Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Shipping Containers - Tiny Home Option

Two 20 feet shipping containers
I am still trying to decide the best option for housing on my land. I've looked at modulars, RV's, log cabins and more. Today, I went to look at shipping containers.  The idea of using shipping containers as homes is hard to imagine for some people. But I've seen plenty of examples of beautiful living spaces that began as a shipping container.

Baltimore - An Endless Supply of Shipping Containers

A good thing about living just barely outside of Baltimore City is that it is a port city. And shipping containers come in an endless supply.  Not long ago, my daily commute included driving past a shipping container and temporary office company.  So today, I stopped by there.  What I had in mind was checking out the price of one of those "mobile office" boxes.  I was thinking that if I choose to tear down The Shack and replace it with something that takes a bit to build, I'd have shelter in one of these little offices (imagine a small guard shack - the small offices are similar to those).  One of those small mobile offices should be easy to haul on to and off of my property.  Or I could use it for a shed when I'm finished living in it. Right? 

But that thinking was derailed as soon as I walked into the Wilmot Modular Structures office and met Lori.  

Lori was thrilled to talk to someone who didn't think using a shipping container as housing was odd.  In fact, she'd love to have her own shipping container home.  But that's her story and she should tell you her story. Back to mine.  I told her that I had considered shipping containers for a home, but I was too inexperienced to cut the windows and doors, and such.

"We do that for you" she said. And she happily showed me a shipping container that was being worked on and the plans she has worked up for several other shipping container abodes. 

I apologize to you that my only photograph of my adventure today was of a pair of the "many trip" containers.  I wanted a reminder about size.  Which reminds me - Lori talked to me about making sure to purchase a "one trip" container. That is a container that has only been shipped to the states once. They are in almost new condition, as I could easily see. I just wish I had taken photos of some of the one trippers. 

My Piece of Land and Situation

We chatted about several of my concerns about my lot... the drive up to my lot is a major concern. The road is nicely maintained, but it is a gravel road with switchbacks.  Long loads may not make it past the curves. Also, my lot is steeply sloped.  A fork lift or crane may be hard to get down to my spot.  

But the great news is that I could stack two or three shipping containers on top of each other. And doing that would most certainly get me high enough to see over the top of my lot... giving me a 360 degree, long range view.  Ah, heaven. I could place a smaller container on top of a larger container, and have a second story patio.  I could do so many things with this.

Small Homes and Big Decisions

I have so many decisions to make. And I think I'm still leaning strongly toward the log cabin on wheels.  But the containers are exceedingly tempting. Especially when you read what others have to say about their shipping container homes.

If you are at all interested in shipping containers for living space there are several awesome video tours to see, but this video is a must see:

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Tiny House, Big Living Review

Tiny House, Big Living
I find that I've said "I don't know why I waited so long" in my reviews on more than one occasion. This is another occasion. I have purchased my very first television show from Amazon and I'm thrilled I did. I purchased episode 4 of Tiny House, Big Living season 1. I feel a series binge coming on and I am pausing just long enough to tell you about this show.

Tiny House, Big Living on HGTV

I have not had cable for awhile.  I've only had cable for a short stretch of time (about 2 1/2 years) over the past 10 years or so.  I despise paying that much money for such poor service. The price tag seems so high for what it is and they hike the price higher each year. Basically, the only reason I had cable for those couple of years was for a few specific channels.  HGTV was the primary channel I wanted to watch.

Somehow, I didn't see Tiny House, Big Living while I had cable. Perhaps it came out just after I disconnected cable.  I had watched shows (I can't recall which channels.) such as  Tiny House Nation, Treehouse Masters, and Tiny House Hunters. 

Today, I started to search Amazon for those shows. And I found Tiny House, Big Living instead.

Tiny House, Big Living Season 1 - Episode 4

I chose episode 4 because the photo showed a plain but attractive exterior and a metal roof.  Simple with a tin roof is along the lines of my preferred tiny home exteriors.  But rest assured, there is a variety of exteriors to choose from in this series.

In this episode we watch a dad help his young adult daughter build a tiny house on a frame.  Her goal was to have her own living space and to be debt free. His goal, among many including some ulterior motives, was for her to increase her ability to be independent through knowledge of home building. 

