7:00 a.m. Friday in the tiny house: a frosty morning contemplating the solidity of water. Last night’s footprints etched in crystal fuzz to the front step. Every leaf, frond, fencepost, wall and wire whitened under the moon. A spider web spanning the window bears vestigial flocking, and even the sun’s fingers cool over the grass.
In anticipation of the freeze, I had drained the water lines after dinner. Even so, I procrastinate my open air shower this morning, though the water will be hot and I’ll feel warmer afterward than I do peering out the window. Breakfast first, I decide, and pour myself a hot cup of tea, add a dollop of cream, watch it swirl, before nestling the hot cup into the nook under my ribs. Heat emanates. Sun’s up. The world begins to glisten and drip.
Editing tiny art shop pics
| |I know nothing of the ancient art of reading tea leaves. If I did, perhaps they would have imparted in a steamy whisper all of the secret places of water: where it hides, pools, solidifies in the lines, quick-disconnect fittings or camp shower units. Then again, this divinatory deficiency allowed me to leisurely sip my tea while admiring the frostscape before slipping into my bathrobe, shuffling out to the bath house, and the rude epiphany of the still frozen shower head… In the chaos that ensued, I managed to yank my clothes back on, snatch up some toiletries and dash to a friend’s shower before the ferry line to my off-Island doctor’s appointment (made by the skin of my teeth). By the time I returned home in commuter traffic, my lines would re-freeze and aqua-logistics would tumble from the ice dispenser into Saturday, where we’ve arrived. And, yes, I did resolve the problem. I think. The quick-disconnects I installed hoping to easily drain the lines in the event of a freeze, actually block the flow of water from the lines when disengaged--gmph! I will revisit the original plan of unscrewing the whole fitting each night. The forecast for the evening promises another test.
Fyi: potential tiny house purchasers, please note that my ice-capades could be averted with installation of a heated hose, not presently in my electrical allotment or financial budget. And now, back to our regularly scheduled program...
| | The remainder of Saturday was spent in culmination of a creative endeavor. In the last weeks, I have blogged about excavating my trove of stowed tools and materials and resuming a lost art. Curiously, the more I exhumed--the sketched and stuffed, the fabricated and forgotten, the designed and consigned to oblivion—and allowed myself to finish or ruin, resolve technical blocks, redesign, create I was surprised to find that I had plenty of materials and skills with which to work and play after what I had remembered as long periods of artistic famine. I even had inventory—remnants of past creative flurries stymied in overwhelm, faltering confidence and distraction (oh... look at that shiny object over there...) in spite of intermittent sales. Perhaps it was inevitable that the scattered and comparatively tiny bursts would explode into the comparatively elephantine manifestation of a tiny house-on-wheels. What’s more, the elephant’s memory held fast, led me back to little things, not so much forgotten as awaiting further instruction. I returned years later with fortified skill and a greater sense of possibility. So, it is with great pleasure to announce, just in time for the holidays...
Pictures and a link to my new Etsy shop can be found on my Tiny Art Shop page. Currently featuring 'thumbtacky' art for your posting pleasure as well as one-of-a-kind, jewelry, mostly made in the tiny house. I specialize in handcrafted,' funktional' and wearable works. Feel free to peruse, ponder, share, tweet, purchase, dream.
Thanks for shopping by (window- or otherwise)!
Now, it’s 8:35 a.m. Sunday in the tiny house. I drain my last sip of rooibos from my favorite bee mug, swirl the encryption of leaves at the bottom. Where do I go from here? For starters, to fill my first Aartvark order that rolled in last night shortly after the roll-out. The rest is a mystery, a grand adventure for which I'm thankful.
Happy Thanksgiving! See you soon!
First tiny house morning. Pic taken one year ago today.
It’s 7:35 a.m. Friday in my tiny house. The neighbors’ windows are gold flecks in the darkness. Oddly, the rooster seems to have slept in this morning. I hear him now, though it’s possible that I’m the one who overslept, hitting the subconscious ‘snooze’ on his earlier pronouncements. Black and steel colorscape outside lightens to gray, and my potted Japanese maple holds its last flaming leaf up to the window. November has arrived. It's the one-year anniversary of my tiny move-in.
Some weeks ago, I left off reporting activities on the tiny home front, mid-excavation of some long-buried tools and treasures (see Tiny Art House Percolating, posted 9/30/2013), then took a posting sabbatical to get down and dirty with my re-discovered ‘toys’ before breaking from for Monday’s philosophical waxing (see Tiny Confession, posted 10/28/2013). After a brief interruption at the bench, I’m ready to resume production, and I am happy to report it’s going well.
My silversmithing bench emerged along with fragments of inspiration still intact and only slightly dusty. Presto change-o! The wee house transformed into the tiny live/work studio I often fantasized in my city apartment where my contraband mini-torch (generating a 3/8 inch flame, at best), hiding in the walk-in closet, would have horrified the landlords. Now, the Queen of my own wee domain, I am free to make choices and assume the risks most beneficial to my creative potential, sans guilt, with relish. I have been busy. Here’s the set-up:
I slid the bookcase toward the door, installed a set of antique sewing machine drawers on the end for aesthetic and additional stowage, employing the top as a small table for pickle pot and tool display. My small jeweler’s bench sits atop a stand I had borrowed to support my dining room table, and is just big enough for a soldering block, flux bottle, a few tweezers and files, with a bench pen and filings drawer. Hammers, saw frame, striker and torch all hang from nails on the sides of the bench. Propane and oxygen tanks nestle just under the bookcase table. Flex shaft hangs from the light fixture, affixed to the wall—ok for now, though it could use some ergonomic optimization.
