Author Archives: EllaHarp

About EllaHarp

I am a harpist, singer/songwriter of blues, folk and pop influence. My debut Album 'Who Asked You Back' is out on all digital platforms and physically on ellaharp.com

Of tiny house concerts and rather large concerts…

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July! And a beautiful one it is. I’ve escaped the coastside’s version of summer (a high of 60 with drizzling fog) and write from 95 degree Washington state at my aunt’s house. It may actually be a bit too hot here, but you can’t win them all.

Wanted to share these pretty photos of a house concert I hosted at Little Yellow in her new space last month. A tiny house concert, if you will. Some friends in a band called The Riverside were passing through on tour and were so kind as to provide me a grand excuse to throw a gathering and play some music. So gather and music we did.

The deck we built recently acted as stage, and with chairs and a weeping willow tree and people stacked atop on Zac’s new shipping container, it was damn near magical. Such a lovely thing to reflect on the memories of music made within and enjoy the space in a new way.

A few music things, I’ve recently put up a video (live recording, single take) if you might enjoy it. It was filmed in the tiny tower of the new house, which we’ve filled with prolific tomato plants and a slew of other rapidly growing things. It’s much like its own wee greenhouse.

And secondly, I’ve somehow managed to find myself on the edge of my biggest show yet by far, with the crazy opportunity to open for (Grammy award winning pop diva) Mýa at the Music Box (a 700 capacity venue) in San Diego on Thursday, Aug 2 at 8:30 pm. I’m so excited I could skip over an 18 wheeler, but my end of the deal is to pre-sell 50 tickets by Aug 1. Which is…daunting.

If you know anyone in or near San Diego could you could you tell them, shout at them, bribe them, (pay them?) to come to this show? Threaten them, maybe? If it gets down to it, I am low key planning to lure drunk strangers onto a bus and drive them there, so it would be great if I didn’t have to do that.

If you do know anyone who can make it, please share/use the link below (http://bit.ly/EllaHarpSD) or send them to my website (www.ellaharp.com) for tickets. 

In closing, while we may not live in our tinies forever and ever, they can still continue to enrich our lives in countless beautiful ways ❤ Photos of the night by Ross Ruddell

 

8.2 San Diego

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Moving on and forward…

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Ok, long overdue life update: we’ve moved. Moved as in moved location and moved as in out of my beloved Little Yellow. It feels as odd to write down as it does to live it, but it’s in the very best of circumstances, so read on.

Shortly after our 5 year tiny-versary in October, we found ourselves with the sudden and unexpected opportunity to move to the most darling house, firmly attached to the ground a few miles down the road. Suddenly and unexpectedly again, everything continued to work out in just such a way that move, we did, and have been settling in beautifully these last 6 months.

I’d never been all that bothered about houses, but this particular one was vibrantly different from the stuffy, cookie-cutter boxes of my distasteful recollection. It is a slightly wonky, 118 year old, wood shingled house of funk with an actual tower. A tower. Like in fairytales. (I am contemplating growing my hair long enough to be Rapunzel already).

Little Yellow served us so well these years, but I admit I am guiltily enjoying having working space (and space between things in general). It feels bizarrely luxurious to have things like ovens and indoor refrigerators and flushing toilets and internet….and not having to cut fabric on my car. And the incalculable sigh of relief that comes with living somewhere legally.

My view on the matter is that I built my tiny house to make my life easier, and for many years she did exactly that. At some point when I quit my ‘day job’ and my home also became my workspace and my workspace suddenly involved a bunch more harps and a sewing machine and hundreds of yards of fabric and the need for office space and reliable internet, this gradually became less and less the case.

Yellow herself is parked beside the new house and we will be renting her out with part of the downstairs work space soon so we can afford this madness, and she will again make my life easier. But I do miss my loft. I often cry when I go inside now. Bittersweet, as they say.

You change as you grow, of course, and my wee, humble house adapted to so much of my growth. I never intended to live there with someone else (did so for over 5 years), never intended to have a dog (we had 2 for a while there) never expected that sewing clothes for other people would be something I’d do (in moved the sewing machine and the cabinet and the fabric) and definitely never expected to start making harps (we do that now. They hung somewhat precariously from the ceiling). She really was the Mary Poppins carpet bag of living spaces.

More so than anything else, my own life goals were what outgrew the tiny house. When I began this journey, I figured I would set her down somewhere beautiful, live a small and simple life and that would be it. And it was for many years, til the creeping drive to pursue music and various other dreams (on a much larger scale than I originally planned) began to grow so rapidly that the intensity was almost alarming.

