Entering a New Phase: Hyper-Mobility

Entering a New Phase: Hyper-Mobility

We are taking our adventure in a new direction—the era of the High-Performance Mobile Dwelling Unit has ended and we are now the proud owners of the Hyper-Mobility Headquarters (HMHQ).

Many of you followed our adventure of building our mobile home/RV/not-a-tiny-house from scratch. It’s an amazing structure that we truly enjoyed building and living in, but while it was the perfect choice for us at the time of its invention and while we resided in it, the HPMDU not longer fits our needs.

The bullet points:

  • The HPMDU is up for sale
  • All the animals have been sold, re-homed, or eaten (except the cats)
  • We bought land in Arizona
  • We bought an HMHQ

So what is an HMHQ? Well, it’s a modern-day travel trailer from an amazing company called Outdoors RV. I could go on about the origins, values, and philosophy of the company, but that might be another post. For now, for those of you who are into RVs, I’ll mention that they are part of the Northwood family.

And our little home was made in the United States, and that matters to us.

On a more technical note, the HMHQ is four-season rated, built rugged enough and with enough clearance to go off road, and just the perfect size at ~22 feet inside and 27 feet from nose to tail. It also has running water and an insane amount of cupboards.

Why the Change to Hyper-Mobility?

Well, the short answer is this was actually our original intention.

But, we got sidetracked by everything from money to our unfailing love of learning. Because we love to learn, we often succumb to hobbies, which means acquiring stuff and losing mobility. We also wanted a home base and still plan to maintain one. But we’d also like to be bored once in a while. Just once in a while. Not often. But if we wanted to, it might be fun for a minute.

Plus, we’re not getting younger and we don’t want to set ourselves up for a life that’s not sustainable through the many years we plan to be around. So, we’re going to capitalize on our love to learn and our natural wanderlust, and use the HMHQ to travel, meet new people, and see new places. All while building up two retirement properties at a very slow place. The first of which will be in Arizona, where we purchased property earlier this year (someday I’ll post the pictures, I swear).

And, in event @$%# hits the fan, we feel very capable of handling ourselves and supporting ourselves, so these past years, from our urban-homestead backyard-chicken days to our ultra-off-grid Idaho hideaway days have been fully worth the effort. Even if nothing ever hits the fan our level of appreciation for all things has been greatly deepened. Seriously, do you even understand how amazing it is you can just turn a knob and have hot water?

This does not mean we are going back “on the grid.” We are still set up to be off-grid for as long as we feel like and fully believe in downsizing use and increasing responsibility in order to prolong the sustainability of our planet.

We still plan to hunt, fish, and forage as much as possible. And one of the biggest reasons we are excited for this adventure is because it means we get more time outdoors and more time in amazing natural places. This way we can follow the seasons and live more off the land, buy fresh food locally according to the seasons, etc.

We Are Seeking House Sitting Gigs

Turns out our services are in demand. In the last few days, we’ve been asked to house-sit/ranch-sit by a few different friends. Between now and the end of the year, we have plans to spend time in Idaho, Washington, Wyoming, and Arizona.

But we’d love to come to your neck of the woods!

We are, of course, very responsible grown human beings. We are also capable of caring for all kinds of animals, from pets to livestock. We can tend gardens, as well.

While RV hook-ups are certainly handy, we have systems in place for dumping our grey and black water, so really we only require a fresh water hook-up and minimal electricity (we have a portable solar system that comes with us).

We enjoy both rural and urban settings and are open to just about anything except California. (Sorry, Cali-folks. We are big fans of the Constitution and all our rights—not just the odd numbered ones.)

P.S. Even if you don’t need a house/ranch-sitter, but just think it’d be fun to have us come visit, let us know! We are ultra-handy and love to pitch in. Oh, and we’d love to share our knowledge of off-grid living!

If you’d like us to visit you or have us house-sit/ranch-sit, drop us a note!

The house of Jenkins

Your Infrastructure Footprint

We Like to Provide for Ourselves

I spend a lot of time thinking generally about how we can provide for our needs. Shelter, water, food, energy, etc. Then, I pick a particular problem and attack it until I solve it or realize it isn’t possible in the scope of what we’re willing or able to do. For now.

My big, bad, meanie problem right now is how to recycle grey and black water to reduce our total water usage by at least 50%. The solution evades me, at least without a commitment to a large amount of infrastructure.

