Tiny Cabin: Ceiling

A month ago we picked Saturday, May 20th for Chuck’s cousin Scott to come down from Northern Arkansas and help us insulate and finish the tiny cabin ceiling.
In spite of a 100% chance of rain and two snakes (in passionate embrace or bloody murder) inside the cabin earlier in the week, we were not canceling.
One road into Higginson was flooded; the other was puddled but passable. Some roofs were still covered in tarps from the tornado that blew through a couple months ago. (Sometimes I wonder what plague-ridden place we’ve chosen for a simpler life.)
Scott, who roofed the cabin for us last June, has the muscle memory to do in one hour what would take us all day. He put the insulation on his back, and as he went up the ladder, slid the insulation in place until his head was supporting the last segment.

 

While the insulation is squeezed between the studs, gravity is still at work. Chuck, on a smaller ladder, stapled the bottom half of the insulation while Scott stapled the top half. My father-in-law (Charles Bane, Sr.) sliced the insulation to fit–each piece was about 9″ too long. I mainly swatted mosquitoes–“big enough to pick up a child,” as Scott said–and watched.
By early afternoon the ceiling was complete–mission accomplished!
We’ll still need to run a strip of wood up the middle to hide the seam between the two sides of the ceiling. The wood’s light color makes the cabin feel spacious and airy. As much of a pain as the steep roof has been, it’s the reason the tiny cabin doesn’t make me feel claustrophobic.
This week Chuck finished the shed and we started moving things out of the cabin. We still have cleanup and organizing to do, but we’re over a hump. With the shed in place, we can set up the compost bin for the toilet. We still need to dig a trench, run the pipes, and install the toilet–our next big hurdle.

Tiny Cabin and Spring Break

Spring break at Harding comes early in March, so we were hoping for good weather. Some years we’ve had snow.

This year we were lucky. Not only was the weather clear, it was also unseasonably warm. On Saturday we had a team of five: Chuck, me, Geoffrey (my stepson), Angel (his girlfriend), and my brother Gabriel, who drove down from Jonesboro for his first peek at the cabin in person.

Our main objectives:

  • Hang the back door so that the seams all fit tightly.
  • Install the large glass window (a task for the whole group).

Chuck and I got the back door hung fairly quickly. Meanwhile, Geoffrey, Angel, and Gabriel were busy trimming back the ever-insidious Bradford pear trees. We needed to move a small scrap pile to the big scrap pile that we didn’t realize was on the land when we bought it. Our team cut back the Bradford pears to make that possible.

The glass window is actually a ¼” thick glass tabletop we weren’t using. It isn’t tempered, a process that both strengthens the glass and causes it to shatter in smaller, more harmless pieces should the glass break. However, we plan to place a clear or slightly-tinted film on the glass, which will offer extra support and hold the glass in place if the worst happens.

Installing the window meant one person on a ladder holding the glass, another person holding the ladder, someone trimming the window in foam, and another cutting and nailing up trim. It was truly a group effort.

We left just before sundown, everything picked up and clean except the new piles of Bradford pear branches.

Tiny cabin exterior March 2017

On Spring Break, Chuck and I finished the trim on the side of the house. The lines running up and down the siding don’t match perfectly with the puzzle pieces around them, but we were out of both siding and stain. We had had some stain mixed for the final piece of siding, but the color was slightly off. Then the siding got wet and moldy anyway. I decided I’d rather have mis-matched lines than multiple colors, and that was that. We’ll put up some trim to help cover the seams.

Our other accomplishment: start the bathroom. We brought the composting toilet from our storage room at home. The composting bin is bigger than I realized. I had also envisioned it going just outside the house, but the instructions recommend “no more than 70 feet away from the house.” Granted, we have to dig a trench for the piping, so we aren’t planning on putting it too far away. The bin also has to remain sheltered from the elements, so we’re pricing some inexpensive sheds as a quick fix. Sure, we could build one and possibly save $10, but more than that we are ready to have a functioning cabin!!!

Our goal is for the cabin to be livable this August. As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, we live an hour away from where my husband teaches, and he has to commute over 100 miles a day during the school year. Our goal is to live in the cabin part time until my stepson graduates high school in 2018, after which we hope to live in the cabin full time during the academic year. So, if the cabin could just be livable by fall, we could continue putting on the final finishing touches the following year. We hope to have a screened-in back porch eventually as well as a side porch for non-mosquito weather.

Now that the weather is mostly nice, there will be more updates soon!

 

From Big to Tiny

A lot of people have asked if the cabin is going to be a vacation home or a permanent residence. The long-term answer is: permanent residence.

But right now, Chuck’s youngest child still has two years of high school in the town where our current home is. He stays with us every other week.

