Category: Tiny House


It was really only a few short years ago that I was reading blogs about others living simple, off the grid lives. It was a dream, with parts romanticized but also parts feared. Could I really do that?

But now I am doing that. And I am blessed to have a community of people around me also doing that in their own similar and unique ways. And I love it. Sitting here on this below freezing day, with the wind whipping around outside, I am cozy inside my tiny house at a comfortable 75 degrees, in a tank top and what I call my Aladdin pants,  reflecting on a life that I know is uniquely blessed, and yet that sometime I forget is not what most of the world calls normal yet.

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Mayu, out in the snow, on a clear winters day.

What is this life I am talking about? For me is is a life where my electricity comes from the sun, a little wood stove keeps me warm, I poop in a 5 gallon bucket which I empty every few days into a compost bin, and I carry in my water, using generally no more than 4 gallons a day, for drinking, dishes, hand washing, and cooking.

You might say, wow, that life is not for me. But let me tell you of all the beauty and luxury that I also have, and how these simple systems have worked out for me. In this post I am going to focus on heat and my wood stove and its performance, but keep your eye out for future posts on pooping in a 5 gallon bucket, living with off grid solar, and living without running water.

First, the warmth! The beautiful, guilt free, cozy warmth of a wood stove heated house! I do not like the cold, and so I keep my little house at a comfortable 70-90 degrees fahrenheit. Yes, that is right, because I like to wear my sundresses inside through the cold New York winters! Parker, my partner, says one of his favorite things about Mayu is being able to sleep on top of the covers, even on the coldest days- something he can not achieve in his old, drafty, downtown apartment, even with the petroleum powered heat blasting. I have truly been blown away by my little Little Cod Marine stove. Choosing a heat source for a tiny house  is something I and many tiny house builders agonize over. It is still a niche market and information is hard to find, but I could not be happier with my choice.

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My beautiful Little Cod, giving off its radiant heat

For those who are perhaps trying to make a similar choice here is a bit about my process and why I am so so happy with the choice I made.

I knew from the beginning I wanted to heat with wood. I love the smell of a wood heated house, the unbeatable quality of warmth that they give off, and the ambiance that real fire creates. It is a primal thing, I believe, something wired into us that we have been doing since the beginning of time: making fire and gathering around fire, cooking, singing, sharing stories, warming our toes.

But I had my worries too. Would everything in my house freeze if I left for an 8 hour work day and the stove went out? Would the ash and the wood be too messy in my little house? Would I be able to find a stove that didn’t take up too much space but provided enough heat for my little house? Would it be too much heat and would I cook myself out of my little house? Well, this first winter has been a good trial, and here is what I found out.

First, my house holds heat incredible well! So my fear of things freezing has proven unwarranted. The care I took both to insulate, but particularly to air seal was well worth it! My house is NOT drafty. Unlike many friends who I hear say how they can really feel the difference on a windy day, my house stays just as warm on a still day as on a windy day. And yet it also seems to breath, as I have experienced no moisture problems despite not using any mechanical ventilation system. I accredit this to a few particular details: Taping all plywood sheathing seams with zip tape, using Mento airtight but vapor open house wrap, using Roxul insulation bats in my wall cavities and Roxul boards as an exterior wrap, and taping not only the exterior window flanges but also the interior of my windows with Tescon Vana tape. All this means that my house holds heat! This winter my house was often vacant for weeks at a time, yet only three times have I come home to find anything frozen, and that was only in the bathroom, which tends to be a bit colder than the rest of the house, and 2 out of the 3 times it was just thin films of ice, not frozen solid. In the morning, after the fire has been out for most of the night, the house is generally close to sixty degrees, meaning it has only dropped maybe 20 degrees from the toasty 80 degrees I usually get it up to before bed. On a sunny day, the house seems to get some good solar gain so even if empty and without a fire it is usually at least 15 degrees warmer than it is outside. And so basically, my fears of everything freezing inside have been obliterated. When I do plumb my house I probably would still drain the pipes if I was leaving for more than a weekend and it was supposed to be cold, but I no longer have fears of pipes freezing while at work, or even if I sleep downtown at a friend’s for a night!

And my Little Cod stove is a beast in terms of the heat it puts out! The first real test was when I had my house warming party on a fall October day and the door was propped open all evening as people went in and out. Once the sun went down it was a bit chilly but people cycled through the house and were amazed at how comfortably warm it was inside due to the wood stove going, despite the door and windows being open! Once I figured out my method, which is a little bit of paper, about three pieces of Fatwood fire starter sticks, and then some 1″ thick medium sized dry hardwood pieces, I found I can get a good hot fire going with one light in under 10 minutes. The draft on this little stove is awesome, in my opinion, and the cast iron radiates the heat out just like a big stove. You do have to stoke it more often than a big stove since you are using smaller pieces of wood, but once I have a good bed of coals and the house is pretty warm I will put a pretty large piece in and close the damper all the way and I can get a good slow burn for a couple hours.

Now, in terms of mess, here is what I have found about a tiny house: Yes, things can get messy fast, but it also is so quick to clean! Maybe about once a week I shake out my little Oaxacan rug, take my broom, and sweep the floor, which is really only maybe 60 square feet of floor space, so it takes maybe all of 5 minutes! Then I take my little dustpan and brush, sweep off the fire area and sweep up the pile on the floor and I am done! Sometime I also sweet the stairs, another minutes worth of work, and maybe wipe down the counter top. And I suppose about once a season I will take things off shelves and wipe those down of dust. But really, it is so quick and easy to clean! Now when I see other people’s large houses, or even my boyfriend’s apartment, I just think, what a pain to clean! Sure, you can get away not cleaning for longer, putting your dirty laundry under the bed, moving your pile of junk mail from one surface to another, but then when you do have to clean its a whole day event! No thank you. I’d rather not.

