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 and 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.

Saving the World one person at a time … starting with me

“Teach them Correct Principles and they Govern Themselves”.  This is the foundation for a sustainable world.  This is my message to the world.
I was asked to give a talk to the Economics club at Sewanee, the University of the South on our independent local currency initiative, the Sewanee Dollar.  But when the sponsor, a student representing the Economics Club read my BLOG, he decided there is more to the story.

He admitted to being a closet Libertarian, an unpopular position at liberal Sewanee U.  But, he said he was having a hard time reconciling “sustainability” with some of the libertarian views I had written of on this blog.  In his mind, these were polar opposites.  To which I responded,

“I can’t imagine anything sustainable unless founded on true principles, including the freedom to act on them”.  

That led to a broader discussion of sustainability.  Sustainable extends into eternity.  It’s not just about restraining ourselves from destroying natural Eco-systems, although that is part of it.  It includes spiritual, moral, physical and economic sustainability.   It’s about being wise, good stewards.  It’s about being the change we want to see.

In other words, Saving the World one person at a time. . . starting with me.

PS:  For a list of some of the community projects referred to in the above video, see my post, Socialism Fails as Free Markets Flourish In the Village.

Low Cost Ownership @ the Village on Sewanee Creek

The jewel of the Village has always been what we called phase II.  Pristine, forested, rolling land, with the most dramatic views, cascading creeks and water falls.  It’s all there, untouched and waiting for this moment and the right people to build a community of caring, sharing and prepared people.

In 2006, when we got started, I expected to quickly sell out on Phase I, then move to the best part.  Then the sub-prime mortgage crisis hit in 2007, followed by a total economic melt-down, led by Real Estate in 2008.  It’s been slow going, but our unique approach to community building creates value that goes far beyond the land.  So, we survived in slow growth mode.  Slow is good when you are striving to build a community with solid roots.  Sort of like nurturing a Japanese bonsai tree.

Fast forward to 2012.  The forests are 6 years older and the wildlife has cycled through several generations, but phase 2 is otherwise unchanged.  Meanwhile, the cost of building paved roads and other infrastructure required by the government, has sky-rocketed to the point that traditional development of Phase II is not feasible.  And, on Phase I, we have grown a community of self-sufficient folks.  Our gardens are maturing, along with our gardening skills and our bees.  We have weathered seasons of drought and plenty with our rainwater catchment systems; we have experimented with various types of low-cost alternative energy, from wood gasification to Lister Diesel generators, to simple wood stoves, solar ovens and micro-hydro-electric generators.  We have built six lovely homes, some traditional construction, log, SIP, cast concrete and experimented with ultra low cost CONEX shipping container construction at the amphitheater, for storage, for workshops and finally, for guest houses.  The learning from all of this and expertise from highly skilled people who have joined us over the years continues to raise the level of self-sufficiency and preparedness of the Village community.

Cost of ownership in difficult economic times has been the primary obstacle for most people who wanted to join us in living a simple, frugal life.  So, here’s the low-cost alternative:

Land on Phase II is to be owned by an LLC with shareholders. Through a shareholder’s agreement, co-owners allocate personal plots within the community.

This method of ownership has several advantages:

  1. Lower cost per acre (In the $4,000 range)
  2. Lower taxes: Blocks of land over 16 acres can remain in “green belt” status, with close to zero tax rates.
  3. As there is one owner, it is not a “development”, hence no need for Government Planning to interfere.
  4. Lower development costs for roads, and other infrastructure.
  5. Full membership in the established Village on Phase 1 with access to commons, hiking trails, community gardens, and other infrastructure.
  6. Shared cost of self-sufficiency infrastructure (well(s), rainwater catchment, alternative energy systems, etc.)
  7. Enhanced sense of community, but still not a commune.

Purchase size would be from 50 to 100 acres.
So, hypothetically, 50 acres, shared equally in 5 acre lots = 10 owners (could be more owners and lower total cost with smaller lots).  Out of that, each contributes an acre for a highly functional 10-acre commons. This is all usable plateau top land. Cost per household would be in the neighborhood of $20,000 plus the shared legal cost of setting up the LLC.  Add a low cost home, like the guest house from Shipping Containers I built for under $10,000 to, say, a 2-acre piece of Phase II and you could have a great life in a gorgeous, sustainable community for about $18,000.

I know there are a lot of you out there who desperately want to own land in the Village, but simply can’t afford it in this economy. And I can’t afford to sell Phase I land for much less and even cover my sunk development costs.  But I have no development costs in Phase II other than the interest I have been paying on it for six years.

If this sounds interesting, please let me know. We can start doing some serious planning and marketing if there is enough interest.

Quarter Horse Parable

Many of you who have visited the Village, if you were lucky, got to meet Joe.   He’s a local who does a lot of work here.   Joe is an expert with horses as well as an expert trader. A few days ago, knowing nothing about horses myself, Joe told me a little about his favorite, the quarter horse.
According to Joe:
The Quarter horse is a powerful, sensitive breed. They respond only to the lightest touch on the reigns, but are among the most brilliant, agile performers. They are the breed used in rodeos, barrel racing, cattle roping, all activities that need precision and power.  Joe buys and sells lots of junk horses. Most cycle through rapidly. He has one that just keeps coming back. With each trade, Joe makes a little money. Ironically, this one is his favorite.  It’s a keeper and it’s a quarter horse.  He sells it and then re-buys it for a lower price when the new owner discovers that it is un-ridable. That’s because people who are used to less sensitive and responsive animals tend to horse them around – meaning that they use gross, rough jerks on the reigns and gouge with their feet. Quarter horses respond to rough treatment with an equally rough ride.