The only disadvantage, aside from the loss of my dining table, is that a few tools—i.e. my belt sander—are less tiny house friendly. But, then, it’s only a couple hundred feet to the boat shop, where these things are readily accessible when the need arises. At some point, I'll build the fold-away table I’ve been contemplating… For now, back to the bench!
What CAN'T one do in a tiny house?
|| |Much of the last month was spent working through technical difficulties—flame size, where to focus heat for optimal solder flow, cleaning and finishing. Gradually glitches succumbed to completed works—two, handcrafted rings and growing selection of copper, silver and brass thumbtacks, affectionately dubbed “tacky” art. One set already sold, which brings me to my next venture: my tiny art shop is presently under construction, just in time for the holidays. Stay tuned for la petite grande opening, coming soon. By 10:45 a.m., blue ruptures have appeared in the overhead cloud bank. I’ll spend the day working on my blog, shop and benchwork, then fancy up for the very first Whidbey Island Tango Festival romancing its way through Coupeville, beginning this evening. Now, there's an activity it might be difficult to pull off in tiny house. Then again, I danced with a fellow last Sunday who insisted that a truly skilled tanguero should be able to exercise a full range of passionate expression on a patch of floor no bigger than a toilet seat. Something to think about. For now, I'll stick to thumbtacks and take my tango out.
Thanks to all of who’ve shared in this year of tiny adventure. I've enjoyed your company.
I confess, this picture is from last year.
At 5:54 a.m. Saturday in the tiny house, the fog that enveloped most of last week gave way to clear, star-stippled darkness. The neighborhood rooster fills his bellows, ruptures the silence with practiced faith.
On that note, I was recently invited to be a contributing writer on the new online information hub for all things tiny (resources, information, inspiration, connection, etc.) TinyHomes.com. Thank you, Lina Menard and Kenny Bavoso for your hard work and your faith in me. O Muse of Writers Practice, don't fail me now! As if on cue, after struggling a couple of hours to write the first two lines of this post, a mantle of clouds moved in, filtering a pale wash of light into the afternoon that took a bit longer to filter through the writers block in my brain. I am happy to report the eventual sun-breakthrough I needed, resulting in my first submission. Although you can read it here, I would encourage you to check out the other articles and information that will be rolling into TinyHomes.com. Now, without further ado...
I confess. I am one of them. I live in a 136-square-foot house on wheels, parked in a field, in full view of a well-traveled road. I have permission of the landowners and, when I took up residence, fell quasi-legally through a temporary structures loophole for garden caretakers. The garden no longer exists, leaving my legal status in question. I remain without permission. I understand that the County is aware of me and receives many questions (I’m told) from folks who “want one” but cannot legally (with county approval) use one on their properties for housing, or even a spare bedroom. I built without permits (there were none that applied to structures on wheels) out of desire to learn new skills and shelter myself in a home that I own and for which I take responsibility. I plan to do it again and to encourage, teach and support others in the same. I confess it all. Am I just a tiny rogue against some proverbial machine I’ve labeled and targeted for my disaffection? I submit the following for your assessment:
Since my tiny venture began, I have engaged in numerous conversations over the uncertainties and illegalities of securing park/live sites for wee houses. Allan Cerf’s article, A Cautionary Tale on Tiny Houses (Cerf 2013), fairly comprehensively covers the quandaries faced by law-abiding citizens with whom the ethos (small, affordable, eco-friendly, unfettered…) resonates powerfully and who, enthusiastically, begin to dream in tiny/mobile only to become nearly mummified in the red tape of codes, regulations, reasoning that inhibit legal habitation of said dream on any fixed location for any significant period of time due to neighboring property devaluation, waste water management, city-legit water/electrical hook-ups, skeptical or hardline officials... The list dickers almost insurmountably on. The concerns are real. Are we doomed to steal like mice along the toe-kicks of civil society, hiding in nooks and crannies, relocating under cover of night, thumbing our noses at establishment and authority, never quite secure in our moorings simply in order to exist? The question of sanction and how to secure it is big.
A respected boss/mentor once imparted, “sometimes it’s better to ask forgiveness, rather than permission.” The context of the particular conversation is lost to me. Admittedly, the premise contains potential for abuse, but the message lingered. Through my twenties and thirties, I moved from place to place, navigating the financial whims of rental markets, observing ever-rising mortgage costs, weighing the latter against my salary and the 40+ hour work week, ad infinitum, that home ownership would seemingly require. Many did invest in mortgages, secure in the idea of ever-increasing home values, until 2008… Discouraged well before the crash, I took up residence in a tool shed on Whidbey Island to clear my head and met a friend who broached the idea of tiny wheely houses (see Tiny Origins page for full story). My mentor’s message rang with sudden crystal relevance. I was not a landowner. Furthermore, in a time of exploding population and finite land resources, competition dictates that not everyone can (or should) own land, though the need for housing explodes with the population, while increasingly expensive ‘cubicles’ of mass housing for rent proliferate. If there’s an alternative model for homeownership that encourages moderate consumption, sharing of resources, cooperation, community, new ways of thinking should it be dismissed outright for rules written in absence of good examples? Might the rules merit re-examination? Enter, the convoy of tiny houses and their trailored existential angst…
A new friend building tiny on the Island recently called me gripped in a moment of such angst after an unknown individual had showed up snapping pictures of the build site without permission. “Am I crazy? Are we in over our heads? Are we going to be evicted? I may have been over-ambitious…” Though I fall short of answering his questions, I wish him comfort in the burgeoning numbers of tiny homeowner blogs and builders and the increasingly audacious visibility of both (magazine features, news spots, films). As the adage goes, there is strength in numbers. So, what are we up against, really?
