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I feel like I can see and feel the end in site. As I have been talking with my old cabinet teacher from Heartwood about going and using his shop to make my cabinets I have been chipping away at insulation and interior siding. And little by little it is starting to feel like an almost finished house inside!

The insulation I chose to use is mineral wool sold under the brand name of Roxul. I’ve been excited about this stuff for a while now as I noticed a few green builders using it in Vermont back in 2013. What are the advantages of it? It comes in board and batt form so can be used in any application that fiberglass batts would be used and in most applications where rigid foam board insulation would be used. But unlike fiberglass it is not a known carcinogen and it performs way better; The batts are much more rigid, friction fitting into cavities and not settled over time. They also do not loose their insulative value if they get wet and keep their shape and form as well, even when dunked in a bucket of water. Mice do not seem to like it much, and it is practically fire proof. It also is comparable price wise to fiber glass insulation, which is generally the cheapest insulation on the market. Compared to foam, it is a natural and inert material, not made from petroleum and with no off gassing potential. It does have a slightly lower r value than foam, which can have as high as R-7 per an inch, while roxul is about R-4.3 per an inch, but after finding out that spray foam is a fire accelerant and extremely toxic when it burns I decided I did not want that in my house.

And so I went with roxul. Insulation is a job that very few people enjoy doing; it is itchy, dusty, and messy. Yes, despite all of roxul’s “green” attributes it does still create an itchy dust that I did find irritating to my lungs if I did not wear a dust mask. But I was comforted by the roxul website and other sites that say that the roxul dust particles, although still uncomfortable, are much larger in size and so a dust mask does seem to effectively sblock them, and they are not a known carcinogen the way that fiberglass is.

I am really grateful that two of my friends came out for a day and the three of us busted out the insulation for my whole house in a single day! Take a look:

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Woohooo!

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Thank you so much Prema and Jeremiah for your help!

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And after a thorough sweeping and cleaning…

Oh, and did I mention that on the same day that we put in my insulation Rebecca Carpentar also came and made my electricity live?! So now I can plug in my little space heater inside my insulated house, and guess what? It warms up! And stays warm!

With insulation done I was ready to begin putting ip my interior siding! This feels like a huge step. And it felt so good to be back to working with wood after doing electrical and figuring out plumbing decisions and getting at itchy and dusty with Roxul.

Here are some pictures of the interior siding going up, which is 1×8″ pine tongue and groove. Isn’t it pretty?

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Thank Adam, another friend, for coming out and helping!

Each of these boards I hand sanded with a random 5″ orbital sander with 100 grit paper and then 150 grit paper. This was a decision I went back and forth about as these boards came from the mill already planed and quite beautiful and smooth to the touch. But after talking to a few people with more experience then me I was convinced that sanding would be worth it as they all said any finish I put on the wood will look better if I have sanded them. And if I don’t sand them that a finish will likely amplify any nicks or imperfections in the planing job.

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note the loft ceiling!! Boy did it feel good to get that covered up! I can almost sleep up there now:)

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Me putting a board in place.

The above picture is one that Jim Bosojolie took on the day that channel 9 news from syracuse came out to take some shots and interview me! Yup, that is right. They called Maria from Hammerstone school asking if she knew of any tiny house people and she referred them to me. I was told it should be about a minute and 30 second clip that should air on February 28th. When I get the link to the clip I will make sure to post it here!

I am not done yet with the interior siding but feel like with another solid week I should be very close to or totally done. I leave for Mexico tomorrow though for 10 days of playing in the sun and waves, so that week of work will be the first full week of March! Then it will be time for the building of my stairs, my hearth, and cabinets and trim! Woohooo!! Lately I have been saying my goal is to have the house ready to start moving in on May 1st. I think I can do it. And I am determined that the house sitting gig I am in now, which will end sometime mid may, will be my last one before I move into my tiny house. Which, by the way, I have decided can no longer be just “Tiny” but needs a new name. Tiny worked for construction but feels too generic. And so I have been on a quest for a name. For a while I was leaning towards Subako, which means nest box and bee hive in Japanese, but 3 syllables felt just a little too long. Then the other day the word Cocoon came to me, which is Ma-yu in Japanese. So far people seem to like that name when I tell them it and it feels good to me. More feminine than Subako, and easier to say. I am still sitting with it for a while but I think that is going to be Tiny’s new name!

And so here is one last picture of Ma-yu glowing in the evening light on a beautiful winter snowy day.

