Thursday, December 16, 2010

Monday, December 13, 2010

Major Milestone: Interior Wall

In our last trip of 2010, Matt and I moved on to a pretty important milestone in the building process - our first interior wall!

It was one of the best weekends we've had in Asheville, though no weekend has been bad really.  I took a half day off work so we got into town around 5pm on Friday.  We stayed in Biltmore Village because the Warren Haynes Holiday Jam was going on downtown and all the hotels were booked up.  Matt made reservations at a popular restaurant in Biltmore Village so we checked into the hotel and walked around that area of town before dinner, stopping at the new Village Wayside bar, which was very nice.  While there, we discussed some of the next steps of our lives and what we wanted to do moving forward.  There were some
interesting revelations that hopefully I'll be able to share.

Dinner at Fig was awesome right down to the bread pudding that tasted like Christmas.  After dinner we went back to the hotel where I made Matt watch this week's episode of Fringe, which I loved.

Since it was predicted to be cold in the mountains, on Saturday Matt and I took our time getting up. We got ready and headed out first stopped at Lowe's to get the supplies for the interior wall.  Some screws and two by fours later, we were back on the way to the mountain.  We stopped in the little downtown area for lunch only to find a parade.  We stopped and watched it for a moment before heading back to the main road to a deli for lunch instead.  After lunch, we made it up to Mt. Matt to start work.  It didn't take us very much time at all to construct the first interior wall.  Thought it is small progress, it feels huge.

After the wall was built we cleaned up the area and headed back to Asheville for dinner.  After dinner we stopped at Sante Wine Bar where we ran into the owner.  She was off the clock, so she sat with us and
chatted for a while.  We met her on what was pretty much our first trip to Asheville several years ago when we accidentally stumbled into the bar because it was cold outside.  It was great to talk with her.

To top off a great weekend, on Sunday we woke up to snow in Asheville but not enough to be a problem. We went to a local sports bar to watch the Detroit Lions and in a Christmas style miracle, they managed
to beat the Green Bay Packers, who were playing for a wild card playoff spot.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

A week at the Tiny House

Truthfully, Matt should be the one to write this post but I'll do the best I can.  Last week Tuesday he went up to Asheville.  He spend the week there working remotely as well as working on the house.  I joined him on Thursday night, but by then he had accomplished quite a bit of building. 

Pictures might tell the story better than I can.
The trip prior, he and I had built the porch.  In this trip, Matt finished the porch overhang along with the posts and lintel.  He roofed the porch with the same metal roofing on the rest of the house. 

On Friday when I was there we actually spent some time cleaning up the building area, taking some of the materials we were finished with back down to the barn and organizing all the tools inside the house (and some underneath the house).  When that was done we used a piece of scrap plywood to cover up the door just for the winter.  We plan to install some type of glass in the door in the future.  That left us with all day Saturday where we actually started doing some work on the inside to prepare to build the internal walls on the next trip. 

Here is our tiny house in the early Winter landscape.  

It was really cold this weekend up in Asheville so we were happy to be doing some of the work inside and it gave us a chance to use the heater, which worked like a champ and kept us toasty.  

We had some fun in Asheville, too.  We ate at the Lexington Avenue Brewery and enjoyed that quite a bit.  On Saturday we drove out to a place called Cinebarre.  It is a movie theater that serves drinks and dinner during the movie.  We had a lot of fun and I think more places like that should exist.  We saw Inception and had tasty grilled cheese sandwiches.  There is a similar place here in Roswell that we'll need to try soon. 

The next trip will be in December and we'll be building the interior walls. 

Monday, October 25, 2010

Tiny House Update: Porch Edition

Another trip to North Carolina this weekend and I feel very pleased with what we accomplished. 

We got up early on Saturday and hit the road.  We made it up to Asheville around 9:30 or so.  We stopped at Lowe's to get the materials we needed to built a porch/deck on the front of the tiny house.  This included deck block, pressure treated lumber and all the assorted screws and fasteners required. 

When we got up to Mt. Matt we found that the ATV, an integral part of the getting heavy items from barn to house system, did not start.  The problem appeared to be the battery and without any way to actually jump start the ATV we hooked it up to the generator using a trickle charger.   We set it up to charge and had lunch and then took some things up to the house by hand - including two 42 pound deck blocks.  We started by getting the two deck blocks by the house level and then decided to see if we could get the ATV to start since it had been a couple of hours.  Luckily, it started just fine and we could load the rest of the tools and materials on the ATV trailer and get them up to the site.  We decided to get everything up to the house, arrange it all neatly so everything was ready for us to start first thing in the morning.  Then, we went into Asheville for the night. We stayed at a hotel in town instead of camping.  It got kind of cold, but we've camped in colder.  But we just decided we wanted to stay in Asheville and not have to worry about driving back up to our place that night. 

We got back up to Mt. Matt around 10am on Sunday and got to work.  And the deck came together beautifully.  We leveled and framed and decked it in no time. 

