while we’re looking at old photos…a little tiny house nostalgia
The very first tiny house I ever inhabited. All thanks to encouragement from a friend at just the right moment. Here you can read about how I decided to move into this adorable blue shoe. Oh, and if you’re wondering what the hell a Wagenplatz is, I explain it in detail here and here. (Hint: It is an autonomous community of people living in various small houses, “common” to Germany.)
My second tiny Wagen was in a different community in a different city. I shared it with my partner. (Still do, as a matter of fact, though now there are three of us living between these red walls):
Some black cats are good luck. Though be wary if you catch them drinking vodka.
After a while, I was offered this Wagen for free (the one with the black door in the picture below). I took it and spent about a year renovating it (and learning everything about building from scratch while doing it).
It looked quite different when I started. For one it was green. But you can read about the entire refab process here. (Pictures too.)
Then we moved to another city, they very same where my tiny house adventures had begun, but to a different community. And we bought a third Wagen that I am planning on Frankensteining onto the red Wagen, our main living Wagen, this summer.
And now, I can barely even fathom even living in a house again. Although I sometimes do dream about little cabins in the woods. Sweet, sweet, summer tiny house life.
Oh, and if you’re coming over after having watched Deek’s Tiny Yellow House feature on my little house, then by all means, subscribe to the rss feed. Come back soon now.
tiny houses: living small, feeling big
You expand and contract according to the size of your dwelling. Have you ever noticed? Get a huge living space and you find yourself slowly working to fill it up. Move into a tiny house, and you’ll become obsessed with decluttering and going minimalist, even if only out of self defense. Our Wagen dwelling was already small, and now it is shrinking.
In the summer, or any of the warm months for that matter, our house expands to include everything outside. We eat outside, we sit outside, and sometimes we even set up an extra bed and sleep outside. The size of our home swells from seven meters by 2 meters 20 to infinite. Our Wagen house becomes more of our posessions’ dwelling than ours.
But as the cold approaches that space slowly begins to recede. We eat a few more meals indoors every week; the chairs are wet. It stops being light until 10 pm; we watch a movie rather than sit around the outdoor table. It is like the ebb of the tide. With the lap of each wave things contract another few steps until you find yourself living with three people in a shoebox.
This is the first year I have felt the Wagen constrict, and it is tempting to blame it on the fact that we now live here with three people, small as the newcomer may still be. However, looking around today, it is pretty obvious that it has a lot more to do with the way we’ve set a few things in here up. Today I found myself fantasizing about a complete renovation, about removing every single object inside, repainting, rearranging, and then only putting the most important, lovely, necessary items back in.
When we decided that Baby Pickles—though at the time she was about the size of a matchbox—would sleep in bed with us, we decided to enlarge our bed. Originally it was flush against one end of the Wagen—Wägen tend to be about the width of a mattress length—and so we slept with our heads against one wall and our feet against another. For the new super enormo monster bed the mattress stayed in the same position, but we added an extra bit of foam at the feet, and laid across them in the other direction. That is to say, with out heads against the narrow wall of the Wagen and our feet facing out into the room. A couple of feet of space were lost, but it was so worth it.
Later, I built a shelf slash dividing wall facing the bed—a place for our television and clothing to live. This made our Wagen feel like it was made up of two small rooms. The effect was pleasant, but it increased the amount of time we spent dancing around each other trying to get in or out or to this shelf or that. Still worth it.
Then the Beard built a raised platform that came out about 2.5 meters into the Wagen. The reasons were twofold. One: create storage space (under the platform). Two: create a space where Baby Pickles could crawl on the floor without getting cold (the floor is the coldest place once the weather cools down). Both have been successful, but while the Beard uses it often, I rarely set foot upon it. So for me it has taken our Wagen down to a five-meter number, minus enormo-bed, a small space for one, let alone three.
