Toms Cabin – what happens when you build a home outside the system?
Tom Knapp was always into stuff, good stuff for sure. Zany and always adventurous, Tom’s the only person I know who visited all seven continents plus Iceland and Easter Island. We met at cross country practice before ninth grade when he came in from the private school which stopped at grade eight. He would take Advanced English, Honors Math and Auto Mechanics because he wanted to learn about engines too. After graduation he went off to become a dentist like his father.
It was a decade later when I bumped into him leaving the hardware store, cart full of electrical boxes, breakers and wire in front of him. “Yeah man”, he tells me, “I started building a little studio, then decided I’d want a sink to wash brushes and if I was going to have water then I needed electricity to run the pump.” Having bought some 80 acres, a complete hollow to himself, the doctor lived in an old trailer with his wife until they had it paid off a couple of years later. Now was time to build his studio over a quarter mile back in there and his small plan had grown into a full fledged house.
Never shying away from learning he installed solar panels, dug things out with a skid loader, installed cisterns and reverse osmosis to drink and bathe using water from this little spring by the studio. Tom wasn’t just hiring out the work he was totally hands on, I think only the concrete pour and the stone masons were hired out.
Paying in cash and on land he clearly owned he had no one looking over his shoulder and was proud to be away from peering eyes of “the man” – his term. Tom pulled absolutely no permits for his home and relished getting a little one over on the man. Sure he could have played by the book and written checks for this fee and that but there’s pride in a true do-it-yourselfer and he saw no value in holding up work to wait for some county agent to come and say “yep, you dug thirty inch footers just like everyone else does.”
A lot of people would be scared to do this, afraid of what might happen. Tom did it all and it was fine. He invited me over to play poker a few times, was happy to show us the battery bank and noted the diesel generator only ran about 3 days near winter solstice. Just the other day another friend showed me a real estate ad – it’s Tom’s Cabin and land selling for $400K. Not too shabby for what he had in it. Seems real estate folks and the county have no problem about missing permits so long as they know the tax revenue is up.
Tom died back around 2010, leaving this planet way too soon for sure. His family passed out small vials of his ashes at the memorial with the idea that everyone would travel somewhere and thus he’d keep traveling the planet. A bit reluctant because any travel within my means pales in comparison to Antarctica and such but I agreed to take one. I had a stroke of genius and was going to loft the ashes 100,000 feet into the atmosphere via balloon launch that some friends do frequently. Into space, that’d be respectable! At first it seemed cool but the guys want to get great heights and additional weight was not wanted, then came the idea to put the ashes in a small balloon which would then bust on its own at great altitude and scatter the ashes while relieving the weight for record height attempt. Alas one of the balloon crew got worried that some law might be broken by an ounce of ashes drifting to terra firma from 80,000 feet up and that closed the deal. Fine with me, Tom would be ashamed to be a part of any effort worried about a little bitty dust plume.
Months later I packed that vial and took Tom for a three day motorcycle ride. After a few days camping in the White Mountain area I decided to let that bit of him rest in the vicinity of Porcfest where I believe his unconventional spirit is in good company among the living and self-reliant souls. Rest in Peace doctor Knapp.
battery bank for the solar array
New Zomia: the state of minimalism