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More on Electrical and plumbing

Guess what? I am just about done doing the rough in of electrical! Which means I am almost ready to start insulating and closing in my walls. It turns out running wire is not too difficult, just time consuming and a little tedious. And who would have thought how much wire you can go through, even for a tiny house. It is possible I went a little overboard with outlets, but every tiny house blog I have read says put more outlets then you think you will need. And I have to say, I don’t like the idea of ever having to run an extension chord in my tiny house! So there are a lot of outlets. And given that going back and running more wire later would be pretty difficult I tried to cover everything; I have three standard 15 amp circuits (one for each side of my house and one for the bathroom), one 20 amp circuit for my conduction stove top and Breville toaster oven, and one 30 amp circuit in case I ever want to install a full sized electric stove. Yup, that is 5 circuits total in my tiny house. All of which will be hooked up to my off grid solar system, which thankfully, Rebecca is very familiar with because she installed it in its original home at ecovillage.

I also ran speaker wire so if I ever want I can basically have surround sound coming from 4 hard wired speakers. Probably never would have thought to do this except that Parker, the guy I am seeing right now suggested it and I though why not? And I also ran an internet wire so I can have an ethernet/phone jack depending on what my internet situation ends up being.

Here are a few pictures of the wires being run:

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Some of my electrical tools…

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A view showing some of the wires run (white = 15 amp circuits, yellow = 20amp, orange = 30 amp). And oh, yeah, my loft floor is done now too!!

Now that all the wires are run (finally) Rebecca will be coming back this Tuesday and hopefully with both of us working on it we can have everything live and hot by the end of the day so we can test it all!

With my plumbing I went back and forth for a while, initially wanting to figure out a way to have off grid hot water using just my wood stove and the sun to heat it all. Although I still love this idea and may down the line build an outdoor solar shower for summer to move in this direction, I decided to go with an ecotemp propane on demand hot water heater. Why, you may ask did I end up going with this? It is a good question. First of all, the system I began to design to heat my water with the wood stove in the winter and the sun in the summer felt like it would require a very involved and knowledgeable occupant to be able to operate safely. Now, I may have qualified as such an occupant, given that I would have basically designed it, with help, but my fear was that what if I ever wanted to air bnb my house or have a friend house sit, or even just have guests, that the system would just not be user friendly enough. So, when it came down to it it was user friendliness that made me decide to go with an on demand hot water heater.

Now, when you are looking at on demand and there is propane and electric. Initially I didn’t want any propane in my house. It is a fossil fuel and means another system to basically plumb for, and is potentially a hazard, especially when I am also burning wood.

But creating heat from electricity is just not very efficient. And I am going to be off grid, at least for the immediate future. So after doing some research it seemed that heating water with propane requires very little propane and many people do it even with a wood stove, so if done correctly it should be safe. For these reasons I ended up going with a propane on demand hot water heater, the Ecotemp FVI-12-LP. It isn’t installed yet, but I am hoping I will be happy with its performance.

Another plumbing decision I made after having two plumber friends come out and look things over with me is that I am going to do all exposed copper piping. By doing this the pipes will be fully inside my thermal envelope and less likely to freeze. And if somehow they do freeze they will be more easily accessible for any needed repair.

Let me tell you, trying to figure out the world of plumbing and electrical has not been easy. There have been many points where I feel like I am spinning my wheels. And boy am I grateful for the help of skilled professionals in both of these fields. As I have been fumbling along with these two areas with their guidance I have found myself needing to take take a break at points and do some carpentry- something I feel relatively competent at. So now both my bathroom and sleeping loft floors are in and I built my little trap door that will be at the top of my yet to be built stairs! Take a look: I think they all came out quite nicely:

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the beginning of my sleeping loft floor.

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Sleeping loft floor almost complete! I decided I didn’t want a straight line for the front edge of my loft so it actually follows a gentle sin wave curve. Can you tell?

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It feels quite spacious up there!

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And then the final touch to my loft was this trap door made out of some beautiful old cherry wood that Otto was nice enough to gift me. This will be at the top of my stairs and provide access to a little cubbyhole that will serve as my bedside table “drawer,” so to speak.

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Oh, and lastly, I also put down my bathroom loft floor:

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This little cozy nook will be where my water tank is stored and also just serve as a general storage area

So that is where my house is at now! My hope is that on my next post I will be moving along with insulation and closing in the walls!

Lighting and Electrical

I am not an electrician. And as much as I enjoy learning about things and feeling self sufficient and like I can do almost anything myself I do not feel that I need to master all the trades. So my plan all along has been to hire or work with an electrician to wire my house. But what I couldn’t have guessed was that the perfect person to do it with me would come along! Her name is Rebekah Carpenter and she owns Finger Lakes Renewables. She was the one who installed the solar system that John and I now have at ecovillage, where it lived originally, and she is another badass woman who is living in an off grid house that she built herself. So off grid doesn’t scare her, and DIY doesn’t either. Neither does unconventional! Together we have been mapping out and figuring out my electrical over the last two weeks. The first step has been figuring out where all my outlets and fixtures are going and putting boxes in those spots.

To help me do this I ended up using painters tape to map out the rise and run of my stairs and how I will divide up my closet space under my stairs. It is amazing all the little decisions that go into wiring a house. Here are some of the questions I had to consider.

