Making the Most of a Small Home

Kerri Fivecoat-Campbell who has been guest writing for the Tiny House Blog interviewed me about the tiny house movement and the blog back in July for a Mother Earth News article she was writing. Kerri’s article recently was published in the latest issue of Mother Earth News Magazine and the Tiny House Blog is mentioned it it. Thank you Kerri!

Kerri and her husband Dale live in a small 480 square foot house. The house is located in the Arkansas Ozark Mountains on Bull Shoals Lake. They built the little house as a retreat but it’s now their full-time home.

You can view Kerri’s blog at Living Large In Our Little House and read the complete article in Mother Earth News.


Photo credit to Kevin Pieper and Mother Earth News.

It Has to go Somewhere!

Water and Waste Management Systems Part II

By Kerri Fivecoat-Campbell

Last week, I posted about water sources. This week, we’ll discuss what to do with the wastewater.
We put in a standard septic system with lateral lines that seep into the ground. We really didn’t have a choice, but for us, I think it was the best one anyway.


Although our land had been in my family, ownership was technically transferring, so we had to adhere to modern codes. Others in our area who have held their land prior to code laws are grandfathered and can even still build outhouses if they wish.

I believe we only had to have an acre to place a septic on our property when we build our Little House, but today our county requires at least three acres.

This happened with property my parents owned on another lake in Kansas as well. Landowners weren’t grandfathered when codes were made more restrictive and their 1- acre lot became virtually worthless on the real estate market.

Septic systems are also the most expensive, I believe ours cost about $4,000 nearly 7 years ago. We did have one installed bigger than recommended, which is a plus since we added another bathroom when we built the office. The load supported a second bath and if we hadn’t done that, we would have either had to replace the tank with a bigger model or tossed the idea of a second bath altogether.

We don’t have a gray water system, but I hope to install one at some point. We treat the septic once a month with RidX, as recommended and haven’t had any problems. We also haven’t had it pumped and we will most likely look into that this year.

We did have issues when they were digging for places where the septic would “perk,” (meaning the soil would drain the water) we ended up with more trees cleared than we wanted, as our project manager had them clear the trees before testing our first choice for a septic site, so it is advisable to have several sites tested if you want to keep trees in tact.

The placement of the septic system has caused us a few issues as you cannot put the tank or lateral lines anywhere you might have to drive over, or build over. As well, the placement of the septic was a huge issue when deciding where to dig the well, which had to be dug at least 1,000 yards from the septic and lines on a grade where the waste was not contaminating the well water. A little tricky on the side of a mountain.

Here are a couple of other ideas for waste disposal:

  • Wastewater Lagoons: These are basically wastewater ponds and could use a standard septic system, but instead of having lateral lines that seep into the ground as ours does, the wastewater goes into a pond. When we were looking at property in Kansas, we looked at many rural properties with these. The plus side to this is that if it is used without the septic tank, it is more economical. The downside is you have to treat the water and well, you have a visible pond of wastewater on your property. Codes in your area may also not allow them for individual property owners.
  • Composting Toilets: The one thing I couldn’t stand when we were campers was taking that portable toilet and then having to deal with the waste. Composting toilets are now more affordable, odorless and deals with waste in an environmentally friendly way.

We would like to hear about your wastewater systems.

Kerri’s Little House in the Big Woods is featured in the December/January issue of Mother Earth News starting on page 68. She blogs about life in 480-square feet at

Water and Septic Systems Can Be Tricky in a Little House

Part I – Deciding on a Water System that Best Suits Your Needs

By Kerri Fivecoat-Campbell

Water systems and sewage disposal can be a tricky thing when you are building a tiny house in the country.

This has been an issue for us since we built our Little House over six years ago. First, we had to decide on the water system. During construction, we were running out of funds, so we first had a huge tank system and water was trucked in. That was expensive at $140 a load, (I’m not sure of the tank size, but it was huge). However, when we didn’t live here full time, it worked. I think we typically had to buy 2-4 tanks per year.


Photo Credit Kevin Pieper (Mother Earth News)

After we moved here full time, it just wasn’t economical. Even with trying to conserve water, we went through 1 tank every 2-4 weeks. Continue reading