Waste not…

Living in a very small house with no running water or other means of quickly disposing of your garbage brings awareness to one thing; humans are bloody disgusting creatures. I mean really. The sheer amount of waste and rubbish and filth and dust created by one (quite small) human is staggering.

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I will spare you the illustrations on this one and instead post a picture of some lovely and not at all symbolic waterlilies 

I spend now probably two to three hours each day just keeping things clean and that still leaves me with the question of what to do with such things as dishwater. Now you may think that when you live in a large house with plumbing all your waste is brought by fairies to a magical land of loveliness, but all sanitary stations rely on chemicals, creating on the whole more problems than they  solve.

I still use the ‘normal’ garbage system with local recycling opportunities for household rubbish, and my toilet remains is neatly disposed of in appropriate compost heaps (the toilet is actually my least problem, sanitarywise, I thought is would be te greatest)

The biggest problem is really the water, the water used for dished and laundry and me. Humans create a great deal of mud. I really believe that the greatest problem is the idea that we are meant to live all our lives indoors, so that even the largest house will be small compared to the amount of space needed to not overtax one space with our treading, our weight, our waste and water. All of this is not a problem when spread over a large area (and, of course, properly dealt with and not just left anywhere) but when clumped together on a small space by too many of us creates nothing but death and suffering, to put it dramatically. Living in a small space has really made me aware of how much space one human being takes up, and how little of that space needs be indoors.

Life on the threshold

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I have found that I spend most of my time, when the weather allows, on the porch. That is, the small step that serves as a porch. Not inside, not outdoors. This place holds something special for me. I don’t suppose I’m alone in preferring these places, but one so rarely hears anything written about the importance of the exisistence of such spots. At one’s home and in society. The places in between, the places that are the threshold. Not just a thin line between this and that, but a place in itself. Most of the things I like, only exists in these spaces. I think one of the most important things for me in my new life is to make this inbetweenworld larger, more spacious, create a room that is in itself inbetween and by this, make more room for the things inbetween in the world of ideas and creatures.

 

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.

In praise of the toilet

One of my main inspirations in building my house is ‘In praise of shadows’ by Junichiro Tanizaki. In this text from 1933 he describes the subtle delights of the japanese tradition for leaving things to mystery and imagination in contrast to the western obsession with absolute illumination of everything. In this case he speaks on the subject of architecture, but his observations are quite translatable to other parts of existence as well.

At the beginning of his book, Junichiro has a whole section on the toilet. The traditional japanese toilet is set aside from the house, and is, at least by the author, presented as a quiet place of beauty and tranquility, as ‘ No words can describe that sensation as one sits in the dim light, lost in meditation or gazing out at the garden.’ He goes on to stating that, while the white porcelain the western toilet certainly proves its cleanliness ‘what need is there to remind us so forcefully of the issue of our own bodies?’.

And here I quite agree. The western water-closet is garish and harsh on the eyes, skin, ears and very often, nose.  The light is hard and excessive, the cold surfaces dead to the touch, the sound of the water sloshing against the porcelain a strain on the recently awoken ear in the morning and the scent used in detergents and air-fresheners to choke on. I have tried as far as possible to take this into consideration when designing my own toilet. I have for reasons of mobility decided on a dry compost toilet, basically woodchips in a bucket to be emptied out with regular intervals.

In this case, I have woodchips mixed with chicory gathered in biodegradable, breathing compost bags. The toilet bucket is placed within a modified chair, inspired by the travelling toilet of  Kaiser Wilhelm the II, which I had the joy of beholding at Fleischer’s hotel last year. This is a somewhat less stately version. So far. We’ll see where the years take me.IMG_20180820_150238092

 

The lid is inlaid with juniper wood, one of my favorite scents, as a natural air freshener, and the ceiling above is laid with leather to prevent unpleasantness from reaching the alcove overhead. All in all, I have gone for types of wood that are natural antiseptic, dries out fast and have a pleasant smell. My original idea was to rebuild an old camphor-chest, but I discovered that I don’t actually like the smell of camphor wood.

The thing to really watch for with these types of toilets, is ventilation. The dry toilet needs to be kept precisely dry. I have a ventilation system in the wall behind the chair, and I’ve insulated the walls with hemp.  I’m quite curious to find out how this will work out over time, what modifications and changes I’ll have to make or if I’ll go running back to running water.

Outer symbol, inner meaning. Wallpaper and existenstial anguish.

For the wallpaper in my living room area I have chosen hand embossed gilt leather. It looks like this.

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Yes, the panels have a dragon on them, yes the dragon has tits.  I have two panels, and the dragons are named Sharon and Maude.

This, I know, is not a usual choise for a ‘tiny’ house, or indeed for any house. A feature this flamboyant is nowadays mainly used by banks, fancy restaurants and other places that wish to seem to embody power, using things to signify status rather than having the thing itself for itself.

I think tactile visuality is important, or ‘having something nice to look at’. But not only in the two-dimensional sense, but in terms of how the light falls and reflects off a surface. For instance, things seen on a screen will never be anything other than looking at a screen no matter what that screen shows. It will be frozen in distance, tactility and lacking in the things not quite seen, but that reflects shadows in the corner of your eye. All these aspects are important for what we think and how, for how we feel and what sides of ourselves we nurture. But there is a difference between surrounding yourself with beauty and using representations of beauty to cover up overall surroundings that can and should be changed, like the colourful posters covering the wasteland in Terry Gilliams increasingly realistic and brilliant movie Brazil.

