Sunday, July 31, 2011


While there is a still a lot of little stuff to be done at the Tiny House, this weekend we tackled the last big project we had left: the floors. 

We did a lot of research into types of floors and finally settled on one primarily for ease of use. We decided on the Allure flooring system from Home Depot in natural maple. It is a floating floor system made of durable materials. 

As it turned out, even though this was the last big job for us, it only took us a day to install it. It was pretty easy to work with.  Here are some photos: 

We even had time this weekend to go into Asheville for their annual music festival Bele Chere. Got to see one of my favorite bands, Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, which was pretty awesome. 

Most everything else we need to do is some level of finish work. Lots of trim, cabinet doors, counters, shelves, and moving in furniture.  I can't believe it is almost finished. 

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Rescuing a Turtle

If you don't think that building a tiny house in the mountains is sometimes a little surreal, you would be mistaken.  We got a bit of a late start on Saturday because we made the mistake of staying out a little too late with friends on Friday night.  I thought that the drive up would be a little miserable, but we had a spirited conversation and the three hours zoomed right by.  Except we did give in to temptation and stopped at Burger King, of all places, on our way. When we did get up to Mt. Matt, we stopped at the barn for just a moment and then loaded all of our stuff on our backs and trekked up to the tiny house. 
On our way, we walked past our spring. A while back, we installed a hose to divert the spring to a more advantageous location on the land and that left the spring reservoir dry.  But as we passed by it, we saw a little box turtle down at the bottom.  The spring reservoir is about the size of a Labrador retriever, so we knew the little turtle wouldn't be able to get out.  So, Matt unloaded all of his stuff and reached in to get the little guy.  He pulled all his appendages into his shell and hissed at Matt.  "I'm trying to help you, don't hiss at me!"  He walked back down the path to set him down where he wouldn't necessarily go back into the empty spring.  And we continued up to the house.
Once there, we were still feeling pretty tired but we fought off the urge for a nap and got down to work. The project for the weekend - finishing the siding for the closets and the cabinets.  We decided the best way to tackle the task was to divide and conquer. Once we determined the measurements and how much material we needed, I was on the saw cutting the boards while Matt was installing.  We finished the closets in short order. In the closet that is on the side of the "living room", we installed cedar planks on just the back wall. The material was awful to work with but it is pretty and smelled really nice. We're just glad we only did that one wall with it (we are doing the bathroom in cedar too, but a different type of cedar). That closet will house Piglet's litter box so we thought the cedar would be good for that.  Though, Piglet's litter box is currently in our master bedroom closet (the door stays open) and we don't have any problem with smell or anything there.  We finished up the closets by about 7pm and decided to go to a local watering hole for dinner.  The owners are great people so we spent some time talking with them.  They also just built a small hotel attached to the bar and they took us on a tour. Just two rooms but they are super nice. 
After dinner, we went back up to the tiny house.  The evening was starting to cool off and Matt sat out on the little front porch playing guitar while I climbed up in the loft, popped on my laptop and did some writing.  It was cool because I could hear him from inside and it was very relaxing.  After that we watched a movie and eventually fell asleep.  I will admit, it was a little hot - heat rises after all - but we had a fan in the storage loft opposite our sleeping loft and that helped circulate the air. I slept no problem. 
On Sunday, we didn't hurry to get up and we started work about 11am. The only projects to do were to side the entry way ceiling and the sides of the cabinets. I had a lot of cutting to do, especially small pieces (for example, 40 pieces of siding at 3.5 inches...) so I cut and Matt nailed and we were done pretty quickly.  Earlier than we even anticipated, or planned for. Which was pretty cool and I think the first time in this whole project that we actually finished a part before we expected to. Don't let anyone fool you - building your own tiny house just two weekends a month at a time is hard work!  We were able to pack up and get out of dodge about 3pm.  To reward our hard work, once we got home we went to our favorite pizza joint.  
Also, I mentioned our new futon bed but never got a photo of that, so here you go.  

As it turns out, I happen to have this Friday off of work and the Asheville free music festival, Bele Chere, is going on.  So, after just getting home Sunday we will be spending only 4 days in Atlanta and then head back up to Mt. Matt on Friday. The plan then - the Floors!  I can't believe we are at that stage!  It'll be incredible to see that part finished.  Then when we look at the list of things we have left, it seems awfully short.  What a crazy journey it has been.
And remember, we will be going to South Africa in November to begin a project for the Zulu Orphan Alliance. They have us to help with the building and lots of people who can help build, but what they really need is money to make this happen.  If you are inclined, check out the ZOA website and make a contribution

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Newest Jay Shafer Design

The folks over at Tiny House Blog have just posted a video of an interview with Jay Shafer and a tour of his newest house design.  It is so inspiring to see this design. I love the new concept - building a 120 square foot shell of a house with the option for kitchen and bathroom spaces.  Check out the interview.

