Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Surprises Are Awesome

"It does not matter how slowly you go, as long as you do not stop." -Confucius

Those are words I need to repeat over and over these days. Life is a whirlwind as we count down to the big day, and of course, the weather is turning, which adds another level of urgency to our house projects. Another quick post today- just to keep everyone updated!

This past weekend held a couple of wonderful surprises. First, a surprise bridal shower! If not for a little toddler explaining to me that "the bridal shower is supposed to be a secret", I would have been completely bowled over--but even knowing it was going to happen didn't prepare me for the event. I wasn't expecting the sheer number of ladies that came together to celebrate with me. I am truly humbled,  and over-whelmed with gratitude, warmth, and love. I have a wonderful family, and soon I will be joining one just as lovely. Judy, Beth, and Julia- thank you so much for all the work you put in! It was evident that this day was thought over time and again. There were so many little details that truly made it a day unique to me- including cute little quiz poems and a gluten free cake! YUM! To everyone who came- THANK YOU, THANK YOU! The support and love I felt in that room was amazing. I will cherish that day forever. :)

SO many ladies! :) Thank you!!

The second surprise was actually getting some work done on the solar panels. HA! On Saturday, about mid-morning I said, "I'd be happy if we just got the grass cut back and one row of panels taken off the racking." Setting us up for a small, non-intimidating goal seems to be the key to our success lately. After we ran a few errands in town, and grabbed a few supplies- including the large guage wire and conduit we need for our solar, then we came back and got started.

Don't let it fool you- that thing is evil.

Dan whacked back all the grass growing in front of our first row, and then also cleared a path for where our conduit will be put in the ground. Meanwhile, I faced one of my fears and did some poison ivy clean up. Nightmarish visions of me covered in blisters coming down the aisle kept my eyes sharp. I wore latex gloves over work gloves and had long pants and sleeves to help too. I plucked quite a pile and managed to clear out most of the ivy that had grown into the space of our panels. There is still some under the row we need to continue working on, but I wasn't about to work in an area that required crawling. NO THANK YOU. I will wait until the panels are out of my way!

 We then removed the first set of panels. It went pretty quick, so we decided to make the cuts we needed to the racking. We made our marks on each side of each post, double checking to make sure they lined up on either side, and then Dan carefully cut the lines using a skill saw. 

On Sunday, after my wonderful shower, I was feeling pretty amped and decided I wanted to keep going with what we started Saturday. I quickly changed into pants and headed back out. We cut the pieces we needed to mount on the new angle, and then replaced the lengthwise boards that were there to begin with. After securing all that, we put our panels back up. It felt SO GOOD to see one row finally fixed. We decided to take the panels off the second row too.

Dan took the length wise boards off and now, we just need to mark and cut the posts and both sets will have the right angle! Woohoo! Also- as for the solar parts saga, I got sick of waiting for someone else to do their job basically, so I called the corporate headquarters of the company that made specific said part. It was a breath of fresh air to hear someone say, "Oh, I'm sorry that this happened! It should not have taken so long for that. What is your address, I will mail it out today." They didn't ask for any proof of purchase, any account number, they just HELPED ME. That part arrived today and now we can put the whole thing together.

One of Dan's friends has a brother who is an electrical engineer, and the two might be coming over to help us next weekend! I was beginning to think that sun power wasn't going to happen until after the wedding, but now it's looking like there might be a shot!! WOOO!

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That angle looks better!



Thursday, September 4, 2014

Progress: An Inch at a Time

Our activity over the next month will undoubtedly be minimal as we close in on the big day.

That being said, I will try my best to keep in touch and keep posting! They might be micro-posts in comparison to our usual content, but hey! We're still here- still doing the tiny house thang- we just need to divert more attention elsewhere for the time being.

Sooo- Dan's truck broke down Saturday morning, and he started his first day at RIC this week. We scrambled around to make arrangements for another car in the meantime, a tow, getting ahold of the mechanic on a holiday weekend, making sure his parking pass deal wouldn't get screwed up, and so on. Needless to say, that threw a big ol' wrench into plans we had for the weekend. I never realized just how much we use his truck when it comes to hauling basic stuff around. Collecting more pallets, getting long pieces of lumber at the store, hauling power tools from one site to the next...not to mention just not having your own set of wheels. We often split up duties, one of us will run off and do this, while the other goes there and does that. Not this weekend! So we re-adjusted.

