Friday, September 28, 2012


This past week I have been sick. We have done little work and thus the lack of posts. Sorry for the unexplained stop in posting flow. I am starting to feel much better and plan to have a weekend full of house work.

Though I have been sick we have done a little work on the house. We have almost finished laying the maple flooring on the second floor. This has been a chore considering that our generator is on its last leg. It was bought used two years ago. Apparently it had lived a full life before me and I made sure to provide it with plenty of heavy lifting to finish it off. I can get it to run for up to two minutes at a time which allows us to fill the air compressor, nail a few tongue and groove planks with the stapler, and then run back down the ladder to adjust the carburetor/ begin the process again. Needless to say it has been an endeavor.  Today I plan for us to finish the flooring and frame in a door as well as a window.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

tucked in the wood

     This is a view of our house from the East North East. It is the view of our house from where we were married.  While right now the house stands out due to the while of the tyvek, it should blend nicely into the woods when it is clad in a beautiful wood siding. The rolling three pictures show varied zooms of the view. There is a deep dense thicket and regrowth forest between the house and the cliff from which the photo was taken. The final photo on this page is the view of thew cliff looking out of our window in the house. It allows a little perspective of the proximity of trees to the house and the density of trees.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

retro posting: raising the first rib

     I have been asked countless times, " how id you get the big beams up." Here is is the how we did the first one. I climbed a tree, Hung a climbing harness in the tree, and ran a rope through a pulley on the harness. We took said rope and connected it to a truck a few hundred feet away via several redirecting pulleys. We connected the other end to the first timber rib.
     We lifted the rib to an angle so it would not just pull flat along the ground. Once we tipped the rib we placed blocks behind it so it would not slide.
All set. Rope attached to truck, Truck in gear, pulling forward. As we moved the truck forward the pine bent lower and lower. I thought the plan had failed. I parked the truck where it was and when I went to examine the situation I discovered that the rib now felt like a 2x4. It was essentially spring loaded by the bent tree. Allowing the spring of the tree to do the work we simply positioned the rib where we wanted it and lifted the holding blocks out of the way. We nailed some angled boards to the rib to keep it from tipping and the first rib was in place.
   The other ribs actually had to be lifted eight inches at a time due to the angle being incompatible with our new found spring loaded tree. This slow raising of the other ribs was definitely an exercise in trust and cooperation. Building this house has been one of the best forms of marriage counseling. It has taken communication to a whole new level.

Walls and windows upstairs

 Here is a little look at the framing of the upstairs area. This first photo is looking North toward what will be the closet and washer/ dryer stack. The second photo shows the South wall with windows prepped to go in place. The third photo allows a little different view of the South vantage. We are excited about the beautiful views and also how cozy the house is tucked into the edge of the woods.
     Noticeably, there are no windows in the North wall and the South wall has a window set high on the wall. The lack of windows on the North wall will limit our loss of heat in the Winter. North facing windows are essentially holes in a house and provide little light and plenty of reduced efficiency. I should note, a friend was recently visiting from Australia. In The Southern hemisphere the dynamic is reversed. The North wall is where you have solar gain and the South wall is the efficiency suck.
     Our North wall will also house our closet. The normal insulation will be in place in the walls but the addition of a closet along the North wall will provide additional buffeting. Hopefully we will see some degree of benefit from this layout choice.
     A high window on the Southern wall is placed in order to maximize Winter Sun and reduce Summer Sun. Allowing adequate sun to fill the house in the Winter will not only lift spirits and moods but also help to radiantly warm the house. Conversely, in the Summer the radiant sun would be a negative as we try to keep the house cooler. The placement of the window high on the wall will allow the overhang of the roof to shade the window for a large portion of the day. In the Summer the suns declination is higher in the sky and this higher track is what allows for the eave shading.
   We purposefully place large windows on the East and West sides of the house to increase filtered light in the mid day while increasing morning sun and sunset rays. The large window to the East will crank open, three separate cranks stacked. The "triple crank" opens out in such a manner as to shield the interior of the house from any rain and as to scoop air coming up the hill. The scooped air can then enter the house and create flow through ventilation.

