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People Archives - Oneida Trail

Establishing a Garden

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Garden Established

Garden Resurgence

Soul-comfortingly, we reinstated garden space where my grandmother used to have her garden. Constantly, I’m drawn back to the skills and homesteading choices of her generation. Where did so many baby-boomers and Generation X people go wrong? Oh yea…selling method marketing began in their generations.

Poop Panic

With a truckload of raunchy smelling horse manure, Michelle stares wide-eyed at Chris and says, “We got to dump this in the woods.”

Materials List:

  • Framing Lumber: 2x6s: Cedar, un-treated & rot resistant… or not or Hugelkurtur beds
  • 25 Exterior screws: 3”
  • Soil: Green Compost, Municipality’s Compost, Local Manure
  • Fence Posts
  • Rabbit or Deer Fencing
  • Cardboard


  • Drill/Impact Driver
  • Measuring Tape
  • Cutting Saw: circular saw, miter saw, etc.
  • Level

Game Plan:

  • Use un-treated wood: cedar would be nice…
  • Provide protection (grid setup easy to fence in)
  • As beginners, have a large but manageable space
  • Use raised beds: neat, provides moisture retention, easy planning
  • High sunlight location during the day
  • Mostly leveled surface
  • Four raised beds: 4’ x 10’

Savvy Salvaging

First, we scored some old framing lumber from Pa. He assured us it wasn’t pressure treated. They were pretty beat up non-cedar 2x6s, so they probably won’t last very long, but we couldn’t beat the “price.” After three seasons, they are still well in tact. We decided to create four 4’ x 10’ beds. Four foot is a little wide in retrospect; I’d go with 42” wide beds if I did it again.

Trick: Put cupcakes near garden bed project. Associate cupcakes with garden work.
Trick: Put cupcakes near garden bed project. Associate cupcakes with garden work.

In a maximized sun location, we setup a board and put the level on it to gauge the land’s tilt. It was tilted slightly, so we shoveled out one end a bit to get it close—we didn’t worry too much about being completely level. Then we drilled and screwed the boards into each other: two screws per joint.

Free Manure

On craigslist, we found someone giving aged horse manure for free with a nominal charge to dump it on your truck or trailer, so we borrowed pa’s truck and headed over. It turned out to be an old friend from high school, so the dumping of the shit was…free. =). Make sure the compost is aged for at least a year—two years to be safer. It was still really stinky, and we had a massive panic attack that we got the wrong stuff and almost tried to dump it in the nearby woods. Thankfully, it ended up working very well when we mixed it with peat moss and humus. Oh yea! Make sure you put, layer, and water down some cardboard to smother the grass before adding your soil. Don’t get tricked into buying fabric sheets.

We were weed-whacking the walkways for a while. This was dumb, so we layered wet cardboard then topped it with woodchips from our municipality’s composting service. It’s a nice organized look. Me likes!

Upgrades: Mulched walkways, fitted cold frames, and straw weed cover.
Upgrades: Mulched walkways, fitted cold frames, and straw weed cover.

We initially didn’t plan on having a fence, but the rabbits struck quickly in the game, forcing us to reconsider. Deer are not an issue here, so we were able to buy some fence poles off of craigslist and bought some rabbit fencing from the hardware store. We haven’t had a problem since. The rabbit fence is short enough for us youngsters to hop over, but we did extend it in one area with a moveable stake that opens the area.

Haha, B!@#@! We win this time!
Haha, B!@#@! We win this time!

We changed from graph paper to garden bed pictures to organize our crop rotation and planting. Take pictures then crop and scale the images to one page. Then you can just write where and what you planted. We change pen color to delineate a different planting time in the season. Pictures are a great way to document your growing season and plant maturity rates during the year.

Use an image editor or Preview to document and manage your plantings.
Use an image editor or Preview to document and manage your plantings.

This year, I let the chickens do some of the work. Although a slight charade catching them (as always!), they were placed in the beds to till the area and find some slugs. The next day I added our somewhat finished compost from last year and they did a solid job spreading it out.

Spring: Chickens digging up slugs, spreading compost, and tilling beds.
Spring: Chickens digging up slugs, spreading compost, and tilling beds.

The reins are ours,


Reflections, Hindsight, and Alterations:

  • Permaculture: Place garden in a high traffic area. For example, between your driveway and front door to maximize interaction. Pick stuff for dinner on your way in! It’s not a trudge to the corner of your lot to maintain your garden.
  • Permaculture: Use Hugelkurtur beds – woody debris and logs underneath layered organic matter. This skips the wood framed beds, saves money on materials, and utilizes local shrub & fallen tree waste (if applicable in your area).
  • Permaculture: Use more synergistic plants and food forest layouts.
  • Do 3.5’ wide beds: otherwise, it’s a pretty large space to hop over.
  • Instead of getting the manure, peat moss, and humus, we should have just gotten yards of certified compost from our municipality service (OCRRA compost). It would have been cheaper and less work. They offer wood chips to cover your plants and prevent weed maintenance, too! $15 for six yards of either compost or wood chips; you can mix and match. A yard is about a truck bed load.





Tiny House Planning: Window Bonanza: Deal of the Century Two

Tiny House Financial Stranger Angel

While purchasing new windows at Home Depot, a man says, “How much you paying for those five windows?” “100 each.” “Did you see the ad on craigslist on Teall Ave? Bet they got your size windows there.” “I’ll check it out.” Although I spent $500 for the windows I needed to get, I took the guys advice…and found all five similar size windows for $100 total! Brought the depot ones back! $400 bucks saved that day. Thank you tiny house angel.

