Tuesday, July 27, 2010

An Update on the Garden

This being only my second attempt at gardening, I think that it's going quite well. In a previous post on gardening I listed what I was going to plant. Almost everything grew like weeds.

The photos were taken on May 25 and June 27.

I did have a couple of problems though. Bell pepper, corn and cucumber seeds never sprouted. And I bought bell pepper and basil plants, but the things aren't growing, though the pepper plants are creating vegetables.

I did see a few slugs when I first planted but stopped watering the plants after the sun went down. The little creatures then went elsewhere.

For fertilizer I've been using a liquid concentrate made from seaweed and rabbit poo (thanks to our backyard rabbit Bluebell, whom I gladly share vegetables with).

I had two surprises this year. The first is that if you let microgreens grow, they don't stay so micro. (Duh.) I found this out because I planted too much lettuce, microgreens and chard. We couldn't eat it, or use it in smoothies, fast enough. I've given bags of it to neighbors, Lorraine and Brandon at the gym and the folks at work.

The second surprise is that I bought a seed packet containing 'mixed microgreens'. This must mean 'left over seeds; we don't know what they are since we won't list them on the packet'. Since cutting microgreens was more difficult than grabbing some lettuce, I let the stuff grow. We were happily surprised with unplanned broccoli rabe, bok choy, beets and radishes.

The only plants that died were the mail order heirloom tomatoes. Those tomatoes run $6 to $8 lb in the store so I was excited about these. They arrived wilted, small and really quite sad looking. I did what the instructions suggested to revive them, but they didn't make it. I replaced them with regular local plants and next year will only buy locally.

What I've learned so far:

Plant less lettuce. It seems to grow from seed easily and very quickly.

Do more research on what to plant when. As I plant new things I'm paying more attention to the season it grows best in. My mache' lettuce wilts in the heat but the greenleaf and redleaf lettuce do fine.

Friday, May 28, 2010

An Analysis of the Tiny House Blog Network

Do you have a tiny house blog? When you write something, how many people read it? One way to make a guess at how many folks read it is how many folks comment on it. But if 3 people comment on it, dose that mean only 3 people read it? No. Generally, more people read than comment.

How about followers? Maybe you have statistics that say 40 or so folks "follow" your blog. So does that mean 40 people read your post? Maybe, maybe not. The number could be smaller since of those 40 followers only a fraction will read every post. But the number could be higher because other bloggers may read your post and write about it (generally linking to your blog or the specific post). This may bring other readers to your site.

So lets talk about links. There are two basic kinds of links in the blogosphere. First are the links in blogrolls. These are static, meaning they don't change much. They are also generally strategic - meaning as bloggers we make choices about who we link to (for this post I will not talk about the politics of links, but I might in a future post). The other kind is a citation link. If anyone writes about this post in their blog they will likely follow general blogger etiquette by linking to it. They might say it's all hog-wash, or that it's interesting, but generally most bloggers link to a post that inspires or influences them in their own post.

And those links form a network. I used a tool called the Issue Crawler to capture the network generated by blogrolls and citations to make a visualization of the blogs that form what is called a topic network. The topic, is, of course, Tiny Houses. Where are you on the map?

So let me tell you what the map means. (Download a large version here).

First, the map captures the top 50 nodes (blogs) in the Tiny House Issue Network. The size of the node is based on the number of in-links (either from citations or blogrolls). Below I have posted the top 93 sites and the number of in-links that Issue Crawler could find (which may not be every single one). The size and position of the nodes are related to how many in-links that blog has received.

If you make money from advertising (Arlene and I do not) than site traffic is important to you and site traffic is, as we say in statistical parlance, positively related to in-links. That just means that more in-links you have, the more traffic you are likely to have (other things being equal).

I haven't done a formal analysis of this network, so I don't have much else to say about it for now. I will say that some sites on the map (like Wikipedia) may or may not be relevant to the topic network. We could probably make arguments on either side for including this or that site, or not including them. That would depend on the analysis.

