Monday, December 15, 2014

(Dec 15) Amazing Weather and a Great Cookout

Kim and I came out on Saturday with our daughters Sabrina and Stephanie and her family. Weather was about 70° with a very light breeze. Perfect for working outside. We grilled hamburgers, salmon and brats over our Chiminea. I don't know if it's because we were so hungry or not but there's something special about working and cooking outdoors. The food just seems to satisfy a lot more.  :)

We finally got the parts to replace the brakes on the go-kart so Sabrina installed those and got it up and running. She and Riley spent the next half hour "testing" them. :)

I got lunch started while the others got busy burning brush in our burn barrel (steel horse trough). It's nice to be able to throw in 5' logs. Still amazes me how intense the fire can get. I had visions at one point of making a grill that would swing out over the fire pit. No sense wasting all of that wood burning. After burning in it a couple of time though, it was apparent that we couldn't use it for cooking unless we waited until some time after burning the wood. Just too much heat. Maybe we'll rig a wind powered spit one day and see if it's usable.

Riley and I watching Sabrina replace the brakes on go-kart. David feeding the beast! 

After lunch, we broke out the rifle and pistol. Stephanie had never shot a gun before so she got some time on both. She did quite well for her first time. I'm much more conscious about shooting these days than I was in my youth. I would shoot 200-300 round per day, never considering how much lead I was leaving in the environment. Now, I have a target backer that I made with 3 layers of ¾" OSB. So far, after 200+ shots, nothing has broken through the back of it yet. It just gets a little heavier every time we shoot. I'm sure there is a site I can take it to when we're done with it and ready to make another. I would like to set up a permanent gun range at some point but am happy with a portable target for now.

Stephanie with Ruger

On Monday, I came back out and spent the day alone out here. Well, as alone as you can be with all of the wildlife. I'll feel bad if our squirrel gets caught and eaten because he's so fat from all of the feed I've put out! LOL He looks very happy though. Besides, looks like we'll have a pretty wet and cold winter. He can use all of the fat he can get right now.

I wasn't crazy after all. I thought it was strange that all of our birds would show up and leave at the same time - Tufted Titmouse, Carolina Chickadees, Woodpeckers and Nut Hatches. I read an article this past week that it's common for them to flock together. Safety in numbers. They would all come swooping into the feeders at once and then about 20 minutes later, they would all disappear as quickly. The Cardinals seem to be independent but eat most regularly at early morning and late evening. I'm sure they miss us (er, the food we put out) when we're gone but I'm not sure I could afford to put out as much food as they could eat year round. I need to find a feed company to barter some work with. :)

Carolina Chickadee
Brown-Headed Nut Hatch
Downy Woodpecker
Tufted Titmouse

I worked most of the afternoon cutting downed trees and burning brush from them. My bar gave out finally on my chain saw. I guess 3 years service was pretty good. I was too tired to go into town for another so I started trimming and pruning the trees around the cabin by hand. I want to keep all of the thicker brush and trees to the west towards our scattered neighbors. I really like the secluded feel of being back off of the road and out of site. Behind us, I'm not so opposed to cleaning up the trees and brush since the property goes back another 1000' behind the camp site to a cattle ranch. No worries about what I'll be doing after we retire. Seems like a never ending supply of wood to cut and brush to clear/burn. Keeps me off the streets at night. By the end of the day, I'm too tired to get into trouble. :)

Plenty of firewood for the next couple of months. The birds were very excited to see all of the cut wood. They got busy scouring it for freshly exposed bugs and worms. 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

(Dec 11) Tiny House Movement | Andrew Morrison | TEDxColoradoSprings

This talk was given at a TEDx event, produced independently of the TED Conferences. Andrew and his wife, Gabriella, are the creators of “hOMe”, the 207 SF (+110 SF in lofts) modern tiny house on wheels. They live and work in hOMe full time, off grid, and debt free. With the extra time and money that they have they travel and enjoy time together as a family.

Read their blog and see the beautiful home they built at

- Enjoy!


Monday, December 8, 2014

(Dec 8) Peaceful Times Between Cuttings

I had the day off yesterday and went out to the property. This is the time of year that I first saw the property 2 years ago. The leaves have pretty much all fallen. The green of the cedar trees really sticks out amidst the brown landscape. It was cool (in the 50s) with a slight breeze. Great weather for working outdoors. I stopped and bought a new chain for our chain saw and wanted to try it out. I forget in-between new chains how they cut like a knife through butter. This at least confirmed my suspicion that the chains that I had "sharpened" were worthless. $6 vs $16 for a new one and not worth that! I'll try another source for sharpening but after that stick to buying new chains. I'm not bored, patient or poor enough to justify the time it takes to sharpen my own. Anyway, I made 50+ cuts and only had to stop to tighten the chain once.

Between cuttings sessions, the wildlife was overjoyed to see me. Well, at least the feed that I put out. Within minutes, the feeders were swarming with birds and one very chubby squirrel. Our normal fare of Carolina Chickadees, Tufted Titmouse, White-Breasted Nuthatch, Brown-Headed Nuthatch, Downy Woodpecker, Red Headed Woodpecker and Cardinals. A Red Tailed Hawk flew overhead but didn't stop to eat. We also had a lone finch spend the day with us. Unusual to see them here this late in the year and even more unusual to see them alone. Typically see a flock of 30+ around here through the summer.

The Brown-Headed Nuthatch gave me a treat. I was sitting in a my lounge chair about 20' from the feeder when I heard him land right behind me a start pecking around a pile of freshly cut wood. I sat still and the next thing I knew, he had hopped up on the arm of the chair and was pecking and tugging at my shirt sleeve. I watched him, laughing, for a bit. He finally flew over to another wood pile when I asked what he was doing. I have no doubt he would have eaten out of my lap if I'd had some worms. I usually have a bag of dried meal worms I put put out for the birds that are not very excited over the sunflower seeds or peanuts but was out today. The Woodpeckers prefer suet but had no problem eating peanuts through the morning. The squirrel was busy eating anything that the birds knocked out of the feeder. He finally got bored and scurried up the pole and sat in the bowl of peanuts. They would all scatter as I got rested and fired up the chain saw again but would quickly return when I sat to rest. The peace and quiet offered a therapy I can find nowhere else.

I also used my mitre saw to cut about 150 pieces of smaller material - up to about 4" thick to use in the new smoker. Cutting with a good rip blade is a dream. Quick and easy. I wish I had thought about it earlier but I got the idea from watching a YouTube video of Aaron Franklin (Franklin BBQ in Austin) cooking at home. He's a force of nature in this part of the country. Some of the best BBQ you'll ever eat.

