Monthly Archives: October 2014

I got bit by a bug

Having felt sick for a few days with flu-like symptoms, I went to the doctor’s last Tuesday to get blood drawn. I heard back this past Monday about the results. I have Lyme Disease. At first I thought it was no biggy really, just get the antibiotics, take them for three weeks, and viola! normal, healthy Emi. I was more concerned, actually, about my longer-term exhaustion.

The more people I talked to, however, the more I realized how serious my situation could have been. I had to suggest to the doctor to test for Lyme – they were already going to test for mono, B12, and folic acid because I’m vegetarian and might not be getting enough of that. The results, however, said I was fine on all accounts except for Lyme.

I don’t remember ever getting bit. After doing some more research, I found that most people don’t see a tick or a rash and are misdiagnosed when they see the doctor about their symptoms. I read that the majority of people don’t get diagnosed with Lyme Disease for 5 years after they got it. Unfortunately, that also means that it’s harder to treat. Chronic Lyme Disease, the later stages when left untreated, can be totally debilitating and painful. Meaning that, if I had passed this off as the flu once the initial symptoms had gone, I could’ve seriously messed up a significant chunk if not the rest of my life.

Even just these last several days have been incredibly frustrating for me. I have been calling in sick to work, which I don’t want to do both because it means I’m losing money and because it is a part of my life that I have enjoyed when I’ve been in good health. It gives me something to do and allows me to have access to a social life through at least talking with customers at the hardware store and visiting with people I know. The worst, though, is that I can’t work on my tiny house. I can, but “sloth movement” as I titled the previous post, really is an accurate description of my life right now. It takes so much energy to walk up and down the stairs, let alone screw together pieces of my house-to-be. I’m hoping that my project won’t have to be on hold for very much longer. At the very least, I will make little bits of progress every day even if it isn’t much.

Here are some of my little bits of progress:

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Working under the trailer to screw the new flashing into place.

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Trying harder.

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It didn’t really work… that little hole in the aluminum flashing was about as far as I got. My arms were tired from pushing, and the screw didn’t go where it was supposed to. It just kept slipping and flying off somewhere or falling which was enormously frustrating. It’s cool that I can see my reflection in the metal flashing, though!

I’ve been trying to just do less, but my little burst of energy for starting a small project only lasts so long and I only end up making a mess. My solution now for the doing-nothing-boredom is to read a lot of books because I have a lot of unread material on my shelves that I never seem to have time to look at. Right now I’m reading Chicken Soup for the Soul which is perfect and has 101 very short heartwarming stories about love, healing, and other things.

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This is me brainstorming about my tiny house.

I have had some black walnuts sitting in a plastic bag in my room for a while, lying in wait to dye. :). The elderly woman I work for asked me to dye some of her light clothes and towels a darker color with black walnut dye. Having been so run down lately, I didn’t get around to it for a couple of weeks. Sunday afternoon was the time, I decided, and I took a hammer to the walnuts wearing rubber gloves and clothes I am not too fond of — that stuff dyes anything permanently. I boiled the hulls in a big pot and prepped the things to be dyed. It took quite a while, but in the end, I had some pretty nicely dyed clothing. Also, I had dye left over. I wish I’d gotten more pictures, but I did take a couple. Here’s the dye:

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And here is a shirt of my own that I threw in with the other things I was dying. It actually came out pretty light:

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All in all, a very cool process that I’d like to do again (maybe try a sort of tie-dying process too!) when I am well and have more energy.

Well, that’s more or less what I’ve been up to for the last week. I have finally allowed myself to just sit in bed and sleep and do nothing for a couple days and am feeling a littttle bit better, but also still adjusting to the antibiotics, doxycyclin. My friend Ellie came and visited me today though and we had lunch together. Yay!

Hopefully I’ll have made more progress on my house next time I post.

Thanks for your continued support!

<3

Sloth Movement

Heyo

I’ve really appreciated getting emails, messages, and comments from people who have been reading my blog! Keep letting me know that you’re there and reading; I know you can all see me, but I can’t see who is reading!

The building process is going but it’s going slow. I’ve been sick for like four days with no energy, a really sore throat, and super swollen glands all the way down my neck. Yikes! I didn’t go to work for a couple of days and spent a lot of time moping and doing nothing in a chair by the fire. I tried to get out to the trailer a couple days ago and just sort of stared at it. Dad asked said I might need a hammer for something and it took me a moment to remember what a hammer was, let alone whether or not I had one. I went back inside.

