ShedMontana Launched!

So natural building hasn’t turned out to be super profitable.  Yet.  Hmm.  I think it’s because most people are a little scared of it, and the experimental nature of building with straw and clay and sand and log rounds is a little scary.  Also a challenge (doable!) to adapt to the cold Montana climate.

Also, as a service, natural building does not quickly and easily solve people’s needs.  What do people need?  Food, clothing, shelter, love. Affection, warmth, water, emotional health.  Success, fun, mobility, storage.  Ahh, storage.  I’ve got so little of it.  Maybe I should build an outside closet on my porch.  Probably I should.  Maybe I should build a shed.  My parents need a shed.  All of Catan Enterprises‘s properties have sheds.  Do I need a shed?

“Do I need a shed?”  I think a lot of us who are addicted to things (see last post) are thinking this same thing.  Maybe if I start a shed company, I can get some business, and help tweak people’s thinking toward smaller living and better stuff management along the way.

So Matt and I decided to launch ShedMontana, a new business (and website!) dedicated to helping us get some cool buildings built, which people need to store their extra junk.  Right now, ShedMontana is just like any other shed company, but in a few weeks we’re launching our Virtual Shed Designer, in which you can pre-design and price your shed online, without talling anybody.  Advance.

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The 52 things challenge

Today I bought my 53rd and 54th “things” of the “year.”  They were hard to resist: stretchy but stylish Columbia pants, and a merino wool sweater/jacket, both gently used and way less than 50% of retail.

The “things” game started in a simple way: in preparation for moving into the Little Lion, Laura and I were going to drop from 700 square feet each, to 90 square feet each.  So accumulating stuff seemed like a really bad idea.  So we started a challenge: only buy 1 thing each per week, for a year.  We started the challenge on March 21, 2013, and today is January 17.  So I’ve just now broken over my goal, and I still have three months to go.

So how hard is it to limit yourself to 52 things in a year?  It doesn’t seem like it should be that hard.  It depends on how you count.  52 durable things might be easy to avoid, but when you count every gift, every envelope, every bottle of windshield washer fluid, every cube of toilet paper, every pen, every toothbrush, every roll of floss. . . . it adds up quickly

Here is the story of Lina, a woman limited herself to 200 things total in her life.  That’s impressive!  And, as I move into the Little Lion in the next few weeks, perhaps I’ll be keeping track.

The results are in!  Laura Arvidson is the winner, with 62 things purchased from March 21 2013, to March 21, 2o14.  Sky lost in a big way, purchasing a total of 71 things.  He owes Laura $90.

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Tiny House Electrical System Video

So I went through and explained our electrical system and how it works in a video.  Not well enough that you could build one for yourself, but enough to get the gist. Check it out!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SXqFMvmZ3tE

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Glimpses of our tiny house

Foam insulation--the final wall layer!  After this is all on, we'll start stuccoing!

Foam insulation–the final wall layer! After this is all on, we’ll start stuccoing!

So, here’s a question: What should we name this expensive monstrosity that I’ve been building over the last six months?  Here’s a list of not very good potential names:

–Mountain Yacht

–Tiny Tim

–Tiny Timothea

–Tyrannasaurus Rex’s Chew Toy

–MiniMollie

–Post your suggestion in comments! And now for a photo tour of the house as it is six months in:

Foam insulation going up on the south side

Foam insulation going up on the south side

 

Maps and trim and windows in our tiny house living room!

Maps and trim and windows in our tiny house living room!

 

Here's our furnace, half way installed

Here’s our furnace, half way installed

 

This room is just a shower/tub with a vent and a windown

This room is just a shower/tub with a vent and a windown

Here is the ugly pain in the arse that makes a house function

Here is the ugly pain in the arse that makes a house function

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Costs and Time for Tiny’s

Recently we were asked whether we would be willing to sell the tiny or build someone a tiny.  We realized that the answer took a lot of detailed explaining, and rather than write it again and again in response to each inquiry, instead we would post our answer here.

