Tag Archive: dumpster diving


So after a year and a half of paying rent again I’m over it. It was pretty much like I woke up one day and was just over it. and that’s apparently how i function in this world. I run my life on major amounts of repetition. Overall I prefer to do, wear, eat and move through my day doing almost the same as the day before. If you look at myfitnesspal I seriously eat the same foods over and over; pasta, bananas and chocolate are the staples of my diet. If you look at what I wear it’s the same Carnival Barker “ice cream freak” shirt 29 out of 31 days. So on and so forth. Because no ones forcing this level of repetition on me I’ll get on a quinoa kick and that will replace pasta and there’s an ebb and flow to it all. I’ll get into small pockets of enchantment where all I’m bathed in magic and feel a tingling & pulse of life everywhere and like everything else in my life it gets replaced almost of it’s own volition. Working out and (these days) dumpster diving food are the standard trying to pump myself up about it but it’s the type of chore that’s enjoyable but always excusable.

To review I’m content with a simple life but just like a light switch going on changes happens in my life often. I think the precursor to change is saying “i don’t want”. Someone asked me if I would ever do a tiny house again and I felt hella embarrassed to admit that I did not want to. For the last 1.5 years I’ve been decompressing from 17 years of work and have reasoned a “real” job isn’t for me. For many people (like my husband) life is very solid and black & white. For me everything is relative which is why I beat around the bush when trying to explain anything, all details are crucial factors.

Scavenger Life podcast (about selling on ebay) mentioned Mr Money Mustache. Mr Money Mustache’s blog really flipped the switch on many areas of my life that I had in the dark. I’ve NEVER thought about retirement and had an “out of sight, out of mind” attitude about it. I think that if something doesn’t matter then it’s fair game to look it. If you have an area of your life that you don’t want to look at because you say it doesn’t matter then talking about it should be easy. If an area of your life is challenging to look at that’s totally fine, we’re complicated humans but it’s unfair to write something off with white wash statements of unimportance because those are just not honest statements. Unimportant things shouldn’t make you clam up.

This is my absolute favorite video right now because it addresses our crazy behavior which branches out from our ideal and the reality. There’s a level of disconnect it seems we humans may always have in our lives. i want to write a blog post on cognitive dissonance.

So I didn’t want a tiny house and a job but now I do. MMM’s blog got me thinking about my future, thinking about what I wished I had given my current self and what I want to pass on to my future self. I think a job will be the fastest way to my goal and like any worth while goal there’s a timeline attached to it.

Having this last 1.5 years away from traditional work has been an eye opener. It seems that time and money are often influx. When I’ve had the most money was I was working a lot and had very little free time. When I was busy one of the main things I wanted was the freedom to go to sleep and wake up when I wanted. Now I have a lot of free time and no money. I get as much sleep as I like and wake up when ever I want but I have very limited options on how my life can play out while maintaining this ultra low income. When we had $24,000 saved we could move where we wanted and could come up with a different arrangement for our lifestyle, options we don’t have now. We don’t want a lifestyle overhaul, we don’t want to live on someones land in exchange for housing and Mark doesn’t want to live in a van. We want to live very much like we live now but smarter. Paying $550 a month for our 2 bedroom, 2 story apartment is not the end of the world but it’s also not smart. We have some of the cheapest rent in Dallas while living in a tiny apartment complex in a nice area and I’m not at all taking that for granted. I am 100% grateful! However paying rent is money we’ll never get back. If we financed a home and payed $550 a month on it then we’d get the money back if we sold the house. I’m just feeling trapped with rent and now that I have serious goals I feel constrained a bit by the trap.

   My goal is to retire in 10 years or at least be very close.

“Time or Money” seems to be the dance most of us are doing. One without the other feels unbalanced and I’m concluding that I really need both. My retirement plan is 100% about having the minimum amount money coming in while having the maximum amount of free time while maintain a lifestyle that isn’t constrained by either.

