Ultra-Posh Tiny Homes: The Small House Movement Goes Luxe

The Tiny Home Movement is getting noticed by Forbes Magazine.  It’s with mixed emotions that I make that statement, and that I even share this article.

I’m not sure how I feel about the majority of the homes in the gallery photos linked to this article.  The exception is the Zyl Vardos home (see also links under Resources), and a few others.  Some seem way too extravagant (1.8 million?), but it is Forbes.  Ultra-posh may appeal to the typical Forbes reader, but most of us who wish for a tiny lifestyle are focused on living simply and intentionally, not just seeking to expand our inventory of toys.  Still, I wanted to share this article, as I’m always looking for new ideas and working on the plan in my mind.  I do like the media attention the movement is getting of late, and hopefully building codes will be modified by the time we’re ready to transition in a couple of years.

Ultra-Posh Tiny Homes: The Small House Movement Goes Luxe – ForbesLife.


A Tiny Home Open House: Visiting Hannah’s House

Today we attended Hannah’s Open House, a gathering that we’d found through Meetup.com.  Although we’d seen a Tumbleweed home at the Mother Earth News Fair, and I’ve obsessively viewed thousands of photos online, It was nice to finally see a Tiny Home that was being lived in.

Hannah’s home had a couple of great features that we’ll have to borrow for our design.  The L-shaped seating in the main living space converts to an RV-style guest bed, which is something that will be extremely useful when adult kids return to visit.  I also enjoyed seeing and using the mini-staircase, and we’ve decided this is a feature we like, especially since we’re approaching 50.  We backpack and stay active, but because I’m nearly comatose in the morning, stairs are a good thing!  The loft was nice and bright, and seemed roomy.  We can see ourselves living in such a space.

Wish we’d had time to talk to Hannah or her parents, but there was some serious inquiry going on.  Hannah, we think your home is adorable, and wish you the best in your tiny house endeavors!

Check out additional photos of Hannah’s house here.



Planning for a Tiny House and Other Crazy Ideas

I am a research junkie without much fear.  Give me a YouTube video and I will build a bathroom. That’s pretty much what we did.

Jon owns a house 60 miles away or so that has required a lot of repairs due to deferred maintenance and an undetected water leak that had completely rotted out the floor in parts of the master bath and second bedroom.  For the last year, we’ve spent one of our weekend days (and sometimes our vacations) commuting 60 miles to spend the day doing construction and home improvement.  We’ve moved walls, sistered floor joists, replaced subflooring, built closets (where there were none), learned to install drywall, and in the process, developed skills we never imagined we would.  Paying a contractor to make the repairs would have taken much less time (we’ve been working on it for a year), but we’ve enjoyed the hands-on and have learned a tremendous amount.  Eventually, this house will be rented out — at least until Jon can recover the equity he lost during the economic downturn.

Repairing the subfloor

Repairing the subfloor

Neither one of us was particularly handy before this began, but we are resourceful and our styles complement one another.  Jon likes to jump in and try things; I tend to analyze things and dependencies, sometimes to the point of analysis paralysis.  I’m a planner; he’s a doer.  It works for us.

Jon repairing the bathroom floor.

Jon repairing the bathroom floor.

With Jon’s house nearing completion, we’ve wondered what will fulfill our home improvement addiction.  Becoming construction junkies wasn’t in the original plan, but the whole process has been so rewarding that I can’t imagine not having something to work on.  Spare time?  What would we ever do with that?!

We’re in a rental currently, but have been planning on buying a fixer once Jon’s house is rented.  And in our long-term plan to live off-grid and eco-friendly, we’ll now be looking for a fixer with room to build a Tiny House — eventually selling, or renting out that fixer to live further off the grid.

After hours of obsessive research over the last few weeks, I bought a couple of books on Tiny Homes for inspiration (I’m sure this isn’t the last of my book purchases):

Master bath almost completed!

Master bath almost completed!

I have only had an opportunity to flip through them at this point, but am hoping to delve into them this weekend.  I’m anxious to read Dee’s book for a number of reasons.  First, she lives just a short drive down the freeway from us.  Second, there is much that can be learned from following one person’s experience from start to finish.  There are some great blog posts about building Tiny Homes out there, but most are very subjective and limited in scope (e.g. “Why we chose XYZ stove”).  I wanted to read a story that would inspire me.

