Building a Studio

Update June 2016:
I've lived in this cabin for about a half year now. It was a subtle switch from constantly working on the house, to just living in the house and not having something to do. There was no profound moment of completion. It went from me sawing and drilling to me not sawing and drilling. So bascially it was just quieter. It's been great enjoying all the hard work. It's cozy, dry and warm. Exactly what is needed for the Humboldt winters. Having a soothing home, that offers a place to relax and regroup makes me realize what I never had before.

The wildlife here has been plentiful. I had a pair of chickadees use the birdhouse I made, then I installed three more bird houses for next year. One evening, after being gone for a few months, I was looking out the window and I saw a mountain lion. It was a pretty big cat to my eyes and unfortunately it was big to all the people I showed the pic to as well. I've seen bear scat laying around and bears are fine. They merely want my food, whereas a mountain lion wants me to be their food.

The passive cooling/heating design of the house has actually worked. It can be super hot outside, but the inside is a comfortable temperature. In the mornings, the sun heats up the space quickly when I want, but then the eaves and the trees block the afternoon heat. And being on a ridgetop gives the home just enough of a breeze to keep the air moving all day long.

Original Writings (9/2015)

For a while I've been throwing around the idea of building my own studio, but I had two major problems. The first problem was that I didn't know where to build? So I drove around the northwest through California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Wyoming. After all that I ended up just building a cabin where I started in the first place.

Having decided on the location, it was now time to address the second problem. I actually didn't know how to build a cabin. When I really thought about how much work was needed and how much I didn't know, I got disheartened and felt like quitting before I started. To avoid that situation, I just didn't think about anything and took each step as it came. Something I learned about buildnig is that not thinking about later steps is a horrible way to build a building. It didn't bite me in the ass too much, but if I had thought about things I could have saved a lot more time. Although I would have deprived myself of free exercise.

The cabin location overlooks a sloping meadow at the top of a ridge and is surrounded by manzanita, oaks, and madrone trees. Its inaccessible by car, so all the material had to be hauled by hand to the site. The ridge top offers sunrise views every morning and sunset views in the evening. Tons of woodpeckers, humming birds, deer and bear all hang out around the area. Unfortunately, at least one mountain lion. I wouldn't normally be concerned with them, but I have to walk down through the woods to reach my house and its all dark with long overhanging oak tree branches. The perfect kind of environment for stalking prey. In order to circumvent this issue, I decided I'll pretend I'm going to buy some bear mace. I probably wont ever get around to it, but at least I feel better about the mountain lion now knowing something might get done.

I've lived in too many homes that didn't take into consideration the location and direcrion of the house. So many houses just face the street, but the street isn't necessarily the best thing to be facing. This cabin has a row of windows along the eastern facing wall to get the warmth of the morning sun. The trees provide cooling shade come midday and protect from overheating all the way till sunset. With a ceiling fan, the midday temperature was comfortable even on the hottest days of the summer. The windows provide a nice cross breeze as well. I must admit I did go overboard on the windows as it is a one room cabin with seven windows and a glass door.

I've always heard about feng shui, but never really paid it much mind. Its easy to understand though. When you walk into someone's house and you feel like ass, then they have bad feng shui. If you feel good positive and light in someones home, then they consciously or unconsciously practice good feng shui. I did some research and built the studio based on these principles. Apparently all these little things matter. Like where you have your bed, which direction your front door faces and the placement of mirrors. Throughout all the reading on feng shui, one main point kept recurring. Simplify. Anyone can do that even if they live in a valley with a home having sharp corners reflected in a mirror hanging towards a north facing doorway.

The actual process of building was a huge learning experience. I never built anything before so I wasn't sure what would happen. I didn't know if I was going to finish or how it was going to turn out. Fortunately, I was surrounded with quality people who offered their knowledge throughout the process. At every new stage, there would be a long list of questions. I made it clear that I didn't know how to do any of this and people were more than happy to offer advice. In addition, there's this thing called the in-ter-net. You might have heard of it. Through its magical powers, I researched home framing, window installation, flooring, door hanging, etc.

