From PA to Minnesota

It was, admittedly, a bit of a wild idea. It was January, maybe 12˚ out (warm by Minnesota standards, I later learned). There was an icy crust of snow frozen to the ground. I was at a small farm outside of St. Paul, interviewing for a job.

 

I was moving to Minnesota to be closer to my partner, Nico, who’d moved there eight months before for grad school. I’d spent the last almost three years managing the vegetable garden and cooking at Pendle Hill; I was feeling ready to move on, eager to find a farm where I could keep working towards my goal of owning and stewarding a small farm.

I’d found the perfect place – 10th Street Farm and Market – a market-garden-style microfarm just outside of St. Paul. As we walked around the farm talking, Hallie said she’d be happy to help me learn the business side of things, one aspect of farming where I had little experience. There was a caveat, though. The job – an apprenticeship, really – would only pay $700/month. There was an apartment available on the farm, but if the other full-season apprentice needed housing, then Nico and I would be out of luck.

 

The idea zinged through my head and I figured it couldn’t hurt to ask. I explained to Hallie that my family had built a tiny house a few years back. “If we managed to get it out here, do you think we could park it on the farm?”

 

“I don’t see why not,” Hallie said. “That’d be fine with me!”

 

And so, the idea was planted.

 

Photo on 6-12-19 at 6.24 PM
The early days of tiny house living

I got the news that I’d gotten the job while I was visiting my abuelos in DC (woohoo!), but also the news that the other apprentice would be taking the apartment. So the wheels started turning, the idea started getting legs.

 

My friend Alice and I, having both recently quit our jobs, were off to Kauai for a month to work on a farm in Moloa’a. We had access to Wi-Fi about once a week when we stopped by the public library in Kapa’a while doing our laundry, which left Nico do get the research done on what we’d need to make tiny house life work. Meanwhile, back in Swarthmore, my mother was heading up efforts to get the tiny house ready to set sail.

53469121_975468359329951_4867919837411672064_n

On top of Sleeping Giant in Kauai

As per Nico’s research, we needed: a 30 amp hook-up (for whatever electricity we needed beyond solar), a water hook-up (Minnesota tiny house owners suggested we buy a well-insulated hose), and a level surface to park the tiny house on. Hallie had just the spot for us, it turned out. The old greenhouse, no longer in use, had a 30 amp hook up as well as a water spigot. We’d be parked on the driveway running alongside the barn.

 

On the home front, a leak from the shower meant that the floor needed to get ripped up and redone (the shower too), and tires needed to get checked. The journey would be a little over 1,000 miles; the last thing we wanted was for a tire to pop on the way there.

 

We’d also need to find someone to haul the tiny house for us – my truck, a 2003 Chevy S10, would not be up to the job.

 

And so, my mother, brother, Jerry Getz, and uncle Jimmy Ericson got on the job of tearing out the floor (I owe them a huge thanks, a big home-cooked meal, and a few 6-packs next time I’m home).

IMG_0485

Putting in a new floor

Jim – car mechanic extraordinaire – took a look at the tires with me when I got back from Hawaii. The tiny house had been up on blocks the last two years to take pressure off of the tires, but they’d sunk down in the ground a bit. The worry was that they’d be misshapen or have dry rot from exposure to the elements. Blocks and being parked in the shade paid off though – Jim gave the tires his seal of approval.

 

IMG_3946

Moving the tiny house down to the street in preparation for the big move

I managed to find a tiny house moving company (apparently there is enough of a demand that such a thing exists. We used Tiny Home Transport.). $2,600 for the move – it felt like a lot, but it would take us only 3 months to recoup that living rent-free. We set up the move for mid-April, giving us two weeks of wiggle room before Nico’s lease was up.

In March, my friend Alice and I drove my truck out to St. Paul in one go – 19 hours on the road, scanning through country stations and fire and brimstone preachers searching for the local NPR station through the long night. (We had no aux cord and only one CD – Purple Like the Summer Rain, by Mø, which Alice refused to listen to more than twice).

