Wednesday, November 21, 2012

On Copper Roofs and Trusting Life

The past couple of weeks have been quite a challenge on the building forefront. What we are dealing with is my lack of knowledge and the excessive amounts of moisture in our current environment.

It all began with a bad decision. I wrapped the house in tarps to keep it dry. Well, as it turns out that wasn't the best choice when the weather got rainy. Instead it held the moisture inside, which you would think would be obvious to see. But it is one of those situations where when you are “in it” it is challenging to step back and realize what is actually going on.

So I made a mistake. The walls got very moldy inside and out, and now I get to deal with it. Though there seems to be a problem with the specific plywood that was used…

The first attempt we made to rid the environment of mold, was to spray and wipe the walls with 100% bleach (with vapor respirators of course), which was disgusting. Then move the trailer (house) to another location, where it can stay out of the rain with air movement on all sides. These actions made me feel much, much better.

But the mold was back in less than a week.... worse than before - a white fuzz coating the body of the trailer. This sent me towards despair! I am putting all my energy, love, hope and money in to this house and what do I get? Mold? I know I am getting much more than that, but sometimes it is hard to see.

I have learned something sense then. Bleach is not efficient at killing mold on porous surfaces. Because mold sends spores deep in the material and the ion structure of sodium hypochlorite (bleach) does not allow it to penetrate porous surfaces. So when you put bleach on mold - which is on a porous surface, the bleach part of the solution sits on the surface and the water part soaks into the wood, actually encouraging the mold to grow.

Instead we will use vinegar which seeps in to porous materials and kills 82% of molds. So keep your fingers crossed we are dealing with the "right" mold!

Plan #2. Seal the windows and doors, dry the trailer out using a dehumidifier, a heater and a fan. Spray the dry interior with vinegar and wipe it down. Dry the house again. Paint the interior with Kilz primer with a mold-icide additive. Then do the same process on the exterior using a heat gun and working in patches.

I have been realizing recently that rest is important. So today while waiting for the trailer to dry out we decided to head to Seattle and gallivant around architectural salvage warehouses! But we took the wrong exit off the freeway and got a bit lost. My dad saw a sign for a sheet metal and roofing company. And being who he is, he decides we are going in.

Long story short, we meet a really nice guy named Nick who has been in the sheet metal business for thirty years and really likes our projects. He offered to help me build whatever kind of roof I would like... for the cost of materials! He encouraged me to stick with my ultimate goal of using copper – but this might have to change since copper is very expensive right now. My mind is spinning with ideas!

Here's to wrong turns and trusting life!



Sunday, November 4, 2012

Mock-up and Mold

Click on each photo for descriptions

We mocked up all the furniture in my house, and spent a few days rearranging things until they felt just right. Next we made cardboard windows and determined size and placement! Everything is so exciting.... until I discovered a black and white fuzzy mold coating the majority of the walls. Inside and out. It turns out I didn't have enough ventilation, and with the moisture around here it created the perfect environment for mold to thrive.

So, I made a trip the hardware store today, coming away with respirators, neoprene gloves, spray bottles and bleach. The surprises never end, and we've got our work cut out for us!

Off to work,


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Raising the Roof.... finally!

And there you have it! By tomorrow the roof will be totally sealed in : D now I get to go on the search for roofing!

Off to work,


Monday, October 8, 2012

Before Roof

An update on the progress.

We have been scrambling, preparing the structure for the roof and we are almost there! The roof better be up in the next couple of weeks... other wise I am screwed. 

Bathroom walls are up! I am obviously very excited : )

A note on the bright side of design - I love designing. I love imagining spaces that are alive and filled with beauty. Lately I have been having trouble getting to sleep at night, my mind is rolling on kitchen layouts and sliding doors, wall textures and window frames. It is so exciting to design a space that will be my home for the next many years!

Life is good,


Monday, October 1, 2012

Metal working + Sink of my dreams

Preparing the steel for the loft floor supports, installing my clothing rack/king post, and MY NEW SINK!!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Learning Process

About a month ago, I had finished building a 20’x5’ roof panel and was ready to put it in place. I had called on a group of guys to come with tractors, jacks and trucks to help with the process of fork lifting this panel on to the top of my house. The past couple of days I had not been feeling to well, and on this particular day I was pretty bad. So I was sleeping in the car as people arrived and the 20’ panel was dragged outside and my house was hooked to a truck and moved so the tractor could get as close as possible.

When all was set, the panel was on the tractor, which was on a trailer bed - ready to rock and roll. One of the guys, a contractor walked into the house, looked around, and said “Ya know, I don’t think the structure is ready to handle the weight of the roof.”