LIFESTYLE the numbers: Last night I asked Mark to spell out exactly what his lifestyle would look like if he didn’t have time or money constrains. He has one life to live and I wanted to know what his ideal life would look like. Ideally Mark wants to drink top notch coffee that he brews on a top notch machine at home daily. He wants the option to go out to eat (nothing too fancy) about 3 times a week with me if he so choices. He’s like to buy 1 really top notch pair of shoes (a couple thousand dollars) or a few slightly less nice shoes a year. He’d like a few thousand dollars to put into hobbies a year and have a larger budget for buying fancy beer. add in a nice vacation and we concluded that $17,000 a year would cover his lifestyle preferences. $17,000 in very doable! Either I’m some sort of saint or have poor persons mentality but I don’t have any real list of lifestyle wants. Maybe I’d get into permaculture (which cost money… wait, or does it save money?) Or I’d use the tools he has in his hobby budget to create art. Plus most of this shit i think about (going for bike rides, going to the gym, chit chatting with friends) is all hella cheap stuff. Well I do have entrepreneur blood but we’ll not focus on that for now.

RETIREMENT the numbers: Let’s assume that when we retire in 10 years we own (debt free) our home. Let’s say it’s a tiny home and property taxes are $1,600 a year. We build efficient in combination with alternative energy and our utility bills are ultra low.  We eat on the cheap and may grown some of our food. Gasoline, internet, insurance, etc. Maybe we could get by with $10,000 for our livelihood (remember we’d already own our home). So $17,000 for lifestyle and $10,000 for livelihood would require us to have $27,000 as our household income. If we saved $3,500 a month we’d have $615,991.86 in 10 years (8% compound interest). The $615,991.86 would produce $49,279.28 in 8% interest a year so if we just scraped 4% off of the interest that would give us $25,000 to live on while maintaining safety margins and accounting for inflation. This however doesn’t account for taxes ($5,000 a year at 15%), health insurance or unforeseen disability. While these numbers are not perfect they do create an outline on what the approximate steps would be to get from poor to retired.

SAVING for retirement: In order to save $3,500 a month (for 10 years!) or $42,000 a year I’d need to make $42,000 to save plus the cost of living $13,000 would require me to bring in $55,000 net income. While that is a bit of stretch for me to do that all on my own I do have plan. I want to get a full time waitressing job ASAP. If I could earn about $120 per shift and do 6 shifts a week then I’d bring in $37,440. The remaining $17,000 could likely come from ebay because my sellers dashboard shows that i’ve done over $15,000 (gross) this year when I was just dumpster diving and selling $10 items. Plus i’m not leaving the ice cream shop, I love carnival barkers and just making $3,000- $5,000 a year there helps out a lot! Again these numbers are not perfect or taking taxes, health insurance or unforeseen disability into account.

SAVINGS BONUS: my off the cuff savings plan is coming from the point of view that i’m doing all of the work. Marks in school so maybe I can kick some ass, do my best and save a bunch of money. Then in 4 year from now Mark will have a grown up job and we can put 100% of his money into savings. Let’s say he starts out making $45,000 after taxes and within those 4 years of his school I’ve accumulated $194,018.42. Then we add in 4 years of 100% of Marks paycheck then in 8 YEARS WE COULD RETIRE, two years early!!! say what!?! after 8 years our grand total would be $633,442.51! or if we just commit to the 10 years then those extra to years would give us a new grand total of $909,399.02…. almost a million dollars in 10 years. so Marks contributions would double my efforts! that’s a bonus!

This is where the second tiny house comes in!

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RENT the numbers: Our rent is about $6,600 a year. In ten years that’s $66,000 and that same $66,000 could actually be more like $96,798.72 if I could invest it (at 8% compounded interest) instead of giving it to our landlord. When I look at those numbers it makes me want to move in a $2,000 van and reclaim the $550 a month in order to invest it. Our first “tiny house and land” cost $8,000 for the land and about $5,000 for tiny house. <— that’s about the same amount of money we will have spent in when this second lease it up!

If you google “building costs house calculator” there are websites which will show the break down of everything (foundation, roof, plumbing, etc) as well as separating the material costs from the labor costs for whatever basic house design you have in mind. I have my heart set on building another tiny house but a bit different from our last one. Tiny houses are attainable. While they’re more expensive per sqft the overall price can be significantly less if you keep it simple, find affordable appliances and do what you can where you have the skills.

