Friday, August 5, 2016

Tiny House Tour

A few weeks ago, my family and I were in Las Vegas for vacation and I got a chance to catch up with my buddy Mario Soto and his Lime Chili Tiny House RV. After chatting on social media, I met Mario in person at one of Tumbleweed Tiny House Company's Dream Big, Go Tiny Workshops in Sacramento, CA. I talk about that adventure in a previous blog, Making Big Friends in Tiny Places. There are photos there from that visit.

My family had never actually set foot in a Tiny House RV so Mario was gracious enough to give us a nice tour. He has some really neat gadgets in his place: salt water batteries, a solar powered automated skylight that can detect rain and shut on its own, wifi connected LED lights, nifty air quality monitors, among other wifi connected devices that can be controlled remotely via smartphone. This is the footage of that tour. Incidentally, Mario is looking to sell this house and use the proceeds to build another one. 

For more information on the Lime Chili Tiny House, click here.

Thanks for stoppin' by.

-Big Jerm

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Tiny House Helpers: Freddy

This guy is my other right hand dude. Can I have two right hand dudes? With two right hand dudes and no left hand dudes, would that make me unbalanced? Would I constantly be falling over to the right under their weight? Or would that mean I have extra support for the right that would push me over on the left? Hmmm...I digress. 

At any rate, if you follow me on Instagram (ig: Tiny Home, Big Jerm), you've seen his face and ridiculousness on most of my travels. He has roadtripped with me all the way across the country from Washington to California to Texas to Florida. He's a great guy to have around on a Friday night when you're hungry and cursing the fact that you live in the country and Pizza Hut won't deliver. He's always good for a couple Hot & Readys from Lil Caesars and a bottle of Manzanita Sol. He's also very helpful in other ways and an all around good guy. 

I would like you to meet Freddy aka Fredward aka Casual Friday. 

Name: Freddy T. Meza

DOB: 5/2/95

Favorite Movie: El Dorado

Bio: "My favorite hobbies are constructing things with my brothers (Jeremy Norman, Scott Nicholson) which at times goes from making chicken coops to making pina colada. Taking hazardous and yet adventurous road trips to the adrenaline fueled hikes to Yosemite Falls or off taking a drive to a nearby beach, I also like to challenge myself to running to the microwave before the timer goes off."

I am so thankful for all the amazing and generous people I have in my life. It's because of them that I am who I am and I do what I do.

Stay tuned for more helper bios to come. Thanks for stoppin' by!

-Big Jerm

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Tiny House Helpers: Justin Haukea

I have a knack for draggin family members into my projects and this one is no exception. My nephew Justin has no choice but to help me either but he's always willing to lend a hand. He's helped his dad build half pipes in the past and I'm hoping some of those wood working skills will come back to him. Either that or he'll be in charge of keeping the flies off the food while I work. Or maybe picking the Pandora station.

Name: Justin Haukea Norman

DOB: 3/4/00

Favorite Movie: Star Wars Episode VI

Bio: "My hobbies include dancing, drawing, skating, caring for animals (particularly reptiles & amphibians), and binge watching shows on Netflix. Until my uncle brought up the idea of building a tiny house, I had no clue they existed. They do seem pretty dope and I'm glad I have the chance to help him build it."

I am so thankful for all the amazing and generous people I have in my life. It's because of them that I am who I am and I do what I do.

Stay tuned for more helper bios to come. Thanks for stoppin' by!

-Big Jerm

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Tiny House Helpers: Damien Trey

Next on my list of helpers to be acknowledged is my nephew Damien aka Damien Trey aka Dae aka Trey aka Boogie. I am particularly appreciative of him because he has to help me. I'm his uncle. He has no choice. Actually, when I say I appreciate him, I actually mean I feel sorry for him. For all the same reasons.

It's possible that I'm biased but he's a pretty awesome guy. He helps me out with my chickens and is the official farm fresh egg pusher at his school. He's got several of his teachers hooked already with standing orders every week.

