Sunday, February 26, 2017

Feb 27 Enjoying the New Year

Been a while since I've posted. Amazing how quickly time flies by. The weather has been unseasonably warm. We've had a number of days in the 80s here in February! We did get down to almost freezing this past weekend though. I will say, it's odd to see mosquitos buzzing around with fur coats on! lol

We finished (for the most part) our Tiny House this past Fall. We're still going to re-work the water lines coming into the house but that will likely come when we build a pump house. We're OK with bringing in our own water at this point. We pretty much have it down to about 15 gallons per day, including showers. I did re-install the DC pump and a new 12v deep-cycle battery under the sink to have running water there in the kitchen. I keep reminding myself that carrying 40 lb jugs of water is good exercise!

House with the door painted


We have also changed the storage up a bit in the living area. We took down our metal Elfa shelves and put in another cabinet from IKEA. I know a lot of people really liked the wire baskets but this will be more practical for our daily needs. It fit perfectly in the spot we had and I think it looks great. This unit will serve as a bar and various storage including bedding. It's 96" tall. The 2 sections are now 15" wide and 24" wide. Both are 24" deep. We've still got some lighting and a shelf to install in the bar but it's looking good so far! :) Here are some updated photos.


Looking from the door in



Bathroom and cabinet area


Here's a nice picture of the West wall. Not sure if I had posted once since we re-worked the window and door trim.


View from the kitchen towards the living/sleeping area. 


We went out to an open-house event for the supplier (Texas Bee Supply) of our honey bees this weekend and picked up our hive kits. Our bees won't be in until late March or April but we're really excited to make some progress. We also got a great tour of their sister company, Desert Creek Honey. Amazing the amount of honey that 5000 hives can produce! We were both so impressed with the owner, Mr. Shook, when he came out to our local beekeepers meeting that we were glad to support him in his new business venture of selling beekeeping supplies. It's great too, to find an honest honey supplier in your own area. Many honeys purchased from a grocery store that claimed to be local, raw honey were actually a blend of foreign (mainly Chinese) honey as well as corn syrup, thus negating the health benefit of consuming products with a bit of pollen from your area. The people from Desert Creek Honey were upfront and honest about where all of their honey comes from. You should give them a try. Great products. The creamed jalapeno honey spread is excellent on fresh cornbread!! :) (No, I didn't get as much as one free bottle of honey for my endorsement. I really like the people and their products!)





Sunday found us painting these and putting the swarm box that we built up in a tree to entice some swarming bees to take up residence. I think Kim and I are both going to enjoy being beekeepers. Everyone we've dealt with so far has been really nice, just like the Tiny House community we've become part of.

We attended a bee biology class recently, taught by Ryan at the Trinity Valley Beekeeper's Association. They (the bees) are absolutely fascinating. The queen can lay 2000+ eggs per day for life off of one mating flight but can't feed herself. Female bees do absolutely all of the work in a hive, from the day they hatch 'til the day they die. Male bees (drones) are pretty much good for one thing, breeding to a queen, hopefully from another hive. If successful, they die immediately. If unsuccessful, they are all kicked out of the hive in the fall to starve to death. Since they (the drones) do no other work, it would be impractical for the hive to support them through the winter. After all, the queen can produce more drones at will in the Spring by deciding whether to fertilize the eggs she's laying or not. Fertilized eggs hatch as female workers. Un-fertilized eggs hatch as drones. If the queen slows down her egg production, her daughters gang up on her and either kill her or they conspire to produce a new queen who will do it for them! It's a no-nonsense species. All business, all the time. Something to respect in that. :)


Honey bee collecting nectar (to make honey) and pollen (to feed baby bees)

If you find that a swarm of bees has left their hive and taken up in a tree or bush on your property, take the time to call a local bee club. They will likely have someone available to come and rescue the bees. Everyone wins! The bees are very docile at this stage and are easy to handle so there's actually no danger of them attacking you. Their bellies are full of honey and they're just looking for a new home. :)


Swarm of honey bees waiting to decide on where their new home will be!

