Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Our Tiny House Conference Experience!

Dan and I had an absolute blast at this year's Tiny House Conference held in Asheville, North Carolina!

Now that I have successfully blacked out the travel both to and from NC, what I have left is a glowing memory of grand ol' times with some super awesome and inspiring people. We got to reconnect with folks we had met through previous events, like our buddy Ethan Waldman, who was there as a speaker, giving great info and tips on a wide variety of topics. Check out his latest e-book Tiny House Decisions. Then there was Amy Henion, one of the ring masters of the conference- we met her at the same event as Ethan, a tiny house workshop hosted the previous year by Deek over at relaxshacks.com  Our favorite straw-bale workshop host EVER was also there! Andrew Morrison is also pretty big in the tiny house scene. They created the hOMe house. He and his wife run Tiny House Build and teach workshops. He, too, did several sessions related to building techniques and safety.

We also had the pleasure of meeting several tiny house folks we have known through the nets, but never chatted with face to face! It was really nice getting to meet those people, like Matt and Laura of 120squarefeet.com - who were a serious source of inspiration for us early in our build! We also finally met, Ryan Mitchell of The Tiny Life - and also the man behind the conference! And it was his book we are featured in! Tiny Houses Built with Recycled Materials We also got to meet Kristie Wolfe of Tiny House On The Prairie - she has a number of very cool little get-aways available on Air BnB!

Needless to say it was a weekend full of great exchanges, incredible energy and enthusiasm, fantastic and fruitful sessions by many great speakers, and of course LOTS OF TINY HOUSES TO TOUR! There was even the JustRightBus, one of my favorite bus conversions- and a couple of box truck conversions! 

Being a part of the book panel was also a lot of fun and very energizing. The room was packed with people who wanted to hear from all of us and ask their questions and seek advice. I think we all enjoyed that panel as there was a lot of great discussion from practical approaches to reuse to the greater impact a space can create when it is made of so many smaller stories.

There was so much going on during the conference that we honestly didn't have time to tour all the THOWs! We did get to see over half of them, so we were pretty happy. My favorite was the "FitNest" which was a tiny house centered around a physically active lifestyle. They had a rock wall on the back side, pull up bars, heavy ropes, and more. I'm excited to follow Mike aka Coach Vivo of VIVOtraingingsystems, as they travel around the country inspiring others toward a more active lifestyle.

And now- a bunch more photos! I will post all of our trip pictures over on our Facebook page. 

Thanks for reading!
To see all our photos from the Conference, check out our page!

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Another New Year - Another Big Ol' Bag of Opportunities!

Each year seems to top the past when it comes to experiences and opportunities related to living tiny. 

There has been SO MUCH brewing below the surface over here! Cool videos, book features, conference invitations, and more! Despite all this awesome news, we have been relatively quiet on the blog front, mainly for lack of time due to the new business- which seems to be doing pretty well!

Earlier this month, Dan and I had some fun at the Fuller Craft Museum, as we helped and presented at another of Deek's tiny house hands on workshops. It was pretty neat to build in the nice open space provided at the museum, and then step out for an art exhibit break at any point. There were so many cool things on display, and one of the structures created at the workshop will be on display outside the museum for everyone to explore! 

Once again, we met some really great people and became better acquainted with friends made before. We got to see Dom of Jamaica Cottage shop once again. We met him at Deek's Tiny House Summer Camp 3 - and they were filming for a little documentary on his work and his business. He owns Jamaica Cottage shop out of Jamaica, VT. He builds great little structures, on wheels or on the ground, and creates a design based on your needs. As a thank you for being a part of the video, we get to snag a weekend getaway in one of their cabins! Walking distance from the slopes and the hiking trails. Sounds like heaven. 

To check out the video- which we were featured in- follow this link! Full disclosure, it had been a long day, and the drinks were flowing! Haha

In other news, we are very excited to say that we are also featured in an upcoming book that takes a look at tiny houses made with re-claimed materials! The book will be released on May 1, but is available for pre-order on Amazon.  We hope to get our complementary copy in the mail soon. Yippee!! And another amazing opportunity that blossomed from this was an invitation to be a panel speaker at this year's Tiny House Conference in Ashville, NC! We are SO EXCITED TO GO!

