Extension Shed

I realized pretty early on that i was going to need a second shed, located not far from the first one (a shed remodeled into a tiny house) to keep the rest of my stuff in. Clothes, dishes, cookware, quilting supplies, knitting, extra chairs…these were all things that i wanted to hang onto that didn’t necessarily need to be in the main cabin on a daily basis. I stopped at one of those road side lots displaying sheds with windows and porches. They showed me the model i was interested in, made me a good price, offered a payment plan, and i put down a $100 deposit. There was something that didn’t sit right with me about it though. The guy didn’t have an office. He used his buddy’s 3 in 1 printer to make a copy of my driver’s license in a uhaul office. Between him, his buddy, and his buddy’s wife, they couldn’t find a highlighter. Nothing about this transaction screamed professional. Everything about it screamed “danger will robinson, danger!” I started asking lots of questions. For instance, there were models on the lot that had holes cut out of the sides or bags of trash in them. Some of the models were missing doors or looked very used. Why were they like that? The guy assured me i had nothing to worry about. Once i got back in the car i googled the company he supposedly worked for. It turned out the models looked lived in because they were. The company was in a different state and contracted all these random people to sell their sheds for them all over the USA. There was no office, no help desk, and nowhere to file your complaints. The sheds did not arrive as advertised. They were not water proof and some of them didn’t have the windows or shelving they were supposed to come with. Many of the shed porches didn’t have the railings or the sheds didn’t have porches when they were supposed to. One shed came unpainted. Another shed’s paint flaked off within a week and the plywood rotted in the rain. These people were all on payment plans for their sheds. So, when the company made no offer or attempt to repair the sheds, the people stopped making the payments on them, and they were repossessed. The same man that would have sold the shed to them would have a crew load it back onto a truck and dump it in the very lot where he had ensnared the people in his scam to begin with. So, the sheds i had seen with the cut outs in the side like they had once been glued to another structure or the bags of trash locked inside…this was a graveyard of sorts for repossessed sheds purchased by poor duped suckers like i was about to be. I called the man from the car and said i’d read some reviews and changed my mind. I told him i knew he’d be keeping my 100 dollar deposit but i wanted to cancel my order immediately. The man said that the reviews were true, but that he was different from the company and he’d been doing all the repairs himself for his customers and he took care of his own. I said that was fine but i still wanted to cancel my order. He said, well, don’t worry about the 100 dollars. I will give you your 100 dollars back. I figured this was just a ploy to get me to think he was a nice guy so i’d reconsider and want the shed. I was right. He did cancel my order and i never saw my 100 dollars. I was very shaken by the 300+ reviews i continued to read in the car at the HEB parking lot. One horror story after another. All these people were trapped paying on this giant rotting, defective eye sore in their yard that they couldn’t store anything in and they couldn’t stop paying on it if they wanted to maintain their credit. I wanted something legit. I went to home depot, dropped $2000 more than planned, and bought a custom tuff shed. They forgot the window in the door and the vent for airflow, so the crew had to come back 2 times (free of charge) to put those in. However, they built me a really sturdy, water proof, well made shed. It was another one of those “you get what you pay for” moments for me. I tried to save a buck and it almost back-fired big time. Sometimes there’s something to be said for going with the mainstream option. I ended up paying it off in 6 months, before the interest kicked in. So, that un-air-conditioned shed is the only thing on the property that i own outright. Hopefully as time passes more things will join it.

