Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Cooking in the MicroMansion...

The first couple weeks cooking took place on the outdoor grill and its side burner. During this time period I did quite a bit of online research for alternative cooking apparatuses.

I finally decided to purchase a sun oven. Since the sun oven was something that we would take with us to the Tiny House I opted for a sturdy, well reviewed sun oven opposed to the cheaper models. With some searching online at eBay, Amazon, and Craig's List I was able to find a new sun oven for 30% off including shipping.

Unless I have been experiencing it myself I would never have believed that cooking with the sun made food taste so much more wholesome, nutritious, and tasty. It is simply incredible.

Between the sun oven and the grill we are eating every type of meal we would have normally eaten in our big house, except for the fact that we are now eating mostly organic. I have been able to make pancakes, eggs, bacon, and toast for breakfasts. Dinner has included some yummy homemade stews, whole chicken meals followed by chicken soup, biscuits, brownies, pasta with meat sauce, garlic bread, casseroles, just to name a few!

Laundry in the MicroMansion

Laundry has been a long research process over the past year. Of everything I looked into I really loved the combination, compact washer-drier unit. Unfortunately with our budget the $1200-2000 price tag is currently out of the question.

After hours of online searching I ended up ordering a WonderWash and a Spin Dry. I love the WonderWash. It does a good job cleaning and I found our melted refrigeration ice is a great recycled source for our laundry water. Unfortunately once we established our daily rituals I found that there is not enough space to easily set up the WonderWash for clothes cleaning, the MM is just too small. So we have been taking weekly trips to the laundromat in town and I must say I really have enjoyed the extra family time with the kids.

I haven't had the opportunity to use the Spin Dry yet, which does run from electric power. I am very much looking forward to trying it out once we get into our larger Tiny House!

Refrigeration in the Micro Mansion

My plans had been to design a passive cooling system for refrigeration during the winter months for the Tiny House. However, here we were in the middle of an Iowa hot, humid summer needing refrigeration for the MicroMansion (MM).

In my travels I happened upon a small fridge/freezer combo at Sears that had been refurbished. At approximately 36" high it was a perfect solution for our refrigeration needs in the MM. Since we were not connected to the grid for electricity, I converted the veggie drawer into an ice bin and used ice for cooling foods throughout the summer.

It took a couple weeks and a few spoiled containers of milk before we acclimated to our new refrigeration system. After a bit of trial and error we discovered that a small bag of ice would last 1.5 days in really hot weather and up to three days when it began to get cooler out.

We ended up using the top freezer section as a bread box and just planned our meals without the use of freezer products. This was fairly easy to do as our meal menu experienced a huge healthy upgrade as we were eating more fresh veggies and fruits and converting nearly all of our foods to organic.

I must express that changing to an organic diet made a HUGE difference in our health and overall temperament. I can see a huge difference in the kids overall dispositions when we cheat and eat a non-organic meal, they have less patience with each other and tend to be less engaged in 'family'.

Time was Passing... I was collecting

Antique Wall Sconce for Oil Lamp
Even though I had a full time course load at MUM, and the kids were busy with school and various activities, I still continued to work on my Tiny House Project.

Frame for Pictures Doubles
as Fold-Down Table with
Recycled Glass Top -
Will fold up into wall
when not in use
Besides the actual construction of the structure, which was on hold through the Winter and rainy Spring months, Tiny Houses need a LOT of planning. The normal everyday functioning of a family still needs to occur in a Tiny House, so many functions need extensive planning and stacked into a smaller space.
Cool Old Door for Bathroom
Throughout the spring while I was not building, I was doing research on-line and shopping. My research online consisted of following the Tiny House Movement newsletters, blogs and magazines to collect interior structural ideas for stacking functions in small spaces. For instance a 3'x3' bathroom that is designed with a toilet, sink, and triples as a shower stall. I was also constantly searching through Craig's List and visiting our local ReStore for recycled materials of the Tiny House.

Little Bathroom Corner Shelf
Now with the temporary Micro-Mansion living arrangement, additional new projects and space-saving ideas were needed to make our temporary housing suitable. We needed a plan for food refrigeration, clothes washing, some type of power source, as well as water and bathing access.

Some of the systems we would design for the Micro-Mansion would be transferrable to the Tiny House, while others would be chalked up to experience.

Finances Force A Move

Last March the children and I were sitting in a little three bedroom home in the heart of Fairfield. It is amazing how nature can support your desires without you realizing what is happening! Due to circumstances beyond our control we needed to move out of our little three bedroom house. The move wasn't going to be that frightening because we had been planning all along to move once the Tiny House was finished, or close to being finished. 

As our move date of early June 2014 quickly approached, some creative problem solving needed to take place. We needed housing for a few months while the Tiny House was being built to the point where we could move in.

My new friend, Tom who I had begun an internship with, offered to lease me an acre of his newly purchased 5.5 acres out on Walton Road. This was wonderful only we did not have a structure to live in. One consideration was tenting for the summer, the kids and I are use to camping during the summer months so this would not have been that much of a hardship. However, as timing would have it in mid May, my internship at Farrer's Farm landed me in a Fairfield parking lot filled with pre-made sheds and outbuildings. Tom was interested in a shed for the farm to store tools and the like for all of the upcoming projects.

With a mere monthly rental rate of $136/mo. my mind began racing and I thought we could spend the summer in a rented outbuilding, delivered out on Walton Road, while the Heather's Tiny House was being built. The little 10'x16' tiny structure was quite a bit larger than any tent we would camp in and it had two lofts and two windows to boot!

Before I knew it the outbuilding was delivered and we were moving into our little "Micro-Mansion!"

Back on Track

Out of sight does not necessarily indicate out of mind. In October 2013, one year ago, I had my took my first official "Senior Project" block at MUM. As previously mentioned, my Senior Project is to build a tiny house and live in it for a year with my two teens, documenting my journey along the way.  My elbow injury last October modified my timeline and here it is October 2014 and I find myself beginning my second Senior Project block, of a total of three blocks. The final Senior Project block is November 2014 so I find myself very lucky to have an uninterrupted eight weeks to work on my Tiny House, the Universe willing.

One thing is for certain, even though I thought this would never happen to me, things do happen and building a tiny house ends up taking a lot more time than one thinks or plans. In my next several blogs I will cover what I've been doing since early March 2014 so we can catch up to today. I won't spoil the fun of the journey but I will say lots has happened and our journey into the Tiny House has taken a detour through the Micro Mansion!

Join me for a look back at the last several months of Heather's Tiny House Project.

Friday, March 7, 2014

An Interesting Land Lease Opportunity...

For the past several days I have been reviewing properties online and over the phone with various folks. I came across an interesting prospect for a land lease but I have some research that I need to do. It is ideal timing as my preference for a four year term is acceptable.
The property is 2.6 acres and has some character. It has some rolling hills and a tree line on one side. There are a couple of fenced pastures which is also nice. The dilemma I am having is that when I looked at the property on the County website I discovered that it is surrounded by active crop fields / farmland on three sides. The fields are abutted right up against the property lines with no buffer.
I am concerned about airborne pesticides when the wind is blowing and the crops are being sprayed. Is that silly? I was planning on having rain water runoff, but I'm uncertain if the pesticides will blow upon the roof when it is windy and be washed into our water supply. We would be drinking bottled water but still the thought of bathing in pesticide laden water doesn't sound like a good idea.
I'll ask around the university to see if anyone is knowledgeable in this regard. If any readers know of any resources or have any information regarding this topic please feel free to comment below. I can use all of the help I can get on this one.