Moving Into Our Tiny House

Who says we can't do Christmas lights off-grid?

It’s been another grueling week and we are ready for things to slow down just a little!  But we have now moved in and slept five nights (or at least partial nights!) in our new tiny house! 

Last Tuesday Silver Oak got the line to the septic system finished!  Our five year old had repeatedly asked when we could use the potty in the trailer (our tiny house).  Since he was so concerned he was given the privilege of being the first to use it.  It’s quite wonderful to have two potties to use now (one in the camper and one in the trailer), although at first the valve leaked so we had to keep it turned off till that was replaced.

Last week we had gotten the water lines connected for running water in the trailer, but there have been nonstop problems with it ever since.  This trailer has been unoccupied for long enough that the plumbing seems to have developed issues.  There were several leaks under the kitchen sink, and some of them still refused to be resolved after replacing numerous parts.  The shower dripped even after adjusting some things, so that needed to be addressed further.

Connecting the septic line

Another problem was the lack of water pressure.  The outside spigots had plenty of pressure, but the inside faucets were barely dribbling.  It helped to clean out the ends of the faucets where some junk had collected, and we removed the restrictors and even drilled bigger holes in some of the connections.  It did improve things, but not enough.  So between the leaks and the dribbles we still didn’t have satisfactory running water, but enough to limp along with as we tended to other pressing needs.

Tearing off the old shingles on the shed

Our friend Skip also came on Tuesday to work more on the shed which had to be ready for storing our furniture by Saturday.  The roof had been fixed and mostly dried in on Monday, but the doors and about 8” of rotted siding along the bottom of the shed needed to be replaced as well.  When the tar paper was on, some of the girls cleaned out all of the mud dauber nests and hosed it thoroughly.  We used our 12 volt pump to make enough water pressure to give it a good wash.

Replacing rotted plywood

My mom and dad came on Wednesday to help.  The loft in our bedroom was finished so Mom and our 12 year old daughter and I tackled the job of painting the entire room.  It was over half done by dinner time and then I stayed up late to finish everything except the new trim that was to be cut the next day.

Painting our bedroom

Meanwhile my dad had brought our new inverter out from town, and after trying to address some of the plumbing issues he began installing it.  This new inverter is a 2000 watt Magnum with its own built-in charger and charge controller.  It charges the batteries much more quickly than the charger we have been borrowing from my dad, and will adjust the charge rate according to need, automatically stopping when the batteries are fully charged.  Now we don’t have to constantly be going out to check the battery levels to make sure they are not too low or too high.  This will make things much easier when we add solar panels (hopefully soon), and will help protect the lifespan of our batteries. 

Preparing the inverter

This particular inverter is the kind my brother has installed in Haiti for missionaries, and they have proven to be very reliable.  We purchased it through him from an Amish man in Ohio at a much better price than we have been able to find it anywhere else.

That day we suddenly ran out of water!  Oh dear.  We must have used more than we realized for cleaning out the shed the day before.  We had to wait till Silver Oak got home from landscaping work and he could make an emergency run for water, which, of course, was not figured into the schedule.

The next morning (Thursday) we had a crisis.  We awoke after only a few hours of sleep to no power and 59° F in the camper.  We didn’t have enough blankets for that temperature, and the camper furnace wouldn’t work because the batteries were too low.  Since the new inverter was only partially installed, the batteries had not charged like usual and the sudden cold snap had made the furnace try to run too often and completely depleted the batteries. 

And, we ran out of water again!!

With the combination of lack of sleep, no power, no water, and the looming deadlines before us, I nearly lost my “religion.”  As Otto Koning (one of my favorite speakers) has jokingly said, it’s really hard to be a good Christian in such circumstances.  Of course he goes on to explain that rejoicing in any circumstances is the answer, rather than blaming the circumstances.  It took me a while to come around, but once I chose to rejoice things were a whole lot easier!

