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This is the fifth post in a series about the building of my tiny house. To read from the start, go here.
Living in my new house was heavenly. I really appreciated that instead of having to get up, don my work clothes, and go to my building site, instead I could potter around at home and continue working on the place. In my pyjamas I'd wire in more lights. I'd whack a coat of paint on something while waiting for my pasta water to boil. I loved the way my work on the house was so entwined with my everyday routines that it all just blended together to become "living".
But one thing was really weird. For the past seven months, from the start until I moved in, I had encouraged my friends and acqaintances to drop in. They did, and they were used to wandering around the place until they found me. There had never been any need to knock, or check it was ok to visit. Everyone was welcome all the time. If I was there, good. If I wasn't, they'd head off. But now that I was living there, I didn't like that I'd be standing in my undies getting breakfast, and suddenly someone I barely knew would just walk in the front door. It took me quite a while to work out how to tell people that while I loved their visits, now that I lived there, they'd need to check it was ok, or at the very least, to knock!
I'm often asked when the house was finished. I don't have an answer to that. My list of things to do around the place has never ended. At one point I went out and did another computing contract, so I could buy a few extra things I wanted for the house, such as the bath and the solar hot water system. Years later I had extra money from The Grimstones touring, and invested it in some home improvements such as a solar heating system and double glazed windows. I found that before I'd completed the original list, I'd end up renovating something I'd already done, because my needs had changed (or because the floor flooded)... and so there was no day when I turned around and said, "right this is it, the place is done." It's still changing and shifting every year, according to what we need.
Once I was living there, as well as continuing to work on the house, I began my garden. I'd never really had a garden before, just some trees in pots, and a few tomato plants a couple of years earlier. Like with my house, I figured I'd learn on the job. I read Jackie French's gardening books and did whatever she told me. Slowly, gradually, my garden started to be beautiful. It also started to produce food. But I think I didn't put enough emphasis on fertility, because after the amazing crop the first year, the garden didn't seem to produce all that much. It wasn't until years later when I began studying gardening more seriously (I read John Jeavons' books and took it from there), that I learnt how to truly grow food.
A year after I moved in, I met Paula, my girlfriend. It took three years before she was ready to move into a place as tiny as mine, but once she did, she never looked back. Like me, she was seduced by the magic of the place. There is something special about it, a kind of warmth in the walls (all the salt from my tears?), that makes it feel cosy and homely. I gave birth to our son Jesse, there, under the kitchen table. (Ok, we moved the table out of the way for the actual birth!) And the three of us still live there.
When I was pregnant, people kept asking me, "But what are you going to do?" Meaning, what are we going to do about the fact that we live in a tiny cottage and are about to have a baby who won't fit. I'd shrug and say we weren't going to do anything. Babies don't take up that much space. "But what about when he grows?" That's the point when I remember that the vast majority of people on our planet live with six people to a house the size of mine, and that most children sleep with their parents until they are fifteen. It probably wouldn't do psychological damage to our son if he had to sleep near us. My plan has always been that once Jesse is truly old enough to need his own space, he'll also be old enough to build it, and he can do so in the garden. He can pull down his cubby and bulid whatever he needs.
The three of us sleep in the loft. There's just enough space for a double bed, a single bed, a bathtub, and a tiny bit of footspace in between. Nothing else. And now that Jesse is nine, we are still fitting nicely. Of course, we all wish for more space, quite often. But none of us wants to move - we'd rather live small and stay put. We have to be diligent about dejunking our stuff, and we can't accept large presents, or choose interesting ornaments and artwork to display. There's nowhere for cute bits of extra furniture. We have to pack up our stuff every single night or the place becomes too chaotic to move in. But it's worth it.
I would never have believed, back when I dreamed of my house, that I would still be there 15 years later, with the addition of a partner and a son. Unless something dreadful happens, I'll probably live there until I die, and that would be perfect.