Saturday, November 28, 2015

Thoughts After A Year In Fy Nyth

So it's been just over a year since I moved into Fy Nyth. She arrived on the 20th of November last year. I took a few days to move stuff in and get settled, and on Thanksgiving day last year, spent my first night here. Here are my thoughts on tiny living after one full year of personal experience. 

In general I love it! 

I have not felt any need for move living space, nor felt crowded or claustrophobic. Actually I haven't found the space or the "tininess" to be an issue at all. I have 170 square feet plus a sleeping loft and a storage loft. This is quite comfy for one person full time. And even two people part of the time. My best friend lives out of his RV, so he spent a lot of time kinda living here over the last year. Admittedly, most of his stuff stayed in his RV, but as far as having two people hanging out here and cooking, eating, watching movies, writing, reading, and even working out, that was no problem for either of us. Just recently I've added a kitten to the residents, and she has not made it feel any more crowded either. I've had dinner parties (admittedly smaller than the 20 to 40 plus people I used to host at a time) frequently and 4 people at a time feels very comfortable. 6 is crowded inside, but I've done it. During the summer when the weather was nice, having bigger crowds around the fire pit outside was no problem at all. I've even had a few other overnight guests. Between the loft bed and the couch that turns into a bed, everyone has been comfortable with that as well.

I do now have a small garden/tool shed that used to be an old outhouse. Especially if you don't plan to move all the time, some kind of outside storage is probably important. I of course have gardening stuff in there, but even if you don't garden, there is a good chance you are going to have things like propane bottles, gas cans, large water jugs, extra peat moss for a toilet, etc that are not best stored in a house of any size. It's a really small space too, but having all that stuff outside of and away from the house is really nice.

Cleaning. It does often need done more often than in a bigger house. When you walk in the door a few feet with dirty shoes, all of a sudden, there is mud on your entire floor! But, cleaning is also very easy and quick. Sweeping and washing all the floors in the house can be done in less then ten minutes. Most of the time I just use my dust pan and brush to tidy up the floor every day or two. My kitchen gets cleaned every time I'm cooking, so that never really needs done on it's own. The bathroom takes almost no work. The shower is just storage and the toilet bowl I spray down with vinegar water every time it gets used, so it really never needs cleaned either. There is almost nothing to dust. The book shelves are covered in books and there are almost no other flat surfaces to collect dust. So while the whole floor gets dirty rapidly, cleaning really doesn't take hardly any of my time.

My kitchen is very functional. As you probably know, this was a big deal to me as I cook all the time. I've cooked from scratch on a pretty daily basis for 2 to 10 people at a time. (I trade prepared meals to several other people, hence the volume.) I've canned pickles, beets, spaghetti sauce, dried my own herbs, made sauerkraut, brewed kombucha, baked bread, cookies, pies, angel food cake, to list just a few things, all with no problems. 

I absolutely love my double sink and would find it very hard to function efficiently without it. It is totally worth the space it takes up. My small fridge/freezer works great. I love my stove and oven except for one thing. It works great, the 4 burners can hold a lot and full sized cookie sheets or a 20 pound turkey can fit in the oven. 

The only problem is the ignition on the oven. It uses a glow bar. This draws a similar amount of power to running a microwave the entire time the propane oven is on. That's huge if you have a limited amount of solar power and like to bake things for hours at a time. There are a few ovens, including an otherwise almost identical one make by the same company that only use a small battery to ignite the oven and use no other electricity. This one can drain more from my battery bank in a few hours than everything else in the house can in days. If you are going off grid, pay attention to this. I was ignorant about much of this off grid stuff a year ago and had no idea that a propane oven could draw that much power. Tumbleweed is working with me to switch this model out as they were previously unaware of this issue so that I can go back to using my oven regularly. 

My pantry is adequate, I could fill more space for sure. Many of my home canned things are stored in the second loft which is about half food storage too. It works with no problems, but I could always use a walk in pantry if I had the space! I do have the advantage of having a full sized upright freezer stored in a friends shop further away on the property. Without this, I would not of course be able to store the volume of frozen things I have right now, including 300 pounds of free range all natural organic elk meat. So I am thankful for that option. Again, I cook for him in exchange for that benefit and we both seem to find it a good arrangement. 

My bathroom is totally fine. It is tiny, but that has not bothered me at all. I still don't use my shower other than as storage. I shower at the gym or the same neighboring friend's house where my extra freezer is. This is just because I have to haul all my water by hand and a shower would empty my tank pretty rapidly. My shower is totally functional. All my hanging clothing is stored in there and Wynn's bed and litter box are in the bottom. 

I am totally satisfied with my Natures Head composting toilet. I was a little nervous about odors before having actually used one, but can report no problems at all. This has been verified with fresh noses when people come over to visit, so it's not just that I have become used to an odor. I do like my commercial toilet a lot, but after using it for this long now, I suspect I would have been content with a home made bucket version as well. 

My mirror with the small cupboard behind is terrific both as a mirror (it's large enough to get a full length view if you need) and has a perfect amount of storage for my toiletries. And I originally found it at a second hand store for $10 which is probably the best part!

The living room / dinning room is also fine for everything I've done. I find the couch pretty comfy for reading, watching movies, or writing, and am totally comfortable when I sleep there as well. The storage underneath is prefect for things I don't need to access frequently as well as the half that holds all my batteries and electrical components.

My gateleg table from Ikea is amazing! So tiny and out of the way, and so easy to expand for meals and guests. Plus all the little drawers hold all those little things you need sometimes but tend to not have a home for. It's also a great work surface for the times I have a project that requires more surface area. It's also a very comfortable hight to use as a desk or while working on my laptop.

With the table folded down, I have a decent amount of open floor space for whatever you might want that for. Things like dancing or pushups maybe? Those have both happened. ;) 

And the little coat and boot nook right behind the door works fine. Sometimes in the winter, I wish there was a little more space for snow pants, hats, gloves, and so on. But this setup works pretty well and keeps everything out of the way.

My sleeping loft is very comfy. I can easily sit up anywhere if I want. My foam mattress, also from Ikea and inexpensive, I love sleeping on. It's firm enough for me which is great because really soft mattresses make my back hurt. I also spend plenty of time curled up there reading or watching movies. It's even comfy for two people who want to watch something together to curl up and do so.

My storage loft also works fine. I still just stand on the couch to reach things in it. Most of which I don't access very often. And like I said, it's half food storage right now. And partially decorative too I guess with plants and photos. Hiding behind them are more boring things like extra paper and warranty files, yarn for knitting projects, spare tupperware containers (I end up going through a lot when I am handing out food and no one gives back their empty containers for a while. Then they tend to all come back at once and pile up.) and so on.

Structurally she seems well put together. Remember, I did not build Fy Nyth myself, she was built for me by Tumbleweed, so I do not have the deep intimate knowledge of her insides that you who built your own all do. (By the way, all of you who built your own are way cooler than me!) But here are my observations. I think Tumbleweed did a good job.

My metal roof sheds snow and rain with no problems. And while you can hear rain, due to all the insulation, it's a soft pleasant sound. Not ever an overwhelming rain on a tin shed roof kind of noise.

The cedar siding I stained grey just so she would blend into her surroundings better. This should not need redone for a long time. And staining my whole house only took two afternoons and one gallon of stain! And while I wasn't sure if I would actually like this color initially, I love it now.

Everything is well insulated and I like the spray foam. The space is easy to heat and keep warm. Even when it is -30F or less which does happen here. Also it's easy to keep cool in the summer. Admittedly, we do not tend to have hot summers (low 80's are pretty much the max, but 70's are more normal), but by leaving the windows all open overnight (the lows tend to be in the 40's or 30's even in the middle of summer), and then pulling the curtains on the sunny side during the day, it feels air conditioned all day long. 

I like my cork floors a lot. They do not feel nearly as cold on bare feet as hardwood and I always tend to get cold feet. The cork also seems to be wearing quite well, meaning after a year, I can not see any wear at all. It can't soak up water, and is very easy to sweep and wash.

So in general, I love my place. There is very little I would change. But there are a few big ones I would do differently if I were designing my house right now though with the past years worth of experience to draw from.

First, I would have it built on a trailer that goes out over the wheel wells. That would give me a little more than an extra foot of width inside. This does not sound like much, but it feels huge! I got to spend some time in another tiny that was otherwise the same size and laid out just like mine and it felt almost twice as spacious (maybe that's a bit of an exaggeration, but it was close to that) thanks to those extra inches.

Second, I would have used totally different windows. Ones without all the little panes for starters. These are really cute, but a giant pain to clean. My last big house had a total of 10 windows, with 40 corners to clean. I hate window washing, and the corners are always the hardest part to get clean. Fy Nyth has 16 windows with 4 to 8 small panes on each. That gives me at least 60 small pieces of glass and a corresponding whopping 240 corners to clean! And I would have put in a few bigger windows in general, and less total. This would give me a broader view outside, and larger stretches of wall space inside. Probably only ending up with ten windows total.

