I left for Brazil just as everything started happening on the lot. I promised I wouldn’t disappear for a month but try and stay engaged in the project while here. Thus, I write this from a hammock in rural Northeast Brazil where we’re staying with an amazing community leader and learning about the Xukuru’s fight to regain their territory here in Brazil. While feeling grateful for the opportunity to be here, I’m also sad that I’m missing out on all the work that is being done on the lot. Fortunately, Tony and Brian have been keeping me updated via photos, email and Skype.
Here’s a recent update I received from Tony about the past week:
What a week! We took delivery of the shipping container on Monday, we’ve set most of the fence posts and Brian and Jay picked up their trailers on Friday. We should have the fencing up by the end of next week and, hopefully, we’ll have your house on the lot in about a week. You’re not gonna recognize the place when you get back!
It took some doing to get the trailers on the lot, but everything went well and we learned a lot about the logistics of moving and siting them. Once they are built up, it’s going to be even trickier to move them around. There’s not enough room in the alley to back them all the way into place with a truck. We ended up situating them by hand. We’re going to look into getting some type of hand dolly for future use. And I wouldn’t be surprised if we end up renting a small tractor to move them on and off the lot. One nice thing about the lot is that the yard slopes down perfectly to meet the back of the trailer. You’ll probably be able to step out of your back door directly onto the grass without stairs.
Brian and I have spoken to a lot of people passing through the alley and the feedback we’re getting is very positive. People are excited about the garden beds and curious about tiny houses. I know you feel like you’re missing out, but a lot of what we’ve been doing is dirty, sweaty grunt work. The good news is that we should be ready for the fun part of designing and building out the interior of yours when you get back.
Check out the photos below – they’ve really made progress, and I’m excited to get back and start working on this project again!
One of the most common questions we are asked is how did we set up the electricity in our tiny house. I’ll be the first to admit that I am not that familiar with all the technical aspects of our system so here is what we said about it on our blog:
“We designed the solar for our cabin by first minimizing our needs - energy hogs like electric stoves, fridges, washer / dryer, air conditioning, water heaters, microwaves and such were ruled out. Our system provides lights, small fans, and plugs for small appliances. When we need to run construction tools or other items with large power needs, we use a portable generator. The generator can also recharge the batteries if we need it to.”
We both work from our tiny house. I use a laptop computer which probably draws the most power. Matt is able to do most of his work from a tablet which uses a lot less energy to run.
We don’t have a traditional refrigeration system. We did find a great invention called the Coleman Stirling Engine Cooler that was used by long haul truckers and boaters. Coleman doesn’t make them any more. Even at its coldest setting it draws very little power. We don’t use it as our primary cooling source, however. We set it on freeze and put ice packs inside which we then transfer to a regular cooler. We also changed the way we buy and eat food. We bought into a CSA and we make frequent trips to the farmer’s market to get fresher ingredients that we use faster.
We also didn’t install the recommended propane fueled boat heater in our tiny house. We live in the southern Appalachian Mountains and during the summer it will never get cold enough to need it. For now, we don’t plan to live in our tiny house over the winter months because we’ll take that time to travel and see family in other parts of the country.
Next time, I’ll share our water systems and how we have a pressurized shower without any indoor plumbing.
Login into Pinterest and start a board with the name of one of these houses in the title. Please include at least one image of the house in your board. Extra love if you link it to the page on our site.
FIll the board with your imagination and dreams of tiny house living.
Send me an email with a link to your board at firstname.lastname@example.org
That's it! If you need an invitation to Pinterest, email me at email@example.com and I will send one your way. We will accept submission from June 4 - June 8, 2012. Starting on Monday, June 18th, we will post our top 10 favorite boards and our crazy-loyal fans will pick their favorite board. We will announce the winner on Friday, June 22, 2012. One more thing…
The iconic image of the Tumbleweed Tiny House is a little home on a trailer. While most people go this route to build their tiny house, it is precisely the opposite of what we did. Our tiny house is built in a little clearing about 200 vertical feet up a mountain with no road access. You heard that right – no road access. We had two main motivations for this process. The first was, of course, to have a tiny mountain home nestled in the woods off the beaten path. The second was to prove to ourselves that we could build this thing without instant access to power or water. We are not professional builders in any way so we had to learn how to do everything before we set out to build. The house is done now and we live there completely off the grid.
