Sunday, January 19, 2020

Dreaming Bigger: A Tiny House?

To me, Martin Luther King Day is about having big, audacious dreams.  Napoleon once purportedly claimed that the job of a Leader is to "define reality and to give hope."  In order to define a reality different than the present, one must be able to dream big dreams.  Martin Luther King, Jr., had big dreams and gave people hope for a better future.  Similarly, Henry David Thoreau dreamt of a simpler way of life.

One of the very first books I read when I moved to Northern Virginia (from Evansville, IN) was 'Walden,' by Henry David Thoreau.  I was not aware of the irony surrounding my reading of that book - in Northern Virginia - until just at this moment.  Northern Virginia real estate is outrageously expensive (albeit not quite like like San Francisco or New York, thankfully!).  Nevertheless, the cost of having a roof over one's head in the United States of America is prohibitively expensive almost everywhere.

Reflecting back on Thoreau's experiment on Walden Pond: even then, he saw a possibility of carving out a cheaper, more sustainable, harmonious existence without the need for having one's life tied to a bank mortgage or other debt and restrictions.  On this idea, I find Thoreau's experiment of living in the woods using his own wits, ingenuity and hard work extremely simple and common sensical, yet ingenious at the same time.  What would it be like to experience and undertake a similar experiment in our own life?

I'm not a fan-boy of the Tiny House movement.  Shoot, my aim is to build a big 'ole castle on our property one day.  But I don't want to be beholden to a bank note or Venture Capitalists to make it happen.  Live Free or Die!  I feel like there is freedom in discipline (ala Jocko Willink) and minimalism.  In our video below, we dream a little bit about some of our possibilities at Ca Ira Castle along these lines.

Perhaps 'dreaming bigger', in the context of housing, is the idea of living a life of true freedom through significant reductions in the overhead associated with the outrageous cost of living in America, vis-a-vis a tiny (read 'affordable') house.

Saturday, January 4, 2020

The Top Reasons Why I Love Ca Ira Castle Lands

The lands of Ca Ira Castle are epic.  They are not for the weak.  The rough exterior offers have a safe haven for wildlife needing refuge. It is also a refuge for the humans who need to just "be." These lands have a spritely spirit of their own that fights to be tamed... just like me.  
Top Reasons Why I Love Ca Ira Castle Lands

1) The stars shine bright above with the Milk Way protecting our paths. Saturn and Venus compete for priority in the night sky.  This is a place for our past, present, and future selves.

 2) It's a place you can play or practice music as loud as you want... bagpipes, opera, a shofar... or blast some Armin van Buuren.

 3) So much love is at this land.

 4) It's a place we can be ourselves. Let our goofy and geek run free

5) It's a place we can enjoy the warm, cozy dancing of flames in an open fire.

6) Haybale couches.

 7) It's a place family and friends can come and celebrate life with us.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

2020 Goals

"Today is the first day of the rest of your life." My Dad used to say that to me. I was never quite sure what he meant when he said it though. But on this first day of the year 2020 it seems apropos. In fact, for the last few months I've been trying to gather my thoughts around what some of the next big steps Cindy and I should take on making our 37 clear-cut acres more of a year-round hospitable environment.

To date, we've been somewhat mindlessly planting a wide variety of trees to see what might be hardy enough to thrive without much human involvement.  This past year, our three biggest accomplishments (aside from tree planting) was firstly, the work done on the driveway - smoothing and clearing the path and dropping over 100 tons of stone on it to make year-round access to the property a reality.

Secondly, we had a small 10x8 shed delivered and placed at the top of the driveway so we would now have a place to keep our tent and sleeping bags, water, etc.

Thirdly, I built an outhouse out of cedar and pine in my backyard and transported it to the land in a rented truck.

All of these changes were HUGE improvements from the previous status quo.  It meant that when we went to our land, we no longer had to pack the car with camping gear, and that when we arrived, in most weather situations, we were now be able to drive on to the property without the risk of getting stuck in the mud or having to haul camping gear up a very muddy driveway during a thunderstorm, in the middle of the night (which we did once).  Now, we also have a place to go to the bathroom that is protected from the elements and does not require digging a hole every time.

Yet another major improvement we made later last year was in preparation for our wedding last November 2019.  We needed a cleared, mostly level, spot to put our wedding tent and port-a-jons for the wedding reception.  So I rented a Track Loader and Excavator and cleared about 10,000 square feet of land, removing small trees, weeds and felled tree roots in the process.  This clearing will be a great spot to put more permanent structures like a garage and perhaps a house.

In my mind, the next major step in helping us maintain our driveway, the wedding tent clearing, the trails we've cleared as well as help keep the grass and weeds at bay, is the purchase of a tractor and a bush hog.  If we get a tractor, we'll need to be able to store it someplace to keep it out of the elements in order to protect our mechanical investment, so that means building a barn or garage of some sort.

At the same time, the summer months make camping almost unbearable at Ca Ira Castle, as it gets really hot and there is not much shade.  Even with shade tents up the wife and dog start to hate me pretty quickly for taking them camping (and the kids can't even be bothered).  It is time to figure out a way to provide a more permanent shelter from the elements there, if possible.

So here's my rough plan, not necessarily in order, for improving our life even more at Ca Ira Castle in 2020:
  • Acquire a Tractor with front-loader
  • Acquire a Bush Hog
  • Buy a modular two-story garage
  • Put equipment in bottom part of garage
  • Build-out an off-grid livable space in the top part of garage
    • Install Solar Panels
    • Install Composting Toilet
    • Water Well
  • Build a deck off the back for enjoying the sunsets
  • Plant clover and grass in the cleared spaces in early spring to help soil
  • Make a concrete bench for enjoying the shade of one our London Plane Trees