Thursday 12 November 2020

My life is a tiny house (and I love that)

This is real. Every day I say this to myself and I still can't really believe it: I'm building a tiny house. But here I am halfway through Week 8 of the build (see my previous post on how it started) and my hand-drawn plans - in pencil, on graph paper - have become a little house I can walk around in (if not actually move into, yet). 

My tiny life, so far
When I say "I", I mean "we" - I'm effectively an owner-builder apprentice working with and learning from my two co-workers, Mr No Impact Girl (a skilled woodworker and general handyman) and his builder mate Frankie.

And it's been all-consuming, in a good way. I'm inhabiting a tiny house bubble, body, mind and soul, and I love the intensity of it, that deadline feeling that focuses life onto whatever it is you need to do next (on my to-do list this week: finalise kitchen design, research timber slabs for benchtop, finish cedar cladding...).

While I haven't had much headspace to write here, I have been posting on my No Impact Girl facebook page - that's the best place to go for weekly updates - measuring my progress in pics, time-lapse videos and still-life snapshots of little things I see on the build (see pic, right).

Here are a few highlights so far to catch you up: 

The frame went up! When the tiny went from being a two-dimensional drawing on a page to a three-dimensional timber-frame skeleton, that was big. Suddenly I could step into it, look out its window-holes and feel relieved that all my hard-thinking (and middle-of-the-night worrying) about various design elements had paid off. Here's a time-lapse of the frame going up:

There's something empowering about knowing your home inside out, how it fits together, what holds things up, and I probably know this tiny better than I've known anything else in my life.

The tiny house was blessed (sort of).
Before we laid the hardwood floor, I started writing a few positive words on the plywood sub-flooring underneath, just for me, never to be seen again but hopefully felt when I'm living in the house. I'd seen someone else do this on their timber frame and thought it was a cool idea. What I didn't realise until I did it was how much it calmed and settled me, particularly when I felt anxious about, you know, not having a clue what I was doing. 

Then I started scrawling quotes by some of my favourite nature writers: Mary Oliver, Edward Abbey, John Muir. One Saturday afternoon I invited a few friends over for tea and asked them to write on the bracing ply walls. It felt like an informal "blessing of the tiny" and it made my heart sing to see everyone happily chatting and eating scones and standing in my little house-to-be, filling it with love and friendship. 

I spent my first night in the tiny! Before the roof went on, Mr No Impact Girl and I dragged a foam mattress from his van into the tiny, put up a temporary plywood floor in my bed loft and fell asleep looking up at the stars twinkling through the wind-tossed trees all around us. In the morning: a cacophany of birdsong and sunshine streaming in the high window-holes. A preview of mornings to come...

The roof went on, a couple of weeks ago. That's a milestone on any build and we celebrated not with the traditional case of beer but with bottles of kombucha and some healthy chocolate fudge (well, this is northern NSW). We were also celebrating the fact that all the steel we used was reused from other builds, not bought new; I wish I could say this for more of the building materials, but every bit of recycled material helps.

The windows are in! Last week, the last of the 13 windows went in and they look beautiful, black-framing the surrounding greenery. Every day the little house changes shape, even slightly, as new features are added or tweaked. But seeing the first windows installed (and they didn't take long) was amazing. 

This week, the cladding is going up: western red cedar (beautiful, super-lightweight, weather-resistant) climbing the walls of my tiny, plank by plank; and a few panels of dark grey Colorbond steel, which perfectly complements the woodsy cedar, as it turns out (another "phew" moment). 

Then the outside will be all but done - and there will be a world of new decisions to make about fitting out the interior. That's life on a tiny house build...

Ready to learn
Pic by Caro Ryan
There have been challenges, of course. Anxieties and tears and misunderstandings. And, with them, learnings of all kinds, inside and out. And surprise: at how much I'm enjoying the process, particularly the physicality of it, a sweet change from desk work. 

I'm gaining confidence, getting stronger. Doing things I wouldn't have dreamed I'd be able to do two months ago. Watching my doubts (am I doing this right? what if I mess it up?) and trying to just let them be there. 

And even when I have to step back and let the others do jobs I'm not skilled enough to do, just seeing up close my little house growing feels like a privilege. A once-in-a-lifetime thing. A wild and crazy trip that is, well, my life right now. And there's nowhere else I'd rather be. 

Here's the link again to my No Impact Girl facebook page for more regular updates than I can post here. Thanks for following, lovely friends.