The Baba Yaga House

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.

Perhaps 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.

My 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.

Isabel

Shortly 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.

As 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.

“Little hut, little hut, stand with your back to the woods, and your front to me!”

And 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.


Written by Guest Blogger — January 03, 2013

Filed under: Build it yourself   builders   new builders   stories   student builds   young builder  

Ryan Mitchell from The Tiny Life Talks With Tumbleweed!

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. 

Ryan with ChickenReady 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 something similar!

trailer 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. 

Written by Nara Williams — December 20, 2012

Filed under: build   Build it yourself   builders   friends   tiny life  

Meet Our New Builders in Colorado

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 Steve Weissmann. 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. 

Written by Nara Williams — December 12, 2012

Filed under: builders   colorado   events   fencl   new   open house  
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