Sunday, December 31, 2017

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:

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

(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

(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

(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

(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

(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

(Feb 27) Enjoying the New Year
(Mar 12) Beekeeping Prep
(Apr 23) Bees! Bees! Bees!

Sunday, April 23, 2017

(Apr 23) Bees! Bees! Bees!

OK, this past couple of weeks has pretty much just been about bees and looking forward to Earthday. We bought a full hive from someone in our bee club. We bought a swarm that someone caught. We caught our own swarm, and now we have 2 more colonies (Nucs) we are buying at the end of this week. Lots of prep time getting the boxes painted, cleaned up and ready for their new occupants. We've also been to several classes this month in prep. My head is swelling with bee knowledge. I look forward to the day that I know what I'm doing, though! We keep coming to conclusions of what we should be doing and then we run it by a seasoned beekeeper only to find out that we're still really green and don't have a clue.

That's alright! It's what this first year is about. We were told early on that if we managed to keep our bees alive for our first year that it was just a bonus. The real goal is to learn. Learn what the bees need. Learn what not to do. Learn what we should be doing and when to do it.

After a great weekend of volunteering at the Tiny House Village at Earth Day Texas, we came out to the Tiny to transfer the swarm we had caught to a permanent box. We were absolutely shocked at how busy they had been. They took over our swarm trap about 30 days ago and got after it. We really shouldn't have left them this long I guess. We made a real mess of trying to transfer the comb to the new box. Some of it was 18" deep but we only had room for 11" deep in the new box. I also wasn't prepared for how soft and pliable it was, literally breaking apart in my hand.

After tearing up most of the comb, we decided to get the rest of the bees in their new hive and just let them get back to doing what they do best. They were pretty upset and my smoker had run out of fuel. I had let Kim wear the full suit and I was only wearing a veil and some gloves. Mistake! Next time, I need at least a full jacket with an integrated veil. I got stung 6-7 times while we were performing the transfer. You just have to work through it and get it finished. I'll be better prepared next time! Count on it!

Here are some photos of us discovering what's in the swarm trap for the 1st time!

Swarm box hanging on the side of a tree at the back of our property for the last month.

Kim, getting ready to open the swarm box

1st hint that it was really full was that she could barely lift the lid it was so heavy!

Yeah, I'd say they's been busy. That's 18" of comb hanging from the lid!

More hanging in the box still

This is a lot of bees!

I'm guessing we had 8-10 pounds of bees along with another 10-12 pounds of comb with brood, honey and pollen. I need to shorten the swarm box so that they can't draw comb that deep. We're also going to use deep frames with no foundation next time instead of top bar frames. That should facilitate them moving to a deep box much easier.

I also got new bottom boards with slide in shelves installed in all of our boxes. I think this was the mistake that caused a swarm we had previously caught to leave again. The box they moved into had a regular screened bottom that let in a lot of light. I'm told they really like it dark when they take over a new location as evidenced by they're obvious appreciation of the swarm trap that only had a small slit cut in one side.

The other thing I added to all of our boxes were trough feeders. These are 1-gallon hanging feeders that go inside of the hive. It lets them better protect the food (sugar water) from other raiding hives as well as allows them to eat throughout the night and continue working. They don't mind the dark and it takes lots of food/fuel for them to produce that much wax. This time of year, they could litterally go through 2 gallons per day per hive. We mix up the syrup at a one-to-one ration (by weight) of water and sugar. A gallon of water weighs 8 pounds. To that we add 8 pounds of sugar. We've been paying about 50¢ per pound for sugar and are looking for a cheaper source. Combined, our hives could go through well over 100 pounds of sugar per week in feeding season!

Here's a video on YouTube of us transferring them to the new box. It's not pretty!

We'll do another follow-up when we get the 2 Nucs this weekend. Hopefully, they'll go a bit smoother. :)

Sunday, March 12, 2017

(Mar 12) Beekeeping Prep

We got our 1st bee box painted and ready to receive bees next month. We've been given an adoption date of Apr 28th. :)  That's when the 1st wave of bees will be ready for pickup. I'm a bit nervous. Not about keeping bees, about losing bees. I really want to do a good job managing them so that it's a win-win situation. I want the bees to be healthy by natural means as much as I can. I also want the bees to not only survive but be fruitful and multiply. It's kinda scary as I talk to members of our local bee club (Trinity Valley Beekeeper's Association) and hear about colonies that leave or don't make it at all. There are lots of possible reasons for this and I really want to avoid these scenarios where I have control.

I think that the bees should be given free reign to manage their own affairs where practical. I want to provide them with a safe environment to raise lots of little bees and store their crops (honey!). I want them to be disease free and manage the pests that are present to a tolerable level. I don't expect them to be completely free of things like varroa mites and hive beetles. This seems impossible these days, even with lots of chemical intervention. I would rather raise bees that are tough and savvy and able to defend their own homes without my drowning them in chemicals that are intended to help them but in the end make them dependent on such.

There is a proposed change to the statewide management of beekeeping in the state congress as we talk. After much examination and discussion about the content, we have come to the agreement that as it is, it would be worse for Texas beekeepers than the outdated laws that have been on the books since the early 80s. If you want to make a difference in beekeeping here in Texas, please contact you state representatives and senators. Let them know that the proposed bill (House Bill 1293) is too riddled with ambiguous language and errors. There are proposed changes to this bill but it's uncertain if they can or will make any of those changes in time to get them approved and passed this legislative session. There is a website that has been set up to let beekeepers monitor the progress of this legislation at Please visit it to understand the issues at hand.

Any additional support from the public would be greatly appreciated!

Back to our situation. Here's a stand that we made out of steel that we had left over from building the house. It should provide many years of service for minimal effort and money. :) We built it to support 2 bee hives. One each, centered over the cross braces for support and safety in case the hive slides forward or back. We put a little shelf at each end as a place to rest tools and such. We made it wide enough to be able to pull a box off of a hive and set it in the middle as we work the hive. We set the width based on the need for frame support. The rails are the same width as the supports inside the hive boxes so that we can pull out the frames and hang them from the rails as needed. We left room to be able to put frames on both sides of the box as well. Not a very sophisticated stand but a lot of thought went into it and its use.

We will likely build several more as we will need to support 5-6 hives this first season. We can adjust the design as we get some experience. If anyone out there has any beekeeping experience and would like to chime in, we'd love some feedback. We've already had several people ask about our making/selling the stands commercially and would love to hear of any interest.

Here it is with a hive on it:

Also made some improvements to our bar. We added a glass shelf and are playing with some tiered shelves. Here's an updated photo. :)  We are still trying to decide what to line the inside walls with. We've found several nice options but they turned out to be as expensive as the entire cabinet! We'll keep our eyes open and hope something jumps out at us. lol

Just a final note on our electric use so far this year. January ended up at $11.90 in electric use. February wasn't nearly as cold and netted out at $1.10. For March so far, we have a 60¢ credit! :) Our solar panels don't put out huge amounts of power but It seems I've got them sized just right for our current needs. If I had added another panel (and inverter) for $400, I could be enjoying $0 bills - but it would take a long time to make up the extra $400. Better to pay the couple of dollars per month until we find that our use is climbing than be upside down and trying to make up the extra cost of the other panel. I think that makes sense!

Here's a chart from our electric company on our daily use. The orange bars are the electric use. The black line is the temperature that day. Dips below -0- are where the panels produced more power than we used. Great tool to teach you how to use your power conservatively. :)

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!