A Year at Circular Lodgic

yurt and a frame

In 2012, my husband and I lived in our 18-foot yurt for seven weeks and passed the story along to Tiny House Blog. You can read that post here. Since then, we lived in the yurt in Vermont at Moosalamoo National Forest Campground and acted as campground hosts. This summer we were back in Santa Fe, enjoying another yurt summer in the Southwest, but that’s not what this story is about.

In August of 2013, we made the leap to full-time yurt living. We both left our teaching jobs so that my husband could pursue his PhD in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. We bought 9 acres of land in the area for next to nothing and set about creating an off-grid setup where we’d pump water from a creek, and someday where we hope to get our power from solar and water. We quickly renovated a tiny, mouse-infested a-frame cabin (200 square feet, but a-frames waste so much space!) on the land and erected the platform for our yurt. What we thought would be a couple weeks’ worth of work spun itself into months of disasters, urgent projects, and checklists.

insides

From building the platform in 90 degree heat and 70% humidity, to having to completely gut the cabin (surprise! there really is that much mouse piss!), to very unhappy, stressful visits from building inspectors (“yurts are not for sleeping in!”), nothing went according to plan. My father-in-law planed each piece of wood from the family tree farm for our yurt floor, and just as my husband finished putting them down, a rainstorm blew in and warped them. The building inspectors made us put in a septic system, despite having an approved composting toilet and no money. The snow came before we had the heaters all hooked up or any wood for the winter cut. EVERYONE who drove up our incredibly steep driveway swore to us that come winter, we.were.screwed. The buried water pipe that brings all our water from the creek froze, so pumping water all winter long (and remember, that’s from November to late May) meant hooking up and unrolling 100 feet of water pipe, clearing ice on the creek, boiling water to thaw the hose, and THEN pumping water. I took a dive off a loft ladder while alone, hitting my head and breaking my thumb. By the late fall, our water pipes were freezing inside our walls, so mornings might find me blow drying walls in order to get ready for work. On December 31st, before more than 300 inches of snow had insulated the cabin and yurt completely, our sewage pipe froze underneath the toilet (if you’re going to pay thousands for a septic, you might as well have a flush toilet). No plumber would come for days. We learned all about living tiny, and have oftentimes been heard sarcastically saying “tiny house!” when two humans, two poodles, and a cat get just a little too cozy.

A-frame accomplishments

If none of this sounds like “living simply in a complicated world,” that’s not lost on us, but alas, life isn’t perfect and this one is definitely a work in progress!

And despite all of the learning curves and crises, we are living our dream. We live on our own land. We survived one hell of an Upper Peninsula winter (even the locals SWEAR it’s not usually that bad). We managed to clear snow and use our driveway all winter long with very few incidents. We are living in the woods. The poodles have room to run. We are living in the round all year long. Often we fall asleep to coyote songs or owl hoots. Between the two of us, we mastered electrical, plumbing, carpentry, generator maintenance, snow removal, and many other trades. I got to know all the local hardware stores and sometimes shocked fellow shoppers with my odd knowledge of plumbing tools, despite not looking like I ought to have that knowledge. I got a teaching job and Bryan totally nailed his first year of his program. The sun started coming out more often and the snow started melting. The world eventually turned green again and I remembered that there is life again after winter.

winter

As spring approached we started thinking about how to solve some of our more irritating problems, like strapping on mukluks and a down jacket in order to go to the bathroom. Come spring, Bryan added a screen porch that attaches the two buildings, and a platform for the next addition to Circular Lodgic: a 15-foot yurt (Nonesuch Yurt) to be attached to the backside of the big yurt. This will act as our bedroom. We’ve definitely made progress without losing sight completely of the simplicity we hoped to find, and we’ve had one hell of an adventure along the way!

A very challenging year later, I’d take the leap again. After a second summer in Santa Fe, we’re looking forward to getting back home to Circular Lodgic and heading off into year two of the yurt life.

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“Surviving” with Mom in a Tiny House

Melia Robinson, a writer for The Business Insider, recently spend a three nights in a tiny house for rent in Plattsburgh, New York with her mom. Her reasons for doing it were simple, but her experience was far from ideal. What she and her mother experienced might explain why some people avoid moving into a tiny house or give up on the dream after just a short amount of time. Before buying or building your own tiny house—giving one or two of them a spin might give you better inside into the lifestyle and the best designs.

tiny-house-plattsburgh

Melia wanted to see if size really did matter and wanted to experience what a 168 square foot “micro home” could offer. She mentioned in her article that not only are tiny homes cozy and easier to manage but monthly bills would start to look like “chump change.” Melia and her mother, Vickie, rented The Little Great Camp Cabin owned by Les Delorimier near Lake Champlain. The tiny cabin has a living and dining area with a breakfast table, a small balcony with two chairs, a sleeping loft and a small bathroom with a flush camping toilet and shower. The house was built over the course of a winter for $26,000. The house has electricity and lighting and propane for cooking and heating water.

