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Almost Dry-In

Hello friends!

“Dry-in” is when the outside of your house is done.  Windows and doors are in, roof is on, siding is up, caulking has happened… and more.  We are almost there.

At the end of July we will be moving off of the beautiful sheep ranch that has been our home for the last year-plus, and we are determined to have our house all closed-up, and ready to withstand journeys and weather, by then.

Here is what we’ve been up to lately:

Joseph in trough
Perhaps this watering trough would work as a bathtub… or maybe we don’t want a bathtub. Gotta make that decision before we put the front door on or we might not be able to get our choice into the house!
We found this robin's nest in the grille of our big yellow truck!
We found this robin’s nest in the grille of our big yellow truck!

 

Our friend Mark made beautiful bird's mouth cuts on each of the rafters.
Our friend Mark made beautiful bird’s mouth cuts on each of the rafters.
House before roof.
House before roof.
During roofing.
During roofing.
Rafters are up!
Rafters are up!
House, I want to hug you!
House, I want to hug you!
Edward attaches metal roofing.
Edward attaches metal roofing.
Hm...
Hm…
Thanks, truck.
Thanks, truck.

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Skylight, from the inside.
Skylight, from the inside.
Roof with skylight.
Roof with skylight.
Thank you, friends!
Thank you, friends!

 

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Update Videos!

Hi there. In the last post I mentioned that there would be some videos forthcoming and here they are!  They’re not so much ‘How To’ videos as I feel there are already many of those out there from people far more qualified than me.  These are more for what we’re up to with a few how to’s thrown in for fun and feedback.

This first video was taken near the end of last year… we’re further along now!

Did you watch to the end for some adorableness?  Watch to the end on this one… your heart just might explode.

This weekend we’re going to be tackling the roof.

Thanks for supporting us!

 

Crafstman Tablesaw

April Build Update

Lot’s of pictures coming up! (With lambs, of course!)

We backed the house into the barn and stored all the materials underneath it or in unused horse stalls in the back. wpid-20140219_161041.jpg

Joseph using the barn beams to plumb the walls of the house.

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A view from where the lofts are about to be put in.
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4X4 Redwood beams sanded with 240 grit paper, then put into place.  It’s hard to NOT pet them as we walk under

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With the help of my friend Edward, the loft gets put into place! Oh how sweet it is.wpid-20140322_143735.jpg wpid-20140322_143724.jpg wpid-20140317_155100.jpg

A better view of the redwood beam under the tongue-and-groove cedar loft.wpid-20140317_151856.jpg

Edward and I enjoying the view from what will be the bedroom!
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Building up the side wall by about 6”.  We didn’t extend the sheathing up past our framing (like we were supposed to do), so we’re putting these nifty Simpson plates on, to attach the sheathing and to add to the structural integrity.

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Simpson plates? $.49 each.  Hammer and nails? $21.86.  The feeling that our house can whiz down the highway without racking?  Priceless.
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Sometimes you just get your head stuck in a fence…wpid-20140414_103543.jpg…when going for the wisteria!  #ranchlifewpid-20140414_103526.jpg

Stuffing insulation loosely into the wall headers.  It’s the air that makes insulation do what it does, and if you pack it too tightly, it transfers cold and heat too easily.wpid-20140317_155035.jpgwpid-20140317_151835.jpg

Here’s Meg helping us out!  Things go SO much faster with her around.  Good luck in Indiana, Meg…See you soon! 
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Sarah and Meg knocking it OUT!wpid-20140326_162831.jpgwpid-20140326_140812.jpg

Puttin’ on the Rit…uh…. house wrap!
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Cutting out the windows and flashing them.

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Our window nook taking shape!wpid-20140404_130728.jpg

Color test for our cedar siding.  We have a winner!
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Porch being built.
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Our new/old table saw… They don’t make them like this anymore. wpid-20140415_100743.jpg

How we did without it before, I’ll never know.