We watch as choices are made and the home goes up.  I loved their creativity, their choices for the interior, and how this young lady imagined an ingenious ladder system for her loft.

I will stop here. There's not much that can be said about a single episode without leaking some spoilers.  If you are interested in Tiny Homes and haven't seen Tiny Homes, Big Living you might want to give it a peek. 

Purchasing Television Shows and Movies From Amazon

In case I am not the only one who hasn't purchased television shows from Amazon I want to tell you how easy it is.

  • Search Amazon as you would for any other item
  • Search under the Television and Movies category
  • Choose your item and click the "buy" button
  • My episode opened immediately and I viewed it
  • When I returned to watch a second time, I located it in my account in Amazon - under "Your Video Library"
Happy watching!

Saturday, July 23, 2016

I Met an Eastern Hercules Beetle Today

I wasn't sure whether to scream or faint when I saw it lying there on the steps.  It was THE biggest, strangest, and most frightening beetle I've ever seen.  It was on its back with legs in the air.  I skittered past it quickly and hurried upstairs. However, once upstairs I felt sorry for the little creature on it's back - legs slowly pumping, useless in the air.  I took my camera, and righted the creature, taking enough photos to be able to identify it as a Scarab Beetle known as an Eastern Hercules Beetle.

What is a Scarab Beetle?

Other than carvings on Egyptian artifacts I had no clue what a Scarab Beetle was.  I had to look it up.  According to :


  1. any scarbaeid beetle, especially Scarabaeus sacer, regarded as sacred by the ancient Egyptians
  2.  a representation or image of a beetle, much used among the ancient Egyptions as a symbol, seal, amulet or the like.
  3.  a gen cut to resemble a beetle.

Ah, so that settles it. My visitor was a Scarabaeus sacer.  Except, I didn't know what that was either. So I had to look it up.  The Scarabaeus sacer, otherwise known as a Mediterranean Dung Beetle. Aha! I've seen those on television shows on nature channels.  Yes, Dung Beetles.  Except this prettily painted beetle was not plain black in color. So I had to look some more.

More about the Eastern Hercules Beetle

Hercules Beetles are in the Scarabaeidae family, which include June Beetles, Japaneese Beetles, and Dung Beetles. There we go, I have had some up-close-and-personal experiences with Japaneese and June Beetles.  

The Eastern Hercules Beetle is the largest.  And my visitor was a male as evidenced by his horns.  Mrs. Hercules has no horns and is a bit smaller.  Mr. Hercules can grow to almost 2 1/2 inches long.  

Their colors are varied.  When I look at just his color (and ignore that face and those legs) I am mesmerized. It looks like some sort of beautiful water colored Rorschack test.

Their life span includes egg, larvae, pupae, and adult. I will not share any photos of the eggs, larvae, and pupae because I do not find them at all endearing.  But the adult male - after a few minutes - I began to see him as pretty.  

The good news is, they are not considered pests and can be found both in Maryland and in West Virginia. If I keep my eyes open, I may see another Eastern Hercules Beetle at some point. 

Here are some children, some adorable children who are much more brave than I am. They were brave enough to hold their Mr. Hercules visitor in North Carolina:

My Hercules

I turned him over several times after moving him to the mulch, behind a shrub, and to the shade.  And when I checked on him later I found him belly-up again. And when I checked on him even later. It is a good possibility that he's at the end of his life cycle since they live for less than 6 months as an adult.

After my initial fright, I am glad to have seen this interesting beetle. My interest in scarabs has grown and apparently I am only catching up with many people who like these beetles.

A face only his momma can love

Scarab and Beetle Gifts, Clothing, and Jewelry:

I was aware that Scarabs were a part of Egyptian art and the carved gems are used for jewelry. I've always loved ladybugs. But I had no idea how currently popular Scarab and beetle items are.  And I MUST get the Book of Beetles: A Life-Size Guide to Six Hundred of Nature's Gems. If you are at all interested in beetles, you can see what this book has to offer in the "look inside" feature.  I can see that my visitor is not the only strange beetle in existence.

THE Book of Beetles

CowCow Women's Skater Dress - Beetles

Egyptian Sterling Silver Scarab Bracelet

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Keystone Kabins Park Model - Tiny Home Option

My original plan was to buy my land and make improvements over time.  On my less-than-shoestring budget, that would amount to a long period of time.  But my thinking was to pay as I go and hopefully retire to my little mountain homestead either debt-free or close to it. However, the more time I spend camping at The Shack, the more anxious I am to move there. This weekend I toured several options for housing. I was surprisingly impressed with Keystone Kabins' park models.

