Tiny House Update

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January 3rd marked the one year anniversary of moving into Wild Rose.  It was a difficult first year.

I’d never used a wood stove in my life, and learning to start a fire and keep it going was a challenge.  I have since learned that because my house is sealed so well, it creates a ‘negative draft’ which causes the house to suck air IN from the chimney rather than the chimney sucking smoke OUT of the wood stove.  House sucking air in when starting a fire means a lot of smoke billowing out into the tiny space.  This seems to only be a problem until the stove is nice and hot.  If I open the window directly behind the stove, it helps.

I didn’t have a proper floor the first 3 months.  The plywood subfloor is ugly.  I had rugs that were constantly covered in mud and dog hair.  I didn’t have a couch yet, and my desk was a piece of stained plywood attached to the wall that was too narrow.

I didn’t have enough lighting, and the house is very dark under the forest canopy and with the dark-stained walls.

I initially had an Origo alcohol stove with two burners, no oven, and a 2 gallon electric hot water heater.  My drain was installed badly (by me) and didn’t work well.  This meant no baths, very quick military showers, an ordeal every time I needed to use the sink to move all the water towards the drain with a squeegee, a lot of carbon monoxide scares with the alcohol stove, and did I mention no baths?

For a porch, I had some pallets piled higgeldy piggeldy outside the front door, and no covered area.

I was also in a new city with very few friends, it was winter, and my own propensity for loneliness and depression kicked in.  April/May were two of the roughest mental health months I’ve ever had.

And yet!!!  There is good news.  So much good news. After returning from Alaska in August I had the time and money to make some much needed improvements.  Being around dearly beloved friends during the fishing season and the Alaska sunshine kicked me back into a reasonable emotional state as well.  Here is what we did:

This was what the house looked like when I left for Alaska in June.  I intended to leave the area under the mirror open for dance practice, but a couch seem psychologically more important, which has turned out to be true.  It is a plywood platform on 4×4 supports with a 4″ layer of foam, wrapped in a sleeping bag (for ease of cleaning Bear hair).  This also created storage space underneath.  Lamps were acquired.

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A dear friend stayed in the house with Bear all summer and she acquired a big plushy armchair and when she sent me pictures, it seemed like a big plushy armchair belonged in the house.  The desk also felt too cramped between the bookshelves.  When I initially built the kitchen, I used the desk I’ve had since high school as the counter supports.  I dug that out (adding new supports for the counter, pictures further down) and parked it beneath the big window.  The desk is a reliable old friend of mine and having it back in the main space felt right.

I had to take off the back legs of the desk and prop it up above the wheel well box.  I still have the legs and could reattach and put the desk in the middle of the room for a (tiny) dinner party or board game night, but have not yet tried this out.

The plant didn’t survive the transfer of care and feeding from Branwen to myself and has refugeed to the safer space of her room.

The couch is incredibly comfy and I sometimes sleep on it.  Bear sleeps on it 23 hours of the day.

The rugs were tossed out, being unnecessary with that gorgeous floor.

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I built this little toilet box out of the remains of a kitchen cabinet that was too large when I rebuilt the counters.  The lid lifts up and hooks to the wall for ease of emptying the compost and urine jar.  To the left is a compartment for sawdust and a smaller one for toilet paper.  I also put down this weird floor that is 1×8 cut into (not square) squares and painted with paint samples from the Habitat store.  The jug is vinegar for the urine jar.  Pee can be incredibly smelly without vinegar.  In case you were wondering.

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I finally covered the exposed wiring that runs from the electrical box to the light switches, and added some wider shelving to hold bathroom things.  The hooks on the wall are perfect for earrings and jewelry.

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BATHROOM DOOR!  I don’t have many people over but not having a bathroom door was a problem.  The top bit is a picture frame with fabric inside.  I can change out the fabric or add paintings when I want a change.  The bottom is bead board and weathered old 2×4.  It’s held together with screws and strapping and works so well.

I recently shocked myself with a wet hand on one of the exposed light switches, so that needs to be dealt with soon.  The switches are too far back so all of the blue boxes need to be pulled out and moved forward, then I plan to make a custom light switch plate.

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First bath!  I did not want to use propane at all in the house, but after 6 months of military showers and carbon monoxide producing alcohol stove cooking, I gave in.  I have a Takagi T-T-KJr2-OS-LP Outdoor Tankless Water Heater on the outside of the house.  The propane tanks live out there too.  I didn’t have any extra room in the kitchen and didn’t want to have to vent the propane through the wall.  I also got an RV oven/range from Craiglist for $250.  A friend helped run copper pipes through the walls to bring hot water to the faucet and propane to the oven.

