The Simple Life

Roby and I have decided to live "lightly". Come along for the journey of the construction and trials and tribulations of living in the Tiny House.

This blog is posted with the most current adventure first. So, scroll to the bottom if you want to start from the beginning. s.

We welcome comments and any building tricks.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Tiny House Takes to the Road

September 25th 2010

After a year of reprieve, The Solar Living Institute decided to host its 14th Annual Solfest Festival. It is the organization's fundraising event usually held at the site but we decided to move it to the Fairgrounds in the neighboring town of Ukiah about 12 miles north. It would be a bigger facility and less work on preparing the site for the show. Solfest compared to most events revolves around education. We host over 50 workshops on renewable energy, permaculture, and sustainability along with prominent speakers including Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Arriana Huffington, Ed Beagley and a slew of others. The day is rounded out with some great music. However, the star of the event was the Tiny House!

We had a full page ad in the Solfest Magazine describing how the house was built. The article was "stolen" right from my blog. The curious visitors were non-stop. For two days we had people waiting in line to sneek a peak. As Roby and I manned the area to answer any questions, we had at least 10 people ask us to build them one, and to include our famous "solar panel" desk. Maybe we have the start of a new company!

I must digress on the adventure of getting the Tiny House to the event. Although it is on a trailer and technically mobile, we did not have the proper license plate for it. After several days of contemplation, we found someone with a flatbed truck to haul it to the site. One problem however, the Tiny House was going to be over the height limit when on the trailer and we had to go under several highway overpasses. This required the tow company to obtain the proper permits to haul such a load. So with only a day to spare, we were ready to take it on the road. Roby and I cleared out all of our belongings and stored them onsite at the SLI and kissed our house goodbye.

"She" loaded pretty easily and was on her way. Roby followed in the work truck. As I left the site about 30 minutes later travelling north on the 101 I saw the "tiny house" pulled over on the side of the road. Thinking it broke down, I got nervous and figured I better pull over. As I approached I saw Highway Patrol with its lights on parked behind the trailer. The Tiny House was going to get a ticket! As many Californians know, Highway 101 is infamous for police mainly because they have nothing else to do. This cop put them through the ringer, measuring the height of the trailer and making sure it was rigged properly, etc. They were about 1 foot too high so the cop made them let air out of the Tiny House tires. Later we would find that this was not a good thing for the 20 year old tires! Getting bored with it all, the cop stopped them in the middle and told them that was enough and headed back to his car. NO ticket but just a jerk cop passing time.

Back on the road, they made it to the Fairgrounds with no further incidents until they unloaded the Tiny House. When the cop made them let the air out of the tires, which were in bad shape to begin with, the rubber delaminated from the wheelwell preventing Roby from reinflating them. We still needed to move the Tiny House to its exhibition spot but it now had two flat tires. Roby had to delicately attach it to the work truck and trailer it at the blazing speed of about 4 mph.

Once in its designated location, basically center state, Roby and I tried to fancy it up a bit to make it look like a home. As the gates for the event opened we were immediately flooded with people. Many attending the event would tell others, "you have to go see the tiny house". It was non-stop traffic. We are so glad we had such a positive impact and hope everyone took a little bit of the Tiny House home with them!

The story does not end there. Remember the two flat tires. Our dilemma now was how were we going to get the Tiny House off the field. The Fairgrounds needed to reopen the driving range. The tow trailer was not going to be able to pick it up until the next day. What about the work truck you ask-well it decided to break down the night before on the infamous Highway 101 at 11:30 pm. Our truck did not have towing capacity for over 5000 lbs. Scrambling we asked the maintenance man at the Fairgrounds if he had any means to move the Tiny House out to the parking lot for us. He came through and brought a forklift with a tow hitch attached and slowly and delicately pulled it avoiding the overhead electrical lines. At least it was out of the way of flying golf balls.

We were not out of the woods. We still needed to load it on the flatbed trailer and it was going to need good tires to hoist it up. We tried to have the tires pumped but no luck the tires were shot and would need to be replaced. Thankfully the tire company had a couple of matching ones and installed them on the Tiny House. After a few days of miscommunications with the Tow Company, the Tiny House made it back home.

I think she had a big enough ordeal that she is going to stay put for awhile!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Final Touches

7 months later and the final touches were put on the Tiny House. After struggling to find a donation, Sarah came through and found a company called Enviroshake to donate the roofing material for the Tiny House. The product is made out of recycled plastic, rubber and cellouse natural fibers. It is very easy to work with and has breakable joints to help reduce waste. One would think the roof would be put up in a jiffy, but no, four days later we were still at it. I guess when you are working on a very sloped roof and needing to make so many weird cuts, it is going to take longer. Good thing Roby was a high diver in college and has great balance!

