I’ve had a very tumultuous few months with the recent sale of my land and cabin and setting up my new small house in Arizona. For the past 15 years or so I’ve been working as a freelance professional in the tv industry, often on the road all across America. As Los Angeles is the epicenter of the entertainment biz, I’ve been forced to keep a home there for the past decade in order to maintain my career stability.
The first few years of this blog have been focused on the “rancher” half of my UrbanRancher alter ego. This next chapter is dedicated to the “urban” side.
Now that I have a fantastic small house in the desert, it’s time to revisit and streamline my home base situation in LA. I will essentially be doing what I accomplished on a mountainside, but in the belly of the urban beast. Paperwork needs to be finalized and some details still need to be sorted out but I will take what I’ve learned from everyone in the tiny house movement and apply it to the big city.
I know many of y’all are focused on rural and off-grid living. I’ve climbed that hill and seen the gorgeous view from the top and blogged about it every step of the way. It turns out I’m not quite ready to chuck it all and leave civilization behind. I like the idea of keeping one foot in the urban fire as long as I can escape to the solitude of open spaces.
As a Gemini I’ve always struggled with wanting everything at the same time. I have 2 distinct careers (tv and music), 2 distinct homes (city and country), don’t get me started on my taste in music or my politics. I’m gonna die trying to have my tiny piece of cake and be able to eat it too.
Happy Thanksgiving and peace out everyone, I’ll post my next update after the holiday!
A few weeks ago I was asked, by a very nice girl, if I would want to participate in a tiny house lecture/Q&A in Los Angeles. Being the publicity houndwhore that I am, I agreed.
With that in mind, if anyone in the Los Angeles area is not too drunk at 1pm this Sunday March 17th (St. Patrick’s Day for those of you in Rio Linda), come on down to Atwater Village, have a cup of coffee, and watch me make a fool out of myself for 45 mins! (you’ll have to buy your own coffee though). I’ll talk about my process, my cabin, and if I don’t get too nervous and wet my pants, I’ll answer questions about everything tiny house.
In case I suck and bore everyone to death, there’s a second lecture after mine about earth-building homes by a very cool and clever couple, it looks like they build fantastic hobbit houses from this picture on Facebook…
Robert and Mireille from Earth Works Building will be speaking about the history of natural building traditions. From cob, adobe, and clay ovens, to newer methods like sandbag structures, recycle friendly earthships. Learn how surprisingly inexpensive, fireproof, and energy efficient natural building can be and the vital connection it makes in building community. http://www.earthworksbuilding.com/
Clearly they will be more interesting than me so this event should be well worth the drive (and if it’s not, we can always start a food fight!)
For you Face-place fluent types, there’s a interweb page about it…
Lecture is free.
Lunch is pay-what-you-want.
Q&A to follow both presenters.
The event is being held at “Thank You For Coming” at 3416 Glendale Blvd, in Atwater Village, a short walk from either Silverlake or Glendale, I hear that the food is fantastic.
Like the cool kids always say, be there or be square!
Sorry I’ve been offline for a while. Truth be told, I have very little news to report on my tiny cabin. As my sainted late Grandmother used to say “no news is good news, now go get me a beer sweetie!
All is well up on my mountain, the woodpecker and I are still playing our game of peck, destroy and repair. No signs of man-eating beasts but Tri-Tip and Sirloin had a baby! I’ve named him “lil’ Sirloin’ after his Father (see adorable picture above). The weather has been glorious, I am content, fat and resting.
I had a very busy work season and am now in full repose, gonna start on my next project as soon as the winter chill is out of the air. I promise I’ll post as I go, once I start going!
Thanks for hangin’ in with me. Go out and find someone you love, give ‘em a big hug and a kiss and have a fantastic Valentine’s Day!
It’s been a fairly uneventful September, my work is very busy, the weather is great, all is well on my mountain.
Lately I’ve been dreaming of bringing my piano up into the woods with me. Not sure if I mentioned this but I was a modest songwriter/record producer for many years before I got into the tv/film business (music sorta paid for the mountain). I’ve been hankering to start recording again and would love to write music up on my mountain. My fave way to write is at the piano and I have one in my Los Angeles home.
I’m starting to design a recording studio on a trailer, kind of a single-wide trailer housing my recording gear and piano, soundproof-ed and stabilized for mobility. I could plop it down next to my wee cabin, open the french doors to the canyon and play and sing to my heart’s content (and the probable chagrin of the animals and people who share my canyon)
If anyone has any suggestions or cool ideas on how to do this without destroying my py-ano, send them over to me at email@example.com. I’m mostly worried about putting a very expensive studio upright (my most precious possession) onto a trailer and hauling it up to my mountain.
Shock absorbers? Hmmm…
My ecrow has closed, the check has been cashed and the deed has been transferred, as Rush would say… “to those of you in Rio Linda”, I am now officially a land baron!