This is where we run in to the limits of our knowledge and experience. Neither my dad or I have built a house before, let alone one on wheels. Also given we are building this structure out of new materials (Sing panels) and inside out and backwards it just wasn’t ready yet.

So at this point I was feeling even worse, a bunch of people had taken time out of their day to bring their tractors and trucks to help… and I wasn’t ready. A couple of the guys went on to tell stories of professional contractors and builders working on projects where the structure wasn’t ready for the roof and a three story building collapsed, or an entire wall slid off a house. This made me feel a little better, even professionals make mistakes.

After everyone had gone home and my disappointment had settled, I sat down and made a list of everything that needed to be done before the roof went up. Now I am almost through that list! Just a bit more research on using rods to tie walls together, and steel framed windows. I am hoping that within the next month the roof will start to go up.

Off to work,


Monday, September 24, 2012

Picture Post

Jeff Holtby ( a talented blacksmith and I working hard on my custom fleur de lis brackets and my cloths rack king post.

Off to work!


Friday, September 21, 2012

Slowly but Surely

Much has happened since the last time I wrote. Joy, mistakes, progress, stress and life has happened. In the last four months I have become an apprentice shoemaker, I have gotten six stitches, I have gotten the last wall up, I have attended the most wonderful camp for Unschoolers - Not Back to School Camp (check it out here - I have been questioning my priorities.

I have been spending two days a week learning to make shoes. Is this a distraction… or is it an opportunity? Is it more important to spend a few more hours working on the trailer… or shall I spend time with friends? Is blogging at the top of the list… obviously it hasn’t been. At the moment I only get to spend three full days working on the house a week. That is not a lot. In my current situation, I have one more year in the house I am living in. That right there is a big push.

I am viewing my actions as investments. I am putting so much energy in to a house so that in the future I will have a beautiful, inexpensive roof over my head. I am spending two days a week working for free making shoes. But the skills I am learning will perhaps be a source of income, and are a guaranteed source of intrigue.

I am realizing that this journey of building a house is more about the path then the final destination. When I wake up in the morning excited about what the day might hold, and go to sleep satisfied with the day’s work – it is clear, life is good.

I will now be posting once a week to share progress, updates and goals!

Getting stuff done,


Saturday, June 30, 2012

Designing a Life

I was just given an amazing experience, Whidbey Island Center for the Arts put on a production WOW -  Women on Whidbey. They asked 14 interesting women to share their stories and passions. I am honored to be one of them.

Here is my presentation:

I would like to share with you an exploration of my current state, which is wonderfully all over the place. I don’t have it all together, but I better by the time I’m 18. : )

Since I was a kid I have been intrigued with fabricating a life I want to live. I have been working towards this on many levels. Mentally and emotionally, but also physically. For the past few years I have been obsessed with the dream of building not just a house but a home. I have immersed myself in this project and am creating my tiny home exactly how I imagine it. There is a story and connection behind everything in or on it. That is what life should be like.

We have become so disconnected from the immediate world that surrounds us – be it our homes, made with maintenance free materials manufactured in unknown locations. Or be it our communities where communication has to often shrunk to Facebook or texting.

And so I began to observe my world and wonder… Where did this chair, this table this shoe come from? What are their stories? Who is that person who lives down the street? What is their story?

I recently went to a talk Ross Chapin did on wholeness, and the main thing I went away with was that, “The best thing you can do for yourself, your community and the world – is to follow your passions. And by diving in to that pool, your ripples will inspire others to do the same. Thus creating an inspired, fulfilling life, a diverse community and many wonderful stories.

Some of you may have read the recent article in the South Whidbey Record on the little house that I am building. It was a beautiful article, well done. The title of it was South Whidbey teen builds tiny transportable house. Now when the article was published all I had resembling a house was this – 

 The article could have been titled South Whidbey teen acquires rusty trailer chassis.

So you see what I had was an idea that I was and still am passionate about and as I work towards it the interest it generates is incredible. Many generous people have given me their time, shop space or knowledge. Without them I wouldn’t be even close to where I am now, and I thank them. One of the main reasons I have been able to focus my energy on the things I love is that I have chosen to unschool myself. –

I use the word Unschool to explain to this culture that I learn through life experience. - I do nothing related to the public school system at the moment. Instead I am creating a life for myself where learning is not work, and work wears play clothes. I am deep in my interests and the ripple effect is apparent. Example, I was asked to do this presentation.

