Take one broken ladder, clean it up a little, remove the cracked back legs and top, and what do you have? A plant stand!
We screwed the piece of ladder into the house and deck to stabilize it. Then, we assembled some old metal containers (among them, two vintage colanders and a busted bucket) and screwed them onto the rungs.
Give it a little time and sunshine and I think we'll really enjoy this touch of "flower power" beside the herb container garden—currently under re-construction.
Click the pix below for more info.
We love to use reclaimed materials; you'll find more of our "trash to treasure" projects here.
After we scored some slate slabs on Craigslist last year, we made a walkway with them between the "big" house and the screen house. We liked it so much, we decided to keep our eyes out for more slate. Finally, one year later, Bill saw a listing for the same giant slabs (2' x 3') and we bought all ten for $100.
After a little scraping and moving dirt around, we put the slate in place. (OK, after a LOT of scraping and moving dirt around; it took all day.) With a rock wall at one end and the two houses on either side, it feels like an outdoor living room, furnished with our folding chairs and a few old tables. We found a great deal on an end-of-the-season fire pit, and we've enjoyed several evenings sitting around a fire with a beverage or two in hand. We still have the big, stone fire ring when we want a blazing campfire, but having this spot right outside the door is wonderful.
We've lived in our 250-square-foot house for more than two years now. I think it's all our outdoor rooms that make the space feel big for most of the year. Between the wrap-around deck, the screen house, the bench in the woods and, now, our new al fresco "room," we're living large.
It's that thyme of year. That plant-obsessive time of year. I detour to garden centers; I haul ferns out of our forest; I curse slugs; I tenderly water baby radishes. I speak garden; I even dream in garden.
And the good news for me: now that I have a tiny house, there's less home for me to neglect while I'm outside planting seeds, transplanting natives, ripping out invasives and mounding around potatoes. More outside, less inside. That's the way I thrive.
What's new? We started filling the fenced-in boxes (old and new) with veggies. So far: tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, pumpkin, squash, radishes, lettuce, arugula, beets, and garlic are underway. In one night, an attack of slugs stripped the broccoli and did quite a job on the lettuce. The cucumbers didn't make it (for their own personal, private reasons.) WE NEED TO GROW MORE VEGETABLES. (Bill hears this too often; time for me to make it happen.)
Outside the fencing, new native pollinators are in place. The three Concord grape vines we put in last fall are (knock on wood) thriving. The deck herb garden is pretty much in place. We continue to whack away at invasives (Japanese stilt grass, garlic mustard, multiflora rose, wineberries, mile-a-minute) that that smother native plants all around here.
In addition to filling out the vegetable beds, we'd love to plant a few native berry shrubs and a few apple trees this year. (Our mountain site was once the site of an orchard, after all). I have to say it again: having less house makes this possible. Or at the very least, it makes it more enjoyable and more affordable. I feel "at home" in so much more than the 250-square feet of my house.
Living in a tiny house makes life more intentional. Shutting a door to hide a messy room isn't an option when your house is one room. Tossing excess into a closet isn't possible when every inch of your one closet already plays a role. Things that don't get used need an exit plan. Things that we do use need a place where they belong. They also have to be easy to access: nothing stashed in the back, nothing buried under a pile.
So when I started my Master Naturalist class and suddenly had six new reference books, a three-ring binder, a journal and pencil case, etc., I left them stacked on the kitchen table the first couple days, moving them every time I sat down to eat. I needed to come up with a storage solution. No room to spare in the kitchen. No space in the bathroom. The armoire is fully committed; the bedroom shelves too high to be convenient. Then, voila! I remembered the sofa. I had originally planned to build a new base for our old love seat to create storage drawers underneath. When we realized we didn't need the extra storage, we never built the drawers—but there's still a little unused real estate under the seating.
Having room to stash left-over building materials in our friend's garage (thanks once again, Susan) means I can squirrel away scraps from projects. I dug around in the garage, and found beautiful old boards already sanded and stained. In an hour, I put a box together—just the right size to fit all my books and just the right height to slide easily under the sofa. Now, I can pull out my Forest Ecology tome or read over notes for the next class sitting right here on the sofa and, more importantly, I can stow them away neatly in a second. (I'm still on the lookout for a handle, that will make pulling the box in and out even easier.)
It's not that we don't have "things" now that we live in a tiny house. It's just we think more about what we keep and what we acquire. And everything we do keep needs its own home within our home.
The wonderful thing about telling people you're a scavenger is that they offer you materials and items you didn't even know you needed. Some of those items you graciously turn down. (It's easy: Just remind them you have a teeny, tiny house.) Other offerings are pure treasure. For example, the vintage folding lawn chairs that had been tossed in the corner of a room in an old house friends are selling.
"They're broken," they told me, when I was walking through the house with them after they'd offered to let us scavenge some old boards.
But unfolding the chairs, I could see that that the wood frames were intact. Only the fabric back and seating were moldy and torn. I realized they'd be perfect extra seating for us, because we could fold them away when not in use. I even knew where: there's a small space in the screen house between the "sink" and the wall.
