Tiny House Living

A Long Overdue Update

Spring has finally sprung here in the U.P. and Pete and I have been busy. Since the last blog post, which was back in November, kitchen cabinets and countertops were installed in the tiny house and we bought another piece of property.

Since the new property is probably the most surprising update, I’ll start there. Winter in the U.P. is hard; winter in the U.P. off-grid is even harder. Particularly trying to start a generator in the howling wind when it’s -20 degrees outside. It’s bad enough when the generator doesn’t start on the first five pulls but then when the recoil snaps back at a high rate of speed through your already frozen fingers it’s enough to make you swear every obscenity you know and wipe the frozen tears from your eyes. And then there’s the outdoor shower! ūüôā

Prior to finding and buying the property that we’ve been living on, we tried to buy a piece of property 1 mile up the road. I wrote about our land search in a previous post, “We Bought Land“. When Pete and I first looked at this original property all we had to do was drive up the driveway and we both knew instantly that we were going to make an offer. This place is definitely not for everyone. Anyone looking to purchase a “house” would not be interested in this property. While the person we purchased it from had been living here since 1997, technically there is not a house on the property. Which was fine by us, because we’ve been building our house. The property is 26 acres, with an animal barn, a pole barn, and a wood shed/chicken coop. The pole barn is half garage, half one bedroom, one bath house with partical board walls.

When we made our original offer, the seller did not accept and didn’t even bother to counter-offer. We increased our offer, and again, she was not interested, so we moved on. By the time she changed her mind and wanted to accept our second offer we were already in the process of purchasing the other property. Since that time, the seller, had lowered her asking price to less than our first offer and buying the property stared to make sense.

Our goal since we started building the tiny house and buying land has been to start a small farm. What we quickly learned when we moved the tiny house out to the property was that starting a farm was going to cost a lot of money and take a very long time. We moved the tiny house to land without power, without water, without any buildings, without fencing. We liked the idea of starting a farm from scratch but quickly realized that a farm was not in our immediate future going this route. The new property on the other hand, has everything we need to start farming right away.

Because life in the tiny house off-grid during the winter had been very challenging, we moved into the “pole house” when we closed on the property back in February. As soon as the roads are dry, we will move the tiny house to the new property, officially finish it, and move back into the tiny house. We will use the “pole house” for its bathroom, anytime we need a larger kitchen (think canning and cheesemaking), and it will be the guest house when we have company.

And, because we bought property with a barn and bad fencing, we of course, purchased a cow. A little sooner than we had planned, but when a good family dairy cow comes along you really shouldn’t hesitate. We also had been raising laying chicks for the last six weeks but on a very sad note they had a bad encounter with a weasel two nights ago and they are no more. I am making it my mission to weasel proof the coop and will not let this happen again!

Back on the tiny house front, Pete and I installed the kitchen cabinets and we hired our neighbor Randy to install our countertops. The tiny house to-do list is much shorter now and consists of trim work, sealing the tongue and groove walls and countertops, installing the rolling library ladder and range hood, purchasing a couch and putting up kitchen shelves. Once all these tasks are finished we’ll move back into the tiny house. We were also having a difficult time with condensation in the tiny house over the winter, something that is not uncommon among other tiny-housers. We will need to address this issue prior to next winter; being able to run the refrigerator off electric instead of propane should help.

Enjoy the pictures and I will try my best to be a more consistent blogger.

Categories: Tiny House Living | 14 Comments

The Tiny House Has Insurance!

Just before moving the tiny house out to the property I called Vast here in Marquette to inquire about insurance. I spoke with Karen and explained that I wanted to make an appointment to discuss insurance. When she asked for more imformation I explained that we were building something called a tiny house. She asked if she could find information about them online and I assured her that if she googled “tiny house” she would find more than enough information. I made an appointment to go to the office later that afternoon. When I showed up for the appointment Karen asked all sorts of questions about our little house. What was the square footage, how much had it cost so far, would it have a smoke alarm, would we anchor it to the ground…

She also told me that she called her insurance underwrite after she got off the phone with me and explained that she had a couple looking to get insurance for a tiny house. Her underwriter knew all about tiny houses and wanted to get one himself!