Despite all efforts to convince myself otherwise, ‘I’m happy doing local gigs here and there’ unavoidably became ‘I would like to pursue this to the point of becoming someone people would recognize, and if I don’t, I want to have tried’.

So, I’m trying.

Creativity wise, my growth has exploded in the new space. I released my first album in Feb and have secured and played over 20 gigs since then. I have written 6 new songs, been sewing and growing lettuce and hosting big brunches and finding a new version of myself that I’m liking quite a bit. Slow, sleepy days have become fast paced ‘you’ve got shit to do’ days now, and the change of pace is strangely relieving. Watching one’s own personal change is an odd thing…

Now that I have a harp that can travel with me, I’ve been booking little mini tours around visiting people or places I want to go. I went to Hawaii for 2 weeks in March and played a few gigs out there, and am headed for Kansas City, Missouri next week to do the same. My sister recently moved there from California last year (on purpose. Still trying to figure that out) so I’m off to visit for a few days and open for Irish singer/songwriter Keith Harkin at a joint called Knuckheads Saloon next Saturday, May 26.

Do any of you live in or near Kansas City? Would love to see you if you could make it, you can find tickets here or at the door. Also trying to fill the Thursday and Friday beforehand (May 24 and 25), if anyone has ideas or wants to host a house concert either of those days let me know…

Should you like to check out my music, the album is on itunes, spotify, google play etc, and physically here. I also put up a new music video last week which I’ve included below. You can join my mailing list via a pop up on my music website (ellaharp.com), or can follow me on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter (disclaimer, I hate twitter) for updates and such.

In tiny house related new, I was recently on Ethan Waldman’s new podcast if you’d like to hear me blather for a while and talk more about my adventures in tiny houses and where I am now.

This post feels oddly final, I don’t know if I’m allowed to continue writing on a tiny house blog about what I now call The Tiny Mansion. Will people throw proverbial tomatoes at their computer screens? How many of you have pitchforks? Do they still make pitchforks? Do people still react to things they find unpleasant with vegetable throwing and picthforks? Mostly I would so hate to have this post serve as cause for the often heard proclamation of ‘obviously tiny houses never work out’, but I will risk it.

My tiny house has anything but failed me. She provided exactly what I needed and continues to facilitate my forward movement, and that is such a beautiful thing. I would never be able to live my life and pursue the ever moving target of happiness as I have without her.

If it doesn’t seem to bother anyone too much, I may continue to share parts of my life, as this blog has meant so much to me over the past almost 7 years. If it does bother you, I just googled it and you can still buy pitchforks. Though I recommend searching for ‘pitchfork tool’ or all that comes up is music websites and horror movies.

Thank you all so much for reading my rambles, and your many words of encouragement over the years ❤

And that is the news for now. You can find me spinning around in circles and not knocking anything over.

 

 

 

Music, horse shit and such…

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June! It’s definitely June. What is it that happens to my dedication to write more? I did find the pesky laptop that I lost a while back, so I really have no excuse. In the end it was IN MY CAR. Given the number of times I looked there and the length of time it remained hidden for I don’t know how that’s possible, but why would life make sense?

I’m rolling with the theory that devious little (shitty, old, out of date) laptop computer thieves stole it from my car, and then several months later put it back in the place I looked 37,837 times just to mess with me. They must have found it hilarious. I’m rolling with it.

Another positive is that I have recently stopped shoveling horse manure as part of my rental agreement with my landlords and let me tell you…it’s one of the greatest things ever. Every. Other. Day. For over 4.5 years I cleaned that literal shit. For the first 3 years I found the regularity somewhat delightful, but since becoming self employed it has increasingly lost its appeal. On and on it went, until one week in May I had two distinct realizations in quick succession.

1, In the last 4.5 years, I have cleaned horse poo more individual times than I have washed my hair.

(1.5, EW.)

2, I don’t even own horses.

And that was it. Now another local gal cleans the corrals and I wake up every morning with the joyous, springing step of someone who doesn’t have to put on shit clothes and scoop poop. It’s pretty great. Of course, I have to make up the extra rent money now, but I’m too excited about not doing it anymore to let that get me down. I’ll see how that attitude works out a in few months.

