Welcome to the Gold Thread Tiny House Blog

Welcome to the Gold Thread Tiny House Blog -

Buckminster Fuller once said, "If you want to change how somone thinks, give up; you can not change how people think. Give them a tool, the use of which will cause them to think differently." The tiny house is just such a tool.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

I had a delightful visit from Ted Hischer’s US. environmental history class who attend nearby Columbia Greene Community College.  Eight young men and women, full of interest and concern for a better world, makes me feel strangely hopeful.  Nine of us at once chatting in the Tiny house obliterates all previous occupancy records, (and we did not even have anyone in the loft).

Events of this kind make me feel that this tiny house project has come full-circle, from dream, through planning, design, research, building, (more building), occupying, fine-tuning, to finally sharing with other people.  My wish; that the excitement and challenge of living small, fair and affordable begins to dawn in the collective consciousness of American society, starting with individuals.  Towards this end, no words can equal a simple action or deed carried out. 

Talking to people of the younger generation who are interested in tiny houses is always a great honor for sure.  Aside from being very rewarding it also allows me to recognize strong tendencies people have to idealize or demonize people, actions or groups.  We have all felt the temptation to say that all Democrats are this way or all Republicans are that way,  all rich people are spoiled or all poor people are lazy.  So far as i can see, polarized thinking is a habitual trap antithetical to positive change.  It kills the chance to see the best aspects of other people that are hidden at first glance.  It blinds us from obtaining  a balanced perspective. When we don’t seek the shallow safety of extremism, there is truly something important to be learned form all sides.  Likewise, it is easy to romanticize things into something equally one-sided that will make our lives instantly exciting or meaningful, or will save the world. 

Living small has helped me find the meaning both in small, efficient structures, as well as larger well-planned structures. It has helped me develop new eyes for larger houses, larger public buildings and warm running water.  There is undoubtedly a place in society for larger structures that allow families with multiple people to live comfortably with each-other under a single roof.  With increased efficiency of building materials, appliances and HVAC, it is now very possible to have a larger house while maintaining a relatively small environmental footprint.  There is something decidedly beautiful about a generously sized room with an efficient masonry heater, flames flickering behind a glass door, and children and adults sitting around after dinner enjoying each others company. There is a community experience of hearth and home that is timeless and of inestimable value.

That said, after four months of living here I do notice many wonderful attributes of my house, some of them expected and some beautifully surprising.  As we enter the darkest days of the year, i notice feelings of great fortune and joy for being able to live in a house that i have built with my hands.  Each morning the sun spills into the house and shines disk of light through the round window, which moves across the wall and floor.  I can, more or less,  tell the time of morning by where the orb of light is on its journey.  Yes, I also feel shrinking pains and the challenge of adjusting to life with out running water.  However, as each object in the house is given its rightful place, the room seems to grow larger and larger.

Last week i finally put the tiny house up on cinder blocks in order to get the weight off of the springs and steady the house.  I used cinder blocks, 6x6 blocks, crushed stone, a 7 ton Jack, shovels and a 4 foot level (Next time i will use a transit). I started by dropping the tongue, which raised the back, enabling me to raise the back piers under the frame.  Then, jacking up the tongue again lowered the back on the piers which were level right to left. Then, I had only to jack up the front half an inch or so above level in order to do the same on the front.  Pretty soon, the house was sitting on 4 level piers. I procrastinated doing this for weeks and i am so glad that i took the 6 hours that the project needed.  No longer does the house sway back and forth and creek, as you walk across the floor. It offers a sense of stability and substance that i did not know i was missing while on springs. The very next day i awoke to a pitter-patter on the roof,  (No, it was not Santa’s reindeer, and no i did not throw up the sash).  However, looking out the window I saw a large flock of blackbirds taking flight and heading down the field into the forest.  They were perched 3 feet above where i was sleeping on my roof and the sound was the wings hitting the copper cap as they took flight.  Did the birds use my house as a perch for the first time because it was more stable?  I sort of doubt it, however, i noticed that the two events coincided and they felt connected somehow.

I also resigned myself that i would not be finishing the shower stall before next spring, and decided to put some shelving up in there for the while. This created all kinds of space for the last items that did not have a proper home. What a difference several feet of space can make in a small room. It added much to the living experience.  I now have a plant-shelf (see photo above) built into the window on the south wall, freeing up more space and creating natural shade from the winter sun flooding in as it does in the middle of the day.  Just yesterday i built a wooden boardwalk on the approach to my house over a particularly wet, muddy area. This protects the meadow and minimizes the mess made by muddy feet.