Today we suffered yet another loss of space and an attack of the worst possible kind in any house. Mold. It had been growing on part of the wall under the bed for some time, and we had been postponing removing the boards on which it was feasting for lack of a car long enough to get us replacements from the building supply store. But our spot in Frankfurt seems to be extra damp and when the Beard noticed that the instrument cases beneath the bed were all soaking wet, he took it as a sign that it was time to either act or sign the place over to the spores. Action it was.
Air wasn’t circulating beneath our mattress, so his first move (after clearing everything out under the bed and throwing away a ton of stuff) was to move the bed a foot and a half away from the back wall to create some ventilation. Now the bed is claustrophobically close to the dividing wall slash clothes shelves, and we’ve had to get rid of a number of things to make the situation tolerable. But at least the moldy boards have all been cut out and thrown onto the bonfire pile.
With the house shrinking, I’ve gone into super efficiency planning mode. I just hope that come spring I’m still motivated to put some of my ideas into action. I’m seeing a fresh paint job, less chaotic shelving, and nets hanging from the ceiling to hold worn-but-not-dirty clothes and Pickles’ toys. I’m also seeing some massive decluttering, starting with the flea market this weekend where we’ll be running a table. And people say spring is the time for cleaning.
PS The picture above is an older one of our main Wagen. I can only hope this winter looks as quaint. So far it just looks like a hell of a lot of mud.
PPS I just realized that the bed expansion and the clothing shelf building happened in the opposite order, but oh well nevermind.
internet faux pas, moving, dumpster diving, and archery
The weather is perfect. I love the start of fall. The outdoors are a’calling (as are a bajillion things that I need to do to my Wagen before winter), and I find little time for blogging. Perhaps I should take a page from the speed dating book. A few updates in fifteen minutes or less…
Umm, sorry about that hiccup where the website was suddenly gone. Whoops. If you tried to come by Click Clack Gorilla the past two days and found scary ugly nothingness, I apologize. I was a day late paying the renewal fees for my domain name. This is the second time I have let this happen (though the first time I was traveling, and it took me a long time to notice and an even longer time to get things fixed), and thank frickin cod that nobody seems to be lurking around waiting to scoop up www.clickclackgorilla.com because I renewed and now things are working again. Having to give that up would be incredibly sad. Anyway.
We are finally fucking moving. Like maybe tomorrow. I had become completely unmotivated again, in all things related to the move. Then this morning the Beard gets this text message: “We could move both Wägen tomorrow, the baby Wagen Thursday.” Holy shit! I felt like springing into action. “Let’s do it!” That was me. “No frickin’ way!” That was the Beard. We are hoping to be able to settle on this weekend, if our moving guy can do it then too. Could be that the next time I write to you, our wheels are settled firmly on Hessen soil. Fucking finally. This waiting and preparing has dragged on far too long already for my taste.
Baby Pickles just discovered that she has hair. Now she is no longer limited to pulling on my hair or the Beard’s beard. Stroke, grab, pull, stroke, grab, pull. However, she doesn’t seem to mind when she pulls her own hair out, so I guess this won’t be a lesson in why not to pull my hair. She also can sit pretty well. And eat like eating is the same as sloppily putting on make-up. Peach face! Peaches are by far her favorite. Soon we’re going to need to get another sack of clothes. Banana baby!
I did my first dumpster dive with baby! I felt so proud. On a walk to get Pickles settled one evening I happened upon a pile of wood that would be lovely for some trim I need to do on my Wagen exterior, and for building stairs. The following evening I strapped Pickles on, put a little seat for her in a bike trailer, and walked over to get it. While I pulled useful boards out of the pile, Pickles sat in her chair in the shade and watched. The boards were a bit long for the trailer, which prevented me from taking as many as I could have used, but damn was I happy to get some decent scavenging done with the baby in tow. I’m going to be even happier to put them to use.