(We Pay Them, so) They Built Us a World

That’s what I want to talk about right now – infrastructure. I look around our parking spot and see that we have not only a 35.5′ fifth wheel, but a car, truck (both of which are being sold to buy a minivan), another truck to tow the fifth wheel, 8 photovoltaic panels on racks, two hot air panels (that don’t have racks yet), two rain barrels, a propane tank, a dryer and washer, an 8’X8′ deck, and some other shit. I have never had less tolerance for clutter than I do now, and I’ve never had less room to hide it.

Some of the clutter is raw materials that I’m using in projects. That stuff will be integrated into the house or a project or passed on to someone who can use it, so right now that doesn’t bother me too much. Some of the “clutter,” though, is here to stay. We just bought a used dryer and converted it to use solar hot air. We’re going to keep that, though it does have a dedicated place in the HPMDU it will soon occupy. The photovoltaics will go on the roof soon, and the solar hot air panels and hot water panels will be mounted vertically to the outside wall in the future. Our footprint will satisfyingly shrink. Less clutter. More better.

How Bad Is It, Really?

Just when I start to freak out and want to burn it all, I realize that this is most of it for us. With the obvious exception of food that we don’t yet hunt, gather, or grow, and cooking and vehicle fuel we haven’t replaced yet, there isn’t that much else out there that we’re culpable for. We have “insourced” much of our resource collection activities.

We pull much of our water from our roof – I designed it to catch rain and do so at the rate of 87 gallons per inch of rainfall. That’s going better than expected. So there isn’t a water treatment plant out there somewhere with our names on it. We produce our own electricity, so there isn’t some gargantuan coal, nuclear, or hydroelectric plant out there wrecking the world in our name. We do barter and forage as much as possible for food to consume or preserve.

I Still Loathe Stuff, But It’s Not so Bad

It looks like a lot of stuff when you pack it all into somebody’s back yard and think about having to drive around with it all, but in reality, it’s a speck of nothing in comparison to what it was a year ago. I guess it’s time to get serious about the food issue, and solve this water recycling problem. I want to get down to 50 gallons/week from our current 100. I’m pretty sure we can produce or procure that almost anywhere.

As far as the vehicle problem goes, it’s biodiesel/vegetable oil or electric. Probably stick with biodiesel for the big truck and go electric for the passenger vehicle. That’s a long-term plan, though. We need at least a year to get everything running super smoothly in the HPMDU first. Maybe the solution to the water problem will come to me soon.

What’s your infrastructure footprint like?

Winslow

A Postcard From the Edge

I wrote this draft about two months ago and it got lost in the fun. I like it, though, and it’s my website, so I’m publishing it now. I find it interesting and encouraging that what we were experiencing then has continued to intensify, especially now that we are in our own space.


We are nearing the end of month one of the post-lease, post-overwhelming-pile-of-crap-following-us-around-and-hanging-over-us era. We have noted some changes already.

The qualitative difference between eating out of a piece of snapware and from a proper plate is exactly zero.

450 square feet (plus a bathroom) is more than enough space for us and our cat.

Although I am excited for the next stages, I have finally stopped feeling a constant urge to get to the next stage. There is a peace present in us that I have not felt before, or at least don’t remember feeling before.

Our spending has slowed and our happiness has soared, factors I place in the same sentence because I feel they are strongly related.

Life feels lighter and easier.

That is all.

-W-

First week of HPMDU living

An Outline of Our 12-Month Journey to HPMDU Living

Winslow and I live according to what we call our “rolling thirty-day plan.” While some people find our ever-evolving life plan to be somewhat overwhelming and perhaps even anxiety provoking, our close friends look forward to hearing “this week’s adventure.”

In our previous lifestyles, we sometimes felt self-conscious about our “rolling thirty,” but now we find it liberating and empowering. We make the best choices possible, and if something better appears, we choose that. That’s it. We promise we’re not trying to make you crazy — quite the opposite: we’re working to keep ourselves sane.

That said, we may have lost you somewhere along the way over the last twelve months. So here is a timeline for you to poke back through in case you missed a chapter and to get you all caught up (I’ll admit I even forgot a few parts myself). It’s been a whole week now since we moved into the HPMDU full time, and we couldn’t be happier or more confident in our choice.

Our Journey to HPMDU Living

May 2015: The Official Announcement of Our Next Adventure

  • We declared our intolerance for rental applications, background checks, and credit checks and set a goal of never paying rent again, giving ourselves a deadline of twelve to sixteen months before we would be living full-time in an RV.

Jun 2015: We’re Gonna Start a Ruckus in Our Toy Hauler

  • After much research, we decided that the style of RV we would buy would be a toy hauler. This article talks about the pros and cons of different RV styles and also school buses.

Jun 2015: We Bought a Big-Ass Truck

  • Bouncin’ Betty the F700 was purchased to haul the RV and we did much investigation into which kind of tow vehicle to buy.
IMAG2177

Betty and the trailer on Whidbey Island.

