Breathe

Breathe

As I shoveled the snow off my front walk, it seemed to me that I had just done this very task not so long ago.  Overnight the summer became a distant blur of sunshine,  long days, and smokey skies with power tools the constant soundtrack playing in the background.  Even though the trees still bear witness to the colors of fall, winter is officially here and with it brings a much needed pit stop on the trek to tiny.  It was just about this time last year that I began to seriously think about this project and the reasons why I should take this trek ,and I have had to circle back around those thoughts plenty of times this summer on those days that I wondered what I had gotten myself into.

My life these last few weeks has been driven by the weather and the noticeably shorter days.  I have enough money and energy invested into this little house that not getting dried in would be a financial disaster and the last scenario I wanted to play out would be having to tear down and redo because the North Idaho driven rain and snow had seeped into every corner of my little house on wheels. It wasn’t easy to blaze over to the job site after spending 8 hours in a hot, busy kitchen teaching teenagers how to knead bread or make gnocchi, but that’s what I did.  The three prominent men in my life continually showed up for me, being those extra hands that made the days work possible and safe.

The progress seemed slow, but we all look at what we accomplished with baby steps and are amazed.  If anyone is considering a project of this scope with the learning curve we had, here is a snapshot of what it takes.

November 2016 – design phase
Memorial Day – We pick up the trailer in Oregon

 

Late July 2017 I begin building the floor system.

 

The month of August I learn how to frame walls.

 

Mid-September we raise the walls.
Late September was spent sheathing.

 

Big blue tarp saves the project from days of hard rain.
October 2017 – Roof rafters go up.

At this point the weather is becoming a serious motivator.  There is still roof sheathing, ice and water shield, sub fascia and fascia, windows, a door, housewrap and the metal roof to go on.  I was thankful that I had purchased materials far in advance and had them ready to go. Late October to the first week of November…

Priming fascia boards in my garage.
Starting to feel like a little house with lots of light.
Feeling encouraged that I just might make it!
Many hands make light work, wrapping the best gift ever.

We made it! The next day we had 8″ of snow.

I’ve learned that I really don’t want to do rough framing again, that installing windows and the metal roof were relatively easy and highly rewarding.  I learned that hanging doors is tricky, especially when your out of square and that having friends who know how to fix that can save your day.  I learned that renting scaffolding is money well spent and that running power tools for days on end can create an annoying case of carpal tunnel.  But mostly I am grateful that outside of splinters and bruises, no one got hurt making my little dream happen.

I won’t be at the little house day after day for a while, but am already thinking about electrical and plumbing and have decided this not a phase I want to DIY.  I’ll do the layout and planning and bring in the professionals for the install. Spring will bring siding and I can begin the interior finish work with the hope that this time next year I am lighting a fire in my little wood stove and curling up with a book and a cup of tea.

Eat the elephant one bite at a time …

Hillary D.

 

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.

 

Thawing Out

Thawing Out

There is a hole in my shoe.  It’s probably been there all winter, but just became noticeable because everything is suddenly very wet.  I live in what is touted to be a pedestrian friendly town, but this winter has been a challenge.  Sidewalks were kinda, sorta shoveled and mostly covered in ice so the roads became the safer option when out walking.  Exercising the dog required focused attention … to traffic, what was underfoot, and more than once I was surprised by local wildlife also making their way around town.

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At least they use the crosswalks.

The earth’s axis has finally shifted and you can feel spring heading our way. I haven’t posted anything for awhile because the trek to the tiny house has been quiet as I have just been riding out the winter and waiting for the thaw.  Glad for all the snowy days that allowed me to plan, and research, and think and plan some more.  The dogs have gotten me out of the house and into the snowy landscape …

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Everyone had winter challenges.

The birds are going crazy with the warmer weather and my build site is rapidly returning to bare ground which has thrown me back into my Sketchup model to make some revisions before I start the framing plans.  I’ve made my first major tiny house purchase!  I love 4 season climates and will have two sources of heat, one being a wood stove and the Mini Grizzly stole my heart.

This little gem puts out 8,000-18,000 BTU’s and will heat up to 400 square feet.  I really liked the wall mount and made some modifications to the kitchen to accommodate this little heat source.  Isn’t it sweet?!  I also placed an order with Iron Eagle and my foundation is ready for pick up … eeek!  Owning a trailer has brought renewed energy to the project and the reality of this tiny dream is now tactile.

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Cheers to noisy birdsong and spring!

Hillary D.

Building Season

Building Season

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.”

Serenity Prayer

With “Snowmageddon 2017” it seems as though the building season will never arrive and I am anxious to get moving.  Every drip, drip from the roof and sounds of running water in the street remind me that this too shall pass.  My building site currently looks like this …

It is painfully obvious that it will be awhile before a trailer can be pulled on to the site and the shop is operational. Not to mention the challenges that the tiny house will face with big winters!  I look at those pictures and think about how the snow will come off my roof, my front door and the need for a sturdy awning of some sort, and water…always thinking about water, particularly frozen water.

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Scenic 7B has been awfully frosty.

I have selected a trailer!  Iron Eagle Trailers in Oregon manufacture trailers specifically for tiny houses.  Little things like recessed crossmembers, axles positioned significantly forward to carry the load of a tiny house, stronger, lighter and they’ll make free tweaks to accommodate your house design.  The cost for this foundation of my future home comes in under $5000 and I can pick it up in Bend, Oregon which is an easy days drive.

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The Trek to Tiny begins here!

There is a Google SketchUp model of my trailer created by Tiny Nest Project that will allow me to start accurately placing my framing and I now know exactly where the wheel wells will fall in my design.  Thank you Kiva and Jake for making this model available!  If you’ve never used SketchUp, it is relatively easy to learn, is FREE, and fun to use.  I’ve got a cabinet I want to incorporate into my kitchen and this program allows me to accurately place this piece into the design and see in 3D how it will work.  When I was in design school we did most our work on a drafting table and changes were tedious, technology certainly has its wonderful moments.

I spend a considerable amount of time watching YouTube videos, another amazing resource of information.  In addition to Tiny Nest I’ve watched all of Derek Howlett’s videos on the Life Inside a Box channel.  This young kid documented his entire tiny house build and it really phenomenal.  He and his wife are homesteading on 40 acres in Arizona and have quite the gig going on out in the desert.  I also love Ana White, she and her husband build beautiful tiny houses and her creative furniture designs are downright awesome.  Not only is she a bad ass builder in Alaska, she makes her designs available for free … how sweet is that!

Now I patiently wait for dry ground and slip slide my way through our frozen landscape on my Trek to Tiny.

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Beautiful sunrise on Lake Pend Oreille

Hope you all feel loved on this Valentines Day and everyday …

Hillary D.