For those that have been with us for a couple of years or more, you will know that my wife, Gabriella, 12 year old daughter and I spent nearly 5 months living out of a 110sqft pop up tent trailer in Baja, Mexico two winters ago (you can read that blog here). You will also know that we not only had an amazing time during those months living tiny, but that our lives were transformed in such a positive and significant way that we completely changed our entire relationship to housing and space.
Our focus since that time had been to find a piece of land to create our own homestead in a way that reflected our new view on space, housing, and family relationships. A few months ago we found our little patch of heaven. We definitely consider it to be our forever home.
We are now living here full time and it’s hard to describe how right it feels to be here. Our land came with a 114 sqft cabin equipped with a queen sized bed, plenty of shelf storage for books, office supplies, and toiletries, a kitchen with a small double sink, double propane burner, storage for food, utensils and plates/glasses, and even a desk to work on. The cabin even came with a very small solar system that supplies enough power for a light, to charge our laptop and to run our modem for a couple of hours per day for internet.
Our water comes from a spring fed system that so far is more than meeting our needs. For a toilet we are using both a composting toilet system (17 gallon Rubbermaid bin with plywood platform and attached toilet seat) and the toilet in our pop up tent trailer (which we brought up to the property). Our 16 year old son gets the cozy cabin to himself at night while Gabriella, Terra and I sleep in the pop up, which feels like home to us. We ordered a Sunmar composting toilet and expect it to arrive any day now. I never thought we could be so excited about a toilet! It couldn’t come soon enough as neither of our current systems is great. Our camping hot water heater arrived a couple of days ago so the promise of hot water showers are within sight.
We purchased an off grid 600 watt hour per day solar system from BackWoodsSolar.com and that should more than meet our needs for a good long while. We are also the proud owners of a Honda 6,500 watt generator which will come in handy when we begin construction of our intial structures (two 120 sqft tree house cabins for the kids and a 224sqft tiny house on a trailer for the main house). In a couple of years we will build our dream straw bale house (a 500 or so square foot home). The tiny home on the trailer will allow us to move our house around as needed to experiment with various home sites on the land.
The cabin is small but so far it’s worked out so well that we have hardly noticed its size. I do all of the cooking in it and the kitchen is well suited for us four (though a tiny bit more counter space for a cutting board would be nice for the long term). The other night we had five people in it (three on the bed, one sitting at the table, and Gabriella cooking in the kitchen) plus a dog and a cat and it was wonderful. Everyone was included in the conversation and it made for an engaged dynamic.
Given our previous experience of thriving in a tiny space, we have been spared the initial struggles and withdrawals we had gone through in the first month in Baja. So the family dynamic has been extremely pleasant and from day 1, it has felt right to be here and living tiny again. The kids are both totally on board (though I will say that our 16 year old son has wanted to go into town to see friends more than we have been able to take him) and when we started talking about an internet satellite system being installed on the cabin, both of the kids cried out that we should not get wi-fi, or else they would just be on the internet at every opportunity.
We are all living with the rhythm of the sun, weather, and the land. On cloudy days, there is no internet because our solar sytem doesn’t have a chance to charge our battery and run the modem. On other days, we don’t get a cell reception up there at all. And when it’s cold outside (we’ve dipped to freezing a couple of times since we’ve been there) we all just have to bundle up and be as active as possible during the day to keep a chill from setting in.
Moving up to our new land, we weren’t sure what we would need so we held off on buying anything until we got up here and allowed the needs to essentially find us. It’s been a couple of weeks of more trips to town than we would like but it feels like we have great solutions for each necessity that has arisen (hot water, toilet, waste removal/trash, power, and internet). Now that the infrastructure is largely installed, we can move on to the next phase: building tree houses! Though it’s a lot of work and we will likely feel busy for a long stretch, it’s good honest work and it feels wonderful in knowing that the investment we make now in infrastructure will be used and appreciated for the remainder of our lives.
About the Author
Andrew Morison is a specialist in straw bale and green construction. He has shown thousands of people how to build their own straw bale projects through his comprehensive series of instructional straw bale, concrete foundation, and plastering DVDs, as well as his hands on workshops. You can check these out at www.StrawBale.com/store.
To be notified of new entries and to get our "16 Essential Steps to Straw Bale Success e-course" absolutely free, enter your email address below then check your inbox to confirm. More Info>>