Thursday, July 2, 2020

A New Kitchen

One of the first projects this month was getting the stove cleaned up and making sure it worked before installing it. A friend of ours who has several trailers offered it to us along with an RV furnace and a double sink (thanks again Vic!).  It cleaned up nicely and everything worked first try! The furnace needs a little more work but since it’s warm out it’s not a priority right now. 

Michael has spent most of his time outside cutting grass, trimming all of the overgrown bush close to the cabin and monitoring my garden.  So far we’ve had wild strawberries, the strawberries from my hanging baskets and radishes. The lettuce is almost ready. 

My friends seem to think that we are hard at work everyday here but the reality is that most days we have been working on fun little projects.  We bought some pine boards and after I stained them Michael put them up for me.  Since then I have printed off a few pictures I like and modge podged them to a couple of containers. 

As you can see my kitchen area doubles as my storage area and everything is on display. To keep things looking tidy I mounted some leftover pipe from the under counter project on the wall and am using it to store my pots and pans. 

Seeing the pots up inspired Michael to finish up the kitchen area for me. During the winter we had planned  a fancy backsplash for the stove that would take awhile to make. We found a place in North Bay that sold us the stainless steel and put the corner bend in for us. We already had the copper and Michael did the rest! He did an awesome job!

I bought the rest of the wooden boxes that we needed and stained them but it took awhile

to decide what to put in them. I feel like we already had enough mountains in here. I was thinking maybe trail signs (like the PCT logo or a copy of one of the original blazes, the Camino de Santiago blaze, the AT logo or even just a white blaze) or maybe animals (a bear, a wolf, an eagle...). We finally decided on a parts of a landscape on each box and Michael just started to draw them on.

We had bought a few outdoor solar lights and Michael found old fashioned taps at the hardware store.  After taking the solar lights apart and mounting the tiny panels outside and feeding the wire inside, we mounted the taps with the light bulbs attached and hooked up the wires. The lights turned out great and come on automatically when it gets dark outside.

Although we already had the sink we have been waiting on a faucet to arrive that was purchased online.  After months  of waiting I decided to just buy a water filter that comes with its own faucet (we needed a water filter anyway) so that we could go ahead and install the sink. We have clean water inside now! 

I’d love to be able to say that the kitchen is finished but it will be at least another month before we add a more permanent power system and buy a fridge for the cabin.  We are still using the solar panels on the bus as our main source of power with occasional use

of a generator.  We have a fridge on the bus but because we are keeping the bus adventure ready we are making several trips from bus to cabin anytime we need something from the fridge.  

The grandkids came up to visit and it gave us the chance to explore one of the local beaches.  It’s a beautiful area and the water was perfect! 

I have been taking it easier this past month (I’ve taken the time to read several books and am starting to daydream of the next big hike) but Michael has been pretty much continuously working on one project after another and is ready for a break. I think we will really slow down on the work this month and just work on landscaping and a few small, easy jobs inside.

I’m happy to have a kitchen in the cabin and not have to run back and forth to the bus as much and am impressed that this much work has been done in three months. It’s amazing how many goals we’ve been able to accomplish in such a short time and I find myself starting to think about what is next!

Sunday, May 31, 2020

From Bus to A Tiny Cabin

It’s been exactly four years since we moved into the bus and it’s a little bit sad to be moving out of it. We will still use the bus for trips and as a guest room but we are saying goodbye to life in 80 square feet and hello to a bigger living space (144sqft)!

It’s been two months of hard work getting the cabin move in ready but here we are, we have moved into the cabin and I have been decorating! It all started a
month ago when Michael was away helping one of the kids move and it rained several days in a row. I couldn’t do any of the real jobs that needed to get done so I made a picture for the cabin instead. 

When the weather started to co operate I finished staining the trim for the main floor. I sanded down an old maple table we had in storage and refinished it for our new countertop. As soon as it was done I wanted it set up but the new staircase needed to be installed first.  It was a bit of a chore to sand, stain and seal it and an even bigger chore to get it mounted to the ceiling. 

The great thing about these stairs is that they are designed to be out of the way during the day when we don’t need access to the bedroom.  Thanks again Vincent!

And it’s kind of a cool system!

It’s a bicycle lift and it works great! We might just swap out the rope for something stronger and more durable.