Monday, September 17, 2012

roof: ON

    The roof is on. All but the final two panels where painstakingly put in place with a hammer and ratchet. Though we have a generator it would serve better as a massive paper weight or anchor. Thus, we put the panels in by hand. Tap, Tap, crank. I tried feverishly not to fall off the roof as I aimed to hit the purlins. Only once did I actually have a place picked out on the ground where I thought I was going to land.
     While the roof may not be perfect, it will not leak. It is going to be well insulated and it blends well with the surrounding forrest. Oh, and I did not die or break a bone while building it. All in all  I consider it a successful roofing experience.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Four Leg Workers


Lynx, but let's face it she only answers to Kitty or the dog food bag rattling. 

As you can see their work ethic could use some fine tuning. We have tried to explain to them in fiscal terms the cost of dog food, I am not sure they speak english. 

Autumn Shoots

The fall shoots are proudly popping up in the garden. 

Bright turnips letting their hair out. I was delighted to remember these were turnips and not radishes. 

A splendid example of the honesty of seeds. Even though I had forgotten that I was exhausted at this point in the planting, the broccoli seeds had not. Stephen politely wanted to know what had happened to my usual organized planting style. For a moment I thought about making up a clever story, you know those deer cannot be trusted with anything! (Alas the broccoli was ratting me out in plain sight) Dumping out a seed packet at sunset to proudly announce that you are finished planting is not recommended. You can be certain your seed sins  will surely find you out. 

Thinning seedlings just might be one of the most painful tasks of gardening for me. In a way I feel as though I am splitting up a second grade romance, just heart wrenching... this is where my charming husband comes in to be my knight. 
The blogger. 
A wonderful gift from Papa, by far the cutest shovel I have ever beheld. 
I was tickled to find this little fellow chocking under the native grasses. The rosemary is recovering nicely thanks to aggressive weeding measures. 

Roof work

     Looking up throughout the "vent" where the chimney will go you can see the roof is coming nicely. We used radiant bubble insulation under the metal roof. The bubble insulation is placed under the purlins so as to create an air space that allows the radiant barrier to do its job. We did not place insulation under the overhang outside the house as we did not feel it was essential to protect the air below the roof.
       The bubble insulation is rated to R-11. Considering that most 2x4 walls are filled with R-13, I feel R-11 is a great value for such a thin layer of insulation. We do still plan to put standard insulation in-between the roof trusses. The standard insulation will be rated R-30. This will bring our combined roof insulation to R-41 plus the radiant barrier that reflects heat. All together it should be a well insulated roof, keeping out heat in the Summer and keeping in heat in the Winter.

Friday, September 14, 2012

other foundational thoughts

So, it is a terrible picture. This is a picture taken under the house. Here we are looking at the front Southeastern corner of the foundation. Visible,  aside from the glare of the sun, is the cinderblock and wood beams. Between the beams and block we placed tar paper to help mitigate the little bit of moisture that could wick up the block and into the wood. We also put a fair amount of sand under the house to act as additional thermal mass. We had the sand and it seemed like a reasonable place to put it. It also makes crawling under the house more comfortable than if it was bare gravel. We will place a vapor barrier over the sand. Lastly, We reinforced the concrete foundation with 2 inch tubular steel. We had an old carport that was destroyed in a tornado so we used the steel to angel brace the foundation and tie it all together. We also used rebar in the foundation but thought the added steel would be a nice addition.