Throughout history, creative proposals and solutions to problems have been discouraged against the established ‘Ways’ of particular times and contexts. Built to weather instability, these mechanisms often, resist change, though not necessarily out of malice. As Cerf (2013) notes, many officials amiably discuss the topic with blunt skepticism. Such skepticism is the not uncommon companion of unfamiliar concepts. Even so, requesting mere consideration of our tiny proposal can feel a bit like asking a charging pachyderm to pivot on a dime (an admittedly outsized metaphor). Not gonna happen.
But wait! The pachyderm, in fact, roughly the size of a tiny house, has been around a while to achieve his immense stature. He has a long memory built from experience; knows a few things about his world; and, some say, possesses capacity for relationship, even affection. What if we parked the tiny house a mile or two down the line of charge, within sight; give the pachyderm time to react, consider, begin to slow or arc his trajectory? Furthermore, might the owner of the tiny house, wheels chocked uneasily in the line of rampage, on second glance, note that the elephant appears less at ‘angry charge’ than ‘determined gallop’; reassess the level of threat; consider inviting him over for a bucket of peanut butter, neighborly introductions and curious discussion? To be sure, there is a risk involved, but for all of the skeptical city/county officials who tolerate quasi-legal tiny houses within their jurisdiction (para. Cerf 2013), proliferating conversations among such officials, sometimes crossing into dialogue with tiny housers, themselves, resulting in such anomalies as the recently city-sanctioned, Caravan Tiny House Hotel (Portland, OR) seem, to me, to suggest a growing awareness, if not early signs of acceptance? Make no mistake. We have come far.
Poet/essayist/environmentalist, Wendell Berry, in a televised interview with Bill Moyers (Moyers 2013) musing on leadership from the bottom said, “[T]he country and I think… the world are full of people, now, who are… seeing something that needs to be done and starting to do it without the government’s permission or official advice or expert advice or applying for grants or anything else. They just start doing it.” He could be speaking directly to the tiny house movement. For many years, tiny houses have favored the shadow of peripheries, but the ground has been broken. Our early leaders began generations ago (read The Small House Movement in a Nutshell, by Jay Shafer), imagined an alternative, took risks. Their examples inspire and encourage the next wave of tiny builders, first, to follow, then to lead the next. We have grown in numbers and confidence, and there comes a time to step into the public forum with our vulnerability; submit ourselves to essential examination and critique; encourage debate, not for the sake of insurgency, but because we believe in what we’re building. There is much to learn on on both sides of the long journey home.
At 5:00 in the morning over the tiny house, the nightlong wind has nearly cleared the sky, save a thin veil caught on a sliver of moon. By 6:30, new clouds convene, puff their chests, huff and dicker over the best shade of wet for the day. Typical Northwest resident, I had already pretty much forgotten the sun’s recent (was it?) visit, as soon as impending autumn dampened my doorstep trailing its cool company of rain. In some ways, it’s a relief not to be rent between the sun’s laissez-faire seduction and the hole-up, hunker-down inner workings which require regular attendance and, at times, readjustment of expectation and priority. So, let’s begin with that loudest of inner workings—my stomach.
| |Unfailingly, on the first fall-ishly chill day, I am seized by acute hankerings for meat and/or great, redolently steamy pots of soup. Happily, I was able to indulge both last week with a slow-burn batch of Chipotle Sweet Potato Black Bean Soup rustled up in my tiny kitchen. The recipe was originally conceived in the grocery aisle when I grabbed the pureed sweet potatoes next to the intended pumpkin. Not being a part of my standard repertoire at the time, the sweet potatoes lingered in my cupboard for over a year, until through luck of the draw, on an evening particularly open to possibility, it ended up next to the corn, black beans and diced tomatoes on my shelf—a culinary Scrabble moment! The cans were played. A new soup was born. Check out my Vittles page to try a bowl. For the Veggie-tarians among you, the recipe can be easily and, dare I say, as tastily amended to suit. Bon appétit! I ladled up a bowl for myself and pondered my present situation. | |
Chipotle Sweet Potato Soup with Chicken
The initial buzz around the tiny house sale has subsided to a low frequency hum. Amid nibbles and marketing maintenance and tweaks, things are percolating behind the scenes. While I wait for the big bite, for sanity's sake, I’ve begun to imagine life after the tiny sale. In the midst of tiny workshops (see It's Big, posted 1/19/2013 and Tiny Houses in the Big World, posted 4/27/2013) and the subsequent epiphany to sell and migrate (see Oh Shift! Here We Go Again…, posted 08/05/2013), Portland rose like a panacea out of the mists of a long mental fog. What that will look like in reality, I don’t know. Of course, it would blow my mind to land a job helping build tiny houses. That is unlikely. Maybe I could work for a green builder. Maybe I should take a pre-apprenticeship with Oregon Tradeswomen first... Of course, I haven’t ruled out working for myself, though I plan to leave the housecleaning business behind