Small Footprint, Big Freedom

Welcome to Spur, Texas. The nation's first "Tiny" House friendly town.

Keeping Your Tiny House Safe

Emergency-Preparedness-Checklist-1024x682Mother Nature is a curious one. On summer morning she greets us with a vibrant smile; radiant rays of sunshine gleaming down on our business. In winter she dances with us one snowflake after another. But when she is angry there is no wrath quite like hers. Much like your momma or mine she rarely tries to hide when mad or disappointed. Instead she attacks with a force not to be reckoned with. She lets nothing stand in her path and she unloads quickly without thought to her children who – on most days – delight in her variety. The fact remains when a dust storm (or Haboob) rises up some 1,000 feet high traveling into town from Lubbock way or a cold system clashes with a warm front just off to the west assuring a severe storm or a possible twister there is little that can be done. No amount of protective services or warning signals will help to keep Mother Nature at bay. But no one is safe. Every house is susceptible; tiny or not! So what steps can you take to keep your tiny house safe?

Today’s tips can be broken down into three different groups: Home Improvements, Emergency Preparedness, and Action!

Home Improvements

  1. Secure any items that may be outside your home. This includes lawn furniture, lawn ornaments, mailboxes, garden gnomes, and the like. Flying debris can be a major hazard in high winds. Securing means to tie it down or bring it in!
  2. Review your insurance policy. Make sure you are covered for disasters that your area is prone to. Don’t have insurance? Check with a local agent to see how tiny houses may gain insurance in that municipality.
  3. Make sure your tiny house trailer is properly anchored down.
    • Tiny house anchoring should meet mobile home manufacturing specifications.
    • If you aren’t sure of things have a certified technician inspect your home and anchoring system.
  4. Make sure you are up to code. Without being up to code you can’t receive a certificate of occupancy nor will your insurance typically cover you. You are assuming all risk when not up to snuff.
  5. Consider skirting. What is skirting you ask? Skirting is material that enclose the bottom of the tiny house but yet still allows some air to pass through. If you don’t have a skirting enclosure wind can get under your house, peel off siding, lift the flooring, etc

Emergency Preparedness

  1. Add a disaster preparedness kit (or 72-hour kit or BOB) and a weather radio to your home. At any time of day a NOAA weather radio alerts you to impending events.
  2. Make an escape plan. (to exit your tiny house)
  3. Make an evacuation plan. (to leave town)
  4. Consider a storm cellar or shelter. If there is one in town make sure each member of your family knows where it is.
  5. Get to know your neighbors. You may need them or they may need you during emergency. With a friendship in place communication and response will be significantly easier.

Action!

  1. Stay tuned in to local TV and radio broadcasts for watch, warning, and update information.
  2. Watch for changing weather conditions.
  3. If a tornado approaches find shelter.
  4. If told to evacuate, do so.
  5. Close your windows and even your shutters if you have them.
  6. Stay calm and level-headed.
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Small Town Living

7004893232_d8f7039c0a_zSmall town living can get you down. There is no doubt about that. It can really be discouraging if you have grown up in a city with all of the amenities just a block or two away. You get on Facebook each morning and see photos of your friend having a cappuccino with the fancy froth art on top or you see an old buddy buying a new flatscreen at the local Best Buy. Your Instagram feed shows an old flame modeling clothes at GAP or Urban Outfitters and all you can do is dream about life in the city: the smells, the sounds, and the action! But as you walk out of your tiny house you are smacked in the face with crisp, clean air and the sounds of the Earth remind you that there are reasons you love small town life.

