Simply Living in a Small Rustic Cabin

by Kent Griswold on May 6th, 2011. 57 Comments
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by Gabrielle Songe

Each day I am blessed to awaken in my little cabin-on-wheels to look out the sliding glass doors at the morning sky dawning under the pitched roof.

For years, I have wanted a rustic home. Walking up to the cabin immediately after delivery I was struck by the fragrance of cedar emitted from the exterior siding. Following that initial impression I entered and noticed the scent of new wood throughout.

I still get tickled coming in and out of a room, looking around at the rough, pine trim everywhere, around doors, windows and corners giving the cabin the rustic appearance I long desired.

The central heat and air is all contained in an outside package unit save for a small heater in the living room that is manufactured to look like a corner fireplace below an entertainment center. In my younger years I would have scoffed at a “fake” fireplace. However, during cold winter nights it was joyful to turn on the flame and embers along with the heat. Now, I would not trade my fireplace replica for any other heater.

In the beginning with an eye on economy I eliminated the loft from my floor plan and later decided to include it—a wise choice. The loft houses my 10 rescued cats and kittens. My felines come downstairs in mini-family groups to eat, play and for their constitutional.

The loft also serves the crucial function of storage. I cannot imagine living without it since space is at such a premium.

In preparation for moving to my cabin, which is now on an axle, tied down and slightly less than 400 square feet, I discarded nonessential pieces of furniture and other belongings. Whatever does not fit in the smattering of drawers and cabinets resides in plastic containers. And there are a lot of plastic containers.

Actually I have only been living simply in this small space for six weeks. So there are still some boxes on the porch and many in the bedroom for which the contents have yet to find a permanent place. A few pieces of furniture are needed, such as a chest of drawers and a desk. Oh, yes, and some steps built to enter and exit the cabin. In due time, they will arrive. Of that I am certain, but more about that later.

Instead of having shelves built in the pine cabinets I opted for space savers, leaving one tall, narrow cabinet as a catch-all. In it are leads and a brush for the horses, newspapers for my 17 year old calico, Patches, who refuses to use litter, as well as plastic bowls with lids that just would not fit anywhere else.

Patches resides on a high place in the bedroom with my two cat-friendly dogs, Sam and Peek, sharing the floor. There is no bed in the bedroom. So it is a misnomer to call it such. There is a closet with a built-in set of drawers and mirrored doors that Peek thinks are there just for her to stare at herself.

I sleep on a futon in the living room that is a bed at night and a couch by day, or soon will be once it is assembled. You, got that right? Currently I am sleeping on the futon mattress on the living room floor.

Speaking of floors, because I have 13 indoor pets rather than oak flooring the manufacturer put in wood-grain linoleum. It is easy to sweep and to mop up spills, which goes to living simply. Oh, not the 13 indoor animals, but sweeping, mopping and cleaning surfaces since it only takes minutes to go from one end to the other of the cabin hitting all the high and low spots.

You see this is my second chance, a fresh start. After a couple of rounds of unemployment I lost the farm and searched ceaselessly for a job and a new home to house all my pals and me. Then miraculously an opportunity opened two doors down from us that included space for three adult bovines and two horses—all pets.

An older mobile home had to be removed from a one-acre lot with existing manufactured homes and long-term tenants on either side of it. Once that was accomplished, a new residence needed to be placed there.

Around that time I found Kent Griswold’s Tiny House Blog and began looking at manufacturers of small cabins. Since I am a baby boomer receiving social security, the recent foreclosure and unemployment proved a major challenge in acquiring financing.

By God’s grace, personal friends provided the funds with reasonable repayment terms and manufacture of the cabin began January 11. A month later it was delivered a day after a six-inch snow. The ground had to dry before positioning it on the lot and tie-down could occur. Next electrical, plumbing, heating and air conditioning needed to be installed, all at an expense—once again provided serendipitously or more accurately by a series of miracles.

We had a deadline to be moved from our former farm by 5:00 p.m. March 18. With only a month out from that date I created a plan and worked long hours clearing brambles, refuse and limbs from the land, fencing, moving pets and belongings, and succeeded, albeit exhausted, 20 pounds lighter and grateful.

Now my aspiration is to provide a good life for all 18 animals in my care through my blog site.