The house is all ready for the winter rains.

As part of our sustainability mission we wanted to provide all the electricity from renewable energy. We had Alex one of the instructors for the SLI come and help do an assessment. We calculated all the KW's of the home to determine how many modules would be needed. Next we had to find the right location to place the panels. You have to position them on the south side of the house to capture the sun and angle them according to the latitude of the region. Initially we were going to put them up and use them as a shade structure but it was going to be difficult to try and place the inverters and charge controllers and batteries. However, we realized the Real Goods store had a SOLMAN system on display so we asked if we could use it for the tiny house. The Solman is made by a company in Willits which is only about an hour away and they specialize in Micro-Solar systems so it was perfect for the tiny house. It is an all encompassing system and is on wheels so you can take it with you. The batteries, inverters and controllers are all enclosed inside the panel. A pretty cool system. No need for building any fancy contraptions just plug and play. So a 10 hour job turned into a 15 minute one. Just had to wheel it down from the store!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Solar Cooking Hour With Patti and Roby

With temperatures reaching 102 and no air conditioning, can't do any cooking inside our 96 square feet. Instead we have pulled the mini parabolic cooker from the oasis area down to our yard. We now have the parabolic cooker which is more like a stovetop and a solar oven. The parabolic reaches 400 degrees and cooks as well as a regular gas stove. The solar oven will reach about 250 degrees so we have to usually plan ahead if we are going to use it. It works more like a crock pot.

This Week's Menu:

Cherry Cobbler made from our homegrown cherries on site and homemade organic crust baked in Solar Oven

Homegrown Beets, Kolrabi, kale, aztec spinach, and potatoes roasted in solar oven

Homegrown garlic, onions and eggplant sauteed on parabolic cooker and then baked as eggplant Parmesan

Quesadilla with tuna and tomato grilled in solar oven

Split Pea soup heated on parabolic cooker

Tonight Brown Rice and Sauteed vegetables with freshly picked figs and peaches with honey from our own beehive.

Anyone want to come over for dinner?

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Tiny House Tidbits

We finally rigged up a makeshift shower curtain for the tiny house and resolved the dilemma of keeping water from spilling into the luvable loo compost toilet. Roby created a bamboo shower curtain to cross over the section where the toilet is located to close it off when taking a shower. Now we have to test it. Lately it has been so hot we have been taking outdoor showers. Reminds us of the awesome shower at our friend Thad's house on the Big Island of Hawaii.

Last bits of odds and ends. We have a second closet and we are using it to hang our towels. Roby also made me a special toilet paper holder in the closet for those late night ventures outside. Don't tend to use the compost toilet too often because we have not set up our compost bin for it yet. Thankfully it is not raining or too cold at night.

Roby, Cuatro and Chris put together the grey water system from the sink and shower. Good thing the trench they had to dig was only three feet long because the clay soil was not cooperating with the pick ax. All the water is going to water a new almond tree. The system is very simple. An underground trench takes it to a bucket which encapsulates a designated rock area which is then heavily mulched to absorb the smell and promote drainage. We were going to follow the Bee Love farm concept and include our worms in the process but the tiny house does not generate enough food scrapes to keep the worms happy. At our next house we will try it!

Next week we will be designing the photovoltaic system for the tiny house and hopefully the eco-shake roofing material will be here. A company who had donated to the SLI in the past agreed to send us some shingles for the tiny house. Third time is a charm.

Our goal is to have it completed for our big annual festival in September called Solfest. It is the 14th annual event and we were able to get Robert F. Kennedy Jr. to speak. The tiny house will be on display to represent a self sufficient sustainable home. We agreed to allow them to take it to the event as long as they put us up at the Hyatt!!

It has been a big hit when we show it to people on our tours. Many are impressed by our sacrifice but in reality it is all we need. No need for stuff just the essentials. Didn't George Clooney say in his last movie- all I need fits in my backpack.

Still waiting on the roof. A company which donated some materials to the SLI in the past is sending us new eco-shake for the tiny house. We are keeping our fingers crossed it actually arrives. This will be the third company which said it was going to ship us some shingles. With any luck the tiny house will be complete by the end of the month.

