Monthly Archives: February 2012

Yestermorrow Design/Build School – first workshop this week!

I realized that I hadn’t written a post about the Yestermorrow Design/Build School in Vermont, and that I should introduce you all to the place since I have my first class there this coming Sunday. Yestermorrow School is a design/build school that focuses on hands-on teaching and sustainable building practices. They offer workshops that range from 2 days to 4 weeks (and they have a sustainable building semester program with UMass Amherst). Topics range from Green building materials, woodworking, and tiny house building workshops, to architectural design and drawing courses and stained glass making workshops. I found out about them last year and when I read their “Philosophy” statement I was SO HAPPY to find a place that shared my values exactly. All last semester I had been talking about closing the gap between designers and builders, and wasn’t really getting any support in doing that. So I left my college for some time to attend Yestermorrow for the next year, through their Sustainable Design/Build Certificate program. Basically with the certificate program (and they offer certificates in other subjects too)  you choose a handful of week-long, 3-week long, and weekend workshops from a long list of amazing classes. I chose the certificate over the semester program because of the flexibility and that way I could work on The COMET at the same time. I’ve heard the workshops are really intense and totally awesome, and that a 3 week workshop feels like an entire semester. I’m about to find out!

Anyway, here’s their philosophy you you know what I mean:

“Yestermorrow’s courses are specifically designed to demystify the designing and building processes using hands-on, experiential learning to teach students the art and wisdom of good design and the skill and savvy of enduring craftsmanship as a single, integrated process.

This creative process offers students unique insight into the oftentimes disparate worlds of the architect and the builder. Architects are routinely trained without any building experience that might inform their designs, and builders are trained to execute without a sense of the overarching purpose or design of the project.

Combining design and building offers numerous advantages and promotes the creation of intentional and inspired buildings and communities that enhance our world. From the professional design/builder to the do-it-yourself design/build homeowner, every designer should know how to build and every builder should know how to design. This philosophy sets Yestermorrow apart from other educational institutions.”

There you have it. I was in love!

Anyway, this coming Sunday I go up to VT for my first workshop – a 5-day intensive called “Solar Electric Design and Installation”. Just in time, too, because I just bought 3 solar panels! I specifically chose workshops that would help me with the skills associated with designing/building/making the COMET. Once I take this workshop, I’ll be able to install my own photovoltaic system, and show you all how I did it step by step!

Also, if you haven’t seen it already, you should check out this video of the tiny house that the Semester program just built/finished. It is gorgeous!! (see it here:

I encourage you to check out the Yestermorrow website and browse through their courses to get an idea of how awesome the place is. When you attend a class there, you can either stay in the main building, stay in a cabin, or just camp out. I’m really excited! Hopefully at some point I’ll be able to stay in the COMET when I’m up there!


Also, on the topic of workshops, I just signed up for the recently announced Tumbleweed Tiny House building workshop in Boston on May 19th and 20th, with Jay Schafer and fellow Massachusetts tiny house guy Deek Diedricksen. I’m really looking forward to it. Personally, I think the Tumbleweed houses are a little too traditional for my style (what can I say – I like recycling junk and using used materials!), but I’m looking forward to building one! Is anyone else planning on going to the Boston Tumbleweed workshop?

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Quick COMET update


Today I have a lot of grant-related things to do for The COMET. I’m going to be “pitching” the project to a panel of judges that will determine if it’s a good fit for their funds. I’m really excited about it! I’ve been practicing my intro, and it made me realize how incredibly complex The COMET project is. It’s just so far-reaching and multi-dimensional. This grant is particularly interested in how it socially engages with a community, which is what I love about The COMET: it’s engaging people all over the world through this website, and it’s benefiting my local community as people come to me for help doing their own  sustainability projects. I’ve gotten lots of offers from volunteers that want to help me with the build process and in return learn the skills associated with tiny house building, interior finishing, and photovoltaic installation (to name a few). What I’m most excited about is the prospect of building my own small vacuum form, and then designing and fabricating my own urine diverter kit. This will allow me to show you all an awesome DIY project, and it will avail me to holding local workshops with my community where I explain how to build a DIY urine-diverting toilet, and I can give people the urine diverters (easily reproduced) to take home and build their own waterless toilet in their house!

It’s all about empowering people to take action. I want to de-mystify these processes and techniques, and make cost-prohibitive things available and affordable to everyone. Let’s get to it!


And as always, you can support The COMET and help make it happen by donating either on the “DONATE” page (click the little button) or by clicking on the button at the bottom of the Home page/the bottom of each post page.


Totally un-related:

The tow wiring on these old campers is always a MESS!

I was incredibly relieved and excited to find that the undercarriage of The COMET is metal and not roofing tar. It is all intact and in great condition. No holes and no sagging at all! This means there probably aren’t mice nesting in there. And it means I don’t have to replace it, which is awesome!!

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Bedford and Ole Bill

As promised, here are some pictures of the wonderful vehicles I saw in London last week. None of them are campers per se, but still totally awesome and would make great camper conversions I think!


