Amanda Kovattana is a 6-year veteran of tiny house living who lives completely off-grid in the drought-ridden landscape of Northern California. In this conversation, we get a sense of all of the ingenious systems that Amanda has developed to live tiny comfortably while also working within the bounds of the resources she has – including an interesting way of collecting rainwater. During the course of the conversation, I also learned about the alternative to a composting toilet that Amanda uses called Bokashi, which is a fermentation method she’s very knowledgeable about.
In This Episode:
- Simple and effective water catchment system
- Composting toilets and Bokashi
- Fun furniture and storage
- Water conservation in dry areas
- Innovating and iterating systems that work
Links and Resources:
- The Girls’ Guide To Off Grid Living by Amanda Kovattana
- The Humanure Handbook by Joseph Jenkins
- Bokashi Compost System
- Bokashi Pet Waste System
- Amanda’s Off-Grid Laundry System
Amanda Kovattana is a six-year veteran of tiny house living situated in the drought landscape of Northern California where she is focused on reducing her resource use, informed by her childhood growing up in pre-industrialized Thailand in the ’60s and her coming of age in the San Francisco Bay Area in the '70s. She is the author of two memoirs: Diamonds In My Pocket and The Girls’ Guide to Off Grid Living.
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Amanda uses her hammock as her main seating option
The cargo net was originally intended for drying laundry indoors
Amanda uses magnets to store things on her wall
Composted toilet matter gets used in the garden
The solar water heater only worked during daytime hours
These totes are perfect for Amanda's water catchment system
The tiny house is a perfect writing shack
Amanda's tiny house lifestyle keeps her fit enough to continue living in the tiny house
Part of her rental agreement is vegetation management for fire prevention
Amanda Kovattana 0:00
Because I grew up in Thailand, my acquaintance with squat toilets was that it was beneficial, which we we are now is realizing that here in the West because of the manufacture of the little steps.
Ethan Waldman 0:14
Welcome to the Tiny House Lifestyle Podcast, the show where you learn how to plan, build and live the tiny lifestyle. I'm your host, Ethan Waldman, and this is episode 257 with Amanda Kovattana. Amanda Kovattana is a six year veteran of tiny house living, and she lives completely off-grid in the drought ridden landscape of Northern California. In this conversation, we get a sense of all of the ingenious systems that Amanda has developed to live comfortably tiny, while also working within the bounds of the resources that she has. She has a really interesting way of collecting rainwater. And in the course of the conversation, I discovered that she uses an alternate type of compost toilet. It's called Bokashi. And it's actually a fermentation method rather than composting. She's quite knowledgeable about the process and I learned a whole lot in this conversation. I hope you stick around.
Are you looking for a compact and affordable way to streamline your lifestyle? I'd like to tell you about the sponsor of this week's episode PODX Go and their new grande s one tiny home. This meticulously designed tiny home expands from a trailer to a 364 square foot home with just the push of a button. certified by NOAH and built to ANSI 119.5 one . The Grande S1 is towable with an F 250 or equivalent. The PODX Go home is 99% factory built with healthy and eco friendly materials that you can rest easy knowing your home is taking care of you and the environment. It features a fully fitted kitchen, bedroom, bath and living room with ingenious storage spaces throughout. PODX Go has even partnered with Renogy solar systems so you can live off-grid or reduce your energy bills. Discover the ultimate choice for your tiny lifestyle with PODX Go's Grande S1 model. PODX Go has launched their crowdfunding campaign with special pricing starting from just $49,000. Visit PODXGo.com to watch a video of the S1 unfold and to get the crowdfunding launch discount. Again that website is PODX Go. That's PODXGo.com. Thank you so much to PODX Go for sponsoring our show.
Right I am here with Amanda Kovattana. Amanda is a six year veteran of tiny house living situated in the drought landscape of Northern California, where she is focused on reducing her resource use, informed by her childhood growing up in pre industrialized Thailand in the '60s and her coming of age in the San Francisco Bay Area in the '70s. She's the author of two books sorry, she's the author of two memoirs, Diamonds In My Pocket and The Girls’ Guide to Off Grid Living. Amanda Kovattana, welcome to the show.
Amanda Kovattana 3:42
Ethan Waldman 3:43
Yeah, it's great to have you here. So tell me about your tiny house. This is a podcast so most people who are you know, consuming this or just listening? Can you can you describe your house for us?
Amanda Kovattana 3:57
Oh, I It's a smallest tiny house I've ever been in.
