How big did you say that is?

From time to time I run into people who know me, and they say they’ve heard that I moved home.  Then they ask “have you built on your land?”, or  say “I heard that you were building a house.”

They are nearly always shocked when I explain that it is built, and I am now living half the year in a 9×12 space with four dogs (albeit small dogs and with a little bedroom loft).  Interestingly, there are only two reactions to this.  The first, is that people are so curious and interested that they swing by, or at least hope to swing by, at their earliest possible convenience.  The second reaction is the people who obviously and politely excuse themselves from me, being cautious not to agitate me, and while doing so they make it clear that they have assumed that I have gone quite insane in the time lapse between when they last saw me and this very moment.  This is the reaction that initially I find to be uproariously funny, but also a bit little sad.

When I get this reaction, I make assumptions too. I assume that they have never realized that if they decided to live with a significantly less stuff, then they would not have to spend so much time at a job.  Then naturally it follows, without the need for stuff, one has a lot more free time to do the things that they love to do; as well as see the people who they love.  Ever optimistic about people, I like to think that if they heard this alternate news then they too might want to at least consider life outside of the consumer lifestyle and living in (or hoping to live in) a McMansion.   When I heard about this, I myself had to sell my 4000 square foot McMansion and move to a small 900 square foot home.  I also built Tiny House Ontario, so I really only reduced my footprint by a quarter.  I am not yet ready to make the leap to living full time at Tiny House Ontario.  My husband still works, here in Hamilton, Ontario and frankly the Tiny House is not yet ready for full time living.  I hope to have it ready in a year or two.

As a sort of disclaimer, here I want to say that, I do know that living in the 98 square feet interior of this house is not for everyone.  I also know that living off grid is not for everyone.  Probably, it would also not be much of a leap to say that a bunch of second hand junk furniture is not for everyone.  Perhaps wearing a nose ring is also is not for everyone either, I don’t have one of those.  What I mean, is that I am aware that there are lots of personal choices that we make.  I really do get that.  Even so, I wanted to show that there are other choices in how we live.

I knew some things for sure.  I knew I wanted land at home; I also knew that I wanted to build.  Even more, I wanted to build small but the silly building codes forced me into another even smaller option with standard building materials and thus my choice was made.  I followed through, and stuck to this extreme because I wanted to prove that there are options outside of the box store and one can live very, comfortably.  OK, I admit that comfortably is still a sort of a stretch in Tiny House Ontario, because there are no conveniences, but it is moving toward having comforts.  Still, even without these conveniences there are lots of really comforting things about living small.

So, for any of you who are still here (at arms distance and reading from the safety of your home), I suspect that you may be curious about the space and be wondering what it is like to live TINY.  I knew that you would want to know, so I thought I would show you what the floor space actually looks like with a person in it. Here is my model (husband) standing (somewhat unwillingly) in the kitchen area of Tiny House Ontario while I take a photo from the highest point between floors.  One of the battery operated LED lights is just in front of him, hanging on its hook, if you are wondering what is is… just a part of off grid and Tiny House living, really.

What I really want you to notice is the bamboo floor mat.  This is 5×7 feet with a few inches around it on each side, which is the floor space remaining after the kitchen, storage shelving, entryway, ladder stairs and sofa go in.  Plus, notice too that I added a comfy rocking chair, a table and two chairs into that floor space, which essentially removes a lot of floor space from play.    I was careful to get the sort of chair that could tuck in when I was yard sailing and dumpster diving for the furnishings.  I considered a table that connects to the wall and drops down as well as hanging chairs, but I liked this option best.  It makes for a bit of a tight space for two people to pass through while going in and out of the cloth porch (garden doors upper left) but even so, the table is a functional surface which I need to use often so it is worth that little space pinch.  Even with our dogs, I have found that six people can very comfortably sit here and chat as long as no one is moving around too much.

Looking at it, you would never consider this a roomy space but even so when people come to visit they are surprised because the space moves outward when you come inside.  It grows larger when you sit down and look around.  The huge windows in the place make it feel like you are part of the world around you.  It is ironic really how coming inside of something so small can make you feel like you have entered into something really huge.  I don’t know, maybe you have?

Categories: Dog, Environmentalism, Materialism, Readers, Sustainable living, Tiny House Ontario | Tags: , , | 11 Comments

Creative Trades

I had just moved into Tiny House Ontario when my cousin Vernie, who is also a neighbour, called and asked if I could babysit his dog while they went to Maine.  I love dogs so of course this was not a problem for me.  He offered to sweeten the deal which was not necessary at all, I told him, I would take care of the dog without anything.  Still he said he would make me a recycled wood bedside table for Tiny House Ontario.  A pretty good trade; of course I said yes.

Vernie along with being one of the smartest and most interesting people I have ever known, is a carpenter.  Really more than that, he is a comedian and an artist with a capital A.  He probably never had a lot of money to explore his creative side, so he created art out of things that people left behind, way before this recycled art became hype or trend.  I am a huge fan of everything Vernie does.  Really, if I had an unlimited amount of money I would love to have a big space to have an artist’s collective and I would most certainly want Vernie to be a part of this.  Not just for his talent but also for his amazing ability to recall history, family background and make me laugh my head off.  The man knows how to do about everything, except for how to train a dog, that is.

