Giant Pliers Menace Tiny House
It’s 7:45 a.m. in the tiny house, back on the ground after a TinyHouseBlog feature rocketed my site visits into the thousands last week (many humble thanks to Kent Griswold and the many virtual visitors. Look for TinyHouseBlog "Tiny House in a Landscape" features to view the photo). A luxuriously warm spring has instigated an extended and colorful conversation amid the Island’s floral population. After more than a year (or two) stewing over weather system stability and complexity of yet another first-time project, a deceptively sunny streak had finally stirred me to action, replacing the fogged panes of two of my salvaged windows. In honor of Mother’s Day, Mother Nature invoked Murphy’s Law of the Pacific NW Weather #5,827 to bless her thirsting blooms and my window project with—oh, yes—rain.
| |One has to laugh, in spite of my practiced procrastination of the project, the process was turning out to be fairly straightforward:
- tap putty knife into groove between window sash and wood strip glass holders
- pry gently to bow strips allowing nail heads to pull through wood
- pull remaining nails from strips and window sash with pliers
- gently pry pane loose from seat and remove
- scrape seat clean of old glazing and dirt
- clean with vinegar-dampened towel (to kill mold)
- dry-fit new panes to sash.
| |It’s the additional peppering with unanticipated (at least by me) steps that tends to draw out the process:
- clean wood strip glass holders
- glue or replace any broken strips
- paint to seal and wait to dry
- acquire (trip to Sebo's) and apply glazing putty
- identify and acquire correct nails (second trip to Sebo's)
I have yet to figure out optimal glazing technique, and a method of nailing, sans nail gun, without breaking glass. Stay tuned.
And so, the cut grass in herbal fragrance sighs. Tiny poppies in the lawn behind the house giggle themselves crimson at the Visqueen curtains now obscuring my view over the garden as they whisper, plastically, in the blessedly gentle breeze. Perhaps I’ll finish the job today. Perhaps tomorrow. I, too, giggle at the sight. It’s all good.
Happy Mothers Day!
Reflections on Foggy Windowpane
It’s 6:30 a.m. in the tiny house. A cloudy morning back in the garden after last weekend’s FABulous Portland Alternative Dwellings (PAD) Casa Pequeña workshop (more on that momentarily). Showers are in today’s forecast: perfect for hunker-down writing, although opening day of the Bayview Farmers Market tugs at my hemline like an exuberant child. I live in a garden. Still, the market is one of my favorite Saturday morning social rituals it calibrates me to local community and more seasonal eating habits, since there is always some alluring new ‘carrot’ dangling just beyond my latest radish, pea vine or garlic scape fixation. Don’t get me started on berry season or the local goat cheese, jams, breads... (Watch the Vittles page for seasonal recipes as they sprout.)
Meanwhile back home sweet home, I’ve finished off a scramble of farm-fresh eggs and young radish greens with a cup of yerba mate, contemplating the details of last weekend’s trip to McMinnville, OR. Where to begin…? If I could pick one word to encapsulate the weekend, it would be overwhelming in the best possible way. Wait, that was several words... Permit me to elaborate.
My last post summarized my take on PAD’s role in the tiny house family (see Roaming and Roots posted 4/13/2013). Where the January Tumbleweed workshop (See It's Big, posted 1/19/2013) stoked our imaginations with two days of Dee Williams’ inspiring presentations. La Casa Pequeña, however, is where the substantive rubber under the tiny house-on-wheels hits the road, (to abuse yet another cliché). This time, the inimitable Dee Williams representing PAD teamed with the tremendous trio of Derin, Andra and DK Williams of Shelter Wise as well as the petite powerhouse, Lina Menard, of Niche Consulting (see Lina's blog This is the Little Life for more on Lina and La Casa Pequeña) for two days of hands-on power tool tutorials, trailer connection, framing, wall-raising, house-wrapping, window installation and good, clean, irreverent fun. Derin was our fearless leader in explaining and directing the assembly of La Casa
. From round-circle introductions through two full days of action integrated with periodic wellness breaks, stretches (implementing DK’s and Dee’s stylistically monikered tighty-whitey stretch), group reflection and the great chicken tractor race (part of the larger Casa Verde green festival weekend), our group hailing from California to Utah and Vancouver, Canada, of varied age and experience coalesced. Teacher/learner roles shifted between male and female, younger and older, the petite-framed and the broad-shouldered. Everyone had something to contribute and something to learn all held in the effortlessly (so it seemed) egalitarian container. By the time the weekend wrapped, I felt I had known my fellows for years and found myself disoriented by struggling to remember a name or two of people I’d met only the day before.