Securing Trash Retrieval

When i lived in the city, somebody always came once a week and emptied the dumpster. It just happened automatically. I didn’t contract them to do so. It was set in place long before i got there. When i moved to a smaller town outside the city limits, i suddenly realized two things. Firstly, I didn’t have a trash can. Secondly, there was no city to send city services from. I started to wonder what all my neighbors were doing with their trash. I asked some people who lived in my area how they got rid of their trash. They said the unlucky ones had to make a run to the landfill every so often and paid the landfill a pricey fee to take their trash from the minivan. I didn’t fancy riding all the way to the landfill with a car full of trash and forking over as much dough as they were describing to get rid of it. They told me that other people burned their trash. They would bury the tin cans and things that wouldn’t burn and dump everything else in a barrel and light it on fire. I didn’t fancy burnt plastic fumes drifting in through the window so i counted that idea out. Then they said, “if you can get ahold of IWS, they’re a private trash removal service. Its some guys with a pick up truck pulling a trailer. They’ll take 2 bags from each household and they’re way cheaper than the landfill.” So i called. I realized early on why the people who advised me to call them said “if you can get ahold of them…” it was pretty near impossible to get ahold of them. I always got the answering machine and they never rung me back. So, i made up my mind. I was going to find the time when my call would get through. I called every two hours (not at night…i’m not unreasonable) for about two weeks, even on the weekend days just in case that was the time my call would get through. Finally, the call picked up and i heard a woman’s voice on the other end of the line. I was so happy and so afraid the call would drop. I must have been shouting into the phone. I was talking so fast to get her as much information as i could before she disappeared. She said my area was indeed covered and if i wanted to get a spot on their route i could. She told me if i wanted i could think about it and call back later with my decision. I shouted, “no! No, i want to go ahead and schedule it. I’m sure. Let’s just do everything today.” She said, “okay, i can certainly help you with that.” I gave all my information over the phone. The woman told me i would have to go to home depot or lowes and purchase an outdoor trashcan. She gave me my pick-up day and time and told me to have the can visible for the guys at the curb by that time and they would take the bags and leave the empty trash can. I thanked her profusely and hung up. I went straight to lowes and purchased an outdoor trash can on wheels. I put it in my shed. Every trash day i rolled it out to the curb and every time i returned the trash was gone and the can was empty. I loved the service so much. It worked like clock work. I didn’t want anything to happen that would lose my spot on these guys’ route (some of my neighbors up the road lost their spot because the unpaved road became too treachurous for their trailer after all the rains). I began to notice the months tick by and i still hadn’t received a bill. I called and called and called until i reached a person. I asked them to make sure i was on the billing list because i loved the service and wanted them to get paid for their work (and keep me as a client). They put me on the billing list. I started receiving bills and all seemed well until i witnessed a woman empty a 6 pack of beer bottles and some take-out food (not in containers) into my trash can. I drove up as she was doing it. I got out of the car to ask her why she had done what i just watched her do. She rolled up the window, locked the car doors, and began making a series of phone calls while sitting in her car next to my trash can. She looked straight ahead and ignored my existence as i called, “excuse me…” when it became apparent i wasn’t leaving she put the phone down and drove off. I took down her license plate number but a soiled trash can wasn’t top priority on law enforcement’s list. I spent a good half hour cleaning the inside of my trash can and then, to add insult to injury, had to add her trash to my bag for the next week. Her stale beer and rotting food sat in my bag in my kitchen cabinet all week, as a reminder of why i enjoy the company of dogs over humans. She wouldn’t be the last to deposit things in my trash can. I thought it was raccoons i would most have to worry about but i was mistaken. Eventually it would drive me to install a surveillance system. Once that was in place, anyone who stuck their hand in the cookie jar (or in this case trash can) was on camera. I thought i was moving to the wilderness, but as i was learning, i was still civilization adjacent.

