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Treehouse Builder Busted in Germany - Looking to Move to Canada

"Hey folks from Shelter publications, My name is marco, i live in the middle of the biggest woods from germany and i write you out of different motivations. First of all i wanted to thank you for inspiration and motivation , it really made it easier, to see so many people allready living what i dreamed for myself. Secondly- I just read your new book "tiny homes" and saw that you looking for more houses two make a second book. Heres my story hope you´ll like it.
   Four years ago i felt like there should be something constant in my life, after two years of living out of my backpack- during exploring europe by foot, bike, bus, canoe and sailing boat.  My grandma owns a nice piece of land, two miles away from the next village, and its a nice place to be. There are drinking water sources, two little lakes and a little stream running threw, where we used to build hoovers and canoes when we were children.... I made some drawings, organized wood and started right away with no experience- just learning by doing it. I could get nice insulated, wooden windows for free, i found an old woodstove and i made the shingles for my roof from a tree of my place. The only things i had to buy were the Hemp insulation, screws etc, some special wood, an oven flue... I payed less than 1500 Euros. All in all it took me about six months to build that thing and it made me happier than anything before.
At this time i met Laura - we felt connected from the very beginning. She gave up her student apartment, moved into the treehouse and after two more months she could start a new life in her own little house. Since Laura is studying electrical engeneering, it was easy for her to supply her house with electricity by photovoltaik- using the power for lights and charging laptop or tool batteries. To eat dinner without a light on my head made me think about electricity in the treehouse. I wanted to use the power of water, so i built an waterwheel to supply my shelter.

Then we started a garden, and we were suprised how much food it's producing. A lot of our friends get food we´re not able to eat. Next step for me was to bake bread. I was fascinated by these old big ovens used to be everywhere in my region. I got inspiration by the few ovens that "survived" the last century, then i salvaged material and started.
Now we bake bread once a week and when we have guests, there is stoneoven pizza for everybody. My dad gave me some planning and tool support and the whole project took four weeks of hard physically work and just about 800 Euros.
    Since last winter we´re been able to take a bath or shower, a great luxury for us;) We have two dogs, one cat and two horses sharing theire lives with us, and life is good.
   Thirdly we need a help or advice: Two weeks ago people from the government showed up, to take pictures of everything and tell us that our houses are illegal. Now they want us to deconstruct our houses and the oven with the same hands we built it. It really freaks me out and makes me sad at the same time. We already talked to a lawyer specialized on building issues, but the law is against us (you´re not allowed to built huts on your own land in germany) and she thinks there is no way out- if they really want us to go- we have to leave.
   We already talked and thought about emigration before the government showed up, but since that day we concreted our plans. We decided to go to Canada and did research on the internet and on books, on what conditions we have to fullfill to move there. But there are still some leftover quetsions. Laura is finishing her study in next years june- and i don´t think she will have big problems in finding a job. But for me its a bit more complicated i guess, i did not learn anything in a official way and i can´t see me doing a job in a factory... As far as i know i need an working contract or a certain amount of money in the bank—which i definitly not have, even if i sell my tools and bike.
   So i hope that somebody (who reads your blog may) have information, ideas or contacts that could help us emigrate to Canada. I would enjoy to work as a carpenter or something like this.…So if you´d like to help us and see any chance or have any information or contacts that could help, please let us know. Regards Marco and Laura"


Andreas Duess said...

Hi there

I am Canadian, of German descent myself. I might be able to offer some perspective.

First of all, commiserations. You've obviously worked hard building a beautiful home for yourself and your girlfriend.
Is there no way to get a building permit retroactively? You obviously went into this project with a great deal of enthusiasm, and perhaps a little naiveté, so having to take it all down is gotta hurt.

Secondly, let me tell you that the building of homes is regulated everywhere, even here in the Great White North. You can either build on land you own, which will be zoned for specific uses by the local authorities. This means you will need to build to a specific code or you'll run into the same issues here you're experiencing now in Germany.