—A full-time writer and photographer residing in rural West Tennessee, Gabrielle Songe posts essays and photos of her animals, nature and her reflections at her blog site, The Brahma and me http://1writersdevotion.wordpress.com/.

I would like to acknowledge Gabrielle’s hardship as it must have been awful for her to lose her farm. Her resilience is outstanding and her ability to to start again with 18 animals is fantastic! Thank you Gabrielle for sharing your story and I wish you good luck in your future projects. —Kent

57 Responses to “Simply Living in a Small Rustic Cabin”

  1. What a story of hope and courage…

    • Thank you, Kate, for your comment. Warm regards, g.

      • ginmar says:

        Wood grain linoleum? Tell me more! I have critters, too—-the neighborhood kids know who the sucker on the block is—-and that sounds like it’s attractive and easy to clean. Also: the comedy potential is high.

        Good luck to you and the fuzzies.

        • Ginmar, You made me chuckle. Wish I could provide you the brand name of the flooring but don’t know what the manufacturer used. In photos it looked real and does so in life. It wears well but then we have only been here a short time. Critters slide and skid well on it too!

          • ginmar says:

            Oh, I have a big fat fluffy blue-eyed kitty who’s got so few brain cells that when he turns his head really fast you can hear the one or two that he’s got rattling. Occasionally he gets frightened by something horrible, like a proton or maybe a purely theoretical particle, and he abruptly turns into fuzzrocket at the speed of light. He doesn’t corner, well, though, but hey, he’s like a big fluffy dust mop so I look at it as extra floor sweeping that I don’t have to do. When he wipes out all I see is a panicked ball of white fluff with one huge gray tail that’s as big as a whole nother cat. His tail is so big that it looks like he’s being chased by a squirrel all the time. At times, I swear, I think that’s what he thinks, because sometimes he acts surprised like it’s there. So the floors would just pay for themselves in belly laughs, because my other kitties are not quite as….well, let’s say impaired.

        • Heather says:

          Ginmar, you can get the vinyl wood-grain flooring at Home Depot – it’s called Allure Trafficmaster (there are probably other brands too). We have it in a basement room. Guaranteed for 25 years, reasonable price, great stuff.

    • I liked this until I saw the animals in a cage. i very much feel a sadness for the poor things.

  2. mark a says:

    Wow!

    Gorgeous home and so many things to be thankful for. Seems like a very happy space for you and the your freinds.

    You must feel blessed in many ways.

  3. Zer0 says:

    Fantastic-looking living space. I hope I can set up something like that in the future.

  4. April says:

    We have only two dogs in our tiny house, so I imagine she has her hands full but I think her heart and resourcefulness with carry her a long way. Neat story to feature. Headed over to her blog to learn more!

    • April says:

      I think I would follow along for the animal story, but it (her blog) is too saturated with religion for me… oh well, I wish her luck!

      • April, Thank you for your comment. For years all of my writing was very secular and only recently I stepped out to reveal more about myself. I appreciate your honest opinion. Warmly, g.

  5. Patti says:

    Can we be neighbors?

    Just me and my own three cats in a simple, tiny home of our own = my goal

    Was your house built from a kit? I love the single-story layout, with only a loft as “upper” part

    • Patti, After searching the Internet for log and cedar-sided cabins I found a manufacturer in New York who was too far from me in Tennessee. He referred me to the Recreational Park Trailer Industry Association (RPTIA) and their member list where I found two companies located in the southern U.S. that manufacture recreational park trailer cabins. I selected Pinnacle Park Homes to build and deliver my cabin-on-wheels as a finished product save for the electrical and plumbing hook-up and HVAC unit and installation.

  6. Holly says:

    Can you provide the url to Gabrielle’s blog? I’d like to get more info on her utility hook ups, including water supply as well as her gray/black water disposal holding tanks or other systems she may or may not have in place. Thanks.

    • Holly, My cabin-on-wheels is located on a one acre commercial (mobile home) lot with a mobile home on either side of me in a small rural Tenn. community backed by about four plus acres of treed land for which I have a one year option to purchase from the owner who is retired and living in Florida. There was an existing septic system and water provided by a nearby town (county seat). The electrical cooperative that serves this area added a more powerful transformer because my cabin has a water-on-demand unit that required an upgrade. I paid the cooperative $310 for labor and hired an electrical contractor for $1500 to install new cable to the cabin. Plumbing was another $300 and HVAC, which was a heating and cooling package, for $3,0000. My url is http://1writersdevotion.wordpress.com/. Warm regards, g.