We got a nice series of showers on Sunday evening, also. Not sure there is anything better than a Sunday snuggled up with your wife, watching movies and listening to the rain fall on the cabin you built in the woods. I'm very grateful for Kim and all we've accomplished together over the past 10 years. :) Here's to you, Sweetie!

I'm working on a system to start propagating Chili Pequin pepper plants out on our new property. These are a great little pepper that packs a punch, up to 30x hotter than a Jalapeno. We have a number of plants at our house in Arlington but I've not had any luck in getting them to come up from seed here in the woods. After some research that I should have done in the first place, I find that the seeds have a very tough outer cover and have to get some assistance to germinate. The most popular way is to pass the seeds through a bird. Most likely a Mockingbird. The stomach acid helps thin the casing around the seed as it passes through. Also, they need very warm soil (80°-90°) and very little of it to get started. Preferably less than 1/4" covering them as they germinate.  If you come to any of the Tiny House events at our place in the future, remember to ask me. I'll be glad to give you some start seeds. :)





So - I'm going to get a starter set and soak my pepper seeds in a bleach water solution (preferred method of softening the seeds. You can also use battery acid. NO JOKE!). These guys are tough! They are the only native pepper plant to the United States, growing wild throughout the central and South Texas regions down throughout Mexico, thriving in a mix of sun and shade. Since there are no hybrids, they all have the potential to propagate. They do take a long time each year to get around to their 1st crop, often taking 150 days or more. Thus the reason to start them inside in the winter, if you can keep the soil warm.

More pics next time of the bee hives and an update on the local deer. We're really hoping that we have a number of fawns this Spring. Most of the does we've seen look pregnant. Very Exciting!!

See ya then!

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Blog Map & Posts

General Info:
Why We're Building A Tiny House
Photo Gallery
Solar Array Details
Thoughts On Heating the House
Building With Steel
Thoughts On The Tiny House Lifestyle
House Design Article
Don't Lose Sight Of Your Goals
Financial Reality
Tools & Society
How Your Building Shape Determines Efficiency Of Material Use
Friends & Fellow Tiny House Dwellers
Our Birds


The Land Purchase:

2011
(Jan 1) The Search
(Aug 7) Deliverance (the movie, not salvation)
(Dec 31) End of Another Year

2012
(Nov 28) A Great Property To Look At
(Nov 28) Eureka!
(Nov 30) Time To Show It Off
(Dec 4) An Offer is Made
(Dec 6) Done Deal!
(Dec 7) Scramble Time
(Dec 7) Planning Ahead
(Dec 10) Planning Our First Structure
(Dec 12) Our First Major Bump In The Road
(Dec 13) Get 'em While They're Hot!
(Dec 24) A Rock In The Road
(Dec 28) Extended Contract
(Dec 31) They Actually Found Her

2013
(Jan 2) Loan Papers
(Jan 2) We Now Have An Address!
(Jan 10) Closed!
(Jan 14) The Work Begins
(Jan 19) Here Kitty, Kitty
(Jan 27) Snap, Crackle, Pop
(Feb 10) Howling Good Time
(Feb 16) Good To Have Some Help
(Feb 23) Mi Compadre, Jorge
(Feb 24) Burn, Baby, Burn
(Mar 2) Just A Work Day
(Mar 16) Spring Is Here
(Mar 25, 2013) Groundwork
(Mar 27) X Marks The Spot
(Mar 31) Wait A Minute, Mr Postman

The Build:

(Sep 2) Labor Day Weekend - The Foundation
(Sep 9) The Deck Is Done
(Nov 11) I Love The Fall
(Dec 15) Walls Start To Appear
(Dec 20) Window Framing
(Dec 27) 4 Corners
(Dec 31) Prepping For Roof