Alternatively you can take your chances and squat on what is called Crown Land, public land. Especially in the Northern Territories, this happens frequently. If you get found out, your structure will, more often than not, be destroyed. People who do live on Crown Land often choose to live in isolation. It is often difficult for Europeans to understand just how huge, and very empty, Canada is. I was visiting a National Park in Nunavut some years ago, the first page of the guide pamphlet we were being handed told us that the nearest rescue plane was 8 hours away. It then proceeded, cheerfully, to list all the different ways it was possible to die out there. When we talk about the wilderness, we mean it. :)

Another alternative is leasing land from the First Nations, but that can come with its own set of difficulties and restrictions - i.e. you might only be allowed to use the structure as a temporary or holiday home, you only get to lease the land and not own it, etc.

I am not telling you all this to discourage you, just to offer some perspective. I myself am currently looking to purchase 10 acres of land. Initially we planned to park an old Airstream trailer on that land as a temporary home. Unfortunately, in many places there are now restrictions on trailer parking.

Getting into Canada - let me preface this that I am in no way qualified to give immigration advice of any kind - I can just share what I have observed. Make sure to verify everything I say here independently and do NOT make any commitments based on anything I say.

It looks to me that there might be two visa options available to you. One is called a work visa, the other is called "Skilled Worker". A work visa is temporary, often restricted to two years, and does not allow you to stay in Canada indefinitely. Work visas are available for immigrants with skills that are in demand here - you don't necessarily need higher education, but you do need some sort of qualification. You can't just turn up and hope to get into the country as an unskilled labourer, you need experience and the documents to prove it.

Truck drivers, carpenters, welders, plumbers, etc are all in demand, especially in Alberta. Be aware that, typically, this means working in the oil industry.

Once you're in Canada on a work visa, it is possible to apply for Permanent Residency, which in turn leads to the possibility of citizenship.

The second option is to apply for a "Skilled Worker" visa. This visa is dependent on a point system. You get points for education, language, existing ties to Canada, etc, etc. In a nutshell, the better your education, the more we want you ;)

Ideally you will have a university degree under your belt, although a qualification in the trades can also work. You will also have to prove that you have enough money to support yourself through an initial settlement period - I believe they are asking for about $15,000 in readily available cash.

There is one other option which might or might not work for you - the Foreign Live-in Caregiver program.

Andreas Duess said...

Part Two - google didn't allow me to publish my previous comment in its entirety:

Here, you would have to work as a nanny, or care-giver to an elderly person for two years. Pay is low, minimum wage, and you need to live with the family you're caring for, but after two years you may qualify for Permanent Residency, which leads to citizenship.

The government of Canada has a comprehensive online presence, if you google "emigrating to Canada" you will find all the information you need, including all forms you need to fill in.

Best of luck, and I hope the above will be helpful to you.

Anonymous said...

What happens if you stay and leave the small dwellings? If your not planning on selling the property what can they do to you? How can they prove anyone lives in them? Sure seems like heavy handed goverment control. I see no problem as long as your not effecting anything negetively but guess they don't see it that way. Do you have to let goverment officals on to your property? Put a NO TRESPASSING sign up. I only ask because I've read between the lines to find out how I can live on MY PROPERTY and not get noticed. Also Iam lucky to live rural and limited goverment resources to keep up on everyones business. Hope you find a solution!

Anonymous said...

Those aren't houses, your grandma is storing the materails in a very orginized fashion til she figures out what she wants to do with them. Is there a law that says you have to store building materails in a certain way in Germany? I find there is always someone that wants to tell you what to do so that they can justify thier salary in the goverment.

Anonymous said...

re your current tiny buildings on Grandma's land....
suggestion...have seen this sort of "idea' work in some situations
-start offerring/doing school tours of the "facilities" on tiny construction/living
-start giving lectures at local schools/seniors homes - inviting audience back to view, on eco living
-Locate agencies which specialize in helping poor or homeless, and instruct/give tours on how to live cheap etc

Try to get "certification" as Local Expert in all of above, and get your home designated as such. I believe, most places, if enough public pressure happens, can make exceptions to local rules.

limewindow said...

