Ryan Mitchell of The Tiny Life website has been keeping us posted about his exciting plans for a modified Fencl. In addition for guest writing for Tumbleweed, Ryan has been blogging about simple living, tiny houses, and environmentally responsible lifestyles on his website: we think he's awesome!
Like many of you, I have a lot on my plate. So when it came time to build my tiny house,
I started to wonder when I’d fit it time in to actually finish my house. Right now I am juggling three jobs, running
my blog over at The Tiny Life, writing a book and on top of it, building this
Tiny House. For many of you, children
are part of the equation, but there are plenty of people building homes with
kids. So the question in your mind right
now might be: how can I juggle everything in my life and build a tiny
The answer is actually part of what I call The Tiny Life;
building a tiny house isn’t fix-all cure that some wish to believe. In fact, in some regards building a tiny
house is the simple part. In a way it
plays into our consumer culture, why go out and buy something in an attempt to
fix something. It is the lifestyle that
many find difficult to adopt. We all
know you have to reduce the amount of stuff we have, but along with the small
house and the sparse possessions we must bring focus to the life we wish to
live in that house.
It was at the point where I had decided to build my house
that I sat down and wrote what was truly important to me, these were things
that I felt were worthy of my time. From
there I ordered them in terms of importance.
It was this list that I then took and considered where I spend my energy
Through this process I realized that some things simply
couldn’t be achieved right now because other things were more important to me;
it meant that I had to say no to some things, which isn’t a word often in our
vocabulary in modern society. It was
surprising to see how things that were a lower priority for me seemed to sneak
into time that would be better used for more important things.
So take a few moments, even if it is on the back of a
napkin on a coffee break, to write down your top 10 things that are most
important to you and then consider how a shift if your time and energy might be
needed. With this you will have to learn
to say no to various activities. In this
list you can begin to see where building your Tiny House will fit in and what
things have to go in order to make the time.
You might find that building your house is lower on the list, which
means it will take a few years to complete, and that is okay because you are
intentional about it. In the long run
you are able to focus on what is truly important in your life and begin living
The Tiny Life.
Tumbleweed and Southern Adventist University - Partners in Education
Tumbleweed and Southern Adventist University are introducing the concept of tiny home construction to the next generation of American contractors. In the spring of 2013 students in SAU’s Construction Management program will be building Tumbleweed’s newest model.
As you can see from our early drawings of the new house on the left, The new Tumbleweed is going to include a full sized murphy bed with built in couch on the first floor.
Tumbleweed’s focus on education is longstanding. Through workshops, books, open houses, partnerships with high schools and community events we are trying to change the perception of what is possible. We are thrilled to be working with a community of future builders that have the ability to change the way America lives, literally, in the palms of their hands.
I recently had the opportunity to sit down with two of the Tumbleweed staff involved in developing the partnership with Southern Adventist. The first thing I wanted to know was why they felt it was necessary for the next generation contractors to understand the concept of tiny homes.
Pepper Clark, a Tumbleweed workshop presenter, was nothing less than enthusiastic in her response. “It's essential for the next generation of American contractors to understand the idea of tiny homes because they provide both the most logical response to our growing economic and logistical housing challenges. Future builders need to be aware of how many problems can be solved with a tiny house; providing means for multi generational families to live happily together, allowing people to work at careers they love instead of high paying jobs they hate, enabling folks to move their homes as needed to respond to changes in their lives, and giving young people a way to live independently with little overhead as they start out.”
Our head of business development and sales, also sees contractors as an integral component to solving America’s housing and financial crisis. “American contractors have the opportunity to help Americans with the financial headache of getting into home ownership. When contractors assist people in getting a better financial foundation under their feet, it will be assisting future generations. We want to refill the building pipeline in a healthy and sustainable way!”
When asked about Tumbleweed’s focus on education Pepper discussed the importance of homeowner awareness and creating a financially sustainable lifestyle. “If we can assist people in making the decision to live in a tiny way, to reduce financial stress and increase financial stability in the average home, we will have been successful. Many people are having a hard time making ends meet. It is a path to less stress and financial stability.”