And how about a little wood stove taking up too much space? This potential issue is all about design: How do you design it into your little space in a way that it adds to the whole rather than feeling like a hazard or erroneous item? For me, I wanted the stove to be located somewhat centrally, so as to be able to be enjoyed from all parts of the house. I also knew there was a good chance I would use it to cook on so I wanted to also locate it in a place that would allow for that. With my galley way style kitchen, the wall that the wood stove sits on doesn’t feel like it impedes the flow or dominates the space at all. It sits right next to my little RV propane camper stove, so the two can easily be interchanged for cooking, both forming a nice work flow triangle with my fridge and sink which sit across from them. One reason why I chose the Little Cod stove was because of its low clearances. And when I spoke to the owner on the phone he said he has his with just 3″ of clearance with a heat shield and has never had a problem. Mine has about 6″ of clearance to the heat shield behind it and the stove pipe in places is quite a bit closer, but I also feel quite comfortable with it. What is nice about a real cast iron stove is it can burn quite hot, which mine often does, but the mass of the cast iron still creates a pretty nice, even, radiating warmth. It’s never felt uncomfortable hot in front of it and I feel like its effect in terms of warming the space is like a much larger cast iron stove in a larger space- nice warm heat radiating throughout. Also, the simple design for air flow on this stove is impressively effective! Open the intake fully and the fire quickly gets roaring. If I want a slower, cooler burning fire I either close the intake and/or add bigger logs that tend to burn slower. I have also been quite impressed that this little stove seems to burn quite clean! I have had no issues with creosote, and tapping on the stove pipe when its cool indicates no build of creosote. And I rarely even see smoke coming from the chimney- a sure sign of a clean burning fire.

A note on the Kimberly stove, one of the main competitors for the Little Cod in the tiny house application: When I went to the Mother Earth News Fair the owner and inventor of Kimberly Stoves was there.  There is a lot of hype about this little stove that costs almost $5,000 when all is said and done, and the inventor is, in my humble opinion, a bit of a sneaky salesperson, saying how it is really the only wood stove that will work in a tiny house. When I went to the Mother Earth news fair I already had money down on my Little Cod, which has a loong wait list of many many months, but I started to doubt my decision talking to the inventor of the Kimberly. Was the Kimberly really the only stove that would work in such a small space? He would sell it to me right there, for the discounted price of only $4000… I was close to going for it, despite preferring the more traditional look of the Little Cod to the sleek, modern look of the Kimberly, and having already agonized about the decision after many hours of internet research. But I didn’t bite, and I am glad I didn’t. The Kimberly may indeed be a great stove, but a few things to note: It is definitely NOT the only stove that will work in a tiny house. My Little Cod works beautifully, and I have since met friends that have had much success with other kinds of stoves in their tiny houses. And, one of those friends had a frustrating experience with the Kimberly, eventually taking it out and replacing it with a Two Dog Stove.  She is much happier with this stove, which has kept her warm for over 3 winters now with no modifications to the chimney. Her experience with Kimberly stoves was that she could not get a good draft or get the stove to produce enough heat for the Vermont winters where she lived. And she said she spent hours on the phone with the the company and Roger himself, the inventor, trouble shooting, trying different things, and then eventually asking if she could return it or get a refund, both of which they refused to do. And so eventually she just swallowed the price tag and moved on to a different stove, which she says is so much better- simpler, heats up her place faster, and much much cheaper (only $250)! So I guess I would say be cautious with the Kimberly. If you like the look and have the money, and your house is well sealed and perhaps you live in a warmer climate, then it may be an option for you. But it is not the only stove out there that will work, and it may not even work, despite all the big claims.

And my last concern- would I cook myself out? Well, I like it nice and warm. I will say my loft is generally a good bit warmer than the rest of the house, due to heat rising. So if you don’t like sleeping in the heat you could have a bit of a problem. I generally like to get the downstairs to a good 70 degrees which means the loft is a bit above 80, which means I can sleep naked if I want to, sometimes starting on top of my covers and moving under them at some point in the night as it cools down a bit. I love it, especially on the cold winter days when my body is craving being warm. And the few times it has felt just a little too hot up there, I’ll open a window for a bit to cool it down and that does the trick pretty quick. Also, I’d like to note that although it is toasty up there with the fire going, in the summer months, with windows open on three sides of the loft, I have a wonderful cross breeze and was never too hot, despite not having a ceiling fan or anything.

So there you have it! My adventures with wood stove heating have been a success! And I would give the Little Cod a five star rating. Did I mentioned that I Love love Love that it has a glass pane allowing me to see the fire!

One other thing I have yet to really calculate is how much wood I need to go through a whole winter. Like I mentioned, I was traveling for good chunks of this winter, but when I was around I would say I went through one apple crate’s worth of wood a day, probably about the equivalent of 4 or 5 pieces of regular sized firewood. And thats if I am home most of the day and keeping a slow fire going. The amount of wood you go through will vary depending on what size wood you use, and that is something I recommend you experiment with. But anyway, I haven’t done a conversion as to how many cords of wood that would be, as I am not buying cordwood but instead getting scraps from a local hardwood sawmill. But it is definitely pretty efficient I would say compared to heating a larger space or having to heat a not very well insulated or air sealed space!

