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!!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Gift for the Tiny House


Roby and I celebrated my birthday in style at the Vichy Hot Springs in Ukiah. (Read Off the Grid blog for details). On our way back to Hopland we did a bit of shopping. Always need to gather supplies when you are in town. Roby has been wanting a memory foam for our futon mattress. He complains it is too hard and matted down. He does not seem to have any trouble sleeping in till 8:00 am though. We tried a mattress shop but they did not have one. The lady suggested we try Kohl's. We have never been to the store before and realized it was a glorified Target. They did have the real memory foam but it was beyond our budget. They did have a supped up "egg crate" style memory foam on sale for 60% off. He said he was buying it as my birthday gift. I knew better. We decided to call it a one month anniversary gift for the tiny house. Roby now sleeps in till 9:00 am.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Back on Track

April 3rd 2010

The house had been put on hold for awhile and we tended to tasks around the site. Really we were waiting for Phil to come back to fix and repair the shower. He pulled into town the first part of April and he was a welcome site. In one day he had the shower pipes resoldered and ready to go. He spent the balance of his time waterproofing the shower seams and putting in the "dirt" shower floor. It works well because you can mold it according to the slope you need. However, it needs several days to dry and harden before we can put down the tile. Unfortunately it is not very warm and has been raining non-stop for a week so the drying time will be extended. We are back on track though. Maybe we will have a bathroom by the end of April.

We got super excited because Lawrence who is a professional furniture and cabinet maker has come to help out with the closets and shelving. The final pieces are getting set in place. We arrived home today from a quick trip for my birthday and found four shelves built in our closet and hopefully we will have a bamboo rack to hang some of our clothes up on by the end of the evening. He is going to make some bamboo doors for our closet and kitchen cupboards. This place is shaping up!

Almost ready for a house-warming party.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Leaky Pipes

The bathroom/shower has been the slowest and most frustrating room. Those of us on site do not have the experience in plumbing so we have been reliant on volunteers. Travis got all the plumbing completed for the shower and sink before he left in the beginning of February but did not test the lines. The room sat until Phil arrived late February. Unaware the line had not been tested, Phil installed the backerboard. He completed the project and we thought we were on the way to having a shower. He hooked up the hose to make sure the sink and shower worked. All was good until water started dripping from the solder joints in the shower line. This meant all the backerboard had to be removed and the piping replaced or repaired which would not have been a big deal except Phil was leaving the next day. We had no one scheduled to be here right away to fix it and Phil was not returning until the end of March.

One of Sarah's friends CJ was visiting from Montana and we put her to work. She had some experience with plumbing. She was not going to enjoy her visit. We wanted a shower! Roby pulled off all the backerboard and CJ got out the blow torch. She completed the re-soldering and we tested the lines. No leaks. Yea-we were so excited. Our enthusiasm did not last very long. Two days later after Roby had re-installed the backerboard we were going to panel the closet behind the shower. For some reason we decided to re-test the line just to make sure. As Roby went out to turn on the hose I kept my fingers crossed. My smile turned upside down as I witnessed major leaking in the pipes. Now it was not only coming from one solder joint but from three different spots. Our goal of having a shower vanished. All we could do is count down the days for Phil's arrival on March 30th.

Many Uses of a Solar Panel

When Sarah, Kieren, Roby and I initially sat down to design the Tiny House we had this vision to use an old solar panel for a desk. We had completed the flooring so it was time to get the shelving and desk installed. Unfortunately the panel we had available was too small to accommodate the space. We went scrounging around the site for an alternative material but we did not want to give up on our idea. The Real Goods Store was using a panel as a marketing sign and we asked them if we could trade panels. They would have nothing to do with it. Their panel was a perfect size and was a cool dark blue color. They were not going to part with it. The store manager said he had a panel at home and would bring it in for us. We were so excited. The next day he came to work with a solid wood core door that weighed about 100 pounds. He thought it would make a great desk. Disappointed it was not a solar panel we tried to make it work but it weighed too much for the tiny house. It is supposed to be a movable vehicle and we need to keep the tonnage down!!

We moved on to other tasks to try and get our mind off the desk. Chris installed some shelving in the kitchen made out of a used wooden sign and Roby and I started on the finished carpentry baseboard work on the great room floor. Our day was brightened when Don, a retired volunteer, told Roby and Chris he had a bunch of old panels at his house. Not wanting to miss out, they followed him to his house to see if any would fit the space. When they came back they each had a huge grin on their faces. Don had a panel the perfect size and the same cobalt blue as the store's.

