Archive for the ‘How-To’ Category

The home office space is becoming more vital.  Telecommuting is on the increase.  Awareness is increasing around the benefits of telecommuting, such as less congested commutes and decreased energy use office buildings.  Employers are touting the option to telecommute as a recruitment tool and it is a trend that does not appear to be reversing anytime soon.  With this trend, the importance of being able to access your files electronically from various locations is essential. You need a paperless office.  But there is another, more sustainable benefit to electronic files – less paper – which also means less purchasing, printing, and storing.

Going paperless often means “less paper” (at least at first), but the benefits remain.  From an environmental perspective, the two major benefits include using less paper, and ultimately, requiring less space, which directly relates to less energy used for heating, cooling, lighting, etc..  Think of a typical office building and the amount of space dedicated to file cabinets – this space is heated, cooled, and lighted (at least to some extent).  On a smaller scale, and in your own office, the space dedicated to file storage may not be great, but moving towards paperless will help you avoid future clutter and stacks.

A key step in reducing paper in your home office is managing unnecessary postal mail – this includes junk mail, catalogs, marketing efforts, credit card offers, etc.  You can research efforts on removing yourself from unsolicited mail and telemarketer lists – there are services that will help get you off these lists for a small fee.  Here’s a great guide to remove yourself from junk mail lists.

Instead of making a paper copy or printing out a duplicate and storing the item in your paper filing system, invest in an office scanner.  Utilize electronic fax technology as opposed to traditional paper-based fax machines.  Get comfortable with digital signatures – this can save countless print outs and they are easily filed away in your digital filing system.  Implementing these measures will get you on the way to your paperless office.  As a final note, invest in a back-up system, such as an external hard-drive or a remote online storage service – this is an essential component to minimize your risk associated with computer failure, natural disasters, etc.

I am not sure if it is a result of a few of my formative years being spent attending a think tank for adolescents or if it is my penchant for conversation or even my inability to pay attention to anything for longer than about 3 minutes but I am a huge believe in stream of consciousness thinking. Some may call it going around your butt to get to your elbow. Others may call it taking the long road home. Whatever the case it is the exact method at which I arrive at most of my ideas and plans. And gardening as a tiny houser is no different.

So how does one get from tiny house to garden? Well, I’m glad you asked.

The foundation of the Tiny r(E)volution is stewardship. It is about being fiscally responsible, ecologically responsible, emotionally responsible, and relationally responsible. And somewhere between fiscally responsible and ecologically responsible is the idea of gardening and growing ones own food. It simply makes sense. It saves money on grocery bills while providing incredible sources of natural vitamins and minerals free of chemicals and pesticides. But then the questions arise. I live in a tiny house. I have no land. How do I grow a garden? This is the most logical point where my thoughts turn from traditional plot gardening to container gardening. Want the good news? Almost any vegetable that will grow in a typical backyard garden can also do well in a container. Some vegetables that are especially well-suited for container gardening are tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, cucumbers, bush beans, lettuce, spinach, summer squash, radishes, and herbs. In the right environment others are cabbage, kale, broccoli and cauliflower. See, here is the secret. You don’t need 40 acres or a tiller to garden. In fact, you need very little.

When deciding to abandon traditional gardening (for whatever reason) in lieu of container garden, you will need to think about many of the same things you’d be thinking about if you were gardening on a piece of land; healthy soil, sunlight, water, compost or fertilizer, and pest management. Of course, when container gardening, it is also important to consider what types of containers you will use. And so that is why I am listing below my Top 5 favorite ways to “container garden” when living in a tiny house.

A Planting Tower. Found on the The Casual Gardener blog written by my friend Shawna Coronado, the Planting Tower is a wonderful way to reuse old plastic containers or planters to create a cascading or ascending tower (depending on how you see the glass; half full or half empty) suitable for flowers, edibles, or almost anything in between. Shawna also has a great video tutorial on how to make a tower on your own. So if you are wanting to grow up next to a fence, on a porch post, or even against your tiny house, this is a great idea and an easy one as well!

Bucket ‘o Food. Another good friend of mine, Mike Canarsie, writes a full-on container gardening blog and because he lives in LA has a lot to say about non-conventional ways to grow your groceries. One of my favorite (and one of the easiest) is his self-watering container garden. Comprised of 5-gallon buckets the self-watering containers are both easy to find and easy to make. Use your imagination by spray painting the buckets (with no-VOC paint or non-toxic paint) and find a spot to “landscape” them in.

Painted Cans. Last season I decided we were going to try an herb garden using gallon sized cans that once stored green beans. We got dozens of the cans from a local church who had just hosted a seasonal meal and had lots of tins and cans to be discarded. I got the idea from Gayla Trail’s book, You Grow Girl. If it is edibles you want to grow you may not want to paint them as illustrated but rather peel off the label, soak them in warm, soapy water, and leave them a wonderful aluminum color. You can also use self-tapping screws to screw them onto a fence, into a wall, or just place them on a ledge!

Get Wooly! Perhaps though you want to bring some of that delicious, edible, life into your tiny house. Perhaps you have a wall just begging for some living art. I can’t think of a better way to have a kitchen herb garden or even some sweet, seasonal berries than by using a Living Wall Planter from WoolyPocket. These amazing, mountable pockets are ideal for plants for a few reasons. They are easy to hang. They are easy to water. (In fact, you just water the back panel with a wine bottle or a long spout watering can. The water then wicks down directly to the roots.) They are self-watering. They allow for strong roots. The pockets are eco-friendly (Made from 100% recycled plastic bottles; PET).

A Pallet of Green. Fern Richardson is a published author, a fantastic blogger, a crafty gal, and an amazing balcony gardener. It was from her Life On The Balcony that I first saw pallet gardens. A bit more difficult to put together but still quite affordable and easy for tiny house spaces, the pallet garden is good for almost anything; flowers and edibles alike. With just a bit of stapling, some soil conditioning, and, of course, some plant selection and you can have the biggest garden this size of tiny with almost no effort!