Jul 2015: RVs are Shit

  • How we can to have a nightmare day involving the ferry and shady used RV dealers and came to conclusion that we needed to build our own RV from scratch.

July 2015: Please Don’t Call It a Tiny House

  • Why our home is named the High-Performance Mobile Dwelling Unit (HPMDU).

Sep 2015: The Day We Took the 5th Wheel on the Ferry

  • A fun little day of taking Betty to Whidbey Island and back. oh, yeah, and bringing back our stripped down fifth wheel trailer, too!

Sep 2015: Laying the Foundation for the HPMDU

  • Our first step in building the HPMDU: building the floor and insulating it.

Oct 2015: Raising the Walls: The HPMDU Gets More Real

  • The part where Winslow pretty much built all the walls and frame all by himself.

Oct 2015: Put a Lid on It: The HPMDU Gets a Roof

  • The construction of our roof/water-catchment-system/upper lounge deck.
IMAG2670

Drinking our first cider on our roof.

Oct 2015: That Warm Feeling You Get on the Inside

  • For the first time, it is possible to be either inside or outside the HPMDU. Also, we bought a front door.

Nov 2015: Our Home-Made Small House Will Be WARM

  • Insulating the interior and putting the siding on the exterior. Racing the winter rains. And in general, why what we’re building is truly four-season (unlike what the RV companies try to sell you).

Dec 2015: Our First Night in Our Home-Made Home

  • Our first night in the HPMDU, though we were pretty much camping. Paneling out the interior, more work on the exterior. Also more battling with winter rain, and pizza.

Feb 2016: We Are Officially Home-Free (Also Known as Homeless)

  • After much Craigslist-ing, garage-sale-ing, and donations to the thrift store, we launched ourselves out of Port Townsend and over to the Skagit Valley and Fidalgo Island for a few months, hopping from temporary rental to temporary rental.

June 2016: We’re Moving In to the HPMDU

  • It’s official! No more rent! Thirteen months after our declaration, we did it!

hpmdu-moves

Now that we’re in the HPMDU full time, we’ll be posting at least once every week and probably even more. I’ll be sharing ideas for living small that apply to any size home you’re living in and Winslow will be sharing the technology behind all the amazing thing he has built and is in the process of building for us. Much of what he is doing can be applied to any home, as well. While small and simple is a state of living for us — small and simple can be a state of mind for anyone.

Winslow will be posting lots of info on our solar system.

Winslow will be posting lots of info on our solar system.

The HPMDU and Betty, parked for the summer.

We’re Moving In to the HPMDU

I won’t go into a lot of details in this post, but do expect a lot of details coming up soon and regularly from here on out. Because…we are officially moving into the HPMDU full time this weekend!

There have been a lot of twists and turns since we became “intentionally homeless” back on February 15, but it’s all been trending upward. As always our “plan” — which I more accurately refer to as our “rolling 30-day plan” — has been agile, adjustable, and, to outsiders, changing with the tide. But to us? Well, to us it always all makes sense and that’s all that matters.

Where We’ve Been Since March

Currently we are living in the Shelter Bay community in La Conner, Washington. There are a lot of things to like about living in a town of approximately 900 people. Especially when you live on the Fidalgo Island side of town, on the west side of the Rainbow Bridge, and the tourists all stay on the east side. Finally, we found a tourist town where we don’t have to deal with tourists! It’s been interesting living on the Swinomish Reservation and someday I’ll write more about that.

The Rainbow Bridge, which connects Fidalgo Island and La Conner proper.

The Rainbow Bridge, which connects Fidalgo Island and La Conner proper.

It’s pretty posh here by our standards. We’ve played golf and tennis a lot. Well, I should say we have hit both golf and tennis balls around inside the allocated areas to do so. I am not sure we are actually “playing” either of those games — but we’re having fun, and again, these are the things that are important.

This pretty much sums up life in Shelter Bay.

This pretty much sums up life in Shelter Bay.

Also, the person we’ve been renting our space from here is completely awesome and that’s been really cool, too. Ironically, the people we’ve rented from here in La Conner and before this in Sedro-Woolley were some of the coolest “landlords” we’ve ever had. Oh the irony of choosing not to rent anymore!

This is the first time in a long time I am not itching to move. It’s the right time, no doubt, and I’m beyond excited to be moving into the HPMDU, but I’m not completely over where I’m at and that’s a welcome change as well. Every morning we get up and walk and see eagles, herons, rabbits, squirrels, and so many other birds. The sunrise and sunset are gorgeous. We got to see the annual Tulip Festival. Our apartment has an amazing patio that we drink wine and lounge around on. The cat has an excellent view of the outdoors. It’s pretty much everything we need (and yes, those things are pretty much all we need).

