The internet is full of Bauwagen toys. (And by full I mean “contains about five different kinds upon being googled.”) I found this one here. Steep price for a play house that you could easily, and perhaps more charmingly, build yourself for under 100 euro. Still, I like the idea. Peter Lustig is probably to blame.
It is never easy to move a tiny house, but this particular move was easier than most. We spent the day before Day Zero (Moving Day) in Mainz getting her ready. She had been our neighbor for something like four years. We had hung out in her and slept in her when we’d stopped by. There was a lot of shit to get out of the way, but our old Platz-mates cleared our path (ten trazillion high fives for everyone who helped with that). Still, it took a hand or two full of hours to get her ready and moved and parked out on the street, ready to click onto the truck that would pull her home early the next morning.
The Beard got up at 4 am (there’s been a lot of 4 am going around, huh?) to ride out with the driver, a friend, to pick her up. They were back by 9 am, barely an hour after Pickles and I had gotten up. Go to sleep with a house one size, wake up with a new addition.
You’d think that that was when the hard part was over. We parked her on the grass and waited for another friend to come by to drive the tractor that we would use to put her in her place. But it turned out that the tractor was broken. Surprise!
After quite a bit of tinkering around, we decided to do it the old-fashioned way. We called some friends and rounded up a handful of Platz-mates, and we pushed the damn thing by hand. It’s hard to push a trailer with only one axel by hand: you have to hold the thing upright and push at the same time. There were ten of us. It was enough.
Now she’s in place, ready to be turned into a kitchen. My head is full of plans and ideas and paint and cabinets But instead I’m getting ready for a two-month trip to the United States. (We leave on Wednesday.) I guess the kitchen will have to wait. But, still, isn’t she purdy??? Swoon. So much to look forward to.
Oh my cod. Thank you thank you thank you to Mama Anders for pointing out another too-fucking-cute Bauwagen toy for the toddler in your small-housed life. I know what Pickles is getting for her birthday next year. Though of course the one we’re going to build her is going to be at least 13 times cooler. I love that there are people out there designing, making, and selling this shit. Huzzah.
Why didn’t we think of that?!?! We had even talked about getting Pickles a dollhouse. (Well, someone had offered to give us one, and we said yes.) But a house? Why the hell would we get her a dollhouse? Pickles’ dolls would obviously live in a Bauwagen. Just like us.
The Beard was on tour for five days last week. In Freiberg this dollhouse was at the venue where they played. When he told me about it on the phone I begged for photos. Next summer we are so building one of these. Miniature things have always excited me. I can’t explain why. Just…little things!…squeal! That is basically how it happens in my head. If you see an explanation in there somewhere, let me know.
Oo la la! A video that we filmed almost three years ago about my Wagen and renovating it and how I dumpster dived the hell out of the building supply store. Deek of the blog relaxshacks and the book Humble Homes, Simple Shacks turned that footage (with help from some other excellent folks whose names you will find in the credits) into another lovely segment of Tiny Yellow House TV. Ever wondered what my voice sounds like after reading so many silent words on a screen? Well, now you know. Enjoy…
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.
Life for us is whatever we imagine it to be. To the peasant with his one field, that field is everything, it is an empire. To Caesar with his vast empire which still feels cramped, that empire if a field. The poor man has an empire; the great man only a field. The truth is that we possess nothing but our own senses; it is on them, then, and not on what they perceive, that we must base the reality of life.
-Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet
I have been obsessed with Fernando Pessoa for a long time, though I have yet to finish one of his books. He writes beautifully, but often the work is tedious to read. The real hook is in his obsession with pseudonyms. I’m paraphrasing, but he invented thirty-some writers and then wrote extensively under many of their names, sometimes even having them arguing with each other. They (“they”) started an entire literary movement doing it. Brilliant. But that is besides the point, my point, today.
This quote is one of many beautiful sentences in The Book of Disquiet, and I couldn’t help drawing parallels to my own life. Technically I am poor and yet, living the way that we do, I feel rich. Rich in time, rich in love, rich in sunshine and the afternoons to enjoy it. My bank account may not contain millions, my house is miniscule, yet it is the empire that is mine. So often, it is our perception of what we have that makes or breaks us. So often(to paraphrase Jay Schafer), it is the mansions that are the debtors’ prisons.
The coming year is sparking. Potential. Idea rubbing on idea. Soon: a flame. The number thirteen stands falsely accused.
Has the winter tricked us? It spent months playing at fall, and now, at the end of January, it is showing itself for the first time. The ground is frozen hard (and yet the moles still throw up mounds of dirt, the ground we walk on must be riddled with tunnels), and snow has tucked it in for a sleep that might last until April. We are going to have to order more firewood.
