Tag Archives: alternative building

the incredible building mash-up

We’ve been thinking about what to build next. The Noah House has settled into daily usage. The landscaping projects are slowing down as winter approaches. And we seem to have a tradition of starting new buildings in January. Which means we’re in the imagining stages, now, for the next one.

Next one, you say? Well, yes. We seem to be building a house, room by room, where none of the rooms actually touch each other. And while we’re comfortable now, the kids are growing. They’ll need more space before we can blink. Time to get a head start on that.

This summer we visited a friend who has a large, two-story house, of the totally normal variety, and the kids were amazed. “Mom! Look at this! All the rooms are connected to each other!” They thought the indoor staircase was particularly wondrous. I guess whatever you’ve got is the standard upon which everything else is judged, right? It was pretty funny. “Mom, they have a bathroom inside their house! Did you see this?”

So, for our next building, we’re in the question stages. We’re asking ourselves, Where would we like another room? Off in the woods? Or close to the yurt? We’re asking, To what purpose would this room most likely be put, both short-term, and long-term? We’re asking, what materials do we have to build with? And what materials would we like to play with?

Luc has made strong claims on the next room. He says he needs a place for his puzzles where he can leave them all out and no one will walk on them. Sounds good to me. So, if it’s going to be a Luc room, it will probably need to be close to the yurt, because he’s a little guy still. And Paul has a line on some stone and is talking about how he would like to do some more masonry. He enjoyed doing the stonework for his tool shed. Only he’s nervous about doing corners…so I suggested making it round. No corners and a curved wall is stronger anyway, right? Maybe with a living roof…?

Do we want a round, stone, room, close to the yurt, for Luc and his puzzles? Would a room like that still be valuable to him in five years? Ten years, when he’s a teen-ager? What if he grows to be a big six-foot guy?

And what about how such a structure would fit with the flow of the structures that already exist? Or with the structures we might build in the future?

And if Luc doesn’t want that room later, who might use it then? And for what? Can we made allowances for that in the design now? Maybe further into the woods would be better after all…?

I love this part of building, all in the mind, tossing ideas around, the structure effortlessly morphing, this way and that way, before our very eyes. The constraints are (1) available money, (2) size (relating to permitting, cost, length of time to build, etc), (3) materials, (4) our building ability, and (5) sometimes timing (if we’re in a rush, but we aren’t for this one, hooray!). But such constraints are like the rules that shape a sonnet. Sometimes, if you can do anything, you fall back on what you know and, maybe, pick a plan out of a book of plans. On the other hand, embracing a set of constraints can help push creativity, rather than limit it. Within these constraints, how can we get really specific about how this structure might serve us and make our lives more sparkly?

(Of course, it all changes once building actually commences. But the first ideas are the starting place, without which is nothing can commence at all.)

I really believe you can only get this kind of hands-on creativity in building if you are doing it yourself. But if you are doing it yourself, you can make a simple building into Art You Live In.

And it’s fun!

in which we move in to the recycled house, and are pleased

We have completely, and thoroughly, moved in, FINALLY, to the Noah House!

[cue cheering!]

That is to say, we haven’t moved out of the yurt, we’re just…spreading. And in case you don’t know what I am talking about, here is the beginning of the story of recycling a tiny house, the tiny house my cousin Noah built, and, more recently, here is a picture of how it looks from the outside.

But today I offer you pictures from the inside! With all our STUFF! I know you’ve been just aching to see these, come on, admit it.

Okay, without further ado, let’s walk in through the front door. What do we see but….

nh 1.jpg

A sofa! And some kids! On the floor, coloring! And some book shelves! Ooo, ahhh.

For contrast, let’s look at the view the day after the carpentry crew left:

nh 9.jpg

And here it is when Paul was about half-way done:

nh 10.jpg

But now, it’s a real room. With toys and books and computers and all my yoga props…I’m so happy to have a place for my yoga props, I can’t tell you.

nh 2.jpg

This is the view when I am sitting on that green futon sofa (craigslist, we love you). Look, you can see the yurt through the windows! And if you look a bit to the left, you see this:

nh 3.jpg

Lots of pine bead board and recycled cherry wood trim….