So if you are considering heating your little home with wood I would say go for it. And think about how much care and money you are willing to put into insulating and air sealing and plan your stove size accordingly. And look forwards to cozy winter evenings playing cards and Bananagrams in front of your fire, drinking coconut milk hot chocolate warmed by your wood stove.

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Where I often write these blog posts from: My cozy window nook, complete with a sheep skin, and pillows my parents got me from Mexico, some dried flowers, garlic, and a beeswax candle on the windowsill.

Sometimes, when you live in a house that isn’t quite complete knowing you have guests coming is the perfect motivation to get you moving on some of those tasks that have been sitting patiently on a sticky on your fridge since you moved in in May… And realizing that winter may not be too too far away is also a good motivator! But first, the bliss of Summer…

Living in Mayu this summer has been a true joy of seeing, experiencing, and breathing the fruits of my labor and living my dream. And after almost two years of hard work on Mayu I felt ready to kick back and enjoy this summer a bit. And I have.

IMG_6152My loft is quite possibly my favorite place at this point in my life. With this beautiful octagon window that opens and the two side windows that also open there is almost always a delicious breeze up here, even on the hottest of summer nights. Not only can I see, hear, and feel the outdoors when I lie up here, but I also feel like a child in her dream tree house, peaking out over the world!

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A lazy Sunday morning, my sweetheart still asleep

And when this sweet soul is sleeping peacefully next to you, like an angel, it is hard not to feel blessed.

My first real guests were two of my closest girlfriends who came over for dinner, both of whom have also been on parallel journeys of creating their homes. Being able to finally have them over in my home, after years of gathering in every imaginable place but our own (shared kitchens, houses where we were house sitting or pet sitting, our short and longer term rentals…) felt so good.

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Until having my own place hosting friends always felt a bit stressful. Would my housemates be using the kitchen at the same time? Would so and so be offended by the small of meat? Can we truly just have sister time and talk about the sorrows, longings, and joys of our hearts in full honesty and in confidence?

But now in my own place something in my soul feels so much more able to give from a place of ease and peace. Even in the humbleness of not yet having running water or enough dishes, I did not hesitate to ask my friends to bring their own bowls, and both happily obliged and offered to take home dirty dishes to do at their place. The next time they came I had more dishes and the summer sun had warmed the evenings enough to allow us to eat outside on my newly constructed deck. And after dinner we retired up into my cozy loft where we lounged and chatted until the whee hours of the morning. Finally! A place that is my home where if what started as a dinner turns into a sleepover I don’t have to worry about offended any house mates. Indeed, sometimes it is these small things that make a difference.

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My deck! Complete with a heart shaped picnic table built by John 

And most recently a spontaneous pull of lunar energies seemed to have landed us all around a fire in my yard, gazing up at the milky way and watching the big dipper move across the sky. It is truly a land of Big Sky here in this open field surrounded by trees.

Summer has also brought an abundance of Food, causing my fridge to overflow with tomatoes!

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Tomatoes from my garden. Blueberries from my berry CSA at Kestrel Perch. Eggs and cheese also from local farms bought at the local food co-op. And coconut milk and orange juice not local but also bought from the food co-op. 

But thankfully about a month and a half ago now I got myself set up with this adorable RV oven, which felt like such a huge upgrade from my single burner camp stovetop that I used for the first two months in Mayu!

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I’ve been making good use of this oven, making zucchini bread, sweet potatoes, and roasted eggplant in the oven, and anything you please on my 3 burner stove top!

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A glass of orange juice, kale and tomatoes from my garden with local mushrooms and onion, chicken, baked in my oven with some black currant sauce, and some paleo bread! Yummm! 

And as summer is winding down I finally got my wood stove hooked up in preparation for the chillier nights and mornings.

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And suddenly tonight as I started to clean up after dinner and found that it was already dark out and I wanted more light, I installed these LED task lights which I must say, make me feel like I am living in quite the luxurious little house!

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And today, as I anticipated my two cousins coming to visit for a few days, and then my house warming party not too far off on October 15th I finally built my little nook to provide a little more seating area and storage!

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The top is cherry, which I will oil at some point, and the front is maple flooring. Both the maple and the cherry I was generously given by people who felt they would not use them. This bench that is right across from the front door get the morning sun and will provide a perfect spot to sit and put on or take off your shoes, and drop your things when you come in. And it open up to provide quite a large space for storage! 

And I also hung some wall hooks as, although my wonderful closet works well for me, I thought guests should have a place to hang their coats especially as the weather starts to get cooler!

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You will also notice the curtain for my bathroom door, which is an improvement over no curtain! Thank you Parker for making this curtain for me!

Oh yeah, have you seen my closet? Perhaps not… Here it is! It lives below my stairs 🙂

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Ok, that is all for now! It is past my bedtime and my loft is calling me. Thank you for reading and for being part of this amazing journey!

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Good Night and blessings, from Mayu

Home Blessing

Every home needs a blessing. Every space deserves to be honored. Mine is on the inside of one of my upper cabinets and are the lyrics of a song by Peia:

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Blessed we are

to dance on this ground

with the rhythm of saints

to carry the sound.

*

We hold a prayer for the Earth,

for the ones yet to come –

May you walk in beauty

and remember your song.

*
Remember why you came here.

Remember your life is sacred.

