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I handed the postmaster my yellow slip and he returned with a package from Amazon. I hadn't ordered anything so while he processed my other mail, I opened the box to find the book, Tiny Homes, Simple Shelter. I started flipping through it and was immediately enthralled turning the book so the postman could see the color glossy images of the cutest small homes, I'd ever seen. Some were made from earth, mud and other natural materials sourced on site. While others were made out of recycled scraps, repurposed materials, backyard sheds as well as old trailers, buses and gypsy wagons.

On the drive home, I was wondering how this book came to be in my possession. Perhaps it was from a publisher for whom I was doing a book review and they had sent me the book by mistake. It would have been such a coincidence to send this book, of all books, to me...I've had a fascination with cottages for as long as I can remember starting when I was eleven years old with Julie Andrews' book, Mandy. The reply from the publisher read, "no, they had not sent me the book," I rustled through the box that was now in the recycling bin to find a wee slip of paper that said, "From your brother-in-law, Mike." A smile grew across my face. So cool! I had forgotten our conversation from a few months earlier where I had told him how I wanted to build a simple, 500 sq. ft. cabin on a lovely piece of land and call it home. He, however, had remembered our chat and when he saw this book, sent it along for inspiration. Those are the best presents of all!

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Later that week, I was attending the first day of a permaculture course with Northern Nevada Permaculture and Urban Roots Garden Classrooms in Reno. The whole premise of permaculture is to create land-use systems which utilize resources in a sustainable way. Nature is permanent agriculture so in permaculture you are basically mimicking nature's design to grow food,  harness energy and live in connection to place. It is more than sustainable it is regenerative because a large part of permaculture is stacking functions which create cycles to reuse energy like the sun and water. 

People are a part of nature so in permaculture, they live in more ecological structures. When our instructor started flipping through examples of "tiny homes, simple shelters," I was even more amazed by the timing of this book in my life.

For a long time now, I've realized my life choices may never make me millions and I will more than likely have to work well past retirement age. But my life choices could be my social security! And a small, energy efficient, sustainably sourced, off-the-grid home could not only provide me a simpler life in later years but be kind to the environment as well. These homes are as beautiful as they are unique and their ingenuity is intoxicating. We talk about reducing our carbon footprint. Perhaps it starts with literally reducing the footprint upon which we live. The costs associated with eco-homes can be expensive but when scaled for smaller structures and when supplemented with natural cycles to capture energy, it can be affordable. Granted, not everyone is going to move to the country and go Daniel Boone but it does give pause for reflection. But for me, my financial future just got a whole lot brighter with this as a possibility.

2/3/2012 01:10:15 am

I'm in the same boat - have been dreaming about building a small home for almost a decade, like a hobbit home from the shire. My main concern will be finding that perfect piece of land. I imagine that's getting more and more difficult to find.

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2/3/2012 01:12:00 am

Forgot to ask, do you have your lovely piece of land yet?

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Greg In Colorado
2/23/2012 05:11:41 am

Late comment here, but just discovered your wonderful website.

Unfortunately, it is actually ILLEGAL in most parts of the US of A to build and live in a house smaller than some minimum number of square feet, say 900 or such, or that do not comply with national and local building codes, are not "engineered", etc. Building and zoning codes in most jurisdictions will not grant you a "Certificate Of Occupancy" (gov't permission to live in) without being connected to various utility systems: electricity, water, sewer, etc. Wood stoves may be banned or strictly regulated so heating must rely on The Man as well.

The Nanny State says the we may not live in a yurt, even if we want to. Sorta like that I may not consume raw milk even if I want to.

Brings to mind the great Joel Salatin's book: "Everything I Want To Do Is Illegal" since he and his family have been through this issue.

http://www.polyfacefarms.com/2011/07/25/everything-i-want-to-do-is-illegal-war-stories-from-the-local-food-front/

There have been many very creative homes built from interesting materials that been condemned and destroyed by local building nazis.

