Category Archives: learning curve

Always The Hard Way?

Ask my parents, ask my friends, ask Sarah… I always  do things the hard way.  I’m not sure why, I’ve been told it’s because I’m a Capricorn(?), but I’ve recently been recognizing it when it happens.  Por ejemplo, I can’t just make coffee in the morning, I have to preheat everything (Bialetti, Mug, 1/2 & 1/2), find the perfect blend of coffee/chicory/cardamom (5:1:dash), then watch everything fastidiously while Sarah’s ginger tea (finely chopped) comes to a boil.  The tiny house, too, has proved to be an excellent mirror to this particularly pervasive character trait.  I couldn’t just slap up exterior window trim and caulk the heck out of it.  Too easy.  I had to devise a clever interlocking system that would guarantee (so far) water-proofness.  While I DO think it’s a good system, It doesn’t work any better than the easy way, looks about the same, and complicated things greatly when I realized it’s hard to tuck the same piece of siding under two sides of a window.  Oh, and btw, I caulked the heck out of it.  Here are some pictures.

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Knowing my aforementioned proclivity toward encumbrance, it was time to run electric.  We walked through the house and discussed if we really need a three-way-switch to the loft, or even a porch light.  We nixed both because we prefer localized, movable lighting (aka lamps) that we could plug in and click on at the source.  With only electrical outlets needed in the house, the wiring was easy.  Just hook the whole house up like one big extension cord.  Plug one end in and everything works!  The first few were a bit tedious (tiny wires/connection + big clumsy hands) but once I got the hang of it, my sway towards complication began.

It started innocently enough.  I realized that I was using 12-3 Romex when I only needed 12-2 for our simplistic system (Meaning I had one extra ‘hot’ wire: see below).  wpid-20150420_140751.jpgThen I thought, “Hey!  I have two hot wires in the same casing, why not make the house on two circuits (red and black) and they can share a neutral!”  This made sense  and I later found out that this used to be a common practiceSo I wired the outside socket and the kitchen socket on the same circuit (red) and the rest of the house on black.  Good in theory, more complicated than I thought partly due to my lackluster wiring skills, and partly due to not fully understanding what it means to share a neutral.  SO, after wrestling with it over the course of a rainy afternoon, and getting some sage advice from an electrician friend, I scrapped the idea and wired it all on black.  One circuit, no problem.

Do you see the progression, though?  Can you see how it moved from a straight forward system to a more complicated/better way?  I started by recognizing my proclivities, then as I put my head down and started doing it, old habits kicked in and I wanted more/better/different.  I think this is a blessing and a curse.  A blessing because the need to improve has lead me to some pretty awesome experiences and taught me a great number of valuable skills.  It’s helped me learn things quickly and understand them fully.  It’s a curse because I tend to get stuck in the process and have a hard time extracting myself…taking a step back…and realizing that somebody has already figured out how to do this work, and I can probably trust that they knew what they were doing.

So my take away: always find out for yourself….but also trust that other people have already found out, and it’s on their firm shoulders that I wobble around on trying for something ‘new’. After all, it seems that the ‘new’ thing these days, is actually an old thing rediscovered.  Why not walk the well established path for a bit.  Find out where it leads.  Take some easy steps and get to know the trail before banking left into the brambles and steep inclines of improvised electronics and sketchy wiring.  The end.

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Next up, Insulation!

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March Update…Finally

March has glided into the Oregon bringing plum blossoms, morels  and humming pollinators.

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Sarah is working happily away  with Sum Of Us, and I’ve been working on the land here gardening, building ‘A’ frames for a green house, and re-roofing the cabin we’re living in while we finish the Tiny House.  It literally blew off in a huge storm that rolled through.  This required peeling it off, scooping out the rotten old fiber-glass insulation (worst part…most def.), replacing and sistering in rafters, re-sheathing and putting on standing seam metal roofing and flashing a chimney.  While it took longer than I thought it would, it didn’t take long at all…and the next metal roof that I do will be even better.

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The good news is the tiny house is bone dry.  That storm didn’t even come close!  WOOT! While we were gone, there were some woodpeckers that made a home in the house, but then a ring-tailed cat moved in and took care of that problem!  I evicted them plus a few wasps with a little sage smoke and we’re off to the races.

I feel like I’m continually finding ways that the house ‘could be better’ if only x-y-z, but at the same time I’m charmed by the little mistakes.  I have even started laughing (lovingly) at ‘Past-Joseph’ when ‘Present-Joseph’, who has excellent hind-sight, comes upon something that his predecessor did that made the next step SO much more difficult.

The ridge cap is a perfect example of this.  I know what the roofing directions told me to do, but the stock ridge cap that came with the roofing material was too small for our massive ridge beam and I just HAD to do it my way *eye-roll*.  So I made a bigger ridge cap out of the metal sheeting, bent the edges a few times to mimic the original cap thinking the “z” channeling that we put on for ventilation would snug into it nicely.

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The crimped edge of metal.

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‘Z’ channeling plus the big ridge beam.

This was dramatically foiled as I precariously tried putting a 25′ long 65 lbs piece of steel on in one long ‘home run’ and, after dropping it twice, hollered for Sarah to come up and help.  She did, we got it on, but the piece was bent all over the place, and it was foolish to think that I could make a machine-straight bend in a piece of metal with only hand tools, then put it on while precariously straddling the roof.

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Well, we’ve come this far!

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I move forward knowing that this self here IS the past self, and will have to contend with/fix/accept the choices I make again and again as the learning curve winds on.  It’s always a funny feeling to be SO SURE of what I’m doing, knowing full well that there will be something that humbles me coming down the pipe.  There WILL be some part of the task that is unexpected, it’s never what I think it will be.  After all, ‘these are the stones on which we choose to whet the keen edge of our spirit.’*

Next week I’ll start running electrical, and now that we’re a little more settled in this life,  be more diligent about updating the blog.  Thanks for reading!

Parting shots!

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Siding trim coming together.

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These gloves have worked hard for me.

 

Cuper grillin me, as Annie looks on approvingly.
Throwback!  Coopy practices for his performance as Rodolfo, in La Boheme

 

 

*Paraphrased from Richard Bach.

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?