Planning a tiny (and sustainable) landscape for the tiny house

by andrewodom on April 13, 2011 · 6 comments


So far we have talked about the construct of our tiny house. We have talked about our gardens. We have touched on our desire to raise more chickens and add in goats and possible livestock. We have covered our plumbing options. But how in the world does it all fit together? It is a question we have been pondering each night we lay in bed.

Where will the goats go? How will we create enough solar power to run a fridge and an temperature unit? Will we be able to grow strawberries? In fact, the questions are endless. So much so that this week I had to sit down with my niece’s colored pencils and a piece of old art paper and sketch out what our cleared plot will look like.

Please notice that I say what it WILL look like. I believe that you have to set your goals and accept nothing less. We each have the capacity to reach our own limits. Provided we stay healthy and their is still land under our feet we are going to run full speed ahead at the r(E)volution.

We’ve come up with an, ahem, highly technical and correct-scale map of our future homestead to assist us in using our space effectively and efficiently as well as to guide us in our vast projects. In all honesty it really does provide us with tangible vision allowing us to prioritize and budget. Within two years we plan to have a full function homestead (or hobby farm, as some would say) that is completely powered by alternative energy sources. In addition it will provide us with a minimum of 65% of our food in all seasons via our gardens, our chickens, our goats, and our wooded “wild.”

For those who are not familiar with the Tiny r(E)volution yet we are located on a square acre (which was 100% wooded on day one) within the perimeter of Lenoir County in eastern North Carolina. We have no plans of clearing all of our acre and certainly no plans to fence off any unnecessary areas. We do hope to purchase up to 5 more acres in the future to raise some livestock and continue growing our own food as well as surplus for sale or barter.

There are plans to build a fresh water well between our land and the next door neighbors (who are more commonly referred to as Crystal’s brother and sister-in-law). The pump will be manual at first with a goal of having a DC powered pump. We will not be attached to a septic system as the tiny house will use a compost toilet. Our grey water system will provide irrigation and drainage. We will ultimately rely on a custom solar installation to provide electricity and we’ll use deep cycle batteries for power storage. There is talk with a friend of ours now to create biofuel and use it to heat the house ultimately.

Tiny Home

Our primary living space will be our tiny house. Unlike more popular tiny houses created by the likes of Tumbleweed Tiny Houses, our trailer is 8′ x 30′ that will be our “foundation” for what we are now looking at as a true modular living system.  If you notice on the landscape sketch the southwest of the home will feature an expansive deck which will serve as a 3-season outdoor room providing more living space. Crystal talks about putting a roof of some sort overhead 1/2 of the deck and having a propane heater or fire pit for colder months. The deck will also provide amazing 5 to 6-hour views of the sky and sun. Quite warm and cozy.

Solar Power System

Our solar panels will be mounted in an array situation about 8 feet up from the ground. They will face south, angled at 45 degrees for winter months and angled near 25 degrees during the summer. AGM batteries will be located underneath the array in a weather proof “box” designed for ventilation and protection from the weather. This will allow for accessibility and maintenance without disrupting our interior “home life.”  The main power system will be 12 volt DC that is inverted to AC for its primary use. We are also considering a generator system that will ultimately power the well pump and serve as backup.

Heat and Air

Because of our natural landscape we are not using passive technology. In fact, we will be relying on a “window unit” air conditioner for the extreme heat the south has. As for heat we will be using a propane “fireplace” heater with a blower unit. Because of the number of windows in our tiny house as well as the breeze we have discovered in our cleared area we thing the breeze will be more than comfortable for much of the year. During the winter we will augment the heat with that same natural sunlight as well as our recycled denim insulation. Again, we are talking with another family about building a biofuel heating system. That is very experimental though and is subject to cost and health standards. Our kitchen will be equipped with a propane drop-in RV style oven and stove which is what we currently use in “The Bungalow.”

Hot Water

We built a solar hot water shower at our homestead in middle Georgia and fell in love with it. Mixing cold well water with heated water from black, sun-drenched, tubing we found it to be a great way to enjoy an outdoor shower for nearly five months. While we will be using an on demand hot water heater in our tiny house we would like to find a sunny spot and a water source (possibly the well) to again create an outdoor solar shower.

Rain Water Harvesting

Our tiny house, our shed, and our gardens will be engineered for rain harvesting. Plants love nothing more than natural rainwater and gravity fed systems are so easy to construct. By 2015 we hope to have a buried holding tank with a filtration system for our water needs. With our areas current rainfall we expect to be able to harvest nearly 14,000 gallons of water/year.