 I smoked some baby back ribs this weekend that came out pretty good. I used 10 lbs of charcoal and 2 pieces of Oak that were about 3" in diameter. I put all 10 lbs in my firebox with only a handful lit and threw the Oak on top. I got lots of heat (300°-350°) for about 6 hours. I really had to keep it choked off to keep the heat down. I ended up closing off the exhaust pipe and the air intake. It was still sucking enough air from the leaks to keep the coals working. The Oak put off smoke for about an hour and a half. Plenty for 2 racks of ribs.

Here's a couple of pics from our Thanksgiving weekend in Rockport, TX. We got mom and dad a new smoker/grill and had to try it out. :)

Pork Shoulder Roast with grilled Pineapple & Red Peppers, Gulf Coast Shrimp and Sugar Snap Peas. Wish we had taken some pics of the homemade Apple Pie! It was stunning!

Threw a chicken on the gas grill to remind it I still cared! 1 ½ hours on grill and it was falling off the bone tender and juicy! Some of the best we've had all year. 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

(Dec 4) Building shape determines efficiency of material use

I struggled with form over functionality for a long time and finally came to a conclusion that efficiency of design is crucial the smaller your building gets. the most efficient use of materials when building is a square. Look at most houses from the 40s. They are square with an entry directly into a room and all of the rooms flow from one to another. After coming out of the depression in the 30s, people had taken a hard look at the shape of houses and how to make the most out of limited resources.

We all remember these from our Grandparents or Great Grandparents. They were 800-1000 sf, rooms flowed around a central wall and there were rarely any halls. Every square inch was used and accounted for. The nook on L-Shaped houses today actually cuts off a lot of usable space for the materials used. If you flipped and inverted the L-Shaped wall, you could enclose the space that is cut off with the same amount of wall material. This leaves you the option of reducing the materials and labor to achieve the square footage that you want - OR - using the same amount of materials, you can achieve more usable space. Units are also more efficient if nested into multi-family housing.

Yes, I know. My wife likes the nooks from offsetting a room in a house. It adds style. Is an aesthetic thing that we've gotten used to seeing. We finally compromised when building our house and built a rectangle shaped building. I just wanted to point out that you lose efficiency of materials as you deviate from a square. More building materials and labor for less square footage.

In the above example, we have two boxes with a dimension of 5"x5". The difference between the two is that one has an area that's 25% smaller than the other. They both took the same materials to build, one just has less enclosed area. In a building, the L-Shape also takes longer to build in that you have 2 more corners to deal with and the roof on the L-Shape is also much more complicated. If you are truly trying to minimize your cost of building and maximize your available space, stay with a uniform wall length. 

The example I see all of the time is when I see the little entry nook cut out of mobile tiny houses. That little 3x3 area to stand in front of your door or to use as a tiny porch. I would much rather have a 3x3 closet inside or another 9 sf added to the living area than this little nook. Put an awning out front if you want shelter from the rain and who wants to sit in a little space by themselves. Move your chair out into the yard and enjoy the view! 

Yes, I agree that the L-Shaped houses are more interesting. They give you a little private area on both the inside and the outside. They just don't make good use of your materials and your labor. That said - when building a Tiny House, you are already dramatically reducing the footprint of a McMansion, so build it any way you want. Just my two cents worth! :)

Monday, November 24, 2014

(Nov 24) Bathroom gets some attention

Well, it was a rainy and cool weekend so we made some effort to get some stuff finished inside this week. We had Home Depot cut and thread some pipe to use as a shower curtain rod. We also picked up some fixtures to use for a TP holder. Kim is really getting into the industrial look we've used in the bathroom. Piece by piece, it's coming together. We used ½" galvanized pipe and fittings along with rough cut cedar. I also replaced the pipe coming out of the ceiling to the shower head with a longer version.  Kim is vertically challenged and said she refused to stand on a stool to take a shower.  She can now reach the shower head with the longer pipe and I've still got plenty of clearance.

 Finished shower curtain rod. Kim is thinking of adding a couple of magnets to the inside liner so it will hold against the metal wall securely. That should help keep the bathroom floor dry from any shower overspray.

We pulled the decking up in the loft above the shower to access the ceiling and put in a brace to secure the cedar 2x4 that holds the shower curtain.  Not that it's heavy or that we will be swinging from the pipe (maybe) but I like to know it won't pull thru the sheetrock.

 Detail of shower curtain fixture (sorry it's out of focus! :) I wish now we had lowered the shower ceiling to make more room in the loft.  

 TP holder with electric outlet/switch fixture finished out

We had some sheet metal that we had picked up for another project left over. It had been outside "aging" for the past year. We loved the weathered look so decided to use it as a wall covering. I used a cut-off saw to trim it to fit and we ripped a 2"x4" cedar board down into 4 pieces for trim.

We also had to remove and replace the box that houses the light switch, fan switch, shower switch and outlet. We went with one that would allow us to extend it out past the wall a bit further. Wish we had used these on all of the outlets. They have depth adjustment screw.

It's been really nice having the table saw out here. I think I'm only missing a couple of saws now and I'll be able to open my own Saw Museum. Table Saw, Compound Mitre Saw, Reciprocal Saw, Chain Saw, Cut-Off Saw, Dry-Cut Metal Saw, Circular Skill Saw, Jig Saw, 7-8 various hand saws - I need a Band Saw and a Radial Arm and my collection will be complete! :)

Speaking of chain saws, we worked on cutting up a limb that had fallen earlier in the month. I'm a bit frustrated though in that the saw isn't cutting very well. I get 2-3 cuts made on a 6" log with much effort and the chain starts to loosen excessively. I just had these chains sharpened. I've switched and tried several with the same result. I'm going to buy a new chain and see if I get the same result. Maybe the sharpening service just didn't do a good job on these. Any suggestions besides a new chain? It's an Echo 18" that's about 3 years old. I brought home a load of the wood we cut to try in my new smoker, a side benefit of owning a small forrest.