The “plan” is to live in the tiny cabin every other week until Geoffrey graduates so that Chuck doesn’t have to commute two hours a day. Meanwhile, we continue getting rid of “stuff” and simplifying as much as we can.

We have nearly two years to transition from big to tiny. Our current home has been in the family since 1952. It will probably stay in the family, possibly remaining furnished, or with any heirloom furniture given to family members. The house itself is nearly 100 years old, and it needs continual TLC. Living there for the past 11 years has been a labor of love. It’s more space than we need (especially now that the kids are nearly grown) and a little more than we would like to maintain.

What about all our “stuff”? People ask me this all the time. We have over 2,000 books, and it’s been awhile since I counted. Our house is like a Poké stop for books—they find us and congregate, waiting to be collected.

We talked about going completely digital, but I can’t break the habit of holding a book and smelling its pages (not to mention my slight distrust of technology).

We’re thinking, for the long term, about a media cabin. No kitchen, shower, or loft; just a half bath, reading chairs, and wall-to-wall books. Maybe a couch with a hide-a-bed for when guests visit. We can display my grandmother’s artwork and set up our record player. With the weight of the vinyls and the books, we’ll need a strong structure, but we’ll keep it simple—simpler than our current cabin, e.g., no 12/12 pitch roof.

After all, we’ve purchased plenty of battery-powered tools and have learned a lot. But that’s on down the road.

For now, I’d like to make living in a 10 x 16 cabin work. We once rented a 400 sq. ft. studio apartment, and we had neighbors on all sides (and a bus stop out front). The small space didn’t bother us at all. Once we add the screened-in porch on the back, we’ll have even more room. But right now our focus is on getting the cabin done.

The weather briefly cooled to the 80s, but it was rainy. Yesterday the heat index hit 109. Also, school started and brought with it a 50-hour work week plus commute for Chuck. I’m teaching a class as well, in addition to managing my editing business.

Next time we go out there will be mainly mowing and maintaining the grounds. But soon, those Bradford pears that have been thorns in our side (literally) will erupt in vibrant colors, a nice backdrop for finishing the exterior and moving inside.

Tiny cabin update: then and now

On July 9, 2015, I wrote in my 5-year journal, “Worked on the land–2 tarps down and dirt where the house will be.”

Tiny Cabin Spot - June 2015

Tiny Cabin Spot – June 2015

Even though we began this adventure in May of 2015, it took us awhile to find the perfect spot and then clear it. We had hoped to complete the cabin by the time school started last year, but we didn’t finish the foundation until October or have a frame until March.

So now, one year after the first dirt was spread on the cabin site, we can see how far we’ve come. We’re not exactly putting on the “finishing touches,” but things are moving much faster now.

In the past two weeks, we’ve spent a lot of time at our current home, which has a sizable yard to maintain and wood floors crawling with dust bunnies. I had hoped to do more deep cleaning and closet organizing, but I’ve been busy freelance editing. Still, we made time for respites of play: West Side Story and Romeo and Juliet were unforgettable. We saw a 1623 First Folio as well–each state in the U.S. currently has one on display in honor of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death.

This past Friday, the conditions were right for cabin work. We drove through rain hoping that it wouldn’t follow us. The morning was cloudy and comfortable, especially for July. I trimmed Bradford pears while Chuck hung the front door and framed the window.

 

Exterior doors aren’t cheap, but we got lucky. A few months ago, my brother stopped some restaurant workers from throwing two doors in a dumpster. They’re solid wood and in good shape.

Once the trim was up, we could finish the rows of shingles. We’ve ordered tempered glass for the transom windows, so our next steps are to finish the shingles, install the windows, and finish hanging the door (which will need to be filed at the bottom and possibly repainted).

From outside, our cabin is beginning to look like a house–and soon we’ll be working to make the inside a home.

Tiny Cabin Update: Walls

This week we spent three days at the land with a long list of minor and major tasks. The weather was on our side, considering it was late June. Though it reached 90 degrees a couple days, the heat index stayed under 100. One day was partly cloudy, and another had a breeze. We arrived early with the intention of quitting at lunch, but we were able to work longer without exhausting ourselves.

 

We made a big purchase this week that sped up progress: a generator. Our neighbors have been generous in letting us link extension cords to use their electricity, but we decided this would be a good investment to make sooner rather than later.

