Wednesday, March 28, 2012

HELLO. My Name Is______________?

Its about time I head over to DMV and take a chunk out of my wallet to register my trailer.  While I normally oppose spending beyond the bare minimum, I'm considering making an exception and ordering custom tags since, after all, its not every day that you get to legally name a house!

But what seven letters should I spend my hard-earned money on?  I think my trailer's name is "Beast", but I'm not sure who the rest of the house is, and besides, "BEAST" has probably already been taken by some jacked up 4x4 in Page County.  I've thought about "Modern Gypsy- MOD GYP", but like most people I don't actually know much about gypsies so I'm not sure if I'd offend anybody...

Maybe I'll just go with the traditional letters and numbers, but I'm sure most of you out there have more clever minds than I and can think of something creative.  Suggestions?  Six pack and free day of house work to the person with the best idea!  (I provide the six pack, you provide the labor :p)

Beast looks kinda naked without a house on top!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

On The Arts of Manliness and World Domination

You know those emails you get from acquaintances that look something like "Fwd:fw:Subject" containing ""?  If you're like me (a tad lazy), you automatically check the box next to them, cursor on up to that little trash can, and "click!" away it goes!  My family members like to send me these emails, and while I do pass over most of them, every once in a while, when I don't have anything better to do, I open them up and, much to my great surprise, find something worthwhile!

My brother's been raving about two blogs recently, which translates to an increase of link shipments to my Inbox.  Its Saturday, but since its been raining all morning, I came over to the library to take care of some online business and check out these sites.  The first, "A Brief Guide to World Domination", sounded a little intimidating.  While I haven't finished it (I don't quite know how to dominate the world yet), it really strikes me as something that would appeal to Tiny Housers.  The author, Guillebeau, doesn't focus on the traditional methods of conquering the world, but rather "The Art of Non-Conformity".  This isn't middle school non-conformity that involves wearing outlandish clothes and promoting anarchy, but rather a process of concentrated thinking about what your life goals are as an individual and how you can use those to benefit the rest of the world.  Most of us Tiny Housers have probably come to the realization that "McMansion" ownership won't give us satisfaction on our deathbed; Guillebeau takes it to the next level and challenges people to find fulfillment in all parts of their lives.

David has been sending me posts for a while from this next blog, "The Art of Manliness" (for an engineer, he sure does read a lot about "art" :p).  To be honest, I thought the most recent one was about Walt Disney, so I didn't even bother to open it until today when I had nothing better to do.  When I saw it involved Clint Eastwood and "Gran Torino", I immediately got excited.  There's a part in the movie when the young boy, Thao, is envying Walt's collection of tools.  Walt simply hands him a can of WD-40, vise grips, and duct tape and says, "Any man worth his salt can do half the household chores with just those three things."  Jay Shafer preaches a similar talk (albeit in a less gravely and awesome voice), claiming that you only need 14 tools  to build your own tiny house.

Jay and Clint aren't saying that a true do-it-yourselfer never owns more than the basic equipment.  There are some jobs that require specialized, rarely used devices.  But, its a good reminder that corporate sales people will sell you anything, whether its a set of wire strippers to a plumber or a chainsaw to an apartment resident.  I've definitely had my moments when I just bought tools because it made me feel more like a man.  But, building this house has shown what can be done with those basic tools and a group of people willing to share their equipment and expertise.  Why, just yesterday I needed to shave some thickness off a piece of trim and almost gave up, thinking I'd have to buy a pricey Delta planner.  But then I found my dad's old hand planer, gave it a try and found that, like in the "olden days", it still works just fine.

P.S. A post about non-conformity would not be complete without mentioning Shannon Hayes, a highly educated author and "radical homemaker" living near the Catskills of New York.  A few years ago, I bought one of her cookbooks on grilling grass-fed meats, which led me to find an internship at her neighbors' farm, Heather Ridge.  In her latest book, Hayes argues that people can lead successful and fulfilling lives by ditching the traditional 9 to 5 careers and "rekindling the home fires".  If you want to save the world, reading her book is a good start.

