Stay in our Amazing CONEX Tiny Home

Back in 2011, I finished my tiny guest house, built out of two forty-foot CONEX shipping containers.  It’s a comfortable, fully functional house with one-bedroom + sleeping loft, a large kitchen, living area, full bath, laundry and extra storage.  I was pleased with the results.  You can read my original post, including my floor plan design and original photos at Build a Great House for under $10,000.

We used it mostly for convenience and for family and friends that would visit from time to time.  Over the years, I couldn’t resist making lots of improvements.  That, of course added cost, but it has been so worth it.

 

My latest improvements included:

  • A generous covered deck with deck chairs and a large gas barbecue that overlooks our little pond, filled with catfish, bass and croaking bullfrogs.
  • Covered parking for one vehicle in addition to the carport that handles four of ours.
  • French doors opening onto the covered deck
  • Newly Steel Framed Massive windows looking out into the woods and creek behind the house.  The house is so much more bright ant cheery.
  • Fresh, natural re-sawn pine wood paneling in the living / dining area.  Wood is so much more cozy than corrugated steel.
  • New Kitchen Cabinet faces
  • A kitchen bar, re-purposed from a big oak conference room table salvaged from my days at Baskin-Robbins corporate.
  • A new heat pump that cools and removes humidity in the summer and makes the place toasty warm in winter.  The original low cost insulation, added to the exterior under the wood siding, has been great.
  • A gas fireplace for some extra cozy when “the weather outside is frightful”.

A few months ago, we began offering the space for short-term rental on Airbnb.   The response has been amazing.  You can see the listing at Mountain Waterfall Cabin in Eco-Village

We also listed another one bedroom log cabin at Log Cabin on Miller’s Falls

The experience hosting and getting to know lots of great people has been fabulous.  Many of the improvements were prompted by suggestions from guests.  It’s still a work in progress.  Between guest visits, I can usually be found either making improvements to one of these two houses or making plans for the Village 2.0.  that I’m calling the “Enchanted” Village on Sewanee Creek, or Enchanted Village for short.  I’ll write more about that later.

So, if you are interested in seeing what it might be like to live in a tiny home or a container house built from Conex shipping containers, come stay with us in one of our comfortably small houses.  While here, I’ll be happy to give you a tour of the Village on Sewanee Creek.  You can meet some of our self-reliant Villagers and learn about rainwater catchment systems, off-grid solar, bee-keeping, gardening, the benefits of chickens (even harvest some fresh eggs for breakfast), Ham radio communications, raising mushrooms or foraging for edible woodland foods, the slower, more satisfying life-style we enjoy here and much more.

Wander over to the amphitheater and enjoy a cookout in the fire pit under the satellite dish gazebo.   If you are a singer/song-writer or musician, this is the perfect place for a songwriter’s retreat.  How about an awesome place in nature to perform for a few appreciative music-lovers.  Our amphitheater offers a great outdoor stage with a covered backstage.  You can book it for free (as long as Villagers are invited to enjoy your music).  I’ll take you on a tour of the surrounding area where you will meet the rangers at the Visitor’s center and arrange for a guided hike through one of our eight nearby state parks.

Take a short walk along the creek to the top of fifty-foot Miller’s falls.  Then follow the gentle trail to the bottom of the falls.  Go behind the falls and enjoy contemplating God’s wonders on the natural stone bench in the grotto.

If you enjoy the unique satisfaction of being creative and building things, I can always use an extra pair of hands in the wood and welding shop.  By the way, I’m looking forward to many more years building tree houses in the enchanted village and love to share creative ideas with others who are similarly motivated by the urge to create magical things.

The Growth Mindset

One of the characteristics I look for in people for the Village is drive for continuous personal growth. People who are continuously growing are good neighbors. They are interesting to be around. Their example is uplifting and inspiring. People who struggle, persevere and overcome challenging things are confident, usually happy people. Accomplishment is fulfilling. I feel happy when I accomplish something. Unhappy when I give up.

A growth mindset, value or habit can be manifest in many ways, My focus tends toward improvement in basic creative skills and spiritual or character growth. Like a lot of people, though, I am less interested in some areas of growth, feeling that I’m just not very good at or natively talented in certain areas. Math isn’t my strong suit. I have avoided it all my life. But I believe in expanding my personal horizons, so my procrastination bothers my conscience. Recently, I started a basic online math course with Kahn Academy that can take me as far as I want to persevere – for free.

