Monday, May 31, 2010

El Pato

As I mentioned yesterday, most of our parts for the wagon came from our local ReStore. As you DIY-ers out there know, when you're working with a hodgepodge of used materials, sometimes things get a bit...funky.

Such is the case with the interface between our door and doorknob. The used door already had a hole cut into it for a door knob, but did not come with a knob. A friend gifted us a beautiful antique ceramic knob, but the only fitting we could find for it was an old-fashioned surface-mount variety. We thought that was pretty cool anyway.

Well, this surface-mount door latch thingamabob has turned out to be a challenge in many ways. When we took it to a locksmith to have skeleton keys made for it, we were told they would have to be made by hand. $50 for two keys! We've passed on that for now. Then, when it came time to mount it to the door, we realized that we would have to drill a new hole for the door knob. This left us with a gaping hole where the old knob was. So, determined, we employed an old-school technique for fixing holes in wood:

That's right. A tin can patch. We think the whole ensemble looks pretty weird in a good way. Hope you agree.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Dutch Door

It's the small choices that make a home feel like your own. I am loving our new dutch door. It's a lean over and talk to your neighbor, drink iced tea, sell ice cream kind of a door. Speaking practically, it's our key to cross ventilation in the wagon.

Photo Dutch Door
Originally uploaded by Whittled Down

Fitting the Sink

We cut a hole in the counter top for the sink this morning, and I'm thrilled with how the sink looks in its new spot. The enamel sink was a ReStore find, like most of our bits and pieces.

Photo Fitting the Sink
Originally uploaded by Whittled Down

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Half a Door

We are super busy this holiday weekend preparing to move out of our home of two years and into the casita on the same property. We'll live in the casita for the remaining month before heading east. Still, in between the scrubbing and the packing, we couldn't help but put in a little time on the wagon. We decided to convert the solid door we got at the ReStore into a dutch door, so we cut it in two and began mounting it this afternoon. The door installation is a little wonky because the wagon doesn't have a traditional door jamb, but we're makin' it work.

Photo Half a Door
Originally uploaded by Whittled Down

Past and Future

Moving into a tiny house means getting rid of all your stuff. Both Tristan and I are the nesting type, and since we've been in the same house for almost 2 years, we've accumulated a lot of stuff. A lot of tiny house dwellers talk about feeling free once they get rid of all their crap, and so far it has definitely been a freeing experience for me. Every item that walked out of our yard sale made me feel a little bit lighter. I think I won't comprehend the full effect until we've moved into the wagon, but it
was amazing visually to see all of our possessions spread out in front of the wagon.

Another plus to getting rid of all of our stuff is that our yard sale earnings will go directly to help pay for the wagon. In a way, all of that extra crap gets incorporated into the wagon in the form of funding. So far we have raised exactly $500 from liquidating our possessions, and we still
have a few big ticket items left to sell. That's about 1/3 of the total cost of the wagon.

Which brings me to a simple living point that is one of my very favorite rants: less stuff in your life = more $ in your pocket. Over the course of the past two years, we've managed to reduce our expenses dramatically. I am able to save about 15% of my income every month, even though I work 25 hours
a week at $14/hr. I buy local, organic food and I eat out more than I should. And yet, decisions like living without TV and a cell phone really add up. To me, the Good Things in life are the homemade things, the free things, the quality time things. Living with this perspective, in my opinion, gives me more freedom than a high income, full time job that sucks up all my time. Knowing that you can live comfortably on 10k a year or less is the best security there is.

Moving into the gypsy wagon will greatly reduce our largest living expense--rent. Living in a house is expensive--living in a house in Santa Fe's inflated market is even more expensive. Currently, my share of the rent sucks up almost half of my monthly income! In minimizing our possessions and building a gypsy wagon with solar power, our rent and utilities expenses will be minimal. For me, this means the difference between being forced to work a job I don't like and getting to choose my work more carefully. Not to mention the fresh air and adventure we will enjoy in our new simplified dwelling. Oooooooh boy, I can't wait to hit the road!

Photo Past and Future
Originally uploaded by Whittled Down

Friday, May 28, 2010

Little Red Window

Finally got around to painting the window and the second side of the door yesterday. It's a brick red color, and I really like the way it looks against the wood and the steel.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Boot Repair

In today's throw away culture, it's wonderful to see that some old-school traditions of repairing what you've got remain in tact. Here in Santa Fe, cowboy boots are a big part of the wardrobe for people from a lot of different backgrounds, and we have a boot repair shop that keeps everyone's kicks in good working order.

When I went into the shop for the first time last week, I was amazed at the number of boots they were working on. Shelves and shelves of boots in paper bags waiting to be picked up or worked on lined every wall.

