Granny’s Glassware

Granny’s Glassware

Don’t let the cupboards overflowing with beautiful china and  glassware give the wrong impression, we are far from delicate here in North Idaho.  You have to love the four seasons to make this home. Especially the deep, white, wind-blown, freezing landscape that arrived this Presidents Day long weekend.

I was on a roll with the tiny house project. Excited because I discovered the house heats up quickly with a small propane heater. I think the little wood stove is going to keep me warmer than I need on some days, but barefoot yoga in a toasty tiny house on a frigid day sits ok with me. I love getting the place warmed up, find a playlist and fire up the tools. The installation of the interior tongue and groove wall boards has been highly gratifying and it’s beautiful!

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Priming boards while it snows.
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This is the fun stuff!

Since I have yet to shovel a pathway to the house and need to bring in another load of lumber,  and the highs are hovering in the high teens, I work on the downsizing … always working on the downsizing, it seems never-ending.  My grandmother’s glassware threw me for a bit of a loop. It’s pretty depression era glass and it’s been in a dark cupboard for years.  The 2018 Freebie Project is in full swing and I have plenty to offer up but sometimes I have to work through thoughts about some of the stuff.  I surprised myself how moving this process can be at times, you’ve got to purge both the item and the feelings attached to it.  In the end it is both a physical and an emotional cleansing, and it feels really good!  The depression era glass items are finding their way to the right people who love their new piece.

The loft structure is next and I am quite certain the pull to spend a night there will happen quite easily.  I’ll have to adult-proof it before I do that, no falling out of the loft!  Water tanks and other plumbing needs are on their way and I’ll be connecting the plumbing dots.  In the meantime I enjoy the process and live these last days with my children at home. Those three little kids were attached to my hip for what felt like forever and now they are off to live their young adult lives.

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These days are long gone.

 

The next adventure begins in March and looks like something I’m going to love, a little mobile home! Summer will be busy with graduation, finishing the tiny house and moving, so touring the Olympic Peninsula before the summer crowds descend will be sweet, even if it rains … it’s the Northwest, pack a raincoat.

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#vanlife

Our country is grieving and speaking out for gun law reformation. I don’t know the answer to all the complicated pieces, but I do know we all have the same moments every single day to Be Kind.  Start with yourself and spread it wide.

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Be well friends,

Hillary D.

Off Grid

Off Grid

Since closing the tiny house front door, I’ve gone off-grid for a bit.  It seemed as though every creative juice I possessed had been sucked through a straw with a crack in it.  I was elated to be closed in and suddenly really pretty tired.  Time for a rest.

This time of year for me is a dark, snowy opportunity to pull things in close, with lots of lovely time at home.  I did visit a truly off-grid family.  Mark and Krista Webber and their son are living in a home that they built and is completely self sustainable.  It was fun to head off  the beaten path, navigating downed trees to hear their stories and glean information. The home is cozy and comfortable tucked in along a maze of snowy dirt roads.  While my little house will initially be connected to the grid, fully self-sustainable is a good goal to work towards.  Next time you’re cruising YouTube check them out at Living A Sustainable Dream

A quick blast to Denver for Christmas was a milestone as I haven’t been back home for the holidays in almost 20 years.  My sister’s beautiful home was full of family, lights, music, rowdy games of Farkle and endless good food.

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Christmas Eve on E. 19th Street

We took Bill on a tour of downtown Denver in -8 degree temps that for me was a highlight.  It had been a long time since I’ve walked those city streets and it was fun to roam downtown ducking into the library and shops to warm up, stopping at the train station for beer and food, riding the 16th Street Mall trains and seeing the buildings my father designed still standing.  Watching the homeless brave the brutal temperatures and settle in for the night had me wishing I had a vat of hot soup to serve up.

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Union Station at Christmas

A quiet house greeted me in Idaho as I had none of the kids here for the holidays, another first!  I soaked up the quiet house and read an entire book, I haven’t done that in ages.  Took naps, walked the little dog, hit some yoga classes, shoveled a lot of snow and planned next steps. I purchased lighting, a propane stove top, a propane tankless hot water heater, and a urine diverter … we can talk more about that down the road!  While the down time was much-needed and appreciated there was an undercurrent of anxious anticipation as I wait for the tiny house momentum and the climate to amp back up.

