Adventure-bound Juneau couple moves into $8,600 tiny house on wheels

first_imgArts & Culture | Economy | Juneau | SyndicatedAdventure-bound Juneau couple moves into $8,600 tiny house on wheelsJuly 10, 2015 by Elizabeth Jenkins Share:Curtiss O’Rorke Stedman and Kelly Tousley’s new tiny home. (Photo by Elizabeth Jenkins)A 1,200-square-foot house is considered small by today’s standards. But one Juneau couple is leaving their home for something with less than 100 square feet of livable space. They’re hitting the road, but that doesn’t come without sacrifice.Audio Player Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.On the curb in front of a brown house sits a bookshelf, a suitcase and empty picture frames. Passersby might think the tenants are moving out or spring cleaning.“We don’t really have enough time to do a true yard sale so this is our, like, piecemeal please-everybody-come-take-our-stuff-so-we-can-move-into-98-square-feet,” Kelly Tousley says with a laugh.There’s also a sign: “Knock on the door for more items for sale in the house.”Kelly and her boyfriend are getting rid of nearly everything they own to fit into a tiny house on wheels parked outside their rental. From the outside, it looks like a glossy white travel trailer.“I mean, picture opening up the back of a U-Haul and that’s what we started with,” she says.But the inside is more like a home with vinyl hardwood floors and lime green walls. They’ll pull the trailer with a truck for a yearlong trip through the Alaska road system and down to the Lower 48.A curtain separates the small bathroom from the kitchen. (Photo by Elizabeth Jenkins/KTOO)For such a small space, it’s remarkably plush. A bench folds out into a queen-sized bed.“We had the conversation of, if we’re living in this and this is our house, we don’t want to be sitting on milk crates with cushions on top of them and feeling like we’re going to get slivers in our fingers when we touch the walls,” she says.Electricity runs off solar panels. There’s a small bathroom separated by a curtain and a kitchenette but no running water.It’s their version of the tiny house movement, downsizing and taking a do-it-yourself approach to home ownership. Many tiny houses are palaces compared to their trailer. But the couple needed something smaller and road worthy. It only cost $8,600.“The coolest thing that I built to date was a birdhouse in sixth grade,” says Kelly’s boyfriend, Curtiss O’Rorke Stedman. “And to look at a box and say we can turn this into a house, that was daunting. And that fact that it actually worked so far is great.”Curtiss is a high school English teacher and musician. Last summer, he toured the interior for his solo music project, Cousin Curtiss.“So when I got back, I said, ‘You know, this is it. I’m hitting the road. I want to do this full time,’ and Kelly was 110 percent behind me all the way,” he says.Kelly remembers it differently. She thought he was talking about taking a vacation.“Whereas, I think when the conversation happened, Curtiss more so took it as I’m hitting the road with him full time,” she says. “And I think it took a couple of months of that conversation to happen. Is it realistic for both of us to hit the road, for both of us to quit our jobs?”Curtiss O’Rorke Stedman and Kelly Tousley’s “living room” bench doubles as a bed. (Photo by Elizabeth Jenkins/KTOO)Together, they decided it was. Kelly would quit her job working with autistic kids. They would sell everything and go on tour indefinitely. Traveling from Tok to Chicken, then down south through Montana and Michigan.Friends and family had mixed reactions. But no one said it was a terrible idea, don’t do it.“I don’t think anybody said that,” he says. “I think a few people may have said, ‘Why would you do that?’ They didn’t understand it.”One of those people was Kelly’s grandfather, a professional builder. Kelly recounts telling him about their first big project.“‘Grandpa, we’re going to cut in windows. We’re going to install our own windows.’ And he said, ‘You can’t do that. You can’t install windows in a trailer. That doesn’t make any sense.’ And I sent a picture of us installing the first window and he said, ‘Huh, they did it!’”Window installation wasn’t easy in the 98-square-foot trailer. (Photo by Elizabeth Jenkins/KTOO)They completed the tiny house in eight months. Then came the time to purge all their stuff. For Curtiss, the most difficult thing to give away was his plants, grown from his great-great-grandmother’s clippings.Kelly says it was her clothes.“You know, I’ll look at a shirt and be like, ‘I love that sweatshirt! I wore that every home track meet in high school.’ But the reality is I have those memories of track and I don’t need that sweatshirt to hold onto,” she says.Kelly is giving the tiny lifestyle a year. After that, she says she’ll reassess.Curtiss wrote the song “Here and Now” about missing Kelly on tour. But now he won’t have to. The couple is setting off for miles of open road, pulling behind them what they’ll call home.“I think it’s a blessing to be able to ditch everything you own and be able to take off in true nomad style like humans used to be and go hunter-gatherer across the country looking for adventure,” he says.To see where Kelly and Curtiss are on their journey, visit paygasnotrent.comShare this story:last_img read more

