Kate and Simon built this 250 square foot off-grid Scandinavian-style tiny house as a cottage and have since started building tiny houses as a family business.
This tiny house is 8.5 feet wide, 13 feet tall, and 20 feet long. It’s been designed to be fully off-grid with a solar panel and 12-volt battery bank for power, propane for the stove and water heater, and a cubic mini wood stove for heat.
They used a soy-based spray foam insulation, and a natural oil finish for the interior wood finish. We love all the space saving furniture they custom designed for their tiny house, and all the thought that went into making it a functional space for the couple and their young son.
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The Watchman Stove was designed by Kirk Salmons of Front Royal, Virginia. Kirk received so much positive feedback and interest in his early prototypes that he decided to pursue higher volume production and marketing of the product to reach a larger consumer base. Kirk has partnered with Winchester Metals, Inc. to start producing and distributing the Watchman Stove throughout the United States. The partnership with Winchester Metals allows for a higher quality stove at a lower price point to the consumer.
The Watchman Stove is built to last. It is constructed of mostly 3/16″ & 1/4″ carbon and stainless steel. The design of the stove body, which is made of 6″ x 3/16″ wall steel square tube, creates maximum burning efficiency. The adjustable square tube legs allow for a level cooking surface in any terrain. Keep your food or coffee warm on the 1/4″ thick “potato plate” or use it for baking. The 3/16″ stainless cook surface also flips back to allow for top feeding of wood into the funnel to go into bonfire mode. The 1/8″ ash dump plate can also be utilized as an adjustable draft control when burning a bonfire. Product weight is 75 lbs and dimensions are approximately 20″ w x 30″ h x 22″ d.
The Watchman Stove – running on multiple fuels video shows the stove in operation. There’s a griddle, grill grate and a warming shelf for corn, baked potatoes, etc. and an ash grate. The stove works with branches, firewood or charcoal. *The latest version has a high quality stainless steel cooking grate (see photo above).
You can buy the Watchman Stove as a pre-cut kit that is ready to be welded together. This video shows how: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vWWsATyIqrU
Comment: I saw a DIY rocket stove video that caught my eye the other day that had a similar design except it was just the bare bones rocket stove made with the same square steel tubing. I realized the simplicity of the design lends itself to do-it-yourselfer experimentation and sure enough I started coming across different versions on YouTube. There’s a small backpack version, a tent stove version and a version hooked up to a water heater. To sum up, you can buy the Watchman Stove already assembled, get as a kit to save money, or you could watch videos and make all or part of the stove from scratch. The design has been well tested obviously so you know it will work well. That will save a bunch of trial and error. So there are lots of options using the same basic fuel efficient simple design and easy to find components.
This boulder house combines numerous really good ideas – earthbags, lower cost lightweight insulating material such as rice hulls, option of mixing the hulls with a stabilizer such as lime or cement for greater moisture protection, a bamboo or sapling frame to support the bags, and durable plaster to give the structure long lasting protection.
There are so many great advantages to this boulder house that it is rather difficult to convey everything in one blog post. Of all the excellent natural building methods, this is certainly one of the top choices. In fact, the next opportunity to build another prototype building (no more land currently) this is how I would build, because it’s perfect dirt cheap housing for do-it-yourselfers.
The boulder house, which I now refer to jokingly as the Checkout Ranch, is a tiny house/survival shelter/bugout shelter. The main goal is to create a safe, durable shelter as quickly, easily and cheaply as possible. Think “dirt cheap”. A small shelter the size shown in the photo above could be built for under $1,000.
This is possible because most all of the materials are very low cost. It uses small diameter bamboo or saplings that grow free in nature to create an organic shaped framework that is covered with rice hull concrete earthbags and plaster. The final product would be something comparable to ‘rice krispie concrete’ (insulating air spaces held together with a binder). See previous story on rice hull concrete.
The size and layout has many options. It could mimic the size and shape of an efficiency apartment, a typical tiny house, cabin, simple shelter or other design. Choose a practical, efficient layout and enclose the space with the frame, bags of rice hulls and cement plaster to create a natural boulder appearance.
Bags of rice hulls mixed with cement and plastered in cement would create a durable, weather resistant shell that looks completely natural and blends in perfectly with nature. The exterior could be shaped and textured to mimic boulders in the area, plus coated with oxide stains to simulate weathered stone. All or part of the boulder home could be covered in living walls of food producing vines such as raspberries or blackberries, and surrounded with other plants for concealment.
