I wanted to share a little bit about how we are preparing to live in a tiny house. It’s pretty obvious that transitioning a family of six from a 1,000 sq. ft. house to a 300 sq. ft. will be a big change. Thankfully, our journey to living in a tiny house has moved at a snail’s pace, so we have had plenty of time to adjust our lives. We thought about the tiny house for a year, we’ve been building it for a year and a half, and we still have another year to go.
Trent and I are major planners, so we have talked many, many hours as we have decided how we will make our tiny life work best. I do think it is possible to raise a healthy family in a small space! This is how we are preparing to live in our tiny house, but this list might look different for another family. If you are thinking about living in a tiny house, forge your own path! Everyone’s needs are unique.
We are living outdoors more.
This is quite literally the only way we are going to survive living in such a small space. I was very challenged about my dedication to the outdoors when I read “There is No Such Thing as Bad Weather” by Linda Åkeson McGurk, a book that illustrates the outdoor culture in Sweden. The Swedes lead the way in their love and dedication for the outdoors. It is part of their culture to send their kids outside, no matter the weather, for several hours each day. They even nap their babies in strollers outside on very cold days. Their secret to success is their clothing: all the kids have great snowsuits for snowy days and rubber pants for the rainy ones. I am making a conscious effort to get the kids (and me!) outside more, even on the cold rainy days. It extends our living space, helps our immune systems, gives the kids more muscle coordination, and inspires new wonder for nature. All the good stuff.
We are slowly getting rid of our stuff.
When space is limited, you are forced to look at your stuff and ask, Do I really need this? Thankfully, this is pretty easy for Trent and I because we aren’t sentimental people. Things don’t mean a lot to us. In fact, for me, having stuff that we never use stresses me out. We are starting a “get-rid-of” pile in the basement in preparation for a garage sale. So far in our decluttering journey, communication has been key for Trent and me. We have to be honest with each other and work as a team to whittle away our “keep” pile to the things that really matter to both of us.
We are identifying multi-use items we want to keep.
For us, this mostly applies to the kitchen gadgets. Mason jars are good for canning and for dry storage. My Ninja blender has one base with three top attachments. On the other hand, we don’t have room for kitchen appliances that only do one job, like a egg poacher or quesadilla maker.
We are relying on the library more.
Our kids love books so I’ve wondered where will we put all the books in the tiny house? We will have a few bookshelves, but not unlimited space. I have noticed that our kids only look through a book a few times, and then they are bored of it. Also, once we have enjoyed a chapter book together, we usually put it back on the shelf with no intention of reading it again. (With exception to a few of our all-time favorites.) The library has been a good answer to this, especially in light of our tiny house book dilemma. We can check out lots of books, enjoy them, and then take them back to the library. We have also loved checking out movies and audiobooks too. I plan to have a shelf for our library books in the tiny house, which will hopefully be a delightful revolving door of new books.
We are adjusting our parenting.
We are working hard to teach them good communication with each other. We are teaching them to communicate their needs and wants to each other (and to us!), to listen to each other’s needs and wants, and then to work together to an agreement. These are important life skills to know anyway, but they are extra important when you live in a small space.
I am also practicing knowing my kids’ cues. When they get annoying, it usually means they are bored. When they are wild, it means they need to go outside. Then, rather than just feel frustrated as a mom, I can suggest some activities that might work better for that kid at that time. It has helped us all live together with more peace.
We are also teaching them that being alone sometimes is perfectly fine. And if someone wants to be left alone, it is not respectful for the others to be invading the other person’s alone time.
We are potty-training the baby.
I have had a baby in diapers almost constantly for the last seven years. For the last three years I have used mostly cloth diapers and I love them, but they take up a lot of space. We simply won’t have room for them in the tiny house. Thankfully, our “baby” is two years old and is interested in potty training, but I want to make sure I try my best to have this process completed by next summer when we move into the tiny house.
I want to encourage any other families thinking about living in a tiny house to give it a try! I believe with some careful planning a family can be happy and comfortable in a tiny house.
Lard is a glamorous fat in need of a comeback. She has been sidelined for many years now in our fat-phobic world. We’ve been scared she will make us fat. We now know that saturated fats aren’t the villains they were once thought to be— they actually help with weight loss and lower cholesterol. Common, cheap oils, such as canola and vegetable oil, are oxidized and rancid and contain free radicals, which cause premature aging and cancer.
I have seen the benefits of saturated fats in my own life. When we started the GAPS diet, we began to add coconut oil and lard to everything and I lost 30 lbs in a few short months. I had also struggled with dry hands, feet, and elbows most of my life, but as soon as I started eating lots of good fats, my skin changed for the better. I no longer struggled with dry skin and my skin began to glow (and it still does!).
What is lard?
When you heat pig fat, you evaporate the water, leaving behind a delicious, healthy, heat-stable fat. It has been used by a long time by many cultures. Back in 1871, Laura Ingalls Wilder outlines how her mom made lard from the pig they butchered in her book “Little House in the Big Woods”. Back then, they had to build a perfectly hot fire to render but not burn the lard. Ma even saved the brown bits of fat (“cracklings”) for flavoring johnny cake, which was a sort of a corn pancake.
Why should I render my own lard?
As it is with many homemade products, you get better quality for a lower price. I have seen lard for sale at health food stores but the price makes me want to run back to Mama Canola Oil as fast as I can. When I bought fat for this batch, I was able to find it for $1/lb. I bought 20 lbs and made 9 quarts of lard. When I compare that price to other high-heat oils I buy (such as avocado and coconut oil), the price is about a quarter of what I pay for them. Also, the fat is a byproduct that otherwise is thrown in the trash. It is a great way of showing honor to the animal and using every little last bit.
Where do I find the fat?
- Butchers are the best place to find animal fat. Many offer fat for a very fair price. I always call before I drive out to buy it just to make sure they have it.
- Don’t decide to obtain fat in the late fall/early winter… many butcher shops use their extra fat to make game sausages as they process the hunting seasons’ catch.
Here’s what you need to get started
Doesn’t get easier than that!
Try to begin this project in the morning or at the beginning of a long stretch of time when you will be home. It’s no fun to get up in the night to check on your fat. It’s also not fun to wake up in the morning with over-browned oil. (Believe me, I know.) Get out your fat. Cut it into smaller chunks. I cut mine about the size of my hand, but if I had cut it smaller it would have rendered faster.
Fill the crockpot to the top with fat. Turn on the “low” setting.
Let the fat render for several hours. If you cut your fat small, it will take as little as 8 hours, but if you cut yours large like I did, it will take more like 24 hours. Check on it from time to time, stir it, and enjoy the happy crackle it gives you as that water releases!
One it looks like crispy bits floating in liquid fat, it’s time to strain out the solids. (Also known as “cracklings”) I used a large slotted spoon to get out the bigger chunks. NOTE: Don’t throw these out! Save them in a separate container. More about this at the end of the blog post!
Turn off your crockpot and let the lard cool a bit. Always use caution when working with hot oil! Once it was slightly cooled, Trent used a ladle to scoop the liquid lard, and as you can see, he made a straining contraption with a mesh sieve and a canning jar funnel. You can just use cheesecloth or the smallest mesh strainer you have in your kitchen, no need to go buy something special. Just know that the larger the mesh, the more likely you are to have small chunks in the bottom of your lard jar, which make it less “premium” or pure.
Once the jars are filled, screw on the lids and set them on the back of your counter to cool.
Once the jars are at room temperature, move them to the fridge. This keeps them extra fresh as they wait to be used. As they cool, they will lose their amber color and become a creamy white color. Generally, the lower cooking temperature you use, the whiter the lard will be. (See below)
What should I do with the cracklings?
Put cracklings in a food processor or blender and blend until the pieces are small. Transfer them to airtight containers and keep in the fridge. Then add them to your eggs, refried beans, sautéed veggies, or rice. They add a wonderful rich nutty flavor to savory food. In the picture above, I have added them to my cast iron pan as I am preheating it for scrambled eggs. They taste like bacon bits in the eggs!
How to use lard
- Homemade soap
- Greasing the pan for eggs and veggies
- Oiling moccasins
Before you read this, go back and read Why Live in a Tiny House? Part One.
Our decision to build a tiny house began an exciting change of several of our values. We tried to analyze different things that society told us is healthy or normal and decide for ourselves whether they were or not. Here is our “re-working journey” in a nutshell:
Obviously, home size was one of the first things we questioned. Our culture tells us that one of the marks of successful adulthood is buying a big, beautiful house. Trent has worked for the last 6 years building and remodeling aforementioned houses. He noticed that although owning such a nice house made clients happy, it didn’t bring contentment or peacefulness to their lives. Houses are no longer simply a roof over your head; they have become castles that allow us to separate from each other and from nature.
We began to question the food we were eating. We realized that most of the food we were told was “healthy” was actually damaging our health. Pasteurized dairy products have lost their bacteria and enzymes that help us digest them. Our vegetables have been sprayed with chemicals. Many oils from the store are rancid and have been bleached. Even “healthy” pre-made food (such as crackers and bread) have some questionable ingredients. We also realized that the way conventional agriculture is growing our food is wreaking havoc on our soils, water, and air.
We started to notice how much plastic we were consuming, and this continues to be an ongoing process for me. Plastic is literally everywhere: shopping bags, food packaging, produce bags, storage containers, toys, shoes, garbage bags, blenders, and water bottles. Plastic is convenient and it plays into our consumeristic, throw-away culture, but it takes 500-1,000 years to degrade. Virtually every piece of plastic ever made still exists, except for a small percentage which has been incinerated.
Old Skills Abandoned
We realized how few people know the old skills that almost all generations before us have known: how to grow, harvest, preserve, ferment, and sprout food. How to build a house that uses local resources. How to make medicine from plants. How to survive in the wild. How to care for animals, butcher, and preserve the meat.
Our electronic civilization is truly amazing, yet we have become shadows of the humans who walked the earth just a hundred years ago. We don’t know how to survive in the wild. We can’t live without our grocery stores. We can’t make our own clothes. If anything goes wrong in this well-oiled machine, we’re screwed. Nature needs us, yet we have lost our feeling of need for nature. We have all moved inside to be with our virtual world and have rejected the natural world around us.
Breaking free from consumerism
We are selfish and our current system makes being selfish easy. We want to consume, but we don’t want to give back. So we buy our single-use items, consume them, and throw the remainders away.
It’s hard to break out of this mindset. I know it’s been hard for me to be less of a consumer and more of a maker. To be honest, I still have a long way to go. It is hard for me to take my mason jars to the store and grind my peanut butter, to remember my cloth produce bags, to preserve food in the fall, and to cook most of our food at home, yet for the time being, these are the things I am committed to doing. They are my current step in a long journey away from consumerism.
It is necessary that we consider what affect our choices are having on our land. I deeply desire to leave a planet to my grandchildren that is worth living in. I want them to have fresh air and clean water. I want them to eat food from soils that have been properly cared for. I want them to be resilient and strong.
As I said in part one, we want a full, rich quality of life for our family, and the tiny house is just a small part of a response we are making to our consumeristic culture. I realize that tiny houses aren’t for every one. I also realize it isn’t feasible for everyone to grow all of their own food.
But we can all do better than we are doing right now.
Why would a family of 6 choose to live in a tiny house? The short answer is this: we want a full, rich quality of life for our family. But to be honest, the tiny house is one small part in a larger mindset shift that Trent and I have experienced. To explain our story in full, I have to go back in time.
