Where have I been?…I know, I too Wonder.

It’s obviously been quite a while since I have posted. I had some stuff happen….like life. My quest for living tiny, thought at a current stand still, is still my goal. I lost my contractor, well….to be more accurate I broke up with my boyfriend who was said contractor. Thus, all things went on hold. The only thing that did not stall is my desire to live tiny, as well as my research.

I have bought plans, which I constantly consider modifying as I like one feature in one, and two in another. So what I do is that I collect different ones and try to make them my own by taking ideas from all. Instagram is a gem for finding tiny house ideas and if you are not on Instagram, I suggest you make an account because so many tiny housers document their adventures, ideas and homes on instagram.

I recently met up with my friend Doreen at the St. Augustine Tiny House Jamboree. Doreen has found her trailer and a builder who is helping her build and design her tiny.

So a couple of things about the Jamboree. It was a weekend event and we flew to St. Augustine, Florida. Doreen from New Hampshire and I from New York. This was a three day event which included many tiny homes, converted school buses, trailers, RV’s and workshops.

There are a couple of things that were good, some not so good. First the good; there were many homes to go into and look at, it gave you the opportunity to see the interiors and note what you like and don’t like, the lines were not terrible, the food was good, and the weather was lovely (November).

The not so good; We did not need to travel so far. The whole thing could have been done in a day. The workshops were not well organized. Many of the homes were by builders promoting their building companies, who are very knowledgeable, but I was disappointed at the steep pricing. In some ways the simplicity of tiny living has been stripped of the original goal — simplicity.

I still maintain the ideology of a minimalist life. I would still like to remain loyal to the  idea of reusing and refurbishing the old. I may be crazy but the idea of having a tiny that costs well above the $40,000 mark seems to defeat the purpose. I don’t want a fancy house with all the bells and whistles….what’s the point in that. I want a simple abode that nourishes my soul when I wake and as I go to bed at night.  I don’t need a luxury hotel room for a home.

So word to the interested tiny housers out there — Find Local interest and conventions. Flying  anywhere for a convention is not necessary unless you are staying with family and have other plans. Follow some blogs, there are so many excellent ones. All you need to do is hit your google search engine. And, as I mentioned before sign in to Instagram – you will find wonderful people sharing their journey and ideas.

Till next time- wishing you Peace, Love, Light in the New Year and many tiny  house adventures..

 

 

 

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Why Living off Grid is the Answer for many of us, but the Obsticles can make one Wonder if it’s Right

As I await finding an affordable trailer, I continue to read and watch all things tiny.  The good thing about this is, that I am continually learning of all the wonderful ideas and creative endeavors of other tiny housers, the bad part  is that I also end up extremely anxious about how I am not moving and building fast enough and I must admit that reading about tiny housers being evicted, leaves me wondering if I will be able to do this and where the heck I will land.

I’ve been reading about the Zoning laws of some states and they pretty much all agree; tiny houses on wheels, are not for full-time living and are viewed as ‘illegal’ in many ways. Registered as an RV if on wheels, as I hope mine to be, they are not for residing full-time. Issues regarding water and waste disposal are a concern even though most tiny housers are following the rules and being deeply conscientous of their impact on the environment. Another issue is that basically tiny housers are the nomads/gypsies of the housing world. We are seen, somewhat, as rebels, people who do not want to live by conventional means or rules (hellllloooo, conventional means have hindered us financially and  are not eco friendly) by paying thousands of dollars in home taxes and living to pay for your home and heating bills. But,  this makes you a good tax paying citizen :).

I am confortable with being non-traditional amd unconventional, I am comfortable with wanting to protect our earth for future generations, I am comfortable with living with less for a bigger fuller life. I like that I have bigger goals than just consuming for the sake of consuming. As a single mother, building a tiny house on wheels seems like the only feasible way for me to have a roof over my head when I retire as, I owe a horribly shocking amount of money on my student loans. I will never be able to buy a conventional home ever again due to lack of savings and once again due the poverty level once I retire.

