The Hedge Society has been re-launched as a group blog. It’s a little blog about a lot of things and I will be posting some of the fun stuff from Jordon Cooper Outfitters over there as well as some of the stuff that may or may not end up here. I’m kind of excited about it because it’s other contributors are some of my favourite people online and I can’t wait to see their contributions. You can also follow Hedge Society on Twitter @hedgesociety
For all of the news about affordable housing in Saskatoon, most of the affordable housing units are still over $200,000. There is still a huge need for low rent units. A company in Winnipeg is solving both the problem of creating low rent apartments and finding a solution for how to build on narrow abandoned lots called Pocket Houses.
At 210 and 243 square feet these aren’t exactly built for families and all of the suites have had to make sacrifices for space. They are however a unique and cutting-edge alternative to conventional rooming houses. These narrow buildings on infill lots fit well with the City of Winnipeg’s inventory of vacant lots in residential neighbourhoods. Each building is two storeys high and has 8 units each with separate entrances, private washrooms, and separate ventilation systems. Each Pocket House features three barrier-free suites and one fully accessible suite on the main floor, with four other suites on the second level accessible by two outside staircases.
Each suite has a built-in cooking area complete with mini-fridge, microwave, sink, hot plate, dishes and cooking utensils. Suites also feature a single bed, a built-in table and a chair. The fully accessible main floor suite has modified doorways and a large roll-in shower for wheelchairs.
I just blogged about this over at The Cooper Cabin. They are Katrina Cottages and are low cost but significant upgrades over the FEMA trailers designed in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. As soon as I saw them and some other low impact houses over the years, I can’t help but think of them as a solution for homelessness in Saskatoon (and other urban centres).
I would give residents a chance for low cost home ownership with a mortgage that is half of what rent would be for a small house. You could set up a development like that like a condo board in that you could define qualifications for home ownership as well as conditions on reselling. I know a lot of urban centres have concerns with developments like this but it is all in how they are maintained. I have seen gorgeous trailer parks over the years who looked a lot like suburbia everywhere else in the world. Plus, a lot of these cottages are the same size as hundreds of small homes in Mayfair, Riversdale, Pleasant Hill, King George, and Westmount so it isn’t as if small housing is a new thing.
At $45, you could offer housing for under $30,000 a house plus land. With the right urban planning, you could create a great addition to the community and help a lot of low income families out. The low mortgage payments would be fed back into the community in the form of discretionary income, be able to be set aside for retirement, or be saved up for future housing as the families grow up and their housing needs change.
When we bought the cabin, I put up a quick free blog hosted on Blogspot to post photos to so we could show the changes the cabin has gone through. While we have done that, I have posted a lot of design and architecture links to it as well which has generated a growing amount of traffic over the years. Over the last year the site has been linked to by several architectural firms, some classes, and some publications as a niche architectural design resource which has been really cool. I am not an architect or a designer but it’s nice that my curation efforts are recognized.
As I was looking for something today and I had a lot of fun looking back at some of the amazing buildings, boats, and structures found in the architectural section of the site. Here are some of my favorites.
- The Saskatoon Hayloft :: This is a fun post because I saw it being created day by day as I walked or drove by it on my way to work. What started as a Safeway store in the 20s turned into a home and performance space that is one of the jewels of Caswell Hill.
- Floating Home on Lake Huron :: When I think of projects like this, I don’t think of them being located on the Great Lakes. When you do take a look at both the design and the location, you realize how it all fits together (although I am not sure how the ice doesn’t tear it apart in the winter).
- Unplugged :: A series of cabins who are all off the grid. While some are a little over the top, the Shack at Hinkle Farm is a long time design favorite.
- Rustic Houseboat by the Sea :: If I was single and lived near a large body of water, I would love to have a place like this to get away to. It’s a little rustic by my standards and I doubt it would be comfortable on a really hot day but the idea is a great one.
- Home Office Cube in Chile :: This is quite high end but what a great concept. The contrast between being open and closed is incredible.