1st official shower was taken in the tiny house. I tested it and no leaks. You have to be quick because it is only a 5 gallon hot water heater and you have only a 2 inch range of motion. After a hot long day working outside it felt great. Once you finish you climb up the ladder and hop into bed.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

New Home

June 18 2010

Our last task before moving the tiny house to its final destination was to apply our natural paint to the wood trim. We met an artist at the Real Goods Store who was painting with natural pigments and he showed us how to create the mixture. We went to the neighboring hillside and collected some red dirt. In following the recipe in the natural paints book we mixed milk casein, wheat paste, lime, linseed oil and our natural pigment. For about $1.50 we made enough paint for the entire house. It went on perfectly. No oily smelly toxic paint from Home Depot.

Before the paint was even dry we hitched the tiny house trailer up to the Ford F250 Work Truck and drove about the length of a football field. We maneuvered the truck through a small opening between two strategically placed trees and unhooked the trailer. We have shade on the house and patio from the trees and the 132KW Photovoltaic Array on site pretty much all day.

What a great feeling to be away from the traffic and noise of the 101 Highway. We can actually open our windows without being blasted by the air brakes on the big semis rolling through Hopland. We now have the peace and serenity of the neighboring vineyard. Even better is having our own kitchen. We no longer have to share the kitchen yurt with the interns (nicely dubbed "animal house living").

Green Acres here we come.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Tiny House Living

Now that our house is starting to become a home our routine is becoming more comfortable. I get up early in the morning with the morning sun beaming through the window right in my eyes. I try to hide behind the curve in the barn styled roof for as long as I can. Once the stock market opens I head down to the great room and work on our solar panel desk. Roby is lucky because his side of the bed is not affected so he sleeps in for a few extra hours. Before he heads down our newly created wood ladder, he has figured out how to do his exercises in the loft. Based on the celing structure he is able to get himself perfectly positioned into downward dog for some yoga moves. In the escape hatch he can do his tricep dips and on the bed he gets in a few sets of pushups and situps. It is truly a multi-purpose room.

Custom Bathroom

Sarah has developed a new work plan for the site crew designating which days we devote to photovoltaic work, gardening, and infastructure. Now we work on the tiny house on Tuesday and Wednesday. We are getting down to the nitty gritty. I spent time cauking the cracks around the window frames and finishing up the trim work in the kitchen. Roby has dedicated himself to tiling the shower and toilet room. He has never done it before.

Instead of making it easy on himself and picking the perfectly square tiles to just install in a few minutes, he decided to let his artistic brain convince him to do a custom mosaic pattern. He figured how long could it take to tile a 2x2 room. (Three eight hour days later he finished his masterpiece.) He started by cutting out the hole in the wallboard for the compost toilet. He installed the toilet-a 5 gallon bucket with a fancy recycled wood toilet seat over it. Next he went through our recycle yard and picked out the different tiles he was going to use. He used a white square tile for the base layer and cut out an organic pattern which he filled with blueish green broken pieces. He had to improvise because he did not have the proper tools to cut the tiles. He used a small dremel with a tiny blade on it and cut through it to lay out his patttern. A job which would normally take a few minutes to prepare for such a small area took 4 hours and several cuss words with the dremel saw. He used a hammer to break the blue pieces to fill in the design. The next problem was re-creating the pattern he designed on the tabletop to the bathroom floor. We thought of trying to slip a board under it and moving it carefully but it was not going to work. Instead he took a mental snapshot and did it blind. He said it was a lot of fun but very stressful because he had to make sure the mud did not dry before he got his mosaic set. After a full eight hours he had the 2x2 shower floor finished. You would have thought he would decide to take it easy on the toilet seat area but no, he got even more ambitious. This time he spent 6 hours designing the mosaic and another 8 hours installing it. He said the best thing about being a construction worker is the beer you get to drink after work.

Roby was pushed to get the tiling completed because while we are on vacation Cuatro and Chris are going to lime plaster the shower walls. Hopefully we will be able to use it when we get home.

Our goal is to move the tiny house to its final resting spot mid-June. The only remaining task will be to install the roof. We have two good leads on materials but nothing confirmed. Roby will then put his magic together and design a cute little garden and patio around it. We will have it set up as a display for visitors to see how to build a green sustainable structure. We are going to use photovoltaic panels for power and a solar thermal system for our water system. These along with our compost toilet will make us off grid completely. Many green festivals have asked us to bring the tiny house to their events to showcase it. Hopefully we will get to take it on the road to promote sustainable building practices. Burning Man here we come!!