Four walls up, Frustration.

Just a quick update:

Got the four walls up, ordered the blue enameled used Pipsqueak stove from Salamander, still deciding on exterior siding. I’m thinking I like how flush, narrow, dark wood looks…. Want to research the longevity of flush siding vs. overlap, with a rainscreen underneath. I don’t really like the look of lap siding, so I’d still be considering B&B. Found a guy on Craigslist in Maryland selling clear grade cedar lap siding for $2.50 a foot, unheard of around here (My local lumber yards sells it for $8.50). But he couldn’t deliver and I would have needed an empty trailer and six hours (3 hrs. each way) to pick it up, so alas  I let that one go.

Rain has been coming now and again, thank goodness, but man what a drag for a construction project. It is really stressful actually; the floor has gotten thoroughly wet more than once now, despite our best efforts to tarp the whole thing. Unfortunately there are no trees from which to hang tarps over the whole area, so we’ve been tying them over the structure itself. I did devise a design to build a larger wood frame over the house and tarp that, enabling me to continue working on the little house without having to spend a couple hours every day unwrapping and wrapping it. Unfortunately I think it was a very ill-conceived idea as it’s ridiculously tall and I’m considering scrapping the whole thing (nevermind the two days it took me to erect it…) and just take my chances tarping the floor itself.

Why am I not just busting ass to get the thing sheathed and roofed? The complication here is that my parents are gutting their kitchen and remodeling the whole thing as we speak… for which my dad (my one and only helper on this casita) is mostly responsible, at least before and after the drywall/flooring guys are here. That means my project is either at a standstill (except for a few things I can do alone like install all of the framing hardware and finish anchoring the floor to the trailer) or severely straining the rest of the familys’ patience. Side note: Never underestimate the potential for insanity that living in a construction zone can present. 😉

My project is turning out to be so much about surrender and balance, i.e. letting things happen on their own time while not getting consumed by inertia. It’s quite a difficult line to walk…. I find myself struggling significantly as of late. There is nothing more frustrating for an independent person than realizing that there are certain things that cannot physically be done without the direct assistance of another person(s), who are unavailable or uninterested.

What to do?

Go to California, for sure. (In a week.)

Hire a skilled laborer to help me for a few days, possibly.

Just enough to get on the wall sheathing, rafters/sheathing/roofing. Just enough so that the floor is protected while I leave for two weeks. I hope it isn’t going to rot and the vapor barrier is doing as good a job as it can. 😉

I knew intellectually that this project was going to challenge me deeply and perhaps shake things up. But experiencing the actuality is quite a different matter. I am stunned people build houses by themselves. How do they do it?

Of course, let’s bring all of this into perspective: There are much bigger problems in the world right now…. and this is crunch time – I’m doing the big stuff right now, i.e. lumber and big sheets of things that are heavy. That means I’m right in the thick of the period of the project when I will most need others’ physical assistance. Once this is done, most of the (very scary, BTW) detail work can be done by me sola. I think. So that’s great for independence at least!

One other thing I’ve been thinking about: What kind of relationship do I have with my work? For example, when you’re making something with your own hands, are you cursing and frustrated and wishing it would be done with the entire way through? Or are there times when you move patiently, with a sense of wonder and curiosity and satisfaction, immersed in the present moment? My effort, of course, is for the latter. Too often though, I find I am still immersed in the former (which is strange, considering I keep being drawn to manual pursuits). I think the content of the process is just as important as the outcome, but giving motion to that notion is much much harder than it sounds!

What is your experience?


I can’t make this whole post negative and bitchy-

I do also want to say that my trip to Cali is going to be fabulous (seeing old college friends, going to a wedding, and being in the Sierras? Yes, thank you!) and the summer garden is BLOWIN’ UP!!! (That was for you, Sean Canetta.)

Keep trying!


12 thoughts on “Four walls up, Frustration.

  1. The early stages were super hard for me too when everything hinged on my dad’s availability. It drove me absolutely nuts to just sit around and wait for him to have time to help. It does get much better though, once the sheathing and roofing goes on it’s more covering and decorating the structure, which is far easier than creating it!

    Glad you’re getting to go to California! With mention of the Sierras it sounds like you’ll be more northern, but if your trip should take you to SoCal it’d be great to meet you! Little Yellow ought to be done by then (I say that a lot, haha) and you would be more than welcome to a tour 🙂

    • Thanks so much for sharing that, Ella! Its very reassuring. And thank you also for the generous invite. It would be wonderful to meet you and Yellow, as I feel the kindred spirit connection… The furthest south I’ll be on this trip though is Davis. Aren’t you around Santa Barbara/LA?

      Sent from my iPhone

  2. Yay Pixie Q! It’s awesome to see you bringing your plans to fruition. Keep up the good work. Wish I was there to dust off the old tool belt and hammer some nails 🙂 And WTF, Bubby isn’t the only able bodied adult around…get some helpers! Have a barn raising party and invite everyone you know in the area- bribes of good refreshments and music always help. The Amish frame a barn in a single day that way.