| |Saturday night, fellow participant, Tia, and I had a slumber party in Gina’s tiny house in Portland—cozily tucked into Joan (Dee’s PAD partner) and Rita’s backyard near the Hawthorne district (see video for the house-moving). What a treat to sample another tiny layout in the company of a new friend. Suffice it to say that a thorough description would require a post of its own. For now, see the video and my slide show of tiny pics. (Contact Joan Grimm to rent the tiny house, yourself.)
All too soon, Tia’s rideshare arrived at 7:00. As luck would have it her driver, Becca, had an interest in tiny houses and so was provided a sneak peek before our fond farewell. I, myself, lingered at the tiny house for a bit longer before wandering out to the Hawthorne Street Café for mirzaghessemi, a mouth-watering Persian eggplant, tomato and egg dish.
Confession: at risk of sounding like a total sap, I was surprised by tears of gratitude in my eyes as I crossed the bridge out of Portland. More than a building workshop, the experience of working within a diverse and warmly egalitarian group toward long-term, sustainable ends provided a glimpse of something toward which I had yearned without words to articulate through meandering careers in jewelry repair, higher education admin, legal support, odd jobs and housecleaning. The tiny house movement opens another doorway into homeownership formerly obscured by the oversized couch of the 30-year mortgage upon which many have collapsed before the large screen TV of the 40+ hour work week and job insecurity. The active process of building with community, the carving of a place for the new paradigm of ‘life-sized’ homes out of the codes and consciousness of the larger system was, for me, another 'homecoming'. Lasting change will take time, sustained effort, self-empowerment and the empowerment of others. With each connection made, every builder born and nurtured, every wee house raised, the community grows and gains strength. The larger culture takes notice, maybe yearns toward the little ‘playhouses’ visible through the cracks in the dominant paradigm. In ways we have, perhaps, yet to imagine—to share, to work, to live--together, we are headed home sweet home.
Until next time, I leave you with the jovial words of the Persian proprietor of my breakfast at Portland's Hawthorne Street Cafe, "I love you. Great to have you. I love you. See you later".
Heartfelt thanks to Derin, DK, Andra, Dee, Kimber, Lina, Nance, Craig, Tony, Tia, Sirene, Kimberly and Joan for rockin' my tiny world.
It’s 6:30 a.m. in the tiny house in the garden on a gray April morning. A blustery weather system transit that passed in the wee hours trails intermittent huffs, scatters a handful of rain over the roof, pauses indecisively--remmants of the last season... Aside from tango on the marble dance floor of The Majestic Inn in Anancortes last Friday (a peak dance experience), it was that kind of week in the wee house, too—momentum, indecision, hesitation, forward steps, repeal, repeat—mostly centered around work (day job) and life maintenance—ground work. I did, finally, bury the bath house septic plumbing—somewhat anti-climactic compared to the triumph of operational home shower, perhaps. Hey, not every accomplishment along the road invokes the triumphal celestial choir (see Nesting and the Rest, posted 12/16/12 or Gathering Momentum, posted 1/6/13 for more details). Ground work eventually adds up, and excitement ever looms on the proverbial horizon. Speaking of which…
I’m preparing for a trip to McMinnville, OR to participate in Portland Alternative Dwellings (PAD) Casa Pequeña workshop next weekend. PAD is a tiny house company co-owned and operated by the inimitable duo of Dee Williams and Joan Grimm out of Portland, OR. If Tumbleweed spreads the tiny word and stokes the masses from its prominent pulpit (see It’s Big, posted 1/19/13, after the workshop), PAD wields its seasoned expertise in active participation workshops of an interpersonal scale, building connection and community from the ground up—the sustainable nitty-gritty, folks!
