Reader Profile.
K.J. Konink

Welcome to the very first Reader Profile on The Art of Doing Stuff. After 3 years of getting emails, comments and Facebook posts from readers I decided it might be a good idea to start introducing you to one another. You’re an interesting bunch. I actually think the suggestion to do this came  from An Art of Doing Stuff reader, who I can’t remember at the moment.  If it was you … thank you.  Good idea.

 

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Where do you live?

I live about ten miles outside of Hebo, Oregon, USA – in the wet and wonderful coastal foothills.

 

What do you do?
I work in a lumber mill in the maintenance department. I started out with an entry level clean up position over twelve years ago just because I wanted to see what the inside of a lumber mill looked like.
In my spare time I also run a locovore catering company, where I specialize in making delicious food for parties and weddings from the amazing diversity of food that can be sourced in our area. Most of my events use 80% ingredients that are organic and grown within a 100 mile radius. In fact, most of them are usually within a fifteen mile radius, and I did an amazing Farm to Fork dinner with my local CSA where we sourced 100% of the ingredients from under 100 miles – I even made the salt!
And then in my spare spare time we homeschool our kids!

Describe your home.

I am going to use the term “home” loosely, since most people define that as just their house, which usually has a bunch of connected rooms.

Not us! We live in a tree house, school bus, and two “shacks” (which are really quite nice!) for now.

(K.J. and her family own a piece of property they’re hoping to build an actual house on)

We bought our five acres about two years ago, and we definitely spread our living space out across the whole damn thing!

 

Property

The first thing we built was a tree house, which is quite small (about 8’x6’) but it is two stories, so there’s room to sleep upstairs. It’s a debatable point that there is enough room for two adults, two children, and two cats to sleep upstairs, but we managed it for a little while! The tree house has a wood stove in it (from a yacht! It’s so cute!) and stairs that lead up to it, so it’s pretty accessible. We also still had a little cabin on a commune about fifteen miles away, so we didn’t live in a tree full time.

 

Treehouse 1
After about a year, Andrew cut in a driveway up to our house site, and we drove our school bus up and built the kitchen shack. Our sons live in the tree house and what we call “Kees’ Shack”, which is a cabin that gives them a little more room to spread out in than the tree house allows! Then we built the kitchen shack, which is really nice – the whole thing has a clear plastic PVC roof, which doesn’t really keep the heat in, but since it’s only 14’ x 14’ the wood stove we have in it keeps it hot enough that even on COLD days we’d have to open the dutch door or a window!

And the plus is that it has amazing natural light; I really love it at night from outside, because the lights shine up on the trees above and it looks like an awesome spaceship. Or just a house with a cool roof maybe?
The school bus is the school room (clever! I know!), and then the back 15’ of it is our bedroom for now. It’s very cozy and warm, and since there’s windows ALL the way round, it has a lot of natural light as well. Can you tell natural light is important to me? In the past month we realized that our “living spaces” were being crowed to the non-functioning point since we have to keep all the tools dry and safe, so we started building a tool shed as well, which will double as the guest bedroom. My decorating taste has always leaned towards Stihl chainsaws and drill bits, so it fits nicely. Anyway, since we’re definitely not rich and we didn’t want to get loans for anything, we have a fifty year plan to get everything we want done on the property – I’m kidding of course; it will probably take more time than that! But the school bus was the start, and we moved full time onto our property about a year ago. So that’s the house? Kind of? I guess?

 

Why do you live in a bus and how did that happen? (Like did you graduate from a Volkswagon to a bus? Or did you downsize from a airplane?)

Our friend Tristan gave us the bus after he drastically miscalculated how low an amount the seller would take for it on Ebay and accidentally won it – it was bright yellow and still full of seats when he brought it over to park in the field of the house we were living in six years ago. It sat in the field for a while, but we figured the only way we would be able to afford to send both our kids to the amazing private school they attended for their first couple years of schooling was not to pay rent, so we gutted it out and put in a bed and bookshelves, (which is all you really need in life to live) and headed up fourteen miles of gravel logging roads into the hills to live on BLM land (which is publicly owned). Any American can camp for 14 days in one spot and then they have to move one mile and they can camp another 14 days, and so on.

