Tiny Shiny Home Blog 2020-06-05T23:14:50-05:00 /feed Tiny Shiny Home hello@tinyshinyhome.com https://tinyshinyhome.com/washing-clothes-off-grid Washing Clothes Off Grid 2020-05-28T01:30:00-05:00 2020-05-28T16:51:07-05:00 Ashley Longnecker https://tinyshinyhome.com/
This post may contain affiliate links or compensated reviews. Please read our disclosure for more info.

Since moving onto our property we’ve been doing our laundry by hand. Think Little House on the Prairie style! Let me tell you...I kind of love it! If I get up early enough, it's still slightly cool, bunnies are still hopping around outside, and the birds are still singing their morning songs.

To make washing a little bit easier, we bought two large wash tubs at our local hardware store, a washboard, and some eco friendly soap, good clothes pins, and some clothesline to hang up the laundry.

Do yourself a favor and invest in a really good washboard if you plan on washing your clothes by hand. I can tell it’s made a big difference in the amount of grime I’m able to get out of our clothes. Working out here in the desert, all our clothes get dirty very fast. The wavy pattern on the washboard really helps get the dirt out, plus these washboards are made right here in the good ol’ USA!

First, we’ll fill up one of the wash tubs with our soapy water, and the other with clean water for rinsing. We always start with the cleanest of the dirty clothes first. Typically that means starting with the kitchen towels, then we’ll wash the bath towels and washcloths. Just give them a good scrub with the soapy water and if needed, use a bar of laundry soap for tough stains or dirt. Give them a good wash and ring them out before they go into the rinsing bucket. I like to spend at least 10 minutes of scrubbing per small batch.

If the washing water looks too dirty, I’ll toss it on one of our trees and fill it back up. Next up is the least dirty of our clothes…shirts, shorts, etc. Same process as with the towels and keep repeating until all your dirty clothes are washed! I love this soap net bag to keep the laundry bar out of the water but easily accessible. 

We have several of these soap net bags that we use for our bar soap in the shower! We found them while exploring the great little town of Fairhope, AL

Make sure to give the clothes a really good rinse before ringing out and hanging up to dry.

It really is just that simple! Keeping on top of the laundry is key, though. We try to do laundry every 2-3 days and that seems to be working out great with our schedules.

Before you ask, let’s talk about the soap. I’ve used several kinds and while I don't have a current favorite, I do always make sure it says biodegradable and eco friendly since our dirty water will be watering the plants on our land. We are currently using Dr. Bronners, Ethique Laundry Bar, and SOAK.

As always, if you have any questions about washing laundry by hand, I'd be happy to answer them. Just leave a comment below!

Cheers

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https://tinyshinyhome.com/hauling-our-water-its-a-whole-thing Hauling Our Water - It's a Whole Thing! 2020-05-26T00:00:00-05:00 2020-05-26T12:39:34-05:00 Ashley Longnecker https://tinyshinyhome.com/
This post may contain affiliate links or compensated reviews. Please read our disclosure for more info.

There have been several viewers ask how we’re getting water out here on our desert homestead. Well, today is your lucky day! We’re showing you the entire process.

It involves a 330 gallon IBC tote, our Zero G Hose, our transfer pump, and our Enduraplas Water Tank from Oasis Water Harvesting in Sierra Vista.

The process is actually quite simple, but fairly time consuming. From the time we load our IBC tote into the truck until we have successfully transferred the 300 gallons into our big 2600 gallon tank, it takes a FULL HOUR. It would take us nine trips to completely fill our larger water tank.

From there, we use the transfer pump to move 40 gallons at a time into our fresh water tank on the Airstream.

Currently, we are averaging around 100 gallons of use per week. We have seen a HUGE increase in the amount of water we are daily consuming, but also getting a lot more showers throughout the week which I am NOT complaining about :)

We hope to eventually have a more powerful outdoor pump with pressure switch and accumulator tank so we can have a constant access to the large water tank. That's a project for another day, though!

Thanks for reading and watching our latest video. If you’re new, we’d love to have you subscribe to our YouTube channel! Hit the notification bell to know when we upload more videos :)

Stay safe out there, friends.

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https://tinyshinyhome.com/shade-sails-airstream Installing Shade Sails for our Airstream to Keep Cool in the Desert 2020-05-19T00:00:00-05:00 2020-05-19T22:11:38-05:00 Ashley Longnecker https://tinyshinyhome.com/
This post may contain affiliate links or compensated reviews. Please read our disclosure for more info.

If you’ve lived in, or even just visited Arizona, you know how important shade is. It can be a whopping 90 degrees outside, but if you have shade, it’s totally bearable. 

The low humidity and sunny days is one of the many reasons we wanted to move here. But if we’re going to make it through the summer in our RV, installing some sort of shade for the Airstream is essential.

After tons of research we decided to install shade sails. We didn’t want something that was permanent because we’ll be building our house in the near future, and when that’s complete, the Airstream will be moving to a different location on the property. We needed something sturdy, but not necessarily permanent.

We purchased two triangle shade sails that are 18’ on all sides. Lots of research led us to the decision to place our 6x6x12 pressure treated posts at a distance of 21’ apart.

With our limited tool supply, we called up our friends Bill and Yvonne from The Upside of Downsizing and they came out with their auger to help us dig the holes! What a time saver! We are so thankful they were able to come help us with that part. And if you want to watch their straw bale house build, check it out here!

After the holes were dug to our desired depth of 34", we set the posts in concrete with 3’’ screws angled 45 degrees upward for an additional surface for the concrete to bond around, and the posts were set at an angle of 5 degrees away from the center of the shade sails.

We made square forms out of 2x4's to build up the concrete around the posts, but we also angled them for optimal water runoff.

Concrete around 6x6 posts

Here in Arizona, we hear that the monsoon season is intense, so we are hoping that having this added concrete form at an angle will allow the water to run off and not pool at the base of the 6x6 posts.

With the concrete set, it was time to figure out where we wanted the shade sails to be mounted on the posts. We strung them up with ropes to get the placement we *thought* we needed. And sure enough, after they were up and secured, the angles just weren’t right.

Shade Sails for Airstream

The sun is blasting this side of the Airstream around 2:00 and we weren’t getting the shade we needed util around 5:00. Time to rethink this a bit.

You know what? Let's look at the bright side here. Even if this shade thing doesn't work out, at least I'll have the best clothes line around!

Shade Sails and Clothesline

Now, let's think about this a bit. I thought we needed to keep a certain distance from the top of our 6x6 posts, but turns out you can drill that 3/8” hole as close as you want to the top! So that’s what we did. We got the RV side of the shade sails up as high as we could, but our Airstream really needed to be closer to these posts.

We were loosing day light but the move needed to happen. As the sun was setting we all worked together to get the Airstream hooked up and moved over as close as possible.

With everything in place, we feel much better about the angle of the shade sails and the closer proximity of the Airstream. So far, we've definitely got more shade earlier in the afternoon and it helps so much!

Airstream with Shade Sails

Now the real test will be to see how the sails will hold up during monsoon season. Luckily, with a little effort, we can take them down if the winds get too intense.

This was our first big project on the property, and it got us super excited about building our house and other buildings we have planned. As with everything we do, there will be mistakes. We’re learning as we go and we hope that our mistakes will help others that are wanting to do something similar.

And best of all, building this dream with our kids by our side is really what it’s all about. They get to see us mess up, but they also get to see us come up with a solution to fix it! Team work makes the dream work. On to the next project!

Triangle shade sails shading vintage Airstream. ]]>
https://tinyshinyhome.com/natures-head-composting-toilet Nature's Head Composting Toilet - Full Review 2020-05-12T01:30:00-05:00 2020-05-12T10:05:55-05:00 Ashley Longnecker https://tinyshinyhome.com/
This post may contain affiliate links or compensated reviews. Please read our disclosure for more info.

How have we lived in this Airstream for 3 years and not once have done a full review on our Nature’s Head Composting Toilet? I mean, it get used daily, we get questions about it every month, and yet…still no dedicated blog post? Well, here it is my friend. Today you get the full details on all this 💩.

