Category Archives: Sustainable Living

I love my tiny house.

Okay, okay, so I know I’m still trying to catch up the blog with the progress in a chronological and step-by-step fashion – but I can’t help it. I love my little house (even though it’s unfinished) and I want to share what it looks like with you all at this point! So let’s look into the future-present at the most recent photos of the COMET. Give me your feedback in the comments! We’ll get back to the progress updates later – unfortunately this did not all happen overnight :)

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I'm in love with this little custom hand-made soap holder that Matt made for my kitchen. It keeps the soap off of the valuable counter space and also covers up some irreparable damage on the original back splash so that I could re-use it!

I’m in love with this little custom hand-made soap holder that Matt made for my kitchen. It keeps the soap off of the valuable counter space and also covers up some irreparable damage on the original back splash so that I could re-use it!

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Step into my office...

Step into my office…

Humanure Deposit Receptacle - With Urine Diverting Action

Humanure Deposit Receptacle – With Urine Diverting Action

My new, very modest, closet.

My new, very modest, closet.

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If my cat were in the camper that's the sunny spot she would be sleeping on!

If my cat were in the camper that’s the sunny spot she would be sleeping on!

The couch in the back is also my bed – it folds down/pulls out to be quite comfortable (awesome fabric from Sew Fine Fabrics on Etsy). You can see the Marmoleum click flooring that I used (courtesy of GreenBuildingSupply.com) and the turquoise Marmoleum sheet good countertops (which everyone mistakes for being original – which means I picked the right color!). At first I thought all the colors were a little much, but I like them now. It fits my style. I’m happy with my little fold-down desk area in the back, made out of salvaged 1950’s cracked ice Formica. We used scrap Marmoleum from the countertops to make the bathroom floor, and some panels of cork flooring from the ReStore for the kick-plates in there. The rounded piece of the counter folds up and down too, which has come in handy!

Oh, and I just updated the PHOTOS page too, with these pictures. I updated a few other pages too – check out the new “SUSTAINABILITY” page under the “ABOUT THE PROJECT” header.

Well, it’s not finished, but it’s quite homey, and I love it. I had to share. Thanks for reading!!

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Updates, Updates! Plus: Vintage Trailer Eye Candy

Hello!

I need to apologize for my lack of uploaded photos of the COMET progress from the past month. It’s so frustrating, because I really want to share them with you all, but I am having technical difficulties with the camera, alas! HOPEFULLY I can resolve the issue soon and we can get back on track!

Until then, I have some other news:

1. Just got back from a 2 day “Greenhouse Design” workshop at Yestermorrow Design/Build School, where I finalized the design of my “bumper” garden – a mini, lightweight greenhouse mounted to the back of the trailer, supported by the bumper. It was great to learn about the different material options for building a greenhouse. In order to be as lightweight as possible, I’m going to go with aluminum framing and polycarbonate¬† sheets – a structural panel. Can’t wait to get started on the fabrication/building of that!

Greenhouse made from recycled windows, as seen on Apartment Therapy. Such a good idea! I also thought of upcycling an old carport into a small greenhouse.

 

2. Lloyd Kahn, my favorite tiny house/alternative dwelling author, is coming out with a new book and guess what it’s all about? Campers and houseboats! yay! He recently released his Tiny House book, which had a full page spread about mobile dwellings, but I can’t wait to get a hold of this book dedicated to unique camper houses and house boats. I think it is going to be titled “Wheels and Water”. If you live in an awesome trailer or houseboat, he is looking for submissions too for the book. Head over to http://lloydkahn-ongoing.blogspot.com/ for more on that!

3. I’ve been on a fermentation rampage the last few weeks. Saurkraut, Curtido (Salvadorean suarkraut for papusas), and Kombucha have been filling the fridge and the dark corners of the basement. I’ve been experimenting with double fermentation of the Kombucha and have been perfecting the Curtido recipe (which is extra magical as it uses whey as part of the fermentation process). I have more Kombucha mothers than I know what to do with at this point, but it’s nice to have enough to try all different flavors with. My first batch turned into straight up vinegar, but I have been planning on using that for salad dressings and other vinegar drinks that I have recipes for from the book “Making It” by Kelley Coyne + Erik Knutzen. I will share my super affordable, DIY $5 fermentation set up and some recipes soon!

