This has to be the most unique tiny house living situation I’ve ever seen! Sarah, Brandon, and their dog Iko live in a 225-square-foot tiny home that floats on a lake in The Great Smoky Mountains in North Carolina. They live fully off-grid with no cell service and they are only accessible by boat. In this conversation, Sarah and Brandon graciously and openly share why and how they live this way, plus how much it costs and some of the unique challenges that present when you live on a lake in a temperate rainforest.
In This Episode:
- How the floating house is set up
- What happens during storms?
- Legal requirements unique to floating homes
- Rent and utility costs
- The biggest logistical headache of this lifestyle
- How they deal with gray water and sewage
- Positive changes that came from their lifestyle
Links and Resources:
Sarah and Brandon
Sarah and Brandon are a North Carolina-based couple living with their Akita dog, Iko in an off-grid floating cabin on Lake Fontana. They bought and fully renovated their 225sqft tiny home-on-floats about a year and a half ago, and have been living on it full time ever since. They created a YouTube channel, Keeping Afloat With The Joneses, to document their renovations and unique lifestyle on the water.
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Learn more and register: https://www.thetinyhouse.net/thc
There is a 10,000-pound block holding the house in place, along with the two lines to shore
2 spacious decks and a covered porch allow them to live mostly outside
They bought the cabin sight unseen
And had to remodel the entire thing
Now it's a beautiful off-grid floating home
Sarah and Brandon did renovations on weekends for months!
Iko is very happy with her life on the water, too
Lake Fontana is in The Great Smokey Mountains National Park in North Carolina
It's too deep to freeze, but things can get a little chilly in the winter!
Sarah Spiro 0:00
It's funny you mentioned groceries. That's one of the biggest logistical headaches that we have. There's so much that gets easier about life whenever you go tiny, but then with the addition of floating that's one of the few things that's kind of really difficult is getting groceries.
Ethan Waldman 0:16
Welcome to the Tiny House Lifestyle Podcast, the show where you learn how to plan, build and live a tiny lifestyle. I'm your host, Ethan Waldman, and this is episode 231 with Sarah and Brandon. This has got to be one of the most unique tiny houses and most unique tiny house living situations that I've ever seen. And Sarah and Brandon are gracious and open guests who really share the why and the how of how they're living. And I'll just give you a little preview, they live in a 225 square foot tiny home on floats in the middle of a lake in North Carolina. They are fully off grid, they have no cell phone service. Everything is accessed by boat. And it just seems like the most beautiful and peaceful lifestyle that I've seen in a long time. I asked them all the questions like what are the legalities of living like this? What are the costs? And you will be shocked at how low the costs are! What happens when a storm hits? What happens to the gray water? Everything. It's really unique conversation. And I truly hope that you give it a listen because Sarah and Brandon are just wonderful guests. All right, let's do it.
Tiny House Considerations is back! If you're getting serious about tiny house living, then I'd like to invite you to join me and my co teacher Lina Menard in an eight week online course where you will delve into planning your tiny house from the trailer or foundation all the way up to the roof and everything in between with a small group of students and me and Linda as your guide. This is the most comprehensive training that I offer for planning and building a tiny house and students are really loving it. You can learn more about Tiny House Considerations at thetinyhouse.net/thc. Again that's thetinyhouse.net/thc which stands for Tiny House Considerations. Class starts on October 5, and we meet every Thursday for eight weeks. By the end of the course you will have filled out your Tiny House Decisions workbook, picked your appliances developed a budget and potentially even started laying out your tiny house. You can learn more at thetinyhouse.net/thc to learn more and join us for the fall 2022 edition of Tiny House Considerations. Hope to see you in class.
Alright, I am here with Sarah and Brandon. Sarah and Brandon are a North Carolina-based couple living with their dog Iko in an off-grid floating cabin on Lake Fontana. They bought and fully renovated their 225 square foot tiny home on floats about a year and a half ago and have been living on it full time ever since. They created a YouTube channel, Keeping Afloat With The Joneses, to document their renovations and unique lifestyle on the water. Sarah and Brandon, welcome to the show.
Sarah Spiro 3:32
Hey, Ethan, thanks so much for having us. We're happy to be here.
Brandon Jones 3:35
Yeah, thanks a lot, man. We are happy to be here.
Ethan Waldman 3:37
Yeah, really excited to have you. As as I was saying, while we were chatting before the show, I've just I've been watching your YouTube channel and just kind of eating it up. The lifestyle, the house, like everything is just so so unique and so cool. But I figured we would just start since since it is a podcast and people, you know, aren't necessarily going to be able to like stop and see pictures. Can you just kind of describe your house a little bit like, you know what it looks like, the layout and then like kind of how it's situated?