What is a Composting Toilet?

Nature's Head Composting Toilet

Simple. It’s a toilet that keeps the solids separate from the liquids. If kept separate, human waste is not toxic. It’s not until they mix that it creates sewage and that nasty smell.

How does it work?

Nature's Head Composting Toilet

Nature’s Head Composting Toilet is actually quite simple. It looks similar to a regular toilet but does not necessarily require plumbing. However, the function is quite different. There are two main compartments for waste. Urine goes into a bucket via two little holes in the front. For solids, simply open the trap door and go about your business. In the solids bin, there has to be a medium. While it does say you can use Peat Moss, we don’t suggest it. We do however, highly recommend using Coco Coir. There is a handle on the side of the toilet that needs two easy turns to mix solids into the Coco Coir to coat it, break it down, and prevent odor. For liquids, aim accordingly, and yes men…sit down, please! Use a spray bottle filled with a vinegar and water solution to spray down the holes. This will keep the inside cleaner and the vinegar will help with any odor.

It’s important to mention that a composting toilet doesn’t fully compost anything. So the name might be a little misleading. You can’t go dump your solids bucket on your flowerbed. But it does start the composting process, and should continue to break down safely in a landfill. I highly suggest reading the Humanure Handbook if you’re interested in composting your waste!

Is it easy to install?

Airstream Bathroom

Yes! The toilet simply bolts down to the floor, and the only hole required is for the ventilation tube which runs to the outside of our Airstream. There is a fan that constantly runs pulling air and order through to the ventilation tube and to the outside of the trailer. The fan runs on 12 volt and doesn’t use much energy. If you don’t want to re-wire anything, they also sell a solar battery vent that powers the fan.

Does it smell?

Nature's Head Composting Toilet

Surprisingly, the only part that really smells is the urine bucket, but only when you're taking it out. Keeping the lid closed at all times allows the fan to pull any fumes outside. The solids should not smell, and if they do something is wrong. Perhaps someone accidentally left the trap door open while peeing and now you have a sewage smell. Simply clean it out and add new Coco Coir. We take apart the fan on the toilet and clean it every other time we empty the solids bin. This will help keep the fan running smoothly, keep moisture down, and allow any odor to be vented to the outside.

How often do you clean it?

Coconut Coir

Great question! This toilet is really meant for 1-2 people to be using it at a time. Not necessarily SIX! We know a few couples with this toilet and they don’t have to empty out the solids for about 2 months! We, however, have to dump the solids bin every 2 weeks if used exclusively, and the pee bucket gets dumped daily. When we’re at a campground, we take full advantage of their bathroom facilities.

This is probably the only real downside for us - as a large family, a single composting toilet is pushing it. We could really use another. Now that we're on our own land, we'll be building an outdoor bathroom soon :)

How do you clean it?

Cleaning Nature's Head Composting Toilet

It’s not hard to clean, but it is a bit of a pain. Jonathan unscrews the bolts holding down the toilet and takes it all outside. Once it’s outside, remove the urine bucket and set it aside. The top of the toilet comes off via two clips on the side and slide of a pin in the back. Set the top of the toilet aside to clean later. We recommend using a compostable bag because if you’re just putting it in a plastic bag it kind of defeats the purpose of having a composting toilet, right? Put the compostable bag over the solids bin, make sure it’s on tight, and turn the whole thing over. Now bang on the outside of the toilet to release any clumps that could have developed, and carefully remove the compost bag from the bin. It’s important that you don’t use harsh cleaners in this bin unless absolutely necessary. Now it’s time to add the new coco coir. Turn the agitator bar so it’s parallel with the bottom of the bin. Fill with coco coir until the bars are just slightly covered. This will be about 2 gallon ziplock bags full for reference.

Now to clean the top of the toilet. We typically lay it on a plastic bag on the tailgate for easy cleaning. Give it a good spray down with your favorite cleaner. We prefer to use Thieves Cleaner from Young Living. Once it’s all been cleaned, just put it back together and you’re good to go.

For the times when the fan needs cleaning, just unscrew from the side of the toilet, separate plastic pieces that hold the filter and give it a good wash and make sure to allow it to dry before putting back in place. We’ve found that the fan can get dusty so we clean it every other time we clean out the toilet.

How do you prepare the Coco Coir?

Coco Coir for Compost Toilet

We prefer to buy big blocks of Coco Coir and prepare it ourselves. We store it in a large heavy duty plastic bin in the bed of our truck. It’s a tricky balance of getting the block wet enough to break apart, but not so wet that when it’s in the solids bin it creates mold. For a big block, the best way to start is to just pour some water all over it and let it set for 30 minutes or so. This will soften it and loosen things up so it’s easier to break apart. Then we use a small ice pick to start peeling off layers, and our hands to break it down into the finer consistency you need. You may need more water during this process, but again don’t add too much. Keep it as dry as possible.

How do you dispose of the waste?

Compostable Bags

With the urine bucket, we do our best to dump directly at bathrooms or pit toilets. Otherwise, if we’re boondocking and not close to anything we will sprinkle it on plants. I know that sounds gross, but urine has actually been shown to be a safe and effective fertilizer for plants and gardens. So we’re just helping them out :)

For the solids, we recommend putting it in a compostable bag and leaving it in a dumpster. Remember, the solids are not fully composted yet, so allowing it to continue the process in a landfill is perfectly safe.

Any bad composting experiences?

There was one time that we had a bad experience. Someone gave us Peat Moss for the solids bin, and we got some kind of gross flies. They looked like large fruit flies. That was the one and only time we gave the bin a through cleaning. We emptied it as usual, but used a hose and lots of soap and vinegar to clean the inside with a brush. After that, we never used Peat Moss again.

Would we we recommend a composting toilet?

Nature's Head Composting Review

If you’re living in an RV, traveling full-time, and love to be off-grid…YES! I highly suggest it for those reasons. If you plan on being in campgrounds most of the time, probably not. 

When we were renovating the Airstream, we knew we wanted to mainly be off-grid. Having a black tank would require us to go into town at least once a week to dump our tanks. We didn’t want to do that, so we converted our existing black tank into a gray tank (it was new) ,and went with the Nature's Head Composting Toilet.

If we were to do it again, the only thing we would do differently is plumb the urine diverter to go straight into the gray tank. This would save us from having to carry a bucket of our family’s urine to dump every day. Or as Jonathan likes to call it - the WALK OF SHAME!

As you can see, a composting toilet is a nuanced decision that has many pros and cons and tradeoffs. It’s great if you love to boondock for long periods, and enjoy the simplicity of a not having a black tank. But if you stay in RV parks all the time and have access to a sewer hookup it’s probably more trouble that it’s worth. Also keep in mind the size of your family - our family of 6 is pushing it for a single composting toilet, but they are very efficient for 2 people or less.

If you have any other questions about the Nature's Head Composting Toilet, leave them in the comments below and we'll do our best to answer them!

See you down the road!

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https://tinyshinyhome.com/off-grid-homestead-week-one-driveway-storage-water Off-Grid Homestead - Week 1: Driveway, Storage, Water 2020-05-05T00:00:00-05:00 2020-05-05T12:46:03-05:00 Ashley Longnecker https://tinyshinyhome.com/
This post may contain affiliate links or compensated reviews. Please read our disclosure for more info.

It’s hard to believe that we’ve already been here a week. We got so much accomplished and it’s starting to sink in that this is our HOME! We get to live here! It’s all so very exciting.

So, let’s take a look at what we did our first week on the ‘homestead’. Can I call it that? I know it’s not technically a homestead yet, but it will be :)

Outdoor Garage Storage

First order of business was to get our ‘garage’ set up. We desperately needed a place to store tools and all our stuff that has been in the bed of the truck for the last 5 years!

