Can a city boy build his dream homestead on a mountain, by himself and with no mortgage?

Steers, stars, tars, and the space station

Well I’m completely unemployed now so what better thing to do than work on the cabin? The weather has been stunning and my newly acquired carpal tunnel issue seems to be on the wane.


The guys at Lowe’s are glad to see me, (apparently I made an impression last time) and I buy some 30 lb roofing felt (yucky sticky gooey), some tar paper house wrap, nails and staples to install it all.  One large cart and I’m out the door.

I was torn between using the Tyvek-style house wrap and plain old tar paper wrap. I searched around online for some comparisons and almost everywhere I looked, experts say that they basically work the same. A roll of Tyvek 9′ x150′ is $98 and will leave me stuck with an extra 100 feet lying around to play with. A 3’x 240′ roll of tar paper is $25. Hmmmm.

By the time I get up to the ranch, it’s too dark to work. I settle in and watch TV shows on iTunes on my laptop. Yes, this is the life!



My first task of the morning is to finish the OSB sheathing and get the rafters and roofing up. Rain is always a possibilities in the mountains here, we have our own micro-climate. The OSB slams on easily with a few cuts. The new generator and power saw combination is a God-send.

The rim joist on the top and bottom edges of the roof present a challenge. Since I’m alone, I can’t figure out how to hoist a 12′ 2×6 in the air (9′ high in the back, 12′ in the front) and nail it in place. For the rear, I nail a pair of sketchy 2×4 legs on it, tilt up and nail. Works wonders! The front is too high for me to reach with my 8′ ladder, matter of fact, I can’t get onto the roof without praying and boosting myself up through the rafters.

I figure that I’ll put on the roof ply and then lay down on the roof and hang the front rim 2×6 over the edge (12′ up in the air is kinda scary when you’re alone). I can’t get the roofing OSB up on the roof, my ladder is too short. This is a good time for lunch.

I decide to drive into town to rent an extension ladder for the day. There’s no other way to get up and down from the roof without falling. This takes an hour and a half out of my day but will help me avoid a tragic fall to my death.

roof barrier

With the new ladder, the roofing OSB goes up quickly, you can see the metallic radiant barrier in the picture above. It’s pretty cheap at $24/per 4×8 sheet.

The dreaded front rim joist (missing in the pic above) needs to go on next. I have to attach the roof ply to it before laying the roofing felt. I drag the 2x6x12′ up onto the roof, lay it in place above where it goes, nail 2/2x4x12 legs onto the sides and pray. I scurry back down and run from side to side, moving each leg a few inches until the board drops down into place. Miraculously, it wedges itself under the eave, exactly where it belongs. The Gods are helping today!

roof tar

Roof felt is next and I need to get the ladder back to town by 6pm so I need to hustle.

This stuff is simply felt soaked in tar. Yech! It’s not as fun to work with as it sounds. You roll it out lengthwise side to side, starting at the bottom of the pitch. Using roofing nails, tack it down and apply some nasty tar-in-a-tube adhesive to the edges to keep any stray moisture away from the OSB.

This is fast but not fun. The tar reflects the sun on me, it’s 80 degrees to begin with and I seem to be getting tar adhesive all over myself. Fortunately it washes off with soap and water, NOT.

The roof is tarred, I have 45 mins to return the ladder and I’m covered in sunburn and tar. I decide to clean myself up and change clothes, drive like a bat outta hell to the ladder place and stay in the nearby town for a nice calorie-rich dinner.

Dinner and some beers. It’s been a long, hard day and I’m back to the trailer at 10pm. No sign of mountain lions but that darn dog is always around, sniffing out critters. The stars are out and they are spectacular. It’s a cold, clear, brisk night with swirling galaxies and constellations everywhere. It’s those Gods again.


Window Day!!!

6am and something is banging against the trailer. I figure it’s that hound or a raccoon or a woodpecker. I’m kinda hung over and the sun doesn’t come over the mountain til 8 so I go back to sleep.