Kim sitting on a large limb that broke off of a tree in a storm earlier this month. We've seen about a dozen more like this across the property from this same storm. There was a lot of damage. Good news though, we've got 12 acres still covered in 100's of huge Oaks and Elms (50'-80') and now we've got firewood for the next 5-6 years, if I can get it out of the weather in time. :) 

We really had a great weekend. I was lamenting leaving around dark on Sunday when I remembered that I had some tortellini I brought and didn't cook. When offered the option of driving back right away or staying for a candlelit dinner in the woods with Italian food and a chilled bottle of wine, Kim jumped on the dinner in the woods. I turned off the generator to enjoy the quiet and fired up the gas stove. I lit the tiki torches. Kim put the wine on ice while I set the table outside. We ate our supper in the cool breeze, talking about the day's accomplishments, drank our wine and enjoyed the solar lights on the tree next to the cabin. We didn't stay long enough to hear the coyotes start in but it was the perfect ending to a great weekend. I can't wait 'til this is the norm and not the exception. Our drive home a couple of hours later was much more enjoyable after the satisfaction of a relaxed dinner.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

(Nov 23) Tools and Society

I really wish that we as a society could be trusted to be responsible with others' tools. I would love to loan out items for people that have a need, just as I would love to borrow items that I only need occasionally. If we could collectively share, we could economize. Seems though that I'm constantly reminded how irresponsible some can be. I've loaned tool sets to have them returned missing components. "Hmm, not sure where those missing sockets got to. I'll let you know if I find them. Thanks for letting me use 'em!" "Gee, it just kinda quit while I was cutting up that tree. It did start pouring smoke out right before then too. You might need to get that looked at." "Sorry about the dent in the bumper. The wife backed into it this morning. She ain't used to havin' another car in the drive. You got a beer for the road before I head out?" Amazing! I finally had to start saying no to most. I do still have a very small and select group that I trust with my stuff. Those few, like myself, that belong to the "I'll bring it back in the same condition or I'll buy you another one" group. Anyway, just saying that we could all get a lot more done with a lot less money if we took it to heart. I had thought about starting a co-op for tools. Everyone would pay $5-$10 per month to join. You would have to bring a list of items that you had for loaning. Think of the resources with only 40-50 members. The membership fees would go into a pool to fix or replace items that were damaged or failed. If the fund grew enough, you could then use it to buy new equipment that the majority wanted. How nice it would be to have every tool and piece of equipment you needed at your fingertips!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

(Nov 22) Furry Creatures and Fall weather is here

Just wanted to throw out some various pics. Have a great week and we hope everyone enjoys the Thanksgiving holiday!

 Our rowdy cat, Clarence, poses for a portrait on his climbing tree. He really is a good cat, he just acts like the teenager he is a little too often. 

 There is a ranch on the way out to our property that has a variety of exotics including Zebras, Camels, Highland Cattle, Water Buffalo and American Bison. We always get a kick out of taking friends and relatives out to see the cabin. As we're driving along, they get this funny look on their face and just start pointing as we drive by. "What's wrong? You look like you've never seen a Camel eating dinner with a Bison." The Zebras typically herd with the horses they have and look just a bit confused. 

 We started seeing a lot more color change this weekend. Leaves were falling solid all weekend also. I love the roads out here when they cover with leaves in the Fall. :)

The last of my Chili Pequin crop for the year. I love these little peppers. Chop up a couple and put 'em in a bowl of chili or stew. They're so good! With the freezes getting stronger, I'll lose these pretty soon. I've picked as many as I want for the year and the Mockingbirds are absolutely plump they've been eating so many. I've scattered a bunch of peppers in various spots around the cabin hoping some will root out at the new property. These are the only native pepper plant to North America and have been around since Native Americans were moving into the area. There are no hybrid versions so all will propagate just fine so if you find a friend with a plant, grab a few peppers and plant them in the yard. They tend to do better if they get to go through a winter. They thrive in full sun and once established, they'll come back year after year and give you huge crops of spicy little bombs!

Our breakfast buddy! Doesn't seem to matter how much food I put on the ground, he insists on eating out of the bird feeder! Our windows are tinted with a mirrored film. We can stand right in front of him and he can't see us. I'm sure he's looking in the mirror and wondering when he put on all of the weight!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

(Nov 18) Financial Reality

I just wanted to put down my thoughts about money and the reality of inflation and how that relates to our wanting to change our lifestyle and move into a Tiny House.

Inflation since 1950 - 988%. This was when my dad graduated high school and went into the work force full time. He is now in his 80s and has to cope with the increase in costs yearly on his social security checks. My mother was a teacher and gets a retirement check through the state of Texas for her 31 years of service. Together, they make about $3,500/month. Lots of things come into play here though. Both of them had to survive and it takes both of their incomes for them to live independently. If either of them passes away, the income is cut in half and would not be enough to make it on their own. They've been lucky in that regard. Many, if not most, of their friends have lost their partner at this point in life.

I wanted to see what it was going to be like for my girls, who are just now graduating and going into the workforce. What are they going to be facing if they live as long as their grandparents? I've worked up the following spreadsheet with costs from the past, present and projected future. It's staggering. If you don't believe the numbers, you're just flat in denial. Those who ignore the past are doomed to repeat it. Ask your parents and grandparents how it feels to live with our current prices - food, healthcare, cars, houses, utilities, etc. They will confirm. They could not have comprehended what was going to happen from the time that they were children to now. Why would it be any different for us. Dad still talks about being able to go out on a date for 25¢. It's about $50 now. What do you think it will cost 60 years from now!? Look at the numbers below with an open mind and an open heart. Think about your prospect to deal with housing, food, healthcare and transportation costs if we keep going down the path we've been following. Let's learn something here!

I've talked about cognitive dissidence before. The ability to hold onto two opposing/conflicting ideas at the same time. Yes, it happened in the past. No, it could never happen again, especially to me! This is Exactly why we're pushing so hard to get out of the rat race! Stop giving all of our money to someone else. We need to economize and plan for the inevitable. Prices are going to keep rising. That's the only way the country can keep up with the global economy that we've created. We could put a freeze on all monetary values - income and expenses, and we would no longer have to deal with inflation. That means though that our incomes could never go up but all of the things we get from around the world would continue to rise. We would be stuck in a 2014 economy while the global economics would wash over us. You would never be able to afford to buy anything that was imported or go out of country for travel - business or pleasure.

Think about a couple of economic models that interact right now. Japan and Mexico. We love to go to Mexico for vacation (when we can find some place that's safe) but we rarely consider Japan. Why!? Well, it's $50/night for a room and meals in Mexico City and $500/night in Tokyo. Average worker in Mexico gets about $80/week. Average worker in Japan gets about $1200/week. How many Mexicans do you think go to Japan for vacation if they have to spend 6 weeks salary per night to stay? On the other hand, someone from Japan can stay for about 10 days in Mexico for one day's work. That's why we can't put a freeze on our economy here. We would end up where Mexico is before long.

