Ella’s Tiny House Story

Guest Post by Ella Jenkins

I’m Ella, a 23 year old musician and artist just out of college and I’m in the process of building my very own Tumbleweed Fencl. I’ve been in love with tiny houses from the moment it came to my attention they existed in 2010, and I’ve been saving my money ever since. Finally, last September, I bought a trailer and my step-dad and I began the grand construction!

I have never built a thing in my life, but with my Dad’s endless tools, know-how, and lectures I’ve taken in so much and the two of us have muddled our way through. It’s amazing what you can learn when you’re passionate!

Photo Credits: Ella Jenkins

We have just gotten the roof on and are now working on putting up cedar siding. I hope to be done around May and find somewhere beautiful to set myself down. This way I can pursue what I love without the worry of financially debilitating rent.

Yellow is my happy colour, so I have named my wee house Little Yellow, or Buidhe Bheag in Scottish Gaelic (I studied traditional harp music and the Gaelic language in Scotland for 4 years). Feel free to stop by my blog where I am tracking my progress: http://littleyellowdoor.wordpress.com/

Photo Credits: Ella Jenkins

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TM - January 26, 2012 Reply

I love to see young people are willing to plan and do stuff for their future …building a place for herself like this young lady Ella .
I admire your thoughts , your effort and your time to put in and build a beautiful little place for yourself .
I can see that you have a solid start with your fresh new life in a happy long secure road of your life ahead .
Nice work , please keep up the work .
I love to see more the insides .
( I wish my 18 years old daughter can think and do like you )
Happy New Year ( my new year just start a few days ago ) TM.

Peyote Short - January 26, 2012 Reply

This will inevitably lead to a harp tune Buidhe Bheag Buidhe Mhor.

    Ella - January 26, 2012 Reply

    Ha! Yes it most certainly will! 🙂

KimiErin - January 26, 2012 Reply

keep up the good work Ella! Can’t wait to see your finished house.

when - January 26, 2012 Reply

You cannot have posted about bartering harp lessons for electrical installations on a public forum, it didn’t happen.

If it did, then both you and your neighbor would owe significant income taxes on your barter transaction based on the fair market value of that installation or your harp lessons, whichever is greater.

Don’t mess with the IRS. Barter between consenting adults without paying taxes is crimethink. I am completely serious, they *will* come after you for a paltry $500 and stack $1500 of fines on top of it, I’ve seen it happen.

    Josh - January 26, 2012 Reply

    …then both you and your neighbor would owe significant income taxes on your barter transaction based on the fair market value of that installation or your harp lessons, whichever is greater.

    You might want to rethink that. I don’t get involved much with tax accounting, so I’m not stating this as an expert opinion, but the IRS form 1099-B (which is filed for proceeds from broker and barter exchange transactions) lists in the exceptions for barter exchanges – Barter exchanges are not required to file Form 1099-B for exchanges through a barter exchange having fewer than 100 transactions during the year.


      when - January 26, 2012 Reply

      I don’t believe this is correct. That rule as I read it applies to barter exchanges (like stock exchanges). Barter exchange businesses are required to report to the IRS all transactions that flow through them if the number of transactions is more than 100.

      From the IRS barter page, the bottom limit for a non-taxable single barter transaction is $1. If you engage in one single barter of $2 of items and don’t report it, you are committing tax fraud. Federal crime. 5 years in prison and $100,000 fine. Really.

      I would wager that the full loaded cost of an electrician to wire her house (if she had bartered to do so, which in this case she obviously didn’t) is in the neighborhood of $2500.

      I don’t think it’s right, but that’s black-letter law.

      Pay up, peasant. 🙂

        Josh - January 26, 2012 Reply

        You’re correct. After reading it again more closely and with fewer distractions, I see that when they use the term “barter exchange” they are using it in reference to a person or group that facilitates members bartering amongst themselves, and it is the exchange’s responsibility to issue a 1099 to members.

        So, I suppose technically she should report the value of services received (if the barter actually took place) as miscellaneous income on her 1040, and the electrician should report the value of music lessons received as income on his schedule C. In reality though, if nothing’s required to be filed with the IRS (like with a W-9/1099 situation) nobody’s going to be the wiser.

