Are you a Miny or a Piny?

Still consulting with a contractor on our foundation so we can get our plans submitted to the county for our permit. We’ve decided to go with a structure that is large enough to require a permit. It’ll be 18′ x 18′ and the second story will be a full height 18′ x 18′, too. So, total sq ft (minus the second floor space where the stairs will come up) will be about 600. (I guess I’ll have to update the header image, yet again!)

I had a contractor give me a quote for them to install a cement stem wall foundation. Came to about $6500. That was for just the concrete pour… no floor or anything above it. So, as that is out of my budget, I’ve reverted back to doing it myself (to which I’m sure most of this project will default), and doing the pier system instead of a full cement wall perimeter. That is what I am discussing with the guy that’s doing my permit write up, now. What structural requirements it’ll need to meet…etc.

Meantime, I’ve been doing a LOT of watching videos and reading up on different construction techniques. I think I have the cabin pretty well mapped out in my head as to what materials I want to use…etc. I just have to get the foundation done and I’ll be off to the races.

Side note… in my research, I’ve noticed two distinct themes among the Tiny House movement. You have the group that feels it’s a moral imperative that we (humans) reduce our footprint to the bare minimum and to live otherwise is an immoral choice. I call these folks the Minys (Going tiny because it’s morally superior to living otherwise.) Then there’s the folks that choose to live tiny ONLY because of it’s practicality. It’s cheap, cozy, cool, less hassle… whatever adjectives you want to use. But it’s from a practical perspective only. There is no moral implication from this person’s perspective. I call these people Pinys. (P for practical and M for moral… in case you didn’t catch the references.)

Which are you… a Piny or a Miny? (To clarify, most Minys ALSO are Pinys but Pinys can’t be Minys. Otherwise, they’d just be a Miny, not a Piny.)  Got that?  🙂

I’ll leave you with a picture of our dog, Phinny. Since I hate posting without having at least one picture in the post. Ha!


Evil Resource Hogs is Hogwash

I follow a blog called “Tiny House Blog” and they recently did a post advertising their tiny house building seminar where you can go and learn how to build a tiny strawbale house. It’s a 2 week course. I was very interested until I saw the price ($1600).

Anyway, in the process of building up their seminar, they chose to tear down anyone that doesn’t make the same decision to live in a tiny house. They are by no means the only tiny house movement blog that does that. Almost all of them do it and there’s nothing that gets me more riled up than when I see that liberal holier-than-thou attitude coming from the “permaculture” movement. Permaculture is cool because it’s self-reliant, not because I’m wasting less than my fellow man so I’m somehow better than they are.

My comment on their blog speaks for itself, so I’ll copy and paste it here for your enjoyment.

Let me first say, I am a BIG fan of the tiny house movement and we’re actually building a 384 sq ft cabin on our off-the-grid land and we’re moving there to live for a year for the experience.

But I currently live in a 5100 sq ft house and yes it’s quite pricey to maintain. But it’s my choice to live like that. Demonizing other people’s choices when they don’t match your own desires, isn’t really the best solution for recruiting others to the tiny house movement. You can point out the downsides, that’s fine and should be done as there are lots of downsides to living in a big home. And yes, I realize we’ll save $80K a year by moving to a small home, off the grid. I get that. But please don’t elevate your choices of living simpler by telling those that don’t choose that, that they’re making the wrong choice and there’s somehow a moral imperative that they not “waste” so much resources. That’s when you lose people like me who think it’s really cool that one can live simple and people choose to do that…etc. But it’s just a choice and no better of one than someone else’s choice. You’re not somehow holier or a better person because you choose to live in a smaller home. That’s just nonsense. And you may not mean to say that, but the tone of your post leads people to that conclusion.

I greatly admire those that can live in a small home and indeed, I’m going to do it for a year, too. Can’t wait, actually. But I’ll be going back to my larger home not because it’s a status symbol but because I like my kids being able to bring people over and enjoying the pool and the huge play areas. I like having 30 people over and everyone can enjoy themselves in comfort. If I’m evil because of that… well, I guess I’m evil.