Fixing the Fence

So, this is how people were getting onto my property. The couple i found peering in the windows to see if they wanted to buy the place (already sold) flat out told me they just climbed through the 6 foot hole in the wire fencing. When they said that i decided i really needed to take a walk around the property and see what i was dealing with. I knew the fence was not viable, and i hadn’t cared because Sili was a digger anyways. No material fence void of electricity was going to be sufficient to pen her in. However, i hadn’t thought about what a fence would do to keep things out. Starting out, my thought was that i would repair the fencing that already existed. I looked into acquiring wire to string across the existing posts in the places it was absent. However, i soon realized, some of the posts (maybe a third of them) looked like they would fall over if you kicked them. Some of them were more sticks than posts. Later i would learn that there were termites living in the fence posts, which the pest control company recommended i leave in place. He said, if you take their home away, they will just look for a new one. I’d rather have them in the fence than one of my structures. He also mentioned that if i ever did replace the fence, i would need to treat all my structures to prevent termite relocation. This estimate suddenly got expensive. But, i skipped a part. Let me go back. Before i knew anything about the termites’ existence in the fence posts i was trying to work with the materials already in place. Nobody wanted to dig new post holes in the limestone rock and the moment i mentioned doing that all my helpers and even 1 professional said “i’m out”. When i realized i would likely be fixing the fence myself, i didn’t want the mess of mixing and pouring concrete. I was too afraid i’d have the leftover bits cemented to the property in various places and worried that washing the mixing materials and container without a hose would require depositing cement debris directly under one of my spigots. My friend offered to help me with the wire but he needed some specific tools to tighten it and clamp it down, tools that could only be obtained online and wouldn’t arrive by the day he was scheduled to be passing through town. My coworker offered to gift me a couple rolls of metal wire fencing that they had once used to pen chickens in. All i had to do was come pick it up. However, upon examining the state of the existing fencing, i was beginning to think the thing needed an overhaul more than a patch job. This is when i started thinking about privacy fencing. I loved the look of those panneled wood fences lowes was offering. It would essentially wall in my little slice of paradise, keeping all my intruders out and not allowing anyone to see in. There were a few problems with this idea. Firstly, no matter how many times i left a message in both the lowes and home depot fencing departments, nobody ever called me back (this went on for weeks). Mainly, cost. Fencing 2 acres is no small job cost-wise. I wasn’t sure if i’d ever be able to come up with the money to do it, and the fencing companies were about as confident as i was in my ability to produce that kind of cash. There was one other consideration when it came to a privacy fence. The deer, the road runners, the foxes, the racoons, the possums, and the coyotes seemed to come and go as they pleased. If i were to build a wall around the property, would i be shutting down their highway system? Would i see less of the nature i so loved and wanted to immerse myself in? In the winter, the sun rose over my neighbor’s property, framed by his two spanish oaks in a field of scattered trees. It was visible through one of my windows. I thought about how much i had enjoyed watching those pink and periwinkle sunrises in the chilly morning temperatures, wrapped in a house coat at the window. Would i be able to make peace with the idea if i commisioned someone to block my view of such an awe inspiring wonder of nature? Eventually, the cost drove me to put the privacy fence in the “bananas” pile and the termites drove me to end my quest to replace the fence altogether. I was back to the “repair and patch” idea. Then a different thought sprang into my head. What if the fence wasn’t the thing that kept intruders out? It would be cheaper and easier just to get a second dog.

A Cherished Gift from Mom

When you are a child, you cling fast to your mother’s hand. When you grow older, you begin to drift away. You go out into the world and forge your own path, and in many ways, your parents can’t be a part of that. You have to figure it out on your own. When i bought the property, it was January, and i think my mother realized we were cold. Whenever i would speak to her on the phone, Sili and i would be curled up under the blankets and i’d be wearing a hat and layers of clothing. My mother sent me a heat dish as a house warming present. It was my very own space heater, the same kind we’d had to heat the bathroom in winter when i was a kid. When i lifted that box over the post office counter i was giddy with excitement because i knew from the label on the box what it was. We were finally going to be warm. What a luxury it would be. Instantaneous plug-in heat. I was almost drooling at the thought. I loaded the box into the car and excitedly drove it home to Sili. She watched me with an inquisitive expression on her face as i unpackaged and unwrapped the styrofoam block on the kitchen floor. Inside would be our favorite and most cherished posession, though she wouldn’t realize it yet. I thought i would have to show her how it worked. I thought there would be a lot of explaining to do, but she is a smart dog and as soon as those coils lit up orange, she took to that thing like white on rice. If the space heater was on, you knew where to find her. She would be the furry blob parked 1.5 centimeters in front of it. She sat so close at times i worried her fur would get singed, but it never did. I put it in the bathroom every morning to warm it; 7 to 10 minutes before i went to take a shower. I faced it towards the kitchen while i was cooking. I put it in front of the rocking chair when Sili and i were winding down for the night. Most importantly, i placed it in the middle of the room, facing the bed, and left it on at night to keep the temperature from dropping while we slept. The house stayed warm while we dreamt and when Sili and i awoke, we weren’t exhausted from shiverring. This space heater had brought comfort to our little existence in the wilderness, and i was grateful for it. Every time i plugged it in i thought of my mother. I may have drifted away, as all children do at some point in their lives, but every time i plugged this space heater in i felt my mother’s love. She had made sure we were warm.

