Back On The Farm

Today I had a wonderful morning cleaning up garlic that had been harvested at Zephyr Farm.  They planted 9000 bulbs of garlic and we were a group of 10 volunteers who attempted to make a dent in cutting off the stems and roots of the garlic harvest.

Two summers ago, I volunteered on a farm, assisting for the CSA harvest every week on Jen and Derek’s Farm in PEI. I had started becoming interested in where my food came from when I lived in Winnipeg and when I was gigging in Charlottetown, I discovered the farmers’ market and it, among many other things, helped me fall in love with PEI.  I loved knowing my farmers, being able to chat with the people who grow my food every week and being able to thank them directly. I loved knowing that I was eating food that had only travelled 10s of kilometres before reaching my plate (yes 10s, it’s a small Island).  I’d prefer to eat that way all the time.  In PEI, I did, all year-long.  There were some things that I was unable to get from the Island, flour, grains, oil, spices, etc,  but at least 80% of my food was local.  A locavore’s dream.

As I write, I have dirt under my nails, I am a little tired from spending my morning in the sun, working with a group of people.   We got to take a tour of the farm, which was lovely.  We were also treated to lunch.  I miss spending time on a farm every week.  I think I have to do something about that.

Dirty and loving it.
Dirty and loving it.

Questions and the next step

So my trailer is ordered and should be ready by the end of August.  I am looking at the next steps to begin building my tiny house.  I find this task exciting and rather daunting at the same time.  I have spent the past year dreaming, researching and building my tiny house in my head and it feels really close.  There are still some important questions that I need answers to regarding ventilation, insulation and water/plumbing.  On Monday, I met with a friend who is a carpenter to look over the plans that I bought.

The evening did not completely turn out as expected – I had hoped that he would be able to help me a fair amount with my build, unfortunately he has quite a few commitments throughout the fall and may be able to come by and help from time to time, he won’t be able to commit to a specific timeline and doesn’t want to make promises that he can’t keep.   In the end, this will force me to take the lead in the build in my home, which was the original plan.  I will be able to contact him for advice, and then will have to implement that advice on my own.

As for the plans, he had some wonderful insight and also was able to point me in the right direction for the next steps on my build.  This is his first exposure to tiny houses, and brings a great deal of experience to the table with regards to building a traditional house.  He also questions things in a way that I very much appreciate.  I am not a carpenter, and will follow the directions given to me by those that I trust as experts, I don’t know which aspects of the design that I have bought to question.  Having someone ask those questions can be challenging, but it also forces me to get the answers.

Here are a couple of questions raised during our conversation include:

  • Why frame the subfloor when the trailer bed offers has enough strength to support the house?  The answer is inches, which is to say, though a bit of a pain, framing the subfloor allows the house to have a slightly larger footprint and in a tiny house, every inch matters.   If you were to lay down flashing, 1/2″ plywood, several inches of rigid polyfoam insulation and then 3/4″ plywood and create essentially an insulation sandwich over top of the trailer’s welded frame onto which you build your house, the house would be  several inches shorter on each side.
  • Why are the studs 24″ on centre and not 16″ on centre? According to Tiny House Design and Construction Guide by Dan Louche, a tiny house does not need to be built at 16 on centre and can be built 24 on centre (wall studs are 24 inches apart, on centre refers to measure from the centre of one stud to the next), without loosing any structural integrity.

I happened upon the answers to his questions quite haphazardly.  I love when the answers to your questions jump out at you without you having to look too hard.

As for the next steps of my journey, I have calculated the square footage of interior and exterior siding that I will need so that I can go and select choose my siding.  I am leaning towards burnt cedar for the exterior siding and I am still not sure what my interior siding will be.  My carpenter friend recommended a local saw mill to check out for siding and suggested that I bring my plans along as the owner of the sawmill is extremely helpful and may have some good insight for me.  The sawmill can also supply my roofing and ridge beam, if I choose to go with them.

Once I have chosen and ordered my siding, I can calculate the wall thickness of my house and order my doors and windows.  It seems as though most doors and windows in Québec are made to order, so there aren’t really any stock sizes anymore.  My plans have a comprehensive materials list, which includes the windows, which is really lovely.  I am changing the plans enough that I have to recalculate the materials list, at least I have a place to start.  One of the things I am changing is my door placement and the size of my door.   I do not like the idea of having a door that is narrow. I don’t want to have to negotiate my way through the door every time I am carrying anything into or out of the house.  It just doesn’t seem particularly practical and the romance of having a beautiful little door on your tiny house will lose its charm quickly.  My door will be 6″ shorter than a standard door, which may make bringing large items like a mattress difficult and will probably mess with the mind of anyone over 5’6″.  Luckily I am only 5’5″.


Downsizing and ordering a trailer!

