Saturday, November 30, 2013

Use a Utility Sink for a Bathroom Sink - Brilliant Hack

Zenith Wash Tub

I have been drawing out scale the plans for my shouse. I have been pleased over-all with the layout and space, but the bathroom sink has thrown me for a loop. The dimensions of the bathroom will be approximately 9' x 8' and will include a 3' diameter stock tank tub (more on that in future posts), a composting toilet, and the stacking washer and dryer. In the original tiny house I would not have had a separate sink, which is why I went with the clawfoot tub faucet/shower combo (go here to see that). However, I now that I have room for a sink, the choices are overwhelming.

American Standard Faucet
Mapping out the layout of the bathroom and I what I have to fit in that space, I was considering building a custom cabinet and dropping in the common oval lavatory sink found in the local big box stores or at a second-hand builder supply, but I just wasn't satisfied with what I found. Then I had a great idea. Why not install a utility sink (aka laundry sink)? I know, save your groans and laughter. Let's just do a little pro and con list to help us make our decision:


  • Free-standing: Just put on a skirt and conceal stuff underneath.
  • Deep: Holds lots of water and can fit bulkier items than in the kitchen sink.
  • Durable: Plastic construction is chip-proof and doesn't rust or mildew.
  • Utilitarian: I can drain the washer into it instead of having to put in another drain (which critters could possibly enter the shouse through). Helps simplify my plumbing. 
  • Roomy: I could wash a dog or a child in it along with paint brushes and other "too messy for the kitchen sink" tasks. 
  • Cost Effective: A durable sink starts at just $40 delivered on Amazon. The faucet is another $40. Not bad!


  • Attractiveness: It is a utility sink. Many do not like the shape, size, or plastic look. There are ones in cabinets, but with my budget I won't spend the money for one. I will simply add a skirt that coordinates with my shower curtain (I will post a DIY when I get that done). 
  • Stability: Many reviews complain the sinks don't feel stable. They may require additional bolting or securing. I plan to secure mine to the wall at the least.
  • Depth: These sinks are very deep, if you are used to filling up your sink just to wash your face you will probably have issues.

The model I chose, shown at the top of this post, also has a convenient shelf underneath where I can store extra supplies in addition to a built in wash board, a place to put the drain hose from the washing machine, and a soap dish that can be moved to either side of the sink. It comes with a plug, but I will be adding a plug on a chain (just like grandma had) and a basket/screen (again, like grandma had. Damn that woman was wise.) to prevent anything I drop, such as jewelry or toothpaste caps, from heading on out to the garden in the gray water. I am not impressed by the "built in utility hooks" as they are just a few inches up the legs (what the heck would I hang there?) or the towel bar. I am guessing the towel bar helps add stability to the unit as would the shelf. The thing I like best about this particular model, and one of the deciding factors, is that it sits 4" higher than most other models. That is a much more convenient height for me. Poking around on Pinterest and on Google images, I have found lots of pictures of skirts to cover the sides and modifications like shelves and lids that fit across the top, both of which make these a little less stark and add some flat surface for other tasks. My boyfriend suggested finding a cutting board to fit on the top. A little country flair from some natural wood. He is a smart man too. I can add two handles (drawer pulls?) and lift the lid up like a serving tray.

The sink I have chosen is shown here in the big box store video. I will buy mine on Amazon (cause I am cheap and that is where I can get the best deal), but this video describes the sinks and options pretty well (try to ignore how this is a campaign to bag on and discredit the other big box home improvement store):

What do you think? Is this something you would consider? 

Friday, November 29, 2013

Easy Gift Idea for Men This Holiday Season - MicroTouch Switchblade™ - Manscaper's Dream!

This year I think I found a perfect gift for both my son and my boyfriend! Remember when I reviewed the MicroTouch One™ (if not, go check it out since it is awesome!)? Well, here is another great item to go along with that.  It is the MicroTouch Switchblade™. I received one in advance to give it a review to see if I like it before I ordered the rest. I, after all, don't want to give a gift that I am unsure of. I am definitely not disappointed.

First off, let me just tell you that this thing is versatile! It has a micro end for grooming tight areas such as noses and ears, then it has a larger trimmer on the other side for bigger areas. Whichever side is not in use is stored behind a protective piece that slides back and forth. MicroTouch Switchblade™ is comfortable in the hand and not too heavy. The precision trimmer (the smaller end) easily trims the nose, ears, eyebrows, neckline, and sideburns. The full size groomer tackles chest, back, arms, legs, and those "other" parts we like to groom.

It comes as a set that has four guards to use to adjust the amount of hair you remove. For example you can choose the best length for your sideburns versus the best length for the hair in your eyebrows, and completely remove hair on your ears. MicroTouch Switchblade™ is brilliant!

The blades are stainless steel and made in Germany, which makes me think they will last a long, long time. The blades trimmed without issue, like a knife through hot butter, the blades eradicated hair with ease. Did I mention the LED light? Yes, that's right, a little light helps in those dark crevices and areas where shadows cause missed hairs. Another great thing I noticed is that unlike traditional clippers, you don't have to take this one apart and oil its parts. It requires no fancy maintenance. The unit runs on 2 AAA size batteries. I have used it for over 2 weeks now without any reduction in power.

