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, August 21, 2015

I’m super excited to share BIG news of a new Tiny House Collaborative that I'm part of. Our goal- to create a functional set of tiny house plans, accompanied by a video tutorial walking people through each stage of tiny house construction. If realized, this project could open up possibilities for people around the country and world to create their own tiny homes. The work will also be made available to students in schools who want to build a tiny house. The school program will be tailored so that, in states where its possible, students can even get Science and Math credit. There currently is a tiny house pilot project with schools in Washington state.

Its been three years since i finished my house- Gold Thread Tiny house. Its just over 100SF, is built on wheels and runs on electricity generated by two solar panels. Its been, and continues to be a wonderful living experience for me. I love the challenge of making the most out of a tiny space, making it beautiful and creating a sense of efficiency and simplicity that our society seldom offers.
I am also continually approached by folks, ranging from high school students to retired school teachers, wanting to build a tiny house their own. I have really lacked concrete tools to be able to support people as much as I would like to. Through this project, that all might change.…

Please take a moment and check out our new website and welcome video. If you feel moved to support the work, there will be a link available at the end of the video.
With tiny house dreams. Aldo


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.

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.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Autumn 2011 update.

Last weekend we had our first substantial snow fall of the year- strangely early for central New York State. However, unlike last year at this time I have one enclosed and insulated house to work inside of - very nice indeed!  That said, I am not moved in yet as anticipated.  Ahh well, if there is anything I have learned thus far it’s that things take longer to do than first anticipated.

Excluding some shelving and furniture carpentry, I have completed most of the woodworking projects. Last week I finally installed my stainless steel counter top, dropped in my sink basin, and built a dish rack and/ draining board.  This has a wonderful affect on the space making it feel substantially closer to completion than it did previously.

This means that the learning curve will get steeper from here on out as I confront the electrical and plumbing aspects of the project.  I am tackling questions such as, what sort of ventilation will I want, what voltage will I run, what quality of lighting can really be created with the available 12 volt technology (i like a warm well-lit environment), and what cocktail of electricity, DC or AC will best fit my lifestyle.  I have had many conversations with electricians, off-the-grid enthusiasts, solar electric installers and retail sales people, and everyone has their own perspective true to the scenario they are holding in mind. But is it my scenario? At this point I am leaning toward 12 Volt DC system to run the Nova Cool fridge and MR16 halogen or LED bulbs, and a 1000 watt true sign wave inverter to power some AC circuits, enabling me to use basic standard appliances.  I will be able to say much more about this after living with the system for a year, so stay tuned. If anyone has experience, feel free to post your opinions. I will try to get some current photos up soon. Thanks for reading.