Our Tiny Cottage

Here is the tour of our cottage I promised a few months ago…

But first, some history.

While we are building our new home, we are living in our travel trailer.  Unfortunately, we have discovered that travel trailers were not meant to be lived in – they are basically tin cans that don’t have much insulation.  To make matters worse, cooking in the trailer only adds moisture to the air, which condenses and collects on windows and doors. Everything was damp.  Our bedding, the upholstered seats, bath towels, and our clothes.  Yuck!  We needed a warm, dry spot to sleep!

Don't Live in a travel trailer

The “NEW” tool shed.  You can see how we built it HERE

So, we built another shed (let’s see: a laundry shed, the first tool shed now turned into our tiny cottage, and the new tool shed.  That’s a lotta sheds!), moved everything from the first tool shed  to the new tool shed, and then turned our first tool shed into our new tiny cottage! We bought the kit for the new tool shed at one of those “big box stores” on sale. Despite the instruction manual being written like a Japanese cook book (thank goodness for pictures) we got it all put together in a couple of weeks, including a nice foundation.

This is the cute little wood stove wecooking on a small wood stove bought last spring as a way to cook outside during the summer.  It worked really well! Chicken and dumplings, pork roast, beef stew, navy beans and ham!  We could eat these great meals without heating up the trailer to cook our meals. The stove itself cost less than $200.

When we decided to put the little stove into the tiny cottage, we discovered that the pipes and everything that goes with it to safely vent the smoke outside cost almost twice as much as the wood stove itself!

Was it worth it?  You betcha!  That little stove really cranks out the heat.  In fact, when we were breaking in the pipes (the paint really stinks when you have your first few fires), Ray checked the temperature at the peak of the ceiling – 100 degrees!  Yup – it works well!

Building a Big Box Store Shed

Cooking on the woodstove in our new tiny cottage!

The best part?  When it’s cold and we have the wood stove fired up, I can cook on it!  Our first meal on the stove was a cozy beef stew with biscuits!  Yum!  And I can have a cup of tea almost any time I want it!  We leave the tea kettle on the stove because heating with a wood stove can make the air too dry, and the gently simmering water adds moisture to the air.  Ironic, isn’t it?  In our new tiny cottage we need to worry about having enough moisture!

Living in a tiny cottage

My new favorite place to sit with a cup of tea, a good book and a glowing fire! Cozy!

The rocking chair next to the stove came from our previous home in the valley.  It is small and doesn’t take much room, which works well in this tiny cottage, but is very comfortable. When it’s really cold and raining outside, it is just so cozy to sit in the chair with a good book and a cup of tea or coffee.  The firewood is held in a wood carrier that my husband inherited from his mother.  He remembers sitting in it when he was a little boy, pretending he was sitting in a car!

The bunk beds were built for guests that stayed the night with us, and have been in the tool shed, now tiny cottage, for a few years now.

Living in a tiny cottage

Ray sleeps on the extra long twin on the bottom (he’s 6’2″ tall) and I have a regular twin on top. Now that we have moved in, we have begun customizing our spaces and Ray has built a couple of shelves at the head of his bed, big enough for his laptop, cell phone, wallet, keys, etc..  I want a storage headboard for mine, so I can store my books, magazines, hand lotion and extra reading glasses.  My dearest mounted a “ceiling fan” that bathes me with cool air and a cute little LED reading light. I needed that fan many times this past winter and spring because sometimes that wood stove works too well!  But now that the outside temperatures are getting much warmer, my favorite quiet time is laying on my bed on a hot summer day with the fan gently blowing a cool breeze while I am reading my favorite magazine, Mother Earth News!

In the meantime, while I wait for Ray to build my storage headboard, I put everything on the loft shelf that is just above the head of my bed. Wanna hear a funny story?

Tiny Cottage One night, I heard Ray stirring as he was getting up to use the outhouse.  I figured since I was awake, I would use it also.  It was dark, very dark, but I was able to make my way down the bunk to the cottage floor, out the door where a motion detector light led my way to the outhouse.  Back in the cottage, I climbed up the bunk and lunged into bed, totally forgetting the loft shelf.  Wham!  I hit my head about one inch above my eyebrows, front and center.  I saw stars…  lots of stars!  The next morning, I told Ray what had happened, and as I brushed my rumpled hair aside, I could feel quite a lump.  Ray started laughing.  I ran to the mirror to see what appeared to be a unicorn horn trying to erupt through my forehead!

Can you see the black pipe wrap turned bumper pad that Ray put on the edge of the Loft shelf that very next day?  Yeah.  He knows me all too well.

On with the tour.

At the end of the bunk beds, Ray installed some hooks so we couldTiny cottage tour hang up our TV trays. These trays come in handy when we are eating in the cottage or using our laptops.

Behind the bed is Rays dresser and storage drawers.  It sure is nice to have dry clothes!

You can also see my magazine rack, chock full of magazines, a battery operated lamp and my CD player.  Everything is so handy, and even though the actual room is very small (10×12), we have everything in there that we need for comfortable survival!  The truth is, we are living better than probably 75% of the world in this tiny cottage.  We are warm and dry.  We have food and clean water.  We have lights, satellite TV, and refrigeration.  Plus, this is all temporary.

