Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Small home big life--The Beginning

Hello, my name is Ben, and I live in southeast Louisiana. In the past four years I have been on a journey to create an easier life for myself. From growing a garden, raising chickens, ducks, and rabbits, to aquaponics. I just wanted to find a better, easier, healthier way to live. I guess you could say it all started in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina. After graduating college in 2005, I moved to New Orleans, to pursue a career in music and yes, for a woman. I moved in with her about two months prior to Katrina making her way through the gulf coast.  I don't have to explain what happened next. Everyone knows the tragedy the came following that storm and the hardships everyone, including myself had to go through. But I consider myself lucky that I got out in time and had safe shelter and family to turn to.

In the following months I moved a lot! From Baton Rouge to Tampa, back to NOLA. And even when back in New Orleans, we had to move from small studio apartments to FEMA hotel rooms to FEMA trailers. So pretty much during that time I lived very small. The only other time I lived smaller than that was I guess in a dorm room in college.

Growing up in central Louisiana, I lived in a middle class neighborhood in a big house. I'm not sure of the square footage of that house but it was probably over 2000 sq. ft. And don't get me wrong I loved every minute of it. We had a big back yard, a pool, you know, pretty nice stuff. I had a great place to grow up and I can't be appreciative enough to my parents for providing that place for me. In fact, at one time I know I wanted a house even bigger and better than that when I  grew up. I wanted it all! A giant house, a giant boat, multitudes of cars, motorcycles, a second home in the mountains(I still might like to have that ;) ), everything under the sun! Of course I would have to be RICH to have all of that so I was certain that one day I would be the CEO of some giant powerful corporation! Seems funny to think back to those lofty dreams but reality can hit you pretty hard sometimes.

But I also thought that maybe another way to have all of those THINGS was to become a 'rock star' to pay for all of those meaningless things. So in college I switched my major from accounting to music. Some of you are probably thinking...neither of those majors sounds like you are going to afford all of those things you want. Well, you are right, although it is possible to obtain those successes with those two backgrounds, it is highly unlikely that it will actually happen. But, alas, I marched forward. Now that you know a little about me and how I got here now, let's get to the part you are probably anxious to read about--The tiny house!

One day I was sitting in my small studio apartment on St. Charles Ave., and I was worried about money and gas was up to like $4 a gallon and I was trying to figure out a way to save as much money as possible. I was budgeting, hyper-miling on my commutes, conserving water use and electricity. I was trying to do everything I could to save money. After all I was just a poor music teacher that basically lived from paycheck to paycheck while at the same time trying to pay off debts like credit cards and student loans. I was just sitting there saying to myself, "Why is this(life) got to be so hard? It doesn't have to be this way."  I thought about how people used to live 200 years ago. Sure it was a difficult life compared to now but at least there was more individual liberty and the idea of manifest destiny was still in their hopes and dreams. Then it clicked! I should start growing my own food! So I immediately started looking for a different place to live so that I could have a small garden to grow vegetables.

Well, I found a nice little house with about a tenth acre backyard and started digging and planting. I was successful for some things and other times I failed miserably but it was a learning experience for me because I had never been taught how to garden. I had to learn everything from scratch, or as I like to call it youtube! So for the past few years I was content with gardening and I got chicken for eggs. It was very satisfying! But that introduction to a more sustainable life was all I needed to snowball me towards figuring out an even better way to live. More aware now of the way things use to be and how I knew in my heart that it was the way we needed to live now, I dove deeper into what I needed to do next to get me to a point where I felt more comfortable in life. And then I discovered the tiny house on wheels. Jay Shafer's tumbleweed house was the first one that I saw on youtube. I was in love with that house from that moment on and have been dreaming and planning for the time I could get started on my own project. I wanted so bad to reduce some of my bills, reduce more of my consumption, and be outside more to grow food and raise animals to live a more sustainable, happier, more free lifestyle.

So that pretty much catches you up to where I am now. I have just started my tiny house project with my dad. We began welding the frame for the trailer and acquired the axles over the 2011 Christmas holidays. It is going to be a long project but the end result will be so amazing I just can't wait. I have been researching extensively every single tiny house resource I can get my hands on and have almost narrowed down what the final design is going to look like. Most people that are building tiny houses struggle with a place to put it but I will have a spot to put mine and enough space to have my small farm. So one day I can live in my small home on my small farm living a very big, enjoyable, sustainable life!

17 comments:

  1. Ben, this is amazing. Keep the faith!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Very interesting! I would love to follow your blog. Is there a way to subscribe?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think I got the rss feed working. Try to subscrie and let me know if it worked.

      Delete
    2. Yes, now I can keep up regularly!

      Delete
  3. I love this Ben, please keep us posted. If you need a photographer to come by and take pictures of you and Jim, I happily volunteer!!! I'm pretty good at it too, I have a good "eye" for photography... and I'm cheap, actually free!!! lol Karen Gauthier

    ReplyDelete
  4. Ben you have a great attitude. My husband and I built our entire house with our two hands and then turned around and built a wheelchair accessible home for my parents on our farm. The ownership is priceless. Although our home is not "small" it isn't a McMansion by any means. There are days we would like to downsize but obligations have but that idea on hold.
    Keep going Ben what you are doing is fantastic.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Why is the tiny house on wheels such a popular choice? Why not just a small house on a foundation? Is it a zoning thing?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Its a permit thing. It is technically classified as a camper trailer. Some people can get there houses built on a regular foundation but the codes are different in every community. Some communities require a house to be no less than 900 sq ft. So building it on wheels leaves you free to build as small as you want. Its just hard for most people to find a place to park it outside of rv parks. Plus permits for regular house can be costly. A tiny house on wheels all you have to do is register the trailer.

      Delete
  6. Great to see someone else in Louisiana interested in tiny homes! I plan on starting mine in about year or year and a half. I’m interested to see how the trailer your building works out , I’ve been trying to decide if I should build one or buy one . I live in Pride, it’s a little north of Baton Rouge. Good luck man , make it look amazing.
    Stephen B.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, good luck with your house! It seems like many people in south louisiana would want a tiny house on wheels so they could evacuate from hurricanes! Time to start changing peoples minds! Spread da word!

      Delete
  7. Very stoked to find your blog and very similar to my plans and goals in sustainability! Will following your progress for sure!

    ReplyDelete
  8. I have been dreaming of building my own tiny house since I saw Dee Williams' little house on a few months ago. So I can't sleep at night either thinking of how it's going to be mine and where I'm going to put the wood stove and the door, how many windows I'll have...well I can't wait to start building it!

    ReplyDelete
  9. So happy to have found your site! I will be following you for sure! It's nice to see someone else is crazy enough to redo a trailer! Good luck!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I checked out you blog and it seems we have similar projects going on. I didn't redo the trailer though, I built it from scratch. Looks like we are on the same page with the pallet ideas. My wall frames are all pallets and I will have that post up soon. Good luck on your project!

      Delete