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Let’s Talk Toilets!

toiletYes, that lovely behmoth is what our toilet is going to look like. I may need a step-stool to be able to get on it. (heeheee- I said ‘stool’). (Yes, I AM a 7 year old sometimes!)

When we first started to seriously talk THOW, I was NOT on board with a composting toilet. I grew up, as I’m guessing most people reading this did, with your standard indoor flushing toilet. You sit down, do whatever you need to do, flush and don’t think about it again. And I’ll be honest, I LIKE that.

But, (heehee) we looked at the options. There are 3.

  1.  RV style toilet. You flush, but then you have to deal with ‘black water’ and suck it all out with a hose and dispose of it properly, trying not to splash onto your shoes. EEEEEWWWWWWW! Plus, you’re also dealing with a lot of gross chemicals and it just sounded too nasty for words.
  2.  An incinerating toilet. Seriously. You go poop and then you press the BBQ button. Well, THAT didn’t appeal to me for a couple of reasons. A LOT can go wrong. Mark posted a link from a blog about a guy in the Navy who was on a ship that had these – and between MRE’s and a malfunctioning Incinerating Toilet, let’s just say NO. Plus, they use a LOT of electricity.
  3. Which leaves us with – a Composting Toilet. The one we’re getting is a Natures Head model, as opposed to simply a bucket. You’ll notice there is a removable plastic container at the front – that’s where the pee goes. If you’re going to go poop, you pull the little lever on the side, which opens the trap door to poo-land. When you’re done, you either put some peat moss, or sawdust type material on top of your poop, and you’re done.

My biggest concern about a composting toilet was that it would smell. So, when we had the chance to go into a THOW that was using a composting toilet, I was VERY relieved (heehee) to see that there was NO hint of poo-land in the air.

The most common question I’ve gotten from people is – how often do the compartments need to be emptied? From what others have told me – you need to empty the pee container every 2 – 3 days. But what AMAZED me, is apparently you only have to empty poo-land every 3 – 6 months. Do you notice the handy-dandy spinning device on the side? Yes, you DO (snicker) get to shake things up in Poo-land! Mark & I even read about one woman who used composting worms in her toilet, though I’m still on the fence for that one.  (For some reason, it just seems wrong to shit on the poor worms!)(And if the worms LIKE it, that seems even worse!)

What has been interesting to me, is that the more I think about toilets, the more wasteful the normal type in the US IS. SO much clean water is used with every flush. And while I promise to never get holier-than-thou about my composting toilet vs. your flushing one, I will ask that you don’t pre-judge mine before you try it out.

My end thought was that it’s like a cats potty box. If they’re kept clean, they don’t smell. 🙂

 

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The Virtual 3D Images

Ampersand 22 w_ Dormer v17 Port Aft ViewAmpersand 22 w_ Dormer v17 Stbd ViewSo, these are the 2 shots of roughly what the THOW is going to look like. The roof will be a copper coloured metal (Shiny!) and the more elevated part of the roof is right over the loft – with a GORGEOUS window there. It still doesn’t seem like this is really going to be our reality – relatively soon!

And I have to say, that while the THOW IS super behind schedule, if it HADN’T been, Mark & I wouldn’t have been able to help out Nancy & Crispin with lots of stuff, and Mark wouldn’t have been able to help our beloved friend AmyH move from Kanab to Portland!

And to say we are BEYOND grateful to have a place to stay with the cats, with people we love and THEIR awesome animals, is an understatement!

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Getting There….

 

Ampersand dimensioned floorplanThat may not be the most exciting ‘photo’ ever , but it’s pretty exciting to us!

We had a total scare recently – Abel’s office assistant emailed us in regards to a question we had about the stove, saying we’d not communicated that we wanted one, and basically suggesting a toaster oven type thing.

I had a complete panic attack, because while I can totally work with an ‘apartment sized’ stove/oven, I CANNOT live with a toaster oven in place thereof.  Well, technically I COULD live without, but when you’re designing your home, you put in what’s super important to YOU,right? Which for me is – Stove/oven, running water, toilet, shower, bed, a way of having guests, heat, A/C, and a place for the cats potty box. Not necessarily in that order.

It turns out what happened was this. And bear with me, I don’t know technical terminology for some of this. On the trailer where the wheels are, the metal curves over them. Rather than have the floor flush with the top of the curve, they designed it so that the floor is flush with the bottom of the curve, in order to get an extra 5″ of height. But when the floorplan was put into virtual 3D, the curved bit was under where we’d elected to have the stove/oven and it kicked it out of the design. So, when Mark & I were going down to Portland last week, we stopped in Olympia to meet with Abel and get that fixed. The stove/oven is BACK in the game plan, and on the end of the ‘kitchen’ area nearest the wood burning stove.