My plan is to drive down and camp at Champoeg State Park, arriving in McMinnville Friday morning, ready with tool belt and 14 other participants to construct a tiny garden studio in two days. I’ll get to observe how the hands-on workshops are put together, AND I'll lodge Saturday night in one of PAD’s tiny houses—another inside take on tiny! If I pack my tango shoes, maybe I can also expand my dance perspective/abilities with a practica on my way through Portland. I’m so jazzed, I can hardly wait!
Meanwhile, back home sweet home, radishes have sprung. Dispelling childhood scorn, their greens, now, charm their way into my morning scramble, the reserved red-pink roots later to be shredded and tossed with olive oil and sea salt for a cracker scoop of spring. When, the weather temporarily chilled this week. I curled up with one last winter comfort dish: Nutty Roasted Root Veggies with Kale and Walnuts (see Vittles page recipe and other tiny concoctions). Soon enough, the sun will return, and I’ll be back, nourished, with news of tiny adventures in the big world.
It’s 6:30 a.m. tiny time. It's been a lovely week for moon shots, but the fog that envelopes the garden this morning is more illusive. Near the surface of sleep, things move in and out of focus: 5:30—silence… 5:45— two frogs volley croaks across the pond… 6:05—a racket of robins in the tree-shaped cut-outs… 6:40—four crows zipline from the boat yard on a series of caws. Around 6:43 the robins drop a decibel. Camille’s rooster fills his lungs. Flat, gray shapes take on color... texture... depth...
I left off with the mini-septic last Saturday, when I had less than perfectly rendered the divider for the tank, spouting some vaguely optimistic projections for finishing it before Seattle Sunday evening tango. I made it to Seattle.
The septic languished until Thursday, between work, weeding, errands and--I admit--some modicum of procrastination. When I got back to it, turns out putting the lid on the can pulled the sides in enough to reduce the gapping around the divider. There was some additional crawling around on the ground for trench modification, then plumbing to include a trap and it came together lickety-split, though I’m hesitant to bury the whole operation before it’s been thoroughly tested. Mainly, I’m concerned that the trap may not be properly angled for optimal function in containing stagnant water aromas. We shall see. Next on the agenda: repeat process for the wee house sink water. More digging and crawling required, but I’m soon to be puddle- and open pit- free!
Forecast for the weekend calls for 65 and copious sunshine. True to the season of longer days and increased energy and activity levels, competing priorities have already lined up, including a photo shoot of a friend’s vacation rental (did I mention it’s on the beach?). So I’m keeping this week’s post short, but I’ll be back with progress reports (or pleasant diversions) as they roll in.
Happy Easter Eggs!
| | It’s just after noon in the garden. The tiny house seems to imitate a sundial, swinging its fiery orb ‘round on radius. Through the garden-side windows, the sun squares color and texture in blocks of light across my floor, warming everything. The passive solar action is a welcome top-off to last week’s elemental display: clouds, downpours, sun, bluster, frost, one last winter ‘hiccup’ of four white inches yesterday and—oh yes—frozen water lines this morning. Alas, I didn’t get pictures of the wee house in snow, because I made it to work in the blizzard (small miracle), and so happened to get paid—sweet! Maybe I’ll get wee snow shots next winter, after I’ve upgraded my water lines, but I digress… | |
In the midst of such March madness, like the other local flora and fauna, it is the time of year that I emerge from hibernation. My stirring actually begins around the end of February, immediately interrupted by annual rituals of taxation (back to the cave!). By the time I’ve sunk two weeks with several hours into bookkeeping, I am eager to resume progress on my tiny project. Let’s see… Where did I leave off? Oh, yes—gray water management.