Keystone Kabins - Vacation Cabin Kits

I was originally interested in Keystone Kabins because they make vacation log cabin kits. You can either assemble the kits or have them assembled.  The floor plans and prices are on the Keystone Kabins website.  I liked the rustic look, the options, the small size, and most of all, I liked the prices. Their simplicity keeps the price tag lower than some other cabin builders I've been looking at.

I called to see if there were vacation cabin models onsite that I could tour at the Pennsylvania location. No. No vacation cabin models. But there are "park models".  I decided to go ahead and look even though I wasn't interested in a park model. Frankly, I didn't exactly know what a park model was but I'd go and look. At least I could get a sense of quality.

What are log cabin Park Models.

I've learned that park models are very similar to RVs. Or like Tiny Houses.  They are built on a trailer. They have VIN  numbers and are considered to be a recreational vehicle. Because they are suited for camping only, they are not considered to be mobile homes or permanent living arrangements. 

Originally, I thought there would be no way I'd interested in a home as tiny as the ones shown on the television shows.  I can live very small, but I'm not interested in living THAT tiny. Besides, I'm not very interested in living on wheels again.

However, these park model log cabins had an open feel.  And they were much more solid than I had expected. Later in the day I stopped at a model center to look at some of the modular floor plans I have my eye on, and there were park models there also. Those park models were gorgeous - shiny, fancy, decorated beautifully, and modern.  Visually crisp and clean. But they also smelled of chemicals and felt less solid.  

In contrast, the Keystone Kabins log park models were solid under my feet and smelled only of wood (despite having been recently varnished - or stained. I'm not certain of the correct terminology). The rustic simplicity caught my eye and my imagination.

Good Customer Service Early On

Dan, of Keystone Kabins, had answered my phone call and was very inviting. I don't believe he was scheduled to work that day but had left the additional pamphlets and information where he said he would. In addition, he was present in the office when I checked - just in case. We did not have an appointment.  I was just rolling through as I went from one spot to the next. And frankly, traffic was so horrible that I was running an hour and a half later than I had wanted. But he was there.  

That is more than I can say for another builder who knew I was coming - the builder of the homes I most wanted to see during this trip. I arrived 30 minutes within closing and their office was closed. We did not have an appointment, but they were aware I was coming.  Perhaps they had an emergency that required closing before their posted hours.  Perhaps not.  Either way, it makes me wonder what their customer service will be.  I do not wonder that about Dan with Keystone Kabins. I already feel that he'd be reliable and go above and beyond.

Daydreaming about the Future

I am still completely uncertain about what my final choice will be. However, I'm more able to imagine having a home on wheels to camp in, rather than my little rickety shack. Who knows, maybe I'll opt for one of those slick and shiny park models. Or maybe I'll make more progress than I expect financially and build a stick-built family sized home.  I don't know. But I do know that I'm smitten with these natural, rustic, wooden, tiny log cabins. Clearly, if I choose a park model, it won't be my permanent home. But perhaps I can use it to comfortably camp in for years to come. 

I need to do more research about living so small. And have ordered this book just today. My apartment isn't very much over 400 sq feet, but I do have quite a bit of storage here that I won't have in a park model.

Tiny House Living 

I'm sharing the following photographs that I had taken only to refresh my memory after returning home.  The models were in process and I was not planning on sharing the photos. For better quality photos and more information, please see their website or the Keystone Kabins facebook page.


Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Eastern Box Turtles at The Shack

Eastern Box turtles are exclusive to North America.  Having grown up in the Midwest, coming across a box turtle in the fields was not uncommon. But I never, in a million years, expected to come across a box turtle at my property in West Virginia. Not only have I come across one, two box turtles have crossed my path in less than two months.  I decided I should educate myself about Eastern Box turtles. 