We had built a deck before for the shower platform that we made by the barn so this one seemed extra easy. Plus, the dimensions were truly tiny considering it is the front porch of a 120 square foot house. 

Just as we were fastening the last screw, our neighbors came up to say Hi.  They couldn't have planned it better.  We were able to give them a "tour" of the place and  describe what it would look like when it was finished.  They headed back out on their walk and we cleaned everything up before going to get dinner and heading back to Atlanta. 

Matt is going back for a week soon and plans to finish the porch roof and beams.  Then all we need to do with the outside is trim it.  We think we will wait to do that until the spring and start working on the inside this winter by framing out the closet and bathroom walls.  

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Some Blog Links to Share

A couple months ago, we found our tiny house featured on the blog The Tiny Life.  It is very cool to see something you've worked so hard on to be featured in this way.

About a month ago, The Tiny life posted an update.

We still have a lot of work to, but we have some big plans for the end of the year.  October is scheduled pretty heavily with non-building activities, but we'll be going up toward the end of the month for a weekend.  Then in the beginning of November, Matt will be going up for a whole week and I'll join him on the weekend.  We should be on track with getting the outside finished in 2010 and then we can move to the interior.

Our Tumbleweed House Design is the Tarleton, so I thought I would also share with you the link to another tiny house builder, Will, and his own Tarleton.   Also, earlier this year Will took the car on a Trans-Canadian trip from British Columbia to New Brunswick.  How cool is that?  Our Tarlteon is stationary, so it won't be quite the world traveler. 

Monday, September 20, 2010

Siding Complete

Another trip to Asheville this weekend resulted in finishing the siding. As you can see, our cat Piglet was not to excited about us leaving her at home again. 

We left Atlanta about 8am to arrive at Mt. Matt about 11:30. The intention was to get there in time for lunch and then start work in the afternoon.  There wasn't much left to finish.  I had to stain three more panels and then we had to measure and cut out the pieces for the gable ends and the front of the house. I got to staining and the panels were done in no time.  Matt took the measurements for the back gable and traced it out and cut the peices.  It was one of the hardest to install because of the hight and being up on the ladder,
but they were small peices so it didnt' take too long.  Measuring the front of the house was a little more complex because we had already built a porch overhang and needed to install the panels around that.
It took a lot more math, but Matt diagramed it and we were able to cut the panels and install them without a problem.  We were done around 7:30 so we got ourselves cleaned up and went into town for dinner.

 With the siding complete we feel a whole new sense of accomplishment. The outside is nearly finished.  The next task is building the porch and after that we can complete the trim on the outside of the house and then we can begin to focus on the inside.  We expect to finish the outside this year and can start with the interior after the first of the year.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Feeling Accomplished: Siding

Matt and I had a very specific goal in mind this weekend as we headed up to Asheville.  That isn't to say we don't normally, but this time the goal was to have the house sided!  We knew we couldn't do it all in the time we had available, but if we could just get three sides done we would feel accomplished.  And that is exactly what we did. 

We left Atlanta about 6am on Saturday morning and drove directly up to Mt. Matt.  We packed sandwiches and water and evening entertainment to prevent ourselves from wanting to leave the mountain to go into Asheville.  It worked perfectly.  We arrived and set out immediately to work on the siding. 

I began staining the panels.  I have never stained before and it took me some time to get the hang of it.  I learned quickly that staining is a completely different skill set than painting.  I caught on quickly.  The stain is from Lowe's and the color is called "Espresso".  The intention was to mimic the appearance of the bar as much as we could.  The barn has a metal roof and the outside is old weathered wood.  So the house has the brown/black stain with the gray metal roof.  We love the color combination. 

After we started me staining panels, Matt would measure the house to determine where to cut the window openings.  Once the stain was dry enough, he would cut those out and we could install the siding. 

We completed the entire left side of the house on day one.  We started there, of course, because it is the part of the house the faces the woods.  The rest of it is really visible. 

We rewarded our first day of hard work with dinner out at a local watering hole.  Then we came back to the barn and Matt played some music while I did some other blogging. 

On day two, we got up early and headed right back up to keep staining, cutting and siding. 

We finished around 2pm and cleaned up, packed up and headed back to Atlanta. 

As a side note, I mention here sometimes the wildlife that I love up at Mt. Matt.  This weekend I had three insect run-ins that I loved. 

There was the Yellow Jacket Hoverfly, also known as the Good News Bee:

And there was this little caterpillar that I saved from certain death as he had found himself on Matt's skill saw in the middle of the project.

And lastly, this spider.  I haven't been able to identify it.  I have googled "pointed spider" and I come up with nothing.  Those little triangles on his back are actually points and black spot on his abdomen is also pointy.

