Writer, Builder, Preteen: Sicily and her "Petite Maison"

Sicily Kolbeck is 12 years old. She builds houses and plays travel softball south of the Mason-Dixon line. She is currently documenting her tiny house project, the Petite Maison. She hopes to live in her tiny house full-time when it is completed, and maybe even take it to college in Washington State (go, Huskies!). 

Why do people live tiny? Is it to simplify, or is it an economic decision? Whatever the reason, people have been downsizing their lives for many years. By simplifying their lives they have found inner happiness rather than external happiness in the form of the materialistic ideals. 

My decision to build a tiny house was partly economic, partly the desire to be free. Freedom is one of the main reasons I decided to build my tiny house. Everyone at some point in their life wishes to have freedom; my wish started at an early age, and it began with a simple desire to build a fort.

As long as I can remember I have loved tiny spaces. When I was younger my family and I lived in a house that had the most perfect spot for forts: a built-in seating area that was about 2 ½ feet tall; I would take three of my dad’s longest golf clubs, two chairs, blankets, and pillows and make a fort. I would watch movies in there, play games, and play with (or torture) my cat. It was just the right space for me; I never needed anything more. I loved the coziness of it, the fact that I could see all of my things, and that it was all mine. No one could take it away and no one but me was in charge of it. And it cost nothing!

Cut-out side for Sicily's bird house prototype  

Building forts was just the tip of the iceberg of frugality and simple living. I learned about money and sensibility at a young age. When I was five my mom and dad decided to give me an allowance. Those four quarters were dear to me every time I got them. My family thought I should learn to budget my money (plus they were tired of me asking for everything), and budget I did. If I wanted something I took hours to decide to buy it; many times I would walk away from a purchase because I thought, “Am I really going to use this?” At five! 

I learned to budget my money so well that my parents called me “The Bank of Sicily” because I would loan them money; when I started to joke that I would have to start charging interest, my customer satisfaction rate plummeted. This is just one form of my freedom that I talked about. I am very lucky that my parents trust me enough to give me freedom: financial. Having my own budget raises awareness about what I am buying and bringing into my life.

When I finally got my customers back with the promise of free hugs and kisses with every transaction I decided to tell them my idea for building a tiny house. My parents were accepting and willing to give me the support I needed; after I decided to take on this task, I told everyone. Trust me, when I say, “I told everyone,” I mean everyone. If someone was walking past me in the street I would tap them on the shoulder and say, “I’m building a house!” That was how excited I was. 

However, when I told my softball team I got less-than-enthusiastic replies: “Why?” “Oh, cool,” and my personal favorite, “Why don’t you just buy one from Home Depot?” I want to build one that can move and one that is my own. I was first introduced to tiny houses by Deek Diedricksen; his videos showed me that I could build a house with next to no money and still have it be comfortable and inviting and my own.

My biggest supporters have been my mom and dad. My mom is the teacher/principal/founder of HoneyFern.  She is the one that has encouraged me to do this as a school project; she has been my impromptu publicist; she has supported me on Facebook, Twitter, and any other social media site that she can think of.  

My dad has taught me how to use the tools - such as a jigsaw, a table saw, nail gun, and belt sander - that I will need to build my house. To learn how to use the tools, I have already built a vegetable oil heater and a tiny teardrop trailer birdhouse, and now I am working on a composting toilet. I am so grateful for all of my supporters on and offline.

(For more information on supporting Sicily, please visit her website.)

Freedom to me means I can support myself in a sustainable way. Building a tiny house can give me stability, possibly for the rest of my life if I build the house well. Building a house would give me the life skills that really matter, such as using tools for construction. Building the house I can know what labors go into a home and truly appreciate what I am living in. 

Written by Guest Blogger — December 13, 2012

Filed under: Build it yourself   education   guest blogger   student builds   young builder  

Tiny Home Schooler: Emma's Fencl

Watch out world, we've got another young builder! 14 year old Emma Keely is getting ready to work on a Fencl of her very own. And unlike other high school students, she'll be getting a little more than extra credit for her project- Emma is home schooled. As a major part of her curriculum over the next year, she'll be researching, writing, and asking plenty of questions about all aspects of tiny house building.

emma and brotherEmma and brother, Gavin 

The Keely family just bought their 20 acre farm this past summer so they could grow their own food and eventually have a CSA. They're working on a permaculture garden and food forest, and hope that Emma's tiny house will fit in with the sustainable lifestyle the family is quickly moving towards. They're even aiming for zero waste for next year! 

Some added incentive to get building: as Emma gets older, she can simply move her Fencl further and further from her parents' house! It's every teen's dream. 

For Christmas, she'll be recieving a tool kit. As far as other materials, the Keelys have a family friend with a sturdy old barn that will soon be disassembled. Emma hopes to use some of the wood and metal roofing for her Fencl. She'll also get a job and save money for supplies. Her Tumbleweed will be off grid with an incinerating toilet, a solar panel- she wants to build one herself- and a cistern for water. For homework, she has the task of learning what products are available for her tiny house and how they are made

Before Emma gets to start working on her house, however, she's got to earn her stripes: she'll be building a tree house in her yard as a favor to her 10 year old brother, Gavin. By building a simpler "house" first, she'll pick up some important construction skills and with any luck, gain a helpful future assistant! 

We look forward to seeing Emma's progress over the next year, and encourage more teens to check out Tumbleweed possibilities of their own. 

Written by Nara Williams — December 09, 2012

Filed under: Build it yourself   education   fencl   young builder  
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