          Stephan - February 1, 2012 Reply

          i always charge a dollar for my services. and i often find services for a dollar as well.

    Shea - January 26, 2012 Reply

    Which is one of the few (but crucial) reasons I am unhappy with American government, in general.
    To TRADE something or a task between one another should be LEFT ALONE as a basic right of our freedom.

    Of course, there should be a ceiling, when basic trades (like babysitting someone’s kid in exchange for garden space in their yard, a 1989 Dodge in exchange for a pile of 2,000 old bricks, etc.) become much more than ‘basic’… Barters that involve more than, say, $100 grand of worth should be considered as ‘taxable’, right? Or every business in America would start ‘bartering’, on paper, EVERYTHING under their roof and signpost to escape taxation…
    I do agree that there ARE legalities, whether we like it or not.
    I think there should be some common sense involved, though, not having to know every literal detail of IRS fine-print everytime me or my neighbor wants to get rid of an old lawnmower or have a garden roto-tilled! It’s ridiculousness.

    I would simply suggest keeping barter/trade/exchanges (up to $1000-$3000) between the two parties involved, and leave it at that…

      when - January 27, 2012 Reply

      I agree. We shouldn’t have to put ourselves in the position of committing serious federal crimes just to trade amongst ourselves for tiny things.

      The only way to rule innocent men is to make everything a crime.

      There are several plans out there to improve this, from Karl Denninger’s Fair Tax (eliminates income taxes, replaces with sales tax and poor people pay no tax) to Ron Paul’s plan (eliminates income tax and replaces it with… nothing.)

      Ron Paul 2012.

        Lucas - January 27, 2012 Reply

        Fine. I will report all of my bartered transactions in the future in exchange for all the rich @zzholes with money in their offshore accounts reporting their income correctly…..deal?

Christina Nellemann - January 26, 2012 Reply

Good for you! It will probably be the greatest learning experience of your life. I can’t wait to see the finished project.

    Christina Nellemann - January 26, 2012 Reply

    By the way…your step-father seems like a really great guy.

      Ella - January 26, 2012 Reply

      He really, really is. One of the best things to ever come to my life

blessed - January 26, 2012 Reply

That last pic of you is absolutely adorable–like the January girl off the Tumbleweed pin-up calendar. ; )

I hope my girls grow up to be just like you. : )

Woody - January 26, 2012 Reply

I love the tiny house movement. But I’m curious, why a lighter weight siding has not been used on some of these. Such as vinyl or some other alternative. With gas prices throught he roof, it only makes sense to “lighten your load” a bit. is it the stability of a moving home? Or just the love of real wood. I love real wood, but the lighter weight would be a bonus in my opinion? If you plan on being stationary more than mobile by all means, use real wood. Some of the videos I’ve seen use 2x lumber where 1x would have been adeguate, even more attractive, ie: cabinets and shelving and such. Just my mind wandering mind. thanks for letting me ask my silly questions. Good luck with your home I looks awesome

    Abel Zimmerman Zyl - January 27, 2012 Reply

    Cedar is pretty light, as far as functional siding goes. Sure, aluminum and steel are lighter, but you have to ventilate them well and they still have more condensation problems. Vinyl offgasses phenols, not to speak of the manufacturing process, so it is good to minimlize here.

    Also, youd have to be on the road nearly constantly to notice the weight vs. fuel economy much… Frontal area is huge on these houses, so that is probably more of a factor. But most everyone i know moves theirs once every couple years, or not at all. (houses this size anyhow)

    Cedar is pure magic! I’ve refurbished functional cedar shingle siding that was 75 years old! Now that is very sustainable…

    Anyway, love to see the younger crowd out building. I hope my kids have experiences like this someday.

    Carolyn MVaussies - January 28, 2012 Reply

    I agree with some statements, mainly framing can be much lighter, & I have do so on my project. But the siding is a problem, as it has to hold up to highway speeds=a Nor-Easter. Which rain will go through, if not blow off Vinyl in a heart beat. Why it is not used on the New England coast……..or not for long. But Cedar siding has been used for 100s of years. I’m building mine with the 3/8″ T-11. Sheathing & siding in one. Someday when it is at it’s final parking spot, I can always put a finished siding on if I want.