when I go. Honestly, I feel adrift, in spite of my continuing drive to move south (cartographically speaking). Even after having consciously leapt off the corporate ladder, when it comes to imagining work/career possibilities, my brain sweeps all the 'toys' of my creative pursuit into the nearest closet, mashes the door shut, then proceeds with the "what-do-you-want-to-be-when-you-grow-up?" interrogation. sigh... Old habits die hard. Time for a new one! I paused to consider my resources, then headed for the present manifestation of my mind 'closet', the chicken coup. Moments later I returned to the tiny house armed with torch, striker, saw, hammers, files, pliers, copper, brass, silver and gold, stones, beads, baubles and scrap. I spent a day connecting torch to tanks, arranging my tiny workbench, mixing pickle solution, hanging my Foredom. Procrastinated the next afternoon away in creative apprehension. Spent another fondling pieces and parts of half-finished projects and possibilities. I consulted my copy of Tim McCreight’s Complete Metalsmith to review the section on basic soldering and mull over my last hang-up, nervous and frustrated at my lack of perseverance toward proficiency… Then again, I’m not dead yet, and I’m back at it. In the three years since I had last wielded my torch, I had finished and furnished a tiny house in my longest sustained creative endeavor to date, stops and starts notwithstanding. Finally, the house awaits a buyer. Portland is on the horizon. I picked up the striker, lit my torch, adjusted the flame to a soft, blue hiss. At any given point, there are multiple choices available and tools at one’s disposal. I move the flame in a circle around a funky, handmade pushpin, once abandoned in frustration, heating it slowly, evenly before the deft flow of solder and attending rush of satisfaction. I’ve come this far. I'll work it out in my own way.
See you soon!
Tiny Art/Writing Studio, Hangout, Office, Refuge, House for Sale
7:50 p.m. in the tiny house. Post sunset. Paper Olympic cutouts fan peach horizon. The pigeons who’ve taken up residence in the last month have gone to roost, and the neighbor’s brood of peacocks have concluded their proclamations. Socrates, the visiting tabby, stopped in for a rubdown and well-wishes before heading off for his nightly hunt. The pale bowl overhead deepens to blue, fills with ink and glitter. Endless summer… That was last week.
On second glance, it’s Monday, 6:40 a.m. in the tiny house. Spiders tight-rope across windows, between flowers, spin corbels under the porch soffit, and tighten the rigging. Against a backdrop of summer burning along the edges of maple leaves and a final eruption of dahlias, Sunday rose like a gray-eyed oracle. I had heard her approach and, with the renewed vigor conferred by looming deadlines, I delved into my list of dry-weather details (trim baseboard electrical outlet, window weather-stripping, final sash touch-ups, new tires and paint wheel rims, exterior inspection and caulking, etc.). And so it was, on a possibly the last sunny Saturday, I set myself to a long-languishing quandary. Here’s some background on the matter…
| |The little house is secured to its trailer foundation with steel bars slipped into and bolted through welded, trailer side-brackets. Two additional bolts fasten each bar through the skids on the bottom of the house (for the ‘why’ of skids on a trailered house, see the Trailer Work and The New Foundation sections of my photo album). One of the connections had been disassembled last November in order to access electrical wiring and juice the tiny house for habitation (for more on that episode, see Taking the Leaks
posted 11/11/2012). Somewhere in the hoopla, the steel bar had been removed and the bolts jammed in a position rendering it impossible to re-install the steel bar. After wailing mercilessly on the ends of the bolts with my hammer, buggering the bolt threads for their nuts in vain attempt to drive them out, I gave up, relegating it to the bottom of my ‘to-do’ list and turned my attention to more pressing move-in matters, like propane (see Plumb Crazy, posted 10/21/2012). Months later, the tiny marketing campaign well under way (click here for video tour), thunderstorm and subsequent rains in the forecast for the foreseeable future, priority came clear. High time for a second look.
And so it was with accompanying angst, a few weeks ago, that I revisited the pile of nuts and washers, steel bar, split block and corresponding stuck bolts with the original logistical brains behind the operation, my friend and mentor, John Shinneman. He very sensibly advised me to take a chisel to the block through which the offending bolts passed between the steel bar and skids and remove it. Pressure/tension on the bolt between the block and skid should, theoretically, be relieved, and I should be able to drive the bolts back, hacksaw and/or re-thread the buggered ends, replace the block, re-insert bolts and secure with facility. I crossed my arms, furrowed my brow, emitted a dubious grmph! and thanked him for his time and expertise. John grinned and wished me luck before exiting jauntily stage left. I stashed the detritus parts out of sight of impending open house guests and stuffed it well into the back of my mind for just a bit longer.
| |Well past the wee open house, newly motivated, and having located most of the stashed pieces of my project, after a brief meditation on the problem, donned my grubbies and spelunking gear (for crawling under the house), suspended disbelief in my abilities and headed to the chicken coup and barn (about 300 feet) to gather my tools.