Let me recap what I liked about the MicroTouch Switchblade™ :

  • Stainless Steel German engineered blades
  • Four sizes of guards to help with consistent hair length 
  • Micro precision end and a full size grooming end help you manscape from head to toe
  • Built in light
  • Gentle and easy to use. Lightweight too!
  • Convenient size with built in slider to protect blades.
  • 2 AAA batteries power the unit

This is one of the best Christmas, Yule, Hanukkah, or birthday gifts for a guy I have come across in a long time. Right now I see they are offering a special deal at the website,  which includes a grooming kit. At just $19.99 for this all-in-one head to toe groomer, this is a very economical and thoughtful gift for all the men on your shopping list. Save yourself the frustration of fighting others on Black Friday and order one online or, if you live for the challenge of shopping during the season or don't want to pay shipping, you can find the MicroTouch Switchblade™ at CVS, Walgreens, Bed, Bath & Beyond, and/or Walgreens.

Happy Holiday Shopping Season!

Karin Copperwood and Rancho No Dinero received one or more the products mentions above for fee for evaluation purposes, received compensation to write this post, and/or is an affiliate of one or more of the products reviewed on this site. Regardless, all opinions expressed are still 100% my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

A Guide to Options When Ordering Your Custom Shouse

Now that I have officially settle on a Shouse, I have begun research on the Shouse of my dreams. I really did not know there were so many options when it came to having a custom shed built, but I think I now have a good grasp on what will be needed to build a structure that will serve as a house for many years to come. Here are things I took into consideration:
  • Construction: Many sheds are built using cheaper materials. Since sheds don't have to meet code requirements in most cities if they are under 200 sq. ft., builders can get away with this. Let's face it, most folks don't look at a shed and think, "Wow, that would make a great house!" So I set about looking and comparing construction techniques to try to find a shed builder that would build one as close to normal framing for a house since I know that will stand for many, many years. I found that 2 x 4 construction with 16" on center studs in the floor and 24" in the walls were the way to go. This allows for insulation, just as in normal house construction. Plus it allows for easy drywall, paneling, or wall board installation.
  • Roofing Material: I have decided to go with a shingle roof. Where I will be living has the potential for hale storms. I think that asphalt shingles absorb the impact a little better. Plus, roofing material comes in a variety of colors as well. I am going with red. Combined with the stained building it will look great and keep out the rain for many, many years.
  • Interior Options:  I opted to increase one of the lofts from 4' to 10'. This allows a ton of room for a bed and storage. The shed I am going with has quite a bit of space in the loft, so it is actually usable. Use caution if you decide to go this route as not all buildings are created equal. Be sure the loft space is actually functional if you plan to use it. In  my Shouse, one loft will be a bedroom and the other loft will be storage. 
  • Door: I chose to get a quote for what is known as a "Tall Barn" shed. This means the walls are 7' tall and I can install a standard size front door. The buildings often come standard with 6' double-doors that open to allow for riding lawn mowers and other suck larger items to easily enter and exit, but I definitely don't want them. I will consider adding a sliding door in the future when I get around to building the back deck, but for now the standard front door is all I need. 
  • Size: I was pleasantly surprised to find that you can order some quite large prefab shed buildings. I have decided that I will go with the largest I can get in the area I am looking at because I am not interested in having to up-size later. I have chosen the 12' x 36' size. That is 432 sq. ft. of very livable Shouse plus the 120 sq. ft. in the loft and another 48 sq. ft in the storage loft. This allows me to have a large pantry/office area, in addition to room for the washer and dryer, all under the loft, with the rest being open to the high ceiling. This will help create the illusion of space. I will eventually add a staircase to the lofts, but for now will use a ladder that can be moved. I will be posting the floor plan I have designed in the future, so, if you are curious, stay tuned.
  • Windows: The company I am looking to order my Shouse from will install windows at my request, They have several sizes available and each window opens and closes along with having screen to keep flying insects out. I toyed with buying and installing my own, but in the long run this seems to be the best option since they will guarantee installation, install matching trim, and paint the trim to match. I will give the builder placement information once I confirm the layout I am going with. 
  • Finishing: You can choose three options with regards to finishing your Shouse externally: Paint, stain, or unpainted. I am going with staining. If you enjoy painting and have access to the painting supplies, you may wish to just order it unpainted and finish out the outside however your wish. I am ordering my building stained because I like the cabin-like appearance of the building. I don't want to mess with having to finish the exterior so I find the extra $300 or so dollars it cost to order it stained a worthwhile investment.
  • Other Options: Many shed companies offer insulation, electrical, and limited plumbing. If you have the budget, they can do the work. I don't know what that runs since I will be doing all my own electrical and plumbing, but you can bet it isn't cheap. 

Ok, so dear reader, wondering what this beauty is gonna cost me?  $7,485 for the prefab 12 x 36' Building,  9 Lite Steel Door: $275,  Windows (5 @$65 each and 4@$75 each) $625, plus the cost to increase the lofts of $375. Estimated total:  $8760 plus tax. Insulation, wall board, electric, and plumbing will be an additional cost. Even so, tell me where I can buld a house for under $14,000? A sweet deal if you ask me.

So now that you know a little more about the construction of one of these sheds, do you think a Shouse is a good idea or bad?

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Mason Jar Monday - Mason Jar Safe - Protect Your Valuables

No one likes to come home to find their house has been robbed. No one. Recently a good friend had hour house robbed three times in a two month period. Yes, she needs to move. However, the police are fairly certain it is the same robber(s) and, with any luck, they will be arrested. This has gotten  me thinking about just how I can protect the things that insurance just cannot replace. Small valuables and heirlooms that, if stolen, would break my heart. TV's and such can be replaced, but my Mother's Ring and my pearls are precious to me. Short of wearing them all the time or carrying them with me, there will always be the risk that some nefarious intruder will help him/herself to them while I am away. This got me thinking about security of a rural property and just how to prevent my most precious of things from being taken even if my TV and such are.

