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.

The Farm… at Raven’s Perch

The plan for the farm is evolving and after a really amazing site visit with Hailey Troock from Young Agrarians we decided it would be a good idea to take it slow (opposite to my… let’s just do it NOW default way of thinking)… We are in the final stages of our building process and there is still a lot of time, effort and money required on that front so it doesn’t make sense to spread ourselves too thin by tackling this part of the project at this time. Therefore, this summer we will take the time to connect with those who have expressed interest in being apart of this opportunity, and if that is YOU please contact Hailey (info in her blog post linked below). Once fall arrives we will focus on getting the soil prepped and plant a winter rye crop to help build the soil up. By next April we’ll start getting things ready for the growing season!! Then the real fun begins, can’t wait to get my hands dirty!

Of course a lot will happen between fall and spring. We will need to meet up with those who are going to be living on the land and working the farm with us so that we can do some brainstorming and planning on design as well as discuss all the details involved with co-existing on the property as a healthy and happy community of like-minded people.

Over the winter I personally plan on spending a lot amount of time studying permaculture (I’ve had a book on my wish list for a long time that I’ll pick up soon called Gaia’s Garden by Toby Hemenway). I will also be sifting through the abundance of the amazing farming and business resources provided on the Young Agrarians site.

Hailey’s blog post explains our opportunity very well, and includes her contact information if you are interested in applying… check it out!

There seems to be a real wave of interest directed towards farming right now. There is a greater interest in taking control of one’s own food source and I think it is one positive outcome of this very strange and bizarre situation that we find ourselves in in 2020. Here’s a challenge for you, whether you have acreage, a front and/or back yard, access to a local allotment garden or even a balcony – see what you can grow this summer!

Adapting to the new norm

In my last post I shared thoughts on how being adaptable can help us to navigate through stressful times and how learning to be ok with change can help us to be calm and respond to situations despite the fear or uncertainty that we may feel. To seek out solutions instead of focusing on what is wrong.  We may even find that we learn how to thrive during times such as these.

The way that we carry out almost every activity in our daily life has changed in such a short period of time, and just the other day I encountered a new one. Our bank appraiser came by the property to asses the progress made on our home in order that funds from my construction loan may be released to me. He let us know ahead of time that because of the COVID-19 situation, he is only permitted to perform drive-by viewings from the road, he can’t actually drive or step onto the property.

When he arrived, we spoke to him from across the road and he instructed us on what photographs he’d need to see in order for him to complete his report. Below are some of the photos we took and you’ll see a lot of work has taken place in the past month. The siding is completed, the windows are in, the roof on and soffits installed. Last week the electricians made a lot of progress and this week I believe the plumber is coming in. Then begins the fun stuff like drywall!

Adaptability and embracing change has been my friend throughout the length of this project and we still have several months to go. So many delays and moving timelines to manage along with the tedious and often stressful task of juggling finances. The money aspect is one which has forced us to re-evaluate the original plan again and again … and yet again. Sure there is stress within this process and yes I have shed tears of frustration at times wondering if I had bitten off more than I could chew. However I truly believe that with each requirement to change we have come to the most incredible way forward and I don’t think we would have got here without everything “negative” and “challenging” that has happened along the way!

We are very fortunate to have a property outside the ALC which allows us to be creative and to play with lots of different possibilities. The part of the property that is down the hill and through the cedar forest from where we are building the Nomads is a big beautiful open field. Some of our ideas have been to find a partner to build a boutique micro-brewery. Another was to build a really cool house on stilts like the Sol-Duc. We also thought about building several live/work studio homes for people in the area, or a business centre for the local community.

And then… COVID-19 came along and here we now are at the end of March in a Brave New World, the strangest of days. So within a few weeks and with all the uncertainty surrounding everyone and everything, all of the plans that we had considered got thrown out the window and we had to re-evaluate our plan.

One morning, about a week ago, while I was doing my idea machine “workout” I had the seed of a thought which, while later brainstorming it with Steve, germinated into something fabulous – the idea to marry my love of tiny homes with my interest in permaculture gardening together to build something for ourselves and for the greater community. The plan to invite between 3 – 5 experienced permaculture designers/ farmers who will park their own off-grid tiny home on wheels on our property began coming together.

lower field

Then the question became… how? How do we reach out to find these people? Where to begin? Well, about a year ago I had joined the Young Agrarians organization and while I hadn’t been actively participating I did remember that they have a B.C. Land Matching Program so I started by reaching out to them. The other part of this plan involved reaching out to ReWild Homes, a builder of tiny home on wheels located on Vancouver Island. They have a resources page which includes a lands listing for tiny home owners to find a place to park their homes. I’ve connected with two amazing human beings who are helping me to make this dream a reality!

The vision and plan is to bring like minded people together to build a model or blueprint for sustainable living. We must change the way we live, it has become so apparent in these last few months that we must not, for the sake of this planet, continue being consumer focused and that we need to take control of our local food sources – to become more self sufficient.

We human beings are only stewards of this land, we don’t “own” it, we are only temporarily taking care of it for the next generation as well as for all of the creatures great and and small that share the land with us. It’s shocking – in a horrible but also good way – to see the beneficial affects of the slow down of industry is having on our planet. Blue skies and clear waters in places around the globe where this hasn’t been the case for as long as local residents can remember.

I believe it behoves us to take this global life altering situation that we’ve found ourselves in and make a change for the better – however that might look for you. To go back to the way things were just doesn’t, in my mind, seem to be an option! If you were to change just one thing, what would it be?

I’ll get off my soap box now but leave you this a final note: if you, or someone you know, is a farmer (particularly versed in permaculture) who wants to participate in realizing this vision I have for our Winlaw property, you will share in the harvest, sell at an onsite weekly market and have the opportunity to run workshops and lectures on the property to demonstrate the value and importance of permaculture gardening. If you are interested in participating in any way with this project please feel free to reach out, send me an email at info@ravensperch.co.