Thanks to all the travel points and miles from my old job, we were able to get flights and hotels for quite a steal. Plus, how often does an opportunity like this come along! We had always wanted to go, and now, with a chance to speak about reclaimed materials?! Heck yes! 
On another note, our good friend, Vera, which we met through Deek's workshops, runs a really cool website called Silver Bullet Tiny House. She has been a major advocate and presence, especially in the New England area and knows a lot of the bigger personalities in the tiny house realm. At the beginning of the year, she touched base with us about sending in a recommendation that we be speakers at this year's Tiny House Jamboree! AHH! Now, this is still just in the consideration phase. We won't know if we have been selected for another month or two, I imagine. See what I mean by this year's opportunities being nuts?! And there's more...

Finally, I was also asked to write a contributing piece to an upcoming tiny house book- aiming to be one of the most comprehensive books to date on the subject. The book will address all angles from philosophical (that's my angle), to social, to common considerations in construction.  I was beyond honored to be selected, and saw this as a very serious undertaking. I read back through every blog entry and article interview we ever did. I took incessant notes. I wrote and re-wrote from so many angles before finally closing in on what was most important in our story. When I finally finished the piece, I was ready to go buy myself a bottle of bubbly - so what if it was 2pm on a Wednesday? It felt so good, after 3 months of work, to hit save for the final time!

 My words will be PUBLISHED IN A BOOK THAT THOUSANDS WILL READ!!! I was excited just to write a few articles for Tiny House Magazine - but this is the BEES KNEES!

It took a while to wrestle the words out, but I finally did, and I am quite proud of what I have written. Dan absolutely loved it, smiling throughout, and then genuinely melting as he finished the last few paragraphs. It's a deeply personal look into our adventure, but the lessons we learned can provide valuable insight to all. I hope our story resonates with readers and gives them a little food for thought. 

Not so private of a shower...

As for the actual tiny house- all is well! We have seen quite a swing in weather over the last couple weeks. One day we are buried in snow, the next, we are back to bare ground and howling winds and rain! Take a look at what happened to our outdoor shower during the most recent storm!! Good to know it's flexible, because that isn't exactly a private space right there. lol  It went back into shape just fine, so we won't need to build it again. Thank goodness.

We did another small re-claimed wood project in January as well. We made my Dad a table for his birthday. Of course, it was made primarily with pallets, and it came out pretty well! 

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, December 31, 2015


I couldn't go without a single post in December!

Dan and I sincerely hope you all have had great holidays shared with loved ones. We certainly have had our share of cheer, as we attended a string of holiday parties from November until now. We house sat during Thanksgiving week and hosted our own "Danksgiving". We attended Ugly Sweater parties (I won, I might add) and annual family Christmas parties. It's always nice to be amongst a bustling and happy group of those close to you.

Not a whole lot has happened on the Pod, but what little progress was made-- was sweet, succulent visual progress. We finished the recycled pallet siding on three of the sides of the Pod! Thankfully, for my sanity mostly, you cannot see the fourth (still naked) wall.

That third wall, which lived for most of 2015 with about 85% of it done, grew to be a festering eye sore I tried to ignore each time I approached home. The big box store logo against the stark white of the house wrap all but screamed out at you against the otherwise rustic and serene view. I had really started to believe it would be 2016 before that problem would be gone. But, just like last year, we finished the year strong by whipping out one last project. Last year, we put in our deck; we appreciated it exponentially as the snow piled up that season. HOORAH! A new and beautiful experience awaits as you approach our humble home. A wall, completely covered in siding, maybe it's not all stained, but hey, it's not house wrap either.

Dan's side of the family has started a lovely tradition, creating a yearly scrap book for their parents, chronicling a year in review for each of the children and their evolving families. This is the third year, and it's wonderful to look back through three editions. I always find it to be an intense self-realization exercise. I am tasked to review the last year in photos, selecting highlights from each month.

What a trip it was to do that this year!! In January, we were prepping for our first professional photoshoot and a feature in RI Monthly magazine. In February, I was finishing up at my job and embarking on a new business venture. In March we were featured in the magazine, we met Deek...which lead to more adventures in May and September.