Frequently in catalogs and online stores you will find everyday product packaging converted into small safes. These are known as diversion safes. The idea is that you hide small valuables inside the replicas of everyday household objects and then place the can in among other every-day items. Thieves typically don't like to spend more then 5 - 10 minutes in a place and, hopefully, will skim by your valuables without even noticing them. The cans and containers are weighted so if you pick them up they feel like the real product. I found shaving cream cans, cleaning product cans, fruits and vegetable cans, a hairspray can, and even a hairbrush that opens up to reveal a hollow hidy-hole. All of those are great, but here is one that really caught my eye!

Yes! That is a canning jar safe! It is described as looking like preserves. You unscrew the lid to find a cavity inside where you can hide small valuables. If you are like me, you have a large pantry for "putting by" and this would blend right in. This is just $14.95 on Amazon (click here if you would like to buy one. Yes, this is a shameless plug for my Amazon store so I can make a few pennies for the holidays). 

So what would you put in such a limited space? Well, I keep copies of important documents scanned and saved in digital form on a flash drive. I would drop a few flash drives that hold important files in there as a backup plan. I would keep jewelry that I don't wear normally such as grandma's wedding ring and my good pearls. You get the picture. With the amount of "puttin' by" I do, I know this jar would disappear into the crowd. I challenge a thief to go through all my canned goods on the hopes of finding a secret stash. 

What do you think? Do you think these diversion safes work or are they just a waste of money? 

I am Building A Shouse

Rancho No Dinero is evolving. Come discover what a Shouse is and where my new piece of land is located. Welcome to the new and improved Rancho No Dinero!

Check out this episode!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

It Is Official - I Am Going With The Shouse

You may recall my post on November 14th about converting a prefab shed into a house. If not, you can read it here. Go, I will wait. Ok, you get the gist of it, right? I did not post yesterday as I was deep in thought about the building of the Tiny House. The piece of land I am looking at had a mobile home on it at one time, so I am happy to report it already has septic, a well, and electric going to it. That is HUGE in the world of land improvements. While I still plan to ultimately be off the grid, those improvements mean I can do more down the line if I choose to. The beauty of where this land is located is that code is not an issue. That means that building a tiny house on wheels may no longer be the best option for me. Let me explain why I am thinking a Shouse would be a better option.

First off, let me explain that a shouse is a shed or outbuilding that has been converted into a house or living space. From here on out I shall distinguish between a tiny house as a house on wheels and a shouse as a shed converted into a house. Here is why I think in my homesteading situation a shouse would be a wiser choice. Let us compare the two:

  • My shouse will be 12' x 30' or 360 sq. ft 12' x 36' or 432 sq. ft. plus the loft space of 120 sq. ft. A tiny house is 130 to 204 sq. ft.
  • A shouse allows for a full size bathroom and a washer/dryer. A tiny house does not.
  • A shouse will allow me to can (preserve food) and put by. A tiny house has more limitation with regards to stocking up and cooking.
  • A shouse will allow me to keep my freezer. I could not fit a freezer in my tiny house. 
  • The shouse will have a loft that is 12' x 10' with enough headroom to put a long dresser on one side. A tiny house loft has only enough space for the mattress.
  • The shouse can have a small staircase. The tiny house has a ladder or a staircase, but the staircase takes up valuable space. 
  • I can install a more user-friendly closet in the shouse.
  • I can use regular, full-size furniture in the shouse. 
  • I can continue to sew using both my machines at the same time in a shouse. There is not enough room for my sewing machines in the tiny house. 
  • The dog and cat will have more space in the shouse than in the tiny house. I can install a doggy door as well.
  • The cost for the shell of the shouse (not including electric wiring, plumbing, insulation, and wall board) is the cost of just the trailer for the tiny house. 
  • Windows can be installed where ever I want them in the shouse.'
  • I can insulate the shouse just as effectively as the tiny house and still use my electric fireplace to heat the place.
  • I can install an a/c unit in the shouse. 
  • Like the tiny house, I can build the shouse on skids so that the building can be moved later if I so desire. If I don't like where I set it up at first, I will just have it moved to where I desire it.

So, I do believe that I have made a decision to go with the shouse. You will see that the information I provide in this blog is still related to tiny house living, as a shouse is not a mansion and the two are not mutually exclusive, but you will also note that this blog is really focused not only on living in a small footprint, but about living a more sustainable life.

What do you think of 360 square feet? Does this seem too small still or is this more reasonable in size for you?

Thursday, November 21, 2013

It's Raining, It's Pouring - Finally Rain In The Desert

It's raining, it's pouring, this old lady is...


This weekend it is supposed to rain consistently. I know, I know, you live where it rains and you would just love the sunshine of Arizona. Well, after 31 years in Arizona (minus a couple here and there), I am ready for weather. I want rain. I want snow. I want cloudy days.

In order to grow things we must have rain. We must have rain and snow melt in order to keep our wells full, rivers running, crops watered. Our gardens cannot grow and our animals will not survive if we do not have rain. This has me thinking about Oklahoma. I wonder how much rain and snow they get as compared to Arizona. So I decided to do some research this evening and compare them. Here is what I learned:

Annual Rainfall:
Arizona: 8.3 inches
Oklahoma: 40.81 inches

Average Snowfall:
Northern Arizona: 24.6
Oklahoma: 7.8 inches

Average Number of Days with Temp Over 100:
Arizona:  92
Oklahoma: 15

So, what does this data tell me? It tells me I won't have to worry about being snowed in very often AND I may still need an air conditioning unit for a few days a month. It also tells me that I will enjoy rain more frequently!

