Liquid Lines

Rethink Your Small Dreams, Shifting Sands and a Weekend of Big Events

Simplifying Is Good, But Is Small House Living All That Cool?
By JON COEN | Sep 14, 2016
Courtesy of: Sands Point This Saturday is the Maker’s Fest at Manahawkin Lake. Check out the local food, crafted items and rideable art by makers like Sands Point Resin Works.

Well, we waited all summer for this. And here we are, the magic of September. After months of waiting for the heat to subside, the crowds to disperse, and the lights to go off … well, it’s been hotter than hell, still a good amount of people around, and the lights won’t blink yellow until after Chowderfest. But, hey, you get the idea. No badges. The monarch butterflies arrived right on time. Surf where you want. Local summer; it’s here.

Anyway, after a busy summer like that, you get to thinking about simplifying. Maybe living with less? Going off the grid? Scaling it back?

And there are plenty of people who do, people who sell most of their belongings and build a 300-square-foot box home of their dreams. These tiny homes are fascinating, some with perfect flower boxes, some with ultra modern designs and inviting lights strewn across the tiny yard. Some are adorable little rustic cabins. There are teeny sustainable abodes that run on solar energy and compost toileting. There are whimsical purple houses where folks sprinkle pixie dust on their granola in the morning. I’ve seen micro homes built into trees and Hobbit houses burrowed into the earth. There are folks who build surf bungalows out of old train cars and families of four who live in yurts on a mountaintop. There are blogs written by couples who’ve built itty-bitty dollhouses that fit on the bed of a pickup truck, so they can endlessly travel wherever their hearts desire. There’s a couple in Beach Haven renovating a houseboat right now to live on. And you know what they say about guys who live in small houses – always trying to compensate for having a big....

It really does look appealing. Imagine how excited you would be to be paying taxes on a 150-square-foot home. And your energy bills would be nothing compared to that two-story home you live in now. Maybe you’re not paying taxes at all. Your grocery bills would go down because, well, there really isn’t anywhere to store three-liter bottles of soda and rows of canned food. Who really needs cable? Plus, you need an excuse to get rid of all that junk you don’t use. You’d spend more time outside. You’ll be healthier because you’ll probably be pressing your own fruit and nut bars. There would be ingenious uses of space, like shelves built under the couch where you’d have a few 7-inch records and books about tiny home living. You and your significant other could start an Instagram page about your small adventures and fill it with all the pictures you’ve taken, getting your entire interior in the shot. It will all be perfect, not to mention, absolutely adorable.

Even though I despise Birkenstocks, Phish and tie-dye, I believe in the “Live simply, so others can simply live” philosophy. It sounds kind of crunchy, but it makes sense. Americans consume more electricity, eat more calories, use more water, burn far more gasoline, and develop more land per day than any other country. In some cases, it’s staggering. A new home in the U.S. is three times the size of a new home in the UK, which is scarcely a developing nation. One American consumes as much energy as 307 Tanzanians per day. (The process to satisfy our meat consumption is about the least sustainable habit on the planet outside of Dubai.) I could go on, and you could challenge these numbers, but I double-checked. If they’re off at all, you still get the point. Our consumption lifestyle puts pressure on the rest of the world. Adjustments to use less could certainly make the future of humanity look a little more rosy.

What I find most backward is that there are those who read these statistics (along with health care, gun violence and education facts) and claim that anyone who points them out must hate this country. The first step to fixing a problem is recognizing that there is a problem. So, if you screamed for help when your kid walked into traffic, I would not accuse you of hating your family.

But before you put your giant energy hog of a home on the market and start deciding which kind of sustainable wood you’re going to be milling your own 35 shingles out of, just slow it down for a minute. We might love the idea of less house, less expenses and less footprint. But let’s consider a few things. Let’s think about having company, or, more specific to our area of the country – lousy weather. Let’s think about having company during lousy weather. Picture having a few friends over to show off your new, tiny digs. You’ll give them a  tour of the place (and make a joke about how it took 23 seconds) and then sit outside under the hip lighting and enjoy locally grown salad in wooden bowls that your friend made, listening to the new album via your iPad and Bluetooth speaker.

But now it’s raining, and it’s kind of cold. So everyone is inside, sitting very close, in wet clothes. You could put some clothes in the dryer, but there really isn’t another room for them to get changed. And you’d lend them some XL T-shirts, but there wasn’t room for them in your tiny closet, so they’re actually in your parents’ attic.

Also, there is no dryer ... which reminds you that your clothes out on the clothesline are getting wet again.

And while there’s enough salad, you have to share bowls – because wooden bowls take up a lot of space. And there’s no room for the Bluetooth speaker, on account of you need the counter space and you have two wet friends sitting on your bed. Let’s keep repeating the word “cozy.”

But it’s not all bad. Once the company leaves, it’s just you and your partner, laughing about how funny it was to make do, and how all your friends are jealously going back to their non-tiny homes, non-tiny electric bills, and dishwashers. And some of them had pedaled over, so when it was time to leave, they had to sit on wet bike seats because tiny homes don’t have garages.