The tiny house is insured under a mobile home policy with a premium just under $400 a year. Compared to someone with a “real house” worth a couple hundred thousand dollars our policy seems rather pricy; however, in the insurance world, mobile homes are considered riskier and at $32 dollars a month we think it’s worth the price. I spoke with a coworker who’s camp is a mobile home and asked him what his premium was and he explained that he can’t get insurance on his camp because the mobile home is too old and that he would gladly pay $400 a year for coverage if he could get it.

Our policy covers $25,000 on the structure, $17,000 on personal belongings (I doubt we could even fit enough belongings in the tiny house to equal that), and $300,000 liability on the property. I did make an appointment with another insurance agency in town to compare policies. The other agent I spoke with seemed skeptical about being able to insure the tiny house, but he did say that the Vast policy looked about right. He told me he would look into things and call me back either way…I never heard back from him.

We did have to wait to get our physical address before we could sign our policy and that involved calling the Sheriff’s Department to request a fire number. The fire number took a few weeks to be issued but once I was able to give Vast our physical address we were insured. And I did confirm that we’re covered if the house is stolen!

Categories: Tiny House Insurance, Tiny House Living | Tags: , , | 14 Comments

We Have a Shower

When we first started designing the floor plan of our tiny house, we were planning on putting in a small bathroom like so many of the other tiny houses out there. We had concerns, however, regarding freezing issues in the winter. We weren’t quite sure how we were going to handle the gray water coming from the shower. You can buy heating pads for a gray water tank, but those require electricity; something we don’t have here at the property. As far as dealing with black water, we were planning on having a composting toilet. However, after speaking with our local health department, we were informed that composting toilets are not allowed and neither are incinerating toilets. After being told that, we decided to eliminate the bathroom in the tiny house all together and eventually build a sauna bath house next door. The reason we called the health department in the first place is because friends of a friends home was condemned by the health department when they found out they had a composting toilet. They weren’t exactly on the up and up, so I’m told, so that didn’t help their situation either.

In the meantime, we are renting a porta potty and have built an outdoor shower. In the next coming months, we will build an outhouse and pay the health department $200 for a privy permit application fee. Prior to building the outdoor shower, we purchased something called the Zodi Extreme. It consists of a stainless steel canister (looks like a milk can) that sits atop a propane burner. There is a thermometer on the side to let you know how hot the water is and when it gets to your desired temperature you manually pressurize the tank with a pump at the top. Then you turn on your nozzle and enjoy a hot shower. It works quite well and we would highly recommend it. They also have battery operated units as well.

For the first couple of weeks we were using the shower without any sort of enclosure; but I prefer to have a tad more privacy and wanted an actual showering space. Keep in mind, we are on 40 acres and have no neighbors within sight of the tiny house, but I still wanted a shower enclosure.

Pete gave me quite a bit of grief when I wanted to hold off on working on the inside of the house to build a shower. He thought it was a huge waste of time. He has since realized how nice it is to have a place to shower, away from the bugs.

The design for the shower was in my head and rather than drawing out plans we started cutting and piecing together the enclosure. A few changes were made along the way and while the shower is perfect for us, it wouldn’t be ideal for a tall person. We made the base out of treated lumber and bought untreated 2×4’s for the uprights. Our friend Jeff stockpiled some pallets for us for the siding and we screened the whole thing in with netting to have a bug free experience (the mosquitos are the worst they’ve ever been!). We used some scrap metal roofing for the top which we plan on painting to match our roof. The most expensive part of the project was the roll of screen, but we have a lot left over.

Now that the shower is complete we can get back to finishing the tongue and groove inside the tiny house

Categories: Outdoor Shower, Tiny House Living | Tags: , , | 25 Comments

Moving Day!

