All year long I am a book nut but winter seems to be the best season for getting serious reading done, I mean there's only so much you can do after dark confined in a tiny house and even that doesn't take that long (no offense). So, yeah, reading. I am reading a lot these days. I got a funny comment/compliment? from the local librarian a couple weeks ago. I went in to pick up a book I'd reserved and she said, "When I saw this come in, I knew it was for you. It just looked like something you would read." I laughed because that's the kind of backhanded compliment I get from my mom on my clothing choices. Apparently I have a style that is recognizable - don't know if that's good or bad! Some recent reading treasures, online and in print:
The Long Haul by Amanda Giracca - a facebook friend turned me onto this online magazine written entirely by women, travel writing/non-fiction that is fantastic. This particular essay is about a small town in the northeast, but I swear it could be Montana, too. Just a snippet to get you hooked: "The porch is so warped to hell, it looks as though it hasn’t been fixed
up since Chief Konkapot signed away this land for three hundred pounds a
few centuries ago, scrawling the only thing he could write: his
signature turkey foot, a three-pronged symbol which stood for his real
name, Pophnehonnuhwoh. Kissed the land around the river goodbye."
Closed for the Season on A Restless Transplant - I totally dig this guy's photos and posts from the road and this post is mainly about the Sierra Nevadas. Makes me want to fill up my backpack and lace up my hiking boots and just walk on down the road. With a camera.
Pere Goriot by Honore de Balzac - Keith calls this "the Ballsack book." I requested this book from the library on a whim after seeing it on a list some snooty guy said everyone should read (or something like that) and it sat on my night stand because it intimidated me and I was sure I wouldn't like it, maybe I should just return it. Then I cracked it and haven't looked back. I'm sure there's a lot of deeper social commentary about French life and politics that I'm not absorbing, but I'm just enjoying the story of a bunch of characters in a boarding house in Paris. The writing (well, translation) is compelling and so apparently there's good reason that it's referred to as Balzac's best.
America Aflame: How the Civil War Created a Nation by David R. Goldfield - I'm not too far into this massive door stop of a book yet, but so far it's very dense and informative and I think a good case for why I should be reading more non-fiction, there's just so many gaps in my knowledge about history and American history in particular.
Prairy Earth by William Least Heat-Moon - Probably one of the best books I read in 2012 and of particular interest to me because it's about Keith's home state of Kansas. One particular county, in fact - very in depth, covering everything from the pre-settler history to archaeological records to gossip from the stores and diners and dreams about the place. If I was a writer, I would want to be like William Least Heat-Moon. (His other book I've read, Blue Highways, is in my top 5 books of all time.)
The Morning News - I read this online at work mostly (hey, it's news) and there's always more interesting things contained in it than I have time to read (while still looking productive). One of my favorite writers from Sun Magazine, Sparrow, has been making some posts on TMN lately that are great.
A Hologram for the King by Dave Eggers - I'll pretty much read anything written by Dave Eggers but this was a stand-out for me this year. Completely foreign location, strangely modern plot, lovely tactile cover (bonus!) - I don't know, I just liked it.
I Was a Warehouse Wage Slave on Mother Jones - Shopping an Amazon (with a Prime membership = free shipping all year) has been a bad habit I've indulged this past year and this insider look at what goes on behind the scenes is good reminder that cheap stuff almost always has a human price. Namely shitty working conditions for whoever facilitates us getting our stuff faster and cheaper than ever before. So before I click "Add to Cart" again on Amazon, I will remember what I read here.
1Q84 by Haruki
Murakami - Hands down the best book I read in 2012. It's really hard to
provide a synopsis for any of this books in less than 50 words, but
it's about parallel universes, basically. The first book of his I read, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, got me hooked and Kafka on the Shore is another great one by him.
Thankful for my family, of course. My husband who tries so hard to make me happy. My dogs who always want under the blankets. My health. Our house.Tofurky and pumpkin cheesecake from Costco. This really warm weather. (See November 2010 for comparison)
pretty fall colors on our walk to the river
makeshift kitchen inside and out - we're working on making this process more cook-friendly
taking walks midday helps adjusting to much less daylight
Ophelia has come to live with us. She doesn't get along with my parents' new indoor cat, Skritch, so we put a food dish at our house, she has a little cat bed on the porch for daytime and she spends nights inside with us. Which is quite a challenge for Mia! And now another cat, Shadow, is lining up for the chow line at our house, too. Moochers!
Thankful there's not snow and ice covering the leaves. The hazelnut leaves are really cool and I've never really noticed them before. Leathery, but light. It's weird to be raking leaves in late November, but I was glad to since I needed them for the compost pile.