4. I’m addicted to looking at Pinterest pages that are all about vintage camper eye candy. I have 4 new ones to share with you. It’s such a high concentration of vintage camper pictures in one place, it is almost overstimulating. Each one is full of good ideas for design + storage too.

Here we are:

Trailer Parks + Trailers I LOVE!

My Vintage Trailer Restoration

Creative Camper Interiors

Fun Little Campers

Some of them have some of the same photos, but for the most part each one is worth checking out if you love vintage trailer eye candy!

I am always trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up (I feel like the answer will always be “Everything”). While at Yestermorrow, I get so excited about each subject I learn about it’s like a new career path unfolds in front of me every other week! I’ll be a solar house designer, I’ll be a Greenhouse builder, I’ll be a tiny house builder or a teacher. I made use of the drafting tables at Yestermorrow while I was there and after class did some “architectural” drawings of camper designs of the future (We can all agree that most modern RV designs are terrible and tacky, right?). Maybe I’ll be an RV designer and try to usher in a new era of campers that look like old campers! While I work towards the silliest degree in the world (I think I’ve explained my major before – vintage trailer restoration and the culture of mobile dwellings?), I try to see how I can apply it to the future of our culture and the planet. Not sure where I’m going with this, but that’s okay once in a while right? One step at a time! Sorry this was a bit of a rambling paragraph.

 

Anyway, I really hope to have the camera situation fixed very soon and then I can share more COMET progress and trailer restoration how-to’s. Until then, have a lovely day! and THANK YOU for reading!

 

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Check out this Pinterest page – all about tiny houses and camper restoration

Someone shares my obsessions!

I found this Pinterest page (board?) a while back and have been refreshing the tab regularly ever since. It has all sorts of great links to DIY tutorials, camper eye candy, off-grid trailer ideas, and more. New things are added to the board all the time. Check out this link for camper and tiny house ideas!

Not Quite Vintage Tiny Homes/RVs

This is a great idea for linoleum tiles. You could do this with Marmoleum flooring pretty easily!

**Tiny House Summer Camp is SO SOON! Less than 2 weeks away, and the COMET has no floor and a wall is being replaced and reframed. I need to get the pictures off of my camera and onto the blog so you guys can see what I’m talking about! It’s crazy.

Anyway, I PROMISE pictures and details about all of the repairs later. I think you guys will enjoy the walk through. It isn’t pretty, and it’s more structural repair than I’ve ever had to do in a trailer before, but it’s encouraging because, thanks to my prior experience with last summer’s trailer, Matt’s help, and the Rockwell SonicCrafter (I need to do a tool review – this thing can’t be beat), it’s taken me 4 days to do what it took me 2 months to do last year. Amazing!

 

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On Design: Goal Articulation (What do you really want?)

Hello!

Core is going GREAT here at Yestermorrow. Vermont is beautiful. The class is AWESOME (and extremely intense). Totally crazy coincidence: my instructor is moving into the Whittled Down Caravan (check out their blog) that I saw at Derek Diedricksen’s workshop last summer. The tiny house scene is a small world (har har – pun intended.)

Anyway, here’s what I’ve been thinking on the last day or two:

I think I’m going to start getting more conceptual on this website sometimes. It’s my platform for expressing everything that goes into The COMET – which is so much more than solar panels and recycled materials and new technologies. My heart goes into it, my dreams (mostly daydreams) go into it, all of my time and energy. A lot of THOUGHT goes into it – more than can be measured. It’s completely consuming – and I love that about it. In a single, life consuming project I get to explore a world of possibilities and techniques and processes. An entire history of changing attitudes about the way we live.
(Being at Yestermorrow gets me really excited about this stuff – maybe that’s why I’m feeling this way at the moment.)

So here I can express some of the THOUGHT and process that goes into the Design of the COMET as an educational tool, a classroom, and a home. More than just design iterations of program and diagramming, there is a mental and emotional process that goes into designing your own home. Here’s what I learned about myself as a designer today:

For the last few years professors have reprimanded me for being obsessed with technique and materials (what can I say, I’m a doer and a maker). They offered no alternative, but I understood that the way I approached design was backwards and too focused on minute details from the start. Today I had a major breakthrough. Woah.

