It is gettin’ hot in the kitchen

Talk about taking our own advice!  As a recap, the last homework assignment  THREE WEEKS AGO, I had instructed you to toss some pasta.  Well we have tossed some linguini, spaghetti, bucatini, TUTTO (everything)

Since we last spoke, we upgraded our laptop, purchased a microphone and pop filter to start a podcast, and started a print-on-demand Shopify store (vocalyokelmerch.com).  That is also precisely the reason it has been so long since I have last posted anything.   I have to prioritize the time that I do have and spend it where it is most likely to be fruitful.  By fruitful, I not only mean financially, but emotionally as well. If it would be too stressful to sit and write a blog post, I would be wasting my time doing it.  The whole point of this grand experiment is to spend more time on meaningful things, right? We can do anything, but we cannot do everything.  

Perriee and I have made a commitment to make some moves.  Since we have gotten the new computer, we have been regularly doing one thing, however small, each evening after work to move towards our goal.  Looking back, we have accomplished a lot!

Computer

I surveyed my nerdy coworkers (as a fellow nerd, I write that with love and affection) to see what they would buy.  Out of the five who responded, four of them recommended the Microsoft, Surfcace Pro and two of those also recommended the MacBook.  We have enjoyed our Surface Pro so very much!  

Podcast:

In order to help prepare for the transformation of the tipi, into a dream getaway spot, we want to start to survey our guests who stay here as well as other Airbnb hosts to get their perspectives.  Perrriee and I truly get a gift of some sort from every guest we have ever hosted here, and we would love to share that unique perspective of our guests with you. Examples of some of the gifts we have received: a private viola recital, a copy of a book authored by a guest, leftover beers, photo slide shows, and all around amazing conversation. I really belive the type of people who use the shared-housing services as hosts or guests have a special perspective  and wouldn’t it be fun to share that with the world? We have already recorded a five-minute pilot episode which only my dad has heard so far. He gave us rave reviews, so consider this your teaser!  

Our first set-up: August 2019

Vocal Yokel Merch

It is a progressive thinking online tshirt store.  This is where we have been spending the most time over the last few weeks.  Perriee has been wanting to make tshirts for so long, so we finally took the plunge and it has been so much fun! We set up our Shopify storefront and got our @vocalyokelmerch on Instagram up and running.  Samples have been ordered and we are getting pumped to start taking pics in the new gear so we can post them online. Wowza it has taken some time!  We had no idea the print on demand hustle took such effort getting set up. Hopefully, once we get rolling, it should work on its own for a large part of it. It has been super interesting to see how the different programs integrate with one another and learn the different systems.  If nothing else, it is keeping our minds sharp to learn all of the systems! By working with different programs in my day job it has really awakened my ability to learn the new ones we continue to encounter.  

Homework

Purge your calendar of a few things that aren’t moving you forward.  If your time is anything like mine and Perriee’s, it is limited. To make the time to spend on these side-hustles, we have had to replace our evening tv time with working on our projects.  It has only been slightly challenging .

Luckily we get to work on things we are so excited about. Even better is the fact that we get to do it together!  Even if it is 10 minutes, you have to schedule it in, and be consistent! We pick one thing every night after work and spend some time on it.  Some nights it was making tshirt designs, sometimes it was figuring out how to upload them or edit them. We did something to make sure we were a step closer to our freedom so the next moring we felt a little bit closer. 

Keep throwing the spaghetti on the wall!

What??  Throw the spaghetti on the wall?  Yes! Keep throwing it on the wall.  One day it is going to stick! In case you haven’t heard about that before, when you cook pasta, you can toss a piece of spaghetti on the wall (or ceiling, if you are feeling feisty) and when it sticks, you know it is done.  I don’t think I would recommend throwing a lasagna noodle or manicotto on the wall. Although it would be impressive to see, it might leave a big glutenous smudge. Long spaghetti seems to be the best choice, or perhaps a delicate angel hair or hearty bucatini.  Once again, I digress.

Perriee and I have been tossing the spaghetti on the wall for a few years.  Most of the time, it falls off. Sometimes, it never even reaches the wall, but we have had a few small wins for sure.  Ok- maybe just one sizable one: Airbnb stuck. This is our 5th summer hosting! It is hard to believe we have been rolling with it this long.  I am hoping we can develop our space here a bit more so we can charge a little more and generate longer stays by offering the kitchen space for use.