The floor plan may be the same, but create vaulted/organic shaped interior to make more efficient use of materials and avoid a boxy living space. The finished interior would look much like a natural cave, except it would have the size, shape and features of a modern apartment or tiny house. One idea is to fill 12” wide mesh earthbag tubes with rice hull and cement mix and stack and tie them against the bamboo frame.
Arkitrek calls rice hulls mixed with lime ‘bio-crete’, and points out how various types of agro wastes can be used. While you could make bricks, blocks, etc. with this ‘rice hull-crete’, it seems easiest to use earthbags because the bags are cheap and it’s easy to create organic shapes. You could also use lightweight, insulating aircrete in narrow earthbags (preferably mesh bags for stronger bonding with plaster). Whatever your choice, plaster over everything by hand or with a mortarsprayer after the rice hull-crete/rice hull cement dries.
– easy, fast, simple way to create a very durable dirt cheap natural tiny home
– the method described here is waaay faster and easier than carving a home out of stone
– rice hull concrete is nontoxic, non-allergenic, non-hazardous waste that can be recycled, lowers heating and cooling costs, comfortable, the only 100% fireproof insulation, mold, bug and insect resistant especially with lime plaster, excellent soundproofing and acoustics
– It’s best to use lime or magnesium oxide (MgO) based cement because they are greener options than Portland cement, however they can be harder to find and more expensive. Magnesium cement is a type of geopolymer cement that is very durable.
– Recycled waste materials such as rich hull ash, fly ash, expanded clay or expanded glass can be used in the mix, thereby making the material carbon neutral.
– the bamboo framework (free) enables you to adjust the size and shape as you build, as well as create arched door and window openings with eyebrows to deflect rain and sun
– tie vertical bamboo poles to wood stakes or rebar spikes pounded in the ground
– add built-in furniture such as benches, shelves, countertops, etc. and if possible use a mortarsprayer to cover the entire interior (including the bamboo frame) with plaster
– use lime plaster on interior walls for mold resistance, improved acoustics, and humidity control
– use durable cement plaster on built-in furniture and counters
– attach electrical to bamboo or sapling frame
– has excellent bug-out/survival shelter possibilities, especially if there are boulders and bamboo or saplings in the area
– you could paint the earthbags with lead paint to deflect microwave radiation, and then add the exterior plaster
– rice hull concrete is very lightweight, insulating and easy to work with because there’s no sand or gravel in the mix
– earthbag tubes are easy to fill and create organic shapes – just stack against the bamboo frame. Attach with poly twine as needed.
– recycled bags may be available and less expensive than tubes. Mesh material will provide superior bonding with the finish coat.
– add chicken wire or plaster mesh around doors, windows and eyebrows to reduce cracking
– assuming R- 2.5/inch, 12” tubes would create a 10” thick wall with approximate R- 25 walls. This insulation is helpful in hot and cold climates.
– Notice the nearly vertical walls in the photo. This makes it easy to incorporate cabinets, shelving and furniture, and add small eyebrows to deflect rain and collection of roofwater.
– The interior could be any shape you want, including nearly vertical walls with vaulted ceilings. I like a vaulted ceiling here because it would look good and add strength.
– Over all, I like this boulder house better than my Stone Dome proposal that had a rigid geometry and layout, and relied on hard-to-find geopolymer cement.
Thanks again to Askjell for a great photo.
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We went to the Building Code office today. Danny talks about the shed conversion to a single family dwelling and what the building codes are for Stone County, MS. These may not be the same as codes in your county.
****** ALWAYS CHECK WITH YOUR COUNTY BUILDING CODE OFFICE BEFORE BUYING LAND AND PURCHASING A SHED TO CONVERT INTO A SINGLE FAMILY DWELLING.
Shed conversions seem to be gaining in popularity. Here’s one of many sites to look into: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CyUgMKUp8A0
Comment on YouTube from Chuck Miller: “A county took the Amish to court and tried to force them to standard codes, the Amish showed hundreds of houses that blew down from high winds, burned down, etc. That Amish proved that they haven’t lost any houses to winds like the code houses did. The Amish won. Problem is too many people saying “OK master government”.”
