Tiny House Homesteading (Part 1)

tiny house homesteadI spent last week on the piece of land that my wife and I purchased this past February.  This is the first raw piece of land that we have ever owned together with the intention of creating our forever homestead. My intention was to meet with county officials, engineers, the power company, and two of my friends: Roarke (my excavator) and Chris (my designer) to get the ball rolling. What I discovered in that process was much more profound than any permit approval, road grade conversation, or home site location search.

As I sat one evening on the porch of my tiny cabin (it came with the property) I was amazed to discover that I was nervous about owning this beautiful piece of land. When I inquired within what that nervousness was about, I discovered that I was afraid of doing things wrong with the property (for example picking the wrong building site; making a bad decision about driveway location, etc.). I consciously reminded myself that I do in fact have what it takes to serve this land to it’s fullest capacity and that I will do everything that I can to do so. When fears arise during your own building process (and in life), it’s so important to meet those voices and fears head on, to listen to them, and then to gently remind yourself of the truth. Find your center of knowing and make choices from that place. You have all the answers you need.

If you’ve ever heard the phrase “It’s always something”, then you may already have had an experience with a building or zoning department in the past. It’s not unheard of to be asked to jump through dozens of hoops before permits are granted. As much as this is normal, it is also very frustrating; however, that frustration can often be minimized. I suggest you contact the department(s) in charge of your jurisdiction by phone and do so anonymously at first. Call in the morning, first thing, so you can actually talk to someone. Tell them your plans and see what advice they have for you.

You may be surprised to hear that there are restrictions on things you never imagined, like storing building materials on site in advance of building. By speaking anonymously, you can get the details of such restrictions and then be sure that when you approach the office officially, you know what to say in order to expedite your process as best you can.

As you move through the process, as I did last week, much will come out for you that you may not have anticipated. I’m speaking more about your emotional experience than any code implications. I found myself moved to tears several times last week. Sometimes due to the beauty of our land and knowing that it is “ours” for as long as we can steward it. Sometimes by fear of “doing it wrong.” But mostly, I was moved by knowing that I have an opportunity to provide something beautiful for my family. We are on the path to creating our own dream, our forever home. I am fully invested in that experience, whatever it brings. I wish you that same joyous adventure.

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22 Responses to Tiny House Homesteading (Part 1)

  1. Anna B Mon, May 6, 2013 at 11:37 pm #

    I totally recognize this – especially the fear of making the wrong decision. Usually when I embark on any new project I feel a mix of excitement and fear – hopefully the excitement is larger than the fear, and if it isn’t I must “discuss with the fear”, as you say!

    Wish you all the luck – and hope to hear more about your project!

  2. EagleSpirit Tue, May 7, 2013 at 3:24 am #

    Greetings
    Here is a helpful tip. When starting out with raw undeveloped land you will want some knowledge of permaculture design before you ever get started on any plans. You’ll want to get some land measurements, where the natural high and low spots are, which way the sun ruses and sets in the summer vs winter, consider wind velocity, study the natural patterns and structure if the land…. all of this should be taken into account before any other plans or actions take place. If you’re intrested in learning more. I could come and do a workshop on the basic knowledge if permaculture. The best book out there is the “introduction to permaculture ” by Bill Mollison. The full text book version is best.
    Blessings for a
    Harmonious Future
    EagleSpirit

  3. william Tue, May 7, 2013 at 4:08 am #

    Hey Andrew,Thanks for sharing your insecurities with us all.The email I read after yours had this Ganesh mantra “Om Ganeshaya Namaha” it is often chanted before starting any new project.Its meaning is “In what we are about to do let wisdom be our guide”
    I have been developing my property now since buying in 2004 and had laid out where my building was going to be,only to move the location later some 40′ which made a world of difference.
    I keep having people ask me when I am going to be done this strange straw building and sometimes in a negative tone that I will never get it done.My standard answer now is it will be done the day I leave this life.
    I just trust my journey and leave it to the universe to have it unfold as it is supposed to.It can be hard at times but just always believe in your own power and resolve and never let outside forces deter us from our destiny.
    May we all find the power to live our true purpose in life 🙂 and always be nice to your building official.Lol They can make the process either an easy or hard one.
    Best of luck everyone with your big dreams.
    Billy

  4. Charles Hickman Tue, May 7, 2013 at 6:08 am #

    I am so glad you did this. I just recently finished, well the main structure, my own house. You will do a lot of second guessing yourself and say to yourself “Oh why didn’t I do it this way, don’t let it deter you. After I built the house I wondered why I didn’t put in in floor heating in a concrete slab. I mean it would have been more work but I would be warm always but I built on posts because it was easier and quicker. Take your time, look at different scenarios, listen to others but stick to your ideals. Remember you can always add-on and you can plan that into construction. I planned on putting a greenhouse on the front of my place and made it easy to add. Anyway good luck with your endeavor I am really pulling for you up here in Canada.

  5. Andrew Morrison Tue, May 7, 2013 at 6:23 am #

    I could not agree more. I have studied permaculture over the years and will use the knowledge I have learned to make a holistic homestead where everything is purposes and connected.

  6. Andrew Morrison Tue, May 7, 2013 at 6:24 am #

    I love your wisdom here Billy. From Ganesh to building inspectors, you are right on!

  7. Andrew Morrison Tue, May 7, 2013 at 6:29 am #

    Thanks Charles. Glad to hear you finished your main house too. That’s exciting!

