From Tree to Tumbleweed

A Unique Approach to Keeping Building Costs Low

William Lampley is proof that a trip to your local hardware store is not the only path to owning a Tumbleweed of your own! A 100 year-old blighted Hemlock on his family’s property in the mountains of North Carolina will be getting a second life as a Tumbleweed Vardo. Getting this four-foot diameter beauty from a remote mountain access road to kiln dried construction ready material turns out to be an adventure in itself.

Retired early from the entertainment industry and debt free, William’s goal is to spend “as much as a month at a time in each of the as many Great National Parks as I can get to.” With a lifetime National Parks Pass in his hand William was looking for a comfortable mode of travel that would not put him in debt. The Tumbleweed Vardo was the solution. When asked about his choice in Tumbleweeds he said “ I just grew impatient recently and Vardo appears to be the quickest, most economical way to get me on the road.” Tumbleweed's Vardo is unique among their designs in that it is a small space mounted on a truck bed - not a trailer

Hemlock as a building material is quite popular with many in the construction industry and is stronger than pine, spruce or fir. The key in using hemlock, as with so many materials on the market, is finding wood free from knots and other imperfections.

William’s unique approach to acquiring one of the single most expensive components in building his new home on wheels required more than your normal list of tools. Included in William’s list were his two buddies, Skip and Duke, a 2wd truck, a 4wd truck with a winch, a 16 foot 12,000 lb trailer, three chainsaws and a small Ford tractor with a bucket on one end and a fork lift on the other. 

William shared with us some of his adventures in his first attempt at harvesting the Hemlock:

 “Getting to the tree was problematic today. The ground was wet, so my 2-wheel drive white Ford truck with the trailer could not pull up the soggy access road and bogged down too far up the road to back the trailer down again. We agreed to put Duke in the driver’s seat of the white truck and I got on the tractor and pushed on the back end of the trailer with the front bucket and assisted the truck and trailer up the hill. Also, once Skip got the red Dodge up the hill, he turned around and parked facing downhill, whereupon the Dodge stopped running. Apparently when level or facing uphill the carburetor is fine, but when facing downhill it stalls out… go figure!” 

After much head scratching and tree measuring the decision was made that they could not safely drop it. A professional needed to be called in. This will be an unexpected expense but, once the wood is on the ground, the three men plan on sectioning it, getting it to the sawmill themselves and ending up with lumber worth a lot more than what it will cost to cut down and process. 

Check back for more on William’s Vardo adventure!



Written by Bernadette Weissmann — October 09, 2012

Filed under: Build it yourself   vardo  

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Written by Steve Weissmann — October 01, 2012

Austin's Open House: October 2012

He was only 15 when he decided to start building his Tumbleweed Fencl. I remember the day I met the bright eyed high school sophomore at a Tumbleweed event. He came right up to me and said that we were going to help him build a Tumbleweed and that he would blog about the process.

Austin has generously donated his time to come to our workshops and share his story. He reminds people that if a kid can do it, so can anyone else. Now 17 years old, he has just completed his Tumbleweed and is revealing it Saturday October 6th, from 2:00 pm - 5:00 pm in Santa Rosa, CA. The event is open to the public.


See a clip of Austin on "Extreme RV"

Written by Steve Weissmann — September 28, 2012

Filed under: Austin Hay   open house  

San Francisco Considers Smaller Homes

New York, Boston and now San Francisco.

These cities are looking at their minimum size requirements and going smaller. So what does this even mean? Building code requires that houses and apartments meet certain minimum sizes for safety. That code is then adopted and added to at the local level. Most cities will place a minimum size on the "entire" unit or building that is higher than the original code requires. After decades of increasing home sizes, these 3 cities are looking to change their codes and reduce their minimum size.

San Francisco currently has a minimum size of 290 square feet. If the proposal is approved, that number will drop to 220. We're excited to see a move in this direction!

The Los Angeles Time has a nice article about it here.

Below is a clip from NBC with Brian Williams on the topic.

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Written by Steve Weissmann — September 26, 2012

Filed under: building codes   video  

Could You Live in a 120-Square-Foot House?

Susan Johnston of U.S. News recently wrote an article about a tiny home that landed on the front page of yahoo. It was fun to see our good friend and associate Derek "Deek" Diedricksen featured. I followed up a little on the news and found Sage Radachowsky's website What are your thoughts on a gypsy wagon? Could you live in one?

Here is the article:

By Susan Johnston | U.S.News & World Report LP – Sun, Sep 23, 2012 9:54 AM EDT
When Kerri Fivecoat-Campbell and her husband moved from Kansas City to a 480-square-foot lake house in Northwest, Ark., they'd planned to build a larger house on the same property and use the existing house as an office and guesthouse.
Yet the recession convinced the couple to stick with the house they had and build another small space as an office and guesthouse. Fivecoat-Campbell says they're happy with a smaller footprint. "We live in an area where recreation is a big thing," she adds. "We like to be outdoors and spend time with the dogs and not have to maintain a big house. It's easier to take care of."
[See 10 Signs American Families Are Falling Behind.]
The constant upkeep and high expense of McMansions have made smaller homes appealing to many Americans. "People realize now if they live in a tiny house, they have more money left over to pay for other things," says Derek Diedricksen, a maker of small houses in Stoughton, Mass., and author of Humble Homes, Simple Shacks, Cozy Cottages, Ramshackle Retreats, Funky Forts: And Whatever the Heck Else We Could Squeeze in Here.
Costs for tiny homes can vary depending on factors like the materials and complexity of the design. "There are people who've gone out and built a modest house for $5,000 to $10,000 using Craigslist or free materials, but there are some that are more high-end, like rustic cabins," says Diedricksen.
Margaret Webster, who moved into a 12 x 16 foot house on Echo Valley Farm outside Ontario, Wisc., a few years ago, says she paid close to $40,000 for the house, which includes solar panels, a wood stove, a wind turbine, and a water tank. "It costs more now," adds the retiree.
Some tiny house-dwellers who DIY their homes wind up paying much less. Sage Radachowsky, who lives in Boston in a 120-square foot house he built atop a car trailer, says the materials for his house cost around $3,000. (He rents a driveway to park it, but says the driveway costs less than a typical small room in Boston.)
... Read the Entire Article Here ...

What are your thoughts on a gypsy wagon?

Written by Steve Weissmann — September 25, 2012

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