Guest post by Walt Barrett (Be sure and watch the video at the end of the post)
I have been writing about micro homes, solar, and energy efficient homes for 35 years. People never really paid much attention to any of it, and my Internet Blogs have gone virtually unnoticed for years. Recently, however, I have started receiving email from people who have read my articles about solar powered autonomous micro homes. Many of them are simply looking to down size, which I happen to think is a great idea, unless you have tons of money to save towards your future. The other people that have written to me have no place to call their own at all, and very little money either. All of these people are seeking as much information as possible about building micro homes, and also the support systems needed to make them a comfortable place to reside.
When you build a micro home the savings really add up quickly. First of all, if you are handy enough you may not need a mortgage. That alone is huge! A tiny well insulated home is less expensive to heat and cool, another major savings. Because of the LED lighting systems we have developed, solar lighting is relatively inexpensive. The electricity saved on lighting enables you to downsize the number of solar electric modules needed to power the home. Believe me, this is not rocket science as some people would like you to think. I like to keep things simple.
We will be discussing the down sizing of all the systems required to run a home, and alternate ways to do laundry and store fresh food. Downsizing and green living will definitely leave you with more money in your pockets. We are also going to be discussing how to achieve zero output for all trash and waste products. Not recycling is like burning money. We will discuss all these topics in future articles. Today I am focusing on how my parents micro home. If you don’t have a lot of money, it’s a great story that should offer you some encouragement to move ahead with your dream.
My intention is to do a new series of articles and films to assist anyone who is really serious about green living, micro home living, and just plain saving money by downsizing their homes, the number of cars they own, and the size of their ever growing utility bills. I will discuss building your own home, and the various support systems as opposed to buying a completed professionally built home and related support systems. The technology is all available free on the Internet. You should also become expert in salvaging other people’s junk. I did it for years when I was a kid. I got my first bike by dump picking in the Pawtucket, RI city dump, and building it from salvaged parts, and I don’t care who knows it. When I was in the military, and very poorly paid I used to go to the base landfill where I found all kinds of wooden furniture, building material, and many other items. “A dump is a yard sale where everything is free.”
Many people that write to me are really down, and out, and depressed. I feel terrible about that, and personally, very discouraged that our own government is not doing more about it. Well we have already seen that our government is not really that concerned about our own poor, and is far more interested in meddling in the affairs of other countries. So it is up to to those of us who can to help people get started in the right direction, and give them some hope for the future.
This is my way of offering the folks who have written me some needed encouragement. I’m going to tell you a personal story about my parents who had nothing when they were married in 1929, but through hard work, and determination they managed to build a home, and eventually live a happy life.
When my parents were married in 1929 my Dad worked in the receiving room of a very large cotton thread spinning mill. My Mother was a highly skilled secretary, and seamstress, but in those days the wages were terrible, and they were lucky just to have jobs. They managed to buy a small house lot overlooking a lake. It cost $50.00. My Dad managed to pay for it by selling the rest of the lots on our dirt road to other people that were were in the same predicament as he was, and that is how we got our land. The next thing they did was to clear only the areas they needed for the house, the yard and the driveway. They left the remaining large trees in place for shade. My Mother, who was very talented in many areas including art, drew up a plan for what we now call a micro home. It was 20 feet wide and 24 feet long with a sleeping loft divided into two bed rooms. The first floor had a large room in one entire half of the first floor that we would now call a living and dining area, The other half of the first floor was mostly the kitchen with a small area that was set aside for a future bathroom. That was basically the house plan.
While all this was going on, The mill where my Dad was working purchased modernized machinery, and eliminated him, and most of the men in the receiving department. His job of 17 years was gone. That was a serious blow for the young couple just about to start construction on their little country dream home. A decision had to be made so they gave up their apartment in the city, pitched a tent on their lot and started building their home using a hand saw, a square, a level, and a hammer and nails. With noting but their bare hands and pick and shovel they set piers in the ground to set the home on temporarily to get the house livable as quickly as possible. After the house was weather tight they moved into the attic for the winter and finished the house in the following spring and summer. They shingled the house in their spare time. My mother did a lot of it. All the while my dad was taking any kind of work he could find from day to day, and traveled as far away a 400 miles to Canada to clear brush for power lines, sometimes wading up to his chest in swamps in the freezing weather. He was a tough old bird!
When the economy got better he got a job working in a commercial laundry running an extractor which is really a very large washing machine. Then he would come home, have his supper, and go dig out the foundation hole for the cellar. When the hole was finally dug by pick, shovel and wheelbarrow the two of them gathered all the loose rocks from all over the lot and walled up the cellar, removing the piers when they were finished and mortaring all the rocks as they built it. That foundation is still perfect to this day. During WWII Dad was too old for the military so he took a job working in a shipyard building liberty ships. He never made so much money in his entire life. After the war he took a job doing the maintenance for all of the public libraries in the city of Providence and remained there until his death in 1974. He was sixty-nine. Mom was 91 when she died in 1998.
I have made a video to go with this article to show you what is possible through hard work, perseverance, salvage, and a great deal of saving, and scrounging for materials including stone and timber gathered right off your own land. We always had a large garden, and chickens, ducks, rabbits and fruit trees. It all adds up at the end of the year. In future articles I will discuss building your micro home from virtually free and inexpensive building materials extracted from your own land, and don’t ever let anyone steal your dreams!
I hope you enjoy the video. It’s a true story.