Yesterday's open house was a whirlwind. I'll admit that I spent the morning fairly certain that no one would come- the weather was weird, Sundays are lazy, and I sometimes lack social confidence.
But you, tiny house people, did not let me down. At exactly 12:58, a throng of people appeared, trudging through the mud. Children, farmers, urbanites, college officials- an incredibly kind and interesting crowd filled the house from start to finish. There was even a line outside!
One lovely lady brought me daffodils; another family brought me a cake from a favorite bakery. Everyone brought questions, cameras, and positive reinforcement. I wish I'd taken more pictures, but I was so busy answering questions that I didn't get a chance! Here's a few photos I snapped:
Some of the first attendees- laughs all around
Remember Molly and Zack's ski lodge on wheels? They're still going strong, winter weather and all: no storm will stop these snow-lovers. Bundle up before you read this inspiring story Molly sent us...brrr!
It was December 21, 2012. The world (or just the calendar)
was supposed to end. Ironically as skiers, our world was about to start. It was early winter and there was 10 feet of
snow on the way. But it wasn’t just that winter had arrived. The elevation of
our experience was reaching Everest proportions because of a little winter
cabin on wheels. A mere 112-square feet was going to have grand implications.
Our tiny house was going to get us stranded in the storm, with no other skiers
allowed into our powder land.
Stranded. The word beckons thoughts of despair, desperation,
and misery. It’s not something you want to be, see, or deal with. Until the
world is about to end, 10 feet of snow is predicted to fall at Mt. Baker, and
you’ve got your tiny house parked at the ski area with food and wood stocked
and the fire stoked. It is only then that “stranded” starts to sing vibrant,
melodious notes of luck, opportunity, and blessing. Then being stranded turns into
some sort of victory.
On the day the world was supposed to end, we started out by
digging a walking path from the front door of the tiny house through the four
feet of snow that had fallen overnight. It was not a tiny task, but one isn’t
given an option, when the front door is blocked by a snow bank. We shoveled and
heaved, moving mounds of the fresh snow that we would soon be skiing. The ski
area parking lot was empty, other than the plow, disappearing behind waves of
When we moved into our tiny house last year, there was the
promise of downsizing our possessions and up-scaling our experiences. We wanted
to be mobile, with the ability to sleep in ski area parking lots and find all
the deepest storms. In terms of richness, our wealth came from a bank of powder
turns, not dollar bills. As skiers, being stranded at Mt. Baker was the best we
could do in the realm of experience. It was our pot of gold. In fact, we were
living out many other skier and snowboarder’s dreams. Without our little
portable home, we would’ve never been in that spot at that time. The tiny house
had put us into position to get stranded. I guess what you’re seeking is also
In the end, we had three private days of skiing in the
forest near the Mt. Baker ski area. The Department of Transportation eventually
removed all of the one hundred plus trees that had fallen over the highway
during the apocalyptic storm. Floods of skiers came to the ski area to discover
just exactly what they had missed. We knew what they had missed. And we
reminisced as we planned to excavate the tiny house from what had become a tiny
mountain of snow in the parking lot.
Heading to warmer land
We got by with a little help from our friends. A satiating
six-pack of beer for a hard-working plow driver helped us remove some of the
snow that had piled up outside the house. By the time most skiers arrived, we’d
removed the tiny house from its’ tiny, temporary homestead and had headed to
drier, warmer elevations to celebrate the holiday with family. And to find out
that the world had not ended after all.
Here’s to another year of big experiences in our tiny
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.”
From “Wax”, by Therese
Hi! I'm Nara,
Tumbleweed's staff writer.
You might have seen my name on the bottom of recent blog posts, or perhaps you noticed my face looming over a questionable gingerbread house. Now it's time for a formal introduction!
In addition to managing the blog and talking with you lovely people about your tiny house dreams, I'm in the process of finishing college in the glorious liberal woods of Western Massachusetts. For my what you might call my senior project, I have been attempting to dissect a small but crucial slice of the
American Dream: The American House.
Playing tiny- I had to fend off some small children for this shot
Beginning later this month, I'll
be living in a Fencl on my campus for 120 days. I want to share the benefits
and realities of living small, so I'll be writing about my "Tiny
Semester" on this blog. I'll also be holding several open houses and
informal workshops in the Western Massachusetts area- contact me if you're interested!
I'm so excited to be a part of Tumbleweed, and to pursue these tiny dreams of my own. One of the things that drew me to Tumbleweed was flexibility. Instead of
prescribing one set way to create a structure, Tumbleweed allows for houses and
builders of all shapes, colors and sizes. Everyone is encouraged to create
their own unique take on a tiny house.
To me, creating my own tiny house set-up is the ideal way to wrap up my year of studies. I want to create an interactive, influential space on my campus that represents alternative possibilities for housing. This also presents the opportunity to live off-grid, which is an important step for me. With help from my college and fellow students, I've been
working hard to develop sustainable, low-impact ways of residing in my tiny
house. Hello composting toilet, goodbye refrigerator!
And as I near my final semester of school, I want to try something different: I want to really, truly have to live with myself. To forgo plastic
bins and cardboard boxes of hidden pasts, to be conscious of the line between
useful and excessive. I want to address myself piece by piece, taking it apart,
discarding the excess, and reassembling in an appropriate, Tumbleweed-sized
I will graduate college all too soon, and I don't want to
walk straight into a mortgage. I don't want to be told to buy a house on
unrealistic credit and that it's my fault if I can't pay it. I want to joining
hands with the young people all over the world that are saying "NO!"
to an outdated American dream.
Watch out for upcoming blog posts. Heads up: I'm packing up my life this week, so it's about to get interesting!
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.