If you’ve been following along, this may sound a bit déjà vu. If it seems I’ve been referencing work on the mini-septic for months sans progress report, I have. After getting the shower working mid-December, the fact that gray water was simply running out of the bathhouse and into an open hole in the ground seemed less important than nesting, hibernation, staying warm and dry... But the sun is back! So, without further ado, allow me to step into this gloriously warming afternoon for an on-site assessment…
Bath house in background--not bad from a distance.
5:30 in the tiny house. In the course of willful neglect, the hole excavated for the septic tank had filled halfway with milky, stagnant water upon which the plastic trash can (septic-tank-to-be) despondently bobbed. The drain pipes lay, detached in their trenches amid hopeful tufts of grass that had begun to move in. Nevertheless, I’m happy to report progress this very afternoon:
- Pulled bobbing can from hole
- bailed out odious liquid and a few scoops of dead earthworms (oh, my glamorous life...)
- pulled up pipes and cleaned out trenches, checking for proper downhill pitch
- cut two perfect-fit holes in can for inflow and outflow
- cut out the would-be tank divider...
Alas, my first attempt at that final item was a less than perfect fit. But there’s always tomorrow, when I shall flawlessly fit the divider, install the trap, hook up the pipes, bury the lot of it and be tango-bound for Seattle by mid-afternoon… (crossing fingers) I’ll keep you posted.
It's that time of year... This tiny blogger is taking a 'break' to settle my affairs with the IRS. Then, I'll be back.
See you on the flip side!
It’s 7:45 a.m. in my tiny house. Camille’s rooster finished his pronouncements some time earlier. Smaller birds picked up the threads. Robins cast a wide net over the garden under an eagle’s slow circle. It’s early enough that blades of grass still cast shadows in the low-slung light. The moon’s translucent half-shell sails over the greenhouse like satisfying skillet aftermath—today’s order: sunny side up, and the coffee’s hot.
That’s my tiny view over the garden this morning and I’m pleased to witness the result of the wind’s noisy labors over the past several days. It’s hard work, after all, moving weather systems. In the midst of the bluster, I did catch some fun moonlit shots of the house, and although tax season now menaces my tiny great room with its blinding, paper blizzard, the photos, today’s sun and last night’s amphibious choir cheer me.
Luckily, my latest thrift store coffee mug with ridiculously large handle reminds me to take myself less seriously in the throes of tax season.
Lists continue to spring up like the kale, arugula, baby lettuces and weed sprouts that comprise the lawn around my wee house. I’m parked where the garden waste pile used to reside—convenient for grazing a bit closer to the house. Nevertheless, I add grass seed to the list, just over flower-planting, gray water upgrades, and the privacy fence that will delineate my residential corner from the public garden sphere before later-season big events (i.e. the Whidbey Open Studio Tour dinner in the garden). Camille unleashed the roto-tiller a couple of weeks ago and the weeds are, already, providing ample opportunity for my active participation. Thoughts of fresh, seasonal bounty with which to enliven future Vittles posts elicit my Pavlovian response. (pausing to wipe chin…)
My, so far, tiny weeded patch...
But back to weeding, that often under-appreciated, endless chore of the organically inclined. The rewards can be great. Unlike a debt of dishes that must be done post-meal enjoyment (another endless task not without merit, in my opinion), the act of weeding is a ‘pay-it-forward’ investment model, with yields proportional to the amount of heart invested. AND it provides an alternative to the anonymous, industrial-machinery-supplied, flavor- and nutrition-stripped supermarket. Community-supported gardens require individuals to show up and to share interest in the well-being of other members. The authenticity of such investments are neither inconsequential, nor anonymous. Of course, it takes time in addition to labor, though often less financial investment.
