Wednesday, January 12, 2011


I am happy to say that the house survived its first inclement weather. We moved it down there just in time! At the time I am writing this, we have had nearly two feet of snow and it is still coming down! I was worried last night that the wind and snow would rip the tarp I have over the roof, but it was steep enough that no snow collected on it. When I shoveled my way down to the house to check  on it this morning, it was dry and cozy inside even though the wind was blowing hard enough to shake the thing on its springs.  I will definitely have to put some sort of footings in the ground when the earth thaws this spring. I am excited that the space feels so comfortable and that I have  perfect scenery out of all my windows!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Short video of move

Tiny House Moving Day (Ode to teamwork) from pvander on Vimeo.

Thank you Paula for filming this!

House moving recap

It finally happened! I almost can't believe that I am saying it, but the house is nestled down in the woods, with the rafters installed and a tarp fixed over it, ready to ward off the noreaster forecasted to bring twenty inches of snow to Massachussets. The move ended up taking two days, even with well over twenty people helping.

Day One:

The first break I had was when the pending snow storm shied away from Worcester. We ended up having a gorgeous day, sunny and in the mid 20's. As people started to show up around nine, it seemed that everyone found something to do. I was amazed to look at my to do list and find that every single item was crossed off by ten. We were ready to go! At that point, more and more people were showing up and by the time the ramps and come-a-longs were in place we had the critical mass necessary to start the slide. The front end of the house was nestled into steel tracks attached to the trailer and the rear sat on dollies. Two of us slowly pulled the house along with the winches while others kept the rear end moving straight. Those who couldn't find a spot on the house monitored everything, looking for problems. All in all, it went very smoothly and in under an hour we had the house entirely on the trailer.

The next few hours were spent on details. We had to bolt the house to the trailer, strap it down, put the rear wheels back on (they were taken off to make the trailer lower to the ground) and make sure everything looked safe.

FInally we were ready to go! I cautiously pulled out of the driveway, house in tow, bracing for the worst. I knew that there was a hospital halfway down the hill if necessary, and a busy highway at the bottom to make sure that if there was a failure, it would be complete. Would the welds on the trailer hold? Would the bolts pull out? Hopefully the brakes would work. Would it just tip over at the first glimpse of the hill we had to descend? As I nervously looked in my rear view mirror, the house was sitting steady and level. There was no bouncing, tipping or catastrophic noise! With this fist test under my belt, myself with the house, two trucks with flashing lights, several cars and a moped carrying a wide load sign started down the hill.

In true Worcester style, someone pulled out on me at the hospital, with only inches to spare before a collision. I almost sent him right back to where he came from, but on less favorable terms. You would think that a truck towing a twelve foot high red house would be visible right? Oh well, at least we made it.

Besides the turned heads and outstretched fingers all along highland street, the next part of the trip was uneventful. However, in the next mile, I hit a pothole, heard some of those bad noises I was expecting earlier followed by lots of excited chattering through the walkie-talkie from the truck following me. I did a once over when I bought the trailer, fixing the brakes, repacking the bearings and looking for potential problems. What I missed however were a couple of rusted nuts on the U-bolts holding the rear axle to the springs. That pothole finally did them in, and I almost lost the rear axle with them. The caravan stopped, and we all surveyed the damage. Not bad, considering. We were in a convenient place to stop and the house was still upright.

Again, this a point where I cant thank my friends enough. A few of us stayed with the truck, braving the bitter cold as the sun dropped behind Airport Hill. A few others scattered to scour whatever stores were open on a sunday evening for the necessary parts. A couple of people went back to the firehouse to fabricate a replacement for the rusted out steel plate that the bolts clamp to. Somehow in all of this, a few more people manage to deliver hot lunch and cookies. All I had to do was sit and wait, and act as dispatch for a bit on the cell phone. When the parts arrived, we had the thing jacked up, repaired and back on the road within ten minutes. The rest of the drive was done at a very slow speed.