Remember why you came here,

remember this life is sacred.

~ Peia (Ancestral Song Keeper)

Thank you Jim Bosjolie for this part two of the video you have been making to document my home!

If you missed part 1, here it is:

This week I finally moved into my little house, and woah does it feel good to finally be making it HOME! It is not totally done but it is livable, especially as the temperatures are, for the most part, warming up (although it has been an unusually chilly spring!).

How to capture what this week has been like….

Monday, May 16th I spent my first night in Mayu (which means cocoon in Japanese). I had spent much of the weekend moving my belongings out of where I had been in ecovillage and into Mayu, but had yet to spend a night there.

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It was a chilly night, but I slept pretty well. On Sunday Parker and I had found a nest of baby bunnies in the field right outside my door and we had put some bales around it to protect them from the cold and our walkings about. We had found the nest after finding two baby bunnies that had passed into the dream world, it seemed from the unusually cold temperatures.

I lit a candle to honor this first night in this creation that I have given birth to and is still growing and forming.

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My candle to honor the space on my first night sleeping there

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The little tiny baby bunnies nestled in the ground. I feel honored to have them as my neighbors!

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And in the morning I got to see mama Hare coming to check on her baby bunnies, as I watched from my loft window! Did you know that the momma generally leaves her babies on their own only returning to feed them in the morning and night? So if you find what you think is an abandoned nest most likely it is not and you should leave them be!

Being in Mayu meant figuring out how exactly I was going to brush my teeth and keep my fridge cool and go to the bathroom and all those little details. These were not big scary challenges but more just trying out and putting to the test systems I had thought about. I was still waiting on my futon that I had ordered and so I slept that first night on my camping mat which I put on top of my tatami mats in my loft and that worked fine! I took my first poop in my compost toilet bucket, and I washed my hands with some soap in a pretty glass bowl I had gotten from salvation army. After a few days this systems evolved…

And now, this is my hand washing station in my bathroom:

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Well, actually this picture is already a little outdated. Things have evolved even more! But it is mostly just aesthetic changes.

And I am very pleased with it! The tap on this glass water dispenser releases water somewhat slowly, which I found a pain for filling up a glass to drink from, but perfect for washing my hands without wasting excessive water. And when the bowl starts to get full I dump it outside on my plants.

Zooming out a little bit here is a view into the bathroom from the door. Of course, it continues to evolve… Like now I have a pretty cloth on top of the water jug to keep dust and other things from falling in. And the shells and other ornaments have moved around a little bit. But it all functions quite nicely and I am loving the way it is all looking.

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The mermaid above the door was a house warming gift given to me by my sweet partner, Parker, and I think adds a beautiful touch. It seems that my friends and I are in agreement that my little house has a boat like quality. I like this boat theme!

Here is Parker wandering around before I had moved any of my stuff in:

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Things have evolved some since then. Take a look!

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Here is my kitchen as it is now. I’ve been collecting kitchen wares from the local reuse stores like Mimi’s attic, Salvation army, and Significant Elements and am pleased with what I have found.

 

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There have been a few delays with my stove and so for now I am cooking on this one burner camping stove but it is working great!

On Day four (Thursday 5/19) we put in our well pump and had water on site for the first time! This was a huge moment as the idea of carrying in water for all my washing, cooking, and drinking needs was not something I was looking forward to.

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Here we are, able to fill up our buckets and do my dishes! This to me was super exciting. And notice the plants in the background all waiting to go in the ground. Now many of them are in which also feels great!

 

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And just in time I had built myself a drying rack right over my sink which worked beautifully!

That evening, as I drove to my friend Nicolette’s house to get my little cabinet which is now in my bathroom I came across a baby fox that looked like it had just been hit on the road. As sad as it was to see this little creature whose life had been taken so soon I also felt there was a lesson in this little fox and the baby bunnies I had found earlier in the week about the cycles of life and death of the natural world. I brought the fox with me and after some thought with two of my closest sisters, Danielle and Rena, we decided to bury these little creature on John’s land where my house is.

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the fox and the bunnies before burial. What does it mean to bury the fox and the hare together? Predator and prey, in one grave.

 

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Nestled in the ground before burial. Rena’s mother had felt called to put some sage in the fox’s mouth, and so we buried it with the sage.

 

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And after burial we planted two little strawberry plants on top, giving a blessing under this strawberry moon and thanking these sweet little creatures for all they had offered and would continue to offer as nutrients in the earth.

Wow, what a day it had been. And all this under an almost full moon.

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That night,Thursday, 5/19, I got to sleep on my new futon, And slept like a baby.

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I was overcome with gratitude as I lay there in bed. Grateful for water, the land, the food that comes from the land, the birds, the fox and the hare, and other animals, my house, and the people who have come into my life… I feel like words and images can’t quite capture it. And it is all evolving so quickly that some of these photos are already outdated, like a new born baby who already a week after birth look so different!  But I hope that I have captured some of it. Perhaps I will close with a poem …

Mayu.

Cocoon.

My cocoon.

*

Yes, finally I feel ready to cocoon myself inside you,

Like new lovers too entranced with each other to let go.

Engaging, bonding, nurturing, caring, struggling together

*

Water falls onto my hands as I wash in a crystal bowl

Shells placed with care, from tiny to tiniest, like little paw prints in the sand.

*

Clothes folded carefully

Each one I ask, “Do I need you?”