IMG_3601

(That’s a bottle of fernet, courtesy of Sebastian, to celebrate with upon our arrival)

Six hours of Pennsylvania, driving through long tunnels under the mountains, snow dusting the slopes, sleeping farms, things flattening out in Ohio and Indiana, then on through Chicago with its thousand lanes of traffic and toll booths in the dead of night, driving slow through thick, almost purple fog in Wisconsin. We arrived just as Nico was leaving for work, slept until he got back that afternoon. Spent the week rock climbing until Alice left for her own adventure, joining the crew of a tall ship in Florida.

54256235_1269991103165046_4778915646748491776_n (1)

We made it to Minnesota!

We had about a month before the tiny house arrived. We drove out to the farm to check out the spot that Hallie had in mind – next to the barn by the old greenhouse. There was a 30 amp plugin in the greenhouse, a water spigot right next to us, and a gravel drive to rest on. It’d be out in the sun, but it would work just fine.

 

I was a nervous wreck, leading up to the tiny house’s grand journey. What if a tire popped? What if the whole thing fell to pieces on the road?

 

Slowly, the days ticked by. I finally got a call from the hauler – he was going to be late because of a snowstorm in the Dakotas. He thought it’d just be a day, but it ended up being more like three. Jim and Sebastian were there to meet him when he arrived, thankfully. They made sure the blocks and the front steps got packed up. My mother had already wrapped all the plates and mugs in newspaper and shut them into drawers taped shut. They got the tiny house all hitched up, and just like that, the journey had begun.

 

I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to be able to sleep until it arrived. And I was worried that our wiggle room was shrinking – Nico and I were due to be in Philly that coming weekend for our friend Thalia’s baptism.

 

I got the first call later that day, from the tiny house moving company. The woman on the phone told me that the driver was going slowly because a panel had fallen off.

 

“A panel??” I said. I was imaging one of the composite boards at the base of the tiny house. She assured me he would get there, it was just going to take some more time.

 

I stayed in touch with the driver. More “panels” fell off. But the guy seemed pretty upbeat, pretty sure he’d make it. He taped some of the panels. He decided to stop for the night.

 

In the end, it took him almost four days. We were in Philly when Hallie texted me a picture of the tiny house in its new home. I almost collapsed with relief. No one had gotten hurt, the tiny house was all in one piece (for the most part), and the “panels” turned out to be siding, which seemed like a much less dangerous thing to be dropping on the highway, and also much easier to replace. Nico and I would have a place to live, and some modicum of financial stability. Hooray!64391261_1828506203961801_587952040383086592_n

 

On Monday, Nico and I went straight from the airport to check things out (my mother had mailed us a key). Sitting nestled in the tiny sink was a basket – the same basket my mother has given me every year – with two chocolate Easter bunnies nestled in tissue paper. Our home had arrived.

 

We had a week to get out of Nico’s apartment, and to start living tiny. There was work to be done.

 

To be continued…

Otra vez en casa (traducido de ‘Home Sweet Home Again”)

 

La casita chiquita se ha ido del nido, por lo menos por el momento. Después de un viaje valioso por I-95, ha llegado segura y bien al Centro de Congresos, todo listo para aparecer en el Flower Show (una exposición de flores). ¡Nuestra bebita está creciendo!

12802776_1139593006062295_7224504986386187381_n

Yo, por otro lado, he vuelto al nido. En noviembre, mudé devuelta a la casa de mis padres, y en diciembre me cumplí 25. No es la primera vez que he vivido en casa después de que me gradué de la universidad; entre viajes como mochilera y trabajos diferentes, he pasado unos meses cada vez en casa, incluso el verano que hice mi primera huerta en el patio.

