Exact Cost: Phase 7, Year 6, 2016

Over the past six years I have fully disclosed all building and update costs at Tiny House Ontario.  I believe that I was the first tiny house blogger who chose to do this.  I was able to because I am organized about what I spend so I had all my receipts.  The reason I posted them though, was not just for my own purposes of keeping track.   I also hoped to give a clearer picture to those who are thinking about building tiny, so that you know what, generally, to expect.  For this reason I also include my failures or lost money, I hope by doing this, I might prevent others from making my mistakes.

My other reason for disclosure though, is that a lot of people comment on tiny house pages what show houses that are for sale… “too expensive” (and some are).  But tiny houses cost a lot of money too and many tiny house followers think that keeping the cost of the house at nothing is the whole point.  I call BS on this.  Unless you have endless time and skills to DIY and lots of resources handed to you then you really can’t build a tiny house for next to nothing.  Resources cost money!  Plus as a rule of thumb, when you think about material cost you need to times this by 2.5 to include the labour costs if you are not doing it yourself.  Labour is expensive!

FACT: Tiny houses cost way more per square foot than McMansions because space is cheap to add… but the catch is, those added feet are what cost you for as long as you live in your house.  You have to fill them, update them, heat them, pay taxes on them and deal with the carbon footprint of them… Space might seem cheap, but it is not.  So now you know the secret, the point of tiny houses is to avoid paying year after year for space.

When it comes to my home, I am a cheapskate, who does not need to have the very best of everything to make me happy… Tiny House Ontario is, by design, a rustic little cabin in the woods.  It is off grid, it is humble, and there are quite a few used and or surplus items that went into it.  Plus, the house is nowhere near complete!  Yet here I am in the 6th year, and I have invested over thirty thousand dollars into the place and this does not include the cost of land.  PLUS… I paid very little for labour because I did a lot of the work myself.  I also made $3800 in mistakes*.   It is not done either!  There is no running water (or cistern), so I still have to carry in all the potable water I need, and the bathroom, bedroom, kitchen are not yet finished.

In short, resources and money do not grow on trees.  And despite what my sister thinks of my handiness, I cannot spin straw into gold – as much as I wish I could!

2016 was not a big year for expenditure nor accomplishment.  Still every little step costs something.  This year I picked up a few things late in the season and have not yet had the opportunity to put them to use.  Here is the breakdown.

2016

Materials for corner bench for the cloth porch. $112.

New surplus solar panels (not yet hooked up) $240.

Antique chamber pot for the (temporary bathroom fix) in-house. $50.

Dickinson fireplace heater and extra chimney (not yet hooked up) $1133.

Picture window (not yet installed in the cloth porch)  FREE

2016 Phase 7 $1535

2015 Phase 6 $5354

2014 Phase 5 $0

2013 Phase 4 $2419

2012 Phase 3 $5,124

2011 Phase 2 $8,839

2010-11 Phase 1 $11,740

Total, To date (on building, driveway, homesteading, improvement & taxes) – $35,411

Land – $67,000

Investment in THO and Property $102.411 —–

This year, all that I crossed off my to-do list was building seating for the cloth porch and purchasing a new heating system which will be installed in January.

As for what I wish to work on next year:

  1. Hook up the Dickinson fireplace.
  2. Install picture window in the cloth porch so that in the winter we can see out instead of having the view blocked by the tarp.
  3. Update the bathroom so that it works
  4. Turn the garden into a little green house so that the critters can’t steal everything I grow. Alternately, I thought I might plant just herbs and Helianthus tuberoses. These are native species alternately known as sunroot sunflowers, or Jerusalem artichokes and they should do well in the sunny spot there as well as produce food for me that perhaps won’t all be eaten.
  5. Install the floor on the second level.
  6. Finish the stone work patio and walkways
  7. I would also like to move the shed from my Hamilton house to the land at THO. It would be good to have it there so I could store spare wood, equipment such as maple tree tapping, and outdoor stuff. I think I would also put off season clothes in bins there. We will see if time and energy permit.