I happily took possession of the chairs; then they sat in the garage for months while I researched upholstery for them. I didn't have a sewing machine, so I was looking for fabric the exact width I needed. Or maybe I would pay someone to put fabric on them. Both options proved expensive.
Then one day my sister Jill offered me a bolt of upholstery she wasn't going to use. (Note: she had already covered a seat cushion in the fabric for me. Thanks, Jill!) I accepted it. With nothing to lose, I figured I could experiment with replacing the fabric. I folded over ends instead of sewing. I stapled away.
After a couple false starts, I have two of the chairs in use. (One more to finish up today!) We can pull them out to seat guests in the screen house, on the deck or in the tiny house. Now, the next time we have ten people in the tiny house, the last two to arrive won't have to stand!
"But where do you work?"
I get asked that question regularly by people who learn I work from home, and that home for me is a tiny house on wheels. The truth is it's not hard to work from anywhere (a tiny house, a coffee shop, a bed...) when your main tool of the trade is a laptop. But it's also true that I frequently need a printer, a disc drive, a back-up drive, paper, stamps, pens and all the rest.
That's where the box comes into this story. When we were planning our build, and still living in an apartment that came with a garage, I got the idea to start honing my construction skills by building furniture out of pallet wood. When I came up with the idea for table-ottoman-bench-storage cubes on wheels, I wasn't even sure they'd make the final cut when it came to furnishing our eventual house.
More than two years after we built them and a year after we moved into our house, I'm pleased to report that they get used more than anything in the house—except the bed. We sit on them when we have guests, we prop our feet up on them when watching TV, we put drinks and food on them and, yes, we store all our office supplies neatly in one.
Because it's on wheels, I can easily slide the office cube anywhere I want it. It stows away the printer, when not in use, and gives me a place to print when needed. I can pull out paper, grab my backup drive, or switch out pens in a second. It even has room for my art supplies. (I'm no artist, but I love myself a good doodle.)
So, the answer to where I usually work is: our "living room." But we never have to look at my notes or cords or paper clips because they all have a home in one of our rolling boxes. (The second box serves as the "linen closet" with our second set of sheets, bath towels, beach towels and a tablecloth or two.) On a nice day, I can even move the "office" out to the deck.
We wanted to start grilling on the deck, so we needed a table for our wood-burning grill. We came up with all sorts of elaborate designs but never quite got around to building any of them. Then, yesterday, I was walking by a stack of shipping pallets we'd collected for a gardening project and realized that one of them had clean slats spaced close together; it already looked like a table top.
We rummaged through our scrap wood pile and came up with 4x4s and railing left over from the deck that would work as legs. Bill went to the hardware store to buy brackets to attach the legs, and I went to work sawing off the ends of the slats. While Bill cut the 4x4s and leg supports, I sanded and stained the top. We attached the legs and...viola...less than two hours after we'd started, we had ourselves a table that doubles as a bench when the grill's not out.
It fits perfectly beside the old shipping crate we converted into a wood box and grill storage. Now, if it ever stops raining, we'll get some burgers cooking on the deck just steps away from the kitchen.
Click on the pictures below for more details.
A few outbuildings up our mountain have collapsed over the years. The couple who own the property encouraged us to scavenge what wood we could from the rubble. Most of the old boards are too far gone to use for our house, but we have carried others down, cut off the worst sections and lined them up alongside barn wood rescued (with permission!) from an impending bonfire down the mountain. Finally, some of this old wood has found new life in our bathroom door.
We cut the best 26-inch sections we could find out of boards of the same depth. After a few rounds of scrubbing and sanding, we stained the wood the color of our floor, pantry and countertops.
The boards are screwed into the trim that frames them, and we added another section of trim down the middle of the back side. Wheels on the bottom bear the weight of the door as screw-in eye bolts slide across a piece of pipe at the top. We drilled out holes in two wood blocks to fix the pipe in place. And, voila, we have a door. It's a little rough and squeaky as it moves. At first, I was determined to tweak the design, but it's grown on me. It feels and sounds like an old door, and that's quite fitting.
Our recent focus on the kitchen brings us...to the pantry. We now have seven shelves (six of them slide out) to store glasses, dishes, cleaning supplies and, most importantly, food.
After framing the space, we put in supports where we planned to install the sliders (off-the-shelf from Home Depot), drywalled and painted. Bill attached rims to the slide-out shelves, while I sanded and stained yet more pallet wood for trim. We attached handles that match the ones on the kitchen cabinets (thanks, IKEA) and...we have a wonderfully spacious pantry in our compact kitchen.
We used leftover flooring underlayment to line the shelves... and now it's time to fill them.
After assembling the kitchen cabinets we realized we had about five inches to fill between the refrigerator and the table. We needed to fill the space with something that would leave room for the refrigerator door to open. What would a five-inch cabinet be good for?
Wine, of course!
Rummaging through the scrap wood pile, we pulled out two small pieces of plywood and several strips of pallet wood leftover from finishing off the clerestory windows. Lots of measuring, a few cuts with the circular saw, some wood glue and about a hundred tiny nails later, we had ourselves a wine rack.