Fundraiser set up for local volunteer group after controversy over Mississippi flag

first_imgArts & Culture | Community | JuneauFundraiser set up for local volunteer group after controversy over Mississippi flagJuly 20, 2015 by Lakeidra Chavis, KTOO Share:The Mississippi Magnolia flag flies on Egan Drive, in downtown Juneau. (Photo by Lakeidra Chavis/KTOO)Former Assemblyman Marc Wheeler has set up a fundraiser for local volunteer group Friends of the Flags. Wheeler has so far raised more than $500 of the campaign’s $1,000 goal.The funds will support Friends of the Flags, “and their courageous decision to replace the Mississippi state flag with the Mississippi Magnolia flag,” according to the website.Friends of the Flags is a volunteer group that organizes and maintains the all-states’ flags display in downtown Juneau during the summer. After a monthlong debate over removing the flag—which has an image of the full Confederate flag in its upper left corner —the flag was removed last Saturday morning.The funds will be donated to the group after paying the cost of replacing the flag, approximately $120, according to the website.Share this story:last_img read more

Interior Department adds $4M to Cobell Scholarship program

first_imgEducationInterior Department adds $4M to Cobell Scholarship programJanuary 12, 2016 by Hannah Colton, KDLG Share:The U.S. Interior Department last week announced that it added $4 million to a scholarship program for American Indian and Alaska Native students.The Cobell Scholarship provides need-based awards for post-secondary education – up to $2,500 for certificate students, $5,000 for undergrads or $10,000 for graduate students.The first round of Cobell scholarships were awarded this fall.According to the American Indian Graduate Center, which administers the scholarship, just four of the 369 recipients were Alaska Natives, and none currently live in Alaska.The Cobell Scholarship Fund was created as part of a 2009 settlement of a class-action lawsuit regarding the federal government’s mismanagement of individual American Indian trust accounts.So far the Interior Department has transferred $35 million into the scholarship fund; that could grow to a maximum of $60 million.Share this story:last_img read more