Friends I made in New York while earning $8 an hour
and enjoying some of the best food in the world!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

A Tiny House Picnic

One of my old childhood friends, Emily, had a job interview in Richmond last week, so we arranged to have dinner with her friend, Brian.  The weather has been fabulously pleasant around here, so I got the great idea of having a picnic at the tiny house instead of going to a stuffy restaurant.  Since the whole plan was last minute, I just stopped by Ukrop's after work to load up on picnicey things.  After going up and down the aisles, I had a basket full of iced tea, cookies, Pringles, sub sandwiches, and four different types of salad.  I was feeling pretty excited about the delicious feast we were about to have until I walked out to the parking lot and remembered the I had ridden my motorcycle, which has a bit less storage room than my truck!  Thankfully, I was able to pack everything into my bag, although the salads lost their uniqueness and became one container of "tossed salad".

All in all, it was a wonderful evening!  The patches of siding and fresh coats of paint have the place looking spiffy, so it was fun showing it off.  I think having dinner out on the front/back porch really reinforced to me that this is a house.  There are few things I enjoy more than sitting outside with some good food and great friends, but being at a home built with the help of friends and family took the experience to a whole new level!

A couple days later, I continued working on the siding around the wheel wells.  I had read many stories of frustration on other blogs about this project, so I was prepared to dedicate the whole weekend to the task if necessary.  Fortunately, it wasn't all that difficult.  Clifton had made the suggestion earlier that I take a scrap of siding and make test cuts to determine the slope of the wheel wells.  I followed this advice and was able to quickly determine that they are welded at a 20 degree angle, which is easy to set up on the mitre saw (I can only imagine how long it would've taken using a circular saw!).  Cutting the pieces to go on top of the wheel wells was a little trickier, but I fortunately had already made a template of the well curvature, so it was just a matter of measuring and cutting with the jig saw.

I put off doing more siding so that my brother David and I could visit our uncle Don, who's being treated for leukemia.  But, on the way back I was able to get David to help me put up some 16' long pieces of siding and install my remaining two loft windows.  Now if I can just finish my plumbing and electrical and cabinets and counters and porch roof and walls...well, you get the point.  There's plenty more projects to tackle!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Workin' in the Spring Time

Spring has decided to show up early here in Virginia, so you know what that means- MORE HOUSE BUILDING!  Well, maybe not necessarily more, but at least warmer, more enjoyable house building.  With the effects of day light savings time already apparent, I'm looking forward to working on some more evening projects without straining my eyes in the pale light of a florescent work lamp.

The weatherman was calling for rain and drizzle all last Saturday, but my dad and I decided to take a chance and set up some projects.  As it turned out, we completely missed the rain and had a rather productive day nailing the yellow poplar into place on the ceiling.  We made good time and would have finished, but we ran out of material.

Being rough-sawn, we definitely didn't mill this stuff to the same precision as tongue and groove that you'd pick up from Lowes.  But, I think it still looks rather decent and gives the place a nice "country rustic" feel (don't ask me to define that- I tried to explain it to a sales lady at the lighting store and got a blank stare back...).  I've got a few ideas for how I want to finish it, including possibly white-washing to brighten the ceiling, but if you have some recommendations, leave a comment below!

Clifton ever so graciously came out for another day of work Sunday to help me start SIDING!  As amazed as I am about the wonders of Tyvek, it doesn't provide some of the aesthetics I desire.  In one afternoon we were able to cover most of the front, and I did some more around the wheel wells this weekend.  I love how the cedar matches the mesa red of the windows!

Since my last post, I've also purchased the remaining two awning windows for the lofts and shopped for an assortment of fittings to piece the plumbing system together.  Since some of my appliances are designed for RVs, the sizes and thread patterns aren't necessarily conventional.  After checking a bunch of stores and calling manufacturers, I finally did a marathon shopping session at Home Depot and found enough pieces to finish my water and gas systems. When multiple customers come up to you asking for plumbing advice, you know you've been spending too much time at the building supply stores...

As of this date, my house is still homeless.  I've started looking at real estate around the Richmond area in the hope that I can find a cheap fixer-upper that I can pay cash for and park my own house in the backyard.  I thought I had found a good fit on the east side of town, but after touring it I decided there were just too many issues with the plumbing and electrical systems that would just cause it to be a headache for me.  So, the search continues!