Once the stairs were in it was time to set up the kitchen!

The stove and furnace will be on the left, the sink will be centred between the beams and the fridge will be on the right. I will buy a few more wooden bins and stain them a honey colour. Eventually there will be a shelf above the sink. It’s getting there!

We already had the countertop ready and the shelves are made of metal grid that we also had in storage. I used the grinder one day and cut the shelves for the kitchen along with shelves for a coat and boot rack I made.  We are waiting on a faucet we ordered on amazon before installing the sink and the stove needs a little TLC before we install it.  So for now we are still using the kitchen in the bus as well as the BBQ that came with the cabin. 

We do have running water though! Michael hooked up the new pump and mounted a solar panel to set up our water system. We’ve temporarily set up the shower on the side of the cabin but it will eventually be set up in a more discreet location in a month or two once the kitchen is done. 

The yard is starting to get cleaned up and the junk pile at the edge of the road gets bigger everyday. I think we will be searching out the local dump soon. I can’t believe the stuff that has been buried here! Everything from kids toys, a fake Christmas tree, a kitchen table from the 1960’s and a lot of smaller items both new and old. Not all of our yard finds have been terrible.  Michael found a giant saw blade and I’m thinking of painting a landscape on it. Michael wants to make it look like a giant saw is cutting into the cabin. 

We also had a huge burn pile but with the province wide fire ban it just kept growing. The minute we heard the fire ban would be lifted for the long weekend we started planning the fire pit. To get rid of the pile quickly Michael made a temporarily fireplace and attached chicken wire on top so that we could burn even if it was windy. And burn we did! The first night we got rid of about a third of what we had.  We are still working on burning the rest and soon there will just be a dump pile left!

With the stores closed due to covid19 I decided to start shopping online. Wow! What a difference! Stuff comes right to the door no hassle.... and it feels like Christmas every time the fed ex driver visits! 

The new couch and new chair are a few of the online purchases. Of course the day after the chair arrived I walked into the cabin to find this guy:

I’m pretty sure he was just visiting though. I’ve managed to scare off the birds and they now longer fly into the cabin and stay a safe distance from the door but I think we are going to have a problem with the squirrels who are always scrambling up the sides of the cabin.

Remember the floor I ruined last month and had to replace? Well we decided that since we put a new floor down upstairs we might as well tidy up the walls as well. After a couple quick coats of paint our bedroom looks exactly how I imagine a cabin bedroom should look. I’m super happy with how it is all coming together! In the future I will swap out the trim but for now it will do.

We are still working on the yard slowly. I’ve started planting a garden and I’ve sprayed a garlic barrier spray to keep the mosquitoes at bay. It worked great and there are no more mosquitoes, if only it also worked for the black flies!

With most places closed we haven’t ventured out too much but we have met a few neighbours in passing and the people at the hardware store know us by name. We haven’t even explored the roads near the cabin but I’m sure they lead to somewhere nice because several boats have been trailered past our cabin.  On the one excursion we did take we found the biggest bear I’ve ever seen (about 2km from the cabin) but just like every single other bear he took off as soon as he saw us.  We are both looking forward to a time where there isn’t a job that has to be done right away. Now that we are in the cabin we will slow down  on the rest of the jobs.

Friday, May 1, 2020


It’s been a month of hard work everyday and there are more jobs to do everywhere we look. I’m not complaining it is absolutely beautiful here and the more we do look around the nicer it seems. But almost every job we have done turns into a slew of other jobs required just to finish the original job. Progress is very slow and there are more half done jobs here than finished ones. It makes me wonder how the first settlers managed. I mean, I have a bus (with power) to live in but what if I didn’t? I can just make a call and place an order at the hardware store (even with a pandemic going on around us) and then go pick up almost anything I need. Imagine the early immigrants who had to painstakingly chop down trees and cut every piece of lumber they needed using simple man powered tools.  Think about how long that would take! A small town is 11km away from our little cabin. We can go buy groceries whenever we need to but those first settlers, what did they have to eat day after day until they had food from a garden? Even if they hunted,  it would take time away from building. We have pretty much everything we need handed to us! I have a creek here and a well and yet I can’t wait to have a real shower set up. How long did the first settlers have to go before that was even a priority? And don’t say "oh they probably just heated up water" because trust me that is way more tedious than it sounds! I have two pots and even if I fill them with water and heat it up, it is barely enough to wash and rinse my hair. I can see why kids were made to share bath water back in the day. It reminds me of how appreciative of hot water I was getting into town after days of hiking.  I wonder if I’m just so used to taking too much that I am less appreciative of my pots of hot water than an early settler would have been.  I’ve already decided that I only need hot water from my shower head and not my kitchen sink. I’ve spent the past four years heating up water for dishes on the bus and it hasn’t bothered me at all. 