Building Shelter Logic Garage in a Box

We have some friends that we visited in Benson that showed us their Garage-In-A-Box from Shelter Logic. We were so impressed that we decided to go with the same structure. We bought the 20’x12’x8’ Garage-In-A-Box and wasted no time setting it up. In fact, we worked on it the first night we moved here!

The next morning we prepared the site by scraping off the desert vegetation which is actually quite simple to do with their shallow roots. We got it as level as we could and finished setting it up. The hardest part about setting up this Shelter Logic structure is getting it square. Plus, the directions are extremely hard to follow so watching a few YouTube videos about the process was a huge time saver. The kids helped so much on this and we worked so well together, it really got us excited for all our upcoming projects.

Shelter Logic

With the tent set up, and the truck bed empty, it was time to prepare a place for our water tank!

Water Tank Pad Level

Water Tank Storage & Transfer

We ordered a 2600 gallon Enduraplas Tank from Rick Weisberg at Oasis Water Harvesting. These tanks aren’t cheap, but after much research, we wanted to go with a tank that is made to last and Enduraplas fits the bill.

Endurplas Water Tank

While our end goal is rainwater harvesting into several of these large tanks, right now we are set up with a well service down the road that allows us to get as much water as we need for a minimal fee. We haul it ourselves and transfer it into the big tank. It's a great temporary solution that takes a lot of stress off of us trying to find water.

Driveway

And let’s not forget the driveway! We got in touch with a local guy here named Darrell Johnson to get our driveway cut out! He gave me an estimate of 7 hours but he was done in just THREE!

Driveway to Homestead

We are LOVING having a real driveway. He did such a great job and highly recommend him to anyone in Cochise County that needs any site preparation. We will definitely be using him again once we begin building our home.

After seeing it overhead we laughed because it looked so similar to many of the boondocking sites we’ve been to over the last 5 years. 

Having the large loop will be great for any large equipment we bring in plus any friends visiting in their RVs won't haven any trouble maneuvering. We also love the slight curve in the beginning of the drive that gives us some privacy.

Picnic Table & Outdoor Seating

Last but certainly not least, we picked up a wooden picnic table at Lowe’s because our outside situation is getting out of control. We really, really needed a place to set things down, and a place to sit outside that wasn’t in our camp chairs. We are dreaming of the day we can splurge on a couple zero gravity chairs, but until then, we have a picnic table.

Not just any picnic table though. The kids and I sanded this down (by hand because we don’t have a good sander yet) and I thought it would be super fun for them to draw all over it. A little keepsake if you will.

Lowe's Picnic Table

We traced everyone’s hand, and the rest was up to them. I absolutely love how it turned out. We added a protective stain also purchased at Lowe’s called Cabot Australian Timber Oil. This will be a good test to see how well wood will hold up here in the Arizona sun.

Our first week here has been one for the books. We are exhausted, but in the best way. We have so much to learn about the land, the wildlife, and how to live in this climate, but we are willing and ready. It’s been so fun to watch the kids explore this new place and really dig into all things desert.

Let’s just ignore the fact that by 1:00 we’re literally roasting inside :) Think cold thoughts and send them our way. We’re now accepting donations for bags of ice. We are officially desert dwellers!

Next up, we start researching, planning, and prioritizing what in the world we do next out here. 

Let us know what you think our next project should be in the comments!

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https://tinyshinyhome.com/we-are-home We Are Home! 2020-04-28T00:00:00-05:00 2020-04-28T13:05:06-05:00 Ashley Longnecker https://tinyshinyhome.com/
This post may contain affiliate links or compensated reviews. Please read our disclosure for more info.

After 5 years of full-time travel, 5 months of searching, waiting, planning, and preparing…we are finally home.

Just typing that fills my eyes with tears. Sad to close our full-time travel adventure, but happy to begin this homestead journey as a family. Driving here last Saturday was so emotional. 

We waited so long for this, and the day had finally come.

We pulled onto the property in the early afternoon and by sunset we had cleared the weeds on both sides of the Airstream (just in case the reflection decided to start a fire), and prepared our first meal on our own land.

Our ‘home life’ doesn’t really look much different, honestly. We’re still technically boondocking as we haven’t set up our water tank yet and we’re still running off the power of the sun. But living on our own land and being able to trim up trees, cut the grass, and plan our future feels so, so good.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking back on the last 5 years and looking through old photos. It's so fun to see how our lives have drastically changed from the moment we said yes to full time travel.

House For Sale

Yes, we’ve seen so much, and traveled so far, but there’s still so much left to see. 

Kidspeace

Even though we are ‘home’, the road will always be a part of us. Adventure is embedded deep in our soul, and curiosity runs through our blood. It's who we are now. We are just taking a different turn down a new road.

Home in Arizona

Thank you for being a part of our family’s journey. We are happy to share this new adventure with you!

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https://tinyshinyhome.com/owning-the-land-and-marking-our-driveway Owning the Land & Marking Our Driveway 2020-04-21T00:00:00-05:00 2020-04-21T18:13:20-05:00 Ashley Longnecker https://tinyshinyhome.com/
This post may contain affiliate links or compensated reviews. Please read our disclosure for more info.

Can you believe it? We are officially land owners! 

We searched for several weeks back in December for a place to build our own sustainable off-grid homestead, and boy did we find a gem. 

We got connected to a realtor in Cochise County and she helped us search all of the RU-4 properties in the area we were interested in. We found some properties that would do just fine, but we weren’t excited about them. It wasn’t until we came across this piece of land that everything just clicked. Except for one major issue. It was not zoned RU-4.

This began our long journey of re-zoning the property with the county. The planning and zoning department of Cochise County have been a huge help to us. They helped us find the correct forms to fill out and we went through the process of submitting our application for re-zoning, paying the fees, waiting, attending the meeting, waiting, and attending the last and final zoning meeting where we were approved for re-zoning.

Shew, we’ve fought hard for this land and it was worth it. Now comes the fun part.

Now that we own the land, what's next?

Well, before we can move out here, we have to get our permits. And before we get our permits, we have to submit our house plans, and before we submit our houseplant we have to have our septic plan and the septic test holes dug.

Well, check, check, and almost check.

We’ve had our septic test holes dug and we’ve created our house plans and submitted them to the county. Now, we wait the allotted 5-10 business days before we have our permits in hand.

It's so nice having Jonathan be able to draw out our land to scale on the computer so we can really begin to picture what will be where. It makes moving things a bit easier as well.

Site Plan

With 11 acres, we knew we wanted our house to be as close to the middle of the land as possible. There are 4 lots attached to ours that we hope to buy eventually, which would give us plenty of room to spread out and lots of room for animals! In the event that we aren’t able to purchase the extra 4 lots, we’ll still be in the middle of our 11 acres which will allow us to have plenty of privacy.

Now that we have the site plan and measurements, we were able to take those plans to the land and start measuring, staking, and putting up line to mark our driveway. Let me tell you, if the stores do not have proper landscaping stakes, DO NOT use shims. HA! We knew it wasn’t the best idea, but they didn’t have any stakes when we needed them. Let’s just say, that didn’t work.

Our second day out at the property we were armed with the proper stakes and twine to lay out the driveway. This worked much better. We also picked up a measuring wheel that was a game changer! This allowed us to walk the length of the driveway and mark where the top of the loop will be. We also were able to measure the width of the driveway much faster with the wheel, as well as double check measurements from our property lines.

We also splurged and purchased a Gorilla Cart

Gorilla Cart

This thing is a beast! It can hold 1200 lbs which will come in handy when we begin building our home! I know we'll be using this thing all the time. From moving rocks and limbs, mixing cement, and even just hauling out all our supplies while we marked the driveway. It was a huge help and worth every penny.

Armed with plenty of stakestwine, and water, we finally finished marking the driveway…after the 4th attempt. We walked it several times checking our measurements, and once we were set on it, we took the twine down and left up the stakes. This way when the free range cattle come back, they won’t be dragging our line and stakes everywhere (again).

After the driveway was finished we marked out where we’ll park the Airstream and where our fresh water tank will go. Eventually we hope to build a massive rainwater catchment system, but for now, we’ll have it hauled in when we need it.