Here’s a blue and white vintage Bedford that’s been turned into a food truck. Bedford also made awesome campers/motorhomes. Only in Europe!


Also outside of the British Museum, right near the blue Bedford, was this awesome green vehicle. In the wonderful camper eye-candy, super inspiring book “My Cool Caravan” (by Jane Field-Lewis, available from Amazon here), which features photos and stories of European campers, my favorite camper in the whole book is built from one of these vehicles. It’s so industrial looking, totally unique. I’ll have to look up what kind of vehicle it is and let you know.


And here’s me with Ole Bill at the Imperial War Museum. It’s a double decker bus. But if you for some reason could get your hands on one, it would make an amazing camper conversion vehicle with a deck on top!


There it is! The cool vehicles I saw in London. I saw some neat campers too, while on the train outside of the city, but unfortunately couldn’t get any pictures 😦  My dad says that I just love European campers because they aren’t what I’m used to, but I have a feeling they might just be more wonderful than the campers we have in the States. The exception being Airstreams! They don’t have Airstreams in Europe, and they are a hot commodity over there. I know this because an older couple that lives down the street from my parent’s house in rural Massachusetts were selling their old Airstream trailer out in their front yard, and someone from Sweden found out about it, flew over here to look at it, had it put in a shipping container and brought back to Sweden with him so that he could restore it and re-sell it. Apparently the cost of flying over here and shipping a 25 foot trailer to Sweden was worth it, which makes me think I should be restoring campers across the pond….



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European Tiny Appliances for Tiny Houses

When I was in London last week we stayed in a little one-and-a-half room apartment that had all of the amenities in miniature form. I don’t exactly know the brands of some of these tiny appliances, and to be honest it took me a while to figure out how to work them! So I’m not sure how available these particular models are in the States, but I thought that these were all great space-saving ideas for a tiny house!

First off, there was a tiny dishwasher. I kind of think that a dishwasher would be a luxury in a tiny house, and that to save space most people would just op to hand-wash their dishes. But this one was so tiny!! It probably saves water too.

Tiny dishwasher

There was also a small washer/dryer combination (it all happens in the same machine!) hidden in another cabinet. You’d never have to move the laundry again! Above the washer/dryer is the super small oven/microwave combination. Everything multitasked!


And our final tiny European appliance is the stove top – with just two burners and a really smooth look. It’s set into the countertop and takes up virtually no space.


I thought all of these would work well in a tiny house. Not sure of the price tag on these sorts of mini-appliances, but they sure are cute!


I’ll post some more pictures of the totally cool vehicles/buses I saw in London a little bit later, so stay tuned!

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Camper Eye-Candy

Here’s something cute!

This is the Shingle Shack – a restored 1967 Forester 13 ft. camper. She’s up for sale on Tin Can Tourists (see the listing with more pictures and a description here).

I want to see more creative campers like this! I have sketchbooks full of ideas for weird, one-of-a-kind campers. If you or someone you know has a unique camper or motorhome, please share it with me and I’ll put it up on the blog!

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I thought this was funny…

Check out this little comic commenting on sustainability…




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Guest Post: Celina Dill Pickle, 16 year-old Tiny House builder, talks about keeping your eyes open and finding what you need

Today is our first guest post here at The COMET Camper blog, and I am really excited about introducing Celina Dill to you all. I mentioned her and her blog in an earlier post here, and we immediately started talking about guest posts and sharing ideas. She’s got an incredible eye for finding amazing second-hand building materials and interiors. Her frugality and style is impeccable! Also, Celina is 16 years old, and left traditional schooling to start building her own tiny house, something I strongly endorse and think is downright awesome.

So here it is, our first guest post. Thanks Celina for sharing!

Eyes Wide Open

by Celina Dill

Who am I?  “South Whidbey teen builds tiny transportable house” This just appeared in our local paper – check it out –

In our culture everyone seems to want the newest shiniest things. This attitude tends to create a lot of waste, because every time a new product comes out on the market the older one’s worth decreases. The trick is using this fact to your advantage. For example – If you use your computer to check email and listen to music, you don’t need the newest mac book air, with the speediest operating system. I am writing this on my trusty five year old mac book that I got off of craigslist for under $400. I do high level photoshop and image editing, and it does everything I need and more.The question to ask is what do you need (but never forget the wants). Then keep your eyes open wide. Question. Look at things for their possibilities. It is amazing what a coat of paint and a little effort can do!

My dad is working in a friend’s barn refurbishing/customizing a 1956 Airfloat trailer ( but that is another story. One day we pull up to work on the trailer and saw a pile of large Douglas Fir logs. We questioned the owner, who said they were going to be fire wood. After talking to a few knowledgeable people in the wood world, I worked out a trade to get four of the logs. With the help of a good friend, they along with another log given to me by a student of ours (we teach dance – are now milled up in to beautiful flooring, siding and trim. My cost $0. Yes it took a lot of work, but what I got out of it is much more.