Since this post is long enough I will simply state that it’s now starting to sink in that we actually lived in 150 sqft with no plumbing in the woods for a year. holy hell! We need plumbing and more than 150 sqft, I understand that now. We don’t need it like it’s life or death but i’m no longer trying to live like life or death are my only two options. I’m also willing to admit that I no longer have a desire to move to the woods. I like cities that are under 100,000 people but I live in Dallas and honestly shit is fine out here too. It would be ideal if we could get a small city plot, have our tiny house and do urban homesteading. If we could do urban homesteading in walking distance of friends that would be epic but I’m not hearing anyone say any of that. Urban plots are expensive but right now i’m seeing the value. We’re talking about a 550 sqft floor space with a large loft. I can see us having a shed for Mark’s projects. I can see an epic amount of landscape design for beauty and function.

Besides a lack of money being an obvious derailer for this to come to fruition there’s other issues. I didn’t realize how good we had it zoning/permit wise on our last piece of land until til I started looking through permit requirements just in our area. There are so many requirement it’s hard to absorb it all. Plus “If you want to make god laugh then tell him about your plans”. right on.

 Have you seen this new tiny house TV show? I’m all over it! Mark doesn’t like it but i do.
http://www.fyi.tv/shows/tiny-house-nation

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MADISON,WISCONSIN

 

once a year this college town has it’s move out day, August 15th.

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this blog post will be like you’ve come along for the adventure but just the fun parts. no walking door to door looking for gold, no 15 hour drive there and 15 hour drive back, no sleeping in a cramped car for you.

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there’s a lot of curb diving, lots of piles and a life time supply of mattresses. this year due to rain all of the mattresses were dragged through the mud. fuck it! who shows up to this  woodstock of dumpster diving wanting mattresses?!
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dumpsters (as pictured above)  for apartments were the minority, it was mostly residential trash cans for apartment buildings/large houses and curb diving.
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my goal was to 100% fill the car which we did in 20 hours. thank god we could only be there for less than a day before we had to come back to texas. i would cry me a river if we had more days to dive and our car was full by the first day. i’d either cry or pay to ship items home. this way we got our feet wet and did the most with the least amount of time and car space.

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this is about 48 items of clothes, mostly cheap mall brands and 3 jackets. the picture on the right is the jackets. the top jacket is a leather jacket we bought from the thrift store for $10 because it was 59 degrees when i woke up and many of the sweaters we dumpstered were wet from the rain. DSC_2548

sweet ass shoes

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the foil looking art we dumpstered but the water color on the left we bought from a thrift store to resell. a piece by the artist has sold for over $200 in the past so we figured why the hell not, only $25 investment.

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random shit.  we still need to test out everything. i’m hoping the keyboard works.

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not a whole lot to say about this. i imagine it has resale value.

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half of a bottle of sailor jerry spiced rum without a lid.
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5 bottles of unopened wine and a bunch of beer. mark was thrilled.DSC_2630

the electric scooter doesn’t work but we *might* be able to fix it. this raleigh road bike (bottom left) was a curb find. as mark was taking it apart to get it in the back seat this college guy comes out of his apartment building and was like “i have a bunch of tires and a raleigh mountain bike you can have too”. yes please. very tight squeeze but 2 bikes in the back seat made the car 100% full.

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this is the list of everything we found. about 70 items  not including booze or menstrual pads. with 70 items if we sold everything at $10 each we’d make about $700.  gas cost about $320 so earning $700  for this experiment / adventure is a success in my mind but it’s likely that the 2 bikes could sell for the amount we spent in gas. *if* the scooter works (and that’s a big if) that’s $300-$500 right there. one of the nikes is worth about $40 resale and the other about $80. the dress shoes might be $50. so $700 an item is likely the lowest we’d get. plus this was a hella good vacation is we want to start throwing that word around. we really LOVED the town. super bike friendly, bike paths, bike lanes, bikes you could rent sitting on every corner. madison couldn’t make it any easier to just show up and start riding. very cool, we’ll have to go back to bike the town.

as far as dumpster diving goes i was expecting more GOLD-GOLD but as you can see we didn’t find any. no apple products, no diamonds or jewelry, no bags of fancy clothes. nothing like i was thinking but we were only there a day. one day out of a week of trash picking so i’m very happy and would like to go back with a van or truck next year. there was a fair amount of scrappers rolling around in their trucks but there’s more than enough to go around. the trash that week is so much that the city has multiple dump trucks collecting trash DAILY! i was sad to see all of the dump trucks get most of the city before i could but it really wasn’t a problem. i heard about this annual event from the 7th interview we did for our podcast about a guy who lived on a commune for 13 years in texas but currently lives in or near madison wi. so glad he mentioned it and very glad i wrote it on my calendar last november.

