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

Posts tagged “tiny home

and now for the “Urban” part

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!


loft wide

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…

Screen shot 2013-03-14 at 1.04.31 PM

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. 

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…


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!


long time no see

little sirloin

Hey y’all!

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!

For now I’ll just sit here LMFAO watching Superbowl commercials, Tivo-ed hours of “Modern Family” and kitten/hedgehog videos)


a piano on wheels?

Wassup yos?

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 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…


Bigger is now officially better!

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!

I have just bought a small parcel of land that make up a very sweet annex to my mountain. The new land is just across the street from me, simply walk to the end of my driveway, cross the street, and walk 100 feet up a dirt road into the woods.

I’m so happy I was able to get this land since it rarely comes available and when it does, it’s snatched up immediately by the neighbors. I guess I snatched faster than my compadres!
Not really sure what I’m going to do with it yet, it’s a marvelous little enclave with a sweet hilltop and a fantastic view, kept private since it’s all surrounded by small hills.
The parcel had already been subdivided into 4 lots, zoned for 4 separate homes. Maybe there’ll eventually be 4 tiny houses there? In the next few days I’ll set up camp on my new hilltop and contemplate what to do but for now, I’ll just hoist a few cold ones in my honor and keep dreaming.
Our houses can stay tiny but where pristine land, open skies, and our dreams are concerned, bigger is surely better!

an update, a setback, and an upgrade

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


is one a rat for jumping off a sinking ship?

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!

stay tuned…