You have to accept the obvious, that which is in black and white in front of you, prices for everything are going to continue to rise. Our problem as Baby Boomers is that we'll soon be leaving the work force. This means no more opportunity for promotions or raises in income. We will soon enter the "Fixed Income" amusement park where we have a fixed income to spend each month but the rides and food keep getting more expensive every hour that you're there. I can't tell you how many of my contemporaries I talk to that don't see it coming, don't want to see it coming, don't want to talk about it. There aren't enough greeter jobs at Walmart to employ all of us when we hit our 70s and who wants to stand in front of a windy door on concrete all day for minimum wage. All because we 1) didn't plan ahead, 2) thought that somehow, someone was going to step in and take care of us, 3) ignored all of the evidence of the past.

I don't mean to make this a sermon about our wasted years through the 80s and 90s. I just want to confirm why it's imperative that we take dramatic steps to head off this bulldozer, before it has a chance to bury us. Get you housing costs under control. This means mortgage, taxes, insurance, utilities and upkeep! Get your vehicle expenses down to the bare minimum. Learn to grow some of your own food. I'm not saying you have to become a farmer. Just put in a small garden to start with and learn how to take care of it. Get your weight and health under control. This can dramatically help your healthcare costs. You have control over all of this! No one is making you pay for that McMansion and the HOA fees. No one is making you go out to eat every night. No one is making you drive 2 new cars. Find out what you can do about your situation and plan for the future instead of letting it dictate what you must do.

None of us want to be working when we're 75 years old. Just to pay our rent, utilities and food. Go over the numbers above and try to figure out where you fit into that world. Try to set an example for your children and grandchildren of how to plan for the future. This Tiny House lifestyle isn't for everyone. There are lots of people that would gladly work long hours until they are well into their 70s and 80s for the opportunity to give their hard earned money to someone else so that they have a separate bedroom, game room, office, living room and kitchen. Me, for one, I'm willing to live in a smaller space with a common bedroom, living room, office and kitchen so that I don't. Don't have to give 10s of thousands of dollars away each year to someone else. Don't have to pay high taxes, insurance and utilities to support that lifestyle. Don't have to work until I'm so old that I can't enjoy the last ⅓ of my life. Make those hard choices to benefit your own life, your own dream, not financially support someone else's. Bless you all!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

(Nov 12) Don't Lose Site of Your Goal! Demand a return from your investments!

A short piece I wrote to comment on a family that had spent $58,000 on a solar panel/battery solution for going off-grid.

- - - - - -

We're building a retirement home in the woods of East Texas. We worked up the budget to go off grid. We had solar panel, batteries, inverters, charge controllers, etc. The bill was staggering when you're only paying 9¢/KWHr. It was going to take way too long for our return on investment. The heavy side of the cost equation - the batteries and the charge controller. The heavy side of the labor equation - the batteries and the charge controller. My answer - net metering. On one hand I could buy $6,000 worth of batteries and a $2,000 charge controller - or, I could stay on the grid and put all of my investment into the panels and inverters. All I needed to do was offset the use, I didn't need to become my own power company. I didn't need to store electricity for days at a time. I just needed to buy enough panels to roll my yearly bill back to zero.

I wasn't concerned with the monthly roller coaster. I might have to pay one month but get a credit the next. By the time the year rolled around though, l would have enough credit to carry me into the summer months, air conditioners included. I wouldn't have to worry about monitoring and babying my batteries. I wouldn't have to worry about extended weather conditions that would keep me from charging. I wouldn't have to worry about kicking on my generator when we wanted to run everything at once. I also wouldn't have to worry about replacing my batteries every 7-10 years! This was what sealed it for me. 60% of the cost of the system was going to be battery storage. This was also the weak link in the system! It was finicky about charging, took up huge amounts of space, took the most effort to keep running at peak and to top it off - it wore out the fastest!! What was I thinking! The $6,000 I was going to put into batteries (every ~8 years) could be invested in panels that have a 25 year lifespan and mean that I would never pay another bill for usage.

That was my goal in the first place - not to have to pay an electric bill! I would still have the grid there to back me up when I needed (instead of my generator). The best part, I don't have to do anything to manage it. I don't have to change the way we live or work out schedules of who gets to dry their hair when. We'll go about our business just like normal and at the end of the month, we toast to not having to pay the electric company. Change your mindset. Think about your end game. What is it you really want? Financial freedom! Not to spend your spare time managing your own power plant. Think about your investment in the panels as a barter system if that makes you feel better.

I'm going to buy some solar panels and let the local electric company use them to generate electricity. They, on the other hand, are going to comp my bill in appreciation. Woo Hoo! Batteries are the weak part of the system. They are the most expensive part of the system. They have the shortest life span of the system. It becomes an easy choice once you take them off of the table. Solar panels or pay a monthly bill. Even if they eventually come up with an infrastructure fee to cover the cost of maintaining the grid, that fee would be much lower than my having to buy and maintain (and replace) batteries. I don't want to be a pioneer. I want to throw away my electric bill each month without even opening it! Don't lose site of your goal and get there as quickly and efficiently as you can.

If this family had stayed on the grid, they could have saved about $30,000, every 8 years! They could reinvest part (or all) of this (the first year only) into more solar panels and ensure that they never see another electric bill. All of that without having to put up with changing their lifestyle.

I had a sales rep come to my house one day, wanting to sell me replacement "energy efficient windows." I grant you, they were probably more efficient than what I had but the bottom line was that  the most they could save me was about 10% of my electric bill and at $200 per month, that was only $240 per year in savings. They windows were going to cost $8,000! The question to ask it not whether the windows could save you money. The question to ask, are the windows the best investment choice for the $8,000? If I added another $8K to my 401K (which averages over 10% growth over the past 8 years), could I generate more than $250/year in return (the amount that the windows would produce). I would have $13K at the end of 5 years, an average of $1,600 per year. The windows will only have produced $1,500 worth of savings, 10% interest included in the entire 5 years! Let the 401K run another 10 years, and it's at $35,000. The windows will have only produced $8,000 worth of savings in those years. I will also NEVER get my initial investment back out of the windows. If I don't sell the house, I've just lost the original $8K. If I do sell the house, I'm not going to get $8K over market price because I put new windows in it 7 years ago! The question to ask is not whether an investment will make money. The question to ask is what is your lost opportunity for not investing in something else! This holds true for batteries to go off-grid or for replacement windows. Be careful who you give your money to! Hold them to a standard that you already have access to. Make them beat the current investment options you have or send 'em down the road to someone who doesn't understand their options.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

(Nov 9) Shelves, finally!