In the last six years, I’ve seen an explosion of organic gardens (even our local food bank sprouted a garden) and new (or renewed) generation farmers burst through fissures in the steely horizon of industrious obligation toward someone else’s bottom line. Urban agriculture is taking off, too, and there’s no time like the present, given the alarming number of humans struggling to afford food in spite of massive time/energy investment in ‘paid’ work. It makes sense: return on gardening investment is more immediate, direct and sustainable. As for my present living arrangement, the legality of my more-or-less ‘permanent’ residence in a 'temporary structure' happens to hinge on a farm worker housing concession in the county code.
A decade has passed since I landed in the Northwest, more in flight from divorce than with any clear sense of direction. I slapped together a typical 9-to-5 (and then some) existence in Seattle, with little time to cook or savor. I had begun to tune into ingredients lists in the grocery aisles, but often ate takeout effectively waiving conscious due diligence and paying in further energy depletion. Upon the brick-wall view through my apartment window, I projected an imaginarium with garden, community and time to participate and savor.
Much has changed since then. The sum impact of the many seemingly insignificant, disconnected, at times fed-up, rebellious or passive, desperate or determined, resolved and sometimes hopeful shifts that occurred, often with little notice on my part. A recent visitor, post-recount of my tiny labor of love and agony of the past five years, praised the accomplishment of what I’d done, (paraphrasing) instead of curling up crying in a corner. I grinned, owning it all. “Oh, yes. I did that, too.”
| |It’s 10:27. I look up from my computer over the garden view outside my window, just noticing the robins have finished their work and flown. I wonder what and where they’re off to now... I’m about to go and take their place in the garden—get my hands in the earth, pull some weeds, weave this regular task into the fabric of my little life at this time and place in the world. There's plenty of work to go around.With special thanks to Camille LaTray, whose garden, especially, shaped this week's post.See you next week.
It’s 7:01 Saturday morning in my tiny house in the garden. I am reluctant to crawl from my nest in the cozy loft, though more from fatigue than cold. It has been a blustery couple of days, in fact, the wind buffeted me from sleep in the wee hours yesterday morning, heaving its shoulder against the side of the house and swinging wildly from the gutters. I half expected to be WOOSHED from the front step as I donned my robe and headed out for a shower.
Incidentally, concerning the shower arrangement, I confess my mind still shudders its practiced resistance, imagining 25 arctic feet between my front door and the bathhouse, and yet… Time and again, the air is fresh, rather than cold. The shower is hot, and the open-air ritual surprises again with a decadence and happiness unmatched in prior days of in-house showers. Given my own residual resistance, the wide-eyed shivers of others each time I explain my shower facilities are unsurprising. Some are comforted when I compare it to hot-tubbing in the snow. Some are not. Truth be told, it is quite possible to incorporate shower facilities into a 136-square-foot (or smaller) house, with some sacrifice. If you’re frozen on the threshold, mentally attempting to wrestle sofa, big screen TV and 5-piece bedroom set into such a space, you might begin to appreciate the quandary. It’s a question of priorities. In my case, kitchen facilities, closet space, and moisture concerns trumped in-house bathroom.
| || |“Wow… you’re a minimalist, aren’t you?” It’s a common response to my tiny home description. Maybe by popular standard, although I don’t think of myself that way. In fact, on observing the perfect simplicity and comfort of fellow tiny dweller, Dee Williams’, 84-square-foot house, I wondered, do I still have too much stuff? There are still things I want or think I need, and the size of my space requires some discernment in determining whether or not to allocate valuable ‘real estate’ to items in question. Sometimes it’s complicated, and I feel a little overly decadent. Then a friend offered some comfort, pointing out that the artistic process is messy and has certain requirements unique to each individual... Oh yeah… The light flickered on. The reason I’d spent the last 10 years ditching the 40-hour work week, fleeing city speed for the Island time, self-employing, building a home… How does this all translate? Well…
In my present perfect world, I need a cabinet (or two) allocated to the flavor palette and the accoutrements of prep and display in order to serve up sensuous dishes in my tiny kitchen. If I want to manipulate bits of metal and stone into fanciful objects, I need a corner for a tiny workbench. Closet space is requisite for a couple of dresses, some bling and a pair of 3-inch heels in which to dance the tango. Additional nooks and crannies are colonized with art, books, guardian spirits and other necessities—trash can, work boots, camping gear, clothing, toiletries… Admittedly, it’s quite a bit of stuff, but stripping down to one’s creative essence (more odiously known as downsizing) is a process. Life is big. It takes the right tools to render it well. Over time, some things serve a purpose and go, or fall away as mere distraction. At present, the riot of things still swirling about my tiny home, compose a work in progress. And it all fits.