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We want this image as a stained glass window in our work loft.  4 or 6-sided.  Anyone know someone who does stained glass?
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All the windows are IN!  Shimmed and ready for trim, which will also double as window-holder-inners.
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Breaking the shims off is the fun part.

wpid-20140414_171914.jpgI left a LOT of space to make mistakes for the windows, thinking I’d need the extra leeway to get it right.  All I can say is, it’s just not needed.  1/2” on all sides is all you need, and it’s both easier and better insulated if your rough opening is smaller.  Live + learn.
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To put the windows in by myself, I made these jigs for the outside of the window.  I used them to clamp onto and as spacers to allow for the 1” overhang on the outside.wpid-20140414_172519.jpgwpid-20140412_121735.jpgwpid-20140414_172513.jpg

The last window that went in had nailing fins… = cake!wpid-20140415_135228.jpg

Coop-n-Annie…

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That’s all for now.  I hope to put up some videos next week about all these things.  Also to look forward to: bed vetting, window trimming, painting and figuring out utilities (this one makes me nervous).  Oh and lambs and sheep.  Plenty more lambs and sheep.

Maselli's Junk Yard

You Get What You Pay For

While I haven’t written here for a while, I feel an update is definitely due.  This is not that update. :-/

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I’m writing to extol the virtues of the Local Hardware Store which will heretofore be referred to by the acronym LHS.

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Big Box Stores (BBS) like Lowes, Home Depot, Friedmans, Amazon…They have everything a consumer could possibly need! It’s cheaper than going to that little store on the corner, right?  Plus, they present options beyond your wildest dreams, right? How could an LHS compete with the shear magnitude and inventory at one of these places? However, I’ve proven again and again that, in the long run, getting something at your LHS is a lot less expensive than the cheaper big-box store.
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To wit.
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We’ve been dealing with a tricky septic situation here on the ranch for the past month or so, and it finally looks like it might be resolved in the near future. I needed some pretty specialized items and went to Maselli’s, our beloved LHS.  Upon walking in, one of the owners (actually, I’m not sure if he is an owner, but he certainly takes ownership and knows everything) asked if I needed help.  It felt a little like if a major league ball player asked if I needed help with my curve ball.
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YES! I DO! I told him exactly what I needed, and he showed me to the PVC fittings.  I picked out what I thought I needed, asked a few more questions about possible hacks for a flotation ball that popped off the septic pump (I’m currently using a tennis ball…which everyone approved of) and went to check out.  The guy at check out noticed that I had grabbed two different pipe fittings, though they were both three inches in diameter.  He explained that one is for drains, and the other for pressurized systems, and pointed out that the drainage one was noticeably smaller.  Then I held up my pipe, and he asked if I had all purpose glue.  “Regular PVC glue won’t work?”  No, apparently my pipe isn’t the regular type of PVC, so I ran back and got the “290″ glue like he said and came back to finish checking out.  He further mentioned that my pipe plug was 6”, just in case, and I told him it was for a different project completely.  He nodded and wished me a good luck.
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This visit to Maselli’sMead Clarke, or my childhood LHS, Smith and Strebels, would have been the same.  The professionals throughout the store offered their specialized help, and the checkout people knew what they were looking at and helped troubleshoot my problem before I had one!
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Based on previous experiences in the BBS’s, I can imagine I would have wandered around without any help, left with different size fittings (even though they’re both three inches), inappropriate glue, and the wrong size pipe-plug.  I’d get home, try all my fittings, glue the ones that did work with the wrong glue, spend time figuring out where I went wrong,  ask Google perhaps, call dad, go back to the store and, after about eight hours, maybe get it right the second time.  Instead, I solved it all the same day with the friendly, non-judgmental help from some real pro’s who love helping other people DIY.
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So yes, BBS’s are cheaper if you don’t count time and frustration.  The prices are lower and so is the quality.  We’ve decided, unequivocally that buying something at an LHS for a little more money, makes up for the time, gas, and soul-drainage spent frequenting BBS’s.
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For the sake of length I’ve refrained from enumerating my BBS follies, and LHS triumphs, but would love to hear about yours! Go LHS!

 

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I used to be a pretty good caterpillar

by Sarah

I listened to this episode of Radiolab where they explored what actually goes on in a cocoon.  A caterpillar enters; a butterfly or moth emerges.  And in the meantime, the in between time, the being is neither a caterpillar nor a butterfly but a sort of goo.  Certain things last through the period of change–caterpillars that were taught to react to a loud noise grow into butterflies that also react. Certain baby-butterfly structures, like little wing-lets, grow in the caterpillar, and those don’t dissolve when the rest of the animal does.  But most things fall away, fall apart.  And the next things, the butterfly things, don’t grow in for awhile.