And all those kitchen items

Bags of strange white, brown, and yellow powders

Seeds and grains and nuts

The leftovers from cooking in many kitchens not mine

Finally I can put you into glass jars, label you and know

That you will be mine.

Mine to use and refill, and smell and taste, and enjoy

Finally, I know what I have!

*

Checking thrift stores and yard sales I slowly stock my kitchen

With the tools of the home that till now I have not needed.

This bowl feels good in my hands

This mug makes me smile

A ladle is a must in any kitchen

And a little red pot with a chip on the handle.

You, little pot, can have a home in my kitchen

*

Even in my makeshift kitchen,

with just one burner and no stove,

I feel my creativity alight.

Food tastes so good!

As aromas fill the little space!

*

Sitting on my front stairs I look out

At the beginning of gardens.

My gardens.

Gardens that I can watch grow

Not just this season but next, and next, and next

Gardens where I plant not just annual vegetables

But a tree!

And I may actually see it bear fruit

*

I watch my sweet beloved cut the grass with a scythe

And we lay in the hammock,

Hung lovingly by John

Taking in the heavenly bodies

Of the wide open sky…

Jupiter, Mars, Venus

*

Each day is a new day

Each day a great day

Full of possibilities

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I feel like I can see and feel the end in site. As I have been talking with my old cabinet teacher from Heartwood about going and using his shop to make my cabinets I have been chipping away at insulation and interior siding. And little by little it is starting to feel like an almost finished house inside!

The insulation I chose to use is mineral wool sold under the brand name of Roxul. I’ve been excited about this stuff for a while now as I noticed a few green builders using it in Vermont back in 2013. What are the advantages of it? It comes in board and batt form so can be used in any application that fiberglass batts would be used and in most applications where rigid foam board insulation would be used. But unlike fiberglass it is not a known carcinogen and it performs way better; The batts are much more rigid, friction fitting into cavities and not settled over time. They also do not loose their insulative value if they get wet and keep their shape and form as well, even when dunked in a bucket of water. Mice do not seem to like it much, and it is practically fire proof. It also is comparable price wise to fiber glass insulation, which is generally the cheapest insulation on the market. Compared to foam, it is a natural and inert material, not made from petroleum and with no off gassing potential. It does have a slightly lower r value than foam, which can have as high as R-7 per an inch, while roxul is about R-4.3 per an inch, but after finding out that spray foam is a fire accelerant and extremely toxic when it burns I decided I did not want that in my house.

And so I went with roxul. Insulation is a job that very few people enjoy doing; it is itchy, dusty, and messy. Yes, despite all of roxul’s “green” attributes it does still create an itchy dust that I did find irritating to my lungs if I did not wear a dust mask. But I was comforted by the roxul website and other sites that say that the roxul dust particles, although still uncomfortable, are much larger in size and so a dust mask does seem to effectively sblock them, and they are not a known carcinogen the way that fiberglass is.

I am really grateful that two of my friends came out for a day and the three of us busted out the insulation for my whole house in a single day! Take a look:

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Woohooo!

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Thank you so much Prema and Jeremiah for your help!

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And after a thorough sweeping and cleaning…

Oh, and did I mention that on the same day that we put in my insulation Rebecca Carpentar also came and made my electricity live?! So now I can plug in my little space heater inside my insulated house, and guess what? It warms up! And stays warm!

With insulation done I was ready to begin putting ip my interior siding! This feels like a huge step. And it felt so good to be back to working with wood after doing electrical and figuring out plumbing decisions and getting at itchy and dusty with Roxul.

Here are some pictures of the interior siding going up, which is 1×8″ pine tongue and groove. Isn’t it pretty?

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Thank Adam, another friend, for coming out and helping!

Each of these boards I hand sanded with a random 5″ orbital sander with 100 grit paper and then 150 grit paper. This was a decision I went back and forth about as these boards came from the mill already planed and quite beautiful and smooth to the touch. But after talking to a few people with more experience then me I was convinced that sanding would be worth it as they all said any finish I put on the wood will look better if I have sanded them. And if I don’t sand them that a finish will likely amplify any nicks or imperfections in the planing job.

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note the loft ceiling!! Boy did it feel good to get that covered up! I can almost sleep up there now 🙂

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Me putting a board in place.

The above picture is one that Jim Bosojolie took on the day that channel 9 news from syracuse came out to take some shots and interview me! Yup, that is right. They called Maria from Hammerstone school asking if she knew of any tiny house people and she referred them to me. I was told it should be about a minute and 30 second clip that should air on February 28th. When I get the link to the clip I will make sure to post it here!

I am not done yet with the interior siding but feel like with another solid week I should be very close to or totally done. I leave for Mexico tomorrow though for 10 days of playing in the sun and waves, so that week of work will be the first full week of March! Then it will be time for the building of my stairs, my hearth, and cabinets and trim! Woohooo!! Lately I have been saying my goal is to have the house ready to start moving in on May 1st. I think I can do it. And I am determined that the house sitting gig I am in now, which will end sometime mid may, will be my last one before I move into my tiny house. Which, by the way, I have decided can no longer be just “Tiny” but needs a new name. Tiny worked for construction but feels too generic. And so I have been on a quest for a name. For a while I was leaning towards Subako, which means nest box and bee hive in Japanese, but 3 syllables felt just a little too long. Then the other day the word Cocoon came to me, which is Ma-yu in Japanese. So far people seem to like that name when I tell them it and it feels good to me. More feminine than Subako, and easier to say. I am still sitting with it for a while but I think that is going to be Tiny’s new name!