So, are you on the top 10 list? Top 93? Issue Crawler only lists and plots sites that have two or more in-links from other sites within the network - so we have a list of 93 blogs and their ranking. Tiny House Blog has a very high number of in-links, so it is central to the map. But some of those links are not from the collection of 93. So the numbers on the map may not match the within-network ranking.

But, anyway, here is the Tiny House Issue Network ranking:

Actor Rankings (core network and periphery, by page)
1 - tinyhouseblog.com - 47
2 - tinyhousedesign.com - 42
3 - tumbleweedhouses.com - 34
4 - resourcesforlife.com - 31
5 - tinyfreehouse.com - 27
6 - michaeljanzen.com - 26
7 - rowdykittens.com - 25
8 - thistinyhouse.com - 22
9 - comingunmoored.com - 21
10 - smalllivingjournal.com - 21
11 - tinyhouseliving.com - 19
12 - ninetinyfeet.com - 18
13 - wordpress.com - 17
14 - paddleways.com - 15
15 - storyofstuff.com - 15
16 - thetinylife.com - 14
17 - tortoiseshellhome.com - 14
18 - shedworking.co.uk - 13
19 - jaystinyhouse.com - 13
20 - smallhousestyle.com - 13
21 - tinypallethouse.com - 12
22 - tinyhouseforum.com - 12
23 - diyfreedom.com - 11
24 - flickr.com - 11
25 - tinyhousejournal.com - 11
26 - apartmenttherapy.com - 11
27 - tinytexashouses.com - 11
28 - littlediggs.com - 11
29 - tinyhousevillage.com - 11
30 - mobilecottage.blogspot.com - 11
31 - togetherweareone.com - 10
32 - rosschapin.com - 10
33 - thegreenestdollar.com - 9
34 - theyonderosa.blogspot.com - 9
35 - energystar.gov - 9
36 - greenaerie.blogspot.com - 8
37 - livinglargeinourlittlehouse.com - 8
38 - otherpower.com - 8
39 - relaxshax.wordpress.com - 8
40 - zenhabits.net - 8
41 - microcompacthome.com - 8
42 - lodge-on-wheels.com - 8
43 - kithaus.com - 8
44 - relaxshacks.com - 8
45 - smallhousesociety.org - 8
46 - sustain.ca - 8
47 - martinhousetogo.com - 8
48 - notsobighouse.com - 8
49 - tinyhousetalk.com - 7
50 - juliajanzen.com - 7
51 - weehouse.com - 7
52 - inhabitat.com - 7
53 - moderncabana.com - 7
54 - freecycle.org - 7
55 - truckingpilgrim.blogspot.com - 7
56 - claytonihouse.com - 7
57 - accessahut.wordpress.com - 7
58 - dwell.com - 7
59 - npr.org - 7
60 - time.com - 7
61 - cusatocottages.com - 7
62 - en.wikipedia.org - 6
63 - sonomashanty.com - 6
64 - tinyhouses.net - 6
65 - kmswoodworks.wordpress.com - 6
66 - portlandalternativedwellings.com - 6
67 - claytonhomes.com - 6
68 - littlehouseonasmallplanet.com - 6
69 - projectrollingfreedom.wordpress.com - 6
70 - jenkinspublishing.com - 6
71 - realestatejournal.com - 6
72 - buildingwithawareness.com - 5
73 - projectrollingfreedom.com - 5
74 - felinedesigninc.com - 5
75 - small-house-building.com - 5
76 - lloydkahn-ongoing.blogspot.com - 5
77 - ultimatemoneyblog.com - 5
78 - metaphysics-for-life.com - 5
79 - ebay.com - 5
80 - josephkenyon.com - 5
81 - rocioromero.com - 5
82 - off-grid.se - 5
83 - cobcottage.com - 5
84 - contests.apartmenttherapy.com - 4
85 - coyotecottage.com - 4
86 - cottagecompany.com - 4
87 - bluhomes.com - 4
88 - slowingdown.wordpress.com - 4
89 - ted.com - 4
90 - thescraphouse.wordpress.com - 4
91 - powellriverbooks.blogspot.com - 4
92 - edavies.nildram.co.uk - 4
93 - goyurt.com - 4

Sunday, May 9, 2010

The next project is the drapes

Now that I've painted, I've figured out what I want to do for drapes. I was looking for a woven material so we'd let in lots of air and light. At night we can close the honeycomb blinds for added privacy and darkness.