  • Where do I want outlets?
  • Where do I was single gang (2 outlets) or double gang (4 outlets) boxes?
  • Do I want to wire for internet?
  • What about speakers?
  • What kind of fixtures will I be using for lights? Sconces? Overheads? Plugins? Where do I want light switches?

Every tiny house blog I had read says put more outlets then you think you will need. It is silly to have to run extension chords in a tiny house! And yet right now I look around my house and I think, jeez, I have enough plugs for a small city in here! I have tried to widdle down some of my outlets, making some single gang boxes rather than double gang, and really thinking through where I’ve places each one and what I imagine might be plugged in there. But it isn’t easy! I don’t want to end up with too few and at the same time too many feels kind of ridiculous in a tiny house.

Thinking about electrical has also led to an exciting hunt for light fixtures. First I went to Lowes and home depot. There lights are fine and decently priced. Probably completely functional but nothing too special and perhaps a bit cheaply made. Then I went to a high end electrical store and lighting showcase room that Rebekah recommended, with the intention more of just gathering information, but also found myself ogling over the fancy designer lights, many of which were in the $200 to $400 each range. Yikes! But I did want to have lighting I was pleased with and that looked good…

But then one day on my way home I decided to stop at the antique mall, and suddenly a hole other possibly opened up for me. What about antique and salvaged light fixtures? Often these older fixtures are made of high quality materials such as brass, but there price is actually reasonable. And perhaps some will take a little extra work to rewire but they would give my house the personality I am looking for!

So then fo rthe next two days I had fun going to all the reuse centers around Ithaca: Significant elements, Fingerlakes Reuse, Ithaca Antique Mall, Mimi’s attic…. And I think I am now set with just about all my lighting fixtures and probably spend no more than $200 total on them. And I love them!

Take a look:

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This beauty will be the central main light above my kitchen area. It has a three bulb fixture in it and I think should light the space beautiful!

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Next to the stain glass overhead chandelier is a little lantern like light that will go outside under my overhang on the wall that has the herring bone.

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this cute little one (the red one in front) will be my overhead lamp in the bathroom.

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Then I got these two silver sconces that will provide light in my stairwell area.

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And lastly, in my loft I plan to have this beautiful gourd lamp from Graham Ottoson, a local artist here in Ithaca!

I think pretty much covers all my light fixtures. I am still keeping my eye out for a vanity light that I like for over the mirror in my sink, but otherwise I think I am set. And quite pleased with the lights that I found and that they all have a history before they got to me…

Ok, thats all for now! I hope you enjoyed seeing what I have been working on for the last while.

For a couple weeks now I have been working on the inside of my house!!! It is quite exciting that I have finally made it to that stage:)

After moving to Hammerstone I began with building my bathroom wall and the small loft that is above my bathroom.

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I built the bathroom wall using 2×4’s that I ripped in half to be 2×2’s. This makes the wall skinnier so that I lose less space to it.The door to my bathroom will be a within the range of dimensions of a standard door: 32 inches. Many tiny houses have bathroom doors that are more like 24″ but a complaint I have often heard about this is that if down the line you say you want to use an RV shower insert most shower inserts won’t even fit through the door! I know that I do want a shower in my bathroom, perhaps even a tiny ofuro style tub, and so I didn’t not want to limit myself as to what will fit in my door. And so I framed out a standard sized door but plan to built it as french doors, thereby lessening the space I will need to be able to fully swing open the doors.

After building my bathroom wall and loft it was time to build the sleeping loft! Having an actual opening in my loft for stairs made my framing job a little bit trickier. I wanted to avoid having any big bolts or screws being visible but new I needed to do something to beef up the structure of my loft. So after some care drawing out I decided that some piece of the loft would actual be two 2×4’s laminated together in order to accomodate the extra weight. But that connections would be made by screwing pieces together with heavy duty structural simpson strong tie screws before laminating together so that the screw heads were actually hidden between the two pieces. It took some patience and time to pull off this design. First planing and sanding all the pieces to make sure they not only matched in their exact dimensions but also looked aesthetically pleasings since they will be visible in my finished house. Then fastening and gluing pieces together paying careful attention to order of operations. But I am quite pleased with how it has come out!

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Lots of clamping action.

It was a couple day project as I didn’t have enough clamps to do more that one piece at a time.

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and more clamping action…

And as glue dried Parker helped me get my collar ties in place! These also had to be sanded and made to look pretty:)

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And when we still had time to kill before the glue had set we just goofed around a bit😉

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Monkey bars anyone?

I had been worried about headspace but it seems headspace is going to work out quite well. John, who is a little over 6′ can just walk under my loft, and I can stand with my arms pretty much fully outstretched above me and still be fine!

Then I finally got to take all the clamps off and give my loft one last good sanding.

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What do you think?

And now with both lofts framed out and my bathroom wall I think all the major, structure framing on my house is done!