Ethan Waldman 4:04
Amanda Kovattana 4:05
It's built on a seven foot by 14 foot trailer.
Ethan Waldman 4:09
Amanda Kovattana 4:10
So in the actual footprint is I think 85 square feet. And it has a loft, which brings it to about 130 square feet. So it reminds me of the sailboat style of living.
Ethan Waldman 4:29
Amanda Kovattana 4:31
For my childhood, my parents and I would like to say Oh, in the San Francisco Bay and we had a 20 Um, no, it was a 32 foot sailboat outfitted for living.
Ethan Waldman 4:46
Nice. Yeah, so the tiny house is a lot like a sailboat, isn't it?
Amanda Kovattana 4:52
Yes, yes. When I fitted it out and completed it. It even had something Have a nautical look to it in my eyes. Yeah, so I felt completed.
Ethan Waldman 5:07
Yeah, I love your siding is it looks like cedar shingles and it's got that Dragon's tooth profile, which I've always loved that that look.
Amanda Kovattana 5:18
Yes, yes. It's the look of it really sold me on it. It was built and designed by a roofing contractor. So he did what he did best even though in looking back he said it was so much work he probably would go with another siding.
Ethan Waldman 5:42
Yes. Yeah, I did that just for basically my loft is under these two dormered parts of the house and I did that dragon's tooth cedar shingles under there and it is quite time consuming. But actually kind of fun. I enjoyed doing that part of the of the siding, there's something I can envision that that's how houses were cited hundreds of years ago and you can envision doing it you know, all you need is a is a hammer and nails to put up that kind of siding.
Amanda Kovattana 6:14
Yes, I preserve it. The nice rich see the cover color by staining it every two years.
Ethan Waldman 6:23
Amanda Kovattana 6:23
Which is a half day project.
Ethan Waldman 6:26
Amanda Kovattana 6:27
So I feel that I am acquainted with all of its many characteristics. Yeah, bad.
Ethan Waldman 6:35
So, your your book, The Girls Guide to Off Grid Living. I'm assuming that you live completely off grid in your tiny house.
Amanda Kovattana 6:47
I have solar power and a battery bank.
Ethan Waldman 6:52
Amanda Kovattana 6:53
I am hooked up to a hose that my landlord offers. And the water comes from a reservoir in town here.
Ethan Waldman 7:03
Amanda Kovattana 7:04
So in a way the town itself is self sufficient. Water wise, so I okay. But I also collect water in I have about 550 gallons just around the house in storage.
Ethan Waldman 7:22
Amanda Kovattana 7:23
And that is what I use for my garden.
Ethan Waldman 7:26
Ah, so I was going to ask about that. You have many of the, let's see, I've seen them at Lowe's and Costco and all the big box stores those black plastic bins with the yellow lids. They're great. I love those things. Ah, but it looks like you've drilled lots of holes in the covers and then you've got them situated kind of around the tiny house. Is that your water catchment system?
Amanda Kovattana 7:51
Yes, it is. It just came to me when I was wandering around Home Depot looking for containers and they happen to have a sale on these huge five gallon boxes and I was like 55 gallons. That sounds familiar. And that's how much you get in a drum which is usually used. But water catchment right. So I was putting the two together and it works great because I could just lay them all under the eaves. And it also worked to keep the wind from blowing under the tiny house. Right. So in a sense it added insulation. Right,
Ethan Waldman 8:39
right. So it's a it's almost like a skirting for your tiny house but it's a functional skirting.
Amanda Kovattana 8:44
Right, I did have to fill in the gaps with I used silver emergency blankets. Okay to make an actual skirting and some black plastic bags that I filled with old pillows I would stuff in the cracks. Uh huh. So this this tiny house living is an ongoing Do It Yourself management project.
Ethan Waldman 9:18
Yeah, absolutely. So sticking on the on the water I love I love the simplicity of the system because you haven't had to put up any any gutters or any piping. Gutters are notoriously expensive and finicky. The water just rolls off the roof. And then the lid of the band kind of functions as as a filter.
Amanda Kovattana 9:38
It does it keeps the leaves out and everything.
Ethan Waldman 9:40
Amanda Kovattana 9:41
Ethan Waldman 9:44
Amanda Kovattana 9:45
And then in the summer, I can take the lids off and just dip a bucket in which is a lot faster than waiting to fill up with a spigot from the usual water. Yeah, bye so that people can install.
Ethan Waldman 10:02
Yeah. So do you have any kind of plumbing or piping going from those bins? Or is it just like completely manual? Like you fill up a watering can? Or you fill up a bucket?