 Among many other wedding things, we were able to mark the new/correct angle for our panels on the racking. After seeing how much we have to lop off- we were happy to learn that we can still use our racking. There are only a certain number of holes on the back side of our panels and we needed to make sure we could still fasten onto the racking at those distances. We came up with a new way to mount them once all the cuts have been made.

I'm not even sure I want to say- "We hope to work on the panels this weekend"- but I guess I just did! Progress seems to be crawling while time is flying. We are making a point to stay positive each day. We've jump started our super healthy eating once again, back to meditating, got all of our favorite supplements back on the shelf, and feeling pretty good each day. We want to look our best for the big day! And we really needed to quit it with all the take-out. It was beginning to be more of a problem than a convenience. We were feeling groggy, sluggish, cranky. It's amazing how much food can affect you. Eat garbage, feel like garbage.

Anyways! We plan to take it all in baby steps, but we really hope to take the panels off one rack and get the rack cut. Then, if there's more time in the weekend, we will try to re-mount!

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Friday, August 29, 2014

Sometimes You Just Have to Pick and Choose

It's almost September?! WHAT THE WHAT?!

Last weekend, we made the difficult decision to focus our precious free time. We have so many projects in the mix, both tiny house and wedding related, that it's become difficult to give equal attention to all. Since we are temporarily dead in the water as far as siding goes (until we get a new saw) and we are STILL waiting on some of the parts we need for solar- don't even want to talk about that- we opted to work on centerpieces for the wedding.

To our surprise and delight, we were able to build all the centerpiece stands and the favor display this past weekend!

 What a load off! 

If given too much time, I will change my mind on the design of something about a thousand times. It felt great to finally settle on a concept, create a dry run piece, find that we liked it, and then slap the others together with relative ease.

We used all recycled and leftover materials from our tiny house build- less a handful of pieces of wood- which I think really adds character and richness to our special day. We made these things together, by hand, as we will our new life. I think we spent a grand total of maybe $20 for the 14 units we created.

They are TALL and rustic and amazing. I simply cannot wait to see it all come together. We have collected a ton of wine bottles, which I have been cleaning and de-labeling. We plan to stuff them with lights and twigs, maybe ferns, or other woodsy things for additional decor. I'm pretty proud of how resourceful we are being. I will definitely share pictures when the time comes!

As for something that might actually be related to what you want to read about- haha- uhhhhh.....we bought a protractor! (To fix our panel angles.) And thanks to back to school, we got a steal of deal on the thing.

With the long weekend ahead, we plan to evaluate the change of angles to our panels, dig the trench for conduit up to the house, and maybe, just maaayyyybe, we could get the panels hooked up to the combiner box. Baby steps, people. Plus, we have more wedding things to do as well- just over a month away before these two peas make it official!

If you haven't yet, check out Issue 20 of Tiny House Magazine, hot off the *virtual* press! I've got an article in there about towing the Pod!

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Thursday, August 21, 2014

Batteries = RECHARGED!

Dan and I can't thank each and every one of you enough!

After my last post, the out-pouring of advice, encouragement, and support was truly amazing. Dan and I are both touched and rejuvenated. One of the first responses was simply a link to an article written by a fellow tiny houser, breaking down all the things that go through your mind, how you feel, how you may re-act, and by the end of that article I was already feeling a whole lot better. If you are feeling a little nutty or on the edge about your build- I highly recommend this article.

Throughout the first half of our build, we worked mostly alone, and felt mostly alone in our interests, goals, and enthusiasm for tiny houses. In 2012, the tiny house scene was beginning to bloom, but there still weren't a whole loft of networks out there. We are so grateful to have such an awesome community with us today. I'm feeling spunky and ready to do work, so I'll keep this post short.

Last weekend was the first time in a while that there were no family or other social engagements slated. We took that opportunity to dive back in again. We finally created an outdoor area for our composte, using once again, lovely pallets. That went together quickly, and aside from tip-toeing through a whole lot of poison ivy, it was a smooth process. We moved our compost from the temporary plastic bin to it's new place. Even as we dumped the organic matter and shuffled it all around, there was no smell, which means we are doing things right! 

