Meet Tim Eddy, pro snowboarder and DIY tiny house builder. Tim and Hannah Eddy photo.
What would you do if 20 wooded acres came up on the market near your home mountain? Tim and Hannah Eddy built an off-the-grid tiny house they call Childerness, which is complete with a huge well-watered greenhouse and skate bowl near Lake Tahoe. Tim, who rides for K2, balances chasing snow during the winter and working as a carpenter during the summer. Hannah works as a pastry chef.
This summer, we asked this Tahoe-based pair how they made their self-sufficient, eco-friendly tiny life happen. Here's what they had to share.
Can describe your house’s logistics and why you designed it the way you did?
Tim Eddy: Our property is 20 acres. It’s a lot of land, more than we thought we would have. It was the right price, so we jumped on it. It’s a huge chunk of land. Then we have 400-square-foot greenhouse built around our well where we grow fruits and vegetables. We have a skate bowl at center of the property. The house is a little hike up from there. It’s a west-facing deck. It looks right over the Pacific Crest ridge, so we can watch the sunset over the mountains. We put house there because view was so amazing. The deck is same square footage as the house.
The house is 196 square feet with a little sleeping loft. It’s small. There’s an indoor shower, wood stove, compost toilet, kitchen and a cooler, a two-burner stove with little oven beneath it, a couch and table, that's all that’s downstairs. Upstairs there’s only a bed. There’s nothing in there that isn’t used for anything.
Designing the house, we went through a list of things we needed: to cook, to shower, to use the bathroom. We needed a bed, refrigerator, electricity. From that point on, we tried to figure out what else we needed. We could work up from bare minimum. It’s always hard to downsize. We started really simple and small with necessities. We can always work up if we need something else.
To that point, it’s changed our lifestyles. We’re way more in-tune, and there’s a lot more hands-on effort with how everything works. We’re more aware of how much water we use, because we have to get it with a jug from the well. We know how much electricity we use because we put in the solar panels and we watch how much we use. It’s an intimate relationship with all of those resources.
It’s always hard to downsize. We started really simple and small with necessities. We can always work up if we need something else. To that point, it’s changed our lifestyles. We’re way more in-tune and there’s a lot more hands-on effort with how everything works. We’re more aware of how much water we use because we have to get it with a jug from the well.
Water doesn’t just show up and magically go down a drain. It’s the biggest influence this lifestyle has had, and the most rewarding. We have been able to bring it into the rest of our lifestyle. It takes way more work, but it’s more satisfying. It’s really crazy to see how much we actually use compared to what we typically would use. We have the benefit of knowing we’re using a tiny portion of the water and electricity. We don’t use gas, or sewage.
What was your theory behind building this cabin?
Close-up of Tim at work. Tim and Hannah Eddy photo
The two biggest factors were, from an environmental standpoint, using less energy, water, and resources, and then living affordably so we can have more fun. That is a really easy one. It’s a no brainer.
From a utility standpoint, we had to reinvent what we were doing while still having a toilet, heat, and the ability to cook. From a materials point of view, we wanted to build something smaller, using secondhand materials, and repurposing materials. That was the biggest inspiration.
How has Tahoe's drought affected you and Hannah? What are you seeing as you live off-the-grid?
Everywhere I look there’s signs of a state of emergency with water. It’s funny being in the state of emergency, and being kind of even more aware of what's going on. Everyone’s trying to figure out how much water you do use.
We can see that. We know how much we are using and where it’s going. It’s liberating, for sure. All of the additions of water on our side we feel comfortable talking about and feel like we're making a difference. It’s been really scary to see it. You can’t water anything else except non-edibles unless you have a well kike we do. It's cool to show people ideas and adopt ideas from other people. It's a community effort. But it's definitely dry out here.
Can you describe what your winter schedule looks like?
It really is always up in the air. We start out with plans and ideas. Every year, the plans change because it never snows in the right places at the right time. We end up freestyling it and chasing powder. Last year, I ended up in Japan for most of the winter. I was supposed to go for 8 days. I ended up staying for almost four weeks, came home for two weeks, and then went back.
Then I was just around Tahoe trying to catch the spring. I went to interior B.C., Jackson, Utah, and then back to Tahoe again. Primarily all the good snow I rode was in Japan. It was the same the year before. It has really consistent, good snow. Ideally I could stay and ride in Tahoe because it’s so radical here–I love it. I really don’t like jumping on planes and driving in cars. It’s nice to stay home and keep it local.
How was your first winter in the cabin?
Couples that build together... Tim and Hannah Eddy photo.
Hannah: We have had two full winters living in the cabin. The first winter we weren't sure what to expect, so we chopped a bunch of wood and got our shovels ready for anything. Tim travels a bunch in the winter, so I get to be "pioneer woman" and hold down the fort. Our cabin heats up so fast and holds heat all through the night which is really nice, especially when I am alone.
But, that first winter we had no indoor bathroom, we heated up snow on the stove for outdoor showers (I took advantage of my friends' hot showers quite often), and used our compost toilet outside as well.
Needless to say, those were the first things we upgraded for the following winter. An indoor bathroom is a game changer. Cooking on the wood stove was maybe my favorite thing about the first winter. It is so satisfying to make a warm tasty meal using nothing but wood from our land, and to be heating the house at the same time!
Were there any particular parts of the house you enjoyed designing and building?
A family affair: Tim and Hannah get building help from her father. Tim and Hannah Eddy photo.
The whole house was so fun to design and build. Seeing our ideas come to life (with the help of my Dad) was amazing. The first night sleeping in the cabin, we were just laying up in the loft in awe that we actually built our own house!
How do you balance working on the house and your work schedule? What does your day-to-day schedule look like?
My schedule works out really well for living the way we live. I work early mornings as a pastry cook, so I get up and head right out the door. Once I am off work around noon, I usually come home to get stuff done around the cabin; water the garden, refill water from the well, take out the compost, etc.
Once those things are taken care of, the rest of the day is spent doing fun activities like skateboarding in our bowl, riding bikes, swimming, hiking, or snowboarding in the winter. We end our day with an amazing meal cooked in our little kitchen, and watch the sunset from the deck. Life is good.
Can you talk about the philosophy of living how you do?
Living off the grid is a very satisfying lifestyle. We feel as though we are living in harmony with our surroundings, and everything is working together. We keep things simple, and always make time for activities!