See you next year!
Thanks for traveling with me these last few months. Here's a tiny slideshow retrospective for you to enjoy in between your revelries and reveries. I wish you much merriment and blessings for the holidays and throughout 2013.
See you next year!
(Last week, 12/8/12) It’s 7:00 a.m. in the Tiny House. The garden darkens before sunrise. Treetops emanate deep blue under a low, gray mantle. Hail on the roof turns the house into an overgrown rain stick. As you may imagine, in a space of this scale, one is never far from a window or the rhythms tapping themselves out through roof and walls. Elements announce themselves: wind rushes and blusters; rain strides up on its long legs; fog adjusts the light to its mood; frost glints icily through the glass coveting steam from my cup for its lace. Sometimes I hear owls at night, frogs (in warmer weather), the rooster down the hill, all without opening a door or a window. This morning, I linger and steep in it. The tasks of the day (yes, even the bath house) can wait just a bit.
'Tis the season...
It is the nature of lists to perpetuate themselves, spawning three to twenty new items for every one vanquished, like gray hairs—so they say. After particularly high-intensity periods stretching for months in which life resembles a non-stop funhouse of quandaries, troubleshoots, re-routes and adjustments, when crankiness begins to trump adventure, the perspective gate swings wildly on its hinges, threatening to take the whole fence down, I begin to feel ungrounded. It is out of this jumble that I pluck a few timely threads—in spite of ‘priorities’— for nesting…
So that was last weekend. Fast forward to present--12/16/12. In fact, I nested so much that I didn’t make it to the coffee shop to post a blog. Forgive me. It had to be. Today, I’m rejuvenated, up and out, having tea at the South Whidbey Commons while waiting for my laundry to finish at the laundromat. The big news of the week? Drum roll, please! …I can shower at home!
The magnitude of the 'upgrade' cannot be overstated and was, of course, accompanied by requisite angst last Sunday evening. The water heater was up and running, shower curtains installed. Alas, every effort failed to produce more than lukewarm water punctuated by icy shots (insult to injury) from the shower head. My spirits dampened. In an attempt at positive re-frame, I told myself, you’ll adjust. Let go of resistance. It would be neither sane nor feasible to run around South Whidbey perpetually seeking showers. I took a deep breath, shed my clothes and dove in, invigorated in my despair.
Honestly, the psychology of the event was probably worse than the physical experience... probably... It took a while to stop shivering, post-shower. It took two additional days to muster a second attempt at home hygiene. Tuesday morning, I braced myself for another ‘character-building’ cleanse. Winter’s infinite stretch loomed. I burrowed deeper under my covers and my angst. Then, a tiny thought crept in. Reduce the volume of water to the heater? I clambered out of the loft, donned a coat, stuffed my feet into my work boots (note to self: bathrobe and flip-flops might be nice) and shuffled out to the hydrant. I turned the water on low, took a deep breath and shuffled to the bath house, opened the propane valve, switched on the water heater and shower head. Steam billowed up. The burn in my testing fingers slowly translated to my neurons eliciting an involuntary yelp. The heater had been unable to keep up with the incoming volume of water. The problem was fixed! A heretofore unmatched wave of relief and elation flooded my being, accompanied by triumphal whoops, singing and dancing in my open-air bath house at 5:00 a.m. I was invincible!
What’s next after such peak experience? Well, having opted, first and foremost, for basic function (requiring a mere month-and-a-half), I must still complete the mini-septic to handle the gray water. The trench, the hole for the tank and the drain pipes lie patiently in view of my kitchen window through last week’s nesting session and shower angst and on through Brad and Camille’s party and pig roast Friday, my escape to the Bellingham tango last night, a luxurious sleep-in this morning and blog-posting, just now. Maybe I’ll work on the septic this afternoon… First, I’m going to make fudge.