But we’re not the sort of people who stop at “pretty much everything we need,” which is not to say we are either right or wrong, just that’s who we are. And so, we’ve decided we were getting a wee bit comfy here and we were ready to make the next leap — into the HPMDU.

Into the HPMDU

The HPMDU is still back on the Olympic Peninsula, so that’s where we’ll be living again for June, July, and August. After that, we’ll begin the slow trek across Washington toward Wyoming. Who knows how long that will take.

The HPMDU and Betty, parked for the summer.

The HPMDU and Betty, parked for the summer.

For the last few weeks we’ve been going back and forth a lot between La Conner and the Olympic Peninsula to work on the HPMDU. We finished up the roof, got the water tanks installed, got the electrical system going, got some solar panels set up, put a composting toilet together, installed a temporary kitchen, built a deck, fixed a flat tire on Betty, and bought ALL. THE. THINGS.

We are both so sick of buying things. We have become hardcore about not spending money, so this has been a painful period for us, but I think we’re through the “worst” of it. We’ve opted to do a lot ourselves — like building our own shower stall — instead of buying overpriced and inferior products full of kill-you-in-your-sleep chemicals. We’ve also been doing a lot of repurposing and recycling. We found a great metal cabinet for our kitchen at a ReStore for $40 and an awesome enamel bowl that will be the dry sink in our bathroom on Etsy. (It’s possible my enthusiasm for shopping may be temporarily reignited by Etsy.)

Bringing home our loot from the ReStore.

Bringing home our loot from the ReStore.

We have a lot of plans for cool and budget-friendly stuff that we’ll be sharing over the coming months, so keep an eye out for detailed and photo-packed posts on all sorts of things that you can implement in any home, mobile or otherwise.

Oh, also — LED lights and a cow skin rug. Enough said for now. More on that later. For now, here are a bunch of photos of what we’ve been up to — much more detail and information to come!

photovoltaic charger

Winslow built an easy, temporary photovoltaic charging system so he could run his power tools off solar power.

My new office, aka Best Office Ever.

My new office, aka Best Office Ever.

My new/old office-mates: where we are staying is the same friend who adopted my sweet girls!

My new/old office-mates: where we are staying in the HPMDU is at the same friend’s who adopted my sweet girls!

Work in progress: the "patio" of the HPDMU.

Work in progress: the “patio” of the HPDMU.

How we keep the head of construction happy.

How we keep the head of construction happy.

We Are Officially Home-Free (Also Known as Homeless)

It’s been an overwhelming couple of months, but as of this week life is looking more like the life we’ve been endeavoring to create. Minimizing takes a lot more work than you realize it’s going to! I encourage any of you who have desires of living in a small space, tiny house, RV, or whatever it is to start far sooner than you think you need to. I honestly thought we had gotten rid of most of our belongings. I was very wrong. Stuff is like gremlins, or tribbles, or whatever you want to imagine is multiplying in your closet and garage when you’re not looking.

You Never Start Soon Enough

We started packing up for serious back in January. Knowing this was for the long term, we purchased plastic bins instead of the standard cardboard moving boxes. I was determined to be organized about the whole procedure. I knew some things would be going in our small storage unit, some things going into the HPMDU, and some things coming with us for the transition months where we are “homeless.”

Note: I should probably mention what we’re actually doing, right? In order to save money up to be able to put the kinds of utilities and appliances we want in the HPMDU the first time, and not have to tear it apart in a year to upgrade things at the same time we’re actually trying to live in it, we decided to airbnb it for a while. This way we don’t have to set up utilities, put down rent deposits, etc, etc. We’re just in and out and can test out cool different towns. We’ve also decided to start in the Skagit Valley area of Washington as the hunting, fishing, and general culture here are more amenable to our lifestyle (Also, because tulips). So we’re not in the HPMDU yet, but will be later this year. More on the HPMDU in a moment.

Here’s an example of the storage bins we’re using. You can’t see my neatly hand-printed labels on the ends of each one. My feeling is we won’t get it all right on this first shot and some things we have in the cars will end up needing to be in storage and vice versa, so organization and labeling will be key. Also, the cat is super helpful (not).

Storage bins and cat moving helper

The Garage Sale to End All Garage Sales

For a good six months now, I’ve also been sorting through the house and putting things out in the garage for the imminent garage sale. This resulted in a tightly packed garage of things I have grown to hate even though I loved them dearly for years.