…and a little farther to the left, you see this:

nh 4.jpg

(UPDATE: for what happened with the little room to the side, visit here.) It’s an extremely pleasant space. It’s odd that it can be so small, 12′ x 12′, and still feel quite spacious, but it does, probably because of the height of the ceilings.

Because here is what I see if I look up:

nh 5.jpg

It’s fourteen feet high at the top, because Noah wanted to be able to stand up in the loft. In a tiny house, design follows the physical body of the person doing the building.

But Noah, being the thrill seeker he is, used to sleep up there with no rails. Not so great for small kids. So, look at those lovely rails that Paul built so that Sophie could have a loft, and I could NOT have a heart attack every time she went up there. Aren’t they pretty? The wood for the posts was left over from something else, stored for years now under the yurt. Paul says he cleared out a ton of old wood he had been storing, making all the trim. So whoopee for having less junk around, I say, not to mention the attractive price-point.

But really, I didn’t realize trim was such a big deal. (Don’t tell Paul I said that, because he used to be a trim carpenter.) Never the less, I can now say with confidence, trim is not just some wood slapped up in the corners! Trim makes the room. Trim is the trimmings, the details. And attention to the details is what transforms a space from a box to a lovely room you want to hang out in. I swear.

For example, here is the first step in the front door:

200908101956.jpg

It’s a piece of cast off granite, rescued from a dumpster, and framed by Paul in oak. The floor here is recycled walnut. Plus a kitten always helps.

It’s gorgeous. Every time I step in, even if I don’t consciously think about it, I take in that beauty. The more details like that, the more a space feels right.

Build a small square room and it could be a hovel, a dark cave, a boring box. Give it lots of exposed wood, windows on all sides with lots of them in the south, and tons of love in the details, and suddenly you have something else entirely. I really do think the lack of love in the details is the reason speed-built, mass-produced houses so frequently lack soul. When you build things yourself, and when you do it on a tiny scale, the details are all within your power and creativity. And that’s a good thing.

Quick, before we leave, let’s take a peek up in the loft.

nh 6.jpg

Sophie lined up a bunch of teddy bears to live under the windows. Sitting here, reading while it rains outside, is about the most peaceful thing ever.

One last view from the corner. Hey, where did the kids go?

nh 11.jpg

Oh, here they are.

200908101910.jpg

Keep it small, build it yourself, pay little or nothing for recycled materials, and make the details yours. You, too, can have a tiny, beautiful, personal, space.

Thank you, again, Noah.

poof, another room

We are in the process of moving into the Noah House. I don’t mean moving out of the yurt, just adding the Noah House as another room in our weird, Tiny House Compound. As I mentioned here, Paul finished the interior trim last weekend and, although there is still a punch list of thing to do (screens, door stop, improve the ladder up to the loft, just for a few examples), especially in the little side room (which we are conflicted about how to use—a writing office for me? Toy storage for the kids? Tiny loft for Luc?), we did get the electricity hooked up last week and we are now officially using it as an actual space.

Finally, huh? Well, it takes a while when the primary (and only) carpenter on the job works full time elsewhere as well as having a demanding *cough* family life. But here he is, finishing the deck yesterday….

deck 1.jpg

And here is the finished deck this morning…

deck 2.jpg

The deck functions now as a room of it’s own, in a way, another living space. I hadn’t expected that, but I’m delighted.

In keeping with our recycled building modus operandi, the stain Paul used was $5 a gallon cast-offs from the Habitat store. I’m not sure if you can see it in the photo but the horizontal surface is a gray-green and the outer trim is a blue-green that matches nicely with the blue-green on the door and windows. That was a happy accident, as you take what you get when you dip into the $5 bin. But those gallons would have been $30-$40 a gallon new, and it looks great, so win for us. Sometimes making do with what you’ve got can have lovely results.

deck 3.jpg

I especially like the stone stairs that Paul made, fitting together some rocks we had laying around. There is a solar light tucked in the corner that turns on at dusk, another cast-off. Thank goodness people throw out so much good stuff.

And look, the bottom rock has fern fossils!

fossil 1.jpg

Can’t see it? Here, try this close up.

fossil 2.jpg

Isn’t that cool?

Sophie and I shared a chocolate eclair in these chairs this morning while the sun came up over the trees. Our new breakfast nook?