Sarah Spiro 4:08
Yeah, sure. So, like you mentioned in our little intro there, it's a 225 square foot interior build. It's more or less a rectangle and we kind of have it set up very open-concept. So we don't actually have any doors inside. It's all pretty continuous with a couple sort of dividing walls between the bedroom area and the bathroom area. But we do most of our living in a general kind of living room /kitchenette/breakfast room. And then back behind that is our little bed nook area and then back behind that is the bathroom. And then on either side of the house, we have some rectangular docks that total about 500 square feet as well. And then a little small covered porch In front of the main house structure, so if you can kind of picture that.
Ethan Waldman 5:06
Yeah, yeah, totally. And I mean, the thing that's that I find incredibly striking about it, especially like when you're not expecting it is that it's, it's essentially floating in the water. And it looks like it's connected to the land just by like two ropes. They're just like very prominently there, kind of reaching out onto the land.
Sarah Spiro 5:28
Yeah, that's exactly right. I think Brandon could probably do a better job than me explaining the kind of anchoring situation.
Brandon Jones 5:34
The house itself, it's anchored just like any boat that would be a little mooring. And we are tied to the bank in the back of the house. And we adjust the boat forward and backwards. Our lake drops 65 feet a year. So it's a constant battle with the up and down. But mainly the weight the difference in this tiny home, luckily enough, we're all water. We focused most of our square footage is outdoor space, in our living space is half of what our outdoor space is.
Ethan Waldman 6:05
Yeah, you have to really expansive decks on either side of the house. And it looks like you really, I'm guessing you do a lot of outdoor outdoor living, wheather allowing,
Brandon Jones 6:16
Yes, yeah, I think the the first tiny home, if you want to call it, I lived in was a 26 foot sailboat for about three years. And everybody asked, "How do you live in there?" And I would always look at him and laugh and say, "I actually sleep in here. I live out here in these woods."
Ethan Waldman 6:32
Brandon Jones 6:33
So that's, that's kind of like what we're doing with this tiny home. It's just, it's a lot nicer than a small sailboat.
Ethan Waldman 6:40
Totally. Well, I want to get like all. I have a bunch of questions about all the various systems in the house. But I was curious first to just hear about, you know how you ended up in a floating house? Or a flouse, as you call it on your YouTube channel, which I like.
Sarah Spiro 6:56
Yeah, gosh, there's so many names for a house or housebat, flouse, floating cabin. That's a great question. I mean, like Brandon mentioned, he's lived on boats before. I had not. I've never, I've never really had much experience at all with boats. Never owned a boat, never lived on a boat, anything like that I always wanted to always enjoy, you know, hanging out with my friends on the lake. And we met at the marina that Brandon worked at. I work for the National Park Service. And we have some boats there that we use for work. And so we met at the marina. And naturally whenever we got to talking and wound up kind of deciding to hang out, we were mostly hanging out on the lake. So that was pretty much our stomping grounds and our, our favorite place to be as it was. And Brandon was living not too far up the road on a, on a house on land. And he heard when the the opportunity to buy a floating cabinet was on the harbor, and just jumped on it. And we had been dating about a year at that point. And I think a lot of folks were like, "Sarah, are you crazy?" Most people kind of expected to out of Brandon. But for me, that was definitely a big, a big leap. But I didn't think twice about it. Because between the fact that we were always spending all our time on the lake and the fact that we were both were, we're just both minimalist at heart and you know, constantly trying to downsize as it was. It just made a lot of sense for us to go tiny and to do it in a way that allowed us to spend more time on the water.
Brandon Jones 8:31
Yeah, definitely. So as she was saying, I've lived on boats my whole life. And they were always sail boats and sailed across the ocean, lived on lakes on boats and loved it. But the whole idea of a floating house takes your house to the lake or the water wherever you're at. So you're getting the whole idea that you're living in a tiny home, but you're on the water float. And so it's kind of the best of both worlds. We really love it. It's like being in a tiny home. But we're also sitting right there floating on the water.
Ethan Waldman 8:53
Yeah, fantastic. So, so this 60 foot drop. So you're constantly having to either lengthen or shorten those lines that go to land? Otherwise, I'm guessing the house would either float too far out or it would it would end up getting pulled up onto the shore.
Brandon Jones 9:23
Yeah, yeah, basically, as the lake drop 60 feet, the banks come out further towards your house and you just keep going out for the middle of the lake. It's pretty much Memorial Day to Labor Day we're at full pool. After Labor Day the lake starts dropping and when it drops, it takes it about two and a half months to drop that far. So it's you know, a downhill battle going down, which is simple. It's just pull it out.
