Archive for September, 2015


Hello everyone! I wanted to let you know that after one week being able to focus on my house I am quite sure I made the right decision. I finally feel organized on top of things, rather than 3 steps behind, and I have gotten so much done and I am a much more pleasant person to be around ūüėČ

And, although temporarily leaving my job was a big leap of faith, I am already so grateful for the notes of encouragement I’ve gotten from people, saying they are inspired by what I am doing and wanting to support me to finish my project. At least for this first week, my lack of income has been made up by donation on my indiegogo site, igg.me/at/tinygogo. So thank you so much!!

And I promise you, I have not just been lounging around lazily on my couch with this extra time. Upon deciding to take a leave from Hammerstone and having that big scary conversation with Maria, but having it go better than I could have ever dreamed (she says she wants me to hopefully come back full time after my house is done!), I went home and made this massive To Do list:

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I figure this To Do list will take me from now until at least the end of October. But note that some things are already checked off!!

And then I took off for the Mother Earth News Fair, which I wrote about in an earlier Blog post. This was the perfect way for me to celebrate making this shift in my life.

So what have I gotten done this past week? I ordered my metal roof, which should arrive tomorrow if I am lucky! I finishes putting purlins on my roof and got all my stickers and two pairs of saw horses made in preparation for all my window trim and siding wood to come. And indeed, I was all prepared when it came from a local saw mill, Cory Schillif, on Thursday!

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Stickering wood is important to let it dry properly and minimize the chances of it warping or twisting too much. It also helps to prevent mold and bugs that might like to take home in a pile of wet wood.

Yes, it is the sad truth, until now I have used the one pair of plastic sawhorses that I borrowed from John. Now I have my own! And they are beautiful and have already come in handy...

Yes, it is the sad truth, until now I have used the one pair of plastic sawhorses that I borrowed from John. Now I have my own! And they are beautiful and have already come in handy…

So once my wood arrived I got to work on my window trim, and I have to say I couldn’t be more pleased with how it has come out! I am using a pine tar – linseed oil stain from this company called solvent free paints¬†and it is pretty cool stuff! The pine tar is a natural wood preservative with a gentle antiseptic and water repellent effect. And Linseed oil helps to nourish the wood, like moisturizer for our skin!

IMG_4353Now, my windows have been a bit of a struggle. Because I decided to use mostly found and salvaged windows (not recommended) I have had some problems with leaking on more than one of them. It has gotten to the point where I have even considered tearing out a few of them and replacing them (not something any builder wants to have to do, especially on a new construction project!). But I have also recognized that once my metal roof goes on with eaves, and if I do a good job with the window trim the windows they will be much better protected when all is said and done than they are now. Another challenge I was facing when designing my window trim details was that my walls are going to be build out. Meaning that from the sheathing plane I am adding 1 1/4″ of roxul board, the 1/2″ furring strips and then my siding. So How could I design window trim that would act as extension jambs and trim all in one? And that I would still like aesthetically?

Well, here is what I came up with:

trial window #1

trial window #1

My trim is 1 1/2″ thick larch from a local saw mill. Larch is often used for decks and other outdoor applications because it is one of our local naturally rot resistant species. And, another cool fact, it is a deciduous conifer, meaning it looks like an evergreen but it loses its leaves in the fall!

I assembled the trim with this wood on edge, using 3 1/2″ stock for the sides and top and 4 1/2″ stock for the bottom to create a sill that stick out slightly further than the rest. The bottom is beveled at 10 degrees in order to shed water, which I did by ripping the back edge on the table saw. And the top is beveled at 5 degrees, which is barely noticeable to the eye but will still shed water.

Here you can see all the frames for one side of my house assembled, waiting to be installed!

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Then I installed them using pocket screws on the sides and top so that the holes will be invisible, and putting a bead of caulk also on the sides and top to help create a water tight seal.

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With this design it didn’t matter that some of my windows are¬†basically flush with my sheathing plane and some have J-channels so they stuck out and inch or so beyond that plane. The depth of these frames was able to accommodate all of that and will also accommodate¬†the roxul board that will be going on soon (you can see one board up in the photo above.

Lastly, I did an important flashing detail above each window.

I made these myself using the break we have at Hammerstone. This is the basic design and then I actually ended up folding each end in a way that creates almost a little bathtub to shed all water out.

I made these myself using the metal break we have at Hammerstone. This is the basic design and then I actually ended up folding each end in a way that creates almost a little bathtub to shed all water out.

And below you can see them installed. I slit the house wrap right above the window trim and put another bead of caulk behind the flashing, which got nailed directing the the sheathing with roofing nails, and the I taped the over the corners again.

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I am very pleased overall with how these came out and am actually kind of looking forward to a good rain to test them. But I also hope to have my metal roof on by the end of this week, so that will also add much protection to my whole structure!

Cheers, and thanks again for reading. And Happy full moon eclipse! What a sight that was last night!

Big Changes

As I can feel the seasons changing around me many emotions, both good and hard have come up. It has been a full summer of building, working on both my own and other people’s houses. My friend, Rena, had her straw bale raising last weekend, and Amy, another friend and a hammerstone client, has been helping me and my coworker put up her beautiful¬†Shou-sugi-ban siding on her tiny house and prepping her house for an interior trim class which is running this week. Their houses are lookings beautiful! And I am proud to be able to support these women in making their dream homes; to share in¬†their excitement, to commiserate together when things are hard, to witness their processes, and to actually have lent a physical hand in the building of their homes.