Yum.

recycled playground

If you’ve been hanging around a bit, you know we are bootstrap builders, putting together our country estate (cough), on very little cash, by building with junk recycled materials. (And if that’s news to you, but sounds fun, look over there in the tag list and you’ll find recycled building has its very own tag. Aren’t I organized?) But houses, tool sheds, and goat barns aren’t all you can build with recycled materials. Today I bring you: a Huge Wooden Playset, assembled from the broken pieces of Other People’s Trash!

Our playset has evolved over the years. At the moment it has a tower, a swing section, a platform with another slide, a sandbox, monkey bars, and a tree climbing section off the back. Do you know how much a set like would cost new? I didn’t, not until just now when I went and googled it. Well, I mean, you CAN’T buy a set like this, but it turns out that the sets that were sort of similar (a tower, a bunch of swings, some monkey bars) were $1000-3000!

!!!!!

In contrast, almost all of our set was FREE. Most of what you see here either came from the dump or from craigslist ads that said “Free if you come and get it!” I think the grand total is somewhere around $50 bucks. And that includes the sand.

It pays to scrounge.

Here’s our set:

Wait, why are we so far away in this picture! Oh yeah, it’s because I’m plunked down on my bum with my twisted ankle propped up, all the way across the yard. Where is that zoom button? Here we go….closer…

There, that’s better. Our set started with the pink slide section and the little platform behind it. Paul actually bought the beam that goes across the top new and installed a selection of cast-off swings from various thrown-out sets on it. The things hanging from the bar have changed as the kids have gotten bigger. For example, we started out with a baby swing for Luc that has since been discarded, and we’ve added a trapeze bar for Sophie, who likes to do tricks.

He also made the sandbox at the foot of the pink slide, fashioned from a thrown away frog sandbox and some sandbags.

Next came the tower section, for which I think we paid $30. Craigslist. You can see it on the right of this photo. And hey, I actually had to get up off my butt to get this shot—ah, how I suffer for my art!

Look at that, a third slide on the back! You can also see the faded remains of a once spiffy play kitchen. Another freebie that has seen a LOT of use. The kids like to cook up sand cakes in the kitchen. They also like to play Hulk and knock the kitchen over with a big crash and climb on it. An advantage to getting stuff for free is that it’s no big deal if the kids delight in destroying it.

Let’s keep going on around it. Here we are, further along the back…

See the monkey bars shooting off the side? Here’s a better pic:

And look! There is a monkey swinging across them!

But my favorite part of the set is the balance bridge tree thingy that Paul rigged up….

That U shape at the end is one tree, grown in a strange shape because of storm damage. You can’t really see it but there is a rope hanging across the top of the U and a bit dangling down, good for Tarzan games.

The log off to the left makes a bridge….

…that leads into the woods, partially cleared out by Paul. A few improvement, like this small plank and platform make a good pirate boat, rocket ship, whatever.

The board is scrap, the platform thingy was made from scrap and used to hold up the barrel that held up the air conditioner, but Paul invented some other solution, and the platform got moved out here…. But the real attraction here is the forest. Shadowy cool, lots of downed trees, criss-crossing the ground in a maze of balance beams, great for playing, say, Jungle Adventure, as the kids call it, as in, “Mom, we’re playing Jungle Adventure—we need backpacks full of snacks!”

Because a playground is better if it leads into the woods, don’t you think?

Bottom line: you don’t have to pay $3000 for an awesome playset!

Trash can be just as fun.

yurts: the downside

We love our yurt. I am really glad we decided to go this route.

But no space is perfect in all ways, and yurts are no exception. After nearly four years in ours, here is the unvarnished truth to living in a gigantic, glorified tent.

Sound

If you put up your yurt on a mountaintop, 100 acres from your nearest neighbor, this one will not be a problem. It is lovely to lie in bed at night and hear the owls and frogs and deer doing their nighttime thang in the woods around our yurt. You can hear it all, and when the sounds are good, this is a good thing. However, we can also here the neighbors coming and going, hear the folks down the road giving a party, and rainstorms make shouting a necessity. There is NO sound proofing to the walls of a yurt. When the fan on our waterstove started rattling, it kept me awake at night, even though it is outside and fifty feet from the wall. Yuck.