We held our garage sale about a week and a half before our launch date so that we would have time to divide up whatever was leftover between donations and the dump. We were worried that having a garage sale in January might not be successful, but we were pleasantly (I think?) surprised.

We held the garage sale for one day, starting at 8:00am on Saturday. For three days preceding the garage sale, I received emails asking for photos of items and requests to come by early. The day before the garage sale, a woman came to my door and tried to convince me my craigslist ad said the sale was on Friday and she should be allowed to buy stuff. Um, no, crazy lady.

At 7:00am on Saturday I walked outside to discover a crowd of a dozen people standing in our driveway. There is not enough coffee in the world, let me just tell you.

garage sale

But, we ended up netting almost $700 from our sale, so I can hardly complain (too much). Plus Katy Bowman of Nutritious Movement showed up and found her books in my book sale pile. Who can say that’s ever happened to them? (And yes, thankfully, she was highly amused.)

I can officially say this was the last yard/garage sale we will ever have, though as I’ve already discovered, we’ll still be getting rid of things for a while to come.

Where We’re at Now, Physically and Otherwise

 

So at this point we’re down to a 5×9 storage unit, the HPMDU with enough stuff in it for us to camp out over a weekend (you know, like a king-sized mattress that nearly killed us trying to move it from the second floor of our house into the truck out of the truck and into the “loft” of the HPMDU), and what’s in our two vehicles. And the cat. And four house plants.

We’re in the town of Sedro-Woolley for one month. Sedro is about one hour north of Seattle and one hour south of the Canadian border. It’s on the edge of the North Cascades and right near the Skagit River, but also not too far from the Anacortes/San Juan Islands area. In short, it’s near a lot of very cool things we’re excited to explore.

Sedro-Woolley WashingtonYou can see on that map where our previous town, Port Townsend, is located, too. As the bird flies, it’s not that far. As the ferry goes, it’s like a year of your life gets sucked out of your soul each trip.

so-long-margarita

A farewell margarita to the Port Townsend ferry. So long, PT!

Also, the Skagit Valley is home to more birds than you can possibly imagine. Seriously, you can’t imagine it. I see dozens of bald eagles and hawks every single day, hundreds of geese and swans (fields of them!), and literally thousands of ducks. As a bird lover, it’s a completely enthralling place to live. Have you ever seen an eagle hunting ducks??

And already since we’ve arrived in Sedro-Woolley I’ve filled another grocery bag full of clothes I no longer want/need, and I do a small happy-dance every time I use up a box of…anything. I’m learning to cook with a tiny kitchenette and only counter-top appliances. And I’m enjoying having some time for just nothing, as well. It’s been a while and it took me a full week to stop having periods of spontaneous stressing-out, but I’m enjoying things now and loving having less stuff and more life.

And, Yes – It’s Alive!

Oh, and the HPMDU moves! For months and months now we’ve been both anticipating and dreading the day that we first moved the HPMDU. I mean, it’s our house. Do you know how creepy it is to imagine your house moving? Do you know how horrifying it is to imagine your mobile house not moving? There have been actual nightmares over this day and how it might transpire.

But not only did it transpire, but it did so flawlessly. Although I will say it’s still a bit nausea-inducing to watch your house move. I’m not sure I’ll ever get over that part. Check out the video to watch for yourself:

So now we’ve got to get some work done on our truck, Bouncin’ Betty, and get all the lights and wiring done on the HPDMU to get it street legal, and then we’ll bring it over to this side of the Puget Sound and get to work on the utilities and appliances so we can live in our house full-time some time later this year.

Our First Night in Our Home-Made Home

I haven’t written any posts lately with updates on our home – the HPMDU (high-performance mobile dwelling unit) as, well…it got pretty stressful for a minute. It’s not the construction itself that’s hard or even the money part, but the endless gloom and rain of the Pacific Northwest.

What’s a Rain Shadow?

I know, what did we expect living up here? Well, two things: 1) we actually love the rain in any other circumstance, and 2) supposedly, we live in the rain shadow. Click here if you’d like to learn the specifics of what a rain shadow is. But the short answer is “a dry area on the lee side of a mountainous area.” So we thought having some sunshine to dry out our house and being able to protect the materials from rain seeping into our half-built walls would not be such a big deal.

And then the rain started…and never stopped.

Winslow took the brunt of the stress, and also powered through the construction mostly on his own, though I did my part holding up siding, fetching screws, and even cutting siding with the saw (talk about noisy). So, it was a bit of a sprint to get the exterior sided, flashed, sealed, etc. as quickly as we could before moisture got locked into our walls and set the stage for mold. But we did it!

