Thursday, April 5, 2012

2 new chicken coops on display and for sale in West Oakland, Calif.

Hey everybody,
Matt and I finished our last two chicken coops for the book, designed and built in Oakland, Calif. Interested in owning a piece of history? Check them out at our friend Maurice's urban chicken farm oasis on Mandela Parkway @ 11th Street, West Oakland.

The Simple Coop features reclaimed redwood siding and a rusty sheet metal shed roof. It is built to accomodate standard home insulation so this coop would do well in an extreme climate, hot or cold.

The Nordic style A-Frame is sleet, snow, hail, and sun resistant.

Each coop's footprint is 4-feet by 4-feet and will house three or four chickens. Priced to move at $750 each, we will deliver within reason in the Bay Area.
Contact us for a site visit.
Thanks for your interest in our work.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Tiny House Thoughts

I've been living in the tiny house for about two months now, and I'm starting to observe changes its made in both my outlook towards the world as well as how I'm perceived by others. One thing I realized: I'm now an eccentric. Even though nothing changed about me, I have been at a few parties recently where people REALLY want to talk about the tiny house unsolicited, and try to understand how I live in 120 sq ft (i mean, i don't fully yet.) It's fun, and always in good faith, but nonetheless leaves me feeling like I just stepped into this other category in people's eyes: someone who makes extreme life choices. And I'm totally okay with it, proud of it even, though I realize that I might be now introduced only as "This is Matt, and he lives in a tiny house." I shouldn't be complaining, It's actually really exciting to now have an(other) eccentricity, instant conversation starter, girlfriend filter, added joke opportunity (tiny house jokes NEVER stop!,) and of course, place to be on my own.

In addition to this realization, I've also been try to reflect on the experience as a whole, because it is an education in itself. I've been reading the book "House" by Tracy Kiddier, which is a (sort of cheesy) chronicle of a couples experience having a home built, both documenting their relationship dynamics as well as the relationship among the architect and builder, and all of the complexities that go into making a house, both technically and socially. That's the most immediate takeaway: there is so much labor that goes into even the tiniest of houses. Every building I see now, even the crappiest Home Depot renovation reminds me of the amount of work and energy that went into putting it up. Taken further though, the tiny house makes me think about every object that fills it. I have had my hands on making the whole structure and furniture in the house, but the appliances, dishes, spoons, mattresses, linens, that I am buying all now have an added weight: who made them and where did this come from? Building a tiny house and then living in it makes you particularly sensitive to the culture of convenience.

I've also been trying to ask myself: Is the tiny house radical? The tiny house is about autonomy, both from the pressures of living in our current economic system via the sacrifices made for rent or a mortgage, and also about having the ability to have solitude while being in your own handbuilt space. The tiny house is also about having less stuff: only what is necessary and less space to heat and cool it, but also a different relationship to stuff, one that recognizes that things are just that, the acquisition of such should not determine the program of a building, rather people should.

But In many ways, the tiny house is ordinary. In most of the world, people live in such small amounts of space - it's really only in the global north and elites in the global south that such a need for extra space exists, if it should be called a 'need.' Our thresholds for square footage are certainly culturally conditioned. In another sense, tiny house living is just a smaller version of exactly what we do now: the materials are more or less similar, the creature comforts reliant on industrial processes (although having an off the grid tiny house is totally doable.)

Aside from wrestling with that question though, i've been trying to think of socially responsible applications of the tiny house. I think the tiny house form could lend itself particularly well to issues of agricultural worker housing. I started preliminary research on issues related to migrant farmworkers in California, and substandard housing is one of the biggest. What if workers were able to take their own housing with them or provide it, that was not full of toxic pressboard? Similarly, relief housing has much to be improved upon. When I was in Mississippi after Katrina i went into several FEMA trailers and could tell right away they were toxic, but more than that, they were sterile, and had no relationship to the outdoors. They were literally like an air conditioned chamber. I can see groovy organic farmers in Sonoma getting tiny houses made (actually we have already been contacted by one) which I think would be cool, but I'm more interested in expanding the tiny house, maybe not by size but by reach. Or maybe that's just a stupid idea?

