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

Posts tagged “do-it-yourself

me and my big mouth

cabin close

A few weeks ago I was asked, by a very nice girl, if I would want to participate in a tiny house lecture/Q&A in Los Angeles. Being the publicity houndwhore that I am, I agreed.

With that in mind, if anyone in the Los Angeles area is not too drunk at 1pm this Sunday March 17th (St. Patrick’s Day for those of you in Rio Linda), come on down to Atwater Village, have a cup of coffee, and watch me make a fool out of myself for 45 mins! (you’ll have to buy your own coffee though). I’ll talk about my process, my cabin, and if I don’t get too nervous and wet my pants, I’ll answer questions about everything tiny house.

In case I suck and bore everyone to death, there’s a second lecture after mine about earth-building homes by a very cool and clever couple, it looks like they build fantastic hobbit houses from this picture on Facebook…

Screen shot 2013-03-14 at 1.04.31 PM

Robert and Mireille from Earth Works Building will be speaking about the history of natural building traditions. From cob, adobe, and clay ovens, to newer methods like sandbag structures, recycle friendly earthships. Learn how surprisingly inexpensive, fireproof, and energy efficient natural building can be and the vital connection it makes in building community. http://www.earthworksbuilding.com/ 

Clearly they will be more interesting than me so this event should be well worth the drive (and if it’s not, we can always start a food fight!)

For you Face-place fluent types, there’s a interweb page about it…

https://www.facebook.com/events/138936376278864/

Tiny House lecture

Lecture is free.
Lunch is pay-what-you-want.
Q&A to follow both presenters.

The event is being held at “Thank You For Coming” at 3416 Glendale Blvd, in Atwater Village, a short walk from either Silverlake or Glendale, I hear that the food is fantastic.

Like the cool kids always say, be there or be square!

e.


the devil is in the details

The first step in designing my new small house was laying it out in SketchUp.

SketchUp is Google’s very powerful and free 3D modeling software.  I downloaded it from Google (it’s freeee!) then simply watched a few of Google’s “how to use SketchUp” videos. I’m pretty good with all kinds of software already so learning SketchUp was pretty simple for me. I suspect most folks could learn it with relative ease.

SketchUp also allows you to add furniture to your rooms from a free user-created online database (amazing!!) and then walk-through your model. This makes it possible to see exactly what your house will look and feel like before you spend dollar 1 on anything!

I’ve decided to do detailed layouts of each pod, then spend as much time tweaking and finalizing my design BEFORE I hire an architect to draw my blueprints. By making most aesthetic decisions in MY computer on FREE software, this will cut down on paid hours given to the architect.

The first pod to be designed is the main room, kitchen/dining/living. I need to fit a full kitchen, dining table (I want one, ok?!) and full sofa/tv watching area. Since the kitchen is integral and permanent, it comes first.

SketchUp will let me download a fully built kitchen from the online model warehouse. I found one that is small, tight and will fit in 1/4 of my 16′ wide x 22′ long room.

In order to be precise enough for the architect, I need to design the kitchen down to the 1/8 of an inch. With my rudimentary modeling skills, SketchUp is not the best tool for this. I’m gonna let you in on a BIG SECRET resource…

the IKEA online 3D kitchen planner…it is simply AMAZING!!!

You’ll need to download their 3D browser plug-in so it will run on your computer (their website will let you do it automatically). It is an app designed for you to lay out your dream kitchen (using their products) then go to Ikea and it will spit out an exact list of what to buy (and how much it’ll cost).

It has a very slight learning curve but if you can use SketchUp, you will breeze through the Ikea app with ease. You can build the entire room, complete with doors, windows and vaulted ceiling (all adjustable to your specs), appliances and all cabinetry, all placed down to 1/16 of an inch!

Here’s my new kitchen in the main room…

and the view from the kitchen into the living room!

The app will let you print an overhead layout plot…

elevations of all walls/views…

and a material list with prices…

so as you can see, we’re almost to the point where anybody with a computer and an Internet connection can design their own home (for free) and as I proved last year,

ANYONE with a pickup truck, a few bucks and a dream can build their own home.

 

 

 

even me.

btw, I started one of those  face-page book things. It seems all the cool kids have them and I desperately want to fit in. Check it out and maybe be my friend? (that other tiny house place has like 8 million friends and I’m so totally jealous!)


and for my next trick…

I’ve been spending so much time up on my mountain that I think I’m out-growing the tiny cabin.

My goal of transitioning into full-time rural living is feeling quite attainable lately. I’m eager to put in some additional infrastructure (water tank, septic, garage), but I didn’t want to spend the money until I was ready to build the main house.

