Tiny house-big garden

freezengirlAugust 30, 2006

My DH and I are tearing off 2/3 of our house this year leaving us with a main floor of 400 sq. feet and a basement bedroom, office and laundry room for a total of 800 sq.feet. We replaced all the windows and oriented them to capture the best light and views of our 5 acres. The land is quite lovely with huge oak trees leading down towards a marsh at the end of a lake.

We have to get the east end of the house enclosed and the old part torn off within the next couple of weeks. This entails gutting the salvagable part for rewiring, rerouting plumbing ect. I spent the day scraping popcorn off of the ceilings in anticipation of all the new drywall, insulation ect yet to be installed. I swear this is the LAST time I will live in a construction project!

I am a fanatical gardener even though my gardens are sorely neglected this year. When I am in my garden the chaos around me seems to melt away.

The thought of winter approaching so quickly, exhaustion and longing to be in my gardens came to a head today. When I was in town ordering more matirial I bought myself a bunch of bags of manure, more soil and a few bags of mulch. That felt so good I went to my favorite nursery and bought 4 flats of perennials on close out. Of course I justified it because they were all shade perennials and that end of the garden has been largely empty. Tonight I went and ordered 35 mixed hostas and 10 mixed daylillies from a wholesaler. I really went crazy!

Tomorrow I am going to get up early and spend most of the day in my garden working. I work midnight shift so with the daylight hours getting shorter, there won't be many sunny days left to enjoy.

I am actually feeling really guilty even though today constituted a gardeners mental health emergency. My DH probably won't get to upset with me, though I do admit to hiding the plants behind the garage so he wouldn't notice them tonight. He is usually quite understanding and he loves me. I know that getting all those plants in is more work for me but the benefits certainly outweigh the costs. I keep thinking of how much pleasure I will get this winter knowing that as the first shoots of spring appear, the construction will be over, my home intact and my gardens ready to burst into full glory.

We will have our tiny red dolls house cottage surrounded by old fashioned cottage gardens, wonderful views, a home almost paid for and the freedom to disengage from the merry go round.

This was a round about longish post, but I am curious. How many of you incorporate your outdoors into your small home lifestyles? Is just being able to see outside enough or are you like me, garden junkies? How much do you think climate influences your choices in housing?

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Must always have a garden...regardles of the size of home. When I moved in this spring I planted up a storm before the moving boxes were emptied. And am still in boxes, the outdoors calls me far too often. I've had to "force" myself to get the inside of house done as the garden will divert me. With all of the rain we had this year it was the best diversion, all of my plantings are doing so well. And, yes, I love to be able to see the garden from inside each season.

Love your word "disengage", perfect description of being part of the garden.

And, hiding plants.......how funny, not that a few of us have never done this.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2006 at 6:40AM
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Loved your story. How wonderful it will be when your remodeling projects are all finished and you can sit back and enjoy, and work in your gardens more.

We live in the hot and humid south, so have the a.c. on a lot of the year. We try to keep the sun from blasting in windows so have awnings. We have a screened in porch off the kitchen, we have a secret garden behind the house with a solar heated shower, a claw foot bathtub, a jacuzzi, a bench, wind chimes, a reflecting pool. I love being outside, even when it's miserable out. Sweating gets rid of toxins. ;-)

Your 5 acres must be wonderful, and you are on your way with your new plants, and with winter coming you can sit back, read about gardening and plan next years gardens.

Looking forward to seeing pictures of your 'tiny red dolls house cottage surrounded by old fashioned cottage gardens, and wonderful views'.


    Bookmark   August 30, 2006 at 9:54AM
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I SO hear you! I just moved into this new house and spent a few weeks getting the most urgent indoor projects done, including painting.
Now I am leaving everything else for the cold winter months (hanging pictures, finding a few more pieces of furniture, unpacking the rest of the stuff etc) and am heading into the garden! I can spend hours there before I've realized that time has passed at all.

I sold my lovely perennial gardens and now have flat expanses of crabgrass. What a challenge. Currently, I'm working on bringing in decent soil, a little hardscape, moving the patio, and bringing the lawn under control (will likely do a clover thing).
Meanwhile, I've been buying plants which are sitting patiently in the shade, waiting for their beds to be be made. (Well, the hostas are currently snail-snack but that would happen if they were in the ground, too).
Also, before I moved, I farmed out my favourite perennials to friends who will babysit them until spring.

I figure I've got about a month and a half of yard work time before the weather turns nasty. Lots of time to tuck in some perennials to get a jump on next year's season.