Do you enjoy the rain? How much rain do you get where you live vs Arizona? Comment below so we can learn about the climate where you live.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Oklahoma and Tornadoes - Homestead Land in Tornado Alley

For the longest time I planned on building my sustainable homestead in Oregon. The land I planned on being in the south-central area of Oregon not far outside Klamath Falls. However, upon closer inspection of building codes and some water rights issues, I have reconsidered and that had me looking for land in places I had never considered.

I follow several podcasts and blogs about both homesteading and tiny houses, and this has connected me with some great new folks who have offered up some suggestions for where to look for land. One has suggested her state, Oklahoma. So, yesterday I began doing some exploring of options in Oklahoma, a state I have driven through several times, but never considered as a place to call home. All I knew of Oklahoma was Indian Reservations and tornadoes.

I was right about Indian Reservations as there were many Native tribes both naturally from the area and forced by our government's misguided attempts at relocation of tribes and peoples back in the dark decision making period of our early history. Oklahoma had land rushes as well, so homesteading in Oklahoma is nothing new, not by far. The dust bowl was a hard lesson we also learned in Oklahoma. 1930's taught us important environmental lessons and resulted in some strategic changes in farming practices.

Oklahoma has much to offer the modern homesteader. Land is reasonably priced, it is not too densely populated, water can be found easily when drilling, there are plenty of natural resources, and for the most part, the land is flat in the west and gently rolling hills in the east. However, there is still the little issue of tornadoes.

Did you know that tornadoes are not unique to America? I was taught in school that they are an American phenomena due to our unique terrain and the size of our nation. Canada, the UK, and the Netherlands all get struck by Tornadoes as well. While they are not as common in other places around the world, our geography makes tornadoes possible with more frequency. Weather moves in from the west, drops down from the rocky mountains dry, gathers strength and moisture from the south and cold air from the north as it rolls across the flat midsection we Americans have affectionately labeled "Tornado Alley." Solar heating the storms causes the right combination of energy and, boom, a tornado forms.

I have never seen or experienced a Tornado, so I asked a ton of questions about them. I poked around on the internet and here is some of what I learned about Tornadoes and living in OK:

  • Oklahoma is fourth in line for most frequent Tornadoes. It is behind Texas, Kansas, and Florida.
  • Western OK is more likely to get hit by Tornadoes because of it's flatter lands. Tornadoes love flat land and follow the path of least resistance. Tornadoes like to follow Interstate areas since most interstate highways follow the path of least resistance.
  • Lincoln Country (where I am looking at land) has only been hit by three F4 or F5 Tornadoes since the 1950's. It is very infrequent and none of the events could be compared to the massive Tornado that hit Moore, OK in May 2013.
  • Pay attention to the weather forecasters - OK has some of the best. Take the advice of the weather forecasters - When they say go to a shelter, go. When they say get out of the way of the storm, get out of the way.
  • The odds of having your home destroyed by a Tornado are pretty small. There is a lot of land out there. 

What does this mean for me? Well, it means that I am not sacrificing my dreams of a homestead simply because there is the potential for a bad storm. Storms mean rain. Rain means water. Water is life. I have found a new piece of land, one that even has a pond on it, and I think it is a go. My sense of determination and purpose is stronger than an F5 Tornado. Besides, at least with a Tiny House,  I can hook it up to the back of my truck and drive it to a safe area. I can wait out the storm in the living room of my tiny house, chilling in a Walmart parking lot. I am sure there are many who wish they could do the same.

Check out this amazing footage of the Moore, OK Tornado from May of 2013:

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Mason Jar Monday - Salt, Pepper, and Toothpicks Oh My

Fluer de Lis Set/Holder
I have been looking over my household inventory to decide how to best start paring down all this detritus and carve out what I want to keep for my Tiny House. I plan to sell off things I don't need (nick-knacks, extra household goods, etc.) to acquire things I do (building supplies, smaller versions of things I parted with, etc.). I have decided to stick with Mason Jars as a theme in the kitchen because they are so versatile. Mason jars work for storage, are inexpensive, recyclable, reusable, and look great. On Amazon this morning I found both a toothpick holder and salt and pepper shakers that look like mini Mason jars. Why, you may ask, is this worthy of a Mason Jar Monday blog post? There are several reasons:

Perfect Size: Both the salt and pepper and the toothpick jar are 3 3/4" tall x 1 1/2" in diameter. Not too big, but not too small. This means they have a small footprint, they easily fit on a window sill or small shelf, and/or don't take up much space in even the smallest of cabinets.

 Mason Salt and Pepper Shakers
Mason Salt and Pepper Shakers
Aesthetic: Fitting with the "homey" theme of my tiny house, the jars are new but made of recycled green glass, complete with bubbles and waves just like the old school jars, and include an attractive tin-look screw on lid with appropriate size holes for dispensing what they store.

Mason Toothpick Holder
Easy to Wash: Soap and water or dishwasher, both can be used. The salt and pepper shakers hold enough product to be useful, but not so much that having to empty or refill them is an issue. The amount of salt and pepper each holds will be consumed in a reasonable amount of time, so the pepper won't lose its "pep."

The price is ok, not great, but ok. I found a deal on Amazon for the salt and pepper set in a little caddy for $6.80 with Prime shipping, so I suggest you hunt around for the best price. The toothpick holder was $7.49 with Prime. I have never purchased a toothpick holder before, but I don't like having a box of toothpicks in my pantry because I always end up spilling them. Doing that last night inspired me to go searching for a toothpick holder and that is how I stumbled across the Mason jar style one. I figure this is a nice way to corral them and it is attractive at the same time. If you like them too and would like to purchase a set for yourself, you can click on the pictures for a link to my Amazon store. I think they would make a lovely housewarming gift or holiday present. Think pairing them up with a cookbook, some wooden spoons, and some napkins in a gift basket.