When we last left the UrbanRancher’s tiny cabin on Mt Elroy, it was being devoured by (allegedly) rabid woodpeckers and he was making plans to leave California…
First things first… I wanted to post some pictures of my woodpecker “fix” to keep those nasty creatures away. Apparently they do not like wire mesh or anything metallic and shiny so that’s exactly what I screwed up onto the side of the cabin.
I am thrilled to report that after several weeks of the new contraption being in place, there are NO signs of any woodpeckers anywhere on the cabin! I’ll take down the mesh in a few days and re-install it again in the early spring aka “woodpecker mating season”.
Now, on the subject of my recent rant on leaving California…
I have just returned from a second fact-finding mission to Tennessee. I spent a week and a half sniffing around the greater Nashville area for acreage and getting to know the people better. I’ve made plans to return before the end of the year to meet with some realtors.
I’m also in the process of re-configuring my main house design to accommodate my possible move. There has been an engineering snafu and I don’t want to release my fantastically cool new idea until I’ve worked out at least the major kinks. I suspect that many of the tiny-house pre-fab builders will want to knock-off this idea so I need to be sure that I am legally protected in case there is money to be earned!
Now for some really exciting news…
My mountain is getting bigger! Land near me rarely comes available for purchase so when some did recently, I pounced.
I heard through the grapevine that a small parcel of land belonging to one of my neighbors would be made available for sale. Within an hour I swooped in and made an offer. It hit the market at 10am and my offer was put in at noon!
It’s a very private piece of land, completely wooded, fully accessed by dirt roads around 3 sides, and has the same views as my cabin!
My offer has been accepted and we are in escrow right now! Since it’s a separate parcel and already zoned into a few small lots, I can either annex it into my main parcel, sell-off the individual lots to friends, or keep it as a little freestanding island of investment.
This opportunity has opened up so many possibilities, I need to absorb them all before I can take another serious breath! I suppose it’s Murphy’s law on display. The minute I start planning to leave, the Universe makes me an offer I can’t refuse.
Kind of like the new car salesman I was dealing with recently, just as you’re exhausted from haggling and as you’re walking steadfastly out the door you hear… “WAIT, my boss just authorized me to knock off another $1000, I can make this happen for you today!”
and of course, you ALWAYS turn around
this is an unusual post for me but it will explain my motivation for what’s coming up next on my mountain.
California is officially in shit shape…
As a freelance Hollywood professional and a long-time California resident, I watch the financial health of the state like a hawk. In the past 4 or 5 years along with a constant degradation of “quality of life” here, I’ve seen much of TV and film production flee the state of California.
Tax credits and an unfriendly business climate have chased away a majority of TV and film work to Louisiana, Georgia, Michigan, New York, Canada, and even Eastern Europe. Last year I worked out-of-state 9 months out of the year. Apparently Hollywood is no longer in Hollywood.
The state of California is bankrupt and continues to spend itself into oblivion. With oppressive unemployment, the worst schools in the nation, absurd over-regulation and horrid taxation, the working middle class is leaving the state in droves as are the companies that employ them.
I had the privilege to work on projects in both Atlanta and Nashville recently.
Tennessee and Georgia have low gas prices, low taxes, (no state income tax in Tennessee!) well paved roads, clean air, lush forested topography, very friendly people and VERY inexpensive land and housing.
I bought my land in Southern California with the intent to build a small residential compound and eventually retire to the woods, live a simple life shooting at animals, yelling at people to “get the hell off my land” and drinking lots of beer (ok, that’s partially true). It is becoming apparent to me that with the quality of life in California deteriorating, my dream may have to pack up and find a better state (and there are many).
It is a very big deal for me to consider abandoning California, as I’ve invested 20 years, my career, LOTS of cash, and plenty of emotions here. I do not take this decision lightly.
In order to survive as a state, it appears that California will be forced to explode a tax bomb on its property owners and residents in the next few years or go bankrupt and descend into anarchy. Neither of these is an option I find acceptable.
Governor Jerry Brown is considered by the financial gurus to be one of the major causes of our fiscal condition, dating back to his first term as governor in the late 70′s. In 2010, uninformed California voters chose to re-elect this hack over business powerhouse Meg Whitman because Ms. Whitman was alleged to have been unpleasant to an illegal alien maid. Yes, as hard to believe as it seems, the sunburned voters with their abysmal state-provided educations thought it best to drive the state over a cliff because of a manufactured claim of misconduct by Ms. Whitman.
Thankfully we have an election coming this fall. If California voters do not change course and vote out the entrenched political class in Sacramento, our future as a failed state will be sealed.
Much like the Greeks, it seems that Californians are unable to grasp the magnitude of their problem. Much like Greece, without an abrupt change of course California will descend into a failed third-world country in the next few years.
If that happens, I will not participate.