And what do you know, my interior siding was also all ready to be picked up this past week: some beautiful 1×8 tongue and groove pine from Halstead lumber in Owego, NY.

But before I can put up my interior siding I have to rough in electrical and plumbing and put in the insulation. So can you guess what my next post might be about? Electrical!

November was a month of transitions. Closing one chapter, opening another. New beginnings and bitter sweet endings.

It was the weekend before Halloween, Saturday, October 24th, and Ecstatic dance was hosting the Masquerade Ball. I was going to gather with some girlfriends and we were going to paint each other’s faces before attending together. But things came up for both of them and I found myself preparing to go to the masquerade ball alone. This was not a new experience for me. Sure, going to a social event alone sometimes feels a little bit more intimidating. It can feel harder to get excited and I always get a little anxious before I walk in the door. Will I have fun? Will there be people I know? Maybe I should just stay home. I think many people share these fears. And although sometimes these fears get the best of me and do keep me in for the night, often I have gone out alone. And learning how to do so has been important for me. It has been important for me to learn my own strength, to feel my own independence to know that I am ok and well on my own as well as with others.

And so that night I headed off to the Masquerade ball on my own. I didn’t paint my face but I got dressed up and put on some feather earrings that my mom gave me, to give me some extra wings of confidence, and enjoyed myself. Walking in the door, music brought movement to my body. Eyes closed, I let any lingering self consciousness fall away, beginning with small pulsing movements, then curling an arm out, greeting the air that hummed around me, drawing an imaginary circle with the tips of my outstretched fingers, a sacred protective circle; This was me, my space. And only those I allowed could enter. And so I danced. The orbit of my energy weaving, pulsing, in and out of the energies of others. Both an insignificant planet in a galaxy of stars; alone I am nothing, together we are everything… awe-inspiring. And the most significant star in the solar system of Me; I am the sun radiating warmth and love out, touching those that orbit around me in ways I perhaps will never comprehend. And I danced. Grateful to be alive. To be healthy. To be me.

A curious soul entered my orbit, drawn in by a smile that I was not aware I wore. Like Earth and Moon we danced around each other. Separate but connected, feeling the pull of the other holding us captive. Once I considered spinning away, a comet briefly there but not to stay. Its own inertia keeping it traveling, on its own, beautiful and blessed path. Gracing our skies but for a brief moment with its beauty. But something said “Stay. Keep your heart open. It is safe.” And so I stayed, circling like a distant second moon.

He reached out a hand, and cautiously I took it. With flourishes and twirls I still kept that little bit of sacred empty space between us. A figure eight of energy maintaining my sacred circle and his, connected, and separate, free to go at any time.

When the music slowed I smiled and bowed my head just slightly, hands on heart, signaling love, and a need to end this night of dance on my own. I had arrived alone but felt I may not be leaving alone. But at least I could close this dance feeling just my own energy. What was this I was feeling?

“What is your name?” I asked in the silence that followed. “Parker.” He said. “And you?” “Miwa.” And so something new began.

That night we shared tea, and then I went home. The next night we shared dinner and then he went home. But not before a quick kiss by the car left me standing somewhat speechless, stunned, smiling under the moonlight, as he drove off. I knew it was coming, didn’t I? But still it took me by surprise. Had I dared to hope? Do I dare to hope that I felt the whisper of a ruby?

At first we took our time, communicating a little through the week but not seeing each except on weekends. I continued to work on Tiny. He was busy being a first year graduate student in chemistry at Cornell. He came to Dances of Universal Peace and saw me lead a dance and play violin. I joined him and his fellow grad students on a Friday night and kicked butt playing darts in a college town bar. He came out to Tiny on a Sunday and lent a helping hand on the last wall of exterior siding; the back herring bone.

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Did I mention that it came out beautifully?

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Exterior of my house completely done!!

We talked late into the nights, eagerly getting to know each other, discovering and revealing the truths of ourselves… It was beautiful. And it is beautiful to drink in the sweet nectar of a young, blossoming love.

A new chapter opened, suddenly, unexpectedly, deliciously…

And another chapter closed; I discovered that my landlords cat had fleas and that they had made their way into my room. This discovery eventually lead to the second big transition of the month; a bittersweet decision that it was time for me to move from the place I had called home for over a year. And so I began to pack my things, putting some in storage until my eventual move into Tiny, and put the word out that I was looking for a place to live. And community rose up around me, with offers of rooms to rent, house sitting gigs, and couches to crash on. Despite it nearing the solstice, my inner energy has felt like spring; full of new beginnings, energy to travel and enjoy, to mingle and mix. And so living a bit of the nomads life has actually felt like a fun adventure as I continue to work on Tiny and look forward to moving in, hopefully in early spring!