Sometimes I feel that I am this goo–neither caterpillar nor butterfly–but a shapeless being, an unsure being, not knowing of what form I’ll take next or how I’ll get there.  Our tiny house feels gooey to me sometimes.  So does my work. And where we’ll live.

I look back on times in my life when I think I had it more together, and I want that again.  I want to know who I am and what I do.  The thing about being a pretty good caterpillar, though, or even a very good one, is that you have to change.  And change is messy.

So what to do, when you’re goo?  Here are three things.

1.  Stay the Course
We said we were going to build this tiny house and we are going to build this tiny house!  Committed.  To the house.  And to doing the house now, and not doing the next thing until next time.

2.  Try some continuity from day to day, from week to week
For me, not having a schedule feels like freedom–oh!  I can do whatever I want! I’m free!  But I know that’s not so.  I know I end up mulling over what to do next, agonizing over if I’ve chosen the right thing.  I know that a schedule offers some bones, some structure.

3.  Be soft
I am soft, goo is soft, this is all very soft.  As often as I remember to, I remember to be soft, to be patient, to be accepting.  This is how I am right now.  This is how my life is right now.  I’m not that sturdy, robust, energetic little caterpillar that I was.  I don’t know what I’ll be next, or when.  But in the meantime, the in between time–which might be all time!–what about practicing softness, kindness, and not forcing?  It’s hard to be soft.  But I think it’s the thing to try towards.

Is anyone else goo-full (goo-ti-ful perhaps?) these days? Are you doing anything (or not doing anything?) that helps you withstand the transformation?

Wow… is that a new post?

We’re back!  Sarah and I took a hiatus from blogging and building and are just now getting back into the swing of things.  The last three months have been a whirlwind of blustery New York weather, Christmas trees, and baby lambs.  Yes, baby lambs and don’t worry… I come bearing pictures!

Anne Bo-Leymb
Anne Bo-Lamb

Every year (for the past three years) a friend and I run a Christmas tree stand at St. Marks Church in the Bowery in Manhattan.  It’s a month of preparation followed by a month of fourteen-hour days slinging conifers in the cold.  The stand is open twenty-four hours a day from Black Friday until Christmas Eve, and is such a unique, enriching community-building experience.  This year a highlight for me was having Sarah come work with us at the stand.  She not only heaved Fraser firs over fences with the fellas, but also put her superb eye towards making wreaths for us.

Sarah Making Wreaths
Sarah making wreaths
Joseph and Sarah + Wreaths
Joseph + Sarah + wreaths
One of Sarah's Wreaths
beautiful wreath!

I also realized that as part of my work for the stand I’ve been building a “tiny house” on the street each year. It’s a 4x8x8 structure that can cozily hold three people making espresso (yes…there’s been an espresso machine).  This year I upped the ante with my newly-acquired building skills, and framed this little house in panels, built in a loft, and salvaged and installed a real door (in the past the door was hinges on a warped piece of plywood).  Next December…when our house is finished…who knows what new additions will be found in the tree stand shack?  Sky-light?  Running water?  H-VAC? We’ll see.

Tree Riders 'Hobo Shack'
Tree Riders’ “Hobo Shack”

Christmas trees wrapped, we flew back to California for some R&R at Tassajara, then back to the sheep ranch,where we had forty new baby lambs to keep track of. Laaammmmbbbiiinnggg Speeeeed! Out of the pot and into the fire we go.  Two of the new babies didn’t bond with their mothers (a pretty common occurrence with first-time ewe mothers) so we are feeding them twice-a-day by bottle.

So the last month has been spent catching up on work with the sheep and lambs and observing the cycle of birth and death (to be continued in another post I’m sure).  We’ve also been tying up loose ends from 2013, and doing some all-important planning for 2014 – house planning, work planning, well-being and health intention-setting, financial planning, and more.  We erased our window, re-categorized some things, and believe that we now have a plan that will take us at least until July of this year…if not Christmas ;-)

The tiny house is back to being built nail-by-nail, and Sarah is studying to be a certified interpreter (English-Spanish), and we’ll be posting here as we go…

Now…some sheep.