 

Future Expenses

  1. well and pump
  2. kitchen
  3. bathroom
  4. loft (flooring and built-ins)
  5. shed (move or build)
  6. stonework

 

*MISTAKES – totalling $3,800 (breakdown below)

  1. $2800 I was ripped off by the cement contractor (Phase 1)
  2. $800 Culvert issues (Phase 1 and 2 – still not resolved)
  3. Roughly $200 bathroom materials which had to be removed because of mice.

 

THO now

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Tiny House Ontario 2016

Categories: Tiny House Ontario | 1 Comment

Let’s talk about who is breaking the law

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In my last article I pointed out correctly that sustainable housing is NOT illegal but simply non-compliant to outdated building codes.

Lets get even more real here today.

The Strong Communities through Affordable Housing Act, 2011 requires “municipalities to establish official plan policies and zoning by-law provisions allowing second units in detached, semi–detached and row houses, as well as in ancillary structures” and those municipalities that have not made these allowances are in fact acting illegally and contrary to the law.

Furthermore, from the tiny houser perspective, the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing is not doing anything about this.

Lets get this straight… this law does not help those who want to live on wheels, but it does not hinder in any way those who simply want to live in a tiny house in the city or community of their choice.

I personally lived in a house like this when I was in Germany.  It had a separate yard and parking from the main house, we had a lovely little fence between us as well as shrubs to give privacy.  We did not own the house but we rented it and when we did it was explained to us, by the owners of the house that ours had a transferable 99 year lease with the owners and a clause that if the owners did not renew the lease that the house had to be purchased at market value by them.  A very good contract for both parties.

What can we do to force municipalities to follow this act?

We rally together!

Please take some time to WRITE A LETTER and CC  it to a lot of people!!!  (all the addresses are provided below)

The issues are:

Strong Communities through affordable housing act is not being followed by any communities except for Ottawa and we the citizens of Ontario demand that tiny houses be allowed not just as secondary dwellings but as communities for those who wish to live sustainably.

Tiny houses are a viable option because they are inexpensive to build and more importantly they are exceptionally inexpensive to maintain, and live in.  They have a very small carbon footprint, they do not require citizens to live to work but rather just to live.  They are perfectly safe and can easily be built to the same codes as long as these codes are not mindlessly obsessed with size… because this alone is the only restrictive feature.

Demand that communities allow for 1000 square foot lots for tiny houses with an equitable rate for taxes based on value.

Demand that all housing being built be forced to comply with environmental standards beyond insulation, such as layout and structure that will allow for passive solar heat ,south west facing windows for breeze and solar panels to take care of the needs of each home.

Demand that tiny house communities be planned and developed in every community based on need.  I expect, based on my numbers here that there are thousands who wish to live in tiny houses if the government were actually following their own laws and making it possible for us to move forward.

Demand that those who wish to live in tiny houses on wheels be included in the code books and be allowed to be lived in, after all these are HOUSES, they are not RVs and they are perfectly safe as well.  In the USA there is a code already in place and this code allows citizens to live safely and comfortably, and this is what the codes are for, is it not?

 

If you are reading this, and you are a municipal leader and you also understand that what we ask for is our right, then I suggest that you get in gear and get it right.

 

Your letter should be addressed to:

1.YOUR OWN MUNICIPAL LEADER

2. YOUR OWN MUNICIPAL BUILDING DEPARTMENT HEAD

3. YOUR OWN MPP

________________

4. Hon Chris Ballard
Ministry of Housing / Ministry Responsible for the Poverty Reduction Strategy
17th Floor
777 Bay Street
Toronto, Ontario M5G 2E5
Tel  416-585-6500
Fax  416-585-4035

E-mail: minister.mma@ontario.ca

 

_____

5. Hon Kathleen O. Wynne
kwynne.mpp@liberal.ola.org

Room 281, Main Legislative Building, Queen’s Park
Toronto, Ontario M7A 1A1
Tel
416-325-1941
Fax
416-325-9895

____

Because this is not just a housing issue but an environmental one!

6. Hon. Glen R. Murray

Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change
Public Information Centre
2nd Floor, Macdonald Block
M2-22 – 900 Bay Street
Toronto ON M7A 1N3

____

Because this is a municipal issue (even though, in my opinion it should not be)

7. Hon Bill Mauro
Ministry of Municipal Affairs
17th Floor
777 Bay Street
Toronto, Ontario M5G 2E5
Tel
416-585-7000
Fax
416-585-6470

AND because this should be a country wide mandate!!!

