Monthly Archives: November 2014

When Life Gives You Lemons, Blog About It

There has been so much going on in the last week and a half that I haven’t had time to post anything. Sorry in advance for a long post! If you just want an update on the tiny house stuff, scroll down and there will be pictures and such.

As of Monday, I am finally off antibiotics! I feel so much more like myself, though I’m still recovering my energy. I’ve found myself working too much over the last week and have to keep reminding myself that I am by no means 100% better and I still have to work on healing.

Early in the week, I went over to Christina Gabriel’s house for lunch and to learn how to make elderberry syrup. It was a wonderful day to spend with an adult friend inside, cooking and talking. We watched from her beautiful kitchen windows as it sleeted out side, coating the trees and grasses in ice and making the whole outside world look silver. I’ve always felt very cozy in her house and have admired the woodwork and furniture. Now I often daydream about my tiny house and look for inspiration.

It was very cool to not only make the syrup, but also to learn about the berry and it’s healing powers. For some time I’ve been interested in exploring alternative medicine, mainly so I can obtain a greater knowledge of the plants that surround my house and how they can aid me. When I went to India and stayed in a rural, indigenous village, I was impressed by the attention to health and natural healing. When I cut my thumb while chopping an onion, I was told to put cumin on it to stop the bleeding. Then I was given a different job – one that I didn’t need to use my thumb for. If I’d been at home, I would have slapped a band-aid on and toughed it out. I don’t believe they even owned band-aids, and I’ve come to realize that many of the meds and treatments that are commonly used in the U.S. are to compensate for the demanding and high-speed culture. As Christina pointed out as we were talking, the best medicine is often rest. But we lean towards ibuprofen and band-aids so that we can keep going and doing.

I see no need to use modern medicine if there is an alternative that is natural and accessible. What I’ve been wanting to learn is what plants can do for me and how to know when I need something more. While visiting Christina, I learned that elderberries are overall good for health but specifically are used to strengthen the immune system among many other things. I’ve been taking small doses daily to help me recover from Lyme Disease.

On Wednesday, I had a great opportunity to meet Colin Garland at his house. My mom has told me a lot about him and his many incredible experiences and interactions with wild animals and put us in touch because he offered to help me with me tiny house project in-between his many trips out of the country and into the wild with groups of people eager to learn. He walked me through his barn which was enormous and had lots of miscellaneous stuff – some building materials, furniture, and many other things. He gave me a mini window, some good advice, and offered his help. I am tremendously grateful to have him as a resource that I can call on.

In the mean-time, I continue to observe my surroundings and think about my involvement in my life. This is part of why I decided to build my tiny house and why I am focusing my gap year around self-sustainability and “do it yourself” projects. I want to know what goes into the things I’m using and consuming and live intentionally so that my life is really my life and not just something I am living, with my food and surroundings predetermined, taken for granted, or provided for me. I want to be a part of my life in the sense that I can provide myself with the bare necessities of life. I don’t want to go through life not knowing where my body waste goes when I flush a toilet or rent an apartment or house that somebody else built, not knowing anything about it besides what color the walls are painted and how the refrigerator sounds at night.

Anyway, here is an update on my tiny house progress:

Having finished insulating the trailer bed and installed the sill seal (what we’re now calling “the pink stuff”), Dad and I pulled some 2x6s out of storage to attach to the edges of the trailer. Once we begin building the walls, the bottom plate will sit half on that 2×6 and half on the frame of the trailer. Dad pulled our router out of the basement and we spent some time figuring out how to use it. We found a youtube video of a guy explaining how to use it. He was super enthusiastic about it and got really in our faces about it, but we got what we needed. It was pretty fun. Also exciting to know all the future possibilities as the guy had mentioned. So we first cut the 2x6s to the right length and angle to fit nicely around the wheel well and then routed out enough a little bit of each of them to fit around the threaded rods.




When I’d finished routing out the grooves for the threaded rods, I tried attaching them to the side of the trailer with the self-tapping screws. Still no success. So frustrating. We finally decided that it was probably the drill that was the problem and not the screws themselves.