The next problem is closely related. I would not have used wooden window frames but composite or something similar. Because, in a tiny space, especially when it is cold outside, you will tend to get condensation. There will be some moisture in the air just from each person or animal's breathing. If you also have propane heat, drying coats or boots, food simmering and releasing steam, or anything else causing moisture in the air, this will add up rapidly. Above you can see how much water (and that morning, ice - it was below zero outside) my windows collect. This keeps the wooden frames constantly damp, even though I wipe up the condensation multiple times a day. Remember all 240+ corners in my windows? Yep, I have to try to dry moisture out of each of them multiple times a day, every day for about half of the year. This is a giant pain. In the summer it's no problem. My windows almost all stay open all the time. 

Damp wood will eventually mold. This problem is being kept in check right now by keeping borax soaked into all the damp wood. It kills mold and helps prevent regrowth. Works way better that clorox which is what I first tried last winter. Even so, staying constantly damp and freezing and thawing for half the year is for sure going to pull my window frames apart and make them need to be replaced years earlier than they should. So do not use wood! At least if you live anywhere cold. Yeah, I'd still have condensation with some other material, but should be able to just wipe up the water and not have the frames constantly damp and attempting to mold.

Also related,  I think I am going to add a wood stove. Probably this little beauty above. Initially I did not want wood for several reasons. The space required by a wood stove and the fact that if you are not home and it burns out, almost a guarantee with a small stove unless you are always home 24/7, your house is going to freeze. Small spaces are easy to heat, but they also cool down quickly since there is so little mass to hold the heat. And a frozen house will burst your pipes, kill your houseplants, make your pets miserable, and possible shatter any food you have stored in glass. 

I am now rethinking this decision. Wood is a very dry heat and should take care of all the above condensation issues. This may or may not work for you depending where you live and how much you move your tiny. I am obviously pretty settled into this spot and not planning to go anywhere anytime soon. And thanks to the infamous pine beetles, I have a virtually unlimited supply of dry standing firewood right outside my door. So other than my labor, this would be free heat instead of having to buy propane. This also would allow me to just stack up my stove and open windows to let out moisture while cooking without worrying about the heat loss and expense. (Not to mention that my propane heater does have to have electricity to run. Like the oven, this was something I was unaware of going into the off grid thing.)  I will still have my propane heater on a thermostat which will take care of the frozen house problem when I am gone and the stove burns out. The other heater will just kick on and take over. But I should be able to do most of my heating with wood. It would also give me a cooking option should something happen to my propane range. 

Yeah I've realized I'm some kind of cross between a minimalist and a prepper. ;) But I really like being independent and self sufficient. And not having lots of junk and clutter. Probably before the start of next winter, there will be a small wood stove in here, that at least, is somewhat easy to remedy. Replacing all the windows and changing their locations is not exactly simple or cheep, and will not be happening any time soon if ever.

Living off grid is not necessarily related to going tiny. However I did both at the same time and I know some others have as well. There was a pretty huge learning curve related to that when I moved in here. If you are going to suddenly take a house off grid, especially right at the start of a WY winter, I highly recommend having a friend around who knows something more than I did about building/electricity/etc. I'm sure I would have figured it out eventually, but I can't thank my friend and neighbor Clay enough for all his assistance and knowledge in this area.

At this point though, most of that stuff is pretty easy and automatic. In some ways it does add extra chores, but none of them are hard and as I said, I do love the freedom and independence. I just know now that if it snowed overnight I need to run up and dust off my solar panels. If it was cloudy all day and it's winter, I need to go out and kick my generator on for a while. If my drinking water jug is nearly empty, my main water tank probably is too and I need to go pick up water. If it's been a few weeks, I need to change the oil and clean the filter on my generator. If I think an appliance runs on propane or anything else, I still need to find out how much electricity it requires to operate. If I can't hear the dribble of liquid into the toilet, my urine tank is nearly full and needs emptied. And so on. 

Overall, I would have stayed with the same layout I have right now even if I was redoing the whole thing. It is very functional for my lifestyle. I would have still bought a tiny if I had that choice to make again. I would have still gone off grid capable at least, even if I had the option to plug into power. I would still park it right here as long as that was an option. 

What I do hope is that my thoughts and observations will help some of you who are still in the planning phase think about some possible issues and save you from having any list of things you would do differently a year after moving in!