As a good building practice, it's important to use locally sourced material as much possible. Since I was building in Humboldt, that meant redwood. The front stoop is made from planks of redwood. The interior walls are all made from old redwood fence slats and the kitchen countertop is made from a solid slab of redwood. Although the cabin ended up looking a bit rustic, the main driver was functionality not a pleasing aesthetic. Form follows function. In the end, I just needed a desk, a dry bed and some quiet space.

Through all of this I realized that building a cabin isn't as much work as it initially sounds. It was very daunting to begin with, but I took little steps every day and eventually things just worked out. There were many times where I was stuck by some decision or another, but I learned that if I just made a decision and moved on, then it was one less thing I had to think about. Throughout all the months of work and effort, the best lesson I learned for the future and something I will carry with me for the rest of my life, was to only build square things.

Flora and Fauna

I have a pair of flying squirrels living near me. The photo on the right is the squirrel flying away. I also have your generic, boring suburban wildlife as well. Foxes and Deer.
In Humboldt County, May is orange bug fucking season. Everywhere you look there are these bugs attached at their ends. Early summer is inch worm season and they were everywhere. On the ground, in the trees, in my house, on the floor, on my pillow, on my desk. After that comes mid summer and we have these piles of shiny beetles everywhere. They seem inocuous enough but they could be slowly poisoning me without me even knowing it.
There are so many wood peckers in this area. I see and hear them daily. Here are two Pileated woodpeckers that live near by.
These are two unwelcome visitors to my abode. The first walked by my window the first night I returned after a two month road trip. It changed my perspective about walking around at night now that I know I have a mountain lion living in the area. The other image is of a scorpion I found on my bed. This little bugger bit me. It hurt, but I was more worried about what it could do, so I did some research, found out that this kind is merely annoying as compared to deadly. Regardless, it's not something I want to sleep with.

The following are lists of the flora and fauna located around my home.

  • Buckeye: Aesculus californica
  • California Bay: Umbellularia californica
  • Fir: Pseudotsuga menziesii
  • Live Oak: Quercus virginiana
  • Madrone: Arbutus menziesii
  • Manzanita: Arctostaphylos
  • Valley Oak: Quercus lobata

  • Blackberries: Rubus fruticosus
  • Blue Eyed Grass: Sisyrinchium bellum
  • Blue Dick: dichelostemma capitatum
  • California Buttercup: Ranunculus californicus
  • California Poppy: Eschscholzia californica
  • Calla Lillies: Calla palustris,
  • Charming Centaury: Zeltnera venusta
  • Daffodils: Narcissus
  • Douglas Iris: Iris douglasiana
  • Elegant Brodiea: Brodiaea elegans
  • Forget-me-nots: Myosotis arvensis
  • Elegant Cats Ears: Calochortus elegans
  • Fettid Adders Tongue: Scoliopus bigelovii
  • Milk Maid: Cardamine californica
  • Maidenhair Fern: Adiantum
  • Miners Lettuce: Claytonia perfoliata
  • Mugwort: Artemisia vulgaris,
  • Soap Plant: Chlorogalum pomeridianum
  • Sticky Monkey Flower: Mimulus aurantiacus
  • Sweet Pea: Lathyrus odoratus
  • Sword Fern: Polystichum munitum

  • Acorn Woodpecker
  • Annas Hummingbird
  • Barred Owl
  • Black Capped Chickadee
  • Black Phoebe
  • California Quail
  • Northern Flicker
  • Northern Pygmy-Owl
  • Pileated Woodpeckers
  • Red Tailed Hawk
  • Robin
  • Turkey Vultures
  • Spotted Towhee
  • Stellar Jay
  • Western Scrub Jays
  • Western Tanager
  • Alligator Lizards
  • Bear
  • Deer
  • Fence Lizards
  • Fox
  • Flying Squirrels
  • Mountain Lion
  • Pacific Giant Salamander
  • Pacific Tree Frog
  • Rattlesnake
  • Skilton's Skink
  • Skunk