Southern Adventist University is pioneering a new and more responsible approach to educating the next generation of American builders. Tumbleweed is looking forward to the day when the concepts involved in tiny space design and construction are standard components of all university level construction programs.
Therese Ambrosi Smith is a writer- check out her work here. She spent four months constructing a modified Tumbleweed for use as a mobile writer’s studio. She loves cooking and eating as much as she loves writing and building things. One example of a recipe she's cooked in her tiny kitchen - that her guests have loved - is wild rice and mushroom soup. Her regular contribution to this blog, “Meals on Wheels," addresses the challenges and rewards of working in a tiny kitchen.
I love to invite people to dinner -- I like cooking and eating --
but I also enjoy sharing our tiny house.
Folks with thousands of square feet marvel at the comfort possible in
our 286 sq ft home, carved from a single
car garage. With leaves in the table, we handily host gourmet meals for eight.
Recently we downsized our office, building a new space based on a Tumbleweed design. We work efficiently in the 84 sq
ft trailer. As an author, I’m trilled to have my workspace double as a mobile
retreat and guest cottage. An inflatable
bed and RV toilet are employed when we need to house visitors.
We made the decision to rent the “main” house for income when I
decided to live more creatively. The
journey began with shedding a mind-numbing job and the trappings it provided.
Designing a functional living space was task one.
Everyone who decides to downsize - and designs his own house - goes through the
very healthy exercise of defining what’s important. We determined that our most
used room was the kitchen - and we used it for non-eating activity too -- from
conversation to crafts. The table was
central to our plan.
We spent as much time planning the space as building it. Everything we thought we’d need was measured
and plotted on graph paper before the first board was cut. The garage conversion took four months of
weekend work and now, after four and a half years -- and a novel and a half -- I think it was the smartest thing we’ve
Living small became fodder for fiction. My first novel “Wax” was about young women
coming of age in the shipyards during WWII.
If you’re familiar with the history, housing was in very short supply in
war industry towns. Parking Lot C, in
the Kaiser shipyards, became a village of Airstream trailers for the duration.
When “Wax” was nearly ready to print, I was asked to provide two
pages of filler. The printer’s final page “signature” is produced in multiples
of eight, so my 334 page book was a little short. What would be worth printing? (Clue: the women are eating spaghetti in two
important scenes.) Sylvia’s Famous
Spaghetti Sauce Recipe (As adapted for the two-burner propane stove in
Airstream No. 28).
Back home in Kansas City, Sylvia would spend all day on a rich
meat sauce starting with garlic and olive oil and cubes of pork and beef
shoulder, seared at 475 degrees for half an hour. She’d transfer the meat to a
big stock pot with two quarts of broth, veal bones and vegetables. A long, slow
simmer in the broth would tenderize the tough but flavorful cuts of meat, and
to the whole she would add tomatoes and the remaining seasonings. The sauce
would then simmer for another six hours until the meat fell apart. Everyone she
treated to a serving of her Famous Spaghetti Sauce said it was the best ever.
She refined her technique — using ground beef — so she could make
“Camping Spaghetti Sauce”. In her tiny Airstream trailer, with few cooking
utensils, Sylvia did her best to recreate a favorite meal for her friends.
3 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 Tbsp minced garlic
2 Tbsp minced onion
¼ cup minced carrots
¼ cup minced celery
¾ lb ground meat – can be pork and beef mixed
1 C whole milk
2 C dry white wine
1 28 oz can whole tomatoes packed in juice
1 Tbsp oregano – fresh, minced
one more tablespoon minced garlic
salt to taste
Melt the butter in a sauce pan over a very low flame and add two
tablespoons garlic. Simmer the garlic very slowly until tender. The more slowly
it cooks, the sweeter it will be.
Add the carrots, onion and celery and sauté until the onions are
soft. Do not brown. Add the cloves.
Add the ground meat and stir to heat evenly for about three
minutes, until the meat is gray but not browned.
Add the milk and allow it to simmer until evaporated, about
twelve minutes; follow with the wine. When the wine has evaporated, add the
tomatoes with liquid and the oregano. Allow the sauce to simmer on the lowest
possible flame, for three more hours. Thirty minutes before it’s finished, add
the final tablespoon of minced garlic. Add salt if desired.