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What Melia and her mother liked best about their stay in the tiny house was the feeling of being in a treehouse and how the small space forces you to downsize. They also appreciated how close they could be to each other and how the small space also allowed them to seek out their own relaxation areas: mother took the downstairs futon and daughter took the loft. On the other hand, what became problematic was the issue of too much stuff. Each of the women’s personal items spread around the house and Melia realized that their current lifestyle did not fit into 168 square feet.

once-we-got-settled-on-day-1-i-was-surprised-by-how-little-my-mom-and-i-bumped-into-each-other-while-my-mom-curled-up-with-her-nook-on-the-futon-i-sprawled-out-in-the-lofted-bedroom-and-admired-the-view-of-the-pr

we-knew-there-would-be-hardly-any-counter-space-to-prep-dinner-on-so-we-prebaked-homemade-mac-and-cheese-and-brought-it-in-microwavable-containers-we-took-turns-reheating-as-there-wasnt-room-for-more-than-one-coo

Other issues the women faced was the feeling of being cooped up, using the more basic toilet and dealing with subsequent odors, having to take turns in the kitchen and the inability to sit or stand up in the sleeping loft. In the end, mother and daughter relished having to go back to their current homes with designated areas for sleeping, eating and going to the bathroom and admitted they were “gluttons for space.”

and-real-talk-when-someone-went-no-2-the-house-had-to-be-evacuated-the-bathrooms-proximity-to-the-kitchen-was-equally-disturbing-the-folding-door-did-not-i-repeat-did-not-seal-odors-well-and-you-had-to-wash-your- a-few-hours-later-however-our-stuff-spilled-into-disarray-were-over-packers-and-the-tiny-houses-sense-of-minimalism-didnt-necessarily-accommodate-our-lifestyle-it-made-me-uneasy-to-see-our-floor-space-disappear-s

Photos by Melia Robinson/The Business Insider

 

By Christina Nellemann for the [Tiny House Blog]

 

 

Tiny House Decisions Book Giveaway

Congratulations to our Winner Kelly Foster! Thanks everyone for your participation!

The following is an excerpt from the upcoming book Tiny House Decisions: Everything I Wish I Knew When I Built My Tiny House, by Ethan Waldman.

book 1

If you are looking into building your own tiny home, I highly recommend Ethan Waldman’s book. Ethan answers the questions you should be asking yourself from the start. He walks you through construction decisions and the infrastructure of where and how to place your home and much more. A must read.

We are giving away one complete digital edition of the book- be sure to read to the end to find out how to enter.

book 2

Is a tiny house right for you?

You may assume you’re past this question, but I think it’s an important one to cover before we go any farther. People who look at gorgeous, quaint tiny houses on Pinterest all day are not getting the full picture. Aside from all the space issues, living in a tiny house comes with its own set of challenges.The biggest one of these is that tiny houses are either explicitly illegal or fall in a legal grey area when you decide to live in one full time.

The laws in your individual municipality will be different than the laws in mine, but building a tiny house will likely mean building a structure that doesn’t fit so neatly within the letter of the law. Out of this very challenge, though, comes an opportunity: One of the big advantages to building on wheels is that your house will likely not be subject to building code, because the house is not considered a building. This is good because it allows you to build whatever you want, wherever you want, without any interference. However, when you turn around and decide to live in that same house, since it’s not considered a house by the building code, it will be subject to other rules. It’ll likely be considered a “temporary structure” or lumped into the same category as an RV or travel trailer. Do you see the paradox here? You can build the house any way you like because it’s not considered a legal “house,” but that very same rule will prevent you from living in it legally full time.

As far as I can tell, even in my rural town of Morrisville, Vermont, my tiny house falls in the same category as a “camper.” The code states that campers “shall not be used as living quarters for more than 30 days within a 12-month period.” So if you take a literal interpretation of the code, I am breaking the law. And it’s likely that your tiny house will be illegal in one way or another, too:

  • It may be legal for you to build but illegal for you to live in all year round.
  • It may be legal for you to park but illegal to hook up to utilities.
  • The way you park it may be illegal; for example, it may need to be on a concrete slab or a certain distance from other structures.
  • Your loft bedroom may be illegal due to lack of egress.
  • It may be illegal for you to build a “house” without a flush toilet.

I could go on, but I think you see the point.

I’m not saying that these laws are fair or come from a system that’s designed to encourage small or sustainable building (it’s not), but this is the reality of the current legal landscape. And it’s something that you, as a potential tiny house owner, need to be aware of.

What the legal gray area means for my tiny house, at least, is that I am unwilling to purchase land for the house. Since I rent the land that the house is on, I could always move it if I got in trouble. If I were to purchase land and then get kicked off, I could be in a situation where I’ve spent a lot of money for land that I can’t live on in my tiny house. That would not be good. Rather, if I were to purchase land, I would work with the local municipality to get a pass to put my tiny house there before I ever started building.

However cute they are, keep in mind that tiny houses are still new and the establishment is still figuring out what to do with them. I have no doubt that the tiny house movement will wind up on the “good guy” side of history, but in the meantime, you may be limited by both where and how you can live. If you’re okay with this small level of legal ambiguity, then a tiny house may very well be right for you.

That is just one small taste of over 200 pages of tiny house decisions, explained in clear language with pros and cons for each choice. Tiny House Decisions is an excellent resource!

Ethan is providing one complete digital edition, featuring multimedia extras to one reader of the tiny house blog. This includes:

  • Tiny House Decisions in PDF, Mobi, and ePub Formats
  • 8 Audio/Video interviews with leading tiny house experts
  • 12 video system tours from Ethan’s own tiny house build

Learn more about the book and all of the packages here.

Enter to Win the Complete Digital Edition

To enter the contest simply write in the Comment Section below and tell me how Tiny House Decisions will help you overcome the challenges of your dream tiny home. On Wednesday, September 17, 2014 I will announce the winner. The winner will be chosen using Randomizer where I will enter how many people entered and it will choose one randomly. I will then contact you and connect you with Ethan to to receive the book. Good luck and thank you for your continued support here at the Tiny House Blog.

Coupon Code for Tiny House Blog

Ethan is also offering a limited time launch discount to the readers of Tiny House Blog. Between now and midnight eastern time on Monday, September 22nd, you can get 15% off any of the Tiny House Decisions packages by entering the coupon code tinyhouseblog2014 at checkout!