Window Bonanza

That stranger didn’t just lead me to $400 worth of savings–he lead me to securing windows for the house and the companion studio! We actually may have too many windows now, haha. Crazy! With a projected window cost between $800-3800 dollars, we have paid a total of $266 for twelve windows and a skylight—that’s $20.50 per window. We also have obtained our eleven windows for the companion studio at only $226–that’s 20.50 per window as well. Mainly, the score entailed showcase windows—a thing for tiny house builders to seek out.

Craigslist/Angel Advice Window Score
Craigslist/Angel Advice Window Score

Although a stranger pushed me to check out the windows on Teall Ave, it was an ad on craigslist I glanced over. 80% of our windows and doors came from craigslist and the other 20% through Michelle’s builder/part-time boss’ network. Overall, the windows acquired ranged from $20-60 on craigslist after wheelin’ and dealin’ Extra resources.

Out of Business = Good Business

Leo A. Kline, a home improvement specialist since 1947, was going out of business, and it was good business for us. A kind man named Paul offered us a lot of deals for eighteen windows and a new sliding glass door (for the companion studio). Pa, my uncle and I went to pick up the windows and we also had to take down a display case as part of the deal with Paul. Scrapped the aluminum from the display case for $55, too. Four of the windows and the door are tempered glass, an added bonus. We paid around $16 per window. After consulting some tiny house sites, I found that a lot of people chose not to use tempered glass windows–Tiny Tack home included. Although it’s a good idea, it depends on how much you plan to travel and it’s too expensive for most tiny homebuilders, so it’s not fretted about.

Less Awesome

I bought an aluminum clad tempered glass door from someone for $100. Like an idiot, I didn’t inspect it well, and the wood was rotting at the bottom from the side I didn’t look at! Time to learn how to deal with rotting wood…at least I’ll have a winter project before the spring.

Needs some TLC.
Needs some TLC
How did I miss this?
How did I miss this?


The reins are ours,


Categories: Design, People

Tiny House Materials: Allocate to Accumulate

PJ, Collin, and I scoring a Big Window!
PJ, Collin, and I scoring a Big Window!

Counted my lucky stars this winter, and winter was one of them. The winter break allowed me to slowly accumulate materials at fantastic prices, get estimates on all material amounts and anticipated costs, and finalize The Oneida’s details. Having the final picture in mind has allowed me to backtrack and make tiny adjustments to set Michelle and I up for success.

Winter, Thank You

I was one of the few Syracuse residents not anticipating the end of winter.  Although excited to build, I loved the time to read through countless blogs, edit our plans, find awesome deals and salvaged materials on online, and secure funds for the build. I actually sold my car this winter for this project. I’m going all into this tiny house and simple living thang. I want to be personally off fossil fuels within the next two years. Getting Michelle off fossil fuels may be a different story! Wish me luck!

Salvaged Materials

Every salvaged material we find utilizes and converts a potential waste stream. When we find these materials, it reflects permaculture’s “there is no such thing as waste” principle. According to the World Watch Paper 124, “The average American house consumes about three quarters of an acre of forest and produces about seven tons of construction waste.” The amount of pounds of construction waste after a typical American house build is the entire amount of pounds used for a tiny house construction build! We actually scored some of that “waste” from a beyond huge American home.

If you have the option of delaying for a season to really hash out your design and slowly obtain materials, I highly recommend it. As an added benefit, you can become addicted to craigslist’s Materials page.  Shout outs to PJ, Pa, and my brother Collin for helping us get random materials throughout the season. I hope other tiny house builders also find what my mom calls–“deals of the century.”

“Deal of the Century” One: Mansion Leftovers

Michelle goes to school for Sustainable Construction Management at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry, and she’s making some connections. One of those connections was her builder friend’s friend who had materials left over from a mansion build. To associate with a gigantic mansion built for two people feels dirty…but to exploit their waste feels extremely gratifying.

Simply stated, we scored around $9000 of materials for $600, which includes windows, foam insulation, and T&G interior pine siding. Some of these materials are high end; we would have never spent $6000 on six windows, but $200 for $6000 windows? Yeppers.

Windows: We secured triple glazed aluminum-clad wooden windows with brass hardware. There were five of them. These windows are top of the line, and they are heavy! I’m even a little worried if they might be too heavy. Maybe, I’ll try to resell them to purchase our companion studio trailer lipitor 40 mg. Is that wrong?

Heavy & Awesome Windows
Heavy & Awesome Windows

T&G Pine: Green painted and polyurethaned pine siding is now in our possession. If you count the coatings, we got around $1200 worth of “leftover” T&G pine siding for…wait for it…$450. Because they’re two different types, I plan to plane one and paint the other, but we should have enough interior siding now for the tiny house!

Scored T&G Pine Sidng
Scored T&G Pine Sidng

Insulation: Although we originally planned on getting sheep’s wool insulation from Oregon Shepherd (would have been so cool!) at around $3000+ for the tiny house and studio, we instead have secured enough 4” foam for both our tiny buildings for…wait for it…$150.

4" Insulated Concrete Foam: Our Insulation
4″ Insulated Concrete Foam: Our New Insulation

It’s not ideal because the foam was originally intended for ICF (insulated concrete forms), so we’ll have to use the table saw to cut it to 3.5 inches and cut off the weird ends.  We looked into rough cut lumber or furring strips for the added half of inch of insulation, but we were deterred by rough cut lumber’s warping issues or having to add wood to all the hundreds of cut framing pieces. No, thanks.

The reins are ours,


Reflections, Hindsight, and Alterations

  • If we didn’t have the winter holding us back, we would have never made the time to find such a deal.  Lesson learned: allocate time to accumulate.


  • Oregon Shepherd: Natural Wool Insulation — http://www.oregonshepherd.com/


Categories: People, Permaculture