On the opposite side of the cottage from the bunk bed is my dresser (did I tell you how nice dry clothes are?) and the TV.  Our solar panel system supports a satellite TV receiver for two TV’s, along with the TV’s, a porch light and an interior light, my ceiling fan and LED light, and a small refrigerator/freezer.

Our flat screen TV, my dresser, a refridgerator/freezer and organized storage above. What else could we need?

Our flat screen TV, my dresser, a refrigerator/freezer and organized storage above. What else could we need? Can you see the CO2 detector in the right upper corner?  Yup, we have that and a smoke detector that you can’t see in the picture.  Safety first, you know!

Ray installed a long shelf above to store coffee, tea, mugs, paper towels, napkins, sugar, plates, etc, and I found these cute fabric storage cubes at one of the Dollar Stores so that it looks neat and organized.  One thing I have learned about tiny living is that when everything is organized and appears neat and clean (clutter is my worst enemy), I am much happier and feel a lot less stress.

Now, the only reason to go into the trailer is to shower, cook (if I’m not cooking on the wood stove or the solar oven) and retrieve food in storage!  The only thing we don’t have in the cottage is running water.  But, again, it’s only temporary!  Besides, there’s always the outhouse 🙂


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Our Gravity Flow Water System – Part 1

Now that we had an orchard we had to figure out a way to water the trees.  Since we are striving to be as sustainable as possible, we decided to collect rainwater during the fall and winter and store it in large water storage tanks for spring and summer irrigation.  The metal roof of the tool shed was an ideal rainwater collector, all we needed to install were the rain gutters and a large storage tank.  The gutters were the easy part.  We bought everything at our local box store and installed them, including the leaf guards, in one weekend.

This is the tool shed before we set it up to collect rainwater.

This is the tool shed before we set it up to collect rainwater.

The hard part was constructing a pad for the water storage tank.  We knew we wanted to put it behind the tool shed, which meant digging a level area large enough and deep enough for the tank to sit below the level of the gutters.  This was necessary to ensure gravity flow of the rainwater from the metal roof top, into the gutters, then the down-spouts and into the top of the water storage tank.Once we had the area dug to our satisfaction (and to the specifications of width and height listed for the tank we wanted to buy), we framed up an area large enough to hold the tank, along with three sides to hold the dirt away from the tank, and poured concrete in three separate pours.  After the concrete was poured Ray installed landscaping timbers as retaining walls on the two sides exactly the same way he did when we built the spot for the trailer (see here).  We used concrete blocks for the back wall simply because this was the wall that would have to hold back most of the dirt.

This was the tool shed after the gutters were installed.  We also installed leafguards on the gutter to filter out the leaves and pine needles.

This was the tool shed after the gutters were installed. We also installed leafguards on the gutter to filter out the leaves and pine needles.

Once the pad was completed we bought an 1,100 gallon water storage tank at an irrigation supply store.  Thank goodness this tank size fit exactly into the back of our F-150 pick-up truck, so we were able to haul it up to the property without much trouble and without having to pay a delivery fee.  We had tied the whole thing down pretty securely in the back of the truck and while we were driving down the highway those ropes and tie-downs were singing to us in the wind!  It was a happy song as they resonated, thrunged and whistled all the way up to our future homestead, and Ray and I laughed almost the whole way.

  • Pouring a Concrete Pad Pouring a Concrete Pad After we dug away what seemed like a mountainside (just kidding) we framed out an area just a little larger than the tank (we checked the specs first!) and began to pour a concrete pad upon which the tank would sit.
  • Retaining Wall Retaining Wall We had to start building the retaining wall on this side ASAP because a rainstorm made the hillside a bit unstable and we were getting a lot of mud on the concrete. Ray built this retaining wall the same way he build the retaining wall for the trailer site.
  • Concrete Blocks Concrete Blocks We decided to place concrete blocks along the back side of the wall because this wall would have to bear the weight of snow and mud, keeping it away from the tank area. We placed rebar in the concrete pad which extended up both courses of concrete blocks, just to ensure those blocks don't break free or slide. Once the blocks were set we filled them with concrete.
  • The Second Retaining Wall The Second Retaining Wall Getting ready to install the second retaining wall.
  • Done Done All done and ready for the water storage tank!
  • Bringing in the Tank Bringing in the Tank Luckily, this 1,100 gallon water storage tank fit almost exactly into the back of our F150 pick-up! With numerous tie-downs, lots of rope and some come-alongs, we were able to haul it up ourselves and avoided the delivery fee.
  • Ready for Rain Ready for Rain The tank fit perfectly! Now all we needed was some rain!

Once the tank was placed in it’s new home and everything was set up, it only took a few rainstorms to fill up the entire tank!  In fact, after a month we had to remove the down-spouts and put the lid on the tank as it was completely full and gushing over!  It was very obvious that after this tank was full, we needed another tank!

Here is our system all ready to go.  The rain slides down the metal roof, into the gutters, down the down-spouts and into the water storage tank!  It only took a few rainstorms to fill up this 1,100 gallon tank!