And then I'll return to painting trim and sorting through boxes :)

    Bookmark   August 30, 2006 at 10:10AM
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I live in SoCal on a hill with a beautiful view of hills and the ocean. My patio and garden area get as much if not more time spent in- than my house. I have but a small grassy area surrounded by perrenials and annuals - I'm partial to roses -that bring color and wonderful smells. I love to just look - it calms me after a busy schedule at work. My garden is my retreat. I'm not real fond of the 4500 square foot hill that has to be maintained though.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2006 at 1:08PM
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We purchased our house with the intent to buy the neighbouring houses when they were sold. So far we have purchased one. Our goal is to eventually tear down that home, and have a 1 acre garden in the heart of the city. I'm currently working on getting permits to begin integrating new parts to be constructed on our home, into our enviornment. Ripping up large section of the driveway, putting in a glass tower to house a spiral staircase. The staircase will act as a greenhouse/atrium in the winter. A special room with climate controlled areas has been designed to house my seeds, and to hold my garden book collection, my garden design supplies etc. When that is finished we will begin renovating the kitchen adding in sky lights because part of the kitchen is an interior room and very dark for plants. The bedroom and our media room will have windows removed, replaced by glass doors which will lead us out in to a small, enclosed microclimate garden that will be very visable from that side of the home (right now we have no privacy and no garden there...so I keep the curtains drawn).
My hubby isn't the gardener, I am, but he loves the effect, and really enjoys the wildlife that the garden brings. He also likes food areas of the garden and we have plans to build a walled garden for eating. Our goal is to be more self sustaining, and we are incorporating energy saving ideas, water collection systems and eventually solar energy into all of our plans. To go "off the grid" living downtown and not buying much in the way of food is our eventual goal.


    Bookmark   August 30, 2006 at 3:23PM
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Hi -
I wouldn't call myself a garden junkie, but I certainly prefer being outdoors to in. Our lot is small for the rest of the world, but big for San Francisco (75'x100'.) We have limes, plums, cherries, apricots; one raised bed for veggies; small rose bed; a small (400 gal) fish pond; and the rest of the landscaping is lavender, sage, rosemary, thyme, some brugmansia, and lots of volunteers (nemesia, mint, sweet alyssum, jupiter's beard.) Oh, and morning glories all around our impossible-to-paint lattice fence. I call it "cottage" but really it is whatever-I-can-not-kill.

Our house was not designed to take advantage of the outdoors - we have a non-functioning deck and doors in all the wrong places (though we do have some fantastic views.) I'm going to spend a small fortune to have a sliding glass door put in the back of our walk-out basement so we have better access to the outdoors.

I'm a bit of a birder, so we have lots of birdfeeders and birdbaths (it is getting expensive to support them! going through 5 pounds of niger a week.)

Climate was the primary reason I moved to California - Boston weather was literally killing me. I love being able to garden year round, even if I only put in a minutes here and there.

We have lived in our house about 3 years and it is my first attempt at gardening, so I'm still very novice. I don't know what I would do with 5 acres - get a pony and spend my time building treehouses, I imagine...boy, that sounds nice!

    Bookmark   August 30, 2006 at 5:39PM
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Love your story! I am a gardenaholic. I can't get enough of gardening.

My love of gardening took off one summer when I had just moved in with my then boyfriend (now DH). His mother had a house that she'd converted into two apartments - she lived in the downstairs and we rented the upstairs. The deal was that we would put the money and time/energy into renovating the upstairs apartment to make it more appealing to decent renters. DH's mother hated me. Loathed me. It was a shock to everyone that she agreed to let me live under her roof. One day while eating supper, I asked her if I could start a garden in her back yard. She glanced up at me quickly and said "fine" and added that she would show me where I could have a garden.

The next day we walked out to the back yard which was overgrown and neglected for many years, due to MIL's failing health. She directed me to a spot at the very back of the property. She pointed out the parameters of the spot that I could garden. It was about 2 feet square and taken completely over by wild roses. In return for the space, she asked if I could please till a larger spot - about 5 feet square - for her to plant a few vegetables. The spot that she chose for her vegetable garden was, of course, free of thorny roses. I agreed. Every day after work I came home and tilled and ammended the soil. It felt so great to have my hands in the earth and to exert so much energy - I found that the stress of living in a house that was owned by a woman who hated me melted away with every turn of the pitchfork. Before I knew it, I had half of the back yard tilled up and ready for planting. MIL wasn't angry that I had exceeded my alloted 2 square feet - she was just excited to plant some vegetables.