10301437_10152200110348492_4002019923017657718_n

En el camino, Pavones, Costa Rica

 

Siempre estoy muy agradecida por tener un lugar para quedarme, por tener padres que me quieren y que no están muy preocupados de mi y adonde voy. Pero cada vez que volvió a casa, siempre me pasaba lo mismo; me agarra una ansiedad, un sentimiento de que he fracasado o que no soy independiente.

 

Pero esta vez están cambiando las cosas. La voz en mi mente está bajando. Poco a poco, estoy empezando a relajar, a respirar un poco mas profundamente. Por primera vez, después de mucho tiempo, estoy empezando a disfrutar bien vivir en esta casa con mi mamá, papá, y hermano. Estamos haciendo proyectos juntos (mi mamá dice que vamos a recordar este año como ‘el año del tiny house’), compartiendo las tareas, planificando la huerta. Hasta tenemos una lista de turnos para cocinar la cena. Cuando hace frio, hacemos un fuego en la estufa. Los jueves, la banda de mi papá de ukuleles viene para practicar. Los domingos, tomamos turnos haciendo una cena grande con otra familia. Tenemos planes grandes para limpiar el sótano.

unnamed

Jim ahora está parte de la familia también (hemos tomado su patio). Foto por Kathye Petrie.

Habíamos nacidos en una cultura muy divisiva, una que valora la competición y el individual mas que todo, y que fuerza la comunidad hasta los márgenes. Eso no es una noticia nueva. Mi mamá dice que en un momento se la dio cuenta de que vivimos todos juntos en este pueblo, pero que al final, todos estamos haciendo la vida solos. Nuestra sociedad forzó la familia a una caja nuclear, y la rompió mas después. Vivir con tus padres después de graduarse de la universidad, mudarse devuelto a su pueblo de origen – esos son cosas que estadounidenses se ven como debilidad o fracasa.

unnamed-1

Y acá, nosotros cuatro. Foto por Kathye Petrie.

Pero no pienso que los seres humanos son para vivir vidas tan separadas y solas. Hay un momento que me encanta del libro The Ascent of Humanity (“El ascenso de la humanidad”) en que Charles Eisenstein habla sobre comunidad. Buscaría la cita, pero mi libro está en Rusia con un amigo. Pero lo esencial que dice es eso; que la comunidad verdadera significa interdependencia, depender de otros, y ser dependido de.

482505.jpg

En poco tiempo, me voy a mudar, pero yo sé que continuaré a trabajar con mi familia, a depender de ellos, y que ellos dependerán de mi. Tenemos las semillas de comunidad ya sembrado en el suelo, tomando aire y agua y nutrientes, creciendo, dando comida, sombra, respirando agua devuelta al suelo, devolviendo al suelo. Todo esto para el mundo mas hermoso que nuestros corazones saben que es posible.

 

-Lucia

Home Sweet Home Again

The tiny house has left the nest, at least for the time being. After a daring journey down I-95, it has arrived safe and sound at the Convention Center, ready for its debut at the Flower Show. Our baby is growing up.

12802776_1139593006062295_7224504986386187381_n.jpg

I, on the other hand, have returned to the nest. In November, I moved back in with my parents, and in December I turned 25. It’s not the first time I’ve lived at home since graduating from college; between various backpacking trips and jobs I’ve been at home for a few months at a time, including the summer that I planted my first vegetable garden in the backyard.

10301437_10152200110348492_4002019923017657718_n.jpg

On the Road, in Pavones, Costa Rica

I’ve always been incredibly grateful to have a place to land, to have parents who love me and don’t seem too worried about where I’m headed. And yet, every time I’ve come home there’s always been this anxiety that bubbles up, a vague feeling of failure or lack of independence.

