Monday, July 30, 2012

Water in the Tiny House

The other day as we were driving down off of our mountain we ran into a part-time neighbor who lives in another part of North Carolina full time. He told us he is reading the blog (Thanks!) and had just one question. What do we do about water? 

I suppose it kind of slipped my mind not to talk about our water system here in the tiny house. I'll give you a quick overview.

All of the water we use in our house comes from a spring on the land. The only exception is drinking water which we buy by the gallon at the local grocery store. For treating the spring water we use a Berkey water filter system. We could drink it, but we just don't. We collect water in large containers at the site of the spring and physically carry them up to the house whenever we're running low. If you want to know more about how we handle water here, you can check out my guest post from over at the Tumbleweed Tiny House Blog.

I've also spoken about our shower before. I am very proud of that device. We tried a lot of camp showers over the years. We had the submersible pump and gravity fed shower bags. They were all fine but none were perfect. Then Matt went out to New Mexico and met with someone for the project we were doing in South Africa. This person told him about living on a boat and using a garden sprayer for his shower. So we modified the design and it is beyond perfect. Once we moved into the tiny house we got a little shower attachment to hold the sprayer like this one to make the process even easier.

Our greywater (waste water from washing ourselves or dishes) is handled through an artificial wetland similar to ones used by the Earthship community out in Taos New Mexico. Stay tuned and I'll eventually do a post on how we constructed ours.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

5 Things I Love About Living on the Mountain

Just after moving into the Tiny House, I posted 5 truths about living in the woods. They included things like sweeping and constant battles with bugs. But I also said that I loved living on our mountain. One of the comments said, "Please do bore me with all the details about why you love living in the woods." So I thought I might share with you a couple of my favorite things about living on my mountain.

1. Peace and tranquility. I was going to say "peace and quiet" but that isn't exactly true. We don't have the city noise like we did in Atlanta but it has been replaced with the sounds of nature. We hear lots of birds, lots of crickets and the gentle sound of the wind in the trees. I used to use one of those sound machines to be able to fall asleep in the city. Now I don't need one.

2. Cooking outside. I never realized how much I loved to cook outside until it became a regular feature in my life. Whether it is just cooking on the camp stove or baking in our camp oven or even grilling outside I find that the enjoy the process much more than I did when I rushed home every day to shovel food in my face.

4. Good News Bees. I wrote about the bad bugs in my last post. I still manage to get bitten by mosquitoes on a pretty regular basis. But there are good bugs around here like pretty butterflies and some spiders. My favorite is the Good News Bee. I've written about them briefly before. They are so cool. They aren't bees at all but a type of very large fly with pretty yellow and black markings. They just hover in front of you which is why they are commonly called Good News Bees. Matt suggested I start a Good News Bee sanctuary - you know, like how people have butterfly houses and things. I just don't know about breeding giant flies.

4. Bats. Just at dusk you can lean back in your chair outside and see the bats flitting across the treetops. I love watching them just flap around. I also know they are eating the mosquitoes that plague me. They just need to work faster. One of these days I think I might build them a bat house. For now I think they live in the barn, which is fine. I believe we have "Big Brown Bats," but they are still only about 6 inches long when fully grown.

5. The Stars. After you can no longer see the bats when the sun has gone down beyond the horizon, the stars come out. There are times the night is so clear we can see the Milky Way. The big dipper is pouring right over the barn. I'm not very good at identifying constellations but we've had various friends here over the years who point out different things to us.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

"Pointy Spider" and other interesting searches.

Like many bloggers, I keep track of hits to my website through the specific search strings people might Google (or other search engine name as verb) to land on this page. I am baffled by many of them and amused by some.

People have found this blog by searching for "salad and ladder and cats" which seems like a strange combination.

Seems like I get some traffic from my Frontier House post. Just like me, there are many who are interested in the series. And recently I got a hit from someone searching "pointy spider".

I realized that I had also Googled "Pointy Spider" way back in 2010 when I posted about siding our house.

I had taken this photo of a weird little spider:

I thought as a public service I should share that I have since learned exactly what kind of spider that is. She is called a Spined Micrathena. They are really common on our mountain starting right about this time of year. And what they really like to do is build webs across the path from tree to tree right about face height so we run into them on a regular basis! 