The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau

Office of the Prime Minister
80 Wellington Street
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A2

Fax: 613-941-6900

 

You might also wish to copy this to other agencies that are to do with the environment, justice, landowners, poverty ect.

Do you have suggestions?  Have I missed anything?

 

Categories: Tiny House Ontario | 5 Comments

NOT ILLEGAL

I cannot count the hundreds of times that people use the word “illegal” to describe the act of living in a tiny house.  This word is being used incorrectly, over and over again, and I think this needs to stop… today!

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There is NOTHING illegal about living in a tiny house in Canada.  Tiny dwelling is not like like driving impaired, beating up on your wife or robbing a bank.  The police will not come and charge you, arrest you, handcuff you and put you in jail.  Using the word illegal is not just inaccurate, it also serves to undermine the credibility community and those who are interested in living sustainably.  It makes us appear as though we are all deviants.  I want everyone to STOP using this word today.

So… if living in a tiny house is NOT illegal… then what is the problem?

Building codes are the problem… And moreover, the problem is a duel one.  

First, these codes were set a long time ago and they are hanging on to antiquated notions that heating a small space is dangerous… and when room sizes were established a fifty years (or more) ago this would have been the case.  Old heating systems needed the breathing room.  But today this is no longer the case.  Little heaters like the Envi (and any hundreds of other choices) can be plugged in and heat a tiny house with absolute safety.

Secondly, the newer updated codes regarding size  were set in the last 50 years… when the economy was good and people did not really understand the true environmental and community costs of living in McMansions.   The thinking was (and still largely is) that bigger is better.  But today, the environmental reasoning behind why many want to go tiny  is crystal clear… just look at the heating and cooling bills and think about the STUFF that has to fill those big rooms.  Tiny houses are NOT cheap alternatives and this is not why living tiny is so attractive.  It is the fact that once you have it, that is it… there are no updates needed and even in ten years when you wear out your furnishings, replacement is… well…  it is a TINY expense… so too are heating, cooling and living.  Tiny living is simply a good fit for a lot of people, hundreds and thousands of us want this, if my stats here and on Facebook are any indication of the numbers.

This brings me to my other point.  Tiny dwellers are infect better citizens AND not just because our homes use less resources either.  When people live tiny, they have WAY more disposable income.  This means that they have the gift of time and money.  Many tiny housers use this extra time to take up hobbies, volunteering and really living in their community.   This disposable income gets used in their community.  They don’t spend money in the shopping mall, true!  But like me, they spend time in cafe’s and restaurants, and like me, they volunteer in the community.  Tiny houses allow people to be more engaged citizens and because we are more engaged, we are better citizens.  There is nothing illegal about that.

When we write about or speak about the problem with living in tiny houses, we must put the blame where the blame lay.  We must say, outdated building codes are making our way of life very difficult, if not impossible and we citizens MUST be given the right to live sustainably!   We demand it!

I also see many commenting that the reason that these houses are blocked is because of the taxes… but of course this could EASILY be resolved by setting a minimum amount for taxes that has nothing to do with square footage and everything to do with the fact that tiny housers are members of the community and should be paying taxes just like other people who own homes.

Some people say that they don’t want to have tiny houses next to their McMansion because it will bring down their property value.  Which is total nonsense!  There are so many downright ugly looking and rundown homes in just about every community… we don’t have that much control over how our neighbours live.  And besides, every tiny home I have ever seen has been as neat as a pin.  We are all minimalists after all!

This is a call for all building inspectors across Canada to get it together and change the codes in the area that they are responsible for!  Moreover, set things right for those who are already there hiding.  We really should not have to!

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Categories: Tiny House Ontario | 11 Comments

Remember Fred?

As you all know many volunteers from this community build a little insulated place for a homeless girl named Fred.

