'My little world': P.E.I. senior builds tiny house on wheels
Ronelda Cahill used mostly second-hand materials, including some from the local dump
Ronelda Cahill from St. Charles, P.E.I., stretches out in her tiny home on a bed she made herself out of scraps of wood.
Cahill, 65, says she has always loved to build things, starting as a kid growing up on an isolated dirt road in the tiny eastern P.E.I. community of Red Point.
"I've got an eight-year-old's imagination," Cahill said, adding "my father could do any kind of carpentry and I just watched him and I learned what I needed to learn."
It seems Cahill's world has always been small.
"I didn't even know there was such a place as Souris or the rest of the world because we didn't have a car, we didn't have electricity or anything."
'We built our house'
"When I come into my tiny house, it's the same thing — it's my little world."
Her love of carpentry continued when she married Cliff Cahill more than 40 years ago.
"We built our house, we built the barns. It's always been carpentry work between us," she said.
A few years ago after building a couple of small structures, Cahill said she thought it would be neat to find a set of wheels to put under one of them.
It didn't take long for her husband to come up with a solution.
"Cliff came home with a team of horses and a wagon, and he didn't use the wagon. And so I said, 'There's my wheels."'
'Boards came from the dump'
Over that winter, Cahill designed her tiny rolling dream house from scratch.
She knew she wanted to use recycled materials.
"Like the walls here, all those boards came from the dump," she said, adding she appreciates how it looks as well as the fact that it was free.
"I owe nothing and I don't want to owe anything," she said.
Already has an addition
The little home on wheels has the same full-size windows a regular home would have.
"I didn't want it to be claustrophobic," Cahill said.
Last year, she said she had the urge to put on an addition.
"I didn't use to have the washroom on here, but I got thinking 'I can fit that on the front.' So in the spring I put it on, double sink and all."
Licensed and inspected
Cahill figures if she had to buy a new tiny house and trailer, it would cost at least $20,000. She said she has spent only about $5,000 to build her own.
That figure included preparing the trailer for the highway, which meant adding lights and getting the trailer licensed and inspected.
"They wanted a structural engineer to look at it because it didn't have a little metal plate on the trailer so he came over. That cost about $250."
The tiny house is also wired with electricity, so that Cahill can simply plug in an extension cord to any nearby outlet.
"But when I'm off on my own I have a power unit for that, and it'll run the TV and the music and one tiny light. That's all I need," she said.
Cahill's said her tiny home is her haven, even when it's just parked in the family's yard at home.
She relaxes there almost every day, listening to music or watching a movie.
"It's just a world outside of another world," she said.
"In the house, you've got your light bill, phone bill whatever, your dishes to do, blah blah. In here, I have nothing to do. It's heaven."
On the road again
Cahill usually heads out on the highway every few weeks, hauling her home behind her pickup truck. She often parks in her friend's yard in Mount Stewart.
"I might stay there overnight, or any pond or any field," she said. "Wherever I see water — I love to be by the water. If there's a house handy, I'll ask permission and drive there."
Cahill is not shy about asking to park in someone's field overnight. In fact, she said most landowners are curious and want a peek inside.
'I have to stretch my money'
Cahill likes the satisfaction of always having a place to stay while on the road.
"If I went to a park it's going to cost you $30 right off the bat. You want to stay two days, that's 60 bucks. And I don't have that kind of funds. I'm retired and I have to stretch my money so this does it for me."
She said her days of pitching a tent are long past.
"A tent, there's work to it — packing this, packing that, moving it in when you get home. This one, you just turn off the key and go in the house."
So far, the longest trip she has taken in her mini-mansion is the 67-kilometre trip to Charlottetown.
"This will go up and down the streets, over to Value Village, anywhere at all. It follows just like a little puppy."
'I'll go until I'm done'
The tiny home is even winterized and includes a propane heater.
"And I have a hotplate that works on gas by the chimney there."
Cahill hopes to be dragging around her tiny house for a long time to come.
"Forever," she said. "I'll go until I'm done."
Cahill is now planning to expand her horizons by taking longer trips.
"I want to go around the Island, so it'll either be this year or next year, but it's going to happen."