And so here is one last picture of Ma-yu glowing in the evening light on a beautiful winter snowy day.

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More on Electrical and plumbing

Guess what? I am just about done doing the rough in of electrical! Which means I am almost ready to start insulating and closing in my walls. It turns out running wire is not too difficult, just time consuming and a little tedious. And who would have thought how much wire you can go through, even for a tiny house. It is possible I went a little overboard with outlets, but every tiny house blog I have read says put more outlets then you think you will need. And I have to say, I don’t like the idea of ever having to run an extension chord in my tiny house! So there are a lot of outlets. And given that going back and running more wire later would be pretty difficult I tried to cover everything; I have three standard 15 amp circuits (one for each side of my house and one for the bathroom), one 20 amp circuit for my conduction stove top and Breville toaster oven, and one 30 amp circuit in case I ever want to install a full sized electric stove. Yup, that is 5 circuits total in my tiny house. All of which will be hooked up to my off grid solar system, which thankfully, Rebecca is very familiar with because she installed it in its original home at ecovillage.

I also ran speaker wire so if I ever want I can basically have surround sound coming from 4 hard wired speakers. Probably never would have thought to do this except that Parker, the guy I am seeing right now suggested it and I though why not? And I also ran an internet wire so I can have an ethernet/phone jack depending on what my internet situation ends up being.

Here are a few pictures of the wires being run:

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Some of my electrical tools…

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A view showing some of the wires run (white = 15 amp circuits, yellow = 20amp, orange = 30 amp). And oh, yeah, my loft floor is done now too!!

Now that all the wires are run (finally) Rebecca will be coming back this Tuesday and hopefully with both of us working on it we can have everything live and hot by the end of the day so we can test it all!

With my plumbing I went back and forth for a while, initially wanting to figure out a way to have off grid hot water using just my wood stove and the sun to heat it all. Although I still love this idea and may down the line build an outdoor solar shower for summer to move in this direction, I decided to go with an ecotemp propane on demand hot water heater. Why, you may ask did I end up going with this? It is a good question. First of all, the system I began to design to heat my water with the wood stove in the winter and the sun in the summer felt like it would require a very involved and knowledgeable occupant to be able to operate safely. Now, I may have qualified as such an occupant, given that I would have basically designed it, with help, but my fear was that what if I ever wanted to air bnb my house or have a friend house sit, or even just have guests, that the system would just not be user friendly enough. So, when it came down to it it was user friendliness that made me decide to go with an on demand hot water heater.

Now, when you are looking at on demand and there is propane and electric. Initially I didn’t want any propane in my house. It is a fossil fuel and means another system to basically plumb for, and is potentially a hazard, especially when I am also burning wood.

But creating heat from electricity is just not very efficient. And I am going to be off grid, at least for the immediate future. So after doing some research it seemed that heating water with propane requires very little propane and many people do it even with a wood stove, so if done correctly it should be safe. For these reasons I ended up going with a propane on demand hot water heater, the Ecotemp FVI-12-LP. It isn’t installed yet, but I am hoping I will be happy with its performance.

Another plumbing decision I made after having two plumber friends come out and look things over with me is that I am going to do all exposed copper piping. By doing this the pipes will be fully inside my thermal envelope and less likely to freeze. And if somehow they do freeze they will be more easily accessible for any needed repair.

Let me tell you, trying to figure out the world of plumbing and electrical has not been easy. There have been many points where I feel like I am spinning my wheels. And boy am I grateful for the help of skilled professionals in both of these fields. As I have been fumbling along with these two areas with their guidance I have found myself needing to take take a break at points and do some carpentry- something I feel relatively competent at. So now both my bathroom and sleeping loft floors are in and I built my little trap door that will be at the top of my yet to be built stairs! Take a look: I think they all came out quite nicely:

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the beginning of my sleeping loft floor.

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Sleeping loft floor almost complete! I decided I didn’t want a straight line for the front edge of my loft so it actually follows a gentle sin wave curve. Can you tell?

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It feels quite spacious up there!

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And then the final touch to my loft was this trap door made out of some beautiful old cherry wood that Otto was nice enough to gift me. This will be at the top of my stairs and provide access to a little cubbyhole that will serve as my bedside table “drawer,” so to speak.

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Oh, and lastly, I also put down my bathroom loft floor:

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This little cozy nook will be where my water tank is stored and also just serve as a general storage area

So that is where my house is at now! My hope is that on my next post I will be moving along with insulation and closing in the walls!

Lighting and Electrical

I am not an electrician. And as much as I enjoy learning about things and feeling self sufficient and like I can do almost anything myself I do not feel that I need to master all the trades. So my plan all along has been to hire or work with an electrician to wire my house. But what I couldn’t have guessed was that the perfect person to do it with me would come along! Her name is Rebekah Carpenter and she owns Finger Lakes Renewables. She was the one who installed the solar system that John and I now have at ecovillage, where it lived originally, and she is another badass woman who is living in an off grid house that she built herself. So off grid doesn’t scare her, and DIY doesn’t either. Neither does unconventional! Together we have been mapping out and figuring out my electrical over the last two weeks. The first step has been figuring out where all my outlets and fixtures are going and putting boxes in those spots.

To help me do this I ended up using painters tape to map out the rise and run of my stairs and how I will divide up my closet space under my stairs. It is amazing all the little decisions that go into wiring a house. Here are some of the questions I had to consider.

