Thursday, August 27, 2015

Tiny Home/Land Report: From Overwhelmed to Confident (in about 4 hours)

I admit that I have been dragging my heels most of the summer, not doing much of anything about my land, except thinking about it. (And by thinking, what I really mean is worrying, fussing and spinning my wheels).
A couple of weeks ago, I decided that I needed to accept that I wasn't going to be anywhere near ready to over-winter in my tiny home this year. So, I began the hunt for a winter rental (and I think I've got that just about sorted, which is good).

Three days ago, I called a (known and trusted) contractor about putting in a driveway. Two days ago, he and I went to look at my land together. I explained my two or three tentative plans, we ixnayed one of the ideas but didn't see any major impediments to either of the other two. The estimate is forthcoming. The deciding factor between the two plans will be cost. Depending on how much money will need to be spent, I will decide on Plan A or Plan B and also whether I can afford to proceed this fall or if I will have to wait for the spring.


After the meeting about the driveway the night before, I woke up yesterday morning feeling completely overwhelmed. I had intended to go to the municipal planning department to talk about building permits, but I just couldn't face it, even though I know I have a two-page list of questions I need to ask, trying to narrow down my options.

As I understand it, in my municipality, if I leave my house on wheels, I don't need to get a building permit to put it on the land and it doesn't have to meet code. The first building I put on the land, regardless of its size, does need a building permit and does need to meet the code, but anything after that does not, as long as it is smaller than 210 square feet.

One of the biggest decisions I face is what kind of building, if any, I want to put on my land.

Do I want to put a building on my land that is low-serviced? Basically a combo garage/firewood storage space, with on-grid electricity, but no heat or running water? Or do I want to build a small "water house" with running hot and cold water, a kitchenette, bathroom and washing machine hook-up (with either a full septic system or a greywater system and composting toilet)? Or do I want to build a full-on, rooted-to-the-earth tiny house with power, heat, running hot and cold water – everything contained in one place. Or would I rather not build anything at all and just perch on the land in my current tiny home either three seasons a year or year round (with the latter option obviously requiring a number of winterization measures).

Each of these options will entail very different things in terms of permits and cost.

And I don't know what I'm doing. I've never done this before so I'm learning at a great rate. If I'm not careful I get overwhelmed and I feel very lost and scared.

It's a big challenge for me to go slow, not get ahead of myself or try to take on too much at once.

And while I'm doing this project solo, by and for myself, it's important for me to remember that I don't have to do it alone.

Yesterday was a perfect reminder of that. confident.

After my dismal, stressed-out morning yesterday, I was in town in the afternoon, running errands, when my phone rang. The call was from a couple of friends for whom I had done a substantial favour earlier in the summer. They had offered to return the favour with a day of work (meaning two person days of work – an agreement that seemed more than fair to me, especially since they are super-handy and work in the field of forest ecology, offering skills that I really need). I understood that they were having a busy summer and that our work party would need to wait until late summer, or even early fall.

When they called yesterday, my friends said they were unexpectedly free for the afternoon and since it wasn't too sweltering hot to work, was I available to come take a look at my land? I was mostly hoping for their knowledgeable advice about what trees to cut and what not to cut, but I got way more than I was hoping for! They brought a chainsaw and after four hours of work, we had cut out and cleared about half of the length of the planned driveway at a width of 16 feet!

It was an amazing transformation! My land has not been cleared or tended in any way in a long time. It is a stand of natural, mature forest – very little undergrowth, lots of standing and fallen dead wood. I find it remarkably beautiful, but what I was not prepared for is how much more beautiful it is with a swath of it cut out. The space for the driveway is now framed and canopied by trees. The trees look much taller now that one can stand back and really get a look at them.
The clearing sets off the trees to better advantage!
Look how tall and majestic they are!

And the things I learned about forest ecology were useful and fascinating. We selected the path for the driveway with an eye to preserving certain trees – favouring hardwoods (which are less common on my land) and a couple of beautiful old, super-straight tamaracks and pines. We mostly took out the small, crappy fir trees, many of which were standing dead anyway from a lack of light under the canopy of taller trees.

My friends explained how brush piles and piles of dead wood act as nourishment for existing trees and how they could be positioned to regulate water drainage on the property. And that I could transplant baby trees from the middle of the planned driveway to other spots on the property, where they will get more light – and not be decimated by the excavators.

Plus, we piled up a good start on next year's firewood!

One of several piles of firewood,
ready to be bucked up!

All in all, it was an extremely satisfying, informative, fun and uplifting afternoon!

In one short afternoon, I went from feeling stuck and stymied about my land to hopeful and heart-lifted.

It is very good to have good friends.

I am very, very grateful.

And I am strongly reminded to be open to receiving help when it's being offered.

Where once there were only trees...

PS: because our work party had been planned so spontaneously, I had to take off around 6:15 pm to keep a commitment with some friends who are visiting from out of town. My friends said they would continue cutting and clearing for another half-hour or so. When I went back today to take the pictures I had forgotten to take for this blog post, I was amazed to see how much more they had done. They must have stayed much longer than a half hour, and they cleared about the same distance again that we had cleared in the first four hours. I am amazed and humbled by their hard work, efficiency, diligence and their generosity with their work and talents. 

And I am even more grateful than I was yesterday, if that is even possible. 

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