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  

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  

J.T. Answers Your Questions!

Recently, we posted an article about J.T.'s modified Walden. It started a great conversation- blog readers responded with over 160 comments! J.T. has done his best to answer some of the questions you asked. 

J.T. in Chair


Waste water:

Alexis asked: When the septic tank gets full, is there somewhere to empty it or does it go to one of those sewage processing plants?

J.T. says: Black water is collected in an 18 gallon waste water tank by Thetford. They make a lot of RV supplies. The tank is on wheels and sits directly below the toilet under the trailer. This can be dumped at any RV park that offers a sewer dump station. For the grey water  I use a separate waste-line which collects and drains daily onto topsoil/mulch pit and vegetation.

Rain Water:

Peatstack asked: Can the house harvest rainwater, does it have a tank/filter, does it generate electricity or use a battery system with solar/ propane generator? Can it accomodate a composting toilet that the house needs no septic system? I would like a house that can sit on open agricultural land without any systems connections, the occasional propane tank and grey water drain accepted.

J.T. says: The roof's surface area is quite small, but you could divert rainwater into a collection tank for irrigation: a standard rain barrel would be overkill, but a 10 gallon tank would work. I have a 25 gallon drinking water tank onboard with a water pump. I can also hook up to a 3/4 inch garden hose. Make sure you put an RV/Marine drinking water hose or your water supply will have an off plastic odor. Water heater and pump are powered by 12v batter. 120v comes from a 20 amp extension cord into a 30 amp circuit breaker box using around .5 to 1kw per day.

Solar Power:

Annette asked: This looks like it would be the PERFECT portable office for our mounted drill team. I do have a question regarding using solar power as an energy source. Has anyone installed a solar set up and if so, what did they use and how is it working to help out with their energy usage? 

J.T. says: A Solman Action Packer System could run this house easily. A plug and play system is the solution for a tiny house- something for sure in the near future. I am considering A. 2 fixed panels on the roof of the tiny house. Orientation to the sun could be limited when a new location is found. The Solman Action Packer could easily fit in the loft area above the front door or B. 2 fixed panels on the top of my truck with the Solman system in the back of my truck. It could be parked daily in different spots to optimize sunlight, then plugged into my house daily to charge on board batteries. 

Stove and Oven:

Erica Gott asked: In mine, I want a full stove, with range AND oven, even if it's small. I love cooking and need one. I can't wait to have my own tiny home.

J.T. says: I have a 2 burner propane stove by Suburban. No oven, though a typical RV oven would fit in nicely. I use a 20 gallon propane tank under the trailer, which runs about $6 a month.

Refrigerator:

Libertymen asked: Is the refrigerator too small? 

J.T. says: I have a 3.1 cubic foot fridge under standard counter height. A 9.9 cubic foot fridge takes up the same foot print and stands around 50 inches high. You would lose useable counter space, but gain storage space

Packing Up:

Bethany asked: How does he keep things from falling off the shelves when he is moving? As well as the furniture sliding around? 

J.T. says: It takes about 10 minutes to pack everything up, and it all goes in a box! 

Front Addition: 

Jan Dregalla asked: Love the customization, especially the up-lighting  towel window shades, kitchen shelving and Ikea shelving. I'm curious, does the 2' addition on the front affect towing?

J.T. says: The extra 2 ft and added weight is on the rear, actually distributing the weight more evenly. The standard design has a lot of the weight on the towing hitch


Thanks for your great questions! 

Written by Nara Williams — December 11, 2012

Filed under: appliances   floor plans   home design   plans   small house   structure   Tumbleweed   walden  

Tumbleweed's Tiny Gingerbread House Contest!

Hey Tumbleweed Lovers!

Our Facebook friend Christina Rodriguez had a fantastic idea for this holiday season: making a Tumbleweed gingerbread dream house. We liked it so much we're raising the stakes. 

Are you ready to get your holiday tiny house cheer on?

Grab your kids! Grab your grandparents! Grab some tubes of frosting! 

It's our first annual Tumbleweed Tiny Gingerbread House Contest!     


Wendy GingerbreadTumbleweed's own Wendy working on her gingerbread masterpiece 

First place winner will get a copy of both the Small House book AND the DIY Book of Backyard Sheds and Tiny Houses. One runner-up will win a copy of either book, their choice. Both winners will have their gingerbread house photo featured on the website and our Facebook page.

Anything goes: creativity is key! 

Contest Rules:

Please submit a high-resolution photo via the Contact page on our website with a short description. Make the subject line "Tumbleweed Gingerbread House Contest."  We'll accept entries up until December 22 and make our decision by December 23- just in time for the holidays! 

We decided that we are going to let you, the fans pick the winners for this contest. We will post the top 3 Tiny Gingerbread Houses this Saturday, December 22nd on Facebook.  You will have until 2 pm PST on Monday, December 24th to vote. The picture with the most "likes" will win.

Extra points if you draw up plans for your gingerbread tiny house. Extra extra points if you attach it to a tiny trailer.

Enjoy, and good luck! 

---

UPDATE: 

I got so excited about this contest I built my own tiny gingerbread house this weekend. 

Can you top this beauty? 


UPDATE: 

Thank you to all those of who have submitted their Tiny Gingerrbread Houses so far! We have seen some amazing houses.  We decided that we're going to let you, the fans pick the winner for this contest. We will post the top 3 Tiny Gingerbread Houses this Saturday, December 22nd on Facebook.  You will have until 2 pm PST on Monday, December 24th to vote. The picture with the most "likes" will win.  Good luck!!!

Written by Nara Williams — December 10, 2012

Filed under: build it yourself   contest   crafts   facebook   gingerbread   holidays   Small House Book  

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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