Thursday, November 26, 2015


It's thanksgiving day. Yeah I like my house, my garden, my general location, etc. But here's what I am most thankful for in my life. My closest friends. I have been blessed with quite a few over the years. Here's a small tribute to some of those who have touched my life most deeply. There are others not in this list who have certainly affected me as well and I don't mean to insult or ignore all of them, but these are the folks have had the biggest impact on who I am as a person now. Some I am still close to, some of us have headed down different paths in life, and some are now gone. 

First, my best friend Seth, above and below. He just moved to a cabin in Georgia for the winter to write a book and I am already missing him deeply. He's been my closest friend for years now and we've spent countless hours together hiking, fishing, climbing, reading, talking, etc. He challenged me and helped me grow in many areas. He's been there for my darkest moments and stuck with me when he didn't understand why I was struggling. He's cared for me when I most needed it and at great cost to himself. I would probably not be here with out him. 

My parents, Daniel and Susan. They taught me to work hard and many of the skills I am most thankful to know now. Everything from how to read, to cook, garden, can, keep a house, think for myself, and much more. They are not perfect, but I am very thankful for much of the way I was brought up.

My siblings. Athalie, who I fought with for the first two decades of our lives, and then finally became good friends. I admire the wife and mother she has become and her generosity to many who are less fortunate than herself.

My sister Hadasha. She's grown up to be a competent hard working wife and mom as well. Bucking some long established norms in the community we all grew up in for what she thinks is right. Working hard to care for her family and take good care of herself as well. 

The oldest of my brothers, Zack. He's also worked hard to make his own way and is quite talented with anything mechanical. He is settled into a comfortable house with my lovely sister in law. He's probably the most like me, personality wise, of all my siblings and I always thought he might end up moving to WY as well.

Mike, my second "little" brother. Who has clearly grown up to be bigger than me. He too is very skilled with his hands and at anything that has to do with a motor. He and our other younger siblings also taught me a lot about taking care of children as I helped care for all of them when they were little.

Jerusha, is an amazing young woman who's so much more skilled and independent than most in her generation. Working hard and taking care of one's self without running up debts and doing lots of dumb things does not seem to be part of life for most 17 year olds these days and I admire her.

Even my baby brother Jeremy is growing up rapidly. He's working hard, helping manage a small business for his bosses, working on a farm, and finishing school. 

Jess, the friend I spent much of my teen years with. She's always been there to listen to me, bounce ideas off of, and a partner in sometimes silly or crazy adventures together. She's an amazingly intuitive person who always seems to know just when someone needs a note, small gift, or just to know they are being thought about. 

Ruth, who I've know since we were little girls. We've always been able to be go about our lives and pick back up right where we left off when we'd last talked. She has a strength, assurance, and independence I've always admired.

Daniel. We spent hours on the phone for years trying to talk through all kinds of issues, usually ending with "I don't know" as a conclusion. I've always valued his friendship and am so happy for him and his adorable wife who have just made the move to come west as well, now living in CO.

Beth. My friend and room mate for years up until I moved into Fy Nyth. She can run a house, crush a marathon, care for a baby, hike a mountain in Korea, bake amazing cheesecakes, and too many more things to list. She's a great listener and I've learned to value her judgement. I couldn't have possibly had a better room mate for years. 

Kenny. A former couchsurfer who became like my little brother after he moved to this area for a while. He was the best snowboarded I've ever known personally and had the biggest heart for others of almost anybody I've known. I'm sure I will always miss him and often wish I could talk to him again. Skiing these mountains has never been the same since his passing. RIP Kenny. 

My friend Danny. Now married to Jess. I spent a lot of my teen years hanging out with him as well. He's always had a heart for kids and got me started on some of the paths that have led me to where I am in life now. He's become an amazing husband to another one of my good friends and that makes me very happy.

Julie and I spent hours curled up on the couch eating candy and talking till the wee hours of the morning thanks to our shared night owl tendencies. Otherwise our time was spent hiking, dancing, skiing, backpacking, or on random things like ice skating on frozen lakes. She's a strong and caring mother to her boys and self sufficient woman.

My friend Clay who doesn't much like publicity or recognition. He's the one who found my house it's sweet location and helps me with every project around here that requires big equipment. Like tilling up a garden, putting in a new propane heater, plowing snow, and way too many other things to list. He's the kind of observant guy who just sees something that could be done and takes care of it without anyone asking him to. While working together over the last year he's become quite a good friend. And he has been there for me in a lot of my ups and downs too. Anytime I find myself overwhelmed with any kind of project, he just steps in and says "I've got the technology to fix that," and does. 

