Archive for the ‘How To’ Category

Dreams are a wondrous thing. They lift you to the heavens, and bring you back down gently. They infuse in one the perseverance, motivation, and determination to reach success, no matter how or what one defines personal success. No, I’ not referring to the unconscious snippets of images one conjures up while sleeping, but of the conscious dreams we own of reaching a long sought after achievement, or the passion of beginning a new chapter on the road of life.

To stop dreaming is to stop experiencing life. To live in a stagnant world without change. To become complacent with our lives and to relinquish ourselves to the mundane.

Life lived properly consists of an ever changing chain of achievements, each a stepping stone from the previous to the impending. Decisions are made, lessons are hopefully learned, and we strive to have a better awareness of life.


Go Far, Take Chances, Live Passionately


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In the growing interest of tiny homes, having and living in something that connects with us personally, the other option is vintage trailer/campers. These units, whether procured as a do it yourself project or purchased completely restored offers another avenue for reduce your carbon footprint. Many of the older models have awesome layouts though the appliances can be a bit out of date.
The key to restoring a vintage vehicle is finding one that can be restored, but the better the condition, the less restoration money is needed. As with any major purchase, completely inspect the unit. Check the frame for rust or cracks, look for water seepage, unit stability, the quality of the appliances, and originality.
Step 1
Take many photos of the interior and exterior of your trailer noting all details and research your specific travel trailer to collect research material and period photographs.
Step 2
Examine your trailer, develop a restoration budget plan and begin researching replacement materials and equipment.
Step 3
Clean the interior and exterior of the unit to remove the basic grime. Disassemble the trailer and keep an inventory of those items removed (and where they belong).  If you are like me, unless this is done, there will be a few parts left over with no idea where they go.
Step 4
Begin work on the trailer’s interior equipment and furnishings using your plan. Remove all furnishings, appliances, cupboards, draperies or wall coverings requiring repair or restoration. Cover all vintage fabrics and upholstery to prevent damage. Work from the top down when painting or cleaning the interior to keep the surfaces free from dust and excess paint.
Step 5
Begin work on the trailer’s exterior using your restoration plan. Use clear sheet plastic with non-damaging tape to protect parts of the trailer not undergoing restoration work. Again, work from the top of the trailer moving to the under-body when restoring the exterior.















Now, this being done.  I’m taking a nap.


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If you are one that dreams of living a simpler life and have ever wondered what it would be like to live without having to pay for electricity, water and other services that our modern lives require, then read on. Understanding what it is really like to “Live off the Grid” is NOT as simple as many believe it is. Having some practical experience here, I can tell you that “living simply” is not “living easy.” Bit is it worth the effort? YES it is.


Living off the grid simply means having a self-sustaining domicile that is independent of outside utilities. While survivalists may initially come to mind, for many, the goal of living off the grid is simply to live healthier and leave a smaller carbon footprint. It also means you grow much of your own food, meat and fruits.
People that are trying to live a simpler lifestyle sometimes struggle with where to begin. Here are some steps to self-sufficiency that anyone can do; just make sure you have a well thought out plan so that you do not become overwhelmed.


1. Planting and growing your own food:
Some people who have never gardened before may think that having your own garden is a simple task. It is not. From determining the size you need to grow a year’s supply of food to preparing the ground, to planting, maintaining, harvesting, processing and storing your food supply, there is much work involved. But the benefits are: You grow your own food and rid yourself of store bought produce. You may also want to understand that growing your own food may be as expensive, or more so, than buying from farmer’s markets. There are some crops that take time to produce. Fruit trees, berries, asparagus beds, rhubarb and other crops may take from a couple of years to several years to get your first harvest.



2. Plant soft fruits :
Along with strawberries also plant raspberries, blackberries, blueberries etc.. They do not take up a lot of space and will produce fresh and tasty fruits year after year.