It’s kind of a family tradition anyway, since my parents were migrant farm workers in the seventies, and traveled the Pacific Northwest in a series of school buses that they lived in. My older sister was born in an apple orchard in northern Washington, but they decided to settle down once I was due and moved into a house a couple of months before I was born under the St. John’s Bridge. Once we moved out to the middle of nowhere and my brothers were born, we downsized to traveling in Volkswagen busses.

Yes, my parents were hippies.

ANYWAY, to make a long story short which is now impossible; I grew up living close to the land and producing the majority of the food that we ate, and it’s very important to my husband and I that we keep on doing that.  We are poor and custom homes and land are expensive, but we finally managed to find a piece of property that met our list of requirements (room for livestock, a huge garden, southern exposure, gravity fed spring water, a creek, and secluded) and everything worked out for us to finally buy! We’re just going to build our own dream house because that’s the only way we could ever make it work anyway. And to live on the cheap we have assembled this motley crew of buildings and busses to tide us over as we slowly assemble THE MOST AMAZING HOUSE IN THE WORLD. Or group of houses. Whatever works out in the end.

What are the hardest parts about living where you live?
I wouldn’t say there are necessarily hard parts, but there are definitely some days when you’re really tired and wish that it wasn’t such a long walk to the outhouse in the rain, or when you’re sick and you don’t want to wait an hour after the fire is lit to be warm, or you need drinking water and the bottle is empty and you need to haul water up the hill. But in reality everyone has days like that, they’re just tailored to whatever lifestyle you happen to be living – ours are just a little bit more third world problems than first world problems!

What are the greatest parts about living where you live?

Right now all the wild violets are blooming, and every walk to the outhouse is lined with trilliums and violets and ferns set in emerald moss – it looks like the fanciest hipster magazine centerfold you’ve ever seen.  I love the amount of food that is available around us, from the gardens to the wild plants and mushrooms (we harvested almost a hundred pounds of chanterelles!) and elk and deer, and most of all I love the amazing mixed community of people that live near us, from artist and loggers, rednecks and hippies, survivalists and techies, and a rainbow of religious beliefs from Wiccan to Baptist. It’s a pretty accepting place, and you’re always welcome to drop in for a visit or dinner at pretty much any house in the area.

Aside from living in a bus / tree how is your life different from most other people?


Well, I think everyone’s life is somewhat unique. We’re all our own brand of crazy, and it’s just a matter of what your priorities are. Beauty and function is important to me for the things that surround me, so we’ve made it a priority! And because the pairing of beauty and function often times is pretty expensive, we tend to have to make most of our stuff ourselves. Which is what drew me to your website originally, a couple of years ago! And although I love technology and the virtual community that it forms, I’m really more a “lurker” in the online places I visit, and of course since we live in an off grid home WAY out of cell phone range, we don’t use it at home at all. In fact, we don’t own a phone of any kind. If people need to get a hold of use they have to drive up here! Or wait till I’m back at work on a weekday.

And how are you the same as everyone else?

Um…….piles of laundry, weeknight dinners, dishes, schoolwork, you know, stuff like that. The more we’re different the more we’re that same!

Why did you decide to homeschool your kids? It seems to be a trend now. A lot of people are home schooling but I have friends that have mild breakdowns just anticipating summer vacation. Or even March break. They only thing that keeps them sane and the house clean for more than an hour is those little kids tromping off to school.

I was homeschooled by my parents, so I wasn’t very intimidated at the thought of homeschooling our children. Even though I have a full time job, my husband has been a stay at home father since our first son was born (although one could definitely argue that being a full time parent is a full time job!) plus he fills his spare time by BUILDING OUR HOUSE. We started the boys in a small private hippie school on the coast when they were in kindergarten all the way through fifth grade (third for the younger one), and it was a great experience for them. However, it was really expensive, and when we moved to our property it was a little too far to travel. Plus, it just felt right to start homeschooling.

I don’t care if my sons are super genius; I want them to be confident in their ability to solve whatever problems or questioned they come across in life with passion and creativity and the knowledge that they can figure out a solution not because they HAVE to, but because it is FUN.