- Compact beach chalet in the U.K. :: While I get a kick out of how close the English can put beach front cabins together and I am not sure if I would want to live like that, I do really like how this cabin is designed on the inside, now if it could only generate some elbow room.
- The Cube :: How great would it be to have a home office on the side of a mountain, especially one that seemed to blend right into the mountain and at the same time disappear while you are in it.
- Chen House :: This is an interesting design that strives to integrate life inside and the surrounding environment together. It also has an interesting flexible engineering structure designed to move with the wind and the rains rather than stand up to them.
- A lo-fi urban private club :: A fun post about a private urban country club in New York. Why more of these don’t exist, I don’t know. Before you ask, I have tried to get one for the parking lot at work and was vetoed.
- An off the grid weekend getaway :: This is nothing more than a repurposed boat shed in the middle of nowhere but what a great layout. It inspired us to open up our cabin and rearrange the layout and design of it. While we are definitely on the grid, it does show you how little you need to get away from the city and enjoy the weekend. I think of all of the projects I have linked to, this is my favorite.
- A Hermit’s Cabin :: I keep thinking I am going to build one of these for Mark and Oliver at the lake.
- Emergency shelter’s made from pallets :: As I have posted before, I am not sure why these aren’t used in places like Haiti and other places where there are large scale refugees needing quick, cheap, and stable emergency housing that can be improved over time.
Of course, if you have comments or other suggestions that you think would fit in, let me know in the comments.
A friend of mine asked me the other day if we had any regrets about purchasing our cabin last summer. The discussion revolved around the size, the restrictions on use, and the idea of the being permanently anchored to one place for vacation.
There are four of us using under 300 square feet. As you can imagine, it is a bit crowded with three beds, four people, and two dogs.
Instead of planning any addition, we are working at adding some outside space. The gazebo will feature two resin Adirondack and two Cape Cod chairs along with a small coffee table. The cabin isn’t insulated which means that it gets pretty warm in the summer. We added a dual action window fan which makes a big difference in cooling down the cabin at night but the gazebo is where we plan to spend our evenings.
For the mornings, we are adding a small patio in the front. We had talked about building a full deck but we settled on paving blocks. The patio won’t be any larger than enough space to put a bistro table and two chairs out front. I know that doesn’t leave Oliver and Mark with a chair but we won’t worry about that until they star drinking tea and coffee to start out their morning. Plus, it may not be the worse thing to have a portion of the property that is for adults, at least for part of the day.
During the dry summer months, Mark crashes outside in his three person tent where he seems happy. Of course once he gets too much older and his feet hang out of the end. When that happens we will either explore the idea of adding an out building, putting up a Boler or a tent trailer, or just getting a bigger tent.
Some have asked if the four of us could live up there and with some interior renovations we could in that amount of space. We have talked about adding a loft and with one it would work okay. It would necessitate a much simpler lifestyle but as many have shown, it is possible to live in something smaller than a McMansion.
Restrictions on Use
One of the conditions on the lease is that it is alcohol free. I don’t really have a problem with that. Arlington Beach was originally a Free Methodist camp and it is a part of the holiness movement heritage. Wendy and I very rarely consume anything alcoholic and so to be alcohol free is no big deal. The upside of this is that I don’t have to worry about Mark getting into any alcohol or getting harassed by some drunk while he is walking to the washroom. While people are up late sitting around a bonfire or drinking coffee, it is a different kind of noise that you get when the booze is flowing freely. The only impact it has is on my plans for beer can chicken at the lake. Of course I have been told by several beer drinkers that one should never waste a beer on a chicken and one can get the same impact from alcohol free beer or even water in a can.