Name: Damien Trey Mitchell

DOB: 2/25/03

Favorite Movie: How to Train Your Dragon

Bio: "My favorite hobbies are reading, playing basketball, playing video games and listening to music. I don't like watermelon or vegetables and my favorite color is green. I am a reptile owner and a chicken farmer's apprentice. I also have an affinity for chocolate milk and pizza. Living in a tiny house seems very interesting and helping my uncle build his house will be a fun project."

The vocabulary on this kid, right? He's definitely a reader.

I am so thankful for all the amazing and generous people I have in my life. It's because of them that I am who I am and I do what I do.

Stay tuned for more helper bios to come. Thanks for stoppin' by!

-Big Jerm

Friday, July 8, 2016

Sub-floor Installation, Day 2

Day 2 of sub-floor installation was focused on finishing up the fascia boards and insulation. I went with the foam board stuff. Dealing with those things was pretty easy. It was messy cutting it but otherwise it was no big deal. It took a little practice to work the spray foam in the cans to fill in the gaps. The only issue I really ran into was that the local Lowe's only had the 3/4" thick boards instead of the 1" and 2" ones. The spaces between the metal framing is 3" deep which meant I had to use more boards to fill it. It took four of the 3/4" boards as opposed one each of the the 1" and 2" boards. Just a little more time consuming.

One highlight was I finally got to use my Dewalt DW326PL framing nailer. I was a little apprehensive at first but I quickly got the hang of it. I purchased it a couple months back, refurbished on It worked great. I had a smallish Bostitch compressor that we used previously with a staple gun and brad nailer attachment. I was concerned it wouldn't be good enough to work a nail gun but it worked beautifully.

Again, I was working in the elements. 90+ degree heat mixed with some nasty humidity. For the time being, I am able to work under my parent's carport and that provided some relief. Lot's of water and breaks. Once I start installing walls, I will have to find some other shelter to work under.

Day 2 of construction:

Such power!

Insulation and the cutout for my porch.

Working under the carport.

Insulation installed.

Foam board makes a mess!

At the end of day 2, I was feeling more confident. I realized that my plans are drawn up for a passenger side porch but my trailer was built with a driver side porch. That meant I had to do some of my own calculating again for that framing. It worked out and I feel good about it.

That's all for now. Stay tuned for Day 3 of sub-flooring. Thanks for stoppin' by!

-Big Jerm

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Tiny House Helpers: Scotty

For this first installment, I thought I would start with my best bud, Scott aka Scotty Gee aka PJ. He's been my right hand dude in almost all of my shenanigans for the last 10 years. We've been partners in crime. We've been coworkers. We've been podcast hosts. We've been classmates. We've been roommates. More than once. He's really the muscle and the nerves of this operation. When hands have to get dirty, Scott steps up and we love him for it. He's also the guy that talks to the cops whenever they show up. 

Name: Scott Alan Nicholson

DOB: 8/9/83

Favorite Movie: Yojimbo

Bio: "My hobbies vary by mood and interest, but I like to create. Whether it's painting or arranging plants or writing poetry. If I had to describe myself: I am what I am, but I'm working on it."

I am so thankful for all the amazing and generous people I have in my life. It's because of them that I am who I am and I do what I do.

Stay tuned for more helper bios to come. Thanks for stoppin' by!

-Big Jerm

Monday, July 4, 2016

My "Tiny House Helpers" Series

Ever since I first started planning for my house, I've had people offering up their services to help. From family members to friends to other tiny house enthusiasts, so many people want to lend a hand. I'm a slight control freak mixed with a perfectionist so I'm not sure how letting people help is going to work. I remember being told by someone who's built tiny houses that you quickly realize who in your circle of friends/volunteers should help with framing your walls and who should bring the potato salad or beer. By the way, if I ever ask you to bring potato salad or beer to my build, know that I take both of those responsibilities very seriously.