Making the House a Home

Usually, when you move from one place to the next you pile all the moving boxes in the back bedroom or the home office and unload them at your leisure over the course of the next few months. When you live in a 1 room house that is under 400 square feet, this is not a viable option. I couldn’t hire movers. Where would they put the stuff? I was already paying the mortgage on the new property and the rent on my apartment as well. I couldn’t afford to add the monthly expense of a storage locker to the mix. So, i moved my things over to the property in my suv, one load at a time. I made a trip every day after work. It helped me to avoid clutter. In the climate controlled house, i put the bare necessities. Anything i didnt use on a daily basis, but wanted to keep, would go in the shed. It would take me a time period of 4 months to get everything out of the apartment. Piece by piece, after work and before bed, i moved all my things over to the property. I would lug Sili’s crate back and forth. She would stay in the apartment while i was at work and packing the car. Then she’d ride to the property with me, nestled in the front seat amongst all my material things. We would unload the car by lantern light and collapse in bed.

Slumber by Moonlight

At night, with the lights on, you could see straight into the house, clear as day. I needed some curtains. I wanted a tad bit of privacy. If nothing else, from the coyotes, and whoever turned off the electricity to my well pump that night. I had a particular vision though, for the functionality of these curtains. I didn’t want floor to ceiling curtains. In a structure in the wilderness, whatever touches the ground is soon coated in a layer of dusty soil. Also, my animals would either chew or tear curtains that hung within their jurisdiction (space directly above or on the floor). I wanted half-length curtains. I was surprised to find out, there was no such thing. After visiting multiple furniture/houseware stores I decided i’d better go to the fabric store and pay someone to make me curtains from whichever fabric i picked out. That way, i could designate the length. My sister, who is a gifted seamstress, got wind of the idea and volunteered. She said it would be her housewarming gift to me. I absolutely loved the idea. Every time i pulled the curtains i would think of her. So i picked a fabric and a style and she set about making them. My sister had a lot of stuff on her plate at this time. Just exactly what, was her business and not my place to share. However, making curtains for the tiny house would not be an instant job. I had to get used to the idea of sleeping with the windows bare. Even the bathroom had a window, so there was no place to dress without being visible and you had to get over yourself to take a shower. I tried to adopt the stance that i was in the middle of 2 acres and i was not an interesting sight to the foxes and raccoons. It still felt taboo. It felt as if i was on a nudist beach surrounded by non-nudist city blocks and forever waiting for disaster to strike as i was carted off to jail for traumatizing some poor neighborhood kid that had never seen a fat roll around a middrift. I looked forward to the eventual addition of curtains but at that time the bare windows gave me a beautiful view of the moon as i was falling asleep each night. They also reminded me that i was in a box and the box was in the wilderness. It gave one a sense of being part of the night rather than sheltered from it. We were part of the wilderness, for now.

Projects for a Handyman… or a Determined Woman with access to Google and Home Depot

Hiring a handyman was an eye opening experience for me. I learned, you get what you pay for. If you hire a handyman that is going to charge you an arm, a leg, and possibly a kidney, you will be broke but you will have the job done right. If you hire someone affordable, you will be redoing the job yourself later. One by one all of the projects (except the shelves) that my handyman had worked on fell apart and i had to figure out what i was going to do about that. The handyman himself had created something that broke. If that was the professional’s handiwork, i couldn’t possibly do any worse. The handyman was half the reason i instated my new “no more professionals” rule for the property. When i needed a septic guy, a roofer, an electrician, and an exterminator to come to the property, they would reschedule 3 or 4 times, setting my date back weeks. Then they still wouldn’t show. One guy was finally honest enough with me to let me in on the fact that repair men weren’t going to drive all the way out to a small town for one job if they had 3 possible jobs in a bigger city that day. They were going to stay where the money was at. So, unless i had multiple jobs for them in my surrounding area, they were not likely coming. I got tired of taking days off work for people that never had any intention of showing. That’s when my determination to do for myself was let out of its cage. I had always had an independent spirit but this was different. I was dealing with things i knew nothing about. I simply came to the realization that i could probably learn a new skill faster than i could teach somebody else to care.