 

Treehouse 2

Treehouse 3

Bus

Property 2

Kitchen

Kitchen Inside

Kitchen Sink

Pans

Property 5

Treehouse Door

Dog

 

Think you’re interesting enough to be profiled?  email me.  karen@theartofdoingstuff.com

 


92 Comments

  1. Laura Watt says:

    Oh wow! I was accused of trying have a baby in an apple orchard but was dissuaded. So glad to hear someone got to do it.
    What a beautiful home and a refreshing interview. Thanks Karen and K.J.

    I think you should do one on me.

  2. Pam'a says:

    K.J.,

    Never, EVER call yourself poor. The world would be a much better place if people started realizing the folly of how we’ve come to define wealth.

    There is a vast difference between “worthless” and “priceless”… and your family lives it every day. 🙂

  3. Stephanie Hobson says:

    Wow. Just wow.

  4. SK Farm Girl says:

    OMG! I am in love with your lifestyle Ms k.j. konik; almost makes me embarrassed of my rather frivolous (in comparison) lifestyle! Your home is truly a home; it exudes simplicity, warmth and lots of love! I would pick your humble home any day over some “designer” house! I too, am getting back to my roots (raised on a mixed farm); realizing the natural value of the land and all she has to offer, the pride of growing my own vegetables and fruits and a strong yearning for being one with the land. I am at peace with my new-found lifestyle and beliefs! Much love, light and laughter!

  5. Alisha says:

    That was seriously fascinating. Thank you for your sharing your life with us K.J.!!

  6. sarah says:

    This is THE best idea, Karen!! And thank you, K.J, for sharing your amazing ideas! Who hasn’t dreamed of living in a tree house? Then, add a school bus!! I am so inspired by your ability to think up creative, ingenious solutions! The pictures are beautiful. Your children are so fortunate!
    Thanks, Karen!

  7. Amie Mason says:

    I’d love to see more photos of the living spaces and the interior of the tree house. Looks really cool, and such a nice way to live! If I wasn’t such a sucker for a city, I would totally go bush!

    • KJ says:

      Amie – you can look at more pictures of our scattered camp by going to https://plus.google.com/u/0/photos/118427856254402057911/albums/5627082205479589937 and looking around. There’s not a ton of pictures from inside the bus, but I hope to upload some soon! And it’s always nice to head into the city (especially since our “big city” is Portland – which I modestly think is one of the nicest cities around!) but I love coming back to the quite. Plus I’ve never been able to get the hang of public transportation. 🙂

  8. Wendy W says:

    OMGOSH! Karen, I LOVE this! K.J., thank you so much for sharing your home! I LOVE it, and I don’t believe you’re poor. You’re rich! You have a beautiful family and live in a spectacular setting. I wish I had the guts to live like you.

  9. dana says:

    Karen, how on earth did u find kj konink? You only know us by our subscriber or screen names, right? You did eeny-meenie-miney-moe? You shined a spotlight on a real down to earth family focused family. Fascinating. I loved it! I love kj!

  10. Jantine says:

    Oh, it must be wonderful to live there! You kind of remind me of my granddad 🙂
    And indeed, this does not look like poor to me; it looks like very rich, because you are able to choose to do what makes you happy with your money!

  11. You know, I think all of us have a little part of us that would love to live as you do! We’re fascinated by it and it’s refreshing to see that someone is pulling it off so well. Simplicity is the key to life because…whoever dies with the most toys doesn’t win. You go girl! Loved it! xo wendy

  12. Susan Dulley says:

    K.J. I have often had to fight off the desire to live in a secluded cabin in the woods. I know that I would have the ability to survive mainly because I am an avid gardener. I so admire you and your family for you bravery to do something that so very many of us only dream about. I have to admit, I am spoiled and really should try to let go of the comforts of life. Perhaps if I were younger and had the wonderful support of a family like yours. You and your family are true Naturalists, living off the land and loving it.
    Thank you so much for the inspiration.

  13. Jody says:

    Nice to meet you KJ. And Karen thanks for the introduction. I love hearing people’s stories and everyone has a story.

  14. Elaine says:

    Very interesting. I will look forward to reading more stories.

  15. Sian says:

    KJ you are really inspiring – and I love the pictures, it looks like bliss. Good on you and your family for taking the road less travelled – it looks like awesome fun.