The next best option with the deep snow and cold was to continue the downsizing, it seems never-ending.  As the year came to a close my resolution for the new year was to learn to be more generous.  I’ve always been great giver of my time but I tend to have a tighter fist with my money and my things.  Looking around my home I could see how blessed I’ve been by the generosity of others and so I made a decision to start giving things away.  One item a day, posted on a local FB site and given to the first person that responds.  It quickly became apparent that this was way more fun than the dreaded garage sale and I was getting to meet all sorts of people.  I’ve managed to clear out dishes, games, piano books, china, artwork, houseplants, jewelry, etc…all given to whoever the item fills a need for. The 2018 Freebie Project had begun.

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The 2018 Freebie Project

It baffles me how my belongings have a grip on my psyche of well-being.  It truly is a battle sometimes to let go, but what I am learning is that once I’ve done it the battle is over and it gets easier and easier to do.  As the extraneous items leave my home it is becoming clearer as to what items I truly love and will appreciate in my 300 square feet I’ll call home.  Goliath keeps wandering into every shot of the items I am posting, I wonder if he’s wondering if he’s next.

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Goliath gets in on the action.

Many blessings to all of you for this coming year, may it bring you peace and clarity as you architect your own road through the maze of life.

Happy trekkin’ …

Hillary D.

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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Splinters, Bees and Bruises

Splinters, Bees and Bruises

I just completed my first week of physical work on the tiny house. I think the house needs a name,  and just like a trail name arises for long distance hikers I’m sure the house’s personality will make itself known.  This week has taught me so much already. Things about myself, tools, materials, and the small little minutiae that can make or break you.

The plans I bought from ShelterWise included material lists and even though I have completely redesigned the interior,  the trailer and shape of the exterior are the same so I didn’t think I needed to recreate the wheel.  Bill’s shop had become a catchall for stuff (like most garages or shops are) so I spent a couple of days pulling everything out, organizing the tooling and creating a usable space.  I am grateful for the access to his tools and he has LOTS of them!

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Bill’s father was a craftsman and had some really cool tools.

After much research and many YouTube videos,  I felt pretty confident of the steps I needed to complete to get the sub-floor on the 24′ trailer.  My solo Home Depot shopping trip came next.  On my list; 2×6’s, 2×4’s, blocking, joist hangers, 3/4″ TG plywood, adhesive, 5/8″ bolts, washers, lock washers, #9 1/2″ screws, 2″ deck screws, rigid foam insulation and batt insulation.  I added gloves, protective eye-wear, sunscreen and a first aid kit.

Everything was going pretty well until I got to the “Fasteners” aisle … holy cow.  3 out 5 people all had their phones out talking to someone or Googling the fastener they were looking for so I was in good company with feeling slightly overwhelmed. Sure enough the bolts I bought were too long, then they were too short, so by the 3rd trip in I was able to make a bee line to what I needed. I’ll be a Home Depot aficionado by the time this is all over.  It isn’t every girls dream shopping trip, but by the time I had pulled everything and got it loaded into the truck I felt more accomplished than buying a new pair of jeans has ever left me feeling.

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Ready to roll.

The July heat is on and we’re creeping into those 90ish degree temps that make you really grateful for a good fan and the deep waters of Lake Pend Oreille.  I quickly learned that the galvanized pan on the bottom of the trailer once the sun hits is blinding and hot, making me sympathize with anything I put under the broiler.  I used to sew quite a bit, quilts, clothing, pillows, bags, cushions, curtains … anything that could be constructed with fabric I was willing to tackle.  I also kept the seam ripper close at hand because I inevitably would have to rip apart what was constructed to do it right.  Apparently this build will be no different.  YouTube can only take you so far, the rest of the learning curve happens the hard way and re-doing parts of the floor system taught me some valuable lessons:

  1. It’s better to have “too much” rather than “not enough”, running to Home Depot when things are really rolling because you ran out screws is maddening.
  2. Solo work days are a blessing and a curse when that second pair of hands would be handy, or another brain would be appreciated to help think through a process.  But you just rise up and figure it out.
  3. The right bra and hair ties will greatly mitigate frustration levels.
  4. Ukulele breaks are energizing.
  5. Splinters, bee stings and bruises will be part of the new normal

 

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This was from leaning over the trailer flange.   Looks awful, healed quick!

