When Cherae Stone locks the door on the Starr House on West Shawnee for the last time, she’ll trade 3,000 square feet of living space for a little over 240 square feet in what appears to be a tin shack on the Illinois River.
But appearances are often deceiving, particularly in this case.
Stone’s “shack” is made of corrugated tin and hand-milled pine, and has a handsomely appointed interior, complete with a four-burner gas range, refrigerator, washer and dryer, hand-milled cedar paneling, stone tiling, and LED flush-mount can lighting in the ceiling.
Stone is part of a movement to simplify life by scaling back – which includes living in smaller spaces, consuming less and reducing stress.
“I found this home, which was previously occupied by a family of four, and had it renovated to suit my needs,” said Stone. “I looked at having one built new, but this was a better deal. I bought my land, and asked the builder, ‘How much house can I get with this much money, because this is all the money I have?’”
Stone’s new home is one of about three dozen such sites cropping up at the Illinois River Village, off Scenic State Highway 10 on Chewey Road.
A person accumulates a lot of stuff over the years, and Stone is also ridding herself of everything except the items most precious to her.
“Some of my stuff has been sold, some more will be sold, and tons will be donated,” said Stone. “I’m having the hardest time getting rid of my books.”
Stone has scaled back a couple of times in her life, once when she was a teenager when her family’s home burned, and again when she lost her entire retirement savings in a corporate snafu.
“Remembering that time when the house burned – sure, we didn’t have all those things, but we were fine,” said Stone. “Even though we didn’t have that ‘stuff,’ we had our connections. I think it will be a lot more fun to be in my world out here. I mean, who, if they grew up here, doesn’t entertain the idea of living on the river?”
Some people might find the prospect of leaving city living behind in the winter for a small space off the beaten path daunting, but Stone is comfortable with the idea. “I require a lot of alone time, so maybe it will help me settle in,” said Stone. “I kind of like burrowing in for the winter.”
The home, which is mobile, runs on a standard recreational vehicle 110-volt electrical system, along with propane for cooking.
“And if I lose power, I’ll be just fine,” said Stone. “While I won’t be living off the grid, this home can be fitted to run that way. All you need is a composting toilet, a wood stove and some solar panels.”
Tinsleys getting their goats at Canyon Ridge
Chrys and Marty Tinsley, owners of Canyon Ridge Farms, lived in town for the first 19 years of their married lives. Both were raised on family farms, and it was always their desire to get back to that lifestyle.
“We wanted the peace and tranquility that is found in the country, and we wanted to grow and raise the majority of our own food,” said Marty.
In 2002, the Tinsleys bought a farm at Welling, but continued to make the daily trek to town to work.
“With each passing year of working at ‘farming’ on evenings and weekends and making the commute into town for work, our desire to be on the farm full-time kept growing and we explored several options to make our farm self-sufficient,” said Marty. “Since we already had dairy goats, we checked into milking and selling our milk to a co-op on several different occasions, only to find out that was not an option for us.”
In 2010, the couple made the decision to put in a Grade A dairy, along with their own Grade A processing facility. Today, Canyon Ridge Farms produces enough goat milk and cheese to participate in several farmers’ markets, as well as supplying cheese to a number of Reasor’s grocery stores.
Chrys continues to work his full-time job in town, while Marty spends her time working the farm.
“There are many sacrifices to living in the country, and especially on a farm,” said Marty. “Convenience, mostly, but also that it doesn’t matter if it’s raining or snowing, there is an animal that needs to be cared for. Internet access is not all that accessible, we have more power outages, phone service is not that great.”
Marty said the benefit far outweigh the sacrifices.
“It is peaceful and quiet; you can actually see the stars; there is always an animal that needs caring for; there is always something to do,” said Marty. “You can save money because you don’t want to run to town, so you just make do with what you have on hand. You can provide most of your own food, the air is fresher, and there is plenty of room for kids to run and play.”
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