Tiny House Tech Program Proposal

All the great videos being presented at the Tiny House Summit have really fired my imagination. One of these videos by Saul Rip Hansen was about tiny house high school shop classes. I think this is a great idea. Shop classes in high school played a key role in my career as a woodworker and contractor, and I can see where the right program would be very beneficial.

Quick note about Saul’s video: His 102 minute keynote presentation for the Summit is packed with demographic information and other details that would be very valuable to anyone working in this field. I’m thinking in particular of tiny house designers, builders and other entrepreneurs. If the legal ‘doors’ are fully opened to allowing tiny houses as either RVs or accessory dwelling units (which they already are in some areas) then the potential market is staggering. Again, as mentioned previously, these Summit videos are available for free this week only. After that they will be sold as a package.

So here’s my closely related idea: create a tiny house curriculum and training program for technical colleges. High school shop programs are great, but an in-depth training program for older students who are seriously interested in entering the construction field might be of even more value. It shouldn’t be too hard to adapt Saul’s program to technical colleges. A tech college program like this would turn out qualified workers who have a whole range of skills versus just one specialty such as carpentry or electrical. What do you think?

Man Lives Inside $150 Bicycle ‘Stealth’ Camper

“For years now, Paul Elkins has been traveling the country in his ‘stealth camper’. Unlike many small homes you see, this one is attached to the back of a bicycle and it only cost $150 to make! You won’t believe what the inside looks like.

“It does show the possibilities of a new way to get around and travel or to live. You don’t have car insurance, you don’t have home insurance payments. What do you got? Food.” Paul says.”

Going Viral Posts
I’m going to run tiny house related blog posts all week in order to keep plugging the Tiny House Summit. There are some amazing things coming from this community (tiny house codes, tiny house villages, small space living ideas…), and I hope to see more collaboration between them and natural builders in the future. Click on the Tiny House Summit icon on the right hand side of the page for free videos every day. They’re only free one day and then they’re replaced with new ones. If you miss some videos you can buy the entire set.

Rain Roofs for Water Collection

These roofs are perfect for arid land restoration/ homesteads in dry areas. Most people collect roofwater off of their house and other structures, which is often adequate. But in desert areas you may need a much larger roof to collect sufficient water, especially if you are gardening. This video does a good job of showing all the parts of a roofwater collection system.


The Root Cellar Garden

The rocky hills of Trondheim, Norway were under a foot of fresh snow, and I found myself on a biodynamic veg farm filming with the Cook It Raw Norway team. I’d filmed a lot of veg farms, but none this picturesque, and certainly never in winter. Pretty tough to find something interesting to talk about on a veg farm in winter that isn’t a greenhouse – unless you’re into root cellaring.

It wasn’t long into the interview with farmer Elin before we were talking about how vegetables change in texture and flavour through the winter, and most interestingly, about the gift that are the sprouts that roots produce. Shortly thereafter we were under her beautiful european farmhouse, exploring the contents of her cellar. Despite the snow outside, she had bins of root veg, sacks of potatoes, and even some soil with chard plants growing in the dark. Fascinating. I left inspired to explore shoots more at home. But it wasn’t over. Later in the trip we’d visit a couple different extremely well respected restaurants that would present me with an elegant dish featuring only a vegetable, using the shoots as an element on the plate that used the root, usually 2 or 3 different ways. It made so much sense it hurt, and the finesse they could apply to vegetables dishes was embarrassing.

This rutabaga is from my garden. I learned in Norway that 1] they call them ‘Swede’ and 2] they don’t let them get this big, because the texture gets compromised, they’re hard to work with, and they’re just not as nice. The win. So now, when something like this emerges from the cellar, rather than the shoots being discarded, they’ll be thoughtfully dressed or otherwise prepared, and go atop or aside whatever preparation the root is destined for – offering a different texture, flavour, and experience utilizing precisely the same plant. Perhaps most beautiful of all: whatever dish that might be speaks entirely of the late cellar season, something entirely not duplicable at other times of year. So exclusively pedestrian. I adore it.

Forest Garden Shelterbelts: Investment Strategy for Restoring Degraded Land

Shelterbelts/windbreaks have many different benefits

Shelterbelts/windbreaks have many different benefits

Tree shelterbelts are commonly grown throughout the world for windbreaks, privacy, livestock protection, soil management, wildlife conservation, etc. What is not so common is growing food producing shelterbelts for investment purposes.

Why do this to make money? It seems to me that most people will not tackle a substantial project like this unless there’s a way to make money at it. Of course, it’s good to plant trees for environmental reasons. But when you look around you don’t see large numbers of people planting lots of trees just to help the environment unless they’re forced to by severe dust storms like in China or Africa. Hopefully people won’t wait until things get that bad. Showing them how to make money at it should help win over more people.

One basic premise of real estate development is buy low and sell high. Right now it’s very easy to find degraded land. Search our blog for previous stories on ‘restoring degraded land’ that profile many different projects worldwide and some of the different techniques that are being used to turn wasteland or very low quality land into highly productive land. A big added bonus is you can use these ideas to create an affordable homestead. That’s what we’ve been doing for the last four years. See our Sustainable Homesteading YouTube channel for details.