What do you think? Do you like the look of these? Do you think they are too small or just right? Do you have any clever uses for Mason jars? Share with us!

Bubble Wrap as Window Insulation - Who Knew?

Surfing the Web and Facebook gives me so many great ideas I want to try! While wasting spending quality time on Facebook this morning, I came across a post about using Bubble Wrap as window insulation. Yes, Bubble Wrap like you wrap the stuff you ship in. I was instantly intrigued. I let my fingers do the Googling and I found the original blog post (from 2007) about this technique that the person on Facebook failed to give credit to (yes, that is a pet peeve of mine. Don't take other folks work and say it is yours. Shame, shame). Here is the original post:

The original author has taken the time to update and modify his post over the years, showing the benefits and potential problems. I suggest you go read it and all the feedback/questions he has gotten for implementing this cost saving and most brilliant idea. When I lived in a basement apartment with old, leaky windows, I would staple thick vinyl I purchased at Sprawlmart over the outside of the windows to form what was essentially a storm window. It really kept the drafts out by preventing the wind from passing into the structure before I tried to block it. So that got me to thinking about combining the two. Could you combine the Bubble Wrap inside with the thick vinyl on the outside to create a better insulated window when the weather turns really cold?

In my minds eye I began to picture what that just might look like. For the vinyl storm windows I can make a wooden frame that I staple or nail the vinyl to. Then I can secure the frame over the windows on the outside of my tiny house. That will add a layer of dead air space an inch or two deep. Adding some foam gasket around the frame will help seal it off even better. Painting the frames to match my windows and attaching hardware to make them easy to take on and off will complete them.

Next I can add the Bubble Wrap to the inside of the window. This is where today's post comes in handy. According to the original author all you have to do is cut the Bubble Wrap to the size of the glass, spray the glass with water, and stick the wrap on bubble-side down. Please go to the post to get a better idea of how to pull this off and how to address potential problems. This roughly doubles the insulating properties of the glass (which by the way is next to zero) from an R1 to R2. However, combined with the vinyl on the outside of the windows, I think it will increase quite significantly. Considering I will be installing new double-pane glass with argon gas, I think I will keep warmer than in that old apartment, but windows still are a weak point in the insulation of a home, so it can't hurt to plan for those really cold periods.

The positive part of this idea is that light will still filter in and the Bubble Wrap will provide a modicum of privacy from the outside world via distortion. This means I don't have to have heavy drapes or thick shades to keep warm, but a light filtering, inexpensive, and reusable form of insulation. If I label the wrap and storm windows before storing, I will know which windows the they go on for the next year. I can roll the wrap up and or store it flat, or I can use it for packaging material and recycle new Bubble Wrap the next year.

I should point out that I don't plan to cover every window this way. I will just cover ones that tend to get buffeted by the wind, seem exceptionally leaky, are fixed windows (don't open) or don't get any sunlight. I still want to be able to open certain windows, like ones in my kitchen (in case of burning something) and in the bath (to vent steam). Also, for personal safety, I will not cover a window that prevents me from seeing who is on my front porch. I think I will cover my skylight as well.

Planning for a cold winter this year might be a good idea for you, dear reader. I hear the Farmer's Almanac predicts a bitter and long winter for a good part of the northern hemisphere.

Remember: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. -- Benjamin Franklin

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Tiny Little Libraries Popping Up Everywhere

Alexander Brotherton. Greenville, SC. 
Aren't they adorable? These Little Free Libraries™ are popping up all over the world. Cities, suburbia, and rural communities are all embracing the pay it forward idea of "Take a Book, Leave a Book." Such brilliance seems so logical, but why has it taken so long for someone (obviously more clever than me) to come up with this? Todd Bol, of Hudson, Wisconsin started the trend as a tribute to his mother, a former teacher, who passed away. He built a tiny school house, filled it with books, and set it out front of his house. The idea was an instant hit. Eventually he met Rick Brooks and the two of them set their sights on a bigger idea: Make a true movement of Little Free Libraries™ as an altruistic endeavor. Here is what they decided:

  • Our Mission: To promote literacy and the love of reading by building free book exchanges worldwide. To build a sense of community as we share skills, creativity and wisdom across generations.
  • Our Goal: To build 2,510 Little Free Libraries™—as many as Andrew Carnegie—and keep going.
  • Key Strategies: Promote reading for children, literacy for adults and libraries around the world.

Today there are thousands of these little buildings spread out around our big, blue marble. You should go check out the gallery of little libraries folks have built. They really are as diverse as the people themselves.

You can find a Little Free Library™ by looking on their Little Free Library MAP. If you choose to build one, you can then register it on their site and you will be added to their map as well!

Ok, so you can't afford to buy one, but you would like to build one? Check out this video:

You can also get free plans for each of these styles by clicking the links:

Kalamazoo Little Free Library Plans
Johnson Creek Little Free Library Plans
Dale Melenberg's Little Free Library Plans

Don't forget, you can get some inspiration from the gallery on Flickr as well as on Pinterest, just be sure to register your house as the name "Little Free Library" trademarked. The fee is just $35 and they send you a sign to put on your library as well as add you to their map. Win win for all!

Have your seen or used a Little Free Library™ in your area?

