Tiny Homes – A Viable Solution for Many

When you start looking into tiny homes on wheels it’s fascinating to see how creative a builder can be while still working within limited length and width parameters. Just watching a few episodes of Living Big in a Tiny House and you can see that there are seemingly unlimited ways for builders to create something very unique, special and most importantly, functional.

Recently, Cordell Pollock of VedaHawk Tiny Homes in Alberta, Canada, reached out to chat about what we’re doing here at Raven’s Perch and to introduce himself and his business. We talked about our shared passion for all things related to tiny house living but we also talked about some of the challenges faced by builders and those purchasing tiny homes. The high cost of buying and building traditional style homes makes it out of reach for most people and so tiny houses are a great option. One of the challenges that many face though, is finding a place to park their tiny home. City and rural bi-laws often prohibit any form of tiny house on wheels structure to be placed on private property.

We are lucky here at Raven’s Perch to have no restrictive zoning that prevents this type of dwellings being built or parked on the property. Where possible, other land owners here, and around the country, are creating similar opportunities for families to share the land and create community. In our region we see more and more land owners creating intentional communities that incorporate non-conventional style homes. Big Calm is one such community and worth checking out if you are interested in a beautiful place to park your home.

I really enjoyed speaking with Cordell, and so, asked him to share with you his story about himself and his business… (you can also check out his blog posts to learn more about Cordell’s life philosophy and helpful tips for tiny home living).

I strongly believe in innovation, creativity, and efficiency.
Tiny homes encapsulate all these things.

I started my company VedaHawk Tiny Homes in April of 2020 as a response to being laid-off from my previous career due to the outbreak of the pandemic. I had always wanted to build tiny houses and run my own tiny house company, so I took lemons and made my lemonade. During the first year I built my first model by myself while undergoing the CSA Z240 RV Certification process with Intertek Certification Services. Once I made it through that, I used my first build as a marketing tool to secure another build, and then another.

I wanted to build tiny homes since the first time I saw them on HGTV (pretty sure that is where we all saw them first). I was initially drawn to the idea just because I love building and they were a very neat concept, but the older I got the more I became aware of the housing issues that so many face.

Purchasing a home has become more and more of a dream for most people and no longer an achievable goal. And so, we rent, and the years go by, and we are still renting, no closer to achieving our goal of purchasing a home because the factors that have priced so many people out of the market are still there and are continuing to get worse.

Photo from VedaHawk website

I believe tiny houses are THE solution, and I believe they are the future of housing. So when I started my company, it was no longer because it seemed like a cool thing to do. I had vision, ambition, drive, and big plans. I started building for individuals and am now aiming to partner with established businesses to bring tiny houses to more people.

Once I have got my name deeper into the market, I intend to develop my own eco friendly tiny home communities. I strongly believe in innovation, creativity, and efficiency. Tiny homes encapsulate all these things, and I think everyone deserves one.

Manifest Your Dreams

When we purchased our property we knew that we wanted to share the land with a farmer. We had no idea how we would make that happen but we put that intention out, talked to people in the area and ultimately found The Young Agrarians and their land matching program. Our land matching facilitator for the area was amazing and over a period of a few months we met several potential farmers. For one reason or another none were the right fit. Many months went by and just as we thought that we wouldn’t find someone, along came Ryan!

From the start Steve and I had a great feeling about Ryan and his partner Aparna. We are so excited that they chose to join us here at Raven’s Perch and to share in the development of this sweet little property! It was all hands on deck starting early spring and it is only now that we can all take a breather and get this post published.

And, so, without further ado, this is Ryan!

My name is Ryan Morin and I was born and raised in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. I moved across Canada to British Columbia in 2019. That was when I was 23 years old, and I had just discovered a passion for growing and getting back to the land. Before then I was stumbling along life’s path aimlessly enjoying myself for the most part.

Being a university drop out was a confusing place to be as a young adult, so naturally I just left it all behind me and went to Australia. Traveling abroad provided the space I needed to figure things out, and refine what I really wanted to do. Along the way I met my partner Aparna who agreed to come traveling around New Zealand with me. After surviving van life together for 6 months she came back to Canada with me to build a life together.

I learnt of Young Agrarians (YA) and their land matching program in 2020 at my first farming job. I scanned their “U-Map” looking at all the opportunities across Canada. I set my sights on Nelson, BC for the 2021 season, and was working with Hailey from YA to seek out suitable land matches in the area. Upon being introduced to Martha and Steve I thought they were cool and really supportive. The land has only 1 acre of arable land, but this fit the needs of the small permaculture farm I had planned. I thought this opportunity could work for me, and so I started to build a relationship with them before committing to anything. After inoculating some logs, sharing food, and getting to know each other for that year I was feeling really good about building my farm and home on their land here in Winlaw.