When my co-workers, all avid gardeners, heard of my new garden-in-planning, they all brought in divisions of their perennials. Soon enough I had a pretty decent garden going with a winding path through it. I cared for that garden like I have never cared for anything in my life, and it showed - I had the most lush, full garden. MIL was ecstatic, and every time she had a visitor she took them for a stroll through the garden. MIL never did use her spot, as her health didn't enable her to bend and plant, so I planted some vegetables in among some flowers. To my surprise, I loved growing vegetables. The garden became a place that we could both enjoy...common ground.

When we bought the house that we now live in, the yard had been neglected - overgrown evergreen shrubs out front, lawns that hadn't been mowed, according to the neighbors, in years. I have been slowly but surely ripping out overgrown shrubs and re-planting, starting new gardens, and doing my best to reduce the size of the lawn. I love gardening not only because I enjoy how it looks after all of the hard work, but because I enjoy the feeling of digging with my hands into the soil, hearing the birds around me as I work, and feeling the stress of life melting away.

I live on the east coast - zone 5 (hence my name, ValZone5). Our summers are painfully short. Winters painfully long. It's cruel, really. But the upside is that I can grow peonies, something which my friend who lives in CA can't grow. That's really the only thing that makes me feel better, LOL! Winter is a time to do things indoors - paint, hang pictures & curtains, etc. Come spring, once it's possible at all to dig in the dirt, I am out of this house and decorating comes dead last on my list of priorities. OK, well maybe housework comes dead last.

We have lots of windows in our house, and the house is oriented perfectly. The sun rises at the back of the house, where the kitchen is. I need the sun to get me going, so it's nice to have it coming through the windows in the morning while making breakfast. I have windchimes hanging from tree branches in the back yard, and the sound of them makes me smile. The sun sets in the front of the house, where the living room and dining room are. These are the rooms that we use in the evening, so it is nice to be able to enjoy the setting sun. I just planted a tree to partly shade the dining room as it matures. When sitting in the living room we can look out and see birds at the feeder (they are going through the niger seed like CRAZY lately!). I want to put a little birdbath out there so I can watch them play.

My future plans are to have several little secret gardens, and spots that one can sit and unwind/meditate, but I have a pretty small yard, so I think that my dreams are bigger than my reality. Right now I have a 3 year old, so my yard is home to a pool, sandbox, and soon a swing-set.

Oh, and I too hide plants!! LOL! DH eventually notices a new plant, so I tell him that it was on sale. Somehow if it was on sale, that makes it better :O)

WOW this turned into a long post!!

    Bookmark   August 30, 2006 at 6:48PM
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Oh, I loved all the stories. . .
How about a big garden, NO house? After a move from FL to NC nearly four years ago, I have been clearing & making garden beds on a wild piece of land that used to belong to my great-aunt. It feels like one step forward, two steps back half the time, with all the work involved. But going out there and digging in the dirt on weekends beats the stress of 40 hours in an office. And seeing the progress each year as I get more done is really exciting. So far, there are herb beds, irises and daylilies, vegetable and heirloom tomato beds, and a great arbor that I built from felled cedars. ONE DAY, I may actually have a house out there to go with the gardens!
That's the plan, anyway, and the house will be more of a cottage, small by today's standards. What I MUST have is a deck overlooking the gardens and creek. . .I envision sitting out there after a long day, just listening to the birds and taking in the scenery. Talk about stress-reliever! :)

    Bookmark   August 30, 2006 at 10:04PM
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I've enjoyed reading everyone's gardening stories. As for myself, when my ex and I split several yrs ago, I left behind my beloved perennial gardens that I had worked on for 5 years.I swore that when I bought my own house, the 1st thing I would do would be to re-create my garden.
The house I bought was in good shape, but the lawn and garden was not. The lady of the house had planted some dahlias around the foundation and not much else. The lawn consisted of a few blades of grass in an ocean of crabgrass and other assorted weeds.
Seven years later there are now numerous perennials and I was able to create several different garden areas around the house and lawn. Many of the plants were donated by friends and I always think of them when I tend the things they gave me. A lovely Rose of Sharon that was a stick when given to me shortly after moving day has grown into a multibranched tree that brightens the front of the house. The lawn is still nothing to write home about due to $$$ limitations, but I did win the battle against the crabgrass!
My only regret is that I don't have much of a garden view from inside the house. Someday I'd like to remedy that with a large deck or sunroom addition.

    Bookmark   August 31, 2006 at 10:31PM
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This is such a cool thread, even though I/we have land "to spare", (country place=26 acres, 12 in hardwoods and 14 in field: in town place 2.12 acres, but .75 is wild---the county owns the rights ("storm water run-off ROW") I am always so taken by small space gardens and the people who make them.... I have this little problem with having to buy plant stuff just because it is there.....

