An experiment with voluntary simplicity in American culture.
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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, 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.