Almost immediately, I started doing a lot of thinking about ways to show my appreciation to those who lend a hand along my journey. I'm still mulling around one idea I really like. The logistics need to be worked out but I'm thinking of having my helpers names engraved on my house somewhere. Sort of like a wall of fame. I could either do an actual part of my wall (internal or external) or maybe the under side of my loft. I think it would be a nice, lasting homage to those involved in my project. Anywhere my house goes, so do you. Anyone that visits, sees your name. Seems like a cool idea to me. I don't know. Does anyone out there know someone that can engrave names into wood siding for me?

But in the meantime, I thought I could at least do a feature on my blog for my helpers. They get some recognition and you get a name to go with the faces you will see in the pictures. I think I'll do one a week or so.

Stay tuned for upcoming bios. Thanks for stoppin' by!

-Big Jerm

Saturday, July 2, 2016

A Journey of a Thousand Miles...(Subfloor, Day 1)

...begins with one step. 

I guess, TECHNICALLY, I would say I took my first big step back in February when I ordered my trailer. And then another big step in April when I drove across the country to pick it up. However, since then, I've been working a lot and the weather here in Texas went haywire with crazy rains and flooding (and now the resulting battle with the Texas State Bird - the mosquito). As a result, my poor little trailer just sat. 

If I'm being completely honest with y'all, I think there was also a bit of a fear factor in the delay as well. Buying a bunch of supplies and actually puttin' in the work are two very different things. What if I couldn't make the straight cuts or the right measurements or what if I just didn't have the strength to get it done? Whatifwhatifwhatifwhatifwhatif????

Well, I'm happy to say that the delay is OVER! 

Although, it's officially summer with 90-100 degree days and crazy humidity, I sucked it up and got started on installing my sub-floor last week. It's tough working in the heat but with plenty of water and short, frequent breaks in the shade, I'm finding it bearable. I'm hoping all this sweating helps me shed some excess poundage too. 

Here is day 1 of construction:

Fascia boards all installed.

I LOVE these clamps. They make my life soooo much easier since I'm working alone most of the time.

All thread rods with fascia boards installed.

These all thread rods are welded to the trailer frame in strategic locations. The wall framing will be attached to these rods using hurricane ties to keep the house fixed to the trailer. The 2x4 fascia boards have to be cut so that they accommodate the rods and still lay flat against the metal frame. 

At the end of day one (6 hours total), all the fascia boards were installed and my trailer was ready for the sub-floor insulation. There were some small challenges. If you watched the time lapse video, you saw that I noticed my trailer doesn't exactly match the measurements on the plans. I had to go off plan some and do my own math. Eeek! 

Everything is working out great so far and this first phase of the project is giving me the confidence I need to keep it pushin'. 

Stay tuned for insulation installation. 

Thanks for stoppin' by!

-Big Jerm

Friday, July 1, 2016

Trailer? I barely even KNEW 2

So, we were on our way, wiring in place, trailer attached, and last minute motel reservation made. Things were looking great. Towing something that was longer and wider than the vehicle I was driving would take a bit to get used to. Especially on the small 2 lane roads that we were on from time to time. I kept having visions of oncoming vehicles hitting my trailer because I had allowed it to drift over into their lane. In these visions, our SUV is ripped in half. 

Yea, I was a little nervous.   

Just to be sure we were ok, I had Freddy google speed limits while towing a trailer in Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas. This is what he found:

Florida - "Unless otherwise posted, 30 mph in business and residential districts, and 55 mph at any time at all other locations. Turnpike and other designated highways 65 mph, except where posted 70 mph (minimum speed 50 mph)." HUH?????

Alabama - "Must be reasonable and proper." to interpretation. 

Mississippi - "55 mph unless otherwise posted." Thank God we were only there briefly. 

Louisiana - "Boat or utility trailer, same as passenger car; house trailer, 55 mph, day, 50 mph, night for brake-equipped trailers 15 to 32 feet long, 50 mph for trailers without brakes less than 15 feet; all others, 45 mph." That first sentence was the only thing that saved me. Otherwise it sounds like the Florida law. 

Texas - "Same as for passenger cars." Yet another reason to love Texas!