Due to the lack of new construction in my area (which has a lot of rural mountainous land), the local building and zoning thugs (inspector and officers) are actually studying satellite images of the county to locate structures that may have been built without a permit or not up to code. They levy stiff fees, penalties, and fines against the owners. This is done to generate revenue, not out of any serious concern for public safety; even though construction in the county is now at less than 5% of what it was five years ago, they have not reduced the staffing in the department by a single person. So recent times make it much more difficult to get away with unconventional building practices. Go figure.

I hope your local gov't is not like this. Go for it!

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Greg In Colorado
2/23/2012 05:12:36 am

Late comment here, but just discovered your wonderful website.

Unfortunately, it is actually ILLEGAL in most parts of the US of A to build and live in a house smaller than some minimum number of square feet, say 900 or such, or that do not comply with national and local building codes, are not "engineered", etc. Building and zoning codes in most jurisdictions will not grant you a "Certificate Of Occupancy" (gov't permission to live in) without being connected to various utility systems: electricity, water, sewer, etc. Wood stoves may be banned or strictly regulated so heating must rely on The Man as well.

The Nanny State says the we may not live in a yurt, even if we want to. Sorta like that I may not consume raw milk even if I want to.

Brings to mind the great Joel Salatin's book: "Everything I Want To Do Is Illegal" since he and his family have been through this issue.

http://www.polyfacefarms.com/2011/07/25/everything-i-want-to-do-is-illegal-war-stories-from-the-local-food-front/

There have been many very creative homes built from interesting materials that been condemned and destroyed by local building nazis.

Due to the lack of new construction in my area (which has a lot of rural mountainous land), the local building and zoning thugs (inspector and officers) are actually studying satellite images of the county to locate structures that may have been built without a permit or not up to code. They levy stiff fees, penalties, and fines against the owners. This is done to generate revenue, not out of any serious concern for public safety; even though construction in the county is now at less than 5% of what it was five years ago, they have not reduced the staffing in the department by a single person. So recent times make it much more difficult to get away with unconventional building practices. Go figure.

I hope your local gov't is not like this. Go for it!

Reply
4/7/2012 06:39:51 am

Greetings from New Zealand, i live about 10 mins drive from the film set of the Hobbit movie, so i guess u r speaking with a real hobbit. My ancestors have lived here for longer than anyone can remember, and now i am lucky enough to occupy the lands they once roamed. I too dream of living in a litlle treasure like the one featured in your article and if u go to our website you will see my familys attempt to do just that. I do not live in it yet, but am making definite headway. It is currently being used as an implement shed, when finished it will resemble your image supplied. We as a family hope to create or should i say recreate the small villiage that flourished here up until approx 1960. A number of us adhere to permaculture principles and more and more of the family are becoming interested as numbers grow so too will our progress. We are Maori, native New Zealanders so permaculture and working with our Mother Earth is very much a part of our culture. We also have restrictions placed on our building practices so at the moment we spend our time thinking of clever ways to work within these restrictions whilst still retain our desired outcomes. It is not always as easy as it sounds but we continue to strive forward. This dream you have is to be nurtured the way forward is not an easy path, but be assured it is worth the effort - i know i am currently in the middle of the same dream and believe me it is as beautiful in reality as it is in the dream. We have a term here in New Zealand "Kia Kaha" it means be strong, another is arohanui. That means big love, love your way into your future and be strong. You now have a friend who supports your dream, many in fact. I love what you are doing and i love what you are saying, the way forward is with love. The word Manawanui means big hearted so now you have a big hearted hobbit friend in New Zealand who will be sending you thoughts of love to support your very special dream. Tihei Mauri Ora, Hui e. Taiki e. Arohanui.

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9/3/2012 08:11:30 am

I am pleased to read your post. I was searching for the related topic you discussed in there. Good job. All the best.

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9/10/2013 07:19:15 pm

I will suggest it to my friends and I have read several blogs on this subject and I really love to read your posts. Thanks.



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10/25/2016 10:30:43 am

The important things to remember as we work towards a solutions is that whatever is adopted must actually solve the funding problem for the long-term, be fair and equitable, and allow people time to adjust their retirement planning.

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