Incidentally, we moved away from Oregon to get away from this kind of judgmental attitude. I’ll call them the “Birkenstock” crowd. Tolerant until someone doesn’t agree with them, then it gets personal and the other party is “evil” or somehow lessor of a human being because they don’t agree with them. 😦

Impulsive, Decisive, Tomato, Tomahto!

Hi. This is Allison. Daniel’s wife. Thanks for taking an interest in our grand adventure. I’ll be a guest blogger from time to time. But you’ll notice that I blog about the “softer” side of this adventure. Daniel can research power and water and toilets but I’m all about the emotions and the process for setting off on the challenge.

As a couple, Daniel and I are frequently labeled “decisive,” which is a polite way of saying “impulsive.” I would agree we are on that scale, but somewhere in between the two adjectives. With this decision to build a cabin and live off-grid, however, it wasn’t as impulsive as you might think. For a while now, Daniel has taken an interest in and learned more about the “prepper” movement – the process of being prepared in the event of a worldwide event that would require everyone to fend for themselves for much longer than most people ever could. So we bought some land in Eastern Arizona last May. At the very least it would be a good place to go hiking and camping and an escape from the heat of the valley.

We moved to Arizona from Oregon in July of 2011. Having lived in our current rented house for one year already and with one year left on our lease, just last week we decided this house wasn’t for us and we’d most likely be moving at the end of the lease. Although we love the school and the neighborhood, the 2 neighbors that we know and our proximity to shops and restaurants, the house itself isn’t where we want to live for the longer term. This part of town, yes. This house, no.

As we set off on our trip to Eastern Arizona last Saturday, I was in a funk about having to move yet again and settle in somewhere new, with all the adjustments and uncertainties that come with a house move. We were driving down the road, only a day into our 4-day trip when Daniel innocently asked me “Can you imagine how much money we’d save on housing costs if we built a cabin on our property and lived in it for a year with no rent or mortgage?”. I found that I couldn’t really come up with a good answer for why that wouldn’t work.

In the last several years we had frequently talked about giving the kids some kind of unique living experience. When I was in 7th grade I lived in Spain with my family for almost 6 months. When Daniel was in 4th grade he lived up in the Sierra Nevada mountains and dredged for gold, living in a tent for an entire summer. We both recall those experiences as some of the most memorable parts of our childhoods. They were not always wonderful and they both involved a lot of adjustment, but without a doubt they changed us and made us appreciate what we had.

We knew we wanted to give that kind of life experience to our kids, although up until this point we’d always talked about doing it in another country. But with the lease being up in a year, the property being one of our favorite places to spend time and the plans we had to build a cabin eventually anyway… well, it just made sense.

My trip to Spain and my time spent as an exchange student in Ecuador, coupled with my working for one of the biggest high school exchange student outfits in the world for 13 years… all of those experiences are lending me a measure of psychological support as I contemplate yet another major change that feels like it’s coming so soon after the last one.

I’ve told many people that moving to Arizona has really brought our family closer together. We weather the “storms” together, being somewhat isolated (initially) in our new community as we all got to know new people. Moving to our property will really be another exciting chapter in our family’s life. When we lived in Oregon I would not have said that we needed to grow closer, but as I see that actually happening, it makes me very happy and grateful we stepped out on faith and removed ourselves from our tidy little box.

At dinner last night we were arranging chop sticks and napkins, sharing our ideas of how the kids’ bunk rooms could be arranged with multiple bunks for maximum capacity to hold guests when our friends and family come for visits. Our 10 year old, Haley, submitted her ideas in the form a drawing on her iPhone (below). I guess that means she’s invested?

I love that we are all working on this project together as a family, and I know it’s a drop in the bucket of what’s to come. Can’t wait to share it with you all.


PS: Next post… CHICKENS!!!

The Show Stopper List

First a side note… please comment on any of my posts if you have a suggestion or information that I can use regarding the topic of the post. I would love to utilize the talent and knowledge of my readers. I’m not proud. Ha!

Boy. The list of things to do to get this process started is lengthy. I’m prioritizing them and researching options.

