How to be vulnerable, part 1

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Nearly relevant, but quite pretty image of my house in its current position.

Today I spent the whole day sanding down, washing and waxing my kitchen. 

After nearly a year of living and moving, the floor boards are stained, the racks for the pots are knocked out of whack, and there’s a general air of ingrown dinners over the kitchen area.

And as I’m sanding down the pine, first with a coarse grade, then a finer, I come to thinking that while there are plenty of tools and advice around on how to seal things off and close a structure, it’s surprisingly difficult to find tools and ways to keep and maintain an open structure, or, to maintain your vulnerability while not being permanently wounded.

My house is a vulnerable structure. It’s pretty open to the elements in its construction and the materials are not impregnated or heavily treated. This is a conscious choice, to live with something living instead of building a tomb. As I said before, I’m deeply uncomfortable in most modern houses for the reason that they feel like something meant to die in rather than something built for living things. 

But a living thing needs care, it needs upkeep, and to find the balance of closing and opening is the hardest thing any living organism will face. Too open, and you’ll rot or be eaten alive, to closed and you’ll suffocate or starve.

I recall how, back when I was building, I went to get a piece of marine plywood for what was going to be the first attempt on a hatch to access my roof terrace. I went to the store, found the piece I wanted, checked the specifics, and then I asked the sales attendant if the material could handle the rain, meaning that it would not rot when wet in a hurry., as some materials do. He then regarded me with an expression as if I had made a lewd suggestion involving the two of us and a diseased aardvark. When he regained his composure, he carefully explained how I needed to buy a special kind of lacquer and a thinner, sand down the wood, lacquer it with a quite thinned mixture, wait for about two days, repeat, and repeat again at least five times with thicker mixtures of lacquer and thinner. I took a look at what the lacquer and thinner contained, panicked, thanked him for his time and left. 

There are oils, tar solutions, techniques and mixtures you can use to keep wood longer while not building a bio hazard. But a lot of this knowledge is lost and what is left is heavily guarded and not easily accessible to the common crowd or amateur builder, such as me. And most of the building industry is based on the idea that everything has to last forever, or you’ve failed. 

Of course I spin this thought further as dinner dust is clogging up my throat and dulling down my clothes. And I think about how we’re taught to do this with our bodies and our minds, making them rain proof, death proof, indestructible and by this, becoming already dead and a walking bio hazard, as most houses are. 

And we have very few tools to really maintain our minds and bodies. A lot to close them off and fixing them, few on how to care for on a daily, living basis as something living and interacting. This idea I will explore in part two, coming up.

Evolutionary snuggles*

They *” say that evolution is incapable of taking one step back in order to move forward in a better direction. I’m going to claim this as the reason for my deep reluctance to fixing the afore-mentioned leak in my roof.

I mean, properly fixing it instead of just adding new bits and pieces to something that was obviously never going to work. Or at least, not at my skill-level. What was not working was this:

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A rather intricate mosaic of burnt cedar wood, using the technique of yakisugi or sho sugi ban. This is me and a closeup of one of the pieces.

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When this did not work, I tried to remedy it with huge blobs of tec7and sikaflex.  I’ll spare you the details.

And when this still didn’t work, I tried to cover the atrocity with asphalt roofing felt.

In order to fix this I had to remove all the roofing felt, all the bits and pieces and replace them with something more whole, more practical and, alas, a less interesting solution.

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But here, at least, is a glimpse of the resulting hygge, proving that evolution does not always know where it’s going and might be highly overrated.

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*There’s no point to writing snuggles rather than the more obvious struggles, just that I’m tired of the endless yapping about evolution as some sort of special olympics. The universe cares nothing for your stupid games of dominance.

**I’m not really sure who ‘they’ are. Possibly Darwin, or my 8th grade biology teacher. It’s just one of those phrases.

Tiny alienations

There’s a lot of really lovely people in the tiny house movement. There really is. I’m not one of them though. I’m not positive, mindful, cheerful, quirky, or whimsical. I’m not your manic-pixie-dream-outsider. I have an outlook on life and humanity slightly less bright than Peter Wessel Zapffe.  And while I do have a wide sense of humor, and I do laugh a lot, particularly when people fall over, I have a deep scepticism of people who smile All The Time and who always find something to be grateful about.

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Perhaps you do need to have an absurd amount of optimism to manage a project as all-consuming and impossible as building a small house is, especially in a world where individualism is widely encouraged provided you don’t really act on it.

Perhaps there is also a need to display a sort of harmless giddiness in order to seem less threatening, because there are still a lot of people deeply threatened by anyone who steps outside the order of things, and also to show these threatened ones full of schadenfreude that they are Doing alright with their unconventional choices and there’s Nothing To This Really and they’re certainly not on the verge of a financial, physical and mental breakdown.

Still, I find myself alienated by all this pointless joy, this manic serenity. There is something very excluding about all this friendliness.

Oh, and also the roof is still bloody leaking.

The curse of the angry inch

I’m doing practically all of the building by hand, because I’m quite, quite mad. Also because I think it’s important to have a multi-sensory understanding of your surroundings and of how you’re affecting the world by physically experiencing as much as possible of the process of changing it. Todays world is mostly visual, while all other senses has been more or less ignored. This is especially apparent in the shaping of our houses. I want my house to take all the senses into consideration, and for this I need to be as close to the process as possible, to the grain of the wood, to how the different materials feel, smell, how they change with the weather. I think. Possibly I’m just mad. Anyway, one phenomena anyone who has ever tried to build anything has encountered, is the curse of the angry inch. Or possibly the universal law of such.

This is something that I’ve encountered at every step of the process. It states that no matter how carefully you measure anything, it will always be slighty too big after it’s been cut. And when you alter it, it will be too small. It will make sure that nothing ever really fits and worst of all, that everything will very nearly fit. Oh so nearly. In the latest example it was this bit here

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that was preventing the skirtingboard in the ceiling from falling into place here

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Now, of course, it’s slightly too small. But at least it’s there. This, of course is a lot worse when we’re talking about a vital piece in the construction and not mainly a decorative one, but the principle remains the same. It is inherent in the bloody bloodiness of things and therefore closely related to basic thermodynamics. Ergo unavoidable. It’s certainly not happening because I’m not very good at carpentry. Nope. Laws of physics, this. Now you can tell yourself that too.

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I’m not the only one upset by this inherent problem

Attachment issues

For several reasons, mostly to do with rules and legislations, my house is detachable from the trailer it’s built on. This means I don’t have to apply to anyone to have it registered as anything at all.  That’s the upside.  The downside is attempting to attach the house securely. My solution so far is to have two large wooden beams running along the length of the trailer and have notches cut into them where the brackets are placed. I then have alternating large eylet-bolts and U-bolts screwed onto the beam and wire-clips attaching the trailer brackets to the various bolts. It looks quite sinister and weird. It also means I have to make little hatches to cover the holes in the walls where the brackets are. Not a very difficult task, but one of those things that are just enough of a bother and not enough of a problem that I find myself constantly postponing.

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tiny chthonic creepiness

My plan is to have three sets of baggage-straps, two outdoors and one set indoor and in the middle in addition to the bolts and screws to be used while driving. Still, I’m really not sure that I’ve found the best solution. Any ideas anyone?