Chris went to work immediately. We decided to build a frame for it to sit on but have a swinging hing. This would enable us to turn it across the room and use it more like a dining room table when we have a dinner party!

Feeling Like a House

March 18th

As each day passes the Tiny House is feeling more and more like a home. Prior to leaving for Cleveland to surprise my Dad for his 70th birthday, Roby and I worked endlessly on the wood flooring in the downstairs "great room" and kitchen. We initially were going to put it in horizontally but decided we would have less waste if we did it vertically. Offsetting the pieces prevented the seam from lining up and made for a cool pattern. Unfortunately the pieces were not quite long enough for this to continue in the kitchen but we made it look presentable. Again it took much longer than anticipated and after working for 6 hours we only had half the floor done. This sounds good but remember the space was only about 20 square feet. It is amazing when you are working in a small area how much more precise and more cuts need to be made to complete the project.

I left for Cleveland on Thursday so Roby had to complete the project by himself. He was left with the difficult part of trying to inlay the flooring under the kitchen cabinet and closet spacing. Another 6 hours were needed but he got it done before I came home. It looked beautiful. The first sign of a real home!!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Construction Update

The interns have been on campus for two weeks. The past week was spent on orientation so we have not been working on the tiny house. Roby and I decided we needed to focus our attention on our home. Sunday we buckled down and completed the paneling in the kitchen and "great room". We needed to prep the counter area with some backerboard for the continuation of the tile backsplash before we could complete the redwood siding. I was so excited because I was able to find scrap pieces cut to the correct dimensions to fit the top level and did not have to rip saw any of them. I hate that scary table saw and will find any way not to have to use it!

Learning to Live

One would think it would be difficult to live in 96 sq feet and trust me we thought so also. In reality it has been easy. We have slept wonderfully in our "cocoon" and many mornings we don't want to get out of bed. When we do though all we have to do is roll out of bed grab our clothes, get dressed and head down the ladder. No movement is necessary. Amazing how much quicker you are able to get ready in the morning. Each room has multiple functions. Our great room acts as our office, family room and blow drying room. We were so excited when we found a beveled edged mirror in the scrap pile. We put it up in our window frame-instant bathroom. I can surf the internet and blow dry my hair all at the same time!!

Obviously due to the cramped quarters there is constant maneuvering around each other. When I am sitting at the table and Roby wants to head upstairs I do have to get up and push my chair aside. It keeps us on our toes!

We did realize today while finishing some of the paneling in the "hallway" we would not be able to fit through the opening facing forward because we were going to need to add trim to the threshold. This would add another inch thereby reducing our doorway to 16" wide and requiring us to walk like an egyptian to get to the kitchen. Always have to be flexible when living in a tiny house.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Being Flexible

Sarah was great and surprised us with a bottle of local wine to celebrate our first night in the tiny house. In style we climbed the ladder to the loft, put the heater on and cuddled under our goose down comforter. The great thing I found was everything was within arms reach from my side of the futon. Our first challenge was how do you change your clothes in a space big enough for a five year old? No chance in standing up in the loft area and our downstairs is still under construction. We compromised. We discovered if we let our legs dangle through the loft access hatch and slip our pants on up to our knees and then lay back on the bed (brings back memories of junior high trying to get on my Jordache jeans) we could finish putting them on. After two weeks of practice we have gotten so good that we can time it perfectly and both get dressed at the same time! Another one of our discoveries was how easy it was going to be to clean the loft. All we had to do was sweep everything through the hole - at least as long as the downstairs is a construction zone

Although we had moved in we could not let the construction momentum slow down. We still had plenty of work to do. Things were going to move a bit quicker now that our interns had arrived and a new volunteer Phil who has experience in kitchen and bathrooms. Amazing how much we accomplished in the first week of their arrival. Instead of Roby and I having to sand the redwood paneling then bring it into the house to measure it and then take it to the chop saw and cut it to proportion and then bring it back and nail it into the wall, we had helpers. Cuatro sanded, Chris cut and Roby and I nailed. With our new system we were able to complete the great room in two days. When it was just Roby and me having to do it all it took us two days to complete just one section. I felt like we were on Extreme Home Makeover. The boys on my crew however are much better looking.