What we have hanging now is liner material, like bleached muslin, scavenged from some old drapes. Yesterday I bought off-white burlap for the drapes and oatmeal colored linen-like ribbon to be used along the sides and bottom (to give a bit more contrast from the walls). I might also add a couple of 1.25" diameter simple, wooden buttons to each window so we can hold the new drapes open.

I need to sew along the cut edges of the fabric to prevent it from unraveling then it'll go into the washing machine until it's softer. I'm told to expect a little shrinking too. I'm curious to see what it comes out like because I haven't worked with burlap before. The price was worth gambling on though. I paid $10.50 for 9 yards of fabric (on sale) which should be enough for all of the windows.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

An update on the garden

The first cycle of everything has been planted and is sprouting like crazy. In my quest to see if I can grow all of my own food, I ended up planting:

string beans
micro greens
bell peppers
poblano chiles
fractal-like cauliflower
2 different lettuces
4 different heirloom tomatoes
some edible flowers as well as
lily of the valley
and wildflowers to bring bees and hummingbirds.

These pictures were taken on May 1st.

Monday, April 26, 2010

An update on the interior

I really want a cottage feel to our interior so I painted it a creamy white (Freshaire Choice non-VOC, 'Poetic Light').

I like the effect of the lights at night bouncing off the walls and ceiling, and even on a grey day, it's much brighter inside even without the lights on.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Garden Plans

I can tell that it's almost gardening time here in Seattle because, as Jeff and I take evening walks around our neighborhood, we see that people have been weeding their raised bed gardens. I've just ordered my seeds hoping that I'm not starting too late.

I spoke with our host family the other day asking what plans they have for their backyard garden this year. They said that it's completely mine to use since they expect to be too busy to work it. This is rather exciting news!... though it's also been a bit overwhelming because this will be my first real gardening project so I've needed to do lots of research.

Years ago I had a raised bed garden in California that measured 3'x6'. Sure I thought it went pretty well but I had simply bought some plants, placed them in the dirt, watered them and luckily they grew. This time I'll have an in-ground garden measuring 10'x24' to work with. Besides the increase in space, two major changes will be that I plan on preparing the soil before planting and will be starting with seeds as much as possible instead of just buying plants.

The two gardening books that I'll be using for reference are:

area specific: Maritime Northwest Garden Guide
by the Seattle Tilth which gives a month by guide as to what needs to be done in the garden and

production specific: The Postage Stamp Garden Book
by Duane Newcomb which addresses the issues of both organic and continual harvest gardening

I want a garden because gardening seems like a great way to get fresh, organic produce while also getting some exercise. I'm also curious if I can really lower my food bill, break even, or will spend even more by trying to garden year round. It's been difficult to decide what to plant.

I've chosen some of these vegetables because they're expensive to buy. For example, I enjoy eating heirloom tomatoes and red bell peppers, but since they aren't offered at prices that I enjoy paying, I usually pass them by for less expensive versions. I want to make sure that I'm getting my money's worth from the hard work that I'll be doing.

I've also chosen some of them because they're odd so it seems like they'd be fun to grow. Like the golf ball sized carrots, zucchini that are also small and round, the melon with the dark blue/green skin and some edible flowers.

If I find that I'm actually good at gardening then whatever we don't eat, or share with our host family, I'd like to sell at the local farmers market. I've also heard that several of the nearby neighbors always have gardens so I hope to get the chance to meet them, share gardening experiences, and to trade produce.