Here is a picture of the house prior to the second floor being studded and roofed.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

another duck design

In the interest of planning, I have sketched my thoughts on our future duck habitat. We are planning to enclose the ducks in a mesh fence with a picket fence facing the road and drive. The picket fence will act as an attractive screen as well as a light shading for the ducks. We will also have a large oak tree in the enclosure. I plan to make a small pond for them to primp and swim in as well. The pond will be about a foot and a half deep with a large three to four inch drain. As the ducks dirty the water i will be able to drain the pond, collect the "pond tea" for fertilizer, and refill the pond with clear and clean water. This drain system is possible considering that the duck area is slightly raised above our drive and I will be able to run the drain pipe to the drive. A small duck house will allow for night cloistering and secure egg laying.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

future project, cellar

The drawing here are concepts of a future  project I hope to undertake on the farm. I hope to build a root cellar cut into the side of a hill near the tiny house. The root cellar will allow us to store things such as potatoes for up to nine months. Keeping the environmental impact of the tiny house low means looking for ways to reduce our need for energy consuming devices such s large refrigerators. We do plan to have a refrigerator, but think small. The fridge we will employ would not hold an entire harvest though the root cellar will be able to do so. By placing the cellar in the hillside and developing a living roof on it we will capitalize on the cool soil temperature. We will plant vegetation in front of the Structure to reduce the thermal gain caused by the sun. Gravel and perforated pipe will be used to reduce moister in the cellar as well. Not shown in the diagram will be vent pipes. Vents are necessary to ensure air movement and keep produce fresh.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


Here is a photo of the house in a stage of partial completion as seen from up the hill. It really is tucked into the wood nicely. We cleared the understory and fire ladder to allow for good air flow through the forest as well as excellent forest floor walking area. 

 And now for the first photos of the inside of the house. This photo to the left is taken from the corner of the living area where the wood stove will sit. The photo is looking into the kitchen area, South, The french doors will be just to the left of this photo and the stairs will ascend in the right of the photo frame, where the boards are leaning.
This photo looks out at the kitchen and living area as well. The window on the West wall denotes the location where the stairs will start. The wood stove will be placed just to the right of the red broom handle. The 4x4 beam in the foreground of this shot is a door post into the bathroom, which I am standing in. 

This photo is looking North. The air compressor ( which we have used for exactly 12  finish nails into the windows, all other nails where hand driven) is about there the wood stove will sit. The opening on the right of the shot is for the french doors. The 4x4 post denotes the entry into the bathroom. The bathroom will have a small step up which will help delineate the space. We used poplar for the subfloor and all of the sheeting on the outside of the house has been free oak and pine from the sawmill. The blue tarp hanging down from the second floor is hanging through the hole where the chimney pipe will go. I have left an area open in the floor for easy access as I am yet to get under the house and do plumbing. electrical, etc. . . 

second floor update

 The second floor is almost done. We have to a few windows to install and the stud work to support said windows. The roof is coming along nicely. We have all of the roof trusses up as of this past weekend. The pictures hearer show all but two trusses up. The photos also show the house before the North wall was built. More photos are to come. I often get distracted with building and forget to stop and take photos of the progress. We are using metal roofing and a radiant barrier on the roof. We nailed wide purlins in place to stabilize the trusses before placing the radiant barrier down. Once the radiant insulation was in place we nailed purlins on top of our wide purlins. These top purlins will allow us to screw the metal down while still maintaining an air space between the radiant insulation and the metal roof. This air gap is important in order for the radiant barrier to work properly, according to my reading.
The main floor is wrapped in tyvek. The windows are in and it is starting to feel like a real house. My next post will have the first photos of inside.

Saturday, September 8, 2012


      I thought I would take a moment and write a little about our foundation. Many tiny houses are built on trailers thus reducing the foundation issue and in most cases eliminating the need to have the structure inspected by a local code enforcer. In our location there are no building codes. We have a health inspector that would come out to inspect a septic or field lines. We also have an electrical inspector that would come out if we were connecting to the grid.
     Our little house is built on one course of cinder block sitting upon two slabs of four inch cement that is laid over gravel filled mountain stone. Half of the foundation is laid over undisturbed sandy loam and sandstone. The other half was about a foot lower and so we compacted soil and small rocks to bring it up level. All of the rock and mountain stone was pulled out of a low exposed area about fifty feet from the house. Inside the foundation we poured a thin coat of concrete in most of the area to act as a barrier. We will still lay a vapor barrier but felt the extra thermal mass of cement would be nice under the house. All of the block is cement filled and we placed threaded rods into some so as to connect to the wood of the house. Inside the block we placed ridged foam in a hope of insulating the foundation and holding temperature inside better.
     As you can see in the photos we had to shim the bottom boards of our house to make it all level. This is mostly due to my lack of experience with pouring a foundation and making it level. We will  have piers about eight feet out from the house on the East to allow for the deck beams to rest level.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