  1. Antique Shopping Is Simple. In small towns it seems that there is an antique store or a rummage barn for every 100 people. Granted you may not be able to find an Eames Lounger in mint condition you can probably find a wire basket egg carrier or a handmade ceramic butter churn without even breaking a sweat!
  2. The Creativity Flows. Because you don’t have a Target a few minutes away you have to be creative. In order to get that robin’s egg blue over-sized planter pot you have to paint and finish a normal terra cotta one. Likewise on the typography print to hang over your couch. No framed art in this small town. You have to “design it”, print it, and frame it yourself.
  3. You Learn To Love Local. Forget big box stores and corporate coffee shops. In your small town you get flowers from a local farmer’s field. You drink coffee, black with a hint of heavy cream, at the local diner or gas station. You read books at the library or you borrow them from your next door neighbor instead of in the cafe at the B&N. Local gets in your blood and you can’t imagine forking over a dollar to anyone you don’t sit next to at church.
  4. Traffic. I’m sorry. That should grammatically read, “Traffic?” It’s a question as in what traffic?
  5. Star Gazing Is A Way Of Life. No more downloading an iPhone App to identify stars in the night sky. Say goodbye to having to view Flickr images the day after a cosmic event. In your small town you can step outside and see the wide open night sky in all its glory, unobstructed by streetlights, parking lot floods, and the like. Drive a few minutes outside of town and you are in a vast expanse of nothing where it is just you, a little music streaming from the pickup speakers, and the galaxy!
  6. Everyone (or almost everyone) Knows Your Name. Life in your small town is like living next door to Sam Malone or going into Norm Peterson’s store or even having Frasier Crane as your local sounding board. Everyone does know your name as well as where you work, what you drive, who you’re kin to, and how you look when you answer the door for a girl scout peddling cookies at your front door.
  7. You No Longer Find Yourself Lost. Who needs maps? The center of town is Main Street. To the North is the high school. To the South is XYZ big city. What else do you need to know? And if you do feel turned around or confused you only need to ask someone and they are sure to help you find your way. If worse comes to worse you can just walk out of town turn around, take a good look, and walk back into town the right way.
  8. Violent Crime Never Goes Down. This sounds a little misleading. Small town life doesn’t have violent crime. Yes, a number of small towns are 2nd amendment friendly. A number of small towns have extremely small police forces. But a number of small towns also see little to no violent crime. The reason being everyone knows your name. That’s right. The same group of locals that welcomes you to the Mini Mart is the same group that peers out their window when they hear a noise or confronts local teens hanging out well after dark behind the pub. There is accountability and there is respect. There is law and there is consequence.
  9. High School Football. Small towns love nothing more than their kids; their star athletes and talented offspring. And in west Texas small towns love nothing more than high school football. Remember Friday Night Lights (the movie version)? Remember Odessa, Texas? That’s right. West Texas!
  10. Rockin’ Chairs, Rockin’ Babies. Several years ago Dolly Parton and Ricky Van Shelton sang a song titled Rockin’ Years. It is the quintessential song of small town love. “Rockin’ chairs, rockin’ babies, rock-a-bye, rock of ages / Side by side we’ll be together always / And if you’ll hold me tight when you love me / That’s all I’ll ask of you / And I’ll stand by you thru our rockin’ years.” What is better than that? You and that special someone growing old together in your small town, sitting on rocking chairs, rocking a baby to sleep, and realizing that life is meant for living and not just doing.

 

 

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A r(E)volution begins in Spur

I typically don’t feel compelled to enter into discussions regarding subject that don’t apply to me. Well, that isn’t the truth. I love entering into discussions that are poised to be arguments of some sort. I love the art of debate. However, as I have gotten older I have learned there is a time and place for everything. This particular subject is one that I have just felt compelled to speak out on. I don’t want to anger anyone or square off against anyone. But I have seen a bit of injustice as of late and I just wanted to speak out against it and stand the ground I feel has the most firm foundation.

Let’s clear one thing up first though. I am really no one. Yes. I am the founder of Tiny r(E)volution. Yes, I am co-host of the r(E)vo Convo podcast. Yes, I am a national speaker on the topic of tiny houses. And yes, I both have built and lived in a tiny house trailer. But I am no one. At the end of the day I am just another guy who a few years ago had a dream and decided to pursue it albeit it on a slightly larger scale than most would. It was because of that pursuit that I became a voice in the legal struggles of tiny house enthusiasts. I have cut through red tape in even my own county in order to live legally; to live free. I have danced like a monkey at times for my municipality and I have come out stronger for it. You can imagine then my absolutely excitement a week or two ago when I read that this little hamlet in west Texas was stepping out and proclaiming itself the first “tiny” house friendly city in the nation. What boldness. What brass!

