Fact: Vermont is cold. 

Knowing that I wanted to live in my tiny house for a good long while, and that Vermont gets very cold, my house had to stand up to long harsh winters. I’ve previously talked about which heater I chose for my tiny house. Since I’ve lived in the house for a year (!) now I thought an updated review of the heater and some other thoughts on tiny house winters might be in order.

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Overall, the heater has been great. Like many other tiny house dwellers, I often find that the loft is way too warm while the rest of the house is on the chilly side. But with some mindfulness (aka turning down the thermostat before bed) the house is comfortable. I keep the ceiling fan on reverse to circulate warm air down and have another fan at the edge of the loft pointing into the main space. This other fan draws warm air out of the loft and sends the air back into the main space where it is pushed down by the ceiling fan.

I use propane to power the heater, water heater  and stove/oven. I have four 30 lb propane tanks on a little deck on the front of the house. This past fall, I built a little shed to hide them from view (I may or may not have put the siding on upside down). In the winter, a 30 lb propane tank, which holds approximately 6 gallons of propane, lasts me about a week and a half. A gallon of propane runs around $3.50 a gallon. I pay around $60 a month for propane in the winter (November-March). From April-October, I used just 2 20 lb tanks of propane at about $15 a tank or $30 total. Overall, I pay less than $350 a year for fuel.

Last winter I skirted the tiny house using hay bales wrapped in plastic bags. They did a great job helping to keep the floors warm and I was hoping to use them again this year. but…I did something dumb. I stored them in the plastic, underneath the eaves of the shed next to my house. Over the summer, moisture got into the bags and all the bales started to rot. I ended up having to compost all the bales.

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This year I planned to skirt using snow (which I had also planned to do last year) and again don’t have enough snow to do it. At least three times, I’ve shoveled piles of snow up against the house only to have it all melt a few days later. I might have to retract my previous statement about how cold Vermont is.

I’m a bit worried about not having a skirt but its been alright so far. I put rugs down over just about every square inch of flooring in the house. I’ve also added insulated shades to the large kitchen window (for warmth and so I can have privacy when I walk around the house with no pants). This helps to keep more of the warm air in.

Squash Cashew Dip

Inspired by this zucchini, yogurt and mint dip, this squash and cashew dip is easy and delicious. The best way to describe it is as a chunky hummus.


Because I’m not a big milk drinker, I’ve been experimenting with making my own cashew milk. The only reason I would buy milk is for my coffee and even the smallest bottle goes bad before I can finish it. Bulk cashews are an awesome zero waste alternative and it’s easier to control the quantity of milk. Anyone ever freeze cashew milk? There are a couple small jars of cashew milk hanging out in the freezer right now and I’m anxious to see how it works out.

My food processor is pretty pathetic and isn’t able to pulverize the cashews so there’s a lot of pulp left over. It’s fun to experiment with the cashew pulp and it often ends up as a ricotta cheese substitute. This time around the cashew pulp was substitute for yogurt. If cashew pulp isn’t a staple in your pantry (weirdo) then just put some cashew, or another nut you like, in the food processor first with a little water and pulse until it’s as smooth as you want it.

Combine the cashews, some sautéed yellow squash and garlic, a big handful of dill, a good glug of olive oil and salt and pepper. Mix it all up in a hopefully not pathetic food processer and voila! Equal parts cashew pulp to squash seemed to do the trick but you should experiment with whatever proportions seem right to you.

Add chopped up veggies from the garden and some good bread for dipping. Make sure you spend more time arranging an Instagram worthy plate and picking the right filter for the photos than you did on the recipe. This way everyone will know that you’re creative AF.

Massive Squash

This summer I took an amazing class through the Vermont Community Garden Network. Twice a week, we met in the most beautiful community garden and tend to our plots. Our teacher is an outstanding individual– so thoughtful, intelligent and knowledgeable. She struck a really great balance between holding our hands and encouraging us to do things on our own. As a first time gardener, it has been really helpful to have someone to turn to with questions. Also the community created in a class setting draws me back to the garden each week. Sadly, our class has ended and we recently “graduated”. Graduation was a lovely gathering of students, family and friends. There was a delicious spread of food made from the tasty treats harvested from our gardens. It really was a very sweet way of celebrating this wonderful experience.