I don’t go by to see her anymore because I find that she gets agitated and this in turn agitates me.  Also, there are not many donations that are coming in, and as I explained a few months ago to readers here and to her, I cannot possibly support her.  I simply don’t have enough income.  This said, I worry about her from a distance, which I suppose does not do either of us any good at all.  The good news is that there is a cafe that is about ten blocks from her, where people can go a get $5 worth of free food – a sandwich and a coffee…. multiple times a day if needed.   The cafe 541 has a button program in which people can donate money for buttons and then the buttons are currency for those who don’t have money.  It is all very tidy.  The place is great and the food is good.

Another update is that a few weeks ago, I learned that Fred broke her door and I am grateful to the community member who fixed this for her.  Thank you!

Earlier this year, You may recall, that I heard from the folks who run the tiny house Jamboree in Quebec and they promised that they would ask those who came to donate candles for Fred.  Unfortunately…  they forgot… so I can’t count on this to heat up her place.

One of the community members asked me about the Jamboree and I thought he was one of the organizers (which he was not) but still, he sent a gift card back in August for me to pick up candles for her.  $100.  So nice!  Right?  Anyway, it has been a decent fall and now in mid November it is still warm… BUT, it is supposed to get cold this weekend.   So the time arrived and I pulled out Christoper’s card and went to the Wal-Mart to pick up the candles that she likes to use to heat her place as well as four large glass jar candles that she likes for ambient light and a little heat too.

Thanks again to the door repair person and also to Christopher.

She will be safe and warm now thanks to both of you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Tiny House Ontario | 6 Comments

Simple Sourdough

This is not tiny house related, but rather about frugality and self sufficiency.

I am gluten sensitive, but I found that I could eat naturally fermented sourdough bread, because fermenting breaks down the gluten.  Trouble was, I found it hard to find good bread like this and then when I did, I found that the price of $6-10 a loaf sort of insane!   So I though I would again start making my own bread but this time natural sourdough.

So I started looking up how to make it, and everywhere I looked the recipes were so complicated and used terms I did not understand.  It took me about a week of browsing intimidating and wasteful recipes.  But I had to ask myself why the craziness?  This can’t be that hard!  I mean, for hundreds and hundreds of years we (primarily women) baked our own sourdough breads in our homes… and this was in the days before we had ovens that just switched on.

So I broke through my intimidation, and you know what?  It is not hard!!!   It costs me just a little bit of time, like 30 seconds a day and a half hour on baking days.  Plus it is cheap to make it, about $1.50 or $2.00 for a massive loaf that lasts the two of us for three days.  I know, right???

PLEASE NOTE… One super important factoid first: if your starter stinks throw it out and start again.  Stink means BAD bacteria got in there and you cannot eat it ask yourself how it might have gotten contaminated… was your jar, your cover and the stirring utensils clean?  Or was this just bad luck?

 

 

Tools needed:

Two jars and a two pieces of cotton or other clean breathable fabric to cover them
Very large ceramic or glass bowl and a tea towel big enough to cover this
Large lidded Dutch oven OR two small ones
A very stiff silicon spatula (the kind with the wood or metal inside)
An oven

Supplies needed Organic flour (preferably bread flour), water (and salt on baking day)

This is a stupidly long recipe and it takes days… BUT HONESTLY, IT IS SUPER EASY… and once you have a starter you can stir together a loaf of fresh bread every three days. I have mine on a morning schedule because this works for me, if this does not work for you find a time that works for you. If you can commit to 30 seconds a day, twice a day for a week, then the rest is simply stirring up thick dough in a big bowl and turing on the oven.

Summary of Making a Sourdough Starter and Sponge

Make your starter (this should be kept in a room in a place where the temperature is 71 degrees. If colder the starter will take longer, and it warmer the starter will take less time. Try different areas of your house for a spot that is closest to this temperature

USE ORGANIC FLOUR (better for natural yeast fermentation)! BREAD FLOUR IS BEST, but not 100% required.

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STARTER
Day 1
In a large sterile jar. Mix 1 cup water and 1 cup flour. Cover with cheesecloth.
Day 2
Add 2 Tablespoons flour and 2 Tablespoons water stirring twice daily. Cover with cheesecloth.
Day 3
Same as day two.