Q. Are you looking to sell the mountain schooner?

A.  We are not particularly interested in selling our Tiny house, but we would.  For $38,000, or more.

Q. How much would it cost to build one like ours?

A.  Two major elements are included in construction.  To use a metaphor from the restaurant industry, the first costs are materials, or “ingredients” costs, and the other costs are labor, or “chef” costs.
The project has taken quite a bit of work time so far.  Labor budgets for tiny houses are much greater than the square footage would suggest, because you want them to be completely functional houses, including all the elements of a standard American dwelling.  The only major element of a regular house that is cut out in a  “tiny” is extra rooms and volume, and all else being equal, big bedrooms are far faster and cheaper to construct than small complex rooms like bathrooms and kitchens.  What this means is to minimize costs, you need to assess the elements you want included in your “tiny” based on your projected uses.  Are you just looking to provide a bedroom out of the house for your teenager or mother in law, or do you want a fully-functional modern living system as a second, vacation, or primary home?  If the latter, the cost includes all the systems of an ordinary house.  Your answer to this question greatly affects costs.  Materials for a full function system, (including trailer, electrical, solar panels, plumbing, composting toilet system, etc) run anywhere from a bare minimum of maybe $10,000, average around $18,000, but  could cost up into the $30,000 range for high-end materials.  In contrast, a mobile bedroom could probably be built for around $8,000 in material, and would take substantially less labor.
Labor is a whole other ball game.  A decision needs to be made before hand on who is going to build your tiny.  If you want to build it yourself, you can put in a year or so working with a conventional construction team, and try to diversify the types of jobs you do.  You could read books and figure the stuff out by trial and error.  You could pay experts to come give you advice, and then check up on your work to ensure adequate quality.  Or you could export the work to a company like ours to do the work for you.  We could be convinced to produce a complete kit for someone for around $18,000, build one for someone for somewhere around $30,000, or sell the one just built for $38,000.

Q. Do we have plans for it?

A. We have plans for our tiny, although they are not comprehensive–we weren’t working with a set number of 2x4s or anything before we got going–we calculated on the fly, which led to some “under ordering,” but was this approach had benefits in the iterative nature of the process as elements were going in.  We tend to like “vernacular” architecture based on feeling, much more than “numeric” architecture based on prescriptive formulas.  I could order some plans made up if you were willing to pay an architect do draw them off our realized product.  Another route would be to search online for more comprehensive plans.
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Building Tiny in the Swan Valley

the big rig gets lousy mileage, so I built a rack for our Nissan Sentra and hauled a lot of lumber.

the big rig gets lousy mileage, so I built a rack for our Nissan Sentra and hauled a lot of lumber.

Progress on the tiny house has stalled over the past nine days, because I’ve been on vacation.  First it was the weekend, then we looked for lynx tracks in the North Fork of the Blackfoot. Then it was the weekend again and we went skiing in Glacier.  This break doesn’t mean neat construction has not been happening.  Far from it–the house has doors, windows, and the walls are nearing completion–complete with interior wall paneling!

Here's the pine door I made with a pine tree inlay and an octagon window

Here’s the pine door I made with a pine tree inlay and an octagon window

Skiing across Lindbergh Lake is a nice break from work

Skiing across Lindbergh Lake is a nice break from work

Windows and Doors!

Windows and Doors!

Laura and the Door

Laura and the Door

Sky is serious about his doormaking and sheetrock hanging

Sky is serious about his doormaking and sheetrock hanging

Laura hangs from the "livingroom loft"

Laura hangs from the “livingroom loft”

The walls and ceiling are mostly paneled with local white fir paneling from RBM lumber

The walls and ceiling are mostly paneled with local white fir paneling from RBM lumber

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Land Yacht Making Headway

Cross country skiing to work through a mile of lovely Swan Valley snow is hard to complain about.  Especially when “work” means designing and building the cutest little mobile home you’ve ever seen.  Sky Orndoff and Laura Arvidson embarked on their Land Yacht in November.  The roof is on, the electrical and sound system’s wires are in, and the walls are nearly insulated.  Windows are going in, and the custom-made door is taking shape.  Despite cold January temps, it’s an exciting process that pulls me out of my nice warm bed in my lovely (finished, borrowed) cabin a mile away.  These pictures aren’t the loveliest–but all that ugly insulation will make it toasty, and the wiring will enable us to enjoy modern conveniences while living in a lovely little boat of a cottage.  Lift a glass to progress!

My Commuter Car

My Commuter Car

Insulation going up!

Insulation going up!

Our "living room" is stacked above our "bed room."  Both have two windows and enough space to at least sit up.

Our “living room” is stacked above our “bed room.” Both have two windows and enough space to at least sit up.

It's time for a bath.

It’s time for a bath.

Here's the House in it's current home.  The ladder is up there so I can drill through the roof to provide a wire for the solar panels.

Here’s the House in it’s current home. The ladder is up there so I can drill through the roof to provide a wire for the solar panels.

Working long hours, it's a big thing to have light at night

Working long hours, it’s a big thing to have light at night

Every house needs a utilities closet.  Ours is just about two feet tall.  The door is sealed with a recycled road bike tire.

Every house needs a utilities closet. Ours is just about two feet tall. The door is sealed with a recycled road bike tire.

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