I am not trying to cheat anyone, I just want to be able to survive after serving as a social worker for many many years and paying a LOT of taxes to our wonderful government. I want to contribute to society now in a different way – helping the needy, advocating for the disenfranchised and finding ways to lovingly care and restore, in small ways, this beautiful earth that has provided and taken care of me.

That being said, the news out of Colorado (who I revered as a hero of the earth and progressive thinking), has left me disturbed and saying “wait, I thought you were our friends.” Their destruction of a tiny house community left me stunned and in many ways feeling lost and hopeless. Then, again the state that I once thought of as a place where ‘people get it” — leaves me with my mouth hanging opem. when they evict, soon after arriving (like within 24 hours) ,  tiny housers, Jenna and guillaume — who had, the whole time, believed they would be settling in Denver after traveling the US for a year.

Then there is the more recent case of my friend and tiny houser Sarah Hastings, who’s been served by the town’s local zoning board for living ‘illegally” on a farm in Massachusettes.

All the tiny housers I have met or read about are conscientously making a decision to do with less, including myself. We are not trying to secretly get away with anything unscrupulous (i.e. don’t get me started on the banks who destroyed the housing market and got away with it, not to mention the hundreds of thousands in bonuses with not even a slap on the hand).  We are peaceful people who love life, our planet and understand that life  has much more to do with living than with how much we have.

Portland, Oregon — you are still my hero, please stay that way and don’t disappoint us.

Please help me support my friend Sarah keep her tiny house in its current location. You will also be standing for our right to live tiny, ethically and sustainably.

 

Trailers, Trailers, Trailers….A Trailer Hunting I will Go

Okay I am going to admit – I am frustrated. Yes, I am, to the point that I am starting to hate Craigslist for its lack of an ideal, affordable and exact measurement trailer. I also admit that since I have returned to my job in September, my lack of time, exhaustion and the pilferation of my soul  (the act of my creative soul leaving my body every morning) has basically put my project on the back burner –way back on the darn burner. It’s no ones fault really. I have to work. I have to make a living and I have bills to pay. But, my soul continues to scream daily for a different life. What am I to do? I love my soul and I want it to be creative and happy….so I persevere.

Back in the Spring I thought I had found me the ideal trailer on Craigslist whom I love and both hate and fear. Excited and full of hope I drive to Pennsylvania with my best pal – my dog and a friend, where said trailer is located. It is a beauty, just two years old and so so clean. Sitting outdoors on the owners property, I can tell it’s pristine minus the weeds popping about for a ray of sun light. It was used once to trailer solar panels and has sat in this location never to be used again. My heart soars as I approach it and see its beauty. I notice it is a dove tail (not ideal) and it has side railings that need to be welded off (still thinking ok still not a big deal). I check for rust spots and except for a few visible ones, the thing is rocking! It is a dual axle and so I’m thinking – cool, GVW (Gross Vehicle Weight) 7,000 times two 14,000 – way cool.

After ooohing and ahhhing for a bit and practically kissing my new found trailer, I call the owner to tell him I’m in! Not only does he offer a fair price, he offers to hold it for me until I find a secure place to store and offers to deliver it to me as he lives in New York and goes back and forth every weekend. Hello?? Who’s better than me? Whoop Whoop -Uh no one.  All cool right? Not — when we meet he tells me that though it is dual axle, the GVW is a total of 7,000 😦 huge bummer.

A real beauty

A real beauty

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My best buddy approves

My best buddy approves

The reality is a Dove Tail trailer (a ramp that allows you to drive things up onto trailer) is not ideal; that is not to say it is not workable, as there are alterations that can be made. The metal sides must also come down but also not impossible. The weight though, is gravely important and to build a tiny house on wheels of about 20 feet, you must have a minimum of 10,000 lbs. I have found a trailer link that has helped me learn more about what I need and what is important when searching for a trailer. I also don’t want to cheap out on the most important part of my tiny home – its foundation –the thing that holds my precious home.

I am not giving up on finding my trailer nor am I giving up on Craigslist, but I have put feelers out there to friends who live in rural areas to be on the look out and I am going to go check out a local utility trailer shop and see what they are about, if they have what I need, and if they would be willing to work with me in some small way as like many, I can’t afford a new one right now. I am throwing it out to the universe and seeing what it sends back to me.