Every day, I get encouraging emails, reminding me to enjoy learning and growing. Today’s is titled, “The learning myth: Why I’ll never tell my son he’s smart” by the founder, Sal Kahn. I enjoyed reading it and watching the attached video. I hope you do too.
After reading it, I encourage you to embrace this mindset. Enroll in a Kahn Academy course. Then tell us about your experience. Let’s encourage each other to grow.
Here’s a link:

https://www.khanacademy.org/talks-and-interviews/conversations-with-sal/a/the-learning-myth-why-ill-never-tell-my-son-hes-smart

the Impact of Distance on Entitlement & Gratitude

Villagers hold, as a personal value, that we should not be dependent on government for our welfare. Dependence on distant entities breeds a sense of entitlement, which is the opposite of gratitude. There is broad agreement among clergy, philosophers, sociologists, psychologists, scientists and thinkers that gratitude is the foundation of happiness.

We should be “self-reliant”. That requires faith and work. But it does not mean that we want to be alone. In the Village, we strongly value the giving and receiving of service within a tightly knit community.

An inspiring talk by Dale G. Renlund starts with the premise that “the greater the distance between the giver and receiver, the more the receiver develops a sense of entitlement.” Here is a link. The opposite is also true.  A generous and direct exchange (both receiving and giving between close associates) is an essential element of community. It strengthens ties, builds individuals, social resiliency and enhances gratitude and happiness.

By institutionalizing the giving and receiving of service through our weekly Village Projects, we remind ourselves of these values and create good habits.

Neighbors helping build a new shed

But ritual service is not intended to fulfill all of these needs. It only serves as a catalyst for regular sharing between community members, thereby enhancing a general sense of gratitude, self-reliance and happiness.

Another value of Villagers is a deep commitment to living our religious convictions, whatever they may be. The speaker in this talk goes on to illustrate the principle of distance as it relates to entitlement vs. gratitude in our relationships with God.

We believe that social relationships are important, whether with family, neighbors or deity. In healthy relationships, there is no room for entitlement, only gratitude that brings us closer together.

New Email: grant51miller@gmail.com

The Low Road to Freedom – How Buildings Learn

This BBC-produced video showcases low cost construction and its relationship to freedom.  As a lifelong follower of Thoreau’s philosophies, this resonates with me. Freedom to build “what you need” is a principle upon which the Village on Sewanee Creek rests. 

So, we have a roughly 5,500 square foot mansion currently under construction here. It is anything but low cost. But it is what the owners decided they need. From my point of view, that’s wonderful. If you have the resources so that the building does not become a lead weight on your life, it can become such a blessing, not only to the owners, but to those they chose to share it with. In the Village, where we are collectively all about voluntary sharing, what a blessing that can be!   It’s what’s inside that counts.  I’m confident that the owners who will become the heart of this magnificent home when it is completed, will bless all of us with their generous spirit and wise hearts.

On the other extreme, we have three “Tiny Homes” that are “finished” and occupied with capacity for future expansion and creative expression as need dictates. Large or small, expensive or low cost, or somewhere in between, the range of homes in the Village expresses our core values.  One of the most important among our values is the individual freedom to build according to needs as each of us defines them. 

Out of that freedom, comes a natural diversity of expression. That diversity, or lack of sameness can be viewed in different ways.  Differences can be viewed either as low-end eyesores that depress property values or as egotistical displays of wealth on the other extreme.  As we elevate our consciousness and supress lower ego-driven impulses, these differences can be perceived as beautiful, artistic expressions of freedom.  Again, where the building is only an expression of the builder, it’s what’s inside that counts.

When our personal artistic senses are challenged by diversity, it is an opportunity to reevaluate the depth of our spirituality and the quality of our values – to dig a little deeper and discover more enlightened ways of perceiving and interacting with the world around us. 

Monday, we celebrate the 4th of July. For me, it’s a celebration of the liberated human spirit, not just freedom from political tyranny. My fondest hope is that the Village will continue to evolve and improve as a society that values freedom in its deepest, spiritual sense, thereby securing not only freedom for ourselves but fostering it for others.

Keep reading to my previous post.  You are invited to celebrate the 4th with us tomorrow, or for the rest of forever.