Building that first was probably the best move of the day, and lucky for us, it was our first move of the day! Feeling quite chipper and at ease now that our pooh had somewhere to go become earth again, we set our sights on the next job. Can you guess? Yep- more pallet siding!

The Sunday before last, as you may recall, we spent prepping more pallets to go up on the walls. I'm not sure if I mentioned that the special saw we used at Dan's Dad's store up and quit on us. That was the only saw that would fit the particular blade we need to use for ship lapping. We didn't put up much of a fuss since that was the last step and we only had a handful of boards left. So we packed up and headed home. Dan's dad said the saw probably just over-heated and to give it some time.

So we some siding that was ready to go up. We spent the remainder of Saturday putting up siding. We didn't get the third wall done, but it's pretty close! On Sunday, we worked on the utility closet. We were both getting tired of staring at that house wrap every time we came home. Over the last couple weeks, when feeling especially overwhelmed, seeing that was like salt in the wound. So we decided to tackle what we could of that. We headed out and got supplies for the trim. 

After putting up the strapping, then cutting, painting, and applying the trim, we stood back to admire the improvements. Even the trim being in place was a substantial improvement!

On Tuesday, we both put in work after work. Dan went to his Dad's to try out the saw. It's officially dead. Boo. So the pallet siding is on hold yet again. While he was there, I did a little work on our center-pieces at my Dad's.

Dan had a great suggestion- we had some extra pallet wood that we had processed early on, but then as we got better at what we were doing, we realized these pieces were a little too thin for our liking, so they go tossed aside. The discrepancy in thickness wasn't a big deal for most pieces, but these were simply too thin in comparison to the rest of the lot. So we didn't put them up. I am SUPER GLAD, and I would go back in time and kiss the former me or former Dan- whoever said, let's just keep these for a while. Turns out the miscellaneous thin pieces added up to the perfect amount of wood to do the front of our utility closet! Since it was just two small areas of siding, the difference in thickness didn't matter. 

Once I finished putting up the last piece of siding on the front of the utility closet, I stood back and smiled from ear to ear. MAN is it great to look at this side of our house and not see house wrap anymore! Wooh! 

Next weekend, we plan to start getting that solar power system put together- that is, if the changing of angles on the wooden mounts goes well!

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Thursday, August 14, 2014

Time Keeps On Slippin'...Slippin'...Slippin'

During one of the several interviews we have done so far, I was asked- "You seem so on top of things, especially for a project this size. Do you ever get overwhelmed or are you always this cool and collected?"

WELL. The short answer to that is yes, we DEFINITELY get overwhelmed. A great example of that? RIGHT NOW. I'm stepping away from the usual tone of my posts because I'm not feeling my usual self. The last few weeks have been a whirl wind. I have moments where it's all I can do to just breathe calmly. The crisp cool air of the evenings and mornings has always been one of my most favorite things. A sign that my favorite season is on it's way....but this year, there is so much going on that I wish summer could last another 5 months. 

Dan recently found employment (HOORAY!), which we are both very happy about. He did such a bang up job his first week and a half that they asked him to come on full time. Considering he has been looking for quite some time, and our financial situation was getting a bit tight, we were happy for this opportunity. What I wasn't expecting however, was the inevitable backlash to our progress on the house. 

In fact, it was never made clearer to me than now. One of the biggest balancing acts of life is time versus money. This is a scale I have had trouble with for many years- always trying to make time the more valuable item, but somehow someway, money always had more heft. I can't just walk away from my bills and my debt, and I will not put them off any longer either. I am determined to reach a point in my life where time out ranks money- sooner rather than later. We are positioning ourselves with the tiny life we have chosen, but it seems, much like everything else, there is always one more major stressful squeeze before you burst out the other side. 

I have been traveling quite a bit over the last month, and when I am home, our schedule has been filled with family gatherings, weddings, showers, and other related parties. I get this feeling like all my waking hours from now until some point in the unforeseen future has already been scheduled for me. It's quite frustrating at times. 

We need to finish the dang siding on this place. We need to put our solar power system together. We need to water proof and seal the siding. We need to create gutters and some form of water shed for our roof line. We need to purchase and install a wood stove. We need to do all this before November.