In the interim….

It has been a bit since my blog entry but I can promise you I am working hard. Searching for trailers, looking for sponsers and working to find construction help. In the interim, I published a small piece on – why I want more of less. And it’s called oddly enough lol, “Why I want More of Less”. I’d like to thank Elephant Journal for supporting my writing and my vision.

So while I get myself together, please read, enjoy and share. 🙂

http://www.elephantjournal.com/2015/08/why-i-want-more-of-less/

Connecting the Dots

My Tiny Casita

As I endeavor to persevere, through moments of doubt, not that I can’t do this, but simply “how am I going to do this?”, I learn just a little more. Building any structure has it’s challenges, but building a tiny house on wheels in New York City,…well that’s a whole other story. Unchartered territory.

First I must find a build site. Given the fact that there are not many open green spaces in Queens, I quickly realize that I must become creative in my quest to build. Except for a few public parks and privately owned spaces, including warehouses and other businesses, there are not many spaces to build on. I live in an apartment with no yard or property to speak of. Reflecting on these obsticles or minor bumps in my road, I decide to write up a proposal about my vision of freedom and sustainable living. In this proposal I discuss my vision of building a tiny house and why. The fact that I want more of less is the more prominent  message that I am trying to send out. I want a smaller life for many reasons; freedom, both financial and material. I want to consume less and give more, whether, to the earth or humanity. I want more time to travel, do mission work, spend time with those I love, and serving my community.

My first stop is a lovely park a block away from my apartment which sponsors artists and their works. It is a lovely small park with access to materials, electricity and a great open space. It also closes at sunset and opens at sunrise which means it is secure. It would be a dream to be able to build here as proximity and security are ideal. I approached the director who was intriqued by my project, but, building in this park for one’s personal “gain” is not supported. It is specifically geared toward artists who apply for a fellowship. The project then becomes part of an exhibit and stays up for about six months. The director did encourage me to apply for the fellowship for Spring of 2016 as he says that my prroject is sustainable in origin and artistic in nature. He feels that it will also give something back to the community when it is completed and I do an open house. He cannot guarantee me a fellowship but feels that I should apply.

Next I stop by my neighbor, who owns a metal company and, I might add he is a talented and gifted writer and poet. The warehouse has a lovely backyard filled with scultures that I can see through my bedroom window. I remember moving in and thinking that there was such a good energy being surrounded by art. I approach Jim and give him my proposal and discuss my vision and project with him. He is so generous with his time in the middle of the work day that I immediately felt a connection and a sense of great understanding from him (I will mention his company at a later time as I don’t want to be presumtuous at this point). Jim is genuinely excited about my project and since he houses and sponsors other artist there, he especially likes that I want it to be a community endeavor for all to enjoy. He shares about growing up in this same neighborhood and his childhood. He speaks about his own visions about art and community and how important it is that we all connect, if this project is to be done on his property. We left off on a positive, yet tenuous note as there are some logistical issues that need to be cleared before he gives me the okay, but he did not say “not possible” and that is a start.

So, if like me you are planning on buildilng in a city where there are some issues with space, don’t be afraid to ask around. My experience has been mostly positve when speaking to others about my tiny house project. Somehow, it resonates with people and mostly they seem to be genuinely supportive and even a little excited. I mean honestly, tiny houses are just beyond cute and fascinating.

Some ideas on where to look for build sites:

*Someone’s personal backyard.

*Local businesses and warehouses (I live in a somewhat industrial area).

*You local city enviromental groups.

*Anyone in your community that has space and vision for sustainable living.

**Keep in mind that you need; easy access to your project for building, space dimensions that afford you the room needed (my tiny is 8’6″ by 20′ and about 13’5″ in height), electricity, a place to safely store materials, and a place that you can get to easily – not one that you have to travel too far to get too. You want to be able to access your project whenever you have time available to work on it.

Mostly, Don’t Give Up. There will be challenges as I am finding, but I assure you that people are fascinated by our movement and it seems many want to help and see it succeed. I am ever so grateful to live in a city where Art and Community are something to be proud of and encouraged.

