sustainable

Tiny House Tour: A Yestermorrow Design/Build Project

Does anyone feel like tiny houses are EVERYWHERE these days? I've been seeing ads for tiny house TV shows, tiny homes in the news, and when I got home from our tiny house road trip, I had a stack of local newspapers waiting at my door with an interesting cover story: tiny houses!

I'm glad that more people are being exposed to tiny homes and the larger world of alternative, responsible design and architecture. But I am also wary of tiny house TV shows and the like that show people living in their real, actual homes as if it's a kind of novelty. I see more and more people treating it like it's a piece of theatre - something to be gawked at. Whenever I see a news story on TV about tiny houses, I can't help but roll my eyes at the way the news anchor presents the story and the ridiculous questions they ask the tiny home owner. Making a novelty out of the small home really diminishes it's potential as a real solution to a real series of problems we face today.

Eat Local: How to Craft Your Local Food Plan

One of the best and tastiest change you can make in your life to live a little simpler is by supporting local food systems. The packaging and transport of homogeneously grown food is largely responsible for our current economic and ecological predicament. To counteract this enormously wasteful system, we can purchase food from local farmers and producers. Farmer’s markets are a good place to start. A CSA share is another option - where you pay up front for a season’s worth of vegetables and fruits that get delivered on a weekly basis. CSA programs usually require a few hours of time helping out on the farm, which means you get to know your farmer face to face. Personally, I like the idea of knowing where and more importantly who my food comes from; it creates a moral connection and farmers are more likely to take care of their customers if they know them personally. Communities are built by each individuals’ economic habits and decisions. Economy and community can be integrated as a harmonious system, instead of separate parts of one’s life. Community is fostered when individuals choose to purchase food locally, or choose to support a local restaurant instead of a chain.

After reading Bill McKibben’s book Deep Economy, and reading about his “one year of eating local”, I came up with a personalized food plan that I felt I could practice in my own city, a plan which would support a local food system. I may not have all of the food resources that McKibben has in Vermont, but once I began to look, I found I could fulfill many of my food needs within a few miles! No more grocery stores for me! An added benefit is that when I buy things directly from the farmer or through my CSA, there is no packaging to dispose of (and the worms love the green scraps). Here is a guide to how you can create your own local food plan with your local resources.

Inside The Comet Camper: I love my tiny house

Inside The Comet Camper: I love my tiny house

Okay, okay, so I know I'm still trying to catch up the blog with the progress in a chronological and step-by-step fashion - but I can't help it. I love my little house (even though it's unfinished) and I want to share what it looks like with you all at this point! So let's look into the future-present at the most recent photos of the COMET. Give me your feedback in the comments! We'll get back to the progress updates later - unfortunately this did not all happen overnight :)

Framing and Insulating The Floor in a Vintage Trailer

Framing and Insulating The Floor in a Vintage Trailer

Here I am again, trying to get us up to speed with where the COMET's at now. This is from the Summer, so bear with me while the next few posts catch us up to the COMET's current loveliness.

We left off where we had replaced some of the rotten framing in the walls and on the floor, and here you can see how we re-framed and insulated the floor. As I mentioned before, the entire rear half of the trailer had been demolished by carpenter ants, so we just started from scratch back there.

Before + After: Replacing Rotten Framing in a Vintage Camper

Before + After: Replacing Rotten Framing in a Vintage Camper

Like I said, lot's of catching up to do! I've got to go back to 5 weeks ago and bring you all up to speed on the progress of the COMET. She was a MESS before we went to Tiny House Summer Camp, but if you saw the article on Deek's website, you saw some pictures of what she looks more like now - less of a mess. Anyway, here's the first installment of catching up the website to where the COMET stands now.

BEFORE:

Some serious demolition. After stepping around the back and almost falling through the trailer floor onto the pavement 3 feet below, we decided to replace EVERYTHING. This demolition was made 10 times easier by the use of the SoniCrafter, using the plunge-cut blade to remove rotten wood to where it was solid again.

Tiny House Summer Camp with Derek Diedricksen of Relaxshacks.com!

It's official!! I'm SUPER EXCITED to be a speaker at Derek Diedricksen's tiny house design/build weekend workshop this summer. Deek just announced the workshop last week, and there are very few spots open, so sign up fast!! It's going to be called "Tiny House Summer Camp", and it's taking place the weekend of July 6-9 at Derek's home-built cabin in Vermont. The weekend will be full of tiny house tours, solar cooking, camping out, tiny house building. designing, idea swapping, and geeking out about all things tiny. As a participant you get to sleep in a cabin, a treehouse, a tiny house, or something else cool that will be at the workshop (depending on what state The COMET is in, I might be able to accommodate a few campers!) The COMET will be coming with me to the workshop, and I'm going to be showing it off (mid-construction) and bringing along lots of interesting sustainable building materials and other things. I'll be showing off my free and recycled finds that will be going into The COMET, explaining why vintage campers make great tiny houses,  talking about how to save $$ in your tiny house by having an entirely DC photovoltaic solar electric system like The COMET, and more!