Since I wrote last but before and a little after I got sick, I was able to finish insulating the trailer, but I encountered a bunch of problems. First of all, I saw that part of the trailer was broken! There was a gap in one section of the trailer where the flashing was supposed to meet the metal floor joist. It must not have been welded together enough and come undone when stacking insulating on the trailer or stepping around the joists. Here’s a picture of it.. the screw there is sticking through the hole:

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That was frustrating, but Dad and I were able to drill holes through the bottom of the flashing and the joist with little pieces of metal flying in our faces, caulk the seam, and bolt the gap in four places so that it was sealed tight.

I wish I could better describe how frustrating working with the insulation was and trying to fit it in between the inconsistent floor joists. I’m glad when I insulate the walls I won’t have to do so much altering. I’ve been researching online the process of insulating the exterior of buildings and it seems like this is mostly done to old buildings that already have interior insulation. Anyway, I’m trying to plan ahead as best I can and figure out how installing windows will work out.

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I have been working on changing the corner porch so that it can just be part of the rest of the insulated trailer. That way, I can have a porch coming off the tongue end of the trailer instead. I think I mentioned this before? Anyway, I went to the Ashfield Hardware store and bought some flashing, screws, and brackets to cover the hole where the porch was supposed to go. I marked and cut a piece of plywood to be the right size, then glued strips of flashing to it with Gorilla Glue and let it dry for a while. When I came back to it, Dad and I jammed it into its spot which was tricky but we did it. Talk about air tight! I also just cut a couple of 2x4s and made them the right dimensions to be floor joists in that area.

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This is what it looks like from the bottom of the trailer — flashed corner porch hole.

Bob Markey, a long time family friend, builder, artist, activist, etc., responded to my help and fundraising letter and offered his help and advice. He came over Monday afternoon and gave me some good suggestions about the systems in my house among other things. He advised me to put in those extra floor joists where I’m converting the porch, especially because the shower will be directly over that area and will be heavier than the regular floor, needing more support underneath. He was also just really helpful in confirming that I’m on the right path with my thinking and planning and knowing what I’m doing! That was really good to hear because I’ve been a little uncertain feeling like I’m kinda just winging this and worrying that I might be forgetting something. Thanks Bob Markey!

I’ve been thinking about where I’m gonna put the windows I have and what sizes I still need. So I cut out a bunch and organized them in different ways on the page:

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The other thing we discovered was that it turns out the door of our barn is actually about two feet too low to be able to fit the roof. I’m really glad I didn’t try to build the whole thing in the barn and then discover that I couldn’t actually get it out of our barn after all that work! So I guess I’ll be able to build the walls in the barn and then build a temporary building structure in our back yard so I can finish. Unless I can build really really fast and get the whole structure built and insulated and windowed before snowfall… Anyway I got in touch with a company that rents out temporary building structures and they were really nice and enthusiastic about my project (“Oh, like on Tiny House Nation!?”) but unfortunately didn’t have anything small enough and their cheapest rents were generally for $40,000… I appreciated their kindness and support though! It was also nice to hear that they’d been watching the new TV show about tiny houses and living small. If you have any suggestions on this temporary building space issue, please share!

In the meantime I’ve been caulking and cutting the sill seal. I don’t know if I really had to caulk that much because the insulating is stuffed pretty tightly in there. I’d be surprised if there was any air flow.

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The sill seal is important though because it will keep the metal floor joists from sucking heat out of the house. That’s called “thermal bridging.” Sill seal is pretty much just real thin insulation that is supposed to block that bridge. You can tell that the metal joists are thermal bridges because when you put your hands on the metal at this time of year, it feels really cold. That means it’s stealing your heat.

That’s all for now, thanks for reading!

Puzzle Work

Today I finally started working on putting the pieces together! Dad helped me set up the barn a bit and bring the table saw from the basement to the new work area. Then he and Mom went out of town for a few hours and I started in on the daunting task of cutting the insulation. I tried running a sheet through the table saw pretty unsuccessfully. Yes, I cut the insulation. But it wasn’t straight and the cut didn’t go all the way through and it ended up snapping roughly in half. A very unclean cut.