I got this other photo last year of a Micrathena on my garden statue.
They really are the same type of spider - maybe slightly different types of Spined Micrathenas. They aren't terribly big but they are super cool. Only the females spin webs and the webbing is the thickest I've ever run into. You notice that sort of stuff when you're swiping them out of your face several times a day.

Anyway, that is my public service for the day. Anyone searching for Pointy Spider will now know they are called the Spined Micrathena. Yay me!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Tiny Table: Tiny Eggplants

...and a gratuitous Piglet photo. Let's just get that one out of the way, shall we?

Window Cat
So, with that bit of side business done I now present to you today's installment of The Tiny Table.

We went back to the Farmers Market and our CSA had some incredibly adorable and delicious looking minature eggplants. I do like all things tiny, so we picked up a pint. I really wanted to saute them up with some olive oil and fresh garlic (which we also got from our CSA). So I did.

Then we cooked up some pasta and sauce we had picked up at a local co-op. This sauce in fact:

We happened to have some cooked Spicy Italian Chicken Sausage left over from a previous meal so I threw that in the cast iron skillet to brown and then put it in the sauce to heat up while I threw the mini eggplants in the skillet. I simply sliced them in half and cooked them until they were tender. They were very flavorful.

Here is the ugly but really tasty result of all of this cooking!

Today we are going to do another cooking experiment with items found at the Farmers Market. We've had a friend, Dann, in town for a while now and he really enjoys cooking on the grill so we've been smoking brisket and short ribs and things like that on Saturdays. I never think to take photos but technically it is not prepared in or even near the tiny house so it doesn't really count as The Tiny Table. We've been refering to it as "Smoking Saturdays." But today we are moving the grill and all related items up to the tiny house to be next to the outdoor kitchen we built. And this week Matt and I are taking over the grilling and we are going to make Grilled Pizza!  Yes, you read that right. I can't wait and I promise to get photos of it. We got a ton of heirloom tomatoes to make a bruchetta like sauce for one of the pizzas and we'll slice up some of the colorful tomatoes for topping as well.

Stay tuned for more Tiny Table and other little house adventures.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Sunny Days = Solar Installation

We finally had a break in all the rain so we took an opportunity to install the new solar power system. Our electrician friend Dann (who helped us wire the house during construction) is in town so he helped with the solar install as well.

I tried to convince Matt to write this post for you but instead you'll have to deal with my note taking. Please feel free to ask any questions about the system or parts and I will find out the answers.

We replaced our temporary 60 watt solar panel system with a new Kyocera 490 watt system. This consists of two 245 watt panels that connect to 45 amp Tristar MPPT charge controller made by Morning Star. These all feed into three 110 amp hour AGM batteries. We used the same trusty 1800 watt inverter from our original system to convert all the power to AC inside the house. There are separate breakers throughout the system so they can be safely isolated and serviced at any time. 

All of the wiring runs underground in rigid conduit. 

We had bought a traditional pole and top of pole mount but we wanted more flexibility to move the panels since the sun varies in position in our clearing throughout the year. Matt custom designed a mount that allow us to move the panels around as needed. They are heavy but it is possible.

We bought everything at the AltE Store online and they were quite helpful throughout the process.

Let me take you on a short photo tour of our system.

Here are the solar panels and their dedicated breaker box. Matt designed and built this re-positionable stand for the panels.

And the sexy new batteries
Here are all the breakers and such safely wired under the house.

My favorite photo - you can see how much power we have. With our old system we never got more than three green bars and that was on an extremely good day. The new system has lots of power.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Seriously, what is with all the rain?

It has been raining for at least four days straight. At first I was excited. Then I got a little annoyed. Now I need the sun or I am going to wither. I'm not normally the type of person to complain about the weather, but I am getting a little tired of all this rain.

Apparently there is a drought everywhere in the South East...except at Mt. Matt. No really, check out this link.

I am not above making myself look like an idiot on my own blog so I feel it necessary to share this photographic evidence of me coping with the rain.

Here's the thing. Our umbrellas were in the car...all the way down the mountain. It was pouring ran outside. We needed to get from the house to the car. Solution: trash bag ponchos!  I thought it was brilliant.  Dorky, but brilliant.

In other tiny house news, remember when I showed you that Piglet had learned to get up to the storage loft by using the ladder? 

Well, shortly after that time Piglet also proved that she could get up to that loft by jumping from her lowest platform. At first she wouldn't come back down, but finally she decided to throw caution to the wind and just jump back to the platform. She's a pro at it now. Well, to make things even more entertaining, she had now learned to navigate the ladder. I got a picture of that, too!