Amanda Kovattana 10:14
Oh, it's definitely our manual because part of the benefit of keeping everything manual and direct is that I get a lot of exercise hefting five gallon buckets.
Ethan Waldman 10:29
Yeah. Well that you know, it's it's a saying in wood stoves that wood stoves warm you three times. One when you chop the wood to when you build the fire and then three the stove.
Amanda Kovattana 10:43
Exactly, yes. Yeah. Yeah.
Ethan Waldman 10:48
Cut it, split it and burn it. Yeah, that's, that's the same. So you have a great blog that I that I was checking out kind of a journal, a memoir almost of your, your systems and your living tiny. And you have talked a lot about your compost toilet. And you know, how that system works, and I actually had never heard of, you know, the system that you use and tell me if I'm pronouncing it correctly. Bokashi?
Amanda Kovattana 11:25
Yes, Bokashi is a Japanese fermentation system, also used in Korea and, and other Asian cultures.
Ethan Waldman 11:35
Amanda Kovattana 11:35
In fact, all cultures have fermentation of some sort in, in our food history. But Bokashi was developed more recently by Japanese, in agriculture to make compost faster with agricultural waste, okay. And I was introduced to it by an American who had worked with it in Hawaii, and seen it, seen it in production. And she showed me an American site where you could buy these book Kashi kids, and they have a pet waste Bokashi system that they sells, so I could just buy everything I needed.
Ethan Waldman 12:26
So how does it How does it work? Can you I mean, I've never heard of it and I'm sure that our listeners will will be interested you can you describe kind of how the fermentation system works.
Amanda Kovattana 12:37
The pet waste system comes with two screw top suite gallon buckets and you put in two gallons of water a cup of effective micro organism in a in a liquid form okay and then with that, after every deposit, you sprinkle across the top this brand like rice husk, other kind of vegetative brand that has been infused with the same effective micro organisms, okay. And then spray it, they also want you to spray a bit more of the liquid that has been in water dissolved in water a bit. So you basically every after every deposit, you're helping to push the fermentation and then once the bucket is filled, the screw top goes on and you leave it okay. Trade it out with that second bucket, you leave it for three weeks or so, okay and let the fermentation happen. And what then I sort of white fungus I suppose, because begins to grow.
Ethan Waldman 14:15
Amanda Kovattana 14:16
The process is that the effective micro organisms, eat the pathogens, and then another tear of beneficial by bacteria eat those and the process keeps going until the whole bucket is neutralized as far as being a pathogen and then I it's recommended to dig a hole in the earth to pour it into and bury that and then you leave it for a month or so before trying to plant anything into it. I've worked with it and change the process a little. You know, once you start digging up your whole garden, you run out of places to dig. And then right in in the summer, here, when we have no rain at all, the ground is so hard that you might as well get a pickaxe out. So, yeah, I don't dig it dig up the ground, I collect the dirts the soil that the gophers dig up, and I collect all of that into a bucket, you know, a big ice bucket, and I mix the compost with the soil in there. And it works just as well. And I've used that soil mixed in with other soil to fill my garden beds. So the soil was is constantly being offered more, more nutrients, much the same as if you bought regular compost on it.
Ethan Waldman 16:10
Amanda Kovattana 16:11
So that's basically the process.
Ethan Waldman 16:14
Yeah, a fermentation process. So how, you know, I'm guessing that the pathway system is, is a bit smaller than than a human might need. How Oh, hey, had to adapt. I'm guessing you've had to adapt. And I guess, you know, we're not shy on this show about talking about poop because that's what most people you know, who don't live tiny are the most curious about so
Amanda Kovattana 16:39
Ethan Waldman 16:40
Your collection. So like in the house, your toilet. You know, so in my tiny house, I use the humanure, you know, the Joe Jenkins Humanure Handbook System. So essentially, the toilet is a five gallon Home Depot bucket. And when you go you know, everything gets mixed in. Pee and poop go in the same bucket and sawdust is added each time you go. So what's the like inside collection system for you? Or like, or actually do you have a toilet in the house? Or do you do use this outside?
Amanda Kovattana 17:12
I do I have that was the first thing I built was my suppose a composting toilet. Ah, and it collected pee separately into a oil container that you can just get that at the auto parts store.
Ethan Waldman 17:37
Amanda Kovattana 17:38
And then originally, I would I had placed a bucket on top of that oil pan. I mean that oil container for poop and did the sawdust.