Surviving Winter

Originally, i had planned to live in the apartment until i got the new property set up. Life would go on, business as usual, and in my spare time i would just keep putting the pieces together one by one until my project was complete and we were ready to move in. However, i had a lot of visitors for being located in the middle of nowhere. One night i heard voices on the property. It sounded like they were right on the other side of the house wall. It was too dark to see so i went back to bed. The next morning the toilet wouldn’t flush. Water wouldn’t come out of the faucet. I took a sink bath with my bottled water and went to work. After work i came home to see if i couldn’t figure out what had gone wrong with the well pump. I couldn’t figure it out. I tried the reset button. I tried a few things i read on google. Then i called the repair man in the area. He turned out to be the man that had actually put the well in the ground when the sellers had owned the property. I shook his hand and thanked him for digging my well. He said that my problem wasn’t the pump. He walked over to the electric pole, opened the box, and flipped a switch. Power was restored to the well house. I looked at him, awe struck. “How did you do that?!” He laughed. Then he asked me if i had turned the power off to the well house. The answer was no. Duh. I wouldn’t be showering with a water bottle and paying some guy nearly 100 dollars to flip a switch if i had. He said, “Well someone had to stand there at that box and flip this switch last night because if it had flipped itself the marker would land in the middle here, but the marker was all the way over to this side.” I said, “What do you recommend?” He answered, “If i were you, i’d get you a lock and put it on there.” One by one i learned the hard way that i needed to padlock everything. I came home one day and found someone carrying a jug of water away from the side of my tiny house. The spigot was still dripping. I then discovered spigot locks. Now no-one can take my water. One day i drove up and found a man wandering the edge of my property. He climbed through a hole in the fence and disappeared. I began to realize that my presence was a must, furniture or no furniture, skirting or no skirting. I needed to have eyes on this property and be on top of whatever was going on there at any given moment. So Sili and i took a can opener, a stick of deodorant, and a daily change of clothes and moved in. How can i put this? Sili and i were unprepared for the intensity of temperature we experienced during the first months in our tiny home. Firstly, i didn’t know it at the time but, the ac/heating unit was broken and in need of a repair man. It was neither heating nor cooling air…mostly moving it around. Second, i had not yet hired anyone to help me put the skirting on the house. The tiny house sat propped on cement blocks and anchored to the ground with a chain. The air outside traveled underneath the house when the wind blew. The floor was always freezing but it wasn’t just the floor. For three or four inches above the floor i could place my hand there and feel the cooler air. I kept the bathroom door shut which meant the bathroom, against the outside walls, was always freezing. The hot water heater provided a limited amount of hot water. The colder the temperature outside the fewer minutes of hot water there were. We didn’t yet have the space heater my mother would later gift us with (thank the Lord). So, i put on several pairs of pants, several shirts, 2 light jackets, a house coat, and a winter coat. Sometimes i left my shoes on. Then i gathered all of our blankets and the bath towel, made a nest, and curled up underneath them against the dog. The dog was my heater, and i hers. Sili and i tried to huddle as close as we possibly could under those covers, desperate to keep whatever heat there was trapped underneath the blankets. Most nights i woke up when the temperature dropped to its lowest point. I remember it was bearable when drifting off to sleep but when i would awake it would be so uncomfortably cold i couldn’t get back to sleep. So Sili and i would chat and wait for the alarm clock. I really wanted that beautiful piece of land. Now that i had obtained it, nobody was going to hear complaint out of me. Eventually i would better prepare the house for next year’s winter with home improvement projects and an ac repair guy. However, during our first winter at the property, Sili did her best to keep me warm enough to achieve sleep.

