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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Wood Warms You Again and Again!

This past spring we had several oak trees cut down that were casting too much shade upon our struggling fruit trees.  In fact, one of our peaches and both apple trees didn’t even see sunshine – at all!  I always struggle with eco-friendly practices versus self-sufficiency, and this was another one of those battles.  Do I cut down some beautiful oak trees that are in the way of a few trees in my orchard, and let the fruit trees suffer for lack of sunlight?  Or do I cut down the offending oak trees so that I will someday be able to harvest my own organic apples?  Self-sufficiency won this debate.  Those oak trees had to go.

Cutting firewood

Here is Mike, the lumberjack, at least 30 (maybe 40) feet up a very tall oak tree!

We had a local tree guy, Mike, come over to fall the trees.  I was nervous because the trees were very big and tall, and were right next to our orchard, garden and beehive.  I was afraid one of the trees would fall the wrong way and destroy the very things we were trying to save!  Luckily, Mike was a very careful and experienced lumberjack and was able to place every limb and trunk exactly where it needed to be. Not one branch fell the wrong way.  Whew!

Once Mike the Lumberjack was done, Ray and I were left with a huge mess and tangle of oak limbs and huge trunks.  For the past two months we have slowly been cutting the

Firewood cutting

This is part of the mess we were left with.

wood into about 18 inch lengths – perfect for our cute little wood stove!  The wood will keep us warm this winter and will also cook a majority of our food!  After we get a large pile of wood cut, we carry it over to the splitter, since most of the logs are too big in diameter to fit into our itty bitty wood stove.  The wood splitter was made by my brother-in-law, Danny, who passed on to heaven almost three years ago (and I still miss him). He was an excellent welder and machinist, and could make just about anything.  The splitter may not be pretty, but it sure does get the job done – and fast!

Oak firewood cutting

This is the hydraulic splitter that my brother-in-law, Danny, made.

After splitting the wood into wood stove sized chunks, we stack the wood on top of a tarp.

Firewood warms you five times!

Here is the stack we had when we were a little more than half done with our wood cutting, splitting and stacking. We will need every bit of this wood to stay warm this winter.

The tarp is there so the wood doesn’t “melt” into the dirt, and to deter ants and termites.  It won’t keep the critters away completely, but the tarp will make it a bit more uncomfortable for them to inhabit our wood pile.

What we like to do is get up early in the morning when it is still cool and cut for about an hour or so, then we do some splitting and stacking, and try to quit around lunchtime.  The past week has been fairly productive because it has been cool, but next week we are supposed to be in the mid 90’s to 100’s here in Northern California, and it’s brutal working in that kind of heat!

Cutting Firewood

Here is a pile of brush and limbs from the oak trees ready to go into the chipper/shredder.

The next morning, if we are too tired and sore from cutting, splitting and stacking, we will spend time chipping instead.  We bought our chipper eight or nine years ago and it has performed well.  Rather than have large piles of brush to burn next winter, which is a fire hazard here in the middle of the forest (especially with our terrible drought here in California), we chip most of the small limbs, brush and leaves that are left over from the trees we cut.  The chipped and shredded material makes a wonderful mulch for the garden.  We are also throwing a layer over the ground in the orchard area, in preparation for planting clover to help condition the soil. Some of the mulch also goes into the compost pile.  It’s the most efficient and safe way we have found to get rid of all that brush from the trees!

Oak wood mulch in the garden

We spread about 4-5 inches of mulch in all the garden beds. It’s great because I don’t have to water as often because the mulch keeps the soil cool and moist.  Another benefit is that I have had very few weeds to contend with.

So, let’s see…  We get warm when we cut the wood, warmer still when we split it, and by the time we are stacking we are almost burned out – yes, pun intended 🙂 .  That’s warming three times.  But, then we chip.  That’s four times.  Finally, the wood will warm us is when we burn it in our woodstove!

Well, actually, I guess it warms us again when we eat the food cooked on the wood stove – delicious!  And also when we spread the mulch around in the garden beds and over the orchard area.  And then again…

well, you get the picture!

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A Wood Stove and Other Things

Organic tree fertilizerWhile we are busy trying to sell our home in the valley so we can permanently move up to our mountain property, we have been able to sneak up to the future homestead a few times these past few weeks to get a few chores done.