Batteries Not Included (or Needed)

On the plus side, we also discovered Winslow’s water catchment system design of our roof works great. So great we had to install a pump…and then there was so much rain the pump broke! So then Winslow rigged a simple home-made siphon system that can’t break and doesn’t require the babysitting that a motorized pump does either (more details on that in a future post). So at present time we believe all our water problems are solved.

Winslow surveys the water level situation.

Winslow surveys the water level situation. This was when we had the motorized pump and had to keep stopping by the work site to run it for an hour at a time. So much rain!

With the windows installed, door installed, all the siding on, and just the trim needing the final touches. Phew!

With the windows installed, door installed, all the siding on, and just the trim needing the final touches. Phew!

The non-door side of the house.

The non-door side of the house.

Once we knew no water was getting in, and we didn’t have to worry about potentially needing to dry out the inside anymore, it was time to actual finish building the inside walls. Our plan is basically to finish out a “wooden tube” and then build out our furnishings and utilities little by little. We want all the utilities run on the inside so there is never any risk of freezing if we are wintering in places like South Dakota or New York (which is likely).

Inside the house, Winslow tackled the bedroom first…

Roxul on the walls and rock wool panels on the ceiling, both for temperature and noise insulation.

Roxul on the walls and rock wool panels on the ceiling, both for temperature and noise insulation.

Our bedroom window, and the vapor barrier installed.

Our bedroom window, and the vapor barrier installed.

Paneling over the vapor barrier. It's not all nice and neatly screwed down in this photo, but the basics are in place. The window will eventually get trimmed out nicely.

Paneling over the vapor barrier. It’s not all nice and neatly screwed down in this photo, but the basics are in place. The window will eventually get trimmed out nicely. This room will fit our king mattress, plus shelving for clothing.

Then it was on to the rest of the house. This was taken from the "bathroom" looking into the kitchen and living room.

Then it was on to the rest of the house. This was taken from the “bathroom” looking into the kitchen and living room.

The vapor barrier material was proving unruly in this "larger" space so we wound up going with panels that we sealed with metal tape.

The vapor barrier material was proving unruly in this “larger” space so we wound up going with panels that we sealed with metal tape.

Here you can see all the components. Roxul, vapor barrier panels, then wood panels to finish it off. Eventually we will take all the stickers off.

Here you can see all the components. Roxul, vapor barrier panels, then wood panels to finish it off. Eventually we will take all the stickers off.

I mainly helped with the ceiling as that was the hardest part for Winslow to do on his own. So I spent most of a day holding various materials overhead. Endurance overhead static hold!

I mainly helped with the ceiling as that was the hardest part for Winslow to do on his own. So I spent most of a day holding various materials overhead. Endurance overhead static hold!

The last little bit of ceiling went in!

The last little bit of ceiling went in!

Somewhere in the middle of all this work, our friend Dan (who owns the property we are building the HPMDU on) knocked on the door and handed us a fresh homemade pizza! We had some home-brewed cider with us, so we had our first dinner in our new house!

Somewhere in the middle of all this work, our friend Dan (who owns the property we are building the HPMDU on) knocked on the door and handed us a fresh homemade pizza! We had some home-brewed cider with us, so we had our first dinner in our new house!

While I was home working one day, Winslow finished paneling the whole interior! The end wall looks rather mosaic-like as we plan to build a shelving unit there that will cover the whole wall and you won't see these panels. So we used all our scraps to save money.

While I was home working one day, Winslow finished paneling the whole interior! The end wall looks rather mosaic-like as we plan to build a shelving unit there that will cover the whole wall and you won’t see these panels. So we used all our scraps to save money.

And then we spent our first night! We built a temporary countertop so we had a place to set things and installed our "fireplace" - also known as a little electric heater. It's plenty enough to heat the whole space!

And then we spent our first night! We built a temporary counter-top so we had a place to set things and installed our “fireplace” – also known as a little electric heater. It’s plenty enough to heat the whole space!

We tossed our futon mattress in the bedroom and were safe, quiet, warm, and dry for our first sleepover in our fabulous home!

We tossed our futon mattress in the bedroom and were safe, quiet, warm, and dry for our first sleepover in our fabulous home!

Our Home-Made Small House Will Be WARM

The HPMDU (high performance mobile dwelling unit) is looking like more and more of a THING. Winslow has been working like crazy on it between rainstorms. Our dream is to have the shell complete soon so we can spend the next couple (cold) months getting the interior into a livable state.

Our goal is to be living in it full time sometime in Jan 2016, and we’ve already secured a local place where we’ll be staying with it. We want to start local so we can keep finishing it up and also not be too far from civilization if anything goes awry.