Other speakers at the workshop include WILLIAM ROCKHILL of Bear Creek Carpentry, who builds Tiny Houses for Tumbleweed, TRISTAN & LIBBY and their WHITTLED DOWN CARAVAN (an amazing vardo/caravan they towed from New Mexico to Massachusetts with a little sedan!), Derek's own HICKSHAW CABIN, and more!

COMET Update - Documenting Progress

Well, the weather has been steadily improving here in Massachusetts, and I'm getting really excited about "breaking ground" in the COMET. I'll be moving her away from her factory parking lot home to my house where I can work on her. Soon I'll be peeling back the walls to see what surprises wait for me there (most likely a rotten wood surprise). Then I'll be testing the electricity and looking at the wiring to figure out how to best implement my totally DC solar system, while fixing up the tow wiring/lights.

This may be a little premature, since nothing has really been set in stone yet, but I'm VERY excited and honored because Derek Diedricksen, fellow MA tiny house guy and artist (check out relaxshacks.com) asked me to bring the COMET to his summer Tiny House Workshop this year, and give a little talk about the project and show it's progress. It'll be great for people to be able to feel the space and see my work in progress: a behind the scenes sort of thing. The fact that I'm going to be towing the COMET around while it's being worked on makes me think I should work backwards: design and repaint the exterior first, then work on the inside. I want to have a really eye-catching and informational exterior design so that people know what the project is all about, and maybe put the website on the side so people can find more info about it. Anyway, more details on the COMET's live appearances this summer will follow.

Yestermorrow Design/Build School - first workshop this week!

I realized that I hadn't written a post about the Yestermorrow Design/Build School in Vermont, and that I should introduce you all to the place since I have my first class there this coming Sunday. Yestermorrow School is a design/build school that focuses on hands-on teaching and sustainable building practices. They offer workshops that range from 2 days to 4 weeks (and they have a sustainable building semester program with UMass Amherst). Topics range from Green building materials, woodworking, and tiny house building workshops, to architectural design and drawing courses and stained glass making workshops. I found out about them last year and when I read their "Philosophy" statement I was SO HAPPY to find a place that shared my values exactly. All last semester I had been talking about closing the gap between designers and builders, and wasn't really getting any support in doing that. So I left my college for some time to attend Yestermorrow for the next year, through their Sustainable Design/Build Certificate program. Basically with the certificate program (and they offer certificates in other subjects too)  you choose a handful of week-long, 3-week long, and weekend workshops from a long list of amazing classes. I chose the certificate over the semester program because of the flexibility and that way I could work on The COMET at the same time. I've heard the workshops are really intense and totally awesome, and that a 3 week workshop feels like an entire semester. I'm about to find out!

Marmoleum mock-ups

I love the Marmoleum natural linoleum flooring. It comes in tiles and planks, and the Marmoleum Click series is a great floating floor that is perfect for DIYers. Old campers usually have some sort of linoleum flooring (probably asbestos, too), so using the new, green Marmoleum linoleum seems like a good nod to the past. Today I worked up some really rough mock-ups of some Marmoleum planks/tiles on the floor of The COMET. I was working in stripes, and will probably try some sort of zig-zig or checkerboard variation at some point too. I also have that dark hardwood flooring I found for free that I am trying to incorporate in some way, but I only have 20 sq. ft. of that and the entire floor is 50 sq. ft. I am thinking about maybe using the hardwood up front and the Marmoleum in the kitchen and the back, but we'll see! Anyway, I thought I'd share! Let me know which combination is your favorite in the comments! There are tons more colors available, these are just the ones that stood out to me.

Green Building: Insulation

I want to start introducing you all to the different options for sustainable building materials that I will be using in The COMET. Though I'll have to choose just one insulation and one kind of flooring, I'm going to detail many of the most popular options for green building/finishing projects (and some less popular, more alternative ones as well), so that you can see what's out there for your own project. For example, there are a plethora of sustainable flooring options, but some are better suited to certain applications than others.The products that I choose to use in The COMET have to take into consideration a few more factors than if I was building a house (small or average sized). I have to factor in how each product or material I use will react with moisture, because in such a small space, just a human's breath can create moisture issues if the structure isn't built and insulated correctly. I also have to consider indoor air quality: how will each product/material affect the indoor air quality of The COMET? This is very pertinent also because of the tiny space within campers. Also, the fact the The COMET is mobile means that I have to assess how each material will react under the stress of motion.

So keep an eye out for these materials and systems overviews (I'll also talk about different options for energy and water systems). I want to give you an idea of what's out there so you can choose the best material/system for your project. Of course, I'll let you know what material I have chosen to use in The COMET and why, when I do.