All this no-more-poo thing has had the added effect of making me fall in love with my house all over again, and I’m quite smitten with her at the moment. I realize I had tied a lot of undue negativity to Little Yellow because of my horse duties, which as a result made me feel an underlying agitation, which does nothing positive for feeling ‘at home’. I was actually becoming quite dissatisfied which was starting to really freak me out, seeing as I know I both love my house and have zero means for another kind of living situation. Moral of the story? Shit, man. It rains on your parade. And also makes it stink.

Keep forgetting to mention that I’ve added a ‘now’ page to the site. I got this idea from another blog I came across I really like the concept of it. For me personally, updating the page with a few quick paragraphs seems much less daunting than trying to figure how to work it into a larger post, so read up on now pages, add one to your website if you like it too, and check in on mine if you have any interest.

Most of my life since I last wrote has been dedicated to the massive undertaking of recording and stressing over the starting, and now almost completion, of my first album of original music. Titled ‘Who Asked You Back’, it will be released late summer and it’s very exciting.

I’ve put up my first official(ish) music video on youtube last week which is also exciting. If you can think of anyone who would enjoy it, please share! I’ll leave you with the video (also watchable in the side and/or bottom bar) and hopefully some of the remaining spring-stepping of this happy camper who doesn’t have to shovel shit today 🙂

Talking Tiny…

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It’s the first day of spring, and (at least where I am) it’s dumping rain. Cheery it isn’t, but California sure is trying to make a dent in this drought. It’s dry and leakless in Little Yellow, and aside from having lost several items of varying degrees of importance in its massive swathes of 120 sq feet, all is well.

My computer though; I appear to have lost my entire laptop computer. How does that happen? I have the cord but not the computer. Aren’t those two usually hanging out together? How did they get separated? How can I have never realized it’s possible to loose a laptop? How have I not taken greater care of the loose-able thing? And if it is indeed so loose-able how have I, the loser of many a great thing, not lost it before? Uncharted waters here. Many questions….

Anyway, a few exciting things to mention. First, I am finally able to make it to the Tiny House Conference in Portland April 7-9 and will be talking about design (Saturday from 9-10am for track A and 3-4pm for track B). I am super excited to go! Design is also my favorite subject about tiny houses so definitely looking forward to it 🙂

Second, looks like I will be going to the Tiny House Jamboree as well this year and doing a talk on couples in tiny houses! I will update as I know more in the next few months.

And thirdly *drum roll* I am now doing tiny house consultations via phone or Skype (once I find my computer…)! If you or someone you know might find it useful to ask questions of a tiny house dweller, get in touch and lets talk 🙂 Full info can be found in the consultations tab at the top right.

Wishing you all a beautiful spring!

Anniversaries and pretty pictures…

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2017! Holy cow, how did that happen? Is time speeding up for anyone else or is it just me? We celebrated 4 years in Little Yellow back in October (our tiny-versary if you will 🙂 ) and I can’t believe it’s come and gone so fast. The holidays were a chilly blur (by California standards) and the wee stove has gotten near daily use, cranking out the heat and keeping the house warm and toasty.

Home maintenance never ends, and despite my way tinier than usual space to maintain it still overwhelms me. I am very grateful for Zac in these doings because he has this remarkable way of making lists of things that need to get done and then doing them. It’s amazing. I also write lists, painstakingly and in my finest lettering, on the backs of receipts and opened envelopes. However, I prefer to leave them there. And never find them again.

Luckily, Zac’s listing has saved us once again, and dear Yellow has been kept up quite nicely. We now have what we call ‘the garage’ which is a big job box sitting on the hitch that houses a gas grill and general tool like items, a new chest-type fridge (outside, protected by a similar job box) that is not only bigger (yay!) but also uses 1/4 less power than the previous one, I’ve redesigned my kitchen around a marvelous driftwood log, and my pink room holds nearly 100 yards of drool worthy merino wool these days (yes I do have a problem). It occurs to me I never shared the updated video tour I did a while back, so here it is even though it’s quiet outdated now…will have to do another one soon.

It’s a little mental in the house with the sewing machine where the harp used to be and the harp… in the middle of everything, but somehow it still (mostly) works. I do occasionally feel as though so many projects in so small a space are not dissimilar to a jigsaw puzzle, except only half the pieces fit together. I cut fabric on my car, for instance. It sounds fun, and it is when the wind don’t blow, but come rain and I’m not going to be sewing. A fair weather activity you could say.