So, here’s the latest in our construction progress!

roxul insulation

Amazing and easy insulation material.

Winslow constructed our house in such a way that the insulation slides between the studs quite easily. In the two photos below you can see before and after insulation. They fit snugly, but not too tight, and are a cinch to put into place. The only time it gets even remotely complicated is when you have to cut the pieces. But since we’re not using fiberglass, it’s far less complicated than your stereotypical insulation work.

RV insulation processa

Without insulation…

IMAG2453

…and with!

We started with the bedroom area, and once it was complete, it looked like this!

tiny house bedroomBut we still had a lot to do. The view from the bedroom into the bathroom-kitchen-living space looked like this…

IMAG2457Thankfully, since we’re building a very small home (not a tiny house – it’s not actually tiny) it keeps the project size down, as well. I don’t think I could physically or emotionally deal with building a full-sized house!

But that’s also because I find it less and less tolerable to deal with a full-sized house anyway. Even the one we live in. I do an actual happy dance every time I find a way to send one more thing to the dump, donate one more thing, or sell something on Craigslist. Our current house is looking more and more vacant and it makes my soul happy.

insulating rv

Insulating makes me happy.

Next, we tackled insulating the lower level of the house (remember we’re using a fifth-wheel trailer, so we have what I like to call the “upper level” and “lower level”). We did all the walls and then Winslow said he’d do the ceiling the next day on his own.

IMAG2866IMAG2865And of course we’ve been hard at work on the outside too! We have been putting up metal siding and trim, making everything rain-proof, and installing the windows and doors. It’s starting to feel like a real house!

metal siding

Cutting metal siding is one of the loudest noises known to man.

IMAG2516IMAG2521IMAG2543

One of our two living-room windows.

One of our two living-room windows.

...and our front door!

…and our front door!

The living-room from the inside.

The living-room from the inside.

And we put in a bedroom window, too.

And we put in a bedroom window, too.

The ends are chocolate, the sides beige, and trim forest green.

The ends are chocolate, the sides beige, and trim forest green.

Just a little left to do.

Just a little left to do.

This is how I feel after working on the house.

This is how I feel after working on the house.

That Warm Feeling You Get on the Inside

There’s a pride and satisfaction in doing something yourself that is inexplicable until you feel it. It’s like the first time you bake a loaf of bread. The first time you change a tire on your car. Heck, maybe it’s the first time you drove a car by yourself.

You feel independent and powerful. You have skills. You are more capable than you were the day before. And look – look at this thing you did! You get to experience it and say, “I did that!” And the more rare that skill is, the more amazing the feeling that results from your achievement.

Sadly, as technology advances and the pace of our world spins faster and faster, providing for ourselves is becoming one of these rare skills. While Winslow has built more than one home for himself in the past, I have never experienced this process.

While putting the walls up and sitting on the roof were exciting – it’s nothing compared to being able to stand inside our new home. Because yes, there is now indeed an inside. If something crazy happened right now, we’d have somewhere warm and dry to be.

So join me in the experience of our walls getting filled in, how real it makes our home look from the outside, and how incredible it is to be on the inside of our own hand-made, completely ours, dry and cozy shelter.

Standing in our bedroom, looking down into the bathroom, kitchen, and living areas

Standing in our bedroom, looking down into the bathroom, kitchen, and living areas. Walls not complete here.

Without our heads in the way.

Without our heads in the way.

Once again I will mention that Winslow is doing about 90% of this work without my help. Each day we both go to our “jobs” – I work at the computer and he goes hunting, fishing, trapping, and/or works on our house. Those plywood boards are big, awkward, and heavy, so this is no simple feat.

Kinda looked like a giant horse trailer for a minute.

Kinda looked like a giant horse trailer for a minute.

Holes all filled in - she's a giant box now!

Holes all filled in – she’s a giant box now!

But you can’t live in a box with no windows, right? And certainly you need a way to get in and out? Oh wait…

There's a window hole!

There’s a window hole!

There will be another matching window on the opposite side. That will likely be all the windows we have. We always black out our bedroom windows anyway, so we didn’t put any in the bedroom. And if we want sunlight…we’ll go outside.

Don’t believe it could be livable with just two windows and a door? Check out the inside.

IMAG2371

Standing in the eventual kitchen.

And then a little further back in what will be our little den of a bedroom.

And then a little further back in what will be our little den of a bedroom.

Of course, we can’t just drive around in a plywood box and it won’t be warm and dry to live in one, so we’re wrapping the house, then adding siding. The stage of getting the wrap on was Winslow’s final big task in feeling like we were protected against the weather. With a roof and wrap, it can rain all day and night and our home will be safe and sound. And, we can work on all the interior projects no matter what’s happening outside.

