Monday, July 18, 2016

Post 22 (July 18)-Never Ready/Just Begin

A view from the inside--the interior paneling, the front door, the dog. The white boards you see just have primer and will get two coats of white paint.  We're debating whether to stain the vertical boards a darkish color or give them just a coat of clear.  We think we like the more natural look.
In life, are we ever really ready? I mean for the big stuff, all the firsts--first kiss, first prom, first year away from home, first job, first kid, first home... Perhaps it's only in the attempting of a thing for the first time that we learn what we need to feel ready.  And maybe, even more importantly, we develop enough confidence in ourselves that even in future moments of I'm-not-ready-yet, we manage to pull through.

When I left home for college in 2005, I don't really think I was ready to live away from home just yet.  I remember being terrified that I might accidentally fall in to some kind of drug ring and be absolutely powerless to control my own fate.  If you don't know me, at 18 there was zero indication that a drug ring would be part of my future, but at the time I had so little faith in my own ability to self-determine or get myself out of sticky situations that it seemed a legitimate worry to me.  It was only in successfully living through the first and second years of college that I proved to myself that I could, in fact, exert a fair amount of control over what my life would become.  That little bit of confidence took me to China and back home, Argentina and back home, Peru and back home, and now home in California.  I simply had to begin before I was ready, because there's no preparing for life's firsts.

When we began our build in February 2015, we were nowhere near ready.  We had no idea what was in store for us.  Sitting here tonight, though, I believe that if we'd waited until we were ready to tackle every aspect of this build before we began, we'd never have embarked on a project like this at all.

I was working in Mexico in early June when Kacey called and said, "I've figured out how we store, move, and operate the solar panels." (Backstory: Up until that point, we'd had one row of 5 panels and one row of 4 panels and they were big and heavy.  They wouldn't easily fit in the tiny house so anytime we moved, we'd have to rent a U-Haul.  A definite flaw in our "smooth" off-grid strategy.) Kacey went on to explain that he'd put 3 panels on the ATV trailer and was designing hinges that would allow the second and third set of 3 panels to rest atop the ATV trailer in transit and unfold when in use.  What an exciting development!  That night I slept poorly--far too excited about the solar panel development to slip into peaceful rest.  Kacey remarked that he was excited to have an opportunity to do so much welding--his opportunities in the past were limited and so his skill level wasn't as high as he'd like.  Not ready.  Did it anyway. Phenomenal results.

We opted to have spray insulation professionally installed.  We were sure that we'd make a mess of it and would expose ourselves to chemicals for which we didn't have adequate personal protective equipment.  Not all tiny house builders opt for spray foam insulation.  We did because of the additional structural stability it provides, the higher R-value (insulating effectiveness), and the lighter weight.  It's much quieter in there, now.  Really feels like a sanctuary.

The next step is interior paneling.  For months we'd thought about having white horizontal tongue and groove boards throughout the interior of the house.  Our thinking changed when, on a rainy evening in our current house, we looked at the bottom two feet of our light-colored walls.  With a mostly black dog, foot traffic, car grease and rain splatters, the bottom two feet of our walls were... not clean. In the tiny house, where life (and therefore dirt) is in a much smaller space, we'd have to scrub the walls down once a week.  Again, if you don't know me, weekly wall scrubbing is not my idea of a good time.

With visible dirt-management in mind, we've installed vertical tongue and groove boards up to the height of the windows (think wainscoting or chair rail).  Bottom of the windows up, we'll use the horizontal white tongue and groove boards.  We weren't ready to do interior paneling either.  The night we had set aside to begin installation, we stood in the tiny house for about 20 minutes, our anxiety growing exponentially as we pondered the gravity of the first vertical tongue and groove board.  If the first one were even a bit slanted to one side, the whole house would feel like a fun house with warped mirrors.  We very nearly abandoned the paneling that evening.  Somehow, though, we managed to set our anxieties aside and begin even as we confronted our non-readiness.  That night we installed 10 or so boards.

We are getting smarter in our beginnings, though.  Months ago, on our first day installing exterior siding, we thought the job would be tremendously easy and that we'd have a whole wall done before lunchtime.  We were hopelessly disappointed when 6:30 rolled around and we'd done three rows.  A case of expectations that were wildly out of alignment with reality.  We fell into the same trap the night we assembled the solar racks.  We thought it would be a piece of cake so we began too late and too hungry.  Another night of disappointment caused by unrealistic expectations.

When we started the interior paneling, we committed to getting five boards up.  Quite realistic and we were twice as productive as we'd prepared to be!

The quote of the month? Kacey said, "If it weren't for learning things the hard way, I wouldn't know a damn thing."  We've learned a lot the hard way.  Fruit doesn't ripen when you microwave it; it blows up.  Soap doesn't melt and re-mold in a saucepan on the stove; it burns.  House trim isn't complete when it goes up; it's complete when everything else is done.  When we first started our build, any time we learned the hard way, we were defeated for hours.  Now, we laugh it off in about two minutes.  A welcome development indeed.


  1. Amazing Catherine!!!!! I am finally all caught up! :)

  2. This is a fantastic blog to follow. I was one of the lucky ones at the Berkeley workshop that got to see your house in May. I am building now-just finished roof rafters yesterday and today the blocking.
    Would you be open to some questions about choices, what you learned along the way? Seems that there are so many ways to do this and I would love to have someone who is actually doing it to talk with.
    Amazing progress btw. Very nice.

    1. I am a better builder than a blog talker. Instead of my name (vicki Clift) there appears a bunch of numbers and letters where my identity should have been...I proved not a robot...sheesh. So much for opening a conversation. Grin.
      If you do have time to email or chat from time to time my email is vlclift at aol dot com

  3. I keep on reading your blog post.. This was still amazing. Thanks a lot for sharing this unique informative post with us.. I really enjoyed by reading your blog post
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  4. I really enjoyed your article. Would be lovely if you posted more frequently. Personally, I recently joined the Tiny House Movement and am enjoying every bit of it.

    If fact, my love is so great that i personally built a picture site dedicated to the tiny house movement. You can share all your Tiny house living pics from your building process to plans used, for the benefit of others just joining our movement and to attract readership back to your awesome blog. What do you think? I really would love to know.