Tag Archives: Seasons

How we do this Off-Grid thing

So you all know we live “off-grid” on our homestead in our trailers and are building our house to be off-grid as well.

But what does that mean?

It does not mean that we are completely independent from modern conveniences. I mean, I do drive a vehicle (more than I want to, I admit). We heat our trailers with propane. And there are times our little temporary solar system just does not cut it and we need to run the generator to charge the batteries. Like when the sun hasn’t come out for days.

Or, like today, when we did have some sun, but I didn’t get laundry out on the line in time for it to dry and needed to use the generator to run the clothes dryer.

It’s times like this that I’m very glad for modern conveniences like generators and the gasoline needed to run them.

Big generator pulled up to the well shed to run the dryer

Our washer can run on our small solar system, but the dryer requires more power.

BTW this is how we vent the dryer. We don’t want to put a hole in the shed wall since this is temporary until we can move the washer and dryer into the house. We also route the washer drain out this window.

So, yeah, for us, living off-grid does not mean that we do not rely on the grid. We are not one of those families who live in the wilderness, eating only what we can hunt or gather or grow, heating our house only with wood we can gather, etc. Not by a long shot!

But it does mean that we produce about 90% of our daily (not construction) power needs through our solar system. (And once we are living in the house it will be even more since our solar system will be larger.) And we stock up on propane and gasoline when the storms are threatening. It means that in an emergency situation, we could live quite comfortably for quite a while. And in a long term situation, we could get by without the backup generators if we ran out of gas. Yeah, it might mean not watching TV, and having to do essential bits of laundry by hand and hanging it to dry in front of the fire in the house, but we’d get by till the sun came back out. Way better than most people who rely completely on the grid. For us, it’s about being as self sufficient as is feasible in our current lifestyle. I also like the idea that by using mostly solar power, we are reducing our carbon footprint.

Now, to just get this house built so that we can focus on producing our own food again and be even more sustainable. 😁

Advertisements

A little bit of winter fun

Every winter, we look forward to the right conditions to use our old fashioned runner sled.

Check out our YouTube channel to see a short video of Flower Girl and I going for a ride.

While you’re there, be sure to subscribe to our channel. We don’t post videos very often, so you don’t want to miss a single one. 😄

Goals for the New Year

We’re not so different than most people this time of year. We eagerly make our goals, we start out with determination, we work hard to accomplish them.

Besides the obvious goal of completeing the house (which barring any more major set backs looks totally doable by summer time), we have quite a few other goals for the homestead and in our personal lives.

One of our goals for the homestead is to get rid of this junk wood.

It’s right at the entrance to our property and looks uuuuugly! I want it gone!

One of the personal goals I have is to work on getting my legs back in shape. I want to start backpacking again and right now, my knees could not handle that. Especially with the injury I sustained this summer.

Remember that?

Laid up with a bum knee in June 2018

Yeah, not fun.

So, I have mapped out a one mile route from our trailer, around the house, up the upper driveway and around Castle Rock and back.

The girls and I will be walking this route every day for a while, then we’ll find a way to extend it and build up our miles as our muscles build up. We will also be taking longer hikes once a week, and this summer I want to go on a couple of backpacking trips.

And while this goal is not specifically about homesteading, I love, love, love that I can walk an entire mile on my own property (well, mostly – part of the driveway is technically on our right-of-way on the neighbor’s property). Also, staying in shape is going to help out with gardening and animal care, etc as we get back into that. Especially on this hilly property, and especially as we get older (I turned 40 last month, so I’m feeling my age a bit). It’s the only way to be even somewhat sustainable here. We gotta stay in shape!

Also, I share this with you all to help hold myself accountable. As all the success gurus tell us, writing a goal down and sharing it with others makes you more likely to follow through.

So, there we are. Building a house. Daily walks. De-junkifying the property. Oh, and I want to have a small garden this year. And chicks! I need some cute little baby chicks in my life once again. And through it all, teaching Flower Girl to read, taking some fun school outings, working my summer job, a big family vacation in July that’s been in the works for a few years now, and of course, deepening my relationship with the Lord.

I’m excited just thinking about it all!

What are some of your goals for 2019?

Happy Holidays!

Here’s our biggest and best gift this Christmas…

Our wood stove was installed earlier than expected!

This has been a game changer! Not only is the house nowhere near ready to install a furnace, but we plan to heat nearly exclusively with wood, so having this system installed and usable is amazing.

Since we were closing in on Christmas and were loving just hanging out by the stove, we moved some of our collected free furniture into a living room of sorts.

I was even able to spread out for wrapping Christmas gifts. So nice after the last couple of years of using my bed as a table to wrap.

We collected a bunch of junk wood that we had laying around and cut it down to length. I jokingly said that this pile would last us a day or two, and I wasn’t too far off.

With as cold as it was and as small as this wood was, and as little insulated as the house is with gaps still here and there, we went though that wood very quickly.

But it kept us warm enough that we decided to have our Christmas Eve and Christmas morning and day celebrations in the house.

Our first Christmas in our house!

We moved our tiny tree and stockings from the trailer and put them on the scaffold. 😊

And the girls spent Christmas Eve night and Christmas night on the pulled out hide-a-bed. The first people to sleep in our house!

We woke up Christmas morning to a slightly white Christmas. We normally get the majority of our snow in January and February.

So it was magical to have snow on Christmas.

And then we had a good friend give us some actual real firewood.

This stuff burns much slower. It is great to put a few logs on and not have to feed it again for several hours.

On New Year’s Day, we are hosting a movie marathon and we’ll all be down in the house. All because of a wood stove.

So nice!

I hope you all are having a great holiday season, no matter how you celebrate.

Happy Holidays.