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As anyone who has grown summer squash before will tell you, those sons of bitches pop up out of no where. On a Tuesday there were no zucchinis in my garden, not even little baby ones, and on the following Thursday there was one the size of my head. How the hell do they grow so fast?!

A classmate harvested their 3rd giant yellow squash and decided it was just too much for them. Since I don’t have yellow squash in my garden, I snatched it up like the greedy little asshole that I am. I was determined to use it in new and creative ways so the enormous quantity of squash I was destined to eat did not become boring.

Over the next couple of weeks I’ll share some recipe inspiration for yellow squash 3 different ways.

Are you swimming in squash? I’d love to hear some of your favorite recipes!

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A tiny love story

Go to school, find a job, fall in love, get married and live happily ever after right? Well it’s not quite that simple. After being in a relationship for a really long time, we broke up. I was devastated. 

I felt like I had done everything I was “supposed” to. At the lowest points, I was constantly thinking “What did I do wrong to deserve this kind of heartbreak?” 

When I was finally ready to face the world, I knew I didn’t want to follow the path I had been on. Flash forward one year, I started building a tiny house! 

My tiny house love story is featured in this months issue of Tiny House Magazine. If you’d like to read the whole article, please purchase the full issue here. I promise it’s worth it! Your support allows publications like this to promote the tiny house movement and gives me another platform to share my story.


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Happy Trailer-versary

Happy trailerversary Little Lou!

 

One year ago today, the 8 x 24 custom built tiny house trailer from Tumbleweed Tiny House Company arrived! What an incredible year it’s been. I’ve accomplished more than I ever thought possible and worked  so incredibly hard to do so. It would have been impossible with out the unwavering love and support from family and friends. Coincidentally, the trailerversary falls just after that I embarked on another new adventure.

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For the past four years, I’ve worked at the Central Vermont Solid Waste Management District in several roles, most recently serving as the School Program Manager. Basically, I got to teach  kids about recycling and composting – two of my favorite things! Want to know my third favorite thing? (kid shouts out: trash!) No,  I don’t really like trash. My third favorite thing is pizza!

That joke was always a hit and having fun with students while talking about such important topics always brought me a lot of joy. However, I knew that I beginning to get tired and wanted to move on before I was burnt out. So I started putting feelers out for new jobs. I applied and interviewed for a couple of positions but nothing really worked out – mostly because I wasn’t particularly excited about the opportunities.

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Well, I finally found an opportunity that I’m really excited about. Last week, I began working at Yestermorrow – a sustainable design and build school in Warren, VT. If you’re interested in tiny houses, yurts, timber framing or sustainable building in general, please check out their website.Stay tuned to see where this new adventure takes me!

Zero Waste Vacation

Or rather an attempt at a zero waste vacation. 

My best friends and I are in Florida enjoying the abundance of sunshine, sand and cocktails while channeling our inner basic bitch for Sarah’s bachelorette party – #grinchmanwedding #bridetribe. After a few days at the beach, two of us will embark on a four day road trip back to Vermont which will include an abundance of off key sing-a-longs and junk food. 


Even when on vacation, I work hard to reduce the amount of waste I produce. But I also don’t stress nearly as much as I normally do. Planning in advance makes it easier and packing reusables helps. Plus, most of the reusables are super cute. 


In my carry on I have a metal container for snacks/leftovers, a spork (I can’t believe that made it through TSA!) to avoid plastic utensils, a metal straw, 2 small and 1 larger cloth bags, a reusable tumbler for hot and cold beverages and 2 cloth napkins. When my friends saw how small my bag was, they couldn’t believe I fit all my clothes and all these extras in my bag. Um, I actually packed almost all my summer clothes. Tiny house=tiny wardrobe! 