Now- add getting married out of state in October to that list. Catching my drift?  

This past weekend we attended a beautiful garden wedding on Dan's side of the family. We wanted to save money and time so we drove home that night instead of staying over. We spent part of Sunday morning in recovery, then dragged ourselves out to Dan's dad's store to do more work. We needed to process more pallets. Our tools have been scattered to three different places now...and I don't like it. Some things are here at the Pod, some things are at my Dad's, and some things at the store. More than once we have gone one place only to realize the tool we need is at another. I don't recommend this. haha We wanted to give my Dad a break from seeing us constantly working in his yard, and we needed to use the table saw at the store. His dad's saw is the only one that will hold the special blade we use for ship-lapping. 

So, the only free day we had was spent sweating in the beating sun of a paved parking lot. I know I'm probably being a total whiner right now, but DAMN! It's been almost 2 years of working constantly on this place. I want it to be over! I want to return to having time to relax, be social (not just attend major family events), visit my hobbies again- I'm pretty sure I will have to learn guitar all over again. Blurg.

Oh, and the solar power system saga continues. We ordered what we needed and now have another 6 boxes of stuff waiting for us to open. We also realized that our solar panels are at the wrong angle. Joy. The semi-good news is that we did do our math right, we just flip flopped how it should have applied to the racking. We don't have to build them all over, since the angle we need is sharper. We plan to take the panels down and make the angled cuts to the posts right where they stand. That should be fun. 

Some nights I lie in bed feeling like I have the actual weight of our tiny house on my chest. I try to keep my mind on the positives. We have accomplished so much and we are making our dream a reality, but I feel I have mustered all I can muster- even from my reserve tank at this point. It's hard to be the spearhead day in and day out.  My brain begins to skip and scramble as I think about all the loose ends we still have and all that MUST get done before the cold sets in. 

I WILL come back to you all with a more chipper voice again soon. But until then, do any of you folks that have already "made it to the other side" have any advice? Maybe part of your story you can share? I could really use something to recharge my batteries. 

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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

A Streak of Heightened Appreciation

Such an epic time!
My grand plan is finally beginning to work! MUAHAHA!

What grand plan, you say? The plan to live in such a way that we find ourselves reveling and rejoicing in the smallest of things. I believe life is about finding happiness and finding connection. So far, the tiny house living has brought us both in excess! We have become a part of a bigger community of people with the same dreams and goals, we have gained a lot of new friends and support, and we have seen the subtle shift in our perspectives bringing us small joys on a daily basis.

Saco River!

Dan's birthday was on the 19th, and we went on a camping weekend in New Hampshire. The main activity of the weekend was canoe-ing the Saco river along with a big group of friends. We certainly had more than one hiccup that weekend, thanks to the poor planning/communication skills of excited young men. HA! BUT, those bumps in the road aside, it was a pretty good time. The river was a blast and absolutely beautiful. I have to admit I had a hard time adjusting to seeing flocks of people every two minutes on the river, and then camping in tiny little lots -practically on top of the next set of campers. I grew up in rural areas where you seldom saw a car driving down the road let alone people milling about. So when we camped, we went even deeper into the woods. If you heard a noise, it wasn't human. Needless to say, I will be involved in the planning of the next camping trip- and we won't be returning to the place we went.

We joked all weekend about how the way we live daily didn't seem much different than camping. In fact, at this place we had electrical hook up AND running water at our disposal! What happened to roughin' it?! The lack of sleeping bags or proper padding is what sealed the deal for me. Yep, this was still a step down from the Pod. And when we got home- OH GLORIOUS DAY! The Pod seemed brighter and more lovely than usual, our bed twice as wonderful and soft and cozy.

After returning home from New Hampshire on Sunday, I headed right back out the door Monday to spend the week in Atlanta for work. I'm usually not a big fan of traveling that long -being away from home. After three years of traveling like this, the excitement has mostly worn off, and I find myself going a little nutty with my free time on the road. All I can think about is “if I were home I could be working on this right now, or I could start that...” but, unless I can fit it in a suitcase and take it with me, most projects get placed on hold. This week however, I made a conscious decision to practice some deliberate appreciation. Rather than whine internally about what I couldn't be working on- I decided to look around me and enjoy. It worked quite well! The week flew by, and the evenings in my hotel went quickly too. Air conditioning! A huge bed with room to run all around it! Plumbing! Showers in my own space, at any time! Unlimited running water! Unlimited electricity! Unlimited internet and data! AMAZINGNESS!