2014
(Jan 4) Rafters Ahoy
(Jan 11) Capping The Rafters
(Jan 12) Finishing The Roof Frame
(Jan 19) The Roofing Begins
(Jan 26) Siding Begins
(Feb 1) Exterior Walls And Weatherproofing
(Feb 3) Via Con Dios, Mi Amigo
(Feb 9) Another Side Up
(Feb 14) Happy Valentine's Day, Honey
(Feb 23) Building is Mostly Weatherproof
(Feb 26) Roofing Steel Goes On
(May 3) Siding Goes On
(Jul 7) A Place To Clean Up After A Hard Day's Work
(Jul 13) Tame The Sun
(Aug 16) Electrical Wiring
(Sep 22) Lift 'em Up, Boys
(Sep 29) Ceiling Almost Done
(Oct 5) Ceiling Sheet Rocked
(Oct 14) Revised Electric Plan
(Oct 20) Calm And Easy Weekend
(Oct 24) House Design Article
(Oct 27) Bathroom Progress
(Oct 27) BluePrints
(Nov 2) Trimming The Shower & Enjoying The Woods
(Nov 9) Shelves, Finally!
(Nov 22) Furry Creatures & Fall Weather Is Here
(Nov 24) Bathroom Gets Some Attention
(Dec 8) Peaceful Times Between Cuttings
(Dec 15) Amazing Weather & Great Cookout

2015
(Jan 1) Happy New Year!
(Jan 4) Kitchen Counter Build
(Jan 18) Drywall Going Up Nicely
(Jan 26) Taping & Bedding
(Feb 9) Storage Building Frame Goes Up
(Feb 15) Decking Down On The Shed
(Feb 19) Fridge & Stove Purchased
(Mar 1) Major Layout Changes
(Mar 6) Floor Plan Design Features
(Mar 15) One Wall Done On Storage Unit
(Mar 30) Flooring Installed
(Apr 5) Tongue & Groove Ceiling
(Apr 14) Cistern Has Arrived
(Apr 27) Really Productive Saturday
(May 4) Kitchen Sink Installed
(May 15) After The Rains
(May 15) I Love Our New Electric Company
(May 25) North Wall Sided
(May 31) 1st Window Trimmed
(Jun 14) Bathroom Wall Sided
(Jul 6) Sleeping In Style
(Jul 19) Still Working On The Storage Building
(Aug 2) Closed-Loop Shower System
(Aug 2) Cistern Set In Place
(Aug 16) Progress On The Kitchen
(Aug 23) IKEA Furniture and Microwave
(Sep 7) Kitchen Counter Finished
(Sep) 13 Kitchen Appliances Installed
(Sep 20) Bathroom Door Hung
(Sep 26) Builders Are People Too!
(Oct 18) Furniture Additions
(Nov 25) Happy Thanksgiving
(Dec 6) Power Pole and Meter Base Set
(Dec 22) Power System
(Dec 22) Solar Panels
(Dec 22) Christmas

2016
(Jan 3) Starting the New Year!
(Jan 10) Bathroom Window Framed In
(Jan 24) Some Progress on Siding
(Apr 24) Tiny House Village at Earth Day 2016
(May 2) And The Rains Came Down
(May 9) Solar Array Details
(May 15) Windows Framed
(May 15) Composting Toilet Bench Built
(May 22) House Painted
(May 30) Kitchen Backsplash
(Jun 6) Cool Breeze :)
(Jul 4) Let Independence Ring
(Jul 10) Plumbing The Toilet
(Jul 19) Free At Last
(Jul 31) Roof Finally Finished
(Aug 5) 3 Year Anniversary and 1st Boarder






Friday, September 9, 2016

(Sep 5) 3 Yr Anniversary and 1st Boarder

As Labor Day weekend rolled around, we were flooded with memories of our build. This would mark the 3 year anniversary of the weekend that we first started working on the house. I must say, I was pretty pleased with the weather (92°) this weekend compared to 3 years ago when it was over 100°. We've come a long way and are enjoying a lull in the work load. We did get most of the metal roofing put on the storage building this weekend but most of the activity this week had nothing to do with our house, but primarily getting a site ready to accommodate our 1st Tiny House tenant. More on that in a moment. Here are some photos recapping our journey over the past 3 years.


Location picked and started clearing.  That's me in the background cutting down trees and brush.  I'd cut and Kim would clear.



After clearing the spot we marked it for the foundation.



Foundation built and decking started



Deck on and frame built.



Sheathing, roof and windows installed 


Finished product!  Woo Hoo!!