Ethan Waldman 17:51
Amanda Kovattana 17:53
And that was my original design. But when I was introduced to the Bokashi design and it came with the bucket not all then I just kept the bucket separate to poop into Okay, and I use my original toilet which has a toilet seat and everything. Yeah, for pee.
Ethan Waldman 18:15
Amanda Kovattana 18:16
So it's a, it ends up being a squat toilet my poop toilet, because I use it with a little bench next to it.
Ethan Waldman 18:26
Amanda Kovattana 18:27
And because I grew up in Thailand, my acquaintance with squat toilets was that it was beneficial. Right, this was the beneficial position. Right. Which we and we are now is realizing that here in the West because of the manufacture of the little stone steps, the squatty potty and a squat. Yes, exactly. Which was so amusingly advertised.
Ethan Waldman 18:58
Yes, yes, it was.
Amanda Kovattana 19:03
Well, that's and then it takes about three weeks or so three or four weeks to fill the bucket. Okay, just by myself. So, the chore of having to carry it out and do all the processing only comes you know, 11 times a year or so. Because I'm on vacation part of the year too.
Ethan Waldman 19:33
Amanda Kovattana 19:34
And then the toilet. That is I still use for the pee toilet. I have to empty it every two or three days. Okay, which is similar to the one that everybody else seems to be using the one built for boats. The head, Nature's Head.
Ethan Waldman 19:57
Hature's Head, yeah.
Amanda Kovattana 19:58
Yeah, right. Mine doesn't overflow though. I know that the Nature's Head one has been known to overflow if you're not watching,
Ethan Waldman 20:07
Right. If you're not watching the the urine container can can overfill. Yeah, and those, you know, those Nature's Head and those other commercial units are quite expensive. Oh, yeah. Compared to you know what it costs to build a humanure toilet or something like yours, you know, plastic buckets, plastic funnels, these things are very inexpensive.
Amanda Kovattana 20:33
Ethan Waldman 20:35
I'm curious to know what what I like about the, you know, humanure system is that I'm not relying on any, like company to provide me with the materials once I've built it. I mean, I do have to find sawdust. But you know, where my tiny house used to be, I was about 20 minutes down the road from a sawmill and I could go and fill up a trash can of sawdust there. Now we're right, I'm right near like a woodworking school. And they don't you know, they, so i i Take their dust from their dust collection system. What kind of ongoing like, supplies do you need to buy? Because I'm guessing you need to buy that, that that brand, you know, what is what are the what are the costs for that? And how often are you having to buy those supplies?
Amanda Kovattana 21:28
I really don't have to buy it very often. I am remembering like, once a year.
Ethan Waldman 21:35
Amanda Kovattana 21:35
So infrequent, and I basically buy a gallon of the liquid microorganisms. And then a few bags, like three pounds of the bran. Okay, which I also use to compost kitchen waste in a similar way. Because I once I got into it, I was like, Yeah, this could also work. So I cost them that I think it's maybe $60 or something to replenish, but you can, if I were motivated, I could make my own bran.
Ethan Waldman 22:21
Amanda Kovattana 22:23
But that's, you know, in this homesteading life, I can't be doing everything. Right. In some countries like Thailand, where I am also visiting, you can buy at the local Home Depot type plays the effect of micro organisms, because they use it in other applications. So it's more common. We haven't quite adopted it as as much for it to be available to buy locally,
Ethan Waldman 22:58
Right. It's not it's not commonplace here.
Amanda Kovattana 23:00
But I am always aware of, and I could easily go back to the sawdust system.
Ethan Waldman 23:09
Right. Well, that's the beauty of it. It seems like you kind of can, can do whatever is whatever's convenient. Whatever is working, you can always switch back.
Amanda Kovattana 23:19
Yes, being flexible is a good thing to build into your tiny house for resilience.
Ethan Waldman 23:27
Yes. What's the saying? Two is one and one is none when it comes to resiliency of systems, you always need a backup.
Amanda Kovattana 23:35
Ethan Waldman 23:39
In the photos you sent which are which are great. And they're just I just want to ask you about what these things are. So there's a there's a photo that you sent. It looks like it's near the the ceiling of your tiny house and it's some kind of net. It's like a black net suspended by a bungee cord. So what what is that and what like what problem is that solving for you?
Amanda Kovattana 24:03
That was one of my more imaginative workarounds to be able to hang laundry.
Ethan Waldman 24:11
Amanda Kovattana 24:13
Inside the house, in my case it got it. You know, the sun went down and I hadn't been able to dry it completely. I could throw this up and have it up in the loft.