And the third big transition has been that I moved my house Thanksgiving week from John’s land over to Maria’s, where it will stay for the winter! Let me tell you, watching something as big as a house, even a tiny one, that you have put so much time, money, and love into, roll away is quite an exhilarating experience.  But thanks to Maria and Liz of Hammerstone School and a car jack borrowed from the Ecovillage at Ithaca the move went incredibly smoothly. Here are a few pictures!

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Getting ready to move! Notice the snow on the ground. It was the first, and only, real snow of the season thus far!

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And off she goes!

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Out on to the open road…

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Luckily it was a short trip though. Literally around the corner of a country block….

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And in just a few hours she was all leveled and situated in her new home!

Leaving John’s land came with some sadness but I plan to return there in the spring and know that Maria’s place will serve me well through the winter. John also leaves for the winter, taking off to Florida, and so the site, which is already quite rustic and wild, can become almost inaccessible if we get significant snow. At Maria’s I have easy access to electricity that does not depend on the sun and can set up my tools and things inside her large pole barn. It may not be much warmer than the outdoors but it at least is protected from the wind and provides a roof over my head when it is raining or snowing. And so Tiny has settled into her winter home and I have officially transitioned from exterior to interior work! I look forward to writing about what has been going on in the interior of my house in my upcoming blog posts:)

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A beautiful good bye sunset one of the last nights I was on John’s land.

My Honey-Gold Tiny House

Today I sat in the sun on this beautiful fall day and looked at my tiny house and took it all in. The south and west walls are completely sided now and and so if you sit at that corner the house looks finished!

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With the sun shining, it also takes on this beautiful honey gold color that I have to say I absolutely LOVE!

I am feeling blessed and grateful for all the help I have been receiving recently. Having my family come two weekends ago was so much fun and got me from no siding to more than half of my siding up. After they left I continued to work carefully and diligently on some of the more complex parts, including the siding around my octagon window:

careful notching around these tricky angle!

careful notching around these tricky angles!

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I kind of enjoyed the challenge and am pleased with the results!

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having scaffolding set up that I borrowed from John was definitely helpful to be able to do this…

Then this past Sunday night my friend Olympia, who took a cabinetry course with me at Heartwood School, came and helped me, staying until this morning. And with her help the west and south walls are now completely done and the north wall is more than half done!

Putting the finishing touches on the west side: gable fascia and trim!

Putting the finishing touches on the west side: gable fascia and trim!

Couldn't have done this tricky detail work without Olympia's help!

Couldn’t have done this tricky detail work without Olympia’s help! We had beautiful sunny days, until the last day…

Then the last day it was Windy (so windy a ladder blew over! Luckily with no one on it) and rainy! But we were determined and maybe crazy so we went out their anyway!

Then the last day it was Windy (so windy a ladder blew over! Luckily with no one on it) and rainy! But we were determined and maybe crazy so we went out there anyway!

Afterall, we were SO close to finishing the south wall!

After all, we were SO close to finishing the south wall!

And now both the south and west walls are done!

And the north wall isn’t too far from being finished either!

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I got to say, even though the inside is still bare studs, it is starting to feel like a home, with a personality and everything! On days like today, I wasn’t sure I wanted to leave this home to go back home…

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feeling ready to move in?

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I can’t wait until I can indeed welcome people into My Home!

In the meantime, I am working on figuring out where I want my light fixtures and outlets to go so that my electrician can do his rough in… And plumbing will have to happen soon too! I am starting to get the itch to move to interior work but trying to stay focused on the outside while the weather is still decent!

That is all for now:)

(This post is based mostly on what I learned in a talk given by Jack Rossen, a professor at Ithaca college, at the Ecovillage of Ithaca on Oct. 22nd, 2015. Although I have done my best to present information accurately and with sensitivity to the first nations people of this land I am not an expert and welcome feedback, corrections, and comments and also encourage you to seek out your own truth)

Many of you will know of the Haudenosaunee confederacy as the Iroquois confederacy but Iroquois was not a name these people chose themselves. Haudenosaunee is the name by which these people, who come from the Seneca, Cayuga, Oneida, Onondaga, Mohawk, and later the Tuscarora nations, call themselves. These are the first nations people of the area in which I now live; They inhabited much of central, upstate and western New York, extending down into Pennsylvania.

The Haudenosaunee are a people who traditionally kept their history through oral tradition, with faithkeepers who are appointed by clan mothers, and stories that are passed down from one generation to the next. For most western, modern world scholars, oral tradition is not to be trusted, a belief that a Haudenosaunee person would find incredibly disrespectful. Imagine you knowing the stories of your family- where they immigrated from, how they ate, what they celebrated, where your ancestors are buried- and then being told by an outsider, a “scholar,” that no, you have it all wrong and since you cannot prove it with written paper documents or artifacts we do not have to return the bones of your ancestors that we dug up and now have in our museum basements. This has been the story of some of these people, including the Cayuga, whose homeland is in the Ithaca area.