See you next week.
The Art of Tiny Living...
Having neglected my Photo Album
page while I dedicated myself to weekly blog posts (among other things), I have elected to fix that previously languishing piece of my website. Consequently, I'm feeling much better about it. It's all part of progress in the grand tiny scheme of things, and will continue to evolve. Please have a stroll through my tiny house adventure and see what you think. Then, if all of that wandering leaves you a bit famished, swing by my Vitttles
page for some Hot Monkey Fudge.
Happy belated Valentine's!
It’s Sunday morning in the tiny house. I'm back, home sweet home, from my Denver visit where my sister, nephew and I spent the previous Saturday constructing a 'domino effect' installation (see OK Go’s This Too Shall Pass music video, for example). On a side note potentially relevant to alternative energy enthusiasts among you, my brother-in-law is collaborating on the design/construction of a gasification prototype for converting waste to electricity (see wikipedia entry for a general description) with possible applications for tiny homes. If you’re interested, feel free to e-mail or leave a comment at the end of the post. Otherwise, I will post links to tech developments as they unfold. Meanwhile back in the garden this morning, the last haze has lifted. What’s green has never seemed so green under the sun’s fingertips. A cadre of nearly perfectly spaced robins and clusters of other birds are twittering about the business of tugging up brunch from the earth. No doubt, spring is afoot.
It has been a short and sweet, philosophical week in the tiny house. My friend, Dori, joined me Thursday for our periodic head-to-head over brunch griddled up in my tiny kitchen. Sipping coffee over Grand Marnier French toast with dried cherry lavender compote and maple syrup, (see Vittles page for recipe) we pondered the stories driving our respective endeavors. What is it about my wee house project that has held my sustained attention and efforts for the last five years often in spite of time/funds shortages, and where do I go from here?
Building a tiny house on wheels was not my idea. In spite of sharing Iowa roots with original Tumbleweed designer, Jay Shafer (now the owner/designer of Four Lights Tiny Houses), I was unaware that such a thing existed prior to my friend’s suggestion that I build something similar (see Tiny Origins for the inception of the project). Sustainability, too, is a part of it, though I was equally unaware of that conversation prior to the age of 30 and am continuously humbled by how much I have to learn. After the Tumbleweed workshop I recently attended, I wrote about the tiny house movement (see my January 20, 2013 blog post for reference), of which I finally feel a part, after three to four years laboring alone in the wilderness. But there’s something else...
What has driven us to build bigger houses where we sleep a little, get ready for work, and from which we commute longer distances, consuming more resources to work longer hours, hopefully, for enough money to pay for it and take occasional vacations until we can begin to live in that mythical land called RETIREMENT, if we make it that far? Is this living? I have a theory that we are all homing: seeking context, meaning, a secure place to be and time to appreciate. What if we could start living now, before retirement? What kind of world would we build together? The media examples with which we are daily bombarded are variously packaged versions of largely the same thing. There is another way. Since that tiny opportunity I now call home landed in my lap, the world is so much bigger than I had imagined. And in this tiny giant world into which I've stumbled, there is plenty of room for community. I hope to see you there. See you next week!
P.S. Now entertaining client contracts and seeking grants for construction this spring.