Whew!

And you all know what that means? It means that as we’re travelling about, when we’re in your neck of the woods you can place orders for baked goods! Delivered right to your door!

Out of curiosity – what would be different on your own list of Must Haves in a custom home?

 

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A Little Bit About the House-to-be…

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The photo is of a Kimberly Stove – which is what we’ll have for heat and to some extent, de-humidifying the house. They’re wood burning stoves that were originally designed for ships. They are super efficient, and do something called a second burn, which means there is virtually no pollution.

The house will be 22 feet long, 8 foot something wide, and 13 foot something high. The width and height have to be street legal, and 22 feet long seemed plenty to be hauling!

Obviously our house will be made of wood, primarily cedar. Our California King sized bed will be up in a loft (well, it will pretty much BE the loft! As Mark says – one of the joys of being married to a mutant). We will have stairs, because when I have to pee at 3:00 in the morning, I would kill myself with a ladder. PLUS, the cats need to be able to come sleep with us! Oh, and the cat box is being built into a spot under the stairs,

The bathroom will have a hot-water on demand system for the shower, and we’ll be using a Nature’s Head composting toilet. We’ll have more on that later – but suffice it to say I was NOT enthused initially, but have since come on board. And NO, they do NOT smell if used and maintained properly. There will be a pocket door for the bathroom to save space.

The kitchen will have a fridge/freezer – not the size in most homes, but bigger than a dorm size. We’ll have a stove/oven – the slightly narrow style, but still able to get a cookie sheet in the oven. Several cookie sheets. 🙂 Farmhouse sink, and the counter tops will be butcher board.

We’ll have a sofa that can be configured into a guest bed for two, and a dining room table that expands.

Lots of windows, an A/C unit, and a little shed on the tongue of the trailer for the batteries (we will be solar capable) and propane.

Oh, and the roof will be metal, and will look copper (sparkly!) but won’t be.

Whaddya think?

 

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It’s Really Happening!!!

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You’re looking at our new house.

Seriously.

A quick catch-up for any one who hasn’t been avidly following our lives – Mark & I decided to have a Tiny House on Wheels (THOW for future reference) built, and load up the cats, our essential items, and take off and travel around the US for a year or so. We sold our house in Kanab, UT and moved to a 1 bedroom apt. in North Portland for a year. We figured that would give us time to choose the builder, have it built, further winnow down our stuff, etc.

We got the builder of our dreams – his website is http://www.zylvardos.com – and planned on taking off in May. Except that things happened, and our house wasn’t (isn’t) ready. We were INSANELY fortunate that two of our dearest friends said we could stay with them, so we’ve been in Fall City, WA since then.

A couple of weeks ago we went down (over? across?) to Olympia to meet with Zyl, and cement some things into place (where did we want the door? Colour of the roof?) etc.

And there, to one side, she lay. The basis of our new home. Right now, I’m pretty sure we’re batshit crazy.

But that’s nothing new, is it?

So – I WILL be keeping this blog up and running this time, because there is going to be stuff to blog about! More, super soon!

Purrs & Hugs,

Jenn

Addendum by Mark:

The completed House in the photo is one of Zyl’s and while a cool design, is not what ours will be.  Ours is based on the Ampersand, with customization.   Our house base is the black trailer in the foreground.  (Specs are it’s 22 feet, and can have up to 12,000 pounds of load.  House is currently spec’d at 9,000 empty.)

.

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Still Alive! And Looking for Ideas!

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I am SO sorry that I started the blog with all kinds of energy and ideas and then fell off the map.  I kept waiting for life to be less crazy and I may finally have acknowledged that that is a crazy idea.  🙂

We’re still waiting for our house to sell – can’t do a whole lot until then – but one of the things I CAN do – is ask for ideas.  And addresses.  Since we’re planning on travelling for at least a year, we’d LOVE to have ideas on where to go!  Here’s your chance to tell us about your favourite:

Museums

Restaurants

Thrift Stores

Sanctuaries

Public Art

Events!

Micro-Breweries!

National Parks

Cemetaries

And anything else you think would be something Mark & I might love.  I’d also really like to get YOUR addresses to have on hand (you can privately message those to me!)  And do you have the room to have us park next to your house/in your driveway for a day or a couple?  As far as I know if we could get plugged in and a hose attached to us, we’d be pretty darned happy.  And maybe the ability to do some laundry 🙂  Please don’t presume I have your address (unless it’s Kris, I DO know yours!).