Marijuana businesses’ launch depends on Legislature acting

first_imgBusiness | Marijuana | State GovernmentMarijuana businesses’ launch depends on Legislature actingMarch 29, 2016 by Andrew Kitchenman, KTOO and Alaska Public Media Share:(Creative Commons photo by Brett Levin)Marijuana businesses are scheduled to open in June, after the state issues licenses. But there’s a hitch – the state won’t issue licenses until the Legislature passes a bill that allows for national criminal background checks, among other provisions. And that bill is currently in limbo.The Alaska Marijuana Control Board has put the brakes on issuing licenses until it can do national criminal background checks on applicants.State Alcohol and Marijuana Control Office Director Cynthia Franklin said that’s because the Legislature requires background checks for licensees. But it hasn’t passed a bill that’s been proposed that would allow Franklin’s office to do these checks. She’s hopeful that lawmakers will pass the bill soon.“I truly cannot believe that the Alaska Legislature would hold this tool hostage and prevent … marijuana licensing from occurring, by enacting a statutory requirement and then not giving us the statutory language to meet that requirement,” she said.The versions of the bill passed by the House and Senate differ over two provisions of the legislation that have nothing to do with background checks.Wasilla Republican Representative Cathy Tilton opposed marijuana legalization. But as chairwoman of the House Community and Regional Affairs Committee, Tilton crafted the House version of the bill, House Bill 75. Her version would have required Unorganized Borough communities to opt out of allowing commercial marijuana businesses – mirroring state law for boroughs and municipal governments.The Senate changed the bill to require Unorganized Borough communities to opt in. Tilton said she wants a conference committee to resolve the differences between the Senate and the House.“Our goal was to be able to provide the communities with the tools that they need to implement whatever they want to do, at the local level, and that is why it was a good bill to me – to be able to allow those things to happen,” Tilton said.The other provision that’s prompted differences would limit the number of marijuana plants residents could grow for personal use – some legislators would like it to be up to 24 plants, while others prefer a household limit of 12, with no more than six per adult. Tilton said she’s fine with the lower limit.“I do feel that that is a reasonable number — especially if you’re looking at generating any kind of a legitimate commercial industry,” she said.The legislative delay is a concern for those who want to launch their business in the coming months.Sara Williams, chairwoman of the Matanuska-Susitna Borough’s marijuana advisory committee, has been frustrated with the holdup. She’s hoping her retail business Midnight Greenery will open in downtown Anchorage in September.“I’m very hopeful that the Legislature can look forward to the future and realize that here we have a revenue stream,” she said. “We have an opportunity in a budget crisis to create jobs and create a revenue stream.”Another bill could affect the Marijuana Control Board’s ability to issue licenses. House Bill 337, sponsored by Anchorage Republican Representative Gabrielle LeDoux, would allow the state to collect taxes on those who exceed the legal maximums for possessing and growing pot.LeDoux said the bill would treat marijuana the same as alcohol. The bill also contains a provision that requires businesses that sell marijuana to post a bond. They would forfeit the bond if they don’t pay taxes.Franklin said her office is ready to prepare the control board to issue licenses – but waiting for the Legislature to act hasn’t been the only challenge. Her office has fewer workers than those in other states that have legalized marijuana, and they’re answering a flood of questions from the public.“You really just could not amp up the pressure any more than it is amped up on this staff,” Franklin said. “But that being said, they’re doing an amazing job. And we are … moving forward, and we’re on time.”Representative Charisse Millett, an Anchorage Republican, is confident that once the background check bill goes to conference committee, the differences will be ironed out. But with the Legislature busy with other major legislation, it’s not clear when the bill will be sent into conference committee – or whether the licenses will be issued on time.Share this story:last_img read more

Juneau CrimeLine highlights forced entry burglary

first_imgCrime & Courts | JuneauJuneau CrimeLine highlights forced entry burglaryApril 22, 2016 by Jeremy Hsieh, KTOO Share:Juneau police have released a description of man wanted in connection with a forced entry burglary in the Mendenhall Valley on April 6.A resident of the 2800 block of Mendenhall Loop Road had reported their home broken into and thousands of dollars in jewelry stolen.Lt. Scott Erickson described the scene and a possible suspect in a statement.“The front door to the home was kicked in and the unknown burglar stole approximately $2,175 in jewelry. Witnesses in the area reported seeing a white male between 5 feet 8 inches and 5 feet 10 inches tall, with a medium build, blonde hair, and either a goatee and/or mustache in the area at the time of the burglary.”Report tips to Juneau police at 586-0600 or at You may be eligible for a reward.Share this story:last_img read more

