Thursday, April 21, 2016

The Snow Is Gone

As of two days ago not, there is no snow left in my little clearing. All these shots are from the last two days. The yard is developing a greener haze every day.

This shady spot was the last to loose it's snow, and actually in this shot you can just see a tiny spot at the base of the one tree still. That is now gone. I've got my chairs and swing all back out and ready to have another bonfire. That object over on the far left in my new baby Traeger grill. I'm really excited about cooking on that this summer. I'd heard of them in the past, but thought they were probably just a fancy overpriced and over hyped thing. That was until my friend cooked me dinner on his. I was sold instantly!

The hay covered raised beds I made last fall along with my wood chipped pathways are looking good. That snow on the right edge, by the way, does not count as being in my clearing, since it's in the brush and trees off to the side of the garden. :)

My rhubarb looks great pushing up through it's mulch and I can't wait to have some to eat!

I have a few hundred little garlic plants up, all five varieties that I planted last fall. This is good because I use a lot of garlic in my cooking. They are such tough little guys that they were pushing green shoots through the snow before it even melted!

Manipi still enjoys snoozing on the porch in the sun, and though you can't see most of them in this shot, there are a lot of little plants coming up in those planters.

And we've had some stunning full moon nights. This is the moon rise across the valley from my house.

This is what my house looks like at midnight with the moon shining down through the clouds and trees.

The next night, there was not a cloud in sight. These are more midnight shots. (Yes I am naturally a night owl.) I'm always amazed to be living somewhere you can see this many stars, even with a full moon!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Sandhills, Fox, and a Bluebird

Sandhill or Whooping cranes are kind of amazing birds. An adult male like this one stand 4 feet high at the shoulders. So with that long neck, he's at eye level with your average 6 foot tall man.  

This pair has been hanging out in a field close to my house. I'm hoping to get some shots of chicks a little later in the spring! They usually have two chicks, but these guys also live 20-40 years, so I wonder how long this particular pair has been nesting here?

While they mostly eat leftover grain and such, they are omnivores and I think here the female has just grabbed a worm. Those long stiletto like beak are something you want to stay away from though. They have the power to pierce a human skull with one strike I am told.

Then there is the tri-color fox that's been hanging around too. Hunting mice and chizzlers in the grassy meadows.

Not wanting to be too close for sure, but a very curious little guy none the less.

As I was photographing him, he decided to approach the pair of sandhills. He just trotted behind them for a bit. Whenever they moved, he followed. While a fox may get an unprotected chick every now and then, there is no way he'd take on a adult. The birds were totally unconcerned by his presence. 

Bluebirds were flitting all around me, but this was the only one to sit still enough for a quick shot.

The clouds had been rapidly rolling in during all this, and now it started to pour. The fox headed for the shelter of the trees and I soon retreated to the dry inside of my van.

All these critters are part of what I love so much about where I live!

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Cleaning & Lighting Fy Nyth's Wood Stove

To help answer some of the questions I've been asked about my Grey Stove, I shot a video this morning of emptying the ash and then lighting my stove. For more info on this stove, see my posts about the installation and my general review of the stove here and here.  Enjoy and if you have any other questions, please ask!

The Anticipation Spring Brings

Despite waking to a dreary morning outside that rapidly turned into a full downpour, there being mud everywhere there is not still a snow pile, and the general grayness, I like spring better here in my little clearing better than I ever have since living in WY.

Every day some new thing pops out of the ground or shoots out little buds. When I first saw my garlic shoots sticking up through the snow a few days ago, I was so excited I had to go back and look at them two more times that day just to see if they were still growing! Crazy I know, and probably equivalent to trying to get a watched pot to boil, but sometimes things really do grow that fast. 

Last night for the first, I saw two of my rhubarb plants shooting up through their mulch. Even though I couldn't even find the other ones last night, this morning the other two are up as well! Meaning that all four of the plants I put in last year survived the winter.

Daffodils are faithfully coming up everywhere I planted them last fall. Even in the spots I totally forgot I had planted them. About half of the edge of my clearing should be blooming yellow in a few weeks!

Then there are the cherry and apple tree buds swelling every day. Parsnips shooting out tender looking little leaves. Creeping thyme with it's mini dusky green leaves crawling across the dirt. The wide brighter green of salvia and iris coming back up. Tiny little pairs of leaves marking the spots where alyssum seeds fell last year. The yard gradually developing a green haze. And so on. It's just so exciting to find a new live thing that made it through our winter every day!

Now I'm just itching to plant new stuff for this spring! But I am still waiting on some seeds that are in the mail, and it's still a little early for most things. We could easily get some very hard frosts yet since our last frost date isn't till July...

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Review of Mini CT Wood Stove

So I've had my wood stove installed for over two months now. And I promised a full review. Here are my thoughts. 

The short version? I love my mini Grey wood stove! Had I known then what I know now, I would have put a wood stove in here from day one. But for some more details...