It’s a ccccold morning. I make my coffee and slowly eat my oatmeal inside. When I finally get outside to begin, I notice there’s a steer standing next to the trailer waiting for me. The local cows are pretty mellow and will scatter when shooed away. Not the steer. He is standing and staring. I suppose he was banging on the trailer since there’s a new dent near the door. He has horns and appears ill-tempered. I go back inside for more coffee.

I am not going to be scared of a cow, even with large horns so I go outside and have a talk with him. We reach an understanding, he can mow the grass and I can build the cabin.

tar paper

I install the side window in 5 minutes. It sits easily in the opening and needs no shims. The cabin is VERY level and square, it def pays to be careful measuring and framing!

I roll out the tar paper house wrap and start stapling it according to the directions I got off the Internet. The steer’s girlfriend shows up and starts to mow the grass on the hill above the cabin. Unlike him, she is very pleasant.


I quickly realize I’m running out of tar paper and need to head down to the hardware store in town (another hour wasted). Turns out they don’t carry any so I’ll need to make a trip to the Lowe’s, another 45 minutes further away. It’s now lunchtime so I decide to put in the large glass wall of windows first. I can drive to Lowe’s after dark and do the tar paper in the morning.

The windows come in 3 panels and simply snap together, tilt up into place, get shimmed and screwed in. Piece of cake.

The view is magnificent and I LOVE this cabin!!

window int

The evening’s trip to Lowe’s was uneventful, I got resupplied and had a giant plate of fried things for dinner.


The tar paper staples on easily and it will be a day of details. I cut & install the remaining 2×6 blocks under the rafters, shim and secure the glass wall, and start to clean up the grounds. Most of the lumber has been used so I consolidate my work area. There is much clean-up of trash to do and I need to lay out the rest of the gravel.

While at Lowe’s, I bought 2 large solid concrete blocks to place under the front corners. The cabin is extremely heavy and I’m concerned that when the rains come, the skid it’s all built upon may settle a bit on the downhill side. The blocks will keep that from happening.

closeup paper windows

I take some pictures as I’m cleaning and hot-damn, my little dream cabin has a face!!

I really need to get the lock-out complete soon…siding on, door hung and to finish off the roof with shingles or metal. Once these 3 things are completed, the cabin will be locked out and weatherproof. Let the snow and sleet and rains come, bring on your blizzards!

It’s been an amazing week for me.

All in all to date, I’ve spent my $1,800, $1,820.56 to be exact. I’m over budget a bit due to upgrading and underestimating materials but when I look at the cabin and realize that I built it completely alone (and I’ve never built anything like this before), I know the Gods are definitely cool with all this.

One last picture before I drive back to LA, the space station is doing a fly-over.

Come on, how cool is that?!

first star

4 responses

  1. Kelley

    Just had to click through from my reader to show my appreciation and admiration! Your adventure is by far the most fun account of the tiny house journey I’ve come across–and technically most similar to what I’d like and be able to do.

    I just hope your writing doesn’t end when the cabin’s finished.

    Cheers from a SoCalrefugee

    October 27, 2009 at 8:30 pm

  2. Andreas

    Yes this is a great blog and a great story. I’m glad i was wrong about the lion eating you! I just with you would post more regularly. But it is still great to be able to follow your journey.

    October 28, 2009 at 10:39 am

    • Hey Andreas,
      Thanks for the encouragement! I spent the whole of last week in the mountains and I can only update the blog when I’m back in LA where there’s a DSL. My wrists have developed some serious carpal tunnel pain from all the hammering so I took a few days off after all the building. Sorry it takes a few days to get the posts up, I’ll try to be faster!
      Your support means a lot.
      (and most important, if I can do this, ANYONE can!)

      October 28, 2009 at 11:11 am

  3. Mo

    We have free range cattle around our place too. They did a bit of damage to our trailer and to our cabin too. You may want to take some measures to keep them away from the building. They like any edge/corner they can find to scratch on. I get my revenge by eating steak.

    “Not that there is anything wrong with it” but are you sure that other Beeve was his girlfriend? ;^)

    December 20, 2009 at 6:51 am

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