Tiny Spaces, Big Places

Tiny Spaces, Big Places

As my son so aptly stated, “There is no bad weather, just bad clothing.” We came to the Olympic Penninsula prepared for any kind of weather but were surprised by the vast beauty that would surround us for the next week. I am slightly obsessed with small spaces so we would be exploring the area in a 1988 VW Vanagon, named Pilchuck, rented from the Seattle company Peace Vans.

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Pilchuck at Fort Flagler Campground

Since we live close to the Amtrak station that would take us to Seattle we decided to start our adventure by walking to the train, which arrived at 11:30 p.m. Trudging through dark downtown Sandpoint carrying backpacks, luggage and our pillows was funny, until we got to the tiny station, and discovered the train was running 3 hours late. We voted that Mason run back to the house, get the car and we’d sneak in a couple hours of sleep at home.

We did make it to Seattle and once again carrying luggage and pillows we boarded the Link and arrived at Peace Vans. The company is friendly, laid back and had our van ready and waiting. We received a tour of Pilchuck, the in’s and out’s of driving the vehicle and were handed the keys. As we headed to the ferry, I quickly discovered that these vehicles are a blast to drive and the other VW van drivers giving you the peace sign as you pass only adds to the fun.

If deserted beaches, empty campgrounds and sparsely populated trails are your thing, then spring in Olympic National Park is a good time to visit. With 9 feet of snow still on Hurricane Ridge and a vehicle that chugs up hills at a max speed of 45 we decided to stay in the coastal regions. It took us several days to settle into a routine in the van. Where did everything go while driving, and where do things go when camping? The van had lights, a heater, refrigerator, sink and stove and was fully stocked with everything needed to make a meal.

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Westfalia “Kitchen”

Cooking on the provided camp stove outdoors became my preferred method for meals, while the “kitchen” in the van was functional, moving about in that space was cumbersome. At night we would shift all our luggage to the front seats, unfold the upper bunk where the teenager slept, fold down the seats for the lower bed and settle in. It surprised me that the three of us in such close quarters all slept exceptionally well.

I’d flip on the heater to take off the morning chill, make coffee and we’d begin the routine of shifting everything back to travel mode. We loved exploring the beaches, the rainforest, waterfalls and big tree forests. The last day of the trip blessed us with the beauty of Crescent Beach and a pod of Orcas passing by.

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Crescent Beach Island

While we truly loved the experience of this vacation, a van conversion will not be in my future, I learned that I prefer my little travel trailer. Having a homebase for several days and exploring from there suits me, the van requires you pack up, so we’d be sure we were done with the vehicle before setting up camp.

Taking a step away from the tiny house and going on a roadtrip was a great idea. Sometimes a big deep breath away is the best medicine. I am back at it now, but, I am able to flip a switch … and viola … I have light!

Let There Be Light!

I also have a shower. The shower took some thought on how to raise it to accomodate water tanks. The resulting design is interesting, I’ll let you know how the bathroom all plays out.

Unconventional in every way…had to get creative.

The plumber is just waiting for me to give him the green light. I am working on kitchen countertops now and I envision myself moving around in the space, with the little wall mounted woodstove (one of my favorite purchases!) set on the wall high enough to see the fire crackling away.

Stove needs to be lowered but I look forward to a crackling little fire.
Making kitchen decisions.

Life is busy, and changing, and what was a vision is becoming a reality. I stood tired in the middle of the floor one night and had a powerful reality that you really can do anything if you want it bad enough. It may not be perfect and it won’t appeal to everyone, bit it truly is my little dream come true.

Continue to be kind, and don’t forget to spend some time thinking in the sun.

Be Well,

HillaryD.

A Roof Over My Head

A Roof Over My Head

It’s been quiet on the Trek to Tiny, but only because this menopausal woman has been up the ladder, down the ladder, up the ladder, down the ladder … you get the idea.  There is something rooted deep inside myself that loves the long view of wild places, being out there in snapshots that ground you to terra firma, but this project has taught me lessons about a roof over my head.

The higher off the ground this project goes, the more prone to head scratching, frustrating, tear producing days of work I seem to have.  Let me be clear, I DO NOT LIKE HEIGHTS.  No rock climbing, bungee jumping, skydiving bucket list items for me, I like my feet on the ground after getting to that steep mountaintop.  So as I climbed higher hauling tools and materials up ladders (I eventually got to the point that a really tall sturdy ladder and rented scaffolding was money well spent),  I had to dig deep.   Being the stubborn woman I am, I shed a tear and just keep going.  My partner’s father was a painter and so he has been scampering around on ladders his whole life…it makes my heart drop to watch.

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My youngest son taking advantage of the scaffolding.