Ethan Waldman 24:28
Amanda Kovattana 24:29
But I ended up not using it like that. Okay. In fact, I because I was doing laundry outside. I was just using a wooden rack. Yeah, that most people are familiar with. But it would blow over in in the wind.
Ethan Waldman 24:49
Right and then your laundry gets dirty.
Amanda Kovattana 24:51
So I took my my netting which is a cargo net from the auto supply store and they rigged it into I hung it from the tree just outside and that worked just as well to clothes pin my laundry to.
Ethan Waldman 25:14
Nice. Nice. I love your hammock that you have you that that looks like is that kind of your main seating in the house? The hammock?
Amanda Kovattana 25:24
Oh, yes it is. It's hung from one end of the house to the other. So I'm basically lying in the hammock in the middle of my house. And everything is within reach. From the kitchen,
Ethan Waldman 25:39
Oh, so, this hammock can slide on a rope?
Amanda Kovattana 25:44
While the rope that holds the hammock up is connected to both walls so it doesn't really slide is just that, it's the length of the house. Okay, and hammock ends up being in the middle.
Ethan Waldman 26:03
Amanda Kovattana 26:04
And so it's great for flying in and typing on my laptop. I can change positions and plump up my backrest with pillows and things. And then because I have it facing my larger monitor that's connected to my laptop, I can watch movies permit to so it's been our purpose seating for many applications.
Ethan Waldman 26:41
Amanda Kovattana 26:42
But I also have folding captures for a great variety and to take outside for company because it's much easier to sit outside in the garden on my little turf of astroturf.
Ethan Waldman 27:04
Right right. I love the way you're storing your your knives and other metal kitchen utensils. Can you can you talk about that setup?
Amanda Kovattana 27:17
Yes, I during the lockdown. I just found little projects to amuse myself and I glued magnets to the siding of my kitchen. It's corrugated metal. And then I could just hang things like a spatula and a kitchen knife and a little knives. Love it. So it also made it easier to just wash those implements and hang them up to dry right over the shower pan.
Ethan Waldman 27:59
Nice. That's I love that.
Amanda Kovattana 28:02
It has a fun look to it. Kind of like psycho's kitchen knife inside.
Ethan Waldman 28:07
Yeah, the knives are all kind of every which way. And so, you know in your bio, you know I mentioned this and you talk about it too is that you live in a very drought prone area. So can you talk about you know, how you use water at your tiny house and or how you use and rainwater you reuse water at your tiny house?
Amanda Kovattana 28:35
Yes. It's very easy to just walk my dishwater to the door and pour it in a five gallon bucket. And I don't use my shower in the conventional shower way. Because when I took the workshop and how to build a tiny house, the woman who was teaching said she basically abandoned her shower because it steamed up the house. And then everything gets too damp. So she preferred to bathe by going down to the beach and jumping into the Pacific Ocean.
Ethan Waldman 29:18
Amanda Kovattana 29:19
Yeah. So I did not put in a showerhead or any enclosure. I decided to go the Asian way of using a dipper in a sink full of water and kind of sponge bath type method that way.
Ethan Waldman 29:38
Amanda Kovattana 29:40
Which I was already familiar with from Thailand.
Ethan Waldman 29:43
Showers definitely take up a lot of space in a tiny house and your tiny house is particularly tiny so I can I can certainly understand not wanting to put one in.
Amanda Kovattana 29:53
Right I haven't missed it. I mean I do go to other people's houses and have I showered at their houses just for a change.
Ethan Waldman 30:05
Big shower day.
Amanda Kovattana 30:06
Yeah. I used to do laundry at other people's houses too. But during during the lockdown, that was another thing to expand on.
Ethan Waldman 30:15
Amanda Kovattana 30:16
To figure out,
Ethan Waldman 30:18
Do you do just do laundry by hand like in a sink or in a bucket?
Amanda Kovattana 30:22
In a bucket with the plunger.
Ethan Waldman 30:26
Amanda Kovattana 30:27
Laundry machine that you can get an Amish outfits now on Amazon, okay, now that makes them plastic rather than galvanized metal, the they hold up better. And it's actually works better than an agitator, washing machine? I think you can because you can do spot stains you can scrub them individually.
Ethan Waldman 30:56
Yep. Yep. And then the plunger type thing just lets you kind of agitate the clothes back and forth.
Amanda Kovattana 31:02
Yes. And that's really the main action of of this five gallon bucket. Laundry method.