Tiny Shiny Homestead

We don’t have any plans to go back out to the property until our permits are in hand and we have the approval to move the Airstream there. The countdown is on. We should be out there on or before May 1st! Then the real fun begins!

We just want to say thank you, again. So many have reached out and encouraged us and asked us how we're doing with this transition. It means so much to us to have you cheering us on from all over the country. Thank you!

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https://tinyshinyhome.com/boondocking-truck-garage What's In Our Truck? 2020-04-13T00:00:00-05:00 2020-04-20T11:35:59-05:00 Jonathan Longnecker https://tinyshinyhome.com/
This post may contain affiliate links or compensated reviews. Please read our disclosure for more info.

As you may know by now, there are 6 of us living full time in our renovated vintage Airstream. And while we built a ton of storage in the process, most of it houses our personal belongings.

But what about all the gear, tools, and utility type stuff? We use our 2017 F250 as our "truck garage."

Let's take a look at the tools and products we keep in our truck for full-time travel and how we organize them.

Front Seat Area

Bag Podz in Front F250

Up front, we like to keep things as clutter-free as possible. Partially because we don't want anything of value visible, but also because with a bench seat and 3 people - it's just cramped!First up let's talk about phone mounts and chargers. Our phones are always mounted where we can see them since we use them for directions, podcasts, and music. The Kenu Airframe+ Vent Car Mount Phone Holder is super simple mount that connects to your air vent and uses a spring loaded clip to hold it in place. We love that it doesn't require adhesives or any sort of permanent change to your vehicle to make it work. In addition, we're still opting to keep charging simple by using high quality cables and high powered car chargers. The Aukey USB C PD Fast Charger lets us quickly charge our iPhone 11's, but is also backwards compatible for older iPads or devices with the USB A port.We also keep a first aid kit and some extra fuses for the truck. And of course, our BagPodz reusable shopping bags. We seriously love them!

Back Seat Storage

F250 Under Back Seat Storage

The back seat is also pretty clutter free, but thankfully our truck has a decent amount of storage both behind and under the seats. We always carry an IceMule cooler for transporting ice and taking food on long hikes. And having a roadside emergency kit and flashlight are important. Our Viair Portable Air Compressor lets us air up our tires on both the truck and Airstream in a pinch (super handy if you have to air them down for a sandy or muddy road).

Have we mentioned we love hammocks!? We have a bunch of Eno hammocks that we use whenever we can. Make sure you use a heavy duty strap suspension system and properly rated carabeaners so you don't break your butt...

Bed of the Truck

Now this is where the goods are! And by the way...we're only telling you what's in the bed of the truck because it will all be out of there very soon as we move onto our property in a couple weeks. 

We have three boxes that fit perfectly underneath the canister of our RETRAX Rolling Bed Cover. Seriously, if you're looking for a great rolling cover, we highly recommend this one! 

Box One

Box one has items left over from the renovation like VHB Tape and Primer from installing our solar panels on the roof. 

We also have extra gaskets and seals for our windows and doors and the magic sauce for Airstream renovation...TremPro! We used SO MANY tubes of TremPro on all our rivets and seals. When we had the interior walls out we had to replace so many buck rivets and we went ahead and sealed them all from the inside! So far it's held up beautifully! 

Oh, and I can't forget the suction cup! This is what allowed us to find all the rivets that needed replaced. From the outside of the Airstream, simply place the suction cup on each rivet. If it slides off easily, that means you the seal is broken and the rivet needs replaced. We probably replaced 85% of the exterior rivets! We also used TremPro on both the interior seams and exterior seams. 3 years later and we're still leak free (knock on wood).

Box Two

The next small box has all our tools needed for changing the oil in our Honda EU2000i Generator. It's really nice to have all this stuff in it's own container because you never know when a bottle of oil may leak.

Box Three

The last small box that goes under the Retrax cover has all we need to maintain our bearings and axles. Having extra seals, dust caps, grease and a grease gun is super important as you really need to be checking your bearings every year for proper maintenance. Throw in the grease packer and you'll be able to quickly replace your own bearings!

Gas Can

JustRite Gas Can

It's incredibly hard to find a gas can these days that doesn't make a huge mess whenever you're pouring into a small opening like your generator. We've been through several plastic safety containers and cursed them every time we used them. This JUSTRITE safety can has been a game changer. Super easy to fill and pour. Yes, it's big, but they do carry several sizes to suit your needs.

Generator

Honda Generator

Though we typically can get by with only solar power, we have found ourselves needing a generator maybe a few times a year. Camping in a rainforest under a dense canopy of trees or during a week of cloudy weather can really drain your batteries quickly. Having a good generator as a back up is a good idea. We bought this Honda EU2000i back in 2015 and we even had the companion model that went with it. That was back when we had our huge 5th wheel and needed more power. This model has been really great for us, but we've definitely heard rumors that the newer 2200 model isn't so great. Just do your research on which model would be best for your situation.

Coco Coir Box

Coco Coir Box for Nature's Head Toilet

We have a Nature's Head Composting Toilet so having a medium for the poo bin is essential. We've tried a few different brands but love this Coco Coir that comes in a large block. It will last us anywhere from 1-3 months depending on if we're using the compost toilet exclusively or if we have access to a bath house. Adding in this scoop makes adding the coco coir much easier and cleaner.

Outdoor Box

This box contains extra shoes, some balls for the kids, and a few outdoor toys. We really don't get to it that often which is why it's in the back.

Pellets

pellet box

Smoked meats are the best meats...is that what they say? We keep a designated box for our wood pellets that we need for our Davy Crockett Green Mountain Grill. They're easy to find at most big box stores or you can even order the pellets on line.

Tool Bag

Tool Bag

Curse this tiny tool bag. While it's great for keeping lots of tools in a tiny space, it's HORRIBLE for accessing them! I can't tell you how many times I've reached in to grab a tool only to be sliced on the dang hack saw! Bad words, I tell you! So many bad words muttered because of this bag.

However, we can store quite a bit in here. Over the years we've accumulated most of what we need to fix anything that goes wrong. Some items that you may have not thought of needing would be copper pipe tools for cutting and flaring if your propane line goes bad (yes, we've already had to do this once). Don't forget the de-burring tool! Having a copper pipe kit like this comes in handy.

You may want to add some rasps to your arsenal. We've needed them from time to time for small jobs.

For plumbing, make sure you have a drain wrench and a basin wrench. We've needed both several times as things will become loose while driving down crazy bumpy roads. I'd even suggest having plumbers putty and a new sink seal on hand. We had to replace ours in a very tiny town and finding what we needed was a huge pain.

A small hatchet for cutting up wood for a camp fire comes in handy.

Of course you should already have things like screwdrivers, drill bits, tape measures, hammers, mallets, and pliers for common problems that may happen.

Solar Ground Deploy

Renogy Solar Ground Deploy

We crammed 500 watts of solar on our roof, but having an extra 200 watts via this Renogy Solar Suitcase that has really saved our batteries, especially in the winter months. All our solar panels are from Renogy and we've had zero issues with them. We love that this ground deploy comes with a suitcase to protect it in the bed of the truck.

Telescoping Ladder

Telescoping Ladder

Having a good ladder on the road can really come in handy. We use this telescopic ladder to be able to tilt our solar panels in the winter months, and to allow us to clean them off easily. This telescoping ladder has been with us for the last 3 years and though it can feel a bit unstable at times, we've never had any issues with it it collapsing on us. Though we probably wouldn't use it if we were permanently stationary, we do love having it with us as we travel full time. Plus, it's on Amazon so delivery is easy!

Interior Box

This next box houses all our interior replacements parts we may need. Once you're on the road for a few years, you really begin to get a feel for what will need replacing after awhile. We keep things like extra Fantastic Fan Vent Screen because when we take them off for cleaning, the tabs holding them in place can occasionally fall off. We've only had this happen once, but we have an extra just in case.

We keep an extra solar display since we've already had to replace it once.

