Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A glimpse into my Brain

This post has little to do with Tiny houses.
Clearly, I want a tiny house when and where I settle with my Partner, and when I have it I want to put it on a little homestead.
I have a pretty strong desire to grow a lot of my own food.
Growing all of my own food might be possible, if I lived in a suitable climate and devoted all my time and energy to it. That is not what I want. Every food item that I grow should be weighed against a few things.

-how much time and effort does it take to produce?
-how much space does it take to grow?
-how easy is it to purchase it of a similar quality?
-how much more (or less) expensive is it to grow myself?
-how fun is it to produce it myself?

For example, growing all my own wheat would take up a lot of space and requires specialized skills and equipment to harvest and process, and organic wheat is easy to purchase and not too expensive. I might grow a little patch of wheat or other grain to experiment, but growing all the wheat my Partner and I eat in a year would be too much work. It wouldn't be fun.
My father got me thinking lately about Aquaponics, which led me to thinking about protein self-sufficiency. What would it take to grow all the protein my partner and I eat in a year? Here is a quick writeup of a brainstorming session I entertained myself with for a few hours.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Power outage

I live in a place that doesn't get winters.
I like that.
...but then we got a moderate winter storm, followed by a fairly decent ice storm, and everything ground to a screeching halt. I was one of the 260,000 people without power. Mine was out for about 55 hours consecutively, and a few hours the day before for good measure, leaving me without power for about two and a half days.
This house I am renting... is kind of terrible. I had water, which not everyone without power did.
We have no wood stove. There is a fireplace which is designed to be for show, the amount of wood we fed into it the first night would have had the house toasty warm if burned even in the worst of wood stoves... it barely took the chill off the air.
After the first night, we didn't have any more firewood. The house hovered around 46*.
The heater, while it burns propane, does not work without electricity.
The stove is electric.
The water heater is electric.
Thankfully the Partner and I have a little Coleman Peak 1 Micro stove (I wanted a link for it, but it is apparently only sold at wallies and I refuse to link to them) for camping. He got it, I believe, before we ever met. Together, we used up the last of the first fuel canister, and started on the second. Cooking with only one burner was tricky, but without the ability to eat hot food we and our housemates would have been much more miserable. (I think everyone should have a camp stove for emergencies... also for camping!)
Being a very small person, I had a very hard time staying warm. I wrapped up in all the warmest clothes I have, wrapped up in blankets, and mooched off the Partner's body heat as much as possible. I also put lots of butter in everything I cooked, and ate as much as I could. (maybe I'll share my delicious hot-chocolate-with-butter recipe on my other blog...) Despite all this, I lost five pounds from shivering over those two and a half days. While most people would be celebrating, as I mentioned, I am a very small person. I will be working on gaining those precious pounds back.
Being so cold, I really began to think about how, if I were having my own house, I would do everything differently. Being bored and grumpy, I sketched a few tiny house plans on some graph paper. I would try to defend my terrible drawings by saying that my hands were cold... but to be honest, I just have no drawing skill. 

First: a vardo. 8x16, giving a footprint of  128 square feet.
Click to make bigger, so you can see what I'm talking about.
For the woodstove, I was thinking a two dog or a kimberly... the space I gave it is guestimated because I didn't have internet to look things up.
The stove is, as I have mentioned before, a two burner alcohol stove a la link.
The water would be a water crock... the bottles would have to be refilled occasionally, either from a neighbor, an artesian well, or, if all else failed, from a water dispenser in a store.
The sink, I'm thinking, would have no plumbing. It would just be a pretty bowl set into the counter which could be removed to dump the water when needed.
Light would be provided by a few olive oil lamps.
The drawback of this model is the absence of a shower and bathroom, both of which i would really like to have. Also, it might be a wee bit crowded for two people and a dog.

So next I drew a cob or strawbale house. It's 10x20 giving it a footprint of 200 square feet.
Click to make legible
This one was a bit frustrating because I wanted to have more room and to be able to change it's orientation or the positions of the rooms on a whim, which pencil and paper do not really allow.
Quick aside: Does anyone know any good free architect software?
I feel like I haven't thought this one out as thoroughly as the vardo. The heat on this one is provided by a rocket mass heater. (of all the links click on that one it's awesome!)
I couldn't really decide if I wanted a loft, for sleeping or if I would prefer to have another bedroom off to the side, but having things asymmetrical like that bothers me because I'm a little bit OCD.
The stove would be a little (probably propane) galley stove with an oven. There would be a nice big farmhouse sink, and and a propane on-demand water heater. There would be a mini-fridge under the counter, probably also propane.
Water... I am not sure of. Clearly it would depend on the resources where the house was located. Spring water is of course preferred, with well water coming in second. City water is sneered at. With well water, I would want to make sure I could still have water without electricity. I haven't really researched that very much, but I know lehmans sells hand pumps... pretty sure those wouldn't work with an on-demand water heater though. Hmm.
The toilet would be a composting toilet.
The bathroom has a small Japanese style soaking tub... because I like to soak in hot water.

So, there you have it. The saga of there being no power and how it made me very cold which made me think even more about having a house where I wouldn't even notice if the power went out. Where I would be toasty warm as long as I remembered to keep the fire going.
Until next time,

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

some news is better than no news, right?