I dropped off my pink cowboy boots, a yard sale find that turned out to be vintage Tony Lamas. The soles were in bad shape when I got them, and I haven't really been able to wear them due to the huge holes in the soles.

No more! I got my boots back yesterday, re-heeled and re-soled. They look fantastic. Even better, they have been touched by the hand of an individual craftsperson. I wore 'em out last night and stomped it up good.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Spice Storage

We'll be using these magnetic canisters to store herbs and spices in the gypsy wagon. I've seen these kinds of containers recommended before, but never had I seen them lids that are designed for shaking and pouring without having to open the lid. I admit that I had a moment of primal consumerism when I found these, but hey--they are reusable, cheap ($2 each) and cute (squeeeeeee!). Oh yeah, and not breakable, an important consideration for a home on the move.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Crusty Band

Last night while walking to dinner we were treated to the musical stylings of a fabulous troop of crusties. The photo really doesn't do justice to their color scheme--they were so dusty they looked like a sepia-toned photograph. This particular ensemble was really well put together. I was particularly impressed with the musical saw/lead singer. From left to right we have: guy in top hat playing a tin can with a lighter, homemade washtub base, guitar, saw, grungy banjo, and washboard with bell. I want to learn to play musical saw sooooo bad.

Kitchen Counter

The kitchen counter for the wagon is being made out of a modded computer desk we had in the house. I bought this exact desk for $15 or something at the Restore:

We have been using it as extra prep space in the kitchen for about a year. The desk is nice solid wood, and when I measured it, the surface was exactly the right dimensions for the wagon. So, I disassembled the desk:

I refinished the surface, which was gross and water/wine stained, with a homemade finish of mineral oil and beeswax:

Then I chopped the front legs down to the right height and partially reassembled the desk. Here's what it looks like right now:

The table will be made into cabinets next, with drawers and cabinet fronts. The surface will have a sink and a one burner stove installed, and voila! We will have a kitchen for the wagon!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Finished Homemade Goat Gouda

In honor of Tristan's graduation, we broke out our smoked gouda to share with family and friends. Previously, our hard cheeses have been tasty but not particularly reminiscent of whatever they were intended to be. This gouda was the most complicated cheese we've attempted. Cheesemakers at the Farmer's Market told us that they made many, many attempts at gouda before getting it right. On top of that, this gouda started out as an accident. Needless to say, I didn't really have high hopes for it.

Boy, was I wrong! This cheese tastes and feels exactly like a smoked gouda. It has a little more bite as it's a goat cheese, but wow. It's pretty good. The cheese is smooth and creamy, but firm, with a really great smoky flavor. We went through about half the wheel yesterday.

If you want to get into cheese making yourself,  I highly recommend you pick up a copy of  Home Cheese Making: By Ricki Carroll. We use it for all our hard cheeses.

He Did It!

Tristan graduated from St. Johns College yesterday! It's been a long hard road, and he has worked his ass off to get here. Congratulations, Tristan!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Bed Frame for the Whittled Down Caravan

The bed frame for the gypsy wagon is a re-purposed double bed frame that has been sitting in our carport for over a year. We upgraded our bed awhile back and didn't have a use for the simple wooden frame that was a little too low to the ground for our taste. The frame was in bad shape and needed to be refinished before going in the wagon. The pegs that held it together were spent, so we devised a new way to put it together using 2x4 blocks in each corner to screw into. Once we had it assembled and in place in the wagon, we decided it took up too much space. We cut everything down to a width of 4' (a loss of about 5 1/2") and reinstalled it. The bed takes up a more reasonable amount of space now and still comfortably sleeps two.
Our original plan was to make the bed fold into a sofa in the daytime. However, we got anxious to have a sleepable space and we decided that the bed could be easily modified to fold at a later time. At least until we're settled in our new home, the bed will be fixed.
After having to use so much new lumber on the exterior of the wagon, it feels great to be back to using salvaged materials on the interior. Our kitchen counters will also be made of reused material, and our sink and stove are both thrift store finds. All of the rest of the interior shelving and cabinetry should be easily made from salvaged materials too!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Right Now

This is what our gypsy wagon looks like RIGHT NOW! Got a lot done today and it's starting to look like home. More on how we got from A to B later...

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Roof In Progress

The canvas roof of our wagon will be supported by these 1x2 purlines in addition to bows running from side to side. We won't put the bows on until we get the interior furniture in.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Modern Travelers use Solar Power

Alternative energy is something we have not experimented with much here at the homestead. Since we aren't homeowners, it doesn't make much sense to install solar panels at home. Instead, we have tried to conserve the conventional electricity we use by line-drying our clothes, being careful to turn off lights when we leave the room, and adjusting the refrigerator temp/keeping the fridge and freezer fully stocked for maximum efficiency. Our electricity bills have been pretty low, but we're about to do away with them entirely.