We finally got some shelves up. We had built the bathroom wall out of 2x6 material with the intention of leaving one face open to use as a shelf. Well, this weekend, it was time. As we spend more and more time out here, we accumulate more stuff - food, cooking and cleaning supplies, etc. After we got the shelves up, Kim was very excited to have a way to organize and consolidate all of our "stuff". We decided that a wine bottle (Our favorite - Ménage à Trois) would be our standard for height in the kitchen area. In the bathroom, we would have more room for a pantry and shortened the shelves to accommodate more canned goods and such. We debated using 1x material for the actual shelf but concluded that at nearly 4' wide, we would have to put in a center brace. We settled with kiln dried 2x. We would lose ¾" in height for each shelf but they were stiff enough that we felt confident that we could span the opening without a brace. We used our Kreg Jig to prep the 2x shelves to accept the screws. If you have never used one, I highly recommend it. It comes with a template/guide that clamps onto the end of the board along with a collared drill bit that you adjust depending on the thickness of the material. You just clamp on the guide, drill the hole and you have a hidden screw pocket that quick. They also have wood plugs that are precut to fit the holes it leaves if you want to use it on an exposed face. We cut, prepped and hung 10 shelves in about an hour. It went very quickly. We ran out of wood and still have a couple to put up on one wall in the bathroom but we were happy to get these up. I cut some spare 2x material for braces to set the height of the shelf and set them against the walls of the opening. We then dropped in the shelf (with the jig holes cut) and drove the screws. Pull the braces out, set them on the shelf you just put in and you're ready to set the next one. (All of this assumes you have a level surface to start with.) I cut down my braces a couple of times to accommodate a shorter shelf height. One word of caution. Hold down on the shelf pretty firmly as you are driving the screws. Since they're coming up at an angle into the side wall, they have a tendency to lift off of the braces as the screws grabs the material. Once set though, they stay nice and tight. We really like using this jig. Our kit also came with a long square bit drive to fit the screws that they sell for the system. If you use your own screws, be sure to get a 6" driver (phillips or torx) to fit them. A 4" bit is not long enough to reach the depth to fully drive the 2.5" screws into 2x material. Here's a link to the Kreg site if you'd like to check it out. . We went with the Kreg HD as we already had lots of clamps. Very nice tool and we use it every chance we get. :)

Wall behind the shower before we put in shelves or AC. 

East wall before the AC unit was installed.

Wall after we put in shelves and installed the AC unit. 

Shelves in the bathroom now. 

We also decided this was the weekend to permanently mount the air conditioner. We got a Frigidaire 8K BTU unit that was EnergyStar compliant. Best Buy had them on sale this summer for $195. This was one of the most efficient units we could find on the market at the time. It has a soft start (easier on the generator) and  pulls about 750 watts on high. I wanted to put it as high as we could on the wall to draw hot air off the ceiling since we're not running a ceiling fan. We decided on a spot above the space reserved for the refrigerator. The unit has a remote control so we won't have to climb up except to clean the filter. We also mounted it high so that we could put in a full sized fridge if we decide. We cut the hole in the wall and framed it in with steel studs. I wanted it tight so I didn't leave much tolerance. When I measured it, I didn't take into account the screws holding the frame together or the fins that held the accordion wings on (which I took off). The wings, I cut off with our grinder but I had to leave the screws. I also didn't account for the flashing that I later put in the window to keep outside moisture from creeping into the opening. All said and done I had an 18 ½" unit and an 18 ½" hole. It took some convincing but I finally got it shoved into place. Not sure we could get any dental floss between it and the opening now. :) We'll put a bead of silicone on it when we're ready to lay the final siding on the outside wall to finish sealing it. I must say, it was a chore to carry it up the ladder and mount it 8' high on the wall but I'm very happy with the end result.

We've debated over and over again about what to do about cooking and heat. I know that many 1000s of people use propane for both, and never have a problem. I also know that when there is a problem, it can be devastating! This happens on a regular basis. Not on a high percentage, but over and over again. There are other health consideration when using gas in that it burns a large portion of the oxygen in the air. Of course, to be properly vented, you would need to keep some kind of fresh air coming into the house whether you used gas or not. Anyway, we have finally decided to use electric to cook with and will decide on our heating option at a later date. Our plan is to have a combination Microwave/Convection oven that will mount under the countertop and then portable burner tops that we can put on top of the fridge and pull down when we need. This way, we get to keep our countertop space where the Stove and Microwave would normally go.  We have just about committed to a small normal sized refrigerator/freezer (12-14 SF). I hate to give up the counter space for it but we have not been very happy with our choices in dorm sized options. Either you give up your freezer to get more fridge space or you give up even more fridge space to have the split freezer. We both agree that we don't need the 25 SF unit that we currently use in Arlington but something bigger than the mini units will be desirable.  -  To this end, we ran some more Romex for the kitchen breakers. Seems we're destined to unload the loft just about every other weekend lately. The good news is that we've decided to leave the flooring on the ground floor until we use it - NO MATTER WHAT. Really got old lifting the boxes of tile up into the storage every time we needed to get to something.

We hope to get the insulation finished next weekend as well as the sheerocking. We'll see if we can stay focused and on target!

Just a funny pic of our cat Topaz. He loves boxes. It's like Christmas every time you leave one open and out! Funny, the best present my girls ever got growing up was a "fort" I made them out of a dryer box. Cut a couple of holes for windows and a door. Give 'em a box of crayons and a pack of stickers and turn 'em loose. It was their favorite play place for nearly 2 years. Wish we were all that easy to please now!

We hope everyone has a great Thanksgiving planned. We'll be celebrating our 6th anniversary that weekend!  Take Care

Monday, November 3, 2014

(Nov 2) Trimming the Shower and Enjoying the Woods

Had plans on Saturday so we only made it out for an afternoon on Sunday. The weather was inspirational! High of about 65° and a very slight breeze. We arrived and Kim got busy with ripping some cedar we had to trim out the shower. My first thought was getting a fire started in the chiminea. Finding wood was no problem as the property is still littered with old and new limbs downed from the storm last month. :( I broke out the chain saw and made quick work of a couple of them. One small limb had fallen on the roof but we haven't found any permanent damage. We really have only two fears from living in the woods.  Well if you ask Kim there are more than two, but one is the nightmare I've had about getting eaten by termites and the other is having one of the really large trees (60'-80' Oaks and Elms) fall on our Tiny House, especially when we're in it! There, I've said it out loud. Maybe this counts in the "face your fears" department.  Kim's fears are the tree-falling-on-the-house and snakes.  Honestly we have only seen one cotton mouth and he was gone as soon as the creek dried up and a couple tiny non poisonous ones that even Kim thought were handsome.  She was absolutely not a fan of the cotton mouth.  He was fairly snarly.  That's about it though. I don't have doubts about the lifestyle that living there will afford. I don't have fears about feeling cramped or closed in by the small footprint. I have lots of woods to work and play in and a pasture full of cows behind us to keep me amused. Kim got her trim put up in the shower and we decided to sit and enjoy the fire for a bit.