10th Annual Freedomfest at the Village – You’re Invited

This blog is wakening from almost two years in hybernation, but the Village has been alive, well and growing.

Join us for our 10th annual celebration of Freedom at the Village Amphitheater.

Village Amphitheater


When: Monday, July 4th, 2016 

What:

  • 3:00 Games and hanging out at the Village Commons
  • 5:00 Potluck BBQ 
  • 6:00 Entertainment by Nashville Country Singer/Songwriter, Tony Fisher
  • 8:30 Potluck Fireworks

Where:

Follow the gravel Village Commons Road from 5600 Browns Hollow Rd., Tracy City, TN. to the Village Amphitheater.

Who is invited?

Village Owners and all good, wholesome people who share our love of Freedom, Community, Nature and Sustainable Living.

Price of Admission:

  • An RSVP to Grant@SewaneeCreek.com. (So we know how many dogs and burgers to prepare)
  • A potluck side dish or dessert

BRING:

  • Lawn Chairs

    Informative, Non-partisan News

    The following is a dialog from “Friends of Sewanee Creek” a private site.

    I just discovered a website with a mission to report on issues in depth, in a non-partisan balanced manner. Check out http://www.publicintegrity.org
    At times, it seems to have a liberal bias. But on second reading, that’s probably because I have a clearly conservative bias. I like being able to read articles that at least try to present both sides, then make up my mind which side is right.
    I believe it’s time to lose the Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, Conservative, Liberal and Progressive labels. Labels are used to simplify and obscure shenanigans we would reject if not for the cloud of stupid party or generalized philosophical positioning.
    I believe in the free market, not the market that is paid for by big Corporate special interest donors to “free market” conservatives.
    From what I have read so far on The Center for Public Integrity Website, there is enough information there to make informed independent decisions. I hope you get good value from this site and will share what you learn with other thinking people here.

    ———– commented on 09/13/2014 05:55:48 am
    Grant, Some have asked me why I quoted a “Liberal Blog”, it inevitably was because it represented some “Flawed Thinking” or outright Lunacy! It is always good to read both sides! As they say, “Know Thine Enemy”…! Unfortunately the “Low Info” people never do this and continue to get their information from those “reliable sources” such as Jon Stewart or Al Sharpton or the Liberal and Biased TV News!
    LOL…!

    Grant Miller commented on 09/13/2014 08:31:50 am
    Excellent points! It’s good to know your enemy.
    Sometimes, it’s even better to discover that, as Pogo said, “we have met the enemy and it is us.”

    Grant Miller commented on 09/17/2014 08:21:16 am
    I believe that our world has been intentionally polarized. This divides grass roots power and assures that those with concentrated power at the top of the pyramid maintain a strangle hold on the masses, unchallenged, despite how egregious their sins and obviously corrupt they are. I am speaking primarily of two power bases, government and massive corporate interests. Perhaps the largest and most nefarious subset of corporate power is the military industrial complex that keeps us perpetually at war.

    When we label liberals as the enemy, or liberals label conservatives as the enemy, the divide increases, grass roots power is diluted and the real enemy is free to enslave and rob the general population.

    When I read balanced, well articulated perspectives from both sides of the divide or speak with intelligent representatives of either side, I find an amazing amount of agreement on the core problems, causes and perpetrators. Differences are usually found in proposed solutions that come out of differing world views. By listening carefully to opposing views, I often discover insights that I had been blinded to because of labels, biases and ignorance.

    The world is a highly complex place. The more I learn the more convinced I am that I understand very little. In business, I was once counseled by an associate (who incidentally held a liberal perspective) to “stay in learning mode as long as possible”. I think that is a fairly accurate definition of the word humility and I have found it to be wise counsel, albeit difficult to follow.

    One of my objectives in the Village is to heal divides and increase power at the grass roots through building community. That is happening within our tiny Village as we are open to civil, intelligent exploration of opposing ideas. As we practice this, our influence spills out of the Village to the larger community like ripples in a pond.

    Let’s avoid demonizing people who hold opposing views. If their views make them an enemy, we will not defeat that enemy by force of labels. The only way to defeat an idea is with a better idea. Better ideas are never effectively delivered by shouting across a divide, but through clear logic, respect, patience and love, unfeigned.

    This, I believe, is what Christ taught by parables and example.