In April I spoke at a conference, we were interviewed by the Valley Breeze, and by June I was certified, licensed and open for business. In July we had our life altering experience at our honeymoon of choice:  the week long Strawbale Workshop. In September, we had another great time in Vermont, as guest speakers at Deek's Tiny House Summer Camp. October meant two solid years living tiny, one solid year of marriage, and acceptance into a large wintertime market- which was pivotal for our business to maintain momentum. Although we are only on once a month, we have had fantastic feed back and enthusiasm from customers.

I seriously cannot believe the life I have led since walking away from the desk job.

So at the end of this year, we hope to inspire just one specific thing in all of you- unflinching courage. Take a look at your life, decide what you like and don't like about it- and even yourself. Then, take a deep breath and decide. Decide that you are going to make a change this year. No matter what it is, big or small, start somewhere and change- you will grow stronger, wiser, and more worldly for it. Change is growth....and it can be absolutely, astoundingly, amazing.

Thanks for reading!
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From the top- left to right: First, second, third place at the Ugly Sweater Party

Friday, November 27, 2015

A Closer Look At Pallet Siding

Throughout our tiny house build, as well as in all aspects of our lives, Jess and I strive to reuse and recycle as many things as we can.

Not only did this give us a good head-start on saving tons of money during the build, but it also helped to keep us grounded. Our society tends to operate on a “use and dispose” ideology which is causing tons of problems for landfills (pun intended) and the environment in general. The most labor intensive aspect of our build was our pallet siding.

A few weeks ago we resumed work on our siding and almost finished three of the four walls. We are still debating whether or not to use pallet siding for the back wall. We still need to stain what we've put up but it feels good to have more of it done.

I’ve spent hundreds of man hours working on our siding all in the name of reclaimed materials and it occurred to me that we hadn’t put up a post giving in depth detail to our process. (Also, Jess is so busy with the bakery that I thought I’d take a whack at writing a blog post or two…and this may be the only thing I’m qualified to speak on, heh heh).

FIRST THINGS FIRST: When choosing your pallets you will encounter two different types. They are marked by a stamp on one side and these stamps tell you how that particular pallet was treated. Make sure to ONLY use pallets marked HT, which indicates that they were heat treated. The pallets to avoid are marked MB, which stands for methyl bromide.

When choosing pallets as your siding option (or embarking on any project utilizing reclaimed materials) you have to be prepared for the best lesson in opportunity cost you’ll ever receive. If you can’t remember that economics class from high school, don’t worry… you will.

By far, the biggest draw of using recycled pallets for our siding was the cost. Without counting the cost of the gas I used to wrangle pallets from every corner of the state, the grand total comes to a whopping zero dollars. But don’t let that unicorn of a price tag fool you, after all, your time is worth something.

After you’ve chosen pallets as your siding of choice (and your significant other has failed sufficiently at changing your mind to an easier option) your first step is to find some pallets! And, by all means, DON’T PAY FOR THEM! Craigslist will be your best friend in finding pallets to start. Make sure, when your cruising Craigslist, to find several viable options for pallet pickup. Plan a route of at least two separate places (there is nothing worse than planning your entire day only to find out that someone snagged all the pallets from your spot). If you find plenty at the first spot then just keep the other locations you find in your back pocket for the days when you’re not the early bird.

After amassing a truckload of pallets you’ll have to disassemble them. This is not as easy as it seems. Pallets are generally built to hold several hundred lbs of freight and are built with the sole purpose of NOT breaking apart.
I’ll save you some time and muscle soreness right off the bat, rather than pry every single nail out of a pallet, grab a skill saw or sawzall and cut down each side, perpendicular to the boards you want to take off (not all boards will be usable).

After each side is cut you’re left with an assembly that looks like a ladder with one brace board running down the middle of 5 or 6 boards. With a hammer and a pry bar these boards will pop off fairly easily and the mind numbing repetition of this process will turn you into a pro by the end of your second truck load.

