We’ve been invited into old homes, mid-century homes, new homes, restored homes, large homes, cozy homes . . . But this is a first for the Tribe and for Sanford!
Meet Shorty and her Tiny Home!
What do you do?
I’m the Parks and Recreation Division Manager for Seminole County. All of the active park sites, sports complexes and associated programming is in my division. Work-wise the next huge project is the construction of the new sports complex near the airport – 15 ball fields, an admin building, a playground and a walking trail. We break ground on that in April. I also have oversight of the Museum of Seminole County History which is pretty exciting for me – it’s one of those facilities that blends the lines between work and play.
My hobby (and it’s very consuming) is living history. As a civilian living historian, I participate in reenactment events all over the southeast, interpreting daily life of the women left behind during the Civil War. I’m a member of a group who sets up a town scenario and then go about our daily lives, cooking, sewing, spinning, schooling the children, etc, while the soldiers go off and do their thing. It’s a lot of fun and combines three things I love to do – camping, sewing and visiting historic sites.
My 11 year old granddaughter lives with me, so a lot of my time is spent with her – school stuff, Girl Scouts, running car pool…
Lately, every free, non-raining, daylight minute is spent working on my Tiny House.
How did you find your way to Sanford?
That’s kind of funny because I have avoided living in Central Florida for years – I don’t like traffic! My mom lived in Altamonte Springs and Casselberry years ago and I hated coming down here from Jacksonville. But I was offered my position here with the Seminole County Leisure Services Department and our administrative office is in Sanford.
What was your first impression of Sanford?
My first impression years ago was through the Auto Train. I didn’t come downtown. So it was, ick, a train station. Then I had some window work done by CCS Restoration and saw the fringe of the Historic District. After my job interview in August I came downtown for lunch, drove through the Historic District and had one of those palm slap moments – how have I missed this place?!
What do you like best about living in Sanford?
I love living in the historic area, and the walkability/bikability of the whole downtown area.
I LOVE that they close the streets at the drop of a hat to do something fun.
I love the local restaurants, the trail along the waterfront, the parks, the dog park… It’s hard to pick a “best.” I feel very “at home” here already!
How did your tiny home project begin? What was the inspiration?
My tiny house started because of the living history hobby. When I go to set up at an event, I take about six hours to set up my “home” for a three to four day period. I had four tents, two “flys,” a brass bed, full pioneer kitchen set up, carpets throughout, real tables and chairs – it’s supposed to look like a house even though it’s canvas. My kids and grandchildren also participate in the hobby, so there’s sometimes even more tentage at big events.
Three years ago at our biggest event, Olustee, my daughter-in-law showed me a video (secretly, inside the tent – no modern anachronisms ever show) about tiny houses she saw on HGTV. By the end of the weekend we were all over it. How cool would that be to pull up to an event in a period cottage, drop the trailer, set up one little tent to cover the tongue and you are done. So that was the start of it. It was really intended to just be a reenacting thing.
As I’ve gotten into it however, I find myself embracing the whole tiny lifestyle. I have moved four times in ten years and I have way too much stuff. So the tiny house is also a means to help me determine what’s really necessary and what’s just clutter. So I am building the tiny house “period appropriate” and hiding modern anachronisms, but also with an eye towards making this a lifestyle change too.
What challenges have you faced in building your tiny home?
My physical limitations. I joke that I wear out about the same time as the battery on my drill so it’s an enforced rest period. Really, though, there haven’t been too many challenges. I did a lot of research before I started, and decided to build with SIPS, Structural Insulated Panel Systems. I’m very glad I did, it allowed me to get the walls up in a day, and the roof on in a few weeks. The only challenge was keeping the SIPS dry in a Florida summer, but now that the roofing is on and siding is sealed, it’s watertight and I can take my time with the rest.
The only other challenge was that my car really did not like towing the tiny house, even though it was rated for the weight. The wind load is pretty big, so I had to trade in for a big truck. Fortunately I live in nice, walkable Sanford now and don’t drive too much!
Do you plan to travel with your tiny home?
YES! Short-term it’s going to all the reenactment events, as well as just traditional camping where you’d use an RV. Long term, I hope to retire into it and travel a lot.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to build their own tiny home?
- Research – there’s a lot of resources online. The Florida Tiny House Enthusiasts FB page and meetup group are invaluable.
- Go to a workshop. There’s Four Lights, Tumbleweed and several other national companies, and some locals are getting into it. Jo-Anne Pack of Historic Shed is doing one on March 21st in Brooksville.
