The Middle Class Chronicle

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All That Glitters Isn’t Gold

HEADLINE: FROM “HOMELESS” TO “HOMEOWNER”

—- THE IOWA ODD COUPLE HAS BEATEN THE ODDS AND ACHIEVED THE “AMERICAN DREAM”. AFTER A WONDERFUL EIGHT MONTH ADVENTURE IN THE OUTDOORS THE COUPLE BOUGHT A 3 BEDROOM HOME IN A QUIET LITTLE NEIGHBORHOOD IN SMALL TOWN IOWA.

Ha!

This is the news story that most Americans will hear. In reality it was…

HEADLINE: FUCKING SUCKED BUT YEAH WE BOUGHT A HOUSE

—-THE IOWA ODD COUPLE PUSHED THROUGH STEREOTYPES, ZONING LAWS, BULLSHIT POLITICS, AND OVERALL BAD JUJU TO LIVE A BIT LESS CONSPICUOUSLY AND MAKE THOSE AROUND THEM A LOT MORE COMFORTABLE.  BECAUSE EVERYONE ELSE’S COMFORT IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN THEIRS. 

Not exactly what we planned, but yeah…we bought a house (no banks, no loans, private party sale).  So for everyone who’s saying “What the hell happened to the yurt!??”, keep your pants on, the explanation follows.

Yurts in Iowa are considered temporary structures, not permanent dwellings.  In other words, unlike New Mexico or Colorado or many other states, we cannot legally reside in one. So now that the yurt is blown out of the water what were the other options? We couldn’t continue to live in a tent in a public park because it was starting to get really, really cold. Our initial plan was to buy a camper but who honestly wants to do that? We won’t piss our money away paying rent just so the landlord can pay off the property with our money. And finally, we refuse to hand over thousands of our hard earned dollars to a bank for interest on a traditional mortgage. The only other option left was to conform (sort of) and buy a house from a private party. So we got an investment and the rest of the world gets a happy little story about the little engine that could.

So if you haven’t figured it out yet we will be doing a follow up story with the news station that first covered us way back in the beginning of our little social experiment and that is where the rest of the world will hear about the “magical transformation” from homeless to homeowner. That’s right “homeless”. It didn’t matter how many times we said we had made that choice and that we were not forced onto the streets, we were still labeled as homeless. It’s all about perception isn’t it? For example most people watching the news the night our first story aired only heard “couple living in tents” and “desperation”. They didn’t hear the part about our “going green with a mission” or “modern day Thoreau”. The consensus in the small town we camped in was that we were homeless. (This is where we struggle for the right words. Homelessness is not a joke. We did not like being called homeless because of people’s perception of homelessness. Homelessness is not in itself a dishonorable thing, it is the judgmental pricks that make the homeless person feel like a second class citizen.) So about those judgmental pricks. They associate words with the homeless that just are not accurate. Lazy, drunk, drug addict, stupid, irresponsible and criminal just to name a few. So let’s just be real honest here. We don’t want to be called homeless because we don’t want to have those words tossed in our direction. They are not true and they are not true for most of the country’s homeless. And incidentally we’ve lived and worked side by side with some of the worst lazy, drunk and stupid bastards imaginable. But they owned or rented a home or apartment so they were okay (sarcasm).

So we call it a social experiment. That was never our intention but as things progressed it turned into one. Let me tell you a story about southeast Iowa law enforcement. If you don’t have a fixed address and you spend your summers in a tent, don’t waste your time wasting their time. You may remember that during our vacation break to South Dakota we had many of our things stolen. What do you do when someone steals your stuff? You call local law enforcement and they come out to investigate the crime, write a report and at least pretend to do their job. On the other hand if they think you are homeless they will come out, wander around aimlessly and say they will come back after taking care of more pressing small town crimes. Hours later the homeless will use their cell phones to call the officer to find out if he is indeed coming back only to be told that things “just don’t add up” and he is dropping the issue. True story. That is exactly what happened to us. So you see even those that provide public services don’t consider the homeless worth serving.