Ethan Waldman 9:49
Brandon Jones 9:50
It's when we get the... We're in a temperate rainforest, so it could come up 40 feet in two days, or it could come up a foot every day or two. So when we get into springtime is when we really get the battle of keeping everything perfect.
Ethan Waldman 10:05
Yeah. So is there an anchor as well?
Brandon Jones 10:08
There's no code...
Sarah Spiro 10:09
Yeah, there is.
Brandon Jones 10:11
Oh, I didn't hear what he said. Sorry.
Ethan Waldman 10:13
That's okay. I was just asking, like, do you have the two lines to shore and then there's an anchor as well right?
Brandon Jones 10:19
Yeah, I set 10,000 pound block, because we're in 300 feet of water and properly anchor and 300 foot of water a seven to one scope. You're at 2100 feet of line. That's impossible. So what we do is we drop, I take 10,000 pound concrete blocks and drop them down in about 200 foot of water and hook a stainless steel cable to and it's it's a it's a pretty foolproof way not to go anywhere.
Ethan Waldman 10:48
That anchor is not going to drag anywhere.
Sarah Spiro 10:52
No, you'd much sooner break the cable, then you would drag the anchor.
Ethan Waldman 10:57
Yeah. Are there storms? Like what's it like when you get a really windy storm and the lake has waves on it? Or does the lake get waves on it?
Sarah Spiro 11:08
Yeah, we get that question a lot actually. We definitely get storms and like Brandon was saying we're in a temperate rainforest so we get quite a lot of rain and generally when it's raining, it's more of a thunderstorm than just like a shower. So we get storms a lot and especially in the winter the wind tends to be incessant. I mean, it's very steady 20 to 30 mile an hour winds with you know, bigger wind gusts up to like 50 or 55. So it can definitely get choppy out there but I will say that being on a an actual like house that has a flat foundation instead of a boat which might have like a V hull, we, we're a lot more stable we don't rock as much we kind of move around side to side as much as our backline will allow us to but we don't you know rock back and forth as much as you would on for instance a sailboat or something like that. It's really not too bad.
Brandon Jones 12:04
For us since we've been on that water for a year and a half we've seen three water spouts come through. We've seen 70 mile an hour winds sustained for 15 to 20 minutes.
Ethan Waldman 12:15
Brandon Jones 12:15
We've seen some pretty good storms there compared to coming off the ocean. At least when you're on ocean you know they're coming. They're usually fronts coming in from out west. You've got four or five days to prepare. Ours are always pop up. Bam, there they are. And then they go we just had one two weeks ago that took out all the power lines at the resort were at. They were out of power for almost four days. We see some pretty wild storms and our bigger boat anchor them in the harbor they actually break those stainless cables in half. A lot of the bigger house boats
Ethan Waldman 12:50
Brandon Jones 12:51
But yeah, we get storms, waves, all of it.
Ethan Waldman 12:54
What what are the legalities like? What laws are governing like a houseboat?
Brandon Jones 13:00
Well, you still you fall into DNR, you still have to have it registered as a vessel. You can't really find an insurance company to insure you because here it's not a boat and it's not a house; it's a floating house. So they'll insure a manufactured boat, but no one will insure these things. You're bound by law with TVA because it's the TVA lake so you're under their rule of all septic has to go into a tank and be you can't have any more Styrofoam under these boats to help float them. It has to be encapsulated foam. The electrical has to be ran right if you have electricity from shore, which we don't, we don't have that. We live off solar power. But you still you still got laws governing us. It's not the Wild West, but it's not that bad to deal with it.
Ethan Waldman 13:51
No. Do you have to pay rent?
Brandon Jones 13:54
Oh, yeah. Our rent cost us about $1,800 a year. It's pretty tough.
Sarah Spiro 14:03
It's not too bad.
Ethan Waldman 14:06
And is that essentially like a mooring fee?
Brandon Jones 14:08
Sarah Spiro 14:08
Brandon Jones 14:09
It's a mooring fee and it provides you with a dinghy dock to get your boat from that boat to your house boat. And since I've been at the marina, I wrote a grant with the North Carolina Wildlife. So when we pump sewage, the government actually helps pay for it instead of the customer paying. And it's kind of an incentive to keep the lake clean. So our sewage only cost us $5 A week. Normally it would have cost us anywhere from $50 to $90 a week. That's a lot less of a bill there but yeah, the rent $1800 a year. The first of the year, we save up all year, and we just pay that that big rent and we go with it.