One archeologist names Jack Rossen has been doing his best to work with the Cayuga and other Haudenosaunee people to keep their history from being revised by outsiders and give it back to them. And this is the story of one such way in which he is helping them gain acceptance from the wider world for a truth they already knew.

Oral traditions says that the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, perhaps one of the earliest known forms of democracy, was born 1000 years ago, around 1000 AD. But most western scholars say the confederacy was founded either only a generation before contact, in 1451, after contact as late as the mid 15,00’s.

To the Haudenosaunee the creation of the confederacy is known through the legend of the Peacemaker, a messenger of the creator who was sent in a time when there had been much conflict for centuries. It is said that the peacemaker traveled in a white stone canoe, seeking out the leaders of the five warring nations, the Cayuga, Seneca, Onondaga, Oneida, and Mohawk. In his searching he came across a woman who had no alliances and fed and sheltered all who passed through, including men from all tribes as they traveled to war upon each other. This woman’s name was Jikonsahseh and she was the first person to accept the Peacemaker’s Great Law of Peace and some say she is what inspired the tradition of the Clan Mother, a tradition that still lives on today.

The last of the tribes to be convinced of the Peacemaker’s Great Law of Peace was the Seneca. As the Peacemaker asked them to consider the Law of Peace he told the Seneca to look for a “Sky sign” and legend has it that as the tribe leaders gathered at high sun (noon) when the corn was high (late summer) that the sky grew dark and the stars came out and this convinced them to lay down their weapons under the great white pine.

The white pine has long been a symbol of peace for the Haudenosaunee people and Jack Rossen found and carbon dated a piece of pottery with the great white pine at a Cayuga archaeological site to 1100 AD. This little artifact gave validity to the claim of the first nations people that their Haudenosaunee confederacy was indeed formed much earlier then western scholars have believed, closer to the 1000 year old date that their oral history says.

With needles in clusters of 5, like the five tribal nations that made up the original confederacy, and that stay green and never fall, just as the Great Law of Peace must be able to weather all seasons, the peacemaker made the Great White Pine a forever sacred tree to the Haudenosaunee people.

As Jack Rossen looked to other evidence that would further corroborate his finding and support the oral history of the Haudenosaunee he went and looked back at the records of full solar eclipse, the most likely explanation for the sky sign that the Seneca saw. Solar eclipses are not an everyday event, and to find one that would have been visible from Seneca territory, occurred in late summer when the corn would have been high, around noon, when the leaders always gathered and would have caused the sky to darken enough for the stars to come out seemed like an even more unlikely event to find. But indeed Jack Rossen found one. In the year of of 909, on august 18th, the sun reach full annular eclipse at 17:13 UT which would have been 1:15pm New York time. And so it seems that indeed, the Haudenosaunee oral history is correct that their confederacy was formed over 1000 years ago.

The confederacy is unique for many reasons. One such way is that the Peacemaker established a matriarchal system, called the clan system, to help to bridge these nations that had been warring for centuries. One’s clan is determined by your mother, so if you mother is of the bear clan, you also are of the bear clan. But one is not allowed to marry within the same clan and so through marriage there became members of each clan throughout the Haudenosaunee Confederation. And anyone in your clan is family, no matter whether they are Cayuga, Seneca, Mohawk, Onandaga, Oneida or any other nation. This allowed one to find family no matter where you were, traveling throughout the confederacy. There are nine clans within which they are divided into three elements; air (Heron, Hawk, and Snipe), water (Turtle, Ell, and Beaver), and land (Bear, Wold, and Deer). And within some clans, such as the bear and turtle clans, there are three different species. Even today, if you meet a first nations person they will often introduce themselves by their tribe and clan name (ei: I am ____ of the Onandaga nation and of the Heron clan.) Clan mothers hold great power in the nations, as they are the ones who appoint chief, faithkeepers and other important positions within the tribe. And they can also take these positions away if they feel an individual is no longer suited for it.

As a modern day resident of these lands I am grateful to be learning about the history of the people that were here before me, and not only for historical reasons but also because they are still alive here amongst us, and their struggles are still current. Two years ago I participated in the Two Row Wampum, an event that asked for a 400 year old treaty to be recognized and honored, a clear illustration of how these struggles are still alive today. Also, as we enter a time of the year where the veil between the worlds is thin and we often honor our ancestors, through holidays such as Halloween and Day of the Dead, if feels right to call attention to the ancestors of this this land that I now stand on and have chosen to build my house on. The Haudenosaunee were and are a wise people from which we could stand to learn many lessons from, about peace and living in harmony with the land, as well as many other things. And they are also a people that need our support, understanding, and recognition as they struggle to keep what is left of their culture alive.