So I called around and ended up borrowing my neighbor John’s impact driver while Dad went to the hardware store to buy some bits for our drill. At last we figured out that we could drill holes in the 2×6, line it up with the trailer, drill holes through the trailer frame, then finally screw it into place.


From then on, it was a LOT easier. Until I had almost finished with the third 2×6 when I realized it had slipped when I screwed it in and was too high. See, I think I mentioned before that because the insulation is about a 1/4″ too thick, we are having to compensate for that by adding 1/4″ squares along all the edges and joists of the trailer. We were also trying to screw the 2x6s in 1/4″ higher than the edge of the trailer. But when I realized it was too high, Dad and I took a step back and realized our mistake. Because the side of the trailer is so slippery, the rest of the 2x6s were approximately where they needed to be but not close enough. If we continued, I would end up with an uneven floor and therefore messed up walls and therefore the roof wouldn’t fit properly. Shoot.

So we undid a bunch of work and created a new plan. 2x6s came off, pink stuff came off, and 1/4″ wooden squares taken out (we realized that the wooden squares were also inconsistent). It was quicker to undo than I thought, but still disheartening to see a chunk of work go to waste.

For the new plan, we decided to put plywood on top of the insulation to see how far it went down with that kind of pressure on it – the insulation was also inconsistent heights and we knew it should all settle down and be the same height with our weight on it. We put the plywood on and jumped around on it:


Then we cut 1/4″ strips of wood to slip on top of the metal floor joists/ between the insulation. This time they were all truly 1/4″ and are much longer than was there before.


Today we redid the pink stuff too, then started cutting the plywood. To make sure we screw the 2x6s in in the correct place, we decided to install the plywood first, then line the 2x6s up with the bottom of the plywood. So, big accomplishment of today was cutting all the plywood and drilling all the holes to fit them over the threaded rods, then setting them on the trailer. We haven’t screwed them down yet, but it feels like huge progress!





Also, though I was bummed about having to undo a lot of work, making those mistakes helped me to slow down and to think more carefully about what I’m doing rather than just going ahead with it. I need to keep asking myself “does this make the most sense?” Doing more creative thinking about the past present and future also helped me to turn my mistakes into progress. I even said at one point, “Oh man, too bad I didn’t finish before I realized I’d messed up!”

Conquering the Corner Porch

Hey all!

Good news: I’m feeling much better! I’ve been on antibiotics for just over two weeks now and I’m feeling a lot more like myself. My energy continues to return and I’m finding myself more productive than I have been in almost a month! Last Friday I cleaned all day, finally putting away the clothes that coated my floor and half finished projects that I was too tired to complete. I also was able to sort through all my clothes and got rid of an enormous black trash bag full of clothes that I haven’t worn in forever. I sent them to a clothing swap that happens twice a year in Ashfield. Practicing letting go of my superfluous belongings!

On Saturday I was able to work at the hardware store for a few hours and then had enough energy left to spend time with my friends Miette and CJ who helped me secure the sill seal to the trailer. Then the three of us went contra dancing Saturday night with my friends Allen and Kai which was super fun and I didn’t want to stop, but I probably shouldn’t have stayed out so late doing something so energy consuming. I was absolutely spent Sunday morning, but it was worth it. Made my spirit happy. Anyway, here are some pictures of Miette and CJ working on the sill seal.



I drilled some more holes in the bottom of the trailer — predrilling holes for “self-drilling” screws.



The screws still didn’t go in. Finally one screw did go in, but the head came off when I tried to tighten it just a little bit more. It happened again, but the screw had only gone half way in. Also the smaller screws I was using kept getting stripped, so I decided to switch to larger ones.



The one on the left got stripped. The one on the right is how it’s supposed to look at the tip, but it’s also the one that the head came off of.

When my parents have asked me what I wanted for my birthday, I’ve mostly just said that I want to make progress on my house. I’ve been really bummed that I’ve been too sick to get much work done AND that the darn corner porch has been such a challenge. After some lovely birthday celebrations with Lliam and his wonderful family yesterday and my wonderful parents today, I got back to work and am happy with the outcome: the entire trailer is now insulated and sill seal is complete. We conquered the corner porch! The screws were still awfully hard to get in, but we did it. Here’s the progress of the corner-porch-no-longer: