Sunday, May 31, 2015

Ants In My Pants! Or at least in my house....

Apparently peppermint oil is some kind of magic.

Along with it being sweet to live somewhere I can glance out the window and see a moose, elk, fox, deer, etc, there are some challenges. There are lots of little critters around. I don't mind little critters at all, with the exception of spiders. Those I have an irrational fear of. But in general, I really enjoy watching all the little birds, bugs, and rodents that scurry around here.

Exceptions are when they all like my spaces better then theirs. Like when the mice moved into my van repeatedly all spring long. And now the ants have decided they like my house. A few days ago I saw one inside and thought I'd just brought it in with me. Then I saw a few more. And today there was a good little handful scurrying around. Below is one who's thinking it is a good idea to run around on my counter top. He is so wrong! I'm not totally sure where they are coming in, but it seems there could only be a few options. My house is pretty small after all.

So I went on a hunt for natural ant repellants. There are many reasons I don't want to just start spraying RAID or some other poison around including my health, my plant's and dirt's health, and all the animals around here. It turns out that among other thing, everyone says that ants do not like peppermint oil. Over the last few months I have learned that mice, voles, and spiders also really dislike peppermint oil. So I need lot's of peppermint! I have no particular attachment to the brand I have pictured above, it was just the least expensive. 

I soaked some cotton balls with the oil and tossed them under my little tool shed so hopefully no rodent will decide that's a good place to move in. I'll also be adding some to my van though I haven't seen a new mouse in a few weeks. And I mixed more oil with water and some vinegar and sprayed it around the outside of my door, window sills, jacks (because that would be one of the main connections between my house and the ground that could be climbed) and sink drain. Now I'm getting a serious dose of aroma therapy as the scent of peppermint drifts around the house! 

I think it's working. Just in the last few hours, the amount of ants I'm seeing inside seems to be dropping compared to expanding which is what it had been doing the rest of the day. I'm curious to see what I find tomorrow. If this does the trick, I'll be delighted. Especially if it deters spiders as well. Spiders also reportedly dislike cedar and maybe the whole exterior of my home being cedar has something to do with the fact that I have only seen one small spider inside in 7 months of living here. I hope I never seen another one in here. And yay for chemical free ways to solve problems like this!

Full Moon Rising

It's almost dark here at Fy Nyth, but with the full moon peaking over the trees, even with some wispy clouds, it's still pretty light. I like the way my new house color looks at night too I think. And looking at a full moon is pretty. I'm probably going to have to pull my curtains, which I made from blackout fabric, to go to sleep though.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

A Week of Life In A Tiny House

I wrote this a few months ago for Tiny House Magazine but just realized I'd never shared it with you all and thought some of you might find it interesting. It was a few months ago so the weather was a bit different, but most things are pretty much the same still. It's a bit long, but includes pretty much everything I did in one week.

Did you ever wander what every day life is like in a tiny house? When it's not still being built or photographed all nice and tidy and looking like a showroom model? Just ordinary daily brush-your-teeth-and-go-to-work kind of life? Is it vastly different than your daily life? What extra chores are there? Or hidden inconveniences? 

Hi there! I'm Ariel. I am a single 28 year old woman who lives in a tiny house. To give you a bit of context, my house is built on a 24 foot trailer making it totally mobile and road legal (though I have a sweet parking spot and no plans to move it anytime soon) and has 229 square feet of livable space inside, counting my lofts. I helped design a custom layout, mostly centered around the fact that I cook a lot and wanted a large kitchen, and it was built for me by Tumbleweed. I moved in on Thanksgiving day this past November and live in it full time. I live by myself, but frequently have friends over including overnight guests. I live in the mountains of western WY and due to my secluded location, am completely off grid. Here's what a random week of my life in my tiny home looks like.

3/23/15 - Monday

I went into work this morning. Three days a week I open at the restaurant where I work which drags me out of bed much earlier than I'd prefer. Who really wants coffee to be ready at 6:30 am anyway? I don't like the stuff at all myself, but I seem to be in the minority I suppose.

After leaving work, I did a big grocery shopping trip and made it to the gym only a few minutes late for a Crossfit class. I've been trying to get back in good shape for backpacking this summer after battling a nasty cold for almost 4 weeks that left me with no energy for exercise.