Propane pigtails. These seals tend to go bad because our propane tanks do not have a cover over them. They're always exposed to the elements. However, I just put some UV Protective Tape in our Amazon cart to put over the seals so that may help us not have to replace these every six months or so. Hopefully that works.

We also have little LED replacement lights, too. We got as many as we could because they no longer make them anymore (of course). Because we don't have the lights on a whole bunch, I think our lights will last quite a while in here.

We carry extra push button latches and hinges that we used in our build. You never know when you may need to replace those.

We still have our set of Clecos that we used during our renovation. If you plan on renovating an Airstream, these are a must have item. They make putting in your aluminum walls a breeze as they hold everything in place as you begin to rivet in the walls. Speaking of rivets, we also have a container of all the different rivets we used on the build. We'll never use them all, but it's always nice to have extra laying around.

We do keep an extra fan for our Nature's Head Toilet. I believe we've had to replace it one time so far which is pretty good after using it for 3 years!

When we purchased this Airstream, the previous owner had an extra door latch which came in handy when we were unexpectedly locked in our Airstream due to a broken pin. Thankfully our door is right next to a window so we just needed to pop out our screen and reach around the outside and pull the handle that way. We used the new latch and were back in business. This extra latch just needs to have the pin replaced and it's good to go again.

Keeping extra light bulbs for break lights is a good idea, too. They tend to go out at the most inconvenient times. 12 volt sockets, sail switch for the furnace because we've heard they tend to go bad, extra light switches (or in our case, buttons), and always a random box of crap that we may or may not need down the road.

C-Gear Sand Mat

C-Gear Sand Mat

We LOVE our C-Gear Sand Mat. This actually our second one we've had in the 5 years on the road. They now make RV size which is what we have. Instead of just a large square that sometimes doesn't fit in sites, the RV size that we have is 8x14 and perfect for our size of Airstream. We love that the sand just sifts through the mat, though with our polished Airstream, we have had the sun's reflection melt the mat in a few places. Definitely something to think about if you too have a polished trailer.

Reliance Water Jugs

Rhino Jugs

We have had these two Reliance Water Jugs for 5 years, too! They've held up great and we have zero complaints. We try to always have water with us in case of emergencies. If we had more room, I wouldn't mind having more of these jugs, but two fit so perfectly so that's what we roll with.

Wooden Blocks

This is not necessary, but we have found a couple of 2x10s to come in handy from time to time. We carry quite a few leveling blocks but having these is just an added assurance in very uneven sites.

Easy Access Box

In this box is all the things we get to on a regular basis. It's near the tailgate so that it's super easy to get to. In here we have things like a 30 amp extension cord and a 50 to 30 amp dog bone, the tool for lowering and raising the Airstream stabilizers, an extra sewer cap (don't be without one!), extra bug screens for our furnace (this keeps wasps from making next in your furnace!). This is also where we keep our wheel chocks when we're not using them. We love our vintage chocks that came with the Airstream. They're lockable and work just like X-Chocks which are also a great option for keeping your trailer from rocking. We also have random things like zip ties, and velcro straps that we occasionally need.

Car Wash Bucket

We have to wash our trailer by hand now that it's been polished. It will scratch if you just look at it the wrong way. We keep a bunch of micro fiber towels, some drying towels, and some blue Dawn Dish Soap to wash the trailer with. I also usually add a generous amount of white vinegar to the washing bucket when we're washing the trailer. It really shines it up.

Fresh Water Box

Water Tools

Ahh, this is our precious cargo box...our baby, our love. We actually have a video and blog about everything that's in this box so you can read it here. But I will list all the times for you again.

Green Mountain Pellet Grill - Davy Crocket

Green Mountain Davy Crockett

We LOVE our Green Mountain Grill. It's been with us for a long time and there's nothing better than a smoked burger after a long day of exploring. We smoke anything from burgers and pizza, to breads, pies, and cookies. With the adjustable chimney we are able to keep it in the back of the truck with no problems. We always keep our box of pellets full and ready to go. This Davy Crocket size of grill is their smallest and most portable grill and we are so thankful to our friends @wanderingnation for introducing us to this smokey magic.

Dewalt Drill Set

Dewalt Drill Set

I love these drills. It was actually a gift to me from Jonathan back when we lived at the house. I love building things and I still remember my excitement when I opened it. Even after all these years, they're still working great and we use them very often.

Camp Chef Stove

Camp Chef Stove

We splurged a couple summers ago and bought this Everest Camp Stove at REI. It's come in handy especially during the summer months when we need to cook food but don't want to heat up the inside of the trailer. We even have an attachment that will hook directly to our large propane tanks, but I definitely prefer to use the smaller tank that it's made for.

Camp Chairs

Camp Chairs

Are you even a camper if you don't have a proper camp chair? We have a few of that we bought on Amazon and they're so junky. We tell everyone to get their camp chairs at REI because of their warranty. If it breaks, they'll replace it no questions asked. Perfect for traveling families because we use them so often and there are REI's all over the place which makes finding a replacement easy. Though, we haven't needed to replace any of our REI chairs yet!

REI Portable Table

REI Portable Table

This aluminum table from REI was a great purchase and one that I think anyone would find useful. It's the perfect size for ease of use and portability. And I believe it can hold 100 lbs! It's been a great addition to have with us.

Milk Crate

Occasionally we see these on the side of the road and I've always wanted to grab them. I still remember asking Jonathan to turn around when we spotted this one on the side of the road in Florida back in 2015. We keep our leveling blocks and caps in here as well as this random spray paint can. We spray painted our bright orange blocks and made them a nice matte black so they don't stick out so much in photos. Why didn't we do that 4 years ago? Anyway, it's nice to have a place for all those leveling blocks and they fit perfectly in this crate.

Andersen Levelers

Andersen Levelers

These Andersen Levelers are a game changer! We love how easy they are to use. Just ride up on them and stop once you're level. They'll get you up to a max of 4 inches! These are a must have item for anyone traveling full time!

Heavy Duty Wheel Chocks

Last but certainly not least. Do yourself a favor and get a really good set of heavy duty rubber wheel chocks. Use them every time you set up. The last thing you need is your trailer rolling down the hill into a lake or tree :)

Shew...what a list! We hope seeing what we keep for traveling full time and boondocking helps you decide what you may need for your big adventure. As always, if you have any questions please leave them in the comments below and we'll do our best to answer them. Until next time, we'll see you down the road!

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https://tinyshinyhome.com/re-zoning-update-the-final-approval Re-Zoning Update - The Final Approval 2020-04-08T00:00:00-05:00 2020-04-08T11:39:37-05:00 Jonathan Longnecker https://tinyshinyhome.com/
This post may contain affiliate links or compensated reviews. Please read our disclosure for more info.

Friends, it's been a long saga. What started with us looking for off-grid property in SouthEast Arizona turned into us finding a beautiful piece of land that wasn't zoned right for what we wanted to do. That turned into a 5 month long ordeal trying to re-zone property we didn't own yet, dealing with long government processes and a global pandemic slowing things down.

Did we get approved for re-zoning?

Here's how it went down. Because of COVID-19, all meetings were moved to online or teleconferencing. So we had to call in to hear the results in real time.

There were 20 some-odd items on the agenda and were #12. We thought for sure it would take forever to get to us, but they started the meeting by voting on items 1-8 simultaneously! Oh dang. We're moving along now.

The next 3 items were liquor licenses for businesses and they all went very quickly with minimal explanation or discussion. All approved.

Then it got to us. Immediately, everything changed. The representative from Planning & Zoning launched into a very detailed 5+ minute presentation for the board about our specific re-zoning. It wasn't all positive, even though we had been approved by their board the previous month.

We were freaking out. We had no idea what to expect. Then two of the three board members actually took the time to say that they loved what we were doing. They understood that the area we are trying to re-zone was supposed to be a subdivision 30+ years ago, but it never happened. And that by purchasing multiple lots and combining them into larger 4+ acre lots, downzoning to the RU-4 designation made a lot of sense and was good for the area.