I’m sure I’ll think of some other ideas of places we’d like to see/visit – just keep in mind money WILL be an issue.  So, for example, if there’s a museum that’s totally cool but has a free day or reduced admission – let me know!

AND – keep in mind – that we’ll have an oven – so if you know we’ll be going near you at a certain time – feel free to order off my dessert menu!  I think I may be adding to that in the near future as well….

So.  I promise to get you all up to date on what has happened since I posted last, and I look forward to hearing all your suggestions on food and art and fabulous places to visit!

The photo by the way – Mark & I have a love affair with kitsch.  That was in a thrift store.  Somewhere.  Mark would know.

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2nd Day – 2nd Tiny House – Thank Heavens!

Sorry I didn’t do the Las Vegas Seminar Day Two very quickly – we’ve been helping a dear friend do sub-q fluids on 4 5-week old kittens that she’s fostering – and for some reason I really like to post my blogs around 6 in the evening, and that’s when we’re torturing the kittens.

Anyway.

So, Day One of the Tumbleweed Seminar was really good albeit overwhelming, and then kind of ended on not the greatest of notes for me – with my not liking the Tiny House at the Gold Spike Casino AT ALL.  But, I’m fairly Pollyanna-ish, and I knew we’d be seeing Guillaume & Jenna’s Tiny House the next day.  So, paws were crossed.

The photo is of their Tiny House, attached to their B.A.T. (Big Ass Truck).  From the moment I saw theirs, I was in love.  The outside is stunning – they repurposed old barn lumber for the outside of theirs – which added a fair amount of weight – but made it spectacular and unique and INVITING in appearance.

And then I went inside.

SWOON.

I’ll be showing more photos, not to worry – but it was SO welcoming, and comfortable, and felt spacious/cozy, and I could happily have kicked them out and moved in right then.  Plus, it was reassuring size-wise, because Mark could stand up UNDER the loft, with a whole INCH of spare headroom!  They had a crazy staircase made of wooden crates (added storage!), so I could go up into their loft.  Plus, they had the dormers AND a sky-light – so it felt so open and inviting and roomy!

I can’t tell you what a relief it was to have SUCH a positive response to their Tiny House – I was SO excited and happy and couldn’t wait to get started!

There were two items in their Tiny House that really helped me to make a couple of decisions as well.  One we’ll talk about in MUCH more detail – the composting toilet.

Going into the weekend seminar – I was NOT in favor.  I like going to the restroom and flushing and things just go away.  But (heehee) I have to say that the idea of an RV style toilet with a blackwater tank – and having to attach hoses and suck it out and dispose of it – THAT really horrified me.  Ella PROMISED us in the seminar that composting toilets were DELIGHTFUL and did NOT SMELL- and I can tell you – cross my heart and hope to die – that there was NO odour at all in Guillaume & Jennas Tiny House.  Plus, when I really did start thinking about the fact that we use clean, potable water to flush our waste – and knowing what a drought is hitting the West Coast, well, I was a convert by the weekend end.  We will be going into more detail on composting toilets later.  (Wheeee!)

thgj_20150308_3266_lrThe second item that Guillaume & Jenna had – oh my goodness – I can’t even begin to tell you how much I covet it – is the cutest little tiny itty bitty wood burning stove that is designed to be used on ships.  If any one who is reading this is English – this stove is TWEE!  I WANT one!  And in fact – we’re planning on having one, so Guillaume and Jenna can sleep in peace, not worrying that I’m going to break in and steal theirs.

I think the cats are going to be in heaven – stairs, TONS of windows, Mom & Dad EVERY night, AND a wood burning stove.

Life is good.

Now I’m off to torture kittens.

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Finally Getting to the Las Vegas Seminar!

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The photo is of the Elm model Tiny House by Tumbleweed.  This one is a 24′ model at the Gold Spike Casino – we got to go in at the end of the first day of the seminar – more on that in a bit.

So back up to the end of last year, beginning of this year.  Mark & I were toying with the idea of downsizing – I was interested in diving into the deep end – I was thinking Yep – Tiny House.  Mark was thinking more – smaller house.  Tumbleweed designs a lot of different types of houses – not just Tiny Houses on Trailers, and Mark was thinking more of a 700 square foot cottage.

Hm.  One person is thinking 180 square feet, one is thinking 700.  That’s a hard one to compromise on.  So when I saw the Tumbleweed Tiny Home Seminar advertised – and it was going to be in Las Vegas (FABULOUS food city!) a bit before my birthday – it seemed perfect.   Maybe with some more knowledge, we’d be able to make a future decision on something we BOTH wanted.