3. Plant a few fruit trees :
with modern day dwarf varieties that are available on the market today you can plant a few fruit trees that with pruning and training will be bountiful in several years without taking up much room at all.

4. Raise a few small backyard animals :
The amount of space required by a small flock of chickens or rabbit hutch is minimal and is a great source for nutrients for you and your backyard farm. There is nothing better than making breakfast or a cake with eggs fresh from the source. Plus they are a great asset with help keeping bugs and insects in check and will gladly take care of any extra vegetables or fruit from the garden for you.


Free PDF manuals to taking back your life.  Raising your own foods.  Next series will cover “Processing what you grow” and “Heirloom Recipes” for scratch cooking.




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As with all aspects of life for everyone, my life is in constant flux. The ebb and flow of thoughts, ideas and goals change daily. With my retirement looming in the near future, I will soon have the freedom of many choices. One “new” change in plans is the construction of my tiny house. I have decided (at this time anyway) to continue living in my 5th wheel and redesign the tiny home into a mobile (if needed), fully equipped woodworking shop.

I have the design completed for the interior work area that will allow me my personal space to work wood and the only exterior change from the original plans will be replacing the single rear door with a double door that opens onto the porch. The exterior will change from beveled cedar to live edge pine boards and chinking to give this a log cabin style look. My idea is that I can work inside the shop, creating items to sell and be able to set up a unique store front at flea markets or other locations on the weekend. I am hoping the uniqueness of this tiny log cabin will draw people in, even if it is just to look at the shop. Time will tell, but the concept of reaching this goal is making the time to retirement very slow.

For those who are still deciding on building your own tiny house, I wish you much success and awesome journeys.


I have added some great videos that can answer some of the many questions people have when designing their own tiny house.



My new office chair


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Codes and the Tiny House
Posted by Laura LaVoie on October 31, 2012

If there is one question most tiny house builders get asked the most it is the dreaded “Code” question. Building a tiny house is in part an act of rebellion. It is a sort of civil disobedience. Tiny houses are not considered truly legal anywhere, so building one can take a little creativity. I reached out to Macy Miller of MiniMotives to get her professional take on building codes. She is not only a tiny house builder herself but she works with her city as well and had an insider’s view of code enforcement. Here is the interview I did with her for your code research pleasure.
Where is the best place to start to find out what your local codes are?
The best place to start is to go down to your local City Hall, inside of it there is a “Planning Department.” People are there to help the public through all their building and zoning questions. If you are curious about code requirements but are planning to build on a trailer you may want to leave that part off in the conversation. Once you mention that the tiny house is on wheels they will look at you like you’re crazy and stop helping – once it’s on wheels it becomes a DMV/Highway District issue rather than a city code issue. However, the DMV will not be able, in most cases, to help you out with any ‘code’ related stuff. They will do their own checks as much as they can to make sure your house won’t fall off the freeway and endanger others, even then, they are not structural engineers so don’t expect too terribly much!
Even though most code officials won’t be able to help I still highly encourage people to go speak with officials, this will serve to let them know there is a growing demand for help and safety in this area. Those people you speak with are more likely to bring it up at their next meeting and the code officials are the ones who make the codes – they all meet and discuss the priorities and adapt to them, the more people they collectively see coming in to ask about tiny houses the more likely it is that tiny houses are going to start to be considered at the code level.
If you want to go the passive way around things you can look up a copy of the Residential Building Code as well as your local building requirements (generally found on your cities website under something that resembles a ‘Planning and/or Development’ department – this book and these codes are however pretty complex and difficult to work through without experience. If you try and you get stuck you always have the code officials at City Hall to help you understand.