Ethan Waldman 14:52
Yeah. So how far is it? Because you mentioned the marina and I'm assuming that's kind of where you get in and out of the water. How far is it from your house back to the marina?
Sarah Spiro 15:07
It's really not far. It's it's probably only like a quarter mile, tops. But the whole way, of course, is a no-wake zone because of all the houses and the boats. So, you know, if you were just wide open go in there, it wouldn't take but 45 seconds, but it takes about five minutes to get there if you're driving respectfully.
Ethan Waldman 15:26
Okay. And so any, anytime you go to land, like to go grocery shopping, or to get supplies or anything, you're jumping in the dinghy, and you're kind of motoring over to the marina and getting out from there.
Sarah Spiro 15:40
Yeah, that's exactly right. And our cars are parked there on the ramp at the marina. So, groceries - funny you mentioned groceries. That's one of the biggest logistical headaches that we have. That's one of those things you know, are... There's so much that it's easier about life, whenever you take a lot of the complicated things out of it and go tiny, but then, with the addition of floating, that's one of the few things that's getting really difficult is getting groceries. Because a lot of times we'll we'll go get the groceries unloaded from the car into a golf cart at the marina go from the golf cart to the boat, then from the boat to the house. It's it's a lot more involved than just unloading them straight out of your car into your house.
Ethan Waldman 16:24
You got to be a little more strategic about not buying like the Costco size toilet paper.
Sarah Spiro 16:32
Oh, and if it's raining, just forget about it. Whatever.
Ethan Waldman 16:34
Right? No wet, no wet groceries. So you mentioned sewage, so I was kind of thinking before the interview, I was like what a great application for you know, compost toilets. If you if you care to use that. That way you don't have like tanks to pump out that are full of you know black water. But what, what happens? What kind of toilet does the house have? Because, you know, this is a tiny house show. So everyone has to know about the toilet, of course. And then also, you know, what about what about the gray water and like what's can you walk me through the process for how you deal with those things?
Brandon Jones 17:14
So the toilet wheel would be a macerating toilet that's a for a vessel, and it grinds it all up, and it goes into a holding tank. Same with the gray water, which we use water saving showerheads, water saving sink. That way we're not piling up a bunch of grey water in our holding tank. The composting toilets are great. I had one of those when I lived on the ocean, probably one of the best things I ever owned. The only issue that I had with a composting toilet was you always have to get rid of your number one because it doesn't it doesn't do anything with it. They make a bunch of great composting toilets where you can exchange a one gallon water jug and then you can take that and pour it in your house your toilet your garden whatever. Worst problem I found with those was the smell, not from the number two but from the number one the smell of the vinegar. And if you just add sugar packets to it kills that odor. Best thing I've ever found in my life but yeah, I think the composting toilet is 100% the best thing I ever owned. For our application where we are we just it all goes in a holding tank and we pump it out everything goes through a plant.
Ethan Waldman 18:36
So, for the pump out do you bring the house to the pump out station or does the does a pump out like boat come to you to pump it out?
Brandon Jones 18:47
It's a it's a vessel that comes to us. We, we get pumped out in our harbor. They have to pump out on all the, all the lake.
Ethan Waldman 18:56
Brandon Jones 18:57
If we could drive the house, we would drive it over there. But we don't - it doesn't have a motor.
Ethan Waldman 19:04
Okay, okay. It doesn't look too aerodynamic or hydrodynamic?
Sarah Spiro 19:10
No, it's definitely meant to stay put.
Ethan Waldman 19:13
Yeah, yeah. I'm in terms of like your spot like, because I'm thinking about like, you know, buying a little house on a piece of property and you own that piece of land? Is the location that you have the boat, or the house moored, is that like yours in some way other than just by the fact that that's where you are?
Brandon Jones 19:35
No, the only thing that you own is the permit for the floating house. The marina operator has to allow you in his harbor. You have to be in a harbor with these floating houses. And at any point in time, the operator can tell you, "Hey, I don't want to have these in here." Now granted, everybody gets equal treatment, everyone would have to leave and you'd have to go down the lake to a different marina. Nobody really has an issue here where the marina operators don't want them there. So as of right now we do not own anything but the permit for the house itself to be on the lake. We don't own the spot. We lease the spot.
Ethan Waldman 20:15
Does the lake ever freeze?
Sarah Spiro 20:17
No, it doesn't. At its deepest point it's almost 500 feet.
Ethan Waldman 20:22
Sarah Spiro 20:23
And it doesn't get cold enough to freeze that much water. Sometimes it'll get you know, a little icy around the edges, but definitely won't freeze over.
Ethan Waldman 20:33
Okay. I actually live very close to Lake Champlain in Vermont and it definitely does - not every winter - but it definitely does freeze. It's a cool thing when it happens. It's a big lake.