More so than usual, the birds came in waves to the feeder today. There were periods where they would all disappear and then, 15 minutes later, they would show back up, all at once, multiple breeds including lots of woodpeckers. Usually, it's a steady stream from 9:00 in the morning until about 5:00 at night. Missing today though were the Cardinals. They seem to be the early risers, sometimes showing up before the sun and usually the last to leave the feeders at night. Maybe the abundance of berries we saw in the woods this week are keeping them happy. After the fire burned down a bit we decided to take a walk and headed towards the back of the property. About half way there, we detoured and made our way along a wide path towards the North. We found a very pretty little spot that we hadn't seen before. There was actually some elevation and a gentle slope down a couple hundred feet away to a dry creek bed.  Funny how we can have areas on our own property that we haven't seen for the 2 years we've been exploring. We found more trees that were broken and ravaged by the storm. Definitely the most damaging in this area for years.  Across a flat creek area there were 2 50' Oaks in the back of the property, broken in half and mounded into a huge debris pile. I may buy a new chain saw before I tackle them or it may just become a bird/snake/raccoon/squirrel/lizard nature preserve. :) I'd have to get pretty bored or desperate for firewood to tackle it any time soon. Having said that, I did get pretty inspired by cutting up some of the wood that's close to the cabin. There are a number of old and dry downed trees, maybe 20-25 that are within a visible circle around the camp that I am going to target now that the weather is out of the 90s. After our walk, we plotted and planned our attack of the bathroom door challenge. Kim has really wanted a sliding barn door for quite a while.  However, we may settle on hanging a curtain in the short term and putting in a sliding barn door for the permanent solution. We really don't want to put the door on the outside wall though since it would narrow the limited space between the bed. Right now, that space is budgeted at about 15". Putting the door on that side would reduce that to about 12". We are also at a quandary about placement of the major kitchen components. We've come to the conclusion we'll end up with a small (not tiny) fridge with a freezer instead of the dorm type fridge we have now. Something around 10-12 SF. The sinks we looked at this weekend were in the 20"-22" range and we've talked about a 20" wide stove/oven. Just not sure I want to give up the extra 6"-8" of counter space for a larger stove.  Kim thought of bringing out some appliance boxes and shape them into realistic sizes so that we can see the effects of placement and functionality. Maybe a solution is to use an under-counter oven with portable burners that we can put away when not in use. This would give us the functionality of a full-sized oven and let us keep the counter space.  We've both come to the conclusion when building a tiny house, you should decide on the appliances and furniture you will be using, THEN plan the space around them. We would have designed the layout differently if we had appliance and furniture dimensions before hand. It's all good though. The journey through all of this is the fun part. For us a huge part of this is about doing it together rather than buying something ready to deliver and set up. That's just us though. We both have a little building experience which helped, but it is absolutely not a must have. We'd love to hear your thoughts on design and layout.

Monday, October 27, 2014

(Oct 27) BluePrints

Thought I would put the design of the cabin out here so that people might get a better idea of scale inside.

Cabin is 12'x20' exterior dimensions.
One door at Living Room side.
9 Windows.
Bathroom is 3'x8' interior.
TV cabinet with rising TV (behind chairs)

This 1st image is with everything closed. The table is locked against the bed closet (between the sink and the sofa) which is closed as well as the table that's against the TV cabinet behind the chairs.

In this image, the table that's attached to the TV cabinet has been opened and the chairs turned around to work/dine in front of the window facing north. I imagine this will be our most common configuration when it's just the 2 of us. You could also open up the kitchen table at this point to accommodate up to 9 people for dinner - 4 at kitchen table, 2 at TV cabinet table in chars and 3 eating off of TV trays on the sofa. Of course, you might have to make reservations for the single restroom in advance, but hey, you've got 12 acres to help accommodate the more adventurous of the group!

In this image, the table hanging from the bed had been extended. Actually, half of the table as it is hinged in the middle.

In this image, the table has been fully extended. The sofa has been moved to the corner for additional space.

Here, the TV Cabinet table has been opened and the bed cabinet has been opened. Notice the bed cabinet, which is 7' tall doubles as a privacy screen for the bed. By using a Queen Short (standard size in RVs), we can maintain 15" between the end of the bed and the bathroom wall for easy passage. It's really nice sometimes to be average height!

Here, the bed cabinet has been opened and the bed lowered as well as the table off of the cabinet door. This now functions as a work/eating table for one person on the sofa. The door to the bed cabinet helps screen off the living area if someone wants to stay up and work on their computer or watch TV. The IKEA closet door can also be opened up to help close off the bedroom area.

Here the dining table has been fully extended to accommodate 2 people sitting on the sofa. You could also pull the chairs around to handle 4 people sitting around the table, 5 if you put a folding chair at the end.

Here the sofa has been opened up as a sleeper as well as the Murphy bed. The bed cabinet acts as a screen between them. We made sure the front door still opens fully for safety. The chairs can be pulled around to face each other and make a small bed for a child. Be sure and secure them together so they don't spread apart in the night.

(Oct 27) Bathroom Progress

I can't believe we are still getting weather in the 90s! it's nearly November! Oh well, gave us incentive to stay inside this weekend and work on the bathroom. My daughter Sabrina and her "dream" of a boyfriend, Triston, came out and spent the weekend with us. We took the 1st 20 minutes just unloading and rearranging to make sure we had room for all 3 beds. A light dinner and we all stayed up to watch Captain America: Winter Soldier. I  must say I slept very lightly with the knowledge that there were 2 teenagers sleeping inches apart! :)

Kim and I got paneling up on 2 walls and the bathroom ceiling tiles installed while Sabrina took Triston for a tour of the property. Nice to have a little more privacy for the bathroom. I was really surprised how easily the tiles went up. We trimmed 'em to size them with a box cutter and a straight edge then used Liquid Nails adhesive to attach them. I did put in a couple of staples in each against the outside edge to secure it until the Liquid Nails dried. We were very pleased with the look. The tiles (18"x24" square) were about $11 ea at Lowe's. It took 8 tiles to cover the 3'x8' bathroom ceiling. More than I'm willing to spend to cover the entire house ceiling but it was worth it in the bathroom. We tried to keep the edges within a quarter inch of the wall as we will trim the ceiling/wall joints with a cedar board. Need to find a longer pipe for the shower head so that Kim can reach it. :)

Scary part was mapping out and cutting holes for the light fixture and shower pipe. 