Here is our system all ready to go. The rain slides down the metal roof, into the gutters, down the down-spouts and into the water storage tank! It only took a few rainstorms to fill up this 1,100 gallon tank!

But Wait, There’s More! So stay tuned but sit tight!  That story is coming up in my next post!


UPDATE:   For Gravity Flow Water System Part 2, Click HERE






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Gravity Flow Irrigation

This is a bigger picture of the “workings” of our water collection system.





Farm Girl Friday Blog Fest


Tooling Around I

Now that we were weekend warriors and were able to bring up our trailer, we were much more comfortable AND productive.  It’s amazing what a good night’s sleep will do for your body!  So, with our bodies and minds in a good place our thoughts wandered over to the need for a tool shed.  You see, every time we came up to work on the property we had to bring up our tools, every ……….. last ………… one …………. of …………….. them.  😉  Seriously, it would take us quite a while to put in the chainsaw, gas cans, shovels, rakes, kitchen sink, etc., and then when we got home we had to unload everything again.  UGH!  While the trailer was a great place for our bodies – not so much for our tools.  We needed a tool shed.

We checked on our county’s website about permits for a tool shed and found that as long as the building was 10 x 12 or smaller, a permit wasn’t necessary.  Perfect.  We would build a 10 x 12 shed. The next decision was where to put it.  That was a no-brainer.  The area where the trailer was parked would eventually become our orchard, and since we would need a tool shed near the orchard, all we needed was to find an area big enough where we wouldn’t have to cut down any trees, facing the orchard, and on relatively level ground.  Found it.

Since Ray was lucky enough to have had a step-dad who was a Mason, he knows the basics about concrete foundations, laying brick and stuff like that.  And, keeping in mind that the shed was to be basically in the middle of a forest, he decided we would use noncombustible materials to completely encase the outside of the shed.  This sounded great to me, so we decided to pour a concrete foundation, begin the wall with two courses of concrete blocks, clad the outside of the wall with James Hardie concrete lap siding, then use a metal roof.

With the planning all done, the real work began as we dug out the previously untouched soil for the concrete foundation.  During the week, when we were at our valley home, a great windstorm ripped through our mountain property and a huge ponderosa pine which was within just feet of our soon to be shed foundation broke at about 25 feet above ground.  It took out a couple of huge oak trees and we were not too happy with mother nature at the time.  But once the mess was cleaned up, we realized the tree trunk that was left over would be a perfect “tower” to place a solar panel upon!

The concrete foundation and concrete block wall base went well.  Next, we framed the walls, secured the metal roof, then screwed on the siding.  With a lot of help from both our son Stephen and our brother-in-law Danny, this pretty much completed the outside shell of the shed.

  • A Tree Falls A Tree Falls Just as we had selected the site for our Tool Shed, a mighty wind broke a Ponderosa Pine about 20 feet up, taking a couple of oaks along with it!
  • Danny Danny My brother-in-law, Danny, was a tremendous help. He helped us clear the mess from the broken trees.
  • The Foundation The Foundation Since we were pouring the concrete foundation ourselves, we had to size the pour to the amount of concrete that could be handled by one of those "u-haul-it" cement mixers. We figured it would take about 2 full carts to fill the foundation, so we decided to do it in two separate pours.
  • The Concrete Walls The Concrete Walls The bottom part of the wall was constructed of concrete blocks, with bolts imbedded in the concrete that filled the holes, which would eventually marry the sill plate of the wood framing to the concrete wall. That's Moose, our neighbor's dog, guarding our fledgling tool shed.
  • The Frame-up The Frame-up We framed the tool shed with common lumber, knowing that it would be clad on the outside with fire-resistant materials. We decided to put a vent at the peak of the roof in both the front and back, and a small window (hopefully small enough that no one can crawl through) on the west side.
  • The Wrap The Wrap We wrapped the whole thing with Tyvek before we put the siding on to help eliminate drafts, which would better control any temperature swings inside.
  • Puttin On The Roof Puttin On The Roof Ray was able to install the roof without any real problems, aside from his dire fear of heights!
  • Slip Siding Away.... Slip Siding Away.... We installed the James Hardie siding, which is a cementitious product, lapping one over the other from the bottom up. We also put this under the eaves to make them more fire safe. Ray built the door at our valley home and it fit perfectly! It's about 3 inches thick, very heavy and completely insulated. You would think it belongs on a refrigerator!
  • Front Porch Front Porch We decided to add a front porch one day when a driving rain from the south came half-way into the shed when we opened the door. It wasn't too hard to add this on and it made all the difference we needed. It would also make a great place for a wind chime, don't you think?
  • Finishing Touches Finishing Touches Under the front porch overhang, we added a concrete pad and then a six foot ramp. We mixed this cement by hand in our trusty old wheelbarrow. Whew - what a job!
  • Finished! Finished! The final product. A 10 x 12 waterproof, fire-resistant tool shed! Now to work on the inside!

In the next post I will show how we finished the inside of the shed – or should I say guest room!

Shared on:  Simple Living Wednesday, Wildcrafting Wednesday, Down Home Blog Hop #35

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