While it may be true that all countries have planning regulations, Germany is a country which is over regulated to the hilt and my commiserations to any person who tries to live outside the box. There is no chance of getting legislation changed I believe in this country. When I was last in Stuttgart (7 yrs ago) there was a huge row going on between café owners about the colour of furniture, tables & chairs on the terrace of cafes. The majority wanted to have matching furniture (green). Collectively they tried to force a few renegade chrome furniture owners to conform by getting it written into law. All this aggravation just so the furniture could match. If you owned a flat in the city you couldn’t dream of painting your door a vivid colour, even though it is not against the laws, the pressure from neighbours would be unbearable. People are ultra conformist and judgmental. I found it difficult young children as I found they were not generally welcomed and people would get pissy if a child touched anything belonging to them. There are no disabled people visible and everything is super tidy. Was never so glad to return to the chaos of Dublin airport with children running boisterous & old people laughing their guts out & dustbins over flowing.
Marco & Laura - thanks for sharing your story which makes me appreciate our lives even more and the very best with getting some freedom for yourselves.

Gill said...

Dear Marco & Laura,

I will link to this post on Facebook this evening, I have alot of family "North of the Border" (I'm in Michigan). Perhaps someone will have an idea or share it with someone they know. Good Luck! BTW great word on the Tree Casa, and oven.



Lloyd Kahn said...

Andrew -- wonderful information. I love to see the blog working like this. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

I too live in Canada. Building codes rule here. Unless you're ready to build "very" remotely ans till risk being found out it is very hard to build an "unusual" house here. Permits are needed for everything including farm buildings, trailer set ups, temporary houses and tiny buildings.

Marco said...

Hey Marco here,

Thanks for your interest and ideas. Specially thanks to Andreas, but is commiseration a perspective? ;) Your right i ran into that project with a lot of enthusiasm, but with some different motivation, firstly i just wanted to build the treehouse so i have a base to live, when i dont feel like traveling. If it would have stayed like this i think nobody had said a word. (But now living there for several years the officials became afraid of us, because young people got inspired, looked for land and started own projects.) When i finished i didnt felt like leaving anymore and just stayed and continued. That the government could fuck me up was in my mind from the beginning, but i gave my best that will accept me, and they almost did because a lot of people liked what i did and saw solutions for acute problems in our way of life. When i started to build i said to my self: If i cant build a little hut and live in it on my own ground i will leave this country. But thats not the only reason that makes me leave know- i love to see new stuff, people and specially countryside.

I ve never been to canada but i read books and did research, and believe i dont think canada is a paradise where i can do what i want but like limewindow said germany is very regulated in a lot of ways As hard it is to imagine how big canada is for somebody never lived there as hard is it to imagine how regulated germany is.... And i do not fit in so well. I dont feel like squatting land, wouldnt really change my situation. Your right i cant know how big canada is respectivly feels, but i would really like to know. And believe me i dont have problems with not seeing anybody or a store for days, germany has some big forests too and the opportunity to go there with my dog and experience nature is one of the reasons i am still here.

Your information about visa are quite matching with mine so i think youre right. I wrote to some companies and hope i will find a job so i can get a working visa, so i dont need such big amount of money on the bank and after to years i can get the permanent resident. Plan b is marring Laura because with a bit of luck she gets an place for her doctors degree in canada, and as her husband i could come "with" her.

im not educated in a official way and in fact we want to leave next july, there s no possibility to get an education or papers that proves it.

The idea to come as nanny or care giver is new to me, we already talked with the consulat but they didnt mentioned that. Could work for me in case i would find the right family and the rest wont work. Thnaks again for your post i appreciate.

I have to let officials on my ground as long they send me a later in which they let me know when they coming. Even if they cant prove i live there the law enables them to bust me. when i lived there alone the first year nobody noticed me living there too. But with Laura came a car and another house... so they noticed.

The storing idea we had before we put hay in the houses and declared is a farm buildings when the officials come first time a year ago- but it doesnt work because where we live is water conservation area so youre not alloed to do agriculture there.

Start offering workshops and learning classes is idea that could work with a lot of luck- we didnt tried it yet because we want to avoid more attention on our project from official site. Maybe we try now. We have a lawyer specialized on building issues supporting us, i will ask her for that one again. But even it would work out keeping the houses, i would leave the country if canada is not working out argentina would be an alternative. Laura used to live there for one year and she knows a lot of people there. But we both would prefer canada.

