Sunday, March 31, 2013

What Can't Be Done With Good Friends?

First of all, this blog is brought to you by Luke Bair of Redwing Farm in Monroe County, West Virginia; we could not have done it without him. Everyone should be lucky enough to have one friend like this in their lifetime.

First, a "before" picture. This is what the house looked like on Friday morning at eight a.m.:

So what did we do with ourselves? First, the speed square and a little bit of instruction:

And then, the first rafters. This was easily the most time-consuming part of the day. There is quite a bit of math involved in this, and quite a bit of figuring, fitting and re-fitting. Once we had the right fit, that served as a template, and up they went. 

There is a bit of a gap in pictures; we had all hands on deck for rafters, and I had to run out and pick up six sheets of plywood for roof sheathing, 15 2x6s, roofing felt, a wacker tacker (best. tool. ever.) and about eleventy millions screws, nails and fasteners.
Ella and Sicily got started on the first layer of housewrap; it got a little crooked in the beginning but we made it work.


And Ella's dad Kyle got up on the ladders to help with the rafters; Kyle was CRUCIAL on this day.

Everyone got involved in the final housewrap layer:

Girding our loins. This step is not for kids (safety first!), so La Petite is the photographer for roof shots. Luke essentially hauled a full sheet up the ladder and handed it to Kyle and I; we all then squared and nailed the sheet. Did I mention that I am scared of heights?

First sheet up:

Second sheet was a piece of cake compared to the first; this was not a full sheet, and it was going on the shallow-pitched dormer.

Add some felt:
In the meantime, the girls learned how to put in a window, and then promptly put them all in (after documenting the roofing). #NotYourAverageSchool
We don't have action photos of all of this, but here is an interesting window, one that needed adjustment to make more room for the loft. I also picked this up with all of the wood and bozillion screws, nails and fasteners. We had to go from a 2x3 to a 2x2. Yes, we are planning on filling in the big gap. #ItsTheRealWorldSoBeFlexible

The temporary view from the bumpout window:
In the midst of all of this, we had a fence guy, Steve, setting posts. He was also wrangling Lucy, the dachshund, when she tried to make a break for it. What a good sport he was!!!

There is a huge gap in photos due to a natural phenomenon that occurred right around 7:30: the sun began to set. We continued roofing in the dark, trying to get the roof up. Alas, one cannot rush roofing.

However, you remember the before picture? Well, here it is again, just in case:

Drumroll, is the after:
So there we are. The result of a thirteen-hour day, finished in the dark, with an excellent job boss and good friends. We would have gotten a nice group photo, except it was dark, and late, and everyone was probably too exhausted to smile (it would have been a grim photo). The plan is to get the house dried in in the next two weeks so we can start work on the inside.
It is real. La Petite is building a house.
Really, what can't be done with good friends?

Friday, March 29, 2013

And the Tiny House Has Arrived..And Has Windows...Sort Of.

So we made it home without a ticket, even though we passed two of Georgia's finest. Our theory is that the officers looked at the giant box we were towing and figured that no one would be stupid enough to haul that without a permit.

Ha. Yes, we were.

But all's well that ends well, and the tiny house is in the yard where it will be finished. It's a bit cattywampus (crooked, or woppyjod, as a true Southerner might say), but it gives us plenty of room to work around the house and to let the privacy fence guys do their work this week.

As promised, some pix from yesterday.

This is us loaded up, checking the safety chain. La Petite suggested I run ahead and film the rolling vehicle, but with a bum ankle I decided against it. So we have a stationary picture:

Definitely an anxiety-producing trip. We removed the dormers to get our height down, and cleared all low-hanging branches and rogue power lines with ease; La Petite said, "Oh, we had at least ten inches to spare." #NotComforting

Our rig in the cul-de-sac:

Parking spot:

Backing in:

Where we will work; it will eventually be straightened out and moved closer to the privacy fence that is being built next week:

After we parked and leveled the house, Mama made a couple sawhorses (yes, I did!!):

And we cut out some windows; La became a pro with the Sawzall very quickly:

Final picture of the house for day two; you cannot see the bumpout from this angle, but all windows are cut:

And finally, La in Mama's sunglasses; she says she looks like an old lady (blerg), but I think she looks happy, which is priceless:

Final push with Luke today; we are wrapping the house, putting in windows and putting up the roof rafters and plywood. Ella, she of the chicken coop, and her dad Kyle are coming to help hoist the plywood up the roof (and for moral support and astonishment at our progress these three days!), and it is supposed to be gorgeous and sunny all day today. Look for our last blog tomorrow or Sunday sometime; La has a softball tournament all day Saturday, so that's where we'll be.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Sheathing and Moving a Tiny House

Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans. ~a bunch of different people online~
May you live in interesting times. ~Chinese curse~
As promised, tiny house updates will be posted on this blog; La Petite is struggling to get back to it after the death of her dad, but progress is being made, and it should be documented.
My friend Luke (from Redwing Farm in West Virginia; best organic veggies and heritage pork and expanding in the coming years) is here this week for three days, and we are taking full advantage of his talents; he has built about 20+ houses in his lifetime, including the house he and his family live in and his late father's beautiful retreat. He has volunteered to help keep us going and was featured in the framing pictures posted earlier in February.
On Wednesday, we sheathed the tiny house in plywood in preparation to move it; this may seem a little odd, but we wanted to make the structure as stable as possible for the short trip to our house. We had originally planned to keep it at HoneyFern, but plans change, yes? So we adapt, and change with them.
Here we have the end of the tiny house. Behind this wall will be a bathroom and a dressing area/closet:
Skipping to the front, this is La Petite, gluing around the large window in the bump-out:
Nailing in another stud. Yes, a bit after the fact, but it was necessary to stagger the plywood seams:

La doesn't love the ladder; this is one of the reasons we are hoping to get Luke on the roof before he's gone. Even if we have to put the metal on ourselves, if we can get the plywood up we will feel better about it. It is pretty amazing how uncomfortable learning a new skill can make you. Yes, it is very exciting (we are building a house?!), but watching Luke walk around with a nailgun like it is an extension of his arm, versus La and I, a bit awkward and unsure, is definitely disconcerting. This makes me realize how important it is to leave your comfort zone, frequently. It is the only way to learn and grow. But I digress. Back to pictures:
The bumpout from the inside. La is going to build in a setee/storage space:


One more sheet to go:

The long view:

La Petite, selfie:
More pictures today and tomorrow as we race to exploit, er, utilize, all of Luke's talents before he leaves Saturday morning. Moving the house and putting windows and roof rafters in today.
As a side note, Luke, La and I all have our thoughts on what the policeman will say first (after "License and registration, please") when he pulls us over as we move the tiny house:
Luke: "Just what is that thing you're hauling?"
Suzannah: "Are you aware that a license plate is required to haul a trailer?"
Sicily: "Do you know why I pulled you over?"
Stay tuned!!

Monday, March 25, 2013

We're Still Here

So much to say and do for the past two weeks, and no time for any of it! What's the haps?

1. La Petite is starting her build again. I am linking her website, but most of the pictures and updates will be posted through this blog. She has really struggled to continue with her house, and too much analysis will not be helpful at this point. So she is moving forward with her hands, and I am documenting the process.  The blog is still a great way to get to know her and to read more about the history of her house.

2. Will is building his go-kart this week! He scored an engine, painted the cart himself and is beginning the slow process of inserting tab A into slot B.

3. Sarah's hydroponic lettuce has a second set of leaves, and her greenhouse design is moving forward (she needed to rething her design after they realized that the site floods frequently and the other proposed site is too small for the original design). She is launching an Indiegogo campaign for a solar panel soon; stay tuned for more updates on her progress!

4. Ella's chickens are HUGE, and her coop is finished. They have been moved into the coop, even as the run is still being constructed because they are smelly and need more room to roam.

5. Atticus, one of our new students, has started his blog here. He is working his way through the DIY challenges, including doing things like creating his own periodic table (large, art-sized, with samples from life on there, too) and studying bees. Welcome, Atticus, and his brother, Finn!

As for the adults, thisTuesday, HoneyFern is going to a local school to hear Alfie Kohn speak. It should be very interesting; Kohn has chosen to speak at a private school, and in the past he has spoken out against private schools in general. I have gotten into arguments with him on Twitter regarding this narrow view, to no real effect. We will see what he has to say for himself; he can't really be pushing public school in a private setting.

Have a lovely Monday...

Monday, March 11, 2013

What's Next? HoneyFern Looks Ahead

It has been almost two weeks since I wrote last. It has been hard to find something that, in my mind, seems worthwhile to focus on. Not that there isn't a ton of worthwhile stuff going on; it just takes a tremendous amount of mental energy to blog intelligently (as you may have noticed from time to time!!), and I have had a hard time focusing on one thing.

But now we look to the future a bit as we figure out what happens next, both for myself and La Petite personally, and for HoneyFern.

And the decision has been made: not only will HoneyFern continue next year, but I am considering expanding the school to lower grades (with a slightly different model, sort of a pre-HoneyFern experience - wean them off the lockstep obedience of public school and set curriculum  to curiosity and engagement with themes and big ideas); HoneyFern would potentially accept students entering 3rd - 12th grade for the fall, and I am considering changing our school week to include five days a week, too.

