Tiny House Fair 2013 in Vermont: Recap and a Rant

I said to Matt as we were leaving Warren VT after 4 days at the Tiny House Fair at Yestermorrow this past weekend, "I'm going to need some time to process everything!" and it's been a few days now since we got back. I'm just finally able to write about it! What a crazy, fun, informative, inspiring weekend. I met people I had been admiring for a long time, and it was fun to just hang out and talk about stuff other than tiny houses too. The movers and shakers of this little movement are passionate about the earth, social justice, and community building in all different ways. It was great to be able to hang out with some friends from the trip last month - Alex Pino of Tiny House Talk, and Dan Louche of Tiny Home Builders, and to meet everyone new. Check out the photos below, the ones that are taken at night are Matt's photos. Look at the Milky Way! Vermont is beautiful. After the fair was over, Monday morning, I took the remainder of the tiny house presenters (Jay, Lina, Alex, Dan) that were still around on a tour of my favorite design/build buildings in the Waitsfield/Warren area - of which there are quite a few. It really made me appreciate all the amazing things I get to see as part of my every day life. It also made me appreciate what it would be like to have no building codes - pretty fucking awesome in my opinion. Have you ever been to the Prickly Mountain, or seen the Archy Bunker?

Now it's time for a little rant. I'll be covering more of the issues that cropped up over the weekend (bigger issues) in the next few days, but for now I just have to express how disappointed I was to receive a nasty note taped to the back of my camper one day when I looked outside during the fair. Someone, obviously with nothing better to do than troll around and try to make people feel bad, wrote a passive aggressive, rude note on my trailer and left it there anonymously.

Tiny House Road Trip Recap

I'm back! What a wild trip! Just to remind you all, for the past month I was traveling around the US (car-camping in my Element, which worked out great) interviewing Tiny House people and doing tiny house stuff. In the coming months (it takes so long to edit this stuff!) you'll see my interviews with Laura Lavoie of Life In 120 Square Feet, Dan Louche of Tiny Home Builders, Alex Pino of Tiny House Talk, Sicily of Le Petit Maison, Steve Harrell of Tiny House Swoon and Tiny House Listings, Andrew Odom of Tiny (r)Evolution, and Hari and Karl of Tiny House Family. What an awesome community of people we have! Turns out everyone lives in a tiny house for very different, unique reasons, and it was amazing to see so many people who had really found a sense of fulfillment through small living. More on all this later!

Also, Kent Griswold told me that I had a video up on YouTube, maybe some of you have already seen it? I just found out about it while I was away, and I'd love it if you guys checked it out and "liked" it if you feel like it! Here's the link:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7uKCnIBOhpw

A New School and A Road Trip

Hello lovelies, Sorry I've been away from the blog for a few days - I have been very busy prepping for Tiny House Road Trip Spring 2013. What is this Tiny House Road trip? In my neverending quest for the essence of the tiny house movement, I have planned a tour of the eastern and southern US, during which I will interview, film, and photograph tiny house people and their homes. I leave in less than 2 weeks! The road trip is about one month total. I'm interviewing tiny house builders, designers, and dwellers, documenting everything with cameras, audio recorders, and the pen. I'm very excited to finally meet some of the tiny house bloggers and internet acquaintances that I have been following via the internet for a long time. I'll return with lots of footage and insights to share with you all. So for the last week, Matt (cameraman, audio tech, and tiny house partner in crime) and I have been modding out my Honda Element with a platform bed with storage underneath, insulated window covers, black-out curtains, and custom vents for the windows. We're just car camping the whole trip (not towing the COMET, alas) to save money. If you have a tiny house project or business or thing you think we should see, let us know in the comments! This is the first of multiple tiny house road trips I have planned. I hope it goes smoothly - we've been planning everything out to the last detail but you never know!

Also, I was delighted to be interviewed by Andrew Odom of TinyRevolution for his podcast, RevoConvo. He's a super nice guy, and we share a common sponsor (GreenBuildingSupply.com). We talked about trailers and Worcester and off-grid systems. It was really fun, and you can all give it a listen next Thursday when it comes out! (I'll post the link when it comes out).

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 :)

Texas Trip - Finding the TINY in the "everything is bigger" state

Woah, what an amazing trip. We've been back for a few days, but are just getting some time to reflect/catch up now that we are snowed in for the next few days thanks to this "nemo" storm we're experiencing in MA right now (there's a driving ban, so we couldn't go anywhere even if we wanted to!).