The first step was easy. I inserted the chisel into the spilt in the block and with a few hammer taps, dispensed with it. Sure enough, without the added pressure of the block, the bolts—with another few hammer blows—were driven flush with the wood. My confidence lifted. I made a second trip to the barn (another 300 feet, times two) for consultation with fix-it guru, Bill Andrews, and acquisition of a couple of long punches, enabling me to prevail in driving the bolts clean out. I shimmied under the house to retrieve them and trekked back to the barn (more exercise) to clean up the threads with a tap and back to the work site to shimmy under the house again, and drive them back through the skids to flush on the outside. Back to the barn. Bill helped me locate an oak plank (very hard wood) from which I could fashion and drill a replacement block. It took several more trips to the barn and removing and re-threading bolt ends and aligning holes to find myself wedged under the house again in the failing light driving the bolts back through the wood and hitting the misaligned steel bar, once again buggering the bolt threads. I lay in the dirt, contemplating the mud pie I would make of myself trying to finish the job in the infinitude of autumn rains forecast to begin tomorrow. I crawled out and shuffled to the barn again to put away my tools.
Pacific Northwest weather is famously unpredictable, except that when rain is forecast, it is reasonably certain to occur though with wide variation in the timing and quantity. Despite the thunderstorm scheduled for 1:00, the sky was a soft, seemingly stable, gray. By 7:15, I was scurrying about to replace window weather stripping, touching up paint and caulk. Finally, after brief meditation on the pressing quandary and beseeching of the rain gods, it was back to nuts and bolts. I am extremely pleased to report that, with only seven or eight trips to the barn, by 11:30 a.m., just as the rain began, I had prevailed, only slightly dampened, fairly dirty, well-exercised (from repeated barn jaunts) and a not just a little triumphant.
It gets easier. Every quandary vanquished (no matter the time elapsed in self-doubt), is a new tool in the belt, and salve for the next angst. Even as knowledge and skill develop, angst is a habit that takes practice to break. In retrospect, I’m surprised to have come this far, given the gridlock experienced in fledgling problem-solving once I moved the house to a location remote of immediate mentor guidance. Somehow, I persisted, haltingly, hung up for months at a time on something as simple as trim before eventual break through, when I return able to look at the problem with new eyes. More stymies surfaced at move-in around the basic necessities for comfort (heat, cooking, shower) that would come from hooking up the electricity
, plumbing for propane and shower facilities (see November/December posts for details of the challenges). During such periods of high pressure, response time improved, along with willingness to ask for guidance. Nowadays, more than ability or lack of knowledge, mindset is most often the block. Maybe it always was.
The storm broke mid-afternoon yesterday with lightning, rolling thunder, downpour and brief electrical outage. From my tiny kitchen, I amalgamated a satisfying pot of Russian root vegetable soup with sour cream, lemon and dill and reveled in the drama of it all, secure on my foundation, at least until the next bend in the road.See you soon!
Tiny Art/Writing Studio, Hangout, Office, Refuge, House for Sale
Monday, 10:15 a.m. in the tiny house. The sun just peeped through the slate-rimmed gray. Rain returned mid-last-week with short dousings, sprinkles, wind and one rolling thunder afternoon: hints of autumn nipping at my plans. It’s post-Wee Open House. I tip another dose of caffeine back and go over the flash of last week. WOH! What just happened?
It was a whirlwind of last-minute prep--decking, video production and release, toe kick finger holes, cleaning, stowing, errands, staging and signage—my dear friend, Dori Hallberg, on the eve of her birthday (my heroine!), arrived for backup, and Saturday’s Wee Open House welcomed 40+ visitors to my door. Wandering in twos and threes through the gate and across the field, they beheld, exclaimed, pondered, probed, swapped ideas, reclined in the window seat or lingered thoughtfully in the loft.
One of the tiniest visitors, burst over the threshold, arms wide, exclaiming, “I looooove it!” before flying up the ladder and beaming exuberance from her lofty perch. There were couples, some with young children. Bryn and Loren are already building their own tiny dream house. New Whidbey residents, Maribel, Michael and wee Freya, were contemplating new possibilities. A number of mother/daughter pairs (and one mother/son) passed through, the mothers repeating with relish, I could definitely see her/him in one of these (the referenced being the wonder-stricken 20-something, a newly single in her 30s or the 20-something New York prodigal). Blacksmith/artist, Chuck Ping, hailing from my home-state of Iowa, and his sister, Patricia (fellow Whidbey-ite), came to talk over Patricia’s desire for a tiny personal space and Chuck’s plans for a slew of 'tinies' back in corn country. (Chuck & Linda, you’re on my visit list when next I’m Iowa-bound!) There were even a few folks mulling over a purchase and retrofit for, specifically, bath/toilet facilities… Naturally, folks considering the house for purchase, are mulling over the aforementioned possibilities. You’ll be happy to know that there are some, but first, a brief segue.
| |While I am proud of and have loved living in my little house, I always demurred apologetically when it came to explaining the bath/toilet. It was begun with an evolutionary plan for charm on par with the tiny residence. With the sudden decision to inhabit last fall, top priority became basic function. That took some doing (see Taking the Leaks, posted 11/11/2012) and, as plans have evolved (see Oh Shift! Here We Go Again…, posted 08/05/2013) resources were otherwise directed. Fortunately, when I had a chance for a pre-WOH! check-in with Dee, she shared how she’d been similarly apologetic about her facilities for years and encouraged me to, as she has, simply get over it.