I am in Prince Edward Island, where my not-so-big house is.  I have spent the past week with the help of my mother and my best friends downsizing my belongings in the house, meeting with a real estate agent and doing some small chores to get the house ready to sell.  It has been a big week.

My mother and I arrived first and our first day here we were able to go through almost all of my belongings left  in the house and decide what should stay and what should go.  We did pretty well, moving quickly and getting rid of much of what I really didn’t need.  I managed to avoid being overly sentimental and parted with a lot of things.  I managed to get rid of that which I was parting with in 2 ways.  By chance we met a couple who are moving to the Island for the next year or so.  They have lived a nomadic lifestyle and have few belongings.  I am happy to know that I can help them out.  I spent almost a decade being fairly nomadic, it’s nice to get the chance to settle somewhere for a bit, but getting all of the housewares you need can be daunting.  That which they did not need was donated to a couple of local organizations.  I was able to donate to the local women’s shelter, the Habitat for Humanity Re-Store and to the Salvation Army. I work for a not-for-profit and it felt right to give some really useful and some beautiful things to the women’s shelter.  It is difficult to restart your life when you left the old one with just the clothes on your back.

IMG_0325 2I was also able to help friends with their tiny house build, which was fantastic.  My nomadic life was in theatre and I can handle a drill, but haven’t had the opportunity to use saws much.  One of the couple who are building their tiny house in PEI is a cabinet maker and she set me to work using a skill saw and a mitre saw.  I built 2 boxes to cover the wheel wells of the trailer.  I also made a bunch of terrible box jokes.

They ordered their trailer from a welder in New Brunswick, who has built trailers for several tiny homes now and I ordered my trailer this week!  So excited.  It will be ready a year almost to the day that I first learned about tiny houses.  That makes me rather happy.  So I will be back in this part of the world about a month from now to pick up my trailer.  Not that I’m excited or anything…  I ORDERED A TRAILER!!!!!

Plans, A Workshop and A Dream

Last summer I heard the term tiny house for the first time.  I was in Prince Edward Island for the wedding of two dear friends and the day after the wedding a group of friends were gathered around a table eating a fantastic selection of breakfast foods when the subject of the upcoming build of a tiny house came up.  The soon to be builders were talking about how they were expecting their trailer to arrive, a double axle,  10 ton capacity trailer that would be arriving from New Brunswick in the near future.  Little did I know when I heard them talking about their trailer that trailer shopping would be in my future.

I have lived in 5 different Canadian provinces over the last 10 years, moved countless times and owned 2 homes more than 3000 km apart.  The idea of leaving each house that I have owned has been heart breaking and terrifying.  How can I leave this house I call home? How can I sell my house when I work more than 1000km away? Will my house sell? Will I be able to pack up all my belongings alone? Et cetera.  When I started looking into tiny houses everything seemed to click.  A house on wheels that allows you to reduce your footprint, reduce your belongings, live simply and  in a more sustainable way?  It just makes sense to me.  The homes I have owned have both been small by many standards, under 900 square feet and I had more than enough space and more than enough mortgage.  A house that I can build myself, that I can take with  me if my life takes me elsewhere, seems like a gift.

I immersed myself in the online world of tiny houses, compared floor plans, looked into trailers, insulation options, condensation, ventilation, appliances, wood stoves, propane stoves, tiny bathtubs, learnt about composting toilets, downloaded the Humanure handbook, read blogs and watched videos, learned the names of Jay Shafer, Deek Diedricksen, Dee Williams, and Tumbleweed amongst others, bookmarked pages upon pages of resources.  I purchase a set of plans and a ticket to a Tumbleweed workshop in Boston this past February.  I was ready to go, rearranged travel plans 3 times because of the impending winter storm and cancelled those plans when the Mayor of Boston asked people not to come to his city the morning before the workshop.  Heartbroken, I spent a weekend snowed in with my freshly printed plans.  I was determined to go to a workshop in Boston or Chicago, somewhere with similar weather concerns so that I could build my home with my climate in mind.

The last weekend in April, I was finally able to go to a the workshop in Boston.  A friend from PEI attended the conference with me and it was a fantastic experience to be in a room with almost 100 other people who were there to learn more about tiny houses.  Our presenter was Ella Jenkins, whose blog had me fall in love with her tiny house – Little Yellow Door and it’s horse trough bathtub.  I learnt a great deal, met people who knew more about insulation that I do, who are also dreaming of their downsized life in a tiny house.

Right now I am in a holding pattern.  I have a house in another province to sell and can’t do much about it until my brother gets married in July (I am very much looking forward to the upcoming nuptials).  There is just too much going on right now to add resolving the logistics that go along with building your own home, let alone one on wheels.  So I am starting this blog as a collection of my thoughts and to move forward with my home in whatever way I can.  I hope to keep track here the process of building my home, share my discoveries, frustrations and joys along the way.

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