The Right Dwelling For Me

I think I’ve nearly come full circle in my desired house.  When I was raking in a lot of cash working at a coal mine in Pennsylvania, I wanted to buy a pice of rural property and build a house, but not just any house.  I didn’t want a mansion, just something modest, affordable, energy efficient, built from local materials, and ultimately off-grid.  Here is the basic progression which took place over the last few years:

  • A-Frame
  • Converted Silo
  • Masonry (Brick or concrete block)
  • Earth Bag Dome
  • Earth Tube Dome
  • Rammed Earth
  • Compressed Earth Brick Masonry Dome
  • Very Large Compressed Earth Brick and Timber Hybrid
  • Cordwood
  • Geodesic Dome
  • Timber Frame
  • Round Wood Timber Frame
  • Probably a Yurt for an afternoon…  🙂
  • Converted shipping containers
  • Strawbale
  • Hybrids of any or all of the previous
  • Earthship or any rammed tire variation

Then from here on, was after we moved to Portland, Oregon from rural Pennsylvania.  We had to downsize quite a bit to make the move, and together decided that we never want to move so much crap again.  It was time to purge and think small.  (Minimalism by Distillation, and the Prodigious Purge)  It was also time to consider a mobile domicile, since we weren’t sure where we want to end up, but nonetheless own our home.

  • Tiny Wooden House On Wheels
  • Converted School Bus
  • RV (Trailer or Motorhome)

We ultimately decided to buy a motorhome, (Dreams With Wheels, and A Winnebago For The End Of Days)  because I didn’t have any place to construct a tiny house on wheels while we rented an apartment.  With a few modifications we could convert a motorhome into a full time residence and park in someone’s back yard, or in a trailer park where we are now.  (Our New Home:  The Squatch)  Having lived in the Squatch for almost four months, I can say that tiny living is just fine with me, but truthfully I am already thinking about our next home.  This RV is great, but it’s just training wheels for the house I really want to build.  In our situation, I feel that it was a wise choice to shoe horn our lives into this machine so we knew this is the life for us.  Now that we live in it, major modifications are problematic, though a few more will be coming.  What I don’t like about the RV is the rigidity of the layout, not just in terms of where the built in features are installed like the cabinetry (I can change that), but where the windows are, where the drains run, the limited (but better than most) insulation, and the outer appearance.  It’s not quite home, but it is a start.

There was a lot of work being done in here early on, after moving in.  With the winter rains setting in, I’ve been pushing back projects in favor of catching up on some much needed reading.  I’ve gotten into quite a funk here lately which is partly due to to the cold and wet nature of my rolling workshop.  It is hard to get myself motivated when I have to cut and sand wood out in the rain.  The only major projects I’ve accomplished recently, was converting our two bicycles into  electric hybrids.

No worries!  After a long summer of working on the Squatch and the stress of moving, I can wind down a bit.  Besides, the winter solstice just passed, and the days will be getting longer.  There is much planned work to do.  I want to build my composting toilet system, tear out a couch and make a built-in, do some minor plumbing modifications, paint some cabinet doors to add some color, and after I fix a leak in the cab-over, paint the whole exterior to something more pleasant to look at!  Our time with the Squatch is limited, for I do not see this living arrangement lasting very long.  I might choose to stay and transform the Squatch completely, but the outer appearance makes finding a a more favorable place to park difficult.  People just don’t really want an RV parked in their back yard, and I understand why.

The next step, appears to be purchasing a house in the city with a few bedrooms and a large enough back yard to park the Squatch and few tiny homes.  Then I can begin building our next home…

As far as a mobile tiny house ( I can’t imagine living in anything large anymore), I would consider a conventionally constructed house on a small trailer.  I’ve had more designs float through my head then there are pieces in building one.  The core concept in most designs involve a shed style roof where one long wall of the house is slightly taller than the other.  I favor this for the simplicity of constructing the roof and better volume to surface area ratio.  The roof is set high enough for a sleeping loft in one end, below which one finds the lounging area and home entrance.  The other end of the house has a raised floor, below which one finds storage and more importantly, the engineering section of the home including all the water, electrical, and heating components in a centralized, easy access space; this is the basement.  The raised floor supports the kitchen and bathroom.  I will not go into any further detail.  Suffice it to say, I want to build a sensible, efficient, holistic, living machine.

I’ve also considered using a 20 foot shipping container as the core structure of a mobile tiny house on wheels.  I’ve concluded through my research that this option is feasible, but complex.  I would like to keep it in my back pocket for later.

A modified school bus is another possibility, seeing how they can be made to look a little cuter on the outside, as opposed to the drab shape of an RV.  School buses seem to elicit a different emotional response when I see one.  There are many great examples of school bus houses out there.  With gutting it, insulating, designing a water system, the limited ceiling height, and possible mechanical problems with the drivetrain; this option too is kept in my back pocket.

Its’s hard to see how I could be coming full circle in my choice of house, but a rather recent revelation has opened up the possibility of building a permanent home.  A while back, I did some writing on tiny house communities.  My quest for a place to park the Squatch in Portland came up pretty short, so I dreamed up the community I would want to live in.  (Noodle Soup Village,  Noodle Soup Village – Lite,  Edification In A Tiny House Community,  Noodle Soup Rentals,  Noodle Soup Meiosis)  I hadn’t given this much thought recently, until a Meetup group started up in  Portland:  Tiny House Community Startup.  We had one meeting so far, with another scheduled in early January.  If you are in the area, please join the group and attend!  It will likely be a while before anything real gets off the ground.  We’re justing getting to know each other, and trying to flesh out what it is we each are looking for in a community.  What is clear to me, is that I want to make this community or communities (plural) happen.  Realistically, I can perceive something like I describe in Noodle Soup Village – Lite, where a city property is purchased with a house and a sizable backyard.  A few tiny houses park in the yard and claim the big house as their residence.  This is possible.

The reason I’ve come full circle on housing, is that I realize I may actually find that a place like I describe, feels like home enough that I wish to stay there for some time.  Now I might build myself a tiny house on wheels to live in, just to stay in compliance with whatever zoning regulations are applicable.  I may also find that I enjoy building these tiny homes for others as well, and make a business out of it.  However, I can not imagine a tiny house on wheels that could satisfy my desire to construct a home which has the structural or thermal properties of an Earthen home.  I’m talking about swinging right back around to Earth Bags or Rammed Tire construction.  I have no idea if I can find a way to do this legally.  I might have to push the boundaries of building codes or just plain break the rules.  I’d prefer to stay with the bounds of the law, but sometimes the law just doesn’t make sense.  As society falters, we need alternative dwellings for alternative lifestyles.  We need ecologically sensible housing, and I want to be a part of constructing it.

-M.C. Pletcher

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Posted in Dwelling, Personal, Philosophy, The Squatch, Tiny House

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