I must say, I can feel 3 years of construction in my bones every morning when I get out of bed! lol It's been incredibly fun but a lot of work. I'm really happy to move to another phase where most of our work goes into improving the landscape. I am not a meticulous landscaper. I will never have, nor do I want the manicured urban yard. I don't even own a working lawn mower at this time. I would gladly put up a "Nature Preserve" sign in my yard in Arlington if given the option. That said, I like the "natural" look of woods and meadows. I try to keep a small path cleared to the back of our property here but I definitely don't go out of my way to manicure the forest. The fact that most of the property is covered in huge Oaks and Elms aids me in my desire for a life spent doing something other than riding around on a mower (as some of my neighbors do) for many hours each week. Things just don't grow in the shade like they do in a meadow and that's a good thing. :)

We made a big decision this month, to allow others in the Tiny House community to move out to our property under a rental agreement. We had agreed in the past to let a friend use our acreage to build his Tiny but we wrestled with the idea of someone living here with us permanently. We broke that ground this weekend when a friend that we met through our Tiny House group here in North Texas was faced with eviction from the location that she had been staying at for the summer. Demere O'Dell has now joined us here in the forest and we couldn't be happier! She's personable and polite and funny and we got a solid warm fuzzy impression that she will be a responsible and fun neighbor.

She came out to view the property the weekend before and make sure she could stomach the hour+ long drive back to Dallas to work every day. She agreed the land was gorgeous and seemed genuinely excited at the prospect of living a more peaceful life in a remote and heavily wooded forest. :) We made plans to transition her residence over the upcoming holiday weekend. Welcome, Demere! We're thrilled to have you here!

Our first task was to provide access to the property for a 14' tall vehicle. Hmmm. We ended up bringing out 4 truckloads of road base and shoveling it out along the 750' heavily treed driveway in doses to smooth out the rough spots. Truly didn't take long, about an hour per load including drive time. It's just exhausting when the temps are in the 95°-106° range as it was earlier this month. We also trimmed back a number of limbs that would potentially scratch/damage the Tiny on its journey.

Next task was to establish a hookup for her 240v/50amp electric service. I decided that to be fair, I would need to measure her electric use, rather than guess each month. I bought and installed a double pole breaker, an RV-style outlet as well as a meter base and meter and did all of the wiring with the appropriate gauge wires. As you may or may not know, 240v service is achieved by providing (2) 120v hot wires accompanied by a single neutral and a single ground. The (2) hot wires must also be in phase with one another. They must come from opposite feed sides of your breaker box. Each side of your breaker box has a line (120v) from the service company coming to it. These are always live and come straight from the meter. When combined, their voltages double to 240v. It's not enough though to just have (2) 120v lines though. They need to compliment each other by working together. If you had (2) 120v breakers that were hooked up to the same feed from the service company, it would typically not work in a 240v appliance since they are considered out-of-phase. There's probably a more complicated explanation of how it all works together but that all you're going to get from me today! lol Anyway, this new life that we lead out here provides me the opportunity to learn something new nearly every day. :) Gotta love it!

I checked around to find a simple meter but no one had one in stock on the day that I needed it. At ~$70, it wasn't going to be a huge expense, just an inconvenience to have to wait on one to be shipped in. I called around and was super pleased to find a source that had a mechanical meter (as opposed to the new smart meters) that I was offered for free! :) It wasn't going to need to be compliant with the latest building codes or report back to the mother ship (elecdtric company) and besides, I love watching the wheel spin around with use! I miss that with the new meters although I love being able to log in and look at my usage every day. I cleaned it up a bit and reset the meter to zero. Just like new and good to go!

New electric meter for our new renter! 

The outlet is called a 14-50R and it was a pain in the butt to wire but it was much cheaper (about $80 including the meter base and meter!) than the $850+ that an electrician wanted to charge me to provide and install them! Choke! :) I love living in an area where permits and inspections are not required. That said, I read over technical notes for over an hour to make sure that I had a safe/sound plan. I spent 3 hours driving and shopping for the supplies and it took me 2 hours to install and test. A good investment of my time!