I grew up in Oregon on a few acres and my best childhood memories include making teepees with the long pasture grass, pretending fallen logs were horses, and talking to chickens. My dad grew a garden and my mom homeschooled and cooked healthy food from scratch. I wanted to do what was expected of me and I colored in the lines. I always thought I would grow up, get married, and live the American Dream.
Trent’s childhood was similar: he grew up in the country, his mom homeschooled and cooked from scratch and his dad grew a garden. He spent those years making and playing in forts, digging tunnels, and riding bikes with his brother as fast as he could down steep logging roads. He didn’t color in the lines; instead, he drew fantastical beasts and futuristic spaceships. He dreamed of living in an underground house. The American Dream was just not creative and unique enough for him.
Trent and I got married when I was 19, and in the next two years, we had two kids. We changed a lot of diapers. We were too tired to dream of fantastical beasts or underground houses. We ate whatever unhealthy food we wanted, went shopping a lot, and took the kids to the park. That’s what the American Dream is all about, right? But our rental house was a major roadblock to being normal. It was a old pink house with a long gravel driveway. Not cool.
After a few years, we had a baby girl. When she was a chubby 6 month old, we found a documentary on Netflix called TINY. All of our childhood interests in making small dwellings welled up inside us. We were intrigued. You could build a whole home on a trailer and tow it behind a truck? The cute loft and tiny bathroom were too enticing. We had to know more. We wasted no time looking at Tumbleweed trailers and floor plans. We even made a small mock-up with boards on the ground to see what the space would feel like. But that’s as far as it went. We had three little kids and were expecting another and those days were long and hard. But we never stopped talking about living in a tiny house someday.
Making the plunge
A few years later, once our fourth and final child was born, Trent and I looked at each other and said, “Are we going to keep talking about this tiny house or are we going to build it?” It was a hard decision for me; it would mean giving up on the American Dream. Then it occurred to us: we could dig up an older version of the American Dream and start a homestead. We could roll our tiny house onto bare land and have little to no debt.
We decided to take the challenge, so we bought house plans from hOMe and a trailer from Iron Eagle and started spending a our hard-earned savings at Home Depot.
The more we thought about a homestead and a self-sufficient lifestyle, we began to apply that thinking to other parts of our lives. Taking charge of our health was next on the to-do list.
Changing our Diet
Trent was having joint pain and our daughter Elsa was suffering from a gluten allergy. Our bad eating was catching up with us. We weren’t thriving, and I knew we could have a better quality of life.
We heard of the GAPS diet, which promised us healing from inflammation and restored gut health. We knew it was a massive life change, so we chose to try it for a month. I enthusiastically gave it my all; making bone broth, deboning meat, chopping veggies, soaking nuts… it was all new for me. We began to see results immediately. Our brain fog was lifted, we had more energy, Trent’s inflammation was better, Elsa wasn’t head-banging at night anymore, and my baby weight was melting off! At the end of the month, we adopted the diet as part of our life. I kept cooking, even though I was getting weary of chopping veggies and convincing little kids to drink broth. The changes we saw in our life kept us committed to continue.
Once I began to take responsibility for my family’s well-being, it began a waterfall of change in our life. We rapidly began to realize how ill America has become and how little modern medicine is doing to heal and restore health. We began to pull dandelion roots out of our yard in the winter, clip nettle in the spring, dehydrate calendula in the summer, and pick elderberries in the fall. We discovered several medicinal plants that had been growing in our yard the whole time. Now, the little pink house with the long driveway became a place of life and health. The house was humming with broth pots, sauerkraut crocks, and tinctures. Our permaculture chickens fertilized our garden in the winter and gave us beautiful brown eggs for breakfast. Our no-till garden produced the veggies we needed and craved. We felt a deep sense of humanity and vibrance. We were changing, and we felt truly alive to enjoy it all.
Go to part two of Why Live in a Tiny House?