  7. mike says:

    Who was the manufacturer and model? At almost 400 sq. ft. it’s the largest one I’ve seen built on a trailer…

  8. Heather says:

    Beautiful home. Thanks for sharing that with us Gabrielle and for having such a kind heart towards your fuzzy friends. :)

  9. Tagati says:

    What a great story! As another retired female who was in the same predicament (foreclosure and animal companions), I was lucky enough to find a landlord who allows animals (a very lucky find!) and moved from CA to WA.

    My dream is to have a wee home of my own and love the way you utilized the loft for cats (I have nine of my own plus four dogs). I also appreciated all the tips for modifying a home to make it more animal friendly as well.

    Good luck to you and your animal companions. Thank you so much for sharing your story!

    Namaste

  10. Joe3 says:

    I can’t improve on Kents words above, he said it well. It is a great story, as a baby boomer facing foreclosure -without animals – it warms the soul and gives me hope.

  11. Pat says:

    Wow! Such a great and inspiring story. All your critters are as lucky to have you as you are to have them. Best of everything to all of you.

  12. Linda says:

    a inspiring story full of hope & amazing courage. I have lost my home also in the past and to start again is not easy so I know what obsticles you faced. What I also found amazing is that you had people come together and loan you the money so you could get back on your feet again, there are good people still left in the world! I wish you all the best!

  13. Tim says:

    Love your Tiny Home, I could see myself living in one that size with no problems, although I want mine to be much futher north in Maine…I like snow, and lobster, and fried clams…etc…etc!

    • Tim, The first manufacturer I contacted owns Adirondack Kabins in Cherry Creek, New York. His company is listed with the Recreational Park Trailer Industry Association. Search on RPTIA member list to find a contact number. Best wishes to you, g. PS We get snow but cannot top you on the lobster.

  14. Penny says:

    Hi g, It seems there are many of us who have to start over. Isn’t it amazing how many women, particularly, are turning to tiny houses. I just wish that the movement and acceptance existed in Australia, but I did find a young couple yesterday who were asking the universe et al about others interested in tiny houses and the regulations, so perhaps now it is starting to happen here. I might win the lottery one day (have been all my life). I love your 6′ verandah – do you have a ‘cat door’ too?

    I will be thinking of you enjoying your good life and imagining the ‘pets’ wonderful life with you.

    Love, Penny (in Lithgow, Australia

    • Penny, Because of the size it is so easy to care for, and I remember a time when big and bigger held such a fascination for me yet no longer does. I feel much closer to nature in the cabin and when the sun shines through the windows and lights the livingroom it is spectacular.

      The cabin is 39X12 plus the six foot porch. This model can be built with eight or 10 foot porches.

  15. Penny says:

    g, What are the measurements of your cottage?, Penny

    • Penny, as mentioned the outside dimensions are 39X12 in feet excluding the 6 foot porch. From walking off the rooms, the approximate sizes are: living room-kitchen combo that includes stacking washer and dryer 11X54; bathroom not quite 6X9 which includes tub and sink (one wall that sits behind the kitchen is on an angle so it is not a true 6X9); and bedroom 11X7.

      • Penny,

        BIG CORRECTION: The living room kitchen combo is 6 yards X 12 feet or 18X12. The total square footage is 396 but that, of course, is not floor space with walls, sinks, tub, oven-range etc. There is also a narrow hallway with a built-in stairway to the loft instead of a ladder.

  16. deborah says:

    Love it! As a fellow retired BB on SS I too, am living the small life on ten acres in southern AL with my three rescue dogs and three rescue cats.

    Your story will give others the courage to make the step so kudos to you!!!

    • Deborah, How delightful to learn you are living “the small life” and on 10 acres with your pets. The simplicity helps me focus on what is important in my life. Best wishes to you, g.

  17. v says:

    I like your
    FIRE
    Gabrielle….
    and your critters place in the mix! and that your cabin is your ‘tool’ in the story.
    Pls get yourself a webpage… scout google for theirs, free and keep writing. Your words are easy to read and as you can see here, there are people who are in need of the info and THAT ‘IT’ CAN BE DONE! whatcha got going for shelter for the big ‘kids’?