When I returned home, my best friend Seth came over and hung out while tying some more flies for his next fishing trip. I intended to cook a bunch of things, but I was super tired so I just heated up some of the tomato soup I'd made the day before and grilled up some gluten and dairy free quesadillas to go with it. I did get a new batch of alfalfa sprouts growing in a little jar so I'll have them to add to some meals in a few more days. After dinner we were going to watch a movie, but decided we were both pretty shot and should head to bed instead. He's crashing on the guest bed/couch since we both have to get up about the same time in the morning for work. And since he only has an old RV to live in, which means sleeping in my tiny house is much nicer in the winter at least!

3/24/15 - Tuesday

I worked this morning and while there, snow started to fall for the first time in almost a month. It's nice to see a fresh clean coating on everything since it's been pretty brown for a while. When I got home from work, around 3 pm, I shoveled out all my little paths around the house and then decided the sun was melting the snow off the solar panels fast enough that I didn't need to clean them off. Inside I wiped the condensation off the windows. The mold problem that my window frames have had seems to be staying in check at the moment thanks to warmer weather in general and my effort to keep any condensation wiped up regularly. 

I filled my water tank as well, driving my van over to my friends hydrant and filling all my big jugs. Returning with 24 gallons of water in the van, I nearly filled my internal tank which had been almost dry the night before. The water dripping off the roof from the melting snow, tried to find it's way down my neck as I poured the large jugs in to the tank, but really it's not that bad of a chore. I usually use about 140 gallons a month, about the same as the average American uses in one day.

Then, for the first time since moving in here over Thanksgiving, I emptied the solids tank on my composting toilet. I know, that doesn't sound like a a very fun task. My friend Seth assured me in no uncertain terms to never ask for his help with this chore. But really, the contents composted even faster than I expected. I do have composting worms in there that speed up the process. Everything but the last two days additions looked and smelled like damp potting soil. No bad or sewage-y odors at all. Now the former toilet contents are in my outdoor composting bin, decomposing even further. And hey, if I only have to empty this thing 3 times a year, that's not too bad at all.

After wrapping up that project, I cooked dinner. Two different meals actually. A bean and sausage soup and pulled chicken, garlic potatoes, and beet greens. Since I barter food for things like my lot to park my house on and my gym membership, I then packed all the food up for other people, and washed the resulting full sink of dishes. I also brewed a new batch of tea for my kombucha scoby's and bottled the current batch of kombucha. I really love drinking this stuff! While working on projects like this that are relatively mindless, I like to listen to audio books. Right now I'm nearly done with "The Murder Room" a true story about some private detectives that work on cracking long cold murder cases. It's pretty interesting. Despite being tiny, I do have a pretty large pantry and nearly full sized fridge/freezer in my house. And they stay stuffed and well stocked at all times. If you locked me in my house I think I could cook and eat for at least a month before the meals started to seriously lack variety.

 After all that, I didn't eat any of the meals I had cooked and instead joined my friend Clay for dinner at his place. Later I watched a movie, and am headed to bed with the snow still falling softly outside.

3/25/15 - Wednesday

 I got to wake up this morning without an alarm clock as I am actually off work! And that's pretty exciting since I've worked almost every day all winter and am working the next twelve days as well. The snow stopped overnight and the sky was bright blue when the sun came up.

 After a breakfast of eggs, avocado, and strawberries, shoveled out all my paths again. I finished topping off my water tank with two more full jugs I'd filled up at my friends place. Now I won't need to get water for quite a while. Then I baked some caramel oatmeal bars, swept my floor, and took the trash out to the dumpster I share with some neighbors since the trash goes out in the morning. I finished my last audio book and started "The Clockwork Orange." A title I've heard of but don't really know anything about. I also spent a bit of time writing and just may have eaten two whole clam shells of blackberries in the process.

