couldn't work together for the children. It isn't my battle, and I feel a little helpless that there isn't more that I can do, but in the long run we will figure out a way to make this building happen and to help these kids.

We left for the airport on Saturday feeling a little kicked in the gut, but we've had a lot to talk about and a lot to process since getting home.  As it stands now, the plan is to go back next year probably around August and get this project started one way or another.  

Keep checking back here.  If it weren't for us taking this step to build our own tiny house in the woods and live unconventionally, we would have never had the opportunity to help this community half a world away that has so much promise and potential.   

My next update will be back to the tiny house. We'll be up in Asheville this weekend working on some more of the finishing trim.  It is going to be a nice weekend to sleep in our cabin so I am looking forward to a rest.  

Have a safe and wonderful Thanksgiving holiday. Don't forget to be thankful for everything.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

South Africa Trip, Part Three

Day 5.
By this time I had completely lost track of the date and day of the week.  That day, we decided to go into Durban proper to walk along the waterfront, shop at the street vendors and eat at a restaurant out on the dock.  On the way, Matt decided to practice driving on the opposite side of the road (since Priscilla and Austin asked us to take the rental car back to the airport when we left.) He had some experience driving in Ireland, but that was 6 years ago. I decided to go in Austin's car to let Matt practice without me.  He did very well, though, following our car into the city.

The Durban waterfront is gorgeous. There are lots of parks and pools for the kids and the ocean was grand.  We walked along the street and shopped at some of the street vendors. I picked up a couple of holiday gifts, but don't tell anyone.

We ended up at a restaurant called Moyo's that was on the pier over the Indian Ocean. It was a crazy fusion of Indian and African Tapas. The food was absolutely amazing. And we really enjoyed the afternoon watching the ocean.

This is Matt and me showing off our prawns. Delicious. 

After lunch we went back to the flats. Priscilla and Tammy went out to visit someone else they knew who was taking care of a pregnant teenager.  Matt, Ellen and I decided to stay back since we thought it might be overwhelming for the girl to have all these visitors.  Ellen did some journaling and Matt played music for us.  When Tammy, Priscilla and Austin returned, Tammy made nachos which were quite delicious.  We also made sopapillas. 

After dinner, Matt showed us his completed water heater for Mildred's house. It was made using two 2-litre bottles, a Y adapter, a hose and some random attachments. The first step was figuring out how hoses worked in South Africa. Apparently, you just buy a piece of hose and add the connectors yourself. You get a set with the hose, but you can also buy any number of additional adapters.  Matt used marine silicone to attach the bottles permanently to pieces that are intended to be easily snapped on and off a hose or faucet. These then snap onto the Y adapter that is then connected to the hose itself. You can fill up each individual bottle by snapping them directly onto the water spigot or into the hose or Y. Then you put them up high in the sun so they get hot and you can snap them into the Y and onto the hose and use a spray adapter on the other end to wash the kids. Unfortunately we never got to use it because it rained quite a bit the rest of the week and was never sunny enough to give it a try. We left it with Austin to take to Mildred's.  
This design would have quite a few applications in tiny house living, possibly in conjunction to the garden sprayer shower design.We did see a garden sprayer in the hardware store in Amanzimtoti, but we decided to start with this contraption and work our way up to that shower design for the kids. 

I still have two more days to recap of the trip, but I have to go to work so stick around for updates.  Also, be sure to come back next week because Matt and I will be going up to the Tiny House this weekend to do some more finish work.