Phil concentrated on the kitchen. The framing had been completed by Travis so he worked on getting the sink and cook top laid in to the plywood. Originally we were going to use a stainless steel sign from the Real Goods store for the counter top but it was about one foot short. Scrambling to find an alternative building material we started digging through the scrap pile in the bone yard and found some great tile. Thankfully we had enough pieces in the same color. All it took was a good washing and it was like new. Initially we were going to do it all in the white square tile, but with a little more scrounging I found a multi-colored tile and we decided to use it for a border to add some color. Then we got fancy and decided to put up a back splash with these 4x4 decorated tiles we found. The kitchen was going to be high-end!!

While Chris, Roby and I continued with the redwood siding, Cuatro started on the ceiling in the great room. He is 6'5" so no need for a ladder. He just took the boards and lifted them over his head and nailed them into the 2X4 framing. We had five people working in a space of 96 sq feet, two of who are over 6'3". With such a small area it made it easy to share the same nail gun. Luckily we did not trip over one another or mistakenly shoot someone with the nail gun. Roby and I were working on one side of the house while Chris put up the other side, both of us hoping when we reached the top rung above the door we would line up even. Those damn framers; we were off by a smidgen! No worries, our motto-we can cover it up with trim.

With all the walls completed, Roby and I started covering up our mistakes and trimmed the windows and baseboard area around the wheel hubs. During our day off Chris and Cuatro started on the window seat and closet. They were able to get it all framed in and sided with the same redwood planks. Thank God for the lumber yard donation. Over the weekend Roby and I worked on the final shelf for our upstairs closet and the panels for the kitchen. What a hassle it is to have to work around electrical outlets especially when the studs are not lined properly or the outlets are located on the wrong side of the wall preventing us from being able to connect the paneling. We rigged it up with some strategically placed wood scraps and gave the paneling a backboard. Let's hope they don't fall through the cracks.

After two weeks inventory of work completed:

Great Room paneled-check
Ceiling paneled-check
Windows trimmed-check
Kitchen counter tiled-check
Sink and Stove-check
Bedroom shelving-check

As the closet and shelving appeared we got a better idea of how small our house was really going to be. With the new walls we literally had an 18 inch wide "hallway" between the great room and the kitchen. With my "wide swimmer shoulders" I barely fit through the passageway. The maneuver has to be done delicately because the 10 foot ladder takes up the entire kitchen and you don't want to run into it. The ladder is a story within itself. In the first week of living in the tiny house we have had a few accidents. During one of my middle of the night bathroom runs, I tried to climb down the ladder in the dark so as not to disturb Roby but in doing so I was not able to keep my alignment on the ladder. This is very important because the ladder is tightly fit into the space. Due to my lack of positioning while reaching the last rung I caught my long underwear on the light switch casing and tore a huge hole in them. Roby's encounter came several nights later after a few glasses of wine when he miscounted the steps, missed the last rung and found himself in a unique yoga position. His left shoe was wedged in the third rung and his right leg was on the ground. He was basically suspended in laughter and mid-air. I think the thing is possessed!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Construction Zone

When Roby and I applied for the position at the Solarliving Institute one of the benefits was the free room and board. We were excited to have the opportunity to live in another sustainable community. The website showed the intern village with cob and straw bale buildings. Sarah, the site manager, who offered us the position however informed us those houses were for the interns and our accommodations were going to be in a Tumbleweed Emu House, which is a Tiny house on wheels. Because the Solarliving Institute is in a floodplain it is limited to the number of stationary buildings permitted on its site. She sent us the website: to check it out.

Once we took a look at the pictures we figured we needed to pare down our belongings. Although we had become accustomed to living out of our backpacks, we were going to have to narrow it down even more. The Tiny House as we affectionately call it is a very space efficient home but you really can't own or store much of anything that isn't absolutely necessary!

Before we arrived we had the visual image from the website in our head of a completely equipped, cute cabin-style, landscaped house waiting for us to move in. Unfortunately, when we arrived it was covered with a tarp, had only roughed in electrical and plumbing and was no where near ready to move in. Although a bit disappointed we were troopers and rolled up our sleeves and volunteered to help build our new home. In retrospect we are glad we are having this opportunity because we are learning so much and I am loving playing with the power tools. We've always wanted to do some volunteer construction work for Habitat For Humanity but this is like Habitat for HumansPattiandRoby.