I have started looking at land in other states. I am assessing my options and am actively looking for work opportunities in Texas, Tennessee, and Georgia. How this plays out is dependent on my ability to find work out-of-state. How this plays out with my new small house plan is the subject of my next post. I’ve thought up a fantastic concept to move forward with my home design and building, pending relocation to a more stable part of the country.
it’s so cool, I want to finalize it before posting exactly what I’m gonna do.
Trust me, it’s awesome!
It’s been gorgeous weather up on Mt. Elroy. Clear and crisp with some snow still on the distant peaks.
I was gone for a few weeks, went to Nashville and mid-Central Tennessee to check out the landscape (that’s a whole other post and a half). Upon my return I discovered that the evil “Woody the Woodpecker” had not only UNDONE the repairs I made to his recent damage, but he went back at my cabin with a vengeance.
Some of the holes actually go all the way through the OSB sheathing and into the insulation. Damage was done in all the same places, just more aggressively…
I nailed up some metal sheeting as a temporary fix. This week I will run down to LA and grab some metal mesh I have in the basement. Woodpeckers are Federally protected under the Migratory Bird Act (sounds like a lotta bulls**t if you ask me) so I can’t kill him. I can, however make life on the side of my cabin quite unpleasant for him. Metal mesh, sticky goop, and painted aluminum sheeting should do the trick (and maybe dull his pecker a bit). Since I am a law-obeying citizen and a friend to all living things great and small, I will bend my anger and let him live.
He may get a dinged pecker but such is life in the wild.
it’s a jungle out there.
I wish he wasn’t so damned cute
The first step in designing my new small house was laying it out in SketchUp.
SketchUp is Google’s very powerful and free 3D modeling software. I downloaded it from Google (it’s freeee!) then simply watched a few of Google’s “how to use SketchUp” videos. I’m pretty good with all kinds of software already so learning SketchUp was pretty simple for me. I suspect most folks could learn it with relative ease.
SketchUp also allows you to add furniture to your rooms from a free user-created online database (amazing!!) and then walk-through your model. This makes it possible to see exactly what your house will look and feel like before you spend dollar 1 on anything!
I’ve decided to do detailed layouts of each pod, then spend as much time tweaking and finalizing my design BEFORE I hire an architect to draw my blueprints. By making most aesthetic decisions in MY computer on FREE software, this will cut down on paid hours given to the architect.
The first pod to be designed is the main room, kitchen/dining/living. I need to fit a full kitchen, dining table (I want one, ok?!) and full sofa/tv watching area. Since the kitchen is integral and permanent, it comes first.
SketchUp will let me download a fully built kitchen from the online model warehouse. I found one that is small, tight and will fit in 1/4 of my 16′ wide x 22′ long room.
In order to be precise enough for the architect, I need to design the kitchen down to the 1/8 of an inch. With my rudimentary modeling skills, SketchUp is not the best tool for this. I’m gonna let you in on a BIG SECRET resource…
the IKEA online 3D kitchen planner…it is simply AMAZING!!!
You’ll need to download their 3D browser plug-in so it will run on your computer (their website will let you do it automatically). It is an app designed for you to lay out your dream kitchen (using their products) then go to Ikea and it will spit out an exact list of what to buy (and how much it’ll cost).
It has a very slight learning curve but if you can use SketchUp, you will breeze through the Ikea app with ease. You can build the entire room, complete with doors, windows and vaulted ceiling (all adjustable to your specs), appliances and all cabinetry, all placed down to 1/16 of an inch!
Here’s my new kitchen in the main room…
and the view from the kitchen into the living room!
The app will let you print an overhead layout plot…
elevations of all walls/views…
and a material list with prices…
so as you can see, we’re almost to the point where anybody with a computer and an Internet connection can design their own home (for free) and as I proved last year,
ANYONE with a pickup truck, a few bucks and a dream can build their own home.
btw, I started one of those face-page book things. It seems all the cool kids have them and I desperately want to fit in. Check it out and maybe be my friend? (that other tiny house place has like 8 million friends and I’m so totally jealous!)
I’ve been spending so much time up on my mountain that I think I’m out-growing the tiny cabin.
My goal of transitioning into full-time rural living is feeling quite attainable lately. I’m eager to put in some additional infrastructure (water tank, septic, garage), but I didn’t want to spend the money until I was ready to build the main house.
Knowing how long it takes to actually “build” a house, I thought I should get started sooner rather than later. I’ve been locked in my room playing around with SketchUp lately and I’ve finally settled on a design…
It’s a simple set of 3 small connected “pods”, built in the same style as my existing tiny cabin, bedroom pod, main room pod (living/dining/kitchen) and bathroom pod. Overall size so far is bedroom 12′x12′, main pod 16′x22′ and bathroom at 9′x12′ for a total of 604 sq ft.
