A Simpler Life
Vinny and Pamela Oliveira of East Bloomfield sold their campground and decided to create their own paradise in a tiny home in rural Yates County, where they will generate their own electricity and embark on a life centered around simplicity, community and nature
By Melody Burri
Vinny and Pamela Oliveira took a plunge most might not consider midway through their 50s.
It happened while they were chasing their dream of a life centered around simplicity, community and nature.
The owners and operators of Creek-N-Wood Campground in East Bloomfield met, fell in love and married. But in fall 2016, after almost three years operating the campground, they left it all behind and moved to a seven-acre piece of land in Dundee, Yates County. There they hope to build an off-the-grid community homestead, all while living in a tiny home.
“We operated the campground for almost three years, and it was a wonderful experience,” said Pamela. “We see it as a needed stepping stone experience for what we are doing now. There’s something about camping and getting back to nature that helps us to reconnect with ourselves and our creator. It’s also a time when we learn to live with a lot less stuff, and realize that it’s not only possible, but a simple life can be fun too.”
The Oliveiras’ seven-acre parcel is surrounded by farmland, with no electric service. It has a driveway, a pond, and a shed building with a small septic system. The couple plans to use solar energy for power and heating.
Q. How did you know it was time for a change?
A. When we started off at the campground, my husband and I were just friends. He was our maintenance man. We soon discovered that we share the same heart toward living more simply, in oneness with nature, and being in community with others. These ideals were intensified when we fell in love and got married a few months later.
To some degree we were able to live out these ideals at the campground, but we also found limitations because it was just a seasonal community. Also, the business side of things, like paying bills and complying with government oversight, was taking too much time and energy away from the things we felt were more important.
As much as we loved and grew close to the people at the campground, our hearts were dreaming of a more permanent place to call home — one that allowed us to have more freedom.
Q. How did you go about searching for your ideal property?
A. While we waited for the campground to sell, we spent a lot of time looking for a place to invest in. Our goal was to find something that was inexpensive per acre, had a good southern exposure for gardening and fruit trees, was rural enough to allow us to stay in our tiny house without zoning issues -— and yet was near enough to a small town and a diner with Wi-Fi.
We went for a lot of drives and looked at almost 50 properties, but we kept being drawn to a certain area and found ourselves focusing a lot of our energy looking there. When we first saw our property, it was love at first sight.
Q. Describe what you mean by an off-the-grid community homestead?
A. We hope to use solar energy for all our power and heating needs. But at the same time, it doesn’t mean that we want to live isolated lives. Our spiritual beliefs encourage us to live in peace and harmony with others, and to collaborate with our neighbors by sharing resources and wisdom.
Even from a practical standpoint, our experience has been that many small farms and family homesteads burn out from trying to do everything on their own.
We want to bring something different to our community, by demonstrating a more radical way of doing life. This might include some people living with us on the property sharing in the costs and rewards, or it might mean a strong connection with our neighbors.
Either way, we describe our current lifestyle venture as simply, “living for a living.”
Q. What made you choose to live in a tiny house?
A. When we were just friends, we both lived in our own tiny houses on the campground. I renovated mine out of a shed mounted to a trailer.
But when we fell in love, we realized that we needed a bigger tiny house, so we sold our two little ones and bought a larger one that we found on Craigslist. It’s actually an RVIA [RV certified] Park Model cabin on wheels.
We love living small. We’re not tempted to buy too much stuff, and we’re encouraged to expand our lifestyle outside our four walls more. We also are forced to get along, too — in a good way.
Q. What challenges/goals are ahead for you?
A. Interestingly enough, it sometimes takes money to get free of money. We have to invest what we believe is temporary for something we believe is more lasting. Yes, it feels like a risk. Especially when we are going to run out of money very soon. Our greatest challenge is not believing the lie that our security lies in a bank account, retirement plans, or insurance. While we are not totally against these things, we believe they are ultimately substitutes for what loving community can be for all of us.
Q. Where do you see yourself in five years?
A. We envision a small property, producing a regenerative abundance of food and resources that not only provides for our needs, but can be shared with our neighbors for no charge. We also see ourselves in a small community of loving, respectful people who help each other and share their abundance with each other.
Q. Why was this the right choice for you?
A. Quite simply, it gives us more peace and happiness, and less stress in our life.
Q. What advice do you have for others?
A. First get out of debt, no matter what it takes. Then pare down your possessions more and more. Make it a practice to get rid of at least two items for every item than you bring into your home.
And finally, invest what little you may have into things that are more lasting. When it comes to your dreams, never wait for a big opportunity before taking small steps. Take small steps now, wherever you are, and you’ll be surprised at how many big opportunities will open up for you.
How’s Life in a Tiny House
For those interested in keeping tabs on the Oliveiras progress, the couple is journaling their adventure in a blog at www.OurLittleEden.com.