It takes me a while to process information like that. This morning I awoke with a lovely thought. Good people are a lot like a good quarter horse. They are bright, sensitive, hard-working, responsive to a light touch, but may buck under a rough hand. Because I sometimes view myself as ineffective, an unskilled horseman, I often feel that people don’t understand what I’m saying or respond as I would like.  When I feel that way, the tendency is to be less sensitive myself, to tug on the reigns too hard or dig in with the spurs. Almost inevitably, that brings on a rough ride.

That thought reminded me of Christ, quietly writing in the dirt.  A gentle suggestion, “let he who is without sin cast the first stone”.  The accusers who were ready to stone the adulterous woman melt away.  He turns to the woman and gently asks, “where are your accusers?” Then, I can imagine he said lovingly, almost in a whisper, “I don’t condemn you either. Go your way and sin no more”.

Good people are like a good quarter horse and the adulterous woman. Imperfect, sinful, like everyone else, but humble and sensitive, ready to respond to a gentle touch with power and grace. It’s a lesson I struggle with over and over. Today, I will try to remember Joe’s parable of the quarter horse and live with a lighter touch.

I am so thankful that I live with a constant, perfect example of the gentle touch, my dear wife, Becky.

Moral Chemistry

The Parable of the Good Samaritan. Other relig...

Good Samaritan

If there is one principle that the greatest sages, prophets, philosophers and religions throughout the ages agree on, it is the golden rule.

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  It is the foundation of moral behavior.

Cultures that foster the golden rule have a higher degree of trust, resulting in greater coöperation, productivity and wealth.

The Village on Sewanee Creek has three foundational principles:

  1. The Golden Rule
  2. Self-Sufficiency
  3. Personal Liberty and Accountability

Focus on these three principles creates an environment where harmony, trust and productivity can flourish.  But people are imperfect regardless of good intentions.  So the message of this TED talk is encouraging.  Above good intentions, there are physical explanations for different people’s ability to empathize and practice the golden rule.

Turns out that bio-chemistry plays a major role and there are things we can do to improve our own natural tendencies to live moral, harmonious lives.  I particularly like the concluding prescription.  Hope you enjoy this talk as much as I did. 

We have extra land. Anybody want to farm it?

Food security is the ultimate liberty.  If you can do it in  urban NYC, you can do it anywhere.  For some more inspiration, watch this YouTube video.   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vDxBEUOImjI

The Village on Sewanee Creek is about 750 rural acres on Tennessee’s lush Cumberland Plateau.  Of that, about 80 acres is cleared land that could be farmed.  Some of it is.  (The balance is either in deep woods or in a deep rugged canyon nature preserve) We have already built a community raised bed garden.  But there’s more.  Either on lots currently owned by Villagers, but as yet unfarmed or on unsold lots.

Want to farm but need land?  We have it and we can help you learn to farm.  Call us at (931) 442-1444.

My son is a wise goose!

This morning I giggled with joy to read my son’s BLOG and find that he has learned to be as wise as a flying goose.  He is making a cross-country charity bicycle ride for young widowed mothers and fathers with children.  You can read his BLOG at http://nuttyputtycyclers.com/general/oct-9-2010-flat-tires-tan-lines-and-shark-teeth-2

But first, let me explain why flying geese are so wise:

The Wisdom of Flying Geese

In the Spring, when you see geese heading North for the Summer or South in the Fall, flying along in “V” formation, it’s interesting to know what scientists have discovered about why they fly that way. It has been learned that as each bird flaps its wings, it creates an uplift for the bird immediately following.

By flying in “V ” formation, the whole flock adds at least 71% greater flying range than if each bird flew on its own.

 Basic Truth #1– People who share a common direction and sense of community can get where they are going quicker and easier because they are traveling on the thrust of one another.

Whenever a goose falls out of formation, it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of trying to go it alone and quickly gets back into formation to take advantage of the lifting power of the bird immediately in front.

Basic Truth #2– If we have as much sense as a goose, we will stay in formation with those who are heading in the same direction as we are.

When the lead goose gets tired, he rotates back in the wing and another goose flies point.

Basic Truth #3– It pays to take turns doing hard jobs, with people or with flying geese.

These geese honk from behind to encourage those up front to keep up their speed.

Basic Truth #4– We need to be careful what we say when we honk from behind.

Finally, when a goose gets sick, or is wounded by gunshot, and falls out, two geese fall out of formation and follow him down to help and protect him. They stay with him until he is either able to fly or until he is dead, and then they launch out on their own or with another formation until they catch up with their group.

Final Truth- If we have the sense of a goose, we will stand by each other, protect one another and sometimes make new friends who seem to be going in our direction.”   http://www.noogenesis.com/pineapple/geese.html

We want to build a community of wise geese, here at the Village on Sewanee Creek.   Are you a wise goose?  If you think so, we’re recruiting!