May 31, 2014 – The day has finally arrived! We moved the tiny house out to our property! The tiny house is far from finished but our lease is up and we are done paying rent!

We hired Terry and his very nice truck to move the tiny house from Pelkie out to Chatham. It took just over two hours and everything went very smooth. It was rather windy though and Terry mentioned that it would have been better if we had sway bars on the trailer. Since we didn’t, he just took it a little slower.

I was a jumbled ball of nerves when we moved the house last fall to my moms so this time I avoided coffee in the morning and also drove in front of the tiny house while Pete followed behind. I discovered being in front was way less stressful than watching the tiny house from behind. I only had to think about my home rolling down the road at 55 mph whenever I looked in the rear view mirror; which lets face it was every 45 seconds. But still I was much less nauseous this time around. I’m glad we don’t plan on moving the tiny house any time soon, but I think I would eventually get used to it if we traveled with it.

It will be interesting trying to live in the tiny house while we finish building but we’re so happy to finally be out at the property that I think the new excitement will outlast the construction phase…I hope.

Thanks again Terry for safely moving my baby!

Categories: Tiny House Living, Towing the Tiny House, Trailer | Tags: , , , , | 6 Comments

On the Road Again…Again

November 2, 2013 – Like fish that starts to stink after three days, so too, do friends building a tiny house in your driveway!¬† Jeff and Cindy have graciously let us occupy their driveway the past two summers and into this fall so we were not at all surprised when Cindy asked if we would mind taking the winter off.¬† Our plan though, is to be living in the tiny house full-time come spring, and since we haven’t even gotten started on the inside of the tiny house, we really need to keep plugging away throughout the winter.¬† We started looking into our other options and at first thought we would move the tiny house to our newly acquired property.¬† However, the property lacks power, we lack a snow plow, and it would have been pretty tough trying to work on the tiny house in the middle of winter.

Our only other option was to bring the tiny house to my mom’s house one and a half¬†hours¬†away.¬† At first we were not too keen on this option as it will mean a lot of driving most weekends, but the more we thought about it the better it started to sound.¬† While working at Jeff and Cindy’s, we tried to be very conscientious of their space and tried to stay out of the way¬†as much as possible.¬† That meant only running inside to use the bathroom when I couldn’t possibly hold it any longer.¬† At my mom’s house, I’ll feel free to pee when the moment strikes!¬† Another bonus is that we’ll be able to put in longer days.¬† Since we’ll be spending nights there it will be easier to get started earlier in the day and work later into the evening, so we should be able to be more productive.¬† Also, my mom said she’ll cook for us!¬† This too will allow us to be more productive as we can keep working until dinner is served.¬† Before you start thinking we’re taking advantage of my mom, this is also a win win for her too!¬† My mom has gotten to the point where she dreads the Michigan winters.¬† Last winter she went south for the first time and stayed with my uncle Bill and aunt Karen in Macon, Georgia.¬† This winter she’ll have constant company and will be able to rely on us for shoveling and grocery shopping.