I’m also celebrating my 1 year anniversary of surviving with no ‘real job’, and it feels fantastic. I’ve finally reached the point I dreamed to find myself in when I conjured up this tiny adventure; able to make my little life work with only music and making things. It’s hard to believe, and I feel extremely grateful.

I cannot imagine how difficult it would be to make that dream a reality without Little Yellow. I have said that building this sensible little home was the best decision I have ever made, and it’s as true today as it ever was. Which either means building a tiny house was a super duper good idea or most of my other ideas aren’t that great, but whichever, here I am over 4 years later, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

5 years ago today…

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I purchased an 18′ car hauler trailer, and stared at it obsessively, frozen in place and gripped by an inward explosion of pure excitement and apprehension. 5 years ago today this tiny journey began 🙂 I know this less because I remember important dates in my life and more because I’m now officially late paying my 5 year, $10 trailer registration that somehow missed getting paid, despite being placed in a totally appropriate pile somewhere in the depths of my (ahem) very clear car…

 I found it today though so how great is that?

It’s been ages since I’ve written but with the timing I couldn’t help but write just a little. I am doing well. January’s pain passed and became February which became May and July and August and life goes on. Music and art have filled my heart to the brim and I am a pretty happy camper in my tiny coastal life. All my creative outlets that have laid dormant for so long have returned in force to surround my consciousness in a constant stream of creativity. Art, music, songwriting, sewing, jewelry making, leather work.

I have finally acquired a sewing machine. I say finally because I had to have been close to the last person in the modern world who sewed my entire, albeit tiny, closet of clothes without one. Entirely self taught (who knew youtube was useful for more than cat videos?) I spent hours and hours and years and several more hours discovering the wheels of sewing, pattern making and all that goes with it  It didn’t seem right then, with my antiquated love of holding a needle and thread, to get a white plastic, computerized box, so I bought the oldest machine that still functioned for my purposes.

It (he) is a beautiful German made zigzag, a Meister Klasse 101 that my best guess puts at around 1949-52ish. I have named him Meister and I am a little bit in love. Having sewn everything in my life by hand and literally never used a sewing machine, I feel much like how I imagine the first woman to own this machine must have felt at the marvel of it’s speed and precision, an amazing and life changing invention.

So damn fast and shit. It’s pretty amazing. When I first got it I somehow thought that I would just use the machine for sewing things for other people, I would surely still sew my own clothes by hand (que hysterical laughter).

I went back to Scotland in April for the first time since my return in June 2011. It felt wonderful to be back, so many memories of my years there. I made a ridiculous leather coat for the trip and sported it around, weighing several kilos more than usual. Great for the calorie burning.

Self employment seems to be going quite well enough, and I suddenly struggle to recall how or why I ever bothered to work for someone else. Well, it was because of regular, consistent income but never mind. I find the uncertainty of my monthly financial situation delightful. Somehow it keeps working out, and the slow, thrifty life suits me just fine. But really, with the thrift. Life appears so much more affordable when you don’t buy anything.

My house is still standing, and I have a renewed gratefulness for it this year. It seems extra beautiful to me 🙂 It evolves with my needs and continues to surprise me.

I have a super basic website up for my music, www.ellaharp.com, and I’m on instagram now and can be found at @ellaharp if anyone wants to follow my rambles in picture form. Oh how trendy!

A little story and I’m off to bed. I was given a small potted plant of daffodils several years ago, which promptly died in my care. I was extra sad because daffodils are my favorite and it never feels good when your favorites die. I chucked them into the wilds of the back field and called it a bad day for gardening.

Imagine my surprise when I chased Lobster behind the house this spring and beheld the most darling little splash of daffodil yellow, risen up on their own and thriving. Nature is amazing. Lessons to be learned there ❤

Heartbreak and letting go…

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Where to begin…This is going to be a long one, and it’s not a happy story.

It started shortly after I got her when she was 9 weeks old. A tiny, fluffy, new puppy. She’d look at you fiercely with her dark, doe eyes, indescribably intense. She’d hold your gaze and you hers, and then she’d bite at the center of your face.

Puppies have to be taught how to interact with humans. They have to learn bite inhibition. I have to make sure she knows this hurts people and she won’t do it again. This is normal. This is a phase.

I repeated these things to myself every time it happened, confused and upset with countless Google searches on variations of ‘puppy’ ‘aggressive’ ‘biting’. This is normal. It is. But it wasn’t.