Then it came time for the votes. In all the excitement, two of the members said "Aye" at the same time so we weren't sure what happened. But our motion was unanimously passed!

We have officially been approved to downzone this SR-43 11 acre parcel to RU-4 so we can take advantage of the Owner Builder Opt-Out!

Of course, we had to jump on some video calls with our friends and family to celebrate :)

Now that we have approval, we can move forward with the purchase of the property and submit our house plans so we can start living there in our Tiny Shiny Home while we work the land.

Here's what the next month looks like for us:

  1. Get survey completed for closing
  2. Close on property so it's in our name
  3. Get septic test holes dug and septic plan submitted
  4. Submit our single family residence plans + septic + RV permit
  5. Work through any permit changes, get approved, move to property!
  6. Immediately start working on a water solution
Spring Time in Arizona

So as you can see, we still have so many steps before we can move on to the property, but we are officially out of our holding pattern! Thanks for all your notes of encouragement as we've been going through this process - it means so much to us.

Keep an eye out - more updates coming soon!

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https://tinyshinyhome.com/building-an-off-grid-homestead-water Building an Off-Grid Homestead: Water Options 2020-03-31T00:00:00-05:00 2020-03-31T11:30:42-05:00 Ashley Longnecker https://tinyshinyhome.com/
This post may contain affiliate links or compensated reviews. Please read our disclosure for more info.

Typically, when you think of a homestead you picture grassy fields, lots of trees and fertile ground. Ours will look quite a bit different out in the high desert of southeastern Arizona.

We have so many big plans for this piece of land, but the big question right now is WHAT DO WE DO FIRST?

Let’s just pretend for a moment that the property has been re-zoned and it’s finally ours. Now what?

  • Should we worry about water first?
  • Do we install fencing first to keep out the free range cattle?
  • What about a storage shed for tools and equipment we’ll need to work on the property?
  • Will we need more solar power?

We have been boondocking for so long it’s no problem for us to pull up to the land and park our trailer. However, there are a few things that will make this a bit more challenging. Let’s start with our water options.

Drill a Well

Drill a Well

Now before we get started let's talk about why drilling a well is not an option for us in our area. Most people tend to drill for their water on a 'normal' homestead - however, there is a lot of agriculture nearby the property that is drying up everyone's wells. You could easily spend $5-$30K on drilling, but there’s no guarantee that you won’t need to re-drill in a few years. For this reason, a well was never a really option for us, but let's talk about the options we do have.

1. Haul Water in Ourselves

Option 1 Haul Ourselves

This is what we do when we're boondocking, but on a much smaller scale. This seemed like the most logical solution, but with being 40 minutes from town, we're looking at other options. 

While the cost upfront cost is reasonable (under $2,000), it doesn't make sense during this time of trying to avoid crowds and practicing social distancing. Plus we'd be spending way too much valuable time hauling water each week when we could be working.

2. Rainwater Catchment

Option 2 Water Catchment

Our ultimate goal is rainwater catchment. I’ve been sold on this option for so long, and though it’s a much pricier option, over time it would be much more self-sustaining for us. Now I know what you’re thinking. Arizona? Rainwater? I know! Hear me out.

With an average rainfall of 12 inches a year, and most of that falling in just 2.5 months out of the year, we’d need a lot of water catchment surface as well as lots of storage. What I would love to do is build a rainwater roof similar to Derek’s, but we’d need several 2600 gallon totes to get us through a year of our water needs. With all the other projects we need to do up front, that's going to have to wait a bit longer before we make this huge investment.

According to my calculations, I could build the roof for around $2,000, but the totes are whats’ so expensive. For 4 storage tanks, it’s around $7600 and that would give us 10,400 gallons of water for the year. Now…this is on the low side of our water needs, but I think we could make this work.

This estimate of course doesn’t include all the PVC to run the water where we need it, or connect the tanks, or the pump to get the water from one tank to our Airstream. It’s definitely a pricy option, but one that we could do in stages if we needed to. We could build a smaller roof with the ability to add on to it eventually, and we could start with only two tanks instead of four and just connect them later. It’s just a lot more complicated to do it that way. 

While our end goal is rain water catchment - at this time - we're going to have to find a cheaper option.

3. Water Delivery

Option 3 Water Delivery

The last option is to buy a smaller 1500 gallon water storage tank and have water delivered to us. Just this week we found a local who will deliver water to us 1500 gallons at a time. Score! 

With an upfront cost of about $1,300, and only $65/delivery, this option would take us 12 years to add up to what we would need to invest in our rain water catchment system.  

This seems like the most logical solution for what we need to get started. It's a great in-between solution that will allow us to store water for month(s) at a time with a relatively low investment.

--

So as you can see, there are so many options to choose from, and this is just the water! We still have a whole slew of other things to figure out along the way. We’re excited about learning so many new things and sharing what we learn with all of you!

We’ve been able to find a few other people out here who are doing similar projects so it’s been good to learn from them. We’ll be documenting the whole process in order to help others who are wanting to do something similar in a desert climate.

Thank you for following along on this crazy journey of ours. We're excited to share this new adventure with you.

And of course, if you have another idea for our water, let us know in the comments!

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https://tinyshinyhome.com/kids-favorite-books-games Our Kids Favorite Books & Games for Being Stuck Inside 2020-03-24T00:00:00-05:00 2020-03-26T16:30:17-05:00 Jonathan Longnecker https://tinyshinyhome.com/
This post may contain affiliate links or compensated reviews. Please read our disclosure for more info.

I can't believe how much our kids have grown since we started traveling full-time! It's been amazing to see each of them grow up to have their own interests, hobbies, and passions.

With everyone stuck inside for the foreseeable future, we thought it would be fun to ask them what games, books, and products they would recommend to other kids who may be getting bored with nowhere to go.

I'll mention a few global items, and then share each kids' personal favorites below.

Article Overview

  1. Nintendo Switch
  2. iPad Apps + Family Sharing + Apple Services
  3. Books
  4. Board Games, Card Games & Art Supplies

Nintendo Switch

The Nintendo Switch is a fantastic portable gaming system. We spend a lot of time camping off-grid, so we appreciate that it's a battery-powered hand held system and doesn't use a ton of energy.

The Switch has great support for multiple accounts so each kid (or adult) can keep their progress for each game - and with the Nintendo Switch Online Family Account, all that progress gets backed up to the cloud just in case something bad happens.

Some games also support multi-player! By adding a few more controllers we can do a 4 player run in Mario Kart. Granted, the screen is pretty small for that. But it's totally possible.

It can come with us on long drive days, and with the dock we can hook it up to any TV with HDMI. There's been several times we took it to a hotel or a friend's house, and it was so much fun.

This case makes it easy to transport all the pieces, and this cable lets you keep it charged in your vehicle.

By adding a huge SD card, you can store all your games on the Switch without having to carry a bunch of cartridges around which is awesome when you have 4 kids using it regularly.

All in all, it's a really well thought out system, and as you'll see below, each of our children has a different game on it they really love.

Nintendo switch super smash bros

Adali's Favorite Switch Game - Super Smash Bros Ultimate

Adali - "Super Smash Bros is a fun multiplayer game that you can play on one or more Switch. There are so many characters to unlock, no two battles are the same."

"If you have a chance to play on a TV do it. It’s way more fun when you can clearly see what’s happening, especially on the levels that are always moving!"

Nintendo switch legend of zelda botw

Jett's Favorite Switch Game - The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Jett - "The Legend of Zelda (BOTW if you will) is one of the best games I’ve played on the Switch. I like it because it gives you the freedom to do what YOU want to do. Want to go to all the shrines? You can do that! Want to get all the bosses done? You can do that, too! Want to kill Ganon first try? Sure! (Though you probably shouldn’t do that.)"

"It's an epic masterpiece!"

Nintendo switch rocket league

Jax's Favorite Switch Game - Rocket League

Jax - "Rocket League lets you build your own car and play soccer with it in crazy arenas. Sounds weird, but it's so much fun!"

