Spring came early this year, sweeping us off our feet with a gift in the form of a warm, blue, Spring. Nicholette and I have been thankful for our new ability to spend more time out in our community, gardening, and dreaming about what the next few months hold for us.
On one such beautiful Spring day last week I made an early morning call about a listing I had found on Craiglist the previous evening. “Green Anchors Seeks Green Tenants”, read the title. They advertised several different projects that they currently had going on including art projects, aquaculture, and even a Tiny Home building project (with space for more!). We treated ourselves that morning with a cup of coffee at our favorite local coffee shop, the James John Cafe and dreamed of what opportunities awaited us at Green Anchors. We tried to envision the space, and discussed some of the potential benefits of building at a community space rather than our driveway. We also spent some time manifesting what we would need from the space: a safe place to build, knowledgeable community, flexible landlords, and most importantly something within our “tiny” budget.
Around 1:30 we wound our way down towards the water next to the bridge. Did we find it? There was no grand sign to let us know we had found our destination. We parked our car and walked across the street to our destination, our destiny! As soon as we passed through the gate, we knew we had found something outside of the industrial norm for this part of the Willamette river. A converted shipping container with large solar panels on top, an enormous plastic dome, a converted school bus, and a tiny house being built under a tarp stretched between two shipping containers.
“Are you Matt?” we asked to a man who was standing outside of the converted shipping container. “No, I’m Miles” he replied. As it turns out, Miles operates his own solar panel business called “LIGHTHarvest SOLAR”. We talked with him briefly about the tiny project we will be starting this Summer, and he assured us that he would be able to help us when it comes time to talk about setting up a tiny power source. We walked a little further and found two guys working on restoring an old tug-boat. “Are you Matt?” we asked “No, I’m Mark, but this is Matt” he replied. Matt and Mark cousins who purchased the stretch of river (a former brownfield) that is now home to Green Anchors.
Matt and Mark led us on a formal tour of their space identifying the enormous dome as an art piece that had been made for a trade show and later donated by the artist who “just wanted it out of his yard”. They showed us the current tiny house project and told us that they had spoke with another couple who is interested in taking on a similar project this summer. They pointed off to a corner of the lot and told us that it was where they planned on clearing space for tiny projects like ours. The “tiny corral” I immediately thought. We envisioned ourselves working next to another couple while we build a sustainable house to propel us towards our “tiny” lifestyle. While it seems that all tiny housers have different reasons for going tiny, all are making a decision that is firmly based in their values. I spoke with Mark briefly about my schooling, our move to Oregon, and what “going tiny” represents for us. He told me that he had walked a similar but different path. Having made the decision to give up real-estate after the market changed, a decision that had afforded him a great majority his time back. While Mark now lives a much smaller existence, he is excited to spend his days outside working on projects he is passionate about.
Mark asked me what we were expecting to spend on a 25’ X 25’ space to build our home. I told him that we were planning on spending 3-5 months getting our house framed, and ready to compete against the wet Oregon fall/winter, and that we had decided that we had $600-800 to spend on the space. Mark frankly stated that while it looks like they’ve got “a lot going on here”, they (like most start-ups) have spent their first year struggling to keep their heads above water. For Matt and Mark, as well as for us, their life largely about striking a balance of supporting the ideas and projects they find important and valuable while still remaining financially stable. We all agreed that $150 a month would be a sustainable number for all of us. We left Green Anchors with our spirits high and our minds reeling with all of the things we would need to accomplish prior to starting our tiny home building project.
After returning home we set out on a bike ride to capture the last few hours of sun for that day. We rounded a corner and nearly ran in to a tiny home built on the back of a pickup truck. As we went for a closer look, a man and a border collie poked their heads out from the “front door”. The man, Chris, informed us that he and his wife, Sarah, were traveling the country giving out free “pie to the people”. Being relatively well connected with the online tiny house community movement we were familiar with these two pie-o-neers and their story. However, we had no idea that they were traveling this way and staying less than a mile away from us in North Portland. We were given a sticker, and told that we should meet them at Pioneer Square at 6pm for a free slice of pie. On a day where everything seemed to be synchronistically lining up for us, we felt in some way as though this was a “slice of our destiny”. We made our way home, and down to Pioneer Courthouse Square to meet this couple, pick their brains, and eat some pie!
Sarah and Chris told us that they were traveling around the country for the next 6 months to spread the word that people really still do nice things for each other. We sat with them and their border collie Shalosh. Their message is that even though we may complete something wonderful (such as baking a pie) that it in fact took many people to make that single act possible. And, considering that, why would we not want to share said pie with the people… and if we all shared a bit of what we are able to create, how might such a simple act inspire and influence the rest of our community.