  • Where do I want outlets?
  • Where do I was single gang (2 outlets) or double gang (4 outlets) boxes?
  • Do I want to wire for internet?
  • What about speakers?
  • What kind of fixtures will I be using for lights? Sconces? Overheads? Plugins? Where do I want light switches?

Every tiny house blog I had read says put more outlets then you think you will need. It is silly to have to run extension chords in a tiny house! And yet right now I look around my house and I think, jeez, I have enough plugs for a small city in here! I have tried to widdle down some of my outlets, making some single gang boxes rather than double gang, and really thinking through where I’ve places each one and what I imagine might be plugged in there. But it isn’t easy! I don’t want to end up with too few and at the same time too many feels kind of ridiculous in a tiny house.

Thinking about electrical has also led to an exciting hunt for light fixtures. First I went to Lowes and home depot. There lights are fine and decently priced. Probably completely functional but nothing too special and perhaps a bit cheaply made. Then I went to a high end electrical store and lighting showcase room that Rebekah recommended, with the intention more of just gathering information, but also found myself ogling over the fancy designer lights, many of which were in the $200 to $400 each range. Yikes! But I did want to have lighting I was pleased with and that looked good…

But then one day on my way home I decided to stop at the antique mall, and suddenly a hole other possibly opened up for me. What about antique and salvaged light fixtures? Often these older fixtures are made of high quality materials such as brass, but there price is actually reasonable. And perhaps some will take a little extra work to rewire but they would give my house the personality I am looking for!

So then fo rthe next two days I had fun going to all the reuse centers around Ithaca: Significant elements, Fingerlakes Reuse, Ithaca Antique Mall, Mimi’s attic…. And I think I am now set with just about all my lighting fixtures and probably spend no more than $200 total on them. And I love them!

Take a look:

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This beauty will be the central main light above my kitchen area. It has a three bulb fixture in it and I think should light the space beautiful!

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Next to the stain glass overhead chandelier is a little lantern like light that will go outside under my overhang on the wall that has the herring bone.

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this cute little one (the red one in front) will be my overhead lamp in the bathroom.

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Then I got these two silver sconces that will provide light in my stairwell area.

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And lastly, in my loft I plan to have this beautiful gourd lamp from Graham Ottoson, a local artist here in Ithaca!

I think pretty much covers all my light fixtures. I am still keeping my eye out for a vanity light that I like for over the mirror in my sink, but otherwise I think I am set. And quite pleased with the lights that I found and that they all have a history before they got to me…

Ok, thats all for now! I hope you enjoyed seeing what I have been working on for the last while.

For a couple weeks now I have been working on the inside of my house!!! It is quite exciting that I have finally made it to that stage 🙂

After moving to Hammerstone I began with building my bathroom wall and the small loft that is above my bathroom.

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I built the bathroom wall using 2×4’s that I ripped in half to be 2×2’s. This makes the wall skinnier so that I lose less space to it.The door to my bathroom will be a within the range of dimensions of a standard door: 32 inches. Many tiny houses have bathroom doors that are more like 24″ but a complaint I have often heard about this is that if down the line you say you want to use an RV shower insert most shower inserts won’t even fit through the door! I know that I do want a shower in my bathroom, perhaps even a tiny ofuro style tub, and so I didn’t not want to limit myself as to what will fit in my door. And so I framed out a standard sized door but plan to built it as french doors, thereby lessening the space I will need to be able to fully swing open the doors.

After building my bathroom wall and loft it was time to build the sleeping loft! Having an actual opening in my loft for stairs made my framing job a little bit trickier. I wanted to avoid having any big bolts or screws being visible but new I needed to do something to beef up the structure of my loft. So after some care drawing out I decided that some piece of the loft would actual be two 2×4’s laminated together in order to accomodate the extra weight. But that connections would be made by screwing pieces together with heavy duty structural simpson strong tie screws before laminating together so that the screw heads were actually hidden between the two pieces. It took some patience and time to pull off this design. First planing and sanding all the pieces to make sure they not only matched in their exact dimensions but also looked aesthetically pleasings since they will be visible in my finished house. Then fastening and gluing pieces together paying careful attention to order of operations. But I am quite pleased with how it has come out!

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Lots of clamping action.

It was a couple day project as I didn’t have enough clamps to do more that one piece at a time.

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and more clamping action…

And as glue dried Parker helped me get my collar ties in place! These also had to be sanded and made to look pretty 🙂

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And when we still had time to kill before the glue had set we just goofed around a bit 😉

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Monkey bars anyone?

I had been worried about headspace but it seems headspace is going to work out quite well. John, who is a little over 6′ can just walk under my loft, and I can stand with my arms pretty much fully outstretched above me and still be fine!

Then I finally got to take all the clamps off and give my loft one last good sanding.

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What do you think?

And now with both lofts framed out and my bathroom wall I think all the major, structure framing on my house is done!

And what do you know, my interior siding was also all ready to be picked up this past week: some beautiful 1×8 tongue and groove pine from Halstead lumber in Owego, NY.

But before I can put up my interior siding I have to rough in electrical and plumbing and put in the insulation. So can you guess what my next post might be about? Electrical!

November was a month of transitions. Closing one chapter, opening another. New beginnings and bitter sweet endings.