- Don’t buy plans. The mainstream groups will try to sell you plans. Don’t do it! They are expensive and you won’t stick to them. There’s lots of free basic plans on the web and you will find yourself changing and customizing as you go along and get a feel for your space. Of course, I sew without patterns and pins too, so maybe that’s just me. . .
- Don’t be afraid, just do it. Try to do it without a timeline though. I know several people who have set aggressive timelines and not met them, had to sell and move into an apartment, had to move the tiny home an hour away to find building space, etc. I know just as many who have a place to live, build it in their backyard, THEN put the big house up for sale when they are ready. That’s the way to do it . . .
I always say, if a fat, old, out-of-shape lady like me can build one, anyone can! Ask for help when you need it. I have had two big work days, one when we put up the walls. About 30 people showed up, and my SIP manufacturer let us use his space and forklift for the ridge beam, and one a couple weeks ago for the caulking and painting of the siding. About ten showed up for that and we got the whole house caulked and sided in a day. I could not have done that myself – the arthritis in the hands does not like caulk guns! I have had help with the roof panels, they weigh 150 pounds each, but usually only one or two people. It’s a TINY house. More people would not be safe.
There is nothing that enough caulk, wood putty, bondo and paint can’t fix.
Eleven-year-olds can’t do much construction, but they are pretty handy for running and fetching stuff when you are up on a roof, and they love to climb ladders. Pretty cheap labor too. So far it has cost me a couple boxes of Thin Mints and some Rainbow Loom bands.
Seriously, don’t climb on the roof alone – make sure there’s someone to call 911 if you fall off or if the ladder slips and pins your arm between the ladder rung and the house ridge . . . yeah that has happened . . . twice. . .
What are the best resources for people interested in building a tiny home?
- The internet
- YouTube. I have learned how to install plumbing, roofing, windows, doors, build stairs, proper venting, propane safety, and on and on. YouTube by far has been the best resource.
- Tiny home blogs and websites
- Tiny home builder webpages
- Facebook groups
- Meet-Up groups
- Habitat for Humanity Re-store
- Architectural salvage stores
- Local lumber and fencing
Big box stores really can’t help you, but check out local fencing places for surplus wood. I found Seminole Fence on 17-92 in Longwood, they sold me reclaimed fencing for all of my siding for $100.
Also a shout-out to Ace Hardware on 25th Street, they always have the screws, bolts, caulk, etc… I need and their customer service is awesome. They helped me rig my pitcher pump so I can have water from my “well” (a 40 gallon fresh water tank) on the porch of the tiny house!
What’s it like working for the Parks and Rec department? What is most rewarding about it?
I have done Parks and Rec my whole life – this is the seventh county government I’ve worked for (counting three different stints in Jacksonville under different administrations), as well as some non-profit recreational organizations along the way. Our department is so unique – it’s really what a County Parks Department should be. Your local Parks and Rec departments in the seven cities handle all the programming needs for the locals they serve, and we get the big stuff – sports complexes for tournaments which bring in economic development that benefits all the residents and large natural land areas to preserve the quality of life in the county.
I work with an amazing team of professionals, everyone here works hard and plays hard. Our different divisions touch everyone in the county – libraries, extension office, Natural Lands and Trails, Tourism, and us – Parks and Rec. It’s a great department.
Are there any exciting plans/projects in the works for the Parks and Rec department that you can share with us?
We are hosting our first-ever Great American Camp Out in November. It’s an event for families to learn to camp together, fun activities like cast iron cooking, geocaching and stargazing, we even tent rentals available. Check out the website.
What do you wish to see in Sanford?
I would like to see the second floors in the downtown on First and 2nd Street as living spaces – they seem to be either empty or storage. I think they would make really cool lofts, or combine space with a storefront downstairs for some more creative entrepreneurial ideas.
What is your favorite Sanford event?
I must say I loved Sofas and Suds.
What does Sanford need?
A Tiny House Community! More bed and breakfasts. A historic hotel downtown on the waterfront.
Favorite Sanford resident, past or present?
I have just met fellow newbies, Mike and Patti, new owners of the Higgins House. They are so fun and it’s such a great place! If I did not have my tiny house dream, I’d be working on a B&B dream like theirs!
What is the weirdest thing you’ve ever seen in Sanford?
Couches on wheels and the Limo Cycle.
What should residents be more passionate about?
There seems to be a lot of positive passion regarding historic preservation and land use. I would say, keep it up!
What is Sanford’s greatest area of opportunity?
Continued downtown redevelopment of the historic district, infill with appropriate structures
If you could just use one word to describe Sanford, what would it would be?
To stay up-to-date on Shorty’s Tiny Home progress, give her a “like” on her Facebook page.