With that, I swept out the bath house, cleaned the clawfoot tub and when the first visitor asked to peek, I said with a sweeping flourish, “Go right ahead!” I overheard them exclaim, with a little surprise, perhaps due to the tar paper exterior, that it was cute! There you have it. So, here’s the deal: if the provision of immediately functional, upgradeable bath/toilet facilities would close the sale, I’m willing to throw in the bathhouse for free and would be happy to advise on set-up that will avert the struggles I had with frozen water lines. I also refer you to my coverage of Brittany Yunker’s compost toilet system for an aesthetic and effective toilet option (see Shapeshifting, posted 08/25/2013). My learning curve, to your advantage. Just sayin'... it’s an option.
| |In closing this segment, for the folks who are considering purchase of my tiny house and lack only the perfect setting, I have a friend with two gorgeous, private, 10-acre, wooded, South Whidbey parcels available. Inquire for details. Enough said.
Last night, I watched the sunset juice out of another gorgeous day, smiled at the wonder of five or six people chatting comfortably in my wee house the day before—mother and child in the loft, two in the window seat, another seated at the dining table, one propped against the kitchen cabinet and me leaning in the doorway (that’s almost seven!). Intimate spaces have an energy that draws folks in, calms, recalibrates for conversation with each other or the birds, clouds or breeze passing by the windows. Welcome! Do come in. Have a seat. Won’t you stay awhile? My gratitude to all who did. It was a pleasure.Stay tuned!
(Special thanks to Robbie Cribbs of Sound Trap Studios for the “Mighty Micro House on Wheels” video tour and to Joe Reggiatore of Tambourine Sky for the groovy musical background riffs.)
Last night I watched a purpling peek-a-view of the Olympics from the window seat of my tiny house in awe of the layers it took to culminate one picture. Building the house has been like that (framing, sheathing, roofing, trimming, siding, insulating, paneling, detailing...). A multi-layered community (friends, clients, hardware and lumberyard staff, neighbors) have rallied around the project, wheeling it ‘round the next unexpected turn. Despite my best efforts to envision the future, some wonders remain beyond the viewfinder of planning. Tomorrow is a shape shifter, speaking of which...
| |I awoke at 5:00 a.m. under a bright-eyed waxing moon this morning, contemplating last weekend’s tiny open house at the Bayside Bungalow guest rental in Olympia, WA. Greeted with hugs from the indomitable builder/proprietress, Brittany Yunker, and tireless tiny maven, Dee Williams, I was immediately slapped with a ‘Team Tiny House’ nametag making me an honorary volunteer answering questions for the mix of curious, tentative, wonderstruck, and determined visitors. Sweet! Between questions, I slipped away to self-tour, snap pics and investigate the tiny systems at hand, which brings me to the next topic.
It’s one of the first great mysteries for anyone new to tiny houses--is there a toilet and how does that work? It is a fact: in order to live in a tiny house, one must deal with one’s doo-doo on both, the literal and metaphorical levels. Being with yourself and possibly a significant other and/or a pet or two (check out RowdyKittens.com for Tammy Strobel's excellent blog) in a small space requires it. Yes, a standard flush toilet can be incorporated and hooked up to septic. For a more mobile option, there are RV toilets that flush into storage tanks and can be driven to a dump station. However, storage tanks are expensive, and in this context, take up giant amounts of valuable ‘real estate’, displacing stuff you want/need with (to put it delicately) the stuff you don’t. So…
DISCLAIMER: the system I’m about to detail deals with human waste management. Disinterested parties may skip the next paragraph.
| || |I, myself, was new to composting toilets when I began planning my build, and, frankly, couldn’t fathom one in such a small space. Then, I met Brittany at the Seattle Tumbleweed workshop, where she spoke candidly about her system. Now, I’m a total convert and not a little envious, since I’m still operating with a liquid additive, RV camp toilet. (Honestly, I cannot recommend it.) In contrast, Brittany’s system combines a urine-diverting bucket system in the house with 50-gallon composting drums in a nearby chicken coup for curing. To be more specific, an ingenious little invention called the Separett diverts urine out with the gray water into a French drain. Separation of liquid from solid waste and an additional scoop of sawdust, pete or coconut husk poured over the solids in the bucket (in lieu of flushing) sweetens the pot (so to speak), while the toilet lid contains any remaining whiffs. A full bucket is taken to the chicken coup, dumped into a composting drum lined with wire mesh (for aeration), churned occasionally with a crank and covered with fiber cloth to prevent flies while permitting airflow. It takes a year to fill one drum and an additional year to cure, at which point the composted material can be distributed around ornamental plants, saving money on store-bought compost--cha-ching! I took many notes and pictures and will definitely incorporate this into my next tiny build.
| |Back to polite party conversation on the Isle, I’m headlong into an advertising campaign (see Tiny House for Sale, posted …….) with a life of its own. My post with tinyhouselistings.com has generated over 13,000 views (so far) and several inquiries, although, thankfully, not quite 13,000. Then, to my amazement, the MightyMicroHouse was picked up by tinyhouseblog.com, tinyhousenews.info, and tinyhouseswoon.com, the latter of which quipped, “a tiny house with a sufficient touch of swooneyness…” Another twist I could not have foreseen.
So, what’s next on the almighty TO-DO List?
- Publicity for the Wee Open House (WOH!)