Petersburg students witness crash response that could save lives

first_imgEducation | Public SafetyPetersburg students witness crash response that could save livesMay 19, 2016 by Joe Viechnicki, KFSK Share:Students watch as EMTS try to revive one of the victims in Thursday’s mock crash. (Photo by Joe Viechnicki/KFSK)Emergency crews responded to a car wreck just behind the Petersburg community gym recently – thankfully, this one was just a drill.Local middle and high school students watched as fellow students played the part of accident victims while educators and police tried to drive home a message about the horrible consequences of distracted or drunk driving.Students in grades eight through 12 watched as a police car, ambulance and fire engine pulled up to the scene of a head-on collision staged in the parking lot near the community pool. The vehicles were junkers moved into place by the borough’s public works and sanitation department. Three seniors Tucker Hagerman, Adanna Kvernvik and Kylie Wallace played the part of one dead and two injured in the crash.The demonstration involved about 15 volunteers from fire, emergency medical and search and rescue, along with the Petersburg police department. Volunteers used the jaws of life to remove the top of the car. Kyle Clayton played the role of the drunk driver and was taken away by police at the scene while the fire department’s Dave Berg narrated.The family of the three students was held back by police officers and watched as the ambulance crew tried to revive one victim.After, students filed into the auditorium and watched several videos, one from the Taylor White Foundation. White was killed in a drunk driving accident June 5, 2009, days after he graduated from Juneau-Douglas High School.Petersburg police office Corey Rowley told the students that he lost four high school friends to a driving accident. “60 miles an hour through a residential area past the highway where speeds were 55 miles an hour, didn’t even stop, blew the stop sign, went to go hit the railroad tracks and hit a train head on,” Rowley said. “All four were killed. Those were my friends. So when I talk to you about zeros, I was that person that walked by the truck that didn’t say anything.”Rowley told the students that nation-wide statistically a school the size of PHS would have a driving fatality. He challenged the students to beat those statistics.“Hey, I get it. I’ve seen the pallets in the back of the truck going out the road. I know you guys know where that border is where we don’t patrol. I’ve talked to you before when you have the pallets in the truck. … Be that hero that puts your foot down and says hey, no way, I’m not gonna drink and drive.”Principal Rick Dormer and counselor Rachel Etcher encouraged students to talk with someone about the mock crash. Sophomore Joey Giesbrecht described the morning like this:“Traumatizing in a good way because it definitely did I hope it at least did show some other students around here that it is important and you know you shouldn’t drink and drive. It’s just something you just shouldn’t do. There’s no exception. Oh, I’m a good driver, oh I can drift, it doesn’t matter, you don’t wanna try to beat the odds.”PHS staged a similar mock crash in 2011.Share this story:last_img read more

Car runs into children in Mendenhall Valley, 12-year-old hospitalized

first_imgPublic SafetyCar runs into children in Mendenhall Valley, 12-year-old hospitalizedJuly 6, 2016 by Jeremy Hsieh, KTOO Share:Juneau police are investigating a car-versus-pedestrian accident in the Mendenhall Valley that put a 12-year-old in the hospital.Police say in a press release the accident was reported at 12:42 p.m. Wednesday at the intersection of Mendenhall Loop Road and Tongass Boulevard.Police say a 36 year-old man was driving a 2008 Toyota Highlander toward the Mendenhall Glacier. The vehicle left the roadway, struck a culvert, crossed Tongass Boulevard, and came to rest on its side.Police say the car struck two children crossing Tongass Boulevard. A 12-year-old had “apparently serious injury” and was hospitalized; an 11-year-old had minor injuries. The driver of the was unhurt.Police have not name the parties involved.Share this story:last_img read more

Tribe Claims Cross-Border Rights as Hunting Violations Head to Canadian Court

first_imgAlaska Native Government & Policy | Nation & WorldTribe Claims Cross-Border Rights as Hunting Violations Head to Canadian CourtSeptember 22, 2016 by Emily Schwing, Northwest News Network Share:The site of ancient Sinixt village at the confluence of the Kootenay and Columbia Rivers in British Columbia, Sept. 1, 2010. (Creative Commons photo by under_volcano)A case against a Washington state man in a British Columbia court that begins Monday could bring an extinct Canadian tribe back to life.The last member of the Sinixt  people in Canada died  in 1953. The Canadian government deemed the tribe “extinct” and reclaimed their land. The Sinixt still have federal recognition in the United States, however.Among the nearly 2,500 members who live on the Colville Reservation in northeast Washington is Rick Desautel, who traveled north of the U.S. border in 2010 and 2011, to hunt for elk and deer on what he believes are his traditional hunting grounds.“Yeah, it was a conscious plan,” he said. He fully knew he would violate provincial law.“We notified our people that if you hunt in Canada we sanction it, we approve it and if you get into legal problems, the tribe will support you,” said Dr. Michael Marchand, the chairman of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation.The point they want to make: the Sinixt are alive and well and have the right to hunt on traditional grounds, regardless of the U.S.-Canada border.Desautel has been charged with hunting without a license and hunting as a non-resident, both violations of provincial law in British Columbia.Because of the complicated nature of the case, and the jurisdictions involved, it has taken six years for the case to go to trial.Share this story:last_img read more