I’ve always taken baths as a form of self-care and comfort.  It’s where I do most of my reading. The ability to take them in my house has been inestimably good.  We also put in a better drain and installed it correctly, so the water drains as it should and it is easier to clean out the tub for bathtime.

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The skylight is lovely, but occasionally too bright.  I’ve had this little quilt for years and it was just the right size.  I sewed metal grommets into the corners and put hooks in the walls, and voila: skylight curtain.

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Remodeled kitchen with the oven/range.  Slightly awkward but spacious storage beneath it and in the corner between the drawer unit and oven.  I use the oven almost every day and don’t know how I got by without it.

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We also built a COVERED PORCH.  I sewed water repellent outdoor fabric into an awning.  The porch is in two pieces for relative ease of movement when it’s time to leave my current spot, and the awning will just have to be deconstructed and put back together at the new spot.  In the metal and plastic containers is recycling and dog food (saves a lot of space inside).  We’ve had a very sunny winter and I’ve spent a lot of time on the porch, bundled up, listening to music and staring at the trees.

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The backside of the house.

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winter sunshine

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Haley’s toes

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altar

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And finally, to unclutter my little part of the property I built a shed and proper wood bin out of pallets, scrap wood and leftovers from the siding.

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compost left/firewood right

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New plans are afoot; the city is working on a “Missing Middle” Infill Housing Analysis.  I spoke last week at a planning commission meeting about the need to legalize tiny houses and other small dwelling units.  The city is inviting folks from across the city to join a work group to get the codes changed by this fall.  Minutes from the meeting here.  I hope to be involved in the work group and especially want to talk about composting toilets, as plumbing infrastructure and hooking up to the sewage grid or a septic tank is one of the biggest hurdles/costs of tiny houses.  On a personal level, I’m in talks with my mother and some very close friends about starting a tiny house community in Olympia along the lines of the Simply Home Community in Portland.  Looks like we’ll possibly be setting up around the same time the city introduces new zoning rules.  Serendipity?  Maybe.  Seems to be how all the best things happen these days (alongside incredible amounts of hard work, planning, trust and love).

I hope you all are staying warm, wherever and however you are spending this cold January.

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Pomes 1.14.17

I don't think this one is done, and I'm experimenting with line breaks and punctuation.

Lost
What it is, is not lost.
It lives in the 
quiet
     spaces
           between things
where everything
has already happened.
It is never lost.
We are here.
You and I 
are here now.
It is not lost only
- - - changing
has always been
        /changing/
we hold
stardust of galaxies
we hold
oceans & rivers
we hold
colonies & villages
we hold
we hold
we hold
- - -  millenia
of love & knowledge
in our bodies.
Those that came before
held it too.
It changed in the passing.
It will change again.
When /our/ fingertips
touch those to come
when /our/ hands go 
to dust.



tree songs 1 & 2

stand still feel the sun
edges close
wind is danger
gather together brethren
keep the ancestors fed
descendents sheltered under
sweeping branches
cousins lost in orderly forests
don't remember who they are
connection is here
roots reaching to touch



***

small creatures crawling on my skin
each footfall a caress
stand, wait, accept
there are many ways to be a lover

Inspirations 1.12.17

Shields & Shards & Stitches & Songs by Dan Beachy-Quick

I read this little book of poetry in 20 minutes last night, and then read and re-read it out loud to myself because the language was so rhythmic and compelling.  The Shields are short 8 line pieces, eight of them, laid out on the page in the shape of a shield (I had them laid out here as they are in a book but WordPress isn’t having it).  Shards are fragments of the Shields, and Stitches even smaller bits.  Songs then picks back up again as new, longer pieces.  I love love love what the poet did here, using the same 8 lines to create 3 different poems.

Shield (1)

Be of ruin this rude maker.
Rubble be. Ruin be. Be not a stone.
Hellstone. Hailstone. Hellebore.
Take root in the broken and bloom.
Bloom blood into bitter lake
Or let dirt drink its fill. The bee moans
In it thin cup. Pollen and trouble.
Mark it in bronze, poet. Grab the tool. Beat it.

Shard (1)

Be                     maker.
be         be             stone.
bore.
the broken
blood
drink its                       moans
thin cup                        trouble.
poet                       tool

 

Shield (7)

You be awe. I’ll be knife.
There’s an altar by the water.
You be creature. I’ll be priest.
Slack sails wait wind. Wind waits feast.
Least blood most blessed. You be what I lack.
Ceased asking why. Ceased open eyes. You
Alter in darkness alone. My girl of gold-hair
Life. Be antlers of deer. Be your own rescue.