 

 

I’ve been wearing a necklace with a little turtle charm to remind me that slow and steady wins the race as the Trek to Tiny is a long haul.  Now off to Sandpoint Hot Yoga to keep my back in good shape!

Be Kind and Be Well,

Hillary D.

Unchurched Church

Unchurched Church

I worked at a church for 18 years … 18 years of Bible studies, services, ministry and leadership. It has now been over a year since I’ve attended a church service at the building I called home. Two decades ago when I went through a Celebrate Recovery Step Study, there was a woman who was in recovery from church. I thought that was an off-beat reason to enter into a recovery program, but it makes perfect sense to me now.

“Unchurched” was the Christian buzz word in the hallways of the church I worked at. We were trying to pull the “unchurched” into church, debated how to reach the “unchurched” , celebrated when an “unchurched” family showed up in church and prayed for those lost “unchurched” men, women and children.  I am now one of the “unchurched” and for now am perfectly OK with that status.

I stepped into the church after my mother’s death, which was profound on many levels. In those final moments when her heart was still beating and the lungs still drawing for breath it was physically obvious that her spirit, the entire essence of her being had already left her cancer battered body and that provoked questions … big questions.  Upon returning home I began seeking answers and the church seemed like the best place to get answers.

I don’t know that I got the answers I was looking for, what I did get was a head full of more questions.  So I asked, and I read, and I listened, and I practiced Christianity.  In the early years of my new and growing faith, my behavior resembled the behavior that used to scare me away from churches and the Bible.  I felt the need to slather everyone around me with my new enthusiasm for Jesus with expectations that they too would see the light and jump on board with me. How could my friends, family and strangers not see the truth?!  That brand of evangelism felt like an ill-fitting pair of shoes that you continue to wear even though they hurt your feet.

Eventually I took off those tight shoes and returned to the familiar and comfortable bare feet that allow me to feel everything I step on or into.  Jesus washed the bare feet of others and allowed others to wash and perfume his own bare feet, taking those sandals off was a radical act of humility and love.  The longer I spent inside the walls of the church, the more I felt like an impostor loudly proclaiming the truth while wearing shoes that were giving me blisters, when what I really longed for was the quiet barefoot Jesus.

Working in ministry for money is not for the faint of heart, it has the potential to really, really mess with your spiritual life.  The inner office wing was filled with regular people like me, some who tried to mask the pain of walking in shoes that no  longer fit. There were times it did not feel like a safe place to be unsure, to question or to disagree with what was being taught as concrete scriptural truth.  We all had real life problems going on and my impending separation and divorce after 20+ years of marriage was a big one for me.

My experience of going through a divorce as a very visible leader in a church was an eye opener.  I generally experienced one of two things, complete avoidance of the topic OR the need to quote every scripture related to marriage that could be found, meant to encourage me to stay in a place that was no longer working. Neither was very helpful.  I knew the biblical stance on marriage, I’d been wrestling with it for years. I actually had the pastor tell me my divorce was “awkward.”  Divorce isn’t awkward, it’s really quite tragic.  I did not take divorce lightly, and I now have great compassion for other families that are drowning in those deep waters.

I appreciate the lessons the mountaintops and valleys of leadership taught me.  And there are steadfast and inspiring individuals whose unwavering faith continue to be a lighthouse.  It is my time in the wilderness, barefoot in the sun. What an adventure it is to discover God, to practice love, kindness and tolerance outside the confines of organized religion.  I take deep breaths, choose my words carefully and think about God a lot.  I still believe in a higher power, I need something outside my finite body to cry out to and be grateful for in this lifetime.

I sometimes walk my dogs past the church on Sunday mornings as the congregation files through the newly landscaped entryway and I smile and say hello to familiar faces.  Some have asked if I am in “fellowship” anywhere and while I am in fellowship all the time I know the real question is, “Are you going to church?”  The answer is “No” and often the response is that they will pray for me, and I wonder what exactly their prayers will be. I don’t tell them that I can always use more grace, forgiveness, and gratitude.

To those that are happily embodied in the life of a church, I applaud you and will be slightly envious of the joy that it brings to your life.  Maybe there will be a day that organized religion brings that same solace to my life but today I am headed out into the world, barefoot on rocky ground.

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Keep Looking Upward,

Hillary D.