One little project that slid down the wall was hosting dinner parties through a site called Feastly.  Although fun, it did not generate any income at all!  We made this amazing dinner with spaghetti and meatballs and homemade cheesecake.  It was delicious and our friends who came loved it, but it never stuck to the wall or generated any momentum outside of our close friends and family who both humored and honored us with their presence.  It did stick to my waistline. This side-hustle pre-dated our time hosting through Airbnb. The silver lining? It served as a bit of a catalyst to get the guest space together enough to show it off to strangers and the improvements haven’t stopped since. 

Cabin Corner

We installed the two back windows last weekend!  Hands down, one of the easiest and most rewarding projects we have done on the cabin so far.  Special thanks to Jonathan from MunozStuccoPA for helping is out with his awesome YouTube videos! The only installation flub we had was nailing the bottom flange all the way across, as opposed to leaving some extra gaps along the bottom for water to flow out, if needed.  That was all my bad. Perriee questioned it and I confidently responded on the contrary and we did not rewatch the video to confirm. As directed, we did NOT use the flashing tape along the bottom of the window.

Check out our thank you videos: Before

After:

These windows were ordered at the end of June and finally arrived the week prior to us installing them  As you can imagine, we were so excited to get them installed so that is exactly what we did. Since we ordered two of the same window, I assumed they would match.    Several minutes after we got the second one in, I noticed that they are different! Ha! There were only supposed to be 4 panes of glass on the top and bottom sections of the windows and one of them has 6 panes of glass on the bottom section! This is one of those things we will call good enough because they are not coming out again.  One of them will technically be in the bathroom and the other in the kitchen anyhow, so you will be less likely to notice from the inside of the house anyway. We are blaming this on Mercury in retrograde and Home Depot, of course.  

Regardless, the windows open, they have screens, and nothing can mess up the view you get while looking out of them.  It is beautiful. I watched some crows dancing in the woods from them the following morning. Overall, it was a huge win.

 

Homework

Keep tossing the pasta!  You can only hope you will end up with a wall-full, but realistically, most will not stick.  Don’t be afraid to try different types of pasta either- if you want to try blogging one day, then a basic website the next, do it.  The only thing that keeps you from succeeding is not trying. I have recently been listening to a couple of inspiring podcasts that have been getting my wheels turning to think of new ways to make money and getting the guts to try.  

Failing Forward is a Cinicnnati based podcast with the premise that even failures can lead to our successes.  In that respect, you should hope to fail at some things. Learn the lessons and move on. Use them as learning experiences to do different things the next time.  Keep tossing the pasta! 

The Side Hustle Show has over 300 episodes packed full of ideas and success stories of people who are now working for themselves.  One hot tip was to make a list of 50 ways to generate income for yourself. By the 50th one, you will have a list with at least a couple of ready to eat noodles.  And if you don’t? Well, make another list.  

The mousenest of the week…
We said goodbye to the hoosier cabinet in the tipi and found this bad-boy behind the bottom drawer. It was its own ecosystem (spool of thred for scale).

Happiness Engineers

Everytime we have friends and family together we get to see a bit of magic happen, and I have to admit that I get a bit of a high off of the feelings of love and smiles I get to see.  Just last weekend we got to break-in our cabin area with a proper gathering that was full of calm, comradery, food, and peace. Consequently, the world is in a state where we are in desperate need of as much love and happiness that is possible.  We need to keep recharging our souls so we can face each day out in the battlefield of life so we can return safely home to the those who would be lost without us: our partners, pets, children, parents, room mates- whoever.  

Perriee and I love hosting so much that we have both aspired to and succeeded, in some ways, at making it a part of our livelihood. We hope that we can continue to develop that aspect of our lives.  What better way to spend your time then to prepare for and then make others happy? After last weekend I could really envision that cabin space as a gathering place for many things: receptions, birthday parties, showers, team building, small conferences, fund raisers (wink wink, Crystal), anything.  

It would of course be a seasonal gig, with the hope being, that we could take off two or three months a year and recharge and travel and breathe.  Yep, that is crazy, but I don’t care. I am sure it is possible if we choose that life for ourselves. It would take a lot of planning and financial discipline, but we can do it.  Those are two of our very strong points. This idea of working several months, then taking time off has been in my mind a lot lately.  Originally, it occured to me that I could probably do anything long-term, if i knew i got to take significant amounts of time off. I thought, if only my job now offered that option. Sadly, I understand that piece is actually highly unlikely.  Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the requirement to work for money, and I believe as humans, we have innate drives to be useful and productive. I just don’t think we should all have to do it so much. I digress…

I know I have mentioned this before, but currently, we are hosting our second level of our city home through Airbnb.  We have been doing it since 2015 and still take great care to ensure our guests feel welcome and comfortable and special when they stay here.  We hope to expand our services to the tipi soon as well. We would only offer it when we are there, but we can already imagine the experience we want our guests to feel while visiting us there.  It is a special space.  