    I also struggle with getting into a Zen rhythm with projects…knitting mostly. All too often I find myself just wanting to get done and move ahead to the next step of the project. It helps me to remember how precious the present moment in the project truly is…how years from now I’ll be admiring (or maybe critiquing) how I did this stitch that I am doing right now. I also think it helps me to focus on how each individual stitch is going to contribute to making something beautiful and warm for someone I love. I think it’s true with building too. 5 years from now, you’ll be sitting in your tiny house reminiscing about the time and effort you’re spending now on every measurement, cut, nail, and screw. It’s like your present self is crafting a wonderful gift for your future self. Definitely worth every bit of frustration, aggravation, and drudgery- Enjoy!

    • Thanks Sloose, that’s a really good point about the gift for future me… That should help inspire me to make the process peaceful…. Great thoughts!!!

      The issue with a barn raising is I need someone semi skilled & able-bodied. You’d be surprised how busy skilled people are around here right now. Summer time is too busy!!!

      Sent from my iPhone

  3. Some Zen inspiration for you:
    “Before enlightenment: chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment: chop wood, carry water.” -Wu Li
    “Life exists only at this very moment, and in this moment it is infinite and eternal, for the present moment is infinitely small; before we can measure it, it has gone, and yet it exists forever…”. – Alan Watts

  4. How exciting, ze walls are up!!
    As to your inquiry about your relationship with work I am reminded of a theory I learned about in college, the Flow Theory proposed by Dr. Csíkszentmihályi. Which, basically, sets forth that when a “… balance between ability level and challenge…” are balanced/equal the person performing said task attains a state of “Flow”, in which a persons absorption becomes so deep that everything else falls away.
    Clearly this presents hurdles when starting most new activities, say building a house?!!, potentially more frustrating when you are beginning to reach that balance as you’re finishing the project and, if all goes well, you’ll forget most of what made attaining that effortless state possible by the next time you need the skill… but at least the learning curve will be less steep! Good luck mi amiga, and remember to come back smilingly!!!
    peace love happiness

    • Joe, that theory resonates with my experiences, it’s interesting to read it put in that way…. I always enjoy your thoughts. Gracias!

      • I often think of this like childbirth… I have friends who absolutely despise the last month of being pregnant and scream throughout labor about how much they hate their husband and are never going to go through this again, that he’ll never touch them again, that they are going to mutilate them… And then they have at least one more kid. It seems that, in retrospect, the child was worth all of that and they don’t seem to remember the negatives.

        :-p Of course, I haven’t had any kids, but I want to build a tiny house. I’m just keeping in mind the fact that they can forget the worst of it, so I should be able to as well. 😉

  5. ==========
    I built my 8’x20′ (ridge is 12′ high; runs the short way) LittleHouse during evenings and weekends — in addition to my full-time job. Did I mention it was Aug & Sep in the desert? With no shade and no water and no power? But I WAS seriously motivated as I knew winter would come soon enough and I desperately needed a warm and dry place to BE. For me, the hardest part was always getting started. Once started, I was so into what I was doing that the next thing I’d realize is that it was getting dark! Even then, I wasn’t always ready to quit; sometimes I’d fire up the genset, rig some lights and keep on going until I got to a good stopping point.
    The one thing I always looked forward to each evening was chilling in my lawn chair with a cold drink; just sitting there and admiring my work. I allowed myself to take complete satisfaction in whatever I did that day — crowding out ALL thoughts of how much yet remained to be done. My commitment was to make SOME progress every day — no matter how small — take pure delight in it — and never, ever, ever beat myself up for not doing enough or fast enough or whatever. All my stuff was inside my frame (no time to build a storage shed FIRST) and I was carefully tarping everything back up every night. It never rained a single time that I recall until AFTER I got the roof metal on. My neighbor said I’d never make it; that the snow would come and trash all my stuff first. So I focused on the roof only and it snowed two days after I screwed the last metal piece down. Then I finished siding the walls — doing the north wall first (knowing it would only get colder) and the south wall last.
    Nothing compares to the deep, lasting and profound satisfaction which comes from building your own home. Simply soldier on and do the best you can. Ultimately, that’s all you can do anyway.

    • Wow Jim, your story is so inspiring to me. Thank you so much for sharing… I’m really profoundly touched by this! How did you build without power??! Very wise words, good things for me to ponder and practice …. your thoughts will accompany me through the rest of the build…

      • I guess I should’ve said, “No conventional power — as in grid power.” I have a 4,000 watt generator but I hate the noise and the smell so I would only use it long enough to run my small table saw (until it croaked) and then was left with only my circular saw. While running, the genset would also charge my cordless drill batteries but I was always anxious to shut it off as quickly as possible. Mostly I used screws for everything. Predrilling with 3/16″ bit (through the top piece only) and then driving the screws with the cordless so it got a pretty good workout.

  6. Your walls look great! I am always impressed by your work, so inspiring to see you getting it done! As far as the rain… we have had a bunch of that too and had a tough time keeping the water out. B devised many tarp tent-like things, but nothing really worked. We always had water leaking through somewhere. We decided to just try our best to keep the water out and then just hope that was good enough 🙂 Enjoy your vacation, sounds like it will be a blast!

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