I am deeply grateful for my two sons, and trusty sidekick who have sacrificed many beautiful summer days, afternoons after work, and weekends to be my extra hands, and extra brains … trust me, having extra brains when yours is shutting down in the math realm is super helpful. A local math teacher and her engineer husband brought some much needed precision to the project…

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Ian and Dinah casually doodle the math on junk mail.
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Talking rafters on a Saturday morning.

There was no way to escape the bands of rain that were headed my way and no way to get the roof done before the weather hit. I had already learned that hard rain on my insulated floor system stresses me so Amazon came to the rescue and delivered a GIANT tarp quickly. Getting that tarp on the roof in the wind was quite the sight. It became an enormous tsunami wave and it felt like a big deal when we finally got it up.  It’s done the job keeping the house dry.

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Putting up temporary sheathing to hold the tarp.
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Too much wind and not enough hands!
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We had some fun under the giant blue bubble.
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Let It Rain.

I’ve had plenty of solo work days as well, and the lessons on those days will humble you.  I was sheathing walls on a windy day (plywood makes for dangerous kites), moved a ladder and had a forgotten drill drop onto my head (thankfully pointy end up, but I still said a bad word), realizing at the top of the ladder I have no pencil (up the ladder, down the ladder, up the ladder), cutting boards too short because I had measured twice and that number in my head matched the number on the tape…oops.  Not to mention the plethora of nasty splinters that instantly embed themselves my child sized hands.

The task I absolutely hate the most is loading and securing lumber by myself, it truly terrifies me as I drive away.

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This makes me sweat every time!

My future home is taking shape and I just climb over the hurdles and keep working towards my dream.  A professional builder could of produced this shell much quicker and at a comparable cost, but I have a deeper connection to this 275 sq.ft. of space because I dreamed it and put it there.

The fourth season is pressing in, there is a snow line on the mountains which will just continue to drop until it reaches my tiny house.  The goal is to get completely dried in. Everyday brings me closer, but there is still considerable work to be done. I look forward to a mental and physical break. Time to heal my body in the yoga studio, sleep without weather worries, and not race off to the job site after a full day of teaching cooking classes (another new adventure and learning curve!)

I found myself thinking about how fun it would be to do a school bus or van conversion when this is all done. I guess that tells me I’ll always be a girl who loves a big dream with more dirty hands and a baseball hat in my future.

In the middle of all the chaos happening in the world Tom Petty dies.

Yeah runnin’ down a dream
That never would come to me
Workin’ on a mystery, goin’ wherever it leads
Runnin’ down a dream

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Running Down The Dream…

 

Dream Big, Tread Lightly, Be Kind…

Hillary D.

Building The Wall

Building The Wall

 

We’ve heard a lot about building a wall in our country this year, a giant wall that was to be paid for by the very ones it is intended to keep out. I spent the majority of my summer building four walls, paid for by me and is only intended to keep me in and the weather out.  My walls have tested my emotions just as Trump’s wall has pushed this country’s emotional buttons.

All those tiny house vlogs on YouTube I love so much, well I’m thinking there has been A LOT of editing going on as no one films the reality of those days when you want to throw in the hammer and give up.  The construction of the floor wasn’t nearly as trying as building walls in pieces that will have to be lifted up and placed on the trailer.  A giant jigsaw puzzle built out of 2×4’s.

The base plates were non-negotiable, 5/8″ bolts tie them to the trailer flange and there is zero wiggle room, they either fit or they don’t.  By sill plate #4 I was able to drill 5 out of 6 holes on the first try, this felt like an amazing accomplishment…even if those holes come back to haunt me.  Wall #1 was easy, not the tallest or the longest and has no windows, but it attaches to a longer wall that spans the wheel well and ties together.  The layout was simple but then came the scariest tool yet, the framing gun.  Something about 3 1/4″ nails shot at a high velocity made me very cautious, very nervous and slow.  When I would share my fear of the framing gun with people they all seemed to have stories about the guy who nailed his hand to the wall or ended up with a nail in some other soft body part.  These anecdotes did not ease my fears.

The walls began to stack up.  Some we could build on the trailer, others we built in the carport, and finished walls were moved to pallets out in the yard.  The tiny house literally was taking over, especially when the 12 windows and front door were delivered.  The neighbors on either side have been troopers, this project has actually brought everyone out of their house and yards to wander over and check the progress and get to know each other a little better.  We’ve had everything from homebaked goods, hard cider, tools and knowledge shared with us.  Neighbor Bob even relocated the trailer and leveled it when we were ready to raise the walls.

Walls built and stacked in the carport.
Walls built and stacked in the yard.
Trailer relocated and leveled with a wall ready to raise.

