Floyd Tiny House Tour

Guest post from the swashbuckling Tiny Twosome. Thanks, Tiny Twosome!

Last month, the Tiny Twosome (formerly known as Butter Boy and Butter Babe) attended the Sustain Floyd Tiny House Tour.  This fun self-guided driving tour of six private tiny homes in and around Floyd, VA, gave us a peek into the homes, and lives, of a few folks who have made the choice to scale back on their material possessions and expand their time and resources for other things.

We left Charlottesville Friday after work and hit the road toward Floyd, stopping in Lexington for a little dinner before finally reaching our destination: the Bent Mountain Lodge Bed and Breakfast.  Even before the Tiny Tour, this place seemed expansive.  We had a good night, though somewhat interrupted by a sound outside that made us think of a barking seal, and after a minimalist breakfast the next morning – slightly supplemented by food from the “family” refrigerator, before Butter Boy noticed the sign on the other fridge that read “Guest Refrigerator,” we headed off bright and early for the first house on our list.

The Twosome’s Favorite Tiny House

316 square ft house

The 316 square foot house, built by Christy and Ricardo, powered by a solar system installed by Ricardo, was our first – and favorite – of the houses.  The couple spent a year building their house – living in a tent for the first six months.  Ricardo said that ten months out of the year they are able to feed power back into the grid and have the electric company send THEM a check. The couple lives mortgage-free, paying for projects and upgrades as they go, without going into debt.  This cute two-story house sits on a on a permanent foundation.  Some of our favorite features were the “big” wrap-around porch, cozy feel, and red metal roof.  Inside, it was small but very livable for two.

The Tiny Farm Cabin

Our next stop was the Riverstone Organic Farm to see the tiny cabin where a farm worker (Kat) lives for the season.  Although it is insulated and has electricity, this cabin has no indoor plumbing and is heated by a small woodstove.  The little cabin has a sitting area, a curtained-off bedroom area, and a loft, and is decorated with Kat’s found treasures from around the farm and beyond.  Kat said she does her cooking and washing-up at the facilities in the nearby barn / farm store.

Riverstone Organic Farm cabin

Also on the property was this yurt they purchased for use as a guesthouse and special events.  We liked the stump steps up to the platform.

Stump stairs

The Tiny Family Home

Amazingly, Hari and Karl’s family of four has lived in this tiny house for the past four years.  They constructed the 168 square foot house themselves on a mobile home frame, and have been living there mortgage-free while constructing a larger home on the adjoining lot.  This tiny home has a sleeping loft at either end, and the downstairs contains a living area, kitchen, and bathroom.

168 square ft house

Their chickens enjoy a well-crafted home of their own.  The extensive chicken compound looked like just the place to raise happy, well-adjusted chickens.  I’m sure “factory farm” isn’t even in their vocabulary.

chicken compound

We drove into town and had a nice lunch break at the Floyd Country Store, where Butter Boy enjoyed chicken pot pie and tomato soup and Butter Babe had a tasty quiche and white bean and kale soup.  We spotted a few of the other Tiny Tourists who apparently had the same idea.

The Tiniest Tiny House

Next stop was Jim’s 120 square foot self-built home – which was also constructed on a mobile home trailer.  Jim, however, used only a small portion of the frame’s length (about 8 feet) for his home and dedicated the rest to an extensive deck and attached shed.  It was by far the Tiniest of the Tiny homes we saw.  With five of us standing inside, there wasn’t room for much more.

tiniest tiny house

The Roomy-ish Tiny House

The small home of Morgan and Amado has a bedroom area to the right of the front door, a sitting area straight ahead, and bathroom and kitchen off to the left. There is a storage loft over the kitchen and bathroom. The very open floor plan felt roomy for such a modest-sized home.

roomy tiny house

After the tour we had to stop by the nearby Chateau Morrisette to taste some wine before dinner.  Butter Boy abstained from the wine tasting – as he was driving.  Butter Babe, however, was not planning to do any driving that day.