What are the typical things that tiny house builders will come up against in the process?
Typical things that will come up and what drives a lot of people to go with the wheels route instead of a foundation are minimum house sizes. That is probably the biggest limiting factor as I see it. The smallest minimum habitable dwelling I have heard of is 400 square feet and even that had to be as an accessory dwelling (in combination with the bigger “main structure”). There are of course other factors, I think the next biggest one would be the egress requirements from a loft type of space. [This is typically] 5.7 square feet of operable [window/door], which are navigable; but not if you already don’t meet the size requirements.
Once you get into a tiny house on wheels situation you have other enforceable code issues you will have to work with, not so much in the structure but in the parking. If you are on wheels you will have to register your house as a semi-trailer, an RV, or a mobile home (these are the only divisions I have heard of, there may be others out there though). The issues with each should be considered, a mobile home can only be parked in designated mobile home parks (maybe not the ideal situation for most of the crew that is interested in tiny houses… unless someone starts to develop tiny house parks… which is a development option I am interested in looking into – but that’s a whole OTHER story! – the best I can tell this is because they have systems set up to tax these dwellings appropriately for city functions like fire/police/schools etc.). Semi-trailers cannot be lived in for any amount of time and RVs generally have rules set by each city for how long you can live in them in the same location (our limit is 30 days). Not to say that you couldn’t find a place to park it where no one will ever complain. Generally the time limit with RVs isn’t enforced unless there is a complaint. The best way to avoid this would be to speak with your would-be neighbors and make sure the subdivision/city codes don’t have any statements prohibiting RVs.
What is the best way to make your case to the local government about building a tiny space?
Right now there is no way I know of. These are not legal; you won’t get any sort of official approval. You may be able to do it and fly under the radar but there is not a single tiny house that is fully “legal.” The best thing we can do right now is bring the issue up to local officials so they can start to put it on their radar for future meetings when talking about codes.
Right now the 2015 codes is being worked on, I have pretty much been assured that tiny houses won’t be addressed in it. Currently most areas are still on the 2009 code, switching over to 2012 next year (they re-evaluate codes every 3 years). That means, in the best case possible, we are looking at getting tiny houses incorporated into codes by 2018 and not fully adopted until 2019-2020 but every government process is very involved and time consuming. We need to be able to show a demand for change and we need a few strong leaders that can push at a higher level for change. I think we definitely have a group of willing people to step up and push at a higher level, myself included, but if there are others I would highly recommend they get involved, they can email me specifically if they want! [You can reach Macy through her blog at Minimotives.com]
What are the best ways to get around codes when thinking of building tiny?
Building on wheels is the biggest thing you can do. You become a DMV/Highway District issue, you pay your permits through them (which are much cheaper than building permits) and you do what you can. There is a huge lack of security in knowing you can just be where you are, you become very dependent on your relationships and finding someone who will share their lot with you and hopefully doesn’t have neighbors that will complain. If they do, you find a new spot.
What are the best ways to work with the community to make changes that will help tiny house builders?
Be involved! Talk to city planners and code officials and let them know what you would like to do. You can do this without telling them you’re going to do it anyway. Get this on your local cities radar, just endure the crazy looks. One local county here actually saw the demand and have changed their local zoning codes to say that you can live in an RV full time, so long as you meet a short list of requirements, that means that, in that county tiny houses registered as RVs are in-fact legal with a little extra care. Unfortunately this is a very rural area and isn’t where I personally want to be.
I have actually expected more crazy looks than I’ve gotten. There are a lot of people who will think you’re brilliant for wanting to do this. Tiny houses were not a big deal 60 years ago, they were totally normal. Now there are whole generations of people who have bought into the “American Dream” of so much debt you can’t help but work ridiculous amounts of your life away paying for it. With the economy how it’s been we are seeing a lot more understanding and almost jealousy of being able to pare down to something that makes so much sense!
I should say, if you ever get a chance to talk to a planner/code official, either by going down there purposefully or just bumping into one, the best question you can ask is “Are you guys (or is your city) looking at the possibility of tiny houses and allowing for them in zoning codes?” They will almost always say “nope,” but it will plant a seed in their head and it will carry forward.
Laura is a contributing writer for Tiny House Listings and she walks the walk. Her and her husband live in a 120 square foot cabin in Asheville, NC that her and her husband Matt built themselves. You can learn more about Laura and Matt at their website 120squarefeet.com.

