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  • johnirvin000

The Story so Far...

Updated: Sep 13, 2021

How did I get here?

I've wanted to own a home for most of the time I can remember. The first home that I remember from childhood was on 7/8ths of an acre outside of the city I now live in. I remember it being HUGE. Upstairs were 3 bedrooms, a huge living and dinning room separated by a half wall and a deep galley style kitchen. Downstairs were three more bedrooms and a large family room. Counting all living space, both upstairs and downstairs, it was 3000 sqft. Now being older and looking back at that house it really is larger than I would ever need. I think it is the reason that I was drawn to alternative housing as I came to looking for my own space.

Flash forward and living in an apartment. I started contemplating and searching for a place of my own but I didn't want the hum drum standard McMansion.

I looked at tiny homes on wheels (THOW) but a couple of things stood out as problems. First, THOWs all seem to have a loft bed or some fancy gimmick for sleeping. The loft bed sounds great in theory but I sleep warm and being in a small cramped loft where all the heat would collect from the day probably would make for unhappy sleeping.The elevator bed style originally seemed like a fix to the loft but I soon learned that they require lots of maintenance to keep working smoothly and the springs to assist moving them can be dangerous. Secondly THOWs require less energy to heat and cool but only because they are a smaller space overall. They can be well insulated but every inch of insulation gives up inches of floor space which is so very precious in such a small space. The final nail in the coffin of a THOW for me was a lack of a legal place to put it long term. Most zoning isn't permissive of them. Most are classified as RVs and those that aren't RVs don't meet minimum floor space requirements or single room size laws.

Next stop on the alternative housing hut was a boat. I wanted to learn to sail since I first saw "Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World" and so a sailboat seemed like a nifty choice to not only see the world and wake up with a paradise view but also a new adventure everyday. I took some sailing courses to make sure that this was something I could do and loved every minute of it. I then started the hunt. I found so many options but again ran into some less than pleasant realities of living in a sailboat. Numero uno was living on a sailboat requires a ton of constant work and maintenance. I heard from more than one couple that "if your idea of fun is fixing a boat in paradise for twice the cost it would be in a house, living in a boat is for you." I also ran into the surprising cost of spending time in a marina. The rent for a marina slip in Florida is almost twice the cost of rent and utilities in my apartment. Ix-nay on the oatbay.

Third times the charm right? Wrong again. I started next down the path of a "skoolie" or a school bus converted into a THOW or RV. I really really liked this idea and went so far as to buy a 74 passenger diesel Bluebird bus. This was going to be a project for my dad and I but it blew up when he got extremely sick that winter. I had the seats out and the engine and transmission looked at. They both were given a clean bill of health by a mechanic. I ended up selling the bus for about what I paid for it to someone else with skoolie dreams. My dads sickness was perhaps a blessing in disguise though as the more I learned about the process the more I realized that a bus conversion could have been a nightmare. I found out often skoolies have problems being insulated enough to be comfortable ,after all you are basically living in a tin can, and very damp. The dampness ends up being a double edged sword as it rusts the metal wherever it can (read everywhere) and causes fungi to grow on anything resembling furniture. I may have dodged a bullet with my skoolie not happening.

The whole time I am going through the above various ideas I have also been keeping an eye out for a "conventional" house that might be acceptable to no avail. I moved on after all of escapades in living weirdly to looking for land to build something crazy on. What that crazy was I didn't know but I figured find the spot and then worry about details like a structure to live in and mundane things like utilities.

Come to find out land is both expensive and cheap. What I mean by that is per acre its not all that expensive considering they aren't making more of it. Most of the land not in an incorporated area around me is farm land and aside from exceptionally fertile land most is within grasp for me. But laws around me make it expensive. All of the surrounding counties near me require twenty plus acres to build a dwelling on making a couple of thousand dollars an acre quickly climb into the mid tens of thousands of dollars and I still wouldn't have even the beginning of a place to live just raw farmland that still needs tied to water ,be it a well or rural water, and the electric grid. Both of those options could come with a never ending series of bills for service and repairs.

I decided to cast a wider net in my land search. Missouri was the start but it was all expensive per acre, expensive because it was marketed as vacation property, or deep in the Ozarks with shady salesmen. Nebraska was out as the winters were harsh and it was ugly. Oklahoma is Oklahoma. Colorado seemed like it could be nice but I was afraid it would be out of my price range. I was excited to find that Southeastern and Southwestern Colorado had lots of land for sale in a price range I could afford and without the sizing requirements for a home I was accustomed to near me. Too good to be true I thought and started digging into some of the code and laws surrounding building. The idea of buying some land in Colorado seemed to a dream come true. Lack of any crazy code changes and no real restrictions on alternative materials that I could find (This is where I stumbled into earthen building). What about utilities? Power is easy just do solar and in fact its encouraged and CO has a tax break to help with the initial investment. Okay what about water? The penny drops.

Colorado has a very weird way of handling water. Rural water isn't that hard to get but a bit expensive and wells are fairly straight forward to be permitted for but expensive to drill as most of the water is below mostly rock. In the face of all this possible added expense I started looking into other alternatives to a well or rural water. The main alternatives seemed to be water trucking or rain catchment. Trucking has the problem of not being eco-friendly and still expensive. Rain catchment or rain harvesting is outright banned in Colorado if it exceeds 110 gallons per household and cannot be used for anything but outdoor watering. Scratch Colorado from the list.

At this point I put away the whole notion of buying anything to live in and just stuck it on a shelf.

Enter New Mexico. Prior to buying land in New Mexico I had visited the state at least half a dozen times if not more. Every time I visited it was new and interesting from White Sands in the south to Carlsbad and Santa Fe. Having been burned by my experience with Colorado when it came to water that is where I started. New Mexico has some very strange laws and ways of allocating water due to how long European descendants have been there but they have no problem with rain harvesting as a means of having water for household use. The only caveat is if you don't have a well and plan on using only rain water you must have a water carrier willing to deliver to you just in case. Everything else was just like Colorado. State found! Now to figure out where in the land of enchantment to buy.

I ended up finding some land in the Northeastern corner of the state to call my own. I bought it through a person to person sale and it was honestly easier than buying a car. In less than a month from first contact I had the deed in my hand and about a month later the deed was registered with the county and it was legally mine.

Next post I'll bring you up to current time and how things are going on this adventure.

Stay groovy

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1 Comment

mark jarvis
mark jarvis
Sep 16, 2021

GREAT to have all the context. I'd left off on the boat, forgotten some of the other plans along the way. I think it's awesome how you've been thinking this through. No doubt you're going to end up uber happy!

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