The seminar was FABULOUS – there were two presentors, Ella & Guillaume.  Ella (for those of you Best Frienders who know Bobbie Foster – Ella not only LOOKS like her, but they could be twins in terms of mannerisms, speech patterns, WAY of speaking, and choices of words.  Ella did NOT have Bobbie’s laugh, however :).  When Ella said at one point – ‘we’re going to be discussing composting toilets after lunch and how DELIGHTFUL they are!’  I could TOTALLY hear Bobbie saying it just that way) was a wonderful presentor – as was Guillaume.  The seminar is set up on the theory that you’re going to build your Tiny House yourself, and that you’ve pretty much never built anything before.  So, it’s from the trailer up.  Ella had gone to a Tiny House seminar with her father, and then decided to build it herself, with his help.  One of my most favorite things she had to say was – I’d never built anything before, but I’d made a dress once!

There were quite a few times during the seminar when I felt TOTALLY over my head – but I seemed to catch up or catch on after a little while – it was just A LOT of material.  (And don’t worry, we SHALL be discussing composting toilets at a later date!)

The Gold Spike Casino in Las Vegas owns the Tiny House pictured, along with a very beautiful AirStream, and it was arranged that after the conclusion of the first day, any one who wanted could meet at the Gold Spike, and take a look at the Tiny House, and ask Guillaume and Jenna (his partner) and Ella more questions.  I was pretty excited about this, as I’d never actually BEEN IN a Tiny House – so Mark got us there and even found free parking.  🙂  (Mark is not only a FABULOUS photographer, he is an amazing driver and navigator).

From the outside it’s gorgeous – I love the roofline, and the colors they chose.  So, with a lot of excitement, I went inside.

And I HATED IT!

Oh dear.

This is what I’d been putting my thoughts, my energy, our money for the seminar towards – did I really not like it?

So, I closed my eyes, took a deep breath (I knew I was tired and hungry, not a great combo for being clear headed and open minded for me) and opened my eyes and looked around and

HATED IT!

I hated EVERYTHING about it.

I hated the way it was laid out.

The ladder.

It felt claustrophobic and cramped and there was no way on the planet that I could live in one of these WITH Mark AND the four cats.

I felt like bursting into tears – I was SO disappointed.  It was almost as bad (maybe worse) than the time I finally got to try Turkish Delight and decided it was one of the most vile things I had EVER put in my mouth.  (If you aren’t a Chronicles of Narnia fan you’re not going to get that reference, sorry).

But – devastated and disappointed though I was, I didn’t say any of that out loud.  Instead I grilled poor Jenna about theirs (which we were going to be able to see the next day) and their travels, and and and (there were a LOT of questions about the toilet).

And then we left and went out to eat.  We went to Mint – which is quite possibly one of, if not THE best Indian food restaurant I’ve ever been to.  And I ate and drank and thought – tomorrow is another day.

The day ended on a very ironic note.  Mark & I do not have TV hookup because I get addicted.  (We have Roku).  Thus, when we stay in hotels, I go into a MARATHON HGTV watching frenzy (sometimes the Food Channel too).  I love all the house hunting shows, and the flipping houses shows – and that night I was watching House Hunters International.  I don’t remember what country we were in, but I do remember the couple looking for a house were from Texas.  And it was JUST the two of them.  TWO PEOPLE.  ONE COUPLE.

And the house they decided on buying was 15,000 square feet.

FIFTEEN THOUSAND SQUARE FEET.

Nearly ONE HUNDRED times the size of the house I was thinking of moving into.

Now – please don’t misunderstand me.  I don’t have an objection to any one buying a house of that size, if that is TRULY what they want and desire.  My issues stem back to – is it REALLY what you want?  Or is it what you THINK YOU SHOULD want because you CAN afford it?  I think a lot of times people just get caught up in doing what they feel they should, or what society says is the ‘norm’.  I do NOT think everyone should live in Tiny Houses – I know they’re extreme and not for all and sundry.  But I have to say I think 15,000 square feet for two people (their son might visit) is a bit excessive.

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Catch Up and Future Thoughts

(The photo was made by Mark Morgan on our trip back from Colorado – the rock formation is Shiprock, but Mark titled it Castle.  Isn’t if FABULOUS?)

We’ve had so many people asking what our plans are once we GET the Tiny House, and WHERE we’re getting it, and and and  – that this is a catch you all up post.