We are going to paint the sleeping pallet space and take out the hoosier cabinet which will be replaced with a wash area.  The floor is already prepped for water, so we should go with it! We will install a shower pan and which will be “plumbed” out the back of the tipi where we have already have a drainage ditch. Toss in a nice shower chair and a wash basin, and voila! You have a bathing area. There will be a gas grill, available to cook on, the fire pit, and the most beautiful night sky you could ask for.  Perfecto!  

Homework: Have a party! 

Aside from the money and the happiness factors, there are bonuses to sharing your personal space with folks.  It forces you to show off your good side. It helps you reset your environment. Friends once shared a funny meme with me in advance of one of them getting ready for a party:  Clean like it looks like no one lives here! One a year is a good way to give you a reason to clean the baseboards or dust the top of the refrigerator and toss out the old mail that has been piling up.  Some people don’t need a party as an excuse, but I do and the reward is always sweet.  

Hosting with Airbnb forces us to keep our home in the best shape possible, both functionally and aesthetically.  If it doesn’t look good and deliver, folks won’t want to stay here. I wish i could put more into it then we already have, but over the years I feel like Perriee and I have managed to keep it looking fresh, whether it be by buying new towels or a new area rug or redoing the bathroom (which we are very proud of, by the way). Then in the space we have, which can be see by our guests, we keep our junk piles to a minimum and make sure it is ready to look at should someone want to peek at while here.  I look forward to bringing this process to the tipi. It keeps us looking good which feels good to us too.  

To host an event at the cabin  will push it all to another level.  In the meantime, I will keep mapping it out in my mind.  So far, it looks amazing.

You might not be able to buy happiness, but you sure can create it. 

One…two…three…go!

Number One

In preparation for our first official get together down at the cabin, we did some landscaping to spruce up the “yard” a bit.  It is so funny because we have one push mower at the city house and two on the country property, but not one of them would start, so to kick off our new car lease, we loaded a rented push mower for the day to get it done.  I planted some flowers that are probably dead right now since it hasn’t rained for a week and we pulled the tall grass that was growing around the base of the tipi. It looks really cool down there.

We hope to have some folks camp and maybe play some yard games around there so we had to make some space with the mower, which also helps in terms of bug control.  Surprisingly, we did not see one tick last weekend, which is either because we started using the bug spray finally or because it was even too hot for them. The transformation of that spot after we mowed, from when we first pitched a tent there three summers ago is astounding.  It looks like someone’s yard now. Oh yeah, its our yard!  

My vision for this party (oh yeah- I am totally putting this out there in the universe) is for people to come and relax.  I want them to take a deep breath and smile. I want them to snack, and laugh, and drink, and decompress. There is so much going on in the world right now and I want our spot to feel like a safe space in the chaos of it all.  A charging station, of sorts, to prep your mind to be able to get back out there and face it all again. Mercury is in retrograde right now, so this might be a tall order, but I am going for it.  Maybe a night hanging out with us can serve as a respite from the effects of it.  

Number Two

This will be a mostly off grid party, so we also spent some time prepping the new number two spot behind the Number 2 Room.  Our old poo deposit spot we set up turned out to be a little too close to things people use, namely my sister’s bedroom, so we haven’t dumped any buckets in preparation of getting the new place set up to compost the waste at. We can take it down in a year after the pile has rested for two years.  It will be rich compost.

The wonderful thing about the bucket system is the fact that they are sealed so well, that you can sort of let them hang out in a safe place until you are ready to clean them out. It is a pretty easy process to maintain sawdust potties. We connected four pallets into a square, dug a basin of dirt out of the center, lined it with straw and dumped the buckets we had into the center.  You then cover, cover, and cover it some more with straw, which will be peeled back to dump again in the future when new buckets need emptied (and them recovered again). Please check the official handbook  for more detailed information.  Personally, I would not do this in an urban environment, because it would be impossible to control any runoff, however small, which in the spot we have selected, will be both minimal and unobtrusive.   Of course, you can invest in the more official compost potties, such as the Nature’s Head composting toilet, which we will be considering for the cabin, but for now, sawdust (pine shaving) potty is absolutely enough.  