Before and after of the bathroom area. 

Bathroom walls paneled to ceiling. 

The rest of the South wall will be left open to shelves. We'll start trimming out the inside of the shelves and then trim the openings. We decided to cut the plywood a bit tall to cover the OSB that makes up the deck of the loft. I'll just go back and cut a couple of finger holes in the deck pieces so that we can pull them up and over the plywood if we ever need to take them out to get to the electrical or plumbing that runs through the joists of the loft.

I will also be SO glad when we get a point that we can install the flooring. I can't tell you how many times we have relocated the pile of 30 lb boxes of vinyl tiles. No matter where we put them, that seems to be the next place we need to work. 

Ceiling in shower area. 

We got a grommet cover to cover where the pipe enters the ceiling but did't bother to put it on for the picture as we plan on replacing the brass pipe with galvanized to keep the look consistent. I can't wait to get the cedar trim up. Kim also picked out some galvanized pipes, elbows and footings to attach to the ceiling as a curtain rod. I love the industrial look that she's picked out of the bathroom. 

We ate pretty light this trip but I did grill some salmon with boiled new potatoes along with buttered peas for our last meal on Sunday. I love eating our meals outside, watching the birds flutter to and from the feeders. It's so relaxing. We need to start planning an outdoor hanging bed next. I could have crawled in and slept for hours after lunch! :)

I woke up quite early (for me this time of year) on Sunday at about 5 a.m. and went out to make a campfire. It was so nice to sit there in the coolness of the morning and listen to the woods wake up. The peace ended when a murder of crows got into a squabble over something a couple of hundred feet away. There were about 30 of them fussing and cawing at each other for 5 minutes. After they moved on everything calmed down again. As the sun came up, I wondered down the drive for a brief walk just to get some of the morning stiffness out. As I walked by a metal trash can that we store bird feed in by the cabin, I noticed the lid was covered in fresh blood. It appeared that there were 3-4 other large patches of dried blood on the lid as well. I wondered if it could have been a dog or raccoon trying to get into the food but realized there were no prints on or around the can. I came to the conclusion that it must be an owl using the can as a dining table in the night. I couldn't come up with any other reasonable explanation. If you have any thoughts, please chime and let me know what you think. 

Driveway leading to the front road. 

We also brought back the Go-Kart to get the brakes worked on. It won't be quite as exciting as it has been but it will be a lot safer! :)

Friday, October 24, 2014

(Oct 24) Cub Scouts in MA build a tiny house/cabin w/Deek to raise funds...

Awesome project by Deek at

You give our Tiny House community a great name and reputation!

Good job!

(Oct 24) House Design Article

The following is a small article I wrote regarding design and function. It's a bit of a rant at times but it has some valid points in it.

- - - -

It’s come to my attention, (understand, this is just my observation and opinion) that there are some really odd, and often bad, designs of little houses out there. I believe that this comes from a problem that seems to plague our entire society. Architects and Engineers feel compelled to design their goods prior to understanding the client, their needs, the landscape and the environmental demands on the structure. In martial arts, we consistently talk about Universal Truths, a solution to a problem (like trying not to get hit) that is so simple and pure that practitioners of many different types of arts have come to the same conclusion without any collaboration with each other.

We find many parts of our art, Wing Chun Kung Fu, are the same as we find in fencing instructions that are 400-500 years old. Doubtful our Chinese counterparts that crafted our martial art had much contact with French swordsmen hundreds of years apart but they both came to the same solution for a problem and no one has effectively improved on it since.

Thus it can be said for design work as well. Not that everyone wants to live in houses that all look alike, but I believe that there are Universal Truths about design, efficiency and functionality that we should work towards achieving. Don’t be different for just the sake of differentiation. Be different because it’s a little better in design and functionality than what you’ve seen before.

We, more than those buying McMansions, must be diligent in our use of space and resources. Then, shout it from the rooftops and let others see and build on to it for the future. Revel with them and acknowledge the improvements in subsequent models. At some point, you achieve perfection, a design so clean and efficient and functional that it cannot be added to or taken away from without lessening it’s simple truth, “This works with the least amount of effort and waste.”

I see problems arise all of the time from the necessity of design engineers changes. I understand some of the forces that drive companies and designers. You have to keep changing to keep up with the other guys. They, for the most part, are dealing with fashion though, not functionality. You have to constantly have new, stylish cars rolling out because people want to make a statement with the car they drive, much like the clothes they wear. I see changes in car models all of the time that make no sense. They were changes that were made just for the sake of change. Engineers need to justify their jobs. Companies need to differentiate their products from year to year to justify price increases. How many of you have gotten into a new car model to find that your favorite feature from your current car is no longer there and the new feature that they put in it’s place is much harder to use! This is what I’m talking about. Change for change sake. They probably have every intention of putting the better feature back in the car at a later date and will likely call it an improvement! Voila, another change!

The problem is, houses are not disposable as is a watch, a pair of jeans or even a car. I propose that we work together as a community and I challenge each of you to simplify and improve housing designs. You should always examine and critique every component as you design and build to determine if this is the “very best” way of achieving what you need to do, understanding that budget always plays a role in our decision making, though typically when we’re worried about budget, we’re talking about material type and finish, not layout and flow.

I’m not suggesting that we move to a minimalist approach, but that should be a starting point. Start with a blank slate and add rooms and features to your house by necessity. Any added features should make the design better, not just different. Features that serve minimal functional value should be replaced with something better or scrapped altogether. Then, put your design out there for the rest of the world to see. Get as many opinions as you can but be discriminant about your changes from there. Remember, there are lots of people out there that are willing to voice their opinion without any experience to back it up. Put more value in those opinions that come from real life experience. (Why didn’t we listen to our Grandparents and Great Grandparents when we had the opportunity! Do you think they had any less fun in their houses that were ½ the size of current building trends?)

If your house is going into a permanent location, get to know that location well before the design work begins. Where do the winds blow from in the summer? Are there any natural wind/sun breaks or areas that flood. What direction offers the best view in your favorite season. Be patient. We are a society driven by “I want it now!”. Politicians drive us to this every election. “I’m going to get our economy back on track!” What that really translates to is “I’m going to get everyone spending as much money as possible.”