But lately, I’ve found, that voice has been subsiding. I can feel myself starting to relax, starting to breathe a little bit more deeply. For the first time in a long time, I’m starting to fully enjoying living in this house with my mom, dad, and brother. We’re working on projects together (my mother says we’ll always remember this time as the ‘Year of the Tiny House’), sharing household chores, planning the garden. We’ve even got a dinner roster up on the fridge (I cook Friday nights). When it’s cold, we make a fire. On Thursday nights, the Swarthmore Ukulele Orchestra comes over for rehearsal. On Sundays, we alternate making a big dinner with another family. We’ve got grand plans to clean out the basement.

unnamed.jpg

Jim is a part of our family now too (we’ve taken over his backyard). Photo credit to the wonderful Kathye Petrie. 

 

We were born into a divisive culture, one that values competition and the individual above all else, and that squeezes community into the margins. This is not news. My mother says she realized at some point, we all live in this town together, but really, when it comes down to it, we’re all going it alone. Conceptions of family squeezed into a nuclear box, and then broken down further. Living with your parents after college, moving back to your hometown – these are things that American culture tends to see as weakness or failure.

unnamed-1.jpg

And here’s the four of us (photo credit: Kathye Petrie)

But I don’t think we were meant to live such separate lives. There’s this great moment in The Ascent of Humanity where Charles Eisenstein talks about community. I’d find the quote, but my copy of the book is in Russia with a friend. Essentially, he says, true community means interdependence; relying on others and being relied upon.

482505.jpg

 

I’ll be moving out soon, but I know that I will continue to work with my family, to rely upon them and to be relied upon in healthy symbiosis. We’ve got the seeds of community tucked into the living soil, drawing air and water and nutrients, growing, giving food, shade, breathing water back into the soil, giving back. Here’s to the more beautiful world our hearts know is possible.

 

– Lucia

Tiny House Amidst the Pines

Last week, we cleared the tiny house out (it’s been full of tools, scrap wood, ladders, etc. since we started working on the interior), hitched it to Tad’s truck, and followed it into the city for its second trip on the road. During its last trip on the road, our tiny house was a green shell, but now it’s looking like an actual (tiny) house. But there was one thing that didn’t change; it got plenty of stares.

 

There are three days until the Flower Show opens on March 5, so this morning we headed in to see how things are going, and to clean up a little bit.

IMG_0848.jpg

Things are in full swing at the Convention Center! (I almost got hit by a speeding forklift). Michael Petrie had dozens of eager volunteers working on the exhibit, shoveling dirt, planting shrubs. And amidst it all, our tiny house. I’ve got to say, surrounded by pine trees, the tiny house looks right at home.IMG_0868.jpg

 

Though still without furniture, the inside is feeling nice and homey. Our counters, cooktop, and sink have all been installed, and all of the walls have been finished except for a tiny portion above the front door which, thankfully, is not visible from the outside.

IMG_0872.jpg

 

Hope to see you at the Flower Show!

-Lucia

Water is the Essence of Life and We’ve Got Plumbing

John Briddes the plumber came by yesterday to help us hook up our plumbing! This 42 gallon water tank is going to feed the shower and the kitchen sink.

IMG_9511.JPG

These are the propane gas valves; they’ll be connected to the hot water heater, the heater, and the stove, so we’ll only need one propane tank at a time:

IMG_9512.JPG

We’re going to fill the tank up from the outside via the white valve to the right. To the left is where the propane tank will hook up; a regulator will make sure that the pressure is evenly maintained as the tank empties.

IMG_9513.JPG

That’s where we’re at!

Until next time!

-Lucia

 

(y ahora, en castellano)

Aqua es la esencia de vida y tenemos plomería

¡Ayer, John Briddes el plumero vino a la casita para ayudarnos con la plomería! Ese tanque de 160 litros dará agua a la ducha y a la canilla de la cocina.

IMG_9511.JPG

Las válvulas son para el propano; van a conectar con el calentador de agua, el calentador, y la estufa, así que necesitaremos solo un tanque de propano para alimentar a todos.