Demere had not been able to use her newly installed mini-split AC since she didn't have access to 240v service at her previous location. She was thrilled (as I was) that it and all of the other electrical features in her Tiny fired right up when we plugged it in. The bad news was that about an hour later, her new AC unit started leaking water inside her house. :( The installer had not been able to test it at its previous location and there was a problem with the drain line that we could not resolve on the spot. Her quiet cool nights would have to wait another couple of days. We loaned her a regular window unit AC until her AC guy can get out to fix the problem. Hey! It's a nice ride through the countryside to get here! Right? :) At least she gets to enjoy the cool. Its just not nearly as quiet. Hopefully he will get it resolved soon.

Kim spent a good amount of time clearing brush and weed eating the area that would be the new home for The Little Fish as Demere has named her. I cleared the front of the property of the chest-high weeds so that she wouldn't be afraid to pull into our driveway. :) When they arrived, we all took a final walk down the drive and voiced opinions about any potential problems and bottlenecks. An entourage of helpers had come in tow and everyone would have a job to do to make sure this went over without any injuries to the house or its carbon based caretakers. Thanks to Mark, Cory, Rob & Robert as well as Demere's daughter and granddaughter for all of their help!

Parking the Tiny took a couple of hours to manuever into just the right position, level and get some last minute brush trimming done. It is so darn cute now, sitting there in the woods, glowing softly among the cricket chirps and coyote howls. Life is good! :)


Here's Demere and her caravan driving down our road


Pulling down the driveway to its cozy spot in the woods  :)

The good news was that we got all of it done without any major hick ups. We brought out our gas grill and made a mound of grilled burgers, hot dogs and brats. There was very little talking for the next 30 minutes. Sadly, I missed this opportunity to take a group photo and document all of the helpers' presence. You were all appreciated!!

On a note about nature. This spring saw our first major invasion by wild hogs. They were here on the property on and off for a couple of months, rooting up our road as well as the open woods. We hardly saw a deer for this period and stopped putting out corn in fear that we were just encouraging the hogs to stick around. The swine have long since moved on and now it appears the deer are back in full force. Here are a couple of videos that our trail camera captured behind our house this week. :) First time we've seen spotted fawn here. It was pure pleasure. :)


Click here logo to see it full-sized


Click here to see it full-sized


Click here to see if full-sized


Monday, August 1, 2016

(Jul 31) Roof Finally Finished


My hand was finally well enough after surgery to get back on the roof. We had some flashing customized locally and got the last of it put up this weekend. SOOO happy to have this finished. I won't have to get back on the roof until time to do my quarterly sweeping. :)







When you're living Tiny, it's hard to get through a week without talking about poop! lol We got our ventilation fan installed in the loo cabinet. Again, I hate cutting holes in a perfectly good floor, but . . .   I took a 3" AC fan and built a box around it. This will help channel the air going out as well as give us a good seal against the floor to keep out the bugs and critters.




Sorry I didn't get a better picture of it. I'll try with the flash next week. It sits directly between the bucket for the solids and the container for the peat moss. There was only about an 1/8th" to spare on either side. :) I'd like to take credit for planning it that way but if you know me, you know better. We stopped in our favorite organization store (The Container Store) and found the perfect bucket for solid waste. It fit like a glove into the opening we had left over after installing our diverter and pipes. It's 12 gallons so it'll be able to hold a lot more than the 5 gal homer bucket we were using before. It also fits up under the diverter like it was made for it. Good Find! :)

Bucket for solids in our composting toilet. 

My 2 criteria for replacing our old bucket were a larger capacity and handles. This fit the bill nicely. I'll have a couple of months before I have to commit to a site to start the compost pile. I'll build it up with some landscape timbers before piling it up with poo. lol Once filled, I can stretch some landscape fabric over it to let it cook. We'll leave it for about a year while we start another compost pile. Then, we can plant directly in it - no need to shovel and move it. Just build it in a location that you'll be happy with some landscaping.