Knowing how long it takes to actually “build” a house, I thought I should get started sooner rather than later. I’ve been locked in my room playing around with SketchUp lately and I’ve finally settled on a design…

It’s a simple set of 3 small connected “pods”, built in the same style as my existing tiny cabin, bedroom pod, main room pod (living/dining/kitchen) and bathroom pod. Overall size so far is bedroom 12’x12′, main pod 16’x22′ and bathroom at 9’x12′ for a total of 604 sq ft.

By designing them as separate segments, I can use the lessons learned from building my small cabin and simply expand on them for the larger version…

-Single slope roof for ease of construction and lower material cost,

-Segmented design for building in stages,

-Built on piers for flood avoidance and easy utility access,

-Inter-connected rooms to make the interior seem more spacious (I love to roam from room to room in my LA condo),

-Use the same interior layouts from some of my favorite familiar spaces so I’ll know what each room will feel like before it’s built.

One of my favorite pre-fab homes is the FabCab, a timber-framed unit built using a pre-cut frame and SIPs. FabCab sells a gorgeous 550 sq ft model that is about what I need, the only problem for me is it costs $143,000 not including site work. Regrettably I do not have that kind of cash sitting around and I am not willing to borrow it.

FabCab’s lines are beautiful and very similar to what I’ve already built. By lowering the roof pitch, overall height and sidewalls a bit, I can get a more energy efficient interior by not having to heat and cool such a cavernous 14′ high space. By building in 3 segments, I can avoid a post and beam type timber frame and use less expensive stick-build methods (quality local labor is an issue in my remote area).

I can also have the exact floorplan I want to maximize my view and location, including an indoor/outdoor shower in my bathroom (a dream of mine, to be sure!) and a washer/dryer closet.

Since I will pay as I go and build it myself (with an experienced local carpenter or two), the interior and finish work can proceed at my own pace.

For the overall process I’ll go as far as I can in SketchUp then hire someone to do the blueprints, construction plans and engineering. Admittedly my grand scheme is only in the beginning stages but if I recall correctly, the last time I went down this road, within a year I had a cabin built (and got published in a magazine)!

Details are being considered, advice is being sought, money is being prayed for, the Gods of Art, Design, and Providence are being beseeched, and I’m feelin’ a fire down in me gut.

I hope to God it’s not the Lamb Vindaloo I had for dinner last night.

e.


thoughts on the tiny tumbleweed towable trailer homes…

A few weeks ago I drove up to Bodega Bay, CA to see an actual Tumbleweed Tiny House in person. Jay Shafer and his Tumbleweed Tiny House Company have had a lot of media coverage in the past year and I’ve been dying to actually see one of his homes in person. A charming and quite talented couple had built Jay’s “Lusby” model home to sell and they held an open house…see the Tumbleweed post here!

The house was adorable…

The 7500 lb. house is easily towed by a 3/4 ton pickup truck!

Check out the high level of fit and finish, it was stunningly well-built…

The kitchen was small but complete and the bathroom was surprisingly spacious…

The interior was beautifully done, hand-crafted cabinets & doors, solid construction, open airy feel with light woods, high quality fixtures and all-around terrific finish work. The shower was unexpectedly roomy and the upper loft area would be a magnificent place in which to wake up!

For some great pictures, scroll down through the blog post on the Tumbleweed site and on the Pepper Clark’s For Sale page here! 
It was a brisk (ccccold actually) and windy day at the bay. A crowd had formed as soon as the house was opened so I only had a few minutes inside. The thought that kept going through my head was how well-designed and built the home was and at the same time, how tiny it really was.
I know there is a lot of downsizing going on now and these popular trailer houses are definitely much more solid than a standard RV trailer but it was reeeeeally small inside! I suppose the weight limitations would make a larger/longer house too heavy to pull with a pick-up truck. Still, I’d love to build a larger main cabin and be able to move it where and whenever I wanted.  I’ll have to give this all some thought.

Great job Pepper, Jay and that shy guy who did the finish carpentry!


…and a ha-ppy new yeeeeear!

I’ve been doing a lot of soul-searching this past month, temps on my mountain have been very cold and nothing newsworthy has happened at the cabin lately.  Though I’ve been offline a lot, I finally snapped outta my Xmas blues and snuck back online to wish y’all a fantastic 2012!

While it’s cozy here in the Christmas Corner, a big work push will be happening up at my compound right after I recover from my upcoming annual Jan 1 hangover.

Hopefully 2012 will see an addition to the cabin (oh yeah!), more decking, a sleeping loft (inspired by my friend Ranger X’s cabin!) and the successful online-ification of the recently completed “James P. Garzo Memorial Power Generating Facility”.