It's hard to wrap a present this big.

It’s hard to wrap a present this big.

It takes a superhero like Winslow to do this alone!

It takes a superhero like Winslow to do this alone!

The weather threatened to turn grey while he worked.

The weather threatened to turn grey while he worked.

But gave him a pretty rainbow instead.

But gave him a pretty rainbow instead.

Of course, the way you really know you’ve gone from outside to inside is by passing through a door…

Our front door!

Our front door!

And there it is - in place!

And there it is – in place!

Next up: Finishing the interior insulation, ceiling, and wall panels so we can start installing the electrical, water, and plumbing systems. We are currently testing out various LED bulbs to see what we live living in. And even though we currently live in a nice house with an awesome kitchen, we’ve been experimenting with cooking outside on our burners. We have been and plan to continue doing a lot of living experiments, so by the time we move into our new little home, it won’t be a shocking experience at all. More on these experiments in upcoming articles!

Oh, and P.S.: In case you’re wondering about the whole “water catchment” thing I wrote about in the last post on our roof, check this out – water!

IMAG2407Eventually there will be a pump system and a filtration system, so when we’re boon-docking for extended periods or simply want to use the natural resources around us, we’ll have a clean water supply.

Put a Lid on It: The HPMDU Gets a Roof

We’ve been battling the rains for weeks now. Well, really racing the rains, trying to get the HPMDU into a water-proof, weather-proof form before winter hits. The plan is to get it to the level of being a cozy “tube” before winter starts so we can then take our time working on the inside – project by project, and as money allows.

Our ultimate goal is to be living in the HPMDU in March (that’s five months from now). (Of course, we also have to figure out how to get out of our current lease at that time, but that’s a different post!)

So, given all this, imagine how exciting it was for Winslow to put our roof on! Winslow will write more on the technicalities of our roof (once this building rush is done and he actually has time to write about all of it), but you’ll be able to see the basics in the pictures.

The rubber membrane is EPDM, which is not only waterproof, but doesn’t pollute the water that runs off it. This is important as one of the systems we’re going to install is a water catchment and filtration system so we don’t have to be “hooked up” in order to survive. This is also why you see the low sidewalls and why the roof looks like a big bathtub. If you’re thinking, “But that’s going to collect rain,” then you’re actually on the right track.

So here we go – watch our roof come together courtesy of mastermind Winslow!

On the roof!

On the roof!

What you’re looking at there is the main section of the HPMDU, what we’ve been calling the “lower deck” if you were looking at it from the side. This does not include the “upper deck” that is the tongue section that goes over the truck hitch. That part of the roof is flat and is not the bathtub design. You’ll see some clear pictures of that difference in a minute.

IMAG2333

A little scary!

A little scary!

That’s looking down into the interior of the RV from the roof. Winslow hauled some really heavy items up that ladder onto the roof – big rolls of EPDM, boards, beams, etc. – all by himself. Personally, I’m quite impressed.

IMAG2667

Admiring his creation! No more holes and ready for the rubber.

This next sequence of four photos shows the EPDM going down on the upper portion of the roof, the flat part that I mentioned. This is the roof that goes over our sleeping area below. There’s a whole gluing and curing process that has to happen and it requires some sunshine, so thankfully the weather behaved throughout this process!

IMAG2335

Sitting in place, ready to get stuck!

IMAG2343

Preparing to stick down the left side.

IMAG2345

Now getting ready to glue the right side.

IMAG2346

In place – permanent and nice and smooth!

Putting this roof down requires a bunch of steps, and working with these big pieces isn’t easy. Basically, imagine trying to stick down the biggest decal you’ve ever encountered. You have to make it smooth, do it slowly, and make sure it all actually sticks down. And you’re doing this all by yourself! And that was just the small, flat part of the roof — then came this!

IMAG2336IMAG2347IMAG2349IMAG2350

And lo and behold…

IMAG2669

Our roof!

It was at this point that Winslow called me (I was working at home while he was working his magic) and invited me to bring a couple ciders over to the work site. I arrived and we climbed up on the roof and toasted it! And wouldn’t you know it, our bottle-caps had something to say about the whole affair, too:

IMAG2664

IMAG2670

Celebrating! One step closer!

There’s a lot more to come for this lovely roof – including all the elements of our water catchment system and another project we’re calling “the Covered Wagon.” More on the wagon later, but next summer if you’re wondering why you can hear nature in the background of all my Skype calls, it’ll be because I’m working from up here.

A man and his roof.

A man and his roof.

1 2 3