Tag: tinyhouse

Semi-Settled

Semi-Settled

“I wandered everywhere, through cities and countries wide. And everywhere I went, the world was on my side.”
― Roman Payne, Rooftop Soliloquy

21st September, 2019

No. I’m not dead. Nor have I abandoned this blog. I have however, been very busy. Still in my pursuit of freedom. Now established in a kind of semi-settlement, I thought it was time to share the next chapter in the journey.

This blog started on 7th January, 2016 with me arriving back in New Zealand after several years away. I’d decided to act on my desire to free myself from dependence on the generally established order tying me to endless labour. To free myself from the cycle of working to live and living to work.

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Way back when… still unwinding from years of living away and the trauma of working in an animal shelter too long. Recovering from caring too much out near East Cape.

“I got more and more interested in these people who were downsizing their lives in order to create a lifestyle of independence and abundance. By decreasing their possessions and taking responsibility for their own needs they were lessening their dependence on the very system that enslaves so many of us to our money and debt.”

Nearly four years on, I’ve travelled some of the last corners of New Zealand that had escaped my experience so far. I’ve explored in a way that few others have and got to know the place and its people in a whole new light. Caravan life was interesting in itself, but was also training for a far more extreme downsize to “executive hobo” life in a peculiar coffin on wheels. My dogs and I walked nearly 4,000km in a meandering tour of our cities and remote rural hideaways.

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The Longest Walk NZ took me to places I never would have guessed and was a truly unique exprerience

There have been ups and downs, challenges and blessings. I met people who share my vision (link to TLW Hoki (or end?)) for a future and ended up being allowed to join in theirs.

It’s been a loosely guided safari through which I have learned to embrace uncertainty. Rigidity was holding me back. As were many limiting beliefs about my potential and ability. I’ve been lucky enough to connect with estranged family and made new friends with different perspectives. They have helped me analyse where I can trim away things I don’t need and how I can leverage those things I have to create a lifestyle of abundant independence.

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Met Hone in Kohukohu (my Grandad’s home town). He’d abandoned living for work and decided to just float on the breeze with nothing but a backpack. He’d been at it for ages by the time I met him and lived a life less ordinary

In the process I saw my bank account dwindle to as close to zero as it has ever been. Not once, but twice. At times, I’ve lived a more Spartan existence than many could imagine and because of this have examined what is really necessary. Discovering that there really is very little required for a relatively comfortable and meaningful existence. For me, purpose, acceptance and intention are the key ingredients once my basic physical needs are met. In the process, I have crossed paths with some who have not been lucky enough to have those basics and others who consciously abandoned the urge for consistency.

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Turns out I like acting and am pretty reasonable at musical theatre… Who knew?!

I met people along the way who helped me understand what I wanted in my life and how that life might look. It was tough to choose a destination to settle, but there was a certain something about only a few places that really drew me back. The pace of life, latent sense of peace, feeling of community and the people. Those were the deciders. I still have a shortlist to revisit, should I change my mind

Based now in the slow-paced coastal town of Hokitika, I’ve built a 10m2 shack to round out a living system also comprised of two generations of former dwellings. With the most basic solar system and a gravity-fed piped tank water to supplement a roof-and-bucket rainwater collection, I have all I need. Low costs allow me to spend my time doing work I love rather than work that pays well. With costs kept low, I might actually be able to save for my own land to inhabit and develop into my own sanctuary. My little shack can come with me to my little slice of freedom. With the bits of horticultural and financial education I continue to accrue, I may even one day truly thrive.

In the meantime, I have crafted a version of life in which I belong in and contribute to a cohesive community of wonderful humans. My work allows me to nurture the seed of fulfilment within young people. My networks here allow me to drive and encourage positive development in two very different but connected towns.

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Hosting a free community screening of the movie “Celia” in my rolse as a White Ribbon Ambassador and co-ordinator for our local Community Champions.

I’m fortunate enough to have found people that embrace my unorthodoxy and have deepened connections with a few of those I met on my walk. My home allows me to retreat to a peaceful human-canine family surrounded by serene native forest. We’re visited daily by the heartbeat of an ocean lapping at the not so distant shore. I look out toward the horizon to our coastal vista.

My life is not fancy and it’s definitely not for everyone, but it’s developing by virtue of combining opportunity with design to move in the right direction for me. At least for now. I won’t deny that my feet often get the urge to wander once again. For once a person is comfortable in themselves, the freedom of wandering will never be equalled.