We were getting a serious case of cabin fever last week so we decided to go thrifting on Saturday. There's only one thrift store here (we pick it sporadically) and one antique store, but up on the prairie there are many more places to find goodies. Also it gave me a chance to practice shooting out the passenger window, a technique that really started to appeal to me on our 10th anniversary road trip last year. I like looking ahead for things that might make a good photo and then trying to guess at what angle/speed/distance the composition will work. Plus Keith doesn't like to stop every half-mile.
I did make Keith stop a couple of times - for this Shell station in Craigmont (and also the Fire Department there).
We found a bunch of small things to buy (brass hooks, etc.) and a great deal on records. I walked out of one store with 9 records (because I got tired of digging through the stacks) and the most expensive one was a Smokey Robinson and the Miracles LP, $3. Also scored Supertramp, Blondie, Best of Sam Cooke, Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, Dwight Yoakam, Radio Active and the Baja Marimba Band. I also found a wire rack for records and now the record player has its very own table (instead of taking up valuable counter space like it did all summer) and the records are just below it. It's a great feeling to just open it up and spin a record and rock out. A couple changes we made over the weekend really changed how our house feels, it's efficiency and spatial energy - one is moving the record player to a dedicated space - and that table was formerly my bedside table.
But my new bedside table is even better! Keith had picked an old Singer sewing machine base from somewhere over the past year or two and it was sitting way back in the car shed collecting dust. I wiped it down and gave it a coat or bright red paint, we put the (warped and therefore not useful) cutting board that used to fit over the sink and made that the top. Much more room for books, etc.!
My old clock radio (10+ years old, likely) was on its last leg due to age and repeated drops to the floor, so I was in the market for an old-timey alarm clock when we thrifting and found this beauty for $2! There's no radio, just a clock and alarm that sounds like this. There is a snooze button but you don't want to hear that alarm more than once.
We're cooking ALL of our meals at our house now, which is awesome. If not dark and a little chilly. But we're fuerte!
Brown is loving squirrel season. Or hating it, I can't tell.
This little beggar just happens to be around whenever we're at the stove.
On our walk down to the river on Sunday we saw some people fishing. The river is gorgeous this time of year.
Okay, time for a composting toilet update.
Keith and I agreed we should take turns dumping the toilet. And although he was very chivalrous and offered to take my turn last week, I told him we should stick to the original agreement. Surprisingly, it wasn't that bad. I was wearing gloves obviously and breathing through my mouth (just in case) and it went fine. It's not my favorite thing to do, but it wasn't scary or even all that gross (no grosser than changing a baby's diaper and I luckily will never do that) and I think next time it will go even better since I will know what to expect. After turning the bucket upside down into the compost pile, I used dry sawdust to scrub/wipe out the inside of the bucket (which really came pretty clean when I dumped it). Then cover everything with the cherry tree leaves, put some dry sawdust in the bottom of the bucket and start all over again. I will only have to empty it about every 20 days or so anyway, which I can totally handle.
And to end on a nicer note, here's a shot of the view from the toilet. The window is coated in some kind of material so people can't see in even when the leaves drop off the trees. And I just noticed we can see our compost pile from the toilet! The flooring is all in and now the bathroom looks like this.
Team KBAB is happy to report great progress on the tiny house bathroom and has provided these snapshots to illustrate.
Keith wanted to raise the existing floor of the bathroom to be level with the threshold so we added a sheet of CDX to the subfloor.
Keith traced the footprint of the stock tank tub and cut that hole out of the CDX with a jigsaw so the tub/shower basin will sit just a tad lower.
A view of the floor with all the CDX in place - next step, underlayment. What is underlayment? It provides a cushion between the subfloor and bamboo flooring we're going to install and also acts as a vapor barrier.
We cut the underlayment to fit and then placed the tub in its hole so we will have a seamless vapor barrier for the floor. Especially important once the shower is operational. After the underlayment was in, of course we had to see what the flooring is going to look like so we laid down some pieces for fun and also to protect the underlayment while we're using the bathroom and finishing the flooring.
After checking out all our drain options at the local hardware store, we chose this set for its simplicity. We probably won't worry about plumbing and drainage this year, though, since we don't have a water line to the house.
entering Clearwater, the welcoming free-range cows
In a that's-the-way-the-universe-works kind of way, we volunteered to deliver a lawn mulcher my dad sold to a guy who lives in a nearby town (nay, village). As we drove up the road looking for the landmarks he'd given us to find his house, I said, "This is a cute place!" and it just happened to be where we were going.