The thoughts for the future are – (I hesitate to say Plans, because Life likes to MOCKINGLY LAUGH at Plans in my humble opinion) so the thoughts are – once we sell our house here, we’ll move up to Portland and rent a studio or one bedroom place.  We’ll order the Tiny House (takes 12 weeks from order to delivery, roughly).  We’ll sell our Nissan and our Honda if we haven’t sold them before, and buy a B.A.T.  We’ll sell all the rest of the stuff we aren’t going to be keeping either on Craigs List or Ebay (although ideally we’ll have sold most of it before we move up there).

Now, one of the many things we don’t know yet is if we’re a) going to buy the Tiny House completely done or b) do what they call a barn-raiser – which is where a certain portion of the Tiny House is done, and you finish doing it.  It’s a lot cheaper that way, but then you’re talking labour, and a learning curve, and needing to have a place to work on it, etc.  So, we’re not sure yet.  For some of you a major thought would be – have you BUILT a house before?  And the answer is – No.  But neither have the majority of people who build their own Tiny Houses.  As Ella (spectacular co-presentor at the seminar) said – I’d never built a house before, but hey, I made a dress once!  So there we are.  🙂

Once the Tiny House is done either by Tumbleweed or by us, we will pack it, take the cats for a test spin, and then take off on a more-or-less year long road trip through the U.S.

After that, the thoughts are – land in or near Portland, on a bit of land that has a garage or a shop, where we can continue to do the Upcycling of Unwanted and Sad Furniture into fabulously New and Desirable Cat Furniture for people to line up around the block in their desire to give us lots of money to Buy.

The ULTIMATE thought, is to eventually have a place that would be part Art Gallery/part Consignment Store/part upscale Thrift Store (benefitting House of Dreams, of course!) and a cat or two up for adoption.

And yes, the thought is that we would continue to live in the Tiny House.

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And We’re Back!

I have a LOT of catching up to do with the blog!  I have photos of the seminar in Las Vegas to share, and photos of the Tiny Houses we saw at Tumbleweed in Colorado Springs, and of course, some assorted animals and quirky stuff.

We had SUCH a spectacular trip!  We were gone for 5 nights, and 4 of those we stayed with different friends and their furkids.  First night we were in Grand Junction, the next was near Denver, then Castle Rock, then Colorado Springs itself, and one night on our own, in Durango.

It was my first time in Colorado, and what a gorgeous state!  At least all the parts I saw!  And SUCH a delicious state!  Although, I have to admit, I’m BEYOND jealous at the number of micro-breweries.  They were as ubiquitous as Thai food in Portland, OR.  And I wanted to try them ALL.  Which didn’t happen, but we did try several, and they were all stellar.

The trip started out perfectly – with breakfast at a restaurant I have wanted to go to for YEARS – Hells Backbone Grill.  Located in Boulder, UT, and run by two extraordinary women – Jen & Blake (the co-owners and co-chefs).  I was lucky enough to have had their cooking several times, when they catered different events at Best Friends Animal Society, when I was working there.  And for one of our anniversaries, my husband got me their cookbook – A Measure of Grace.  I am, as most of you know, a major foodie, and I read the cookbook cover to cover.  Three times.  In all seriousness – even if you do not LIKE FOOD – get the book.  It’s as much about being happy, and LIVING life, as it is about food.  A Measure of Grace was published 11 years ago, and they were SUPPOSED to have another book out this year, but I noticed on the postcards advertising it that 2015 was changed to 2016.  Anticipation……..

So – breakfast was amazing.  I had the blue corn pancakes with cinnamon butter on the side (Mark is allergic to cinnamon – nothing epi-pen worthy – but icky results), and a side of bacon, and Mark had the JenChiladas which was one of the best dishes I have ever eaten.  Seriously. It was one of  those dishes that the flavors are so layered that each bite stuns you into blissful oblivion.  Super flavorful but not overwhelmingly spicy, with potatoes, and eggs, and cheese and HOMEMADE tortillas and I don’t even know what else except a lot of love.  Oh, and their coffee rocked too.  It was a magnificent start to a great trip.

I realize about now, that I need to clarify what this blog is going to be.  If you’re wanting to know how to build a Tiny House, and you need to know it NOW, well, there are better blogs out there.  This is about me, and Mark (and I will be doing full on intro’s of both of us, in case someone is reading this and DOESN’T know who we are!) and our cats, and food, and the odd and the quirky and the beautiful.  Things I find funny or thoughtful.  Marks photography. And of course, a LOT about Tiny Houses.  And once we HAVE the Tiny House and are living in it – it will be about our trip!  But wait, that’s coming.

And – I will try to remember to give photo credit where photo credit is due – this photo was made by my amazingly talented husband – Mark Morgan.

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