Our first siting was of with a tarp covered, corrugated metal shell on a 9x12 trailer sitting in a muddy bone yard next to the work shop. The previous interns and work-traders have been putting it together for the past year. When you are building a house out of either donated or recycled material the job takes much longer. Only the framing and electrical work with some of the plumbing was completed. It was still quite a ways from being habitable and we needed to have at least the loft completed by March 1st because we were going to lose our temporary accommodations when the interns arrived.

The first task was to design the interior space. The owner of the company provides architectural drawings where no space or corner is wasted. However, when the framers put this house together they did not follow the original plans so we had to make changes to the interior setup. Sarah, Roby, Kieren and I put our heads together and designed it. Following the owner's philosophy, we have used every nook and cranny for storage.

To give you a walk-through: As you approach the house we have a small covered porch. You enter through the front door and on your right is going to be a desk with a fold-out extension to double as our dining room table. On the left will be a window seat with drawers underneath it. Next to the seat will be a miniature wood pellet stove. There will be a dual-purpose closet to store our two pairs of jeans and 4 shirts, and it will also act as our backrest for the window seat. You exit the "great room" after two paces and enter the kitchen. You need to be careful though because the walk space is only big enough to be maneuvered through sideways. It will be a fully functioning kitchen with a 30 inch dorm-room size stainless steel refrigerator/freezer, two-burner stove (much like our coleman camp stove), a small sink which I think will hold two glasses, and counter space big enough on which to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Don't turn too quickly in the kitchen or you will hit your head on the ladder up to the loft. If you step sideways you will enter the bathroom. This will consist of a compost toilet-basically a five gallon sawdust bucket with a seat on it and a shower. Again watching your head you will then climb the ladder to the second floor loft for our bedroom. Once you get through the cubby hole you will find a cool bamboo shelving system under the window which has a view to Duncan Mountain. Flip around on the ladder and our queen-sized futon mattress sits under the peaked ceiling. That's our house or will be soon.

The first week on site we were eager to get started. We had a few days with Gene to finish up the electrical work. Roby and I got our first lesson on homebuilding. We wired a few of the electrical boxes under Gene's supervision. Our true indoctrination came later that week when Sarah gave instructional lessons on several of the power-saws. I am now a big fan of the chop saw, but can handle myself with a rip saw, jig saw, and skil saw. "Tool time with Patti" might be the next reality show! Our first weekend Roby and I put in the eco-friendly hickory pecan wood flooring in the loft. We got lucky because the pieces measured exactly to the length of the loft, however, the tong and groove did not match perfectly. Therefore, the easy installation became a two day project. The pieces needed to be hammered together but we needed to find a rubber mallet to pound them in but none was to be found. After racking our brains for an alternative weapon, we took a large chunk of wood and placed it between the flooring and a hammer and pounded away. We each took turns slamming the pieces into place. Once we reached the loft opening we had to rip a few pieces and line it up. The biggest dilemma came when we reached the last two sections. No problems would have occurred if the pieces would have slipped into place, but because of the inconsistency and warping, how were we going to swing the hammer back and forth to get them to meld if we only had two inches to spare before we reached the end of the trailer. Options ran through our heads; 1)hit from outside the window while standing on a ladder? 2)swing from the opposite direction? None of those were going to work so we pulled out a sander and put in a special blade and dremeled out the groove further. Whoola- the pieces slid right in!!!

We were on a roll and feeling overly confident with our carpentry skills but we hit a standstill-no more material. The local "home depot style" store was procrastinating on its donation of ceiling and wall material. Despite Sarah's best efforts they kept delaying and would not give us an answer. It was unfortunate because we had a great volunteer Travis ready and willing to work. He at least was able to get the balance of the plumbing for the shower and sink completed.

Getting desperate with only a week left before the interns arrived and still nowhere close to moving into the loft, we broke down and walked next door to the local lumber mill hoping to beg for some free lumber. Once we were able to locate the owner we explained what we needed. He pointed us to a pile of panels he had on a pallet and said they would be 50 cents a piece. We took one look at them, and although they were redwood, they were not worth even 10 cents a piece. Many of the pieces were cracked or the tong/groove were either broken or not consistent and not to mention, had been sitting out in the rain for months and were warped. But again we were desperate, so we sent Sarah to beg him to donate the wood. He did. The power of womanly persuasion! Not only did we load up the pallet of redwood but Roby and Travis climbed into the 20 foot containers and pulled out a bunch of scrap wood that might come in handy. Very successful day.