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I stopped working at a “real job” when it was beyond clear to me that putting my all into my job was draining parts of me related to my well being. It’s insane that there are really pronounced parts of my brain that believe I can override needing to eat and that my body can be a workhorse working 15 hour days. There’s this semi-conscious idea where my brain thinks that it’s in control of my robot body. I stretch myself to the point of breaking and wonder how can I do the same thing in a different way. Where’s the loop hole to not needing food or having a balanced life because the last way didn’t work? I think I’m doing it wrong and I need more willpower. “Fuck harmony, I need results” has been a motto I’ve embodied a lot.

zen quote on being busy

I tried pursuing a life of “flow” when I was on an 8 week break in between jobs from Texas to Arkansas. I had so much time to think, I couldn’t enjoy a second of the freedom I worked really hard for. I just felt so anxious. The way I saw it then was that the world was crumbling and I wasn’t doing shit. I wasn’t working to make money to contribute to different radical groups who were on the front line really making a difference. i believed anything thing but the front line needed to play (financial) support for them. My fantasy of soaking up AC while pissing my time away at the dollar theater was in major conflict with the role of playing support. If I cared about this world and all of the life in it then I *should* be contributing to dismantling the problems. Shit’s too fucked to take a passive role. If you’re not helping then you’re part of the problem… and that line of thinking paralyzed me from doing less than shit for 8 weeks. No dollar theater and no AC that Texas Summer. If you want to not live your dreams, the fastest way to chemically shut your brain down is to have anxiety! *self induced anxiety*

At the end of 8 weeks of being on the edge of panic attacks from my brain reminding me that I, the jobless loser, wasn’t helping shit, it was time to go back to work. I threw myself into work and upped the ante. At the end of 1 year I was so burned out that I felt deflated from my robot high horse. The day before we decided to move back to Texas and rearrange our lifestyle my human eyes looked in the mirror and saw a stubborn robot. I remember thinking that I just needed to whip this work horse into shape and was seriously thinking of ways to corner myself into getting shit done with even more ante “for real this time”. Then the robot’s chest started to expand in a way that signaled a human heart would explode as the result from future pressures if I continued. then I gave up.

We moved back to Texas and I tried to get jobs but it really wasn’t in the flow. After hearing my friends 10 years of part time successes of selling on ebay, I decided to give it a go. I figured if she worked part time and earned enough causal money then my drive to over achieve could surely do the same. I got fixated on ebay insider information and read the ins and outs of it all. I watched videos, I lived on ebay facebook pages, I got very obsessed. It was refreshing to learn something new, it really put a cap on my abilities which forced me to tone shit down.

The way I felt (and continue to feel) while working on ebay is refreshed. There’s a LOT of steps to ebay. Sourcing is no small piece and that’s just the beginning. Then cleaning, lots of researching, taking pictures/measuring/writing down descriptions and imperfections then the longer process of editing (which I obsessively love and resent, I over edit pictures unnecessarily so) then writing posts while researching more and storing the item. Add in shipping, managing supplies, general organization, answering questions, refunding shipping overcharges, blah blah blah. But while I do this I can be me. I can go to the bathroom whenever I need and eat when I’m hungry (which is not the case in the food industry). I can listen to stand up comedy or podcasts. I can completely blow off work and get life done (like go to the store and run errands, hang out with friends, help out where I’m needed, go take pictures, go for a bike ride, record a podcast), my life is extremely flexible. Flexibility creates a lot of room for potential creativity which has been the first thing to go when I worked a “real job”. In short, I feel much more in my skin because I’m not people pleasing 40 hours a week, something I’ve gotten very accustomed to doing for the last 17 years. Customer service is wired into my brain at this point and it’s hard to remember the me before it or without it.