TEXAS has more TINY going on than one might think, considering it's the state known for the slogan, "Everything is Bigger...". We had an incredible, inspiring time hanging out with the Engineering class at the Ann Richards School in Austin. Those girls are the coolest: they love math and science, the love engineering, and they were wise beyond their years. They were so engaged with their Project Ventura, they came in on Saturday and every day after school. I was super inspired by the work these girls were doing. We learned a lot from each other! You can all go check out their blog: http://projectventura.wordpress.com/. AND, you can help them out because their KICKSTARTER has just LAUNCHED! Please, please, please support these awesome girls by donating if you possibly can - they are the next generation of great innovators. I'll keep reminding you throughout their campaign, but why wait? Go to their project page now, and donate some $!

Installing the Fresh Water Tank Fill Spout in a Vintage Trailer Camper

Installing the Fresh Water Tank Fill Spout in a Vintage Trailer Camper

The fresh water tank (the only tank in the COMET - no grey or black water tanks) lives underneath the rear couch/bed. Originally it was under the dinette bench on the port side, but that meant that there was about 15 feet of tubing wrapping around the entire trailer to get from the tank to the faucet on the other side. We moved it to underneath the rear bench to be closer to the faucet. The fresh water tank is 15 gallons and I refill it about every 3-4 days. You don't really use a lot of water when you have to pump it by hand. And the hot water is just one of those black bag camp showers that I hang up outside. Here's how we installed the new fresh water tank.

Now, we actually installed the kitchen before attaching the water tank and hooking everything up, so that's where I'll stop for now. Basically, the tank got put into it's spot under the bench, it fit very snugly. We hooked up the fill line to the appropriate fitting that we had installed in the side of the tank, and the air vent line to the appropriate fitting. We put the fitting (barbed) into the bottom for the faucet line as well, but didn't hook it up until the kitchen was finished. So we'll look at the kitchen then get back to finishing up the water tank. Photos to come!

My Life is Validated by Tenth-Grade Girls

All I ever wanted with this blog and this project was to inspire other people to take their life into their own hands and do something creative with DIY attitude. Well, I never imagined that I would inspire a group of high school girls to undertake such a project, but it's happening right now! The girls at the Ann Richards School For Young Women Leaders in Austin TX are not your average tenth-graders. These engineering students focus on project-based learning at their high school. The class's assignment this year is directly inspired by the COMET, as they turn a 1970's travel trailer into a solar-powered learning tool. They are incorporating the eco-friendly aspects of the COMET and the small space design techniques of tiny houses into their project. The girls are learning 3D digital modeling, design, green building methods, construction, and more through the hands-on project. Right now, the design groups in the class are coming up with designs, budgets, and plans. The client will choose the winning design, which will be implemented in the trailer this spring. Needless to say, I was flattered and amazed when their teacher (who is so amazing - I wish I had teachers like this in high school!) emailed me saying that they were undertaking Project Ventura, based on the COMET and my own methods. Now I'm going down to TX this week to teach the class for a week and learn what I can from this group of incredible young women.

Vintage Trailer Restoration: Sheet Metal Patches and Exterior Bodywork

Vintage Trailer Restoration: Sheet Metal Patches and Exterior Bodywork

It's about 10 degrees here in MA today, and while I look back at these pictures from the summer I am wistful to say the least. So here's some pictures of some sheet metal work we did on the trailer to patch some gaping holes and button the skins back up after replacing some of the wood inside the walls. Sometimes, when you replace the old rotten wood under the skins, they don't fit back on just perfectly (they would if I wasn't going to repaint the thing, but I am so I wasn't too vigilant about it this time around). There was a gap on the corners of the trailer where the aluminum met and started to separate from the weight of the rear. These gaps had been there since I got the trailer, so I knew I'd have to patch it anyway. First, we put a strip of sheet metal (aluminum flashing for this application - because it's flexible/malleable) around the corner and underneath the member for extra protection. We just nailed it in to the new wood. This would be the flashing that would keep any water out. When you put the skins back down, caulk around the edges and screw it in with sheet metal screws (the ones with the little rubber gaskets work well for this, but we just caulked each spot where the screw would go before screwing it in).

Adding Extra Strength Framing and New Paneling to Your Vintage Trailer

When Matt and I went to re-frame the rear wall of the COMET, we knew we had to do some re-design as well. First of all, at some point there is going to be a "bumper garden" (hehe, get it? on top of the bumper...) mounted onto the back of the trailer under the window. Ok, so it's like a way-glorified window box, but on a moving trailer, and made with polycarbonate so it's also like a tiny greenhouse too. Since there will at some point soon be soil and metal and plants hanging off of the back wall, we knew we had to beef up the framing. I wanted enough studs that we could lag into to support the bumper garden. The second part of the design had to address the really weird original framing, which had the rear bench (couch and also my bed) come down halfway in front of the rear hatch, which is the only place to really store anything large. Basically, the rear bench bisected the hatch, and I thought that was dumb, because I want full hatch access! So we raised the bench up 6 inches, so it now clears the rear hatch door and give us a little more storage. Here's how we did it! A little reference, so you can see how the original framing interfered with the rear access door.

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.