And don’t forget sounds goes both ways. If you listen to music, fight with your spouse, or, say, have a really good time with your spouse, ahem, the neighbors will hear you. Forget the privacy you may be accustomed to with six-inch thick, standard construction, insulated walls. Sound goes straight through a yurt skin. So give your yurt a lot of space around it to compensate.

Temperature

Yurts are HOT. At least ours is. They were designed for Mongolia where it’s freaking freezing, so, duh. But if you’re thinking of putting a yurt anywhere where the days get over 80 or 85 degrees, you are going to want an air conditioner or you are NOT going to want to be in your yurt during the afternoons. We have a large window unit, backed up to one of the windows and resting on a 55 gallon steel drum, that does pretty well keeping us cool, until outside temps get over 95—and then it’s just not powerful enough to keep the yurt cooler than 80. Without the air conditioner, if we open all the windows, and there is a good breeze, it’s, well its still totally hot, but the breeze does blow straight through, and that can be nice. For a minute. Until the breeze stops. A friend of mine who got a yurt (that she adored in the winter) had to move out in the summer. She couldn’t draw enough electricity to run an air conditioner and her yurt was unbearably hot three months out of the year. And did I mention the dome casting a huge circle of heat, starting on one side of the yurt and working its way across, like a giant heat lamp, each day? Basically, without the breeze or the air conditioner what we have here is a big solar cooker. And we are the roast chicken.

However, yurts warm up well when it’s cold. We’re toasty during the winter with our heating set up (see waterstove link above). It would be interesting to see an infrared photo of the yurt—I wonder if there is heat just pouring out of the acrylic dome. Probably. One thing to consider is this is a BIG volume of space for the square footage. We have 16 foot peak in the center, and all of that space up there gets heated before the humans down on the floor feel it. Our propane heater is rated for 60,000 BTUs and it can heat the place to hot, if we’re willing to pay for the fuel (which we’re not). Anything less and you’d be cold, I think.

Bottom line: when the temperature outside changes, the temperature inside the yurt changes. It’s pretty easy to adjust it, but yurts do not hold a temperature the way some other building styles do. Our super-insulated bathhouse stays cool all summer, minus the hottest days of August, with no air conditioning at all. And we heat it comfortably with a small space heater for about $10-$20 a month in winter. In comparison, we pump a lot of energy, whether electrical (for cooling), propane or wood (for heating) into changing our inside temperature. Heating and cooling are not the yurt’s strong points.

ETA: Paul wanted me to put in that the walls and ceiling of the yurt meet the minimum R-values for insulation in our state. He couldn’t remember what those are, maybe R-10 for the walls and maybe R-19 for ceilings…? At any rate, the R-value of the foil-covered-bubblewrap insulation that is on our yurt is lowish, but within the range of building norms. However, the vinyl windows and the acrylic dome are big heat loss points.

Rain

No, our yurt does not leak. It is tight as a drum. BUT. Having never been in a structure with absolutely no overhang before, I really didn’t get how rain would run down the long expanse of roof and then come right in through the windows. And because the yurt skin is a pliable fabric, the rain curves down, around, and vroom! shoots straight in like someone pointing a hose through screen. I only had to test THAT out once. You HAVE to close the windows when it rains. OR you HAVE to have good awnings. Maybe good gutters would be enough in a light rain. I wish we had gutters! My biggest regret, besides not putting in radiant floor heating, is not getting the gutters.

In addition, the windows open and close, at least on our yurt, on the outside. So, in order to open and close them, you have to be outside, too. It’s not a big deal, but it’s a bit of a pain in the patooty to run out into the rain to unroll and zip.

Our solution to all of this is just to rarely open the windows. We have two doors on opposite sides of the yurt, and these are almost constantly open, unless the heat or air conditioner are on. Both have gutters and awnings. And since the space is small (our 30 foot yurt is about 700 square feet) this usually gives plenty of airflow for a nice spring day like today. We only open windows when we know we’re going to be home and there is no rain on the forecast. But that’s not very often. If you’re thinking of getting a yurt, get the gutters. And get screen doors so you can use the doors as your windows when you don’t want to mess with the whole rolling and zipping routine.