Stitch (7)

we
a
wait
You
You
ark
of
rescue

 

 

Pomes 1.10.17

Untitled (Naked)
In the morning
the air is cold.
I light a fire and smoke
trembles from the woodstove
to greet me.
Last night I opened
the windows to share music &
sweet darkness with the
trees in the ravine,
and we passed an hour
in each other’s company-
as you would in wordless familiarity
with old friends.
But nightmares took me away on
screaming cacophonous wings &
though my body stayed,
I was gone.

In the soft newborn light I see
the trees are still there.
They never leave,
only wait with ancient patience
for my attention to return to them.
I slip out of crumpled nightdress
and stand,
naked to them as they are to me-
skin wrinkled and scarred as
the bark on the cedars.
All of us equally bared to the ravages
of wind & time.

My bath is steaming and ready.
The air is warming from the fire.
Outside the trees
drink the rain
and a breeze blows through
from the south.
They all shudder and sigh and
lean in a little closer.

***

On Reading Anna Moschovakis
I am in the bath reading Anna Moschovakis,
and watching the candlelight reflection on the side of the tub.
I wonder how to bridge this gap
between my body and other bodies.
My jaw is aching again from clenching my teeth.
I think others must not have these problems-
of gaps
of holding muscles so tight as to be absolutely still
(unseen).
I know that they do.
That doesn’t help.
I have the email of Anna Moschovakis.
Will I use it?
No.
Probably not.

 

Owls and Animals/Alaska photos

I’m currently reading The Hidden Lives of Owls by Leigh Calvez.  It’s a good read.  I recommend.  I was reminded of a trip my mother and I took in 2014 to The Alaska Raptor Center in Sitka, AK.  I took a ton of photos and never did anything with them, so here they are.  Also some from the Fortress of the Bear in Sitka,  Sitka Sound Science Center, and the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center south of Anchorage.

I’m guessing which owl is which from the website.  I didn’t keep track at the time but only looked at them each as individual personalities.

***

Peek-A-Boo, Western Screech Owl.  I remember her being very shy and see now that she was severely injured by a car and is blind in one eye.

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***

Boris, Great Gray Owl.  Bad-Ass.  Also came to the center due to a collision.

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***

Glaucus, Barred Owl.  Sidenote: Barred Owls are an ‘invasive species’ in the PNW.  They are largely responsible (along with massive deforestation) for the decline of the Northern Spotted Owl due to superior survival skills (less picky about food and nesting sites).  A pilot study is currently underway in which Barred Owls are removed (killed) from Northern Spotted Owl territory near Mt. Rainier.  Leigh Calvez, the author of the Hidden Lives of Owls, quoted Aldo Leopold on this topic:

“The cowman who cleans his range of wolves does not realize that he is taking over the wolf’s job of trimming the herd to fit the range.  He has not learned to think like a mountain.  Hence we have dustbowls, and rivers washing the future into the sea.”

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***

Pele, Peregrine Falcon.  Another car collision, found in a parking lot in Friday Harbor.

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I can’t place this one, but they sure are pretty.

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***

Tootsie!  A Northern Saw-Whet Owl.  She was smaller than my hand.

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and very hungry.

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***

089-5

073-2 081-3 082-3***

Lynx

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Musk Ox

109-3 091-7

Elk

073-3

Bison

056-5 048-5

Reindeer!

036-5

***

200-2 199-3

Inspirations 1.5.17

God Herself is us and we are S/he.  Lover and Beloved.  There is no difference.  And that is not a platitude, but something we can only realize when the time is ripe, and then we are seeded to the core.  

-Thorn Coyle (Kissing the Limitless)

***

she sit my tail down/pull the wishbone wide

***

And did you feel it, in your heart, how it pertained to everything?

And have you too finally figured out what beauty is for?

And have you changed your life?

Mary Oliver, The Swan

***

it is no big deal/hey what else is there to do/but set your sight on something and pull your tangles through

***

Looking within I can see all the reasons I am the way I am and I love myself for it.  This is not a test, this is love, and I love myself in this, I love the world in this, I am the world in this.

Sacred Kink, Lee Harrington

***

hold together, let go if you will/keep on dancing/hold together, let go if you will/see what’s left

nothing cares if you hold together, so let go if you will