 I love the overall aesthetic of the Box Bungalow. I love the take on the craftsman style which I think works really well with the overall concept of the tiny house. I do also, of course, love the idea that this example is built without a trailer.

Monday, July 11, 2011

I could have never imagined...

Almost three years ago when this journey began, I would have never imagined all of the places a Tiny House could take me. I'm not even talking about building a little house on wheels and driving it around. Most specifically because we have not built our tiny house on wheels. No, our journey has taken an even more surreal turn. And all because Matt and I took the leap to build our little cabin in the mountains, we have been asked to do something that is so awesome it is almost beyond words.  Let me try to share. 
Just over a year ago, Matt reconnected to an old friend.  Unfortunately, it came about because his cousin died of pancreatic cancer. I had a hard time with that - it was very difficult. His cousin had been my age and at various times I had been very close to him.  We had a love hate relationship but I always regretting not keeping in touch with him. But because of it, Matt and his brother went on a road trip to the memorial service in Reno, NV and their old friend Priscilla met them there.  Since that time, Priscilla moved to South Africa and be came involved in several organizations, including Operation Bobbi Bear.
A few months ago, Priscilla began talking with Matt about an upcoming project.  They are planning to buy some land to build a shelter.  Since Matt and I have some cursory experience with sustainable building she wanted to know more information.  This blossomed into more than just advising them, but to truly helping them. 
This is the land where the shelter will be built.
We have an opportunity to go to South Africa to help them build.  We are going for an exploratory mission in November of this year to learn more about the land and the materials, develop plans, help the locals get started with any sort of legal permitting process and all of the other minutia that goes into building something like this. We will share with them information about types of buildings that will work best for the location and we can teach them some basic skills to get started.  Then, the current plan is for us to be able to go back for some time in the spring of next year for the building to begin. 
I've been talking with Priscilla and another member of their organization, Tammy, about the things they need and, like all non-profits, they need money. They are only a few hundred dollars short of the money needed to buy the land.  And I said, "well, I think I can help?".  I offered to get the word out there - through the tiny house community, through sustainable living enthusiasts, through members of my religious community.  Here is the best part - the money isn't going to some faceless organization. This money will help them directly. I know these people. I know this project. I will be personally involved.  You can keep up with the project and really see how your donations are being used.  Check out the website for their organization, the Zulu Orphan Alliance
We may also need some other help down the line.  Certainly we wouldn't ask anyone to buy a ticket and travel to South Africa, but we could use some expert advice and information from time to time. We could use information about sustainable living, permaculture and building techniques. Any help is appreciated.

If you're able to donate any amount of money to this cause, please go to their donation page. Even a few dollars can make a difference. Feel free to spread the news far and wide. 
I am incredibly honored and humbled to be asked to help with this. I can't believe I have this type of opportunity just because I decided to build a tiny house in the woods. 

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Independence Day at Mt. Matt

Even before we began building the tiny house, we started hosting a 4th of July party at our mountain. This year marked the 4th Annual Independence Day at Mt. Matt and I think it was a wild success.  We got a lot of little projects accomplished but I believe we also had a lot of fun.

The weekend started for me and Matt on Thursday. He took me to work that morning and then came to pick me up at the end of the day so we could head right up to North Carolina.  We arrived about 9pm and just tucked in, watched True Blood on HBO Go, and went to bed.  As I write this, it feels like forever ago because we got so much done in the following days. 

On Friday, I didn't set any sort of alarm and just got up whenever I was ready. I think it was about 9am.  I spent the morning setting up a kitchen area and getting the camping areas ready for folks to arrive.  We took the futon mattress up to the tiny house, launched it into the loft and made it up so we could sleep in there the rest of the week.  This was a huge milestone - this Independence would be our first in the tiny house. However, since we don't have a ladder built, we simply leaned the A-frame ladder against the loft to get up and down.  Well, I know it seems crazy but I'm afraid of heights and the though of having to climb back down an unsecured ladder led to a full on panic attack. I cried for a while and it took me about 15 minutes to even be able to climb down. I finally did, though.

Around 3pm, our first guest arrived - our friend Andrew.  Once he got there, he and I went out to the grocery store to get all of the food for the weekend.  While we were gone, Matt built a temporary ladder for me! I was so happy - and it rocked. 