The next trip up, in September, we should be able to finish the siding on the front of the house as well as on the gables.  Then we have to trim it and put up the battens that will be simply cosmetic.  Having the siding done seems like a real milestone.  You can always check out the entirety of our progress here

Thursday, August 19, 2010


I am sorry for the delay in our update.  We were in Asheville this past weekend - August 14th and 15th.  But life has been awfully surreal.  On August 9th, my email account was hacked and all associated accounts were taken over.  That meant I didn't have access to Blogger. I have spent the 10 days trying to get it back, and it finally worked. 

So, on with the update.  This past weekend our trip to Asheville was mostly pleasure.  There was a big storm in Atlanta on Friday night, so rather than trying to get out of this city in the traffic jam caused by rain and by, well, traffic we decided to go up on Saturday.  We got up at 4:30 am and left Atlanta.  When we got up to Asheville we went to Home Depot to rent a truck and get the plywood we needed for siding.  When we arrived, about 10 after 8, we were told the truck had just been rented out for the whole weekend!  The helpful rental guy called the other Home Depot and they had their truck and would hold it for us.  We drove over there and rented it.  But then, that Home Depot didn't have the plywood we were looking for!  The horror.  So, we took the Home Depot Truck and drove to the Lowe's that is nearest our land.  We were, of course, made fun of for taking a Home Depot Truck to Lowe's but they had what we needed.  We took it back to the land.  We had to use the ATV and trailer to get it up to the tiny house, but when we tried to start the ATV it wouldn't.  Matt spent some time trying to figure out the problem and eventually we decided to change the spark plug.  The sucker started up as soon as we did that and we were able to load the plywood onto the trailer in two loads to take up to the house. It took us longer to do that than we wanted to and rain was threatening so we decided not to do any more work.  The next step was to stain and cut the plywood and that all had to be done outside.  So, we decided to spend the rest of the weekend enjoying ourselves.  We drove back to the Home Depot, got our car and began our new adventure.  We chose to check out the town of Hickory, about an hour or so away.  We drove out there, stopped at a microbrewery.  The town was small and it started to rain so we called up a hotel in Black Mountain (back on the way to Asheville) and headed back.  In Black Mountain we went to the Pisgah Brewery and enjoyed a beer in the courtyard of the brewery.  The rain had cleared and it was cool and lovely.  We went to dinner and then to the hotel to sleep.  The next morning we decided just to head back to Atlanta.  So, it doesn't seem like we got a ton of work done but delivering the siding materials was pretty important and we enjoyed ourselves otherwise.

We are in Atlanta this weekend, but next weekend we will be back up to Asheville and will stain and cut the siding and begin installing it.  I can't wait to get photos of that! 

Monday, July 26, 2010

Block Party Weekend

There was a lot of work and years of preparation that went into the decision to purchase the land on which we are building the Tumbleweed house.  That being said, there is one factor that you just can't plan for.  And that is neighbors.  We had no idea on the day we closed on Mt. Matt that we would end up with a pretty darn cool group of neighbors living on our tiny mountain road.

This weekend was a little different for us.  Usually, we go up to North Carolina with a clear plan of what would need to be accomplished.  However, this weekend we were invited up for a block party and that was pretty much our only purpose for the weekend.

Because we can't stop ourselves, we did do some work on Saturday.  We actually arrived late on Friday night in time for bed, like we usually do.  On Saturday morning we got up around 9am and went to Zuma coffee for breakfast, which is one of our favorite weekend morning routines. We stopped and Ingles to get some food to take to the party that afternoon.  We loaded up the cooler with ice and our purchases before heading back to the land.  Then, we had a couple of hours of light work to do up at the tiny house.  Just little loose ends, really, before we could be 100% ready to finish the outside.  Matt stained the porch overhang that we built over 4th of July and I used Great Stuff Foam on the rest of the interior panels that we had already insulated but never foamed in.  Great Stuff is a crazy product and trust me from experience, you don't want to over do it.  When it says it expands to twice the size it is pretty serious about that.  Unfortunately, that means I have to do some basic clean up with a razor knife before we do the interior walls. There are worse problems to have, so I am not too worried about it. 

After finishing up at the house, we went down to the barn and enjoyed a Grove Park Inn Great Gatsby brewed by Highland Brewery.  Yum (I liked it better than the reviewer did).  While we relaxed before the party started, Matt practiced the guitar, a new hobby he has picked up and is really enjoying.  Around 4pm we started to get cleaned up and ready for the party.  At 5 we wheeled our cooler down to the road and met our top-of-the-hill neighbors on their way down.  The four of us walked down to the other house.  The neighbors hosting are the only ones who live there permanently and they have helped us out quite a bit in the time we've been working on the house.  The six of us hung out on the screened porch and enjoyed a couple of drinks.  Then the last group of neighbors arrived - a husband, wife and their 20 year old son.  Like us, they live elsewhere and have this land near Asheville where they are renovating an old house with plans of building some other things on their land as well. 