Less 2 hours into the trip, I’ve already used the tumbler for coffee, the spork and cloth napkin for breakfast and the metal container for leftovers. I avoided a styrofoam to go container by asking for my meal on a paper plate. Unfortunately, the plate was too dirty for recycling and there was no place to compost at the airport. 

But I didn’t want to embarrass my friends by stinking up the plane with a greasy plate! I already embarrass them enough by telling everyone I meet pirate jokes.


Bonus: found glee gum, packaged only in cardboard, at the airport. I don’t normally chew gum but it helps my ear pop on the plane. 

Little Lou, Local Celebrity

The local news station featured Little Lou in a segment recently and they did a fantastic job! The story was short and sweet but really touched on  all the hard work and love that myself, Seth and all my friends and family poured into this project. Also, the focus on the zero waste philosophy was much appreciated.

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If you would like to check out the HGTV episode of Tiny House, Big Living it is available streaming on Amazon.

 

 

In response…

Buzz Feed recently posted an article filled with a bunch of questions for tiny house hunters.

Dear “Tiny House Hunters” People: Please Answer These Questions

Well I’m not a tiny house hunter, but I am a tiny house dweller. Surely that makes me qualified to answered some of these questions.

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1. What actually qualifies, in your mind, as a “tiny house”?

Anything smaller than 500 square feet.


2. Have you ever seen a studio apartment in Manhattan, and if so, would you consider that to fall under those criteria?

Nope. It’s a tiny apartment.

3. Was your realtor a little annoyed because they knew their commission wouldn’t be as much?

Why would they agree to take on a client if they were going to annoyed?

4. Are there tiny house fixer-uppers and short sales, or is that just for bigger houses?

There’s a lot of tiny houses in varying states of completeness on websites like Tiny House Listing. Tiny houses tend to be less expensive than “normal” houses so I’m guessing the instance of short sales is lower. Many tiny houses, particularly ones of wheels, are not eligible for bank financing which would also lower the instance of short sales.

5. Be honest — how much did you really know about yurts before starting your tiny house hunt?

Before: Yurts are cute.

6. Be honest — how much do you really know about yurts even after getting a tiny house?

After: Yurts are cute and not very warm.

7. If you had a larger family, would you still want to do the tiny house thing?

Probably not a tiny house on wheels but probably not a big house.

8. If so…why? (I’m looking at you, family with four kids.)

I mean I’m wondering why anyone would even want that many kids in the first place. I’ll stick with being an “aunt” for now. 

9. What does the rest of your family think about your decision to live in a tiny house?

My parents supported me because I was going to do what I want to matter what. Now they’re super proud. Generally, my family is on board. I’ve got a family filled with badass women (and men) who encourage me to be a badass woman and chase all my dreams.



10. If you want a pet, does it need to be a tiny pet, like a hamster or something?

Hamster are tiny – their cages, not so much. Definitely not the right choice for a tiny house. Henry the hedgehog used to live with me in a tiny apartment but his cage was too big. He has a new loving home now. But hot damn, he was cute.

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11. How frequently do you plan on moving your house around, if at all?

Occasionally. When new adventures arise or my leases run out.

12. How do you choose which friend’s place to park your house at until you can buy your own plot of land?

Whichever friend says yes!

13. Do your friends actually want you to come and stay on their property for an undetermined period of time, or are they just being nice?

Probably a little bit of both. 

14. Is it tough to get someone to come and install cable and wifi?

I’m a wifi (electric and water too) parasite. I mooch off the main house. Do people actually still have cable? 

15. What does it take to disaster-proof a tiny house (as in, prepare for earthquakes, tornadoes, etc.)?

Construction is similar to a regular house. My rafters are connected with hurricane ties to stand up to strong winds (at home and on the road). Luckily, I don’t have to worry about many natural disasters where I live.

But when the floods come, I can move my house out of the way! 