First thing to do is to see if there are going to be any major hurdles that stop this process. Hate to get half way in, spend a LOT of money, and then realize, “Oops… that’s a show stopper. Can’t move forward.” Would HATE for that to happen.

The list of things I’m trying to make sure are covered before moving forward is:

1) Safety (the safety of my children against varmints is paramount. Hence the rattlesnake and mountain lion questions I’ve posed to fellow land owners near our ranch.)

2) High speed internet (if I don’t have this, I’m toast.)

3) Consistent cell service (not AS important as internet, but still necessary.)

4) Cost of the “can’t do without” stuff (if I have to spend $100K for the power, water and septic… then we might as well hang it up now.)

Regarding safety, I’ve looked into life flight options, 911 and the nearest ambulance response…etc. I feel confident that we can get someone to medical attention well within 1 hour, which is kind of the cut off for safe snakebite care. That coupled with the very low chances of a snakebite happening (and almost no chance of seeing a mountain lion) and proper education for my girls, I think we can move past that particular show stopper. (Allison, my wife, on the other hand, has been overly fretting about that issue. But I wouldn’t expect anything less. She’s a mom.)

I’m looking into cell booster kits that can bring in a weak cell signal and make it stronger, for the internet and cell issue.

I’m also looking into satellite internet service. Pricey, but having two ways to connect (cell and satellite) will give me some peace of mind.

Looking into the various septic solutions for off grid living. So far, we have compost, incinerator and traditional septic tank. There are pluses and minuses to each. Any pro and con advice on this would be appreciated.

Water is probably the most important problem yet the easiest to solve. For normal living (where the President is sane and the nation hasn’t gone to hell in a hand basket where we have to fend for ourselves), you just plop a tank down somewhere and have water trucked in by the thousands of gallons and call it a day. Use some solar heating for the hot water…etc. However, if the SHTF (term used by preppers to denote that the feces has hit the fan and chaos reigns), then the water solution becomes an issue. That’s why I’ll work on having a rainwater catchment back up plan, but that can be done AFTER we move in. Not a high priority.

Then we come to what is probably the most expensive and potentially weakest link in our plan to move off grid. The power issue. This requires some very good decision making because every solution is most likely your biggest investment and you don’t want to choose incorrectly. There are 4 options, of which all or various combinations of each, can be selected. We have solar (PV), wind, propane and generator. All feeding into a battery system. And the generator can be run by propane or diesel (regular gas isn’t really a smart decision for off grid gensets, so that’s not being considered.) For this choice, I have to consult some experts which I am LOATHE to do since experts typically cost money. And I love keeping money in my hands and hate giving it to others. I’m funny that way. Ha!

So, those are the current hurdles I’m dealing with. If you have a super drug that will allow me to jump over my hurdles in a single bound, feel free to share it. 🙂

Meantime, I’m pressing onward…

Welcome to Grid Rid

This is the first post of what I hope will be an interesting blogumentary about getting rid of the grid. (Hence the not altogether clever name of the blog and web address.)

I’m going to blog, in detail, my family’s move (two young daughters and a wife) from a 5100 sq ft home in Gilbert, AZ to a 1000 sq ft cabin (not yet built) on our 40 acre piece of land in NE Arizona. (I’m actually going to build a smaller cabin first, for practice.) We’ll be completely off grid as our property is no where near electricity or any other modern amenity. The nearest town is St John’s, which is about a 30 minute drive away. Cell service is spotty to none and there is no well or water source. Nothing. It’s simply a beautiful piece of land, waiting to receive our guiding hands.

My goal is to have a small cabin, power, toilet, water and high speed internet, all in working order, by August 1st of 2013. That is 0 to livable in exactly 1 year.

My experience in such matters? None. Zero. I am an entrepreneur. I have exactly no skills in building, power creation, water management or any other skill that will be required in the next year.

God help us all. 🙂

The picture you see here on the blog, in the background, is a view from what we call the “gulch” on our property. Over time, you’ll be able to recognize the different features of our ranch, of which there are many and varied.

Anyway, here goes nothing. As they say in showbiz… stay tuned!