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How to live in a tiny house.

Living in a house smaller than some people’s walk-in closets may not be for everyone, but those who are able to do so reap many benefits for themselves and for the world around them. Here are some tips for choosing the best type of small house for you and how to simplify your life so living in a small house is enjoyable and not confining.  Read more…


25 Brilliant Tiny Homes That Will Inspire You To Live Small

These micro houses prove that there is a certain beauty in finding a low-impact solution for you and your family. Bigger isn’t always better. Fans of the tiny home movement swear by it: when we simplify our lives and live “smaller” big savings – and improvements to the overall quality of your life – are possible.  Read more…


hobbit home


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The tiny house movement may be becoming popular, but it is far from new. Before humans settled down into permanent structures, tiny, mobile homes were the norm among our nomadic ancestors. Homes were designed to be packed up, moved and erected in a new place. Taking what our ancestors learned, ideas for modern versions are available….



A yurt is a portable, bent dwelling structure traditionally used by nomads in the steppes of Central Asia as their home. The structure comprises a crown or compression wheel, usually steam bent, supported by roof ribs which are bent down at the end where they meet the lattice wall (again, steam bent). The top of the wall is prevented from spreading by means of a tension band which opposes the force of the roof ribs. The structure is usually covered by layers of fabric and sheep’s wool felt for insulation and weatherproofing.




In North America, the Tipi was the Native American’s answer to the Eastern yurt. This structure, though different in shape, could also be packed up and moved when necessary. This is a conical tent, traditionally made of animal skins, and wooden poles. The tipi was used by the nomadic tribes of the Great Plains in North America. Tipis are stereotypically associated with Native Americans in the United States in general; however Native Americans from places other than the Great Plains mostly used different types of dwellings. The tipi is durable provides warmth and comfort in winter, is cool in the heat of summer, and is dry during heavy rains. Tipis could be disassembled and packed away quickly when a tribe decided to move and could be reconstructed quickly upon settling in a new area. This portability was important to Plains Indians with their nomadic lifestyle. Modern tipi covers are usually made of canvas. Contemporary users of tipis include historical reenactors, back-to-the-land devotees, and Native American families attending powwows or encampments who wish to preserve and pass on a part of their heritage and tradition.






Gypsy Wagons

Moving ahead a few years, we see Gypsy wagons rolling around Europe on primitive wheels. Even in that era, mobile, nomadic people were hard to categorize. They were often unwelcome and considered “unsavory”, as settled people did not know what to do with them or where to put them when they visited town. (In the future, in England, towns would consider building in areas of land for visiting nomadic people).  A vardo (also waggon, living wagon, van, and caravan) is a traditional horse-drawn wagon used by British Romani people as their home.] Possessing a chimney, it is commonly thought of as being highly decorated, intricately carved, brightly painted, and even gilded. The British Romani tradition of the vardo is seen as a high cultural point of both artistic design and a masterpiece of woodcrafters art.




gypsy wagons


Sheep Wagon

The sheep wagon was “home on the range” for sheep herders with their shaggy old dog lying outside watching over the band of sheep in the nearby meadow. Sheep wagons made their debut between 1890 and 1930 on the western prairie and in the mountain meadows. These humble abodes were the homes of nomadic sheep herders who followed their bands of sheep in search of green pastures. This “home on wheels” was pulled from one location to another by a team of horses. As automobiles became popular, the large wooden-spoke wheels were often replaced by rubber tires. The team of horses was retired and a pickup truck replaced them. Although meager, this wagon was a shelter for the sheep herder which contained most of the necessities of life. It was a kitchen, bedroom, and living-room, ingeniously packaged into one small space.



sheep wagon



And finally, the Model T

Model T tiny house

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