When we first decided to build a tiny house, we read about how other people who owned tiny houses would rent a 1 ton U-Haul truck to move their houses.¬† This had always been our plan if we didn’t have a truck to use.¬† While trying to line up a truck, we quickly found out that it’s not as easy as we thought it was going to be.¬† Apparently finding a rental truck in a large city is not too difficult, but here in the U.P., they don’t exist.¬† We called several companies and none had a large moving truck in the area.¬† In fact, U-Haul places that I know exist right down the road, couldn’t even be found while searching the company’s website.¬† I put in our zip code and was informed that no U-Haul’s¬†were within a 100 mile radius.¬† We checked with the couple of people we know with 3/4 ton trucks but for one reason or another that wasn’t an option.¬† I started Googling how to move a tiny house and found a blog post with a few suggestions.¬† One suggestion was to have a tow truck move it; I called a tow truck company and they said they could not move anything that long or that tall.¬† I went so far as to email someone on Craigslist who was trying to sell a big truck and see if we could hire him or rent the truck for the day; we even put an ad in Craigslist.¬† I finally started texting everyone I know asking them if they knew anyone with a large truck.¬†¬†We were starting to get a little worried and thinking that “this is the U.P., more people should own big trucks!”. But everyone we know, including ourselves, only had¬†1/2 ton pickups.¬† Thankfully¬†my co-worker Sharon came though.¬† A good friend of hers owns a big Dodge dualie and was willing to move the tiny house for us for a reasonable fee.¬† Her friend Terry owns Marquette Transmission and Auto Repair here in Marquette and I’ve seen his truck at the shop before.¬† We’ve brought our personal vehicles over there for repair as well as work vehicles.¬† When we heard Terry pulls a 14,000 pound fifth wheel trailer with his truck, we knew the tiny house would be a piece of cake.¬† Of course even with a super big truck, I was still nervous on moving day; we’ve invested quite a bit in this little house.¬† But, I am happy to report that the move went off without a hitch.¬† We did have to stop one time to re-staple the house wrap that was starting to flap around, but other than that we didn’t have a single issue.¬†¬†We did get a lot of really strange looks though; that was probably the best part.¬†Thanks for taking half of your Saturday to move our house Terry, we really appreciate it.¬† And, we’ll be calling you in the spring to do it again!

We also have to thank our friends Paul and Tom for coming over on Sunday to adjust the tiny house location.  Thanks guys!  When Terry pulled into the driveway with the tiny house, we had him park it on the driveway, but just off to the side.  After thinking about it, we realized it would work out better to have it right on the driveway, making it more stable and easier to level.  At first we figured we could just drive our truck out the next weekend to move it, but we really hated to drive the truck all that way just to move the tiny house.  So we called up a good family friend, Paul and he and his brother-in-law Tom were more than happy to come over and lend a hand.

I also had to tell Pete that he was right and I was wrong!¬† When were having trouble finding a truck to tow the tiny house, I looked online to see how much a half ton Chevy could tow.¬† All the websites I checked kept saying it could tow over 8,000 pounds.¬† At this point we figure the tiny house doesn’t weigh more than 5,000 pounds so I was trying to talk Pete into moving the house with our truck.¬† As I watched Pete lower the tiny house onto the ball of Paul’s truck I realized that our truck could not have moved the tiny house; I thought the back bumper on Paul’s half ton Chevy was going to bottom out.¬† Moving it around the driveway was one thing, but we definitely needed a bigger truck to haul this thing down the highway.

The tiny house will stay at my mom’s until spring and we’ll keep working on it throughout the winter.¬† Hopefully it will be move in ready by April, and if it’s not, we’ll be living in it anyway!¬† A super huge thanks to Jeff and Cindy for letting us get this far on our project in their driveway! We couldn’t have done it without your generosity!

Categories: Tiny House Living, Towing the Tiny House, Uncategorized | Tags: , , | 8 Comments

We Bought Property!

Our most frequently asked question since we started building our tiny house has been, “where are you going to park it?” Our response has always been that we’re looking for land, but hopefully we’ll find a backyard that we could put it or if all else fails we could park it at the local RV park.¬†I am extremely happy to report that as of last Thursday, which happened to be our 5 year anniversary, we can now call ourselves land owners!

Pete and I have been looking for land the moment we left college and headed out west. We would be driving down the road in Garden Valley, Idaho and I would say, “look at that land, we should buy that.” Pete’s response was always the same, “is it for sale?”. No, it wasn’t for sale but it didn’t matter because we weren’t in a position to buy anything anyway! We didn’t have permanent jobs and¬†we knew we would be living in a new town in 6 months, but it was still fun to daydream about our future land and the farm that we would start.