- Replace charred porch decking (decorative, solid glass balls in the sun—bad idea)
- Delegate neglected yardwork (done! thanks to Will Hallberg for mowing the rogue arugula volunteers) and
- Shoot video of the mighty special house features with the help of friend/videographer Robbie Cribbs
| |And so it goes. To a tiny shoebox frame, I cobbled a motley cadre of items—cast-off windows, scrap steel, rusty stove door—from yard sales, recycle yards, backyard junk heaps, and lumberyard bone piles. Here I am. Have a look. We could build something together, they whispered. And we did. Since my epiphany to move to Portland (see Oh Shift! Here We Go Again…, posted 08/25/2013) tiny chat rooms, blogs, workshops, open houses have displaced prior trolling haunts. New contacts, friends, mentors and possibilities roll in, taking their places. The view changes. The invitation in the ether is the same: We could build something together… We are. Bigger than I imagined. And there’s room for more.
| || |It’s 5:30 a.m. in the tiny house. The rooster and I have risen, if not the sun. Around the property, the owners and their apartment tenant have been packing to vacate the farmhouse. Despite my lightening client roster, I’ve been busy with a stream of tiny details--installing long-awaited base boards, finger holes in the toe-kick drawers, working on the ad campaign—drewslist, craigslist, flyers, postcards... Even prioritizing takes time. By 10:00 last night, I’d had 2,700 views on tinyhouselistings.com. The email inquiries have begun. Little wonder that I fell instantly through my pillow to sleep, despite one of my favorite skies—tatter of dark and light-haloed clouds under a shadow-chasing moon, conifers pinking the visual perimeter. At times like these you can’t see everything with your eyes open, anyway. Objects glow and shapeshift. You feel your way along. Rest. Get moving.
Climbing toward daylight, what’s next on the big agenda? I’ve been talking and blogging about my life in micro for some time now, generating almost as many questions as I answer, it seems. Since there’s no experience like the direct kind, I’ve decided to let the greater public in on a little something. If you’ve been dying to peek through the window on my tiny world, here’s your big chance. It’s time for a Wee Open House. So without further ado, I'm pleased to announce the following:
Date: August 31, Labor Day Weekend
Time: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Place: 4785 E Harbor Road, Freeland (behind the greenhouse)
Who's invited?: YOU
That said, today I’m road tripping to Olympia for Brittany Yunker’s Bayside Bungalow tiny open house. Brittany operates the Bungalow as a guest rental and has an enviable composting system that piqued my curiosity at the January Tumbleweed workshop (see It’s Big!, posted 1/19/2013). Of course, it’s also an opportunity to hob-knob with other tiny enthusiasts, and—if the timing works—there’s a private tango soirée in Seattle tonight, where I could catch up with my ex-patriot friend, instructor, performer, Sara Thomsen, who now resides in Buenos Aires. Given I’ve been distracted from the dance floor for a couple of months, the tango may humble me, but the brief and elegant escape could be just the tiny ticket to.... What did I say earlier? Oh yeah… Feel my way along. Rest. Keep moving.
The infamous Sara Thomsen who hooked me on tango years ago. Thank you!
OMG! Woman repairs thermocouple, then makes dinner!
It’s 7:11 p.m. Saturday night in the tiny house. Here and there volunteer sunflowers periscope over the golden toasted grass thatches. I spent the last few days reorganizing for the big shift (see Oh Shift! Here We Go Again..., posted 8/5/2013), taking pictures, checking caulk around windows and trim, touching up paint, applying finish to the baseboards I’m finally going to install. Perhaps the major coup of the week was repair of my secondhand oven range, which, for the nine months of my tiny residence, has required inordinate amounts of coaxing in order to fire the heating element.
Typically, when the propane oven is set to preheat, the pilot flame envelops and heats a thermocouple wire, which creates an electrical charge, which sparks the heating element. Turns out that the piece of metal that holds my thermocouple just beyond the pilot light was bent. Thus, the pilot flame fell just short of the thermocouple, heating it only by proximity, taking much longer and much blind huffing, puffing and beseeching of the pilot to fire the element. Amazingly, with only a few tweaks employing my half-round jeweler’s pliers and a wrench, now, we’re cookin’!
So, why procrastinate a simple fix for nine months? What can I say? For each vestige of the I-don’t-know-hows answered by eventual action, the temporary blockages grow more permeable. In part, it's about readiness. Even when the fix is simple, the tiny victory of it renders more complicated fixes (or shall we say 'shifts') less daunting. Gradually, I take my regressionary reflexes less seriously. After all, when I don’t know how, there are others who do. (Shout out to Bill Andrews whose remote demystification of thermocouple function empowered my diagnosis and remedy.)
So, fast forward to 6:28 a.m., Sunday in the tiny house. Just finished my scrambled eggs and greens with toast, side of yogurt and a spot o’ tea: fuel for baseboard productivity (I hope). Covies of morning doves have replaced the robins who moved to greener worm-rife pastures (I presume) sometime in the weeks of my attention lapse. The doves pick over dry grass for morsels before lift-off en groupe: an uncanny parallel to human activity around the property, which is up for rent, or possibly even for sale. With regard to my own impending flight—the mighty ‘sell and move to Portland’ decision (see Oh Shift! Here We Go Again… posted 8/5/2013)—I don’t, yet, know the how of it all, but I'm moving forward on faith. With that, I submit for your consideration the following (you heard it here first, folks!). Whatever you want it to be, take a tiny moment and dream a little dream with me, and thanks in advance for helping spread the word.
Tiny House (or office, art studio, guest room, dream space, refuge) for Sale!