    • V,
      Thank you for your comments, especially about the writing which I appreciate. While not a web site, I do have a blog, The Brahma and me, hosted by wordpress at http://1writersdevotion.wordpress.com/ featuring both essays and photography about my life with the animals and inner journey. Right now trees are providing shelter for the outdoor animals. Before next winter I hope to have at the very least run-in sheds for them. In one of my posts I wrote about dreams of Shangri-La, fields of pasture for the big guys and gals. And I want to do more nature photography! Best to you, g.

  18. Kathleen says:

    This is a fantastic post, thank you for sharing it with us. This type of house on wheels would be my dream come true. Congrats!

  19. Kathleen says:

    About the kitties…I have 6 cats and I am contemplating a home on wheels similar to yours. How long did it take them to get used to the new place? Did you keep them indoors for a period of time?

    Thanks again for this post, it contains a lot of great information!

    • Kathleen, All the cats and kittens and two dogs live in the cabin with me. 10 cats and kittens room in the loft. My 17 yo calico sits high above my two under 50# cat-friendly dogs in the bedroom. The loft crew come out to play and eat in groups in the living room. The other three eat in their bedroom. When we have lightning and thunderstorms(frequently during this time of the year) the dogs join me in the living room because Peek is terrified of storms. Her full name is Peek-a-boo named for her timidity.

  20. Cristy says:

    Gabrielle, thank you so much for your story. I am also a baby-boomer (no SS yet), a woman losing my townhouse to foreclosure,and having to declare bankruptcy. Losing the 3-bedroom house never bothered me–way too much space, especially when I discovered the Tiny House blog, and discovered that indeed I am not the only person in the world who has dreamed since childhood about a tiny home. I had to downsize considerably, as I moved from a 1400 sf place to a 600 sf apt. The feeling was like taking a deep breath as I let go of so much stuff, and the need/greed that made me want more and more. We are kindred spirits, also, in our deep love for animals–I would so much rather share my space with them than with many of the people that I know. But more about that later. Someday, I will have my tiny house, either straw bale or manufactured like yours. Meanwhile I’ll dream of the loft that I can share with my furry kids and the sunlight coming through the windows (esp. the round one, which will be over the door). Thank you, for your post; I was on the verge of entering the abyss of self-pity, when I read it, and–instead of bitter why-me tears, they were tears of joy and gratitude. I live in NC, and hope to meet you someday. – Cristy

  21. Cristy, You have already done some of the most difficult work of letting go of unnecessary “things” moving from 1400 SF to 600 SF. Much success to you in owning your own tiny home with a loft and a round window above the door. Best wishes, g.

  22. Rando says:

    I really like your new home! We’re in the same region, so would you mind me asking who manufactured your home? I live east of Atlanta but the property I want to put the cabin on is 45 minutes south of Chattanooga. Thanks

  23. Rando, You are fortunate because Pinnacle Park Homes, the manufacturer, is in southern Georgia close to the FL panhandle. You might be able to visit in person. They have built a cabin for the Nashville area as well. Best wishes, g.

  24. Vandy Anderman says:

    Love your house, Gabrielle! I’ve recently become very interested in a small home. My husband died 6 years ago, and I can’t retire for about 10 more years. I have about 7 more years until my 1170 sq foot home is paid for. My son recently got married and moved away. At home it’s just me, two picky cats, and two young chihuahuas who are better mouse hunters than are my cats.
    I really like a lot about your house… the stairs instead of ladder would be needed by me too. I’m willing to give up a lot of things, but one thing I really want is a good sized spa tub! I had seen a picture of a smaller hot tub on a small porch of a little house a few months back, and realized I could do that instead of a large tub.
    I also love fireplaces, but have found myself more willing over the past few years for a “pretend” fireplace.
    Vandy

  25. I was just reading that in Calif desert they are not allowing Rv Park models to reside on private property and can’t have solar? I’d like to be off grid in eastern TN or western NC area, where do you suggest looking. I’d like to see RV PArk Communities created in the east of Miss River.

  26. Angela says:

    Gabrielle,
    I have been reading your blog and looking at your photos since I met you today. What a joy and inspiration you are! Thank you for sharing your life…your home and your babies…with us! Kindest regards, Angela

  27. William Garrison says:

    Where can you buy one of these tiny homes to put on my lot in N,E FL

  28. Erleen says:

    How much and where do I purchase? The two things
    I am interested in, you don’t in the ad.

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