Attached to one place
I love to travel with the family so I thought this would really bother me but it hasn’t. The ability to get away to another place is a big plus for us. We had talked about buying a Boler, small RV, or just tenting equipment before we got this but in the end, this was the right investment for us (I am not a big fan of tenting and I am not sure the idea of a Boler and a campground was going to work either). We are still planning to get away to Victoria in the fall but it does give us a place to spend our vacation time this summer without worrying about expenses. It also serves a base to attend Saskatchewan Roughriders games with it only being an hour away from
Taylor FieldMosaic Stadium at Taylor Field. As I mentioned Regina is an hour away and the drive to Moose Jaw through the Qu’Appelle Valley is stunning. If you haven’t seen the book Scenic Saskatchewan Drives, it offers several amazing day trips around Saskatchewan and many of them are easily accessible from the cabin.
So a year later and I don’t have a lot of regrets in making the investment. The cabin is pretty modest and it fit our budget. It was recently appraised at being worth $2,000 by the local R.M. and even with having a large lot, it is worth well under $5,000 which is many times more money than we paid for it.
While last year it felt like we were still heading to a vacation property, this year it has become more like home. The paint is ours, Mark has his own bed, the other beds and kitchen have been upgraded and improved. While not quite the Kennedy Compound in Hyannis, Massachusetts or the Bush Compound in Kennebunkport, Maine, it is ours and for right now, it’s a pretty good fit for the family.
While we lived in Calgary, our sub division was too new to have much for parks, we had a large field which was rectangle and had grass but that was it. It allowed us to play baseball, soccer, football, and race our bikes and did everything a park needed to do. The other extreme are the over landscaped, over glorified outdoor hallways that these parks resemble.
So early reports are that sales are down 4% this year retail wise compared to last year. While that doesn’t sound like that much, it is if you are a store owner who depends on Christmas sales to make or break your year. Wendy and I were in Sears in early December and we were the only ones in the store, I originally thought it was closed and even while shopping, I had my doubts. A week ago I walked through the store again and was shocked to see bins of stuff marked down from 40% to 75% off. Even when were at Eddie Bauer, everything was marked down 30% in the store and there really was no rush of people in the mall, despite the Boxing Day prices.
It’s easy to blame the economy and that is no small part of the equation but in Saskatchewan we are experiencing an economic boom. We are a frugal people but on the Saturday before Christmas, I walked in and out of Wal-Mart in ten minutes. That never happens that close to Christmas even in less prosperous times.
What happened? As a geek, there really wasn’t that much I wanted this year. Sure a big hard drive would be nice and who wouldn’t want a Nikon D90 but other than a couple PSP games, nothing really made it on my Christmas list. Even Lee, who is a bigger geek than I am didn’t ask for anything tech this year. Neither one of us are excited by Microsoft Vista and we are too intelligent to use Macs (calm down, I am kidding). There was some team gear that was kind of cool but too high priced to get (Saskatchewan Roughrider jersey barbecue covers were pretty cool but at almost $100 too much money) but other than that, I wasn’t that blown away by much of anything on the shelves. Lots of people were looking for a Nintendo Wii but for other gaming systems, there really wasn’t a must have game. Instead a lot of places seemed more determined to sell me a 50” television than anything else and if I wasn’t into that… what else did I need to have?
I am wondering if after years of easy credit, do not pay for 2 years, low APR financing, not only are we debted out, we are consumed out as well? Maybe after years of consuming, we are full. They speak of the insatiable American desire for more stuff but take a look at what Amazon had for it’s gift guides, it hasn’t changed that much in years. The Google Android is cool but it is really enough to make you drop your BlackBerry or iPhone for?
Even among books I struggled. Over the last several years there has always been a “must read” but this year only the re-release of Brian McLaren’s A New Kind of Christian trilogy generated any kind of interest and that was only because it was a good gift to some friends.
Maybe we are finally approaching the point in our lives where we realize that our economic future can’t be taken for granted and just maybe we may have enough for now. In some ways I wonder even if this doesn’t turn into a depression (although reading that Ohio lost 100,000 jobs in 2008 was staggering), our collective economic woes may bring about changes to the world on the same scale that 9/11 did to the American worldview and I am not sure that is a bad thing.