  16. Ann says:

    What an amazing bio. Great idea Karen and K.J. your kitchen hut is amazing and would be cool enough to be in a upscale home magazine. The tree house is right out of my dreams. Can you come build one for me? After looking at my chicken coop, I know I could never build one as nice as you have done.

    Karen, I can’t wait to see who else you feature. I am constantly amazed at what you think up. I never regret stumbling across your blog back in my chicken coop building days. You are a wonder

    • KJ says:

      Well, my husband is pretty bogged down with all the requests >I< have for buildings, but you can get in line……….

  17. Brenda says:

    How wonderful to learn about your life KJ and the beautiful beautiful place where you and your family live.

  18. karol says:

    She’d be a tough act to follow. Wowsers.

    • nancy says:

      true dat sister!
      repeat after me: you is strong you is kind you is important.
      and Karen is our most specialist benefactor.

  19. Linda says:

    This is wonderful and I know I’ll think about you, K.J. all day. You sure are living your life fully and creatively. You sound like a person I’d like to be friends with…..Thanks for sharing your story and thanks Karen for unearthing it!

  20. Kerri says:

    Rah! Team Homeschool! We always talk about getting rid of the house and the stuff and the expectations and and and.. and do it exactly as you have. You are definitely not my definition of poor 🙂

    Great idea Karen!

  21. Kim says:

    I am in awe….smart, real smart

  22. cred says:

    How amazing! We bought a large parcel of forest to build a home on, too and have dreams of homesteading. But unfortunately, the nearby community is very tiny- not diverse and inviting as you’ve described. Since we, too, homeschool our kids, we are concerned about being too isolated. Perhaps it will become our home when we retire.
    I loved your description of why you homeschool. We feel just the same way. Plus, we really love spending much of our time with the kids.

    Very nIce to meet you, KJ.

  23. KarenJ says:

    You’ve set the ‘think you’re interesting enough’ bar pretty high Karen!

    Thanks K.J.
    That was lovely:)

  24. Tina says:

    Love the treehouse, and the photos of the kitchen! What lovely memories you are creating for your kids!

  25. Ev says:

    This was a great read, and thank you Karen and K.J.. Going without internet and a phone would be daunting, but I guess you would just get used to it. Good luck on your fabulous home-to-be!

  26. Mary Kay says:

    Karen – this was great! Thanks KJ for sharing your story!

  27. What a remarkable person you are KJ Konink!! Truly an inspiration. Good luck with your next interview Karen. She will be a hard one to follow!

  28. Barbara says:

    What an amazing story….you are rich beyond measure and will raise great kids, no doubt, without all the pressure that is put on kids in today’s society. Way to Go….Best of Luck in building your dream home(s), but looks like you already live the dream……

  29. Robyn says:

    What a fantastic lifestyle! Thank you K.J. for sharing it. I also admire your patience. So many people today seem to rate their happiness in not only aquiring “things” but getting them NOW! “Happiness is captured in that moment before we want more happiness”. By patiently building your dream house, every leap forward is truly appreciated. Every triumph a treasure that makes the “1st world” way of living, look very poor indeed!

  30. Esther says:

    I can smell the wood stove now!!

    Thanks so much for this story.

  31. Thera says:

    Great interview, amazing home and lifestyle, going to be hard to top that one!

  32. Mary Werner says:

    WOW – someone already said that so let me elaborate wowzers, wowee, and whoa. This is truly one of the most wonderful things about the internet and, of course, Karen’s blog, that people can live the life they want to live without giving up community, connection with the world, learning, etc. I’m so thankful for the internet today after reading this interview for those two boys have the best of all worlds – the choice to do what they want when they grow up since they know of their choices. Modern day Swiss Family Robinson. Thanks for sharing.

  33. Linda says:

    Great idea Karen! K.J., you may be monetarily poor, which I can relate to, but you have a far richer life than I. Thank you for sharing your story with us.

  34. Sarah In Illinois says:

    Wow! Thanks for sharing K.J.!

    I really like this idea Karen! Can’t wait to see the next one!

  35. Fantastic interview. You asked good open-ended questions and got even better responses. Thank you both. – rbs

  36. ruth says:

    I am FULL of admiration for KJ and her family and their long term commitment to not having everything right away!