In future entries I look forward to writing about some of the existential lessons tiny house living is introducing to me.  Until then, wishing all of my readers a very happy and peaceful holiday season and New Year.  Also, if you have any questions that you would like me to take up in future posts, feel free to ask them in the comment section below.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Is a house ever really ever complete? Probably not.  However, I am pleased to announce that I have been living full-time in the Gold Thread Tiny house since August, 2012, and have been truly enjoying it.  The Gold Thread Tiny house is parked near Harlemville NY, in the beautiful Hudson Valley of New York State, on a friend’s land.  It sits atop a grassy hillside with beautiful views of rolling hills, and the Catskill Mountains to the west where I was born.  I have three cows, and sometimes two horses, as neighbors, but they are not my own.
Two and a half years of research, writing, design, gathering materials, and building is drawing to a close and is accompanied by a corresponding feeling of sweet completion.  This was really brought home yesterday when I gave a presentation and slide show about Gold Thread at Columbia-Green Community College, in Hudson, NY.  I spoke in the literature class of my former professor, Gregg Berninger, who’s class had been reading Thoreau’s Walden.  What a pleasure it is to be freed up from the building process and begin to share my experiences with the community. It is exciting for me to see how affordable and environmentally responsible lifestyles is a very relevant topic with the younger generation and our larger community here in NY. State.
I have included some photos and a video of the Gold Thread as it is today. I hope you enjoy them.
The Main Room with Table set for two.

Propane range illuminated by flexible 12V LED strip lighting.

Kitchen with drain board/ dish storage behind.

Desk with table open.

Writing desk with a single draw and space for a lap top computer to the right.

Bookshelf with Violin hanging underneath. I teach violin to several students in tiny house each week. They all seem to love it, as do i.

Shoe rack with indoor and outdoor shoes.

Clothing closet with shelving and food storage on the door.

Composting toilet has been working well for the most part.

Sleeping loft with the ladder in its raise position as it is during most of the day.

Propane heating stove from Woodstock soapstone. It is a direct vent unit with a thermostat adjustment.

Clothing storage beneath the bench.

Gravity fed water above the sink, both for drinking and washing. it has been an adjustment to live without running water for me, but proving very workable with a little care. The rain water from the roof has proved enough thus far for all my dish washing needs.

Drain bucket beneath sink.

12V DC refrigerator uses about 400W per day, about 1/4 of my total electricity production per day.

Outside shed holds the batteries and electronics for the Photo Voltaic system, as well as some tool storage.

DC circuits and charge controller.

Exciting to have my rain catchment system finally hooked up. Come next spring i will make something more permanent.

Friday, March 09, 2012

New Photos

These past couple of months I’ve been having a ton of fun designing and building furniture for the Tiny house . I have made a desk, which opens to become a table, A bench with built in clothing storage underneath, another bench with shoe storage underneath, a drain board which doubles as dish storage, cabinets, a cooking stove hood for ventilation, and a variety of shelving.
Creating the opportunity and time to build these details has not always been easy. It has delayed my moving in further, and is accompanied with a certain feeling of restlessness. None the less, I took the time. If I had no place to live during this very mild NY. winter, I would have made due with less and moved in earlier. I consider myself lucky to have had this time. 
The benefits of building furniture are also quite clear. On the one hand, designing and building furniture is tremendously satisfying for me. Further, the results are better suited to the tiny house, compared to what one can usually find on the market. I was able to think through each component, and build to maximize usefulness and space efficiency. Each piece of furniture has at least two or three practical uses, and carefully sized so as to leave as much open space in the center of the main room as possible. I will speak in a bit more detail below each photo.  

Bench, 18" tall 15" deep. Shelves run on wooden rails with no hardware. Bench provides seating for 2 when the table is open, as shown above. Table leaf can fold down to access draws or open up the floor. (for those large dance parties...) The removable third leg is connected with 1/4 inch wooden dowels that are glued to the leg and slip into and out of holes on the bottom of the table. The table is curly maple, beautiful, but challenging to work with, as the grain is unpredictable. I friend with a joiner helped me connect and glue the top of the table.
Here i am standing on the bench of the previous photo, and shooting back to the rest of the house. Above right is the closet with swinging shelving to maximize space. The closet space, determined to some degree by the width of the bathroom was deeper than necessary. The hinged shelving was an elegant solution. The Kitchen, above left, is almost complete. I will post some photos of the cabinets soon.
Some computer work at the table. The computer shelf is also visible directly to the left and below the computer. That is where the computer will live, protected, and hidden from view.

Tapering shelves to the side of the cooking stove. Used a branch to add an organic detail. The insulation around my wheel wells is waiting for some spray foam, and then a wooden cover.

Wooden bench by door with a lower shelf for larger shoes and a smaller shelf above for indoor slippers. An adult mans shoe is often longer than the bench is wide. Thus, I store them on the diagonal so they don't stick out into the room.

Here is a detail of the dish drainer/storage. I like this method as it requires less moving around of dishes. Dished are washed, placed on the shelf to dry, and there it stays until it is needed again. The silverware rack to the right is similarly for storage. I can place larger serving utensils up top and knives and forks in the slots below. This will free up valuable counter and drawer space elsewhere. I drilled small cherry slats and slipped dowels through to connect them. I drilled small holes vertically and slipped in copper wire (actually 7ply copper grounding wire available in all hardware stores. Just untwist them for the individual pieces).  It remains to be seen how well this holds up to rot and mildew. I will keep you posted. I will add a small copper plate below this unit to direct the dripping water into the sink.