I've ordered more seeds than I think I'll need to give me extras to use in case of problems. I figure that the worst that can happen is that I'll either trade my extras or I'll have some leftovers for next year.

The vegetables and edible flowers that I've chosen are:

- beets
- carrots (golf ball shaped)
- microgreen mix
- cilantro
- mesclun (early lettuce)
- mache (lettuce)
- red bell peppers (bite sized)
- zucchini (ball shaped)
- heirloom tomatoes (4 types, 1 plant each)
- melon (a hybrid w/ dark skin weighing only 2 lbs each)
- soybeans
- borage (edible leaves and blue flowers)
- cucumbers
- peas (for Zoe!)
- nasturtium (edible leaves and flowers)
- pole green beans

In the coming months I'll be giving you updates and photos explaining what I've done and will also report monthly whether my gardening efforts have lowered my purchased food expenses.

At the end of the year
- I'll show the total that I spent setting up my first garden
- vs how much I would have spent if I'd purchased what I'd grown
- vs how much I'd been spending for food before gardening

If you have any gardening tips then please write me a comment...
especially if you're an experienced gardener living in the Seattle area. Thanks!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Eat Simpler, Save Money 3

My menu plan...

What I eat for breakfast:

1/2c uncooked old fashioned oatmeal **
1/2 to 3/4 of an apple, chopped
3 raw walnuts, broken into bits
4 raw almonds
1/8c raisins
tsp raw honey
tsp raw sunflower seeds
2tbs ground flax seeds
8oz yogurt or soy/nut/rice/oat milk

** I eat the oatmeal raw; I like the taste and texture just fine this way. Feel free to cook yours if you'd like. Sometimes I change the recipe by exchanging the raw oatmeal with 1/2c steel cut Irish oatmeal. Soak the steel cut oats overnight in water (pour off any excess liquid before eating) and you won't need to buy the yogurt or 'milk'. Other times I exchange the chopped apple for sliced banana.

I reuse small ziplock baggies that I fill once a week with my dry breakfast mixture. On a weekday morning I simply put some chopped apple in a bowl, sprinkle my dry mixture over the top, add the yogurt or fake milk, mix, then drizzle some honey on top.

Using raw, old fashioned oatmeal reminds me of cold cereal with milk. If I use the soaked raw steel cut oats then it has a coarser texture reminding me of slow cooked oatmeal. I eat these at room temperature but you could gently warm the soaked steel cut oats in the microwave then add the dry mixture, apple and honey. You could also choose to cook the old fashioned oats then stir in your favorite ingredients. Jeff doesn't like honey so instead he adds some real maple syrup to his.

For snacks:

* apple slices with nut butter
* orange with a palm full of mixed raw nuts
* banana sliced and mixed in a bowl with sunflower seeds and raisins

For lunch:

A huge salad with lots of different fresh vegetables, sliced avocado, nuts, seeds, raisins, some chopped apple, sprouts of any kind, a tbs of cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil, and a sprinkle of some nutritional yeast flakes on top for some added flavor. Sometimes I add some soaked, raw lentils too. Get creative and you'll never be bored with salad.

For those of you who cook, you could eat salad for lunch and cook the vegetables in a stir fry or make a soup from them for dinner.

For dinner:

A green smoothie. I vary what I put in it depending on what I've bought that week. One week will include some broccoli, kale, apple, celery and carrot blended with water and the next week will be completely different. Google 'green smoothie recipe' and you'll find lots of variations.

Occasionally I actually take the time to make a recipe instead of simply eating a salad. My favorite raw recipes (surprisingly good and fun like a little science experiment) can be found in:

- The Complete Book of Raw Food by Julie Rodwell (if you buy only one 'raw' book, get this one)

- The Raw Food Gourmet by Gabrielle Chavez

Get creative and have a little fun with your food! There's no end to the way you could use the items on my food list while keeping meals quick, simple, tasty and inexpensive.