When choosing your pry bar make sure you have one with a flat edge (sometimes referred to as a flat-bar). The length of your pry bar is also important. As with any lever the longer the pry bar, the easier the prying. However, with some extra long pry bars (AKA deck rippers or roof rippers) they simple have too much force and end up damaging the boards in the process. 

At this point the boards that you have ripped from your pallets will be full of nails. As stated earlier, these pallets are built to last so there will be up to 5 or 6 nails in each connection point. The nails used in pallets are usually 2.5 to 3 inch nails with spiraling towards the point. This design makes it extra hard to pull them out and their length pretty much guarantees to infuriate due to nail bending whilst trying to hammer them out of the boards. Your best option is to use tin-snips to cut the nail down to about ¼ inch which makes it much easier to pound it through the board, exposing the head so you can pry them out with your claw hammer or pry bar.

After de-nailing all your planks you'll be left with a pile of boards with a variety of edges. Remember that pallets are generally made with wood that has already been used a couple of times and due to their purpose, they don't need to be very pretty. Your next step is to cut all these boards down to a uniform width. We chose 3 inches for our siding width because most of our boards were around that width anyway and very few were smaller than that.

 You'll need a table saw to rip all the boards down to your chosen width. Make sure you look at each edge to determine which would be more beneficial. In some case it might make more sense to cut both edges if it is a particularly ugly piece of wood but some may still have a factory edge making two cuts a little redundant.

The next step, and my personal favorite, is to plane each board to reveal the new face of your siding. You will need your surface planer and depending on the look you want for your siding you may want to consider planing each board to the same thickness. For our house we didn't worry about using a common thickness because we liked the idea of having some texture to our siding.

When you plane your first board you'll quickly realize why the surface planer is my favorite tool. You can put some seriously funky looking wood through that thing and out comes a beautiful and unique piece of wood on the other side.

While your planing you will create A LOT of wood shavings. Depending on what your plumbing situation is for your dwelling you may want to collect these shavings to use as your carbon additive if your plan is to have a composting toilet. We were able to collect a huge amount of wood shavings during this process which came in very handy for our composting toilet.
Your final step in this process is to take your clean, planed and ripped pallet boards and bevel or ship-lap them so they fit together creating an overlap for weather tightness. We chose to ship-lap our pallets because we felt that would allow for a tighter fit. “Ship-lap” means to make a cut with a depth equal to approximately half of the board's thickness. There is an equal and opposite cut performed on the other edge of the board. A ship-lapped board will have a shape resembling the letter “Z”, like in the picture.

The best way, in my opinion, to make this cut is to use a dado blade. It can also be done with a router but I found that to be a little less consistent than a table saw with a dado blade setup.

There are two types of dado blades to choose from; a “stacked dado” or a “wobble blade”. A stacked dado blade set includes two 1/8th inch blades, a number of thicker partial blades called chippers and some spacers of various thickness. 

To use this type of dado you determine how many chippers and spacers you will need between you blades to create a blade with a thickness equal to the depth of your ship-lap cut. A stacked dado blade set comes with a chart that will tell you exactly how many chippers and spacers you will need to make up a specific width.

A wobble blade is a dado blade that can be adjusted to rotate on an angled axis which creates a wobble in the cutting edge. Because the blade is wobbling it effectively cuts a swath through the wood at the depth that you set your wobble blade to.

I was unable to use my wobble blade on the table saw I was using so I ended up buying a stacked dado blade and was very happy with the results. I strongly advise you to find a table saw guard specifically made for a stacked dado blade. Not all table saws have the room to safely install the dado blade.

As a guestimate, towards the end of our project I could process about 7 or 8 pallets in a day, which includes traveling from our house (where I ripped apart and de-nailed pallets) to my father's property where I used his table saw and electricity ( I didn't really feel the need to see how fast a surface planer and table saw could drain our battery bank ha). And those 7-8 pallets generally would turn into about 40 square feet of siding.

I hope this helps anyone who has a passion for reclaimed materials. I truly believe that a combined effort to reduce, reuse, recycle, upcycle ...(you get the point) not only helps our planet but also adds an element of history to anything built with those materials.