To make a long and probably boring story short, the land we purchased (40 acres) had been for sale since we first moved to Marquette and probably for a year or so before that.  We had checked it out when we first moved here but the timing was never quite right for us.  At the beginning of the summer we finally decided to look at it for real and make an offer but it was no longer listed.  At this same time we found another piece of property that we liked but the seller was not yet ready to accept our offer, she was holding out for something better.  Because of her unwillingness to negotiate with us, I started checking the listings again and this time checked Craigslist (which I rarely look at for property).  Low and behold the original property was now being listed on Craigslist, not with the realtor.

Pete was in Montana fighting wildfires and when I told him the land was still for sale he told me to go check it out and make an offer. I thought I should wait for him to come back before looking at the property, but at his insistence my mom and I went and walked the property. I made an offer and waited to hear back from the seller. Then we found out that the seller who was not ready to accept our offer on the other piece of property was now ready to accept. There were pros and cons to both places, but ultimately we liked the 40 acres the best and we were able to settle on a price and proceed with the purchase.

Our goal is to start a small farm. The property is about 20 acres of pasture and 20 acres of woods, with the woods being mostly sugar maple. We hope to make maple syrup, raise laying hens and meat chickens, have a dairy cow and pigs, as well as a large garden. The property comes with its challenges; mainly it is off grid and it would be rather expensive to have power brought in. We also have to have a well drilled.

We are now under more pressure to finish the tiny house so we can move it out to the property when our lease is up on our apartment next spring. We’ll be roughing it for a little while. We’ll have to haul in water until we get the well drilled and we’ll have to rely on solar panels and/or a generator; we’ve been doing a lot of research on off grid living. We’re no strangers to backpacking and roughing it though, so this will just be one more adventure to have fun with.

Categories: Farm Tours, Tiny House Living | Tags: , , | 32 Comments

Tiny House on the Move

March 29, 2013 – For the past 8 months we have been renting/caretaking a house from friends of ours who were trying to sell it. We always knew it would sell eventually, but we hoped it wouldn’t be until the end of the summer. Fortunately for our friends and unfortunately for us, the house got an offer in the winter and the buyers wanted to move fast. We ended up having to be out within a month and not only find a new place to live, but also find a place for the tiny house. Weather was also not on our side. We had a crazy winter this year; it was very late and not much snow to start, but mother nature made up for that and we got hit with snowstorm after snowstorm far later than many of us would like.

Jeff and Cindy were gracious enough to let us bring the tiny house back to their place. Now the only problem was finding a good time to move the house. We made a couple of failed attempts earlier in the month. Pete borrowed Eric’s truck, since his is a 3/4 ton and Pete thought it would pull the house easier, and we made attempt number one. However, the concrete blocks that the jack stands sit on were frozen into the ground. Pete had to rip them out of the ground using the truck and a heavy-duty chain. By the time the blocks were free it was too dark to move the house. The second attempt failed due to several inches of ice in the driveway preventing the truck from getting any traction. All of these complications kept delaying the move because we were trying to move the house in the evening when there would be the least amount of traffic and hopefully the least amount of cops (not that we were breaking the law, or were we…it’s a bit of a gray area).

We finally got a beautiful day and decided to move the house in the middle of the afternoon on a Friday while everyone else was heading out of town for the holiday weekend. We only had about four miles to go so we figured traffic could just deal with us. We also scouted the whole route ahead of time to make sure overhead lines wouldn’t be an issue. We had one very low cable line running across the road in our neighborhood, but we were able to avoid it by going around the block. I followed behind Pete in our truck and everything went off without a hitch.

Now, if only spring would come, we might be able to start building again.

Categories: Tiny House Living, Towing the Tiny House, Trailer | 2 Comments

Another Tiny House in the U.P.

While taking a run to my mom’s house the other weekend, some friends of ours had mentioned that there was a tiny house just down the road from my mom’s. We decided to check it out and sure enough, there it was. It’s very exciting to come across tiny houses in the U.P. and this one is very unique! It doesn’t look like anyone is staying there right now but it would be nice to check it out again this summer and maybe get a tour of the inside.

Nothing new to report on our tiny house. We are very anxious to get started again and will probably get inside in the next week or so to figure out the measurements for the dormer walls and get them framed. We’ve also been discussing borrowing a heater from a friend and heating the garage so we can start staining the siding. Anything we can do now to give us a head start when spring arrives would be good.

Categories: Tiny House Living | Tags: | 4 Comments

Winter Lull

January 21, 2013 – Happy New Year folks! It’s a good thing that “do a better job keeping up with the blog” was not one of my resolutions. Nothing has happened on the tiny house since my last post other than being covered by a giant tarp, twice.

Pete and I had the good fortune to be able to take a trip to Costa Rica after Thanksgiving for my brother’s wedding. The trip was partially funded by my dad and step-mom, so thankfully we did not have to completely drain the tiny house fund, thanks dad and Ruthanne! Pete was already downstate, so I called up Jeff to get some help covering the tiny house with the tarp before heading out of town. I thought we did a decent job securing the tarp, but when we got back from our trip, the giant tarp was lying on the ground. Luckily we still had the 6 mil poly and another tarp covering the roof; so the house was still protected. We had hopes of being able to work on the house during the winter; at the very least of getting the dormers figured out and the roof completed, but we also wanted the house protected from the elements. Especially the housewrap, as apparently the manufacturer recommends having the house sided within 90 days of putting on the housewrap. Since we knew that wasn’t going to happen, we figured at least covering the sides of the house with a tarp would be good enough. Unfortunately, it was kind of an all or nothing deal. The tarp is such a monster that it catches the wind pretty easily and needed to be tied down very securely. In doing so, it made it not worth trying to remove it to work on from time to time; so the tiny house will sit until spring.

So far, we’ve had another very mild winter. This is the third year in a row that we haven’t seen much snow. We got a few inches over the weekend and our temperatures dropped quite a bit, but we’ve only had to shovel once…and by we, I mean Pete. Although we enjoy outdoor winter activities, it would also be nice to have spring come early and get back to work on the tiny house.

We stopped in at the Modern Woodsmith¬†a couple of weeks ago to take a peek at our door and drop off the door knob and deadbolt. I got a call today that it’s ready to pick up. It turned out so nice and we can’t wait to install it. It still needs to be sealed, which we will probably wait until spring to do.

In the meantime, we have been trying to pare down our belongings in anticipation of living in such a small space. We’ve started in the closet and have a bag of clothes ready to go to Goodwill as well as a few other odds and ends. Since not much work will be done on the house for a little while, I’ll do my best to come up with tiny house topics to write about. If you have any ideas, send them my way.

Categories: Door, Dormers, Roofing, Tiny House Living | Tags: | 11 Comments

Tiny House Burnout

For over two years now Pete and I have become immersed in tiny houses.¬† When we first learned of Jay Shafer’s tiny houses¬†there was the initial excitement and intrigue of people living in such a small space.¬† Then we started to seriously consider whether we too could live in a tiny space that allowed us to be mobile if necessary and just live differently.¬† We started, as I’m sure most tiny house obsessed folks start, be digesting as much information as we could find about tiny houses.¬† Our first obsession started with Evan and Gabby’s blog ¬†and down the rabbit hole we went.

We started building back in May of this year and have been working on the tiny house in some way every weekend since.¬† I hadn’t realized that burnout set in, until last weekend when the rain kept us inside.¬† We had a fire going in the wood stove and we spent the weekend cooking, reading, talking, streaming movies and T.V. It was at that point that I realized how enjoyable it was to spend the weekend not having to accomplish anything.¬† To simply have downtime is quite a luxury.

This is definitely not the time to be experiencing burnout, especially when the tiny house lacks a roof and snow is on the way!  This weekend is supposed to be decent weather and so we will get back into work mode and try to get a roof on the tiny house.  While we need to keep working to at least get the house ready for winter, it is also important to enjoy some downtime from time to time to avoid burnout in the first place.

Happy tiny house building everyone! ūüôā

 

Categories: Tiny House Living | 8 Comments

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