Our little wether, Cupertino.
Our little wether, Cupertino.
Cupertino and Anne Bo-Lamb relaxing by the tiny house.
Cupertino and Annie relaxing by the tiny house.
Lullabies from Lamby-bies.
Lullabies from Lamby-pies.
Cuper grillin me, as Annie looks on approvingly.
Lambie yawn
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Lambs napping in the shade

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Lifting Heavy Things

by Sarah

I’ve noticed, both with building and with sheep ranch work, that many of the materials and tools we use are designed for people larger and stronger than me.  We bought the ultralight weed-whacker with the easy-pull string, and it’s hard for me to get it started.   The tubs of nutritional molasses that we give to the sheep weigh more than me.  And the impact driver twists my wrist, rather than twisting the five-eighths bit into the two-by-four.  I have felt small and weak in my environment before, but never more so than now, when I am spending much of my time on building and ranch care, and am working side-by-side with Joseph.

These tools were designed, and standard material sizes were determined, with a man’s dimensions in mind.  Like many things in our physical reality.  Those are very different than my dimensions.  Of course, many women are also strong enough to use the tools with ease, but I am not, and may never be.

Instead, I am figuring out how I need to use tools and move materials.  Sometimes it’s a little different, and sometimes very different, than how Joseph would.  I’ve gotten more playful about this.  It feels more like a creative challenge than a roadblock.  How can I “hack” these tools that were designed for people with larger hands, stronger arms,  etc., and make them work for me?

In the following video, I convince a sheet of plywood and a six-by-six piece of lumber to cooperate with me.

Occasionally, it’s been useful to be small, as in the photo at the top of this post.  Screwing the nut onto the anchor bolt inside the Simpson Strong Tie is work for tiny, tiny hands!

I wonder, have any of you felt that you are taking action in a physical space that was not designed with you in mind?

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Building a Window Header

A light rain was falling early this morning as Joseph and I drove to the airport.  He will be in New York until the end of the year, and I’ll be joining him there soon.  We left our tiny house behind, parked snug in the barn on the sheep ranch.  We had a lot of sheep-related work in the past few weeks, which probably slowed down our housebuilding.  But it all feels like part of the same life-building.

Yesterday while we were fixing and clearing the electrical wire that runs all around the sheep pastures and protects the sheepies from coyotes, I made up a new phrase, which will be quite useful in ranch life and building life.  We were looking at a little plastic piece which snaps onto a fence post and holds a groove for the electrical wire.  This little piece is perfectly designed to attach to the fence and to hold the wire the right distance, the right height.  It’s “Just Right Tech.”  It’s not high tech; it’s a simple plastic piece.  It’s not low tech; it’s been manufactured to snap onto a fence post in just the right way.  We’re calling it Just Right Tech, and looking forward to opportunities for adding more Just Right Tech to our tiny house.

While we are away, we’ll be updating a little less frequently but we do have some build videos all set for you and ready to send out.  Today’s video shows the process of building a header.  The header is the structural piece which distributes the weight of the roof down the studs, rather than that weight resting on your window.  We’ve built a number of headers (for just about each of our windows), and we’ve gotten pretty good at it.  Check out the video for the step-by-step process and Joseph’s explanation of headers.

And if you’re wondering about the photo at the top of the post… yes, we did bring our Lambie over to visit.  Lambs are pretty dirty, so she won’t be able to visit once we’re further along.  But we wanted her lovely lambie-ness to have been inside our home!

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Learning to build, then building, then learning to fix our mistakes

by Sarah

So this house-building thing takes a long time.  The house may be tiny… but it still takes a long time!

After reviewing the Tumbleweed DVD this morning, we realized we’d missed a little detail… the sheathing that we’ve put up on the three walls we’ve constructed was supposed to overhang above and below the wall in order to attach to the roof and trailer’s fascia.  We made an overhang below the wall and not above.  It’s probably not that big of a deal.  As in, we won’t have to re-do those walls.  We will figure out a way to fix it, to attach small pieces of sheathing to something, to make it work.

After this little setback, and the ensuing disappointment, I reminded myself that:

1.  It’s got to be about the process and not just the destination.  Because the destination is far away, sometimes it feels very far away.