As I said, the one thing we couldn't plan for when we bought our place were cool neighbors. And I think really really hit the neighbor jackpot.  Everyone on our road in Western North Carolina is fun, creative, and intelligent. The mountains drew us each there for various reasons so I suppose it was meant to be. 

After dinner, we all went up to the house on the top of the mountain - the road dead-ends at their place.  There, we could see the most amazing and unobstructed view of Mt. Matt.  We intended to have some coffee, but it was still 90 some degrees when the sun went down, so we sat on the porch under the full moon and talked until late into the night.  Eventually, we all called it an evening and went our separate ways.

Sunday, Matt and I got up early and went for breakfast at Green Sage in Asheville.  We were going to walk around the Bele Chere festival that was going on downtown this weekend, but when we finished eating it was still only 10am to we decided to head back to Atlanta instead.  We got home, took a shower and went out to a nice dinner before settling in back home and watching the season finale of Doctor Who. 

It was a great weekend, and one of the only weekends in recent memory where we went up to Asheville but didn't have days and days of work to do.  Believe me, I don't mind the work at all but it was a very nice break.  And it is great to know all the folks on our mountain road and all the cool stuff we are each doing. 

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Jay Shafer Inspires People to Live Small

Over the weekend, Yahoo's front page featured this video about Jay Shafer and his tiny house.  Funny part is, suddenly everyone was sending it to me with emails like, "Have you seen this guy?  This is so cool! I thought you would like this."

Well, I certainly do like it.  That is because we are currently building a tiny house designed by Jay Shafer. 

The part that is most exciting to me (and probably to Jay) is that his Tumbleweed Tiny House company is getting so much national exposure.  People all over the country are buzzing about tiny houses.  Some people are beside themselves with excitement about wanting to build these small structures and others are wondering how anyone could possible live in a place so tiny.  Whatever side of the discussion you're on, that is okay because at least it is a discussion. 

Matt and I had the pleasure of meeting Jay about a year and a half ago, right before we took the plunge and bought the plans for the Tarleton that we are now building.  He is a really good guy.  On top of that, with the plans we got free consultation with him if we had any questions.  Along the way we have had a couple of phone conversations about some alterations that we have made.  We've also sent him photos of our progress along the way. 

Keep watching for more details on our tiny house build and other interesting tiny house news. 

Monday, July 19, 2010

Coolest New Tiny Building Since the Tumbleweed House

This is honestly the coolest thing I have seen since I saw my first Tumbleweed Tiny House.  And we all know what happened after I learned about those. (If you don't know, I recommend reading the rest of this blog).

I follow a few sites on tiny living in order to keep up on the latest tiny house news.  I first saw this over at The Tiny House Blog by Kent Griswold.  A small company in North Carolina has invented a new type of tiny house structure:  The Yurtle

I am excited by the innovation and creativity used by Laurel Nest Yurts.  It is so awesome to see people taking tiny living and something like a Yurt to the next level. 

Awesome work, Laurel Nest Yurts! 

Friday, July 16, 2010


Since starting this blog, I have had the bad habit of posting photos directly here and not updating my Flickr account.  I have remedied this situation and all of the photos since April have been uploaded.  Check out the most recent slide show to see progress from the beginning. 

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

7 Days of Summer

We just got back from our vacation up in North Carolina working on the Tumbleweed House. We had a great time.  Here is a recap for anyone following along. 

Wednesday, June 30th
Matt and I actually left Atlanta on Tuesday night after work, so we got to Mt. Matt late at night in time to head to bed.  Considering it was the first day of vacation, we didn't really get our Wednesday started until about 11am.  The main goals for the day were to get the camp site set up and finish the outdoor shower.  We had a canopy malfunction during our last camping trip so we bought a new Coleman canopy that was beyond awesome.  That thing would survive most rainstorms that might pop up while camping, unlike our old one.   We also finished our outdoor shower.  The shower was a deck that we had built into a small clearing tucked behind the trees, but after the winter storms it became quite exposed so we recently built walls and on Wednesday morning we covered the walls with rubberized canvas.  We also got a gravity fed water bladder with a shower spigot on the bottom that worked very well for showers.  We added a cross beam with hooks to hang it.  Everyone said it was a very nice shower experience in the woods. Once we had the site pretty set up, Matt and I went into to town to go to Earth Fare. There, Eddie at the sandwich counter made us a super tasty sandwich that we ate at the cafe.  It was a late lunch, so even though we bought ourselves some things for dinner, we didn't eat them on Wednesday.  When we got back to the land we went up to the house to check on it and discovered a little bat sleeping on the ridge beam. When we walked back down to the barn, we passed a box turtle hanging out at the trail leading up to the ridge.  That box turtle was actually there all weekend.  We weren't hungry, so we decided to walk up to the ridge to see all the work that Matt did the last time we were up here brush hogging the trail. Gorgeous. We spent our first evening at Mt. Matt watching stars while Matt played some music on the guitar. 