Storage

We have none! What I wouldn’t give for a pantry! Paul built an amazing, freestanding, closet/bookshelf (closets on the ‘bedroom’ side and bookshelves on the ‘living room’ side) that divides our yurt into two areas. In addition to that we have a wardrobe for coats (overflowing), and a hutch and some shelves in our kitchen. But, basically, we end up with stuff everywhere and no good place to put it. Of course, we are four people living in our yurt, so if a person was on his or her own, this may be less of a problem. But there is no junk room, no attic, no basement, no spare bedroom, no closets, no pantry, no mudroom, none of those spaces in a more traditional house where you stick your stuff. This is because yurts were designed by nomads. They didn’t have much because whatever they had, they were going to have to hump it somewhere else pretty soon. Depending on one’s propensity to acquire stuff, this lack of storage can be quite a problem. For us, basically, we’re screwed.

But that’s about it. There are some difficulties with privacy/sound at night, particularly when some of us want to sleep and others of us do not, but that is more of an issue of four people in one room, than a problem with yurts per se. We’ve solved some of that with things like wireless headsets for the tv, for example. And just being thoughtful.

But, like I said, we love our yurt. It’s a beautiful, light-filled, affordable, fast, comfortable space. For us, moving onto this land with very little money and a high time-pressure (I was pregnant, our lease was up, tick-tock-tick), it has been perfect.

Check out the ‘yurts’ tag for other posts on our yurt, such a series on how we prepared the site, built a platform and then, finally, put up our yurt in one day, or this one on what it’s like to live inside a sundial.

how to recycle a tiny house, day five

After taking a day off for the big snow, the guys were back at work for their fifth day recycling our new, tiny house (see the last few posts for details if you are new to the story). They arrived just about the time I was going out to the barn. Here is Fancy saying “Good morning,” and “What took you so long?”

As I blearily made my way up the path, a grinding noise and then pop! Out fell a piece of the wall. We’d decided on an extra window and here they are, putting it in before I’ve even cleaned out the milker.

Here Monty is on the inside, trimming out the new hole.

And here the window is a hour later, installed, and surrounded by shiny siding.

Next came the interior walls, pine beadboard….

and while that was going on, outside, they got the deck started.

Meanwhile, Sophie was also hard at work building her own house.

I love the back view.

By the afternoon, the deck was nearly done.

And the interior was starting to look quite lovely.

The ceiling and the walls in little side room were the last things remaining unfinished as they packed up for the day.

Here is the view from the back at the end of day five.

And the front.

From a pile of junk, it has regained it’s cuteness! It was there, and now it is here, re-materialized, reconstituted, resurrected! Recycled!

My favorite country music lyrics of the day are also celebratory:

Maybe I’ll get me a new tattoo, or take my harley on a three day cruise, or even grow me a fu man chu….

Tomorrow, they’ll finish up the last details, and then, this weekend, we’ll get the electricity running out to it and start to fill it with…well, toys, probably. Oodles and oodles of toys. Books, too, as Paul has promised me mucho book shelves for my birthday, and maybe that will ease the book pressure as we currently have leaning towers of books on every surface, those not already covered with toys, in the yurt. We need to get a couch, maybe one of those futon ones that open into a bed—future guests, rejoice! And a railing for Sophie’s loft, and, and, and—

Moving the house is nearly complete—now comes the fun part of turning into part of our home.

ETA: They finished on day six. On the seventh day they rested. And Paul got to work. Ceiling sheetrock, oak flooring, interior trim and bookshelves…all lie before us. I mean, before him. But the moving of the house is complete and the recycling experiment is a success. This house cost my cousin Noah about $7000 in materials to build, and cost us about $4000 to move. Go tiny, and building a house becomes quite doable!

ETA 8/1/2009: Here you can see pictures of the finished interior. Woo hoo!

Click here to go back to day four, the afternoon.

how to recycle a tiny house, day four

After taking the weekend off, the carpentry crew was back at eight this morning, slamming it into gear with their incredibly loud music and their hammers and full on get-it-done work ethic. I’ve been staring through the window in awe at their industry.

They’d been here about 45 minutes when it looked like this.

It’s just amazing to watch a building appear where there was nothing. Essentially, a recycled house is a pre-fab house—my cousin Noah fabricated it in its old spot. The fact that it is so small means four guys can handle a whole wall section and the whole thing is going up like a magic trick. Watch….