Interest in kelp farming drives state tideland applications

first_imgFisheries | Southcentral | SouthwestInterest in kelp farming drives state tideland applicationsJuly 18, 2017 by Aaron Bolton, KBBI-Homer Share:Like in Alaska, kelp forests in California provide habitat and shelter for a variety of fish species. (Photo courtesy Sonia Ibarra)The Alaska Department of Natural Resources is beginning to work through tideland lease applications for the mariculture industry.Current and potentially new farmers are applying to use state tidelands to grow Pacific oysters and geoducks.Those are all typical requests, but what’s different this year is the acreage farmers are requesting and the increasing interest in kelp farming.The number of applications for mariculture tideland leases this year are the highest DNR Leasing Unit Manager Christy Colles can remember.“This was a large year. We actually got 18 applications, 15 of those being new,” Colles said.The roughly 1,000 acres requested are staggering compared with last year’s three applications for about 18 acres.Most of the spike for this year can be attributed to an increasing interest in kelp farming.Just under half the applications are for kelp permits, but they make up about two-thirds of the requested acreage.“Kelp farming requires more acreage, and a lot more people are putting in for acreage,” Colles said. “We also have a lot more oyster farmers that are putting in larger areas. They’re at least requesting larger areas for growing Pacific oysters.”The mariculture industry can be difficult to break into with long turnarounds for profits.Geoduck farmers just starting out can wait up to 10 years before money starts rolling in and pacific oysters typically take about half that time.A 2015 Alaska Division of Economic Development study shows that larger mariculture operations generally make profits faster because of efficiency. Farms that also diversify their harvest are more likely to see profits sooner rather than later.Director Britteny Cioni-Haywood began overseeing the division as the study concluded. She’s not surprised by the interest in kelp and the increasing acreage that follows.“I think throwing in kelp now, if we were to go back and redo this study, that you would find that incorporating kelp would increase the success of those farms because it allows a cash flow much sooner,” she said.The division also oversees the Mariculture Revolving Loan Fund.Farmers can borrow up to $300,000 to plan, construct and operate their mariculture businesses.Established businesses typically use it to expand their operations, Cioni-Haywood said.The fund could also see a spike in applications as DNR and other state agencies, such as the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, work through the necessary permits for mariculture applicants.“We always have a steady stream on inquiries, but we haven’t seen an increase in the number of loan applications,” Cioni-Haywood said. “Now, those tend to follow business planning. You’re going to do your business plan. You need to get the application through fish and game. We tend to come after all of that.”Public notices have begun to go out for some of this year’s tideland applications.Leasing manager Colles hopes to wrap up the public process this fall, but doesn’t know how long it will take with a larger load.Kodiak-based commercial fisherman Nicholas Mangini is among this year’s applicants.His business, Kodiak Island Sustainable Seaweed, harvested about 15,000 pounds of ribbon and sugar kelp on one acre this spring. He hopes to expand his operation to 18 acres.Mangini sold to one buyer last year. He plans to sell to that buyer again, but he also hopes to develop new kelp products and directly market them.Mangini adds that those jumping into the evolving kelp industry should know it’s not easy.“I think there’s a lot of people excited about it, but I think the application process is a lot more rigorous than people are realizing.  It’s not just as easy as throwing some lines in the water and growing some kelp,” he said. “There’s quite a bit to it. I did a lot of research and read a lot of manuals, other peoples’ issues for year before I even got involved.”Mangini plans to harvest his first large batch in May 2018 if his expansion is approved.Share this story:last_img read more

