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.
Recently, I got the chance to talk with Ryan Mitchell of The Tiny Life
website about his exciting plans for a modified Fencl. Ryan has been blogging
about sustainability for a long time, sharing
information on simple living, tiny houses, and environmentally responsible
lifestyles. And we think he's awesome.
Ready for some holiday building
Now, he's working on a tiny house of his own in Charlotte, North Carolina. He's starting to get well into the
building process, and has been begun blogging about his experiences.
He admits that finding
time is no easy task- in addition to working on his house managing the very informative blog, Ryan
works two other day jobs! He sets a pretty good example for all those professionals that
fear they'd never have the time to build a house, huh?
Ryan has worked out an ideal situation for himself through yet another job
of sorts- he house sits for friends, and they're letting him build the house on
their property- as long as he looks after the land and mows the lawn every so often, he can be there
for free. This is a great arrangement- if you have anyone in your life with a
large piece of property that likes to travel, I'd highly recommend working out
A solid start
Ryan will be checking in with us throughout the process, and will share informative photos and videos of his build on our blog. He's excited to have a winter break from his
day jobs coming up soon for a solid couple weeks of building!
In the meantime, check out Ryan's Tiny House Checklist for a great
introduction to everything that goes into tiny house building.
When Dave Fisher says he has a family business, he means it.
The Fishers grew up Amish in Pennsylvania,
and true to their roots, are very talented when it comes to carpentry: they
just finished building their first Tumbleweed Fencl in about two weeks.
Dave and his
brothers have been in the construction industry since 1993. Believe it
or not, his favorite project from the Montana
days was a subdivision. They got to build all of the houses in the
development, ranging from about 1,500 to 3,000 square feet in size. Now the brothers
have scaled down significantly. Their company, The Shed Yard, specializes in high quality storage sheds, garages, gazebos, and
other outdoor buildings and accessories.
Outside the Fencl in snowy Colorado
Only recently, however, did it occur to the brothers to try their hand at a tiny house. "Someone approached me
at a home show in Denver
and told me to look up Tumbleweed. I went to the website, and thought, I'd love to build one of these."
After attending the Santa
Rosa workshop in October, the brothers met up with
Tumbleweed's Paul Farr. They talked for hours, and made a decision: the
brothers would build a Fencl, and thus be added to the growing network of
Tumbleweed builders- great news for Colorado! Given the company's experience with building small
structures, tiny houses made a lot of sense. "The
great part about building the tiny house was that we could do it inside the
warehouse. We could stay warm in the Colorado
winter, and didn't have to have any building permits- we'd never experienced
that with other kinds of house building."
This is the first time they have built anything on a trailer, but it
didn't prove too much of a challenge for the intrepid brothers. They've got team work down to a science: Dave's brother Ben handled most of
the wood cutting, while Dave preferred the assembly portion. Ben also handled
the wiring, having experience wiring large houses. Alan, Dave and Ben's
brother-in-law, managed the interior and put some of the finishing touches on. Dave's
sister and his wife helped also a great deal, running errands and handling
other business. The only person to work on the house who wasn't related to the
Fishers was the plumber!
Keeping warm inside- look at that beautiful wood!
While the house is nearly identical to the Fencl plans, they
did make a few modifications. The house is wired to easily accommodate solar
panels, and the low-flush toilet can be replaced with a composting toilet. Dave
wants customers to be able to customize the house with ease, and to encourage
off-the-grid living. If he can convince his wife, he might even build a self-contained
Fencl of his own.
To see more images of their Fencl, Click Here
You can check out their beautiful Fencl this coming Saturday, December 15 2012 from 1 to 4 at the Shed Yard in Colorado Springs. It's for sale, and it won't last long.