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Converting a Shed into A Tiny House

Now why didn't I think of that? Well, until now that is. Last night around 2 am I had an epiphany: Utilizing a prefab building for a tiny home instead of building on a trailer. I have known for some time that folks are using them, and until this time, dismissed it because I liked the idea of a house being portable, however there is some merit to using these. The primary reason that one of these buildings would be easiest to use is that in most rural municipalities, building a storage building doesn't require a permit. However in some places only a permit and check of the structure is required providing there is no plumbing or electric run to the building. This is key. Here is how I think I can create a "work around" and make this a reasonable solution to my building conundrum. Let me explain.

A brief look at prefab storage buildings for sale at big box stores and on Amazon reveal that you can buy a 12' x 24' storage building kit for around $4,000. This does not include a foundation or roofing materials, but the "bones and skin" and a building. But there is something more that, in my opinion, is even more valuable: It includes a product description of Storage Shed. This by definition will often preclude the required permits, thus saving you prying eyes and bureaucracy. However, even if an inspection is required, have it done once the foundation and skin is built. After that, no one will pay you any mind (well if you live in the sticks that is) and you can go about making improvements. This type of building is known as an "Accessory" building in code. The best way to go "unnoticed" is to build this where there is already a house and tie into the existing electric, water, and cable.

For an additional $2,000 you can build the slab or pillars, finish out the roof, finish the interior quite nicely with electric, water, and propane. With windows and adequate ventilation, I feel this is a viable option, especially if, like me, you intend to build a more permanent structure in the future. Add in a compost toilet and you have all the comforts of home.

Now, I feel it is necessary to make sure that I point out that safety should not be overlooked. There must be adequate exits, windows that open, a smoke/carbon monoxide detector, and fire extinguishers available in case of emergency. I suggest adding additional framing if you find your shed is built using 24" on center construction. Go with 16" on center, if you can get it or modify the walls to reflect this. That way you can insulate and drywall easily.

The more I think about it, the more viable this options seems to me. You can build the kitchen cabinets ahead of time to be installed once the building is up because the doorways are large enough to moved them in and out. You be able to acquire all the materials to finish the inside as you wish (light fixtures, wiring, plumbing, etc) and take them to the build site. The structure itself is shipped free, dropped off at the building site (you will need some able-bodies to help unload and move the materials). Taking the initiative to set footers in place and the sub floor built ahead of delivery, you can begin building almost immediately. Two able-bodied adults should be able to assemble and roof the structure in under a week. Finishing out the interior may take a little longer, but because you are protected from the elements you can work at your own pace.

These are my thoughts. Some of my best ideas come to me in the middle of the night, and this may be a solution to the conundrum of how to make a tiny house dream come true that sooner on a small budget. If you have someone with a large tract of rural land with a house already sitting on it then that is even better.

Let me recap how this may alter your plans:

  • You can plan for a 12' x 24' building. You can lay out a floor plan based on these dimensions. 
  • You can plan for electric and plumbing service in advance, calculating how much wire, number of outlets, etc. Buying these in advance on sale or off Craigslist will help keep costs to a minimum. 
  • You can prefab your kitchen cabinets, including counter tops, cutting out the sink hole and the stove inset, etc. They will be simple to install, cutting time. 
  • Planning for flooring will be simple and based on the basic square footage of the house. Purchasing trim and moldings is easy to calculate as well. 
  • You can prefab a staircase to a loft that is also drawers if the model you select has a loft with enough headroom. This will provide storage and be much more practical that climbing up and down a ladder to the loft. Built correctly, the staircase can also form one of the walls to the bathroom, providing additional storage for towels and toiletries.
  • You can select size and placement of windows as "add on" options for many styles of sheds.
  • Knowing in advance the window sizes allows you to make window coverings to keep out prying eyes. 
  • Building using plans instead of a prefab kit may save you even more money. If you are handy this may just be the option for you.
What do you think? Could you live in a modified shed if the price was right? 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Heating a Small Space Super Cheap

I recently saw a post of this video on Facebook and found it intriguing. I don't know if it would produce enough heat to heat an entire tiny house, but it may be just enough heat to warm up a bathroom or loft. Safety is an issue, as it is an open flame, but used properly, this just may provide an inexpensive source of supplemental or emergency heat. What do you think? Watch and comment below.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

What is the Measure of True Friend

I have some great friends. True friends, not just people who are acquaintances, but true friends. True friends are the ones who are there when there is a problem. True friends are ones that don't just shake their heads and agree that a bad situation sucks, but offer up solutions that perhaps you hadn't thought of before. I am not a friend collector. I do not have gobs and gobs of people whose names I drop to others, nor do I move in large circles where I remember every person I meet. I would be a really lousy politician for sure. However, those I do count among my friends are limited in number and have been friends for years. These are people who I call "good people" and are the kind of folks that rally together when times get tough, feed others who are in need, roof a house when a storm hits unexpectedly, etc.

Last night I got to visit with some of my friends at a monthly gathering I attend. Most of these friends know my goal of building my house and moving, they know my hopes and aspirations, they support my dreams even if they think living in a tiny house is crazy. It doesn't matter. They will support and defend my right to that dream 110%. I had been sharing with two particular friends recently about my concerns for finding the type of work I want when I move to the sticks. Concerns about a career change, wanting to make more money than a teacher (I haven't had a pay raise in 4.5 years!), and my desire to work from home all were topics we covered. On my way out to my car at the end of the evening last night one of these dear friends stopped me to tell me that her company wants to hire me. The pay is similar to what I make now, but the best part is I will be able after 6 months to work from home via telecommuting and internet! OMG, talk about an answer to prayer! Honestly, I cried in my car all the way home. What a huge weight to be lifted off my shoulders.