So hope everything will work out and maybe we can meet next year in canada

Anonymous said...

you sound very skilled, and Laura sounds to be as well. wonder if that Nanny / Caregiver thing (if indeed this will score a visa), might be a very good option. Canada's population is aging, and there MUST be a large number of elderly men/and/or women currently on acreages or farms, unable to take care of all the house and land maintenace. Who would much prefere to stay put. If you could be linked up with someone like this.....Also, if Laura is to continue education...may be best to look for situation close to University..etc..
Maybe with Lloyd's blog/Facebook, surely someone knows elderly person who would trade your help for accomodation, etc

Anonymous said...

to get a general idea of jobs in Canada, try going to wowjobs.ca and type in various terms and locations...ex handyman b.c..

Unknown said...

Marco, have you thought about joining an intentional community such as http://blog.dancingrabbit.org/ or http://www.lammas.org.uk/index.htm in Wales? I have not visited either one but have considered joining such a community for my waning years. I understand that you are a very independent person and may not be looking for "community". They do provide alternatives I did not see mentioned in these comments so far. The whole world has become very materialistic and over-regulated (the movie "The gods must be crazy" comes to mind), but you are young and spirited and that counts for allot. There are still 2 counties in the state of VT (USA) that do not require building permits for small houses that you might want to check out but the land is getting more and more expensive. best wishes to you, Rich

Anonymous said...

I second the idea of looking into "Intentional communties." They may even have some in Germany. You can find one by going to www.ic.org. I am also independant but have found that I can actually be more of an individual around a community than I ever was in 'normal society.' Alternatively, if you find you can get to the U.S. you'll find that many states, including TN where I live, have no building codes on land over a certain size. I truly wish you the best and hope you thrive.

Anonymous said...

You'll find these crazy regulations all over the developed world. We can no longer do what we want with what we *own*. Especially things like this ... we are told we need to save on energy and resources on one hand and yet permitting structures favor larger houses. Its essentially setup to keep the money flowing, nothing more.

If we don't fight it it will only get worse.

Anonymous said...

Hey, fragt doch mal bei der Kulturinsel Einsiedel in Zentendorf, Ostsachsen, Deutschland, nach, wie die das dort geregelt bekommen haben. Dort gibt es Baumhaushotels auf einem privaten Grundstück und der Besitzer Bergmann wohnt auch in einem Baumhaus.

david stanley said...

I have a suggestion. Can you separate the house from the land in your mind? You can live in a small house in a town or village and buy or rent land to grow and do your other projects. This is what we do. I have a tiny 150 year old terrace house in a historic town in England and I rent a workshop with an acre attached 3 miles away. I work and grow most of our food there. It costs me £100 per month as I share the workshop and there are no services. I use a generator and solar/wind to charge gel batteries. My food growing is integrated into my working day making furniture. But of course we cannot live there as there is no permission. It is within easy cycling distance of home so the commute is very cheap. Our house is entirely heated with burning off-cuts from the workshop or free from skips. Now the mortgage is paid we can live as a family of three on less than £1000 per month ($1300?) That leaves us plenty of time and funds to go off for wilderness trips if we want but most of us can't cope with long term wilderness living. I love what you have built but I can guess that maybe your neighbours had some fears and that they notified the authorities. Will they need to be demolished if you move out? I hope it goes well anyway.

Alicja Fenigsen said...

how about calling all this an art project - it certainly is creative - then all this becomes a case about the freedom of expression, an entirely different proposition. "Kunst", art, still carries a lot of clout. If You open the place to the public (like one day every year, say Your grandmas birthday), You are doing the community a service, and might get a lot of allies, if You do it right: you could offer classes in woodwork and planning. The rest of the year? well, You are preparing the next show, obviously. I visited, years ago, a village in north Germany, Fischerhude, not far from Bremen, and saw some sweet tiny buildings and met artists, I thing it is quite known - perhaps You could get some advice there?

make said...

Hello, I've just happened to read this article and it really interested me. I want to build an home now!! Here you posted a photo of some stuff that you have used . I was wondering what fittings you have used! By any chance is it possible to mention the type of fittings used please?Fredrickson

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