When you are searching for something specific, it is rare to find it at a low price. Unless you are willing to live with a few dents or scratches. I had been scouring craigslist for the perfect sink for months, when I found it. A beautiful 30′ cast iron enameled farmhouse sink, plus it happened to be just down the road. The only reason they were selling this sink is because they were getting a bigger one, plus it had a few little scratches. So $175 for a $1000 sink is ok with me!

Or how about my new Kohler Memoirs toilet? My dad and I were in Restore is Seattle just looking around when I spotted it. The beautiful lines of this decorative toilet, caught my eye and the price tag said $45. I couldn’t believe it, it looked perfect – so we went inside and asked. The catch? The toilet bowl is 3/4 of an inch tilted sideways. It was a manufacturing defect. But I figure my house will be a little off skew, so it will fit right in.

I found my Carrara marble counter top for $100 in a wooden crate behind a granite and marble place in the industrial area of Seattle. The key word is found. I was out there looking and asking and digging and measuring.

Another good strategy is to find people who collect things. Because at some point they will likely get rid of some of it. I got over half the wood for the studs of my house from a guy who had had it for 20 years. It was time for it to go, so I stepped in and did him a favor.

I can go on and on about what I have acquired for cheap, and thats because my eyes are open. I am constantly questioning, asking and searching. If you are doing something unique and interesting, people want to be a part of it and are willing to pitch in. But first and foremost effort is required.

Keep your eyes open,



Thanks so much Celina, your advice is so relevant today for DIYers and tiny house builders. Definitely check out Celina’s blog to see pictures of what she’s already found and what she’s still looking for. Celina and I have the same 1950’s Dixie stove (out of a camper), which is just a wonderful coincidence! Not to mention her father is restoring my favorite type of camper EVER – the Airfloat. And read the article about her that she links to…it has great pictures and talks more about her “unschooling” which I whole-heartedly agree with!

More later, so stay tuned! It’s good to be BACK!



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…And we’re back!

Hey everyone!

I was away from the blog this past week traveling with no internet access (turns out it is very hard to find free wifi in Europe!) but I am glad to be back in action today. I really missed The COMET while I was gone and can’t wait to get back into the swing of things this week. I took some really neat pictures of the tiny appliances in the apartment we were staying in, perfect ideas for a tiny house on wheels. I’ll post those pictures soon as I get ’em off the camera 🙂 I saw a couple of cool European campers, but as unable to get photos of them.

I also read more about vermiculture (worm farming and composting) and thought that in a mobile setting it probably makes the most sense to just have a worm farm and no traditional compost pile, since you’d only be making food scraps and no lawn waste or other debris. Anyway, more on that later!

I’ll also post some neat little pictures of the British wartime era posters that I saw at the Imperial War Museum about how important it is to grow your own food, and about how bunnies can be fed on grass, vegetables, etc. The illustrations are incredible!

All right, we’ll be back later with more posts and pictures. Until then!



London 2012

Hey readers!

I mentioned this yesterday, but just want to say that I’ll be traveling for the next few days and will only have limited internet access, so you won’t see as many posts as usual this week. I will post as often as I can, and will try to find some cool European caravans to take pictures of to show you all!

I’ll be visiting London, England, and will be going to the Design Museum London, where I will hopefully see some sustainable designer’s work, and I’ll post pictures of my favorite exhibits!

Like I said, when I return next week I’ll be back with a bang, so stay tuned. We’ll have our first guest post and some other neat stuff, and definitely a DIY project or two, so watch out!

The COMET has been really coming together this week, thanks to the help of many wonderful people/businesses helping me figure out what I need to make The COMET the best off-grid tiny mobile classroom/home ever! As I gather materials, I’ll post about what things I’ll be using in The COMET and why those things are particularly suited to a mobile tiny house. Hopefully it’ll be a little warmer out soon so I can start working outside and get down to business!

Thank you to everyone who’s been following my project and the blog, and everyone who’s been reading along. It means a lot to me!



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The Blastolene “Decoliner” – camper eye candy

Here’s this week’s camper eye candy, and also Camper of The Week!

Meet the “Decoliner”

The Decoliner is made from an older camper chassis, but has been completely re-built. It features teak decking, portal windows, and flying bridge which can also drive the bus! Ah-mazing!

Check out this awesome video about the builder and his Decoliner: The Blastolene Story.

The Decoliner is probably one of my favorite custom mobile homes out there. Also, I love the name of the guy’s hot-rod building company: Blastolene! So cool!

If you have a suggestion for an awesome home-built camper/RV/crazy thing on wheels, let me know about it and I’ll feature it here!

Also, as a side note to my readers:

I’m going to be traveling for the next few days until Friday of next week, and will only have limited internet access, so won’t be able to post as often while I’m gone. I’m hoping I see some little European campers, and if I do, I’ll take lots of pictures to show you all 🙂  And when I get back, I’ll be back with a bang! We’ll have some fabulous guest posts when I return and some great DIY projects, so stay tuned, ok?

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