Chateau Morrisette

Dinner was at a local Italian restaurant, Mickey G’s Bistro and Pizzeria, where we enjoyed seafood and pasta.  Butter Boy had a giant half-lobster but was given only a tiny nutcracker to get into the slippery, buttery crustacean.  (Sadly, given that we were in the landlocked little town of Floyd, we’re pretty sure that the lobster was not locally sourced…)

The final activity of the Tiny Tour was the showing of the movie “Tiny: A Story About Living Small” at the Floyd Country Store.  The film followed a young man as he took longer than he anticipated to build his own tiny house – with help from his very patient girlfriend.   A question and answer session followed with a panel of tiny homeowners (the homes, not the owners).

More than a tiny bit tired, we returned to the Bent Mountain Lodge – which felt larger than the night before – for one more night before heading home with lots of ideas and things to think about.

A Tiny Haiku:

Simple tiny house

Smaller footprint larger life

Gentler on the Earth

2014 Historic Farm Tour in Keswick

Saturday was the 5th Annual Grace Church Historic Farm Tour in Keswick. I’d been wanting to do it for years, and this year, when I was actually in town and free, I didn’t even know it was happening. Thank you Cheenius for the spur-of-the-moment adventure!

Having only a few hours, we decided to split our time among the Country Fair booths at Grace Church, the retired racehorses at Old Keswick, the antique cars at Linden Lane (where Cheenius’s father-in-law was an exhibitor), and the foxhounds at Keswick Hunt Club. The weather was ideal for a drive through the countryside, and we had a lovely time.

Farm tour map

Grace Episcopal Church

Grace Church

Grace Church, a gorgeous Gothic church built in the late 1800s, was hosting a Country Fair with craft booths, 4-H animal exhibits, dog adoption corrals, and food trucks. We bought our tour tickets and cruised through the fair, petting some animals and attempting to get some food (wait times were 30 minutes! food trucks are supposed to be fast, people!) before hitting the road to Old Keswick.

Llamas 4-H cow

(check out his drool!)

Old Keswick Farm

Old Keswick, a former racehorse breeding operation, is a foster home to several retired racehorses from the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation, but there wasn’t much to see at this stop. We walked through the lovely barn where a couple horses dozed in stalls, popped into the Wildlife Center of Virginia’s tent to see a possum and an owl on display, and took off. Fortunately there was a horse near the fence on the way out who was happy to relieve us of the carrots we had picked up in the barn.

Old Keswick Farm Old Keswick Farm horse

Linden Lane

Linden Lane’s enormous front lawn was host to an antique car exhibit, and we stopped by to say hello to Cheenius’s father-in-law and admire his prize possession. It turned out he had dropped the car off and gone on his own farm tour adventure, but all was not lost, because the exhibit turned out to be really interesting (I had been skeptical). The cars were shiny and pretty and so different in layout and design from today’s cars. Clearly, I am a knowledgeable car person.

Antique PackardAntique Corvette

Shadwell Market

Shout out to Shadwell Market for feeding us when the food trucks could not. Cheenius and I shared some Power Balls (nut/date/honey/crack) from Mudhouse, Mr HP got a sandwich, and when I admired the Brussels sprouts in the hot food display case but lamented that they had bacon, the fabulous kitchen crew offered to stirfry me up a batch sans bacon. So nice!

Keswick Hunt Club Kennels

Keswick Hunt Club was the highlight of the tour for us. Foxhounds everywhere! We got to lean into a puppy enclosure and play with some younguns, after they peeled themselves off the pile of napping puppies to come say hi. The kennel was full of happy, goofy adults, half of which got to come out and run around for a demonstration with the huntsman, whip, and kennel manager. Even non-dog-person Cheenius was smitten and confessed she considered puppy-napping on last year’s tour when the resident puppies were tinier.