 

Number Three

On the city home front, we had a party for Independence Day with friends and family that was wonderful.  We had Airbnb guests staying that weekend, so it forced us to be extra cozy in our part of the house which consists of the first floor and half finished basement.  My favorite part was packing up our new mattress we have been sleeping on and moving it into the living room to use as extra seating and we were able to move our dining table into our “bedroom” for the day. This was our first go at doing this transformation since getting our new sleeping arrangements.  It was really exciting because basically, I realized we are already well on our way to tiny living and efficient living.  It was a good feeling to actually know we practice what we preach! 

 

Homework

Be mindful of the “things” in your life.  Try to have multiple purposes for some of your belongings so you can have fewer items to look after or find space for.  The less space that the material things take up in our lives, the more room we have for people who make us happy or moments to cherish.  The less you have to lose in life, material wise, the easier it is to take chances on things you really want to do.  

We got bit by solar bug (and the mosquitoes, and ticks, and chiggers, and…)

Perriee and I finally spent our first nights in the cabin.  It was wonderful, having the chance to fall asleep, shielded only by the plastic and Tyvek that were hanging on the front wall of the house.  I will admit that I felt some guilt using the tipi only for supplies that we needed during our stay. One thing i look forward to however, is having the chance to glampify it here and there now that we don’t need to sleep in it everytime we go.  We need to finish the floor under the stove, paint the hoosier cabinet, and rearrange a little to make it feel more open.  

Even with our building materials stashed inside, the cabin already feels so open inside.  The best part is being able to walk around freely without a wood stove in the center of the room.  

This trip out there, we were able to install our solar “attic fan” in the gable end where the sleeping loft is going to be.  We bought the Nature Power 24208 Powered 1350 CFM Attic Gable Vent Fan with 20W Solar Panel.  This involved fitting the last two pieces of plywood around the fan at the top of the cabin.  It was so incredibly hot that I thought we might melt out there, but we managed to get it measured and screwed into place.  From the inside of the cabin, we cut and mounted the 2×3 supports that we attached the fan to. We then Tyvekked the new area of plywood and attached the fan.  Lastly, screwed the solar panel to the roof. Perriee rocked out her valedictorian brain (yeah, I know, it’s awesome!) and suggested we test the fan BEFORE mounting it on the roof which was definitely the best way to go.  The instructions suggested wiring up while in place, which would have been a nightmare to do while on a ladder, in the heat. Overall, the entire project was pretty simple. The best part? It freaking works! 

The fan only runs when there is sun, but it started up Sunday morning around 8:30 and should consistently run through the worst parts of the day.  Matt suggested attaching a battery to the solar panel to hold extra energy for overnight, which I would say we will work towards, but for now, with as much time as we spend there, I think the current setup will work out great.  

So now we have the solar bug.  During breakfast on Sunday morning we sat watching the fan whir and decided we need more.  The fan installation was the perfect way to dip our toes in the water or, should I say, sunshine, to get the basic gist of how a system works.  If we can do it, anyone can!  

We revisited looking at the Goal Zero Yeti 1250 Solar Package and decided two of those might be all we need to power the entire cabin!  Hear me out, but we might even mount a tv in the sleeping loft, which I had never even considered being an option.  The Yeti has three 110 outlets, a place to plug in the solar fan, plus USB ports for phones. CLEARLY we are not ready for this, but it is a new goal (pun intended).  

Next steps?  

I think the next big step will be to install the back wall’s two windows.  We had ordered two, but realized after watching some installation videos that we bought replacement windows as opposed to “new construction” windows, which have the flange, or lip that you use to nail the window into place.  This worked out though because we ordered a slightly different style (the kind with the window pane look) which I had been having some regrets about not getting in the first place. I love happy accidents.

Homework

Be a deviant!  If we had followed the directions that were inside of the solar fan, we would’ve been so frustrated trying to wire it together after we had it mounted up in place. Trust yourself and the way that you work.  One of the biggest things we have learned since starting all of our projects as a couple of novices is that one source, be it person, video, or manual, does not necessarily have all of the right answers.  Gather your information, listen well, but in the end, make your own recipe. Often, the best answers lie within you.

Some sort of recovered nest.
We pulled this down off of the cat ladder that goes up under the gable of the a-frame. Whatever kind of nest this is (bird or mouse), we pulled it down and relocated it. Sorry kids, you have to move on.