Anyway, so what have we accomplished in a month? I took the stain off the inside walls of the main floor and resealed it while Michael was fixing the tool sheds or as I am calling them the man area. 

This is what it looked like before with a solid colour stain on the walls.

This is what it looks like now with a cedar stain.

Michael took down the roof of the "carport" because I wanted a greenhouse but once the roof was off he realized everything needed to be replaced. So now I have a brand new "greenhouse." It’s not entirely enclosed yet but I’m considering it a finished job.

My new greenhouse! It still needs to be closed in but is good enough for now.

A good friend of ours came and helped for two days and was the first person to actually sleep in the cabin. We left him with the heater from the bus and it was so warm he had to get up during the night and turn it off. That’s a good sign! 

The first job they worked on was levelling  the cabin. Some of the supports were in rough shape so Michael had made concrete pads for everything to sit on ahead of time.

The cabin wasn’t level and was sitting on all of this.

Now the cabin is level and is sitting on cement pads. There is still more work to do in the future but everything is stable.

Next the big, bulky staircase was taken down and our friend offered to make a new set of stairs that won’t take up any floor space during the day.  Awesome! Thanks!

The bulky staircase has to go!

A few of the support beams inside needed replaced so that was also done with the help of a friend.

The new beams are behind Michael (and above him). This picture also shows the contrast between the new and old stain. The old stain is where the counter will go and will be completely hidden.

While Michael was working on replacing the beams he noticed the "nice" flooring upstairs that was being hidden by sheets of painted plywood.  It looked like inch thick pine and so I  destroyed the plywood floor upstairs only to find a floor that had been pieced together from beam to beam with short pieces of pine. Ugh! I should have left well enough alone! Upstairs wasn’t even a priority and now the plywood needs to be replaced! Several hundred dollars (not in our budget) later we now have a new plywood floor that we have sealed and will use as is for now.

This is what I discovered under the old plywood.

We spent an afternoon installing flooring downstairs. It’s not exactly the colour I was looking for but during a pandemic you  take what you can get! It looks great and finally feels like we’ve accomplished something! It feels like we will have a cabin kitchen in the near future! 

New floor on the main level.

And I know this is silly and wasn’t a priority at all but there was a really ugly door on the outhouse and I thought it would be a simple job.  There ended up being so many coats of paint on it and took longer than I had wanted to spend on it, but now it looks great!

Old outhouse door.

Refinished outhouse door.

On our breaks from cabin work we have managed to rake up a good portion of the property between the cabin and the road. We’ve found lots of junk here that will need to go to the dump but we’ve also found a wall from an older cabin that has usable cedar logs and posts in it that will be perfect for a retaining wall we want to build between the cabin and the seasonal stream that runs down to the creek.  Michael has also found really old glass bottles here, it makes me wonder about the history of this place. 

We have already found raspberry bushes, two types of thyme, asparagus and wild strawberries growing on the property and have been told that there are blueberries that grow along the side of the road as well! We found logs covered in old dried up mushrooms (not sure what kind yet or if they are edible) but we will have fun finding out! I wonder what we will discover here next?

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Tiny House Dreams

Becca’s van is finished and she is off adventuring now. I would have liked to share a few of the finished pictures of her van or the ordeals that came up while building it but am waiting for her to share it with the world. She has set up an Instagram account if you would like to follow her journey it‘s here: 


With that project finished and Chris’s restaurant open for business it’s time for the next project. Michael has wanted a piece of land for awhile now and we have spent any free time we have had this year going and looking at property all over Ontario. We finally found a gorgeous property with a few outbuildings already on it near Mattawa. There’s a well and a septic system already on the property and a beautiful creek runs through it!  There’s a ton of work to be done but the largest of the outbuildings will end up being our tiny house!