Keswick Hunt Club foxhounds foxhounds and huntsman


So, in closing, a recap:

  • Food trucks should serve food quickly
  • Old cars are cool, especially turquoise ones
  • Shadwell Market workers are friendly and accommodating
  • Foxhounds are adorable, but probably not good apartment dogs (ahem, Mr HP)

Celebrity sighting: Joel Salatin at the Paramount


Joel Salatin spoke at the Paramount in C’ville last Saturday morning, and Momma HP and I were there. Here’s the official event description:

Field School of Charlottesville is hosting Joel Salatin for a talk on “Healthy Boys” on Saturday, May 17th at 10:30 a.m. at the Paramount.  Salatin, who is featured in Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma as well the documentary film Food, Inc., is a full-time farmer and the owner of Polyface Farm of Augusta County, Virginia.  An outspoken proponent of non-industrial food production, Salatin will provide his thoughts on what we can do to develop healthy boys, through good nutrition, exercise, and raising good food.  Lunch will be provided to all participants following the presentation.  Field School is a 5th-8th Grade middle school for boys “developing well-rounded boys of character and accomplishment.  The event is sponsored by Field Camp, Blue Ridge Swim Club, Ashtanga Yoga, Mudhouse Coffee, and the Local Food Hub.

The bits specific to raising healthy boys weren’t so applicable to us (although Momma HP has a strapping young grandson), but there was plenty of improve-the-food-system and get-outdoors-and-play talk to keep us happy.


My main takeaways

Personal health

Eat real food. He told a vermicomposting story where the worms wouldn’t eat the processed snack food and it survived the composting process intact, and asked us to think about 1) why would we eat something a worm wouldn’t eat, and 2) why we would want to eat food that won’t rot–meaning, there’s nothing alive in it.

Or think of it as fueling your system with real food. We humans are host to about 100 trillion bacteria–in fact, our bodies are only 10% human–and we need to support those bacteria by feeding them quality food. The influence of gut bacteria on your body reaches far beyond digestion. Bacterial health may be related to chronic disease: malnourished digestive bacteria may allow toxins to leak into the bloodstream, causing a low-level inflammation which may lead to many of the chronic diseases prevalent today. Gut health may be linked to neurological health: “leaky gut” may contribute to depression, and gut bacteria may be able to influence our behavior. Salatin also encouraged the audience (who were sitting in a dark room on a beautiful day, I noted to myself) to get outside and play in the dirt, and pet some animals! Expose yourself to a broader range of microbes.

I recommend reading this article by Michael Pollan for a thorough discussion of one’s personal microbiome: Some of My Best Friends Are Germs. It’s a fascinating and important topic about which science is only just starting to learn.


Food system health

Care about what you eat. We, as a society, have abdicated responsibility for our food production. Why do we spend more time worrying over, for example, who should do work on our house than who produces the food that goes into our bodies? Start a garden and grow some produce, buy from your local farmers markets and small groceries, and even visit area farms themselves to see how the food is produced–and, of course, how the animals are treated. Try to eat food that you can look at and tell what it’s made from. Question the origin of those ingredients you can’t pronounce. Be mindful of what you’re consuming.

Here are some suggestions for simple ways to regain some control over your food.


Food’s impact on American healthcare

Americans are spending less on food and more on healthcare than ever before. 

This article shows Americans’ decreasing spending trends on food; this articleand this one discuss the meteoric rise in obesity and its associated healthcare costs in this country. People are buying more cheap, processed, sugary, chemically food and paying for it with their health. Do you think the two are related? If you doubt it, here’s another article.


And then we took our enchiladas out to Lee Park and sat on a bench in the sun. If you have the opportunity to see Salatin speak, go! Even if the topic seems slightly irrelevant, and especially if they give you lunch.

HP in Australia #3: Perth City Farm

At the end of the free Yellow CAT bus line* just outside downtown Perth lies an urban oasis where once a polluted scrap metal yard stood: Perth City Farm. Their motto: “Working together to create greener cities and sustainable landscapes for the future.”

Perth City Farm

Perth City Farm, managed by the non-profit Men of the Trees, not only grows organic food in the city, but also hosts workshops, seminars, art galleries, and group events. Local volunteers and those seeking training or experience tend the gardens and cafe. The founder’s dream was to create “… a place in the city with a nursery, gardens, soup kitchens; a whole educational facility where young people could tend plants, meet each other, learn skills and find respect for themselves.”

perth-city-farm-men-of-the-trees perth-city-farm-inside

The Farm hosts a Saturday morning market featuring food and personal and household products from ethical and sustainable growers and producers, and has a popular onsite cafe serving simple breakfasty fare. I visited the cafe on a Monday afternoon, the first day they were open after a 3-week holiday, to find that they’d closed a bit early due to low traffic. It turned out the farm itself is closed on Mondays so I couldn’t observe the workers bustling around–which actually was nice in that I could stroll through the quiet gardens all alone. So even though I didn’t get to try any of the cafe’s food, the trip definitely was not a bust.

perth-city-farm-inside-seating perth-city-farm-inside-path

The Farm’s Facebook page is updated often with hours, events, and photos.