Roo was my first puppy. Lobster was 1 when we got him and is so good he practically does the laundry. An agreeable, ‘no problem’ kind of guy. He has a weird thing against homeless people (which we have dubbed ‘hobo-phobic’) but is otherwise cucumber cool. I had interacted with puppies though, and having raised horses and litters of kittens I have a general idea of how young animal play goes. Only this wasn’t play fighting, because she did that too and the difference was blatant. This was something else.

I took a risk with her in favor of socialization and carried her out into the world before all her shots were done. Subways, beaches, crowds, elevators, I wanted her to be exposed to everything I could think of. Aussies are described as being ‘reserved with strangers’ and ‘socialization is key’, so I made it a priority to show her as many situations as possible.

And It worked very well with everything else; that dog was bullet proof with subways. Training worked well with everything else too, she would sit on a dime, didn’t pull on the leash, would wait, and down stay for impressive periods of time. People, however, were a different story; a lack of them brought separation anxiety and the presence of them, aggression. Despite having been exposed to every type of person the city of San Francisco has to offer, she never took to anyone outside her small circle. I can’t think of a single person she she met after 14 weeks that was accepted.

I am aware not all dogs are bounding, wagging, stranger-greeters and I was fully prepared for that. Reserved I was prepared for. Shy I was prepared for. Barking, snarling, lunging, growling, snapping,…I was not.

She didn’t do it every day, or every time. If we were out and about and people were a distance enough away she was great. Sometimes she would let someone greet her and be totally ok, regularly shy and aggression-less. Sometimes she’d be fine with a little kid, then growl and bark with raised hackles just at the sight of another. Sometimes she’d seem alright with someone and then go for their face. It was the back and forth that was the most frustrating.

She never did real harm, and being cute and small as she was it was actually disturbing to me how blasé people were about her obvious displays of aggression. I can’t help but think how she would have been perceived if she looked like a pit bull.

Between 5 and 11 months old, I focused my entire being towards working with her to become reasonably indifferent to strangers. She’d get just better enough with each new training/desensitizing technique I employed that I would think for sure she was getting past it until she didn’t. As her 10th month ended and the holidays drew closer, her improvement was so inconsistent that I finally had to face the reality of my situation.

The companion I had committed to love and care for was slowly destroying my life. None of the exhaustive list of training methods made any lasting difference and I found myself with a dog of 11 months old that hated almost everyone new, wailed like a banshee for the full amount of time she was left alone, and had bitten 9 people in the face, including a child. I had what appeared to be the classic case of an under socialized, under exercised, untrained dog that lacked leadership and structure in her life despite my every action to the contrary.

My relationships started to suffer, I made excuses to keep people from visiting and I dreaded leaving her alone out of fear someone would report my house for the noise. Taking her anywhere and repeating ‘no, she was not abused’, and ‘yes I have tried that’ wore on my resolve and I became a depressive, miserable mess who would burst into tears at the slightest suggestion.

The last day I had her, she bit a man in the face at the beach where we went every day. He walked over for conversation and she had her usual freak out, then calmed long enough for him to give her a brief pat on the head. When he left, he bent to say goodbye to her and she lunged. He reacted and she left only an indentation on his cheek, but I was done. The Aussie rescue wouldn’t take a dog that bad with people so Zac brought her to the humane society. They took pity on her sweet, muzzled face and kept her for evaluation. A week or so later they called to say she was in foster care and I don’t know what happened to her after that.

It was the very worst and most difficult thing I have ever done.

That was November 12. I have been varying degrees of a piece of shit since then, although it has kicked and shoved me unceremoniously into some new section of my life that I have to believe will bring some good. A time of change whether I am ready for it or not; after 3 wonderful years, I left Tumbleweed last month to focus on music and art on the coast in 2016. The future seems unstable but exciting. Unstable, exciting but Roo-less.

Many things have happened since I wrote last but I can’t stand to bring them into this post, which shall be dedicated to my beautiful little heartbreak. My darling wee girl who never quite fit. The hardest thing about having my story online is that I can’t hide from the sad, deeply personal things that I wish I could bury within me. The story must go on, so I bare my soul as every written word reopens the wound. Please hold your judgement if you can, I assure you that all the things you’d like to say have beaten and battered through my head 1000 times over.

The part of me that wonders the ‘what if’s’ will never silence. What if, what if, what if. My mind continuously switches and seconds guesses itself. But the ‘what if I get sued’, ‘what if she really hurts someone’ is quiet.

No one won, it won’t be ok, it will just be. FullSizeRenderRionnag, mo ghràidh.