Joanna - January 26, 2012 Reply

Good for you!! this is great. You look so proud 🙂

Great that you get to build it with your stepdad too.

Ryan Surface - January 26, 2012 Reply

Young Ladies who build their own tiny houses are HOT! Seriously good on ya and I hope my 9 year-old Daughter keeps her fearless, creative independent thinking streak alive as you have. We are going to start with building a tree house this year 😉

Morgan - January 26, 2012 Reply

I love your fencl build so, so very much. I’ve been following your wordpress for a while now, and you really do inspire me. I hope get started on my own fencl this Spring as soon as I get my Master’s degree, and I’m glad to know I’m not the only woman in my 20’s looking into all this! PS-I had planned to do my roof in the same style as yours after reading the trouble others had replicating Jay’s handsome but difficult split roof. I was worried how it was going to look, til I saw your pics-so thanks! Huge, huge help, as always 😀

alice h - January 26, 2012 Reply

You are an inspiration to my 8 year old granddaughter. She got her own basic carpentry tools for Xmas and is always telling classmates that girls build stuff too. Now she can go online and prove it again! (She also sews and cooks, hopefully she’ll get auto mechanics sorted.)

Liz - January 26, 2012 Reply

I think everyone’s pretty much covered my comments, but I just had to say how adorable you are again, lol!

I wish I’d had this kind of guidance and inspiration when I was your age. You have such an amazing life ahead! Very inspirational. I guess I have no more excuses!

Engineer Guy - January 26, 2012 Reply

Hee hee, great pix documenting very admirable dreams and literal progress. Send in the Rooftop one to DeWalt and get some free Tools outta them in exchange! I paid off Houses early, and it makes a huge difference in Lifestyle and freedom. Free-and-clear Housing will make an even greater impact on your Life, since you’ve started so young. We went to Scotland many times, and wound up on Islay repeatedly. Keep your Language Chops honed by listening to Gaelic here:


The Film ‘Local Hero’ is a must viewing. It takes a person right back to that wonderful Countryside.

Jeff H - January 26, 2012 Reply

I’m truly at a loss for words at how impressed I am with you. This is so nice to see a girl of your age doing this. I’m not that much older, but I never would have thought of this at 23, Way to go!

Jeff H

Shea - January 26, 2012 Reply

Beautiful work, and a beautiful story!
I love that you and your step-father are involved in creating something together like this, and I hope to hear more about your progress in the weeks and months to come!
You are an inspiration to others, and may many more young women follow your path in building homes of their own! 😉

Randy - January 27, 2012 Reply

Good luck to you, Ella! You have a maturity beyond your years to understand not only the concepts of living small but understanding the benefits of no mortgage. Here’s wishing you success and happiness!

320 square foot home - January 27, 2012 Reply

Hi Ella! You have a great idea! Stick with it, girl! You will love your home, and the freedom it represents.

Calvin Bell - January 27, 2012 Reply

You go girl! “The borrower is servant to the lender” Prov.22:7
Starve the Beast

Mike - January 27, 2012 Reply

Ella, you’re an inspiration to us all. You rock.

Dan - January 27, 2012 Reply

Ella, will you marry me????

Great job on the house!!!

Jason in So Cal - January 27, 2012 Reply

Beautiful JOB! I look forward to hearing about this beautiful little house.

Victoria - Ozarks Crescent Mural - January 27, 2012 Reply

Congrats, Ella! Your build is so exciting!

Gneen - January 28, 2012 Reply

Beautiful Ella! AND I see that we have a similar taste in style with socks! I have been toying with building my Tiny House guest home in the future on a car trailer, so this really inspires me. What beautiful work!I want to be oyu when I grow up (at age 50, do you think it’s too late?


    Ella - January 30, 2012 Reply

    I don’t think it’s ever too late! Especially if you have great socks 🙂

      Gneen - January 31, 2012 Reply

      Yes! Thank you for the encouraging words. We all need that kind of positive attitude in life! Can you believe that when I wore MY really great colorful socks at Thanksgiving my Brother asked when the circus is coming to town? HE is obviously too old…

      Keep us posted on your progress and your socks fashion Ella!