How a 21 Year Old Student is Building a Tiny House and Wowing Me!

I don’t know about you guys, but I can assure you that at 21 years old, sustainable living, gardening and living simply was not what my 21 year old brain was focused on. That is a sad truth that I must live with. I figured all is not lost and though its taken years, I finally get it. I finally get that what is important in life is not what sits in our closet, or the car I drive, or the amount of money spent on stuff. What truly matters is family, love, humility, community, kindness, generosity, God, the planet. All things that don’t cost anything but have tremendous life enhancing value. This is my goal, to live a life where stuff does not dictate my joy or peace. A life where I will be more connected to people, service, community and writing. A simpler tinier richer life.

Don’t get me wrong, I have never been a pillager nor was I someone who spent my days in a mall. Well, except when I spent 15 years in retail which I can tell you, were painful. I never understood the days when we had a One Day Sale and people would line up outside the closed doors hours before so that they could purchase “stuff.” To this day I find it incredibly disturbing when people camp outside of stores overnight, just to get the biggest television. I don’t get it. Don’t get me started on Black Friday! What is that? Bizarre and unconscious, that’s what it is.

So, hence, my absolute awe of Sarah. A friend of mine was in Massachesetts on vacation and see’s an ad in a diner, while having lunch that said, “Got land for my Tiny House?”- on that ad, is the story of a young woman who is building a tiny house as her thesis for Architectural Studies at Mount Holyoke College and seeking land to put it on after it is complete. My friend snaps a photo of the ad and sends it to me. Immediately I am excited and email Sarah, who kindly shares her story with me and invites me up to visit her tiny house on the school campus where she was granted permission to build until graduation day. This was her first building experience and WOW, what a job she did. She did have some help – her father would drive down every weekend for almost a year and work with her on her project. She also had some local sponsors but she did most of the work along with her dad. She quickly became one of my heroes.

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I went to visit Sarah on a beautiful day in April with my friend Bob, who happens to also be an architect. Her home was not yet completed, she had gotten as far as wrapping the exterior and some of her electrical was wired. Her bedroom which was genious, as she had a gooseneck trailer (which was purchased used on craigslist), allowed for a light and spacious room with a wonderful huge window, that was not in a loft like many tiny houses, was finished. Her windows were purchased from a local restoration site and she used many recycled materials to build. I was in awe not only of her beauty, both outward and inner, but at her youth and vision and the fact that she designed her own home at 21. Mind blowing to me. No offence but I have never met any 21 year old who was that together. Heck, I don’t know many adults who are that together and actually “get it!”

Going to Sarah’s open house was another confirmation that I was doing this. I remember walking into her house and thinking, “wow this is huge.” When you see a tiny house and think it is huge, well I think that is a sign that you are ready to live tiny. You have no preconceived ideas of wanting more of anything. The more tiny houses I see, the more I know that a 20 footer is perfect for me.

Bob and I hung around talking to other people who were there for the open house and that is how I met Doreen, an artist and art teacher who lives in Rhode Island who is also in the planning stages of building a tiny house. Doreen and I hit it off and have since then developed a beautiful tiny house friendship. We were all so impressed with Sarah’s journey and her immence tenacity. She inspired us! We all left having made a new friend, some connections and another validation that yes, we can do this. We can live Tiny.

I am going to visit Sarah in her now finished tiny house in her new location in August. I have seen photos of her amazing new home site and I can only say that it is going to be a treat. Stay tuned!

Austin Part II: A Tiny House Community that Rocks!

It astonishes me how in one of the richest nations in the world, there could be so much hunger, poverty and homelessness. Working with kids for all these years, I am still astounded by their daily struggles with hunger. I have worked with families and children for over fifteen years. Working with them to facilitate a better life for themselves and their children by providing resources.

I keep snacks in my office for some of my kids who very often don’t have breakfast. It is not unusual for some of my families to live in tight and sometime unsafe dwellings with multiple family members just to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table.

