Off Grid

Chris Magwood

I want to be sure that you all don’t miss the story that I wrote for Tiny House Listings regarding the ecological tiny house building program in Peterborough.

Too, they have in the last couple of days announced a number of the new programs for 2015.

We are so very fortunate to have such a great program in Ontario!  I hope a few of you will be there this year.  Let me now what you think.

Photo: Courtesy of Chris Magwood

Photo: Courtesy of Chris Magwood

 

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Categories: Building code, Environmentalism, Home, Insulation, Nature, Off Grid, Ontario, Open your eyes, Renovation, Rules, Sustainable living, Tiny house, Tools, Trade | 1 Comment

Cutting Holes and Other Stuff You Don’t Plan For

I have a plan to make a little less than two square feet addition to Tiny House Ontario. 22 x 8 inches plus a 22x 5 inch space where there is currently wall will become part of the footprint. It is an absurd amount of work to add such a very tiny 242 square inch additional space, but I think that the outcome will be totally worth the work. The great thing is that this will not actually add anything to the square footage of the house because the addition is a “dog box” that will stick out from the house on the West wall and this dog box will eventually become an enclosed stone chimney. I understand that just like outhouses, chimneys do not count in the square footage in my township, so the “dog box” is a short term coverable solution which will be worked on weather permitting after the dog box goes in.

The fact is that I have to make an addition. I had not included a wood stove in my original plan, but after having used a propane stove to heat, one thing I can say for certain that in a cold climate with a tiny well insulated space like THO, it is a terrible heat source. I really hate the dampness of it and it really is time to upgrade. Once the “dog box” is in place, it will be home to the Mini 12 Grey Stove that I purchased a year ago in December. Too, because the best plan is not always the easiest, the only way I can see to do this and still have a comfortable room is to locate the stove to go in the location of existing cupboards on the West wall in the Southern corner.

I also have another good reason for burning wood.  We live on ten acres of forest and my stove will give me viable repurpose for wood branch debris.

I have been at the house and I have already started the renovation. First, I had to remove all the stuff; I went through everything and purchased a few plastic containers and found that everything is essential, fits neatly in two thirds of the space that I had been using.  Second, I removed and relocated the cupboard doors so that the new plastic storage bins are neatly hidden away. Third, I cut out and removed all the build in shelves.  The nice thing is that the propane heater fits now neatly in the alcove and will stay here until I can do the rest of the job.

Relocated closed cupboard and new plastic tool bins

Relocated closed cupboard and new plastic tool bins

The truth is, there is still MUCH to be done. The wall boards have to be removed.  Then the framing has to be cut out and  reinforcements have to be put in place.   Then the wall needs to have a 22x 60 inch hole cut through, straight to the great outdoors. After this a tiny 27 x 11 inch cement pad has to be poured and cured and the teeny tiny dog box addition has to be built.  Then it will have to be roofed , then the entire thing will need to be sheathed, and steel has to be added to it in order to keep it dry.

After this is done there is insulation to add, and then a deck needs to be added for the stove to sit on. This tiny addition and the existing 9 inch deep alcove will then need to be covered in cement board and then this will need to be covered with something fireproof and attractive.  I am thinking 1.5 inch thick marble remnants might be the option I go with, because I can get these for free from a counter top maker’s dumpster that is close to my house.

Planned "dog box" addition to THO

Planned “dog box” addition to THO

I had hoped to start removing the wall boards and get the reinforcement boards up this week, but a trip to the doctor yesterday brings me some less than stellar news. I need another operation. I will be cut hipbone to hipbone and up to my belly button in a big upside-down capitol T, so they can rid me of tumors. Too the doctor biopsied me again yesterday even though so far it has been nothing malignant. Tomorrow I go for a barium swallow test too, yum yum. The end result is doc says no work for me now, and nothing for 6 to 8 weeks afterward either.  Sadly, despite the fact that I was feeling pretty good and getting things done again until my appointment yesterday, today I feel like I have been dragged through a grinder.

But, there is good news!   They will be chopping me opened on December 2nd so it will be over with soon enough and Doc thinks I will sufficiently recovered by the end of January that I should be good to go.

The crummy news is that February in Canada is not a good time of year to cure cement, nor to cut a hole in a house, so still no stove.

You know folks, I am sick of being sick; however I am glad to have a plan and to have the space in the wall cleared for when I am ready to go.  Too, I have to say, despite the fact that the house is not moving forward much this year, it is holding up really well and looking great.

The dog box addition is to go in on the wall between the window and the door to the cloth porch.   This dog box will eventually become enclosed by a stone chimney.

The dog box addition is to go in on the wall between the window and the door to the cloth porch.
This dog box will eventually become enclosed by a stone chimney.

