Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Lessons from the Little Things

Finally, after 7 months of building, I’m finally getting down to the final details!  Yeah, I know that 7 months doesn’t sound like a long time but I had planned to have My Tiny Perch done at the end of July so it “feels” like I am running very behind schedule!

And speaking of behind schedule, it’s been waaayyy too long since I have posted here. In retrospect, I suppose it’s because one subject or issue I’ve been dealing with doesn’t really require its own article.  But there are definitely lots of little things I have been dealing with for months now that are not without their lessons to be learned so, here goes...

Where to Park the Perch

For months I have been dropping less than passive hints with my land hosts that I would like to park (and rent out) My Tiny Perch on the lower section of the property I am on now. Mostly, I have been more passive than I normally would be because I am moving so fast that I want to respect their pace of making decisions. (As you can well imagine my push-to-get-things-done pace is not comfortable for most.) But since I wasn’t making the decision-making progress I needed to, I finally called an official “meeting” at a local bar. There, after I made a very logical argument for why they would consider my tiny houses a valued addition to their property, they agreed to host not just the Perch but the Hideout as well!  Yay!! 

Almost Ready!

Next we assigned action items and made a list of TO-DO’s. As it turns out, their primary concern was who was going to pay for the gravel. So, after a bit of back and forth and a meeting with The Gravel Guy, the section is now level and the gravel is being delivered tomorrow! This is my first experience at doing this, by myself, and I’m a bit nervous that I won't be able to back The Perch into the spot where the gravel is but I am setting my trepidations aside, and going for it!

I can't wait to see My Tiny Perch parked here!

Lessons: Be logical, be persistent, and be open.

Hiring Help

Earlier this year I met a mobile tiny house "buiilder" at the North Carolina Tiny House Festival. He was the first (and only, as far as I know) truly mobile tiny house builder. He travels from town to town in his 66 sq ft tiny house on wheels, helping people build their dreams. Despite his mobility I was truly surprised to see him in Oregon at the last tiny house event. Because I’ve been running a bit behind schedule, mostly due to the restrictions of my own schedule and talents, I decided to spend a little money to speed up the build.  Honestly, I’m not sure what this says about me but hiring help has always been both a blessing and a curse. I am so passionate (read: controlling) about the work and the design and the end results that I find myself letting go of things I am not entirely comfortable with giving up.

For instance, I mentioned to him that I had envisioned building cubby shelves into an open section of the wall.  And then one day when I came back from Home Depot he had made them out of left over cladding materials. “Yay? They’re done?” But I had envisioned building them out of plywood, in one piece, that would slide in and out of the cavity giving me access to the plumbing behind them. Now I’ll have to literally tear them apart to get to the plumbing. 

The bottom line is that the end results weren’t what I had envisioned. But, rather than ask him to rip out the results of his self-directed-creative-solution. I let it go. And, there they are. On second thought, I probably could write an entire blog about the challenges of transitioning from my role of “Designer / Builder” to “Helper Guy’s Errand Runner” but let’s just say I’ve learned a few lessons and that’s what this blog is about so here goes…

Lessons: Be clear, be firm, and advocate for what’s truly important.

Working Remotely

A little over a month ago, my boss called on my vacation to let me know that they’d hired more people than they had desks for, and wanted to know if I would be OK with working remotely full time from now on.  Of course, I would. And you are likely thinking right now, “That’s awesome!”  The reality of this arrangement, however, has taken some getting used to. The process of packing up the contents of my desk and carrying them to my car, but still having a job, set off my PTSD like a bomb. It was emotional, and unexpected, but my brain couldn’t believe I was moving out but still had a job!? And, consider this….  Could you honestly sit in a 204 square foot house, all day, by yourself, and work and live there too? My tiny house wasn’t really designed to accommodate an office. 

My "office".

The upside is that I can literally work from whereever I can find a decent wifi signal (which is more challenging that you might imagine) and this means I can travel when ever and for how long as I want to.  The downside is that I find myself more scattered without the routine of a commute and am still finding a work-flow and lifestyle that gives me enough down time.  My “office” now occupies my dining table, and I often will go days without taking a shower. That’s just not like me but heck, nobody is here to notice so why take the time? 

Lessons: Life changes take time to adjust to, be patient with the results.

