Morning Ruminations on Rough Living

Mon, 04/07/2014 - 08:36 -- webmaster

I recently moved into a 20 foot trailer on a working property in the Raymond NH area, and I'm finding this to be an excellent experience that will serve me well as I move forward on building a tiny house. This morning I want to write about some of the interesting little lessons that have popped up.

Single cup coffee makerThe other day I bought a used coffee maker. I paid $5 but they are available new for just over $15. It makes one cup only, which I was looking for so I don't waste coffee and also can more easily monitor and control my caffeine intake. It is also about as small as a coffee maker can be, which is very important in tiny house living. However, its physical size isn't necessarily its use size.

Yesterday when I made my first cup, I noticed some things which are probably typical of most single cup makers. One was that pouring the water into the reservoir is nearly impossible to do without getting some water on the counter. Finding a good tool to help with that is imperative. I first tried using the cup I was using for the coffee, but that is too wide of an opening. A thinner plastic cup worked much better, but I think maybe something like a tiny watering can with an open spout might work better. Another area impact was that the first drips into the cup splashed out of the cup and onto the counter around it. Trying a larger cup, wider and taller - just barely fitting in the cup space, solved that.

Another thing I'm learning about is simple composting toilets. In my case it is simply a 5 gallon bucket, a seat, and another 5 gallon bucket with sawdust. This one is outside in a shed, so the potential smell issue is avoided. But so far it hasn't been bad, and I can see it working fine indoors. Some ventilation wouldn't be a bad idea though, and that can be hacked up using fans from scrapped computers.

Composting Bucket ToiletOne thing that has been a training point is that you are not supposed to pee in the compost bucket. That means you probably need to pee before sitting. Trying to hold your pee while pushing out a loaf can be a challenge. I can see how this might be a significant problem for women. As a guy I can just walk into the woods to pee (which also has the side effect of marking the territory so critters will tend to stay away).

Another thing I've figured out is that the sawdust does an OK job of washing your hands. Not perfect of course, but as you need to put a handful or two of sawdust on your droppings you can at least do a sort of pre-wash. I rub the sawdust between my hands as I drop it into the bucket, which also helps spread it appropriately. The sawdust also has a pretty good smell to it, which helps.

Overall though, this trailer seems like it is OK for short term living but has a lot of failings that would make it a pain to live in on a permanent basis. For one, the water utilities are all under the bed. That means any time you need to work on the water heater or fix a water tank problem, you need to completely remove all the bedding, the mattress, and the stuff holding it. There isn't enough insulation in the walls or floor, and where the utilities come in (under the bed) there is none. The stove is against a wall, making the two burners on that side pretty much useless. The range hood/fan is way too low, making the two burners in the back pretty much useless. Thankfully I almost always only need one. And there is no light directly above the stove, so to check that the meat is done I have to swing the pot over the sink to see it well enough. Not a big deal in itself, but just one of a number of small annoyances.

There's also the storage issue. This particular trailer has a lot of little storage areas, but most of them are ill-placed and poorly sized. For example, just above the microwave (which is above the range hood) there is enough space for spices. But they can't be too large and most of them have to be twisted to get them into the space. The closet for hanging clothes should be about two inches deeper, and the device (not a rod) for inserting the hanger hooks is hard to deal with as it is too close to the ceiling so you have to twist the hangar just right to get it in the hole.

As you can see, making a comfortable tiny house is going to be all about the little details. Getting those right will be crucial to long term sanity.