Monday, August 10, 2009

Rolling home

When I first decided to move to Oregon to be near my mother after my dad died, I wanted to camp until the Virginia house sold. My brother and daughter came out here with me and everyone told me camping was a very bad idea. My gut feeling that I couldn't spend money on anything but land (since I refused to move without my goats and livestock guard dog) was correct, though. Now I am deeply in debt because the Virginia house finally sold at a loss 18 months after I put it on the market, I renovated the house and moved out here on credit cards expecting the house to sell faster and my income here is less than a quarter of what it was in Virginia.

My brother moved back to Virginia and my daughter moved out. NOW I AM ALONE, AND I'M GOING CAMPING!!!

I should be bummed, I guess. I have to leave the farm because I can't pay the rent and I can't afford to buy it. I already planted fruit trees and shrubs and put up a lot of fence. But I am mysteriously not bummed. Twice in Richmond I had a roof over my head but was without food, water, electricity and heat for several months. This time I have the ability to plan and make it an enjoyable learning experience.

The only thing I feel bad about is that a relative owns the house I currently live in and I promised to buy it. 2 years later with the housing market still in a crisis, I wish I could keep my promise but will be leaving her with a house that will not sell for what it is worth.

Otherwise I feel ok. Call it my mid-life crisis. I'm actually excited to be almost 44 years old and about to build two tiny houses on wheels - one for the chickens and one for me. The big dog will come with me. The little one will probably have to find a new home because he freaks when he is confined. He was formerly abused. Now he is spoiled rotten but he still remembers the abuse sometimes and shreds walls. Once I sell or give away a few, my favorite goats will fit in the pen I put in the back of my truck. I desperately need to reduce my flock of chickens and ducks, too.

I don't have to move for a few months, which is good, because I have no idea where I am going except that it has to reasonably close to the store. I have the time to source materials for the houses, find the camera that is around here somewhere and take pictures to show progress.

I am determined to build the chicken house for free. I have a 4x8 trailer to build it on and some scrap wood, including pallets. My own house will hopefully be on a 6x10 trailer, but if I can't find one for a good price, I can do 4x8. I have drawn plans for both sizes using minimal lumber cuts and standard sized showers, doors, counters and a composting toilet. In the smaller version the bathroom and kitchen sink are one and the same. In the larger version I have two sinks, both draining to outside. Since these classify as trailers, and I live in Oregon, they don't need a home building permit or to pass a vehicle inspection. I'll wire some lights to the back on a toggle switch to my truck brake lights. My house will have two layers of plywood and bubble wrap between for insulation. Before you laugh, bubble wrap is used by the greenhouse industry, so why not here? And I'm very allergic to most types of standard insulation. A gambrel roof will allow more room in the sleeping loft.

I was originally looking at Cabella's outfitter tents, but a complete set up with solar showers, a stove, etc, is $2,000 and if I brought the little dog that freaks, I could count on it being shredded. I'd also have to put up cattle panel around the outside to keep the goats from tasting and scratching themselves on it. I can build a much warmer rolling home for $1400 if I am careful where I source the wood and fixtures. (The composting toilet is expensive and not figured in either estimate.)

Moreover, I am only spending one day in Portland instead of attending all three days of the Joel Salatin event because I simply can not afford the trip. I would pay more gas hauling a home behind me, but I could park in a parking lot and skip the hotel room charges. Try doing THAT with an outfitter tent.

I thought I had made up the idea of a rolling home on a trailer myself, but it turns out there are a couple COMPANIES that build them now. One started after Katrina, which makes total sense to me. Those FEMA trailers were hard to get and were filled with formadehyde and asbestos. (Don't you wish you could put some of the poor displaced people in the homes of FEMA managers and put the FEMA managers in those trailers? Just for a few nights?) has lots of pictures of various projects all over the country.

Here are the basics:
The bottom is a utility trailer, which can be purchased inexpensively on Craig's List or in a used merchandise newspaper. I'm not going to build a frame for either house, although the pictures at all show people doing that. I'm going to build complete panels under the weather protection of my current front porch - windows, doors, insulation and all. Then I will call a friend over to help me lift and attach two long sides and one short side. I will keep one end open (with temporary bracing) until I install the countertop, closet (that uses a ladder to upstairs for the door!), sink, shower, second story, etc. Then I will attach the last wall. It sounds dicey, but it will be totally sturdy - I'll have to take pictures as I build to show how.

So, what do you think? I've told a couple people who think I have lost my mind, but I personally think I have found it.


Anonymous Wardeh @ GNOWFGLINS said...

I'm really happy for you, as I told you the other day in person. I will pray for all the details to fall into place. I have seen that website before - if it is the one I remember - there's a guy who builds/designs them and there are some videos of him in his home(s). It is inspiring, for sure!

August 16, 2009 at 8:20 AM  

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