Trees and Vegetables

Before we even dreamed of our tiny house we were growing multiple food products in raised beds, traditional gardens, cleared fields, cold boxes, pots, etc. We were hobby farmers, indeed! We intend to maintain that way of life and sustainability and augment it with more cold season crops and more trees and shrubs. Located on Tiny Lane (otherwise known as our driveway) we will grow strawberries up the sides. The soil there has a wonderful sand to dirt ratio perfect for such. We will also be planting both apple trees and blueberry bushes; staples of our current diet. Should we be able to purchase more land we hope to use it for expansive grape orchards as we both love a good vineyard. Our beds and gardens will grow everything from kitchen herbs to medicinal herbs to leafy greens and stalk veggies.

Chickens and Livestock

On our homestead we will raise a multiple layer chicken system. Our chickens will start at biddy’s and be raised and separated appropriately as either meat chicks or layer hens. We anticipate upwards of 70 chickens as we will also be selling eggs to our neighbors and community folk.

With the addition of goats we will switch to goats milk for our dietary needs. They will also allow us to make soap, butter, and cheese. The landscape sketch clearly shows the goat pen which will be portable so that the goats can also help maintain the underbrush and shrubbery in our uncleared land.

 

 

  • Margot

    If you have not yet had the “pleasure” of raising goats I advise you to research the requirements for fencing very carefully. Goats (even the little pygmy ones) are very hard on fencing. If they can put their head through the fence to get stuck they will. The are climbers/pushers/very strong animals with a wealth of personality. They will eat the young tender trees/their bark/any other plants before they will eat brush/scrub if they are given the opportunity.

    My husband I lived for ten years off the grid, with no running water, a “composting outhouse”, propane cookstove and fridge with wood for heat. Our solar power system started out as a car battery and a car tail light. We lived in a 16 ft travel trailer and then a 12 by 20 foot two story cabin. It was hard work and we would not repeat every aspect of it, but parts of it were really worthwhile.

    Our goat raising was short lived. We had one that was lovely and docile and one that was a real pain in the rear. We gifted them to someone else who appreciated them more than we ever did. Good luck with all your plans. It looks lovely.

    • anotherkindofdrew

      I have worked with goats and am pretty familiar with fencing. I haven’t yet decided if I will use an electric fence or not but I will continue to research to make sure we make the best choice possible for our situation.

      Thank you Margot for taking the time to view our plans. I would love to know what y’all wouldn’t repeat so as not to fall victim ourselves.

      • Margot

        We would be more intentional about the process before starting out. We moved onto family property and built as we could afford to using reclaimed/scrounged and some new materials. We had two small children and I was a stay at home mom so income was always tight. Our outhouse was given to us and it worked well as a composting toilet with periodic relocation of the structure. We used peat moss as our compost material. We had some rain water collection but have could done so much more had our resources allowed for that. We hauled most of our water by siphoning from a spring down the road into 55 gallon barrels and then putting that into more barrels on our home site landing. If my husband and I were to attempt this again we would do it on a) land we owned outright. b) plan and save beforehand so that we could start out with a better foundation to the lifestyle. We lived for a long time a few steps above camping. Not horrible but not much fun with small children as a permanent way to live. Our animals often ended up with better shelter than we did. We lived in the travel trailer with a slapped together lean to for almost four years before the cabin structure was built. We lived far enough from the paved road that our homesteading was down without the restriction or benefit of permits etc. My husband is a contractor so everything was to code with the exception of our plumbing situation but I don’t know that I would choose that route again. I am older now and more “conforming” to some of the rules. I think more than anything planning beforehand to be better prepared to start off would be the key thing.

        Most everything in this kind of living is dependent upon a good water supply. We didn’t have that. We didn’t own our land and ended up moving after spending ten years building up a nice (but far from finished) functioning homestead. We also got most of our wood for construction from an old house and chicken barn. By the time we had paid for hauling it from the area it was in to our place the cost savings vs buying new wood was pretty non existent. However, character of wood was much nicer with our old barn wood so for us it was worth it. It did have an impact on time line of construction though because of all the nails we had to remove before we could use it.

        You have covered most everything that I think would be necessary to be self sufficient and have a good quality of life. I am looking forward to seeing your place come to fruition!

        • anotherkindofdrew

          Thank you so much Margot for your words of encouragement as well as sharing your own families experience. Luckily for us we have a very reliable source of water, a secondary source, and proper rainwater harvesting should the need arise. I think the best thing we have is friends like you that can lend an ear and a lesson when necessary. Thank you again!

  • Msdawn_bbw_domme

    I love my goats. Both are smaller mixed breeds and we are having them bred now. It is a joy to watch them. Patti walks well on a leash and Lucy follows her. Here is our blog. http://campneaal.blogspot.com/

  • http://www.garden-furniture-outlet.co.uk/wooden-garden-furniture Wooden Garden Furniture

    Hello to alll….!!!!
    Firstly i have need a landscape look for my garden.As i move to my new home i maintain my garden in such a way that i get landscape design and architecture.This post makes me to think about Landscape because landscape provide elegance and grace to mine garden.

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