 In the afternoon I ran into town and filled up a propane tank, some of my gas cans, checked my P.O. box, returned some audio books to the library, and ran by the grocery store to see if they still had berries on sale. My errands had piled up a bit due to being out of town the later half of the week before on a fishing trip with a friend. The grocer did still have berries on sale. Raspberries and blueberries as well as blackberries this time, so I stocked up on a ton of them. My receipt said I saved $159.37 on a bill of $45. That's pretty sweet. Then I made it to the gym in time for a Crossfit class and to drop off meals for a couple people. Later in the afternoon I filled my dehydrator with berries and overripe bananas as well as froze quite a few bags of berries. These will all come in handy when backpacking and baking in the future. 

 I fired up my generator and let it run t for about 4 hours to top off the battery bank though with the days getting longer and having been mostly sunny recently, my solar panels have been producing a lot of power on their own. I think all summer I will not need the generator at all.

 For dinner I made a roast topped with my homemade sauerkraut, maple glazed sweet potatoes, and garlic asparagus and shared this meal with Clay as well. I have had 5 people all seated at the table for dinner at once, and could probably fit 6, after that, we could not all sit at the table. But having only 2 - 4 people at a time is a little more comfortable. After a relaxing evening of conversation, I am headed to sleep again. This time with the moon that is barely half full lighting up the snow strongly enough to cast shadows.

3/26/15 - Thursday

 I did work today, at my part time day care job, but was able to show up a little later than normal which was nice. I pulled most of the bananas out of the dehydrator before leaving since overnight seems to be long enough for them to dry. It was another sunny day with blue skies and a day with pretty mellow kids which is nice. I was even able to do a bit of writing while they all slept. 

 On the way home, I stopped by the gym and worked out on my own since I didn't want to wait for the next class time. Either I'm going to be stronger again soon, or I'm just going to be really sore all over.  While there, I washed my hair (something I only do about every five days since long fine hair get's very brittle in this dry climate if washed too often). I don't use my shower at home even though it's fully functioning just because I'd have to haul so much extra water to refill my tank. So I use the gym's city water connection and save myself some work.

 My driveway, since it's just a dirt lane with some wood chips on it is super soggy right now thanks to that last snowfall melting rapidly. Until it dries out, I'm leaving my van parked on the gravel a little ways from the house and walking back and forth so I don't tear up the ground or get myself stuck.  Once home, I checked on my drying fruit and some of the blueberries were done. Apparently blackberries and raspberries take longer than I was expecting.

 Seth came over to hang out and do some writing and sleep tonight. I just heated up leftovers from last night for our dinner and took a break from really cooking. It's staying light till just after 8 p.m. these days. It seems like just last month that it was dark at 4 in the afternoon. Seth's recovered enough from his back injury last summer to finally be able to sit on my couch for a while instead of having to stand or lay down. He's typing rapidly in a deep philosophical debate and I'm sipping a glass of sparkling apple mango juice as I type. This is a pretty relaxing evening. 

 The pretty little creek that runs about 20 feet from my front door is getting loud! All the ice that sealed it up all winter is now gone and it's getting high and brown with all the snow melt. I can hear it's gentle roar through the window I keep slightly open in my loft bedroom as I head to bed.

3/27/15 - Friday

Since Seth slept here last night and didn't have to work this morning, I tried to be really quiet when I got up. Not that it really does any good since he's such a light sleeper and I think was awake before my alarm even went off. But that is a challenge in a small space. When the furtherest away from someone you can be is 24 feet or less, it's pretty hard not wake them up. Especially when the other person is a very light sleeper.

I worked at the restaurant today. After work we had a meeting about scheduling for the coming months. I think I'll be able to stick with the same plan as last summer, work three days in a row, bake for the restaurant one of those evenings, and have four and a half full days off every week to go backpacking. Ahh, the freedoms of low bills, choosing to not buy much, and having nothing like a school loan to pay off!

 I might have seen a wolf today. There is one that has left tracks in the snow around my house several times this winter, but I've never actually gotten to see him. But this afternoon I saw something canine-ish for sure, though it was a long way off and moving uphill across the creek from my house. No one seems to have any dogs that roam around here, but it could have been a coyote, it was a good ways away. The gate seemed more wolf like though... Who knows?

Carrying bags of groceries in from the far end of the lane where there is dry gravel to park on can be a bit of a workout. Mostly because I try to make as few trips as possible so I'm always trying to hold onto too many things at once. Right now there are few dry spots in the drive, but lots of mud for tires to sink into. I'll be happy when it all dries up and I'm able to pull right up to my house again. I'll have to be sure to carry the trash out with me when I leave in the morning. Especially with as few square feet as I have in my house, you don't want to leave anything stinky in the garbage. The whole house will start to smell pretty rapidly.