Eat Simpler, Save Money 2

On my blog entry titled "Eat Simpler, Save Money" I listed a sample of my monthly food shopping list. I explained how I eat healthy, home prepared meals and feel very satisfied while spending only about $4.50 a day per person.

To spend that amount, I changed the way that I interacted about food. I now eat only when I'm hungry and I stop eating before I'm full. I never feel hunger pangs or a drop in energy level because I eat 4 to 6 small meals instead of the traditional 3 large ones. I also carry a snack with me everywhere so that I don't spend unnecessarily on unhealthy, expensive impulse buys when I feel the need for a snack.

Most people don't want to eat like I do and I'm definitely not trying to convince anyone to change. Grant left a question under the comment section of my previous "Eat Simpler" blog entry this past week. He asked what sorts of dishes I prepare using the very simple ingredients listed, so I'm posting the answer as a new entry.

Like many other people here in the U.S., I was raised eating mostly processed foods, when I moved out of my parent's home I almost always ate out because I didn't know how to cook well (I took shop classes in school instead of home economics), then I learned how to cook but found that I didn't enjoy spending time in the kitchen. Now I'm mostly a raw vegan. About once a month I'll eat out and have some sashimi (raw fish). Sometimes I'll eat something with dairy or a bit of chocolate but will pay the price later because these are two foods that give me nasty allergic reactions.

I've been trying my best to eat raw vegan for about 2 years because of my food allergies. Since this change in eating, I enjoy spending less time in the kitchen, I feel more energetic, my skin is clearer, my allergies have disappeared, and surprisingly I also lost weight and am now at 120 lbs (just 5 lbs above my high school weight - finally losing 20 pounds of pregnancy weight that I gained 17 years ago).

The taste of a ripe piece of fruit, or a salad with everything in it (instead of just iceberg lettuce and some tomato smothered with pre-made dressing), became absolutely amazing once I stopped eating processed foods!

For the answer to Grant's question about what I do with the food I buy see my next post, "Eat Simpler, Save Money 3".

Sunday, January 10, 2010

"So... how is living in the tiny house going?"

Our friends occasionally ask us, as if they expect the worst, "So... how is living in the tiny house going?"

The two of us have a total of about 120 sq feet of living space, not including the sleeping loft. The space is mostly open so when we are both here, the only way to get away from the other is to go for a walk, or use the restroom for a while. And yet, living in this small space doesn't seem to be causing us the friction that everyone expects.

So, just for fun, we thought we would address this issue in a post written by both of us.

Arlene: Last year I said that I wanted to drastically downsize so that we could get our living expenses as low as absolutely possible while Jeff is in school so I'd suggested that we get a studio apartment while in Seattle (I'd not yet heard of tiny houses).

Jeff: I said I couldn't live in a space that small.

Arlene: Yet we live in a space less than a third of that size now. I think that part of the draw to living in our tiny cottage is that we built it. It truly is a custom home that serves our needs so it doesn't feel small.

Jeff: We've joked for years that we do a 'kitchen dance'.

Arlene: This term describes what we've always done in the galley-style kitchens (long and thin with counters on both sides) in the places we've lived together. I'm at the sink.

Jeff: I'm at the stove.

Arlene: Then we change sides as he comes to get a plate from the cabinet while I put something into the frig.

Jeff: Then back again.

Arlene: But we never bump into each other. Now we laugh because it can feel like the 'kitchen dance' extends the length of the cottage sometimes. I imagine that couples who live on boats about our size have the same experience at times too.

Though we laugh at this 'dance', I don't feel stuffed into too small a space and this in no way feels like simply a 'crash pad' either. I have room for stretching out on the settee to read or watch the birds at the feeder outside the window and also have a space to sit and create artwork. We have had a couple of friends over at a time for social engagements and we both get out quite a bit to see performances, travel, attend club meetings and such.

Jeff: Spending less money on rent and utilities means more money available to do things that we enjoy. The tiny house fits our lifestyle and our values. "So... how is living in the tiny house going?"

So far, so good!