This week’s “to do” list:

  • Assemble generator
  • Frame and install bathroom window
  • Spread gravel for more even ground for scaffolding
  • Finish sub-floor (measure, cut, and nail boards)
  • Finish base walls (measure, cut, and nail boards)
  • Add foam insulation (cut, nail, and seal with tape)
  • Reinforce side wall with the “great window”
  • Buy framing supplies, trim, and paint

Aside from a few small patches high on the side walls, we accomplished all of our goals. Chuck’s dad came on Tuesday and Thursday. His know-how amazes me. Where I might hesitate on deciding the best plan of action, he acts. And once he shows me how to do something, I am more confident in my actions, not to mention more efficient.

We also plan to do pink insulation between the studs, but the foam board will create a tighter seal and add additional insulation.

I enjoyed being on the scaffolding–again, I’ve had lots of monkey-bar experience. I’m also more comfortable wielding the nail gun. Over time, my arm muscles have strengthened and my fear of the nail gun has waned. I’m happy to leave the sawing to Chuck. He’s also much better at making a pattern with the foam board nails, which will be helpful later when we’re nailing up the cedar shingles on the front and the siding on the other walls. (The panel I nailed looks like it was done by a sawed-off shotgun, and I used twice as many nails as was necessary.)

Next week the temperature will soar to 100–perfect for swimming in Lake Beaverfork or reading a good book in air conditioning. We also have tickets to see the Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre‘s Romeo and Juliet and West Side Story. We’ve already enjoyed the outdoor A Midsummer Night’s Dream but missed Twelfth Night, which was sold out this morning! We’re anxious to finish the cabin, but we’re also trying to find balance.

We’ll work at the land tomorrow before family comes in for the 4th. Hopefully, by the end of next week, we’ll have the trim up and at least some of the cedar shingles.

 

Tiny Cabin Update: Roof!

Chuck’s Uncle Bobby and his cousin Scott arrived at 8 am after a three-hour drive from northwest Arkansas ready to roof the tiny cabin.

The first order of business (after the hugs and handshakes) was to finish nailing the decking. Bobby and Scott then suggested screwing 2″ x 4″s along each seam to prevent sagging. Chuck cut the boards, Bobby held them to the inside of the roof, and Scott used his battery-powered drill to screw them in. The rest of us–my stepson Geoffrey, his girlfriend Angel, and I–tried to make ourselves useful.

The shade dwindled like a receding tide. We felt beached beneath the hot sun. Though the day originally promised to be “partly cloudy,” we were only lucky enough to have five glorious minutes of cloud cover around 1 pm. I was hot, so I could only imagine how Scott and Bobby felt.

I would like to say that our heroic roofers enjoyed frequent breaks in the shade, but they toughed it out. Bobby–two days shy of 61–was up and down the extension ladder helping with the drip edge, the tar paper, and the first row of shingles. Scott worked higher up and along the steep edges. We handed Bobby shingles, and he took them to Scott. Someone was always holding a ladder.

Though I mostly admired their handiwork from the ground, it was enthralling to watch them roof. Of course, I was nervous with Scott up so high. I could tell he knew what he was doing, but he wasn’t overconfident. Though he and Bobby cracked jokes to lighten the mood, they were both serious when it came to safety. In this situation, safety meant awareness–an art almost lost in our modern world of buzzing phones and constant distraction.

By a quarter to noon, they had finished the back. The air was really heating up, and the humidity didn’t help. But with the drip edge done and their system perfected, the front side only took less than an hour and a half to complete.

By now, fair-skinned Angel was resting in the shade. Geoffrey cut the 54 shingles for the peak, and Scott had them nailed in no time.

Tiny Cabin Roof Finished

With Chuck’s arm still recovering coupled with our lack of expertise, we were glad to have called in professionals. But even more than that, we were glad to be with family.

Tiny Cabin: Back in the Saddle

The first week after the accident is a blur of bandages, medicine, and doctors’ appointments. That, and kind friends and family bringing by food and checking in.

All of the various doctors–the ENT, general physician, optometrist, and chiropractor–reiterated that the fall could have been much worse. We are counting our blessings.

On other fronts, we found out that my mother-in-law’s pancreatic cancer has developed to Stage 4, and one of my step-daughters moved to South Carolina with her baby, Alex.

It would be easy to say that life moves forward and we move with it. But that glosses over the emotional processing that great (and abrupt) changes demand.

Chuck’s body is still healing–the hematoma in his right arm restricts how much he can lift, and the nerves in his face are slowly regaining feeling. The emotional wounds, however, remain fresh.

I spent several sleepless nights and red-eyed days thinking of our next move. My main concern: the 12/12 pitch roof. We went away for a couple of days to celebrate our 11th anniversary and to clear our heads.

We reached out to Chuck’s cousin, Scott, who has worked in construction and even built his own house. He was up to the challenge. Once we knew we had the roof covered, we felt we could make plans. And I could get some sleep.