Gather ye young-‘uns a-boot, pull that holiday goose outta yer oven and throw a cold glass of cheap Champagne on the fire for me!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year Everyone!

e. and 2011 are o-u-t!


new trees, darker days and the reality of it all

Thanksgiving for me has always been bittersweet. I love turkey feasts and the gathering of friends and family. At the same time, I dread the onset of shorter, darker days and the cyclical unemployment that comes when Hollywood goes on holiday. This year, it seems, will not disappoint in its consistancy. I took the above photo yesterday afternoon on my drive down the mountain. The warmth of the afternoon is at odds with the layer of cold dreary mid-day mist, sort of how I’ve been feeling lately.

 

I am thrilled to have met a fellow wilderness devotee and my alleged doppelgänger. He has agreed to let me blog about him if I use the pseudonym “X”.  He contacted me through the blog and we have recently met and shared war stories.

X is close to my age, size & shape, bought a similar sized parcel of remote forest land on a neighboring mountain, was a freelance creative Hollywood professional for much of his life, and has now begun the transition to the wilderness living by building a 120 sq ft off-grid cabin which he recently doubled in size. Our similarities continue on into minute details but I think y’all get the idea.

X convinced me to plant some fresh trees on my land so I decided to do just that. 10 in all.

I spent a day digging and planting and another day raking watering and mulching. It was one of the most fun things I have ever done. I’ve never been one to garden but after spending time with my hands in the earth, I was hooked. I understand why so many older women in their golden years delight in grooming their prize azaleas, rose bushes and hydrangeas. Count me in, ladies, I’ll even wear the big floppy hat!

These are some of my new babies before and after they were covered in a layer of mulch…

X tells me that they will grow a few feet every year so I planted some near the cabin for shade and ’cause they’re pretty.

The days are now get dark by 5pm so I’m glad my new outdoor fireplace is working like a charm. It’s throwing off heat in the face of my 29 degree nights, as well as illuminating the cabin when I retire indoors for bed!

One of the things I don’t read much about in other tiny house blogs is the feeling of isolation. I love the solitude, peace and quiet of my land, heck, sometimes I drive up there on a slow night just so I can wake up to the sound of quails and the smell of the mountain air. Truth be told however, after a few days it gets lonely. Ryo Chijiiwa on his “Laptop and a Rifle” blog touched on this subject early on but many other small living pioneers rarely mention it.

Is it just me or do we all get lonely out in the woods? I know many of this new “tiny” community are paired up and living with a partner but my life is complex to the point where I’ve not been able to settle in with someone who can just drop everything and run off to the woods forever. Maybe it’s just the inherited restless nature of my soul or maybe I need to commit to living in either city or on mountain. Either way, lately I seem to be driving myself up and down a familiar road,  going intentionally back into the cold but familiar mist at the bottom of my mountain.

 


Why did the sirloin cross the road?

I don’t know why, but I am endlessly fascinated by the herds of free-range cows that roam my mountain. They’re awfully cute, timid but curious, very gentle and quite friendly.

I awoke the other day to a herd chomping on the dry grass around my cabin. Free lawn mowing, I say!

One adventurous cow tried to get into the tool shed but thankfully, she has no opposable thumbs and the door was locked.

It looked as though Ms. Cow had rubbed up against a newly painted green wall, fortunately not mine!

One teenager was fascinated by my new Pier 1 patio set…

In my spare time, I built a small diversion wall to direct the upcoming seasonal rains away from the cabin.

Next week I’ll buy some railroad ties and make a garden bed behind the wall. If you look closely you can see the 2 small baby oak trees that have sprung up there!

I LOVE all the oaks on my land and hope these 2 grow happily and healthily in their new garden bed.

I also stopped at Lowe’s and bought an outdoor fireplace for the c-c-cold upcoming winter nights. I’ll add some gravel and decorative paving stones around the area so my friends and I can hang out around the deck once the weather turns cold and wet.

When you are inside the cabin and a fire is blazing, it’ll almost seem like the fireplace is indoors!

quick note…look at the gorgeous view in the glass reflection, you can see why the cabin is facing North!

A shout out to all the new blog subscribers that were referred by the Westways Magazine article! My blog traffic has increased quite a bit since last month’s story ran. There are a few cool things on the horizon that have come as a result of the article but I’m gonna keep quiet so as not to jinx anything!

Now that my latest tv job is done, I have plenty of free time to chase cattle, work on the land and think up clever twists on old children’s jokes…

btw, “to get to the other side”

DUH!

🙂