Thursday, July 1st
Day two was still just me and Matt, so we built the door jamb on the house and did some other little projects before just going into Asheville for the evening.  We did get text from our friends Rob and Christy that they were leaving Michigan and would be at Mt. Matt around 10am in the morning. 

Friday, July 2nd
Matt and I went into the little town of Marshall to have breakfast at Zuma Coffee.  While we were on our way back, we got a text from the neighbors that Rob and Christy had pulled up the road, so we were right behind them.  Unfortunately, Christy was coming down with a cold so we set up the bed in the barn room for them and she took a nap.  Matt and I moved to our brand new Coleman tent.  I love Coleman camping equipment - I think I need to buy their stock.  We do a lot of camping and I found the tent quite comfortable.  I went up to the grocery store to buy all of our supplies for the weekend.  While I did that, Matt and Rob started on the door for the house.  When I got back, our neighbors came up - mostly looking for their dog who had been hanging out with Matt and Rob.  Their little cat also goes for walks with them which was super hilarious.  They went up to the house with Matt while I sorted out the groceries.  By the time I got there, they were starting to assemble the door, which turned out to be a great success.  After we finished that, our neighbors went home and Rob, Matt, Christy and I decided to head out for dinner.  We went out for barbecue, which was exactly what I was hoping for.  We came back and built a fire and hung out for a while before going to bed.

Saturday, July 3rd
Saturday marked the arrival of the rest of our guests.  Matt and I did some work up at the house in the morning, just basically getting things ready to do some priming of the door. Just after lunchtime, Matt went to Lowe's to get some supplies to build the porch overhang.  About 2ish, the rest of our guests arrived pretty much at the same time - Bill and Susan from Atlanta and Matt's brother Jim from Michigan.  We helped them set up camp and relaxed until Matt got back from Lowe's.  Then we went up and primed the door.  After the work was done, I made dinner for the group - bratwurst, macaroni and cheese, and coleslaw.  Matt, Jim, Rob and Christy played some football tossChristy was feeling much better.  We all hung out by the fire and talked well into the night.

Sunday, July 4th
The big project for the 4th of July was building the overhang for the porch.  Matt and Bill figured out the engineering of the project by determining the math and angles and constructing a temporary structure to hold it up before a porch and posts were built.  Once the engineering was complete, the actual construction went quite smooth.  Sunday night, we made steaks and camping potatoes for dinner and built a fire.  Our neighbors came up to hang out by the fire.  We played music and sang by the fire.  After the neighbors went home, Jim suggested a starlight screening of Dr. Horrible's Sing Along Blog. A good time was had by all.

Monday, July 5th
On Monday, Rob and Christy left for Michigan early in the morning.  Matt, Bill, Susan and I went up to the house and painted the door and all the windows. Jim took down his camp and was going to sleep in the barn room for the last night so he could just get up and go early on Tuesday morning.  After the painting was done, we helped Bill and Susan take down their tent and pack up.  Then everyone went into Asheville for dinner at Barley's Taproom.  Bill and Susan left from there and Jim, Matt and I went back to the land and built a small fire and watched some episodes of The Guild before going to bed.  Jim was going to leave around 4 or 5am so he said goodbye before we all went to bed. 

Tuesday, July 6th
Matt and I made the decision to leave Mt. Matt on Tuesday instead of Wednesday because we had done a lot of work and really just wanted to go home for Piglet.  So we decided to divide and conquer.  Matt went up to the house and worked on finishing the home wrap taping and putting in the drip edge flashing over the windows.  I took down the whole camp, packed and cleaned everything up at the barn.  We were ready to leave Asheville about 5pm. 

It was a great week, we did a lot of great work, but it is also good to be home. 

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Independence Day

Hello 120-Square-Feet Followers.  Matt and I are heading up to the mountains for a week's vacation to work on the house.  We have some friends coming down from Michigan and up from Georgia again, like we did last year.  A good time will be had by all. 

I'll post a recap when we get back next week, but in the meantime feel free to follow me on twitter.   I'll post real-time updates on the progress while we're there. 

Thanks for coming along on this crazy adventure. 

Monday, June 28, 2010

Tiny Houses on NPR Weekend Edition

I love to see the tiny house movement get the national attention it deserves.  Here is a link to the story from Weekend Edition

Monday, June 21, 2010

Long Weekend in Asheville: Preparation

Matt and I just got back from spending a long weekend up at Mt. Matt.  We took Friday off, and headed up to the land after work on Thursday. 

The main focus of this past weekend was to prepare for guests.  We're having a few friends up over 4th of July again this year, so we needed to make sure that areas were cleared for camping. 

On Friday, we got up early and drove over to a Home Depot across town that rents brush mowers.  When we got there, the rental center guy was completely unconvinced that the brush hog would fit in the Element.  We were sure it would.  Matt even said to me "I have never lost the 'What Will Fit In The Element' argument with anyone".  And sure enough, the brush hog fit neatly into the back of the element. 