Sarah Spiro 20:47
Yeah. Yeah, la lot chillier out there.
Brandon Jones 20:50
We don't have any shallow spots. It literally, 10 feet off the bank you're and 50 feet of water, because it's a straight down mountain reservoir. You know? So for our lake to start freezing it doesn't have a lot of places for the water to start freezing in shallow areas and work its way out. It's, it's deep, deep.
Ethan Waldman 21:10
Sarah Spiro 21:12
Ethan Waldman 21:13
Must be pretty cold.
Brandon Jones 21:14
It gets cold in the winter.
Sarah Spiro 21:16
Yeah. You would not want to go swimming in the winter. That's for sure.
Ethan Waldman 21:20
Does it warm over the summer, though? Like the water?
Sarah Spiro 21:24
Yeah, it gets to about 85 in the summer, pretty comfortable.
Ethan Waldman 21:28
Sarah Spiro 21:29
Brandon, what would you say it gets to in the winter? Fifties or so?
Brandon Jones 21:33
The worst is high 40s in the winter, and mid, mid 80s during the summer time, so we get the best of both worlds.
Ethan Waldman 21:41
Brandon Jones 21:41
We get the really cold great fish and water. I love my fish coming out of cold water, better taste everything. Then we get the full blown 85 degree bathtub, swim and play on the lake all day water also. So we're right in the middle of the curve, I guess.
Ethan Waldman 21:58
That's pretty fantastic. So I think you mentioned in one of your videos that you, that you bought the house sight unseen and that you had to do quite a bit of renovation. Can you? Can you talk a little bit about that, that story?
Sarah Spiro 22:12
Yeah, Brandon, you go ahead on that one.
Brandon Jones 22:14
Alright, so when you get lucky enough to buy a floating house on this, like it is a 10 second sale. Most people spend their whole life trying to buy one of these. And so you buy it. You don't ask a question, anything. And we knew when we bought it, that we were gonna have to do some work. And then we opened the door. And right then we both looked at each other. And I said that this is a complete tear apart like there is not one thing in here we can save. So we spent
Sarah Spiro 22:44
Not one thing.
Brandon Jones 22:44
Not one thing. We spent three months. We are off on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. And every Friday, Saturday, Sunday for three months, we went over there and just worked and worked and worked from daylight till dark. And when you work on a boat like that everything that you want to bring out there has to be boated. Everything you tear apart, it has to be boated out. We live 45 minutes from any kind of hardware store, an hour and a half to a Walmart. Lowe's is about a three hour round trip. So you make a list and you make sure when you leave, you've got everything you need. But we did it. We fought it. We won the battle, and then the battle beat us. And then at the very end, we saw the light. And now we just sit back and laugh about it. But it was...
Oh yeah, it was it was such a journey, especially like Brandon's very handy, but I'm really not. I've learned a lot.
Ethan Waldman 23:45
I'm sure you learned a lot, though.
Sarah Spiro 23:47
Absolutely. Yeah, it was such a great experience because there's so much stuff in your daily life. Like when you flush the toilet. Where does that go? And what makes that work when you turn the light on? What is it that makes the light turn on? Like all of those things that I don't take for granted anymore because we actually had to wire plumb, and build them all in. And anyways, it was definitely a growing process. frustrating at times, but it's so rewarding just to finally see it come to life once we, you know once we finally put the the flooring in and had the windows framed and it started to look like a house instead of just a giant demolition area. It got really exciting after that.
Brandon Jones 24:26
Yeah. Or when my mother showed up and went through eight tubes of caulking and fixed it all for us.
Sarah Spiro 24:34
She such a big help.
Ethan Waldman 24:36
Moms. Mom saves the day.
Sarah Spiro 24:39
Ethan Waldman 24:39
Yeah, yeah, my mom helped me restrain the siding on my tiny house. She was awesome.
Brandon Jones 24:44
Yep. Oh, yeah.
Sarah Spiro 24:46
Ethan Waldman 24:47
So you mentioned, Brandon, that it was like people are trying their whole lives to buy one of these. Is that because there's just like a limited number that they allow so like, you can't add any more?
Brandon Jones 24:59
So they're, they're grandfathered in on the lake. And you cannot actually build a new one unless you take an old one, and you tear it off the like, and then build back a replica of it. And they will allow you to modify height, and a couple of other things. But they're - what you see is what you get. I've actually got a guy that I build them with and we sell them. But they're a lot bigger than what we live on. We like the small, tiny home idea. But yeah, just to get one is hard enough, and then to be able to take it, remodel it and do all the work. It's a whole nother ballgame out here. Because we're so remote in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, there's not anybody that can help you, there's not a lot of people to talk to about it. And anywhere you need to buy stuff is an hour and a half away.