It Take a Tiny Village

My sponsors are the fuel to my fire, and what makes all of this possible. Without them, their support, their materials, and their enthusiasm, I wouldn’t be able to sustain the pace I have now come to consider “normal”.  However, there are so many other people who have showed up to help. And while I love to tell people I have “built” my tiny houses, the truth is that it truly takes so many more hands and so much more talent than I alone have. My boyfriend, Mark, as you know is my framer but his help extends well beyond a hammer and nails.  He’s my rock when I’m having a day when burning them all to the ground seems like a good idea.

When he's not framing, Mark's passion is photography.

My adult children, Alyssa and Wyatt, have generously donated several hours of their weekends to cut and measure and put up with my rants. My good friend Teresa, who had never used a chop saw before, was more than willing to learn and then enthusiastically show up AGAIN for day TWO!? 


And then there’s a friend of a friend who just came to fix my electrical issues this past week on a moment's notice, and my land hostess who is sewing my curtains, and Scott who finished the installation of my hot water heater last week.  I truly couldn’t do all of this without all of them.

The Most Important Lesson of All:
Take time to stop and be thankful, and TELL everyone how much I appreciate them!

Monday, July 24, 2017

FIVE REASONS to Attend the Tiny House Living Festival in Colorado - August 11th-13th

Reason #1 – MJ is in the HOUSE!?

I’m so proud to announce that I have been invited back to Colorado to be one of the Emcees for this event! I am sooooo looking forward to meeting some of my old friends, and probably making a few new ones too! The only thing I have LEFT to decide is whether or not to buy another new pair of festival boots.  

Look 'Ma, No Railings!

Reason #2 – Experience Where It Counts

Did you love the Jamboree? If you didn’t go, did you wish you had? The people behind the Tiny House Living Festival are the same driven, creative, organized, and fun people as the people that were behind the scenes at the original Jamboree.   

A Fun Loving Crowd of Tiny House Enthusiasts

Reason #3 – A “Down Home” Feel

The Tiny House Living Festival isn’t at a hotel and attendees won’t be sitting for hours in a conference room. The organizers, speakers, vendors, and sponsors are working hard to create an informal and approachable event where the attendees don’t get lost in the hustle and bustle and will have lots of time to chat and mingle with their favorite tiny house people. And did I mention there will be tiny houses to tour!?

A Few of My Tiny House People!

Reason #4  - Location, Location, Location

I’ll be flying in to Denver Airport and then taking an Uber to my AirBnB accommodations. From my “home base” I can then take light rail or WALK to and from the event at the Aspen Grove Center as well as to and from countless local restaurants.  Parking will be easy and plentiful and transit access for this event truly is SECOND TO NONE!

The Scenic Aspen Grove Center in Littleton, CO

Reason #5 – Big Bang for your Buck!

An all access weekend pass costs only $25 and parking is FREE! Whether you’re a tiny house enthusiast, planning your build, researching builders, or are just looking for inspiration to simplify your life and downsize a bit; you’ll find everything you want at the Tiny House Living Festival for less than the cost of a full tank of gas. (P.S. And there are still plenty of affordable flights into, and out of, Denver airport for that weekend!)

Tiny House Living Festival will be held on August 11th – 13th in Littleton, Colorado.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

"Happiness Is a State of Activity" ~ Aristotle

While sitting on a closed freeway one day, pondering “what to do next” with my life, I looked over at the car parked next to me and noticed that they were towing a teardrop. I’d always wanted a teardrop trailer but had NO idea how much they would cost. So, right then and there I went on Craigslist and found a homemade one for sale. The next day, on a somewhat-irresponsible-whim, I bought it for $1,000 (which I borrowed from my 18 year old son) from an old guy who made it in his garage, atop a pop-up camper trailer frame.

Early in that same week Mark and I had been discussing possible plans to travel the country and we had calculated that a small car or truck, and a teardrop, would be the LEAST expensive way to do so whilst still maintaining some sense of comfort. (A comfortable, dry, secure, warm, bed every night) My newest acquisition wasn’t pretty, by any means, but it was cute and sturdy and lightweight enough to pull behind my convertible.

