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Mail-Order House

Updated: Nov 13, 2019

I know you already know this, but winter is coming and we don't have a house, nor a schedule to get one done.

sears roebuck ad for mail-order house for $1,945
Image in the Public Domain

I'm bugging our contacts (earth-mover and tire-bale resource) with "how quickly can you do this?" alternated with "we don't know when we'll be ready to start, but hope it will be xxx" where "xxx" is a continually delayed estimate.


You don't want to annoy your contractors before the job even begins... but I am anxious and when I am anxious I want to just keep pushing forward wherever I can...


For a while we've been pushing forward by talking about a back-up plan. Chip kept mentioning the repo sheds we see in town (any town, even our tiny hamlet). If we did that, it would be a winter shelter that we'd buy a space heater for, and we'd eventually use it for a storage shed. We finally stopped and looked at a couple. $3000 -- the repo sheds are practically the same price as a new shed, but with the added bonus of some bad karma.


Besides, yuck. We already have one stick-built tiny (4'x8') shed on the land (to hold our camping gear for the years when we only stayed a week or two at a time). It's just counter to our whole aim of natural building and being thoughtful about bringing things into our lives that we value and care about... We aren't interested in more prefab storage sheds, nor space heaters from Home Depot.


Our neighbors have a Winnebago that they use for the shower and fridge, (which they don't have in their house) and they do stay in it on the road sometimes. They've been talking about buying a second house closer to her work, and mentioned that we might be able to use the Winnebago.


And there's always renting a house in town...


But today we up and bought ourselves a mail-order house! It will just be our home for the winter, but it is something Chip has been wanting, and something that we figured we would buy after everything was built. It just occurred to us yesterday that it could be our winter home -- so today we up and bought it! Cheaper than a repo shed...

It's a 20-foot diameter tipi from Nomadics Tipi Makers! They put the tipi in the mail today (the skin and trappings), but the poles will take 3-4 weeks. Chip has slept in tipis on Wisconsin winter nights, and he assures me that they are buttoned-up and toasty warm, if set up correctly. And he will set it up correctly!


[An aside: Chip does everything. He really knows how to do everything, and he does it -- usually whistling or humming while he works 24/7. He sets up our solar and keeps the popup heater running and loads impossible loads into our vehicles and takes care of Ike's cactus pokes and repairs our cars and cleans up yucky messes and does most of the cooking and dishes and just takes care of everything. And while he cooked dinner tonight I sat on my butt shopping online and working on the computer. And then he says -- get this -- "I feel so bad that I don't do anything and you are so good about keeping in touch with everyone. I have written so many letters in my head, but I just don't sit down and do it!" So sorry, Chip's friends, but he hasn't written because he is doing everything to keep us going here! And yes, I did set him straight about our "balance!"]


So anyway... yes, tipis belong on the Great Plains, so they should be able to handle any weather northern New Mexico throws at them. We'll protect the skin with a UV treatment (while waiting for the poles and imagining the skin towering overhead), as that's the main extreme in the high desert.

We'll be heating with a fire pit, unless we can get our act together to put in a rocket mass heater -- if we go that route, we'll definitely write a post about that amazing high-efficiency technology.


The other day I looked up our average first freeze date here: October 5! Luckily daytime temps are much higher than the lows. Still, by the time we get our winter home, I am guessing we will be well ready for it.

Thanks to Nomadics for letting us use their photos. It sure made this blog post easy. We look forward to sending them gorgeous photos of our tipi with the mesa in the background.


Yes, it was an impulse purchase... but it'll be a keeper!

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15 Comments


Anna Davis
Anna Davis
Oct 05, 2019

super exciting! a perfect winter home!

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toddrpedersen
toddrpedersen
Oct 04, 2019

Our son has been wanting to build a Mongolian-style yurt out there, but between no long flexible sticks for the wall frames and no wool for the felt walls, it doesn't seem like a good fit for the locally available materials. American-style yurts aren't that different from a round tent, and getting a real one from Mongolia is very expensive. But it seems like it would be a good fit for the climate conditions.

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Kimi BrownKawa
Kimi BrownKawa
Oct 02, 2019

I can't wait to see your cabin, Ross!

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Ross Ishikawa
Ross Ishikawa
Oct 02, 2019

Btw, it's nice to see that the Sears house plan is roughly the same as our cabin :)

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Kimi BrownKawa
Kimi BrownKawa
Oct 02, 2019

Todd, I was ignorant about that... The standard size offered by Nomadics for a 20' tipi is 27' poles. When I was ordering she asked if we wanted 24' or 27' poles. She said the minimum size is 22' (2' longer than the tipi diameter). I asked what the difference was, and she said aesthetics. To me, I didn't care aesthetically whether the poles were 3 feet shorter... it's just not in my frame of experience one way or another. I checked with Chip, and he said to get the 27'. He's put up tipis with poles barely long enough and it was cumbersome, with the poles slipping under each other.


I just relayed your question to him, and he…


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