      If my avitar change worked, you will see me T.G. day in MY cool socks digging a fire pit in front of my questionable Tiny house that I did not build.

    alice h - January 31, 2012 Reply

    I’m 58 with totally crapped out arthritic knees, use a walker to get around and I was able to build a 10×12 deck and porch shelter for a Boler trailer and a 4×6 wash house all on my own. Mind you, I was only using a cane back when I did most of the building. It sometimes takes just a little longer due to rest breaks and you have to invent some “extra hands” to hold longer boards and whatnot. The library, used book stores and thrift shops are full of basic carpentry books to get you started and you may have friends or relatives to help you. Tools can be found second hand and you don’t need a lot of fancy stuff to get going. You can also start a Meetup group or something to find like-minded people that can help each other build. You can start with a shed or doghouse or small garden benches or whatever if you’ve never used tools before to ease yourself into it. The best way to do it is to just do it. Never use age as an excuse! It’s all about what you are actually capable of, not what you limit yourself to thinking you can do. If you have medical conditions that keep you from doing something perhaps you can find someone to trade skills with or you might discover that there are ways around the physical limitations. Adopt, adapt, improve!

      Gneen - February 3, 2012 Reply

      Your comment is so inspiring Alice! Thank you for sharing. That is real good advice to start small with a dog house or something. I look forward to doing something like that after I get a bit grounded in other projects that are needed.

      All good things!

Sandi Allen - January 28, 2012 Reply

Except for the barter barage this was an exceptional post. I can’t wait to see the inside. Your “dad” seems to enjoy the help and the level on his head was too cute.

When I was 35, I made a promise to myself that by the time I was 45, I would have a cabin in the woods or stop trying. I am now 57 and living in a dinky apt. in a town I hate.

The Tiny House Movement has given me some hope. I know there are pieces of land that are cheap that I can live quietly and “off the grid”, which suits me fine. After living in AK, I know how to do it.

So, be proud of your desire and accomplishments. And we are all waiting for shots of the inside!!


    alice h - January 28, 2012 Reply

    On the level, that’s a square!

    Gneen - January 30, 2012 Reply

    Never limit your dreams by a gone past time line Sandy. Some dreams just need more gestation time! Love every moment of every day wherever you are on your journey and keep those dreams alive. Seeing someone like Ella sure makes me up the anti on my own dreams!

K - January 28, 2012 Reply

Ella: You’re hot!

Annie - January 29, 2012 Reply

Fantastic! You are an inspiration and I’m sending a link to your blog to my nieces. I can’t wait to see how it turns out!

sesameB - January 30, 2012 Reply

Excellent story. I am looking forward to hearing more about your life and tiny living. Here is an inspirational read from my files. This lady was one of my favorite people, who lived a long creative life: December 30, 2011
Eva Zeisel, Ceramic Artist and Designer, Dies at 105 By WILLIAM L. HAMILTON

“Men have no concept of how to design things for the home,” she told a writer. “Women should design the things they use.” Eva Zeisel, a ceramic artist whose elegant, eccentric designs for dinnerware in the 1940s and ’50s helped to revolutionize the way Americans set their tables, died on Friday in New City, N.Y. She was 105. Her death was confirmed by her daughter, Jean Richards. Ms. Zeisel (pronounced ZY-sel), along with designers like Mary and Russel Wright and Charles and Ray Eames, brought the clean, casual shapes of modernist design into middle-class American homes with furnishings that encouraged a postwar desire for fresh, less formal styles of living.