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, November 1, 2015

A Nostalgic Saturday And The Seasonal Compost Flip

Last weekend, we took a break from our own day to
day hub-bub and helped out some fellow tinies.

It felt really good to build again...to be around a still forming tiny house....to be around a pair absolutely lit afire with excitement, conviction, and determination. Our friends, Justin and Jenny, first found us through our blog. They began following along- avidly- earlier than most. With every post they commented and shared our enthusiasm- helping propel us forward on days we couldn't quite do so by ourselves. Then, we started a totally unrelated business, but they embraced that with the same bright delight as our tiny house journey- nearly every week, one or both would visit us at the farmer's market, buying a smattering of items each time. They even put us in contact with a possible restaurant collaboration! 

Before and After in the "Bedroom" :)

They also came over a few weekends back, our first dinner party of any kind! It was a great time, full of enlivened conversation and a genuine desire to learn about one another. We learned that our timelines had certain similarities. In October of 2013, as we moved into our tiny house- still not quite complete- they moved into the small RV they currently call home. It was a strategic step on their part, not only did it help them financially in preparing for the project, it prepared them for living tiny before they even began prepping the trailer. They have faced two hellish winters (for RI anyway) in that small, scantily insulated RV. During the especially bitter days of February, when we couldn't keep the propane coming fast enough, they had to retreat to a family members house. Now that's commitment!!  With all that on our minds, Dan and I just really want to see the marvelous couple enjoy this coming winter in the comforts of their new tiny house. 

We arranged to come help them out some Saturday. With the markets winding down and the weather closing in, we committed to a weekend. We headed out that morning, all layered up, tools in hand, pencils behind the ears, ready to put in a good days work. We showed up to help at a great point in their build too-- they were beginning the interior finish surfaces. We can SO relate to this couple on a level that is hard to describe to anyone who has not faced this kind of project. I remember the utter joy that pulsed through me as we put up those first few beautiful blonde planks of pine. AT LAST! No more bloody insulating! No more ugly insides of the walls to stare at! This is our finished wall! 

We quickly split into teams. Justin and Dan went to work on putting up the rest of the ceiling insulation- up to the bathroom, while Jenny and I worked on installing the first pieces of dry wall in the bedroom area. They have a goose-neck trailer, and like many with that trailer type, decided to put the bed up in that space. I was excited to see a goose-neck design in person. 

By the end of the afternoon, Dan and Justin had completed the ceiling insulation, and started putting up the ceiling sheets. Jenny and I completed all drywall in the "bedroom" and the step down area up to the front door. It was so much fun working with them and getting back to a project like this. Don't get me wrong, I love to bake, but it was a welcome change of pace for the day. Follow their story and root them on as they race to move in before the snow slows them down! Checkout their blog here

Just last weekend, we did our semi-annual flip of the compost piles. I was quite amazed to see how quickly the first year's pile shrunk. The compost bay that was mounded over full this April, only had inches of material left! Our second bay was nearing full, and could use a toss and a good infusion of carbon materials, so we flipped it into the first bay. Dan slowly tossed segments of the pile as I tossed in buckets full of leaves. It was a perfect time-- ample leaf piles had collected along the road and driveway. The material had already started to darken and breakdown. A rich earthy smell rose up from every new stab into the pile. 

This was mounded over the top just 6 months ago!
It's amazing in a way- to stand in front of a years worth of your own bio-material. It doesn't add up to as much as I thought. I had my worries about managing the actual mass of our heap when we first began. I don't know why I thought we would produce mountains of the stuff! Turns out that two compost bays measuring roughly four feet by four feet is enough for the two of us. It took us minutes to assemble using recycled (and totally free) pallets.

Ready for another year's worth!

We got lost in the numbers as we worked the heaps, calling out how much water we saved, how much energy saved for water that didn't need to be treated...the amount of chemicals that never got dumped into the water....the rippling waves of benefits seem to extend out into oblivion. All through such a simple, humbling practice. I am glad we chose to do this. I am glad we did not cling with fear to the porcelain bowl. An effect I didn't anticipate is perhaps my favorite: I feel so much more connected to everything around us, now that we are completing the true nutrient cycle...what we cannot use, we put back. 

Thanks for reading!
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