At about the same time, I also realized that the height of the metal floor joists were shorter than the thickness of my insulation. I’d had it in my head that the floor of the trailer would be framed just like the frame of a 2×4 floor – 24″ on center spacing, and 3-1/2″ for the height of each joist. Totally, totally wrong. Yes, the instructions that Tumbleweed gave me for the trailer were to install 3″ insulation, but I couldn’t find 3″ insulation ANYWHERE I looked online. 3-1/4″ was the closest I could get and I found it on craigslist. This is a problem mainly because the metal joists are kind of upside-down L shaped so that the insulation should in theory slip snugly under the overhang. 3″ probably would’ve fit, but 3-1/4″ stood about 1/8″ above the entire frame.

Frustrated, sweaty, and stuffy (crazy humid day for the middle of October), I came inside and pouted for several minutes before I decided I really just needed to pull myself together and do some problem solving. So I went back out there to see what I could do.

Then when I came back and measured the spacing between the metal joists, I found that instead of being spaced a consistent 24″ on center, the first gap was 21″, the second 23″, the third 24-1/2″, the fourth 23″, and so on. What!?

I grabbed some saw-horses from the basement and the circular saw and fixed part of my problem (the table saw mess up) with the hand-held circular saw. Part of my problem was already solved by having half a sheet of insulation to work with. A whole 4×8 sheet is a bit awkward to handle.

When my parents returned, I had things somewhat under control. We brainstormed how to solve the problem of 1. fitting the insulation in and under the upside-down L shaped joists and 2. changing the cutting method because I was spraying Fiberglas everywhere by using the electric saws.

Mom suggested using a knife and snapping it and that’s what we ultimately did – the internet agreed with mom’s brilliance. Mom also had the idea of using the utility knife to slice off just a bit of each piece – sculpt it to fit into the spaces properly. It was messy, but it worked and Dad and I got quicker and quicker at it as a team! Very exciting to have made good progress even though it took longer than it would have with thinner insulation. But I have a higher R-value and a snugger fit than I would have had with a thinner insulation too. And the crafty puzzle work was fun too!

Here are some pictures of the work we did today:

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Goodies

This is really happening!!!

Dad and I cleaned out the barn like crazy on Friday making enough for the trailer to come. Lliam and Christine (Lliam’s mom) waited with my parents and me for the arrival of the trailer. At about 7:00, there was a knock on the door and Uncle Charlie entered! He looked exhausted after 13 hours of driving. I am so grateful to him for making that trip for me! We all rushed out to help him back the trailer into the barn – it was dark and he needed us to direct him so he wouldn’t run over the garden. And what a beautiful trailer it is! All shiny and black and new looking. Very, very exciting. I stood there and beamed at the foundation of the next stage of my life.

Here are some pictures of the barn and Uncle Charlie delivering the trailer! I wanted to take before and after pictures of the barn, but only got around to it half way through the process. So the pictures here actually show the barn significantly cleaner than when we started.

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Saturday evening, just 24 hours later, my insulation arrived! I bought 25 4×8 sheets of 3-1/4″ thick polyiso insulation from a guy on craigslist. For some reason I hadn’t been able to find anything thicker than 2″ thick anywhere else online. Also, from research, I learned that many types of rigid foam insulation off-gas – made of stuff both bad for the environment and bad to breathe in. When I did a bit of research on polyiso, I found that it off-gases very very slowly and that I would breathe in more hydrocarbon fumes every time I fill up my car with gas than I would from the off-gassing of polyiso insulation over decades. Insulating on the exterior instead of interior will also help those gases escape to the outside instead of inward. I also found that polyiso provides the highest R-value per inch of thickness than other rigid foam insulation. The higher the R-value, the better the building will be at retaining heat! Anyway, I was very happy with this find on craigslist especially because the guy, Pete, was willing to deliver it straight to my house all the way from New Haven, CT! It was dark when he arrived and he backed the trailer into the ball field parking lot where Dad, Sally Willowbee, my 9 year old cousin Gabe, and I helped Pete unload and carried all 25 sheets into the barn. We discovered that there is fiberglas on the outside shell of the sheets so some of us got a bit itchy. I was impressed that Gabe just jumped in to help without us asking him to, so I paid him $5 which he was very happy with :).

Other cool things that happened:

I ran into Dr. Fogel at Four Rivers the other day when I went to retrieve my health records from the nurse. We chatted for a bit, and he told me that he had some good-as-new windows in his basement, a kitchen sink, and some other things. He emailed me pictures and I ended up with the stainless steel kitchen sink, a pretty big window still in its wrapping, and a landscape casement window in great condition! Pictures below. I have about half of my windows at this point, but still need more. Keep your eyes out for double pane windows in really good condition!!! I also found one at Mike Skalski’s tag sale at the Ashfield Fall Festival this past Saturday. $10! Doesn’t open, but still a great little window for the bathroom or something. Don’t have a picture of that right now, but here are some pictures of the goods from Dr. Fogel, the floorboards I mentioned in a previous post, and my little wood stove from Sheila Garrett.

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Last week Aunt Sarah came by with a bunch of hand-me-downs for me. I love all the stuff I get from her partly because they’re neat clothes and partly because they fit me perfectly because we both have the same Spademan body structure. Some of my absolutely favorite clothes have come from her. If you followed my and Helen’s India blog (namastaynamago.wordpress.com), you might remember me talking about fearing for the condition of my favorite pants as they hung outside at night exposed to all the noisy wild creatures. Those came from Aunt Sarah. Anyway, this time around, she handed down to me some really good Carhart pants that, of course, fit just right.

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Transitioning to Adulthood

Here’s the problem with taking a gap year in my small hometown: All my friends are at college or in their senior year of high school. High school is at least 30min from my house. College is at least 60min from my house. And if I want to see them all, they’re at least an hour away from each other too. Not only am I working on my scheduled life, but I’m also feeling out my social life. I have Lliam, my boyfriend, who I’ve been spending a lot of time with. But he’s also a senior in high school. I know what “senior year” means and how much spare time those friends actually have on their hands. I also know how much gas it takes to be continuously driving places. As for my best buds in college, I could make a trip or two out to see them, but that’s a once-every-couple-of-months deal.

After some thinking, I have come to the conclusion that the social life of an adult is very different from the social life of a student. I have been connecting with more people and realized that as I get older, I am able to relate to people of a wider age range. “Friends” in high school meant the people that I saw every day and could invite over for the weekend or go on a spontaneous Salvation Army shopping spree with after school. I can imagine that it’s similar in college but even better because you’re practically living with your friends. As a gap-year-student-(adult?)-in-transition, I have observed that friendship will change throughout my life. I have friends who are my age but I remember that through classes at Greenfield Community College and elsewhere, I connected with people significantly older than I. And I have begun to consider some of my parents friends my friends as well.

Last week I took a paneer making workshop with a few other women. The workshop was lead by Cecilia who invited me to dinner to talk about tiny houses. Cecilia and her husband Emmet built a tiny house while they were working on Sidehill Farm in Ashfield and needed a place to live. Hurray for experienced tiny house livers! I arrived at their house for dinner and I helped prepare the meal while talking to them about vegetarianism and diet, college and education, work, travel, and tiny houses among many other things. Though they are at a different stage in life than I am – out of college and have kids – I was delighted to be able to connect through so many topics. I figured this must be what adult friendships feel like.

(I keep forgetting I’m kinda an adult. When did that happen??)

After dinner when Emmet and Cecelia’s girls had been tucked in to bed, we sat on the cozy couch with the little black kitten, Willy, and sweet small dog, Maisy, eating pumpkin pie and talking about tiny houses while Emmet carved a wooden spatula. It was extremely helpful to get their feedback on my plans. Some of their most helpful and interesting suggestions included insulating my house on the exterior instead of interior, and changing my loft plan. I realized that I’d hit a wall and decided that my plans were perfect – that I was ready to build. But hearing some of their comments, I discovered that I had my doubts about my layout. In this week before my trailer arrives, I’ve been thinking about my house differently and playing with all the ideas on paper and on SketchUp – the 3D drawing computer program that I’ve been teaching myself to use. Emmet and Cecilia also lent me three books. The first is “A Pattern Language” by Christopher Alexander. This is the third or fourth time I have heard about the book and all three times it has been described as “the bible of homebuilding.” They all raved about it. The second book is “The Humanure Handbook” which, later on, will help me learn about composting toilets. Another that I have seen on friends’ bookshelves and been wanting to read. The third was a guide to wiring a house. When I finish writing this post, I’ll be reading “A Pattern Language” to help me design my tiny house and give reason and purpose to all my space.

Lastly, I have been feeling especially fatigued lately and I’m thinking it has something to do with my diet. I have tried taking iron supplements and eating a lot of greens and protein to boost my energy levels. But these haven’t been having the effect that I’m looking for. I see a small change, but I also forget to take the iron supplements sometimes. So I’ve been wanting to try eating chicken and fish (I may have mentioned this in an earlier post?) and have tried bites of different things including some red meats. But when I got to Cecilia and Emmet’s house, they told me they planned on cooking risotto with chicken for supper – unless I didn’t eat meat. Cecilia assured me that the chicken had a happy life in their back yard munching on clovers and so I decided to eat my first full meal with chicken! And besides being absolutely delicious, I noticed a significant positive change in my energy levels for the next two days. Hurray!

Instead of School

As Summer has turned to fall, I have started to develop a weekly schedule. It’s been weird having to put together my own schedule because for the last 13 years of my life I had school and a schedule that others planned for me. Before that I was 5 and didn’t know what a schedule was.

I’ve been working about four days a week making money for my personal needs and for materials, and learning a lot. I work at Ashfield Hardware and Supply twice a week. Though I have had a job there since sixth grade, it feels good to have a consistent schedule that is more than just once a week throughout the summer and fall. I’ve really valued learning how to count back change to customers as I’m running the cash register that doesn’t do the math for me. I also enjoy helping people when they come in. As time goes by, I am able to help more and more customers without asking Laura where something is or how much it costs. Through restocking the shelves and pricing so many things, I get up close and personal with items I didn’t even know existed and learn their location and purposes. I have also valued learning more about hardware, as the knowledge will definitely be helpful for when I start building my house. And I’ll know where to find it! For those of you that don’t know, this “hardware” store’s motto is “Anything Practical, Practically Anything” and it’s true. I grew up thinking that all hardware stores sold ice cream because of Ashfield Hardware. So I’m learning about all kinds of things besides hardware too.

I spend my other two work days caring for an elderly woman (“Kick-Ass elder” as she likes to call herself) in Shelburne Falls. I help her stay organized and listen to her stories of which she has many. I’ve enjoyed hearing her ideas and working to understand her patterns and outlook on life.

While I’m not learning and making money, I spend a lot of time browsing the internet looking for reclaimed materials and working on my crowd-source website. Check up on that link from this home page! I also reconnected with Erich Kruger from Deconstruction Works and bought 66 square feet of floor boards from him for my lofts. It was a great deal – better than I’m going to find almost anywhere – and the boards even came with valuable advice on how to clean, install, and stand them (by word of mouth from Erich himself before we drove away).

Still looking for lots of materials! Please let me know if you have good double pane windows, plywood, left over housewrap, or anything else you are not going to use and think I might be interested in!!

What’s in Tow

Hey all!

Again, it’s been over a month since I last posted. My hope is that when I start building, I will commit to writing a post at least once a week.

I’ll write a few different posts and pretend that I actually posted them a few days apart from each other. Enjoy!

Since my trailer was completed in mid-September, I have been working to get it registered and finding someone to pick it up in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania for me or lend me their truck. I talked to Dennis, our car mechanic, about trailer transportation and registration. As it turns out, he is very knowledgeable about both. He suggested I register my trailer with the Maine Trailer Registrations because registering in Maine is cheaper than registering in Massachusetts. He explained that you’ll see a lot of tractor trailer trucks with Maine license plates because they all find the least expensive place to register. I was surprised that it was even possible for me to register in a state where I’m not a resident — isn’t that cheating? — but I went through the process and just received my plates in the mail last week! I’ll admit it was still expensive because I had to pay tax on the trailer, but from now on I’ll just be paying $99 to renew my registration for FIVE years. That’s less than $20 a year!

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As for trailer transport, Dennis had some suggestions, but I first contacted my Uncle Charlie who lives in New Jersey and has a truck capable of towing a trailer. And what a wonderful uncle he is! He quickly agreed saying he would be delighted to help in any way he could. This is a 9+ hour drive we’re talking about — a long day for him. I am so grateful! He will be arriving on Friday, October 10 with the trailer in tow, and I’ll start building soon after! Before then, though, I need to finalize my plans and order the materials that I’ll need to begin.

Thank you Uncle Charlie, Dennis, and the kind folks at Maine Trailer Registrations!