We ended up chatting with him for about an hour about composting toilets and more. He's lived there off the grid for 16 years and composts everything (including poop), has built up a small garden (thanks to his compost) despite the land being VERY rocky, has a neat rainwater catching and storing system and has done all of the work himself. We told him of our plans to have our own composting toilet and he gave us a tour of his set-up and showed us the 2-year-old bin (which is how long you're supposed to compost poop before using it on a garden) where he buried a rooster that was completely consumed by the microbes in the pile. We talked about the Humanure Handbook and how a lot of people have "fecalphobia." He encouraged us to jump right in and just start the composting toilet and even offered to send us home with a bunch of sawdust to start. It was a great experience to see humanure composting in action instead of just reading about it online and in books. After talking to him we decided against diverting the urine (less plumbing - yay) and promised him we'd definitely follow through with our plans ASAP. ASAP turned into This Week. Monday while Keith was working on installing the bamboo flooring he stepped off the deck into a hole the dogs had dug and badly sprained his ankle. (Immediately followed by threatening the dogs with bodily harm.)
totally not concerned about her owner's physical pain and/or dr. bills
It became apparent that we'd need our own functioning toilet sooner rather than later so Tuesday morning I filled up a bucket with the leaves I raked up from under the cherry tree. Viola! Composting toilet!
Sawdust is rumored to be the best "cover material" for composting toilets and hopefully our source will come through for us sometime this week. But until then leaves are working and we can now use the bathroom in our own house! This is HUGE - especially since one of us is on crutches. We've already decided we'll be taking turns emptying the bucket into the compost pile and then washing it for the next round of use. (More on that as it unfolds...)
We made the leap and purchased our bathtub/shower basin for the tiny house today - at our local feed store where we also got another rain barrel to assist in the composting toilet process (more info on the logistics of that here). Obviously there's a LOT of work that needs to be done before it will be truly useable, but it was satisfying to see if fill the space and I even got in it to imagine my first bath in a loooong time. I'm adding to my pinterest board for the tiny house all the time, too.
I am not a compensated endorser, however I DO love this new candle I bought when Huckberry had them on sale recently (along with this sweet Breaking Bad T-shirt for Keith). Terrific smell (this one is agave + honeysuckle), 50-hour burn time (burns evenly with the 2 wicks), hand poured, and the company donates to animal rescues. Probably have to get another one for the bathroom once it's bath time.
My container veggies are still growing and going strong. I got one full blossom on the pepper plant (right), but the weather hasn't been hot enough for it to transform into an actual pepper. The 2 Galina tomato plants are blossoming as well, but as the nighttime temps dip into the 50s and 40s we're going to have to move everything inside soon.
This is the worst the forest fire smoke has been this year and it's really settling in the valley. Apparently it's similar all over the region and even in western Montana. So the pups and I have been laying low this week, really not all that different from the rest of the summer, but not taking walks to the river. Watching movies, reading, listening to records, counting down the days until Keith comes home (less than 2 weeks!).
Our stone pine appears to be dying and I don't know why. It was doing great earlier this summer and I don't know if it got too hot in August or I over-watered it or what, but I'm not sure how to save it. Google isn't much help for stone pine research, so if you know how to care for trees let me know. I'm sure it needs replanted, but the sudden decline is confusing. It seems like it was doing better when I was neglecting it.
It's definitely feeling more like fall. I took the air conditioner out of the window this weekend and have been mostly sleeping with the windows closed. All summer I was wishing for time to pass and now that it's almost another season I am glad. I pretty much wrote off the summer of 2012 - I didn't get anything worthwhile accomplished, on the tiny house or otherwise, and most of my energy went into making it through the day.
I've decided not to make an extensive list of tiny house project I want to finish (too overwhelming) and instead give us the mental and economic freedom to concentrate on our 2 main before-winter projects: finishing the bathroom and getting a wood stove. Of course the bathroom project is muy importante - at least the toilet part is - and I'm hoping it won't take long to finish. I have pinned some ideas on my tiny house design inspiration board for exposed copper plumbing and stock tank tubs (not as rare as I first thought) and accessories. We've been wanting to convert back to wood (from the propane heater we currently have) due to excessive humidity issues and this weekend my uncle and his girlfriend came up to visit and mentioned he had one he was refurbishing (he installs them for a living) so we're going to get a good deal on one - we just have to reconnect the stovepipe through the ceiling. I've been reconsidering the interior of the house, too - just like me, it's not finished and I'm still making plans to change things - to make it look more cabin-like. We're already doing the rustic/salvaged look, so we might as well go for it. I really like the look of this interior (minus the Jesus art) and this and this. So I am going to lobby to cover up the walls on the bedroom end of the house (since the plywood has leached through the paint and we have some other cosmetic issues there) with some sort of wood. In other words, once Keith gets home: it's ON.