Wow, I'm not usually so earnest in blog postings, but I suppose that's where I've been at recently. The kitchen is working! I'll have pictures soon. . .

Saturday, October 15, 2011

yup, i (we) started building a tiny house

It feels overdue for an update of what we've been up to since we turned in the manuscript, if anyone's out there, but there's a project that at least i for one am totally absorbed in. Last year one of my students showed me a picture of the tumbleweed houses and said she wanted to build one and wanted me to help out. I laughed andthought it was funny and intriguing, but inside i was like 'are you serious, you're gonna move into one of those?' Okay, so fast forward six months, and the New Yorker article came out and i was reading it in bed. It was a rare moment of epiphany, aided by some lovely company: It was the ideal next step for me.

There were a few considerations: 1) i loved my housemates to death but don't love my basement room, particularly in the winter, 2) I'd been building chicken coops for the past year, something i'm a little tired of, so it was like a giant chicken coop with new challenges 3) I had been trying to buy a house with friends in oakland for over a year and am convinced this is my only way towards home ownership in the bay area, and 4) After finishing the manuscript and seeing my sweetheart leave the country for a long while i had the compulsion to throw myself into a giant project. Some people do drugs, some people drink, i do really ambitious projects i suppose: an attribute and sometime flaw.

So, I designed it in August and started building on August 30th, and I've almost got the exterior buttoned up. I am using our advance from the book to finance construction, but being as thrifty as possible. I bought the trailer used, most of the lumber is salvaged, along with all of the doors and windows, and the siding is all reclaimed redwood fencing I am re-milling that were only $1 a piece!
the final design structure will have a full kitchen and bathroom, sleeping loft, living room, fireplace and eventually a porch swing.

The next steps are plumbing and electrical. What i'm really excited for is to get to the interior details and making all of the furniture custom. If you're in Oakland, stop by as i'd love to get your design feedback.

Planning on moving in December 1st and will have a tiny housewarming party: tiny food and shots!
Also, special thanks to all who have helped out so far, especially Kevin
Stay tuned for progress posts

Monday, September 19, 2011

Thursday, September 15, 2011

More Photos from the Shipping Container Coop+Run and Shed Project

What fun it has been to chop in half a 20-foot shipping container with Matt and my cousin, separate the parts Roman-style with Bill from, and build out a chicken coop+run and storage shed with the hard-charging crew from In Good Company. It is nice to be out there on the farm working and talking to the neighbors--all positivity and thumb-ups.

We found some old redwood siding on craigslist and planed it down to look new again. The redwood slab outdoor work table came from Evan Shively in Marshall, Calif. Matt led a team to get the massive redwood+mesh chicken run built. The coop is now occupied.

To the shed we added double barn doors with a custom welded steel California Poppy Orange locking mechanism.

City Slicker Farms is great to work with, they are growing fresh vegetables for everybody in West Oakland. We are happy to help make fresh eggs a reality.

If you have every wanted to chop up a shipping container, I highly recommend it. Or call us! I want to do it again.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

new coop: cutting and modifying a shipping container for city slicker farms

Just Fine is on site in West Oakland all week. We got commissioned to lead a workshop for City Slicker Farms building a chicken coop and shed structure with volunteers from various socially responsible companies. We're cutting up a shipping container at an angle and modifying each half. Stay tuned for updates and finish photos

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Kippen House for the book

We here at Just Fine are happy to report we will be including Traci Fontyn's chicken coop "Kippen House" in our book. Traci makes them by hand in Seattle. She brought one down for Sunset magazine's annual outdoor extravaganza last weekend. The coop looked great and we brought Amelia and Florence down for the photo shoot with our photographer (who deserves a post of her own). The hens loved the coop but they weren't too thrilled with the fake sod. I cringed when they pecked at it!

Kippen House features a very smart living roof with a clever drainage system. The nesting box is a piece of Sonotube for easy removal (and nice lines). We like the colors she chose. The siding is cedar.

We are excited to have Traci onboard. If you are looking for a coop in the Pacific Northwest, give her a jingle.