Needless to say, that Florida law made me nervous. All was going well until we passed a truck weigh station. I noticed two unmarked SUVs parked on the left shoulder. They didn't move as we passed them but a few miles later I saw one of them in my rear view mirror gaining on us quickly. I woke up Freddy and told him to get ready to get pulled over. I was in the slow lane and he was in the lane next to me on the left. When he caught up to us he slow down and matched my speed for a few miles. 

Nothing happened at first. So I took a few mph off my cruise control to see what the SUV would do. They slowed down too. I knew what was next. Sure enough he pulled in behind us and hit his lights. I muttered a few words under my breath that shall remain muttered only and began to move onto the shoulder. I've only ever been pulled over a handful of times in my life and I always do the same thing: Hands on wheel, window down, and smile. I'm all yes sir/ma'am and no sir/ma'am. Judge me if you want but I don't mouth off to nobody who's better armed than I am. And quite honestly, these officers have a tough and dangerous enough job that they do. I got nothin but respect. 

Well, when the officer got to the window, he very politely greeted us and wanted to know about my trailer that I was pulling without a license plate on it. 

I was in such a hurry to get going after all of our delays of the morning that I forgot to ask the trailer folks about any registration paperwork I would need or a license plate. At the exact same time, I remembered a rather thick envelope I received in the mail from Tumbleweed shortly after ordering my trailer. That envelope, no doubt, contained all of my title paperwork. The same envelope that was sitting, unopened, on my desk back home. 

I explained to the officer that I just purchased the trailer and was on my way home. I suddenly remembered that, on my iPad, I had a copy of my purchase order. After letting the officer know what I was going to do, I SLOWLY reached for my iPad on the backseat.  The officer told me there's been a rash of trailer thefts. Once he was satisfied that I was, indeed, the owner of the trailer I was towing, he started eyeing the trailer curiously. 

"What is this trailer made for?"

"I'm gonna build a tiny house on it."

"That was what I was gonna guess!"

We talked a little while longer and I gave him my business card with my blog info on it. He said he would keep tabs on my progress through the blog. I wish I had thought to get a picture with him at the time. Maybe a picture of his SUV, lights flashing, behind my trailer. One bit of advice he did want me to share with my readers...when you drive across country to pick up your trailer, don't forget to bring your registration for said trailer with you! Funny cop. He said we would most likely be pulled over again on our journey and kindly sent us on our way. Fortunately, he was wrong about that. The rest of our trip went off without a hitch. 

We arrived home as planned on Tuesday. 

Shortly after returning home, I purchased my first load of materials. I now have everything I need to install my subfloor. I had an issue with my GoPro camera on our road trip and had to mail it in for a replacement. By the way, GoPro has AMAZING customer service. I should have my replacement camera back any day now and will be starting on my subfloor. 

That is all for now. Thanks for stopping' by. 

- Big Jerm

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Trailer? I barely even KNOW 1

Hello all! I am excited to report that I have procured my trailer and my first batch of supplies for my subfloor installation. 

There was a bit of an end zone scramble there that resulted in a few mistakes on my part. It wasn't a very big deal because I had time on my hands but if I had been on a tighter schedule, I would've been in trouble.

When I initially ordered my trailer back in February, I decided to do a little homework to see if I could get it delivered for cheaper than the $1,300 I was being quoted by Tumbleweed. I found out about uShip and decided to give them a shot. For those of you that don't know, uShip is a website that allows someone who needs something shipped (anything from boxes to vehicles) to post the information online and then shippers will bid on your job. I think the shippers are people who might be returning from a job with an empty load and looking for a way to maximize their time. I'd heard you can get some really good rates from them. 

I set up two bids. One from Colorado to Texas and the other from Florida to Texas as these were the two closest trailer pick up locations. Surprisingly, I received the lowest bids on the Florida bid even though it was slightly further away. I quickly got bids back in the $450-$550 range. That certainly beat $1,300. It seemed this would be the way to go. 

The trailer makers gave me an estimate of early April for my trailer which worked out fine because I had to head out of the country for 2 weeks for work in mid-March. Well, a week before my trip, I received a call saying my trailer would be ready early. Wonderful, right? So I setup another bid through the uShip app, this time for real. To my horror, the bids came in slowly and they were almost TRIPLE the initial bids!!! 