When we got back to Mt. Matt, we got to work.  Matt's job was brush hogging the meadow by the barn, the camping areas, the area by the shower and up the trail.

My job was to go up to the tiny house and paint the outside of the window panes the same gray as the metal roof.  We split up and went to work. 

We were in the zone.  Matt pushed himself, maybe a little to hard, and brush hogged all the way up the trail to the ridge.  And I put on some music and painted the windows.  I admit to not being the best painter in the world, so I knew after the first couple windows that I would need to do a second coat.  That was fine, because it was only Friday after all.

Finally, toward the end of the day, Matt pushed the brush mower toward the Tumbleweed clearing. I could tell he was exhausted.  His original plan was to take the brush hog all the way down into the lower clearing, but the path down is very steep and I was pretty sure he wasn't going to want to push the mower back up.  He agreed, and instead just took the mower down behind the Tumbleweed clearing down the trail we cut last year toward the spring and called it a day.

Once the work for the day was done, we cleaned ourselves up and loaded up the brush hog to return to the Home Depot rental center.  After dropping it off, we went into Asheville for dinner to celebrate.  We went to the new Pack Tavern downtown.  We sat at the bar and had a couple of tasty burgers and beers.  Then we walked right next to tavern to the park and sat for a while before heading back to Mt. Matt. 

Saturday involved more of the same for me - a second coat on the windows.  They looked a lot better once I was done with that.  Matt spent the day with the chainsaw cutting down some of the last trees that had fallen during the Snowmageddon back in December.  There was one right next to the barn where people typically camp, but now it is nice and cleared out for 4th of July weekend. 

Before starting work on Saturday, we went to Zuma Coffee for breakfast, which was delightful, and then to Ingles to buy stuff to make for dinner so we didn't have to go out again.  After I finished painting the windows and Matt was finishing up the tree clearing, I set up the grill and made some Feta and Spinach stuffed chicken sausages that we ate with Greek feta pasta salad.  Yum.  After dinner, we got back to work and constructed the final shower wall.  Our shower platform use to be secluded behind trees and with only a flimsy bi fold screen, guests were able to take a hot shower nestled in nature.  After the trees were leveled in December, we needed to do something else, so we built a couple of walls.  There was one more wall to go, and Matt and I put that together in about a half an hour before dark on Saturday.  Now, we just have to cover it with canvas material and viola, a shower! 

Sunday, I ran up to the tumbleweed house to put the newly painted windows back in.  Then we cleaned up the barn, packed up the car and drove back to Atlanta. 

We took a week off for the 4th of July - we will be up there from June 30th to July 7th.  I can't wait. 

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Let there be light!

I am the worst blogger in the world. Laura started this blog months ago with the idea that we’d both post about our experiences, but I’ve neglected to do so until now. Oh well, onward and upward!

At the end of May, I gave a workshop on alternative building. I may post more about that a bit later (let’s be honest, it took me 6 months to make my first post, so I wouldn’t bet on it), but for now I wanted to answer one of the more common questions I received.

Several people asked how we generate and store and use electrical power on our land. The short answer is “the sun”, whenever possible. For a slightly more useful explanation, I’ll break it up into a few different categories: power during the build, power for general use, and possible future expansion.

Building a house (especially one as small as ours) without power from the utility company is really not that hard. The key is to think about what you actually need and plan accordingly. In our case, I figured we’d only need a handful of power tools. Most of the smaller ones – drills, skill saw, reciprocating saw, etc. – were battery powered, so that meant I only needed to figure out a way to power the chargers. The miter saw, cement mixer, and compressor were the only things that needed to be plugged in while in use. I could have just bought a small generator and had the whole problem solved, but I set a goal to build a house using as little external power as reasonably possible (where I get to define “reasonably”, of course!), so I invested in a small solar setup at the beginning of the process.

Two other main goals were to keep the costs down and not overcomplicate things unnecessarily, so I looked to small commercially available solutions to get started. I could write all day about the options that are out there and all of the pros and cons, but I was a first time builder, so simplicity became the deciding factor. What I bought was a 60 watt solar array and a 60 amp hour battery pack with a built in inverter. With those, I have been able to charge all of my cordless tools, and run the smaller of my 2 miter saws. I could have run the larger miter saw, cement mixer, and compressor for limited amounts of time, but I did wind up buying a small generator for those to make sure we fit as much building as possible into our limited weekends. The generator I bought was the Honda EU2000. There are much cheaper options out there, but the Honda is incredibly versatile, reliable, and most importantly quiet. We are a couple of newcomers to our land, and the last thing in the world I want to do is disturb our neighbors just because we got the urge to build a house in the woods. The overall cost savings inherent in building such a small structure allowed us to spend a little more than we otherwise would to help keep our mountain quiet and beautiful.

