Build Day BONUS: The bumps in the road

Here she is. Out of her cage. One step closer to life with Lucy and Jim. A thing of beauty, right? 

Seriously, though, let's get real. It ain't been all rainbows and unicorns.

Naturally, I've shared myriad pictures and reports of progress, so it only seems fair to reveal some of the challenges and frustrations we've experienced along the way. I'm not talking about emotional difficulties; there have been, and continue to be, plenty of those, as you might have read in one or another in Big Girl. Tiny House. Musings blog  (shameless promotion). I'm talking about the building curveballs tossed at us along the way. 

Allow me to say that these are, of course, first world problems. Nonetheless, they have been the things that got us pissed, annoyed, frustrated, and disillusioned. We've always recovered, but we've had clenched jaws more than once because of them. Here goes...
  • Getting the land ready: Preparing the property for the house has been a major undertaking. From clearing the 150 yard driveway, pouring the concrete on the very steep part, and planning around the various natural water flow swales, Jim's been managing the calculus every step of the way. Again, $10,000 at every turn. Oh, and the concrete guys miscalculated, and there is a 4 foot gap at the top, which we've finally been able to convince them to deal with. They're going to add crushed stone instead of pouring more cement.
  • Water supplyPutting in a catchment system for water is also too much for our budget right now - $10,000 or so (btw, everything costs $10,000). So we will live with our little 50 gallon rain barrel for now, along with several 5 gallon bottles for drinking. Showers will be a thing for the future. Reminder: we're using a compostable toilet, so no water needed there. Ew.
  • The swale: By all accounts, rain can be your worst enemy on the Big Island. The land saturates quickly, and the surface flow can be seriously destructive. Because we've been messing with the land, we've got a target on our backs for Mother Nature's wrath. Between grading, fencing, and steel cattle guards, we're doing our very best to avoid getting in the rain's way when it comes. We just don't need the house to end up down the hill. Yeah, that wouldn't be cool.
  • Clearing the title: God, this deserves it's own blog update. Suffice it to say that when our neighbors were served a summons by an aggressive sheriff telling them to get off their land, things began to spiral. First of all, we weren't made aware of this particular strategy for getting their survey in order to clarify the boundaries of our property, so we certainly didn't manage neighbor relations well. Needless to say, they didn't need to leave. All that was needed was the damn survey so we could compare it with ours to make sure the dimensions of the parcel we are working to own is accurately recorded. It's all part of the process, or lawyer says, but now we are just the haole assholes using the legal system to elbow our way into the neighborhood. Jesus. Jim has mended that fence as best as possible, but we have a long way to go before feeling confident there won't be any more land mines out there (Land Ho!).
  • Plans for solar: We had every intention of having our solar system in place and ready to electrify us fully just as soon as we moved in. Not in the cards right now financially. We're going to use our little solar generator, which has been totally sufficient at the camper.
  • The refrigerator: We had picked out this fabulous stainless 12/24v fridge from our solar guy. Even build the cabinet to accommodate its wonky dimensions. Our little solar generator can in no way accommodate the thing, so we were planning to use a cooler until we had the money to install the bigger system. Then yesterday on Craigslist, I found a propane fridge by the same company as the other one, which is basically the same size (maybe a little shorter). It runs on propane, so we will be able to hook it right into the tank for the oven. It's beat up a bit, and it's white, but we will be ready with cold beverages just as soon as the house is moved in. Oh, and it's $600 vs the $1,950 of the shmancy one. (Oh, the sacrifices I make!)
  • The whole seating area thing: I wanted charcoal gray bench cushions, but the fabric we ordered by sight, turned out to be pretty bad - flimsy and an uglier color than I had hoped. It was good enough for throw pillows, but the bench cushions became the green fabric we had ordered for pillows but what came in a massive supply. This changed the color palette significantly; oh well. And the miscalculation on the benches' fabrication meant back to the upholsterer for a redo. Cute gap just didn't work for me. And don't be surprised if I end up having them all redone at some point. They just don't look fluffy and comfy the way I'd like them to. We shall see when we plant our butts there.
  • The oven: I wanted stainless steel. The order got lost. Now it's not available. Settled on white. It's going to be late to the game nevertheless. Probably a month after we take delivery. Have to remember that I like white no matter the shade (Wait, What White?).
  • Applying to be on Tiny House Nation: The seemed so interested in the beginning, and then crickets. Oh, well. Didn't want to have to lose weight anyway (Alright, Already!).
  • Communicating with our builder: For the most part, Johanna has been awesome, as demonstrated through her almost daily reports and photos of progress. We've loved that! It has taken some effort, though, to get some details handled the way we wanted - the railing, the white cabinets, the fat sills, the two outdoor light fixtures, the loft floorings, floating shelves, etc. But we've held out ground, and to her credit, she's even acknowledged that these modifications have been "great ideas." Didn't feel that way when she was behaving annoyed and dismissive. Case in point, the lost order for the stainless oven. She wanted us to use white all along. Easier and available on island. Whatever. We conceded.
  • Shipping to Hawai‘i: As with the oven, it's been a team effort to get fixtures and other details that we really like. All hands on deck to find vendors that ship to the Big Island. Sacrifices have been made (oven), but I've worked hard to not resort to just what's available at Home Depot and Lowe's. Yes, I'm a princess. And thank you Amazon Prime.
  • Chaos of woods: Somehow lost in translation was the fact that the white cabinets we agreed upon only meant white doors and drawer fronts. So there's a ton of pre-finished maple exposed that makes me a bit insane. That, coupled with the mahogany sills, darker flooring, and the reddish loft wood and trim makes for visual chaos for me. I guess I thought it would all synchronize more. We'll see how it feels and what we might be able to do once we're in.
  • Other people's opinions: We've heard them all, and they're mostly supportive. But the ones that drive me the most crazy are those that feel like it's a good thing to say that they could build the house for half the money. Yeah, and I could give Dior a run for his money, if only I had a sewing machine. And it didn't stop there. "You pad that much for concrete? You got ripped off." "You paid that much for your survey? Sucker!" Bite me. All of you.
  • Money: $10,000 at every turn. 'Nuf said. Oh, and, of course, we were being ripped off constantly (not).
Apologies if this all sounds painfully whiney, but I didn't think it real to suggest this has been an entirely smooth process. In the scheme of things, these adaptations as every bit a part of the process, and I do think they're important to share. Once we're in the house, I'm sure they'll be a whole slew of other adjustments we will need to the house and to our own behaviors and mindset. Stay tuned on that front. (In fact, if you've never seen this hilarious article, Dear People Who Live In Fancy Tiny Houses, I would say it absolutely is a must read.)

The fabulous news is that we are getting REALLY close, and I couldn't be more excited!


To read about our entire tiny house adventure, including musings, building reports, and photo gallery, visit


  1. doing the stone work for the patio bar and i couldn't agree more with the "you got ripped off" thing!

  2. Just found this blog on Facebook. What an adventure! Count me in as a #1 friend. Always. Enjoy. Keep writing. aloha, Elizabeth


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