While I was gone, Dan kept the work coming on the house. He processed a bunch more pallets for siding and then put up that batch. The third wall is almost complete! And he started work on the last wall! I don't even know what I will do when this siding is finally complete. Laugh, cry, jump around. Probably all three! 

When I returned home this weekend, we decided to dive into the solar power system once again. On Sunday, we hunkered down and brought every last box and bag of pieces inside. We were determined to figure this out. Long story short, we learned A LOT, from reading through the different manuals as well as checking out video after video on youtube. We have primarily MidNite Solar products and they have some videos up. There are also a whole lot of DIY solar power people out there using MidNite solar products- so we were able to glean quite a bit from various sources.

We turned the computer on and started reading, reviewing, and watching. We discussed our thoughts and how we interpreted directions. We put small pieces together here and there. We grouped other pieces according to how they would be used. We compiled a list of questions. Haha. By the time we looked at the clock, we were shocked to realize that 4.5 hours had gone by! We both felt like we had put in maybe an hour!

What we concluded that afternoon is that we had too many unknowns, and we weren't sure, but we thought some components were missing. We decided to wait and call up our rep, Greg, at the AltE Store, to get definite answers. We weren't about to guess with $6000 on the line.

Come to find out, we were missing a few different pieces and needed to get some more wiring. In discussions with our rep, we also discovered one of our breakers was not the right size! So I am feeling pretty damn glad we waited and made the call. We will be ordering the additional parts needed this week and hopefully will have this system up and running before the end of August!

I know there are plenty of you who are curious about solar power and I promise you I will be putting together a big juicy post of how ours goes together and works. I have also been compiling the most helpful videos we have found. I just might make a set of my own videos, because the one thing that frustrated me, was all the folks putting up videos and calling it “how to” when really they just flashed a couple photos of their set up and gave some extremely vague descriptions. I don't know about you, but I like videos that talk to me like I'm a first grader and break every little bit down into comprehend-able pieces. That's what you can expect from me. The other challenging aspect is that there is no cookie cutter set up for solar power systems. The size of your system, the voltage, the distance between parts, etc all lead to very unique set ups. Not to mention, you can purchase one piece from one company, and then another piece from a different company, and so on, and of course, all these pieces look slightly different too. We watched a very comprehensive video on putting together a combiner box, only to open ours up and see that it looks nothing like the one in the video. The general concepts are the same, but a standardization in the actual pieces would be nice.

Oh! And something to look forward to! We had a really cool videographer named Danny come do a shoot of the Pod and interview us. This video and blog post are for a super awesome company called Custom Made. Check them out! It's kind of like a step up from Etsy. There are thousands of top notch artists and craftsmen who make use of this site. You have an idea or project you want to see created? You post what you want on Custom Made and then various artists or craftsmen will contact you if they are willing to create it for you!

We feel a little silly with our simple house being showcased on a site with such incredible work being displayed- but as Danny said- it's not just about fine craftsmanship, it's about creating. No matter what level you are at. They support and commend those who want to dig in and do it themselves too. We can't wait to see the finished video and blog post! Stay tuned!

Thanks for reading!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Tiny Victories! Hooray For Kitchen Drawers!

We now have a fridge!
The work accomplished over the last week was definitely not planned, and the satisfaction that came from it was just as unexpected. 

So, for those eagerly following along for solar purposes, we didn't get to that this past week. I was traveling locally for work last week, and came home with a few things I wanted to put in the cooler. Maybe it was just the long day, or the heat that set me off, or the ice purchasing/juggling we have been doing over the last couple weeks since the move- but when I got home and opened our little iceless cooler to find everything in there at least 10 degrees warmer (even hot, I would say) than the already 85 degree house.... let's just say I had a little moment. 