So, here’s the plan:

  1. Get Jon’s house rented out
  2. Buy a fixer with room to build a Tiny House
  3. Fix up house
  4. Build a Tiny House
  5. Rent or sell fixer house (I’m still not sure how I feel about being a landlord)
  6. Buy Land (and hopefully zoning laws will be more flexible by then)
  7. Move Tiny House to land

Sounds like a 2-3 year plan, which we’re fine with.  It will coincide nicely with our daughters both heading off to college, and the opportunity to relocate eventually, though we may need to build a guest Tiny House!

And a Tiny House art studio…

And a Tiny House chicken coop…

My Latest Obsession: Tiny Homes

As another year draws to an end and I reflect on life, where I am, and where I truly want to be, I’ve come to a realization.  Though I want to live more simply, deliberately, years can just slip away, one day at a time.  Without a deliberate attempt to escape it, I’ve become stuck in a culture and way of life that is out of alignment with my values.  It’s easy to get stuck here, really.  Humans tend to value stability and have an aversion to change.  Getting up the courage to take the first step is probably the hardest part.

My vacation this week has been spent doing much research and desiring to make a change.  Tiny Homes are again on my radar.  Over the years I’ve researched many alternate building techniques and alternate housing possibilities.  As my partner and I creep ever closer to 50, and as both our youngest are due to leave the nest in 2.5 years, a major life-change is certainly possible.  We are tree-hugging, eco-minded introverts, and suddenly the ability to live anywhere is extremely enticing.  I’ve always come back to Tiny Homes in my research, and it may be the portability that’s the strongest draw.  Build it first, then figure out what the heck you’re going to do, and where you’re going to live.

Of all the examples I’ve stumbled upon, I think my favorite has to be The Tiny Project.  What an amazing use of space.  I don’t think I’d change a thing except possibly the upholstery on the couch.  After looking at so many, that’s saying something!

We have so much waste in our culture, and have a tendency to accumulate way more than we need.  We then store it in living spaces that are much larger than necessary, or even reasonable.  So much of our time is spent working to just accumulate “stuff”, and we’re left with so little time to live.

Tiny Home

Tiny Home

A Tiny House is now part of our plan, and may just fall in line with our girls’ departure for college in 2.5 years, though we may just need 2 Tiny Homes for when they come home to visit.  Ideally, we would have the ability to be off-grid: propane range, refrigerator, water heater; solar outlets/light fixtures, and a well for water.  While we may not go off-grid immediately, having the ability to do so is something we want to incorporate.

I think the first step is just going to be getting rid of the unneeded “stuff” that just creeps into our lives, and I’m suddenly very motivated to do so after spending hours upon hours perusing tiny homes.  Time to make a donation before the tax year ends!

Planting by Phases of the Moon

As someone who personally feels the effects of the moon (I get very ADD during the New Moon), I’ve always suspected that moon phases had a greater impact on living things than could be easily explained.  After researching when to start seeds indoors, I stumbled across the good ol’ Farmer’s Almanac, and was surprised that they cited the “moon-favorable dates” on their planting chart.  This warranted research.  What was this lunar gardening?

182165473_f08a1edf94_mWe’ve long understood how the moon affects the tides, so it is no wonder that it affects plants, whose main mechanisms for growth are the transport of water and the utilization of sunlight through photosynthesis.  Gardening by moon phase (a component of what is referred to as Biodynamic Gardening) is as old as agriculture itself.  During the New Moon, when the gravitational pull is the greatest, the moon aids in pulling water up toward a seedling’s roots.  Apparently, seeds will absorb the most moisture during the time of the full moon.  Now, for those of us in the Pacific Northwest, there is certainly no shortage of spring moisture.  That said, this technique may not make any visible difference for those where moisture is not an issue.  Our ground is fairly soggy until June most years.  But, for those in areas where spring rain is less abundant, why not give it a try?

From the article Celestial Gardening, Organic Gardening.com:

“One backyard gardener who’s convinced is Richard Makowski of River Vale, New Jersey. Makowski says he tried the biodynamic planting calendar a few years ago “for the heck of it”—and saw his winter squash yields triple. “My wife says the vegetables are sweeter,” he says, taking a break from planting a bed at the Pfeiffer garden. “I didn’t even believe this stuff at first. And maybe you don’t have to. But I’ve never met a gardener who isn’t spiritual on some level.”