Nintendo switch mario odyssey

Ada's Favorite Switch Game - Super Mario Odyssey

Ada - "Super Mario Odyssey is such, such, such a fun Switch game. Multiplayer is the funnest with a friend! Hope you like it - also you get to be a T-Rex!"


iPad Apps + Family Sharing + Apple Services

For many years, even though we had multiple Apple devices, we all shared my single iTunes account for purchases. This was fine until everyone started to like different music, movies, and games. What? How dare they have their own opinions 😂!

After tons of research, we finally pulled the trigger on Family Sharing + Apple Music + Apple Arcade.

The first thing I had to do was setup a family account, and then add the kids as Children accounts. Here I was able to setup "Ask to Buy," which is a cool feature that notifies you when your kid wants to buy or download an app, and asks your for permission right from your device. So instead of a bunch of texts about a game, I just get a notification that I can approve or deny.

We're doing a trial of Apple Music, and I think it's the thing the kids have loved the most. Instead of just seeing the music I've bought on iTunes now they can create their own libraries. It's been pretty cool to see them really dig into the styles and bands they like individually.

Finally, Apple Arcade. When it first came out, I was pretty impressed. The fact that you got access to some incredible games without any in-app purchases or ads was fantastic. However, as time has gone on and new games have come out, I'm not sure if we'll stay subscribed. Within the past several months, there's only been one or two games the kids are interested in, and they're being released so slowly we just aren't that excited about it anymore. It's only $5/mo so we're hanging on a bit longer for now.

Obviously the key to all this working is that each child has their own device - we went with iPads so they had plenty of room on the screen for reading, learning, and yes, gaming. We bought our iPads 4 years ago, and they are all still going strong. If you want a really robust tablet that will last for years, the iPad is a good bet.

Ok, enough of me! Let's hear from the kids, starting from oldest to youngest.

Ipad machiniarium

Adali's Favorite iPad Games - Samorost 3, Machinarium and Botanicula

Adali - "Samorost 3, Machinarium and Botanicula are three of my favorite games on the iPad. They’re made by Amanita Design, they’re all puzzle games with funny stories and silly characters. I love the art and design, and how much they make me think."


Ipad strangers wrath

Jett's Favorite iPad Game - ODDWORLD: Stranger's Wrath

Jett - "ODDWORLD: Stranger's Wrath is one of my top favorite games to play on my iPad. In this game you play as the STRANGER, hiding a dark secret, you try to get enough moola (yes moola) by bagging all the bad guys, beating the bosses, getting more moola...and in the middle of all that you get a mysterious phone call..."

"This game is my favorite because my dad played it first on our old TV back in our house. Good memories :)"


Ipad minecraft

Jax's Favorite iPad Game - Minecraft

Jax - "I love that with Minecraft you can create whatever you want, and play multiplayer with your friends and family."

Ipad pixel art

Ada's Favorite iPad Game - Pixel Art

Ada - "Pixel Art is a color by number app, and they have new art every day! There are easy ones, medium ones, and really hard ones. It's super fun, and you can create your own pixel art, too!"


Books

Apps and games are fun, but we all know how important it is to read and learn. Our kids have found a deep love for reading on the road, and we can't even keep track of all the books they read.

While we would prefer them to have all physical books, turns out they take up too much room and add too much weight for living in an RV. Thankfully there are many great options for either buying or renting books for your tablet.

iBooks

Since we're talking iOS, iBooks is a great online bookstore that integrates nicely with the iPad. The pricing can be a little expensive, so make sure to check other places first.

Amazon Kindle

The Kindle reader is also a really nice option, especially if you have an Amazon Prime account. Books bought on Amazon get synced with your reader so you can read whenever you like. Amazon is much better about running discounts or sales on books, too so often it can be cheaper.

Libby

Libby is an app that lets you connect your local library account and rent books virtually. This is by far the option we use most because 4 kids + lots of books = $$$. It's great that they can rent online, but the only downside is that they enforce artificial limits that mimic how a physical library works. So once a book is checked out, no one else can check it out. This can cause long wait times and frustration especially if you are hoping to read the next book in a series.

But overall, our kids use Libby all the time and enjoy how many books it's allowed them to read.

Now let's see what each of their favorite books are.

Books rangers wonder fun jungle

Adali's Favorite Books - Ranger's Apprentice, Wonder, & Fun Jungle

Adali - "Rangers Apprentice is a great series if you like knights, castles, and evil Lords. There’s lots of action but there’s also lots of jokes. I read them a while back and really enjoyed them."

"Wonder is another great book that I ended up reading right before the movie came out. It’s about a boy that was born with some health problems, so he looks a little different then others. The book and the movie are very emotional, but its still an amazing book. "

"Stuart Gibbs has a lot of good books, but I think my favorite series might be the Fun Jungle series. Of course, they’re all mysteries, except these are about animals because it all happens in a zoo. I learned lots of interesting facts, like did you know at one point there were only five white rhinos left in the world? At the end of each book there is a website you can visit to donate money and help animals around the world. Pretty cool."


Books percy jackson warriors moonbase alpha

Jett's Favorite Books - Percy Jackson, Maze Runner, The Warriors, & Moonbase Alpha

Jett - "Percy Jackson is one of my favorite book series ever (a close second, Wings of Fire is the best!). This series is action packed, sarcastic, and has great humor for all ages! I like this book because, well, it’s hilarious!"

"The Maze Runner Series is number four on my book list, but it’s also a action packed book filled with gruesome parts, but captivating. I like this series because it made me feel a lot of different emotions, wich doesn’t happen a lot!"

"The Warrior Series is very long, but it’s fun, sort of kiddish friendly, has some murder mystery and fighting, but still fun to read! I like this book series because it is the longest book series I’ve ever read, but also because it’s super addicting to read."

"The Moonbase Alpha books are really good! Made by the same guy who made the Fun Jungle series and the Spy School series, one of my top 10 favorites. Filled with murder and mystery (and possibly aliens?) I love this series because 1. I like outer space and 2., the last book made me feel sad and happy at the same time."

Books voyage of frostheart

Jax's Favorite Book - The Voyage of the Frostheart

Jax - "I’m still reading The Voyage of the Frostheart, but so far it’s a great book with really cool illustrations."

Books wings of fire

Ada's Favorite Books - Wings of Fire

Ada - "Wings of Fire is an amazing series! If you read it you will not regret it - trust me it’s an awesome book series about dragons. There's even a graphic novel version that are cool. Hope you enjoy it as much as I do!"

Board Games, Card Games & Art Supplies

Technology is pretty amazing, but even better? Spending time face to face with your family, and using your hands to create something physical. Since we can't do a lot of hiking or exploring right now, there have been plenty of family game nights.

These are our kids favorites.

Monoply nation parks

Adali's Favorite Board Game - Monopoly National Parks Edition

Adali - "Everyone’s heard of Monopoly, but have you heard of Monopoly National Parks Edition? Instead of buying land you buy National Parks! It’s fun to see the places you’ve visited or planning on visiting soon. The property cards even have short descriptions about the Parks!"

*Note - this currently seems to be out of stock everywhere. Hopefully it'll be back soon.

Exploding kittens

Jett's Favorite Card Game - Exploding Kittens

Jett - "Said to be the biggest kick-starter game in history (so far), Exploding Kittens is fun, mildly gross and hilarious all at the same time. I like this game because it can be expanded to a 10 player game, so that means all of us can play! (P.S. Make sure you get all the expansion packs!)"

Exiled legends

Jax's Favorite Board Game - Exiled Legends

Jax - "Exiled Legends is a board game with a bunch of cool art on each card. It’s kind of confusing, and you need 5 players, but it’s so much fun. It’s kind of like a fighting game."

Unstable unicorns

Ada's Favorite Card Game - Unstable Unicorns

Ada - "Unstable Unicorns is a really fun game especially with all the different extensions you can add. The rule book literally says 'Build a unicorn army. Betray your friends. Unicorns are your friends now.' It’s SO FUN! Sometimes cruel, but mostly fun."

