So after the craziness of June and July, I was now a full-time Oregonian – but the craziness continued. I had a month before I turned 50 and I was determined to move my house outside and spend my first night in it on my birthday. To do this, I had to get my trim and siding up. It seemed doable, but I should know better by now than to impose a deadline on myself.
This summer has been intense. Many significant life changes and lots of activity on the tiny house front as I tried to hit some self-imposed deadlines. Way too much stress, and the blog has suffered as a result. But now I’m catching my breath again and realizing a major update is in order. As I pulled photos to include, I realized that the update was going to be excessive even by my epic post standards, so I’m breaking it down into three separate entries. This one covers the month of June. July and August to follow shortly.
For those of you not familiar with my story, the quick background is that I started building a tiny house in Oregon while still living in California. I’ve spent the last year traveling back and forth doing discrete building stints. I originally thought I would move my house down to the Bay Area while I continued at my job as a grant and project manager for the Coastal Conservancy, a state agency where I’ve been for the last 25 years. However, as I got deeper into the process of building, it jumpstarted a whole re-evaluation of where I was in my life and where I wanted to be. I was about to turn 50, I wanted out of the city and the constraints of my desk job, and I really wanted to get back to my native Oregon, closer to nature and family. While normally I wouldn’t be able to live off the tiny pension I would get with early retirement, the low expenses of the tiny house should make it possible for me to piece together an alternative lifestyle I hadn’t thought possible. I’ll still need to work some (I’m retiring from state service, not retiring altogether), but by having my basic needs covered, I have much more flexibility in what I choose to do and how I incorporate my work life with the rest of my life.
All of those life changes and transitions happened this summer. It’s been a crazy time: I was simultaneously making several 12-hour trips up to either build or move belongings, transferring major work projects to new staff, cleaning out and organizing work files, saying my goodbyes to the places I’ve lived and the dear friends I’ve worked and played with for the last 25 years, coming to grips with leaving and starting over in a familiar but new place and a much different lifestyle, learning the ropes of life on a blueberry farm, getting my head around the idea of “retiring” (and all the endless bureaucratic forms that entailed!), building new friendships and connections in my home-to-be, packing up and cleaning my apartment, and actually moving and getting settled in with all that requires. On top of this, I set myself a goal of finishing the exterior of my house so that by the end of August I could move it out to it’s initial parking spot behind the barn and spend my 50th birthday night in it.
These next three posts chronicle some of that experience, as seen primarily from a tiny house perspective. Looking over the photos, I realize that in some cases I was too busy living to get pics of key moments and friends so there are some missing events. I also noticed how much we tend to only photograph the good times (of which there were many in the midst of all the chaos). What you don’t see in these posts are the agonies of indecision about how to proceed with the next step, the many months of elevated cortisol levels from too much stress, the pouring sweat from climbing up and down ladders in 100 degree weather, the few times I broke down in tears of frustration when things broke or didn’t go together as planned or deadlines passed unmet, the sore muscles, late nights, and utter exhaustion. But then, really, who wants to look at those photos? Just know that those untaken pics really should be part of this to balance what appears to be a perfectly graceful handling of major life changes. Lesson: social media never really tells the full story. Continue reading
To my Bay Area friends interested in tiny houses – Dee Williams will be in town twice in May! On May 4th, she will be reading from her new book, The Big Tiny, at the Book Passage in Corte Madera, and on May 17th she will be teaching a one-day tiny house workshop. This is a great opportunity to meet one of the big pioneers in the Tiny House Movement. Who knows, you might just get so inspired your life could radically change (not that I know anything about that – ha!)
The Big Tiny book launch and tour
Take a Dee Tour and shake up what you thought a life should be: Dee Williams kicks off her national book tour on Earth Day next week in Washington D.C. To read about her book, see her tour schedule, or order a copy, visit The Big Tiny page on the PAD website.
PAD Tiny House Workshops
Dee will be teaching a one-day Intro to Tiny Houses workshop in the Bay Area on May 17th. If you are starting to think seriously about building a tiny house, this is a great opportunity to learn about technical and design issues that will help you be better prepared. Visit PAD’s workshop page for more information about this class, as well as the two-day workshop in Portland at the end of May.
NOTE: The early registration discount for the Bay Area class ends April 21!
Dee in the New York Times
The New York Times just did a great feature on Dee today with wonderful photos of her tiny house. Check it out here.
I’ll also be at the two Bay Area events along with other tiny house enthusiasts. Hope to see you there!