I don't know what happened in the 90 days between my initial search and final bid but there was no way I would pay that much!

So the scramble was on to find alternatives. I thought about renting a pick up truck from Enterprise but they informed me that, although many of their trucks do indeed have tow hitches attached, towing anything was strictly forbidden. Huh?! I then called U-Haul who told me they only allow towing of U-Haul trailers. Information that I have since found is untrue. At any rate, I found that most moving companies also charged a fee for each mile traveled which made a 2,000 mile trip to Florida quite expensive. 

Just as I was about to hit the floor and curl up in the fetal position, in comes my buddy Freddy riding his white horse proclaiming, "Mine own l'rd! I wouldst beest m're than joyous to loan thee mine own SUV f'r thy journey. Verily and such." (Seriously, that's how it happened.) 

See? Told ja!

So, with time running out and my options at about nil, Freddy's 2001 Nissan Pathfinder was going to have to work. It already had a tow hitch receiver on it and we confirmed that it could handle the weight. 

I would be returning from my work trip on Friday and we would have to hit the road to Florida on Saturday to arrive on Monday to pick up my trailer spending one night in Mobile, AL. It was about a 15 hr. drive each way. 

I figured we could take our time driving down, pick up as soon as they open Monday morning and drive all the way back in one day. Oh how mistaken I was. 

Well, Saturday morning arrived and we hit the road. We left a little early so we could stop by AutoZone and purchase the correct size tow hitch ball and the right connectors for the electrical hook up. 

Imagine our surprise when the extremely helpful AutoZone manager, who himself owned a 2000 Pathfinder, told us that even though the SUV had a stock Nissan hitch receiver installed, there was no wiring for the trailer lights. 

No wiring. 


Ok. No problem...How much can it cost us to install said wiring? (Can you already see the shadow of the shoe that's about to drop?)

Trailer wiring for a 2001 Nissan Pathfinder is a special order item for AutoZone. Our trip is clearly not starting out well. 

We couldn't call the trailer company for advice as they were already closed and wouldn't reopen until Monday morning. So I made the decision to push on to Florida. I was concerned but figured the trailer company would SURELY have what we need or at the very least know how to rig something up. 

The rest of the day and the next went without incident. I got to add Mississippi and Alabama to my list of sates I've been to, bringing my total to 28. 

Monday morning we were up bright and early and at the trailer company when they opened at 8 am. We explained our situation to the first guy who said, "yea no problem. I'm sure we can work this out." He went to consult with his manager who then came out and started with several condescending "How-long-ago-did-you-order-your-trailer?" and "You-drove-2000-miles-without-realizing-your-vehicle-wasn't-wired?" type questions. To which I responded "This-is-not-my-vehicle-I-planned-to-use-uShip-but-that-fell-through-and-uhaul-said-no-and-enterprise-too-can-we-just-work-together-to-solve-the-issue-thanks." 

After that, he lightened up a bit and called around for us. He found a local U-Haul that had what we needed but they couldn't do the install until 10:30 am. 

It was only 8:30 am and we had already checked out of our motel so we headed out to find a coffee shop. 

We headed over to U-Haul at 10:15 am, only to find out they already had a vehicle in the bay and we would have to wait. And wait. And wait. 

Freddy took a nap

Finally, at about 12:30 pm, they finished with our install. We trucked on back to the trailer place, got my trailer hooked up and was on the road in no time. However, in doing the math on our late start, we wouldn't be arriving home until 4 or 5 am. While I was in a hurry to get home, I didn't think it safe to drive that long at those hours of the morning. I decided it was best to stop in Mobile, AL again. 

This seems like a good place to pause for station identification. Stay tuned for "Trailer? I barely KNOW 2."

Thanks for stoppin' by!

- Big Jerm

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Making Big Friends in Tiny Houses

Hello friends!

A lot has happened since my last post.

