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

Posts tagged “downsizing

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


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.


thoughts on the tiny tumbleweed towable trailer homes…

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!

For some great pictures, scroll down through the blog post on the Tumbleweed site and on the Pepper Clark’s For Sale page here! 
It was a brisk (ccccold actually) and windy day at the bay. A crowd had formed as soon as the house was opened so I only had a few minutes inside. The thought that kept going through my head was how well-designed and built the home was and at the same time, how tiny it really was.
I know there is a lot of downsizing going on now and these popular trailer houses are definitely much more solid than a standard RV trailer but it was reeeeeally small inside! I suppose the weight limitations would make a larger/longer house too heavy to pull with a pick-up truck. Still, I’d love to build a larger main cabin and be able to move it where and whenever I wanted.  I’ll have to give this all some thought.

Great job Pepper, Jay and that shy guy who did the finish carpentry!


new trees, darker days and the reality of it all

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.