Monday, March 31, 2014

Travel, Birthdays, and Tiny House Conference!

It has been a little while since my last blog post. I suppose you could say I took a bit of a vacation for a couple weeks.

Matt and I just got back from a trip to Savannah with some friends. We enjoyed the historic city, the beaches of Tybee Island, and an adventure to a brand new Savannah brewery. A good time was had by all! 

And, as soon as we arrived home from Savannah, we hosted a birthday party. My birthday, March 29th, happened to be on a Saturday. Matt's birthday is April 2nd. So we killed 2 birds with one stone and had a combined party.

We had this dragon pinata. With just two hits with a stick, the dragon was fully decapitated!  We left the dragon head hanging up to display our bravery to our enemies...or something.

This weekend Matt and I are heading to Charlotte for the first annual Tiny House Conference. We can't wait!  We get to see tiny house friends we've made and meet other tiny house folks that we only know on line. I'm sure we will have lots of stories after we get home, too.

Also, stay tuned for another post about my philosophy of tiny living. I'll have that posted later this week.

Monday, March 17, 2014

4 Things to Do When You Need a Break from Your Tiny House

There are a few "standard" questions we get asked all the time when it comes to living in a tiny house. You can see the FAQ at the top of the page for most of them and our answers.

Probably the second most common question is: 
"How do you live in such a small space with another person?" 

As with everything there is a short answer and a long answer.

The short answer is that we never really thought we couldn't live in a small space with each other. We just figured we could make it work. And we have.

The long answer involves one very specific truth about tiny houses:

We are in no way forced to stay inside our 120 square foot house 24 hours a day 7 days a week.

Don't get me wrong, we love our small space. We also love our entire mountain and have built outdoor spaces so we can enjoy it. We also love our nearest city, Asheville, and enjoy spending time there either by ourselves, together, or with other friends. The possibilities are endless.

Here are the top 4 things we do when we want to get out of the tiny house.
  1. Go to the movies. Just inside the city limits of Asheville when we drive in from the north is an awesome place called the Brew N' View. It is owned by Asheville Brewing Company which is, as you might expect, a brewery. It is also a pizza place and it has a huge theater in a big back room. It isn't stadium seating with all the modern conveniences, but movies cost 3 dollars and you can also buy pizza and beer. We do this all the time. Sometimes we see movies we had no intention of seeing but for the price and the day out it is a great deal. Of course, for more conventional movie choices there are several regular theaters in our town. If you just want to get out of the house and relax, a movie is a great idea. (Especially in hot summer to get out of a non-climate controlled tiny house during the hottest part of the day! Trust me.)
  2. Go to the bar. Okay, I may be biased but the beer and bar culture in Asheville was one of the things that drew me to this area in the first place. I am not suggesting that you go out every night and get sloshed but a beer at a favorite brewery or local hangout spot is a great way to connect with others in the community. We often strike up conversations with strangers. Some of them become friends and others we never talk to again. It is all part of the experience. We are spoiled because there is such a vibrant bar scene in our area but I imagine there is somewhere fun to go in your town as well. 
  3. Go for a hike. Our tiny house is nestled in the North Carolina Appalachian mountains so the outdoor activities are plentiful. I prefer low impact events like hiking over more adventurous ones like white water rafting. A moderate hike in the mountains is a great way to spend an afternoon. Bring a picnic to enjoy on your way. Other fun outdoor activities include camping or river tubing.
  4. Travel. Our entire plan from the moment we broke ground on our tiny house was to spend much of our time traveling. The tiny house was a catalyst to be able to change our jobs and have more flexibility in our schedules. Traveling is a great way to get out of the tiny house and see other places. We do a lot of this in the winter when the cabin fever potential is higher. We travel to spend time with friends or family. We've been to Michigan, New Mexico, Arizona, Atlanta, Savannah, Minneapolis and we're heading to London toward the end of this year. 
What are some of the things you do to get out of the house form time to time? 

Thursday, March 13, 2014

I Reject Busy-ness

I have written about it before. Once over at Tiny House Talk and once here as part of my Deliberate Living series. But I think this is way too important a topic to just let scroll by.

I reject busy-ness.

I absolutely reject the idea that we have to be consumed with tasks each and every moment of each and every day. Especially when those tasks keep us from happiness.