Good Vibes All Around

Do you believe that the energy that goes into the creation of something becomes the energy of the creation itself? Well if you do, this past weekend definitely imbued my house with lots of love and positive energy. It was a cold fall weekend, where the first snowflakes of the season fell, and nighttime temperatures dropped into the twenties but my Aunt, Uncle, and Mom and Dad braved the chilly weather and drove up six hours from Boston with smiles, tools, and warm layers, ready to work. And we sure did accomplish a lot!

My mom and dad arrived Friday around noon and I taught them the basics of carpentry. We went over how to change a bit in a drill and driver, some basic saw safety, and then I explained to them what we were doing and why; furring strips on top of the insulation board to create a rain screen, bug screen at the tops and bottoms of the walls to keep wasps and other insects out, and then siding. As we got ourselves into building mode my dad started doing what is now officially “The Tiny House Jig” …

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It was serious business😉

Friday night passed in a blurr of fun times taking my parents to see Liz’s finished tiny house and Amy’s almost completed tiny house over at Hammerstone and then going to dinner at The Finger Lakes Cider House, a hopping scene of delicious local food, cider, and music on Friday nights located at The Good Life Farm, an amazing horse powered permaculture farm.

Saturday we made a big pot of chili and put it in the crock pot which we brought to the site and plugged into our solar power so we would have hot food all day, and then we got back to work, starting in on putting up siding! An hour or so later Peter and Melissa arrived, reporting that they had driven through snow and rain! But here at my tiny house site it was sunny and beautiful, if a little chilly, and I was grateful!

Saturday went amazingly well. We got siding going on two walls and Peter got my southeast corner post up!

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Peter working diligently to figure out how to notch the pieces of wood that would be my corner trim around my wooden braces. And me in the background starting to figure out my door trim. John came up with a brilliant solution to my door that allowed me to keep almost my full 180 degree outswing!

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Melissa and my dad working on the siding on my south wall! My mom was working hard too, but was behind the camera lens taking many of these pictures!

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Barry showed up too for parts of both saturday and sunday and allowed Peter and I to work on staying ahead of everyone with trim details while he was the cut guy and kept the nailing crew of my mom, dad, and melissa busy. It was definitely a team effort!

Saturday ended with us all feeling quite satisfied with our full days work and tired. Melissa and Peter had gotten up at 4am to get on the road and be in Ithaca by 10am! So we went home, freshened up a bit and then headed to downtown Ithaca for dinner. My aunt and uncle had never been to Ithaca and so we walked through our newly finished car free commons and then found a delicious Mediterranean restaurant called Sahara to fill our bellies at. I had never eaten there before but will definitely go again as it was very yummy!

Sunday we were back at the sight by 9:30 and zoomed along with siding even though snow did start falling from the sky! And Peter got the last corner post in too! Wahoo!!

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Hammers, smiles, and tape measurers

Here is the crew near the end of our second work day:

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Can you see the white snowflakes falling? And look how much we got done!! WoW!! So grateful😀

Many have been asking me what my siding is so let me tell you. It is just hemlock shiplap siding from a local mill operation run by Cory Schillif. And then I stained it with a 50:50 mixtures of raw linseed oil and pine tar, a natural wood preservative, that I got from Solvent Free Paint.

Sunday afternoon my parents had to take off to get back to Somerville but my aunt and uncle stayed and we got the 3rd wall started!

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The first course is often one of the trickiest- getting it level, going around the wheel well, all those details that if done right will make the rest of the wall go relatively smoothly. So having three of the 4 walls started is a huge deal!

It was an amazingly production weekend and I am immensely grateful. And thank you crew for making it such a fun time!

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from left to right: Barry, Iku (mom), John, Michael (dad), Melissa (aunt), and Peter (uncle)

After we finished our work for the day Sunday I got to take my aunt and uncle over to see the other tiny houses at Hammerstone, which was also quite fun. It is amazing how much variation there is in style and aesthetic choices even in a tiny house; they truly can be like an art piece that reflects the personality of the inhabitant. I am quite pleased with how mine is coming out thus far! And now I must say, I am tired in that best kind of way; satisfied after a good full weekend of work. Buenos Noches!

It feels like I have been putting the winter coat on my house the last couple days, and it has been quite exciting! Even though it is just roxul insulation board that I am doing on the exterior it somehow makes the house suddenly look much more finished. Take a look!

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Here it is from one more angle. Not bad, eh?

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Today I tackled the window trim of my tricky, but beautiful octagon window and am quite pleased with how it came out.

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Tomorrow I hope to start putting up furring strips which will allow me to start putting up exterior siding when my family comes for a big work weekend next week! So I have spent this evening sketching and brainstorming how I want to put up my siding, as my furring strips will determine this. Here are my sketches.

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Above is my north wall and below is my south wall. I am pretty sure I like this design, of horizontal for most of it with small vertical sections in the dormer.

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And in the top right is my west wall. Pretty set on horizontal for this whole wall. But then my east wall… I don’t know what I want to do there! 