There are lots of hiking trails in the area, the Ottawa River is only a few kilometres away and even Algonquin Provincial Park is within walking distance (well walking distance for hikers at 19km). I’m can’t wait to explore the surrounding area and already have my first hike planned out! 

We had looked at this property earlier in the summer and had planned on being able to get some work done this year but there were delays and  the snow is already here. The reality is that most of the jobs we want to do need to be done is warmer weather. Other than a few weekend trips between now and Christmas we will likely leave everything as it is until spring and manage to get an adventure in this winter before the work begins.

This is what the inside looks like right now.

Hopefully by next summer this place will be transformed to our new home. Michael thinks he needs to landscape

But I think it’s perfect just the way it is! There are trees and trails, a creek and a big forest behind us!

The bus looks bigger than the cabin but it’s just an illusion. The cabin is just under 300 square feet (144sqft per floor) while the bus is only 80sqft.  It may seem small to you but after living on a short bus this will seem huge to us! 

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Some Changes

I have been quiet these past few months partly hibernating, mostly focusing on other people. Staying in one place has allowed me to see friends and play with my grandbabies almost everyday! But while I was playing hide and seek, pretending to be a monster and pushing little girls on swings my kids have been busy. 

My son is getting ready to open a vegan restaurant in Petawawa and we have made several trips to clean, paint and deliver new signs. I will be there to help him as much as I can over the next few weeks

My daughter has been making drastic life changes and minimizing everything she owns.  She has this crazy idea (I have no idea where she got it from) of converting a van into a home and travelling the country! She picked up her new home last night and is planning on moving into it in two months time! Needless to say we will also be helping her convert it into a home in our spare time.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Misadventures with Propane

 There are several disadvantages to using a Mr. Buddy heater as your only heat source. First of all it off gases carbon monoxide which can kill you! We have a small battery operated smoke and carbon monoxide detector on the bus to alert us when the levels are unsafe. It goes off more than I'd like to admit. Often in the middle of the night when the heater has been on straight for hours, requiring one of us to get up and open the window to let some fresh air in and/or turn off the heater for a bit. The other concern with Mr. Buddy is that he creates water. As the propane burns another by product is water which then collects on all of our windows and sometimes our ceiling. Somehow we have managed to avoid any mould problems but it could happen any day now. I wipe up the water or scrape the frost each morning and clean the bus more often than I used to clean my house but without a vented heater or an alternate heat system there isn't too much else we can do to get rid of the extra water.

Those are the natural disadvantages but what about when you add the human error factor in?  We are both pretty careful when it comes to using the heater and where it is placed but accidents can happen.

One night as I set up the heater I forgot to tighten the hose. I turned on the heater and watched as it lit up. When I saw everything was good I turned my back and that's when I heard a "pouf" sound. I thought for a second that my hair had caught fire! When I turned around I quickly realized what had happened and could see the flame growing on the side of the heater where the hose attached. Michael turned off the the propane from a safety valve he had added when he originally installed the propane lines. By the time both the safety switch and the heater had been turned off the flames had melted the edge of the heater. I immediately wanted to buy a new heater but Michael checked it over once it had cooled and said no serious damage had been done. Just forgetting to tighten that hose could have burnt the bus down or cost us our lives!

Another instance of human error happened to us on one of the coldest nights of the year. In general a twenty pound propane tank lasts for about two months in the summer months but only a week in the winter. If there is a really cold spell and the heater is on all the time we will go through all that propane in five or six days depending on how often we have had the heater on its higher setting. Well on a very cold January night after several of the coldest days of the season we ran out of propane at 2am. I thought for sure I would have to get up and turn on the bus to warm us up but thankfully the bus stayed relatively warm. By morning the air in the bus was cold yet we were still warm under the blankets. Fortunately we were in a city and could easily refill our propane tank first thing in the morning. If we had been out in the wilderness it may have been more of a problem.

These are the problems we have had using propane over the past two and a half years. Using propane is cheap, readily available and easy to use for heat, cooking and possibly powering your refrigerator. So far we haven't regretted our choice to use propane in the bus. If you have had misadventures with your propane system feel free to add your stories below.