Unfortunately, I planted my kohlrabi and sweet peas on Saturday, which was a waning moon.  On the bright side, it appears to be a good time to plant trees, so the lilac transplant I have planned for next weekend will be right in sync – as long as it’s still waning.  Wow, I need an app for this!

What I surmised from my brief research stint:

  1. The New Moon is the best time for planting crops that produce seeds outside their fruit (leafy greens, grains, cauliflower, broccoli, etc.)
  2. The second quarter is best for crops whose seeds are formed inside the fruit (tomatoes, beans, peas, etc.)
  3. Mow lawns in the first and second quarters to encourage growth, and in the third and fourth quarters to retard growth.
  4. The 4th quarter is a time for pruning, composting, and general maintenance.  Not good for planting.
  5. Anything that grows primarily above the ground (beans, peas, squash) should get planted in a waxing phase.
  6. Anything that grows primarily below the ground (potatoes, turnips, onions, carrots) should be planted in the waning phase.

Here are a few sites I found intriguing when reading about the topic, which may just encourage you to pursue additional research:

The Gardeners’ Calendar is an interesting site that outlines the 3 moon planting methods, including a 7 day running calendar summarizing what to do, and what not to do.

Farming by the Moon, from the Farmers’ Almanac

Is biodynamic the new organic? – News article from The Telegraph, UK

Adventures in Raising City Chickens

At work, my teammates jokingly refer to me as “The Crazy Chicken Lady”.  I have to admit, I kind of like it.  When we’re younger, we strive to fit in.  I’ve finally reached a place in my life where I embrace my eccentricities, and feel sadness for those who are in their 40s, still trying to “fit in”.  Let your freak flag fly, I say.  (Channeling my inner Portland…)

Miss Cleo, City Chicken

Miss Cleo, City Chicken

I did not enter into the decision to raise chickens in the backyard of a city lot lightly.  For me, pretty much everything requires hours of research.  I worried about the neighbors, about how the dog and cats would get along with them, but from the time I was a little girl, I always wanted to live on a farm, and something called to me.

I’ve heard chickens called the “gateway animal”.  Once you have chickens, you might as well have goats.  Hmm.  I would love goats!     Not sure they’re legal in my city, but one day, with a plot of earth…. maybe.  Rabbits, perhaps?

“The Girls” free-range in my backyard during daylight hours and have a small coop I ordered online and assembled, that they really only sleep in and lay eggs in.  If I had it to do over again, I would have definitely built something, but I do like it this way.  They are not confined, and had I built something from scratch, I think I’d feel the need to enclose a run.  This way, I felt guilty with their small accommodations and let them have the run of the yard during the day.  I get up, have my coffee, get ready for work, and let the girls out.  Thankfully, it’s now light when I leave for work.  There were days in December where I had to open the coop for them in the wee dark hours before sunrise.  Thankfully, our city raccoons have had their instincts bred out of them. I close the coop at night after they’ve already put themselves to bed, and they keep my backyard grub-free, and the grass nicely trimmed.

There are drawbacks, of course.  I love flowers.  So do chickens.  I spent days researching chicken-friendly landscaping, logging my botanical discoveries on a spreadsheet.  I long for more than the standard Rhododendron/Camellia landscaping that is so prolific in the Pacific Northwest.  Last spring, I planted New Guinea Impatiens, which they’re supposed to dislike.  They left them alone for a month, then I came home from work one day and they were devoured down to the dirt..  Russian Sage is another plant that is supposedly distasteful to them.  I planted it along the fence, and it lasted through the flowering season, but as soon as the weather started to turn in September, they devoured every leaf on it. I hope it comes back.

I’m listing the plants that have survived my free-range chickens below.  Several are noted to be poisonous, so not necessarily “chicken friendly”.  At least I have smart chickens.

Plants that have survived my chickens:

  1. Azalea
  2. Hyacinth
  3. Daffodil
  4. Lilly of the Valley (inherited it with this yard, and is fairly prolific)
  5. Daylilly (planted last spring without barrier/protection, and they haven’t touched them)
  6. Heath
  7. Columbine
  8. Pansies (a weed in my yard that they won’t touch)
  9. Euphorbia (they leave the leaves, but do eat the flowers)
  10. Hydrangea
  11. Bleeding Heart
  12. English Ivy
  13. Forsythia
  14. Chamomile (planted last spring, and they have left untouched)
  15. Rose Campion (commonly misidentified as “lambs ears”)
  16. Pittosporum
  17. Cotoneaster (their favorite hiding place)
  18. Peony