Sunday, January 29, 2012

The COMET project

My friend Mariah  has been working on a really cool project. She has been renovating and old trailer as an example of a sustainable way to live. When she finishes she will tour the country with it talking about the process and teaching as she goes. She says it best in the first paragraph from her about page:

"The COMET (Cost-effective, Off-grid Mobile Eco Trailer) is an exercise in sustainability and small space living. It is an educational tool for children and adults alike. She is a DIY guide for others wanting to pare down and have little to no negative impact on the environment, other humans, and themselves. She is a preservation of incredible design of the past meshed with the essential design of the future."

Mariah  has been working on one of her trailers in the same spot where my house was born, in an old firehouse in Worcester. Check out her site and if you have unused building materials, get in touch. She can use them!

The Plan

This project has now moved into its fourth year. I absolutely love every part of the project, but am tired of not having the time and money to finish it. I am ready to move on to the next one. So here it is, the new plan:

A: Finish the design

B: Estimate the cost for remaining materials and time needed to finish the project and take out a small loan     to pay my expenses for the time and the materials I need to complete it.

C: With the time and money roadblocks removed, finish the house!

After this, I plan of finishing the design for the improved model and offering one for sale. I am now set up with the space, tools and resources necessary to do this. Let your friends know!

Friday, January 13, 2012

More Photos

Check out Dermott's Flickr page for more photos.

The big news

When I mentioned that there would be big news in my last post, I didn't really know what that would be. I was ready for change and many ideas had been floating around in my head. The most likely were moving the house, running a tiny timberframe house building workshop, or building another one for sale. It was only a matter of time before my impulsivity would take over and one of those things would happen. Well it did. Last friday afternoon I decided it was time to move. In order to get my house out of the woods, I had to wait for the swamp I parked it in to freeze enough to support the truck, but there could be no snow on the ground. The weather provided. We had a good cold week and the outlook appeared to be beautiful and warm. This meant I had to get the house out the next morning before the fifty degree weather thawed the ground. Once this task was complete, I would enjoy the warm weather to work in on the solid ground.

The first step involved spinning the trailer around so that the tongue faced uphill where the truck could get  footing. How do you move a six thousand pound object without power equipment? The notice was too short to get a team of draught horses out here (This almost happened though!) so we used come-alongs. Slowly the house moved backwards and around as Dermott and I winched it off of the trees.

Once it faced the right way we hooked up the truck and started to pull. The house, truck and ourselves moved slowly out of the hole inch by inch. Traction was scarce, so we relied on the come-alongs again. I put the truck in 4WD low, stepped out and worked with Lauren and Dermott to set up a system of pulls off of and available tree or rock. The truck drove itself forward slowly as we clicked away on the come-alongs. Finally we made it to the steep part of the hill which was dry, but too steep for my truck alone to do the work. Unfortunately we ran out of stout trees also. When encountering a problem like this, the best thing to do is have tea and lunch.

As we were finishing up lunch, more overall clad reinforcements arrived. With the addition of Toper's truck, Jack's energy and Mario's supervision, we were able to pull the house up the hill like a freight train  with two engines.

It is out!

Next we went straight for the roof. With the roof on the house, it is nearly eighteen feet tall- way over the legal road limit, and more importantly way over the height of many power lines. Which means up to remove what was done so recently...

Jack and Topher taking a break with stale donuts.

Some of the crew.

Down to the rafters and out of daylight.


This was a short day. In the evening Lauren and I drove the roof panels back over to the shop, then came back for the house.

The move went well, just needed a quick stop in the CVS parking lot to adjust some loose items.

The new home for my house is outside of my shop. I share this space with many craftspeople including  blacksmiths, a stonemason, sculpters and artists. We also have people making biodiesel and converting cars to run on vegetable oil. And a green house. It is quickly becoming a place where people show up to work on sustainable projects. Having the house here will be a big change. I have traded in the sounds of coyotes at night for a very active freight line about ten feet behind my house. The swamp has been replaces with a level concrete slab. Instead of the walk through the dark woods, I walk through the greenhouse to the common gallery space at the shop. All in all, I am very excited to be in a place with this much creativity and to be back in the city again where I can easily walk to a coffee shop. I now have no excuse not to finish my house since I am so close to the shop.

 See, the house isn't that small...

As the stretch of nice weather started to wane, Topher, Corwin and I cleared off the slab where my house would sit and pondered how the house was going to arrive on that spot. My body was starting to respond to the efforts of the previous days and I was starting to dread the idea of another day with ramps and winches. This is when I remembered the scrap yard next door. After a quick chat with the owner, we agreed on a sum of $50 for his guy with the loader to hep me out. I finished the prep and the next day and George showed up in an ancient piece of equipment that reminds me of a dinosaur to pick the house.

It looks easy, but unfortunately he only had six foot forks on the lift. I had to span the extra distance with two 8"x8" beams. Still, it only took an hour. I was very happy to see it on solid ground after watching it teetering on those forks for so long.

Thank you so much George. I love the benefits of being in an old industrial area.

At this point, I was left alone with a floor jack and a set of movers dollies to position the house properly on the slab. Easy work with the help of two friends in the shop. You will have to use your imagination on the space. It needs some work, but I know it is going to be very comfortable. The house has been rotated ninety degrees so that the door and long edge faces the gallery, greenhouse and shop. It is starting to feel a little more private from the rest of the mess behind me and more a part of the shop complex. A nice old short iron fence (let me know if you see one) will help contain the space, and I have a twenty by twenty foot patio to landscape with as much stone work and garden space as I can manage. It will be a very comfortable space this spring.

For now, it is in position and the rafters are back in place. I had to quickly re-tarp it with an old Coors Light billboard to keep out the storm, but as soon as it clears I am going to perfect the roof installation system and get the roof back on. I was given some used corrugated fiberglass roofing to use until I get the copper, and some salvaged structural insulated panels that I will use to finish the gables. I hope to do this and build my windows soon, so that it will be properly weathertight.

Check back soon for a short video of the move that Lauren and I are editing.