The Adventure of the Day Bed

So now i had a house and it was empty. I had to fill it, but, with under 400 square feet, each item of furniture i decided to bring had to be carefully weighed and considered. The main barrier to spending the night at the property was the lack of sleeping quarters. My full sized bed was not going to fit in there. I had always wanted a bed with metal bars. Don’t ask me why. So, when i had to get rid of my full-sized bed and start over with a twin, i saw an opportunity. I found a day bed at big lots with plenty of metal bars that was the stuff of my dreams. Only problem; they had just one left, and it wouldn’t fit in my suv. I bought it anyways. I had a plan. The puzzled big lots employees carried the bed-sized box out to the parking lot and set it against my car. They offered their advice, “Ma’am, I’ll tell you right now, that’s not gonna fit in there.” I said, “It’s okay. I’ll manage.” With raised eyebrows and a shake of their heads the employees returned to the store. I examined the irony of the situation as i scanned the parking lot and noted it was 95 percent full of pick-up trucks. No matter. This Kia Sportage was going to get that day bed 2 miles down the road. First i laid all the back seats down and scooted the front seats up towards the dashboard. Then i placed one end of the box against the opening of the trunk and turned it diagonally so that it would fit. I used all my strength to lift the box and shove it into the car inch by inch. The big lots employees observed from the window as if they were watching a movie. Of course, the box was longer than the car, so it stuck out the trunk a good foot at least. I locked the car and left the trunk door sticking up towards the sky in the parking lot while i ran over to the tractor supply store next door and bought 6 bungee cords. If nothing else, the big lots employees watching from the window would be a good anti-theft system were someone to try and burgle the car. Once i had returned with the bungee cords the two men watched as i secured the trunk door to the inside of the car in various places. I drove triumphantly down main street for a distance of roughly two miles with the bungeed trunk door flapping behind me with every bump in the road, my precious cargo en route to my apartment. As i parked my now rainbow bungee decorated vehicular contraption in my designated carport spot, i heard a familiar voice from outside of the open trunk door, “What the hell are you doing?” It was my friend and favorite neighbor. He was giving me an amused grin from underneath his cowboy hat. I puffed my chest out just a bit and announced, “Taking my new bed home.” He laughed, “Are you going to take it like that all the way to the house?” (a 30 minute drive) I said, “Probably.” He said, “You want some help?” I said, “Yup.” So we strapped the day-bed and the dog crate and the box the pantry arrived in to my friend’s truck and he drove all that stuff out to the property and helped me unload it. He never would take any gas money from me. He never held it over my head that I’d accepted help with something, and he never asked for anything in return. And that’s why my favorite neighbor is on my very short list of friends. Once i had the boxes in the house i set about opening them and making sense of the directions. You see, the furniture doesn’t spring out of the box completed like in a pop up book when you open it. It’s a series of small pieces with smaller pieces to connect those to medium pieces and each one must face the exact right direction or about 7 other pieces won’t fit each other later in the building process. I had to take that thing apart and rebuild it 3 times before i got everything facing the right way and tightened at the right times in the process. One thing i learned about constructing a bed is, it’s probably a two person process. The instructions called for someone to hold the first two pieces together while a second person fastened the third into place. I used the wall as my second person and balanced the first two pieces on my outstretched leg to keep them raised off the floor in the desired position. The real feat was figuring out how to unfold the internet-ordered mosquito net tent and stuff the mattress in there. The instructions were in chinese. I searched and searched for a comforter for my new day bed, but my small town just didnt have very many options for a twin. They were all kid-themed. I needed an adult twin sized comforter that didn’t remind me of potpourri or have buzz lightyear on it. I ended up having to go without a comforter until i was passing through a bigger city and saw an opportunity to step into a target store and pick up a comforter. It was the last one left in stock of the rustic embroidered off-white comforter on the display card. I bought it. That night i actually slept instead of shiverring my teeth off while impersonating an icicle. I learned it’s important to have a comforter on the bed during winter.

Sili’s First Time on the Land

As soon as i finished putting the electricity for the property in my name i drove home to pick up my dog, Sili. I wanted to show her what i’d been so stressed about, what i’d been working on all those nights i couldn’t play with her. I wanted to show her what i’d bought us. I patted the front seat and called “load up” and she jumped in, excited for a road trip. As i drove her further and further out of the city i rolled down the window and let her sniff the air. It was good clean air. It smelled like plants, not concrete. She became very interested in the scenery out the window. None of it was familiar to her. She looked puzzled. She probably wondered where we were going. We drove through a heavily wooded area on winding 1 lane roads. When i finally pulled up to the gate i pointed to the little tiny house and exclaimed, “that is your new home.” She looked intently out the window in the direction i had pointed. I got out and opened the gate, pulling the car through and closing it behind us. I parked and let her out of the car. Sili sniffed the ground for a while. She picked a spot and pooped. Then she did something I’d never had the pleasure of seeing her do. My apartment dog ran. She ran circles around the property, kicking up dust and wagging her tail, ears flying in the wind. She ran and ran and ran to her little heart’s content, until she was exhausted and out of breath. She trotted over to where i stood and laid down with her paws hanging off the wooden porch steps like she’d lived there all her life. I think she got the message. She was home.