One space living in rural Arkansas, barefootin’

sesameB - January 30, 2012 Reply

KEEP ON BILDING ELLA, YOU ARE AHEAD OF THE PACK, CASE IN POINT: A sign of changing times: Priced out of Natick Posted by Scott Van Voorhis January 30, 2012 06:35 AM – thought finding a four bedroom home in the suburbs would bea cinch.
After all, we are in the midst of a seemingly never ending real estate downturn, right?
Well yes and no. Home sales have been skidding along at record low levels not seen since the early 1990s, though activity has begun to pick up over the past few months.
But prices in more than a few suburbs within have held fairly steady or have gone up over the past year. (I quote Brendan and look at prices in the western suburbs in this Globe West piece that ran yesterday.) Back to Brendan and his wife, who found themselves outbid for a 1950s colonial in need of work last spring. The Lois Street home, on the market for $430,000, wound up fetching $450,000 after a short but furious bidding war. Renting near Boston, they are intent on finding a home of their own as they look ahead to starting a family. The couple has kept on looking in Natick and surrounding towns, but they keep on running into the same thing as they search for that elusive four bedroom home in reasonable condition, namely overpriced homes in need of lots of work. On paper, Natick should be more affordable than other western suburbs, with prices having slipped 3.2 percent in 2011 to $387,000, according to real estate publisher and data firm The Warren Group. The reality is there are no real bargains unless you are willing to put in significant amounts of sweat equity.

TMc - January 31, 2012 Reply

Well done Ella!!!
One of the few things I remember from my Gaelic (Irish) studies is:

“Cuir amach an madra sin agus dun an doras.”

Which may be helpful if you ever get a canine friend in your tiny abode.

Where are you thinking of relocating to?

Keep us posted on the completion of the house…maybe some inside pics?


Ella - February 2, 2012 Reply

“Put out the…something? and close the door.” I’m guessing by the canine comment that the something means dog 🙂 In Scottish Gaelic dog is cù, funny how everything else in that sentence is almost the same!

I’d like to move north somewhere, by the sea. I’ll keep up with interior updates on my blog as it progresses 🙂

Maria - February 19, 2012 Reply

Good job, Ella!
I will follow your story and learn as much as possible in order to build my own!
I’m still a little bit confused about permissions and other technical matters…

Mike Glodo - February 19, 2012 Reply

Really like the solution to the small porch and door and the huge amount of windows. Wonderful.

Kenny - February 19, 2012 Reply

I think this is great. From a fellow tiny house dweller, congratulations. Plan on making my own community very soon in the less-tan-great state of Illinois.

Mike Marcellino - May 24, 2012 Reply

Ella, i am very impressed by you; i just discovered tiny houses today and would like to live in one some day; i’m a songwriter and performing artist who surfs

good luck in your new home!

ps: i would need some guidance to build one myself as i am technically and spatially challenged, but i can follow orders and am trainable

i life my blog site for my music and writing, but just in case it is http://www.notebookwriter.blogspot.com

mike marcellino

paul jenkins - May 31, 2012 Reply

Is any of your music on the web or available for purchase? Great house!

Brittany - June 15, 2012 Reply

Hi Ella! I love the look of the cedar on your house – very practical and lovely! Where are you located?

Howie - August 25, 2012 Reply

Is this finished? I would like an update.

Ella's Tiny House Update - October 3, 2012 Reply

[…] = 336; google_ad_height = 280; I featured Ella back a few months as she was in the process of building her tiny home. Ella just sent me an update and tells me the house is completed. Ella says: “My house in […]

Galería de casas diminutas (4): Más Tumbleweeds | Casa Enlatada - June 8, 2013 Reply

[…] Artículo en Tiny House Blog, incluye fotos del proceso de construcción. Está bueno, porque está escrito por la propia Ella, y cuenta un montón de cosas acerca de sí misma y de su motivación para construir la casa. […]

Judy Oehlke - March 11, 2014 Reply

I was wondering why most of these tiny houses do not have larger overhangs. They would be more functional and look better. When I do one it will have a decent amount of overhang. I heard one builder comment on that aspect and he was saying it was not good for the close proximity of the windows to the roof to not have more of a overhang.

    Catherine - October 14, 2014 Reply

    Not much over hang, at least in my case, or I should say, my tiny house’s case has to do with legal width limits for road worthiness. And uh, how could a government regulate bartering anyway??? I mean short of cyber spying and drone flybys there is no way they would ever know. Nice to see you again Ella. Hope all is well with you out by the sea!

Tammy Guffey - April 28, 2015 Reply

Hey Ella- I went to
The las Vegas tiny house conference and now I have some questions about compost toilet– will you email me please!!:)

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