I can't tell you how exciting it is to get down to the last couple of items on our punch list. We'll do some touch-up painting next week as well as add an electrical outlet behind the stove. (I told you I didn't do extensive planning!) There is one there but it's above the top of the stove and we're tired of looking at the extension cord hanging down. I also need to rewire the junction box for the outside lights to try to fix a problem with the LED lights flickering.

I took off a couple of days with my girls to go to the Texas coast (Rockport) for my mom's 80th birthday. It was a good trip. Went to Port Aransas to put our toes in the ocean for a bit. We ate fresh seafood every day and brought back lots on top of that. Hard to pass up Red Snapper filets at $6/lb fresh off the boat, especially when they want $24/lb for it here in DFW. Also got lots of shrimp and crab. Still enjoying the gumbo this week! :)

With the daughters on Padre Island. 

Hard to believe they've pulled multiple 1000+ lb sharks in off of that pier behind us. Amazing that there are hundreds of people swimming and surfing in the area and I've only heard of a couple of shark attacks in the 40 we've been coming here. I swam here many a day when I was living here. 


Tiny Houses for rent on the road to Padre Island


We've really enjoyed our bird watching area outside the South window. We set up a seed feeder, a suet cage, multiple hummingbird feeders and a solar powered fountain with a birdbath. The constant flow of birds throughout the day offers instant relaxation and enjoyment. We were graced with some fresh faces over the past couple of weeks. Here were the latest to show off their brilliant colors in our little garden.


Painted Bunting. This is the first year we've seen these. So inspiring!

Summer Tanager (male) We saw for just moments last year but we didn't have a fountain up then. Now they're regulars! :)


Summer Tanager (female)


Fountain with Summer Tanager getting ready to take a dip! :)


No, these aren't our photos. Our little bird paradise is completely shaded throughout the day. Combine this with our dark window tint and it's impossible. We've taken literally hundreds of photos but they just won't capture the brilliance without sunlight on them. The window tint is nice in a sense that it allows us to sit inches away from the birds without them seeing us but it does restrict the photos we can take.

We're going to play with an app for our iPhones I saw. It lets you use one iPhone as a remote control for the camera features of the other iPhone. You set one up in a location that's nice and close, then you sit inside and hit the remote control to take photos when the birds are merely inches away. We should be able to get some nice shots I believe.

I've created another page here for the blog that shows off the birds that we have entertained here in our little wooded paradise - Our Birds.

My wife, Kim, is so talented. I was a bit skeptical when she volunteered us to make a sign for the DFW Tiny House Enthusiasts to gather 'round at the Jamboree next week in Colorado Springs. I must say, she came through and I couldn't be prouder.


Kim with our new Meetup sign! 
We were having trouble finding someone who could fit the shepherd's hook in their vehicle that was going up on Thursday. We ended up at the metal shop at Hooten's Hardware in Emory. Tim, their resident metal guru, took a few minutes and come up with a great solution. He cut the shaft in half and threaded both ends with a die and then married the two halves with a long open ended nut. You can easily take it apart for transport and put it back together at your site. :)  Again, great job, Honey!! Look for us when you get to Colorado next week!


Here was the kitten, Bella, that was at Hooten's hanging out with her best friend! :) What a sweetie!!


Our Birds

I wanted to have a place that I could post pics of the variety of birds that visit our little paradise in the woods. We see other birds in the neighborhood but these are ones that we have witnessed on our property. We are about an hour east of Dallas in a region they call Post Oak Savannah, just before the piney woods of East Texas. As I've stated elsewhere in our blog, these are not our photos. I've borrowed them for display. Our birdfeeding area is shaded and we've had no luck taking photos. We're just pleased that they grace us with their presence and antics daily. :)


Painted Bunting


Summer Tanager (male)


Summer Tanager (female)


American Crow


Blue Jay


Carolina Chickadee

Carolina Wren

Ring-Necked Dove


Northern Cardinal


Red Tailed Hawk

Ruby Throated Humminbird

Tufted Titmouse


White Throated Sparrow


White Breasted Nuthatch


Dark Eyed Junko

Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker

Ruby-Crowned Kinglet

Red-bellied Woodpecker


Downy Woodpecker


Black Vulture (black head and white wing tips)


Turkey Vulture (white along length of wings and red head)