One important task to accomplish was feeding our fruit and nut trees.  We stopped at an organic nursery on our way up to the future homestead and found a great organic fertilizer. It has kelp and worm compost and other wonderful things in it, providing not just the NPK that you find in chemical fertilizers, but lots of micronutrients such as boron and copper that are essential for tree health!  We also raked away the last of the leaves and pine needles to prevent any pests from over-wintering in them, and widened the watering berm a bit because the drip line has expanded with the ever-growing trees.  We did a drastic pruning this year, so the trees are actually shorter, but we need to make sure that the trees have a strong scaffolding shape for the future. Unfortunately we got a borer in the largest cherry tree last year, so we cut out as much of the damaged wood as possible and are keeping our fingers crossed that the tree will survive.cap and vent for an outhouse

Another necessary chore was to put a rain cap on the outhouse vent.  When using a venting an outhousecomposting toilet (which is essentially what an outhouse is), excessive moisture is the biggest enemy!  Instead of human waste composting with minimal smell, excessively wet waste will stink to high heavens and become a putrid sludge instead of compost.

If you are eating right now, I apologize.  😉

We found several caps at our local hardware box store and decided on the one in the picture above one.  It appears that it will do a great job allowing for air flow, yet keep rain out of the vent pipe. Just what we need! Though we haven’t had much rain here in California this winter (we are in our fourth year of drought), the weather report said that quite a bit of rain was expected in the next couple of days, and they were right!  We got the vent on just in time!

february blooming almond tree

Almond tree blossoms in February

Speaking of the weather and the orchard trees:  it has been just too warm up on our future homestead!  Our almond tree is blooming and the pomegranate is starting to leaf out!  This is way too early.  We shouldn’t see this until at least the end of February and more often well into March.  Unfortunately, this probably means we won’t get any almonds this year because a freeze or very heavy downpour of rain will either kill the blossoms or knock them off of the tree entirely.  Oh well.  The tree is only starting it’s third year in our orchard, so I didn’t expect much of a harvest anyway.  Last year it had two almonds that fell off the tree mid-summer.

pomegranate tree leafing out

The pomegranate trees are already getting leaves!

Last, but by no means least, is our new wood stove!  Isn’t she cute?  It’s a little tiny thing, but just perfect for cooking on!  We decided to fire her up right away to burn off that new cooking on a small wood stovepaint smell.  Boy did it stink!  Phew!  According to the instructions that came with the wood stove, we will have to do this a few more times before the burned paint smell is gone, but that’s not a problem.  So now, when our home in the valley is sold and we move up to our mountain property and start building our new homestead, we will have a great way to cook outside without having to use up a lot of expensive propane!

While bringing some wood over to the new wood stove to burn, I found this mushroom on one of the logs!  Isn’t it beautiful?wood stove 7 This wood has been piled up for a couple of years and there were several other types of fungi growing on the wood – slowly but surely decomposing the cellulose – adding nutrients to the organic layer of duff on the forest floor.  Mother Nature at her best!

Thanks for coming over for a visit!

 

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You can find me on these blogs:  Clever Chicks Blog Hop; Mix It Up Monday;  Amaze Me MondayMotivation Monday; Inspiration Monday; Made By You MondayHomemaking Mondays; Mum-bo Monday; Show & Share Tuesday; The Scoop; Two Cup Tuesday; Tweak It Tuesday; Inspire Me Tuesdays; Tuesdays at Our Home; Lou Lou GirlsMake, Bake and CreateWildcrafting Wednesday;  Wicked Awesome Wednesday;Whatever goes Wednesday; Wined Down Wednesday; Wake Up Wednesday; Fluster’s Creative Muster; Hump Day Happenings; Homestead Blog Hop; Wow Us Wednesday; Share Your Cup Thursday; Create it Thursday; Think Tank Thursday; Homemaking Party; Treasure Hunt Thursday; All Things ThursdayInspire or be Inspired; Freedom Fridays; Friendship Friday; From The Farm Blog Hop; Eat, Create, Party;  Friday Flash Blog Party; Weekend re-Treat; Family Fun Friday; Friday FavoritesOld Fashioned Friday; Fridays Unfolded; Show Off Friday; Craft Frenzy FridayFront Porch Friday; No Rules Weekend Party; Friday Favorites; Say G’Day SaturdaySuper Saturday; Simply Natural Saturdays;  Saturday Sparks;  Show and Tell Saturday;  My Favorite Things;  Dare to Share; Scraptastic Saturday; Frugal Crafty Home; That DIY Party; Nifty Thrifty Sunday; DIY Sunday Showcase; Snickerdoodle Sunday;  Simple Life Sunday; Think Pink Sunday; Sunday Showcase

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