And all of that is the pleasure. Having room to breath and feel my living breathing body wake up when I want, go to the bathroom when I need to and eat when the signals are there is very empowering. It feels like I’m winning at life and shit’s coming together….

But there’s huge pressure there as well. Every day I wake up and every night I go to sleep thinking “I’m going to conquer this, I’m going to knock out all of this work” and more often than not, I just live life and put ebay off for another day. No work = no money so me working very little has us living on the edge. A very thin line of comfort that we could easily fall off of if the gods were not on our side. So there’s pressure in telling myself to get around to doing something important and not doing it; that pressure is similar to “are you calling me a liar!? I said i’m going to do it later…” (finger points to self). There’s pressure in sourcing items. For a while there we always had a surplus because I was being too casual and not making goals (like “take pictures of 8 items today”). Once there’s a mental quota and I start actually getting shit done, a surplus doesn’t last long. We get the majority of items from dumpster diving and that is very much a scary cool thing to do. I noticed a pattern that started a few months back, that we’d strike gold (metaphorically and literally) and I’d feel blessed by the dumpster gods… until I’d get everything listed and panic. WHAT IF THERE’S NOTHING LEFT IN THE TRASH CAN?! What if the gold runs out? What if we stop finding shit?

exceptional dumpster gold

exceptional dumpster gold we found when we first started diving for ebay, we’ve yet to top that score

Part of the way ebay appears to be set up is the more you list the more you sell. So I have 375 items listed right now and if I stop listing my sales stop (maybe ebay hides my listings). So if I run out of items to list then my sales (already low due to of my distracted/”in the flow” lifestyle) come to a halt. Remember me saying that we’re living on the edge? I can’t afford for our sales to come to a halt, I actually could use a boost if anything. I’ve noticed that compulsive energy of “yay we found a gold mime” today then a few weeks later “maybe we’ll never find anything again” rejoice /despair is the swing of the pendulum then I decided that I was simply misinterpreting my brain. Rehearing the despair as a question and not as a statement has really taken some of the pressure off (for now). So my brain is not so much stating in the form of a question “what if the gold runs out” but rather is saying “will the gold run out” which is my que to say “no, it’s unlikely but in case it temporarily takes a dip we can buy stuff from the thrift store to get by until the gold refreshes”. Not to mention that trying to get help from Mark often feels like pulling teeth, not always but often, which is more pressure. He’s a great diving partner, excellent shipper but not motivated to do the actual ebay shit so thank god he’s in school! (ultra thumbs up).

So we’re living on a quarter of what we used to live on. We have more rent to pay than in the past but the trade off is we find free food and shop at the discount food store that has a wide selection of raw vegan snacks to total junk food and pastured animal foods on the *wicked cheap*.

While my gratitude for having the flexibility and room to think and breathe is such a big deal, I will admit that if the cards were aligned just right I would get a job (most likely waitressing) in a heartbeat. I loved working with friends, having a total chit chat with the ladies 5 days a week. Plus making a constant wage is no joke, very empowering. Plus having a real job separates your life from your work whereas self employment has married me to my job. I’m always on the clock in some respects. It would be nice to just turn my brain completely off of work but it’s not going to happen.
There’s no complaints here.
*Side note. I help out at a badass ice cream shop weekly and I’m always down to take photography gigs as they come up.

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DSC_7454 REi am nervous as fuck. i’ve been nervous for the last 6 months or so, nervous in my body but not in my head. my head is the most relaxed it’s been in 30 years. when i sit really still i can feel the ever present anxiety in my chest swell up bigger.  i’ve speculated that i’m just too sedentary. my sleep is fucked up too and most nights i lay in bed trying to get my body to submit to my will, “just go to sleep, everyone else is asleep at this hour. ” then at 6 am i arrive at my bodies bedtime and i fall asleep & wake up when ever i damn well please (9-12 hours later). i’ll stay up late playing on facebook & have a pity party about my pathetic life. i’ll scroll through the 8 hour old feed and see memes about camping putting the whoop ass on my sleep schedule. the memes seem lame but resetting and unplugging sound amazing! sitting at my computer for most of my day (work and leisure) feels like it’s sucking me dry.
i’m the last generation in this country to know life before/without internet. the first 20 years of my life was spend with friends, going on bike rides, long walks, getting in trouble, watching movies, reading books. even as a little kid i watched as much tv as i played outside. each show had a definitive end unlike playing on facebook.