My former boss, Dot. She was like a second mother to me when I started working for her right out of high school. She always knew how to just listen and not push "fixes" on people. She taught me a lot about plants, flower arranging, greenhouses, and attention to detail. I'll always be thankful that I was able to work for her for a few years.

My closest friend for several years, Heather. She taught me a lot about photography as she learned herself. We spent hours shooting photos, cleaning offices, trying to figure out how do deal with families and friends, and adventuring to random destinations. She's now a talented photographer, artist, and great mother to her four little ones.

My cousin Jacob. My hero and big brother figure growing up since I only had little brothers of my own. I spent a lot of my childhood with him as my only friend and always adored him. I always tried so hard to keep up with whatever he was doing but never quite could. He's now married to Heather and a dad to those four little ones.

Some of "my" kids that I spent a lot of time with in the past. Jay and Niah were probably the first little ones to really ignite my desire to adopt. Something I may still be able to do some day. They must both be about 12 now. And though I have totally lost contact with them, they'll always hold a special place in my heart.

Phethia was like a daughter to me for years. She touched my heart in so many ways I couldn't describe and was always such a sweet and deep thinking girl. We still stay in touch occasionally and she's grown into a beautiful young woman.

Che' was my high spirited girl. She always had a ton of energy and would pursue anything she wanted to do full steam ahead. I always enjoyed and was challenged by the time we spent together. She's also now turned into a young woman though I'll always think of her a one of my girls.

Jakera was always laid back, great at caring for younger kids, and fun to spend time with. She's now in collage and grown into quite a young lady. I'm proud of all the work she's put into pursuing her dreams.

Joy. One of my first close friends. A girl full of energy, spirit, and life. I'll always regret that we didn't remain better friends and that her life ended so young. I was 16 when she became the first close friend I lost to death. That probably left an even bigger impact on my life than our friendship to be honest. RIP Joy.

A small paragraph about each can not convey how much each of these people have impacted my life past or present, but these people are what I am most thankful for today. I hope all of you are equally blessed this Thanksgiving day and able to enjoy it with some good friends of your own!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

An Addition to the Family of Fy Nyth

I've been thinking since last spring that I needed a cat around to help catch mice among other things. No, I have never had a mouse in my house, but if you were following me last spring, you'll remember the steady flow that kept getting in my van which was extremely frustrating. Anyway, that idea finally had results.

Meet Wynn. The newest member of Fy Nyth's household. She about 3 months old and I adopted her from a gentleman who did not have room to keep both her and her brother, both of whom he had adopted from our local shelter when then were smaller. She came home with me yesterday afternoon when I got off work and now I have quite a few days off work to hang out with her while she settles in. Which she seems to be doing quite quickly. 

Now I have had pets for a while in the form of my composting worms, but Wynn is the first bigger pet in my house. And in my life in nearly a decade. The rental market is understandably not friendly to pets, but owning my own house has made that an option for me once again.

Yesterday she ran around the house and checked everything out first.

Then she settled into the couch and batting around a ball of yarn. And chasing one of my reusable grocery bags around the floor, inside and out of it. This seems to be her favorite toy, but she's always so busy "attacking" it that she's only a blur in those photos. 

I was mildly allergic to most cats growing up and this was and is a concern for me. So far we seem to be getting along well enough as long as I don't cuddle her right up against my face and she's not allowed in my bedroom loft. Hopefully it stays that way and we can stay together. I do have another friend who would love her just in case my allergies do act up too badly, but the plan is for her to stay right here.

She's very much a kitten still and goes back and forth rapidly from playing hard to crashing to nap for a bit. Her kitty bed sits on top of her covered litter box, both in the base of my shower which seems to be working well. When I woke up this morning, she was stretching and yawning in her bed still. 

She loves attention, petting, and to cuddle. It was hard to get a good photo of her curled up in my lap, but when a friend came over for dinner, she settled right into his lap purring away as well. She's got an amazingly loud motor for such a little thing! 

She loves playing on the couch and walking along all those windowsills behind it to watch the outside world where it is snowing once again. Once she has been here long enough to know this as home, and especially as it warm up toward spring, she will hopefully be able to spend some time outside hunting mice as well. But she needs to grow up a bit first. There are too many foxes, owls, and coyotes around here for a little kitty to make it outside. 

Now she is very contentedly napping behind me while I type. I think she likes her home here in the tiny house! Plus she's awful cute, don't you think?