This would necessitate a slight rise in tuition, but it will still remain far lower than the average tuition for Atlanta.

This is all still in conversation, but it is interesting to think about expanding to lower grades; the conversation has been sparked by the fact that I receive a handful of inquiries into options for students in lower grades every week, and also by this pilot school in Massachusetts. Check out their video series explaining who they are and what they do.

What do you think? Do you have kids who would thrive in this model? Are you interested in helping get this off the ground? Leave your thoughts and ideas in the comments below!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Dane Kolbeck

Today marks two weeks since life in the world changed for my daughter and me. Two weeks ago my husband, Dane Kolbeck, he of the bald spot featured in some of the tiny house building pictures and videos, was killed in a car accident. His absence has been painful, nearly unbearable, and as the shock wears off it will get worse for a time.

My grief lies all within, and these external manners of lament are merely shadows to the unseen grief that swells with silence in the tortured soul.”  William Shakespeare

Although many people knew Dane, not many here in Georgia know where he comes from. At his memorial last Friday, I had this grand plan to eulogize him but could not find the words. Even now, two weeks later, it is hard for me to encapsulate everything he overcame to be the husband, father, and friend he was.

Dane grew up as a wild child in Seattle, Washington. His mother was an alcoholic and his father was absent, mostly off doing drugs. As a little kid, Dane was largely responsible for himself; his aunt Karlene tells the story of coming over to his house one day to see five-year-old Dane, standing on a chair by the stove, dragging his sleeve across it to cook himself some dinner. Dane often came home to an empty house and woke up to the same; there was a string of adults who cared for him but no real consistency (with the exception of Aunt Karlene and Uncle Steve who have been present in Dane's life and the closest thing he had to parents).

If you ask Dane, though, he would have said he had a happy childhood. I knew him for 14 years, and dragging out his life story, the real one, took nearly all of that time. Ask him about his life growing up, and he would tell you about riding dirtbikes and playing at Lake Cavanaugh or running around Magnolia and eating with chopsticks at the Chinese restaurant where his mother worked. He wouldn't tell you about being abandoned by her (and a stepfather he loved) in middle school. He wouldn't talk about being poor. He would say his childhood was normal and happy.

Dane fished commercially in Alaska from the time he was 17 until just after his daughter was born in 2000; when we moved suddenly to Georgia, he took a job running supply boats to the oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. He loved being on a boat, but he hated being away from home. One of the coaches on the Georgia Titans softball team  put it best: "Everything Dane did he did to be home. He just wanted to be home."

In our 14 years together, Dane and I have faced all of the tragic things people face in a lifetime: multiple deaths in our family, including the loss of a pregnancy and two parents, robbery (twice), financial ruin, moving across the country, unemployment - everything but divorce. Through it all, Dane just kept moving forward, and he took pleasure and joy in watching his daughter grow, coaching her in softball and working things out with me. He never once gave up or threw in the towel, never once let all of these difficulties stop him from being positive.

Dane gave everything (and everyone) all he had; his ability to give people the benefit of the doubt and to take them at their word, even in the face of overwhelming evidence that he should do neither, was a direct picture into the soul of him. He would do anything for his family and friends, and his primary goal was to make us happy. Dane's love for Sicily was palpable; he was so proud of her and her accomplishments, and he loved working on the tiny house with her, even though they had just begun and he needed a little coaching on what, exactly, she was building. Once he got it, he threw himself into it, just as he did with coaching softball. He would tell Sicily, "I just love to watch you play." He was goofy with the girls, a flat-footed runner who could make them laugh, and he sincerely wanted everyone to get better.

This seems inadequate, this clumsy tribute to my beautiful husband whom I miss so deeply. To reframe a life that was built so much around the foundation of his beauty and optimism is a difficult task.  He is still all around us; he is in the corners and nooks of our world,hearts and minds just as he is in the dugout, in the shop at HoneyFern, walking around the backyard, phone pressed to his ear.

    There are places in the heart that do not yet exist; suffering has to enter in for them to come to be. Leon Bloy

I have found all of the places in my heart these past two weeks. I love you, Bubba.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Site of the Week: Financial Literacy

One of the good things to come out of my Stock Market Game training was this site: Gen I Revolution. This online game,

" your students the chance to learn important personal finance skills as they play and compete against fellow classmates.

The game includes fifteen Missions in which students attempt to help people in financial trouble. Students join the Gen i Revolution, strategically select their Operatives, and begin to explore and earn points as they work to complete each Mission."

Learning personal finance is a gaping hole in the educations of most Americans, and here is a chance to fill it for free. Enjoy!