As I ride the subways, the number of homeless that are asking for handouts, whether it be cash or food appears to have increased in just the 3 years that I have lived in Queens. On the streets of New York City, the homeless with their signs, and even pets, litter the streets. It also seems that they are getting younger. Begging for shelter and food. When did we become a nation where this is okay? The National Allegiance for the Homeless seems to indicate that our numbers have gone down since 2013. Personally, I don’t see it and still think that any number is not okay, not ever. In my small effort to help, I generally do not give money but I try to remember to carry snacks in my bag and happily give them away. There are instances, where my heart is tugged at, I will buy someone a meal. I try to do this every once in awhile because if not us,… then who?

This leads me back to Austin and its Austin Awesomeness. If I thought it was awesome prior to visiting Community First Village (Mobile Loaves and Fishes), a community that offers shelter with dignity and a sense of family to those in need, well I can tell you that it is even more freaking awesome. This incredible organization started in 1998 when five catholic church parishioners got together with a mini van and started distributing sandwiches to the homeless on the streets of Austin. Their goal, at the time, was to feed as many people as possible. Eventually they upgraded to a pick up truck with a catering bed and to date they have fed more than 4 million meals with the help of about 18,000 volunteers. Their Mobile Loaves and Fishes trucks are still going strong and feeding the hungry in various states.

While doing research on tiny house living in Austin, I came upon Community First Village. I emailed them and to my luck, Pastor Matt Freeman, who now runs the program along with its original creator Alan Graham, emailed me back and we set a time for me to come and get a tour of this phenomenal community that truly should be a global example of taking an idea and putting it into action. Pastor Matt, explained that eventually they raised enough money to purchase 27 acres just minutes from downtown Austin.

Once again, my sister and brother-in-law drive me to Hog Eyed Road, after our first attempt the day before landed us on the wrong Hog Eyed Road where we drove for what seemed forever. The drive, not being a total waste, as it deemed us with incredible landscape and a view of a few longhorns.

Pastor Matt greeted us eagerly. He showed us a video in their office/trailer, depicting the long journey that brought them to the place we were standing. Pastor Matt explained that Community First Village is a 27-acre planned community that will provide affordable, sustainable housing and a supportive community for the disabled, chronically homeless in Central Texas. It is a Christian based community, but its residents are not declined or accepted based on there religion. They believe in helping its residents not just have a home, but feel a sense of family, dignity and purpose. All residents must pay a small amount of rent and donate time to working in the community whether its building, cleaning, cooking, gardening or helping with the animals that will be living there. This cooperative environment allows for a sense of pride and self-worth. Volunteers and residents are involved in farm development, coop care, food distribution, composting, caring for fruit trees and keeping the grounds beautiful!

CF Austin (2) CF austin CF Austin3 CF Austin4 CF Austin5 CF Austin6 CF Austin7 tinyhouse for guest

To my delight the houses, which I will say are stunning and lovely, are also tiny. Each tiny house was designed to meet different needs. They are all colorful and cheerful. Looking at the exteriors, you get such a sense of welcome and pride in the work that is being done here. The homes have barrels for collecting rain water and are sustainable. There is an amphitheater, generously donated by Alamo theaters. There is an outdoor community kitchen since most of the homes only come with a small efficiency. Which is kind of cool as this is a community and they are focused on cooperative living. They also have a community garden to grow much of there food. When I visited this past April, they were still in the production stage and no residents were living there yet, but residents were would be moving in shortly. The chicken coop was still being worked on, as well as other parts of the grounds. Yet, being there and seeing so much being created for the good of others and with such incredible vision made my heart smile. I was in my happy place.

Community First can certainly be a global example to all on initiative, taking a stance and applying it. If you ever want to volunteer and don’t want to go to a third world country, try Community First. There is need and hunger right here in our own backyards. Being there, you can feel the incredible energy of good work being done. It was truly an honor to be able to visit and learn about what they are doing to promote and create a difference. It is a special place, like no other I have seen. Please visit their website and learn for yourselves about this amazing organization.

I cannot wait to return to Austin and volunteer along with the many wonderful people who keep Community First and its mission a reality that truly takes care of those in need.