Russ-Stick Farm Tiny Houses

Russ and Sherry may be familiar to anyone who reads the farming magazine and blog, Grit. The Michigan couple are known for the Russ-Stick Ramblings column which was named after their 40 acre Russ-Stick Acres farm where they live with their Alaskan and Siberian sled dogs in a small cordwood house named the Wee House. The 300 square foot Wee House has been their home for several years, but after last season’s harsh winter is due for a makeover, which they will cover in their blog.

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The Wee House in winter

Along with the Wee House, Russ and Sherry have an outhouse called the Wee Wee House, a summer kitchen, a meditation house named the Trapper, a guest house named the Bear’s Den and a small pump house—all built by Russ. All the homes are heated by wood stoves and The Bear’s Den is available for rent during winter months for $45 per night.

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Russ, one of his goats and the Trapper house

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The Bear’s Den

Russ plans to extend the Wee House to include an underground portion and even some space for their chickens and rabbits, who live on the farm with the couple’s lambs, horses, Silver Fox rabbits, goats, cows and pigs. Russ-Stick Acres also produces maple syrup, firewood and Amish made products including jams, rugs, bird houses and quilts. Their Grit column cover everything from animal husbandry to country recipes.

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Photos courtesy of Russ-Stick Acres

By Christina Nellemann for the [Tiny House Blog]

Adjusting To Simplicity

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When Peter and I first started dating, we would take weekend trips to the Eastern Sierras to go camping. We would look up at the stars and talk for hours about how we wanted to live a simpler life. We talked about one day living on a sailboat and traveling around to all the most beautiful and remote islands, far away from the hustle and bustle of the city life we had grown so accustomed to. We were both tired of living life according to what society thinks is normal. We wanted something different.

Just last year, circumstances aligned and we had the opportunity to buy a boat and leave our old jobs behind. We found our tiny floating home on the West coast of Florida and moved full steam ahead downsizing and preparing our belongings to move across the country, towing near everything we own in a small gutted pop-up trailer.

With excitement spilling out of us, Peter and I and our two big dogs spent a few days getting familiar with our new tiny home. All the storage spaces are irregular shapes and it was like a giant puzzle trying to make all of our belongings fit. Although thoughtfully engineered, each and every space on the boat was much smaller than we were used to. We stubbed our toes and hit our heads daily. Our muscles ached from climbing around like monkeys. Living compactly inside a sailboat with comparably 360 square feet of living space definitely required an adjustment to the way we function on a daily basis.

Suddenly, the reality hit that we were now living with significantly LESS STUFF. The items we couldn’t part with were stored on the other side of the country back in San Diego, and we only had the few items we brought with us. Gone were the days of walking into a closet to pick out clothes for the day, or walking out to the garage for the exact tool needed amidst a lifetime collection of useful things. We had brought the bare minimum we thought we would need to sail away for an indefinite period of time.

Immediately our boat began to feel like home. It was as if a huge wave of relief had come over us. We were less overwhelmed by superfluous space and stuff. If there was a mess on the floor, it’s because we were actively working on a project and needed those things out. There is exponentially less room on a boat for clutter and the kind of stress generated from having ‘too much’ just magically disappeared. We became more focused on the present moment and our every day experiences.

Although Peter and I had zero sailing experience, we knew that a sailboat was the most economical way to travel around to all the places we wanted to see. We didn’t let the fear of the unknown scare us away from our primary goal. We chose a simpler life and took on the challenge of learning many new skills in order to make it all happen, regardless of how scary it sounded. We learned how to generate electricity from the sun and the wind, how to make fresh water from the ocean and how to propel ourselves with the sails. We learned how to navigate with charts and communicate with long range radio signals. We learned how to read the weather and how to rely on ourselves to harvest food from the sea.

It has been amazing to see how little we actually use, and subsequently how little we actually need. We get by just fine with what we have, without being left wanting for more. We have a small home to call our own, filled with all the things that really matter and it allows us to appreciate those things even more. Sentimental items and favorite belongings carefully placed throughout our tiny home provide emotional comfort apart from the outside world. We love our little home, more than we ever thought we could.

It has been an amazing journey that is teaching us to appreciate the world and ourselves in a new way. We are growing stronger both mentally and physically, and experiencing things we never thought possible. Choosing a life less ordinary and getting back to basics has proven to be the most rewarding and amazing opportunity I’ve ever had, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything!