I’ve had to keep goals in front of me all summer, and constant reminders that I learn so much through failure.  Seasoned builders will chuckle at the amount of time it took us to build four walls, but I’ve taken apart as many boards as I’ve put together and chalked it up to experience earned the hard way.  In the end, through all the trials and tribulations I learned valuable lessons, the walls are done and my family is still talking to each other!  I was proud of the teamwork exhibited to make this happen and Bill gets a huge kudos for all the time, tools, land, and space he has contributed to this effort, I couldn’t of done it without him.

Bill braving the only “not quite tall enough” ladder we had.

So on this frosty Saturday in September, good friends showed up and we have the walls raised.  They all signed their names and well wishes on various studs, and I will always know their presence is there and be grateful for the help. There is still a considerable amount of work to be done and weather is moving in.  With rain/snow in the forecast, the next push is to get the roof on and the structure dried in.  Knowing this won’t happen before the first raindrops fall we protected the floor with a solid sheet of plastic that can be cut out when we’re enclosed.

I’ll leave you with a couple photos from our one and only camping/backpacking trip of the summer, but it was a great reminder of the life I love and by living in a simple and small abode I will have greater opportunities for the wide and wonderful world.

Keep on Trekking,

Hillary D.

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Trailers and 1st Tattoos

Trailers and 1st Tattoos

I now own two trailers. You might remember my little travel trailer that was ripped down and rebuilt with a new back wall,  new floors, box cushions, curtains and paint.  The early project looked daunting.

Putting that little tin can back together taught me a lot, and when the end looked near heavy rains came through and there was STILL a leak!  Water is so tricky. A little more head scratching and some good advice from neighbors and she is water tight. It is going to be a great little vehicle to adventure in.

 

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The demolition days
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No more 1970 interior!

Over Memorial Day weekend I grabbed my trusty sidekick and we headed to Portland to pick up the tiny house foundation.  Coming down from Mount Hood we realized that the brakes on the truck might not be great, (the results of a fire tower trip last summer.)

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Soaking up sun at Timberline Lodge

A little seed of doubt grew into nerves when we rolled up to Iron Eagle Trailers and they brought out my 8’6″x 24′ double axle trailer.  I never would of thought a couple hundred square feet would feel SO BIG!  They threw the correct hitch on and gave us the low-down on towing an empty trailer.  My truck didn’t have the brake hookup for the trailer brakes so we were going to rely on the Ford’s questionable stopping power for over 800 miles.

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Glad I’m not alone in Portland!

Bill took the wheel to navigate us out of Portland and onto the straightest highway we can find.  With the vehicle we were well over 30′ long and in one block we learned that empty trailers bounce, lane changes require lots of space and tight corners make you sweat. We left Portland late enough in the day that the holiday traffic had subsided and the highways were blessedly empty.  Bill drove for 8 hours with one perfect stop to gas up, meaning no need to back up or turn around, and I did my best to stay awake.  We had a new awareness of the roadways, “Look at the size of the load that guy is hauling!” and made it back to Sandpoint safe and sound and it turns out the truck brakes are just fine.

Backing the trailer into the build spot was tricky and took a couple of “do-overs” but was ultimately successful and it is sitting there waiting for building supplies.  The school I work at has wrapped up another eventful year and in the next few weeks I will be tackling the installation of the sub-floor…the Trek to Tiny is real!

I turned 53 this month, and got my first tattoo.  My daughter has long wanted a mother/daughter tattoo and we both have two simple words, Be Kind, now permanently attached to our forearm.  My daughter effortlessly rolled with her new artwork, but I am a little startled every time I catch a glimpse of it and have been wearing long sleeves as I don’t exactly “boldly own it” quite yet but I am getting there.  I think getting a tattoo changes you a wee bit, it’s one of those things no one who has tattoos tells you, or maybe it’s my personal perception.  Just like I noticed every load being hauled down the road, I now am more aware of the art people have chosen to adorn themselves with.

Christian circles will tell you it’s wise to be mindful of what you pray for.  The only way to learn patience is to be faced with impatient situations, to practice forgiveness you must experience injustice and gratitude is born through loss.  Daily opportunities to “Be Kind” are also hard to ignore when your mantra is visibly tattooed to your arm.  The message to myself and others is sound, and I’m sure with time I will be less startled when I see the reflection in the yoga studio mirrors.  Bill thinks my “ink” may not be done yet and the message is really, Be Kindergarten … his humor is my sunshine.

I want to post some videos of the tiny house build as I would like my kids, friends and family to really see how this all plays out.  So far I’ve made a couple of really awkward, unwatchable clips so we’ll see how that goes.

Until next time,

Be Kind.

Hillary D.