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Dear Dr. Geiger, I’ve really enjoyed your naturalhomesteader videos on YouTube! Thank you for making and sharing them!
My name is David. I’ve lived and worked in northwestern Cambodia since 2006. About a year and a half ago my wife and I bought 1-hectare piece of land. The land is similar to yours being surrounded by rice fields. Our soil appears similar to yours in Thailand as well. Like you, we raised our land about a meter, but we used soil coming from the three irrigation ponds we’ve dug in the last year.
The reason I am writing to you is to inquire about large fruit tree planting (farm scale) in poor draining and infertile soils. We have a 20mx53m piece of land that we would like to make a food forest on. Do you have any advice for planting fruit trees on highly degraded land with poor drainage?
Owen: In Thailand, there’s lots of info but most is in Thai. One good way to learn is researching online — search individual topics like Jeff Lawton’s compost method, best tree planting methods, pruning, Korean natural farming, etc.
You might want to visit the Asian Institute of Technology, a major university near Bangkok, Thailand that teaches all courses in English. They must have a good library with lots of books in English. The main keywords to search for are Mixed Agro Forestry. This is the Thai term for forest gardening.
Our first forest garden uses wide beds. Then we switched to mixed agro forestry and that’s when the light bulbs in my mind turned on. The new garden consists of 2-meter wide beds with wide swales/pathways between. For a farm size operation the process is much like planting rows of corn, etc. You could use the same trees and plants that worked well in our first garden, but now they’re organized in orderly rows on raised beds with swales in between wide enough for wheelbarrowing compost, mulch, harvesting, etc. In our case, the work has progressed 100x more efficiently with the help of a tractor and an old farmer. (More details in these old blog posts here, here and here.
Our garden looks very good after 5 years even though we’ve lost quite a few trees over the years. The heat and insects are brutal, plus there’s an occasional accident where we cut or broke a tree when it was little. That was no big deal because we planted them very closely. My advice is to stick primarily to the most common trees and plants in this area — things like bananas, mango, pineapple, limes, sapodillo, sugar apple. Add some lychee, mulberry etc. here and there for variety. Plant lots of papaya and bananas to shade the little trees. Thin them out later in a few years to let in more sunlight. Also, I would add some dwarf coconuts. They are super producers. Strange things like Indian gooseberry are not so popular and probably not worth growing unless you want 1-2 for variety. Figs can be good/great but I made a blunder and damaged ours…
Things like durian, oranges and avocado are tricky, high risk and most get sprayed to fight diseases. Avoid trees like rose apple that prefer cooler climates. Instead, plant mostly easy to grow hybrid bananas and papaya (between every tree) and you can start making a profit from the first year. Plant the dwarf variety of bananas if possible because they are super easy to harvest with big bunches right at chest height.
Lime trees prefer good drainage. Most farmers in the area grow them in 1m diameter concrete pipe. We have 10 of them growing now very successfully. They’re one of the easiest fruit trees to grow. Highly recommended. Especially good cash crop because limes are popular in Thai dishes.
***Important: try to cover the ground with as many plants as possible such as sweet potatoes, several kinds of beans (I found red, black, black eyed peas, white and mung grow best), vetiver grass on the edges of beds to reduce erosion, lemon grass, lots and lots of pineapple because they are real hardy. Later (maybe year 2 after the soil has improved) add squash, tomatoes, herbs, cucs, etc.
I heard 70% of soil regeneration comes from roots in the ground interacting/feeding the soil microorganisms. Bare soil is slowly depleting nutrients into the atmosphere or washing away. Compost adds the other 30%. The most efficient way to add compost is to compost in place. Just keep adding organic matter year after year. Use whatever you can get cheap — rice hulls, straw, manure, etc. Make some super duper Jeff Lawton compost for the tree holes. Mix with soil and the low cost compost described in the following paragraph.
I suggest getting a GIANT pile of rice hulls to break down over the rainy season. In the winter mix in manure, rice hull ash, shredded coco coir, some decent soil with microbes, and ideally some sugar cane compost that’s already composted. Mix with tractor and let sit for a few months until you’re ready to plant right before the next rainy season.
Plant lots of plants to shade the ground and baby trees, and thin things out later as needed.
Also plant some non-invasive nitrogen fixing plants throughout the garden. Look up suggested trees online. Prune vigorously and use as green mulch (drop in place).
