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.

Friday, November 01, 2013

Life and thoughts, one year in.

When I first decided to build a tiny house i told myself, whether i liked living in 100sf or not, i would at least try it out for a full year before deciding if it was for me or not.  Fast forward a year, i only feel excited to continue. Quite literally, I enjoy living here! Whether away from home for one afternoon or one week, coming home is accompanied by a palpable feeling of well-being and ease. This might be due to a variety of things. For one, its nice to own my home free and clear, something that is not too easy to do in today's world. I do take pride knowing that i built it with my own hands, and though not perfect by any stretch, think is certainly good enough. Sometimes, pulling into my driveway at night, i wonder if it is actually real or just all a romantic dream.

Gold Thread amid the glorious autumn colors.

This year has brought many unique and wonderful visitors from the animal kingdom. I've been surprised on many summer mornings by birds of all different sorts.  Sometimes insects from the fields outside my door, (including the beautiful praying mantis), find their way inside through an open window. They don't seem all that holy when they are devouring large crickets on my doorstep...

A large mantis spends a sunny afternoon on my door.

I have recently asked the question, why do i feel so much closer to the natural world living here in Gold Thread? In short, the reason is that I'm always near a window, and the beautiful landscape beyond the glass. There is virtually no place in the house that obscures changes in the weather or sunlight, or prevents you from noticing a whitetail deer or wild turkey sauntering by.  Due to the size of most of our modern houses, we often unintentionally isolate ourselves from the sounds and sights of Nature. While this house is much more modern than the cabin Thoreau lived in at Walden, i feel that there is something about tiny houses that helps us connect to the kingdoms of nature, and this is a wonderful thing.

A flock of sheep (and a donkey) from the farm next door came by to munch some of the tasty grass.

My favorite visitors of all, however, are the various people who have come by with tiny house dreams of their own. I’ve had several groups of school children, and even collage students studying US environmental history visit me here.  A couple of my neighbors from up the road have started construction on a tiny house of their own last summer. (They are hoping to move in by Thanksgiving, but i bet it will take them until sometime next spring). I like to think that having me as a neighbor helped the idea of Tiny Houses and this lifestyle gel in their minds. I have been contacted by over twenty individuals and visited by three or four, all planning to build their own tiny house,  looking for moral support and guidance in the process. I am encouraged to see this idea taking root amongst my contemporaries, love to see people reactions to Gold Thread, and hear about all of their different ideas.

Some boys from the neighborhood stopped by last week. They had very positive reactions to the tiny house, and reminded me that its not to dissimilar to a tree fort...
In retrospect, each of the past few rental apartments I've lived in prior to the tiny house, though wonderful in their own way, have been accompanied by a disquieting feeling due to their transient nature. I knew each personal touch i put into those places soon would be left behind when i moved. I am reminded of the words of architect, Christopher Alexander, who writes in his book “A Pattern Language”, “People cannot be genuinely healthy in a house which is not theirs. All forms of rental- whether from private landlords or public housing agencies works against the natural process which allow people to form stable self healing communities.” In the same way that it is each person’s right to have their body (and mind and spirit), i believe its everyone's right to own a modest, safe abode.  I have heard this notion echoed in many conversations with my friends, young and old.

Living here has changed my life in several significant ways. It has lowered overhead (no pun intended) so that i feel less pressure around making and spending money.  This is something i had hoped for. This does not mean that i work less per se, but that i have more choice in what i do, and that my decisions are based more on what i really feel good about doing and not just “what will pay the bills”. I start to see that meaningful work is one of the greatest joys and privileges in life.  I’m able to do more volunteer work around the community, and more recently I’m spending 10 hours a week assistant teaching in the first grade at a local Waldorf school. This all feels good.

Generally speaking, the all-to-common experience of feeling “fettered in economic chains” is not about working or not, but being free to choose the direction one places their life energy. If one is living in “luxury” but does not like how they spend their time, Is this a good life? I think not. Now that i have paid off my solar panels, I foresee that in the near future i will begin to save some money for the first time in awhile. This is a good feeling. It means that i am not living from paycheck to paycheck, as many people the world over have done.  Let me be clear, Gold Thread has not miraculously removed all the challenges of life or turned it into some kind of utopia.  Some people falsely image that building and living in a tiny house will somehow dissolve all of the difficulties and challenges of life. It is not so.  I do feel, however, that living small has helped create a climate where things are prone to go well. 

Relaxing by the stove on a chilly autumn night.

There are still several project on my todo list. (I imagine there always will be). I am continually working to avoid clutter, and as the year progressed, I've become better and better at this. New shelving and storage ideas come to mind as the need for them press against me.  First, I will turn an underutilized corner of my bench seat, (currently used for storing binders that i don’t want), into a place to keep pants. Pants are bulky, and do not fit well in my dresser drawers.  Another is to build shelves in the small closet space under my hanging clothes. This will be used for shoe storage. One major issue i have, as those of you who know me will attest, is that i love musical instruments. Currently, in this small house, i have five violins, two violas, a guitar, a banjo and a lyre.

Some friends came over for tunes after the contradance. Five is a bit tight, but still okay for a small party.

As winter approaches and days continue to grow shorter, i look forward to having some more quite, cozy moments to write my thoughts down, and watch the snows swirl and fall. Hopefully we will have snow this year. Thanks so much for reading and be well!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Deep Drifts and Warm Sun!