 

UPDATE:  Please be aware that I am not happy with the stove and cannot endorse it.

Categories: Health, Laura Moreland, Off Grid, Ontario, Simple living, Sustainable living, Tiny house, Tiny House Ontario | 8 Comments

Makita Rocks!

Anyone who reads my blog knows I don’t endorse products nor do I have any advertising.  Simply put, I think as a tiny houser, I have to walk the talk.  I am of the opinion that we tiny housers are stepping away the consumer lifestyle than we should not promote consumption.  Still, there are things we need and tools are one of these things.  I personally believe in buying the best quality so that they last for a long time.  I think if you buy a tool that lasts then you don’t create so much garbage.  I have, for this reason always trusted the Makita brand.  This is my personal choice and one I have always been happy with.

Today for the first time in almost fifty years, I nearly changed my mind… but then I was reminded why it is that I chose them in the first place.

Here is what happened:

It was mid October of last year when my old Makita cordless drill bit the dust.  It was the fourth Makita drill I have had in my lifetime and I have been using tools since I got my first job putting up drywall when I was 15. Of the four I had, one got melted on the wood stove and another was stolen when it was really new, so technically speaking I only wore out 2 drills.  This really is not bad considering that I have had 34 homes in that time.

The product line had grown a lot since the last drill so faced with so many choices, I mulled around for a while trying to decide what I wanted.  It was not just the new products that slowed my decision down but because I am off grid at Tiny House Ontario when I am doing most of my projects, this also had to play a role in my decision making.   Clearly, I wanted to have a drill that holds a long charge but I also hoped to go a little more lightweight.

Anyway, I remember being pretty happy when I went to the Home Depot and found now that Makita is not just making cordless drills but they have a whole line of other tools that are part of the system.  After a few weeks of looking on line and then talking to the sales people I decided on a set that came with a drill and a cordless driver as well as the charger, two batteries and a great little padded carry bag.  It was a major purchase for me at $249. plus tax.

This is the first set, it is a beauty, works great but it doesn't fit a number of the add on tools.

This is the first set, it is a beauty, works great but it doesn’t fit a number of the add on tools.

I brought it home, used it to built a shed and then I got sick…

Roll the calendar ahead almost ten full months to today.  I am finally recovering and decided that I felt well enough to get some shelves put up in my studio so it was time to bite the bullet and add on to the system.  Today was the day to add the Makita cordless circular saw attachment.  At $119. Again this is a major purchase for me, but I also knew that it was something that would come in super handy not just for the shelves for all the off grid DIY I do.  I came home and got my work area ready, familiarized myself with the tool, adjusted the blade depth and then tried to put the battery from my drill in and it won’t fit.  I mean, it really won’t fit.

So I pack the tool back up and bring my battery with me, I go back to Home Depot and spoke to Ron in the tool department.  He also could not figure out why it would not fit and like me was really surprised that Makita had made a system in which some of the parts don’t fit with other parts.  Like me though, he is a Makita tool worshipper and so he said he would speak to the rep about it.

I returned the saw and drove home, I was mad, but what could I do?  I mean, I already had the drill for nearly 10 months, and assumed the receipt was long gone anyway, so I resolved myself to live with it and I would manage again sawing everything by hand.

When I got home, my phone was blinking.  I was surprised to find out it was Ron from Home Depot who had left a message.  He had been on the phone with Mike from Makita and he explained some of the details and he also gave me Mike’s number and suggested that I give him a call.  So I did.

I dial the number and after a couple of rings Mike answers the phone and I tell him what I have already told you and I also added that I was annoyed because now I have a drill set that while great, doesn’t meet my needs because I purchased it expressly because of the add ons.  I also said that I was really annoyed because the drill had cost me $249 and now they have a similar set that comes with everything I have (minus the nice little carry bag) but with a flashlight and with the circular saw I need for $279.  Only thirty dollars more than I paid for mine.

He says, “bring it back and exchange it for the set you want.”

I said, but I have had it since last fall and don’t have the receipt.  And get this, he says, “you don’t need it, just go to the Home Depot and make the exchange.”

So, I get the drill set and get back into the car and head to the Home Depot again.  This is where it gets even better.  They were EXPECTING ME at the return desk.  The set that I needed was there waiting for me.  Mike, who it turns out is the National Account Representative (yes, he answers the phone on a Sunday of a long weekend), happened to be close by so he went to the store, got it all organized for me and left his card.  He said to call him if I have any problems.

My new set what a beauty

My new set what a beauty

I have to say, I am one very satisfied customer and because of this, I wanted to holler out a big thanks to Ron at the Home Depot and to Mike at Maktia.  You know, I am really going to miss that nice little tool bag, but still I have to say I got pretty sweet customer service today.