 After work I made dinner for my former room mate Beth. She and I lived together for 6 years and got to be pretty close. We were room mates right up till I moved into this tiny house after the place we'd been renting was sold. She moved in with some other girl friends. We have both been working a lot all winter and have not been able to hang out much. She brought over a pistachio cheese cake since she's a great cook and baker and know that is close to my favorite dessert. Forget dairy free if there is a cheesecake within reach! I'll deal with some stomach pains. It was nice to catch up on each other's lives. We talked till I couldn't keep my eyes open anymore.

3/28/15 - Saturday

When I awoke this morning I could hear a pair of whooping (sandhill) cranes in the distance. I think there is a pair nesting not to far from my house. They are super loud but pretty neat birds to watch. It seemed like I had more condensation on windows this morning than sometimes. Maybe it was just a little colder last night than it's been in a while. I wiped it all up and thought again about how I wish I would have designed this place with a few less (I have 15) windows and have a few larger ones. They'd be much easier to clean up.

Another day of work. On the way there, I had a mouse run right across my toes while driving. I had trapped one a few weeks ago but I guess more are figuring out how to get in now that all their tunnels through the snow around here are melting and they are looking for new homes. Agh! I least it wasn't a spider, I would have probably had a wreck if it was. I guess I'll have to reset my traps in there. I don't want them chewing up all my camping gear that lives in the van.

Apparently the power was out for a while on the main road I live off of today. Someone told me that power was probably out at my house since they know the general area where I live, while I was still at work. And it was cool to be able to say "I don't think so!" That's a really nice side to all the additional work that living off grid brings with it. I do still have all my stuff working if something goes down with everyone else's connection in the area.

There was a bald eagle flying overhead just up the road from my house on my way home. And then I looked out the window from my loft and saw a hawk skim by. I think he was hunting for mice as they emerge from the melting snow. Too bad he didn't get the ones that want to live in my van. Getting mice in there seems like it might be an ongoing problem as it continues to warm up. Oh the joys of living in remote areas with lots of critters!

It was in the low 60's this afternoon and I was able to leave several windows open for a while. It's always nice to get a bunch of fresh air in the house after keeping everything closed up tight through the winter.

I thought about taking a nap but instead relaxed for a bit and did some reading. I don't have any big projects right now and am feeling very settled into my house. There doesn't seem to be too many surprises coming up now with "oh dear, what do I do about that" kinds of reactions from me. Everything runs pretty much as expected and I think I've (with lots of help from a knowledgeable friend) worked out most of the kinks and gotten over the crest of the off grid learning curve.

Later in the evening I went over to Clay's and watched a couple movies so most of the day was pretty quiet. I stayed up later than I should have since I open tomorrow at the restaurant. 

3/29/15 - Sunday

One more early morning at work. It felt like a long day, but maybe that was just because I was sort of tired all day and we were really busy. I came home from work and took a two hour nap which felt amazing.

When I got in my van to drive to work this morning, I realized I had caught two mice overnight. I thought there was only one in there again, I guess I was wrong. So I emptied both traps and reset them. I caught another one a few hours later in the afternoon. I think they are getting in through the engine somehow so I might do some digging around in there tomorrow and see if there is some kind of small gap that I can block with steel wool. I'd love to adopt a shelter cat or two and keep them around but I don't think they would survive 24 hours with all the owls, eagles, hawks, foxes, coyotes, wolves, cats, bears, pine martins, etc that live around here. And I can't keep one inside at all since I'm pretty allergic to them.

Driving home, I passed and was able to get decent photos of two different moose. I see lots of moose around here all the time, but am usually in a hurry or the light isn't good for a photo. I also caught a third mouse by the time I got home. This is going to have to change. I have way too much outdoor gear stored in my van for mice to chew up.

It was warm again today and I opened a bunch of windows today as well. Since my house was built in about 5 days, driven here the next day, I've been living in it ever since, and it's been winter, it has never really had a chance to sit open and get a lot of good air movement. It'll be nice to air everything out more regularly over the summer.