And that’s all good, unless your partner has flatulence, or simply the biological needs of a normal human being. Because your toilet is just 18 inches from the breakfast nook. And that really puts a damper on making hemp brownies, especially when your tiny oven allows you to make only four brownies at a time and it takes three days to make a batch. Come to think of it, you’re going to be very close to your mate or spouse – like really close. And that’s cute until summertime, when it’s 96 degrees and you want another human body on top of you like you want a case of chlamydia. Your solar panels aren’t making enough power to run the fan, the a.c. unit and the freezer, where you wish you could get just one damn ice cube.

So yeah, maybe when you redesign your vacation home on the bay that will only be lived in for 10 weekends of the year, go with the 6,000 square feet over the 8,000. If you think that maybe you don’t need to drive a vehicle that was designed for African safari to Wawa for a bottle of water, while Africans walk 29 miles to the closest watering hole because climate change, caused by vehicles like yours, dried up the one near their village – maybe it’s time to make a change. Perhaps start with meatless Mondays or energy-efficient windows. But think long and hard before you move into a modified storage container-tree house.

THE SURF: It almost feels silly reporting on the waves this week after all the glory of Hermine. After riding (and writing) those well-overhead dredging bowls, I’ll admit it’s hard to be enthusiastic about the average waves of the last week.

Hermine gave us waves almost through the end of last week. And again, we really dodged a bullet. She was a post-tropical cyclone a while ago, and last weekend was headed at the UK with wind and rain. Like us, the British Isles had a scorching summer, and this storm was supposed to usher in the fall weather. We had a little window of clean surf on Sunday before the tide got too high.

But back to conditions locally, this week was something of a time of flux. It’s very common after the first big swell of the late summer or fall for our beaches to go into a period of transition. All the sand that has sat in place all summer gets moved around. We’re going to see that more than ever this fall with the combination of so much beach replenishment and so many days of stormy surf with Hermine.

Most of this is good news. In general, some spots that had no sandbar because of replenishment now have a break off the beach. North Beach, Holgate and Loveladies had a decent set-up, and most notably, Beach Haven, the Queen City with its legendary breaks, now has sandbars again. These will still take some time to shake out, but overall, much better than we had pre-Hermine. Cedars is shallow, but remains consistent. Barnegat Light, which was pretty poor all summer, now has its sand set-ups on the south end of town as well. Other spots, like Ship Bottom, which had ideal sandbars all summer, got torn apart and went to what we call a “winter beach” in a matter of days. After thousands of sessions this summer, Ship Bottom’s bars migrated out to sea, creating a shallow shelf far off the beach and a huge hole or trough on the inside.

But overall, the change is positive. LBI now has beach protection in the form of big, engineered dunes (although the ones that haven’t been planted yet are not technically dunes, but just piles of sand) and decent sandbars. Now let’s keep our fingers crossed that these beaches don’t get re-pumped, some for a third time in a year.

BIG EVENTS: In local news, Kyle Calandra aced the Sea Bright Skim Bash last weekend up in Monmouth County. He also had some draining barrels on that Hermine swell and busted some sticks.

Up at the Belmar Pro, Surf City’s Randy Townsend had yet another good showing, going all the way to the quarterfinals and losing to eventual finalist Rob Kelly.

There are two big events in the area this weekend. I highly recommend getting to one of them, if not both. They are the Maker’s Fest at Manahawkin Lake Park and the LBI Paddle Cup, which runs the length of most of LBI on the bayside.

The Maker’s Fest made its debut last year, and as far as quality events with very good food, music, and a whole lot of creative makers, it really is one of the best events of the year. Admission to Maker’s is free, and to get into the Botanical Box Biergarten (not sure why everyone misspells Beer Garden these days) costs $10. Parking will be an issue, so plan accordingly. There is plenty of parking and a courtesy shuttle from Southern Regional High School.

This is the first year of the LBI Paddle Cup presented by Naish. The crew at Island Surf and Sail will be hosting this point-to-point Poker Run downwind race with two different length courses to accommodate paddlers, plus awards and cash prizes. If you haven’t registered yet, it is $95 for the short course and $125 for the long, which includes a T-shirt and afterparty with music, post-race eats and fun for the entire family. Saturday looks to be an absolutely stellar day.

“It’s a Poker-style run, so you don’t have to be the fastest to win one of two Naish Glide touring boards with wood inlays ($2,000 each). The race starts at 11 so people can set up on the bay to watch racers go by,” said shop manager Adam Frack. “Everyone will finish at Sunset Park, in Harvey Cedars, probably between 1 and 2 p.m. The festival there will run from 1 to 4 with Andy Chase from the Hawk as MC.”

Registration is now open for the Jetty Clam Jam at Hudson Avenue in Harvey Cedars, which could be any weekend with swell, starting Oct.10. This is the 10th annual, so it will be a special one. Hopefully the waves cooperate so it’s not a Thanksgiving affair again. Make sure you secure your spot. The highly anticipated team selection night is Sept. 28 at the Old Causeway Steak and Oyster House after 10 p.m. These are quality events. Get to ’em.

September is almost halfway over. As for the surf, we should see some northerly windswell for the second half of the week. The tropics have slowed down a bunch since all that Labor Day hoopla, but there are still a few systems out there trying to muster something up for us. Tropical Storm Ian, in particular, could send a little pulse in our direction before it heads out to sea. I love howling northwesterly winds on bowling winter swells as much as the next guy, but maybe take advantage of the fantastic weather we’re set to have here. September is short.

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