Thursday, June 9, 2016

Post 21 (June 9)-We Took Our House to the Dump...

Our house hooked up to Rich's truck.  A match made in heaven, huh?!
We took our house to the dump.  Not because we fell out of love with it.  Not because it had suddenly become hideously ugly (quite the opposite).  Not because we suddenly adopted an "out with the old, in with the new" mentality.  No, the truth is that it was becoming a burden.  A real burden.  A burden that needed to be reckoned with.  A burden that needed to be measured.  And so, last Sunday, we carefully drove our house over the scales at the dump, took it off the truck, stood back, and let the scales do the talking.  Our tiny house weighed in at the 98th percentile--a very healthy house indeed :)

Okay, okay, enough with the jokes.  We've had a tremendously busy month.  In reverse chronological order:
  • Ordered lumber for the interior paneling (!!!!!!)
  • Made an appointment for insulation installation
  • Weighed our tiny house
  • Showed our tiny house at the Tumbleweed Tiny House workshop in Berkeley, CA
  • Finished the interior electrical work (connections between panels and inverter not yet complete)
  • Assembled solar panels
Now some more details.

Showed our tiny house in Berkeley at the Tumbleweed Tiny House workshop.  This was the adventure of a lifetime.  Early that morning, Kacey and I popped out of bed and made the final preparations.  Our friend Rich came over and the three of us scurried around getting the house ready to be hooked up to the trailer for its first ever road test.  After a few struggles and a whole lot of innovation, we had the house hooked up to the truck and we were ready to hit the road.  As Kacey and Rich pulled out, I quickly closed the gate behind them, hopped in to our Honda Fit and followed them down the road.  With tears streaming down my face and my shaking hands gripping the steering wheel, I watched our house move smoothly down the road.  No boards came off, no windows flew open.  In fact, if it weren't for the gentle creaking and the trees whizzing by, it might have been possible to miss that it was even moving at all.  Outside of our backyard, the house was at once much larger, and much smaller.  A mile down the road, we pulled over to make sure that everything was fine.  Kacey stepped out of the truck and gazed up at the tiny house.  With hands on his hips and a  half-smile on his face he let out a big sigh.  If I didn't know better, I might say that he'd had tears streaming down his face, as well, taken aback by the potent mixture of anxiety, worry, excitement, and pride.  Indeed, it was a day of deep-colored emotions, no pastels or shades.  No, it wasn't contentment that we felt, but elation; elated that our work had paid off.  Not slight worry, but terror; terrified that the trip would somehow jeopardize the integrity of our house.

Showing our house was surreal.  We fielded many questions about the choices we'd made, the things we'd chosen to include and exclude, the functionality of this all-thread rod or that empty space in that corner. Somehow, we'd been catapulted from first-time do-it-yourselfers on a steep learning curve to near-royalty with unparalleled expertise.  I imagine the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

Assembled Solar Panels.  When Kacey and I decided to build an off-grid tiny house, we imagined those cute little suitcase-size set of three solar panels and maybe a tiny generator the size of a kitten that purred gently when the sun wasn't out enough to power the 4 AA batteries we would need.  While that's a bit of an exaggeration, we did grossly underestimate the size system we would need.  As we were building the racks that would hold our solar panels, we were struck by the scale.  Solar panels are big.  And, as you can imagine, rows of 4 and 5 big solar panels make for really long rows.  The assembly process was not without its challenges.  We didn't realize that we needed to cut one of the longer racks in half and splice it to two other racks, a misconception that caused us just under 24 hours of stress.  Once again, it was Jeremy C. from Wholesale Solar to the rescue.

Interior Electrical Work. Zoran and his team spent almost a full day in our tiny house doing the electrical work.  Zoran was recommended to us by one of Kacey's colleagues who said, "You have never seen an electrical panel so beautiful as one of Zoran's."  I wasn't really sure what that meant.  ...Until I saw our electrical panel.  Look for the precision and the attention to detail.  I hadn't realized how complex electrical work is.  I find myself being really grateful when I plug something in to an outlet, something I had previously taken for granted.

So, what have we learned since the last entry?

  • Lower expectations and increase patience when doing anything for the first time.  This is a lesson that Kacey and I learned the hard way our first day installing the exterior siding where expectations were high and patience was low.  We got disappointed and frustrated quickly when our progress was slow and imperfect.  We were reminded of this lesson again when assembling the racks for the solar panels.  We thought it would be an extremely easy task so we started on empty stomachs and poor lighting thinking we'd have it done within an hour.  We were wrong.  Had our expectations been more realistic and our patience higher, we would have been more successful the first night.
  • I continue to be astonished by the many layers beneath the surface.  In the framing, plumbing, and electrical work of a house--indeed what many of us define as necessities for any kind of suitable structure, there is so much more than what meets the eye.  That's true, I think, for the people we meet, too.  What we see is a sliver, a tiny, tiny sliver, of who they are.  We see the finished exterior, and all the work, all the tears, accomplishments, disappointments, successes, failures, and hopes that give form to the exterior remain, for the majority of the people we meet, invisible.  It becomes so easy to judge the exterior, to criticize it, idolize it, envy it, or disparage it.  I reckon though, that it's the work of understanding how and why someone is built that make relationships strong and meaningful.  Imagine if we lived in a world where people asked the same kinds of questions of each other that they did of our house that day.  Instead of just saying, "Why is your fridge so big?" we'd also ask each other, "What's so important to you that you would sacrifice other things in your life to make room for it?" In this world, we'd also listen to the answer. We'd hang on every word the way you would if you were in the presence of an expert.  Might our world be kinder? 
Notice anything different? Hint hint - Kacey painted the all-thread rods and the unistrut.  Makes it disappear? Definitely not as obvious. 
Is this, or is this not, the most beautiful fuse panel you've ever seen?  Zoran and his crew are excellent!

A close-up of the (now practically invisible) unistrut and all-thread rods.

You can just barely see the speakers peeking over the mattress. That's right, folks, our tiny house has surround sound.  Inside and outside. 

Kacey got the batteries all hooked up.  What you're seeing is an innovative use of available resources to accomplish a seemingly impossible task.  This cable goes from the batteries halfway to the inverter in the house.  We used the trailer as a ground side buss.  In layman's terms, we were two feet short with the cables provided, so we used the trailer as a wire extender.  Kacey also painted the terminal ends to resist corrosion.  Questions?  Kacey will be around all week to answer 'em :)

Cable box.  Kacey and I go back and forth about TVs.  Mostly I say one TV is (more than) enough, and he's thinking a second TV in the loft would be pretty sweet.  I'll keep you posted, don't worry.

There is a lot going on in this wall.  Here you see refrigerant lines (white), a junction box, electrical work, and plumbing.

Wall for TV.  Complete with its own electrical outlet and cable. 

Kacey built this box for the LED inverters and remote controllers.

Notice the labeling of the wires.  

1 comment:

  1. Is this going to be in Sunset magazine?? Gorgeous & hilarious & so much fun!!