Ethan Waldman 25:50
Sarah Spiro 25:51
Yeah, that's a good point to bring up about how, when you rebuild, there's a lot of parameters that you still have to abide by in terms of what you're allowed to do and not allowed to do based on what the original structure was. Because ideally, there are some things that we probably would have done differently. If we were to just do it the way we wanted to. Like, it would have been great to have a loft and have, you know, an extra little bedroom up there when we have friends and family over. But we weren't able to do that because we couldn't increase the height of the structure that much. So we still we love the finished product. But there's definitely some parameters that kind of held us back in certain ways that we've had to work with.
Ethan Waldman 26:34
I'm guessing since it's technically a boat, you don't have to pay real estate taxes right now
Brandon Jones 26:41
We pay a small property tax, just like owning a vessel.
Ethan Waldman 26:44
Brandon Jones 26:45
And ours comes out because our our house is actually a 1975 home-built boat. Only 28 feet long. It's like 100 and something dollars a year for taxes, like the way that they're there. They're in a fine line, like I was saying about insurance, nobody will insure it because it's not a boat, not a house. It's a home-built cabin. It's never really had somebody in this state actually say what they are.
Ethan Waldman 27:17
Sarah Spiro 27:18
Define it on paper.
Ethan Waldman 27:21
Do you know of anywhere else where like, you can still kind of like do this and say like, "I'm gonna build a floating house on this lake." And you can still like add a new one?
Brandon Jones 27:30
I don't know for sure. I know, TVA has 2000 over 2000 in their inventory on seven lake. And they they've got it locked down now. And before 2016, all these were going to be pulled off the waterways, there was an act called the Sunset Act.
Ethan Waldman 27:50
Brandon Jones 27:50
And it was mandatory, they have 30 years, they were all gone. And luckily, Obama signed a thing called the WIIN Act, and that was December 16 2016. And when he signed that into effect, it allowed all of us floating homes to stay on all the waterway. Granted, you came up to a certain code on them so that they weren't crashing, everything.
Ethan Waldman 28:14
Brandon Jones 28:15
So at one point, they were all gone. And now they're here to stay. Now somebody else can come in and say, "Oh, they've gotta go." But you're gonna have a 30 year window, and hopefully the next guy will come in and say, "Wait, let's keep them." So.
Ethan Waldman 28:33
Hopefully, hopefully, it seems like a pretty good thing.
Sarah Spiro 28:37
Oh, it's wonderful.
Ethan Waldman 28:39
How, how has your lifestyle changed since since moving into the water? And feel free to answer that like, as broadly or specifically as you want. I'm guessing like your, your costs of living have gone down quite a bit.
Brandon Jones 28:54
Yeah. Well, we went from wondering how we were going to stay together because we argued so well, too. We literally laughed about it. We're like, "You know, we really don't ever even argue anymore." It's so funny, because I guess because we have such a simplistic lifestyle now. There's - all the other stuff going on. But we were joking about it today, weren't we?
Sarah Spiro 29:14
We were, yeah, I think that has a lot to do with tiny home living in general. Just, you know, whenever you have conflict and things like that, you know, you have to handle it. Where are you going to go? And especially, especially when you're floating. You can't you really I mean, I guess you could boat away somewhere but anyway.
Ethan Waldman 29:33
Swim, swim to shore.
Sarah Spiro 29:35
Right? Yeah. Well, we've we've just had a lot of fun and, and really found our groove since we've started living out on lake both, both because it's a tiny living situation and because of the peacefulness surrounding us, I think and I feel like, you know, our bodies have a certain level of of rest. The nervous system does. And I didn't realize that I just really wasn't truly resting before because I feel like I have a whole new level of you know, baseline on my nervous system. Now even just when I looked at things like my resting heart rate, and, you know, my, my stress levels numerically are so much lower because I think because of the the scenery that surrounds us, no doubt, but also because of the very simplistic lifestyle and the very, like, close knit kind of connection that we have with the water and the mountains around us in a very like tangible way. It's just so great. It's, you know, even things like washing the dishes, you're looking at the window, and you're seeing this, this picture out of a postcard, and I just feel so grateful. And, and happy even in the most mundane of things.
Ethan Waldman 30:47
It is quite a beautiful setting.
Sarah Spiro 30:49
Brandon Jones 30:51
It brings you to the point where you're living cheap, very, very cheap to save money to be able to go places and do all kinds of stuff. And at the end of the day, you're at the place you want to go and do this stuff.