It was the weekend before Halloween, Saturday, October 24th, and Ecstatic dance was hosting the Masquerade Ball. I was going to gather with some girlfriends and we were going to paint each other’s faces before attending together. But things came up for both of them and I found myself preparing to go to the masquerade ball alone. This was not a new experience for me. Sure, going to a social event alone sometimes feels a little bit more intimidating. It can feel harder to get excited and I always get a little anxious before I walk in the door. Will I have fun? Will there be people I know? Maybe I should just stay home. I think many people share these fears. And although sometimes these fears get the best of me and do keep me in for the night, often I have gone out alone. And learning how to do so has been important for me. It has been important for me to learn my own strength, to feel my own independence to know that I am ok and well on my own as well as with others.

And so that night I headed off to the Masquerade ball on my own. I didn’t paint my face but I got dressed up and put on some feather earrings that my mom gave me, to give me some extra wings of confidence, and enjoyed myself. Walking in the door, music brought movement to my body. Eyes closed, I let any lingering self consciousness fall away, beginning with small pulsing movements, then curling an arm out, greeting the air that hummed around me, drawing an imaginary circle with the tips of my outstretched fingers, a sacred protective circle; This was me, my space. And only those I allowed could enter. And so I danced. The orbit of my energy weaving, pulsing, in and out of the energies of others. Both an insignificant planet in a galaxy of stars; alone I am nothing, together we are everything… awe-inspiring. And the most significant star in the solar system of Me; I am the sun radiating warmth and love out, touching those that orbit around me in ways I perhaps will never comprehend. And I danced. Grateful to be alive. To be healthy. To be me.

A curious soul entered my orbit, drawn in by a smile that I was not aware I wore. Like Earth and Moon we danced around each other. Separate but connected, feeling the pull of the other holding us captive. Once I considered spinning away, a comet briefly there but not to stay. Its own inertia keeping it traveling, on its own, beautiful and blessed path. Gracing our skies but for a brief moment with its beauty. But something said “Stay. Keep your heart open. It is safe.” And so I stayed, circling like a distant second moon.

He reached out a hand, and cautiously I took it. With flourishes and twirls I still kept that little bit of sacred empty space between us. A figure eight of energy maintaining my sacred circle and his, connected, and separate, free to go at any time.

When the music slowed I smiled and bowed my head just slightly, hands on heart, signaling love, and a need to end this night of dance on my own. I had arrived alone but felt I may not be leaving alone. But at least I could close this dance feeling just my own energy. What was this I was feeling?

“What is your name?” I asked in the silence that followed. “Parker.” He said. “And you?” “Miwa.” And so something new began.

That night we shared tea, and then I went home. The next night we shared dinner and then he went home. But not before a quick kiss by the car left me standing somewhat speechless, stunned, smiling under the moonlight, as he drove off. I knew it was coming, didn’t I? But still it took me by surprise. Had I dared to hope? Do I dare to hope that I felt the whisper of a ruby?

At first we took our time, communicating a little through the week but not seeing each except on weekends. I continued to work on Tiny. He was busy being a first year graduate student in chemistry at Cornell. He came to Dances of Universal Peace and saw me lead a dance and play violin. I joined him and his fellow grad students on a Friday night and kicked butt playing darts in a college town bar. He came out to Tiny on a Sunday and lent a helping hand on the last wall of exterior siding; the back herring bone.

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Did I mention that it came out beautifully?

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Exterior of my house completely done!!

We talked late into the nights, eagerly getting to know each other, discovering and revealing the truths of ourselves… It was beautiful. And it is beautiful to drink in the sweet nectar of a young, blossoming love.

A new chapter opened, suddenly, unexpectedly, deliciously…

And another chapter closed; I discovered that my landlords cat had fleas and that they had made their way into my room. This discovery eventually lead to the second big transition of the month; a bittersweet decision that it was time for me to move from the place I had called home for over a year. And so I began to pack my things, putting some in storage until my eventual move into Tiny, and put the word out that I was looking for a place to live. And community rose up around me, with offers of rooms to rent, house sitting gigs, and couches to crash on. Despite it nearing the solstice, my inner energy has felt like spring; full of new beginnings, energy to travel and enjoy, to mingle and mix. And so living a bit of the nomads life has actually felt like a fun adventure as I continue to work on Tiny and look forward to moving in, hopefully in early spring!

And the third big transition has been that I moved my house Thanksgiving week from John’s land over to Maria’s, where it will stay for the winter! Let me tell you, watching something as big as a house, even a tiny one, that you have put so much time, money, and love into, roll away is quite an exhilarating experience.  But thanks to Maria and Liz of Hammerstone School and a car jack borrowed from the Ecovillage at Ithaca the move went incredibly smoothly. Here are a few pictures!

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Getting ready to move! Notice the snow on the ground. It was the first, and only, real snow of the season thus far!

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And off she goes!

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Out on to the open road…

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Luckily it was a short trip though. Literally around the corner of a country block….

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And in just a few hours she was all leveled and situated in her new home!

Leaving John’s land came with some sadness but I plan to return there in the spring and know that Maria’s place will serve me well through the winter. John also leaves for the winter, taking off to Florida, and so the site, which is already quite rustic and wild, can become almost inaccessible if we get significant snow. At Maria’s I have easy access to electricity that does not depend on the sun and can set up my tools and things inside her large pole barn. It may not be much warmer than the outdoors but it at least is protected from the wind and provides a roof over my head when it is raining or snowing. And so Tiny has settled into her winter home and I have officially transitioned from exterior to interior work! I look forward to writing about what has been going on in the interior of my house in my upcoming blog posts 🙂

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A beautiful good bye sunset one of the last nights I was on John’s land.

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