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Giddyup, Rocinante

Consumerism makes it appear as if anyone can have access to things only dreamt of before, but all you get access to is the symbol of that thing, a pale replica. Consumerism is a direct threat to all things beautiful as it denies anything to have a value in itself, only as a quick fix to feel better or as an instaworthy shot of status. I mean to have this wallpaper for decades, centuries if someone else takes over. It’s something I’m committing to, something I’ll care for.

And I don’t want my wallpaper to cover a wall that is something else. I want the things surrounding me to have as much integrity as possible. The wall is there for the gilt leather, not the other way around. These pieces have to them a touch, scent and visual quality that is filled with itself and does not represent anything else, cannot be confused for anything else. It is not merely a picture of a dragon, it is its own thing. Also, it’s absurdly beautiful. Also, it’s somewhat absurd. I mean, who does this sort of thing? No one. So I will.  I’m not denying the side of me that grew up with Huysmans and longed for ‘The willed exile of the Introverted Decadent’.

Problems finishing things? You’re not alone.

I dont’ think I’ve ever been in a house of any kind that was quite finished. Some might say no house is ever quite finished and that this is a process. Others may think that finally finishing a house will jinx it or bring about the destruction of the entire building, like the case of the Brick Layer of Nidarosdomen. This sculpture, located high on the roof of the Trondheim cathedral, is forever holding the last brick in his hand, ready to place, but never to be so. For it is said that if the Nidarosdome is ever finished, the whole cathedral will instantly crumble and be washed away in the river.

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Any day now.

In terms of thermodynamics, there is something to be said for this theory. Thing will fall apart, they will deteriorate and if something is never finished, then no one can say it can be destroyed. This poetic statement will however not keep away the need for repair or maintenance. Nor will it solve all the little problems that not quite finishing things will bring.

For it’s always the little things, the lining, the last bit of paint on the wall where it is hard to reach, the one nail that sticks out a bit in the corner. Right now, I have about a hundred  (more or less) little things that I could probably live with not finishing, but will cause hundreds of tiny, daily irritations. And in a smaller house, these will be closer to my daily routine, more visible. These things are often encapsulated in people’s lives, like so many shrapnels in a body. You find ways to move around them, you stop seeing them after a while, but they’re still there.

Part of my motivation for building a house was to get a chance to deal with all the little things, since it’s always easier to finish a job yourself than to pick up someone else’s slack. Now I just need to find the motivation to live up to my own wants. Easier said than lived. I suppose not over thinking it might help. Also not one of my strong sides.

Rain, rain go, not away just on a slightly different route, like not down my sweater please.

Let’s talk about rain. In Scandinavia, where I live, there has been a disastrous draught, so all rain is welcome. Of course, since the weather is wonky, it comes in floods. Also, winter was unusually long and wet this year, so there has been quite a lot of rain. Just not when needed. This has slowed down the building considerably, since it’s either too wet or too hot to get much done.

And one thing I’ve learned about rain is that it’s like cats. It always finds a way in, particularly inside my sweater, regardless of the amount of rain gear I put on.

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Raindrops inside my windowpane. So many whys.

In my first post, I mused over how much a piece of air need to be sealed off in order to be named a house. While not wanting my house to suffocate, I don’t want it to drown or rot either.

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tarpaulin, not as effective as something this unsexy should be

I did not think building a house would be a picnic. If I had, I would have brought several hampers, a deck chair and larger amounts of wine. I also realised early on that building light and beautiful is a lot more difficult than building ugly and heavy.  This is not, of course, poorly hidden fat-shaming, but most materials available in shops are calibrated for much larger constructions and if they’re light, they are intended for indoor use. Mostly, weight simply isn’t an issue for normal housebuilders. So sturdy, light materials are hard to come by.

For my house, I’m using cedar wood. It smells nice. It weighs very little. And while a bit pricey, I dont’ need so much that it becomes a great obstacle.

It is, however, not waterproof. As wood isn’t or need be. This is not a great problem for the walls, where the water runs off, but for the roof it poses some problems.

Now, I know how to build a roof with the angles and materials etc needed to keep water out, but for this construction, I need something different. And that something different I’ve pretty much had to make up as I went along. Currently, the roof is one slighty slanted part of lacquered pine, one boat deck, flat, and the alcove, where part is cedar, soaking up water, but not dripping through, and part painted pine, for reasons that I ran out of cedar and also that I wanted to make a hatch for access to the roof terrace. This last bit is basically a sieve.

It does not help either, that I struggle with an intense feeling of guilt over every plank that has to be discarded or every possible damage to the house. There is generally too much disregard for the things surrounding us, matter matters too.  There is not an endless amount of matter on earth. For everything made, something else ceases to exist or will never be. But to realise this while not being overwhelmed with responsibility is harder than I had thought. Much harder than making the house itself.

One construction problem is that there are too many bits, too many places where pieces are joined together, so now I have ordered more materials and will be redoing part of the roof. I will also have to rethink the hatch,and add more layers of lacquer to the terrace and pine. Not sure about the cedar though, if I should treat it, if it will season and adjust or if it will rot. This, I suppose, is a question we all face about our selves also.