I finally read Dies the Fire. Which other PA (that’s “post-apocalypse” folks) lit fans have been recommending all over the internet for ages. While it is not literature, not even close, it is a great story, and I am obsessed. Maybe even OBSESSED. Good thing S.M. Stirling made it a trilogy, and then wrote a six book series in the same world that takes place a generation later. It is making me both want to write a really long review (coming once I finish the trilogy) and to take up archery. Oh my.
preparing for winter, the diy run down
I say I’m preparing for the move, but you don’t need to paint your house before you move. What I’m really preparing for is the coming winter. It’s been two years since I last coated the siding on my Wagen, and seeing that most of the boards were meant for indoors (ie not particularly thick), it was high time I got on to the job of applying some paint.
the once-a-ceiling-now-an-outdoor-wall siding was well and good but…
The back narrow side of my Wagen was the last that I attached siding to, the very last step in getting it completely finished, fucking finally. If memory serves, and it often doesn’t, I didn’t even put on the last boards. Frau Doktor and Scissors did, a favor to me, while the Beard and I were off gallavanting in America. The boards I used had once been the ceiling in another Wagen. The owner was sick and tired of them, and so he replaced them, and I gobbled up the scraps. It looked like this:
The boards worked well enough, but in my mind they were a temporary solution. Tongue-and-groove boards all, at least half were broken. And a tongue-and-groove board without a tongue isn’t so good at keep water out of your walls. I overlapped them haphazardly and called it a day. And having now opened the wall two years later, I can say that they were a perfectly satisfactory solution. Would have held for years to come. But I wanted to get something I didn’t think of as temporary on the wall, something that looked beautiful and would hold all of the rain out, always. After a day and a half of work (not consecutive, though that is irrelevant I suppose) it looked like this:
Sweet, sweet high-quality materials. These boards are twice as thick as those meant for indoor work, and they should last a good deal longer. High five. Then, the painting, which I am still working on, began. I was going for dark purple, and what I got was a lot brighter than I intended. But it has grown on me to the point where I walk by my Wagen even when I don’t really need to, just so I can get another eyefull. This is what it looked like two coats ago, and once I get the black trim done, it is going to look AMAZING.
winter is coming
Once the paint job is done and the trim is up (the roof gets secured to the trim along the top of the outer wall to keep further water out of the walls), there won’t be much left to do to prepare my tiny house for winter. The rain gutters need to be cleaned, and, once we move, the rain collection barrels set up. I’ll clean out my wood stove pipe with a long metal pipe cleaner brush, and that will be that. Before I know it another winter will be upon me, and I will have to work to remember how I missed those cold tempuratures during the last week’s brutal heat wave.
Doing house repairs tends to make me philosophical about the way I’ve chosen to live. As I put each coat onto my little house, I think about how much more work it would be to do a coat of paint on an average-sized house. How much all those buckets of paint would cost, and how much sweat would be lost applying them. Would I even be able to handle diy-ing your average-sized house? Not with joy anyway. Tiny houses win by a landslide.
trash to treasure: a dumpster-dived floor
Way back in February, before Baby Pickles had arrived and when there was still snow on the ground, B brought a new Bauwagen back to the Platz. It looked like this. He needed more space, and he had been planning on doing the inside up real nice. But, whoops, no money. So the trash collecting began, and bit by bit, he pieced together a patchwork floor that, in my humble opinion, looks much awesomer than any regular old orderly looking purchased flooring ever could have. And it has a chess board!
recycling for the apocalypse: things to do with old tires
Oh plastic. The plastic that industrial cultures have been diligently filling the world with since Alexander Parkes created parkesine—the first man-made plastic—in 1862 isn’t going anywhere any time soon. Your average hard plastic thing-a-ma-bob could take up to 500 years to decompose. But as most plastics don’t actually decompose as we understand the term—instead just breaking into smaller and smaller pieces—they are even going to be with us after that. So we might as well find something useful to do with them, eh?
Take old tires. What the hell can you do with old tires? Well, you can build playground equipment out of them. (I loved me some tire swinging when I was a kid.) You can use them to make growing potatoes easier. You can make shoe soles. You can even build houses out of them. Luckily—if you can call it luck—creative recycling options for them are about as plentiful as discarded tires are.