At least the church is willing to help the homeless. As long as you are willing to knuckle under to their ideological blackmail. This is another funny story. A local church had heard we were homeless and stopped by one day to offer us some assistance if we were willing to accept Christ into our lives. I don’t want to get too into this so I will just say wow, I guess Jesus believes in the homeless as long as the homeless believe in him.

Then there is Rory’s mother. She doesn’t want to hear about the whole “tent thing” because she is embarrassed. SHE is embarrassed!

And we have just one more thing to say about passing judgment. Ms. Mayor, living in a glass house is all well and good until your family and associates at the state and federal penitentiaries start throwing stones.

So you see being called homeless made our lives very difficult so I can only imagine what it is like for those who don’t have a choice.

We would like to take a moment here to tell you about the wonderful services southeast Iowa provides for the homeless who are trying to move into housing of some sort. Just for snicks and grins we called the local low income housing office to see what they could offer a homeless person seeking low income housing. After all, shouldn’t those who have been forced into homelessness qualify for low income housing? One local office told us that they were full and the list was long. We asked if they moved those in dire circumstances up the list and the response was “no”. We asked if they knew of any other assistance and the answer was a very annoyed “no”. And finally we had to ask (playing the part of a desperate homeless individual) if we would have to freeze to death in the cold Iowa winter because there were no services available. The answer was “YES!”.

So we bought a house. What is next? We see this “magical transformation” as a beginning as opposed to an end. Our immediate circumstances have changed but the goal is still the same. Financial freedom. We plan to work on cutting costs in less radical ways that will apply to most of our readers in conventional housing. We’ll save the details for later but some of the things that we will work on are cutting utility bills, urban farming, waste not and continuing to live below our means.

So this is not the end. We will post the two news stories sometime next week and with reliable internet access again we will be able to post more regularly.

Filed under tents homeowner homeless politics sociology economy iowa mortgage farmington ia burlington ia se iowa middle class subculture counterculture alternative lifestyles wqad camping american dream poverty

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Dear readers,

It has been a long 2 months with no internet access (14,000+ GB of data used a month causes the phone service providers to get cranky) to continue feeding you our drama. Good news is that the internet issues have been remedied and we have been busy. We will have a very long post coming soon. In the meantime something to think about…we have been living in a very conservative region and were not well liked or accepted and are being edged out of the community based on the homeless label that seems to have been tattooed on our foreheads. Would our neighboring radical right wing judges (from the town mayor to the local store clerks) paste that label on us if they knew our pockets have become deeper than theirs?

Strict city and state building codes have changed plans (no yurts allowed despite our good argument) and we are scrambling for warmth in the Iowa fall. After winning a battle against the local tax authority and our newly developed ability to prepare court orders we are considering an unconventional transition to a more acceptable living arrangement that we intend to turn upside down…after all, that is what we do best…challenge what is socially acceptable and bend the rules. So ask yourselves, after only 8 months preparation and a shit storm of a summer did the odd couple do something that will blow your mind?

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Eating Misfortune and Shitting Success

So it has been a crazy few weeks with a whole lot of nothing coming from the odd couple.  A collection of mishaps left us in a mood that was not conducive to blogging.  However, most of that has passed and we are moving forward.  Like we said earlier, we knew it wasn’t going to be easy.

Let’s start things off with shortly after the flood.  We were soaked and spent two or so weeks cleaning up after the flood and ourselves. When you’re in such a small space picking up after a disaster can become another disaster in itself.  We felt like we deserved a vacation back to the city.  We decided that we would budget out ¾ of a paycheck to go back to South Dakota to visit family and friends and relax in the comforts of central air and free showers.  For us however, things don’t always go the way we plan.

