Building projects

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The vardo is our latest building project. Scroll down to the bottom of the page to see a slideshow on how we built it.

We love growing things, and we also love building things! We learned how to build the same way we learned how to garden: just get in there and start doing it. Start small and you’ll learn as you go.

We started off with a piece of land that was great for growing plants but lacked any buildings. We developed our carpentry skills by first building a shed (year 1), then a greenhouse (year 2), then a tiny house (year 3). Finally we constructed the main part of our house (year 4), which is joined to the tiny house (just visible to the left of the porch in the photo below). By doing most of the work ourselves we ended up with an affordable mortgage as a result. Baby steps!

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By building it ourselves, we got everything we wanted: an attached greenhouse, second-story front porch to enjoy the beautiful view, and large south-facing windows to help heat the house in winter.

After finishing the house we took a long break from construction. But a few years ago I decided that I really wanted to have a tiny house on wheels so we can do more long term travelling in winters. We are now in the process of constructing a vardo, which is a traditional travel caravan used by the Romany people in the British Isles.

The vardo is built on a trailer, so ultimately our dream is to tow it out to southern California to visit grandkids in November and December, when it’s grey and dreary in upstate NY. We enjoy winter sports like cross-country skiing so the plan is to return home in January for the snowy months.

Many years ago we were wwoofing in Ireland (working on farms in exchange for room and board) and at one farm we stayed in a traditional Irish bow-top wagon, once used by the traveling ‘tinkers’. The cozy feel of the little bow-top really spoke to my soul and I have wanted one ever since. Perhaps some of my Irish ancestors lived in a wagon like this.

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Irish bow-top wagons on display at Bunratty Folk Park in County Clare

I was very inspired by this particular blog, which carefully details the design and construction process to build a vardo. I have to admit that I shamelessly copied almost everything about this design (including the paint colors) since I love it so much! Instead of a wood stove, which takes up a lot of space, we will also install a small electric baseboard heater which, along with lights, will run on solar power

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We were inspired by this vardo! If you are thinking of building your own his blog is a must-read.

Slideshow: Constructing the vardo

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