I’m still not there. I understand more every day that true freedom is surrender. It is acceptance of the conditions of now, no matter what they may be.

“There is no fear for one whose mind is not filled with desires”
-Siddhārtha Gautama (Buddha)
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Reboot

Reboot

February 11th, 2018

With The Longest Walk NZ coming to a close, I guess the journey to create my freedom returns to this forum. Last year was a unique and amazing year, through which I gained many insights about myself, my country and what is important. This year is shaping up to be just as formative.

The main goals for The Longest Walk NZ were about animal welfare. It was about promoting what was going on out there in New Zealand communities. There were also a number of personal goals tied up amongst it. The most relevant to this update was the search for a place where my soul felt at peace.

There were a couple of false starts along the way, including the idea of joining the current members of Riverside Community in Motueka and possibly becoming a resident worker at The Black Sheep animal sanctuary in Otaki Forks. In the end though, I settled on a place that stayed in my thoughts throughout the whole trip. I ended up choosing a “Cool little town” named Hokitika.

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Moody ol’ Hoki with its sullen clouds one day and brilliant sunshiny beaches the next
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Cyclone Fehi broke the West Coast, stranding tourists and locals alike for several days

I arrived here first in March last year as I emerged from the immensity of a walk through the Southern Alps. Before I even met civilisation, the Arahura Valley was winning me over. From there, the vibe just continued to feel warm. Nearly a year on, I returned to a striking peach sunset blooming in the clouds, then fading over the horizon. The sea pacified after a day of raging storms (Cyclone Fehi) that tore away whole sections of coastal roads and barred my original route the day before. I can only imagine it was the contrast between this peaceful scene and the turmoil of the evening before that even had the locals out, wielding cameras.

This first return was just a drop-and-run though. It took another couple of days to collect my two dogs from their boarding arrangements with my parents in Wellington. All told, this relocation, including acquiring car (in Invercargill), retrieving my hillbilly house (from Gore) and reuniting with my dogs (back in Wellington) had cost nearly two weeks and thousands of dollars. I was working on the theory that it would all be worth it once life found itself in some semblance of “normal”. It was a chance to consciously choose where and how I wanted to live after taking a good deal of time to really consider my choices.

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Never been afraid of a little hands on work. Getting stuck in

I hit the ground running. Reaching out to the few people I had met on my way through managed to land a few days of maintenance work the very next day. After the first day of this, came the start of the hunt for longer-term employment. A year off earning money followed by a costly relocation doesn’t do the bank balance any favours. A couple of nibbles and one very promising application later, I am still short of a plan for long-term employment. It has only been a few days yet though and I feel positive about the prospects.

If you have been following previous posts, you would probably realise that my efforts will also be going into some sort of side hustle working towards a bit of financial freedom. For now though and for quite some time to come, I need to make sure I take care of my financial responsibilities first. In a couple of years, that side hustle may well ripen into a main income but it’ll all come one step at a time.

Right now, I have landed in a tranquil spot, sharing a developing permaculture plot with a couple of likeminded people. Our arrangement is mutually beneficial and the setting is ideal for both me and the dogs. Jake runs around blissfully in a state of relative calm that is rare for him. Piccolo seems much more at peace in the stability and familiarity of our 2016 home. I enjoy the fact I can safely walk my dogs in a number of picturesque spots off-lead. A bush walk at our front gate, another just down the street. The stony beach of a beautiful river and a wide, expansive sands of the West Coast both only a five minute drive away. As we walk down the road on the way out, the seascape beckons from the horizon and as we return, a formidable mountain range enfolds our home.

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Hoki from the hills

The roar of the sea rolling in can be heard all day from our vantage point on the hill. Stars blanket the skies at night. Kiwi and weka begin to sing at dusk. It’s not at all uncommon for a weka to pop over and pay a visit either. This unusual dry spell has meant hot days tempered with a mild sea breeze when the area is usually known for its heavy rainfall. Although the rain is sure to come, along with the challenges accompanying it, for now we enjoy an Indian summer. Today being the first day of rain so far and it was a light one at that.

All is well. And while I don’t believe there is a “right” path or choice, it certainly seems this is a good one.

A Reasonable Absence…

It’s been a while since posting here with anything of substance. (The ketchup coffee post doesn’t count). But rest assured, you are not forgotten nor have I lapsed in the seeking of freedom. Quite the opposite.

