Designing and Building a Tiny House, and Everything In Between. 

Ribbons, Sails 

& Dandelion Fluff

May 2020 –

Building a Shelter

Steel Frames & Cladding

Apr 20 – Jul 19

Doors & Windows

The Beginnings of a ‘Tiny’ Project

Apr 19 – Aug 17

Succulents & Raspberries;

A First Foray into Gardening.

Oct 17 – Apr 15



Okay, to be fair my last couple of posts have been fun to research, testing to write and boring to read, however, they have served their purpose incredibly well. Not only am I now confident enough to preach all my new wisdom to my family and friends, work colleagues and distant acquaintances, but I am excited about the two things that had been causing me the most anxiety, plumbing and electricity for those who are dropping by for the first time. Further, I have finally discovered the pleasure in properly understanding how things work instead of skipping to the application, by which I mean not simply making decisions based on what others have done before. Whilst this method certainly has the advantage of being quicker, breaking something down vigorously and studying all of its parts is more efficient in the long run. I owe this new approach to my co-builder Chris. Initially, I found it very amusing when Chris would click on every single highlighted word on a Wikipedia page, keen to understand the ‘how’ and ‘why’ for himself. I myself would skip over unknown words or details, hoping whatever I was reading would make sense all the same once I was finished reading. Not surprisingly this only worked for the short-term. Whilst I could grasp enough of an understanding, once I had moved onto a new topic my recall of the old would be terribly vague and I would end up revisiting bits and pieces.

Finally, I realise the satisfaction of his approach, and the peace of mind it grants. You aren’t just reliant on your trust of others. But as always, knowledge is a double-edged sword, because with knowledge comes responsibility. You are no longer protected by ignorance when you make a decision. This was highlighted as I took a closer look at wood stoves. I had always assumed a wood fire would be the cleanest and most sustainable choice for cooking and heating, however, once you begin deconstructing the process it becomes clear that this is strongly debatable.

On the right, I have dissected wood burning and why it’s not so faultless (as I once imagined it to be).

What is combustion?

Combustion  is a chemical reaction between oxygen and fuel. This reaction is usually paired with heat and light in the form of a flame. Combustion is used to generate electricity (burning oil, gas or coal) and to power our cars (petrol.) It is also how we heat our homes and cook our food. In a modern first world home, this is usually through the use of electricity or gas, but traditionally it is wood that has been used to warm out tootsies and bake our bread.

Burning Wood:

Wood is composed of Cellulose which is made up of thousands of Glucose units.

Glucose is a compound molecule made up of CarbonHydrogen and Oxygen. If wood is heated high enough, these molecules begin to break apart releasing into the air as gases (combustion). These gases burn as they mingle with the oxygen molecules in the atmosphere, creating more heat, and then recombine, producing new molecules: carbon dioxide and water.

  • Carbon Dioxide: [1 carbon atom and 2 oxygen atoms.] Carbon Dioxide is a greenhouse gas, in that it is one of the gases in the atmosphere that traps heat around Earth, keeping us from freezing. Plants take light energy from the sun (photosynthesis) and use it to ‘fix’ carbon to help the plant grow. Humans and animals eat the plants and in turn consume the carbon stored within. We breathe it back out as Carbon Dioxide. It is then removed from the atmosphere by the plants and this cycles over and over. Carbon is also absorbed by the ocean and the earth under our feet. The latter will, over millions of years, become fossil fuels.
  • Water: Vapor.

Wood fires never receive enough oxygen to burn completely which means carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, particulates, black carbon and unburned fuel are too released into the air. This is known as Incomplete Combustion and is the cause of smoke.

  • Carbon Monoxide: [1 oxygen atom.] Carbon Monoxide is a toxic, colourless, odorless, tasteless gas. It forms when there isn’t enough oxygen to create Carbon Dioxide. It is a by-product of incomplete combustion which can be caused by burning wood, gas, propane, oil or coal. It starves the body of oxygen and can kill animals and humans at very small concentration.
  • Black Carbon: Tiny particles of soot. It is an air pollutant and causes respiratory problems. It is largely created by the burning of wood and biomass. It absorbs sunlight and converts it to heat. It is a major threat to snow-covered regions because as it settles on snowy mountains, it reduces the reflectivity of the snow (as we know, white deflects heat). The detrimental effect of this is that it quickens the melting of ice.
  • Particulates: unburnt (left-over) carbon.
  • Ash: non-burnable minerals like calcium, potassium, and magnesium.

So you can say that the above is not entirley great for the environment, but where does it sit in regards to other heating and cooking options like electricity and gas? That is the question that has been plaguing me but for now that is tomorrow’s problem.

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Peanut Butter & Dutch Ovens

When condensing your life into a 12 square meter space, it’s inevitable that you will have to make some compromises and question even the ‘essentials.’ As a regular home cook, a proper stove is something I have always considered necessary, but is it really? I have seen many tiny home dwellers go without, only using a two or three stovetop burner to prepare their meals. That said, there are limits to what can be prepared stove top style, and baked goods are one of the trickier edibles to adapt. Nonetheless, I have decided to give it a go now, so that I can make an educated decision later.

I have been using a small camp stove once or twice a week for about a month now with no major dramas. I have also been familiarising myself with our Dutch Oven, mainly because I’m a lazy cook and one pot style is typically my go-to. Admittedly this is hardly a challenge and certainly doesn’t clarify whether I will have to give up birthday cakes and breakfast muffins. Therefore last Saturday I finally found the time to give a stove top cake a whirl.

I had attempted to find a specific stove top recipe to ensure a success, but as I wasn’t interested in cobbler or pineapple cake, the choices were limited so I gave up. (Fear not though! The recipes are out there, and I do plan to test some of these soon.)
I had, on the other hand, been itching to try Molly Yeh’s ‘Party Trick Peanut Butter Cake.’ (Reason being that I have a mild peanut butter obsession, and to bake it in a cake sounded like the ants pants.) Decision made, I resolved that I would just make it as directed, but pop the cake tin in the Dutch Oven to cook.

All was going well until dad walked in about 5 minutes into the ‘baking’ and pointed out that it probably wasn’t ideal to use a pot which has been countlessly used for all kinds of savouries to bake sweets; his concern being that it would permeate the cake with the taste of onion and garlic. I reconsidered and decided that I would try to steam it in a bamboo steamer.

Unsurprisingly, this did not work out. Granted, the cake rose.. however that was all it did. The centre would not cook. In the end, I relented and popped it in the oven.

Let’s just say it turned out a little less than perfect, BUT, tasted oh-so-very-good. (I have only love for Molly Yeh’s ‘Molly on the Range’- it is my absolute favourite recipe book and I have had nothing but success- weird peanut butter cake and all.) However, sadly this was not a recipe road test. It was a stove top baking experiment, and considering I ended up baking the cake in the oven, I think it is fair to say that this wasn’t a roaring success.

All the same, I remain optimistic and see a delicious future ahead!
Though next time I think I will test a proper stovetop recipe, I’m thinking a Chinese Steam Cake could be a good choice.