Being a teacher is an honorable profession, don't get me wrong, but moving from state to state is a pain in the neck. Certification, education, and hoop jumping ensues. There is a joke that teaching is the only profession where employees steal from home to take stuff to work. We are overworked, underpaid, panned in the media, and given very little respect for what we do. The worst part is trying to enter into the private sector after being a teacher for 16 years. There are not a lot of companies that advertise for employees with a degree in education. While I think getting a degree in education and a subsequent Master's in US History was smart and I enjoyed the challenges, looking at a career change at my age is daunting and my degree isn't really doing a lot to help me in today's market place.

That being said, here is my opinion about finding work in today's market place: It is 20% what you know and 80% who you know. Most good jobs are not advertised, but filled by valued employees who can recommend someone that may work out. I will still have to prove that I can handle the job and fulfill the companies needs, but just getting my foot in the door is the largest part of that battle. I am so very grateful for those in my life, especially those who I count among my friends.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Welfare - Hand up or Oppression from the Top Down - Entitlement vs Welfare

I read a lot of different blogs. I have many interests, that is for sure, and being self-sufficient and living a sustainable life is important to me. I follow a particular blog, Paratus Familia Blog ( because I find the author, Enola Gay (yes a psuedonym for those of you who are history savy), to be a great teacher of sustainable living. Enola and her family live in a very small "shouse" (a shop they have made a house) and she blogs about their life, a good portion of which focuses on Prepping.

I am in awe of her. She cooks almost exclusively on a traditional wood burning stove, grows her food, preserves her harvest, home educates her children, and writes about her adventures while living the life she and her husband dreamed of. Recently she produced a cookbook, The Prepared Family Cookbook, for those who wish to learn to cook using a traditional wood burning stove and ingredients that you would preserve as a "prepper." Sometimes she has a magical way of putting her feelings down and I found her blogpost of October 22 of this year to be PERFECT. She expresses EXACTLY how I feel about welfare and personal dignity. While she and I are not of the same religion, we are of the same value system. I encourage you to read her entire post about Accountability in Charity. I could not agree more with her assessment:

And really, why would we expect anything different.  Every day, millions of people in our country take money they didn't earn and consume services they didn't pay for.  Our government, in their misguided attempt to provide a social safety net, has encouraged generations of Americans to become thieves.  We have taught people to freely take - no, demand - what they didn't earn.  We have taught them that they are incapable of providing for themselves short of voting for the politician that will provide them with the biggest "paycheck".  Our government has encouraged promiscuity, slothfulness and lying.  They have invested billions to ensure a compliant, dependent citizenry, all under the guise of helping the "underprivileged".

I normally try to stay away from very controversial topics simply due to the passionate nature of them, but in this case I could not agree more with the author. She succinctly sums up my thoughts on the current entitlement vs welfare conflict which worries me so.

What do you think? Do you agree or disagree? Share your opinion in the comments.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Can't Stop Coughing? Stop a Cough in It's Tracks - How to Control a Cough During A Cold

I have a cold. I have had it for a week now. It started as an annoying sore throat and moved into post nasal drip and a cough this past Wednesday. I really hate getting any kind of respiratory thing going because I am asthmatic. Once I start coughing, it seems I cannot stop. That annoying tickle and slightly productive cough wakes me up at 2 a.m., leaving both me and my BF tired in the morning. There are tons of cough syrups and remedies on the market, but the fact is they can't instantly stop a cough like this cool little trick can. Plus, this one is super cheap. Just $1 is all it takes. Intrigued? Read on...

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Book Review How To Decorate The Tiny House

Anyone who has ever lived in a small space knows that in addition to the difficulty of just fitting all of your possessions into a small space, decorating it can be just as tough. Color and pattern has a large impact on not just how the room appears, but how we feel about the space we live in. Clutter can lead to a feeling of anxiety and discontentment, while certain colors can bring out emotions like anger and sadness. Andrew Odom of  Tiny R(e)volution, a site dedicated to those who wish to live the tiny lifestyle, has released an ebook entitled How to Decorate A Tiny House. The book is packed with tips and tricks for comfortably living in a dwelling of small space. Storage, furniture, and even what colors to paint and decorate with are covered in this handy 48 page ebook. Right now the book is on sale for $2 and will then list at $4.95. I purchased it at the sale price, but I would purchase it at the regular price too as it did have some valuable information. Even if you just live in a small house or apartment, the instruction into putting it all together is worth more. If you are someone who does or is planning to move into a very small space, I highly recommend you read this book. The sale price on this book is good from November 5 until November 8, or until the 100 copies they allotted sell out.

Do you have any tips or tricks for decorating a small space you would care to share with others? Feel free to share them in the comments. Happy decorating!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Cleaning Up a Garage Sale Find - Vintage Steel Popcorn Popper

My boyfriend found this treasure at a rummage sale in Seattle this past summer. The thing I like about it the most is that it is made of steel. Unlike Aluminum which leaches into food and is rumored to cause health issues over time, steel is safe. It looked really awful with some surface rust and grease build up, but have no fear, these items can be removed and the popper will be good as new. Here is how to clean up pots and pans that you find at rummage sales. This applies to steel, cast iron, and porcelain on steel. This does NOT apply to Aluminum.

First you will need a potato, table salt, and fume free oven cleaner. Cut the potato in half and dip it into the salt. Without adding water or anything else, use the potato and salt to scrub the rust off the pan. You will find the rust combines with the salt and potato starch, coming off the pan's surface. If you need to, you may cut a thin slice off the potato and repeat the process until all the surface rust is off. Rinse the pan and dry it with paper towel or allow to air dry before moving on to the next steps.