The solar array, battery pack, and generator provided more than enough power for the build, but what about general power usage? I am very happy to say that the solar array has been our sole source of power for nearly two years of weekend build trips. Again, the key here is to determine what you really need and eliminate waste wherever possible. Our goal was not to replicate the conveniences we have in our home in Atlanta. On the other hand, we were not trying to be absolutely rustic in every aspect of life. We wanted to find a balance that worked for us, so we made a list of the things we’d like to have and how much power they used. In the end, our list turned out to be pretty small: a few CFL lights, the ability to charge our laptops and phones, and access to the Internet (for those of you who are wondering, we access the internet via an Verizon MiFi access point). Of those things, the only items that use a considerable amount of power are the laptops. We reduced that power draw by switching to an iPod touch for most Internet use. So far, the same small solar set up we purchased for the build has met all these needs admirably. I’ve even used it to power my electronic drums and a bass amplifier during our 4th of July party. Hurray sun!

When the cabin is finished I anticipate that we may need to add to our array and battery capacity. I won’t go into detail about this right now, but I believe I’ll still be able to keep it reasonable. All we’ll really be adding are a few more lights and fan or two. The cabin was wired to simply plug into the output of a generator or inverter, as an RV would in an RV park, so we have plenty of flexibility. I’ll try to post more about that as things progress.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Back to Work

As I mentioned in my last post, Matt and I have been busy with major life changes in the Atlanta that have kept us from going up to North Carolina.

This past weekend, we finally made it back to do some work.  The forcast was for thunder showers, so we arrived late on Friday night and slept in on Saturday.  Saturday morning was clear and sunny, so we debated what we should do next but we decided to go to Lowe's and buy the stuff to construct our custom door.  More on that once we have it constructed.  When we got back to Mt. Matt, the sun was still out so we decided to take a chance and start the painting on the windows, but just do the outside frames so the inside panes were not sitting out in case it did rain.  While Matt did the painting, I actually sprayed for Poison Ivy.  I haven't had my yearly breakout yet, and it would be nice to keep it that way.  That is the thing with building a tiny house - the work isn't just limited to the tiny house itself.  There is always land to tend, trees to trim, and any number of other things to take care of, not to mention unforseen craziness.  But I'll tell you, we are chosing to do this work so it is always satisfying. Even when it kinda sucks. 

Well, not long after we started those two projects, we heard thunder in the distance.  I walked the entire trail around to the tumbleweed house and back down the short way to spray all the poison ivy, and right when I got back to the barn it started raining.  Great, I thought, all that for nothing.  I'll have to do it again anyway.  Matt got all of one window painted, but it was worth it.  The paint looks awesome - we matched it to the gray of the metal roof. 

In other interesting camping events - because there are always more interesting camping events - we had another over-night bat adventure.  The ordeal lasted only a few minutes - so either this bat was smarter or we were smarter!  We also had our air mattress deflate on us.  I hate when that happens.  It was two years old, however, so we just replaced it.  We'll be in the Tumblweed House soon so we won't really need it anymore. 

This coming weekend we will be moving from our house to our city apartment.  Then the following weekend we are going on a long deserved camping trip and retreat.  After that, it is back to work on the tiny house! 

Monday, May 10, 2010

Tiny House Update.

"All endeavor calls for the ability to tramp the last mile, shape the last plan, endure the last hours toil. The fight to the finish spirit is the one... characteristic we must posses if we are to face the future as finishers"
Henry David Thoreau

There has been a minor postponement on the progress of the tiny house.  I wanted to share with you all the reason for that. In order for us to further our goals, we decided to sell our house in suburban Atlanta.  We accepted an offer in the middle of April and things have been progressing quickly.  We had to miss a trip up to Asheville earlier this month in order to find our next living space.  We are downsizing in the city, just like we are in the country.  We will be living in a two-bedroom apartment in a high-rise that overlooks the city of Atlanta. We are very excited.  We will be moving in the next couple of weeks and that is forcing us to put off some of the work on the Tiny House until next month.  Since all of our deadlines are self-imposed, we should be able to catch up in our own time. 

We are very excited about moving on with this next phase of our lives. 

Saturday, May 1, 2010

National Spotlight!

Watch your mail boxes and newspaper inserts for Parade magazine.  Jay Shafer of the Tumbleweed Tiny House Company is being featured on the cover.  This is huge for the tiny house movement!  Congratulations to Jay Shafer and his tiny house designs! 

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Earth Day 2010 // Bloggers Unite

In the process of building this tiny house, we are learning a lot about sustainability and eco-friendly living. Honestly, the primary goal for me wasn't about saving the environment; it was about living as self-sufficiently as possible. I have learned, however, that self-sufficiency and sustainable living really go hand in hand.

Living small lessens our impact on the planet.  We can all do just a little bit. 

Earth Day 2010 // Bloggers Unite

Posted using ShareThis

Happy Earth Day! 

Monday, April 19, 2010

Installing Windows 1.0

Before going up to Asheville this weekend, every time we told someone we were "Installing windows" they thought we meant on the computer.  But no, we were actually going to be installing real windows on our tiny house. 

