There’s not many 14 year olds that get their own house – much less one they built themselves, with help from family, friends and community. May we introduce you to the tinyhouse that Zephyr built.
This beautiful little hand-made home sits out the back of a family home in Daylesford in Victoria. It’s a shed, at least from a building footprint point of view, as it’s under 10 square metres. Call it what you like, it’s gorgeous.
This little building was christened ‘The Cumquat’ by the family on whose land it sits – Patrick, Meg, Zephyr, Woody and Zero the dog, who you might know as Artist as Family – a crew of fearlessly foraging, no-waste, no-car folks who aim to live in place, in their community, and within both their own, and our planet’s, means.
This family do many projects together, but this build was, in more ways than one, a permaculture apprenticeship for Zephyr.
An exercise in learning by hands-on doing, of scavenging, re-purposing and making do, and of creating a warm place to rest, sleep, live and dream, out of junk and scraps.
The basics of the Cumquat build –
- 6 weeks work from start to finish, not including scavenging time for materials
- Built by Zephyr and James,a lovely adult volunteer with no prior building experience – with minimal help from Patrick, Zeph’s dad
- North facing skillion roof
- Made entirely from junk, second-hand, gifted and found materials
- Corrugated iron outer walls, straw infill + lime render inside walls
- Pot belly stove (from the tip shop) soon to be connected for added warmth
- Water to be captured from roof to small tank, for drinking water with tap by door.
If you’ve ever attempted to build something, you’ll know it’s not an automatic skill for most people.
Building a structure properly is a big deal – especially when you’re using re-purposed materials that are never flush, nor straight, nor standard sizes – because they’re old, warped or just plain weird.
So how did this build work?
As Patrick describes:
“There was four weeks beforehand of seriously scavenging materials, followed by an apprenticeship for Zephyr that went for 6 weeks this Winter – three weeks of that was school holidays, and three weeks was time off school.
James stayed with us for that same 6 weeks as a woofer who also did the apprenticeship – previous to that he was a lawyer, but he finished up with that and went looking to become a ‘capable human’ – and our place was his first port of call.
James coming was the perfect opportunity for him to partner with Zeph, and not have me as the father in the face of the child during this build – and rather for Zeph to work with a 20-something man – that was really fantastic.
So they were both apprenticed to me (Patrick has considerable building experience) – or I was project managing I guess – and each morning we would talk about what would be done that day, and off they’d go. Some days I had to step in and be around a lot more than others, and somedays they kicked me off the site (which was just great).
Working with reclaimed materials was actually really great, even though it made the apprenticeship harder – you had to be fluid and respond to the resources around you. I’ve been saying to Zephyr that if he builds something with off-the-shelf materials, nice clean pine or whatever, he’s going to find it super easy after this build!”
And the design? Zephyr continues:
“Well it kindof had to be under ten square meters. And we wanted a loft, so we spend one night for hours trying to work out the height of that ’cause we didnt want it really cramped, but you don’t spend much time up there, just to sleep.
So we used the main house’s roof, the slant and that, to create a design that allowed the sun in, but which didn’t smack James in the head with the doorway while we were building (cause he’s really tall)…
We spend a lot of time in the evenings figuring out how to do it all, me, James and Patrick, as well as in the morning before we started”
The design is solar passive and makes the most of winter sun coming in the north windows and warming the southern wall, which has a thick layer of lime render on it.
In the Summer, shutters might be needed for the western window (and also for privacy) as that side of the Cumquat looks out onto the main garden.
Tweaks and improvements aside, this tinyhouse is a gem – built for next to nothing, and conceived and created outside the regular Australian housing economy – of banks and loans and debt and stress.
Here its been all about re-purposing, asking, helping, figuring out and making things work, to create a tiny home.
And everyone involved learned an awful lot, and not just about building, in the process. Which really does sound like the perfect kind of apprenticeship.
Oh and somehow in between all that, artist as family made a video about the process of building the cumquat! And it is lovely – have a watch:
Thanks to Patrick Jones, Zephyr Ogden Jones and Woody Ulman Jones for the chat about the build, and to Artist as Family for the ‘build’ photo gallery. You can follow these cool cats on their blog or instagram.
Owner Builder + tinyhouse resources:
- All our Natural Building articles + how-tos
- Tiny Homes, simple shelter: book by Lloyd Kahn
- Building a Tinyhouse at our former farm
If you’re thinking of building with natural materials, we have a great hands-on, 4 day course that takes you though all the major natural building techniques for you’re fully informed to make great decisions (and build stuff!). The next one is this October…