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https://thelongestwalknz.wordpress.com/2016/12/13/the-longest-walk-intro/

It’s full steam ahead with The Longest Walk NZ. Give-a-little, a free PDF download, a video and website are all up and ready. The camper is complete and we’ve been out training throughout the week. The dogs are coping well with the scary, rumbling monster we are walking with now and I’m starting to get used to the idea of hauling up a hill.

In a month’s time, the boys and I will be on our way… walking around the country… for a looooongtime. Like, share, donate, contact me with any other ideas you may have… Your support would really help.

What in the World is THAT?!

The build has come a long way and I can now see the beginnings of my new home for the next year. I give you, ‘The Rig’ for The Longest Walk.

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This is beginning to look a lot like the eccentric idea that it is…

Still quite a lot to do internally and in terms of the handle bars/brakes. But you can now see what it is I am making. I’d love to hear what you think. Here are a few photos of the construction effort since last time.

Building Shelter. Building Hope.

I’ve been building my camper/shelter for the last couple of weeks. Progress has been a little slow as I wait for a few materials to come in and having decided to rebuild part of the trailer base to create better joints. But through the process, something somewhat unexpected has happened.

I’d hoped for it, but never held to much faith in the idea. I’d hoped that I would start seeing the best in people. That is exactly what is happening. Everywhere I turn, it seems impossible to find resistance. Quite the opposite. People are bending over backward, donating their time, materials and expertise to helping create a journey of a lifetime. It’s been a humbling experience that is a privilege to be part of.

Unfortunately I can’t portray my shifting self in pictures. But I can show you a little of the progress towards The Longest Walk NZ. The website is a bit more developed now, so you could pop over there if you are interested. Below I have also included a few pictures of the build so far. I have a floor platform, wheels are set to be mounted when I get further south and the materials for the shell have arrived. So the task at the moment is trying to sculpt out a kitset to be assembled down in Gore.

Lots of pieces are coming together right now and I’m feeling very grateful for all the support which I really wasn’t feeling when I first started down this route. Sponsors are getting on-board and everything is seeming more and more achievable.

Hillbilly Home-Making 101

June 1th-13th 2016

These last couple of weeks, there have been many additions to the basic living setup. These include renovation of a few of the key infrastructure points as well as rethinking ‘where to next?’, which was mentioned in passing in a recent post.

First priority was to set up a dry space/caravan weather protection/my own water collection. This is currently a large tarpaulin, strung up with washing line wire. It’s pretty sturdy, although deliberately also very temporary, as it’s important to me to be able to pack up and leave if need be. Right now, that doesn’t seem like it will be soon, but you never know.

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Stage one: get under cover

Next was to have something to funnel into. Planning backwards from the materials available, a design came together for a water catchment tank that feeds a solar camping shower. Happened upon a full shower cubicle shell at the local recycling centre, so that made the shower construction a lot simpler and provides a solid toilet cubicle space too. Framing for the shower to stand freely came from a building site skip (with the permission of the building crew). The loo is nothing fancy, consisting of a bucket topped with a plastic seat. Its partner being a bin of wood chips which I decided to make a cover for, to keep the chips (as well as the bin and toilet paper sitting on top) dry. Again, not a permanent setup. But it’s a practical option for the medium term. The shower curtain, is just a cheap, sheet of black plastic.

With the essentials arranged, plans turned to upgrading the electrics in the caravan. The last few days have been trial and error to put in everything on my wish list. The USB port I was kindly donated by fellow travellers (during my East Cape travels) went in a while back. That’s most of my charging needs covered. However, the fun started when I decided to hook in an old inverter. Lesson #1- check all components thoroughly before inserting them into existing electrics. I didn’t do this and basically blew the whole system. Still not entirely sure how, but I know I had to test each component and rebuild the whole wiring system. The silver lining is that it is much tidier now and everything but the inverter (which was stuffed from the outset apparently) works swimmingly.

Next was to work on the electricity generation. Managed to hunt out a decent solar panel controller at the recycling centre too. Wiring that in with a couple of permanent solar panels was meant to make things easier. Thus far, it has not been so. The panels are generating a voltage, but the controller doesn’t seem to be feeding it to the battery. The controller itself also draws enough current that it may be necessary to add that second cell I’ve been planning for ages.