Ekwok recovery program teaches subsistence skills to fight addiction

first_imgAlaska Native Arts & Culture | Alcohol & Substance Abuse | Health | Outdoors | Southwest | SubsistenceEkwok recovery program teaches subsistence skills to fight addictionJuly 25, 2017 by Avery Lill, KDLG-Dillingham Share:The Ekwok community arrives for a wellness camp graduation ceremony Friday. Ekwok Lodge, hosted the 30-day camp, where participants fought alcohol and drug addition with fishing and berry picking. (Photo by Avery Lill/KDLG)Behind the Ekwok Lodge, the smell of soured salmon and pig muck hang in the air.Despite the odor, Ben smiles shyly as he points out the nails in wooden boards that surround the pen, which stick out to deter bears.“We feed them fish and other leftover foods. You hear their squeals because they’re being picked on,” he said as one pig lets out a shrill squeak when a bigger pig muscles it out of the way.For the past month, this 22-year-old who grew up between Ekwok, Dillingham, Togiak and Anchorage participated in a substance use disorder recovery program.The vision of the program was to teach subsistence skills as a part of the regimen. All the graduates are Alaska Native, and the idea is that cultural activities can be integral to recovery.While raising pigs might not be a traditional subsistence activity in rural Alaska, these nine smelly animals gave the clients ample opportunity to practice one that is — fishing.The program participants set nets every day to bring in enough fish to feed the pigs.For two men, including Ben, this was their first time to be involved in subsistence fishing.The three men graduating from the program helped daily with construction and maintenance on the lodge, which has been out of use.They chopped wood and carried water up to the lodge from the river. They fished for salmon to feed to the pigs and to cut and smoke for themselves. They took a maqii every night, cleaning themselves in the steam bath.“It’s fun picking berries, making akutaq from the berries that you picked, and taking a load off with cutting up fish. It was nice labor,” Ben said. “I’m slowly, slowly getting used to being clean and sober and looking forward to keeping it that way.”The men in the program caught and smoked fish to take home with them after graduation. (Photo by Avery Lill/KDLG)Friday was graduation day.More than two dozen people, family members, the local priest and members of the Ekwok community gathered to celebrate the month the graduates have spent in recovery.The mood was relaxed and celebratory in the main building of Ekwok Lodge.It is a big room with large windows and wooden walls decorated with trophy fish. Children ran along the sides and between couches and wooden chairs as the graduates stood up to receive their diplomas.The program’s leaders and community members congratulated and affirmed each one individually.Several coordinators spoke of their own recovery from addiction. The graduates themselves spoke warmly about the program and about their commitment to sobriety.Ekwok Natives Limited masterminded the program and put up the funds, which were substantial. ENL board president Jimmy Hurley Sr. estimates that the village corporation spent about $100,000 to cover the costs for all participants and to bring in Tutan Recovery Services, a private business from Anchorage, to run the program.“Everybody used to put up fish, but the subsistence part, it brings pride in the people,” said Hurley, explaining ENL’s investment in the program. “If you’re a Native and you don’t know how to put away salmon, I think there’s a lot of embarrassment. That should be a part of every recovery, bringing culture into it.”Getting this program off the ground was not without obstacles.The power and water both went out to the lodge at points during the camp, and at least one person enrolled did not complete the program.Overall, however, word from coordinators and the graduates was positive.“At the end, they’re able to take some of their product home with them, and this will help sustain them when they’re looking for jobs,” Hurley said. “They’ll remember the camp, the sobriety they had here. They’ve got enough confidence in themselves right now that they could really go and take on a feat.”This is Tutan Recovery Service’s first time operating outside Anchorage or incorporating subsistence as a component of their recovery program.At a time when the governor has declared the epidemic of opioid use in Alaska a crisis, many are looking for more effective means of combating addiction. Relapse always is a concern in programs that address substance use disorder.Tutan Recover Service program director Eydie Flygare anticipates that the subsistence component will be a help as the clients return home.“When you find out where you came from and then you start doing some things you did when you were a kid. You’re just like, ‘Okay, yeah! I got it!’ The fact that a few of them are going back to do subsistence again, and that includes the spiritual aspect, I think absolutely it helps,” Flygare said.As for Ekwok Natives Limited, Hurley said that the corporation board has been supportive of this year’s pilot run of the program.However, the price tag is too large to continue without grants or outside funding. In the coming months, they will explore their options for continuing the wellness camp.The graduates have all flown back to their homes in Anchorage and in Bristol Bay hopefully to continue their journey with sobriety.They left with smoked fish in their bags for this winter and the skills to do it again next summer.Share this story:last_img read more