Recently I came across a new tire-recycling idea. This tire basket belongs to Mama Beard, but as I only noticed it as we were leaving her house, I didn’t get a chance to ask for the story behind it. Still an inspiring idea for re-purposing old treads.
Have you seen any other resourceful ways to recycle old tires?
Postscript: I wanted to note that a high school student named Daniel Burd appears to have discovered that some types of bacteria, in the right circumstances, can biodegrade plastics. Fascinating stuff. But still not a good reason to keep making so much of the stuff.
gorilla baby: the diy fold-down changing table, finished
Ah, yes. Remember my last building project? The baby-crap storage shelves and fold-down changing table? Well, while I was in the hospital the Beard went and finished it up. See, when it comes to projects I’m the slow contemplative one, and he’s the fast impatient one. So despite all my good intentions, he’s almost always the first at the finish line. When Peanut started knocking on labor’s door I shrugged and figured we’d change her on the floor for the first few weeks. He took the bus to the building supply store and put on the fold-down bit in an afternoon.
This is what it looked like before.
And this is what it looks like now:
The table is attached to the shelves by two large hinges and is supported by two steel cables and the two peices of wood that hang down past the bottom of the shelves (as you can see in the first picture). At first the Beard had just gone with the cables, but as it’s turning out that I’m the spacey relaxed parent and he’s the nervous paranoid parent, he was worried that the cables might fail and toss Pickles onto the floor. So he screwed on the wood bits for a bit of extra support. The padding is a bit of foam covered in some water resistant plastic stuff, and it is all held closed by an old guitar strap attached to hooks on either side of the shelves.
Using it so far has been dreamy. I can open it up with one hand, and fold it back up the same way, kidlet on one arm and the other shoulder to hold up the table while I hook the strap back into place. So far, an excellent solution for tiny living with a baby in tow. And a hell of a lot cheaper (I don’t know what the Beard spent, but I’d reckon it finished at about 50 to 60 euros total) than the fold-down changing tables I’ve seen in stores (which cost about 300 euros and don’t have nearly as much storage space). Another win for tiny houses, frugal living, and diy.
I have been wondering for two days what I would want to write about today. But I can’t think about a fucking thing besides being pregnant and about hopefully not being pregnant anymore very, very soon. I read things about babies and pregnancy all day (newly in love with The Feminist Breeder, by the way), and I hope the baby is about to come the fuck out of there already all night. But I don’t want this blog to only be about kids and pregnancy. I want it to be about tiny hosues and Wagens and travel and dumpster diving and weird recycling and everything else that intersects with my life too. But there is nothing left in me except for this baby, and until she comes out, I’m not sure what else will get past and onto these pages.
So, behold! My tallbike!
Looking at that picture is like a big serving of summer nostalgia. The tank tops! The need for sunglasses! The rides aboard my purple giraffe! Ahhhh. Summer couldn’t come back into my life soon enough.
The tallbike I built myself, with a lot of help from some awesome folks in Frankfurt. We spent a weekend building about eleven of them. Which we then happily paraded around the city like the little kids we all still are inside. If you have never been on a tall bike, I am here to tell you they are smile-manufacturing machines. You ride down the street and people stare in awe, they smile, they gasp, they take pictures, and little kids jump up and down and point. And everyone wanting to know: “How do you get off of it?” A question which, once answered, always results in another: “But how do you get back on?” Both of which I am usually happy to demonstrate. You don’t take a tall bike if you have to get somewhere in a hurry.
If you want to learn how to build your own tall bike, I’ve got detailed instructions up right here.
diy project: baby shelves and the fold-down changing table
I’ve done it, I’ve finally done it! Someone took a trip to the building supply store, brought me back some screws and some wood, and I built the baby-crapola storage shelf and fold-down changing table. Except I (cough cough) haven’t added the fold-down table bit yet. But who cares! All the baby crap is finally neatly in place, and now when she shows up we won’t be digging through huge piles on the floor! Just that thought alone makes me feel very calm. Plus now I can almost see the bed in my Wagen. Almost.
