Remember that time we moved to Hawaii to build a tiny house and the volcano erupted? This is how it began: Here we are sitting on top of our first lumber purchase to build what would eventually become our tiny home. A home in which, we would never have the opportunity to live in.
Nearly 3 years ago, I met my husband in a yoga class in Salt Lake City, Utah. After some time (not long), he told me that he wanted to “find a wife, move to Hawaii and build a tiny house.” I raised my hand in earnest: “I am your woman!”
Meeting my future husband and moving to Hawaii was a dream come true for me. My definition of success always included living in a place where I did not have to wear any pants.
For several months, we spent hours pouring over episodes of Tiny House Builders. Naively, we thought this was adequate preparation. Oh how wrong we were!
In November 2016, we watched, incredulously, and full of Christmas-morning-excitement, a D-9 bulldozer clear a driveway and house pad for our future home.
As dusk fell upon Kapoho, we leveled the newly plowed house pad, and sowed grass seeds for our future lawn by hand. Exhausted, but with a huge sense of accomplishment within us, we embraced as we looked up at the millions of bright starts over head. “This will be our view every night!”
It’s impossible for me to describe, in detail, the work we did, the lessons we learned, and the sacrifices we made during those 2 years. Suffice it to say, that in order to make our off–grid, tiny house dreams a reality, we would have to work longer and harder than ever before.
Personally, my learning curve was huge. Before I moved to Hawaii, a day of “adventure” consisted of indoor-city-things and a latte from Starbucks. I wish I were kidding! If you’re interested in reading about my humorous, off-grid failures and triumphs, you can do so by reading Why I Traded 200 Pairs of Shoes for 5 and Prada Shoes & Pooping in Coconuts.
We were extremely lucky to have loving mentors throughout the process. My new in-laws where there to offer us guidance and support. I will always look back on those chilli and rice dinners (topped with mayonnaise, of course) with a grateful, happy heart. To be perfectly honest, we would never have lasted as long as we did had it not been for them. The jungle (who is relentlessly trying to engulf everything in it’s path), the hardships of farming, the culture shock (for me, at least), the isolation, and the fact that we had never built a house before would have sent us back to the Mainland in a hurry.
In the end, we did it! We accomplished (mostly) to build an off-grid tiny home and garden. I say mostly because to our surprise, in early May 2018, Kilauea volcano erupted, and we were forced to evacuate. We were 3 months from our estimated date of completion.
Before we began, my husband and I received a surprising amount of repetitious warning: “Building a house is extremely stressful. Especially on a new relationship. If you can stay together during the process, you’ll be able to make it through anything. Good luck.” Imagine what their advice would have been if they knew a volcano would erupt in our backyard.
Ah but the lessons we learned! We sowed seeds for our new lawn, planted a garden, dug trenches for our water tank (a 10,000 gallon shiny, monstrosity), nailed boards, attached hurricane straps, stained the deck, dug for a septic system, and even bought a goat.
One of the best memoires I have our time there was painting the house (can you blame me? I’m an artist!). We chose a color called “Silver City”. The name stuck. From that day forward, we referred to our place as “Silver City Farms”.
I’ve wanted to write this story for a long time. I haven’t felt ready. It takes time to process heartbreak. It takes time to transform your story of loss into a success story. A heartbreak is still a heart break even when you know there are better days ahead.
The truth is, we’ve all had volcanoes erupt in our backyards. Sometimes these “volcanoes” take shape in the form of a tragic accident, the loss of a loved one, a teenage daughter who runs away from home, a devastating betrayal, a divorce, an incurable illness, or a family member who struggles with addiction. The list is endless. The question is not “How can we prevent volcanoes from erupting?” but rather, “What will we do when a volcanoes erupts?”
The choice is ours. To tell our stories as though we are victims or victors. I choose to tell my story as one of victory due to one simple reason: We did it! We had the courage to shape our dreams into reality. We risked a lot and we lost a lot. But the real prize is this: I will never have to look back on my life and think: “What if we had moved to Hawaii all of those years ago? I wonder where we’d be now? I wonder how our lives would have been different?”
I will never have to wonder because I know.
Silver City Farms
August 2016 – June 2018
Total land amount: 6 acres
Total land amount cleared: 3 acres
Total home size: 400 sq. feet plus lanai (deck)
Amenities: 10, 000 gallon water catchment tank, 4 solar panels, gas fridge and stove, filtered running water, on-demand water heater, kitchen cabinets, granite counter tops, sink, toilet, bathtub, marble shower tile, windows, doors, septic system, a green house, nursery and a garden.
What we planted (fruits): coconuts, bananas, pineapples, papayas, lilikoi (passion fruit), avocados, surinam cherries, and mulberries
What we planted (herbs): basil, chilies, lavender, lemongrass, mint, rosemary, tarragon, and thyme
What we planted: (vegetables): bell peppers, green onion, egg plant, kale, lettuce, sweet potatoes, swiss chard, and tomatoes
Plus countless species of flowers and decorative plants.
This blog was created to share my belief that the art-making process is a catalyst for transformation and personal empowerment. I am living proof.