Summary of basic concepts:
– Buy low cost marginal land where you want to live and where water is available.
– Plant a shelterbelt of food producing trees and shrubs around the perimeter of the land. Choose hearty species that are easy to grow in your area. You can always add fancier varieties later on. Also note, you don’t have to plant a complete forest garden shelterbelt the first year. You could plant the main trees and possibly some shrubs, and add other plants later.
– Plan carefully to minimize costs and labor. For example, consider hiring a mini excavator for digging tree holes. From experience, I’ve learned that digging dozens of tree holes in hard soil is back breaking work that takes weeks. This is a great fitness plan if you have loads of time, but here we’re looking at how to do things efficiently. A mini excavator can dig dozens of tree holes in one day. At the same time the excavator could dig swales, etc. as the budget allows. If your focus is on turning a profit then you might want to hold off on additional earthwork and just get the main trees started. Sometimes earthwork is required. Plan carefully.
– Learn how to plant trees for a high survival rate. Key points include using mycorrhizal rich compost in tree holes, mulch on top and reliable irrigation. Fence the property if at all possible to help keep livestock out. And make sure the fence is high enough. I didn’t realize how agile some cows can be until I caught one in our garden yesterday. After being shooed away it jumped right back over a low area in the fence almost like a deer.

Image: Oklahoma Forestry Services

Best Tiny House and Small House Videos and Design Suggestions

Over the last few years I’ve watched hundreds of house design videos. I put the best tiny house videos on our Natural Building Blog to make it quick and easy for our readers to find quality content. Some people can’t get enough, so if you want a wider selection of content then I recommend Tiny House Magazine that covers the tiny house movement in more depth. And don’t forget about the free upcoming Tiny House Summit.

One good tip: As you’re watching videos and browsing images on websites look for design details that might work for you. This can include simple things such as a compact stove, sink or shelving idea. Pause the video and take a screenshot (press Ctrl plus Prt Sc) of that particular feature. Save the screenshot as an image file for later reference. I use PhotoShop for this purpose. At the same time you can crop and resize the image if you prefer.

There are so many high quality tiny house videos coming out that it’s not practical now to feature all of them as separate blog posts. Instead, I’ve listed 11 of my favorites below. Hope you enjoy. If you like these type of ‘roundup’ blog posts (lists of good sites or videos) and want to see more then please leave a comment.

Tiny Sod-Roofed House In Denmark

25+ Best Tiny Houses, Coolest Tiny Homes on Wheels

50+ Best Tiny House Interiors || Part 1

70+ Best Tiny House Interiors || Part 2

11 of the Most Impressive Tiny Houses You’ve Ever Seen

Uncharted Tiny Homes (Phoenix)

Old Tower Converted Into A Beautiful Tiny House

Nelson Tiny Houses Winter Wonderland V House

Wide Tiny House

Are Tiny Houses Awesome or Awful?
An honest tiny house review with a critical eye on long term livability issues.

Tiny House Listings

Focus on Positive Solutions

Just imagine if the trillions of dollars wasted in Middle East wars had been invested in better ports, airports, highways, high speed rail, cleaning up the environment, reforesting degraded lands and building more sustainable cities and affordable housing. The possibilities are mind boggling. Of course that didn’t happen. The money is gone and now we need to focus on the way forward. We need to stay focused on positive solutions, and this is exactly what our blog is all about.

The Natural Building Blog is an aggregator of natural building information. Over the last 9 years our Natural Building Blog has evolved from a small site about earthbag building (which is still a key focus by the way) to the largest, best natural building news and information site. There’s nothing really close except Kelly Hart’s GreenHomeBuilding.com. Continue reading “Focus on Positive Solutions”

Natural Building Workshops at Quail Springs Permaculture

Natural building workshops at Quail Springs

Natural building workshops at Quail Springs

“When I started this building my intention was to make the building process fun. I invited 5 friends to come work with me for a month, and we got the basic framework up, and we did indeed have a lot of fun doing it! Although I have been the main builder working on and off between other projects finishing it, I have received a huge amount of help from all the community members I live with. There are about 20 of us living in this beautiful canyon in the high desert in southern California, and I can not express enough gratitude for all of their help.

Interior view

Interior view

Although the material cost of this style building is relatively low, it is made up for in labor. It almost necessitates community support, which results in beautiful community building. We host a lot of workshops, classes and school groups, which has led to groups of college kids from Minnesota helping with the floor, people from an outdoor school in Washington helping with the plaster, and my Dad came down and built the cupola on top of the dome, to just mention a few. I would guess that close to 100 people have put their hands in this building.

Natural building at Quail Springs Permaculture

Natural building at Quail Springs Permaculture

This structure is built of a combination of earthen building techniques, all of which utilize different combinations of clay soil and sand harvested from the land, and straw. The resulting techniques that the building is made of is cob, earthbag, light straw clay, and adobe. The floors are earthen floors, sealed with linseed oil and bees wax. The house is heated with a rocket stove that is also built out of cob. The roof is a sealed lime. The house is about 450 square feet.”

Lots more photos: http://www.earthenshelter.com/dome.html
Desert Cold Storage
pic Quail Springs natural building workshops

More about natural building workshops by Earthen Shelter
“Teaching Natural Building Workshops: Cob, Adobe, Light Straw Clay, and Natural Plasters.

Sasha Rabin has been practicing and teaching natural building since 2002. She has dedicated her work to encouraging people to engage with our built environment, and through that process reconnect with world around us.”