Ethan Waldman 31:03
Brandon Jones 31:05
And we leave like once a month, that way we can remember where we came from. You can climb the highest mountain every day, but it'll get old to you. So you gotta go away to remember what you have what I always try to say.
Ethan Waldman 31:18
Brandon Jones 31:18
But yeah, we live it. We went on vacation. So we saved all the money. But we go home to have our vacation, I guess you would.
Sarah Spiro 31:30
Yeah, every time we go anywhere else, we always just find ourselves being like, "Oh, I can't wait to go back home."
Ethan Waldman 31:37
Did you change your careers at all?
Brandon Jones 31:39
I did. I did. The tiny home wasn't really a career-changer for me. But coming here to this area was the start of my career change. I spent 16 years and nuclear power and chemical weapons and worked all over the world and the stress of it got so much. I said, "I'm going back to Fontana Lake, I'm gonna go back out there where the telephones don't work. There's no TV, there's no outside anything." And then slowly I just crept and crept and crept into the best spot I could have been in, but definitely career change to come back out here for myself.
Sarah Spiro 32:19
But as far as whenever we moved on to the house specifically, we both had the same jobs that we had before that point. Yeah. I have a life slightly longer commute than I used to but, Brandon's got it made on the other hand, he's got two minutes, two minutes to the marina.
My commute is about an hour to my duty station in the National Park.
Ethan Waldman 32:50
And that, most of that is driving?
Sarah Spiro 32:53
Right. Yeah, just five minutes of boating or so and then driving and we do work on the lake. Like I mentioned with the Park Service having boats so we are on the lake on occasion. And on the days that we're on a lake, I'm able to meet my crew here, which is really helpful and saves a lot of gas. But the majority of the time I've got about an hour commute.
Ethan Waldman 33:12
Yeah. So is there no connectivity at your house? Like no Wi Fi, no cell reception, anything?
Sarah Spiro 33:19
You can put the phone in the window or we've found you know, if you put it in a bowl for some reason, a bar to you know to get their calls out in an emergency but no, we don't have Wi Fi. We've, we have a long the long story, long history with this whole Starlink thing. We're working on that but don't have Starlink yet. But we've been on the list since February 2021 for the residential and we will see if that ever arrives to us. We're thinking of biting the bullet and just going ahead and getting the RV but for now, no, no Wi Fi.
Ethan Waldman 33:59
Sarah Spiro 34:00
But there is Wi Fi at the marina. So if we went for instance, when I'm working on the YouTube videos, that's actually where I'm going to upload them. Yeah.
Ethan Waldman 34:09
And most importantly, how has Iko adjusted to life on the water?
Sarah Spiro 34:14
Iko yeah, she loves it.
Ethan Waldman 34:16
For some reason I wanted to say Iko, but Iko, yeah.
Sarah Spiro 34:21
She loves it. Yeah. For those who who might not have seen our videos or anything. She's about a 95 pound Akita. She's super fluffy, definitely a wintertime dog. So the summertime can be a little bit tough on her in the winter times a little bit tough on us. So it's a it's a give and take there. But she absolutely loves that. She's just the total boat dog at heart. She will be so upset and just whine and cry if you don't take her on the boat with you anywhere you're going. And she's really got it made because she gets to go to work every day with Brandon at the marina and just sit behind the desk and sleep most of the day in the AC and then comes back home with us and is just happy as a clam to be a little guard dog, our best security system. So, yeah, yeah, she really loves it. But especially in the winter, whenever it's cold and windy, that's just her, her time to thrive.
Ethan Waldman 35:18
That's awesome. And speaking of winter, I mean, it looks like you insulated the cabin well, and you've you've got, you've got good heat in there. But I would imagine that like being on the water, like makes the floor makes the makes the house cold.,
Brandon Jones 35:32
Yeah, so great point. And we were thinking it was gonna be rough. It doesn't get really bad on the floor until the water temperature gets really cold. The, so when we go into the first part of winter, our water is still in the 70s. And so it's cold outside and the floor is warm. But as we come out of winter, we actually put rugs down because the floor will get really cold. The house stays super warm. Holds heat really well. But yeah, man, it's all about the water temperature. If you've got cold water, the floor's cold. And if you've got warm water, it's like a little sauna you're standing on, so pretty cool little deal. We were wondering about that ourselves.
Sarah Spiro 36:17
We definitely have some good house slippers.
Ethan Waldman 36:21
Yeah, that's crucial for a tiny house with cold floors, which many, many of the ones on wheels, the floors end up being pretty chilly, because you know, they're kind of hanging out above the ground, for sure. And it looks like you have a pretty nice sea boat or a like wake, a wake surf boat. And you've gotten really into wake surfing, it looks really fun.