That winter at the start of 2022, Aparna and I purchased our Yurt. We took the leap of faith to build our home, and my farm here. We definitely bit off more than we could chew, because this year ended up being the most challenging of our life so far. We worked extremely hard, taking no days off all summer. We worked full-time, and then every weekend commuted out to Winlaw from our previous place in Blewett (35 minutes drive). We had to do this in order to build the yurt, as well I was fulfilling the overzealous goal of growing a ¼ garden plot. The garden was a great success and was definitely worth the extra effort. I got a great yield, and provided food for our family, Martha and Steve, and many people in the community. Emerald Grove’s first season was a great success!

Now when I write this, the snow is on the ground, and my life is changing with the season. Things are slowing down, and I am taking time to regenerate. This winter I will plan for the future of the farm, and be ready next spring to do it all again, but bigger. Looking ahead my plans for Emerald Grove are to first build up the market garden. I would like to have the best ½ acre of land converted into beds for growing organic vegetables to be sold. The other ½ acre of land I will convert into a food forest that surrounds the market gardens peripherals. This will be accomplished over time by sheet mulching, and then planting different perennials trees, shrubs, herbs, flowers, and self seeding annuals as well. Eventually my hope is that the whole area of the farm is a contiguous growing space chock full of captivating diversity, and abundance. This will ultimately be an expression of my growing philosophy, which seeks to balance the ideals of permaculture with the practicality of market farming.

Some of the challenges present on the land are limited space, and limited light. I named the farm Emerald Grove, because we are located on the edge of a forest. It is not a typical agricultural site. The main field has good sun exposure, because we cut down a stand of tall cedar trees, but lots of areas get less than 8 hours of sun. The soils range from a deep fertile sandy loam to rocky gravel. Another challenge is water conservation, because of the continuously dry conditions that occur here in the summer. Building up mulch layers in the food forest will be critical to minimize irrigation needs. As well it will be necessary to store water during wet seasons of the year, and use these reserves in the summer. This will prevent over using the water available in the ground, and pumping the well dry. The ideal water system would include a solar water pump that moves water to a large cistern that is uphill of the garden. This would allow us to use gravity fed irrigation, and increase available pressure.

Next spring will mark the first year of farming on my own, and as my sole source of income. It is very exciting, and also a little frightening. Financial challenges are the greatest limiting factor at the moment. I still require a cold storage, wash and pack station, and a delivery vehicle to operate commercially next year. That will be the first order of business when the snow melts. For now it is back to the drawing board to design, crop plan, order seeds, and get educated. I am grateful for all the blessings I had in 2022. I conclude this chapter by the wood stove feeling cozy for the winter.

Was it worth the wait? Heck yeah!

What started as a dream in 2018 when I first purchased land in the Slocan Valley has become a reality and we are now living in our beautiful Nomad Micro Home. The amazing Sustainable Roots Contracting team, led by Jessie Novak, did a fabulous job constructing the main home and detached rental. We came up with some ideas to put our own stamp on the original design and the end results are glorious – we could not be more pleased!

Jessie Novak and his team heading out on the last official day of the build
Jessie and his crew heading out on the last day of the build

From my last post about poop in … wow, July 2020 … to now – we’ve been very busy, and we have just received our final occupancy, so we are in! What an epic journey, not only with the project but with life in general … The pandemic certainly has disrupted many of our lives on so many levels and it can be hard to keep from feeling anxious and overwhelmed by the uncertainty of it all. Having this project has been a blessing (and, ok, sometimes a curse!) in that it has kept me focused and in the moment. The Tarot card II Pentacles pretty much says it all. This card reminds us to be patient, flexible and adaptable as we try to juggle our responsibilities.

I also love the Stoic quote below, I think it’s a good reminder for us all.

“The whole future lies in uncertainty: live immediately” Seneca

My biggest learnings from tackling a building project are that construction loans are not what they appear to be (don’t be tempted to get one unless you have a bank account full of money); everything will take 2 or 3 times longer than you expect and be more expensive (especially during a pandemic – plywood went up in cost by 3 times!); and you need to be flexible and adaptable. I wrote about the importance of maintaining flexibility and being adaptable quite some time ago. We’ve certainly had to be very adaptable and ready to make quick decisions, particularly over the past 10 months.

Everything happens for a reason and in it’s own time and while we were supposed to be moved in to our home in the fall, I’m glad that we ended up moving in in the winter as it is forcing us to take a breather and to rest. There will be a lot of work to do on the property in the spring and summer but for now I’m focusing on getting back to some sorely missed disciplines and practices – namely, meditation, yoga, Tarot and numerology.

I’m also looking forward to writing more regular posts! My next one will be about our beautiful little vacation rental that we call The Nest!