Eastern Box Turtles in West Virginia

In early May, I came across a box turtle that was crossing the road. I was surprised to find that turtle as I had believed turtles remained closer to water or wetlands.  The timing of that sighting seemed like a message to me. A well-timed message to be okay with slowing down.  I was moved to write about that turtle

This is the turtle in the road

This past weekend, I was driving onto my lot and spotted a turtle in my "yard". Of course, it was very near the area where I drive and was very glad to have spotted it. There is a good chance I would have driven over it otherwise. I got out and snapped a few photos and just watched it for a bit.

This is the turtle in the yard.

These turtles spiked my interest in learning more about them. I wanted to know what they were doing so high up and far from water. There is a creek near my place. But it is in the valley at the bottom of the ridge.  It seems far too far for turtles to stray.

This is what I've learned so far:

  • Eastern Box turtles are thought to be declining in numbers. Due to loss of habitat, being struck by automobiles, and from being taken out of their habitat as pets.
  • Eastern Box turtles have red eyes if they are male and darker brownish eyes if they are female. I can verify that the difference is easy to note - as the first turtle I saw had red eyes and the second turtle had brownish/golden eyes.
  • They hibernate (in the ground) in the winter months
  • The females lay their eggs in small holes they dig (I will watch the dogs closely so that they don't dig up anything other than rodent holes!)

What to do if you find an Eastern Box Turtle

  • Look and DO NOT Touch
  • DO touch if you find it crossing the roadway. If you can safely stop and move it to the side of the road (in the direction it was traveling) please do so
  • Do not encourage the taking of wild turtles as pets 
  • And as always, watch what your dogs are playing with when they are outdoors.  Not only are some things dangerous for your dogs... your dogs could be dangerous for some things

Rather than continue regurgitating the random bits of information I have learned I will share a link of a very helpful video about Eastern Box Turtles.  I hope that my next turtle update from The Shack will be photos of healthy and happy baby turtles safely crossing my path. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The Ultimate Chew Toy for Dogs

Willy - and his teeth!
This is Willy and these are his teeth. Willy is the chewingist dog I've ever met.  He no longer chews items other than what I give him as dog toys - now that he's no longer a pup.  But he has THE strongest and sharpest teeth I've ever seen on a dog.  It has been quite a challenge to find suitable chew toys for him.  I have finally found a perfect toy for him. If you are searching for a safe, durable dog chew toy I think you'll be pleased with the Ultimate Ring. 

Willy the Treeing Feist

I am always asked what breed Willy is.  He's a Treeing Feist. Treeing Feists historically are hunting and farm dogs and their history dates back to the Colonial Period in the US. I hadn't known about Treeing Feists much before I brought Willy home. I did some research and went to take a look at him. You can read more about my decision to bring him home here.

I don't know if all Feists have teeth that are so strong and sharp, but his teeth are amazing. Willy chips hooves into large sharp shards in a matter of days. Stuffed items are unstuffed within an hour of their arrival and completely shredded within a day.

A Busy Dog is a Happy and Healthy Dog

Dog lovers know that a dog who plays or works regularly is a happy and healthy dog. It is important to provide your dog with things to do. But these things must be safe things. And that has been the challenge with my Willy.

The Ultimate Dog ring has been a wonderful find.  I highly recommend it for dogs who chew and who are able to destroy toys very quickly.

Tuffy Ultimate Ring for Dogs

Even though I have seen the advertising video, I have no idea how they create such a durable toy. It is a "soft" toy that Willy hasn't been able to unstuff.  He plays with it on a daily basis - either bringing it to me for a game of fetch or lays contentedly chewing. I can see that he concentrates and tries to find the weak spot so that he can open the seam.  It has been about two months, and he has not been able to open any seams or poke any holes. 

Rather than trying to explain something that I can't fathom, you can see the video on how Tuffy constructs these durable soft toys for dogs. 

Willy and I are both very happy that I chose the Tuffy brand Ultimate Dog ring.

Related Information

More information about Treeing Feists can be found on the American Treeing Feist Association web page.  My Willy is a sweet baby who is also protective and active.  For me, he's the perfect combination of goofey, loving big baby and protector.

I've had some luck with certain brands of rawhide, such as the Oinkies brand. But I'm still concerned about giving them too frequently as I'm worried about the amount of rawhide he ingests.

He loves his Kong brand treat dispensers. But doesn't play with them as much as he works at retrieving the treat.  In other words, once the treat is gone, he's not interested.  Even so, his Kong treat dispensers are an important part of keeping him busy.