so i’ve been thinking about unplugging and resetting. a month ago a wild friend said their wild little family was going to bike up the west coast and were to live on bikes indefinitely. i invited myself along and my innovation was accepted a week later. mark dropped his summer classes 2 days before they started to come on this trip with me. with 3 weeks to get our shit together we hustled about $300 between selling stuff on craigslist and to the pawn shop. we pulled some of our last dollars together to get everything we need to live outside for an undisclosed amount of time. i know we wont be gone more than 2 months because mark has school and was contracted to build a bass for a deep space metal band. due to timing conflict mark and i will be traveling without our homies.

since we’re going to be homeless with no way to hustle trash money and no fridge full of free food i’m hoping to recreate those wonderful elements on the road. i’m hoping to dumpster and busk our way up the coast…. we’re poor as fuck so we’ll see how this unfolds. i’m scared of some things about this trip. this seems way more dangerous than train hopping. biking up 6,000+ ft of elevation freaks me out, plus strong winds, heavy summer traffic, blind corners, no shoulder, etc. but scared or not i’m getting on greyhound in a few hours and moving forward with the plan.

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I wrote an ebook on dumpster diving!  I the book on our website, http://www.cakeordeathradio.com

it’s a short 13 pages, half of those are pictures. The PDF is $4.99 but it’s also FREE for those who prefer that.

it’s not just a story, it’s a HOW TO DUMPSTER FOR FOOD & MONEY

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http://www.cakeordeathradio.com/dumpster-diving-book.html

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as much as i plan things out, break things down and think about the years to come every now and then i make quick decision that changes everything. then back to the plan i go. for example, when i met mark he moved in on day 2 and we got married 6 months of knowing each other. 4 years later all is well, very well. most of the big decisions seem to jump out of our head and we “think quick” and go on our jolly way. saturday night i came up with a plan, we’re going to be street performers playing music for $. we’re going to move all of our stuff to a tiny suburb of dallas (population 8,000) into a home my parents just bought. we’re selling our land through a realtor so that we’ll have money to buy land with our friends, which i’ve talked about here in my interview.  the day after pitching this idea to mark he got pumped because he’s been wanting to build a charango for years (like a small guitar) and that what’s he’s going to bring on the road. my sister who’s been living with us in our tiny house wanted to come with us on the road but there wouldn’t be enough room in our car. mark hates sleeping in the as we have done it for 3 separate 2 week trips plus living in the car for when we first moved onto our land**. yesterday we were in texas helping my parents move into their house. afterwards we drove to the spring and it dawned on me that if we train hopped our way around we wouldn’t have to pay for gas. we could take greyhound & megabus as needed. well, well now heather can come with us! we invited 2 more friends (one was pumped to be a part of this and the other is on the fence). i’ve bought an accordion and put in my 6 weeks notice to my job. quitting my job was very scary. i LOVE my job, it’s by far the best job i’ve ever had. and life goes on.

here’s the deal, if we’re selling our land then we need to live somewhere. if i’m paying any amount of rent i think it needs to go to my parents. their house payment is huge and i really want to ease their burden. there’s personal perks as well but not as many as you’d think because their house is far enough out that it’s a bit intimidating for someone who has one car between the 3 of us (me, mark & my sister). i’m still excited but sad to start looking for a job when that time comes.

how long are we going to be running the streets? until the fun runs out. could be 2 weeks or 6 months. either way time stops when train hopping so that doesn’t apply.

below are 2 pictures from 8 years ago when i train hopped for a few weeks.

1 train

2 train

i’m so excited.  i have 6 weeks until freedom. last night it struck me that i should put my ebook on sale, super sale! since planning this trip the synchronicities & conformations that have been coming in back to back totally connect dots that an ebook sale is in order. enjoy.

part 2

for info & pictures on our tiny house living check out Tiny House & Land

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