2.  We are learning how to build.  This is a useful and transferable skill.

3.  We are learning to work together.

4.  We are learning to be humble and to learn a new thing.  How often in our adult lives do we get to learn something totally new, to be complete beginners again?  Not that often.

I hesitated writing this post, because I want this website to be fun, and not to focus too much on the frustrations.  At the same time, frustration is a big part of building a tiny house if you’ve never built a house before.  I want to be honest about this.  It is hard.  It’s not obvious.  There are many little pieces and no clear and simple recipe.  Building is an art, and it’s vast.  We are sloppily finger-painting our ways towards something.  I hope it will be a house that stands straight, resists rains, and keeps us warm.

I did feel encouraged when I ran through those four points, though, reminding myself of all the ways we are learning and growing, even when the external progress on the house appears so slow.

Also encouraging, we’ve had company this week!  Joseph’s brother Adam stayed with us for the past ten days and it was so fun to have another person to build with.  Since we left our Sonoma build site, it’s just been the two of us (and sometimes only Joseph!).  Having Adam here reminded us of how fun and energizing it is to do things with other people!

Here are some photos of our build progress.

Building the latest wall
Building the latest wall

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Adam and Joseph cutting the plywood to fit around the wheel well.
Adam and Joseph cutting the plywood to fit around the wheel well.
Adam
Adam

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We've got three walls!
We’ve got three walls!
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Moving Half a House

There we were: going along building our house, thinking about walls, about windows, about roofs… when we arrived one morning to a  Cease and Desist order from the Town of Sonoma!  What happened?

When we had researched the legality of building on our group build site everything looked good.  We found many instances in the Sonoma building code in which what we were doing was not actually “building,” because our houses are on wheels, the build site was temporary, and more.  We thought we were good to go.

However.  While we were not in violation of the rules around building, we were in violation of the rules around the stuff you can do in that zone of Sonoma.  Our build site was located in a Multi-Use Zone.  In the Multi-Use zone you can do X,Y, and Z.  And you can’t do A,B, or C.  And even if you are doing “J” or “12″ or “Tiny House,” which is not specifically prohibited, since it is also not specifically allowed…. we are not allowed to do it!  After a number of long conversations with the very helpful, courteous, but firm professionals at the Sonoma City Planners Office, we accepted it.  We had to Cease and Desist; we had to build elsewhere.

So, bright and early one warm Sonoma Saturday morning, Joseph and I arrived at the build site.  We re-attached the taillights to our trailer (which required some amateur electrical re-wiring), we nailed on some kickstand 2X4s to support our two walls, we strapped our walls into place with yellow straps tested at 10,000 pounds and snugged them up tight, we piled all the materials we could manage into the bed of the truck, and we headed off on a slow journey back to the sheep ranch where we live.

Serious straps on our plywood sheathing.
Serious straps on our plywood sheathing

In case you were wondering: No, it is not a good idea to move half a house.  It is not a good idea to go flinging down the backroads of Sonoma County with two heavy walls, attached in an L-shape to each other and to your trailer.  Not recommended.  But we didn’t want to deal with taking the walls down, and then somehow getting them up again by ourselves, so we went for it.

It was a slow and occasionally harrowing journey.  At the last moment, only about 100 feet from it’s new site, one of the walls buckled and a kickstand snapped off.  But, on the whole, we got our house home in one piece.  Huge sighs of relief.

New location for the tiny house build
New location for the tiny house build

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As you may know from our last post, we live on a sheep ranch near Petaluma where we are caretakers for the sheep and the property.  The owners and leasers of the ranch were generous enough to allow us to continue our tiny house build on this property, and here we are.  Our group build-mates are not sure where they’ll move their builds.  They are still waiting on their SIPS, so they have some time to figure it out… but let us know if you have some Sonoma property where they could build!

We’re now embarking on a new stage of our build process, Group Build 2.0, so to speak.  We are still cooperating and helping each other out, but now our process is spread out across the county, with our little house going up right outside of our current house.  In the video below we show the tiny house in its new location, and talk a little bit about the pros and cons of this new situation.

Lessons learned:  Check out all applicable municipal codes very carefully.  Don’t move half a house, or if you do, breathe deeply and drive slowly!

If anyone else is planning to build in the town of Sonoma, we would be happy to send you all the relevant and well-researched details of what we know now about building there, just ask!