Let’s Talk Poop

I’ve spent my whole life until now living in places that were hooked up to city sewage systems so I’ve never had a reason or desire to understand how a septic system works.  Living in cities we don’t think about this kind of s#!t … we pour it, dump it, flush it and forget about it.  Well, unless you live in Victoria where we’re reminded often that we are flushing our poop (among other things) into the ocean (though thankfully that’s now changing with a new raw sewage filtration plant at the mouth of the harbor).  

So, now that I watched a septic system being installed and I’ll be living with this thing, I want to understand how it works.  I want to understand how to maintain it and what actually happens down there underground, in the tank and in the field.

It was great having a chance to peer into the tank before it was mostly buried.  It looked spotlessly clean – it made me wonder about all the things you could use it for (before it gets used for what it is meant, of course).

A hot tub, a fish tank? As the installer was explaining all the parts to us, he proceeded to show me the filter that I will apparently need to pull up from time to time to hose it off … 

Um… to… WHAT? I have do that? Ha ha… you’re joking, right? Nope, no joking. I think I’ll hire someone to do it.  Going rural, I guess there’s a lot of that sort of thing I’ll have to get used to – cleaning out chicken coops will be another fun adventure … more poop… 

Maintaining a safe and clean septic system is a very important part about living unattached to the city sewerage system.

I did a bit of research and found a site that discussed the best toilet paper to use.  Don’t use anything too robust, they say, as it will likely sink to the bottom of the tank and build up over time – that definitely doesn’t sound good. 

This resource gives a good selection of TP to use and includes pros and cons – who knew there was so much to consider about TP? I mean, yah, I have my favourite types based on feel – nothing feels good about sand paper down there, or the kind that basically disintegrates in your hands while you’re using it, yuck.

Basically it’s good to remember that nothing goes down the toilet except for toilet paper – NOTHING – no Kleenex, paper towels, baby wipes, tampons, kitty litter etc.  Just the right kind of toilet paper. Those leftovers in the fridge that start to look like a weird biology experiment? No way, keep that stuff out of there.

Moving on to the kitchen sink? This will be hard for me; I can’t say I’ve been overly conscious about food stuff that I put down the sink … So, I’ll have to be better at remembering that nothing goes down except for water and soap.  That grease from the bacon pan? Either use paper towels to soak it up and wipe it down or better yet scoop it out when it’s hard and put it in an old tin can … Coffee grounds? Well, these are really good in the garden, especially around hydrangea bushes and things like blueberries that like the acidity.

Of course it goes without saying that chemicals should never ever go down the toilet or sink – that means no bleach! Bleach will kill off all of the good bacteria that the septic system needs to break down the waste and keep it running well. Not to mention you’ll be contaminating the soil and that’s a hazard for everyone and everything – think of the butterflies, birds, bees and bugs. Always dispose of chemicals properly!  

For cleaning, I really love the products you can purchase at Nezza Naturals in Victoria (they ship in Canada and US!).

Or make your own! It’s so simple – lately I’ve been sprinkling baking soda and vinegar in the bathroom sink and shower to clean off soap scum – it works really well.  Lemon juice is also really great to use and it smells so nice and fresh.  You can cut a lemon in half and rub the juice on whatever area you are cleaning, squeeze out the extra juice and add it to a spray bottle that has water in it. Spray the sink or other surfaces as a disinfectant. 

Tea Tree Oil is also a really great alternative to bleach. It’s got a natural fresh scent. Just add a few drops of the oil in warm water in a spray bottle and spray any surface that needs a bit of disinfectant.

Vinegar isn’t quite as pleasant in terms of scent but with its acidic properties it makes for a great cleaning product. Again just put into a spray bottle mixed with water and start cleaning.  You can also add a bit of vinegar to your laundry – it’ll help brighten your clothes and cut through any soap residue.  Try pouring a little bit in your machine next time you do a load (not too much – you don’t want to smell like a chip shop!)

I’ve never used it myself but I hear that Castile soap is a great alternative to bleach.  It’s made with olive oil – dilute it with water and use it to scrub bathrooms, dishes and floors. You can also add it to your laundry as a detergent by adding vinegar, and baking soda.

I’ll end this poopy post with a funny story shared to me by my septic system installer.  A customer called him up complaining of a blocked septic pipe.  He went to check it out and ended up having to use a long stick or tool to poke at an obstruction.  He poked and poked and then suddenly realized that the blockage was breaking up, and breaking up fast.  He had just enough time to turn and run before a poop geyser shot poop into the sky nearly covering him in s#@t. 

When he spoke to the home owner, he asked if they used dry laundry detergent – oh no said he, never … long pause … oh… except, a few years ago my wife decided she’d make her own so, yeah, I guess we did for a time.  

So final tip, do not use dry powder for dishwasher or laundry or you might just create a poop geyser of your own.

That’s it, that’s all I’m going to say about poop (for now… until I get chickens).