A few months later, I loaded our two kayaks onto the top and we took it camping for the first time. And, in the end, Mark was less than impressed. Granted, he had (ironically) arrived at the camp site after 5 hours of being stuck in traffic because of an incident that had closed the freeway. He arrived, grumpy, tired, and his mood or his attitude towards my little teardrop never fully recovered. He has a good point, of course. Since there is only one door the person sleeping opposite the door (him) has to climb over the other person (me) to go to the restroom in the middle of the night. And, truly, honestly, it really is too small for two. But the upshot is that after that weekend I parked the teardrop in the garage and considered “what to do next”.

I moved that winter and the teardrop moved from the garage to the front driveway. Then it moved from the driveway to a storage lot. And, in retrospect, I trusted the maker far more than I should have. During that frantic time, I wasn’t as diligent as I should have been about keeping it fully covered, and after the move dust settled I discovered that quite a bit of water had gotten in. I doubled my efforts at keeping it not only covered but fully wrapped in a tarp, and put desiccant in to help dry it out.

In the Spring, after a MUCH more discriminating inspection, I discovered that the maker had expended NO effort in caulking any of the windows, or the door, and had actually installed one of the windows upside down. The winter rain pooled in the sill, and then leaked over and down into the walls and interior. Also, the stain he had used on the exterior contained NO sealant properties so the plywood itself had also absorbed a fair amount of moisture, was swollen, buckled, and pulling away from the frame.

As the months passed, the teardrop wasn’t completely forgotten but I knew that I couldn’t use it in its existing condition, and I couldn’t sell it. I would have to scrap it, or put some serious effort into making it weather resistant. So I decided I would try…

First, I caulked and replaced every fastener holding down the metal roof. I then dropped it off with a woodworking friend of mine to replace the dysfunctional-boat-hatch-used-as-a-door, bought some new fabric for the curtains, and inspired a seamstress to take on my project amidst her many others. Finally, I removed the metals screws (Who uses metal screws on a wood trailer?) replaced them with wood screws, caulked the heads, sanded the trailer, and SEALED IT! Then I moved on to work on my two tiny houses under construction.

I cannot control everything. I know that. But I’d like to. And, in my younger days, I would emotionally “fight” delays and push harder to “make” things happen. But lately, I have decided that a far more laid back approach is needed in my life. So, when my tiny house builds were both delayed, leaving me with more “down” time than I would prefer, instead of pushing and fretting, I turned my attention back to my little teardrop; to something I COULD control.

After the new door was done, I picked it up from my good friend Bruce at Friesian Woodcrafters; and it was then that I noticed a few mold spots under the window. Masked and determined, I demolished the entire bed frame and wiped down the interior with soapy bleach and mold prevention spray. Once again I discovered how many shortcuts the maker had made.

For the bed platform, instead of using ¾ ply, he used 3 sheets of ¼ ply, assembled in three layers, made up of different sizes and shapes (some not even attached) pieced together, and covered in carpet pad and headliner fabric. (What a mess. What was he thinking?) After demo, I then rebuilt the bed frame with slotted pine boards which would provide MUCH better airflow and access to the under bed storage, as well as give me the ability to visually monitor for any potential future moisture related issues.

Inspired by the Sisters on the Fly, I knew I wanted to have the rear of the trailer painted by an artist. I had some paint left over from another project that I originally wanted to use but, after a LOT of unexpected drama that I won’t go into here, and five time consuming coats of new paint later; it was ready for the final stroke of artistic genius.

So, in true Michelle-form, I placed an ARTIST WANTED ad on Craigslist.  Within a few hours, several local artists submitted their work, and I hired one whose work mostly closely matches my style.

That evening was so fun!  Jacob was prompt, funny, and is uber talented. He flawlessly, affordably, and easily executed my flowered vision quite perfectly in one sit-down. Free form. Color me impressed!

Inspired by Aristotle, her new official name is Aris the Hippie Teardrop.

She weights just over a 1000 lbs, sleeps two (albeit cozy-like with an 8” thick memory foam, Full size, mold resistant, Parklane mattress) and is off-grid friendly with battery powered lights. But, she also works well on-grid and plugs into campsites for full functionality.

When plugged in she cools easily with the use of a fan and heats quickly with a tiny, round, freestanding, space heater.