square thoughtage

The average American household is now over 2000 square feet. The average American individual has around 1000 square feet of personal living space. These statistics vary slightly depending on the source but hold reasonably close regardless. As the modern family has morphed and shrunk the homes in which we sleep, spend weekends, holidays, and special events has expanded. The expansion is something to the tune of doubling within one lifetime. This is an extreme reality of modern American life, we own larger homes have smaller families. Paradoxical? I think yes. 

There is a movement, a currently chic and trendy movement, toward small homes. Homes that are minimalistic in size. Homes that are even tiny. This movement is rooted in diverse beginnings, as diverse as the owners of such homes. Some build a tiny home because they want to create something unique. They want something that they themselves crafted and a tiny home is no so daunting as a two story colonial. Others buy tiny homes as a way to avoid debt. The smaller home carries a smaller price tag and allows the owner a freedom from debt. A smaller home with the smaller price tag afford these individuals the ability to fill their small space with quality over quantity. Still others, own tiny homes because the life they live are conducive to a small home. We sleep at home but we live in our cars. We cook breakfast at home but we eat lunch and diner in town. We work all day and spend the evening in the shops. Despite the regional and cultural differences across the county we spend less time at home today than ever before. It is time our house design reflect our culture and not that of our parents, or the aristocracy of past centuries. 

We are building a tiny home for all of these reasons. A tiny home is not limited by size. It is designed to evolve. It should be fluid as our lives are fluid. Our house will be 400 square feet. We will have outdoor living areas; covered porch areas, garden paths, rows of fruit trees. The design accounts for future additions. We may enclose a section of porch, converting a screened room to an extra bedroom if the need arises. If the need moves out it can always be converted back to a screen roof. It is fluid. We are accounting for desires such as creative work space. This may enlarge our house but not without reason, for thought and consideration for design. A tiny house is about creative use of space, multi purposing, quality over quantity. A tiny house is about purpose and freedom. It is not limited by size but empowered by it. We have chosen to build a tiny house.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Second floor

       This past week has proved to be productive. Partly due to the threat of impending rain and partly because we made a conscious effort to build on multiple days. Unfortunately, I forgot to bring the camera for a daily snap shot. The photo to the left is our progress as of the end of the week.  The sub floor is done, save a small strip that will allow access to the crawl space. The second floor has half of the studs done. Yes, we are building the second floor with traditional framing as opposed to timber framing. Building the timber ribs was fun and interesting but there is no way we can safely raise ribs on a second floor. Not to mention we ran out of cured oak for the process. So, standard stud walls it is. We are using saw mill cut pine from the mill five miles away. 2x4x8s are 2.40 a board and that beats Lowes by a mile, not to mention it is locally sourced, cut and milled. Additionally, the wood from the mill is true cut as opposed to the "standard" lumber from the store that is labeled 2x4 but is really smaller.
      We were able to build a jig and finish half of our roof trusses this week. We lifted them into place with a reasonable amount of grunting and ladder climbing. The metal roofing and reflective bubble insulation was picked up this week and we will hopefully install it in the next couple days.
     Yesterday, amidst the rain, we burned four large piles of brush. Most of the brush was from clearing the site for the house. We also burned a large amount of brush from our recent clearing in the forest surrounding the house. The burning really helped to clean up the surrounding area and removing the downed brush from the forest will make room for our hazelnut planting this Fall.
    Below are several more pictures of the house in its current state, taken from different angles. The second to bottom photo is taken from the lower field and gives good perspective on how the house sits up on the hill.