If you haven’t already read ‘Before emancipation, comes burn’ and ‘Forged freedom?’ I encourage you to. It’ll give you context as to which point we are now at in our exhaustingly exciting journey, emotionally and practically. These posts are raw and honest, they expose the hardships as well as the joys of our venture. And if you’re considering following a similar path to ours, understanding of the processes, procedures and budgets is not your knowledge priority; preparation of the mental challenges is.
So if you’ve read the previous posts, you’ll realise that we are currently struggling HARD, living in a caravan that doesn’t meet our basic needs as a family and we are asking ourselves why we acted with such impulsive ignorance.
This blog post will offer insights into the work that must be done, before the work you think you need to do even begins. As in, before you actually start to build the tiny house, there’s a whole world of undertakings to hook onto, peel to a core of understanding and conquer first. Undertakings you naively didn’t realise you needed energy and patience for.
First things first… we order our trailer! It’s 8.4m long by 2.4m wide and it costs us just under $10,000 NZD (about 5,000 GBP). That’s a quarter of our budget gone. Rather impressively (I first began this sentence with ‘Interestingly,’ and then I thought ‘No. That is not interesting. That is fricking notable’), we found our parking spot for the house after we’d actually ordered the trailer. We ordered the trailer before we had any leads on land. Isn’t that profound? We had such faith that our plan would succeed, that we spent the most money either of us had ever spent on anything, before we even knew where it would be placed. Upon reflection, I would put that down to the infectious impact of an open-minded and conscious community. We felt safe and confident in the assurance that most of our community would support our actions. After all, they were sustainable, they were conscious, they were empowering. We also knew that once the project had commenced, and naturally consumed our conversations with others, the finer details would fall into place. The doors of opportunity would appear before us, some we would knock on and some we wouldn’t have the key to. But nonetheless, a few doors would appear. You’ve got to start it though. You’ve got to get that ball rolling – ain’t no-one else gonna starting rolling that ball for you.
Long story short, we were told about another guy building a tiny house in the area. I tracked him down on Facebook and asked if we could view his project. He kindly offered us a tour and his knowledge, as well as informing us that he was initially planning on parking his house on a 20-acre plot up the road but had since found an alternative location. He gave us a telephone number (thanks Tony) and the next day, I called and explained our situation to the lady on the other end of the line; something along the lines of ‘Hi… we would like to build and park a tiny house on your land… Oh yes, sorry. We got your number from Tony… Oh no, I don’t think he is planning on parking at yours anymore… Oh he didn’t tell you that. Well, in that case – could we come up and chat?’ That Saturday, we were having a coffee with Mrs M. We knocked on her door and she opened it to us. She was ageing and finding it difficult to maintain the upkeep of her fruitful land. Mrs M lived almost entirely self-sufficiently. She grew all of her own food, ate seasonly and purchased just porridge oats and flour from the supermarket. We came to an agreement to exchange the parking of our THOW on her land for four hours a week of labour maintaining her gardens.
This invites me to outline to you – the reader – how a ‘first impressions’ good idea can actually be a terrible one. Because all ideas need to be incorporated into the jigsaw puzzle that is your overall life. We thought four hours a week was a bloody great deal. And I’m not necessarily saying it wasn’t. But when you fail to incorporate extra opportunities into the wider contexts of your lives, you’re failing to make a fully informed decision. On this occasion, we failed hard. (p.s. my usage of the word ‘failed’ means learning the very hard way. Thus, there is no failing in life, but it’s painful at the time). So sure, if you’re working part-time and you’ve got parents around the corner to mind your child, this kind of deal probably equates to happy days. But we were juggling a 12-week old baby, Daniels full-time Apprenticeship, building a THOW during all of our evenings and weekends and now, we had to find four hours a week for Mrs M. I was also singing and playing guitar in bars at the weekends to bring in some extra cash to fund the build; as well as battling with post-natal depression, although I didn’t realise this at the time. Bear in mind, we had no family around to take care of Koa whilst we fulfilled all of these various roles. We had no family to drop us dinner on the evenings we were absolutely done in (every evening). We were cracked. And to this day (two and a half years later), we often look each other square in the eye, smile and say ‘What were we thinking?’
Idyllic right? Fruit trees galore. Peace and privacy. Goats as neighbours, not people. But before we can do much more than stare at this trailer and wonder how we would transform it into a home, we have to set up electricity supply. Initially, we wanted an off the grid solar set up, but we were quoted $13,000. Instead, we paid $2,456 to have a separate electricity metre installed. Daniel and our dear friend Rob spent a day in the rain (the sun appeared only once they’d finished their endeavour – a reflection of this entire expedition really) back-filling the 80m trench that the electrical wire is buried into from the primary property on the land. When I asked Daniel for a photograph of this day (see below) for the blog, he said ‘Ahhh yes, that day I almost killed my best friend.’
I too, remember that day. I had been indoors from morning til evening, alone, with 12 week-old ‘I-cry-a-lot’ Koa. Same as usual. Same window-watching, longing to see our white Toyota pull up on the driveway from 3pm; even though it was never a minute before 5:30pm. Same physical desperation of needing to hand Koa over to his Dad – like when you reallllyyyy need a wee and to prevent from wetting yourself, you have to squeeze your bladder together through the movement of squirm. Daniel walking through the door essentially meant I could hygenically release my bladder on the toilet. Then I got a call from Rob saying that they had worked like Trojans and were going for a quick beer… and I metaphorically wet myself on the kitchen floor. We had all struggled, all day. And we all needed a release. Nobody deserved it more than anyone else (even though I probably thought I did at the time). I force an ‘Okay… have fun’ through my tense teeth. I remember Robs reply actually… ‘Is that okay?’ And I respond something reminiscent of Ross. ‘It’s fine. Totally fine. I don’t know why it’s coming out all loud and squeaky, because really… IT’S FINE.’
And this was a recurrent theme from me for a while. Because I was absolutely not fine. As Ross, clearly is not. What we were doing was not fine for my mental health. I was becoming really quite unwell and as the project unfolded, my sanity unravelled. Bear with me for this next blog post friends, it’s going to be a lot more difficult to write.