I finally got to see the Gypsy Wagon in person, during a quick trip to Utah to visit family.
The outside is completed, and it's truly a work of art, and my father gave me a tour of the incomplete inside, describing where everything was going to be.
His brother, one of my many uncles, has a cabinet shop and business, which has been slow recently because of the economy, and is going to give a quote for the cabinets and everything to finish the interior.
Right after the tour, I arranged to have the same tour again, but with a camera on so I could post a quick video tour of the Caravan on the blog. Everyone agreed this was a good idea...
...but then we went and played on the frozen lake, and did so many other family activities, since we hadn't all been together since the previous December... and then the Partner caught the flu, and then it was New Years Eve, and then I caught the flu, and then it was time to go home and the tour was never filmed.
- as a quick aside, let me just say that 18 hour car trip + sleep deprivation (following newyears) + flu is a very bad combination. I hope to never experience it again.
I know my uncle with the cabinet shop was at my parent's house on Sunday, seeing my brother Seth off on his religious mission. I am told he got a tour of the Caravan. I have no idea if they talked business at all... and since my father is at work until next Tuesday I'll have to wait until then to find out anything more.
I'll keep you posted with news when I know it,

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Beautiful video.

I enjoy a lot of faircompanies videos, and this is no exception. I think this woman's philosophy of life is so simply beautiful.
I think this is what I'm getting at when I want a Gypsy Wagon. This is what I want.

In other news, I am not sure of any progress that is going on with the Gypsy Wagon my father is building. I know my parents have been very busy and traveling a lot getting everything ready for my brother Seth, who had been helping my father build the wagon, to serve a religious mission.
I will probably be visiting them in late December, my first time visiting since last December, before the wagon project had begun. I know the agenda will be full of family time, but I will do my best to document the Gypsy wagon in person and maybe encourage some work on it while I and my partner and my two married brothers and their partners are all home to help.
Well, enjoy the video, and I'll update again in early January at the very latest.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

dutch doors

Hi again.
I've installed the dutch door on the front entrance of the caravan, with it's window. I had planned to use a solid wood door I had in my shop, which already had a window installed. When I went to carry the door up from my storage shop, (it used to be a working shop until it got full of stuff,) I found that this door was really heavy. Don't misunderstand, I can still lift and carry a door, even a solid core door, but this door was going to add significantly to the weight of the caravan. I decided it just wouldn't do. I went to town - an hour away, and purchased a hollow core door without a window. This new door was made of luan plywood which matches the plywood I used on the caravan. I cut an opening where the window should be, slid framing inside, and glued and nailed it in place. After that it was a simple matter of attaching the outside frame and cutting a piece of glass to fit. I've learned that the secret of cutting glass successfully, is tapping along the cut after running the glass cutter across it. The tapping is what encourages the cut to go from surface scratch, to full depth cut.
I also like the dutch door look, and cut and framed the middle of the door accordingly
It's good to finally have the outside finished and varnished. The weather is turning cold, and the new shop, though water proof is not sealed to hold heat yet. I put a tiny portable electric heater in the wagon one morning, and in five minutes the whole place was very warm. That's the advantage of the insulation in the roof. Once the wood stove is installed, I think that even sub-zero weather will not be cause to run that stove at full blast.
I got the bed frame installed last week, and will get the wood stove in this week. I suppose I don't really mean last calender week, but rather the last week I was home. I work now as a wilderness guide in a program for adults, most of whom have substance abuse challenges. I love that work, and I love sleeping under the stars eight out of fourteen days.
Next time I write I hope to show some pictures from the inside of the caravan.
Have a good week,

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Exterior Detail Beauty Shots

My father has been very busy finishing the exterior of the Gypsy Wagon, any my mother sent me some pictures. His work start date got pushed back a few weeks, so he has really committed to finishing the wagon.
Also, at this point, he is definitely looking for a buyer. If you are at all interested, please contact us. If you think you know anyone who would be interested, please forward this blog to them.

 That's all I've got for today Folks!

-mini update-
A few people were asking about the selling price. My father has to go over the numbers on his expenses again before he can give a solid number, but it's looking to be between $8000 and $9000.
He's going to be putting on the roof soon, so we should get pictures of that and a solid price up on the blog in the next few days.
Thanks for all your interest!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

I'm ba..aack

Well I'm glad my daughter finally wrote something, otherwise there would be too much catching up to do. I'm really enjoying the work on the outside of the gypsy caravan. Of course it's not purely estetic, the upright exterior studs are just that - wall studs. They add rigidity to the walls, and help support the roof. the window frames are necessary, but the decorative part I did just because I could.  I had planned to build my own windows, but couldn't think of a way to fasten them closed tight enough to keep the dust out if the caravan were to be traveling on a very dusty road. I like the way the store bought ones turned out . I'll use that style again.

I'm very pleased with the cieling. As you can see in the pictures, the 2X2's rafters stretch twelve feet from front to back. My idea was to make two arches, one as a cieling under the 2X2's, then lay in styro-foam insulation between the rafters, and put another arch on top of that, both glued and fastened to the rafters, with the insulation in between. I was convinced that with a laminated arch like that, though light weight, it would be strong enough for me to stand on.

I was right about the strength, well partly right. I could have stood several persons my size up there. It didn't even creak. In fact nothing on the whole caravan creaks. Everything is so tightly glued and screwed that though it moves when I try to rock it, it moves as a single unit, with no creaking.
I plan to finish sanding the outside this week, and get a few coats of marine varnish sprayed on. Then I get to put in the cabinet work. I look forward to that because I'm a little more familiar with it. Though it will be different than regular cabinets. I will build them on the same principles as the caravan - very light and very strong.
Take care. I hope to write again soon after I spray the outside.