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)

Brown Thrasher. About the size of a Blue Jay.

Wood Thrush. Very active!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

(Jul 19) Free At Last

Can't tell you how happy I am to have my cast off! Everything appears to be healing OK. Took 3 hand washings and 2 showers to get that smell off my hand. The cut closed up really nicely. I still can't touch but 2 of my fingers to my palm on that hand but I start PT next week. It seems like forever ago that it happened and still another 2-3 months of rehab to go. :(

4 weeks after surgery

1 week after surgery

Last weekend, we worked on the toilet project on Saturday. Made some good progress. We got a hole cut in the deck and the diverter and the seat mounted. I think it's coming along OK. We'll still have to stain and seal the whole thing but it works like a champ!

Also did some more baking on Saturday night. I've been craving bread pudding so here was yet another. This time I made a chocolate sauce with toasted pecans to put over it along and served it with some vanilla ice cream. Wish I had taken a pic after I dished it up. It was delicious!

On Sunday, we went to a MeetUp with fellow DFW Tiny House Enthusiasts. (so exciting that our Facebook group has topped 1100 members for North Texas!) A quick stop at The Flying Saucer in Addison with a few of the members to chase a cold beer first. Then we were off to Michelle's, who graciously opened up her home for our meeting to discuss and plan our converging on Colorado next month for the Tiny House Jamboree.  :)

I've been so glad to be involved in such a vibrant and friendly group. With so much violence and anger erupting across the nation over religion, race and politics, it's really nice to be involved in something that transcends all of that. We all (straight, gay, ethnic, Muslim, Christian, Atheist, liberal, conservative) just come together to help each other on a wide variety of projects that we're all passionate about. This has been so much fun! I've never been able to count on this many friends at one time in my life. I want to thank everyone involved for making this time so special. :)

Yes, that's my Guiness in the foreground! :)

The Jamboree should be spectacular this year. They've announced that there will be 47 Tiny Houses (all commercially built units) on display this year. That should ease the viewing lines quite a bit compared to the 12 units they had last year. Ample parking, multiple food trucks on-site throughout the event, ability to bring in a cooler. I think this event will be quite special. Counting down the days!

Next week, we do some touch-up painting and hopefully some wood sealing - window casings, toilet, door jam, etc. I need to re-wire the outdoor lights on the north side as well as glue up the PVC drain pipes for the toilet and the sink. Also need to put in the P-Trap for the shower. Even though I have my cast off, I don't think Kim's going to let me on the roof yet to finish the flashing. Maybe when we get back from Colorado. :) There's always plenty to do in the mean time.