I am liking heating with wood for several reasons. Roughly in order of importance to me, those would include that burning wood produces a very dry heat. This is a very big deal in a small well insulated space and cold climate which tend to combine to create a lot of condensation leading to mold. Secondly, that I have access to nearly unlimited firewood for free as long as I am willing to put in some work. I like the work and I like not buying as much propane. And lastly, that a wood stove produces radiant heat, warming the floor, walls, couch, table, my perennially cold feet, etc. Unlike my propane heater which produces warm air and always tends to leave objects cool to the touch when it's cold outside. 

These are the main reasons I chose to add a wood stove to my house. I'd thought about doing so when I first moved in, but decided it wasn't worth the space I would have to devote to a wood stove. I was wrong, it is totally worth it! For me. 

Now, I have a few specific things going on that you should be aware of before you conclude that I think every tiny house needs a wood stove even if you happen to live in the tropics or something. My house is built very tightly and is well insulated with spray foam. No heat recovery air exchange was installed when it was built. Something I only learned about more recently and that I would install were I building today. You may have a very well built house without it being sealed as tightly as mine. I live in the northern mountains. It's cold here a lot of the year. Like around freezing at night for most of the summer and -30 F. or more in the winter. You may, and most people do, live somewhere much warmer. I cook a lot and like to have people over for dinner or even to spend the night. In a tightly sealed space, both of these things produce a lot of moisture. If there are fewer people breathing and thus exhaling moisture inside your house, or if you don't cook by simmering things for hours, you will have much less of this. I live off grid, so I happen to be closer to many cords of good firewood than I am to a good electrical connection. You may be far from dead trees and within an extension cord length of plugging into the grid. If your situation differs from mine in any of these areas, just be aware that installing a wood stove may not be as amazing for you as it is for me.

Having my wood stove had totally solved my condensation issues. Completely. All my window frames had been damp to the touch since at least November sometime. Sometimes damp out 3-4 inches from the glass in all directions. And sometimes with huge ice deposits building up on the glass it's self. This despite my concerted effort to ventilate the house with windows and fans any time I knew I was producing more moisture than normal, wipe up moisture several times a day, and leaving one loft window open a crack round the clock to facilitate air movement. At times it felt like all I did when I was home was try to manage moisture. I did successfully keep mold in check this winter by keeping a Borax paste permanently soaked into the wood all around the windows, but that was still something I had to regularly check up on and touch up.

You can see in the above photo, the only little tiny corner of moisture left. That was about 12 hours after the first time I lit my stove up. The only time since that I have seen any at all? While actually cooking and thus creating a lot of steam. But now, even when I do that and run no fan or make any effort at all to get the moisture out, it's gone within minutes of when I stop making more. Like once I put a lid on a kettle. Or turn the burner off. Everything around the window frames is amazingly dry. This alone would make the wood stove worth every inch of space it requires!

And my place is warm. Any time the wood stove is burning. There are still times when I'm gone, usually at work or sleeping, and it goes out. But because the wood stove got everything warm, the walls, floor, furniture, etc, it takes quite a while to cool down even after it's totally out, compared to how long it took when it was just heated by warm air. That air would cool off super quick and none of the objects were ever really warm. But now my house is often 80 or more degrees inside and everything is warm to the touch. I love this and my perennially cold feet really love it. All this is with outside temps in the teens.

This means I can open a window or six just to keep the temps inside from being too hot for comfort. This also happens to give me some great ventilation and air exchange.  Picture watching a movie while curled up on the couch with your feet toasty by the fire and a nice fresh breeze coming in an open window by your head. Very nice.

Also, I do still need my propane heater. Because it's so cold here for much of the year, I have to have something that is going to keep the house from freezing when I am gone or asleep long enough for the stove to burn out. So having a thermostat controlled heater is still essential for me. I don't use it much since having the wood stove, and as you can see above, I leave it set in the 50's, but I wouldn't want to be without it. 

I also bought a new CO/propane detector a little bit ago. The one that came with my house has been glitchy from day one. As in going off for no reason when it's the middle of summer and the whole house it open and similar stuff. And with two propane heaters, a propane stove and oven, and now a wood stove, I think having a good one is essential. This particular model was recommended to me by another tiny house friend (thanks Alex!) and I like it a lot. Instead of just sounding an alarm or saying nothing, it gives you a reading from 0-100. Above 50, you are supposed to take action. I can see it rise and fall in the low range (10's and 20's) when I light up my wood stove or am cooking. It has never reached a dangerous level once. 

As far as this particular stove, I am pleased with my decision to go with Grey Stove Works. I think Lloyd built a quality product. It is very solid and seems from my limited knowledge, well constructed. It is heavy, about 120 pounds, but I can lift it if I need to. I like the size. It's small enough to fit in without taking up too much space. And big enough to burn and radiate heat for quite a while. Installation was very easy. 3 inch pellet pipe was not stocked by any of my local stores, but simple to order online.

The stove is easy to light if you know how to stack a fire. You can see the criss cross stack I built above to allow plenty of air circulation. I use what would be kindling sized chunks of wood in most stoves. And if I cut them to about 7-8 inches in length, they are pretty easy to stack in the stove. Due to it's small size, if you stuff it full soon after lighting, leaving little air circulation, it will not burn well. Once you have a good hot bed of coals however, it doesn't seem to matter how much you stack in there.