After being a freelance writer for about 6 months, someone asked me "What do you do now that you have so much time on your hands?"

Here is the thing. It isn't like I am sitting around twiddling my thumbs letting each day pass me by. I may not be "busy" in the sense that I am attached to a desk for 9 hours pretending to work and waiting for the clock to tell me I can go home. I have a lot to do each and every day, but I believe the term we use to describe it is lacking. I am busy in the sense that I have commitments and deadlines but I am not busy for busy's sake.

I took my time back. One of the best bits of advice I ever got about being a freelance writer was to always remember that I work for myself now, not my clients. I want to do a good job for them and I want to produce quality work in a timely fashion but I am not their employee. I am the one who sets my deadlines and  am the one who organizes my work. I am also the one who knows how much I can handle before I start to feel overwhelmed. And it is that state of overwhelmed-ness that I am avoiding.

I will never be "too busy" to respond to an email. I will never be "too busy" that I can't attend an event I've already committed to. And I don't want to paint myself to be some sort of saint. Certainly there are times I can't do everything that I want to do and I have to choose. In the way we use "busy" in our culture, I guess you could apply that to those situations.

I just want people to understand that they do have a choice. If you love your job, that's great. It means you are where you belong doing what you're meant to do. If you're not happy, begin to look at the ways you can change your life. It is okay to start small. I chose a tiny house to kick start my big change, but yours can be anything.

What are you going to do to reject the culture of busy-ness and take back your time?

Monday, March 10, 2014

The Tiny Table: Buffalo Chicken Nachos

Several months ago I was at a local restaurant and ordered buffalo chicken nachos off of the appetizer menu. They were absolutely delicious. The blend of spicy buffalo sauce with blue cheese and cheddar cheese. Plus the crunch of the tortilla chips and celery...divine!  However, we never really made it back to that restaurant but I was still craving the buffalo chicken nachos.

Enter, this recipe. The first time I made pulled buffalo chicken in the crock pot we ate the resulting deliciousness as sandwiches, but I quickly had a realization. They would be perfect for nachos!  So, I made the crock pot recipe again and this time, when it was all done, I laid out some chips and got to assembling. It went like this:
  • Layer of tortilla chips
  • Spoonfuls of the buffalo chicken (spread this out as much as you can on the chips)
  • A liberal sprinkling of blue cheese 
  • Scattering of sliced celery
  • An even more liberal application of cheddar cheese
  • Bake until cheese is bubbly and melty

Serve with ranch on the side.

The beauty of this recipe is that the baking part doesn't take long. Since the chicken is already cooked it just needs to be in the oven until the cheese is perfect. We put it in a 350 degree oven for about 5 minutes. While we made this dish in a conventional kitchen using a crock pot it would also be a great meal for a simple tiny house like ours or camping. You can easily make the pulled buffalo chicken in a dutch oven over a fire rather than a crock pot. And the camp oven would be perfect for melting the cheese.

Of course, when you make something like this in a crock pot you are likely to have left over chicken. This week I am thinking about trying buffalo chicken egg rolls. Won ton wrappers stuffed with the buffalo chicken and blue cheese. Ranch dipping sauce on the side, of course.

What have you been cooking up in your tiny house?

Thursday, March 6, 2014

I Lived in A Barn for Three Years

I was thinking back the other day about our tiny house build. Our experience was so different from a lot of other tiny house people. We built our home on a foundation on a mountain three and a half hours from where we were living and working.

From day one the whole experience was an adventure for us.

Now, I am not saying that tiny house building or living isn't an adventure for everyone. It just happens to be a very different adventure for each person choosing to build their own home.

For us, our adventure involved living in a barn. 

Yes, that is right, a barn. 

When we found the land that would eventually be named Mt. Matt we were uncertain about the old barn filled with junk. It wasn't considered a usable building and didn't add any cost to our purchase price. Our only request was that the sellers clean all of the junk out of it before we took possession of the land.

Our first few trips to our own patch of the Smoky Mountains were camping trips. Sometimes a friend or two would come along. We didn't even know what we were going to build - except there was a perfect little clearing about half way up the mountain that needed something built there.