She boasts 56 sq feet of under-bed storage and can easily haul enough camping gear to accommodate her occupant’s enjoyment of both the convenience of teardrop camping and the primitive nature of tent camping.

I have one vice: Creative Projects. They feed my soul, keep me up at night, energize me, and fill my ongoing and quasi-insatiable need for self-validation.

Yes. I can do this. I can do anything I set my mind to.

It may not be perfect, (nor am I) and everyone may not like it, (or me) and that’s totally OK.

I know that wherever Aris goes, smiles will abound, and I hope her message will inspire others to not just dream but to “DO” what makes them the most happy.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Dear Sponsors, We LOVE you ALL!

There is simply no way we would be able to build My Tiny Perch without the generous support of you, our GREAT sponsors.

And, this time, rather than sending you all an email / newsletter, I’m going to shout to the world (again!) my appreciation (and affection) for you, your staff, and your products; via this blog post.

And while we have not yet cracked open the boxes of ALL of the products we’ve received, there are a few sponsors and products that have taken an expeditious front and center in our world.

"Who are they?"

Sherwin Williams’ staff (which includes my son) was quite surprised that I chose such a bold color for the exterior.  But the comments that started out as a “you’re painting it THAT color?” have now ended up as “I LOVE the color” from all who see it.

Bright, Bold and Beautiful!

Mr. Plywood and their knowledgeable staff have gone above and beyond to advise, select, and provide the lumber and siding which has, after many nights of lost sleep, actually resulted in the under-weight shell that we hoped it would be. 

Working with such great materials also allowed us to stay ahead of the build schedule, 
even in bad weather!

Maybe the framing is not much to look at, but we've been oh so impressed nonetheless!

Here we are, espousing our love for Mr. Plywood everywhere we go!

If eyes are the window to your soul, our windows and door are a peek into the caring souls of the flexible and supportive staff at ParrLumber. The amazing windows are a beautiful and dominate feature of My Tiny Perch that gives the interior a not-so-tiny feel.  

A HUGE view from where WE stand!

I am in LOVE with the orange door!

And last, but not least, thank you to Insulation Solutions for stepping up to provide the house “wraptor” we needed, just when we needed it!

Keeping it dry and prepping for siding.

And, this party's just getting started.....

My EPIC Tiny House Summer Camp Vacation

It’s that time of year …the time of year when we look at the calendar, double check how much time we have in our vacation coffer, and then make our summer travel plans. If you’re like me, with newly adult children, figuring out where they want to go that will result in a minimal amount of complaints; is a thing of the past. Yes, my travel plans can now include going places and doing things I want to do!!

Burlington, Vermont; City Hall

As a West Coaster growing up in a large family and then raising my own, I haven’t had as much time to travel to the East Coast as much I would have liked. Or, perhaps it was the lack of travel that gave me the travel “bug”. Nowadays, I think nothing of road tripping several hundred miles on a weekend. But, there are some destinations that require a bit more work

This is what "travel planning" looks like in my world

And, as I ponder what my trip plans will include this year, I can’t help but recall the bestest vacation ever that I took last year to….drum roll…..Tiny House Summer Camp.

My 2016 Tiny House Summer Camp Accommodations.

Picture this…..ten off-grid wooded acres in the hills of Vermont in late summer, the leaves have not yet started to turn, the smell of a bonfire, and laughter…lots of laughter. I spent 3 of my 7 days of summer vacation amongst the most fun, and funniest, helpful, fun loving, creative, and colorful people I have ever met in my life.

Day One - Wednesday
I arrived in Burlington Vermont with what felt like the worst hangover I have ever had. After having not slept a WINK on the plane I just wanted a horizontal space, ANY horizontal space, to lay my head. The “plan” was to rent an SUV and car camp for a week, and let my whim be my guide. After picking up my rental SUV I headed straight to Goodwill to purchase blankets and then headed to Walmart, where I bought an air mattress. After finding a tire shop to fill the mattress, I sacked out in the parking lot of a grocery store.

Minimalism at its finest!

Day Two – Thursday
I woke up in the middle of the deep woods in Vermont at a camp ground that I found after hours of being lost. It was my day to “acclimate” to the east coast time zone and I could think of no better way to start my vacation than at a spa; so I ventured into a nearby resort village and asked around for the best masseuse in town. Five hours later, freshly showered and adequately relaxed, I put the elusive camp address in my GPS and headed out.