I cant tell you how relived I was when I finally pulled into the driveway! We fumbled with a tarp for a few minutes, but soon abandon it for the comfort of more food and a fire inside. What a day!

Day Two:
With the first part of the journey over, I woke up early thinking about the next step: getting it down into the woods. There is an old farm path that goes about half way to the site, but it has not been used for a while. I did some clearing of trees and debris a few weeks ago, but there were still many stumps, logs and rocks in the way. To make matters more difficult, they were all frozen into the ground. A digging bar and Peavey took care of most of the stuff, but for the bigger or more stubborn pieces I cinched a chain around them and mercilessly yanked them out with my truck. With the path satisfactorily cleared, all I had to worry about was the steep grade in one section, the snow and wether or not I could actually snake the thing around the curves in the path. I knew that backing the 8000 pound house and trailer up if it got stuck would not be an option.

I had to have another cup of coffee before I finally worked up the courage up to attempt the journey. With two spotters I started down the slippery first slope. Perfect. Next came the bottleneck between the barn and a big rock that would not budge. Not a problem. Then a little S-curve. Successful. Those were all of the tough spots I was worrying about. The rest was flat and straight, although a bit narrow and the final spot was in sight.

Just as I was letting out a huge sigh of relief, Drew shouted to stop. There was a tree leaning a little too far over the path. The truck made it by without trouble, but the house was too tall and wouldn't clear it. I was only about a foot away from it and as expected i could not back up. Nothing a chainsaw couldn't take care of though. Next the trailer encountered the very edge of a rock that was just too big for it to hop over. It took a lot of wiggling back and forth to get the trailer to clear it, but we finally made it. Now we were in the clearing about five feet from where the house needed to be and I ran up against a pallet that was frozen into the ground under the snow. So close yet so far... Finally we got if free, the house in place and the truck out of the way. I spent the rest of the evening with Anne and Drew putting the roof framing into place and enclosing the building with tarps before the snow comes.

There is still a lot of work to do before I am actually living in the place, but it feels so good to at least have it outside! Again, I can't thank all of the people enough who have helped me out with this project over the years, especially in the past few days. Because of people like this, I am still living in Worcester. Thanks!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

A call for help:

Sunday is the day! The long awaited house moving! Bring your winches, rollers, pulleys, levers and cameras!

The day's plan is looking like this: I will have the trailer set and waiting by nine am, ready for the house. As people start showing up we will winch the house onto the trailer. (sounds so simple, right?) Once it is secured, we will start the journey across the city to its new home. There is a little more clearing that we will need to do on the path, and then we can attempt to drive it down into the woods. We will finish the day by dropping the rafters and purlins in place and throwing a tarp over the open roof.

So, I am inviting anyone interested over to help, observe or heckle. If you have been following the project but haven't actually seen it yet, this is a perfect time to check it out. Meet at the firehouse at 9am on Sunday, January 9th. If you need more info or directions, feel free to shoot me an email.


Trailer is ready

I finished the trailer yesterday. Today I will bolt the steel runners onto the house and pick away at all of the other details in preparation for the move. I am very happy with how the design is working out for the trailer, but am a little concerned about the height of it. Again, the house only has about a foot of clearance between the top beams and the top of the Firehouse door. Therefore, it needs to slide out onto the trailer. Luckily the driveway does slope slightly away from the building, so the further out the trailer is the better. I will probably have to bleed the air from the tires and tip the front end up in the air as well: anything to lower the trailer.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

It is Tuesday, and if you are following the blog, you are probably expecting to see pictures of the house being moved. If you know me better or have been following the blog for a little longer, you would probably check back in another week or two to see the house moving. So the trailer isn't ready yet, but I am making progress! Today I cut and welded the individual pieces for the trailer. Unfortunately, the 800 pound welder is in the basement wired to the back wall, the trailer is too wide to fit though the door and the cables are too short to reach outside: a complication like many of the others experienced during this project. I have done all the fabrication that I can do inside. The remaining pieces are going to have to be welded onto the trailer at my friend's blacksmithing shop, hopefully tomorrow.