But as quickly as the sun rose on Spur, Texas a seemingly small syntax error caused it to set just as quick. Within just a day or two it seemed as if Spur was falling under scrutiny. Why though? I needed to look further.

The wording on Spur’s proclamation states:

The City of Spur, having a proud tradition of the pioneer Spirit of the West and recognizing the pioneer spirit of people involved in the “Tiny” house trend and their desire to be part of a more peaceful, self-sufficient, friendly and affordable community, the City Council does hereby designate Spur as America’s first “Tiny” House friendly town.

Seems indifferent enough, right? Tiny houses welcome. Right? WRONG! It seems as if Spur forgot to make a delineation between tiny houses and tiny house trailers; a fact picked up on by the tiny house community at large. Facebook, Twitter, and a few blogs picked up on the discrepancy quickly. Was Spur just trying to pull a fast one; a marketing ploy at best? Had they intentionally overlooked tiny house trailers? What was their true motive?

This is the point where I decided I need to write in. I haven’t been doing much blogging this summer so my fingers needed a bit of exercise and this is really the first thing that stirred me to sit and type. So I ask. WHO CARES? Who cares if the proclamation distinguishes between tiny houses (presumably on a foundation) and tiny house trailers? Why get so upset? For years now we have begged municipalities to ease up. We have asked them to take us seriously and to bend a bit to allow us “safe passage.” And here was a town – no matter its size or location – willing to do just that. Spur was willing to turn their town over to tiny houses and to do so legally. Yet because we didn’t read in the wording the phrase “tiny house trailer” we assumed they were overlooking this portion of the community and doing nothing more than trying to get attention.

Throughout the day I watched as David Alsbury, the loner Spur resident who is spearheading the effort, respond to people all over the place. He admitted to making a mistake and vowing to fix it. He confessed he didn’t work things as perhaps he should have. But he also reminded us that like in any municipality things take time and this first step was a huge one. His town was going to legally permit small dwellings. And not just allow them mind you. Spur was going to invite them to come!

We all know how this has played out. Spur has moved even further and spelled out their plan for both tiny houses on foundations and tiny house trailers. Both sound great methinks. But I want to raise a few points.

  • Will good enough ever be good enough for us? As a community are we really looking for acceptance or are we looking to be a valid niche? Do we truly want to live anonymously in neighborhoods across America or do we crave attention as THE tiny house on the block?
  • Wasn’t the initial reason for tiny houses to be built on trailers so that we could avoid the red tape and legal issues pursuant upon living in a small space? Why focus so hard now on the trailer aspect? Why be mobile if you can live permanently in a place you are truly drawn to?
  • If we aren’t part of the solution aren’t we part of the problem? If Spur angered us or left us out why didn’t more of us question David? Why didn’t more of us reach out to him. I saw comments and questions and requests for clarification and I appreciate that. But I didn’t see any big thank you’s and rallying voices at the outset.

I personally am pleased to see a city or a town or a municipality or whatever Spur considers itself be so bold. They have a need. They saw another need. They brainstormed to find a way both needs could be met allowing both parties to be successful. I absolutely intend to visit Spur in the coming months to see if perhaps my family fits in there. After all, we are looking for a place to call home and town willing to accept 700 sq.ft. of tiny house happiness!

 



photo-1Andrew Odom is a content contributor, author, designer, community manager, neo-homesteader, and dreamer. In his spare time he typically dons a tin foil hat and sets out to reveal the real culprit behind the Scooby Doo mystery. Read more from his sustainable housing chronicles here or find him on Google.

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The Texas Spur Features The Tiny Town

Like any quaint town Spur also has a hometown newspaper. The Texas Spur published by Cindi Taylor is published 51 weeks a year and hits newsstands each Thursday.

