Can a city boy build his dream homestead on a mountain, by himself and with no mortgage?

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when God closes an escrow, he opens a…

My tiny cabin and all the land under it has been sold. My neighbor snapped it up 2 days after I put it on the market.

I’ve cleared out all my stuff, moved the trailer to an undisclosed location and have taken a job on a new TV show that has me working on the road across America through Thanksgiving.

For what it’s worth, letting go of my little mountain was easy, not at all stressful as I expected.  The time was right, the decision was made months ago so it was really only a matter of paperwork.  My wee cabin is in the capable hands of good people who will enjoy it as it was intended and I couldn’t be happier.

While I’ll be spending a lot of time in Phoenix, I’m still actively looking for another mountain to settle. Tennessee and Georgia loom large in my view as Nashville and Atlanta are cities I could easily embrace.

That darn woodpecker will miss me tho, the new owner shoots a lot of guns.

last looks

… world of possibilities


a new. day. has. come

I’ve not been posting much over the past several months, mostly for 3 reasons.

1. it’s all quiet on my land and there’s not much to talk about (true) and

2. my life is so glamorous and busy that I barely have time to write out a grocery list (false)

3. I’ve been scouring the country in search of a better place to live than California (also true, see my posts from June 2012)

so I headed East…

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too muggy.

Further East…

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too dangerous.

Even further East…

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umm, no.

So then I went South…

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too depressing.

and further South…

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too wet.

Finally I went to Arizona…

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Now that feels ’bout right!

I cracked open my piggy bank and bought a small house at the edge of the sprawl outside Phoenix!

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This is the view out my front door!

The new casita is still technically a small house at 750 sq feet (not a tiny one tho). It has 2 bedrooms, 1 good-sized bath with double shower, laundry room, open kitchen/dining/living room, a nice large patio, and plenty of open spaces, desert critters and the cutest old wild west town a mile down the road!  It’s only 25 minutes from Downtown Scottsdale and the Phoenix airport AND, it cost me less than the down payment on a tiny 1 bedroom ghetto apartment in a bad part of Los Angeles!

What to do with my mountain and my tiny cabin? What about my career, spent basking in the glamour of Hollywood? What about my friends, family and everything else?

Hell, I don’t know. I do know a few things though…

1. California is a financial and social train wreck and getting worse. It’s not a place I want to (or can afford to) retire.

2. I love the desert and the scrappy people of  Phoenix and I LOVE my new little casita!

3. As a working freelance Hollywood creative professional, 90% of my work in the last 3 years has been OUT of California so realistically I could live anywhere near an airport.

4. It’s a 6 1/2 hour drive from Hollywood to my new casita, 8 hours to my mountain and my little car gets 40 mpg.

I am now splitting my time between my mountain, the new desert casita, my apartment in LA, and my work on the road so…

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I’m pretty sure I’ll work all this out, I’m a smart guy.    Maybe now I’ll be a happy guy too?

e.


All quiet on the Western front

I’m sorry I haven’t been posting much lately, all is good, weather is hot, work is slow, cows and I are lazy, not much else to report.

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Tri-tip and Sirloin are fine, London Broil has been visiting her mother in the next county (I assume) and Lil’ Sirloin spends most of his time with the hoodlums down by the creek.

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The woodpecker has moved on finally, the disco mylar strips and attack spikes have managed to put a wrench in his gears so he’s off destroying someone else’s cabin.

Eventually I’ll do something and write about it, but just not today!

The lazy hazy crazy days of summer keep a rollin’ on

 


me and my big mouth

cabin close

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…

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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…

https://www.facebook.com/events/138936376278864/

Tiny House lecture

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!

e.


the return of woody and his nasty pecker

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 devil is in the details

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.

 

 

 

even me.

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!)


and for my next trick…

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.

e.