By designing them as separate segments, I can use the lessons learned from building my small cabin and simply expand on them for the larger version…
-Single slope roof for ease of construction and lower material cost,
-Segmented design for building in stages,
-Built on piers for flood avoidance and easy utility access,
-Inter-connected rooms to make the interior seem more spacious (I love to roam from room to room in my LA condo),
-Use the same interior layouts from some of my favorite familiar spaces so I’ll know what each room will feel like before it’s built.
One of my favorite pre-fab homes is the FabCab, a timber-framed unit built using a pre-cut frame and SIPs. FabCab sells a gorgeous 550 sq ft model that is about what I need, the only problem for me is it costs $143,000 not including site work. Regrettably I do not have that kind of cash sitting around and I am not willing to borrow it.
FabCab’s lines are beautiful and very similar to what I’ve already built. By lowering the roof pitch, overall height and sidewalls a bit, I can get a more energy efficient interior by not having to heat and cool such a cavernous 14′ high space. By building in 3 segments, I can avoid a post and beam type timber frame and use less expensive stick-build methods (quality local labor is an issue in my remote area).
I can also have the exact floorplan I want to maximize my view and location, including an indoor/outdoor shower in my bathroom (a dream of mine, to be sure!) and a washer/dryer closet.
Since I will pay as I go and build it myself (with an experienced local carpenter or two), the interior and finish work can proceed at my own pace.
For the overall process I’ll go as far as I can in SketchUp then hire someone to do the blueprints, construction plans and engineering. Admittedly my grand scheme is only in the beginning stages but if I recall correctly, the last time I went down this road, within a year I had a cabin built (and got published in a magazine)!
Details are being considered, advice is being sought, money is being prayed for, the Gods of Art, Design, and Providence are being beseeched, and I’m feelin’ a fire down in me gut.
I hope to God it’s not the Lamb Vindaloo I had for dinner last night.
I was up at the cabin last weekend and noticed this…
I noticed the damage in the corner, up under the eaves
and what’s with the corners?…
when you look closely at the exposed tar paper, there’s acorns shoved all the way up and down the side…
I have been hacked.
a little online research found the culprit…
Bear in mind that it has been 4 days since I was up there last. This damage has occurred in the last 4 days. Pecky the Pecking Pest is a fast little bugger.
More online research tells me to repair the damage immediately. Apparently Pecky the Pecking Pest will start pecking then get bored and move a few inches and start pecking again. If he can’t break through to the insulation, he starts pecking again, a few inches away until he finds a nice hollow place to roost. I prefer to roast him but this must be fixed asap.
I run to the big box store and…
remove the old, warped siding, replace the tar paper, fill the pecked holes with Bondo…
since money is tight, my dream of Ipe wood siding will have to wait. I buy more 4′x8′ T-111 and slap it on, caulk the edges and paint…
Voila’… new back siding!
It’s not the siding of my dreams but not too shabby, plus it should keep the local vermin and riff-raff out.
I set up a spy camera to see if I catch the culprit…
WTF is that? alligators?!
A few weeks ago I drove up to Bodega Bay, CA to see an actual Tumbleweed Tiny House in person. Jay Shafer and his Tumbleweed Tiny House Company have had a lot of media coverage in the past year and I’ve been dying to actually see one of his homes in person. A charming and quite talented couple had built Jay’s “Lusby” model home to sell and they held an open house…see the Tumbleweed post here!
The house was adorable…
The 7500 lb. house is easily towed by a 3/4 ton pickup truck!
Check out the high level of fit and finish, it was stunningly well-built…
The kitchen was small but complete and the bathroom was surprisingly spacious…
The interior was beautifully done, hand-crafted cabinets & doors, solid construction, open airy feel with light woods, high quality fixtures and all-around terrific finish work. The shower was unexpectedly roomy and the upper loft area would be a magnificent place in which to wake up!
Great job Pepper, Jay and that shy guy who did the finish carpentry!
I’ve been doing a lot of soul-searching this past month, temps on my mountain have been very cold and nothing newsworthy has happened at the cabin lately. Though I’ve been offline a lot, I finally snapped outta my Xmas blues and snuck back online to wish y’all a fantastic 2012!
While it’s cozy here in the Christmas Corner, a big work push will be happening up at my compound right after I recover from my upcoming annual Jan 1 hangover.
Hopefully 2012 will see an addition to the cabin (oh yeah!), more decking, a sleeping loft (inspired by my friend Ranger X’s cabin!) and the successful online-ification of the recently completed “James P. Garzo Memorial Power Generating Facility”.
Gather ye young-’uns a-boot, pull that holiday goose outta yer oven and throw a cold glass of cheap Champagne on the fire for me!
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year Everyone!
e. and 2011 are o-u-t!