Face it, if the Tiny House Movement ever catches hold in mainstream America, our entire economic model will shift and morph into something very different that we live with today. No longer would people be driven to spend more and save less. That’s why most of us who have been bitten by the bug, now start to question all of our economic decisions. Do I really need that new car and if I do, do I have to have this particular model with these specific features? OR, can I do with less and actually get to keep more?

Does it make sense for us, at this point in our lives and in these economic conditions, to purchase a 3,000+ SF house just so that we can have one that’s bigger than the one that we’re living in now? Embrace the reality that your decisions, especially regarding your house, will impact your future as well as your family’s future, for many many years to come. Sit down with family members and discuss the impact of committing to what amounts sometimes to half or more of your income, at current levels, with current conditions. Forbid that anything to lessen your economic prowess should something happen - a job loss, company failure, economic downturn, health problems, etc, etc, etc. and ever cross your path.

How many were caught flat-footed when the last economic downturn rolled around? Do you actually think that will be the last you see in your lifetime? How many of us can wake up every morning and say “You know, if I get laid off today, or if my spouse falls ill and has to quit work, or my 401K is suddenly worth ½ of what it was last month - It’s OK. I think we’ll be fine.” Most of us live with the cognitive dissidence (ability to rationalize 2 opposite ideas at the same time) that based on history, economic challenges come to fruition all of the time AND it could never happen to me (again)! What were we thinking! Plan for the future! Plan for things to be a little more challenging than they are now. Plan to get a little slower and a little poorer as you age. Accept a little reality and you will slowly lift the veil that clouds your vision. No one ever got to retirement age and said “Damn, I wish I hadn’t saved so much money!”

Make a conscious effort to improve your position in the future and a large part of that starts with being smart and practical about your housing expenses, usually the largest portion of your spending. Enough preaching! I look forward to a forum where we can exchange ideas without fear of being able to say “No, that doesn’t work in reality.” or “Sorry, that’s just wasteful! I’m going to keep it simple.” I know it’s a cliche, but from my heart, I hope that you all Live Long & Prosper! :)

Monday, October 20, 2014

(Oct 20) Calm and easy weekend

Came out to the property on Saturday night. Absolutely one of my favorite times of year. The weather was cool and sunny and the mosquitoes where no where to be found! :) We sat out at a table in front of the house, lit some Tiki torches and opened a bottle of wine. It's so nice to relax after a hectic week! Kim had an asthma attack in the house due to the gas coming off of batteries we were charging. When the eves of the roof were open, we had lots of ventilation as well as heat, cold, bugs, birds, etc. But now that we've sheet rocked most of that off, I will have to move the batteries outside.  Sunday found us sleeping in late (8:00) taking a trip into town for some "city" breakfast. Upon returning we decided to spread out more road base that we had delivered earlier in the month. I think we finally have enough on the drive to keep the culvert from scraping the bottom of the car. :) We also inspected and talked about the proposed placement of a power pole and transformer. Kim had a great idea, putting the service pole next to the transformer pole, thus eliminating the need to clear (and keep cleared) the trees leading down the drive. I will get online today and look at the requirements for the service pole. We should be able to get it done for a minimal amount. Farmer's Electric revised their quote to move the transformer to the pole on our property (100' closer to the house) to help with the voltage drop. It will be about $200 more but I haven't talked to them about eliminating the 75' run to the service pole. Maybe that will make up for some of the cost difference from the 1st quote. After we rested for a bit, we finished installing the insulation we'd been storing for some time. It was good to get it out of the way. :) We also tossed our beloved tent. It has served us for about 5 years and done really well. We camped in it for several years at a number of State Park sites before we bought the property and camped in it here until earlier this year when we got the house enclosed. Then it became our "storage unit." It was fairly weatherproof and bug proof. Sitting in the sun for the past 2 years though weakened it and the storm last month fell several branches on it, one leaving a 4 foot gaping hole at one end. So much for being weatherproof. We rolled it up and unceremoniously tossed it in the trash. We also cleared out he "Starlight Lounge", our first latrine. A canopy with 4 walls and no top. In our early days of camping in the tent, we were sure that keeping the toilet bucket in the tent would be a bad thing so we erected the canopy from the remains of what had been a larger canopy in Arlington before a storm ripped through it one evening. It kept tools and building materials out of sight but now we are considering removing it too as it clutters the site and blocks our view. I can still remember how happy we were just to have the property, and how the "Lounge" got it's name, from our sitting and watching the stars as we did our business in the middle of the night. We just need to rearrange where we will store some items that are OK with being outdoors. We strolled down a small road in the center of the property visualizing where the shop will go.  There was a dead tree of considerable size which had fallen across the road. It'll take an afternoon or more to clear. Not up to it right now but soon. We found several more Brown Recluse spiders in the house today. I'm really looking forward to getting all of the interior finished. I feel then, and not until then, we'll have all of the cracks and openings closed up and sealed off and banishing most if not all unwelcome tiny crawly creatures. Time will tell.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

(Oct 14) Revised Electric Plan

Came out for a quick trip this morning to meet the engineer with Farmer's Electric, Dianna. I just can't stomach the $8500+ that we were quoted before to bury the line to the house so I'm looking at having them drop a pole at the front corner of the property and I will work on bringing the line to the house. The sites I've researched show I should be able to get by with a 1/0 wire set and still have plenty of power for up to a 60 amp draw 600' away. Andrea and I loaded and spread 4 carts full of road base on the driveway. We also cleared a dead tree and a couple of small cedars from the drive that would be in the way of the service line. I have to remember when felling trees - ALWAYS Have an Escape Route Planned. Andrea had been sitting on a log about 20' away from where I was cutting one of the cedars down. I was planning for it to fall towards the open drive, away from her. I suggested she might move as you just never know how trees are going to behave as they fall. She did and it was a good thing! As I cut through the base, it slipped to the ground and fell at a 90° angle to where I had planned, right on top of where Andrea had been sitting. Now to be fair, the part that fell where she had been sitting was small but none the less it would have scratched her up if she had been there. She might have hurt herself more from trying to scramble away from it than actually being slapped by some light limbs. I think she understands now, it is much better to stay clear of the area completely. We rested at the camp for a little bit after laying the road base. It was for the most part quiet and peaceful, except for the dove that flew into a window and died. :( Still not sure how to keep this from happening. We hung plastic tarp pieces in front of the glass several months ago to discourage head collisions. It worked for a long time.  Maybe we will try hanging a net a few feet away from windows this fall. We had lunch at Robertson's BBQ on the way back to Arlington. She had quite the appetite as she ate a large sandwich and a full order or onion rings. It was good to spend time with her!