So, a couple of days later he and his wife left, a few times a day I hopped on my trusty little steed, and I went to take care of Andy Capp. When I pulled up on my little bike, there the dog would be, large as life, a muscle bound fool, with his tongue hanging out, happily waiting for me to bring him out for a walk.  It was not really like that, because every time the fool of a dog brought me on a walk (to remember).  Ok, so I am still not telling you the whole truth.  Actually, it was more that he brought me for a drag, all over the place, and often it was right down on the ground where Andy brought me and then he would jump on me a few times for fun too.  I spent the week sore and filthy from the multiple dragging incidents.  Despite the fact that Andy is about half my size he is about 10 times my fitness level and thus he knocked me off my feet into dust, grass, mud.  He pulled me into the ditch face first and also escaped my grasp more than once.

On the second visit before I knew better, I brought him into Vernie’s house and he tore the mattresses and bedding right off the beds.  He peed on my handbag too, that day, just for good measure.  It was a week of tomfoolery and chaos and I was mighty glad to see Vernie arrive home!  I have actually never met a dog as busy as Andy;  it is a good thing that he is such a beautiful animal.  Part Akita with all this gorgeous fur colouring, eyes and confirmation.  A stunning, and stunningly stupid, dog for sure.

Turns out that Andy hurt Vernie’s wife more than once.  She says that they are ‘not friends’ and I am sure that she means it.  She is older than me and he was able to hurt me too.  He does not mean to; despite the pee on my purse, he is not a mean spirited creature at all, but rather just an excited and very strong, goofy puppy.  I suspect that he is not the right dog for retired people.

Anyway, as for the bedside table, Vernie carved the door and built this gorgeous little cabinet.  I asked him to stamp his name on the back of it.  Since I am a huge fan of Vernie, I could not be more thrilled with this fantastically whimsical and creative piece.  Then who would not love to own this gorgeous creation?  Honestly, every time I go up the ladder stairs, I admire it.  I think this lovely little cupboard is totally and absolutely worth the week with Andy Capp.

Still, I have to admit, I will hold my breath for a moment if they ask me this summer to babysit Andy.  Before I agree,  I will of course hope that Andy will have calmed down a little with age; or at least that I got a little smarter and more prepared over the winter.

Categories: Art, Dog, Environmentalism, Sustainable living, Tiny house, Tiny House Ontario, Trade | 7 Comments

Surviving, The Artist’s Way

In my real life, I made my living (mostly) in the academic world as a writer and a magician of sorts for contract after contract.  I am a creative, conscientious and organized person, which is why I was good at the work that I did.  Still, I found that once each of my jobs was done, that I often felt less than comfortable with the outcome; further, I always felt that I had sold my creative side for nothing and that I was only ever really being paid and recognized for the organized side.  Sadly, my creative self’s stuff was always being claimed by the people who I worked for; their idea, their process, their stuff.  Most creative people who work for others find this and I can tell you that this was not easy on me.

The consequence of all of this is that my creativity has a very difficult time letting itself out.  I am not just a blocked creative, I am a stomped on, squashed up, used badly, and dried up creative.

I belong to a writing group in Hamilton, Ontario and I spoke to the group about how painful it is for me to write and three of them suggested that I try The Artist’s Way program.  Sort of a 12 step – and 12 week program for blocked creatives.

I knew, before I built Tiny House Ontario that this was both an expression of creativity as well as a place for me to open up to creativity, both in myself and in others.  I worked The Artist’s Way program all summer and found that I accomplished a big boost in my creativity.  Still, I earned nothing at all, which is not so excellent!  So, how do I live creatively and make money too?  I learned this summer that eventually, Tiny House Ontario would allow me to live very inexpensively.  The question is, I could live an off grid life there without depending on the economy, or any real 9-5 or even part time gig?

I suspect that once everything is bought and paid for, (I still have credit line debt on my land) I could live well at Tiny House Ontario for $5,000 a year, but realistically I think that $8,000 a year would allow me to have a little wiggle room, for art supplies, travel, vet bills, clothing and extravagancies.

My aim is to figure out exactly how to make this $8,000 without actually having a job.  Paintings are difficult to sell.  There is no guarantee that someone will actually publish my novels, or my Tiny House Ontario book; even if they do publish me, will my books sell?

I intend to start a small bee colony, but who knows if this will make any money or if it will simply be another fun little creative hobby for me?

I am a wicked good seamstress, but I actually hate to sew and with no electricity as well as very little space, a treadle, seems both huge and dreadful!

I plan to put in a few hundred asparagus roots, which is a good crop, but I am also not sure if this is feasible in the forest, or if I can actually produce enough crop to make this investment pay for itself, let alone pay for future living costs.

I have great administrative, computer and organizational skills, as I already mentioned, but this stuff typically means job, transportation, clothes, heels, make-up, being away from home.  I don’t mind getting all gussied up but the idea of a job; simply put, I would really rather not.

So, here it sits!  I am person with many talents and many skills.  Still, I have not figured out if I can make $8,000 by either earnings or trade, and live without a job.

I strongly hope that time will tell me more!

Categories: Art, Dog, Environmentalism, Materialism, Money, Off Grid, Sustainable living, Tiny house, Tiny House Ontario | 8 Comments

This is Rudigrrr Wolf and me

Just should you be wondering who is doing all this writing and begging for biscuits.  He does all the writing and I beg for biscuits.  But it is my birthday photo from September after all.  

Categories: Dog, Tiny House Ontario | Leave a comment