The Business of Work Camping: Our first tiny home – where our work camping began

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By Sam Suva
“Sherman, set the Way Back machine to …” 1993. In that year, my wife and I bought a small shed. We didn’t know it at the time, but we were “tiny home living.” Jay Shafer is credited in 1997 for starting the recent tiny home living trend, according to the tinyhousetalk.com. His first tiny home was built on wheels for his personal use and later he built one for sale.

Tiny home living is similar to the RV lifestyle because folks living in a house or apartment with 800-or-so square feet to thousands of square feet choose to move into about 300 square feet. They then choose to sell, store or give away those items that used to occupy space in the larger area. The tiny house is a bit harder to move; however, the setup is very stable and the materials used are more environmentally friendly than some of the RVs manufactured today.


We purchased the shed/tiny home in the bitter North and stayed in it over a winter in a relative’s back 40 while we were purchasing developed land. We were in the sticks and snow, with no internet and barely four channels of television. We certainly weren’t on the leading edge of anything. We purchased the tiny house for our personal use; it seemed like the perfect way to spend a few months while waiting for our land deal to go through. It was a learning season!

Our “tiny house” was no bigger than 16 feet long by almost 7 feet wide by about 8 feet tall. It had a bathroom, a kitchen, a dining area and a loft bedroom. It was practical, minimal for our needs and cozy. It had a large shuttered window in the dining room that looked over a large snow-covered cornfield. We even had a small office with a window that looked to the west.

The loft bedroom had a flip-down ladder attached to the ceiling. Every night we had to pull the ladder down to climb up to sleep, and every morning we walked down that ladder and raised it up again. Sleeping in a loft, some 5-and-a-half feet from the floor, proved to be its own adventure. Each time I rolled over those first few nights, I awoke with a start – wondering if I needed a parachute!

The walls were 2×4 construction and the roof was a peak with 2×6’s and plywood sheeting, with shingles. While the walls and ceiling were well insulated, it was chilly some nights when the temperatures dropped to 25 below zero! A large kerosene heater kept the frostbite away and bundling up helped.

I’m putting this experience under “work camping” because I worked with my relatives with removing snow, getting firewood from the field, keeping the home fires burning, feeding livestock, and performing mechanical repairs on vehicles and machinery through the winter. We exchanged this work for a place to stay over traditional pay.

I didn’t know it then, but these experiences would stay with me more than a dozen years later – when we headed down the road, living in an RV and work camping to support our lifestyle.

Please feel free to share your experiences in the comments below or contact me at samsuvarv(at)gmail.com .

See you down the road,

Sam

Sam Suva and his wife are work campers. They began work camping more than 10 years ago and have spent a lot of time working as they traveled. In this new weekly feature, they will share their experiences with you, with an emphasis on how to incorporate work camping into a full time RV lifestyle.

Read more articles about Work Camping.

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marty chambers

I think living a minimalist existence for a while will give people appreciation for what they actually need. I know that for nearly 40 years I lived in a large 3 bedroom, two bath, full kitchen, living room, family room, and two car garage and still felt like I was needing something.

I now realize it wasn’t stuff I lacked, it was common sense.