Ethan Waldman 31:12
Amanda Kovattana 31:13
But what really what really, you know, laundry seems to be the one of the prohibitive barriers for people to live off grid. So a lot, a lot of attention has been paid to it. And I discovered that the hardest part about it is ringing out the clothes. Washing is easy, but trying to get the water out of the clothes is a challenge. So I did buy one of those hand crank roller things.
Ethan Waldman 31:46
Amanda Kovattana 31:47
That, you know, we've seen in from yesteryear. Yeah, and that was difficult to use, because it seems to presume that you'd have two pairs of hands one to crank and one person to feed the clothes in. And then it didn't really get the clothes squeezed out enough. So I was looking for other newer inventions. And again, in in Asia, in tiny Japanese apartments, they someone had contrived to make a spin dryer that is hand operated, okay. Much like a salad spinner. Only with rope and handles.
Ethan Waldman 32:41
Amanda Kovattana 32:42
And I got one of those, and it does a great job.
Ethan Waldman 32:46
Amanda Kovattana 32:47
It pulls the water out. That can then drain into a bucket in to use in the garden. Okay, and it will. You don't have to handle each item individually. You're just cramming it into this little basket inside the spin spin thing.
Ethan Waldman 33:10
Spin thing? Yeah. Okay. I just found the picture of you using it on your blog. I'll I'll, I'll add that in for the show notes. Because I think people will be really curious to see it.
Amanda Kovattana 33:20
Right. There's also an electric spin dryer. Yes. That I haven't used to. But then you're using electricity. Right? Right. But it's a very low use of it's only like three minutes. Right? It's real quick.
Ethan Waldman 33:41
It's like, people are probably familiar sometimes at the gym, they'll have a spinner so that you can like if there's a pool, you can spit out your wet bathing suit. Okay, before you before you go home.
Amanda Kovattana 33:53
Ethan Waldman 33:56
Yeah, you also have I would describe it as a like a it's a it's a board. It's a piece of wood or something with a whole coil of black piping kind of attached to it and a hose coming out. Is that Is that some kind of hot water setup?
Amanda Kovattana 34:14
Yes, I tried that. Okay, you know, it's like laying a hose out in the sun. And I was really intent on it, as you can see with all the zip ties that I had to use the keep, to mold that garden irrigation pipe to this frame.
Ethan Waldman 34:35
Amanda Kovattana 34:36
And it worked great, but it didn't keep the water hot once the sun went down.
Ethan Waldman 34:44
Amanda Kovattana 34:45
So to do that properly, you'd have to make up like a solar oven box around it that was insulated. So it didn't seem worthwhile. It's easier just to boil water. But my my go to during the summer months is to just put out my solar oven, fill three bottles, glass bottles with water and put them in the solar oven. And, you know, in a few hours, it's hot water. And I pour it into thermos carriers, you know, you're gonna get a gallon or two gallon thermos. And that keeps the water hot enough to use to the rest of the day. Yeah, for washing up and bathing and what have you.
Ethan Waldman 35:45
Brilliant, brilliant, I love it. I love talking to someone who's lived tiny for for long enough that you've you've come, you've run into problems, you've designed solutions for them. Maybe those solutions haven't worked the way that you've wanted them to. And then you kind of you keep iterating you keep kind of right, you can improve the system a little bit at a time.
Amanda Kovattana 36:08
Because that's the whole point of this experiment in just living is to see what actually works over the long haul.
Ethan Waldman 36:19
Yeah. So you've been you've been living tiny for five years. Do you? Do you have an end date in sight? Are you you know, you're just going until you until you don't want to keep going.
Amanda Kovattana 36:32
I don't have an end date. I mean, people who were watching me doing this were like this is I look forward to the day that you come back to indoor plumbing. And I'm like, No, this is the whole fun of it.
Ethan Waldman 36:51
Amanda Kovattana 36:52
If anything, it would be to be able to stay fit for as long as I can climb up into the loft. And yeah, for as long as I can carry these buckets in and out. Yeah, but at the same time, this is what is keeping me fit.
Ethan Waldman 37:12
Amanda Kovattana 37:14
Ethan Waldman 37:15
Well, that's awesome. It's almost like the tiny house, that tiny house puts you in shape to live in the tiny house and vice versa.
Amanda Kovattana 37:23
Yes, it's built in that way. I do have the option of living in a larger house, my mother's house because she needs someone to take care of it. So I go to her house a couple of nights a week. So in that sense, I am getting the best of both worlds. Okay, I can go there to do laundry when it's you know, bad weather. Yeah, to cook casseroles, which I really can't do here in the tiny house.