Happy February everyone!  The snows have finally arrived in NY, and with it the chance to try real winter tiny house living. This is a topic that i have often wondered (perhaps fretted) about, recognizing so many of my tiny house colleagues live on the milder west coast of the US.  So far, i am very happy to report, that all has been well.  About 16 inches of light beautiful snow fell last week, which whipped around in the wind forming deep drifts.  The path shoveled from house to car (about 80 ft) got completely filled in by blowing snow in about two hours.  Later, on my drive back from filling up water jugs at the neighbors, i was dreading carrying the 40 lb containers containers through the snow.  Amazingly, in my absence, someone who had come by to visit me took it upon themselves to re-shovel it as a gift, and i arrived home to a freshly shoveled path.  Nothing quite equals the feeling a thoughtful, generous deed that meets a current pressing need.  These are rare and beautiful things.  I have my suspicions, (but i’m not sure) that i have my friend Travis to thank....

As i have mentioned before, now that the house is off of the springs it stands up much better to the winter winds up here in the field, and feels a lot more stable.  Jacking the house up off of the wheels and setting it on blocks has proved a great decision and i highly recommend it to others, especially if you plan on staying in one place for any length of time.

It is with some satisfaction that i realize I've come through the darkest time of the year with no shortage of electricity.  Outside the house right now the warm February sun spills down, reflecting off the snow, bathing the world in warmth and light. While under construction i went back and forth in my mind about purchasing 2 PV panels/ 440 watts, or 3 PV panels/ 660 watts, and decided in the end for the lesser amount.  I had done my math, added up all house loads and multiplied them by hours of usage in a day, but still I was somewhat skeptical.  An ample battery bank has certainly helped with this.  Now that the days are getting longer i really feel like i made a good decision, (with the help of my friends at Sundog Solar. www.sundogsolar.net.) 

The one day when i did run out of power, (first noticed by the water droplets coming from the bottom of my thawing refrigerator) it turned out that i had failed to brush a five inch blanket of snow off of my panels for an entire day. Gotta love the simple solutions! It felt so good to have my 1000 Watt power inverter running the other morning, making use of the strengthening February sun to charge my battery powered speaker, 18V power drill, and phone all at the same time.  I could have plugged my vacuums in too, had I though of it.  Makes a  sunny day even a little bit sweeter than normal.

I was shocked to realize that I've been living here in my place for half a year now during which time i have experienced so many things, both difficult and sweet. Generally, the tiny house seems to be supportive and life affirming.

First is economic.  I find that my income is starting to become balanced with my life needs/expenses.  This is the result of working a little bit more, and more importantly, having a lower overhead. I am just about $1000 away from paying off my entire PV system.  I have a modest income though teaching music about 15 hours per week.  With this money i purchase good food (much of which is grown locally), pay my bills, propane, loan on solar panels, car expenses, etc. While i am by no means flush, i start have the blessed feeling of having enough.  But the real bonus is having a sweet four or five hours each day free to use how i wish.  It is with this time that i am writing now.  I can practice the violin,  prepare my lessons, study or work on sculpture, or help out a friend.  I am no longer needing to spend all of my time working to pay the bills, (or in my recent life, finishing the tiny house and pay the bills at the same time). Time feels abundant and more relaxed.  This was one of the main reasons for doing this project in the first place and i’m glad to see that after six months of finishing details and letting the dust settle, a good rhythm has started to develop.

Another positive is that i start to feel the parameters of everything that i own, need and use.  This feels clean in a way because the extraneous, half finished, broken, or unused parts of life can have a distracting or diluting affect.  I find things are more easily accounted for and remembered.  When something is dirty or cluttered, it must get cleaned sooner than later, in part because there is no way to ignore it.  There is less wiggle room with space, though there is more with time.  Living here seems to be developing a sense in me for what is essential and non essential in my life, in a given day or even a given hour.  It facilitates the focusing of my attention where it is needed.  Distractions will always arise, some important and some not, and how helpful is the ability to not let these things divert our attention from what we really want to be reaching toward. 

And here are a few words about the difficulties accompanying this rather drastic lifestyle change.   Describing this to a friend the other night i discovered a good analogy.... (for all of you farmers and gardeners out there.)

Up until recently, i think i have been experiencing Transplant Syndrome,  a term i am inventing now.  We see this archetype when growing a plant from seed. We care for it until its a healthy little plant ready to transplant, and then uproot and move it the earth or another pot. You may harden it off by leaving outside in the seed tray for a few days.  Eventually the time comes when you dig a hole in your prepared bed and drop that little seedling down in, refill the soil and water it.  Even if you do everything just right the plant becomes shocked, somewhat saggy and wilted for awhile until the roots and the whole plant can establish themselves in the new environment.  There is a lag time while the plant acclimates and which little outer growth can be seen.  This is transplant syndrome.  I think the first 6 months of living here have been somewhat like that for me.  But now that i am learning the ropes and getting into healthy rhythms, the real joys and challenges of living here start to become revealed without the burdens of TS.

So the adventure continues but the take away has certainly been positive.  Its also been great to be in communication with so many other tiny house people across the country. Thanks so much for reading these entries, for sharing your plans and great stories, and for all of your feedback.  Wishing everyone best of luck in their endeavors.