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

Posts tagged “tiny house

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.

 


Why did the sirloin cross the road?

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”

DUH!

🙂


Welcome Westways Readers!

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 theurbanrancher@gmail.com 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!

e.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


May Cows and the Lazy Days of Almost-Summer

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!

e.


April showers with a 40% chance of winter wonderland

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!

 

e.


keeping the down low nice and low down

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.

e.

(hiding under the couch with the cat and a bottle of Cuervo)


Look out SoCal Edison, PG&E and DWP!

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.

Before I came up to the mountain, I found this Sunforce Solar Kit online at Amazon.com, it was highly recommended on one of the Solar Homesteading Yahoo groups I like.

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!