Ethan Waldman 38:04
Amanda Kovattana 38:05
And in the winter when it rains for several days, I run out of power because there's no solar. Ah, and my power bank is only really good for that day's accumulation. I could expand the battery pack so that it can hold more energy for the days where there are no sun. But I'm putting that off for the time being. In fact, I bought some of those portable batteries that are now so frequent the Jackery line two as a stopgap for when the power does go out here. And I've also learned that really the only thing that is in danger without power is that my ice cream melts.
Ethan Waldman 39:00
And that's, that's sad.
Amanda Kovattana 39:03
So you know in the winter maybe I give up ice cream a little and my only refrigeration is a freezer, which I keep outside to make blocks of ice in containers plastic containers that I then could into the cooler. So outside I have the freezer running off of solar power. It's plugged directly into the components and when it when the power shuts off, it's okay for the freezer to not have power because nothing really thaws out. It takes a while. It'll take a day or two for anything to be damaged.
Ethan Waldman 39:53
Amanda Kovattana 39:54
Okay, so I live with that I live with the freezer cutting off and coming back on in the morning. And those are good things to know to like, because I mean, California, we not only have the threat of earthquake, but the fires, which means that power is cut a lot. Especially areas that are wooded. Like the town I'm living in. The power was off a lot in the summer, but I didn't notice at all. Because I was off grid, of course. And then in the winter, I do notice, but everyone else has powers. So in that sense, if I really wanted my neighbor to keep my ice cream, I could walk over and ask for the favor.
Ethan Waldman 40:51
You could, right, but even then you might have to share it with them.
Amanda Kovattana 40:56
Yes, yes. I mean, tiny house living is not to live in isolation, it actually helps you to live more in community.
Ethan Waldman 41:09
Absolutely. And you live you mentioned that you live in the backyard, or on another property.
Amanda Kovattana 41:20
It's a beautiful rural property.
Ethan Waldman 41:23
Amanda Kovattana 41:24
People keep horses in this area. And so my landlord, his house is down the hill, at one end of the property, and I'm living at the other end.
Ethan Waldman 41:36
Amanda Kovattana 41:36
And part of my rent is to help manage the vegetation, which is a fire danger.
Ethan Waldman 41:46
Amanda Kovattana 41:48
And that's very satisfying to do to cut away all the dead flesh. And that accumulates.
Ethan Waldman 41:55
I'll bet. I'll bet.
Amanda Kovattana 41:56
And helpful to the town.
Ethan Waldman 41:59
Yeah, yeah. And important for for yeah, for more than just you and more than just that property?
Amanda Kovattana 42:06
Ethan Waldman 42:07
Have you? I know that that fires are unfortunately becoming more and more prevalent in the West. Have you ever had to, like evacuate and like move the tiny house?
Amanda Kovattana 42:21
I did not move the tiny house. I, when we had evacuation orders in 2020, because of these lightning fires that were really freakish. And the town was ordered to evacuate. And I went back and forth in my mind, should I try to drive this rig out? I don't even have a truck to drive it. So it's a big deal to rent one. And getting getting in here was difficult enough. And I thought about it and I was thinking, Well, if the place burned down, what would I come back to? I'd be stuck looking for a new place. And it was just all too much, too. It was too overwhelming. So I just gathered the things that I needed and stayed at my mother's house for the duration.
Ethan Waldman 43:24
Amanda Kovattana 43:25
Luckily, we were not even encroached by the fire. It was like a two towns away. And there was lots of water with bridges that would break up the possibility so it wasn't as dire as
Ethan Waldman 43:40
Amanda Kovattana 43:42
it could have been.
Ethan Waldman 43:43
I'm glad to hear that.
Amanda Kovattana 43:44
It was interesting watching what people hauled out of here though. Their entire collection of rocks. Crystals and that's what one person loaded her car with, along with her cat.
Ethan Waldman 44:00
Well, everyone, different things are important to different people, right?
Amanda Kovattana 44:04
Ethan Waldman 44:07
So tell me about your your memoir, The Girls Guide to Off Grid Living?
Amanda Kovattana 44:12
Yes, I was first intending just to write a pamphlet about how to build your own composting toilet. But then, of course, YouTube took over and making it much easier for people to learn visually. So I thought, well, maybe I will write about why I wanted to build a composting toilet. And then that led to well, maybe I will write about why a woman would even want to design a life around a composting toilet. And as I got into it, there were no end of stories where I chose to do something that was different more off grid And before long, I had 300 pages of stories from my life in Thailand in my life growing up in the US doing the do it yourself hippie era. And all the things I had learned from various other homesteader back to the land movement. Because I was able to visit those friends who had done that.