An Austrian Spa in the mountains of Vermont.

Day Three – Friday
Despite my best attempts at drinking myself to sleep, the backwoods sounds of Vermont had other plans for me. Said sounds include what I later identified as a porcupine scrape marks on the DOOR of the very tree house I was attempting to sleep in. Friday morning, guests arrived and started milling about, introductions were made, and they got started organizing the crew and attendees into project groups. Then, a bonfire. But, like Vegas, what happened there needs to stay there so that’s all I’ll say about that…..

My next-tree "neighbor".

Day Four – Saturday
Camp was in full swing! There were hammering sounds coming from all directions in the woods and several projects, of all shapes and sizes, were happening at once. A space ship-esque tree house was started, a hillside cabin was getting some much needed siding, a tiny house on wheels was being constructed, and impromptu survivor class participants were learning about how to make an insulated shelter from sticks and leaves. That night, the bonfire was epic; a deep woods speaker-filled experience lit with candles on a moss covered mini-amphitheater in the shadow of a huge robot tree house. (say THAT tree times fast!?)

The one....the only....ROBOT TREE HOUSE!!

Day Five – Sunday
I was sad to go but eager to explore. And, like any good explorer, I headed straight to a nearby town with a hotel and a bar. I showered, ate spaghetti with the loveliest bartender I have ever met, and then slept like a rock for 12 hours.

Do these earrings make my face look fat?

Day Six – Monday
Yes. You guessed it. I got lost again and arrived not at the ice cream factory which allows tourists, but the ONE that doesn’t. On my way back from almost-Canada I stopped to get an impromptu tattoo. And,  if I need another reason to return to Vermont, the artist is it. He imagines a unique and fun new tattoo to augment my 90’s inspired left-ankle bracelet of pansies.

Pain? What pain?

Day Seven – Tuesday
Time to head home. It was truly the first vacation I have ever been on where I felt like I didn’t want to go home. I’d gotten lost several times and didn’t shower every day but the new friends I had made, and the fun I had, and the memories we created, were more than well worth the investment.

I may have been a visitor, but welcomed I was not.  

Your Tiny House Summer Camp experience will not likely involve getting lost quite as much as I did. But, I guarantee you, that if you’re looking for a fun way to combine your love of all-things-tiny-house and a fun-loving backwoods story to tell your friends and family about, Deek and his crew won’t disappoint. Deek provides all of his attendees with hands-on building and learning opportunities, in a supportive and non-judgmental environment.

I have never seen a more lovely "parking lot" in all my life.

His mantra is “It’s better to screw up on my projects, than your own!” and I appreciate that about him. He takes all the risk and his attendees get all the rewards.

No"screw ups" in this adorable tiny cabin.

It’s tough to fit an adequate description of the life-changing experience I had in Vermont, into a brief blog post that will hold your attention. (Are you STILL reading!?) So, please know that while I have strategically left out some of the details, I hope I have still conveyed the amazing time I had when I attended Tiny House Summer Camp and slept in a see-through tree house.

The little Red A-Frame.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Moving Day for My Tiny Perch

There are many days in a tiny houses's life that are stressful, but dare I say none of them hold a candle to the potentially catastrophic results of moving one down the freeway, at 50 mph.

Yes, I have done all I can to ensure the house can withstand a hurricane AND and earthquake simultaneously; aka the forces that a tiny house is exposed to while on the road.

And, yes, I have had it inspected and re-inspected and inspected again for safety and stability.

But, I can only imagine, even the most seasoned of house builders has a little bit of nervous energy when they move theirs.

To make a long story short, I am thrilled that there was NO drama and everything went VERY smoothly, despite the 170 miles we needed to travel.

And, I am super excited to announce that my risk to buy a recycled RV trailer paid off.  My Tiny Perch only weighs 5440 lbs on a certified scale.  Whew!  What a relief!!

Almost ready to go!

Admiring her, from behind.

Closing up the front window so rocks won't break it.

My Tiny Perch looks sooooo tiny when on the road.

Stopping for a quick driver break.  

Underpasses are particularly nerve wracking but not as much so with only a 12 1/4 ft height.

The final few feet, lifting branches while traversing the driveway.