Our gypsy wagon will be powered by a 50-watt solar panel mounted to the roof. We got the solar panel for $100 at the flea market last summer, and our friend Mikey traded us two hefty 6v batteries for some UPS batteries that Tristan recovered from St. John's. The panel will power our lighting and an inverter will allow us to charge our laptops, ipods, and other gadgets. We have an inverter that is meant to plug into a car's cigarette lighter that we will adapt for this purpose. Tristan and I think that this set-up will provide enough power to meet our needs.

Total cost for electricity in the wagon? $100 panel + $35 charge controller + $7 adapter for the inverter = $142. Freedom from non-renewable energy? Priceless.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

1st Side Wall

This morning we put up the first side wall. The wall is made of corrugated steel, which we chose for three reasons: 1) We already had it lying around as we salvaged it almost a year ago from a trash heap. I think this is one of our best reuses of salvaged material so far. 2) It's lighter and easier to install than more tongue and groove, and 3) We kind of like the contemporary wood and metal look.

Here's the technical stuff. The steel is supported by a 1x2 poplar "purlin". The purlin is notched into the front and back wall. Each material on its own felt kind of flimsy and I was a little worried it wouldn't be rigid enough, but now that it's all screwed in it feels good and sturdy. We will caulk the gaps in the corrugated to seal it all up.

One more side wall to go and then we're done with the exterior except for the roof! Before we put the roof on we will install the larger pieces of built in furniture, including the bed frame and the kitchen counter.

From 2010-05-08

Friday, May 7, 2010

Taking Shape

We now have matching circular front and back walls. The wagon is really starting to take shape now and there are only a few steps left before this thing is at least minimally habitable. We finished cutting just as the sun disappeared...

SF Building Inspection

Boy, those Santa Fe building inspectors are pretty unprofessional...When we went out to work on the wagon today we found this passed inspection notice tacked to the wall. Our friend Michael stopped by when we were out last night and gave our new house his stamp of approval. Thanks Michael!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010


The entire weekend we had miserable weather. It snowed, it sleeted, it hailed, it winded. After spending most of Saturday indoors, on Sunday we had enough and hauled a space heater out to the tarp covered wagon. We worked away in there, with a plentiful supply of tea, plotting the points that would form the circular shape of the walls.

A little about this approach to circles: Originally, we planned to use a "compass" made out of a pencil attached to a length of wire that was the length of the circle's radius, with the central point set at the spot that would be the circle's center. That would have worked fine for the front wall, but not the back wall, as the circle on the back changes depth halfway up. So instead we plotted the points of the circle on a graph and then transferred them to the boards. As you can see, it worked. But boy was that a lot of math.

Here's the nearly finished front wall at the end of the day, when it finally stopped precipitating.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Food Network Hoopla

Boy, yesterday was a busy day. We braved really unpleasant weather to get a meager amount of work done on the gypsy wagon, we marched for change, and...we went all over town exploring the filming of a new Food Network reality show. Apparently, Food Network is filming a new reality show involving food trucks traveling from West to East in a competition to sell the most food. I read in the paper that one of the trucks was a Banh Mi cart, and well, I got pretty excited. You can't get banh mi around here. The paper said the location was top secret, so we drove around, and we found every other truck but the banh mi. Three trucks were parked on the plaza, and it was pretty funny to watch the baffled cameramen when the Immigrant Rights March took over the area. We finally spotted our target parked outside of REI. Of course, just our luck, they were out of supplies and wouldn't be back for 2 hours! I figure they had to drive to Albuquerque to get the ingredients they needed to continue.

There is a saving grace though. The truck will be parked at another location in town today. I know what I'm having for lunch!

PS. This truck is pretty durned cute, eh?

Measure Twice...

I made a massive mistake when we were building our first wall. I measured from the wrong place on our Sketchup model and made the wall a total of 8" too small. Luckily, I padded each board enough that only some of the boards are too short, and they are only off by a small amount. Still, we needed to make up the difference so we've put these patches on. Once everything is cut down to size and the bow goes over it, I don't think it will be super noticeable. Still. Measure twice and cut once, people!

Marching for Rights

Yesterday Tristan and I participated in a march for not only the rights of immigrants but for the civil rights of everyone in this country. The bill that was recently signed into law in Arizona has hit close to home for a lot of people here in the neighboring state of New Mexico, and yesterday's march was hands down the biggest act of protest I have witnessed in Santa Fe since we moved here 2.5 years ago. I wanted to share some of the pictures of the action here.