Goal Articulation:

what do you want? Can you accurately express what you REALLY want out of your home (or another design)?
You want a tiny house, a big house, a cute house, an energy efficient house, or a fancy house? You want solar panels, a grey water system, and a composting toilet?
No. What you want has nothing to do with the House. (Though these details may help us achieve our goals.)
I think what you want is closer to something along these lines:

I want more free time.
I want more money in my savings account so that I can travel.
I want flexibility.
I want simplicity.
I want to be healthy.
I want to spend more time on interpersonal relationships.
I don’t want to work all the time, I want to relax.

So, What do you really want?

Here’s what I found today:
I was trying to articulate my goals for taking this Permaculture/Ecological Design course. (Talk about it using active, present tense). I just did some free-writing + listing to get started.

- I have the tools to design a building/home in a productive landscape.
– I can design with more than the materials in mind.
– I understand how to actual goals versus superficial goals.
– I can design buildings and homes that interact with the landscape and location.
– I can articulate what makes a successful, functional home.
– I can envision the whole picture.
– I can design for leisure.
– I can design a home with free time in mind and a low-maintenance landscape.
– I can let the goals drive the design process, instead of the details.

I actually couldn’t pick just one that summed everything up, but I think you get the idea. These goal articulations are much more than just “I want to learn about permaculture principles in this class.”

And then I applied this concept to my design process:

I hope this post was helpful to those thinking about designing their own dwellings. If we can establish what it is we really want out of our homes and our lives, the details will fall into place. It can be surprisingly difficult to express what we REALLY want out of our living situations, but I hope this sheds some light on that process!

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Yestermorrow Design/Build School: Ecological Design in The Built Environment

Hello!

As some of you readers may know, I attend Yestermorrow Design/Build School in Vermont for certain workshops and courses throughout this year as I work towards my Certificate in Sustainable Design/Building from the school (also, as I receive credit at my college). It’s not a full-time school like traditional college, but instead I take a few weeks here and there throughout the year to do very intense, immersive, hands-on courses. My coursework here helps me with The COMET – each class that I choose to take is directly related to an aspect of the project.

Today I start the most intensive course in the Certificate program (so I’ve heard), we call it “Core.” It’s technically titled Ecological Design in The Built Environment, and it is the basis of the curriculum here. It focuses on permaculture and sustainable community design, as well of the principles of design and basic design and drawing tools. It’s basically a semester long Design Fundamentals course packed into 3 very intense weeks (I think we have one day off).

Just wanted to let you guys know what I was up to for the next 3 weeks. I probably won’t be able to post as much while I’m here, but look for some updates and a few posts about stuff I’ve been meaning to talk about for a while. It’s very beautiful up here in Vermont this time of year, especially at Yestermorrow campus.

Wish me luck!

Thanks always for all of your support!

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Tumbleweed Tiny House Workshop is right around the corner!

Hey all!

The highly anticipated Tumbleweed Tiny House Workshop in Boston, MA is coming up this weekend. I’ll be speaking at the workshop and doing a little presentation. I’m honored and very excited! (Personal achievement alert: When I applied for field study at the beginning of this semester, I wrote down all of the workshops that I was hoping to attend as a student. Now I get to tell my advisors that I actually guest spoke at those workshops!). I’m going to be speaking about campers as tiny houses, how to save money in your tiny house, solar powered tiny houses, and some other off-grid and eco-friendly systems. I’m excited about all of the other speakers and our special tour of the very FIRST Tumbleweed tiny house! The workshop is led by Derek Diedricksen of relaxshacks.com. You can go to the Tumbleweed website to sign up for the workshop, if you haven’t already.

 

If you are reading this and are planning on attending the workshop, let me know in the comments!

See you all on Saturday in Boston!

 

Also, if you’re a tiny house nut like me (which you probably are, and if you’re not you will be soon!) sign up for Derek Diedricksen’s TINY HOUSE SUMMER CAMP! Go over to relaxshacks.com to sign up. It’s a 4 days weekend in July of tiny house fun!! I’ll be bringing the COMET to that one, so you can see her in all her mid-construction glory!

 

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Off-The-Grid COMET models

Hello!

I’ve been working up some 3D models (using SketchUp) of the COMET as she may end up, or the “end result” models. These are likely to change as the design process continues and ideas solidify, but here was what I first envisioned The COMET to look like. Perhaps the rainwater harvesting system will change, and the solar modules might be in different places or as a separate array that pops up and can move around in order to collect optimum sun, but here’s my totally self-contained version of The COMET of the future.

 

Also, here’s one version of an “info sheet” that explains the COMET in a more comprehensive way.

