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Making Things Livable
So, now that I've got land for my tiny house, I kinda need to make it livable. That means getting some systems in place, namely an energy system, a water system, and a waste disposal system. I've made a bit of progress on two of those fronts.

So, of course, the first thing on the priority list is getting the electricity under control. Any survival expert will tell you that you can survive a month without food, about a week without water, and exposure can kill you faster than both. However, for my generation lacking Internet access is a fate worse than death. So, I focused my efforts on getting more solar panels.

The panels on the left are my old Harbor Freight panels. Each one produces 15 watts for a total of 45 watts. The new Kyocera panel on the right, though, produces 3 times as much as the other three combined. That's a 135 watt panel sitting there, and I've got 2 more on the way. That'll give me 450 watts of power generation total, which means I should be able to give my batteries at least 900 kwhs a day in the dead of winter (more in summer.) When I was checking my usage at my Uncle's place, I was using anywhere from 800 to 1,500 kwhs a day, depending upon what I did. I've since purchased a much more efficient ceiling fan, and am going to be running on more efficient DC power, so I'm hoping I should be all set.

I also decided to create a battery box.

Some of you had noticed that I was keeping the batteries inside the house. Some of you also commented on this, and I tried to downplay it. Now, though, I'll come right out and say it: I was STUPID. Those batteries give off toxic gases when they charge, and are hazardous to your health. They should never been kept indoors without proper ventilation. I am now keeping my batteries outside where they belong. As you can see in the second picture, I've also got some insulation in there on the bottom. I need to insulate the top and the sides yet, and hopefully that'll help keep the batteries from freezing through most of the winter. I doubt it'll be enough on the coldest of days, but I'm hoping to cross that barrier when I come to it. You can also see that I've got space in there for additional batteries - I need to get a couple more to make my system complete. I want to wait for the solar panels first, though.

Now that the batteries are out of the house, I've opened up a lot of space up top! I've also had to move my charge controller outside, so I can no longer monitor my usage using the handy-dandy built in LED meter. (Actually, I had to get a new one that could handle the capacity of the new panel, and the old one burnt out, anyway.) For now, I'm just plugging my multimeter into the DC outlet for my heater's fan. It'll do for now.

Speaking of heating, I've started building a skirting around my tiny house with straw bales. I figure this will help keep it warmer in the winter, given the insulative nature of straw bales. It's also likely to create a nice little haven for mice, bugs, and other less-than-savory critters. The underside of my trailer is mostly metal, with metal flashing and pressure-treated lumber being the only accessible parts, so I'm hoping that'll be enough to keep anything from trying to crawl in. I may be treating this a tad too optimistically, though. If I start posting pictures of Barney with mice hanging out of his mouth, you'll know this was a bad idea. Speaking of Barney...

Barney interlude! Seriously, this is all the closer the little guy will let me get to him with a camera. He's shy. Anyway, back to content...

My parents were wonderful enough to pick me up some old pallets while I was working in Mexico City for a couple of weeks. I've turned them into a compost pile! Granted, it's likely that, after a year, the sides of the pallets themselves will begin to compost, but I still consider this to be somewhat of an experiment, so I don't want to spent a lot to build a fancier structure until I'm sure this will work. This, of course, is the missing component to my composting toilet. From here on out, whenever the toilet is full, I can empty it into this bin, cover it with leaves, straw, or other organic material, wash out the bucket and be ready to go again. Of course, it takes a year to build a good pile and another year to let it age, so I really won't know if this experiment "works" for another 2 years, but hey... gotta start sometime, right?

And we end with a picture of my hammock. Not gonna be many days left in the year where I'll be able to use that sucker!

Well, that's it for now. I've got 2 more solar panels coming as well as an antenna for my Internet connection, so I'll probably be posting more pictures in a few days. Oh, and my parents have planted a couple bushes, some hostas, and an apple tree, too, so I'll hopefully be posting pictures of those as well. For now, though, I need to log off - until the other panels and batteries come, I don't want to use the laptop too much and drain my batteries too low!

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I'm excited for you.

I've put myself in your shoes and tried to anticipate the what ifs.
But your doing it.
Good for you on the battery box. And good for you in your concern about them freezing. You might consider storing the box under the house WITH say a tube vented to the outside (make sure the box is thoroughly sealed when closed).
As for composting. I've heard there is an easier way. I'm planning my compost toilet (another thing I need to build, sigh), but I've already go bags and a 55 gallon container filled with shredded leaves. Anyway, and please verify before doing this, use a 55 gallon pail as your container. Each time put a scoop of leaves (or other suitable material in), use it, cover the debri with more leaves, also, use a urine diverter device. As long as the debri is covered, there is no smell. when the bucket is almost full, put on the cover and date the pail. Put the bucket in a non-freezing location for 6 months (or a year). When you come back it will be nice rich and sanitary garden dirt to add to your garden.

Anyway, keep up the good work. Wish I were as far along. ;-)

Re: I'm excited for you.

Wow. You know, I had thought about putting them under the house before, but I didn't want them venting gasses up into the house from below. I dismissed the thought so quickly that it never occurred to me to then vent the box out a tube! Thanks for that one - that may be my answer!

As for the 55 gallon drum idea, you'll have to let me know how it works. It sounds like it'll work faster than the year retention compost pile, at any rate. Smell isn't an issue for me since the "deposits" are always covered with leaves and whatnot, but that turnaround time is worth considering... as is the mobility of the drum, now that I think about it. Hmm... I think I WILL look into that!

Right now I'm just going by-the-book, as in "The Humanure Handbook." The author's done a lot of research, it seems, and has put my fears to rest, so I feel pretty comfortable using his system.

Re: I'm excited for you.

go to ecovita.net for the urine diverting toilet seat.
You tube video "Urban composting toilet"

I put down "55" in my last post and the second time it should have said 5 gallon, as in 5 gallon pail for the compost toilet. There are several videos on You-tube on building an inexpensive compost toilet and they often use 5 gallon plastic pails. Use the diverting toilet seat in conjunction.
I bought a leaf blower/vac and used that to shred leaves in anticipation of using them for the compost toilet. Having adequate cover material is essential to making a waterless toilet work. So at this point I have a 55 gallon container and several smaller containers, filled with shredded leaves. Now all I need is to build the toilet itself.

As for the time, one year is the minimum to let containers sit, without adding new stuff, before the material can be considered sanitary for use in the garden. It also shrinks considerably.

What are you going to do without a well?
I guess there are new techniques for putting in wells without incurring a lot of cost. Being in clay though, eww. That might be more difficult. I was going to install a well on my parents property this last spring using an electric fence post pounder and some 2" well pipe. I was going through sand. You may not have all clay. It may only be a few feet deep and then ... who knows. Check your geology surveys. If you have a pond near by, water shouldn't be too deep.

Re: I'm excited for you.

Thanks for the link - I'll have to check it out.

For water I hope to try some rainwater harvesting. Right now I'm hauling 10 to 15 gallons of water in per week. Given the size of my roof, though, I can (theoretically) harvest just over 100 gallons of water from an inch of rainfall. Michigan's not the wettest of states, but we always get at least an inch of precipitation each month (and this time of year, usually 4 inches.) Even if I only collect half of it, it would still satisfy my water needs as long as I have a big enough cistern.

That's going to be the next big project. A well may be easier, and I probably should drill one as a backup, but I've wanted to do rainwater harvesting for years now, and I figured this would be an excellent time for it.

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