*CAT buses run four free loops within the city. Best part: most people, when exiting the bus, called out “thank you!” to the driver, who thanked them right back. It’s the little things, people!

Lucky egg

Now that Spring has sprung, I’m back to buying eggs from the vendors at the Charlottesville City Market rather than from the good folks at Market Street Market.

Liberty Farm eggs, Bentonville, VA

Saturday’s purchase was from Liberty Farm and included an unusually large egg. Sure enough, when I cracked it open–

double-yolk egg

two yolks! It was (they were?) delicious. But why do double-yolk eggs occur? They’re usually produced by young hens with immature reproductive systems that release two yolks at once. Less often, stress could make an older hen could pop out a double-yolker. Double-yolking can be hereditary.

For a household of only two humans, we go through A LOT of eggs, but this was my first double-yolk experience. In fact, double-yolk eggs are quite rare: apparently, the probability of getting a two-yolk egg is 1/1000, but I couldn’t find an explanation of that number and what it takes into account. One would think the relative probability of finding a double-yolker in a carton of local, small-farm eggs would be much higher than finding one in a carton of graded commercial eggs, because the USDA grading and sorting process typically excludes these abnormal eggs.

I read that finding a double-yolk egg is good luck. Seems it’s also good luck for the chicken, as the layer of your lucky egg is more likely to be a local, small-farm hen, and good luck for the farmer who sold you the lucky egg and pockets your cash. Everybody wins when you buy local eggs!

If you’re interested in other wacky eggs, check out http://www.poultryhelp.com/oddeggs.html.


Fruit Grafting and Propagation Class

Guest post from Cheenius; also posted on the Transition Charlottesville blog.

You have to love a class where one of the first questions the instructor poses is: “Does anyone here faint at the sight of their own blood?” Good stuff. Luckily, Cheenius is known for being fearless and intrepid.

About a dozen current and wannabe orchardists met for a one day workshop led by Alexis Zeigler of Living Energy Farm. Alexis has hundreds of fruit trees at various properties, and this self-taught expert provided a wealth of information as well as hands-on experience. He pointed out that we have all been duped by a culture of deception when it comes to fruit, thinking that the shiny apples and plump peaches of the grocery store are desirable. In reality, those fruits have been sprayed with fungicides and pesticides up to 14 times during their growth. Meanwhile, because industrial farming only serves up a relatively small number of fruits varieties, we don’t realize that fruits like the paw paw, persimmon, and muscadine are much better suited for the mid-Atlantic and are incredibly disease and insect resistance. In some cases, these little-known fruits also offer more vitamins and even protein than we get from the ubiquitous red delicious apple. I was definitely inspired to think about my fruit tree choices in a completely different way.

Alexis Zeigler

After learning the characteristics and hardiness of some of the main fruit and nut tree families, we moved on to propagation. We covered seed and root cuttings, and then spent the rest of our time learning to graft. Turns out, once you know which parts to line up, it wasn’t that hard, but it was invaluable to have Alexis there — definitely not the kind of thing you can learn from a book. Along with knowledge, we all left with some actual grafts that we should be able to plant in 4-8 weeks. What did I end up with? Pretty excited about some blight resistant pears, hardy almonds, and some paw paw seeds that I’ve already put into pots. Planning to add kiwi and persimmon to my yard as soon as I can figure out a good location. Great class!

Grafted Plants

Thanks, Cheenius! Can’t wait to hear how your new plants turn out!

“Women and Land” Workshop

Guest post from Buzzy! Thanks, Buzzy!