This past Thursday – July 24, 2014 – the Spur published an article about the recent tiny house proclamation entitled ‘Could a tiny idea entice a new generation of pioneers to Spur?’ With a front page feature and a meaty page 2 article, the press was indeed a welcome sign that Spur is headed in the right direction.

The article written by Taylor herself includes quotes by David Alsbury, local resident and tiny house advocate, Councilman Randy Adams, and Mayor Manuel Herrera. To read the article in its entirety click on the images below.

The Texas Spur - front page

The Texas Spur – front page

 

The Texas Spur - page 2

The Texas Spur – page 2

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Mobility Is For The Mobile

Tiny House Welcoming Team 2

Randy Adams and John McDonald are two of the busiest people in town and also part of the Tiny House Welcome Team. They can help make you a visitor in Spur to a lifetime resident!

The author of our town proclamation, Randy Adams, perhaps stated it best.  “Folks who want to live the “Tiny” house life in Spur need only to build with quality, connect to city utilities and pay taxes like everybody else.” For all intents and purposes there is no distinguishing in terms of whether this includes only small spaces on foundations built right here in Spur or if it also includes tiny houses on trailers toted into our city. The difference is in the execution of establishing residency.

In order for a tiny house trailer to find legal residence within the city limits of Spur, Texas – as approved by city council – the THT owner will have 30 days to contact the unofficial ‘Tiny House Welcoming Team’ to get in contact with a contractor or local business who can set the tiny house on a more permanent foundation.

The foundation will be created using cinderblock piers (every four feet) underneath the THT once it is in place. Then using hydraulic jacks the trailer will be raised and the axles will be removed as they would on a modular or mobile home. The contractor will take out leaf spring bolts at the frame (there are typically four bolts per axle, two on each side). Once the axles and wheels are separated from the THT it will then be lowered on the cinderblock piers and leveled accordingly. The contractor will then tie down the THT using either concrete spikes or earth augers (depending on the lot type) and metal strapping. This will help with both stability and overall safety.

Once the THT is in place the bottom can be either skirted or otherwise landscaped to give the appearance of a tiny house rather than a mobile dwelling.

The removed axles and wheels can then be stored for an indefinite amount of time in a weather-proofed facility.

A service like this has no real set in stone price. However, locals agree that digging a foundation, laying block and field stripping the trailer ending with the foundation set will typically run around $1,500.  While most cities require the use of an approved contractor in Spur (remember, we are just a laid back town) means anyone the THT owner wants to use but preferably the more experienced and capable in town. Again, this is something the welcoming team can assist with and wants to offer incoming residents. A THT owner doesn’t have to worry about finding someone reputable to perform the task.

NOTE: Two lots next to each other in Spur, Texas (totaling 100′ x 165′) sells for just at $3,000 retail. Combined with the average $1,500 for foundation setting and the cost to establish residency is under $5,000. Compare that to the cost accrued in other areas across the nation.

Will this hurt the tiny house? 

If the tiny house is built well and is attached firmly to the actual trailer the removal of the axles and leaf springs will effect nothing. leaf spring is a simple form of spring used for the suspension in wheeled vehicles. If a tiny house trailer is sitting still it has no need for suspension. Likewise the axles only perform the function of allowing the wheels to turn and the home to be mobile. If you are establishing residency in Spur immediate mobility should not be a concern. 

Are tie downs and straps effective for security?

Yes. By code all mobile homes in America are required to be tied down and/or strapped down as well as set on a stationary foundation of some sort. By setting a THT on cinderblock piers as well as being strapped down the THT runs a considerably lessened risk of movement during storms or even just in walking heavily in the house.

Do you have photos of how this makes a tiny house look?

While we do not yet have photos of this process specifically with tiny house trailers we can point to another resource. Andrew and Crystal Odom of Tiny r(E)volution – in order to be legal in their county – had their tiny house trailer set on cinderblock piers and then strapped down with earth augers and metal straps. You can see photos of that process on their Google+ page as well as read about the process here.

Tiny r(E)volution tie down and anchors

Workers turn the 36″ earth augers into the ground before applying metal strapping at the Tiny r(E)volution tiny house.

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