I am sharing this not just because I got such great customer service but also as a heads up to any of you who are also facing off grid situations.  There is a compatibility issue.  ***The saws need the bigger batteries, unless you buy a kit like the one I have above, or you buy the drills with the 3 AH battery.

I also wanted to share because in looking at tiny house builds, on more than one occasion I have noticed that there are a lot of Makita users among you.  I thought that I would take a minute to let perspective tiny housers know that this is a tool and a company that  you can trust.

Happy building and happy DIY!

Laura

Categories: Money, Off Grid, Stuff, Tiny House Ontario, Tools | Tags: , , , | 14 Comments

EEEEEEEEK! SQUEEEEEEEEEK! WORK!

This past weekend I removed and relocated 19 very cute but very messy little mice from Tiny House Ontario.  I thought I had them all at 14 because I did not hear any noise but on the last day, I lifted the toilet and there was a  wonderful plastic bag and toilet paper home.  It was a mom with four tiny pink babies.

I removed her and her family easily right in the bag.  Since I know this is the access point for them, I then covered the area under the sink and toilet with a cup of cayenne pepper, a cup of cloves, and several types of essential oil which I understand they dislike the smell of.  Lavender, peppermint and clove oil was what I used.  I have to tell you, the bathroom smells heavenly to me.  Clearly, I am NOT a mouse because I could sit in there all day and sniff.

The mice made one hell of a mess.  It was seriously awful what they did in a five week period.  They found a five pound bag of niger seed which I use to feed the song birds and this was absolutely everywhere.  Further to this, they peed all over everything.  The entire house had to be emptied and washed.  All food, paper, tissues, towels, tea and coffee had to be disposed of.  They got into everything.  It took me hours to clean the place and it still smells of urine.

Mouse urine does not seem to be like urine from other animals.  I think it has a lot of oil in it because it was never dry in the area where they peed.  I normally don’t use a lot of chemicals when I clean but this time I bleached and then used oil soap to clean up the mess.

I the house still smells when I get back I will rub the wood and floors with pine essential oil but for now, after three days of work the house looks reasonable again.

Lets hope it stays that way.

mom and baby with niger seeds baby Male in trap

 

Categories: Forest, Nature, Off Grid, Ontario, Simple living, Tiny house, Tiny House Ontario | Tags: , | 8 Comments

Planning…

On Thursday evening my friend Guillaume made the trip to Hamilton to spend the night with Hj and I.  His intent was not simply to have a visit with us but to discuss his own tiny house build.  His work as a chemical engineer has forced him through a few relocations, currently this involves a lot of hotel rooms and I can tell you from my own experience with work travel living in a suitcase is not nearly as glamourous as it might seem to those who have not done it.  Every hotel in every city, no matter where you are becomes the same disconnected holding unit.  Now, with his current location change he is keen to have a somewhat more stationary home which can be relocated when his career calls.  A tiny house, is clearly his best and only option.  However, the life appeals to him too.  He loves the idea of a sustainable lifestyle and has big (ahem, tiny) plans.  He is a person who is very connected to the Norse tradition and having a simpler life is strongly in keeping with his personal values.

We looked together through a lot of photos and talked about the long and short term planning aspects of owning a tiny house.  As well we talked about him building the house while he stays at Tiny House Ontario.  In fact, he will soon be buying a trailer and bringing it there to begin the job in earnest.


Laura and Guillaume

 

He will initially put the house in the clearing beside THO and once the shell is done it will be moved to its location at the rear of my land.  In order to park the house back there he will have to do some land prep, which is to say that he will need to trim back the shrubs along the tractor path.  They have grown back in since 2010 when we last cleared this route.  He will also have to put in a couple of loads of gravel and will get my cousin Kenny to smooth this in.  This will cost him between $600 and $1000 which is a reasonable amount of rent for him to pay for the year and the benefit to me is that it will be easier to get in there if there is a fallen tree or simply to walk back to the rear of the acreage.

The natural location for him to place his house is to go where Great Giant Clyde fell and was removed over winter.  The naturally made hole in the canopy is ideal because this will allow him to collect sun for his solar system.   I am happy to know that absolutely no tree will need to be removed in order to provide Guillaume with a little space to call his own.  His location will be about 1/6th of a kilometre  to my own house but we will be divided by the thick prickly pear line so we will both enjoy 100% privacy in our homes.  The other benefit is that he is open to allowing me to share all the steps he makes in the building of his home, so this will provide me with a lot of fodder for my writing.

In short, we are great friends and soon we will be great neighbours as well.

clyde-from-the-south

 

I would like to take this time to say goodbye to Clyde and thank him for creating space for Guillaume.

Categories: Community, Forest, Friendship, Neighbours, Off Grid, Simple living, Tiny House Ontario | Tags: | 9 Comments