Jax art supplies

Jax's Favorite Art Supplies

In case you hadn't noticed a theme with all Jax's responses, he's really into drawing and art :) So in addition to what's above, he also picked all his favorite art supplies!

Dowswin Sketch Set: Jax - "I have this art set that I use all the time. It’s really good cause of how small it rolls up and because it has 29 tools! I don’t know about you, but that’s a pretty good deal."

Alvin Draft-Matic Mechanical Pencil: Jax - "This mechanical pencil is super good because it comes with a jar of lead and it’s super light it’s a great pencil for artists."

Copic Multiliner Marker: Jax - "This is a pen that’s made from the Copic company. I like this pen because it can be used in a bunch of different sizes. I got the .01 size and it works really well."

Finishing Up

Whew! That got a little out of hand! We hope each and every one of you are staying safe and healthy out there during these crazy times - and that maybe you'll grab a card game or two and make some memories with your family while you're cooped up.

Until next time, friends!

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https://tinyshinyhome.com/three-years-in-our-tiny-shiny-home Three Years In Our Tiny Shiny Home 2020-03-18T00:00:00-05:00 2020-03-18T17:30:38-05:00 Ashley Longnecker https://tinyshinyhome.com/
This post may contain affiliate links or compensated reviews. Please read our disclosure for more info.

Yesterday we celebrated living in this tiny home of our for three whole years! Three years! Is that even real? I remember pulling away from my parent’s driveway like it was just yesterday.

Six long months of renovating this Airstream into our off-grid, boondocking machine. And looking back at photos…I cannot believe how much the kids have changed in such a short amount of time. It makes me both sad and super happy to see the difference just three years makes. Look at how little they were!!

2017 Kids in Airstream

This tiny, shiny home has taken us on so many adventures. We never knew just how much this little home on wheels would change our family’s future. It’s brought us closer together (literally) as a family, and has given us the joy and freedom to call many places home. From beaches, to forests, to mountains and deserts. This Airstream has been the critical turning point for us as a family.

Kids in Airstream 2020

She’s been our shelter during the storms and a safe, comfortable place to rest and reset after our days' adventures. So much love and care has gone into this home. So many memories wrapped up in this hunk of aluminum.

If this home could talk, I think she’d say…thank you. “Thank you for fixing my broken pieces and making them beautiful. Thank you for giving me another chance to adventure and live this life of freedom.”

Vintage Airstream in Arizona

Without these last three years, we likely would have never been inspired to buy an off grid property. We probably would have given up on traveling without the ability to camp for free. We may have even settled back into a life in the city and became your suburban neighbor. But because of this Airstream, and because of our dream, we found who we are and where we want to be.

We are freedom seekers. We believe in the impossible. And we are a family who doesn’t give up on their dreams. Cheers to many more memory making moments in this tiny, shiny home of ours. And thank YOU for following along on our journey.

Want to see all the places our Airstream took us last year? Watch this video!

We are freedom seekers. We believe in the impossible. And we are a family who doesn’t give up on their dreams. Cheers to many more memory making moments in this tiny, shiny home of ours. And thank YOU for following along on our journey.

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https://tinyshinyhome.com/re-zoning-update-did-we-get-approved Re-Zoning Update - Did We Get Approved? 2020-03-17T00:00:00-05:00 2020-03-17T10:49:06-05:00 Ashley Longnecker https://tinyshinyhome.com/
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Our first official meeting for attempting to re-zone the property in Cochise County was March 11th. Jonathan wrote quite the impressive presentation complete with power point slides, because he's an over achiever like that.

We were feeling pretty good after watching the first 3 people breeze through their re-zoning with no problems. Then it was our turn.

After Jonathan made his presentation to the board they asked if anyone was there to speak up about it. One person was there in opposition, and they spoke to the board.

From what we can tell, they just don't want people coming in and re-zoning residential property to rural property. Which we understand, but we are right across the street from several other RU-4 properties so we think it makes sense in our case.

This whole area is divided into 1 acre parcels. It was meant to be a big subdivision back in the 70's, but never took off. Mostly because there is no water in the area. People are buying several one acre parcels and combining them into larger lots. All the houses around (we can see 2 from the property) are already set on at least 4 acres.

If there were homes on every one acre lot out there it would be a disaster. We feel like we'd be helping out the area by having 11 acres and only one residence on the lot. This would allow us to have lots of open area for animals, gardens, and to preserve the desert landscape.

Anyway, the good news is the board still approved us by a vote of 4-2. But we're not celebrating yet...

Our next meeting is set for April 7th where the approval recommendation will go before the county board.

At this meeting people have another chance to oppose the re-zoning and the same person already told us they'll be at that meeting too.

Thankfully we've talked to them and they actually seem quite nice. They're not at all opposed to what we want to do on the property - they just don't want it re-zoned to rural.

With the Coronavirus causing all the things to be shut down, there's a chance this meeting will be postponed. Which would be a huge setback for us timing-wise, but we understand the need to keep everyone safe and healthy. So we'll see how it goes.

We just wanted to say thank you to all of you who have texted, emailed and checked on us during this time. It means so much to us to have you rooting for us. We can't wait to see what happens next.

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https://tinyshinyhome.com/property-update-meeting-the-neighbors Property Update - Meeting the Neighbors 2020-03-10T01:00:00-05:00 2020-03-10T10:56:40-05:00 Ashley Longnecker https://tinyshinyhome.com/
This post may contain affiliate links or compensated reviews. Please read our disclosure for more info.

It's March, and you know what that means?!?! Our re-zoning meeting is fast approaching (March 11) and we're so anxious. We've put a lot of thought, time, and some money into this property, and we are just hoping it will all work out in the end.

We've written our speech that Jonathan will be presenting to hopefully ease the mind of those who have spoken up against our application to re-zone. It's good. I can't read through it without my eyes watering. He has a way with words and I'm just so incredibly proud of him and all his hard work to get us to this point.

I've been overwhelmed with fear and anxiety up to this point, but now I just feel a sense of calmness.

Even if this property doesn't work out, I have no doubt that we'll be able to find another, but I'm really pulling for this one. It's just so perfect for what we want to do.

Last week we had the opportunity to meet up with some families in the area. Everyone has been so helpful in answering questions, sharing advice, and encouraging us. It just feels like the kind of community we want to be a part of. We're so looking forward to having a place to host friends, neighbors, and family.

While we walked the property one more time, we were really trying to pay attention to all the details.

Taking note of the trees, the yucca, the cactus, the mysterious mounds with holes that we can't seem to figure out what kind of animal they belong to.

We're still trying to find the best place to park the Airstream (you know, if we end up with the land) but haven't quite decided the best place for it.

We're ready! Ready to work. Ready to make this place our home. Ready to create our own little oasis and to share the entire process with you.

Thank you for following along on our new adventure! We'll keep updated as things progress.

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https://tinyshinyhome.com/everything-is-breaking Everything is Breaking! 2020-03-09T00:00:00-05:00 2020-03-22T11:07:05-05:00 Ashley Longnecker https://tinyshinyhome.com/
This post may contain affiliate links or compensated reviews. Please read our disclosure for more info.

It's hard to believe that in just a few short days we'll be celebrating 3 years of living in our Tiny Shiny Home! But with the nearly 90,000 miles we've driven this little home on wheels, everything is starting to break.

Maybe you recall our expensive month of January having to fix packrat damage in the truck and then our wheel almost falling off causing us to have to replace both axels! Now our solar display is acting a fool and since that's how we know how much solar is coming in, we kind of need one that works!

With a quick search on Amazon we found that the company doesn't make the exact same model anymore. Of course not! That would be way too easy. So we bought their new solar display and knew we'd need to make a few minor adjustments.

This video condenses a couple hours of finagling into a short clip for you to see how 'easy' it was to replace :)

While it definitely works, you can see in the video that the display seems to be stuck in a weird infinite looping scroll! We have reached out to Amazon and have a replacement on the way to see if it fixes the problem.

We'll post an update with more info soon!

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