Thanks to the wonderful Iowa Dept. of Revenue my husband’s vacation paycheck was the first to be garnished for state income tax NOT owed on a home sold while NOT a resident of Iowa in which there was a LOSS.  I won’t bother you with the worst of the details but after a long phone call with the Iowa Dept. of Revenue all we have to do (sarcasm) is send in a lot of paper work proving residency at the time of the sale and wait for a processing period of 45 days for the garnishment to stop (complete bullshit) and another 60 day waiting period for a refund on what they “borrowed” (end smart-ass).  So we didn’t have all the money we wanted to spend and we were a little, no, a lot bummed out. But we decided to make the trip anyway. Central air and a bath sounded so nice.

We packed the night beforehand and the day we planned to leave for vacation we were ready at to go at 10am. We were ready to go but one of our cats was not. We can’t just leave 3 cats to run around all day in a city park now can we? So we had to take them along and when it was time to pack the cats up in the car one was nowhere to be found. So we waited and waited and waited some more.  Finally after a small fit I threw (I’m a girl who wanted a break) and a trip to the bar (hardly ever happens) the cat returned home at 11pm that night and we finished packing and headed out at midnight.

Our vacation was nice, not all we had planned, but nice. We took endless showers and slept in a raised bed surrounded by solid walls and central air.  We ate out once or twice, saw some live music, had a bath and some of the best sex we have had in a long time.  We even got a few much needed camp supplies.  We didn’t even mind being all stuffed up as a result of the dry air-conditioned environment we were no longer used to.

While enjoying our well-earned R&R we were oblivious to the bad juju brewing.  Our absconding cat was playing host to fatal meningitis and our precious camp supplies and entertainment locked away at camp were stolen (to the asshole that has my TVs, Wii, games, lanterns, bike seat and tomtom…you’re a dickface).

Another frustration factor in our lives right now is dealing with an ex-spouse.  Ladies and gentlemen if you have been previously married and are currently married to someone who was not in a previous marriage (complex isn’t it) please appreciate your other half for putting up with the constant bullshit that will arise several years later.  It’s not fun but we do it because we love you.

Now, back to the absconding cat.  Dweezil the cat was not acting the same during our vacation but we attributed that to her being upset about being taken 450 miles away from her outdoor paradise.  When we returned to camp after our trip to the city Dweezil didn’t return to normal.  Her condition continued to worsen.  What started as general moodiness deteriorated into refusing to eat or drink, walking in circles, confusion and blindness.  We had her put to sleep this morning after a long trip to the vet who agreed that her condition would most likely never improve.  We will miss Dweezil.

So it has been a really bad month for us.  We are a bit disheartened after Satan dumped his load on us but with a joint pep talk on kicking life’s ass we are ready to get back on track.  We will be doing a bit of camp clean up and mountains of paperwork and to that end can use all the good karma you can send our way.  

Filed under sociology economy money homesteading camping tenting banking alternative lifestyles lifestyles culture subculture cats hard times success taxes iowa south dakota politics

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In Yonder Cabin, What Salvation …

We finally cheated.  After the frustrations of the last few weeks we decided we needed a tent break.  Thanks to our gracious park hosts we were the happy inhabitants of a small box car cabin for 12 joyous hours.  Along with our cabin came the first date night we have had in over three months.  We killed two dozen wings and six beers and came home to showers with no timers.

It’s funny how your perspective changes.  I picked up the cabin key at about 330pm and started to acclimate the dogs to their vacation retreat.  After filling the food dish I realized that I had forgotten to grab a water jug to fill the dogs water bowl and was a little ticked off that I had to walk all the way back to the tents just to get water.  Turning around in the kitchen of the cabin I realized that I was standing right in front of a sink.  Laugh if you want, but I forget about running water.

The date was a surprise for Rory but much more needed for me.  I picked him up from work and handed him a bag of clothes.  We hadn’t been to a Buffalo Wild Wings, one of my favorites, since moving to Iowa.  Fortunately there was one only fifteen miles away and they serve until 1am so we headed to the next town over for a late dinner and some one on one time.  We have been too concerned about the chaos that two bored dogs can cause when left to their own devices to leave them alone long enough for the two of us to get out.  We love the dogs to death but it was nice to get a break from “the kids”. 