We started the project about three years ago. Because we lived in Atlanta and were building in North Carolina we could only work on weekends. We drove up to our land about two weekends a month during those years. Some friends occasionally came to help us and it was a lot of fun and a lot of exceptionally difficult and occasionally dirty work.
We primarily used rechargeable battery powered tools that we would then take back to Atlanta with us to charge up before the next trip. We also have a very small and efficient generator we use for larger power tools like the table saw. There is also a semi-reliable ATV that we could occasionally load up with supplies and building materials. When the ATV failed, we carried things up to the build site by hand.
The single most difficult part of this process was pouring the concrete foundation. Because we were building the house into a mountain we decided to go with post and pier but that meant we had to dig holes, pour concrete and set the hardware. We had to transport a small cement mixer, 30 gallons of water, and 2400 pounds of unmixed concrete up to the site. The ATV struggled and could only haul three bags at a time. And without any access to electric power, we mixed and poured concrete until the sun went down. It was the most difficult thing I have ever done, but I figure if I can do that there really isn’t much else I can’t do.
As I mentioned, we live in the tiny house now and everything is off the grid. I hope to share more about how we live this way in the weeks to come.
Laura LaVoie and her husband live full-time in their Tumbleweed and blog about their experience at Life in 120 Square Feet. Get your own copy of a tiny house plan here.
The lineup at the Portland Tumbleweed Workshop June 14-15 is going to be amazing! Portland is big on community spirit and we will bring it to this workshop with a panel of guest speakers, a tiny house tour and an after-hours round-table discussion of tiny house life. Dee Williams, our first Tumbleweed client and workshop host extraordinaire will lead the workshop. Check out her TEDx talk about her life in a tiny house then read on to learn more about our speakers:
Joan Grimm has designed and delivered local and international environmental education and sustainability programs for both public and private entities including Oregon Departmental of Environmental Quality, OMSI, and Association of Oregon Recyclers. Over the past 25 years she has educated thousands of people about simple and smart ways to lighten their impact on the planet. She is the founding board chair of SCRAP (the School and Community Reuse Action Project) and the Oregon Green Schools Association. She and her partner have a little house in their backyard.
Brittany Yunker: Brittany works for the WA State Legislature as a staff to the Senate committees. Brittany built a Fencl in 2009 with the help of a few friends (including Dee!). She taught herself carpentry from library books, YouTube videos and chatting with Dee and another friend with building experience. She lived in her tiny house for 2 years before meeting her current partner and deciding to up-size slightly to a small, 2 bedroom bungalow. Brittany is currently in the process of obtaining a business license to open her house up for daily rental to people interested in seeing if a tiny house could work for them.
Lina Menard: Graduate Student in Urban Planning, Little House
Enthusiast, New Carpenter, and recently helped her friend build a new
tiny house and has plans to build her own tiny house. She's
written a blog about her project at This Is The Little Life.
Michelle Jones: Professor at Concordia University, Portland; teaching
organizational management, ethical leadership, and other courses. For
the last two years, she's worked with students and the community to
host a TEDx event in Portland. She's lived in her tiny house with cat, dog
and boyfriend for about year and a half.
Tammy and Logan: Tammy blogs at RowdyKittens.com as a simple living
advocate. Her story has been chronicled in the New York Times, USA
Today (as part of a cover story), Yahoo, MSN News, United Daily News
(one of the top three newspapers in Taiwan), and The China Times, as
well as a few Hong Kong newspapers. She and her husband have also
appeared on The Today Show, MSNBC, CNN, and dozens of local television
programs and NPR affiliates. Tammy is currently launching a book, “You
Can Buy Happiness (And its Cheap)”.
The Portland workshop takes place June 14-15 and we expect this one to sell out. If you haven't purchased your tickets yet, you can still enjoy the 40% early bird discount until May 31st. Click here.