The other day we had a moth in the house. Piglet was up on the loft batting at it. Then she got onto her top platform to chase it...then she fell. Piglet came tumbling down, hit the counter on the way, bounced off the couch and landed on the floor. Piglet does not land on her feet - she failed that portion of cat school.

After a moment she shook her head and was all like "nothing happened! I meant to do that." We made sure she had no broken bones and she was just fine. She got a lot of treats for that. Seriously, our cat is a bigger dork than I am.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Let's Build a Basement!

As Matt to astutely pointed out, most people build basements before they build the rest of the house. But we don't do anything according to convention. Instead, we built a "basement" yesterday.

As we did the construction on the house, we took to shoving things underneath to keep out of the weather and out of our way. Now that we are living in the house and all major building is complete, we wanted to clean out under there. Some of the things has been there for almost three years so we didn't quite know what we would find. Luckily, as we pulled everything out from under the house we didn't find any snakes living there. That's always a bonus.

Then Matt had an idea of using some of the scrap lumber to build platforms under the house to store things neatly. So, he got to work.

Here you can see the first two levels. We also attached the inverter to the under side of the house. Matt would go on to build a total of 4 levels of storage under the house. Here we can keep things like our camp chairs and tools we still need.

Some of these things will also eventually be able to be moved out - like the air compressor and accessories. But for now it'll be neatly placed under the house.

I had some small concern about drainage but there are plenty of channels for water to find its way out from under the boards. We used scrap pressure treated lumber which we couldn't really dispose of anyway so helped us reuse a lot of our waste materials.

Friday, July 6, 2012

"You have got to be kidding me..!"

I just thought I would share a little tiny house humor this beautiful Friday morning. I loved this commercial when it came out a couple of years ago. While our tiny house is not uncomfortable at all I do occasionally reference this commercial when it seems appropriate. Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy Independence Day from Life in 120 Square Feet

For several years we have hosted a 4th of July camp out here at Mt. Matt. This year we decided not to do it for several reasons - we took a two week trip, people have been visiting us on their own schedule, and we're just getting ourselves involved in the community. However, the reason Independence Day has always been important to us here is because of the real sense of Independence that this tiny house provides us.

Imagine my surprise when I discover today that the Oregon Live website as posted a very nice article about me and our tiny house.

Even the simple life has its complications, it seems. But, as LaVoie concludes on her Tiny House Talk post, "even if tiny living isn't for everyone, profoundly changing the way we live can be an incredibly liberating experience."
You can read the entire article here.

I understand Oregon to be very tiny house friendly, so if you are interested in the Tiny House Movement it might not be a bad idea to check out what that state has to offer.

Monday, July 2, 2012

The Tiny Table: New Outdoor Kitchen, Steak, and Roasted Root Vegetables

Today's Tiny Table is brought to you by our brand new out door kitchen.  I thought I would share some of the build photos with you.

We used EZ Spikes for the four posts. We decided to use that to create a solid base but not involve bringing cement up the hill. We've done that before and would like to avoid doing it again. As it turns out, the spikes were a great solution.

Here is the base of the table being built.

And the completed frame

And the finished table. Well, nearly finished. This was after I painted the top surface gray. We also added a bottom shelf that you will see in the next photos. It really isn't crooked - I was when I took the photo. As you can see we didn't build much more than a nice out door table, but it is very functional. Because of the slope of the land it works on several different levels (pun intended). 

And here is me preparing the root vegetables for roasting. The Camp Chef camp oven, which is stored on the shelf below when not used, sits on the shortest part of the table. This makes using the oven more ergonomic or something. Where the cutting board sits is actually about counter height so is perfect for preparation.

And you can see here on high end of the table I have a Pur water filter with a spigot to use for washing the veggies and for dishes. 

So all the hard work paid off with this build. We may do some additional things. We are still debating whether or not we want to add sides or doors. Right now we will leave it like this to see what works best. The most important thing was that we were able to successfully make dinner. The root vegetables roasted in the oven for about an hour making them extremely tender and yummy. I had dressed them with olive oil, garlic powder, a teensy bit of cayenne, salt and pepper. While this was happening Matt threw some steaks on the grill to complete the meal.

The photo makes it look like the table is upside down. 

The food was delicious and the table was a huge success.