Yestermorrow Design/Build School in Waitsfield, Vermont offers over 80 hands-on courses per year in design, construction, woodworking, and architectural craft and offers a variety of courses concentrating in sustainable design. Now in its 35th year, Yestermorrow is one of the only design/build schools in the country, teaching both design and construction skills. Our hands-on 1-day to 3-week workshops, certificate programs and semester programs are taught by top architects, builders, and craftspeople from across the country. For people of all ages and experience levels, from novice to professional.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Live From the Tiny House Fair: What Do You Want Out Your Composting Toilet?

Abe Noe-Hays of Full-Circle Composting Toilets polls the crowd

Here's what we came up with:
-no odor
-no insects
-easy to clean
-low input/easy to maintain
-can operate at low temperature
-useful [by]product

What do you want out of your composting toilet?

Live From the Tiny House Fair: Building an Eco-Village

Guest post by tiny house dweller, author, and former Yestermorrow Intern Matt Wolpe.

Starting with 14 acres and a lonely sugar shack, Gwendolyn Hallsmith delicately wove several tiny houses into her broader vision of an eco-village in Cabot, Vermont.  Treading lightly on her land (leaving the majority aside for preservation, which supports seven families) tiny houses are carefully placed throughout to serve as guest houses, studios and temporary housing while families build their permanent housing - which then frees the tiny houses up for adaptive reuse.

Gwendolyn, as a zoning and code savvy visionary, stressed the importance of using a municipal sewer and water system as a responsible way to cluster housing on a smaller portion of a larger plot of land, noting that when you are relying on a septic system, residents need to be spread out further from each other, causing more interruptions of the existing landscape.

More home sites are available at Headwaters if you are interested in joining Gwendolyn and company.  Additional info can be found here:

Overheard at The Tiny House Fair: Boats and Lunchtime Musings

For those of you who have devoted hours of your time pouring over design solutions for living in small spaces, you've probably discovered the treasure trove of clever furniture and space uses in the sea-bound world. I caught a couple of snippets of marine inspirations and aspirations at lunch today:

1. A university administrator and recent empty-nester came here this weekend because she's plotting for her next life step: unrooting herself from her long-term home and setting out for an adventure. She dreams of living on a boat, but because of sea-sickness and the maintenance required of water-worthiness, knows she can't do it on the water - so why not on land? Hopefully this weekend will give her some of the tools and inspiration to retrofit a boat-home-on-wheels!

2. Have you heard about the Air Head Composting Toilet? One of PAD's participants favors this system over the many composting toilet options on the market or for making. Originally designed for boaters, this system is small, effective, efficient, and easy-to-maintain. It handles solids and liquids separately, diverting urine for easy disposal (e.g. remove it, dilute it, and water your fruit trees!); the poo-container is lined with coffee filters, which you dump into the aerating basin by "flushing" a lever. Add some carbon-material to the mix (she likes to use CoCo Core - a coconut husk product) and after some time you've got good, water-saving, human-generated compost! Hopefully I'll get to learn more about this at the afternoon's Full-Circle Composting Toilet talk.

Live From the Tiny House Fair: Think Outside the Box

(and building for a whole heck of a lot less while you're at it)

What a way to start the day!

"the cub", a.k.a. smurfmobile

Strolling across the sunny lawn to breakfast this morning, I was excited to see the arrival of "The Cub," a 4'x7' house on wheels that brothers Deek and Dustin Diedricksen of Relaxshacks are cozily calling home for the weekend.

The two started off today's activities with their talk "How to Build Your Own Home for a Heck of a Lot Less - Thinking Outside the Box." Anyone who's morning coffee hadn't quite kicked in yet, was quickly awoken by Deek's charisma and wit as he and Dustin related their experiences with building small-sized treehouses, trailer houses, and "ground-bound dwellings," using largely found, salvaged, and alternatively-purposed materials. In addition to testing the limits of what constitutes a dwelling space, making "cheap" art, and creatively building, the two are dedicated to re-directing the waste stream, getting functional materials out of the landfill and into use.