No kidding now... all y'all go to the link!!!!!
A truly amazing man and his garden!!!!

We have been talking about selling both places and moving in May/June 2007 after the youngest is done with school (20 y.o and she'll have her BS!!!) and the oldest is off to grad school. Downsizing, we already have an 804sq ft house well under way and only 186 years away from completion at the foothills place. I especially want something new to play with... but the wifey says if we sell and buy... 10 acres is enough...
I have a slightly different perspective though......

go to the link!!!

Here is a link that might be useful: big time in a little space

    Bookmark   September 3, 2006 at 3:58AM
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Hey Rosebush!!!!!

Just can't help myself....

Irises in NC near Shelby:


and a great rose nursery run by a very nice couple right outside of Lincolnton:

I love love love rose bushes and hate hate hate Japanese beetles

Go to then link!!! rebloomers...I LOVE them

And you can grow Noisette roses all over NC too!!!!! I grow them here and in the NW foothills too. And..Get a "mermaid"!!!!. Go to Ashdown Roses and/or RosesUnlimited in SC and get them all!!! IMHO, RU is the best rose nursery in the world...... and they have lots of Noisette roses too! A stunning place at the spring open house!


Here is a link that might be useful: reblooming irises

    Bookmark   September 3, 2006 at 4:21AM
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Like bluesbarby, we live on a hill in SoCal...well, a bluff, really....and we spend a lot of time outside. This is why we are in the middle of a major backyard renovation, and also why we decided to improve the outside spaces instead of adding on. For one who was never into gardening much, I've discovered that I love it just about as much as I do interior decorating. Although our lot is small, it's fun planning and planting....and watching as your efforts are so nicely rewarded!

This is just part of what we've done...

side yard before:

side yard after:

    Bookmark   September 3, 2006 at 4:07PM
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My house is small and I too have a large lot. what I like about that arrangement is the investment value and that the yard is big enough that my cats don't wander all over the neighborhood. when I moved into this place I was married and had to work out a plan with another person, and theoretically would have help maintaining it, thus it was never quite my concept of beauty and efficiency to begin with and anyway...Now I'm scheduling time twice a week out of my busy schedule as a single working person to wade out into the overgrown shrubs, climbing roses, native alders and blackberry thickets to try and keep it under control. I've thrown out all my old drawings and plans; and I'm aiming to make a sort of semi-wild meadow in the center and keep the best fruit trees, with mixed hedges in strategic areas to keep some of my privacy. the large yard does nothing to keep out the neighbor's noise or dog barking, and the six to seven foot fences haven't kept out dogs or neighborhood children who think nothing about fetching balls or just exploring, it's ridiculous. Unexpected climate conditions also messed up the plans, high winds every year, torrential rain in winter, 4-5 months every summer of no rain combined with salt fog settling on everything, and lack of intense sunlight and summer heat to ripen anything, basically cancels out a vegetable garden, something I always really felt was essential to a home. Oh sure, raspberries do great, but just try and keep the possums off them. My next move I'm planning to move just a little inland, at least I can have my rhodies and azaleas and japanese maple if I want.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2006 at 6:45PM
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WOW! Spunbond, what great links! Really enjoyed the dwarf apples - might have to order a couple at some point. . .and the iris link is going to make me spend $$$! Thanks!

    Bookmark   September 17, 2006 at 6:44PM
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This is my "poor man's heaven" (just a few Pix):

A pic of the front of the house. (house is about 800 sq. ft., w/ 2 bedrooms and 1 bath), have well, and sits on 1/2 acre in an old shabby subdivision outside of town a few miles)House is about 85 years old (was moved to this land probably about 40 years ago).

Pix of my "cheapo greenhouse":

I LOVE this place!

I've had larger houses, and much larger areas, but this is the BEST for me now! I used to garden almost 1/4 acre here, but because of needing area for other "pursuits", my garden is down to a little less than 1/2 of that now.

One of my daughters and her family have a 5000 sq.ft. house on less than about 1/5 acre. Nice place......but WHO WANTS TO VACUUM THAT PLACE?

When the weather is good........I go outside.
The "stuff" indoors can wait for poor weather.

Unless you NEED a bigger house, there are a lot of advantages to a small house.

just my 2 pesos worth,

Best Regards,
Bruce (Junkmanme in New Mexico)

    Bookmark   October 11, 2006 at 5:35PM
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Lorinscott: I love your side yard. Can I use it for inspiration for my side yard? Would love a list of some of your plants - what exposure? North, south, west or east? B

    Bookmark   October 11, 2006 at 5:50PM
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