Day 4 *** smell this to be sure it smells floury and slightly sour, if putrid dispose of it!  pour this mixture over to a different sterilized jar then…
Same as day two.
Day 5
Same as day two.
Day 6
Same as day two.
Day 7
Same as day two.

On the 8th day –

Add 2 Tablespoons flour and 2 Tablespoons water wait about to minutes and see if this gets very active and bubbly… if it is NOT very active, then stirring twice daily. Cover with cheesecloth and try again the next day.  (is it warm enough)

This starter can be kept alive in this way for hundreds of years.
You can refrigerate to slow it down, if you don’t need bread, or are away ( you can look up more about this and how to deal with a starter)

HINT: IF YOU CAN’T TELL… take a spoon of this out and put it into a glass of water, if it floats it is active.

If it is active, pour all but one cup of this mixture over to a different sterilized jar then:

____________

BREAD!  Sorry you don’t get to eat it today, or tomorrow either… I know, right???

Pour a cup of this mixture into a large bowl, add two cups of flour and two cups of water to it, mix this together.

For the next two days you are feeding this a cup of flour in the morning and stirring twice daily. Cover with cheese cloth.

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DAY 11*** – Add not quite a tablespoon of salt to the mixture and stir this in. Then add flour and fold this into your dough. Keep adding flour and folding until your dough gets thick enough so that you can pull it with your hands and they don’t stick to it and the dough holds a shape. Then remove this dough from the bowl, place this on the counter, and scrape all the left over stuff away from the bowl.
Put the dough back into the bowl and cover with a clean cheesecloth. Let this rise until doubled.

Once doubled, take out your dutch oven and put a good layer of cornmeal on the base. Now start folding your dough and shape it. place in the middle of your dutch oven, close the lid and wait until this has raised up about half its size. Then preheat your oven to 200 C or 400 F and decide if you want to score the top with a very sharp knife or not. Your choice (scored breads maintain a more consistent shape) when you don’t score, you don’t know where they will break.

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When this is ready put your dutch oven in on the middle or low middle rack (keeping it covered) and bake. After half an hour remove the lid and continue to bake (about 15-25 minutes) until the bread is the darkness that you desire.

Remove from oven and put on a cooling rack (if you don’t have one remove one from your stove before you bake and set this on a cookie sheet or something that will allow heat to escape)

Now here is the HARD part… you have to wait until this cools before you cut it and eat it… Your house will have smelled mildly like bread from about day six… so it is NOT easy!

***
NOTE: Day 11 if you want to add other things to your bread this is the time… Rosemary and olive, different flours, herbs and so on…  Now that you have a starter, you can bake a fresh loaf every three days and by the second loaf you will be an expert at changing your jars and mixing up the new loaf.

This takes just 30 seconds, twice a day on days you don’t bake.

On baking day it is 15 minutes of work in the morning, and another couple of minutes to form the loaf later on, then placing in the oven, removing the lid and removing from the oven.  Unless I need the dutch oven I just leave the corn meal in there, cover it and add more and use it again the next time.  Cleaning the bowl and spatula take another couple of minutes.  It is at most a half hour out of your day.

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***
NOTE: Day 11 if you want to add other things to your bread this is the time… Rosemary and olive, different flours, herbs and so on… Now that you have a starter, you can bake a fresh loaf every three days and by the second loaf you will be an expert at changing your jars and mixing up the new loaf.

This takes just 30 seconds, twice a day on days you don’t bake.

On baking day it is 15 minutes of work in the morning, and another couple of minutes to form the loaf later on, then placing in the oven, removing the lid and removing from the oven. Unless I need the dutch oven I just leave the corn meal in there, cover it and add more and use it again the next time. Cleaning the bowl and spatula take another couple of minutes. It is at most a half hour out of your day.

____________

NOTE:
THIS is where I got the original starter recipe from … I modified this to change the jars (you will see why) and also adding the bread recipe, because I found it confusing to come to the end of this and be asked to put commercial yeast in – you do not need it if your starter floats!

This blogger though has more information about the details of starters and when I looked on line for recipes, I found that most sites add a lot of flour and water and then throw it out (wasteful right???) and I liked the frugality and practicality of her thinking on this.

 

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