  8. Constance Tue, May 7, 2013 at 9:53 am #

    Hi Andrew,I completely understand your anxieties, near virgin land is quite a responsability. Thank god it already had a construction on it.I find it useful to look at and talk to trees. Trees that are spirally twisted are there to loosen excessive earth energies, you don’t want to cut those down or live next to them. Also bent trees are bad news. You want to live near straight stems, straight up to heaven. Strike up a conversation with your trees, they are now your people. Sometimes you might, need to build around a tree, well so be it. Even when pulling up young trees in the wrong location, I like to tell them the day before. When they don’t like me to pull them up I leave them be,I think they reward me by keeping my doors locked.I gave my weddingvows in a circle of oaks, I’ve been married now for twentyfive years and every oak I’ve asked while travelling to different places around Europe has heard of us. I’ve always known we are connected in life, but untill I started to talk to trees I didn’t know how connected we really are.I’m sure you’ll do the right thing. There is real strength and wisdom in trees, just ask them to help you.

  9. Mary Lea Tucker Tue, May 7, 2013 at 9:58 am #

    The words of Joel Salatin from Polyface Farms are the best advice to move me beyond the fear of doing something wrong – “Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly the first time.” He explains that moving forward poorly is better than wasting time trying to make sure you get it all right the first time. We will never get it all right the first time! Life is a journey of trial and error.
    I also stand by the words – “There is no failure. Only feedback.”

  10. Julie Jones Tue, May 7, 2013 at 10:39 am #

    Andrew, I completely understand you feelings upon embarking on planning and building your new family home. I did the same! You are an incredibly thoughtful and insightful person. You had inspired us to build straw bale and we did and we are so proud of it. I know you will build a fabulous home for your family and it will be the model of everything that you have been teaching us from sustainability and environmental awareness to connecting with nature and connecting with family.

  11. Scott Carroll Tue, May 7, 2013 at 1:12 pm #

    Andrew, My wife Wanda and I purchased our property in 2007 – 40 acres in the Chihuahuan Desert north of Terlingua, Tx. 2 1/2 years ago we began the difficult task of leveling a spot for our small home. We were fortunate to be in a place where building permits are not required. There are a great many out here who have built homes using a variety of alternative materials.
    Being very limited financially we decided to do all of the labor ourselves, by hand. Not an easy task, as the terrain is very unforgiving and leveling the ground required first breaking it loose with a pickaxe. But we were determined to do it. Wanda insisted on doing the picking – quite a feat for someone just five feet 4 inches tall.
    Wanda died a year and a half ago, two months after being diagnosed with Pancreatic cancer. Since that time I have continued to make our dream a reality. The process has been slow, as I live 7 hours away and can only make the trip every few months.
    But Sept.1 I am retiring (I’m 63) and moving out to Terlingua permanently to finish the house (cabin) full time. I understand when you talk about your forever homestead. This will be ours. By Sept I will begin putting up the walls. I have some of your DVDs and they have been very helpful. I will be buying your DVD on plastering as I am using soil from my property. I have done some experimenting with it, but need some more research before I am satisfied with the results.
    Thanks for sharing your expertise with others like me.

  12. Andrew
    Andrew Tue, May 7, 2013 at 5:26 pm #

    It’s interesting that you share this as I spent a good portion of my week communicating with the trees through touch, inner conversation and smiles. I cut some down to give space to larger trees and I was grateful to all of them in the process. My mantra to them was (and is) that I am after the greatest good I can offer them as a human steward of the land. I choose to live WITH the land, not just on it.

  13. Andrew
    Andrew Tue, May 7, 2013 at 5:27 pm #

    That’s great stuff MAry. I always share with my students in construction that there are no mistakes, only opportunities for growth and learning. I suppose I could head some of my own wisdom in this scenario!

  14. Andrew
    Andrew Tue, May 7, 2013 at 5:28 pm #

    Thanks Julie.

  15. Andrew
    Andrew Tue, May 7, 2013 at 5:30 pm #

    Thanks for sharing your touching story Scott. I am sorry to hear of Wanda’s passing and I imagine she smiles knowing you are continuing with the dream and building your cabin. Beautiful and inspiring…

  16. John Jarvinen Tue, May 7, 2013 at 8:51 pm #

    Plant your fruit trees as soon as possible so you can enjoy them earlier in the process. Good luck!

  17. Andy Collins Tue, May 7, 2013 at 9:01 pm #

    Congratulations Andrew! I’ll be interested to hear what you guys end up building on your new property. I remember at the NY workshop last year you were talking about building like a 50 sq. ft. house. Okay, I know it wasn’t quite that small, but remember it being cozy. All the best.

  18. Andrew
    Andrew Tue, May 7, 2013 at 9:13 pm #

    Thanks Andy. Looks like about 228 SF is the initial plan. I’ll keep you all posted…

  19. Angela Fri, May 10, 2013 at 11:21 am #

    You all have helped so many people recognize their dreams; it’s only fitting that you should have a chance to make your own dreams happen. I’m excited for you! Good luck – though I don’t think you’ll need it at all.

  20. Andrew
    Andrew Fri, May 10, 2013 at 11:30 am #

    That’s a very sweet comment Angela. Thank you.

  21. Dave Hawkins Thu, June 20, 2013 at 6:47 pm #

    Another great book on Permaculture just came out this year – “Restoration Agriculture” by Mark Shepard. He is a Bill Mollison disciple and has really accomplished some cool stuff on his 120(?) acres in Wisconsin.

  22. Andrew
    Andrew Fri, June 21, 2013 at 5:56 pm #

    Thanks for the recommendation Dave!

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