We had a wonderful time out and were so happy to “come home” to our cabin complete with running water, a raised bed and a freakin’ kitchen table.  We made good use of all of the above.  It was great.  We really spoiled ourselves with a small purchase of ice cream on the way home (full sized freezer) and gorged ourselves at the table. These are two luxuries we have been without for quite some time.  Typically our bathing habits consist of campsite bowl baths and timed quarter showers so obviously we took advantage of the untimed shower.  In fact we took advantage of the shower multiple times.  When we turned in for the night (hehe) we were pleased to discover that we had the bed to ourselves as there was a second bed for the dogs to stretch out on.  And did I mention there was air conditioning?

So what’s missing from this post?  The angst.  We still have it, we just gave ourselves a short break from it all.  We still have to drive fifteen miles to Missouri to save 26 cents a gallon on gas.  We still deal with convenience store clerks who get angry if they have to take a hundred dollar bill.  We’re still angry with a world that has turned seemingly extreme choices into logical choices.  We are pissed that this is the first era in the history of our country where many have less than their parents or theirs before.  We just had such a good weekend that we’re willing to say ‘fuck it’ for this one day.   

Filed under middle class economics camping sociology yurt buffalo wild wings tent Lifestyles Alternative Lifestyles culture subculture money Banking gas prices economy politics angst Iowa missouri budget sustainable living mad as hell extreme living off the grid

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What price, peace of mind

So the decision is made.  We will be purchasing a yurt at the end of the summer with our summer savings of just a little under $10,000.  When making our decision for wintering we considered comfort, ease and environmental footprint.  Our cost breakdown (included below) shows two different options, one for a 20’ and another for a 24’ yurt.  We hope to make the 24’ happen but it is budget and will power dependent (remember we pay only in cash).

 

We would like to think we covered all the basics but if other yurt dwellers or like-minded people have any ideas or suggestions please let us know by using the “relevant information” link on the main page.

 

Yurt                            

20’ Yurt                                             $7,100.00      24’ Yurt                                    $8,062.00 

Stovepipe Outlet (Flashing)          $55.00          Stovepipe Outlet (Flashing)          $55.00 

Warmer Standard Windows (3)     $99.00       Warmer Standard Windows (3)     $99.00 

Screen Entry Curtain                   $75.00            Screen Entry Curtain                   $75.00 

Dome Insulation                         $70.00             Dome Insulation                        $70.00 

Crating                                             $225.00        Crating                     $225.00 

                                                $7,624.00                                                   $8,586.00 

Shipping                                    $800.00               Shipping                                    $800.00 

Total                                        $8,424.00 Total                                         $9,386.00 

Platform Mats                                                          

16 - 4x4x8’                                $56.00                   20 - 4x4x8                                $70.00 

2 - 2x4x8’                                  $4.50                      2 - 2x4x24’                                $13.50 

2 - 2x42x15’                               $9.00                    2 - 2x4x20’                                 $13.50 

2 - 2x4x18’                                 $13.50                  2 - 2x4x22’                                 $13.50 

12 Sheets Plywood                    $72.00              18 Sheets Plywood                    $108.00                    

Base Total                                $155.00                Base Total                                 $218.50    

Flooring                                                  

LM Flooring                                $235.00              LM Flooring                                $339.00 

Water Storage                                                          

Perm Water Storage Tank            $250.00        Perm Water Storage Tank            $250.00 

Port Water Storage Tank              $175.00         Port Water Storage Tank              $175.00 

Water Pump                              $150.00             Water Pump                              $150.00 

Tubing                                      $50.00                 Tubing                                      $50.00 

Total                                         $625.00                Total                                        $625.00 

Heating/Cooking                                     

Wood Stove                              $200.00              Wood Stove                              $200.00 

                                               

Total Setup Cost                      $9,639.00                  Total Setup Cost                       $10,768.50 

Bare Bones Cost                     $8,779.00                  Bare Bones Cost                     $9,804.50

Filed under Yurt Poverty Economy Sociology camping lifestyles culture subculture sustainable living homesteading money economics middle class politics alternative lifestyles green living

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Negative In-Tent

Sorry for the delay, readers.  We typically concentrate on all of the positive aspects of our present lifestyle, but last weekend we were faced with our first major crisis.  Rather than write a post on Sunday, we instead found ourselves dealing with the three inches of water that accumulated in our tent while we slept Saturday night.  And that made us think.  Maybe we should address some of the negatives that we deal with.  It is, after all, not all sunshine, roses, and unicorn farts.