Thanksgiving for me has always been bittersweet. I love turkey feasts and the gathering of friends and family. At the same time, I dread the onset of shorter, darker days and the cyclical unemployment that comes when Hollywood goes on holiday. This year, it seems, will not disappoint in its consistancy. I took the above photo yesterday afternoon on my drive down the mountain. The warmth of the afternoon is at odds with the layer of cold dreary mid-day mist, sort of how I’ve been feeling lately.
I am thrilled to have met a fellow wilderness devotee and my alleged doppelgänger. He has agreed to let me blog about him if I use the pseudonym “X”. He contacted me through the blog and we have recently met and shared war stories.
X is close to my age, size & shape, bought a similar sized parcel of remote forest land on a neighboring mountain, was a freelance creative Hollywood professional for much of his life, and has now begun the transition to the wilderness living by building a 120 sq ft off-grid cabin which he recently doubled in size. Our similarities continue on into minute details but I think y’all get the idea.
X convinced me to plant some fresh trees on my land so I decided to do just that. 10 in all.
I spent a day digging and planting and another day raking watering and mulching. It was one of the most fun things I have ever done. I’ve never been one to garden but after spending time with my hands in the earth, I was hooked. I understand why so many older women in their golden years delight in grooming their prize azaleas, rose bushes and hydrangeas. Count me in, ladies, I’ll even wear the big floppy hat!
These are some of my new babies before and after they were covered in a layer of mulch…
X tells me that they will grow a few feet every year so I planted some near the cabin for shade and ’cause they’re pretty.
The days are now get dark by 5pm so I’m glad my new outdoor fireplace is working like a charm. It’s throwing off heat in the face of my 29 degree nights, as well as illuminating the cabin when I retire indoors for bed!
One of the things I don’t read much about in other tiny house blogs is the feeling of isolation. I love the solitude, peace and quiet of my land, heck, sometimes I drive up there on a slow night just so I can wake up to the sound of quails and the smell of the mountain air. Truth be told however, after a few days it gets lonely. Ryo Chijiiwa on his “Laptop and a Rifle” blog touched on this subject early on but many other small living pioneers rarely mention it.
Is it just me or do we all get lonely out in the woods? I know many of this new “tiny” community are paired up and living with a partner but my life is complex to the point where I’ve not been able to settle in with someone who can just drop everything and run off to the woods forever. Maybe it’s just the inherited restless nature of my soul or maybe I need to commit to living in either city or on mountain. Either way, lately I seem to be driving myself up and down a familiar road, going intentionally back into the cold but familiar mist at the bottom of my mountain.
I don’t know why, but I am endlessly fascinated by the herds of free-range cows that roam my mountain. They’re awfully cute, timid but curious, very gentle and quite friendly.
I awoke the other day to a herd chomping on the dry grass around my cabin. Free lawn mowing, I say!
One adventurous cow tried to get into the tool shed but thankfully, she has no opposable thumbs and the door was locked.
It looked as though Ms. Cow had rubbed up against a newly painted green wall, fortunately not mine!
One teenager was fascinated by my new Pier 1 patio set…
In my spare time, I built a small diversion wall to direct the upcoming seasonal rains away from the cabin.
Next week I’ll buy some railroad ties and make a garden bed behind the wall. If you look closely you can see the 2 small baby oak trees that have sprung up there!
I LOVE all the oaks on my land and hope these 2 grow happily and healthily in their new garden bed.
I also stopped at Lowe’s and bought an outdoor fireplace for the c-c-cold upcoming winter nights. I’ll add some gravel and decorative paving stones around the area so my friends and I can hang out around the deck once the weather turns cold and wet.
When you are inside the cabin and a fire is blazing, it’ll almost seem like the fireplace is indoors!
quick note…look at the gorgeous view in the glass reflection, you can see why the cabin is facing North!
A shout out to all the new blog subscribers that were referred by the Westways Magazine article! My blog traffic has increased quite a bit since last month’s story ran. There are a few cool things on the horizon that have come as a result of the article but I’m gonna keep quiet so as not to jinx anything!
Now that my latest tv job is done, I have plenty of free time to chase cattle, work on the land and think up clever twists on old children’s jokes…
btw, “to get to the other side”
It’s been a hot summer up on the mountain. I’ve been busy working, going back and forth to Los Angeles so I’ve not had much free time to get any “interesting” work done on the homestead. This has led to a lack of posts since I reeeeally doubt y’all wanna hear about brush clearance and fence repair!
AAA’s member magazine, Westways, just published a story in their September issue called “This Small House” and included me in a section called “Pint Sized Abode” and I’ve noticed a sudden rise in my blog traffic. I wanted to officially welcome any readers that have been referred by my mention in the magazine!
If anyone is curious how I built the cabin (or survived it, LOL), all my posts are all listed by month, from the beginning, in the sidebar to the right —>
Please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions, comments or ideas on how I can improve our small house community!
Now I need to get back to my brush clearance, fence repair and beer testing!