Tip: you might want to plant a few harder to grow, more delicate tree varieties once the farm is established and the soil improved.
Another important note: I went wild on the first garden and brought in 60+ truckloads of organic matter. Our newer land only uses a fraction of this and it’s still doing OK. Just be sure the tree holes are big and deep enough and have sufficient fungal dominated compost.
Get an auger on a small tractor if possible or at least a 2-man gas powered post hole machine to speed the hole digging process.
These are just the basics. Now I want to learn the details, get the best books, and visit successful farms in SE Asia. In Thailand for instance they’ve been doing this for decades as part of the Royal Project. It’s EASY to find trashed farmland in Thailand, and probably Cambodia too. Buy cheap, create a profit generating paradise, use it to teach other farmers, and help the environment. The soil will improve indefinitely once the garden matures. Win/win/win
One last word of encouragement: our old blog posts about forest gardens in India show how Indian farmers got rich by starting farms like this 10, 20, 30 years ago. Startup is rather slow but long term forest gardens are the most productive farming system in the world. Just like in nature, forests are the climax ecosystems.
Colette O’Neill is an author and founder of The Bealtaine Project, bringing Goddess Permaculture into universal awareness, as we struggle to care for our Mother Earth. Colette weaves this passion for the Great Mother into all of her work, writing about, photographing and filming Mother Earth in all her seasonal joy and beauty.
If you would like to see over 15,000 photographs of Bealtaine Cottage, read over 1,000 blogs, then go to the Bealtaine Cottage website.
Wow, so incredibly beautiful. Surely this is one of the best permaculture projects out there. Search our blog for previous stories about Bealtaine Cottage. This is her best ever tour and so I just had to share it.
The post This is What 13 Years of Permaculture in Ireland Looks Like! appeared first on Natural Building Blog.
“Organic Growth Cities,” a Top Trend by Trends Journal for 2018, celebrates the rebirth of down and out towns struggling through hard economic times.
In nations around the world, during the Industrial Revolution, manufacturing centers blossomed in regions rich in natural resources, ports, waterways and rail lines that were vital for production and distribution. When the Industrial Age died, so too did many of these communities.
But now they are coming back. Why? Many people moving back to these old-time towns want to escape the congestion of large metropolitan areas that have also become too unaffordable to live in.
And now with new families and young professionals looking for the feel of a big city outside of an actual big city, in this online world of telecommuting, there is a big move to high-end small towns.
Although the factories have closed and the Main Streets were beaten down, what has been left behind is now being both valued and restored by these new young up-and-comers who value locations within striking distance of airports, urban centers and major cities. They are attracted to these rich history cities with magnificent buildings and desirable natural surroundings.
What makes these cities organic is that they are growing naturally without relying on industries, resources or transportation hubs to support them.
Search keywords “organic cities” online for lots more info. The article above only introduces the concept.
This is a brilliant DIY hack for creating an off-grid water heater with just a simple handmade rocket stove, water barrel, and copper pipes! No pump! No propane!
It was built by a couple of incredible people we met last summer, Sebastien and Isabelle. They’re passionate about reconnecting with the earth and finding sustainable ways to live. One of their hobbies is experimenting with rocket stoves and making them function as a cooktop, a heat source, and sometimes even as a hot water heater.
This is their first prototype and they’re hoping to refine the system this year. Now that they know it works, they’re hoping to use an insulated hot water tank that will keep the water warm for longer. This will eventually be an outdoor shower for them.
This design provides space heating, cooking and water heating at very low cost using free salvaged wood. Larger versions can be used to heat benches, rooms, floors and entire houses. Search our blog for dozens of other types of appropriate technology.
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Since he was a teen Austin Smith has been paid to chase the snow around the world, but after a decade on the road, he wanted to slow things down. His brother had bought a 1953 GMC fire truck on eBay for $5000 that his parents wanted out of their yard, so Smith converted it into a tiny home and drove it to his local mountain to live, and snowboard, for the winter (Mt Bachelor, like some other ski resorts, allow camping in their parking lot).
With 180 watts of photovoltaics and a mini wood-burning stove, Smith lived completely off the grid for the season (the mountain allowed access to their bathrooms and showers) in his 90-something-square-meter “micro dojo”.