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The solar controller all hooked in

The other half is installing a permanent rig for the panels, which is still under construction (should be done tomorrow) and a little wind turbine to work in tandem with solar generation. This should offset the lack of sun on ‘bad’ weather days… at least some of the time. That’s based on a design I made quick mention of in An Ode to Rural NZ and is halfway there too. If anyone has any tips on any of this, I’d be keen to hear them.

There have been a few other side tasks, like installing the caravan’s spare wheel instead of having it sitting in the car boot. Also got a replacement jockey wheel tyre. But it’s pretty much set up how I’d like now. So thoughts are moving to the bush craft/wild living side of things. Really, all this is about becoming more attuned to nature. To be honest, if it was just me, I would probably have just gone bush from the beginning. But it’s not just me and the dogs (and dog laws) make things a little more tricky. The recycling centre came through again. This time, with a kayak. I’m hoping to train the dogs to work with me on this and go bush with some marine infiltration, but it may fail. Regardless, I’ve been wanting to get a kayak for a while to explore out on the water.

This seems a good time to put in a little shout out to the second-hand stores and recycling centres around the place. It’s a shame there still seems to be a bit of a stigma about these places and strange, since sites like TradeMe, Gumtree, eBay and local Buy, Sell, Swap pages on Facebook are so popular. It’s as if using others’ discarded items is dirty somehow, but it’s ok as long as it has had an electronic middle man (?). Granted, not everyone sees it that way. But there really are so many good things there to be sought out.

Often, the tools and other items are better than what you could buy from most mainstream retailers. I say this because many of them are from a time when things were built to last instead of built to be disposable/replaceable. Much of it is also NOT from times gone by, but instead just surplus to someone’s need and on sale for a bargain price. The recycling centre in Motueka is MASSIVE. Seriously, it’s huge. Several acres, including a building that houses indoor items as well as a large outdoor stockpile of everything from building materials to machinery and from toys to antiques. There is sporting equipment, electrical components, fully working appliances, mechanical parts, clothes, furniture… It’s out by the transfer station on Robinson Road. Check it out if you are in the area. Others, like the one in Turangi (to be fair, quite a small town) are much smaller scale. But they are worth a look if you have something in mind.

One thing people don’t seem to realise though, is the cost of dumping. When rubbish items are left with them, the landfill fees rack up quickly. Even if they can salvage a few parts from a thing, the dump fees often outweigh the (financial) benefit. They also have a big problem with theft. It’s still shoplifting even if the goods were originally donated. If it’s council-run… alright, I can see the appeal of letting the moral compass wander. After all, who really gets hurt in the process? But some (like the Motueka one) are privately run and op shops are usually run by charities (some of whom are more ‘charitable’ than others). The acquisition cost of the item is obviously low, but the running costs need to be covered by something. So, let’s support these places. That’s to say nothing of the obvious benefit of reducing landfill by reusing and recycling goods. Buy stuff there. Volunteer. Do what you can to help one person’s trash become another’s treasure.

Moving forward in time, but backwards in the blog: Remember the mention of the tarp roof? … well, if you ever plan on doing it, best to really rig it well. Last night, on a night when the battery was buggered (thus no lights) and I was already in for a late dinner (cooked in the dark), the flippin’ wind picked up to a howling gale right at dusk. So much so, it managed to rip an eyelet in the tarp right out and set the whole roof rig flapping about in a storm.

It was clear that this had to take priority, as the thing was whipping around all over the show, tearing further and a real danger of damaging something else. So, it was up the ladder with the freezing cold wind and rain buffeting both ladder and climber, holding a massive sheet of plastic akin to a sail. Needless to say, a little extra care was needed and it was no easy task pulling the rig taught against high wind gusts. Still, it needed to be done and I plan to strengthen the anchors and borders tomorrow with some more washing line. Fun night, last night.

Lessons learned: (in fairness, I knew these things prior, but thought I’d get away with what I’d rigged. >> WRONG)

1) the eyelets hold much better if the line is threaded through several points of contact as opposed to a one-point connection
2) if you find you do need to make a one-point contact, you’re best off not using the eyelet at all and instead looping your anchor line over a small rock twisted into the tarp
3) there needs to be extra strength (in some form) along the edges
4) if you want it to funnel water effectively, add some well thought-out rib lines to tighten and direct flex of the tarp more accurately, or it will just pool. Either way, it’s also going to have to be tight. Tighter than it will easily go. Work at it.
5) might like to consider a couple of ribs above the tarp to prevent it billowing upward too far in high winds. That sudden flex generates a lot of momentum that your anchors may not handle, so it is probably a good idea to limit the range.