Well May certainly has slipped by quickly! It’s been a busy work season for me in LA so my mountain time has been reserved only for rest and play, not much cabin work going on. The cows have been out in force lately too, lots of cute baby ones running around. With so many roaming through my land, I really don’t need a lawn mower, I just watch and let ‘em graze. They’re all so cute, so friendly and so delicious!
I did manage to put up the stained siding on the power shed. I’m not wild about the color but re-staining will have to wait for another day, May has been all about R&R.
I also put a fresh coat of paint on the mini-deck. After a harsh winter it had started weathering…I just can’t have my friends sitting on peeling paint now can I?!
All in all it has been a glorious spring and I’m looking forward to another spectacular summer. Heck, I may even get the solar panels and wind turbine installed!
Hope everyone is having a safe and glorious Memorial Day Weekend. I also want to send a big shout out to all our military brethren and their families…thank you for your service!
Now go grill a big steak!
The weather report was for sunny skies and weather in the 60′s so last week, I ran up to the mountain to do my spring chores. Fences need to be mended, posts replaced, brush clearance needs to begin, front siding still not done on the power shed, repainting winter-worn wood, solar panels and wind turbine to be installed, the list goes on!
Day one went as planned with a 40 foot length of rotting wood fence torn down and 2 new fence posts set into concrete, a new mailbox post installed, and gate posts were repainted. All in all a productive work day mixed with a few naps and tree-gazing sessions.
Day two was not so fun. Rain started at 10am and continued all day, temps dropped into the low 40′s and I retreated into the cabin to stay warm, drink hot cocoa and read. The rain was not letting up so I headed into town to buy comfort food and more beer. Driving back up the mountain I noticed a light snow falling and the temperature gauge on the truck was flashing “ICE/32 degrees!”.
Upon return, my land has a sweet dusting of snow, it is adorable but work is over for the day. I retreat, close the curtains, crank up the Lil’ Buddy Heater and fall asleep watching a movie on the laptop.
7am my eyes pop open and the cabin is ccccold inside! I stumble to get the heater back on and lift the blinds on the side window. This is what I see…
Apparently it snowed all night, dumping a full 8″ on the ground! Winter f-ing wonderland!
I bundled up, grabbed the camera and ran outside…
Needless to say, I had coffee NOT on the outside bench. The thermometer said 30 degrees outside and I couldn’t have been happier!
Although I cancelled my chores for the week and headed home early, a week later I’m still thrilled to have been completely surprised by the snow. I guess this is one of those little things that only happen on one’s own mountain, all alone, when you least expect it.
as does so much of life!
I was corresponding to a fact-checker from Westways Magazine yesterday, they’re including my cabin and this blog in an upcoming article on tiny houses. I told my good friend Garzo about it and Garzo brought up a great point.
Westways Magazine is circulated and read by pretty much anyone in California with a AAA membership and that’s a heck of a lot of people! When I started this blog, it was more of a cathartic experience, a “real-world hard-copy” record of my cabin construction. It would serve to keep me motivated and on track. Heck, if I opened my big yap and told the Internet that I’d do something, I sure better get it done!
In the past year or so, my regular readership has grown into the thousands. I get a decent amount of email and so far, ALL of it has been kind and supportive. Now, with the exposure to potentially hundreds of thousands of new readers I want to ask a favor…
Will you all please keep my location secret? My master plan relies on the discretion of everyone involved. While everything I’m doing is intentionally “street-legal” I’d really prefer to stay well below the radar. I’m an extremely private person with a career in the entertainment biz (go figure) and I’d love this whole cabin thing to stay on the down low. My mountain is my refuge from the world and I’d hate to lose my one small piece of serenity.
It was a big decision for me to open up and share my project with the magazine and I’m a little jittery about it. The writer was extremely kind and I trust her to be discrete.
Ultimately as I build more, I’ll reveal more details. For now though, I’m good with anonymous.
thanks guys, I know you all understand.
(hiding under the couch with the cat and a bottle of Cuervo)
It was a cold blustery Thanksgiving weekend up on the mountain. Temps have dropped into the low-mid 50′s day and 20′s at night. The cabin was ccccold. It was time to try out ny new “Lil Buddy” propane heater!
I bought the heater at Camping World for about $80 last spring but never needed it until now. You screw a 1 gallon propane cylinder into the side valve and simply push the button and…instant heat.
It took about an hour to get the cabin from 24 degrees up to 60 degrees. Since it’s a combustion based heater, I need to crack the window open about 1/4 of an inch to vent the carbon monoxide (and NEVER run the thing while you’re asleep, NEVER!). A full cylinder should last 3-6 hours depending on how high you turn the thermostat. I heated up the cabin, shut of the heater, closed the window and slept like a baby. It was back down to about 48 in the morning but it was 28 outside. By the time I got back from making coffee in the trailer, the room was toasty warm.