Ethan Waldman 45:27
Amanda Kovattana 45:27
So it all became quite a book. Some would say it's a little long story, they don't know what it's about. But I feel that it all is on the one theme of why would you go this route, this us non-mainstream off grid, free range child grows up and builds around house kind of thing
Ethan Waldman 45:56
Becomes a free range adult, right?
Amanda Kovattana 45:58
Yes, exactly. It gave me great pleasure to write it to, to get down my life story in this fashion. So and I also did the off grid, publishing route of self publishing, nice designing the book and the covers and the interior. So that too, was a fun experience to upload it myself to the Amazon platform.
Ethan Waldman 46:28
Amanda Kovattana 46:29
Which of course, it's not awkward at all.
Ethan Waldman 46:32
Amanda Kovattana 46:33
But but that's the irony of our life, isn't it?
Ethan Waldman 46:37
Amanda Kovattana 46:37
We use tech to connect and talk about how we disconnected?
Ethan Waldman 46:43
Yes, we are. We're nothing but paradoxes.
Amanda Kovattana 46:49
Ethan Waldman 46:51
And then tell tell us about your your other, your other memoir.
Amanda Kovattana 46:56
The other memoir, Eiamonds In My Pocket, was mostly about my life growing up in Thailand. Okay, because it was difficult for me to sort out what had influenced my life. Why was I so different from my peers here in America. And it had a lot to do with the Thai culture and my relatives there. So that was my first exploration as a writer was to try and figure out what, why what had brought me what raised me and I, and also my relatives, there was a lot of very powerful women in my family who had significant jobs in in the Bangkok economy. My grandmother was working with the government, and my aunt was running the family business. And they seem they were role models for me. So they were powerful in that sense, and I wanted to capture how they had influenced me. Nice, nice, and the book informed me of who I was. So that was the gift of it. That's lovely. My mother really liked it too.
Ethan Waldman 48:22
Nice. Are you are you working on any writing projects now?
Amanda Kovattana 48:27
Oh, yes. I'm continuing to write. The tiny house is ideal as a writing shack.
Ethan Waldman 48:36
Yeah, I'll bet.
Amanda Kovattana 48:38
Because there's, there's far less temptation to get up and clean something.
Ethan Waldman 48:47
Amanda Kovattana 48:48
My my writing powers. They often talk about how they can't sit down to wait until the kitchens are being cleaned up and everything finished. So there's less maintenance. Since I live alone, there's no nobody to have to accommodate as far as getting time free. And it feels like it's far away from the madding crowd.
Ethan Waldman 49:18
Yeah, yeah. Awesome. Well, one thing that I like to ask all my guests, is, you know, what are two or three resources that have helped you out on your tiny house journey that you'd like to share with our listeners, and that could be books, or YouTube channels or products, you know, tools really open ended? What can't you live without?
Amanda Kovattana 49:44
Well, at this point, YouTube is just a profound
Ethan Waldman 49:49
Amanda Kovattana 49:51
platform of just about anything I would try to do. It sure is. People who have proud to show how they work things out? And it's a very folk art to making your own videos and it's gotten the the level of production values have also climbed.
Ethan Waldman 50:17
They sure have a sure have.
Amanda Kovattana 50:20
I mean, I used to go to the library to read all of those hippie how to make your own clothes, books and make your own camping equipment and how to build an igloo. But that that takes a different skill of trying to translate words and diagrams into actual reality. Yeah, so that I can't think of any better resources. There's always discussions going on around people writing books about what would be the best what social thing to do to improve our sustainability that I keep up with too.
Ethan Waldman 51:08
Nice. Well, Amanda Kovattana, thank you so much for being a guest on the show today. I loved learning about all of your your systems that you've developed, and I'm looking forward to continuing to follow your journey on your blog.
Amanda Kovattana 51:25
Thanks very much for having me.
Ethan Waldman 51:28
Thank you so much to Amanda Kovattana for being a guest on the show today. You can find the show notes, including a full transcript of this episode, and photos of Amanda's various tiny house systems over at thetinyhouse.net/257. Again, that's thetinyhouse.net/257. Thank you so much to PODX Go for sponsoring the show today. Don't forget to check them out at PODXGo.com. Well, that's all for this week. I'm your host Ethan Waldman and I'll be back next week with another episode of the Tiny House Lifestyle Podcast.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai
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