But as the seasons begin to change I am feeling a pull to give more time to my own dream home. ¬†After much thought I have decided to take some time off from working for Hammerstone in order to be able to focus more fully on my own house. I am incredibly grateful that I am able to do this with Maria’s blessings (Maria is the owner/operator of Hammerstone). Asking for this time off was, and still is, a bit scary as it means giving up my main source of income for a while and letting go of a certain amount of job security. But both Maria and my own intention is that this will allow me to finish my house sooner and give my full creative energy to it, and then I can return to Hammerstone and my other passions with more to give.

As many of you know, this tiny house journey has worked on me as much as I have worked on it. I do believe that everyone deserves a chance to go for their dreams, but actually asking and allowing myself to receive support for my own dreams is not always easy. And I know I am not the only one who struggles with this. But what I hope to inspire through living this journey, is a world where more individuals feel it is well to take care of themselves, to do what makes them happiest, and live their dreams and passions, as I truly believe that if we each are able to do this we will find that actually all of us benefit, for it is true that we can only love each other as much as we love our selves.

The outpouring of support I have received all throughout this tiny house journey has helped me to believe that indeed I too am worthy of manifesting my dreams. And yet up until now I have chosen to work on the houses of others almost 30 hours a week and work on my own on average probably only 10 hours a week. For a while that felt ok, and even good in the beginning stages of my build.

But recently I have felt like I have less to give to both the projects of others and to my own. This has shown me that it is time to shift the balance and to really be able to pour my heart and soul into my house to bring the birthing of this dream to completion. My tiny house is no longer just an idea. It is a reality, with four walls, a roof, windows, and a door. But there is still so much to be done. And much of it are the things I am the most excited for, including the interior design and finish carpentry, and interior and exterior finishes, where I get to truly express myself artistically. But an artist cannot make her masterpiece if she feels rushed and financially constrained. And so I have decided take the leap of taking a break from hammerstone and doing another fundraising push in hopes that you, like me, can see the value in what I am creating and feel inspired to support it.

My fundraising page is still igg.me/at/tinygogo and there are still perks available, including a weekend getaway in my tiny house when it is done!

Some of the particular artistic flourishes I hope to be able to implement that you could support are a stain glass insert in my octagon window made by Tony Serviente, a local stain glass artist, and a zen like tatami mat room under my loft, as well as a small ofuro style bath in my bathroom. I also am working on a passive way to heat my water with my tiny wood stove in the winter and with the sun in the summer, but to implement this will require some fancy custom carpentry and plumbing work.

The two stain glass designs I am considering for my octagon window

The two stain glass designs I am considering for my octagon window (colors are approximations, as glass is more subtle and dynamic than sketch-up will allow me to do).

All these things take many hours of labor, most of which will be my own labor. But I have decided it is worth my time and energy and it is where my heart is, and so I am taking the plunge to work on this project full time from now until it is done. Will you support me to do this?

If yes, please visit igg.me/at/tinygogo or if you are more comfortable sending a check directly e mail me at miwarobbins@gmail.com and we can arrange that.

In so much gratitude for all that this world offers and the ways in which we are all interconnected.

This weekend I had the great pleasure of going to the Pennsylvania Mother Earth News Fair. It was a blast! It inspired and energized me, reminding me why I do what I do, and how many other awesome people there are out there doing equally awesome and amazing things. What an amazing an educational event, full of everything from seed saving workshops, to mushroom medicine, to super efficient wood stoves, and yummy organic food.

While down there I got to reconnect with an old friend from the natural building world, Chris, also known as uncle mud, and squish my hands in some mud as we shared a booth. Over the course of the weekend I watched as kids helped him build a little rocket mass heater and a mini cob oven that they then cooked garlic bread in. I witnessed kids and adults light up as they talked about their dreams of building their own hand sculpted house¬†and I remembered the magic that happens as people squish their toes and fingers in mud. A little boy looked up at his parents, all covered in mud, and said “I’m allowed!” and his parents smiled. Indeed, our culture needs more environments where we are allowed to be dirty and messy and happy.

Chris told stories to me and others of how he would teach mud workshops to prisoners and how suddenly these tough criminals would be telling their stories of vulnerability while squishing in the mud. And I watched as a young couple that reminded me of Peter and I when we were just discovering the world of natural building spent almost the whole weekend at our booth, totally entranced by this new world that was opening up to them. “This is the dream I never knew I had!” said the woman.

Although I enjoyed sharing about my tiny house and the work I do at hammerstone, I think what was most inspiring about being at this mother earth news fair was seeing everyone else’s excitement; the excitement of other vendors as¬†they talked about what they were most passionate about, and the excitement of fair goers as they eagerly gobbled up all this new and juicy information.

Indeed, it is weekends and events like this one that make me feel hopeful about the future of our world. So many people doing so many good things!

Guess what! I wrote a post¬†for Ethan Waldman’s blog,¬†and he decided to feature it and it is live now! Here is the link:¬†http://www.thetinyhouse.net/building-tiny-house-off-grid/

Ethan is a bit of a celebrity in the tiny house world, having written multiple books for tiny house enthusiasts, and connected many tiny housers to other tiny housers. I am so honored to be featured on his blog! I hope you will go check it out and see what he is all about too!

Creative by Nature

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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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