I do live in the mountain west. I have soft woods to burn, with beetle kill pine and aspen being to two most prevalent on the property where I live. So these burn times I am describing are all with soft woods. If you have access to good hardwoods, I'd expect burn times to be longer than what I get.

I get anywhere from 1 1/2 hours to 4 hours of active burn time. The variation is mostly based on the difference between lighting it up as a cold stove, filling it once, and leaving. Versus having had it burning for a while, with the whole thing hot, a solid bed of coals in the bottom, and then stacking it full and leaving. Now that is active burning I am talking about. Like seeing flames dance kind of burning. The longest it's gone between putting wood in and still finding some hot coals is about 12 hours. It's pretty easy for me to stack it full when I head to bed around midnight or later (I've always been a night owl naturally) and wake up with enough coals for it to restart when I add new wood.

Due to just how warm this little stove keeps the house, I am glad for my partial loft wall. If I was to build over with a wood stove from the start (and were I building again, I certainly would have a wood stove), I'd choose to wall off my sleeping loft entirely and have some kind of pocket door leading into it. I sleep best in cool temps and since heat rises, I like being able to block it out of my sleeping area. I don't mind it being close to 90 F. downstairs when I am just curled up and reading late at night, but I do not want to try to sleep in those temps. For now, I've hung a curtain across the open top of my steps, and it does a good job of blocking the majority of the heat that would otherwise flow around my partial wall. Maybe I'll actually add a door or something more permanent at some point, we'll see.

Depending on outside temps overnight and how long I sleep, when I go to bed with the downstairs in the 80's, I wake up to a house that is between 55 and 70. This is fine with me. You restart or reload the fire, and it warms back up fast if it need to.

Speaking of fast, my whole house can go from 55 to mid 70's in about 45 minutes when I come home from work and fire up the wood stove. I don't know of many other heaters in other homes that can warm the whole house up 20 degrees in less than an hour! My propane heater certainly can not do this.

Immediately after lighting a new fire, you can see smoke from the chimney like these two photos. Shortly after lighting though, it burns clean with no, or almost no smoke at all. As long as you keep it burning hot, it does not smoke. If you try to damp it down, it will go back to smoking.

This is pretty normal for most of the time. No visible smoke rising at all.

Thanks to the flat top, you can cook on the Mini CT. I fried up bacon and eggs for breakfast one morning. And even simmered a pot of soup for dinner. I still plan to use my propane stove most of the time just for convenience, but since I live off grid, it is certainly nice to have this as an option.

 I have not found the stove to be in the way at all nor is bumping into it an issue. There is plenty of space to move around and the stove is set far enough back to make hitting it accidentally unlikely.

I really like the way the stove looks and how cozy it make my house seem. Before going to bed, I enjoy laying on a cushion on the floor and just zoning out while staring at the flames dancing in my stove. A very peaceful way to unwind.

And that glow! It's just so inviting.

I hope this info is helpful for those of you looking at putting a wood stove in your tiny house in general and those looking at a Mini CT Grey stove in particular. Please let me know if there is anything I missed describing or if you have any other questions.

Sunday, April 10, 2016


It's really spring! Even here in my mountain side, north facing, tree shaded clearing. At least some of the daffodils I planted last fall made it and they are sending up little green shoots all over.

In bare spots the baby grass shoots are turning green. At least three of my five fruit trees survived the winter because I can see them sending out little leaf buds. I saw a baby strawberry leaf yesterday and my garlic shoots are up several inches through the snow, before it even melted off of that bed. I just ordered the seeds I was lacking from and can't wait to get to planting my garden for this year.

No my outdoor daffys are not blooming yet, I bought these to add some indoor color just because I was craving the sight of fresh flowers.

The owls are around and I hope to maybe capture some baby photos later this spring. Robins, sparrows, bobber birds, and kingfishers dart around and call to each other. Geese and ducks are nesting. Ospreys are back in town and fighting with the geese over high nesting sites.

The eagles are flying over.

Sandhill (whooping) cranes are picking out nest sites and chatting in their distinct and loud voices.

Lovely spring breakfasts and dinners have been enjoyed inside the house.

Trout are eating and sometimes being caught just long enough for a photo.

Bugs are hatching, and then sometimes being eaten by those trout.

Wynn and Luther play together all the time they are not napping or hunting. I have yet to see a live mouse this spring and there have been none in my van. A nice change from my 2-4 a day that I had in the van last spring!

Manipi prefers to be by himself and gets feed up with how rambunctious the younger two cats are. He still takes off on long strolls, sometimes for most of the day. I guess to explore? I don't know where he goes, but he seems to enjoy being free to wander and then come home as he pleases.

I had my first bonfire of the year, despite the fire pit still being surrounded by a huge snow drift. Every day there is a little less snow. 

I hope you are all enjoying spring as much where ever you live. At least if it's not already past in your location! I know I'm one of the last in the country to see spring.