We got the wood unloaded and stacked it in the yard under the trailers. Unfortunately we had a huge storm that evening and the wood was drenched. Another day without work. 7 days and counting to D-Day for move in. The next morning we laid out several pieces underneath the 20 foot tool trailers hoping to get them to dry out. The weather was not cooperating and it continued to rain for several days. Nevertheless, we started putting the panels up in the house. Unfortunately the wood could not be used for the ceiling but we at least got started on the interior walls. Roby and I had a process set up. He would measure and I would chop. Then we would both tack them to the wall. I now got to use a nail gun. Talk about the coolest invention. Who needs or would want a hammer anymore, when you have a nail gun! We were so excited we were getting the wall done in record time, but then realized because of the faulty tong and groove the pieces were not going in straight. Thankfully we realized our mistake quickly and started using a level. You can definitely see an improvement in our work as we progressed. Unfortunately our "pretty" section is going to be covered up by cabinets and shelves.

It was Friday and still no word from Friedman's regarding the ceiling material so Sarah pulled out the checkbook and bought some cedar planking. With 2 days the three of us cranked all weekend getting the loft area completed. We learned the value of a good framer and realized we did not have one. Sarah was putting on the gable siding and wondered why she was having so much difficulty getting things to line up. After some investigation she realized the window was put in crooked. This led to another delay to fix the alignment. It turned out great. She used some old "Real Goods" signs to cover the gables and the window was trimmed in scrap wood from the flooring. Our goal is "No Waste". Her next task was to figure out how to design some shelving so we could get some of our clothes stored. This would have to wait until Sunday. We sent her home at 6:30 pm and told her to sleep on it. The next morning she came with plans in hand. She is dangerous when you give her a little time to think it through. Now that Roby had discovered his router skills on the beveled edge for the baseboards,Sarah decided we could router out slates for her bamboo shelving. It was a great idea using all scrap material until we learned we had to steel wool 10 foot long pieces of bamboo to get off the mold and then cut them into 16 inch slates. After 30 pieces and one aching wrist we had only accomplished filling two sections of the shelf. Next batch we would space the bamboo out a bit!

While Sarah tackled the gables, Roby and I tag-teamed to install the ceiling. This was no easy task. The loft ceiling was barn style-double pitched so we had some weird angles to address. Should we "rip" pieces to get them to fit the hinge points or should we say "screw it" and just cover over them. With only 24 hours to D-day-you can guess which option we chose. After reaching the mid-point on the ceiling we reached another obstacle, should we keep going in one direction or start from the bottom on the other side and hope we match at the apex. Being risk-takers we took the second option. Keeping our fingers crossed we plugged away and said a little pray before we put in our last piece. Due to our excellent workmanship (ha-ha)ceiling and floor did not match up but our motto was "no problem it was going to get covered up". Thank God for baseboards! Roby wanted to get fancy and pulled out the router. He knew you could bevel an edge with it so we rigged the tool up and created an incredible detail on the loft baseboard. Nothing like trying to make things simple when time is running out. Things were going well until we hit the electrical outlets. The installers obviously did not think about baseboards. Therefore, our beautiful work took a turn for the worse when we had to notch out part of the baseboard to get past the outlet plates. Note to self-raise outlets!!

Time: Sunday afternoon-4:00 pm-loft ready for move-in. We quickly swept it out with a little whisk broom; packed up our stuff of which 50% of our belongings had to be stored in the truck because we had only one bamboo shelf built so essential clothing only. Next was moving the futon. Unfortunately the framing for the bed would not fit through the ceiling hole but we figured the wood floor would act similarly. We rolled up the mattress and stuffed it through the hole. With only an inch on each side between the bed and wall and a slanted ceiling, making the bed was a challenge. With a little experimentation I found that I could fit the sheet on one side and then rollover to the other side of the bed with sheet in hand and then slip it on the second side. Bed made-check. Sarah gave us a little table and Roby found a couple of chairs. Makeshift computer table-check. Once we had "home sweet home" it was off to the intern house to set up the beds for the girls. Intern Village completed-check. Final time check-7:00 pm.

Cheers to Sarah she gave up her entire weekend to help get us settled.