After getting the outer three walls up, they started on the tricker (because of the height) front fall, muscling it into position.

You can see the outer two guys are hauling ass on ropes while the two inside guys do their Incredible Hulk faces as they push that thing up. Then the rope guys held it while the ladder guys scurried around fixing it into place. I think I held my breath the whole time. It probably best that I’m not a carpenter or I would keep passing out from lack of oxygen.

Next came the lower front wall panel.

You see the guy on the ladder? Ladders to me are things to try to make absolutely stable—they are NOT TO MOVE while I am on them. But these dudes think of ladders more like…stilts. Or maybe surf boards. They just stick’em there, scurry up, and it’s rocking back and forth as the lean here or there, stretched way the hell out—one guy even kind of walked his ladder down the wall, while he was standing on it. It’s a carpentry circus out there.

Paul, who used to be into rock climbing, scoffs at ladders. He tends to just crawl up the walls, balancing the ball of one foot on some invisible ledge on the wall, swinging a leg up and over the roof edge, hammering out on some precipice like he’s a spider monkey. A spider monkey with a hammer. I, on the other hand, am good at standing here with my coffee and watching out the window. That’s my part in all this. Oh, and I take pictures. They’ve all been really good natured about my picture taking. But I suspect they think I’m a fruitcake.

Back to the action. The roof.

This guy, Monty, is up twenty feet in the air, his feet balanced on those little rafters, hammering away, like its nothing.

I was impressed, anyway.

Here’s what it looked like from the back after about three hours.

Four hours in…

And it’s time for lunch.

I snuck this picture through the yurt window—they just looked so cute, sitting in a row like that, admiring their progress. And they should. They’ve been busting their humps out there, drinking their red bull and blasting their country music. Yurt walls let sound pass right through, which can be cool at night, listening to the owls outside—but that country music is as loud in the yurt as it is out there for the guys to hear over the pounding of their hammers, and I’m realizing I’ve never really listened to country music. Most of the songs start with something like, “Sometimes I hate my job,” or, “My brother just got out of prison,” but then by the end they seem to be about gratitude, like, “my ticker keeps on ticking,’ or, “I’ve got a cold bear on a friday night.” Appreciating the small things in life. I can get behind that, I reckon.

Half the day’s work is done. Tune in for the afternoon’s update!

Click here to go to day four, the afternoon. Click here to go back to day three.

how to recycle a tiny house, day three

The guys brought the Noah House to its new home the morning of the third day. This the first load, pulling up to the yurt at 8:30 in the morning. Be glad there isn’t a picture of pre-coffee me, staggering outside to answer questions about where to put stuff. Scary.

The sun is coming in from the east and the piles are beginning.

Second load delivered. The piles are getting taller and sun is higher in the sky.

It’s a big jigsaw puzzle isn’t it?

Third and final load.

The sunlight is coming from the other side of the yard now and the guys start putting together the floor platform.

I tried to be a good hostess and cultivate plenty of carpenter good-will by bringing them hot tea and blueberry muffins. It didn’t hurt, anyway. Here they have put in the foundation posts and are moving the first floor piece into place.

Second floor piece. The sun is going down now and they are in shade again.

The floor is complete. Here is a shot from morning the next day:

Tonight is the coldest night in our area in years, a predicted low of 7. With all these house pieces in the yard, I’m just glad there is no rain in the forecast. Tune in for further updates as the walls and roof go up…

Click here to go back to day two. Click here to go to day four.

recycling a tiny house

My cousin, Noah, built himself a tiny house.

It’s adorable and perfect for him. Let me tell you what happened to it.

But first, look at this: In a nearby botanical garden you can visit Paul Green’s tiny house, where he supposedly wrote many of his plays.

I love tiny houses! Maybe it’s an introspective writer-type thing. There’s a great book, A Little House of My Own: 47 Designs for 47 Tiny Houses that has pictures and plans for houses like Jefferson’s Cottage, Henry Thoreau’s Cabin and George Bernard Shaw’s Writing Hut, as well as many others. I need a writing hut! Don’t you think I need a writing hut?