$38,000 (sales tax not included)
136 square feet
Cathedral ceiling, box window seat, reclaimed steel and Milestone entry, iron trivet coat hook, Dickinson Newport propane fireplace
Antique leaded glass cupboards, 4-burner propane oven range, old stove door cook fan cover, bar sink, cabinet storage, under-counter refrigerator, toe-kick drawers
Stowable ladder, dormers with leaded glass windows, gabled alcove
Clothing rod with overhead shelf, vanity/desk, 2-gallon, electric hot water heater
Knotty pine paneling, fir floor & trim, cedar shingles, siding & exterior trim
Wired for electricity and phone
Bath/toilet facilities not included
Top traveling speed: 25 to (maybe) 35 mph
Shown by appointment only.
E-mail MightyMicroBuilder@gmail.com or call Angela at (360) 331-3246
The garden greenhouse through a crystal
9:38 a.m. in the tiny house. It’s not what I expected. At least, not when I set out with something like a plan and the customary ambitions, hopes, dreams. A trio of passing cyclists along the fence line provide apt metaphor. Pedal uphill. At the crest, a mere moment to check readiness before picking up speed on the downhill, momentum for the next, and again, and again… Eventually, you’ll come to a straightaway, begin to coast, note the change in scenery, subtle shifts in the breeze. Is this the right road? Where was I going? Stop.
That’s where I left off blogging a couple of months ago (my apologies for the lengthy, unexplained absence), while replacing window glass (finally done) and feeling overwhelmed at the array of things I wanted to accomplish to improve infrastructure for maximum comfort (averting frozen water lines and better home climate control) for the next winter while short on the requisite funds (grmph!). In the midst of this, the three tiny workshops I’d attended since January (see end slide show for snippets of Dee's Vardo workshop) had alternately exhilarated and stymied me. In spite of thinking I had found the right location to expand my tiny journey, increasingly, I couldn’t help but contrast the elation of each tiny immersion with the sluggishness I felt upon return. Recall the tears of joy with which I departed Portland, Oregon in April, post-PAD workshop (see Tiny Houses in the Big World, posted 4/27/2013)? Cheesy and over dramatic, perhaps, but real and while I’ve been grappling with the meaning, it's difficult to say precisely when the sands began to shift under the tiny house, but there were signs:
Sister (Alyssa) & Mom (Connie)
- Sign #1: The Garden. The body tells us what it needs. In spite of best laid plans, rest is sometimes the only answer. By July, personal health matters had, by necessity, trumped my hosts’ agricultural ambitions. The garden where I took up residence, left to its own devices, has instituted a prairie restoration agenda.
- Sign #2: Carpenter Ants. Truth be told, I had spotted the fast-moving and angst-inducing ‘scouts’ over a month before, but had been told that, without wet wood on which to munch, they would only pass through. Unfortunately, rigid foam insulation is a most desirable nesting material. Early July, upon return from my Grandmother’s passing in Iowa, a softly ominous munching began in the ceiling over my loft—eek!
- Sign #3 & 4: Accelerated Attrition and The Wall. I have a personal internal mechanism that appears when, after operating along a certain track under set parameters at length, it is time for a change I have sensed, without knowing what to do about it. I affectionately refer to this mechanism as The Wall. Quandary: there is no way around. So, amid three client house sales and additional cyclical attrition, involving some of my most loyal, rather than panic, The Wall manifested as an inexplicable disinterest in and utter refusal to accept any new cleaning clients, despite new inquiries and rapidly diminishing income. Fortunately, on closer inspection, The Wall always has a door (more on that in a moment).
The casual and/or cynical observer might dismiss these so-called signs as arbitrary and unrelated. Fair enough. I often doubt myself, but they were accompanied by...
- Sign #5: The Click! It’s early August. Somewhere between, the Surety Pest Control estimate, my mother and sister’s visit, a declining client roster, disassembling the tiny vent cap for damage assessment (None—Hooray!) and invader eviction, I heard myself say, without thinking, that I might sell the house and move to Portland… Click! No, this wasn't the sound my camera made when I dropped and broke it last week (doh!), but that of the door opening in The Wall. Inaudible to everyone else, it has become clear and unmistakeable to me over the years. It’s the sign of shift, like my move to Seattle 11 years ago 2 days after my divorce, resigning one law firm without a job offer as yet unaware of the imminent 20% pay raise coming from the next, leaving the second firm for an Island tool shed and earthbuilding apprenticeship, and deciding to build a tiny house on wheels (see Tiny Origins for more on the latter two). Click! Click! Click! Whether or not I sound a bit wacky, I’ve learned the hard way, it is to my detriment to ignore the click!
So, first things first. Everything depends on putting the tiny house up for sale. It wasn't built for high-speed, long-distance travel. Top traveling speed would be 35 mph (maybe). While much larger homes that have never even feigned mobility in their design can be moved, given the proper equipment and resources, this tiny house has been the repository of my savings over the last 6 years, to say nothing of 'blood, sweat and tears.' It’s an investment on which it is time to capitalize in order to move energy and open options—education, volunteering and workshops—hopefully, in the thriving Portland tiny community, close to Portland Alternative Dwellings
, Shelter Wise
, Niche Consulting (three of the 'real deal' in tiny house innovation and education, in my humble opinion) and the many tiny builds peppering the area. To build on skills and experience in order to better participate in something bigger than my tiny story, I want to be where the rubber under the tiny house hits the road (see Tiny Houses in the Big World, posted 4/27/2013 for reference). That’s the dream. That’s my plan, for now. Stay tuned.
Portland Alternative Dwellings July 5th Workshop