Once we decided that the thing we were going to build was a tiny house, we knew we would have to travel up to the mountain from Atlanta as often as we could. Our original time estimate was finishing the house in a year. Spoiler alert: it took us three years. It wasn't that we weren't capable of building a house by ourselves but rather all of the other things that happened along the way to halt our progress.
  • One of the rainiest summers the region had ever seen...
  • A freak snowstorm that took down over 100 trees on our land (directly in our path)...
  • An unreliable ATV, which was the only way to get supplies up to our building site...
And through all of this time we slept on an air mattress in a small, unfinished, enclosed room in the barn.

It wasn't glamorous. Sometimes it was too hot. Sometimes it was too cold. Once, there was a bat trapped in the room with us while we were trying to sleep. 

But you know what? I kind of miss it sometimes.

I'm not saying I would abandon our cozy, well-built tiny house and go live in the barn again, but there was a real sense of adventure during those days. I also remember sleeping until noon one day. I never do that. Apparently I needed sleep and the quiet mountain and fresh air let me sleep soundly even in a barn.

So today, to celebrate the process and the adventure I wanted to take a walk down memory lane about the years I lived in a barn. Join me, if you like.

The room we stayed in was behind those windows.

The finished insulation - before we put a double high queen sized air mattress in the room.
Sometimes there were snakes. He's just a rat snake - won't hurt anyone.
Barn Sweet Barn
And sometimes Canadians camped in the hayloft. (This is our friend Andrew)
Now the barn is storage space for us. We still have some ideas of ways we want to finish it, but we aren't hurrying to do that. We also learned a lot about our barn in the time we've owned the land. The back corner of the barn, behind our "room" was the original cabin on the land. It is built with old, hand-cut timbers that are as big as a person. The rest of the barn was built around it with no real rhyme or reason. We are really glad we had the old barn because we couldn't have built the tiny house without it. At least not the way we built. Our equipment and materials could stay in the barn while we were home in Atlanta for two weeks. We parked the ATV there. We camped there. It was the best free structure we could have had. So, here is my tribute to my barn. I hope you've enjoyed it.

Monday, March 3, 2014

The Fallacy of the One-Size-Fits All Tiny House

I love the synergy of the tiny house community. As I was hand writing this post the other day I discovered this Tiny House Listings contribution from Laura Moreland of Tiny House Ontario. However, I did not change my original text in any way based on it. I do encourage you to read her post as well.

When you decide to put your story up on the internet there are a few things that you come to expect. Unfortunately, one of those things is negativity. I've written about the "Yum Yucking" phenomenon before but there is an interesting variation on the style.

These master yum yuckers appear to believe that there is One Right Way (TM) to build a tiny house. And it seems as if, unknown to most tiny house dwellers, that there is a complex scoring system. It is clearly a competition to see who can tiny house better than anyone else who is tiny housing.

Even more curiously, these opinions come from people who are observers of tiny house culture rather than others who have built or are building their own tiny homes. In my experience, tiny house people from all over the world are genuinely excited to see the choices that others have made. We thrive on the diversity and the philosophy of tiny living. Yet, the criticism still lingers on the internet.
  • Lofts are such a bad idea.
  • I need a much better kitchen.
  • This tiny house is way too expensive.
  • There aren't enough windows.
  • I hate that color.
  • You don't live there in the winter so you're doing it wrong.
  • What an ugly modern house.
  • You should only use reclaimed materials.
  • I could never do that. 
The real lesson here shouldn't be seen in all of the things that aren't perfect about someone else's tiny house but rather the idea that no two houses need to be the same.

There is no One-Size-Fit-All tiny house.

In fact, that very thought is against everything that the tiny house movement stands for!

Tiny homes are intended to be custom. If you want a loft, build one with a loft. First floor bedroom? Check. Gourmet kitchen? Check. Small bath tub? Check.

The entire idea is to create a space that works for you as an individual or a family and fits with your specific lifestyle needs. Almost anything you can dream up can be incorporated into a tiny space with a little creative thinking.

When members of the tiny house community share their stories online it is not to prove that they can tiny house better than anyone else. They don't want to up their tiny house cred or win an unspoken tiny house competition. They merely want to share their hard work, their philosophy, and their stories.

So tell me - what do you want in your tiny home? Not what you think is essential for all tiny homes, but what would make yours work for you.