This has been Hillbilly Home-Making 101 from the past couple of weeks. Really looking forward to the next chapter of dropping out of civilisation periodically. I miss that a lot.

An Ode to Rural NZ

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DISCLAIMER: this was actually in Aussie, but you get the idea

‘Twas the first night of winter
and all through the south,
not one person had feeling
in ears, toes or mouth.

With shrivelled appendage
a shag was unlikely,
but the chill in the air
makes Aunt Gaye less unsightly.

Eleven toes all bundled
up in my onesie,
I pluck on my banjo
‘til sleep makes me clumsy.

Then with a yawn,
I settle for bed
with nought but sweet silence
to clutter my head.

Although not exclusively the domain of New Zealand, one of the great things about this place is the small towns. Even though it’s fun to mess with people who know no better, Aotearoa is not all grass skirts, inbreeding, sheep and gumboots. There are a few notable cities too, but “meh” is the first word that springs to mind when I think of them. On the world stage, they’re nothing to write home (or blog) about. This blog is all about small-town New Zealand.

The best thing is the diversity you get among those who choose to make these places home. Whether it be for seasonal work or for the whole of their lives, people tend live less to a formula at the margins. Here in Motueka for example, you have people living in shanty towns put together purely to house fruit pickers at harvest season living right down the road from the multi-millionaire owners of one of the country’s largest produce and seafood companies.

Furthermore, there are people choosing alternative option for housing just like I am. I ran into one guy living in a landlocked boat. His trimaran may have its floats detached, but it is perfectly seaworthy and set to be returned to its natural habitat once he’s done a few touch-ups. Until then, he enjoys the quiet of farm life in a simple and compact housing alternative.

There are also several house trucks, a couple of converted buses, and the odd permanent caravan or shipping container home. Many of whom are living in intentional communities like Riverside (mentioned in my previous blog), the Hari Krshna community or their own sustainable living alternatives.

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My favourite house truck so far. She’s a work in progress, but she’s a thing of beauty

The openness to alternative living exists alongside alternative options for dying too. Living Legacies (Check out http://livinglegacies.co.nz/ for more info. You’re bound to die after all.) was New Zealand’s first eco-funeral service and is based right here in Motueka. I didn’t realise they existed. Yet, apparently they do. This is something I am especially rapt about, as it has long been my wish to have very specific burial arrangements, which I previously thought to be illegal. Picture this:

      Burial under an apple tree with several varieties of apples grafted to it, in order to provide fruit         year-round. My remains to be buried in a biodegradable container, allowing them to nourish           the growing tree. Finally, a sculpted zombie hand sticking out from beneath the ground holding       a sign saying “See, I told you I was sick”.

On further consultation with Living Legacies, these particular arrangements technically still ARE illegal, but only because one can currently only be buried under native trees in a natural burial park. And apparently zombie hands are not considered natural… yet… so that may also not be allowed. Still, it’s encouraging that we’re halfway there. Perhaps it’ll all be sorted by the time I croak.

Along with alternative and/or rural living comes an openness about technology. It could be called an experimental mind set, resourcefulness, creative solutions or the “number eight wire” mentality.

One such engineering genius, is to be found at the local farmer’s market every Sunday. His claim to fame is guitars made from hubcaps along with random, assorted knickknacks.

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This guy plays a mean hubcap slide guitar, man!

He is only one of the many colourful characters who make up this wonderfully community-centred event. Others include all the fundraisers for the new local pool and the vibrant local amateur theatre scene. It would be easy to see the market as a mere place of sales, but it’s really a meeting place about the preservation of local trade and community spirit, which is so often lost in larger centres. It is also a place to find wonderful things like this book: Wizardology

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Best book ever. ‘Nuff said

Perhaps the allure of such a beautifully unique oddity escapes those who are more ‘grown-up’ than I. But for me, this thing is awesome. With all its flaps and feathers; gemstones and slides; moving part and even miniature books, I can’t wait to show it to my nieces and nephews. It’s everything an outstanding kid’s book/wizard manual should be.

In closing “All hail small town goodness”. Now I’m off to catch my wife, stick her back legs in me gumboots, grab her by the wool and make sweet love. Night all.