Seth came over and I made trout chowder for dinner with locally caught wild fish thanks to another friend. I fired up my generator to top off the batteries again. And we spent the evening watching epic fail clips and other generally useful things on youtube. Now I'm falling asleep with the sound of the creek outside my window and know that my alarm will come far too early in the morning once again.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Updated Interior Shots

I've had so many outside projects that the inside of my house has been neglected for a while. But once again it's pouring rain outside, for the 28th day in a row, and I'm tired of working out in the damp and rain. So, I did a bit of cleaning inside. And emptied out some more stuff as I've lived in here for 7 months now and realized I still have things I don't really need or want. I feel the most relaxed when my space is tidy and clutter free. I got rid of an extra end table, chair, a box full of books, and a few other random things. Minimizing might continue for a while. Not having extra stuff is so relaxing and freeing, it's kind of addicting!

Most stuff is still in my kitchen. And I honestly use it all almost daily so I don't think this will ever be reduced much.

The living / dinning room is pretty open now and much easier to move around in when the table is folded out. And hanging the shoes on the wall by the door helped too. You can't really even see them in the shot below because they are totally out of the way.

I also tidied the sleeping loft which had been needing done for a while.

The storage loft need some work still. There are things up there that I almost never use and it's not organized in a way that allows me to access everything very easily. So I guess it's good that the stuff up there right now I don't really need. 

Look at all that open floor space!

And I finished off the cleaning with some bright little flowers that were growing along the edge of the meadow above my house. The next project which I may start today if it keeps raining is to paint my walls white. We'll see how fast that goes...

Monday, May 25, 2015

Elk and Chipmunks and Bears, Oh my!

It you were not already aware of this, my little house is kinda in the middle of nowhere. And the middle of nowhere is where a lot of animals live. All of these photos were taken either from inside the house, or within about 30 feet of my front door. Yes, that includes that big bear print above. It appears he was a large black bear and if I'm ever lucky enough to actually see him, not just his footprints, I'll do my best to get a photo of that as well. And that may happen because he's come by at least twice in the last week. 

This was a young moose as he trotted down the hill above my place and on down the lane. Yes that is my window frame along the edge. That's how close he was. There has been several larger moose around as well as they have left some large tracks through my garden, but I have not been able to get a photo of any of them yet.

The more cooperative animals are these little guys. I have dozens of them around and they sure are fun to watch so I sometimes feed them. There are also a lot of squirrels and one of these days I'll take the time to get some good shots of them as well.


Almost every morning there are fresh deer, elk, and moose tracks in the mud. Since it's been raining so much here, they show up pretty well. Several times I've seen one of them in the dark when they happen to kick on my motion detecting floodlights outside and sometimes when I'm leaving for work just before dawn, one will walk through. But then the light is never good for a photo. One of these weeks I might get a good shot...

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Outhouse Remodel

This is an old outhouse. Like 50+ something years old. It used to be used by a logging crew's man camp. Whoever built it seems to have spent some time doing some quality work, because even now, despite it's age and lack of care, it's not in too bad of shape. And now it's my tool shed.

Yes I live in a tiny house, so I'm sure some will think this is cheating to have an external shed to store some things in. But especially living off grid, I have some things that are just not wise to store in my house. Like full gas cans for my generator, extra propane tanks, large water jugs, gardening tools, etc.  And this tiny shed holds all of that.

The old wooden toilet seat is now gone, and I promise, after this many decades of sitting unused, it does not smell even remotely like an outhouse. It now resides a few yards from my front door (originally it was sitting a bit further away) and has been patched up a bit to look like it does below. 

Above is the condition is was in before we started on it. You can see how rotten the floor was. And the hole in the back where something chewed through it. And even a bit of where the roof was pulling back and leaking, speeding up the rotting of the floor.

Below is what the floor looks like now. Still all original boards and still some holes, but plenty solid enough to walk on and store things on. The extra boards to fix up the floor, and to patch the hole in the rear wall all came from dismantling the toilet seat inside.

Above you can see the rubber that was added to the roof making it water tight once again and below is the lovely weathered outside of the boards. I really like all the moss growing on the sides.