When Andrew and I got back from the store, we organized the food and other items in the kitchen. Not long after that, our next pair of guests arrived - Bill and Susan. All of our guests set up their tents near the barn and since it was just the five of us on the first night, we decided to go into Asheville.  We went to Pack's Tavern for dinner.  We got back to Mt. Matt about midnight and Matt and I headed up to the tiny house for our first night of sleep.  I climbed up that ladder and settled into the bed.  For just a few moments I had some anxiety about what would happen if the foundation collapsed - but that was ridiculous, the house isn't going anywhere.  But eventually I processed my fear of heights and fell asleep. I slept quite well. It wasn't camping any more - it was just "living". 

More people were set to arrive on Saturday, so we didn't want to get too involved with projects. We started the morning by making cinnamon rolls in the camp oven.  They were quite yummy.  After breakfast was over and people were ready for the day, we took the table up to the house to install.  We bought the table over a year ago and were very excited to be able to install it.  It is from Ikea called the Norbo. It works perfectly for the small space because it can fold down when we don't need to use it and want more space.  We also took two directors chairs that we had and removed the arms to make stools which work perfectly, plus we can use them as foot rests when we are sitting in the "living room".  As we were in the process of getting the table installed, our next victims...I mean, guests were arriving.  Andy and Emily came up to the tiny house to say hi, but then I went with them back down to the barn to help them get their camp site set up. As we were doing that, our friend Jill arrived.  Once everyone was set up we headed back up to the house to see the progress on the table. As you can see, it looked great once it was installed. 

At some point, we retired to the barn for some lunch and snacks and we put up the shade canopy so we had some reprieve from the hot sun.  After lunch, Matt took some folks up to a tree that was leaning over the main path to help cut it down.  With some people on ropes, he was able to take the tree down without any injury.  It worked smashingly. 

Dinner time was about 6:30 and I made two different kinds of stuffed shells in the camp oven along with some Italian sausage on the grill.  Our friend Chad arrived as we were eating.  Dinner seemed well received by all.  I really love using the camp oven. I had made the stuffed shells at home and froze them.  They had been in a cooler since and were able to thaw out enough to pop in the oven.  There were shells with ground beef and spinach mixture with a red sauce and shells with a ricotta cheese mixture with a white sauce.  Yum. 

The after dinner entertainment was music.  Matt and Chad were debuting their new set with our friends to prepare for really playing out.  I think it was quite a success.  They started by playing the set they would play out.  Then we invited everyone else to participate. Susan brought her hammer dulcimer and Bill had his mountain dulcimer. The rest of us had shakers, tambourines, drums and other instruments.  Matt played the drum for a little bit then went back to the guitar for a full on sing along set. 

After the music was done, we hung out at the camp fire for a while.  Andrew mused that we should build a new fire pit, so a project was born for Sunday. 

On Sunday morning, we gathered again at the barn.  Some folks took showers and I made some breakfast.  The morning fare - scrambled eggs, biscuits and pork sausage patties.  It was yummy and the perfect brunch.  After breakfast, some folks went out to Lowe's to get the stuff to build a new fire pit.  When they got back and got unloaded, there was discussion among some to take a drive out to Mt. Mitchell.  I stayed behind with a couple other campers and we had a lovely afternoon hanging out by the barn and enjoying some beer.  When the rest of the group got back we were regaled with stories of the tallest mountain east of the Mississippi. 

On Sunday night I made some more dinner - this time, nachos in the camp oven and chipotle lime marinated chicken legs on the grill.  Andy and Emily packed up to head out and took some dinner with them and the rest of us built a fire in the new fire pit and enjoyed the evening and conversation.  I was informed via facebook the next morning that the nachos made "The Best Breakfast Ever".  Yay. 

On Monday morning, I made breakfast by wrapping turkey sausage links in crescent rolls.  It was my only real culinary experiment (as I had tried everything else I served before). They were very yummy.  

After breakfast, folks started breaking down their campsites and getting ready to take off.  Interestingly enough, the weather report had indicated about a 30-40% chance of rain throughout the weekend, but it held off - until noon on Monday.  Thunder started rolling and the sky looked dark and it just started raining as everyone finished packing their cars and heading down the mountain.  Matt and I waited out the the heaviest of the rain and left at about 1:30.  We had taken today off as well, but we are spending it at home in Atlanta instead. 

We won't be back again for a couple of weeks, but the next projects include the floor, finishing the counters and cabinets, and siding the interior of the closets.