With the windows in, I can't tell you how pleased I am with our overall progress.  Just a door and the siding (and general trimming, painting, staining and finishing) and the outside is nearly done.  Then just a porch/deck and porch overhang.  Then we get to move to finishing the inside! 

This weekend, Matt and I took Friday off.  We thought about leaving Thursday night but we just had too many things to get done to make that happen.  We decided to go to sleep early and wake 5:30am.  We were on the road by about 6:45 and heading north on I-85. 

When we got to Mt. Matt we got camp set up and started to plan our projects.  We had some preparation to do for the windows first, including sill flashing.  We went up to the house and Matt cut the openings in the homewrap for the windows and I trimmed and taped while he prepared the sill tape.  Sill tape is an evil thing devised by evil people.  It is an extremely sticky tar-backed tape with a foil face.  Trust me, there is no way in any universe that this tape can go on quickly and easily.  But, after Matt got into the groove he was rocking.  We were finished by about 5pm so we decided to treat ourselves with a trip into Asheville for the evening.  However, we were tired early and came back to camp by 10pm. 
It was chilly in the morning in the mountains, so when we woke up we knew we couldn't do any real work yet, so we headed up to the local coffeehouse, Zuma, and had some coffee and breakfast and planned out the day ahead.  There were 9 total windows to install.  We needed to dry fit them, determine if they needed shims and then just get to it.  Our friend Chris was joining us for the project, but we weren't quite sure when to expect him. 

We got back to Mt. Matt and checked the first two windows.  They were a perfect fit.  Just then, as it turned out, Chris pulled up to the barn.  It was only 12:30, which was excellent as he could help Matt with the actual installation of windows.  So we got to it.   The first one went in smoothly and so I left to go get some supplies at Lowe's.  By the time I got back they only had three windows left.  They knocked those out in no time, we cleaned up our worksite and went back down to the barn to have a camp fire and grill some steaks.  

On Sunday, we needed to do some finish work on the windows.  The manufacturers instructions indicated we should stain and paint.  Unable to do both, we decided to paint the inside first because the outside is primered.  While Chris worked on patching the nail holes in the outside window frames, Matt and I took out each window sash and stained them.  We let them dry and put them back.  Then we cleaned up for the day and headed back to Atlanta. 

We selected these windows purposefully.  We wanted to make sure that our cat was able to lounge in the sun through the windows but not accidentally push out a screen and get out, so these sashes provide both top and bottom opening.  The tiny windows in the gables are awning windows that crank out instead. 

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Relaxing Build Weekend

Last time we were up at the cabin, we had friends with us to do the electrical work.  With that big part of the project out of the way, Matt and I didn't have a whole lot of work to do this past weekend.  That made the trip pretty relaxing, to be honest.  The one big project we did tackle is to complete the home wrap on the gable ends.  Since the rest of the homewrap was harder than I thought it would be, I wasn't quite sure what to expect out of the remaining homewrapping process.  As it turns out, with a little creative thinking it isn't as difficult as it seems.

On the way up, we were thinking about different ways to handle it and I thought the easiest way was to cut a length of homewrap off the roll and just hold it up and staple it to the sheathing.  Then, we could cut off the extra pieces after the stapling was done.  We started on the front and as it turned out, having the extra corner parts flapping around didn't make it very easy to use the staple gun.  However, we finished the front half and then used the razor knife to trim the corners.  Then I had the brilliant idea of using those trimmed corners as a pattern to pre-cut the triangle of the back gable.  Worked like a charm.  I was supposed to get photos of that part of the process and I failed, so you'll have to make do with these fine photographs. 

However, I did want to get pictures of some of the electrical wiring that our friends did the last time.  The house will be connected to a solar array (generator for emergency back up).  You can see some of the light fixtures and power outlets in the above photo.  To the left you can see the plug on the underside of the house that will be plugged into our power source.  Think of it like an RV that doesn't go anywhere. 

Also this weekend, I met this frog.  He has nothing to do with the building process, I just really liked him.  A couple of years ago, we built a small deck to serve as an outdoor shower platform.  We use a Coleman Hot Water On Demand to generate hot water while camping and then a cheap pump and shower nozzle to shower with.  It is perfectly adequate.  Also on our land is a spring.  These two things were not connected in any way, until a couple of weeks ago when we learned that if we connected the spring via tubing to a mysterious tube elsewhere in the ground, it came out through the other end of the tube that we discovered was conveniently nearby the shower platform!  So we connected a Y valve to the end of the tube and have the water drain down the mountain in the natural drainage ditch, but now we can also turn it to another hose and use the water for showering.  How marvelous!  And that was a total happy accident.  That brings me back to my friend the little green frog.  Now that the water isn't draining into the spring reservoir, it isn't very deep and this frog (and a froggy friend) was just hanging out at the bottom.  Super cute!