As you can tell from my 4 possible sketches, I am undecided for my back east wall, which has the little overhang and braces. I would love opinions and feedback on these possible designs, and any and all permutations of top and bottom. which is why I have 1a and 1b, etc.

Someone once told me that horizontal gives a grounded, Earth energy feeling, and that vertical is more the Tree energy and diagonal is Fire energy. It feels good for my house to be mostly earth energy, grounded and sturdy. But I feel I want a little bit of Fire and Tree energy as well. Perhaps I am getting too philosophical here but the upper left design of my east wall, 1a and 1b, is the one I am drawn to most at this point and it feels to me like it has a nice balance of energies. Although diagonals may be Fire, it somehow to me also feels like it has a boat like Water energy. Can you see how it could look like the bow of a boat? A boat that can cut through even fire… And then I also see mountains and hills in the herring bone pattern, making it have a grounded earth energy… This pattern may be the trickiest to pull off but I probably will only build my own house once, so why not go all out? I would love to hear what others think about the possible designs I am considering. Do you have any thoughts or opinions?

MY ROOF IS ON!!

WAHOO! My Roof is on! And my stove pipe chimney is in!!! And just in time as temperatures have suddenly plummeted and is feels like it could be November! Although, it may be a few months before my stove arrives from Orcas island, Washington:-/ But thats ok. Now I know my house will survive this coming winter, even if for some strange reason I had to stop working on it tomorrow. But my hope is I will have ALL my exterior work done before the snow fly’s! That means, the rest of the window trim, my insulation board, furring strips, and siding all still need to get done! But I am feeling good and excited for my my family work weekend coming up in just a few weeks and then possibly another work weekend in early November witth a few friends from my cabinet making class at Heartwood!

So here are a few pictures of my roof:

This transition from the 3:12 pitched roof over my loft to my 9:12 roof for the rest of my house was quite a trick. I studied the first tiny house that Hammerstone did carefully, which had a similar roof line, and mimicked how Maria flashed that one. It was a good full morning of careful work just to do this little transition on both sides, but I have to say I am pretty pleased with how it came out.

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Here it is from another angle, before the ridge cap went on. There were multiple layers of flashing and counter flashing going on here, all carefully lapped to shed water out.

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And that fascia board is stained with the same linseed oil – pine tar stain that I used on my window trim! I think I am going to use it on my whole exterior, which I imagine will give my house a bit of the look of a rustic log cabin in the woods. But I am open to suggestions and am curious what people think! Although tell me soon if you think it is a horrible idea because I may move forward and start staining my siding as soon as next week😉

And my stove pipe! That was quite a trick too to put in! And I couldn’t have done it without the help of my friend Saahas, so a big thanks to him! Right now it is assembled as it would be for “travel mode;” just barely sticking up out of the roof. But when it is stationary and I am burning fires there will be another 3 foot length of stove pipe before that cap goes on.

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Although Saahas was there helping me yesterday, today I finished this roof up all on my own, doing that fancy transition between the two pitches and putting on the ridge cap.

When I got to the ridge cap I kind of wanted a second person around as it would mean less climbing up and down and someone there just in case something went awry (roof work does have it’s risks) so I called my friend Rena to see if her or her brother might be able to come over and give me a hand. Rena is in the middle of her own strawbale timberframe build, and when I called it turned out Saahas was over there helping them get her roof on! I got a kick out of realizing how parallel our two builds are right now, and how wonderful it is to have such a close friend going through her own process with her build. It has been a powerful reflection and a great place for me to practice mutual support and celebration of both the joys and the struggles of building. (Rather than competition, comparison, or envy… No I am not perfect, and sometimes I fall into that, but I think most days I can celebrate us all)

So since they were all busy on Rena’s roof I managed to finish the ridge cap on my own, and this is my selfie at the end of the day; Happy, exhausted and relieved that my roof is on!

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Let the rain gods come now, I say!

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I have to say, I was really tempted to just take a nap on the ridge cap a few times… Scooting along that thing and climbing up and down the ladder gets tiring after a while! But I finished it and got to say I feel pretty proud:)

Afterwards I took a drive over to Rena’s where they were just finishing up hers! And we swapped stories about how we both had some leaks in the 24 hour downpour that we just had which got us both motivated to get our roofs on asap. And now they are both on! Her’s green, and mine red, her’s strawbale and mine on wheels, both beautiful and unique works of art and labors of love.

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So there she is!! My beautiful house, one step closer to done😀

 

Creative by Nature

Glimpses of a Creative Universe, by Christopher Chase...

aatinyhouse

Creating "new" from old has been a preoccupation of mine for a long time, but turned into a full-time adventure in building and living in a tiny "reclaimed" house. Beginning in 2012, I will live in this 120 square foot space for the length of my PhD studies in Literature and the Environment, and perhaps beyond. In this way, I hope to live a little smaller, leave a little lighter, and learn in what ways formal study can be acted in the every day.

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