In the pics above and below, you can see the Ikea $20 solar powered LED desk lamps. Sit it in the window in the sun for several hours and you’ll get 4 hours of reading light, they work like a charm for $20!
My other favorite toy is my new Makita 18v radio. It runs on 18 volt cordless power tool batteries. It has a terrific sound, big bass, and a surprisingly powerful antennae, all for $99 at the Home Depot. I also fell in love with the little LED flashlights you get at the cash register at the AutoZone, 2 for $5 and they work great.I have several and leave them spread around the car, truck, trailer and cabin so there’s always one handy.
It has 4 – 15 watt solar panels, a mounting frame, 120v inverter, charge controller, wiring and all the mounting hardware. It goes for $700 but Amazon was having a Black Friday Cyber-Sale and it was only $289! I was so excited, I told my best buddy Garzo. He had a bunch of American Express “points” that were expiring so for my Christmas present, Garzo cashed in his $100 in points and bought me the solar kit for only $189 AND they threw in free shipping (it’s a 62 lb box!). I was gonna get Garzo a 12-pack of local micro-brewed beer (but I’m rethinking that now).
I’m so excited I could scream. Now I’ll have solar AND wind power!
I think that instead of the 30′ pole tower for the wind turbine, I’ll build a tall, narrow battery shed for the deep cycle batteries, orient the roof so that I can mount the solar panels on the roof AND put the windmill on a roof bracket attached to the shed. It’ll be my own little power generating station. Elroy’s Power Company! This will allow me to store the gas generator in the tool shed and keep the charging batteries in their own hut, away from gasoline fumes and spark-generating metal tools.
I’m gonna take the time over the Christmas break to build the power shed, I should have enough scrap lumber to get it all framed up. Garzo will help and if I can guarantee a BBQ-d steak dinner and get the place decorated for the holidays, I may be able to coax some of my local homesteading friends over to help…before the snow comes!
I got an email a few weeks back from a very nice woman asking me if I’d be interested in talking to her about my cabin and my blog. She is from Westways magazine, the SoCal AAA’s monthly. She was doing an article on tiny houses and the folks who love them. I called her back and had a lovely conversation. She asked me lots of questions about my cabin project and also about my lifestyle.
This past week she emailed again, asking me for pictures and my permission to use our conversation for her article. I was VERY surprised but also kind of happy. Westways is one of the magazines I enjoy and I’m a big cheerleader for this new “tiny house” movement that seems to be underway. Hopefully the next issue will mention me and some of the others involved in the movement! (big shout out to my online hero Michael Janzen!)
In subsequent emails, J (the writer) asked a lot of questions on how I make do with the limited space and how I was transitioning to a smaller, more efficient lifestyle. It occurred to me that although my cabin is only 120 sq ft, a lot of slack is picked up by my camping trailer, parked right next to the cabin.
I never really talked about the trailer while construction was under way so I thought I’d write a few lines about how it is really helping to make my dream life possible.
I think the most important service the trailer provides is hot, running water! There is a 100 gallon tank on board and a propane water heater. I truck the water up in those 5 gallon buckets from the Home Depot. On the outside back wall is a small panel hiding an outdoor shower. It’s an amazing thing that I use regardless of the weather. There is nothing like standing on the side of a mountain naked as a jaybird, taking a hot shower while admiring granite peaks!
inside the trailer is a full kitchen and bathroom. There is a small tub with a stall shower in case the wind is too blustery for showering al fresco, LOL. You can see the bathroom vanity/sink in the rear, the tub and a flush toilet is in that room to the right of the door.
The kitchen has a propane fridge/freezer and a 3 burner stove with a decent sized oven. A double sink and ample cabinet space makes this a completely useable full-time kitchen.
There are 2 bench seats that turn into single beds (for extra guests) and a dining table that folds and stows in the back.
There is a queen sized bed up in the loft and a full 6′ of clearance below. These pics were taken last year, I now have a desk and some filing cabinets under the loft bed, I use it as my office space.
The rear wall is actually a garage door and folds down, completely opening up the back with a spectacular view. I installed an aftermarket screen and usually work with the wall opened up.
The trailer is 8′ wide by 22′ long, a total of 176 sq ft. There are many tiny house owners living in far less than my 120+176 sq ft. I’m a tall guy (6’2″ and 200 lbs) and really need this space. I don’t think I could live comfortably in any less. The trailer has a propane furnace but is not very well insulated so I really prefer to sleep in the cabin.
Local ordinances will not allow me to camp on my own land so I have to be very careful not to camp on my own land. Plus, technically I don’t live nor camp there. It’s simply a trailer being stored in dead storage, parked next to a 120 sq ft storage shed where I keep my extra furniture. Nothing is connected to any utility, water supply or septic system.
There is a fine line that must be walked. Perhaps with pressure from the new growing tiny house movement, we can get local governments to amend their zoning ordinances to make it possible for good folks to live “tiny” and still live safe, clean and legal?
it’s part of my dream.