I kept the design for this shelf simple. For one because I’m not that good at building complex things and for two because moving a lot isn’t really my strong point right now. The materials were purchased new and as the nicely finished shelf boards I wanted to use to save time are kind of expensive, cost about 45 euros total, including boards, cheater wooden angle brackets, screws, and hinges for the fold down bit that isn’t attached just yet. It took a couple of hours to build, but would have been much faster had I been able bodied. Take a look:
How would a real carpenter attach a shelving block like this (scroll down to see the end product) to the wall? I had no frickin’ clue. So I put the top and bottom shelf on some L brackets…
…and screwed the middle shelves into the unit from the sides after adding the rest of the frame.
And that was it. Ta-da: the finished product. Behold!
While I’m at it, a very poor mousepad drawing of what the fold down changing table bit will look like, to be attached to the bottom shelf with hinges and supported with two lengths of tiny-linked chain attached to the wall.
To those of you who sent us some of the diapers on that bottom shelf: wohoo! I thought you should know that I still think you’re really awesome for helping us out with that. Crazily, we’ve ended up with more baby crap than we can possibly handle or use (gift clothing started coming in long after I had finished all my flea market über-preparedness shopping, unfortunately). So anything that doesn’t fit on the shelf is going into the flea market pile right now. Clutter makes me nuts, particularly living in such a small space. And how many fuzzy little sleepers that say “my cute friend” (barf) on them does one Peanut need? I may not know for sure, but I’m fairly certain the answer is not 25.
building project: a new terrace
I had been dreaming of a new terrace for months. One slightly bigger than what I had fronting my abode—with a roof and an outdoor sink for washing hands and doing dishes out in the green during the warmer months. I had it mentally planned out to the last detail, but I needed to wait. No need to build it before we moved my Wagen to it’s new spot. I am not very good at waiting.
But, as always happens with time passing and waiting, the day arrived at long last. We moved my Wagen. We put my old terrace/steps construction (wow, remember when I built that? feels like a hundred years ago, which apparently translates to “about a year and a half”) in front of our sleeping Wagen to replace the wobbly pile of stumps that had served as steps before. They had gotten dangerous. I had fallen off them twice, which is not fun at the best of times and is really upsetting when your body is pumping with prego hormones and you were running out the door to throw up.
Once my Wagen was in its new spot and propped up off its wheels courtesy of the lovely Frau Doktor, I was itching to build my terrace. I had a big pallet, and scrap wood left from a dumpster diving excursion at the building supply store. But I couldn’t actually lift the pallet or bend down to screw on the leg supports. (This is the kind of thing I mean when I say things like “and pregnancy has rendered me pretty useless, physically.”) I needed help. I don’t particularly like asking for help—for weeks I used a chair as a temporary step instead—but when I finally did, two of my buddies agreed to do the job. So while I ran around fetching tools and screws, they put together this sweet little number for me. Aren’t they awesome? I feel lucky to have friends who will build me a terrace while I haul this baby and its water cave around in my abdomen.
So: the project:
First they put four leg supports on the pallet (which was a bit complicated on the right side because of the mini hill there). But the pallet was a little unsteady, so they screwed a flat peice of wood on top of it to add more stability. All the wood was dumpster dived.
Messing with the height of the support legs:
The “can it hold a human adult or is it about to break” test (preceded by the “will it break if I dance on it test”):
And the finished project, complete with lucky black cat:
It’s not entirely finished—as you can see there is no roof (well, not one big enough to cover the whole thing) and no outdoor sink. But those can wait for spring when I have my body back to myself and I can lug another pallet home to extend the terrace further in the direction of our sleeping Wagen (making the path between our two Wagens shorter), put on a bigger roof, and install the outdoor sink.
This post was featured on Farmgirl Friday at Dandelion House.