UPDATE: I just learned that the Bay Area workshop will be at The Crucible in Oakland – very cool. There will be a mixer after the workshop for the general public (5-7pm), so come join us! I’ll share more information on this as it becomes available.
This is an epic post to try to catch up on what I’ve been doing the last couple weeks, since I have woefully neglected the blog. I have two more weeks of building before I return to California, at which point I will do some more technical posts on the floor and wall framing. This will hopefully tide you over until then.
June 18-19: Limping to Hood River, Oregon
Here’s some advice: even if they say you’ll bounce back in a couple days, don’t have surgery three days before you leave to start building your tiny house. For the week following, I was feverish, in pain, and bleeding and, for a good two weeks, limp as an amoeba. I ended up delaying my departure by a day and even so, it took me seven hours to pack and load since I wasn’t supposed to lift anything heavier than a milk jug. I would move two things and have to rest. Thankfully my friend Lisa stopped by and helped me with the heavier items. I made it as far as Weed, CA, staying awake all night in a creepy hotel room listening to the roar of the truck generators outside my window, hoping no one would break into my car since I didn’t even have the strength to bring my backpack in.
The next day was better. I realized that packing for four weeks, plus all my camping gear that lives in my car, I pretty much had everything I needed to live. I felt light and mobile; there wasn’t much more I would be adding to my tiny house. As if to underscore this, Dad sent me a photo a neighbor had taken of a tiny house that was passing through Hood River as it crisscrossed the country. I immediately recognized it as the Quest for Powder tiny house I had seen in a video Dee showed the first PAD workshop I attended last November. That seemed like a good sign. Continue reading
I’ve partnered with PAD Tiny Houses to host a work(shop) party at my build site. It will be a chance to learn hands-on construction skills from tiny house experts Dee Williams and Lina Menard. The focus will be on framing and sheathing the walls and learning how to cut rafters so they “fit like an Armani suit (sleek and sexy)”! The day before is a work party to learn how to construct a floor frame and attach it to a trailer, on none other than Dee’s new vardo that she will take on her book tour next year! You can register for one or both events.
Check out PAD’s latest blog post “Tiny House Work Parties: Barn Raisings for the Tiny House Community“. It includes this video from the Casa Pequena Build Workshop that ShelterWise and PAD collaborated on last April:
So if you’d like to help make Naj Haus a reality while learning skills from the masters and having a kickass time to boot, I’d love to see you!
Oh, oh, oh, everything changes…
~ Eurythmics, “This Is The House”
I got my new wave, granola self through freshman year at college on that song. That and my dad’s stock advice whenever we were going through childhood trials and tribulations: “The tide comes in [said on a rising intake of breath then long pause before the exhalation]; the tide goes out.” It was somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but, as much as I was impatient for answers, there’s a certain comfort in the way it puts our small personal worries in perspective. It also is a reminder that everything is in constant flux. Apparently that holds true for the plumbing plans in my tiny house as well.
Up until last weekend when I took a trip up to Oregon, there wasn’t much to report on my design process (hence the digression into the swamp). Since a number of you have asked what’s happening, here’s where I am at the moment:
Designing & research
I’ve been pretty hunkered down trying to develop my final plans. I’ve downloaded free or inexpensive plans to use as reference, bought books on framing and building principles, and have been reading up on various strapping methods, insulation types, venting requirements, green construction materials, whether or not to apply advanced framing practices, and countless other minutiae, some important and some less so.
From the good folks at PAD:
La Casa Pequena: A Two Day Tiny House Earth Day Build
We are super excited to let you know about our upcoming (first of the season!) hands-on tiny house construction workshop: La Casa Pequena!
During this 2-day intensive building workshop you will construct the shell of a tiny house–including building the floor frame, installing insulation, framing the walls, sheathing the assembly, wrapping the house, installing windows, and anchoring to the trailer. You will experience the building of many of the major components of a super tight tiny house. You will be busy!
As any tiny houser knows, ordering the trailer is a big deal because:
1. It’s a significant outlay of cash. Along with windows and roof (depending on how you go), it’s one of the most expensive items in a tiny house.
2. Even though I won’t start building until this summer, this is the equivalent to breaking ground and pouring the foundation of a regular house (I ordered it now because the manufacturer gets busy as summer approaches, plus I needed some exact measurements to finish my designs).
3. I’m now locked into the length (16′).
4. And most importantly, I’ve now taken the first real, committed step toward my future tiny house!