IMG_9512.JPG

Vamos a llenar el tanque desde afuera por la válvula blanca a la derecha. A la izquierda va el tanque de propano; un regulador va a mantener la presión mientras que vacía el tanque.

IMG_9513.JPG

¡Así estamos!

¡Hasta la próxima!

-Lucia

 

 

Crunch Time is Upon Us – A Tiny House Update

After three weeks gallivanting around Argentina visiting family, my brother and I have returned, and work on the tiny house is in full swing. The tiny house has to be ready to head over to the Convention Center by the end of February in order to take part in Michael Petrie’s exhibit at the Flower Show, and there’s still plenty to be done.

IMG_7455.JPG

My brother and I at Villa Llanquin near Bariloche, Argentina

While we were gone, our intrepid parents got a good deal done, including most of the interior walls, ceilings, and window trims.

12642473_1116396851715244_4763253364663731378_n.jpg

(There’s no light from the skylight in this picture because the roof is covered with snow). 

They also acquired kitchen cabinets from ANC Cabinets, semi-donated (they were ordered for another project, but ended up being the wrong color). Luckily for us, these cabinets are 21′ deep, rather than the normal 24′, as they were originally meant for a bathroom.

 

f0c874e4-6901-4087-ae02-a33c33c5f816.jpg

 

Our on-demand water heater has also arrived! It will be connected to our 42-gallon water tank (which will be residing under the sink) via a water pump. The benefit of the on-demand heater is that we won’t be wasting energy heating water all day long (which is the way that most house systems function currently).

Here’s a diagram from the blog Tiny House, Giant Journey that illustrates how our plumbing system is going to work more or less:

Water-system.jpg

We also bought a water hatch, so we’ll be able to fill our water tank from the outside (average water use per day per person in the U.S. is between 80-100 gallons. The majority of that water use comes from flushing the toilet, but although we have a dry toilet, we’ll still probably need to fill our water tank at least once a day).

61P-WIBP5OL._SL1500_.jpg

The Valterra A01-2004VP

 

Also, Joel Smith of Boedco made a porch for us! Now we don’t have to use a ladder to get in and out.

unnamed.jpg

 

And that’s where we’re at so far! Now to install all this stuff….and to find a stovetop….

Until next time!

-Lucia

The Composting Toilet Has Arrived! A Tiny House Update

After some deliberation, we decided to buy a composting toilet (the borough wasn’t too thrilled with our initial bucket plan, unsurprisingly). We went with this beauty from Nature’s Head; it’s good for about 90 uses before needing to be emptied, and diverts urine into a separate tank. We’ll keep you posted on how the installation goes.

 

In other news, it’s (sort of) winter, and we’re till plugging along on the tiny house! Sebastian and I finished the bathroom floor the other day using some bamboo flooring leftover from our house.

IMG_0198.jpg

I cut the boards, and Seb nailed them in. 

 

 

IMG_0192.jpg

(Early twenties existential crises channelled into flooring)

We give many thanks to Tommy Pinto and crew of Thomas Aquinas Painting who donated time and materials to paint our tiny house – it looks beautiful! Here’s to good community vibes 🙂

 

IMG_0203.jpg

Sebastian and Tim cut a rectangle out of the loft where we will be installing a skylight so that we can get some more natural light into the kitchen.

 

IMG_0205.jpgIMG_0206.jpg

All of that pesky wiring is almost done! Many thanks to Dave Augustine the electrician who mentored Claudia, and who will be finishing the job for us soon! (and making sure we don’t burn the house down).

IMG_0193.jpg

Lastly, we’ve begun the long process of putting the walls up. For the time being we’re using 1×6, tongue-in-groove pine boards, though we may switch to a different material partway up the wall. We shall see.

IMG_0190.jpg

The pine boards are on the left. You can also see the bamboo-covered wheel wells in this picture, a collaborative effort between me, Mike McGrory, and Jo Ramirez. 

Wishing everyone a beautiful solstice!

Until next time,

Lucia