Hey, I’m not the only one who loves tiny houses. This is a very cool site with lots and lots of pictures of tiny houses. And here is a blog about tiny houses. There are even several companies, for example, Tumbleweed Houses, who build and sell gorgeously cute, tiny houses. You don’t have to be introspective or a writer to like these—they are just so cool, all built-in-everything, and efficient, like boats.

What is the romance of tiny houses? It’s hard to put a finger on it. But surrounded, as we are, by a profusion of McMansions going in so fast that our rural road doesn’t look anything like itself, even from a couple years ago, tiny houses seem so lovely in their attention to detail and their focus on quality over quantity. It doesn’t take a ton of space to feel happy and satisfied with one’s home. It only takes the right amount of beautiful space to do the trick.

Okay, back to Noah’s lovely, hand-built house. It’s about 200 square feet, plus a loft you can stand in, made with lots of recycled components purchased from a used building supply store. Yes, that’s 200, not 2000. Those ‘not so big’ people crack me up sometimes—they go on and on about downsizing from the McMansion syndrome, which is great, but then the ‘small’ house will still be 2500 square feet! I don’t know, maybe there are seven people in that house. Seven people who don’t like each other.

Here is a shot of the inside of Noah’s place. Isn’t it cute? There is something just right about a person building their own tiny home, in a way that suits that person exactly, like tailored clothes made for your own body’s idiosyncrasies.

But then terrible news! Just as Noah was settling in, the forces of evil and zoning cracked down on him and announced that no one was allowed to live in this house. In fact, it couldn’t be a house at all. It could only be a storage shed. And not only that, it was too tall and would have to be cut down.

Sometimes you just want to go kick someone. I mean, really kick someone.

But Noah decided, instead of kicking, to do something else.

Rather than cut down his house, he decided to give it to us.

No kidding! How many people get to give away a house? How many people get given a house? My cousin is a very cool guy.

It’s funny—well, I mean, it’s not, but maybe this part is—because when he first built it, we had gone to see it and had immediately grokked it’s beauty and utility and decided we would build one for ourselves. We even called it ‘the Noah House’ as in, “when we get the Noah House built we’ll do blah blah blah,” or, “That window would be good for the Noah House.” And this was the year we were going to build it—or rather, Paul was going to build it. We had even sited it, with orange string and stakes. I would look out the window and imagine it there, our own Noah House.

We had no idea it would be Noah’s house that would be going there! Maybe our manifesting was too powerful! Or too… specific?

Anyway, our first thought was to have the Noah House moved here to yurt land. But because of the height, 16 feet, every power-line between here and there was going to have to get lifted, and that was a lot of fees. Seven thousand dollars worth of fees, to be exact. Um, no thank you. Not to mention the trees we would have to take out, both where the house is now, and here at the yurt.

So we decided to hire a carpentry crew to take the house apart, cart the pieces over here, and then put it back together. All the house at half the cost. In essence, recycling an entire house.

It all starts today! Tune in over the next few days for updates….

Click here for day one.

the TOOL shed

Paul has reached the 80% done point on his tool shed. I joke with him about how it’s where he keeps his tool. [insert Beavis and Butthead laugh here.] He’s been really happy working on the it because he’s finally building something with no time pressure (the baby is coming! the goats are coming! winter is coming!) or inspection requirements (now you will pay thousands of dollars for engineers to say that yes, this building will not fall down—bend over please). Ahem.

I think it has turned out delightfully.

Come on over for a tour….

The bottom half is masonry, the top half cordwood. Everything in it is recycled. Timbers were cut from when the land was cleared for the yurt. The doors, windows, hardware, etc, are all from the local used building materials store. The cement was free from Craig’s List. Paul estimates that the whole thing has cost a couple hundred dollars.

A detail from the front wall….

Here we go around the corner.

Can you see all the little tiles the kids and I pressed into the mortar? That was surprisingly fun.

Here is the same wall from the inside.

And the same wall down near the floor. More of Sophie’s tile work.

The back wall is made of blue glass bottles and more of the little blue tiles.

The front wall from the inside.

The floor is recycled brick.

Here it is, tucked away in the woods….

Every man should have such a nice place to play with his tool. I mean tools.

ETA: see some ‘making of the tool shed’ posts here.