It was now time to finish the decking, which would require a third person, not to mention poise on scaffolding. A colleague, Russ, volunteered to help, and we managed to tack up the rest of the decking in less than two hours. It was an enormous hurdle after we had seriously questioned whether or not we would be able to finish the cabin at all.

After the decking, our next move was to get as many walls up as possible.

We were under a heat advisory, with temperatures in the 90s and a heat index over 110 degrees. Chuck and I started at 6:30 and had to quit before noon. Chuck’s shirt was soaked to the hem, and my face was puffy and red.

At first, I held the sheet of OSB while Chuck fired the nail gun. But I wasn’t strong enough to hold the full sheets straight, and Chuck’s arm was tiring out from the heavy nail gun. So we switched.

Chuck said he was glad I had gotten over my fear of the nail gun. “I wouldn’t go that far,” I replied. I’m still terrified of it, and rightfully so. But I’m less afraid when I’m the one in control of the beast. When I was holding the board, I had to wait in anticipation for the loud bang, puff of air, and cloud of displaced wood particles.

It takes both of my hands to keep the nail gun steady, but now I know what to expect–and I know when it’s going to strike.

We didn’t get as far as we had hoped, but we got our strength and momentum back.

A blog on the roof will follow soon…

 

 

Tiny Cabin: Summer Growth

Just hours after Chuck posted his last grade and officially began his summer, we headed to the land with a riding mower: the yard maintenance was long overdue.

We had a tiny window before rain moved in, and it was just enough time to get the main parts of the yard under control. Once the sun comes back out, we want to be ready to do some roofing!

Tiny Cabin Garden SpotTiny Cabin Land Cleared May 2016

The riding mower worked its magic, but it couldn’t handle the Bradford pear stumps along the driveway. We alternated weed-eating and hacking with a handheld weed cutter. Our arm muscles ached back into the memory of last summer’s clearing.

driveway-before

Uncleared Driveway, May 2015

Though the cabin is just a frame–and a tiny one at that–I look back at where we were last year and remember how far we’ve come. Our first attempt at driving onto the land ended with us stuck in the mud and a good bit of our budget spent on gravel. Because the truck was unable to spread the gravel evenly, we spread most of it ourselves before the mayor showed up with a backhoe. I never mentioned it, but that day I tore my right quad. It felt like it had been ripped from my kneecap. It took over ten weeks for it to heal, but heal it did.

5-19-15 Car in the mud

May 2015

At this time last year, we cleared land deeper in the woods only to later find it had become a flooded mosquito sanctuary. By the end of June, we finally settled on the spot where the cabin is now, but soaring temperatures in July and August (among other things) kept us away.

Now the summer is just beginning, and though it’s supposed to hit 90 tomorrow, it shouldn’t stay hot long. There’s more rain sprinkled in the forecast, but soon we should have enough days to finally get the cabin “in the dry.”

 

Tiny Cabin: Four Walls!

Chuck and I knew that putting up the walls on the tiny cabin was (ideally) a three-person job, but until minutes before heading to the land, we thought we would be alone in our pursuit. In fact, we were debating if we should even try–it was all four walls or nothing. We didn’t want a repeat of the front wall falling over in a wind gust.

As it turned out, my father-in-law beat us to the cabin site!

The walls have been finished since December, but good weather plus time off work have not been synced. We finally had our chance: last Saturday was a nearly 70 degree day. What’s more, this week is Chuck’s spring break, so we knew we would have time (and, luckily, good weather) to continue working on the cabin after the walls were up.

I have to say–my father-in-law really knows what he’s doing. Not that we don’t have some idea, but we occasionally we hit a snag that causes us to question ourselves, which takes up time.

In a matter of hours, all four walls were up, complete with California corners and additional supports. We still have some windows to finish framing, but time, for a change, is on our side. We left when the sun began to slant below the horizon, tired yet triumphant.

 

Flooding and the Tiny Cabin

Some people romantically refer to their home as a “castle.” While our 10′ x 16′ space is not exactly palatial, we do now have a moat.

IMG_5566 (1) (2)

I can view my glass as either half-empty or half-full. On one hand, the land we purchased is and always will be low-lying. We did receive an excessive amount of rainfall in a short period of time and a number of counties were under a flash-flood warning, but Arkansas is no stranger to strange weather. This won’t be the last time something like this happens.

IMG_5565 (2)

On the other hand, the area of the house is not flooded. Our moving dirt with a rented Bobcat and our hours of shoveling gravel paid off. And unlike our first drive onto the land back in May, our car did not get stuck. Yes, the yard is one big mud puddle, but it isn’t quicksand.

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I foresee more gravel in the future, and possibly a dock made out of pallet boards…but first, four walls and a roof.