Sarah Spiro 36:46
We did we actually just sold it. We dropped it off just yesterday. No, we, oh, it's fine. We do it pretty much every year. Brandon's got a great relationship worked out with a dealer and we're able to kind of rotate through each year. And without, without really losing any money, we're able to just get a new boat each year and resell it at the end of the season to somebody else and give them a good deal.
Brandon Jones 37:10
So we're in a great spot on a surf boat, because surf boats are very expensive. And because I am a marina operator, I go to all the boat shows I deal with all the dealers, I buy a lot of rental boats. And we just ran into the right people and they were like, "We want you to be an ambassador to our company." So every year we get a new car boat at the beginning of the year. And at the end of the season, we sell it. And so it's a, it's always a trade. We don't really put a lot of money into the boat. And it allows us to have something super nice and not actually be making the solid payments and own it. It's probably the best deal ever.
Ethan Waldman 37:52
Sarah Spiro 37:54
But that is yeah, that is probably one of our biggest hobbies. And one of the main ways that we spend our time on the water is wakesurfing. We do a little bit of wakeboarding and then just general you know boating and hanging out. So I think for our our lifestyle and being on the water all the time, that was definitely a fun way for us to be able to splurge a little bit. And also it helps us you know, get outside, explore the lake a little bit be outside the tiny home where we want to be and then have a way to do that. So yeah.
Ethan Waldman 38:28
That's awesome. It looks it looks super fun. I'm here on Lake Champlain. I actually got really into kiteboarding. Because we get we get really good winds.
Sarah Spiro 38:38
I want to do that.
Ethan Waldman 38:40
I was looking at your lake. It looks it looks like it's probably pretty gusty wind just with how narrow it is.
Brandon Jones 38:46
Sarah Spiro 38:47
For sure. Yeah, we would love to try that one day. We always talk about that.
Ethan Waldman 38:51
Sarah Spiro 38:52
It would save a lot of gas money.
Ethan Waldman 38:54
Yeah, well, you can get. Now we're like veering way off of tiny houses, but you can get like a, doing a tow behind with a hydrofoil board is really fun.
Brandon Jones 39:05
Oh, yeah, we've been looking at those.
Sarah Spiro 39:09
Well, you know, a lot of...
Ethan Waldman 39:09
You could probably do that behind the dinghy. And you don't need to go very fast for the foil.
Sarah Spiro 39:14
Yeah. Well, you know, we always say like, a lot of a lot of the reason that we live tiny, I said that we're able to do a lot of our living outside of the house and so that we can afford to do that. So you know, it's it's fun to try out new hobbies like that. And, and dream big, because when you live tiny a lot of times you have the means to do bigger, bigger things outside of your home.
Ethan Waldman 39:37
Oh, yeah. Yeah. Well, this has been so great. I was curious. Are there any resources like books or YouTube channels or really anything that you can share with our listeners who are maybe maybe interested in in this kind of lifestyle or things that helped you along the way like finding or buying or you're renovating the house or anything like that?
Sarah Spiro 40:04
Well, obviously we have our own YouTube channel, of course, and we like to share lifestyle stuff but also a lot of our renovation processes and, and some of the biggest questions that we get asked a lot some more in depth explanations to those. That would be fun to check out. We actually haven't found any other channels or Instagrams or anything like that of folks that have floating homes. We do follow a lot of people on sailboats, and that have house boats and things like that on YouTube, mainly, but, you know, it is kind of like a very small niche that we're in where it doesn't seem like we we know a lot of other people that are doing something like so. That's kind of fun, but cool. We would certainly be open to finding more of that ourselves.
Ethan Waldman 40:57
Nice. Well, you can you can write the book on it.
Sarah Spiro 41:01
We're trying, I guess.
Ethan Waldman 41:04
Well, Sarah, and Brandon, thank you so much for being guests on the show today. I'm just fascinated and really enjoying following your Instagram and your YouTube channel. So thanks for thanks for coming on.
Sarah Spiro 41:14
Thank you so much for having us. It was really fun.
Brandon Jones 41:16
Ethan Waldman 41:18
Thank you so much to Sarah and Brandon for being guests on the show today. You can find the show notes including a complete transcript, a YouTube tour and a couple other video links and photos of Sarah and Brandon's unique floating house at thetinyhouse.net/231. Again, that's thetinyhouse.net/231. Well, that is all for this week. I'm your host Ethan Waldman, and I'll be back next week with another episode of the Tiny House Lifestyle Podcast.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai
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