First, I am so very happy to announce that I am BACK IN TEXAS! My stint in Washington served it's purpose but it feels great to be home. The day after arriving home, I was running errands around town in the sunshine and found myself smiling and greeting everyone like a lunatic. I actually explained to the folks in line at the Post Office that I'm not a crazy person. It's just that I've spent five months in a cold, wet, dark state and I'm just so ecstatic to see the Texas sun. It feels like the governor called and gave me a stay of execution!

Second, my trailer is in line for production and should be ready for pick up at the end of March or early April. I went ahead and ordered the 20' utility trailer instead of the low-wider. (See my previous post for more info about that). I realized that, for over a year, I had my mind wrapped around the utility trailer and was fine with it until the new low-wider trailer was introduced with it's 11 more inches of width. I don't really need those 11 inches. The point was made recently that if you add more space/storage, you WILL fill it with stuff. So I reassessed my needs and went with the utility trailer.

Third, I started a separate Instagram account for my tiny house postings. Click here to find it. I plan to post longer videos and stories on this blog but brief things and photos there on Instagram.

Fourth, I attended the Tumbleweed Tiny House Company "Dream Big Go Tiny" Workshop in Sacramento on February 6th and 7th. 

I had a really great time and got to meet some really cool folks. The information was very useful. As expected, the Tumbleweed people were amazing. I arrived early on Friday and got to hang out with Art Cormier, who was the presenter, and Mario Soto, who brought his tiny house from southern California to the workshop! Mario and I had been communicating back and forth online and we actually ran in some of the same circles back when I lived in Los Angeles. It was super cool to finally meet in person. 

When I arrived at the hotel, Mario invited me to come down and hang out with him and Art in his house. I had a great time discussing philosophy, the purpose of life and the origin of the universe. Nah...not really. But we DID eventually migrate to the hotel lobby, have a couple of beers and talk about our own lives and tiny houses. I couldn't have picked a better way to spend a Friday night in an unfamiliar city.

Over the weekend, I had a chance to spend a little one on one time with Mario and his house. I want to share that with you. I also recently purchased a GoPro camera to be able to document my building project so I tested that out a bit.

Mario opened his house up both in the morning and evening to visitors. The workshop attendees all got to take tours but a lot of random folks driving or walking by stopped in too. At any given time, there were up to 15 people in there!

Sun rising over the Lime Chili abode
Love the dormers!
Better look at the dormers

Mario ran LED lights under the eaves of his roof to provide light outside of his house at night. The lights are controllable from his iPhone and have a multitude of colors they can be changed to. He runs the same LED strips on the inside of his house. By using these, he avoided needing to install light switches at all. Pretty cool.

Cool welcome mat
View from the loft
From the floor looking into the loft. You can see the added space the dormers give. You see the LED lights?
Living space

Mario designed that moving cabinet holding his washer/dryer combo himself. It rolls into his shower space when not in use. Pretty ingenious use of space, don't you think?

You can't spell comfort without bean bag

In addition to being able to control his lighting with his iPhone, Mario has this controller. Each button controls a different lit area and the remote doesn't use any batteries or need charging. Every time you push a button, you can feel a click inside. That mechanism you are feeling is creating just enough juice to power that action.

Maintaining good air quality is imperative living in such a small space. One way Mario has solved that is by having this skylight on a timer that opens every so often, automatically. It also has a sensor that will close it if it starts raining. The motor is solar powered too.  

This is a different way to deal with access to the loft. Some people don't like the idea of having a ladder hanging smack dab in the middle of their living space or having to move it all the time. Mario has his ladder up against the wall on one side and cut a hatch through the floor of his loft. I'm thinking of doing something similar but building some of those cool storage stairs instead of a ladder.

Mario's house has so many other cool things including some salt water batteries that give him 2.5 days of power from a full charge. I am soooo not smart enough to explain those to you so I'll just direct you to his page for that. Here's his blog and his Instagram.

That's all for now. The countdown is starting. I'm pricing supplies and tools and getting very excited! Stay tuned. Thanks for stoppin' by!

- Big Jerm