16. How do you decide which possessions of yours to get rid of if there’s not a lot of storage?

For the year prior to moving in, I hid clothes and household items under the bed or in the hall closet. This way, I was able to see how it felt to be without them. If I found myself digging under the bed or in the closet for an item, it came to the tiny house. If I forgot about it, it was donated. And my friends got to take pretty much whatever they wanted. 

17. Do you have to be a really neat person to live in such a small space?

Nah. I go from one extreme to another – really tidy or a total pig. It all depends on your tolerance for mess and clutter.

18. Like, can you just take your shoes off and throw them on the floor like most people, or do you have to put everything in a very specific place?

I kick them off and leave them in the middle of the floor. Then I have a temper tantrum when I trip over them later..like most other people. 

19. Do you ever get claustrophobic?

Yeah and then I go outside. I’m not trapped inside my house with no means of escape. I get claustrophobic if I’m inside for too long no matter how big the inside is.

20. Do people even come over at all? Like, can they fit?

Little Lou has hosted as many as five friends at one time! And that’s pretty much all the friends I have. 

21. When is the last time you threw a dinner party, and how did that work?

I haven’t had a big group over for dinner but I plan to host summer bbq’s on the lawn. If your house is small – or big- go outside!

22. Is it awkward when you have guests over and someone needs to fart in such a small space?

Meh. Farts are funny.

23. Is it even more awkward if someone needs to poop?

Nah. Pooping in the composting toilet is less awkward because it’s filled with sawdust instead of water. No embarrassing splash when you drop the kids at the pool.

24. And can everyone hear you peeing?

see above.

25. Is there soundproofing…at all?

Well everything is basically one big room. So not really. But  the insulation, Roxul, actually acts as a sound barrier.

26. Can you have ~overnight visitors~ without things getting uncomfortable?

Yup. They sleep on the couch, share my bed with me or I sleep on a camping pad and they sleep in my bed. I’m pretty much the best friend ever.

Oh Wait…is this a sex question? Right, it probably is.

It’s not uncomfortable. And I live alone so I can enjoy activities-monopoly is a favorite-with overnight guests in any room in the house without worrying about being busted by roommates. 

27. How often do you hit your head on the ceiling when you wake up?

Never. I can sit straight up in my bed.


28. Are there tiny bed frames for sale somewhere or do you just have to put your mattress directly on the floor?

You could probably find one but it seems like a waste of space to me if you have a lofted bedroom. 

29. Why do you seem to expect that a full-sized kitchen will fit into your 150 sq. foot house?

Because you can do it. The kitchen in my tiny house is bigger than the kitchen in my last apartment. But you’ll have to sacrifice space somewhere else – like the living room.

30. Oh, and do you end up having to order a lot of takeout because the kitchens are so small?

Nope. I love cooking and hardly order take out. In fact, I order less take out now than when I lived in an apartment in the city because there is no delivery options at my new home.

31. Are you hoping to put in tiny granite countertops, at least?

Granite looks nice and you can afford to splurge when you have such a small area to cover. However, nothing beats free. If your house is on wheels, you need to be mindful of weight and granite is heavy.

32. Do you have to take out the trash all the time so it doesn’t start to stink up the whole house?

Nope. I compost all of my food scraps. With most of  my veggies scraps, I save them in the freezer until I have enough to make a pot of stock then I compost the scraps. I keep the compost bin in the fridge so it doesn’t stink up the house.

I produce so little trash, that I’ve only had to take my trash out twice in the past 5 months. and I used grocery store bags as trash bags!

33. What’s up with those bathrooms that are just a toilet, shower, and sink combined into the same 10 square feet?

It’s called a wet bath and saves a lot of space since you don’t need a tub or a shower stall. But they’re also a pain in the butt. It’s hard to keep your toilet paper dry when the whole bathroom is a shower.

34. Why do you always ask if a bathtub will fit in your tiny house? IT WON’T.

Lies. I have a bathtub. It’s a horse trough that we put a drain in. You just have to be creative!

35. Do you ever have a hard time maneuvering in the shower and just give up trying to get fully clean?

No. I’m not a dirt bag.




