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.

January 2019 – Closing on my First House

If you want something badly enough, don’t give up, no matter what they say.

– Lauren Osborne

I turned 30 and i had a good look at my life. I’d spent my entire adult career waiting and saving for the life i would one day have. At some points i had 3 jobs at once and worked 60 hour weeks. I was still nowhere near the amount i needed to fund the things i was saving for. So i decided to take the money and buy myself a house, a belated birthday present to myself if you will. However, not just any house would do. I wanted a tiny house. A tiny house and land. Finding and purchasing this tiny house turned out to be around a 6 month process. First i had to realize that buying the tiny house and the land separately was more work than i wanted to put in. It involved digging my own water well, putting in a septic tank, running electricity and internet out to the property…in some cases, paving a road to the driveway for access… Some properties were heavily wooded and involved clearing many many trees to build anything at all. Originally i wanted to purchase a tiny home from the mustard seed tiny home company. Their tiny homes are beautiful and utilize every inch of storage space available. However, when i realized how many independent pieces of a property (all capable of corruption or error) had to come together to make the finished product, i was interested in finding a property already half finished. And then God seemingly dropped it in my lap. A tiny house already on 2 acres with electricity, a water well, and a septic system. Just one problem. Unless i was a millionaire, i needed a bank to decide loaning on this property was a good idea. Apparently it is easiest to get a bank loan to buy something a whole lot of other people want to buy…not so much if you march to the beat of your own weird little drum. I wanted this house on this property more than i’d ever wanted anything in my entire life. For months i remained quietly frozen by this fear that it would remain forever out of my grasp. However, the banks were of the opinion that it was not a sound investment for them to make. They say third time’s the charm. In this case, they were right. Bank number 3 stuck in there and didn’t back out. In late january i took a half day at work and left early to sign the papers and close on my new house. I remember it felt surreal when the keys were put into my hand and i floated across the street to put the electricity in my name in a haze of confusion. Did it finally happen? Could it be real? If i pinched myself would i wake up and the keys be gone from my hand? It was real. I owned the property and the bank owned me. 🙂