Here it's all settled in and just waiting for the tarp to arrive that will hang in the doorway to hide and protect everything. I never thought I would be so excited about an old outhouse, but I really like this little shed! It's just perfect for my little homestead here.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

"Mudroom" Remodel

Even though I didn't build my own house, I do try to reuse and repurpose as many things as I can in my life because I don't like waste. Those old lockers that are now planters around my house had lots of little hooks in them. After pulling those, I used some of them to get the shoes off the floor right inside my door. I do still have a pan there for setting really muddy pairs or big boots, but all the smaller shoes hang pretty nicely and are out of the way. I think I'll like this setup!

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Camouflaging Fy Nyth

In the interest of trying to blend into my surroundings nicely and not have anything that would stand out or possibly annoy someone else, I just completed staining my whole house. I did like the golden brown tone, but now Fy Nyth is a little grayish brown house, and I like it better than I though I would actually. Above you can see what she looked like half finished. Below in the shot through the trees, you can see the amazing amount of difference in how much the two shades show up. The grey almost disappears while the golden brown stands out quite a bit. 

I've never stained anything in my life, but I think this project turned out ok. With a few knots in my neck from holding a paint brush for too long, but nothing too bad. It's kind of fun to have some things I can say I did all by myself since I can't claim the credit for actually building my house by myself.

Now I'm getting closer to all settled into my new little clearing. In case you were wondering, it takes just a little less than one gallon of semi transparent stain to cover my entire home. We guessed it'd take more than that however so I have a whole untouched second gallon to use whenever this wears off. Hopefully not for many years!

Friday, May 8, 2015

Little Green Things

My friend who helped me create my garden told me after all that work, now I'd better get some little green things growing, in nice strait rows. So I did. Below you can see how bright everything has been getting as we've had moisture and warmth. Those little leaves popped out almost overnight. There have been quite a few thunderstorms over the past week and one beautiful piece of a rainbow that I saw out across the valley.

The early morning light coming in my windows also lit up the new leaves right outside. And I got come bright little flowers planted around my front door at least.

And some neat and strait rows of little green things now exist in the garden. There will be lots more as more seeds get planted and start to pop out of the ground. For now though, these should provide me some early red and golden beets, garlic, onions, chard, cabbage, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and broccoli. If they don't freeze or get eaten by something anyway...

And here all my little babies are tucked into bed for the night. Which was a good thing since after weeks of warmth and sun, the morning following planting, it snowed. Yeah, big white flakes were coming down. They didn't stay on the ground at my house, but just up the hill they did as you can see below. For now everything's made it, but maybe I'll loose all my early plants one of these days. And these are the joys of trying to garden in a short seasoned zone 3 area.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Adding a Garden and Trail

Here you can see Fy Nyth in her new home. Right beside my solar panels and new garden. She's in the process of getting a new stain to blend better into her surroundings, hence the currently different colored sides. More on that later.

That lovely smooth garden you can see to the left of the house took a lot of work. Below is me sitting on top of a rock pile that may be a little less than a third of the total rock pulled out of the aprox. 30 foot x 100 foot garden plot. 

Here you can see more rocks pulled out and stacked along the whole garden edge. All of these as well as the pile I was sitting on, and more, went into shoring up and widening the lane that allowed us to drag my house up the hill.

Above is the garden after many passes through it with a big harrow. Every pass tended to turn up multiple new large rocks. With the rocks gone, the remaining dirt is beautiful and rich! Then to get the smooth result you see below, many more passes were made with a tractor driven tiller. Which also tended to find new rocks on every pass. I am so thankful for a friend who has all that large equipment! I can only imagine how hard creating a little homestead like this would have been before tractors and such.

Now I just have to plant lots of things. And keep them all from freezing. Or drying up. Or being eaten by deer, moose, elk, squirrels, etc. You know, the joys of living in the middle of now where!

To get up here, there is a lane but it's still a little damp and torn up from moving the house (see this post) so I also built a foot path into the hillside. Above is the rough cut I made as I figured out the best location. Below is the finished result after two half days of work with a pick ax. I know this is surprising, but there was a lot of rock in this hillside too! I think it turned out pretty sweet and it's certainly easier than trying to scramble up the hillside without a trail.