    The Value of Community – Mennonite Perspective

    From a distance, I have admired Amish and Mennonite communities. Our Friday project tradition is loosely borrowed from the iconic Amish barn raising. I have admired them when they occasionally hit the news with a story where the community has pulled together to publicly forgive the perpetrator of some horrific crime against them.

    In Paul Born’s article, Deepening Community: The Joy of Togetherness, I was interested to read the perspective of one Mennonite leader on the importance of community, what it is, how it benefits us, and how it is built. I was drawn into the article by his description of how difficult community can be and why a part of us finds community inconvenient, invasive and unwelcome. Life is often about finding a balance and that balance point is dynamic and different for everyone. That’s why, in building the Village, I have tried to attract people who have a desire for close community. We cultivate that desire through our traditions of regular social and shared work events, but avoid any and all coercion to participate. This establishes a baseline culture of voluntary community and cooperation, but allows each person the freedom to seek their own balance without social pressure. We govern ourselves by broad principles, but few rules. While consensus is desireable, there is room for differences because of the importance we place on private ownership and control of private property.

    Recently the topic of “like-mindedness” was raised again in our community bulletin board. Some of us acknowledged our discomfort with the term. But an underlying set of shared values is fundamental to a cohesive community. In many “intentional communities” those values are provided by religious faith in a codified set of doctrines provided by a charismatic leader. My observation is that when broad principles are distilled into ever finer sets of rules by which members are expected to live, the overwhelming social tendency is to judge one another harshly. Rules meant to perfect us, chafe and bind. Soon, the burden is more than we are willing to bear. The ties that bind, bind us down into socially unbearable servitude. One of the central messages of the New Testament is about Jesus’ struggle against the Pharisees and Saducees who had reduced the law of Moses to a state of hypocrisy and judgementalism based on rules for virtually every action, every choice. We see the same impulses in today’s freedom movement, rejecting “nanny state” government’s exponentially growing body of law that attempts to regulate everything.

    Over time, a culture of the Village on Sewanee Creek has emerged with identifiable characteristics. I will attempt to describe what I see. People who “fit” in the Village, have a strong sense of self but are unselfish. They desire to give unselfishly, but expect others to reciprocate in kind. Because they want to be generous, they are long-suffering and forgiving. But over the long term, if generosity is not reciprocated, they do not feel an obligation to give disproportionately. Takers are not encouraged. They gradually find themselves isolated by their choices. All must give in proportion to what they receive. This is a principle of human nature, perhaps a part of natural law.

    Villagers have an independent streak and enjoy their private space. They enjoy the company of others, but they are not offended or feel excluded if not invited to participate in a private dinner or a project initiated by other members of the community.

    Villagers are interested in being creative. They like to make and build things. Often, we start out lacking the skills or esthetic sense necessary to build masterpieces, but we want to become better.

    A sense of humility seems to be a necessary characteristic. Working in community affords each of us an opportunity to learn from others and improve our practical skills. In our Friday projects, I have observed a great deal of patience for those who have little in the way of practical skills, but humbly seek to learn and improve. Patience stretches thin for people who are self-centered, arrogant, pushy or argumentative. It is most obvious when one who lacks skills arrogantly refuses to accept advice from those who have mastered those skills. It is a path that can lead to isolation even within communities with the best intentions. But, our approach provides flexibility and openness to natural resolution. If the owner/leader of a project finds it difficult to work with a particular volunteer, (s)he is ok to invite that individual to spend their time more productively on other, more satisfying work. If that happens with a lot of people, that leader may realize that they need to work on their leadership skills. It is the same freedom that is exercised by individuals to not participate in any given project.

    But all benefit from mutual service. All desire to be part of our community traditions. It’s the reason we are here. Because each choice brings it’s natural consequences, people are motivated to follow scriptural counsel to repent, change, improve. To the extent that the majority of people in the community focus on humbly recognizing and improving their own weaknesses based on the true principles taught by Jesus, unwelcome behaviors are self-correcting. Individuals improve personal competence and self-reliance. The community grows in strength and cohesiveness.

    I began writing this post as a short introduction to Born’s article for our Village Bulletin Board, but it grew into something more. An online discussion, internal to “Friends of Sewanee Creek” followed. Please feel free to share your own perspectives on this blog.

    If you are interested in access to our more private community discussions or think you might fit in our community, send me a request Request FOSC Membership. Our process of inclusion starts with a friendly phone chat, so be sure to include your phone number.