I have discovered that money is not the limiting factor when it comes to transforming dreams into realities. In my experience it is often limitations which aid creativity, though this is not necessarily the most comfortable path it has pushed me further than I ever would have gone. Here is an image to solidify that idea –

I spent six months in Europe with my dad and sister. We traveled with very loose plans, staying in 50 homes in 17 countries and teaching dance in schools. The experiences we had were extraordinary. For example, we ended up rowing 22 miles through the grand canals and around the perimeter of Venice, Italy with some Hungarian friends and two thousand other boats from around the world.
Our six months in Europe cost less than renting a house and living on Whidbey Island, and my learnings were profound.

Some of you may know my dad because he is who I live and work with, but I would also like to acknowledge my mom and all she has done for me. She lives in a nursing home in Port Townsend with Multiple Sclerosis, and has taught me the art of gentle strength, she has shown me that your time here in this functioning body may be short so waste no time and do what you love.

My problem now is that I love so many things and finding a way to do them all has proven challenging. I want to be a portrait photographer, a dance teacher, a natural cosmetic chemist, a chef, farmer, and for a while now an architect.

After one wonderful evening with a group of aspiring designers -- where we philosophize about life and design -- I was sitting in my kitchen, with my dad eating left over savory sweet potato waffles, talking about the future and I said; “ Daddy, I don’t want to be an architect – I want to be a designer of life. I want everything I do to be beautiful.”

I would like to share one more quick story: through a serendipitous set of circumstances I have recently become an apprentice to an Armenian shoemaker. We make beautiful custom dance shoes; through complex processes I am learning to transform leather in to functional works of art. This new knowledge has opened my eyes to many possibilities. You see, clothing seems doable; you can make clothing. But shoes you have to buy them in a store – honestly I had never given a thought to how shoes were made.

But now every step I take brings me closer to the life that I want to live, literally.

Hope you enjoyed, I sure did : )


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Singing Out Loud

Picking up the panels down in McCleary! Peter and Irene had not only the panels but pizza and wonderful conversations waiting for us!

It amazes me how rapid plans evolve when new knowledge is acquired. Learning about Sing Panels completely changed the way I look at building. These panels are ridged and lightweight, uniform in size and pre-insulated. After this new bit of knowledge was gained - I knew this was the best material to build my tiny house from. It just makes SENSE.

When building a house, typically the first step is to construct a frame and then apply sheathing. But working with these panels everything is backwards and inside out - in a good way. First create the shape using the panels, glue and braces, then custom fit a frame inside of that. This allows progress to be seen quite quickly. We got my walls up in two afternoons!

Thanks to Peter and Irene and Sing Panels, I am well on my way towards something more house like!

Making Progress,


Saturday, March 31, 2012

Learning as a way of LIFE

Floor is partially on (it is now finished) with our set up for the tarp - it rains a lot here!

The interest and enthusiasm this project has generated so far is astonishing, and I thank anyone who has commented or emailed giving suggestions and or support. Though I would love to respond to every one of you - I have just barely started building and need to focus on making some progress!

This is a major learning experience for me in all realms of life, and one thing this has taught me is how distorted (for lack of a better word) our culture is. What I am doing is normal to me, if I want something I make it, if I don't know how to make it - I learn. It is as if I am doing this amazing thing - but it shouldn't be. This should be normal.

In our culture, children are rarely given a chance to follow their heart and do the things they love. Instead they are encouraged to do what they are told and get good grades. Because that will get them in to a good college so they can get a good job and make good money. It is all preparation for a life of grueling work, making money so when they are old they can relax. But as you may know, this plan doesn't always work out, especially in today's economy. In the past a college diploma guaranteed a good job, this is no longer true. How many people do you know whom have graduated from college who are jobless? Having a good job used to mean a comfortable retirement, right? How many people do you know who had a stable job for years whom recently got laid off? Following this path is no guarantee for "success" nowadays. Therefore give children and young adults options and let them make a choice. School does not fit everyone - in fact it fits very few. And yet creative, joy filled children are being squished to fit this mold.
The opportunities are endless. All we need to do is open our eyes and hearts to them. 

I am getting sidetracked - more on education later. Now for an update!

The floor is down! But there was a dilemma, (as there always seams to be) down the length of the chassis - 18', there is a 3/4" rise and fall. Meaning my floor would not lay flat on the chassis. We would have to get very good at shimming. But earlier that week we had been looking at some beautiful pictures a friend had taken on a trip to China. They were photographs of the old hill towns and villages, built of stone - with narrow pathways and waterways and chickens. I just couldn't stop thinking about their perfect "offkilterness". I absolutely loved it. Old houses have this quality also nothing is quite flat or square. And so I made the decision not to shim anything and lay the floor a bit crooked. In one sunny afternoon my dad (check out his crazy project here - and I laid the entire floor, we used deck adhesive between the plywood and the chassis and bolted it down with 143 carriage bolts. It is beautiful!