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5 THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN ADJUSTING TO SIMPLICITY

  1. PURPOSE – Take a moment to remember why you chose to live a simpler life. After making a major life adjustment like downsizing or moving to a smaller space, it can be difficult to adjust to such a radical change. Remind yourself on a daily basis of why you chose simplicity in the first place. Was it to eliminate stress? Was it to acquire more time for the important things? Was it to allow yourself more freedom to move around?
  2. PATIENCE – Be patient with yourself. Try to avoid getting frustrated with this new way of living. It can often be a challenge to complete a common task with fewer tools or less space than you’re used to. Just try to do your best. It will get easier with time.
  3. INTIMACY – Allow yourself to become familiar with your belongings and your home on an intimate level. Appreciation and gratitude will grow in you for both the small and large things that make up your life.
  4. CREATIVITY – Get creative with your actions and find new and innovative ways to do more with less. Challenge yourself to use what you have instead of feeling like you need to buy something new.
  5. INSPIRATION – Find inspiration from others who are successfully living a simple life. Learn the possibilities and dream big. Share your inspiration with others too. In sharing your joy and helping others find simplicity, you will ultimately find more appreciation for your own new way of life.

In what ways have you adjusted to simplicity? Leave a comment and share your inspiration!

By Jody Pountain for the [Tiny House Blog]

Living Life As A Vagabond

The word vagabond seems to carry such a negative connotation in our society. (thank you Wikipedia) It is often used to reference a drifter, a grifter, a bum, or a hobo. Truth is it is little more than a person who wanders from place to place without a settled home. That is the definition anyway. If the tiny house movement has taught anything though it is that home is more a state of mind and less a physical location. A house is not a home. A home doesn’t have to be just a house.  I like to think of a vagabond as someone who travels about needing little more than what he can carry; a sojourner by trade.

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Why Do We Look Down On Vagrancy

I have had a very hard time trying to figure out why being a vagabond is perceived as negatively as it is. I think the real difference though is deciding if you want to refer to a vagrant or a modern vagabond. The difference? A vagrant is more often than not characterized as an outsider or a person to be mistrusted. They come in to communities looking for help and charity and if they are met with passivity they steal what they want or need and are gone in the dark of night. A vagabond is a nomad or someone who feels no need to set down roots in any one particular place. They are not against working hard, making money, and moving on to the next adventure. Their lives are free of clutter and they feel no need to tie themselves down to possessions. It can even be argued that our human sense of minimalist traveling can be traced to the teachings of Jesus Christ who himself was a wanderer, resisting earthly possessions and focusing on more innate truths.

The Art Of The Vagabond

Some of the more notable vagabond groups existing at the turn of the 19th century were actors, singers, and stage musicians. They entered a community, setup their theatre, performed, and left. Their desire was to make honest money entertaining where entertainment was welcome. From this discipline Europe and North America have come to enjoy slapstick comedy, dance troupes, light opera, and even Shakespearean theatre.

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Living life as a vagabond means so much more than being a troubador or a vagrant or a bum. It is about traveling the world and interacting with the local cultures in a way that won’t break the bank. The 21st vagabond is embodying that mindset and actually taking the tiny house lifestyle to its absolute tiniest. What can be more compact than your entire life contained in less than 4000 cubic inches (or 1.7 sq.ft.) Today’s vagabond is more refined and more connected than ever before. They prefer to be called digital nomads, world travelers, or – as I like to say – location independents. The common thread though is the love of living simply, sustainably, and anywhere one fancies.

How To Vagabond

Living as a vagabond can be as easy or as difficult as you want it to be. There are three very specific areas that must be examined before taking even the first step. They are:

  • Self-Actualization. How do you see yourself? What makes you tick? When do you feel full and when do you feel empty? What encourages those feelings?
  • Finances. How can you generate some income to continue traveling?
  • Lifestyle. How are you currently living? Do you already travel to some degree or are you stepping out on faith? What tools and resources do you have to help you vagabond?

The life of a vagabond is very similar to life in a tiny house. Being confined to limited possessions brings about an unparalleled freedom. It can give you access to harsh environments, nonconventional travel arrangements, help you stay healthy, teach you about yourself, and allow you to experience the world as it is. There are no luggage straps or packing cubes to tied you down.

What do you think? Is it realistic to be a modern day vagabond? Could you “give it all up” and take to the open road with little more than what is on your back?

By Andrew M. Odom for the [Tiny House Blog]