With over 20 years of "freeform building" under their belts, and Dustin's work as an environmental toxicologist, the two had a wealth of knowledge, experience, tips, and tricks to share. What I was most struck by, however, was the strong sense of freedom to experiment, learn, and push boundaries they'd granted themselves by seeking materials outside of the conventional. With stacks of found and free wood and odd windows, why not see if you could build a home in under 40 sq. ft? Why not create asymmetric window and siding patterns? Or use salad bowls and pickle jars as protruding windows and inset terrariums?

Some of Deek and Dustin's Tricks and Tips for Salvagers, Trash-Pickers, and Tiny-Livers:

- Keep a materials salvage Road Kit in your car, including: tarp, straps and bungees, crowbar, hammer, drill, Leatherman/multi-tool
- Let people know that you're interested in collecting building materials - word gets around!
- Develop a relationship with your local mom'n'pop sawyer and lumberyard
- Surf Craigslist (especially in affluent areas)
- Visit the "Take It or Leave It" section at the transfer station
- Ask for mis-mixed "oops" paint at the Loews or Home Depot
- Project Phasing: with some poly- or weather-protecting finish, it's fine to leave plywood sub-floor or sheathing exposed as your flooring or siding; don't worry about "finishing" it until you come by the money or desire!
- Get creative with typical household items - a glass bowl can become a window, a metal pail could be a sink, a teapot is a perfect planter
- Try It Before You Buy It - is full of tiny houses for rent, so next time you travel, thinking about booking a small space instead of a hotel room
- Space-Savers: Murphy beds, fold-down tables, shelving nooks behind stairs or in protruding windows, stair step seating

Do you have any creative ideas for inexpensive, small-scale living? Share your dreams and designs!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Live From the Tiny House Fair: Building a Community

Two of our featured speakers and their houses: the Ecovative Mushroom Tiny House and the COMET camper have arrived, growing our weekend tiny house community.

Lee Pera and Brian Levy from Boneyard Studios kicked off the event with a talk about how their tiny house showcase on an alley lot has been a vehicle to build community in DC. 

I was excited to hear Lee and Brian talk about how the Boneyard project evolved, from a monthly Meetup group daydream, to a parking lot turned community garden and inhabited space - a place to expand the conversation about small-living and issues around affordable housing. 

As Lee and Brian shared their passions for community outreach and dialogue, a lively energy permeated the group - it was clear that people had been anticipating being in a room with so many like-minded enthusiasts. Questions ranged water and sewage solutions, complicated zoning navigation, and the presenters' aspirations for their own tiny-living; and each response only brought up more questions - it's a good thing we still have two days to continue the conversation!

How do you reach out in your neighborhoods and build community and awareness about housing issues through tiny-house-living?

Live From the Tiny House Fair: ...GO!

The scene is set!

The Yestermorrow campus is held in a ready stillness, our presentation rooms ready for eager listeners, our staff bustling about the grounds, as our first guests start to trickle in.
tent ready for the welcome dinner
the first roving-home to arrive
camping area - all marked out
wood shop yesterday, presentation space tomorrow
yestermorrow chairs ready for the first talk in the main studio: building community 
our executive director and operations manager ready to check-in our attendees

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Live From the Tiny House Fair: Get Ready, Get Set...

The rain clouds have cleared just in time to get the finishing touches on Yestermorrow's campus as we prepare for our Tiny House Fair guests to arrive! We're gearing up for a beautiful and lively weekend with a host of lectures, conversations, and events led by over a dozen small-living notables, not to mention the ample opportunities all attendees will have to engage in conversations about alternative living, community-building, and innovative technologies.

For those of you who aren't able to join us in Waitsfield, we'll be reporting from the event throughout the weekend, so be sure to tune in and join the conversation online!