4 Servings Enjoy!
“The time went by so
quickly; we never had a chance to make plans,” Doris said. “When the ships on
the line are launched we’ll be sent home too.”
“Now come on girls,”
Sylvia said. “This is our last night together in The Land of C. Let’s have a
little more optimism. We’ll be at peace soon.” She adjusted the seasonings and
gave the sauce a final stir. Her red hair color was starting to fade. “All
those love-starved men will be returning to wine and dine you marriage-age
treasures. Life will be good,” Sylvia said. She looked at Tilly.
Sylvia drained the
spaghetti into a bowl and loaded three plates. Then she ladled the rich meat
sauce on top.
Tilly took the first bite.
She twirled her fork and wrapped the length of the spaghetti around the tines.
“Thank you so much, Sylvia. I’ll never forget this meal.”
Isabel Winson-Sagan is a resident of Santa Fe, NM, and has a degree from the University of New Mexico in religious studies and evolutionary anthropology. She will soon be attending the University of Aberdeen in Scotland for further work in religious studies. She just bought the trailer for her Tiny House, and will be starting her build in the next couple of months.
If I were forced to provide a single,
unqualified answer to the question, “Why are you building a tiny house?” I
would have to say: instantaneous love. I was 8 years old when I first saw the inside
of an RV trailer, while on a road trip with my parents. Afterwards I demanded
of my mother, “Why don’t we live in one of these?” On some level I was wounded.
My parents had always known about these perfect, tiny, ship-like houses on
wheels, and had chosen to abide in our irritatingly stationary home instead.
this instant love of mine was influenced by my fascination with hobos during
the Great Depression. I didn’t understand the economic desperation or the myth
of the West that had created these men. I only saw that they were tough, that
they had what it took to ride the trains. They were free. Somehow the ideas of
homelessness, wheeled vehicles, and the ability to carry your home with you
became crossed in my mind. An RV seemed to embody both that feeling of home and
the ability to leave home to my 8-year-old self.
childhood dream of living in an RV eventually subsided, and I moved on to other
pursuits. Skip forward a decade or so, to the day when I stumbled on the
website for the Tumbleweed Tiny House Company. And it happened again. I was
instantly, irrevocably in love. And this time it was less impractical. In fact,
it seemed that here was the answer to many of my personal dilemmas: how to live
sustainability in a culture of consumerism that was simultaneously facing a
housing crisis, how to travel the road and feel safe, and how to have my own
home while moving across the country for graduate school. I was in love with the
aesthetic of Tumbleweed, and with the lifestyle it seemed to offer.
after I had made the somewhat wild decision to actually build my own house, I
began to connect the project to my academic interests. My fields are religious
studies and anthropology, and I realized that the tiny house could be studied
as material culture, with my own experience as the basis of anthropological
research. So I’ve started to study sacred architecture as well as building
science, and I hope to one day include my tiny house experience as part of a
graduate thesis proposal.
a woman, a Jew, a woodworker, and the anthropologist conducting a mild field
study on myself, several questions have been raised so far. How significant is
it, in this day and age, for a woman to be working in construction, or even to
be building her own house? What does it mean to be an American Jewish
craftsperson, when almost the entirety of my family’s material culture was lost
in the pogroms and the Holocaust? What does it mean to live in a home purposely
built for wandering, when the anti-Semitic legend of “The Wandering Jew” has
been around since the Middle Ages?
I woke up in the middle of the night a few
months ago, jerked awake with the force of one thought: I am building Baba
Yaga’s house. Baba Yaga (roughly translated to “demon grandmother”) is a
Russian fairytale character, a witch who lives in a house on chicken legs. She
is a symbol of Russia. So why am I building her house? As I build, I’m also
attempting to deconstruct the folk tale of Baba Yaga, in order to shed some
light on my own roots, and my own desire to build a little house in the woods.
It is a house that walks, and is full of either danger or help, for those who
know how to ask for it.
hut, little hut, stand with your back to the woods, and your front to me!”
the hut turns around, and the protagonist enters. This is the beginning of my
tiny house journey. Possibly some of my questions with be answered, or there
may be new questions raised. But in the meantime, I’m building, researching,
and documenting my tiny Baba Yaga house.