36. Is it hard to get up the ladder to the loft/sleeping area after having a few drinks?

Yeah but it’s hard to get up any stairs after a few drinks.

37. How many times have you fallen off the ladder/loft?

almost once. making the bed in the loft is hard work.



38. If there are two people and one wants to sleep while the other wants to stay awake, how do you choose if the light stays on or goes off?

Rock, paper, scissors

39. Do you ever get into fights because of noise/light issues like this?

Nope. I like the people who spend the night at my house and tend not to fight with them.

40. Is there even enough space to have a fight?

Fight? Like wrestle? Yes. Argue? Yes.

41. And do you feel silly when you complain about not having enough space for something and then remember that, like…you chose to live in a tiny house?

Yeah but everyone complains sometimes. I feel the most silly when I loose something in the tiny house. It’s 240 square feet-how the hell do I still loose my keys all the time?!

Simple and Tiny

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During a presentation at Yestermorrow about tiny house design the speaker Lina Menard, shared a concept she called “keep the kettle on the stove”. Basically, keep things where they are functional and useful.


Logan and Tammy’s tiny house has a wet bath. In a video tour of the house, they mentioned it was easier to shower at the gym because setting up the bathroom for a shower was a pain. I don’t think these were their exact words but I can’t find the original clip so I’m improvising.


Even if I’m misremembering Logan and Tammys words, these two concepts influenced the design for Little Lou-everything is easily accessible and functional without having to be converted. A murphy bed is a good example of what I was trying to avoid – it folds up into the wall to save space which is great but you need to fold it up everyday to have access to that space. That seemed like a daily chore that would be a pain. It’s pretty great to be able to roll out of bed and leave it it unmade while enjoying your morning coffee. Which is why I went for a lofted bedroom.

cozy and messy in the tiny house loft

For me, it’s better to simplify and declutter than to design custom storage to hold lots of stuff. With just a few cabinets, most of the stuff in the house is on display at
all times. Therefore a lot of thought goes into every item that comes into the house. I typically try* to abide by a zero waste philosophy which means I try* to buy second hand whenever possible. When buying new, I look to buy things that are well made, durable, functional and beautiful.

ditched the jewlery box to save space and add beauty

 Throughout the year before move in, downsizing was a high priority. Friends would leave my apartment with an armful of stuff after every visit. I sold, gave away or donated a lot of stuff keeping only the bare minimum and the sentimental. Most of the stuff filling my apartment was thrifted, picked up at the curb or inherited from previous roommates. None of it was particularly valuable or sentimental. It may not be in the spirit of zero waste but if I regretted getting rid of something it was easily replaceable.

moving out of my apartment

*when it comes to zero waste, it’s all about little changes over time to make a big difference. While still far from zero waste, I work hard towards to goal on a daily basis.

Everybody poops!

Hopefully you were able to tune into Tiny House, Big Living on HGTV and catch the episode about Little Lou! If you did, thank you! You probably noticed my not so subtle talk about poop. Sometimes the filter between my brain and my mouth is non existent. Thank God I’m not shy.

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These poop comments seemed to generate a lot of buzz. A colleague sent an email with the subject “You said ‘poop’ on TV!”. A friend posted on Facebook “Best line I’ve heard on hgtv “I’ve trained myself not to poop in the morning” YES.” and a couple of strangers even tweeted about it.

Because of my job, I’m more comfortable talking about waste than the average person. It’s also one of the most frequent questions people ask about the tiny house. So I’m pretty blunt about it. I use a composting toilet, which is really a nicer way of saying a 5 gallon bucket with a toilet seat, that I’ve got to dump when it’s full. I’ve been dumping into a green cone food digester which works really great for nitrogen rich materials (food) but its slow to break down carbon rich materials (sawdust from the toilet). In an effort to not overwhelm my systems and because dumping the full bucket isn’t the most pleasant, I try to do my business elsewhere.

It’s not extreme, I’m not making myself sick, it’s not really a big deal.