It’s December, day 32 in the tiny house. Here’s an illustrated snapshot of the view from my living room window. In the ‘fallow’ season of the Northwest, the garden still dreams up carrots, parsnips, leeks, onions, kale, beets, brussels sprouts, surprising masses of sage alongside a ruined lattice of sunflowers and sleepy squashes secreting grottoes of seeds. Beyond the perimeter, the boats have wandered up to Brad’s boat barn, moored on their cribs, sheets over their shoulders, battened down for the winter. If I could capture the sky this morning, I would. My photography skills still in early gestation, suffice it to say that the picture falls short of the scene, not unlike the unfolding of the tiny habitation project. If some of you begin to suspect that behind the poetic waxing hides another cadre of excuses for the ongoing lack of shower facilities… there may be some truth in that. In my own defense, the process seems to have an agenda of its own that has little to do with my imagined priorities. So, without further ado, here is the week’s wherefore…
The Ewings’ offer to build a set of steps for my front porch required that I, first, get the house off of its tires and lowered onto some cribs for the winter. I had been dubious concerning the necessity of this task, given the building could have been further stabilized with concrete pier blocks and posts (not that I had gotten around to that either). Nevertheless, Brad had a point that the tires would be better preserved from flattening and cracking if removed and stored. I had resisted his sensible advice for some time for not knowing what a ‘crib’ was or how to set about the project and a reticence to ask for assistance. Now, I needed to know the deck height (which would change for the house blocking) in order to give the Ewings specs for the stairs. So, I hired my friend, Bill, to build the cribs and coach me through the leveling, jacking and lowering of the house—done on rainy, muddy Wednesday afternoon. Great! Since the two-week remission of chronic leaks seemed stable, I thought, perhaps, I had cleared my weekend for focus on the bath house. Right? Well…
Friday night, my electricity went out. A glance out the window confirmed I was the only one. I soothed anxious thoughts of stubborn wires that had caused such consternation a couple of weeks ago (see "Taking the Leaks" blog, 11/11/12) with gratitude that my heater and oven range remained operational. I lit some candles, finished cooking and consuming dinner, went to the barn to flip the breaker (to no avail) and went to bed, powerless again.
Wiring under the house
By Saturday afternoon, my wiring job had been taken apart and reassembled (thanks again, Bill). The electrical problem persisted—meaning it may not have been directly related to my wiring job (slight morale boost), although, with Bill’s expertise, it was, now, definitely not the problem. Turns out the cable had been clipped twice when the garden was being edged last summer. Additional work to resolve the issue was needed. In any case, things were sorted out, and the tiny house was live again. Sunday (today), I could work on the bathhouse, but first...
With all of the ups and downs of downsizing, relocating, plumbing, leaks, trips to the hardware store, laundry (off-site), showers, Turkey Day and day job, one can begin to feel a bit ungrounded and, frankly, downright cranky. Ego aside, it has helped tremendously to step back and ask for help, or simply accept some—skills I am still learning. I am often asked—about the tiny house—if I built it, myself. The answer is, I framed and sheathed, roofed, shingled, insulated, wired, plumbed, paneled, trimmed, sided, laid flooring, applied finish, paint, caulk as well as the hammering, sawing, sanding, hefting and schlepping, teeth-gnashing, grousing, hair-tearing and countless other tasks involved. And I’ve had tons of assistance from others who’ve encouraged, coached, accommodated (sometimes tolerated), loaned and wielded various tools in many of the aforementioned tasks (gnashing, grousing and hair-tearing excepted). The truth is, that the tiny house project has taken a village (a phrase for which I've forgotten the origin and cannot take credit). In the beginning, the project may have found me (see Tiny Origins for more details). Through the project, I’ve found community and a place to be.
See you next week!
Angela Ramseyer is an artist, poet, writer, tanguera and neophyte guitar player, recently relocated from Whidbey Island, WA to Portland, OR.
Portland Alternative Dwellings
Shelter Wise, Llc
Niche Design Consulting
Four Lights Tiny Houses