  37. Kim says:

    Fascinating! There are a billion ways to live a life. Thank you for showing us the incredible experience that is yours, K.J.

  38. Robyn says:

    Just gorgeous! Loved everything! So fantastic to see a glimpse into such a beautiful way of life!

  39. Jeannie B says:

    What a profile K.J.! It is wonderful to hear about your way of life and your dreams for the future. It just goes to show, that happiness is where you make it. The more complicated our lives are, the less able we would be, to survive “off the grid”, if we had to. K.J. and her family have “riches” galore.

  40. Shauna says:

    What a fantastic interview – interviewer and interviewee:) KJ lives a life that reminds me of my younger days when my hippy parents lived in Washington on a commune and then we lived in the wood where I had my own kid (baby goat), made bread, etc. Such a refreshing life.

    The bar has been set very high for the next interviewee.

  41. Debbie says:

    I too am from this wonderful place Oregon. The coast range is the most beautiful. Thank you KJ for sharing your life with Karen, so we in turn can learn from you.

      • Annye says:

        I’m over in Rickreall, Oregon — which isn’t much larger than charming Hebo (yes, we’ve visited) — and just wanted to say “Hi” to my fellow Oregonians via a Canadian site! Who would’ve thought?

        Give yourself and your family a round of applause, KJ; you’re all amazing examples of the genuine, inspiring, wonderful people who make our home state so special!

  42. So nice to meet you K.J.! I think you should start a blog (that you only post to when you are in town/at work) and tell us more and more about the great way you have decided to live your life and raise your family. Truly inspiring! I LOVE LOVE LOVE the kitchen area and the curved pathway. Warm blessings to you and yours!

    • KJ says:

      thank you, Iris! I did start a blog many years ago at http://konink.blogspot.com/, but I kind of lost interest after a little bit. Karen does a way better job of making life look more interesting. But I’ll try and post some updates there just for fun!

  43. Nancy Blue Moon says:

    KJ..you are the woman I dreamed of being many years ago..You have found happiness surrounded by the beauty of nature..not material possessions..Thank you for sharing your story with us..

  44. Amy in StL says:

    Holy Cow! Their kitchen building looks beautiful and has the kind of roof I want on my back porch when I get one built over my patio. Its amazing to hear about someone brave enough to live this lifestyle. I sometimes think it would be cool to live in the woods but reading something like this reminds me it’s an unrealistic dream for me. I can’t be that far away from the deli and A/C.

  45. Jake says:

    Pam’a

    Tuesday, 9 July, 2013 at 0:40
    K.J.,

    Never, EVER call yourself poor. The world would be a much better place if people started realizing the folly of how we’ve come to define wealth.

    There is a vast difference between “worthless” and “priceless”… and your family lives it every day. 🙂 Ditto, ditto, ditto, well said Pam. I am so impressed with K.J’s lifestyle I want to move into the woods and live in a tree house right now.

  46. Laura Bee says:

    You are facinating K.J., I admire people like you who are doing what truly makes them happy & can live without excess. (I keep doing Karen’s “50 Things” as often as possible)
    We had a mini commune at our farm when I was a kid. Not all at once, but over the years it seemed there was always a family with kids in a bus or a friend living in a camper on the property. We had friends living off the grid up north I loved to visit. (I think it was the hand pump in the kitchen & trampoline!) Your life is very much where I’d like to be someday. But I fell in love with a townie, so I don’t think he would go for it.
    When you do build your dream place to put your stuff in, please share it with us K.J.

    Great addition to your blog Karen.
    Maybe another E-book? “People Who Do Stuff”

  47. Wendy W says:

    Just an FYI. I read this last night and came back today to read it again. Am I weird? I just love it so much!

  48. Chau says:

    What a story! What a life! WOW. Thanks for sharing with us.

  49. jan says:

    Interesting. I, like KJ, am still a lurker, lurking.

  50. Ruth says:

    So nice to ‘meet’ you, K.J. This was a real pleasure to read…..

    I had to go look up the word shack, because what we call shacks here in JA would definitely not look half as fabulous as the photos above. No ma’am…. yours are ‘fantabulous’ little cabins. Lovely!

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