In it's defense, the little Coleman Iceless cooler put in a good run. The thing is clearly meant for weekend excursions or temporary outings- not to be run constantly and at max capacity, I might add. It was a small space, and we tried to embrace the change. It certainly forced us to eat fresh, but we also lost quite a bit of food over the last 9 months or so, as we tried to adjust our shopping habits, get better at meal prep, and whatnot. When it was colder out, we could make use of the coolers outside. When it got into the spring, we were still okay, but the cooler can only bring temperatures down to "up to 40 degrees below the surrounding temperature". Keep in mind that is probably in immaculate conditions, fully vented space, and no one opening the damn door for three days- sure maybe then it would bring it down 40. Based on our experience, once the door is open for 0.2 seconds, all the cool air is gone. 

I digress. So the fridge was full of hot gross things like moldy hummus and warm cucumbers. I had already been driving 2 hours, but was simply hell bent of getting a damn unit that would keep our food- THAT NIGHT. I unpacked, changed, looked around on Craigslist (with little luck), then immediately headed out to purchase said unit. I got the small dorm size fridge, the smallest available, and even then it seemed huge compared to what we were used to. 

I was a bit worried about the affect it would have on our power load, but after looking it up and doing the math, I found that this little fridge uses just 20 watts more per hour than the iceless cooler. Not a big change- so I think we will be just fine. 

The next problem was where to put the thing. The cabinet storage was designed specifically around the iceless cooler, so the fridge wouldn't fit any which way I tried. No matter! I rolled up my sleeves and began pulling apart the cabinets. Had to happen some time, and I was on a roll so I kept at it. 

I wish I could have captured the look of pure boyish joy on Dan's face when he came home and saw the little fridge. One thing we have both really missed are cold beverages...and when it's consistently high 80s in your house, those cold beverages suddenly take on a much higher value. 

It's funny the things in life you can learn to over look or deal with, and even funnier still, how a small change to one of those over-looked things can provide such a huge impact. I hadn't really taken much time to consider how much of a pain it could be without a dependable source for cooling and keeping food. We had been making it work since October, and with SO MUCH else going on, who is going to sit around and obsess about keeping food cold? Not us! But since we got the new little fridge, it has been truly awesome. I can now put veggies, eggs, and meats in the fridge and KNOW that they will be good for use for several days. It was always a gamble before. 

We still have grand plans for using passive cooling techniques outside, but that's down the road. We have a lot to do first, just to consider our selves settled and fully set up here on the farm. 

Since I started tearing things apart on Thursday night, the weekend was given to putting things back together- among several other appointments and social engagements. We considered the dimensions we had to work with and built a new skeleton for the stair storage. We really like the new set up. It's hard to pinpoint what exactly makes us like it so much. It has a more open feel to it, and despite the fact that this fridge is bigger, I think the way the shelving is set up now- we get more use of the space. 

We popped the big door off and re-sized it to go in it's new location. We used several pieces of scrap wood, miscellaneous hardware, and more for the project. We didn't have to buy a single thing! We were both very pumped about that specific detail-- we made changes, but we used what we had on hand. No cost! 

With this new found zest for re-arranging the kitchen, we decided to push and get the drawers done too. Those stinking things have been on the to do list for months now. Dan had started to make a couple, but didn't get to finish. For the last 3-4 months we've simply been putting things on the shelves where the drawers would go. 

While I built drawers, Dan continued to rip up pallets for our siding. He thinks we have enough pallets to process- at the moment- to finish the back short wall. Then just the back long wall is left. After the drawers were done, it was time to apply color! My favorite! And while I was at it, I decided to do a bunch of touch ups inside, including painting and poly-coating specific high traffic areas in the house. The cubby seats were an area that bugged me. As people sit on the seats, their feet naturally hit against the bright pine faces leaving marks and scuffs. So I gave it some dark brown trim to match our counters, and slapped some poly on there to make it scrubbable. 

By the end of the weekend, we had our fridge installed in it's new custom built home, we had kitchen drawers (which I gleefully geeked out about as I finally was able to put silverware, towels, etc in their final homes. I love organization!! Maybe too much.) And we touched up our beat up counter and gave it another coat too. Things are looking pretty good inside! The last 5% of the interior is down to 2%! Now the only things left inside are some small paint jobs and putting the cabinet door in it's new location. 

This week we plan to get cranking on siding once again, and hopefully I can get more solar power reading done so we can get off the grid for good! 

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The kitchen colors are finally tying all together!
A peaceful bun-bun enjoying candlelight.