Replacing the bottom of the siding

Fortunately that day my dear dad came back out to our rescue!  He worked at that inverter installation till it was completely finished and working smoothly.  Now we have a meter inside the trailer door that keeps us constantly informed about the status of the batteries.  There should be no more surprises, and if all continues to work correctly, no sudden loss of power.  What a blessing!

We got more water and questioned everyone, checking the plumbing under the trailer for leaks, but the disappearing water mystery was not solved. 

Using high powered equipment off-grid

Skip also returned to cut trim for our bedroom and help with the shed, and our friend Brendan came to replace the shed siding.  Brendan had been scheduled to build the bunks for the children, but the shed had to be done first.  I painted the trim and Silver Oak ran around doing 101 other things.

Friday Silver Oak and our oldest daughter went to town to do landscaping.  And we ran out of water again!  What in the world?  Where was it going? We had to wait till late that night when they returned home with a trailer load of our belongings and a load of water.  We went most of the day using less than ½ gallon of water except for drinking water.  There was plenty of filtered water for drinking, as we always store one gallon per person.  But the rest of the water was streeeeetched to last the day. 

No one was allowed to get dirty, because there was no way to clean up.  The dishes were rinsed in a tiny bit of left-over laundry water and set aside to wash later.  We survived, but we were sure glad when water finally came! 

New doors give the shed a facelift

While I was waiting for them to get home I dug out our Christmas wreath with lights and hung it on the door.  With our new inverter Christmas lights are no problem as long as we don’t do too many.  I love the homey feel it makes.

Saturday was intense because of all that had to be done before Sunday, but one of the first things that happened was the solving of the disappearing water mystery!  Silver Oak had turned off the toilet valve the night before as it was suspect.  He had also closed the valve on one of the water tanks so if one emptied out there would still be some left.  In the morning the water level had not dropped a bit!  Hmmmm.  He opened the toilet valve and flushed.  That is when he noticed the flapper in the toilet tank stuck open so it ran and ran without filling.  After experimenting he realized that water was disappearing at the rate of about two gallons every five minutes!  The water thief was discovered!  Our water was running straight through to the septic tank whenever the toilet mechanism stuck!

What a relief to know how to stop the water loss!  But the day was the most stressful we’ve had in a long time.  We had to empty the borrowed trailer of our belongings and return it by Sunday.  Before it could be unloaded a little more work had to be done on the shed and our bedroom trim had to be finished and paint touched-up so we could move things in.  Of course there were the usual unexpected things that slowed us down, and I did not do so well with my attitude all the time.

Painting the trim...dig those red Christmas socks!

But by God’s grace everything was done by evening and we were still kicking and ready to unload!  This was to be the first night to sleep in our new tiny house because the next day Silver Oak’s parents were arriving from Ohio to stay for a week, and we wanted them to stay in the camper.  Our loft was now completed, but the bunks for the kiddos were not built yet so we made beds on the floor and couch for them.  During the day the girls had brought over most of our clothes from the camper.  Things were done enough that we could move in!

We ate dinner and put the younger kiddos to bed, then went out and got to work unloading our belongings.  It took several hours, but we finally got everything placed in shed or trailer.  Our mattress and bedding was put up in the loft, and after warm showers we fell into bed exhausted.

The next morning we were hosting home church, so when I suddenly awoke at 9:00 am we knew we’d have to hustle.  Imagine our surprise when we discovered my watch battery had died and it was actually closer to 10:00 am!!  Well, we got ready somehow and our little church family very graciously understood when we didn’t have everything perfectly in place. 

Our bedroom loft completed...excuse the mess underneath

The fellowship was encouraging and we even managed to have a little birthday party with the noon meal (my parents joined us after church) for our daughter who just turned nine.  Looking back now I wonder how on earth we did all of that…it makes me tired to think of it!  The Lord’s grace was with us, that’s for sure.

I will update you on our first days in the trailer in a later post.  For now, this epistle is long enough!


Laboring to Build Our Tiny House

Linked w/Frugally Sustainable , Barn Hop, Simple Lives Thursday, and Farmgirl Friday!

The toilet and sink right of the window

The window to the right (at the foot end) of the loft