I spent the last few days up in the cabin, had a long list of chores…fence repair, brush clearance, ground leveling, trim installation…and on and on.
Instead, I drank beer, slept late in the new bed, chased a cow around (for fun), played with the local free-range hound dog, celebrated prop 19 (at exactly 4:20), watched “Breaking Bad” on the laptop, read the new “Trailer Life” magazine, had a wonderful conversation with a writer from “Westways” magazine and saw the most stunning display of galaxies in the crisp, clear night sky.
Turns out I actually got nothing “chore-like” done but I did have a wonderful, relaxing time enjoying the cabin as it was intended. If I had high-speed Internet instead of dial-up, I swear I’d move in full-time! (I need the broadband for my real job). I calculated that I could save at least $2300/month if I moved into my cabin. That would mean I could work less and after a while, have a crap-load of cash in the bank! More on this scheme as my mind wraps around it.
I got an email from a lovely reporter from “Westways”, she’s doing an article on small houses and wanted to talk with me. Not sure if any of our conversation will appear in the magazine but it is gratifying to know that there are so many peeps interested in extreme downsizing that a mainstream mag is talking about it!
For the record… as my compound is set up today, I could live there full-time and probably be quite happy. This would mean down-sizing my career and jettisoning my main home in Los Angeles before I’ve built my main “living-room” building. BUT, if the California economy keeps collapsing (and I suspect with Jerry Brown in charge it will) there will surely be a mass exodus to nearby business-friendly low-tax states.
If this happens, I’m ready to pack up the condo, clean the guns, cling to my Bible and head for the hills!
It’s been 2 weeks since I was up at the cabin so I grabbed my best friend Garzo and we high-tailed it up to the mountains for a ceiling-raisin’!
I was unable to install the t&g boards on my last visit (the stain was not dry yet) so to placate my deep sadness (and my aching back) I ran to Ikea and bought a new bed for the cabin.
Garzo and I installed the rest of the t&g in just about 3 hours, you can see that the orange-y stain has mellowed into a gorgeous knotty pine color, just like in Gramma’s old vacation cabin!
The bed went together quickly and it is VERY comfortable…in case y’all want to get one, it’s the Sultan Hagavik (full $279) and that smart faux walnut frame is the Engan ($119). I highly recommend both as the bed is extremely comfy!
I also bought 2 of Ikea’s solar-powered desk lamps ($20 ea). You can see one on the nightstand. They come in lots of fun colors and after a day charging in a sunny window I got enough light from the 2 of them to light the cabin and read for several hours. Another fan-TASTIC buy from Ikea!
Other than crown moulding, window trim and door casement…the cabin is finished! It is livable, comfortable and insulated to maximum comfort. I’m curious to see how my Little Buddy propane heater will keep the place warm when the snow falls since candles already keep the chill out of the air when the temps drop at night.
Next on the agenda is… the installation of the wind turbine, battery hut construction, shade canopy for the trailer, shower building, and outdoor fireplace.
so much to do, all the time in the world!
Well it’s been quite a while since I last posted and that’s a good thing. Work has exploded and I’ve been booked solid since mid-July through Halloween! It’s been a real struggle this year with the TV and film industry leaving Hollywood but I’ve managed to work on a huge commercial campaign, a tv series and now a film. Regrettably I can’t get up to the mountain very much but I did run up there last Saturday for a few hours.
I bought the tongue and groove pine boards for the ceiling and wanted to get them up. I took all day Saturday afternoon to relax and stain all 26 boards, figuring I would let them dry overnight and install in the morning.
I used a natural pine/fir colored stain from Olympic since the lumber was not pretty enough for a simple clear-coat of polyurethane. It looked a bit orange to me but I had to get it done in a few hours so I’m hoping it will look fine when it’s all up.
In the morning, the boards were still a bit tacky to the touch but I proceeded to install them anyway. They are pretty hard to get in and up, at 10′ long there is a lot of room for slight warping and the tongue doesn’t always match the groove, LOL.
After putting up a few boards, I noticed that my fingers were leaving some nasty smudges on the tacky surfaces. It was tough to get them out without ruining the finish so I decided to stop and let them dry and cure a full 48 hours.
I had to get back to LA so I left the ceiling undone but I should be able to get up there this coming weekend and finish up. I’ll keep you posted on my progress.
A side note, since it’s been so dang hot up there (in the upper 90′s this week), the insulation in the cabin has proven worthy! If I keep the drapes and the door closed in the morning, it will stay cool and comfortable inside for several hours without any air conditioning. At night when it cools down, the heat will stay inside all night. This should prove to be invaluable come the dead of winter with snow on the ground!
In the meantime, thanks for hanging with me over the past year. It’s been a doozy but for now, it looks like things will turn out just fine!