What do you think? Is there anything else that a comprehensive info sheet about the project should include? I need some feedback!

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Solar Module Placement

Hello again!

I just got some really great questions about the off-grid systems that the COMET will have, and I thought it would be a good time to share some of these infographics and design concepts I’ve been working on.

Where do you put three 185-watt solar modules on a 16 foot trailer with limited surface area?

Here are some of my ideas:

 

And how do you maximize solar collection when you are parked, and minimize drag when you are driving? See below:

 

 

I’ll post some of my rainwater collection system graphics later, which will explain how that whole thing works!

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Marmoleum Click flooring SketchUp model

Hello!

Yesterday I received my pallet full of goodies from the wonderful Green Building Supply. I got the UltraTouch denim insulation (which is so soft and squishy I want to make a bed out of it), lots of no-VOC paint for the interior and exterior, and my Marmoleum Click flooring! I’m really excited about the Marmoleum flooring – it’s antimicrobial, all natural, and really nice to step on. I know the flooring doesn’t go down until everything else is done, but I made up these models in SketchUp so I would know exactly how to lay out each panel (the Marmoleum I got comes in 12″ x 36″ planks).

I chose the black (“Lava”) and white (“Arabian Pearl”) because I felt like it would go with whatever color scheme (or lack there of, haha – I like to mix and match whatever I can find) I choose for the interior. I also think it’s a nice nod to the past, as many vintage campers had the classic 50’s-style black and white checkered linoleum floors. This design is a modern, updated version of those classic black and white tiles!

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Oh, and here’s a teaser for the DIY vacuum form table step-by-step DIY project, which is coming to CometCamper.wordpress.com very soon! It’s taking me a little bit to get the instructions and materials list together, because I’ve been so busy out in The COMET working every day, but a full DIY guide is on it’s way, I PROMISE!

That’s me, cutting out the frame for the plastic. Photo credit + moral support credit: Matt Carroll. Thanks, buddy!

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Simple Solar Showers for Summer

Good Morning!

Last night I perused the web for the best, simplest solar shower devices on the market. I was looking for something affordable and convenient. The COMET doesn’t have room for a shower inside, so she will have a solar shower outside, with some sort of portable, collapsible, privacy shower set up that I can pop up behind the camper (I like the idea of a little teak platform with a circular curtain rod made of metal piping that can break down easily when I’m on the move, and some sort of hook to hang the solar shower on once it is heated up).

Here are my favorite finds from the my solar shower research!

Summer Shower 5, $25 on Amazon.com

This 5 gallon solar shower is a new spin on the traditional black bag camp shower that you hang from a tree. It absorbs tons of radiant heat from the sun, and has a nifty little simple thermometer to let you know how hot the water is. This little added technology makes this the best cheap solar shower. It got great reviews, as well.

Pump-Up Solar Shower, $40 + $15 shipping, Duckworks Boat Builders Supply

I love this idea for a solar shower. Because it pumps up, it has more water pressure than the gravity fed bag shower. I saw DIY instructions for a solar shower like this, using a garden sprayer painted black and a shower nozzle of your choice, but when I priced it out, the individual parts to make my own were more expensive than this one! This one is meant to be more like a real shower than the camp bag shower. It’s a nice option for a solar shower, and perhaps the one I’ll end up with!

DIY Gravity-Fed Hose Coil Solar Shower, price varies, DIY

This solar shower is the most permanent and labor intensive on this list. You can use either black garden hose or flexible black piping, coil it into whatever shape fits your space, and voila! The advantage of this coil solar shower is the increased surface area (as compared to the ones above), which means that the water will heat up much faster (20 minutes as opposed to 2-3 hours for the bag/tank systems). I am hoping to eventually build one of these for The COMET, and either have it be able to break down and be portable, or have it attached to a frame on the back side of the camper, which can flip down when I’m mobile, and flip up into a shower stall when I’m parked!

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Also, I built a vacuum form yesterday! I built the vacuum form so that I can vacuum mold my own custom urine diverter for my small-space composting toilet (which is also turning into a squatting toilet!). The vacuum form is totally portable, so that I can bring it to workshops, do demos, and show people how easy it is to make your own urine diverter for cheap! I’ll post pictures and a full DIY step by step guide later, but for now it’s out to the driveway to work on The COMET. I have lots to do in the next few weeks!

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