Thanks to Haute Pasture, Buzzy recently attended the “Women and Land” workshop, put on by the Virginia Department of Forestry.  They gathered together four different federal, state, and local agencies, and introduced the 36+ women in attendance to all their services.  Turns out, the government actually offers some great programs and cost share incentives!  I would encourage anyone who has even a small amount of land to call the agencies directly; they seemed incredibly willing to do phone consultations, site visits, etc.  Here are some tidbits to get you thinking about the possibilities:

Essentially, farmers and ranchers have a whole panel of experts just a phone call away.  Buzzy’s got some dialing to do!

Homegrown Foods: Local, organic food in Hong Kong

I’m in Hong Kong, on the last leg of my Asia trip. At dinner at Linguini Fini last night, a dear friend told me the last time she had been at the restaurant was for a harvest dinner put on by Homegrown Foods. Linguini Fini partners with Homegrown Foods for locally sourced organic and natural food, including hormone-free meats and eggs.

Homegrown Foods provides natural, seasonal, local food to businesses and individuals in the Hong Kong area, from family farms in the New Territories region of Hong Kong, and neighbor China. The farms are inspected periodically to ensure quality of food and sustainability of farming practices. Homegrown Foods offers a CSA-type subscription delivery service, and also a la carte groceries.

Homegrown Foods is an asset to the citizens of Hong Kong, but also to the entire region, as they teach the value of sustainable farming to the Chinese farmers they’re partnering with. If you live in Hong Kong, check them out!


In Appreciation of Happy Cow Beef

Guest post from Mr HP!

While visiting Tucson a few weeks ago, my brother took me to St. Philip’s Plaza Farmers Market where I ran into one of the proprietors of San Rafael Valley Grass-Fed Beef.

San Rafael Valley Grass-Fed Beef

Upon seeing his sign, I decided to make some small talk.

“You mean you don’t torture your cows?”

“No, we treat all of our cattle humanely.”

“But, don’t tortured cows taste better?”

He took the joke and we spoke about their ranch a little bit. They keep around 200 head of cattle on about 7,000 acres of land in Patagonia, Tucson, a beautiful (and temperate, thanks to the elevation) part of Arizona about a 75 minute drive south of Tucson. (Incidentally, Patagonia is a short drive from Sonoita, home to outstanding vineyards producing some fairly drinkable wine; all in all, well worth a visit.)

Sonoita Arizona wine country

Sonoita, Arizona Wine Country

In addition to enjoying beautiful scenery, San Rafael Valley Grass-Fed Beef’s Angus-Hereford cattle are on a diet of 100% grass, and are spared hormones, feed lots, big corn, antibiotics and pesticides.

San Rafael Valley Grass-Fed Beef

Unfortunately, it was my last day in Tucson so I didn’t get to taste any of the beef, but I agree from past experience that grass-fed, humanely raised cows taste better. It’s good for soul. And possibly the brain, heart, immune system, etc.

Halifax local food resources

As a new part-time Haligonian (yes, Haligonian) I felt compelled to do some research on the urban farming scene in Halifax. From a previous visit I knew about the Seaport Farmers’ Market and was excited to read about a bounty of other in-town gardens and suburban markets, farm stands, and pick-your-own farms.

Urban farming is popular in Halifax and Dartmouth. The area is home to a few small, urban CSAs and a patchwork of backyard garden plots, and a population that increasingly wants to know where their food comes from, what’s in it, and its carbon footprint.

I was working on a list of CSAs that have dropoffs in Halifax when I came across this excellent directory, which is much more comprehensive than mine was going to be. So in the interest of not duplicating effort for a lesser result, I will not compile my own list here. Thanks, Marla!

Local food resources for Halifax, Nova Scotia

List of regional CSAs, specifying which deliver to Halifax

Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market, open Tuesday through Sunday, with Friday being International Day, yum

The Grainery Food Co-op on Agricola St in Halifax, open Tuesday and Wednesday 4:00 – 6:30 PM and Thursday, Friday, and Saturday 1:30 – 7:00 PM

Halifax Garden Network, with an awesome map of urban garden plots. I can’t wait to have a little treasure hunt, wandering around town with that map trying to spot the gardens.

Regional pick-your-own farms. Of course, not being from the area, I don’t know if any of these are close to Halifax. But maybe you do.

Incidental interesting fact: Halifax soil is high in lead from people dumping coal ash into their yards back in the day.

Here’s to getting to know the local food scene in Halifax.