Also! I have a change of plans for the walls. Originally I was going to build a version of SIP panels with plywood and ridged insulation. BUT - last Monday morning my dad (again you should really see what he is up to - was trying to decide how to rebuild the walls of his trailer and remembered a product called Sing Honeycomb Panels. He went to the website of this product and it turns out there was currently some panels on clearance. So the next day we took a spontaneous trip down to McCleary, WA to see what we might. What we saw was very cool - Sing Core Patented Panels - a veneer torsion box embedded in EPS foam - very strong, durable, ridgid and light weight. Tiny house people you need to see this - In the next two weeks we will be picking up the remainder of our 32 panels which were on clearance, costing us (my dad and I) $3,000 - $1,400 for my trailer the other for my dad's. Yes, I know that seems like a LOT, but retail is much higher - so we lucked out. If you add up the cost of two layers of good quality plywood, plus ridgid insulation, plus adhesive, plus studs, plus time. This actually costs less. Yes, I have tried to scrounge materials but it is not a quick process. So instead I decided to earn money and buy what I need to get rolling.

So folks - the moral of the story. Do what works for YOU to lead a healthy life, because you know yourself pretty well.



Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Tough Decisions, Welding and Reciprocal Relationships

First of all check out this article on my project in the local paper! - South Whidbey Record.

We are faced with many decisions, at the moment I am dealing with two (well many more than two, but two main ones). One - There are people in my life whom have helped me greatly. I could not be doing what I am doing without them. But I also don't want to spend all of my time with them. I am often caught in situations that I don't want to be in, and in order to get out of them I have to choose between telling a small lie, and harming only my own psyche. Or telling the truth and perhaps hurting feelings, thus making me feel uncomfortable. But this should be a post all on its own. 

Two - Trim. It is amazing how a simple detail like trim can govern weeks of my life. Its all I can think about, and yet I just can't decide exactly what I want. Because trim is often viewed as a background detail, but it quite literally frames our views of the world. The choices are practically endless, and this makes the decision making process particularly challenging. Because it is necessary to learn first. And any decision invariably leads to another discovery, which leads to another decision. It is the ripple effect. But when concrete progress is necessary this is not extremely helpful nor practical.

On the note of concrete progress - I spent the last couple days welding on my chassis, extending it out from 8'x13' to 10'x18'. I took an advanced metals class last year, and have a bit of experience with welding. So with the help and coaching of a very good welder and nice guy, Jim, the chassis should be ready to go by next Sunday! Then the floor shall take shape! But I can not start on the walls until I have some more plywood and ridged insulation (check out The Plan for information on materials). 

Throughout this process, I have had the gift of working with many mentors. Most of them are guys in their 50's and 60's who are makers and doers of things. Inspiring to be around and highly knowledgeable in their field. But the coolest thing is, most of them are in our dance classes (my dad and I teach dance for a living - So not only are they my mentors - I am also theirs, and this type of reciprocal relationship is so wonderful. Finding that balance of give and take is so important, I intend to fill my life with this equality.

Make decisions. Make progress. Live well.


Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Art of Manifestation

Throughout this ongoing process of design I have been focusing much of my energy on manifestation. Finding and acquiring the materials I want and need to create this  dream. Many think manifestation is exercising and harnessing the power of thoughts, or the law of attraction. While others think its god or some higher power. While it probably is a combination of all of these, I believe the biggest component is action. Trust me, I have tried focusing my thoughts and energy on something happening. But nothing happens until action is taken.

My most meaningful accomplishment in manifestation so far, with the help of my dad and sister, is two wonderful trips to Europe. Though finances were at an absolute minimum, traveling in a grass roots way, experiences so lush with adventure sprang out of unexpected places and people. I believe simply because we were willing to act on our desires - with a sense of adventure.

Now applying the same concept on a smaller scale (or just a different one) I am in a state of awe at the people and things that I have come upon. It started with an idea - lets build a portable tiny house. The first thing I needed to get started was a chassis to build on - the "foundation." I made that clear to my self, then I spoke about it to the people around me. My dad happened to be the one to say "I know someone who might have what your looking for."….. and the next day I had a heavy duty chassis for $200.

And that's just the beginning - from finding the "perfect" sink on craigslist and having it be just down the road, to going for a walk on the beach after a wind storm and having the "perfect" distressed beam laying in our front yard. It could be coincidence, or maybe not. But either way my eyes were open to the possibilities.

Sometimes all we need to do is make that call or send that email, and as my dad is teaching me. Follow Through.
Take action,