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A few years ago, Alex did a piece on some land for sale near Dancing Rabbit Eco Village. Let’s return to Missouri to check out some of the most recent projects of this thriving intentional community. Brian Liloia goes by Ziggy and has been living at Dancing Rabbit Eco Village for nearly four years. He started his busy blog, The Year of Mud, soon after.

Ziggy has given the tiny house and natural building community a huge resource by continuing to document his construction projects through his blog. Today, hundreds of blog posts take readers step by step through his building process.

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Phil Thiel of Seattle, Washington, has inspired a whole fleet of tiny human-powered houseboats in the United States, England, and Germany. He calls his quaint canal cruisers Escargots for their slow speed and sells the building plans for just $150. Each 18.5′ by 6′ houseboat fits up to three bunks and is propelled by a combination of pedal and solar power.

The solar drive isn’t strong enough to allow for direct solar power propulsion and the best way to move about is to pedal. At a pedaling rate of 50 rotations per minute, Thiel’s design can puff along at four miles an hour. Keep in mind that the average cyclist pedals at around 60 rotations per minute and professionals can do nearly twice that!

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Human-powered Floating Home

A cute and cozy Escargot canal cruiser

Thiel, now 91 years old, is a naval architect who started enthusing about and building human-powered boats when he was a teenager. Born in Brooklyn and now relocated to Seattle, Thiel has only driven an automobile twice in his life. Houseboats, though, he’s steered plenty of times.

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Jay Shafer of Tumbleweed Tiny Houses

Jay Shafer felt overwhelmed by the 4,000 square foot home he grew up in back in Iowa.

Time, energy and resources were spent maintaining space that added very little to their lives on the whole.

This distaste for wasted space emerged as a creative influence when Shafer was in his 20s.

After college, he started making blueprints of tiny homes just for fun.

Exploring how space is used, brainstorming how to use it more efficiently and learning about the materialism of our culture, he decided to pursue the passion further.

One of the legal difficulties he found right away was zoning laws that restrict how big anyone living establishment must be.

In most states, to be considered a house a building has to measure at least 220 square feet.


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Jay Shafer of Tumbleweed Tiny Houses

Photo Courtesy of Tumbleweed Houses

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The pleasure of simple living attracts people from all walks of life and the wide variety of tiny house possibilities accommodates them all.  There are no specific rules for in tiny houses; just the underlying concept of simplicity and the environmental responsibility and de-cluttering that comes with it.

For people who want to be on the move, whether traveling constantly or relocating every few months, building a tiny house on a trailer combines the mobility they need with the simplicity they’re after. Houseboats also let simple livers travel, though less widely. Living on water requires different sensibilities and skills than living on land and though these can be acquired, simple living afloat is not for everyone.

Yurts and teepees originated as primitive shelters but the simplicity they lend to both builders and dwellers have made them popular in modern simple living circles. Both are circular and can be built as temporary shelter or a permanent abode. Yurts are easier to convert into more civilized living spaces while teepees hold onto their ancestral primal feel.

Taking existing structures and converting them into living spaces is not only an easy way to create a tiny house but it is also a way to harness the existing design of huge living spaces for the good of simple living. Garages and guesthouses are popular for simple living re-purposing construction. Since the shelter is already there and usually already the perfect size for a tiny house, all that needs done are minor improvements and adjustments to make it a cozy living space.

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Dawn and Scott Hines of North Carolina were looking for a certain kind of tiny house: something portable, cozy, a temporary home away from home. They bought tiny house building plans, but needed to make some adjustments in order for them to work.

But with no construction or architectural experience between them, what was to be done? They started with Tumbleweed Tiny Houses Weebee plans and attended one of their building seminars. They found the rest of their answers in Chuck Peterson of C&E Construction. He helped them build their tiny house on wheels, using the building plans as a guide, changing parts of it and inserting certain things to make it their own.

front of tiny houseIn their finished house, there’s a main floor and a loft, a kitchen and a bathroom and a living room. With the help of their contractor, Chuck, they raised the ceiling a little, upgraded the shower, and chose a composting toilet. Since they use their house primarily in Illinois each year, they also made sure the house plans were adapted to keep them warm in below freezing weather.

Is it perfect? No, not quite. There are few parts of their design they would change if they were to do it again – adding a light switch in the loft, moving an electrical box around – but overall the tiny house is exactly what they wanted. It’s a hideaway on wheels, a retreat on the go, and a perfect spot to cozy up and get away from it all.

What makes the Hines story unique? They took building a tiny house a step further. When Chuck went to work sawing and nailing, they turned on their video camera and kept up with his progress. A year after their house’s completion, they have a finished DVD for sale detailing every step of the construction process. In the video, we follow Chuck around as he measures and plans, narrating to the camera what he is doing and how each step is unique to building a small scale house.
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Allow me to introduce you to one of our new contributors for Tiny House Talk.  I’m excited to have someone else on board who loves the topic as much as many of us do.  Newt will be contributing once per week so stay tuned for her updates.  For now I’ll go ahead and pass it on to her!  – Alex

Hi everyone! I’m a 20 year old freelance writer living in Portland, OR. I was born in Venezuela where my family did volunteer work for seven years.

When I was one, we moved to Wisconsin.  The farm we created is where I grew up: 20 acres of wild Wisconsin woods, an acre garden, a milk cow, a dog, some cats, a mule, a donkey, chickens, horses, and my mom, dad and sister.  Both my sister and I were unschooled.

We ran our house on solar panels and a gas generator and had a latrine out back. We pumped water from our well with the power from our car batteries into the horse trough in our attic so that it could gravity feed to our kitchen and bathtub-room.  In summer, we used a gas fridge; in winter, an outdoor fridge with a huge hole cut in the side to let the winter cold in.

We left when I was thirteen but Wisconsin still feels like home.  I ended up in Portland at eighteen sharing a five bedroom house with six people.  I now live in an uncomfortably spacious one bedroom apartment.

I work online, bike everywhere and love Portland, but I’ve got wanderlust in my blood.  In the coming months, I’ll be buying a car, converting it into a portable home, and traveling the US until I feel like being still again. This is a dream I’ve had since I was 12 and, while I plan to keep a few boxes of art supplies and old journals in a friend’s basement, I’m excited to start drastically downsizing my possessions.