Spray the pan with Fume Free Oven Cleaner (I get mine at my local .99 cent store). Allow the pan to sit for a time and the chemicals to bond with the grease and build up. I let mine sit for 15 minutes. After it has had some time to work, I wash the pan with a nylon scrubby. If I find there is still build-up, I will repeat this process until the build up is removed.

Finally, wash your pan and dry as usual. As you can see, I made a nice bowl of popcorn as a reward for my efforts. Total cost for this pan? $1 at a rummage sale plus some table salt, a potato, and a can of oven cleaner and good old fashioned elbow grease.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Mason Jar Monday - DIY Cold and Flu Medicine - Organic Medicine

It is cold and flu season. I have had a touch of a cold this weekend. My sore throat had me in the kitchen preparing homemade organic herbal treatments that I have found poking around the web. I thought I would share some links to posts that teach you how to make and store your own organic herbal medicines. 

Frugally Sustainable:  Herbal cold and cough syrup made of simple ingredients such as garlic, echinacea, licorice root, ginger, and honey. Step by step instructions are provided. 

Copyright Joan Henna Lion via Flikr
Canning Granny:  This site has a variety of different solutions for everything from the flu to simple indigestion. Lots of good tips and tricks to help you preserve herbs as well on this website. 

The Prepper Journal: This great post shows you that there is value even in common weeds we regularly battle and pull from our gardens. Learn how to put these to good use.

Herbs-Info: Shows how to make a natural honey citrus syrup for sore throats and coughs.

Herbal Medicine Chest: Herbal medicine for the more "personal" areas of the body. Douches, enemas, and suppositories are discussed here.

Finally, here is a recipe to get you started. Calendula is easy to find in loose tea form.

This medicinal oil is simple to prepare and has so many uses. The oil is perfect for cradle cap, diaper rash, chapped or chafed skin, bruises, and sore or inflamed muscles. The oil can be used alone, or incorporated into salves, massage oils, lip balms, ointments, creams, and lotions.

Organic Olive oil
Organic Calendula flowers

Glass Jar
Copyright Terrapeutic Hebs via Facebook

1. Place Calendula flowers in a clean, dry glass jar. If using fresh Calendula, wilt for 12 hours to remove most of the moisture (too much moisture will cause the oil to go rancid) before adding to the jar. Pour olive oil into the jar, making sure to cover the flowers by at least 1” of oil so they will have space to expand. Stir well and cap the jar tightly.

2. Place the jar in a warm, sunny windowsill and shake once or more per day.
3. After 4-6 weeks, strain the herbs out using cheesecloth. Pour the infused oil into glass bottles and store in a cool dark place. 
Heat Method: I prefer to infuse oils utilizing the solar or folk method described above, but heat can be applied if you need the oil quickly. To prepare, follow step 1 from above, but place the Olive oil and Calendula flowers in an uncovered container. Warm over low heat at approximately 100 degrees F for at least 3-5 hours, the longer the better. A yogurt maker, double boiler, or inside the oven with a pilot light on are all effective ways to heat the oil, just make sure to check the temperature occasionally to ensure that the oil isn’t getting too warm. Once the oil has infused, strain out the herbs using cheesecloth and package the infused oil into glass bottles.

Friday, November 1, 2013

200 Things Challenge - What is Your Relationship with Things

Within the Tiny House movement is the 100 Thing Challenge. It didn't start in the Tiny House community, but many within it decided it made sense and paid if forward by sharing it with others. It quickly took on a life of its own simply because the size of a Tiny House forces one to reevaluate all their possessions, to determine what is most important, and what is superfluous. Eventually the challenge was increased to 200 Things, but the intent is the same: Choose what you own carefully and don't bring anything in without taking something out. 

Certain types of possessions take priority over others. These are items that can do double-duty, be used in more than one way, take precedence over items such as purely decorative ones. A library of books can be stored in one e-book. Laptops replace desktops. No longer is there a walk in closet full of clothes, but a wisely chosen wardrobe of key pieces that can be mixed and matched. There are countless other ways to eliminate unneeded belongings.  Lina, over at her blog This is The Little Life, recently looked back over her 200 Thing Challenge and wrote about her experience:  
"I’ve found that My 200 Things Challenge has made me a better minimalist. I am less attached to my possessions, but more pleased with the things with which I surround myself. I am more likely to loan something out. I am less worried about wearing something out because there’s a new excitement about acquiring something new. I am more likely to decorate with fresh flowers or fall squash. I only wear clothing that I feel comfortable in. I own few possessions that I don’t use on a daily, weekly, or at least monthly basis. I don’t have to shuffle things around as much to get to the other things I need. I no longer own things that frustrate me because they are broken because I have repaired, replaced, or purged them. I am more particular about what I allow into my home, which means I no longer take something just because it was free. I am more likely to consider whether or not I really need something before I acquire it. I am more likely to get rid of something I’m waffling about. But most importantly, I give less attention to my stuff and more attention to my experiences."

Lina offers workshops in Portland for those who are interested in how to go about participating in the challenge, but most can undertake it on their own. Here are some things to think about if you want to downsize: 

  • What is the most important thing you own?
  • What clothing must you have vs what is just hanging in a closet or stuffed in drawers?
  • If you don't love it, leave it.
  • What can you fit into technology (Books, photos, documents, etc.)
  • How will you store all your items?
  • Can items fill more than one role?
  • How big is the footprint of the item? 

Living in a tiny house and living the Tiny House lifestyle comfortably requires thought and consideration. It is most certainly and adjustment, but I have yet to hear of anyone who was disappointed by their choice. If you are considering downsizing, you can begin preparing long before you move. 

What is one item you would never part with, even if you lived in a tiny house?