Two construction sites (Wägen in the making) stand, shivering naked skeletons, on the lawn. People stay inside, and you can go for days without running into a neighbor, though there are foot prints in the snow and the children leave their sleds at the bottom of the hill. Somewhere, a trampoline is creaking.
The shrunken world of winter—a single red Wagen, one 2m by 7m length of space—feels tight, cozy, chaotic. The potential for claustrophobia is enormous. But it doesn’t come, and there is nowhere else I want to be.
In the middle of the night, the wood stove that has smoldered for hours bursts into sudden flame and dances light across the walls. The baby has woken me up, pawing for food, and we fall asleep stomach to stomach to the sound of fire devouring air.
Oh dear wood stove, how do I love thee? And how do I hate thee when it comes time to take down the chimney pipes and clean them out because smoke has been backing into the Wagen at really inconvenient times, like when we’re sleeping? But I jest (a little). I never hate our wood stove. It is my all-time favorite way to heat a room, and it is currently one of the cheapest. Chopping wood, the smell of oak, lighting a fire, and the flicker and crackle—it is satisfying in a way I can only explain by blaming instinct. Fire is the ur-television.
But maintenance is annoying, especially when you need to tackle it alone with a ten-month-old baby on your hands. The wood stove had been letting in minuscule, but horrid smelling, puffs of smoke. The Beard thought something was wrong with the door, that it was no longer closing properly. There was far more smoke coming in when we lit a fire than usual, and we couldn’t open the lower door (which we do often to get a big bit of wood burning) without the stench. Besides being icky, it was scary. No one wants to die in the night of CO2 poisoning. Or wake up next to a baby who has died of co2 poisoning. So we stopped heating at night, when we wouldn’t be conscious to monitor the smoke situation and open the windows obsessively. It was cold by morning. And that was icky too.
Then the Beard went off to work a 48-shift, and I was all like “I am going to get to the bottom of this, so help me cod!” Thing is, when smoke is backing up into your room, it usually has more to do with your chimney than with your stove. We used to heat our kitchen with a stove whose door didn’t close all the way, and yet, with a one-inch gap right next to the flames, smoke never poured into the room once the fire was lit. I looked around the internet and found a lot of people talking about how cold air can temporarily block a chimney, forcing the smoke down into the room. A solution for this is to stick a piece off paper into the chimney and light it, a trick which should warm the air enough to break the block. Note to self. But our problem lay elsewhere.
Turns out (and I had only looked at night, so I couldn’t really see it, and did I mention that I desperately need glasses?) that the little hat we have on top of our stove pipe to keep rain and wind from coming down it had collapsed on top of the pipe itself, leaving onyl the smallest of holes for the smoke to escape.
I found a neighbor to hold Baby Pickles while I worked, borrowed a ladder and a pipe cleaner, and took down all the piping for a scrub. Then I took the bus to the building supply store to see if I could get a”T” shaped bit of pipe to replace the hat at the top of the chimney, which is what I have on the pipe on my Wagen, now our kitchen. They didn’t have any at the store, but what they did have were a bunch of sexist jerks working there who, as male employees of building supply stores in Germany tend to do, talked down to me and generally treated me as if I didn’t have a fucking clue. “But there is no such thing as a “T” shaped bit of metal piping!” Oh, right, because I imagined the one that I have at home. Thanks for clearing that up then, I’ll just be on my way.
After a bit of insisting, the building store man finally admitted that such a thing did exist, after which he told me that there was no way I could put such a thing on my chimney, that a professional chimney duder needed to do that (though this “it must be done officially” attitude is very German, he did specify dude, harumpf). Oh, but they could order one for me, if I insisted on being a reckless jerk. I wondered why I hadn’t just jimmy rigged something myself in the first place and left. I am sure that there are men working at the building supply store who don’t talk to women customers like they can’t possible know what they are talking about, but every woman builder I know has had a similar experience repeatedly. And I have never seen a woman working at one of these stores, besides at the cash register. Boo hiss.
Back at home, my baby-watching friend and I jimmy rigged a rusty old piece of pipe into an acceptable “T” and jammed it on the top of our chimney pipe. (We had a piece laying around that was shaped more like an “L,” so we hammered off one side of it to create a makeshift “T.”) I reattached all the bits and pieces and lit a fire. And hot damn, no more smoke.
PS The above photo is what the fire in the stove looks like right this second. We haven’t been keeping the glass door very clean.