 

So the three inches of rain didn’t actually accumulate overnight.  It accumulated in an hour and fifteen minutes while we were taking a nap.  We had become pretty complacent about rain since we went through so many days long downpours in April and May.  So the thunder and lightning of a passing storm didn’t concern us when we laid down for an hour nap last Saturday.  Falling asleep to a bit of rain and thunder sounded kind of pleasant.  What we hadn’t considered is that an over-excited dog had broken the bottom zipper of the tent entrance.  There hadn’t been a big rush to repair it and what we hadn’t noticed or considered is that the tension of that closed zipper is what held up the bottom lip of the tent.  The lip that holds water out when it rains.  And it rained.  A lot.  We woke up to a soaked bed and water everywhere.  What that meant was two nights sleeping in the truck while we got everything dried out.  What it continues to mean is that we have yet to finish cleaning up.  It wasn’t fun.

 

Like spider bites.  And ticks.  And gnats.  And enormous mosquitoes.  Not fun.  Part of living outside is bugs, and they are everywhere.  I am fairly confident that this is a record year for mosquitoes (in both size and numbers), as well as gnats and ticks.  My mosquito bites have mosquito bites, we have literally seen ticks that have ticks, and we both have spider bites in places that you don’t even want to hear about.  And thanks to the aforementioned broken zipper, we have more bugs in the tent than we should.  So our own laziness is partly to blame.  But it is, I think, mostly the spiteful acts of Mother Nature and her creepy crawly minions that get most of the credit.

 

The rain which has generated record swarms of bugs has had another less than pleasant consequence.  Mud.  We both do our best to keep our home clean, but keeping the mud out of every nook and cranny has been a full time impossible mission.  Mud.  It’s on the ground.  It’s on the dogs. It’s in the tent.  It’s on the bed.  It’s on us.  Mud.  It sucks at times.

 

We’ve mentioned it before, but the time it takes to accomplish tasks that we’re used to being inconsequential can be frustrating.  If we want a meal, we have to build a fire and get it to the proper temperature.  That means gathering kindling.  Then food, cooking utensils, etc.  have to be moved from the tent.  It takes time.  Sometimes a fast meal would be pretty nice.  And laundry takes quite a while when washed and dried by hand.  Especially when it rains regularly. 

 

Then there’s the issue of acquiring new neighbors on a weekly basis.  We’ve become used to it, and we’ve met some really nice people on our journey.  Conversely you might have, as we did, an all-night pow-wow on your wedding anniversary.  Sometimes, unfortunately, someone you just don’t like may move in next door for a week.  It can be a drag. 

 

The dogs can be difficult with new neighbors, bad weather and short tempers.  They are tied all day now.  After Maka took off on Memorial Day to hang out with the other campers they lost their off leash privileges.  They are full of energy on rainy days and have no outlet.  We love them to death but they can test your patience on a tent-bound day. 

 

So the water in our tent kind of opened the flood gates of a little bitch session for us.  Everyone needs to vent now and then and it looks like we just did.  And it’s only fair that people hear about the bad as well as the good.  So there it is.  In its crispy, evil coated nut shell. 

 

On a more positive note, we have decided to purchase a yurt for the winter.  Look forward to a cost breakdown and winter plan on the next post. 

Filed under Tent Camping Politics Middle Class Poverty Money Economy Lifestyles Culture Subculture Yurt Sociology

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If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.
Henry David Thoreau