House update: Interior Framing!

This is a post I’ve wanted to write for a very long time. The start of interior framing means that our house is beginning to look like a house.

We haven’t gotten very far yet, but it’s started!

So, as a reminder, the frame and exterior shell of our house is basically a metal warehouse/shop type building.

On the inside

In order to support our second floor/loft, and to have something to attach sheetrock to on the inside, we have to build a 2×4 wall inside the metal frame. It gets attached to the metal frame with brackets and everything is nice and solid and tied together at that point.

Lay-out:

So, on October 24th, our contractor friend – who helped us get our foundation laid – came back to help us lay out our interior framing. (That means measuring where the walls are going to go and marking them on the floors.)

As I write that, I realize it’s been over a month and a half since we started framing, and we don’t have a lot to show for it. But there have been a lot of small things to try to figure out as we go along, birthdays and holidays and sick days and mental health days.

*Sigh*

I guess that’s how it goes when you are an owner-builder. If you’re not doing it, it doesn’t get done. Oh well, we have quite a bit of forward momentum now. Let hope we can keep it up.

Prepping:

Once we had the walls marked out on the floor and could get accurate measurements, we started cutting sill plates and top plates and studs.

First Wall!:

After we had done more prep work, we started actually forming the walls. We chose the front wall first so we could get in a door asap to close off the gaping hole in our building.

We framed the walls on the floor first.

Nearly there. Just a bit more work needed to frame in the window above the front door.

Time to raise it! Mr Contactor had a winch to use, so just the two of us were able to get this entire wall into place.

In fact, I made a little video of the process. (This is my first time trying to embed a video into a blog post, so bear with me if it doesn’t work.)

Ta-da!

The shape looks funny because the right hand side will have a second story on it…eventually.

Front door:
After we secured that wall to the metal frame, it was time to install the front door!

In the picture below, I marked where the eventual doors and windows will be cut and placed. It’s gonna be so nice…eventually!

Not nearly all the windows we’re gonna need, but it’s a start!

Then we put the front door into place to test-fit it.

Then moved it back out of the way and applied a thick seal of silicone under the threshold.

Then placed it again, shimmed it, tinkered with the fit for a while, screwed it into place, and now have a fully functioning front door!

Ta-da!

We eventually stuffed insulation around it to stop the drafts.

But it is a beautiful sight to behold.

More walls:

If I were making a video, the next section would be a montage of us putting up more walls. My brother and sis-in-law and her family came on a couple different evenings to help build then raise a couple more walls. (Though the first wall of this montage was was completely built and raised by Hubs, Princess Girl, and myself.)

Made a mistake in the placement of this anchor bolt and had to cut it off. We will replace it in the proper location later.

Even my brother’s dog, Tsunami, came to help. 😁

My studly hubby

Just cleaning up some sawdust so it’s not slippery under foot when we go to raise this wall.

We were not sure how heavy this wall would be to lift, so we wanted to add a bit of safety. We created a pulley type system where the wall was attached at the top by a rope, through an eye bolt in the ceiling, to our other (anchored) wall with a friction device used in climbing. This way, if things went terribly wrong, at least the wall wouldn’t come crashing down on our heads.

Our safety mechanism.

Princess Girl was in charge of taking up the slack and locking the rope as we raised the wall. She was “belaying” the wall just like we do with a climber at the ropes course!

With 5 of us lifting, we “accidentally” lifted the wall into place.

No, seriously, we didn’t really mean to do it. We we’re waiting on Bro and SIL to get there so we’d have a couple more hands and the five of us (Hubs, SIL’s mom and 2 brothers, and I) decided to “just see how heavy it was going to be.” And, fwoop, there it went.

Yes, that’s the actual sound it made.

“Fwoop.”

At least in my mind. 😁

I didn’t have the cameras ready or anything. So I took this “staged” shot of the 4 of then holding the wall in place after it was already standing.

Once we got the wall secured in a few places…

we called it a night and had dinner and just sat around chatting for the next 2 hours. 😁

Then we spent another evening or two putting in all the braces and fixing some areas we had messed up on (more on that later).

One thing we did do is buy a scaffold. It has already come in SO handy, and will continue to for quite some time to come.

And that’s where we are at right now.

Winter hit here in Northern Nevada and the temperatures dropped substantially. Though there is some insulation on the building, it is not a lot, and without a heat source, insulation doesn’t help a whole lot anyway. So the temps inside the house were getting down into the 30’s and not warming up. We had a snow storm come through and then we stayed cloudy for 10 whole days! That is almost unheard of here in the high desert. When the sun doesn’t come out, things don’t warm up. On top of that, Flower Girl got sick, and I could feel my body fighting a cold, so we decided that until something changes, we’re not going to stress over working in the house.

Besides, who wants to be building when there’s cookies to be made?

But, things are looking up. The sun has come back out (yay!) and, a huge piece of news, our wood stove is going to be installed next week! Yay! Yay! Yay! We will soon have a source of heat in the house, and will have no more excuses not to get rocking and rolling once more.

(Except…cookie baking, fudge making, present wrapping, feast eating…!)

We are so excited to get that stove in and have real heat in the house so we can keep on working (maybe after Christmas?). It’s going to be so. Very. Nice! What a great Christmas present!

House update: miscellaneous jobs

You know when you have that big project on the horizon that you need/want to start working on, but for whatever reason you can’t yet but there’s a long list of projects to do so you gotta get them taken care of and when you finally do them you realize it actually feels good to be able to cross something off the list and you wonder why you procrastinated so long because, I mean, you’re not working on the “big project” right now anyway?

*Takes a deep breath after that extremely long run-on sentence.* 😉

Yeah, we’ve crossed quite a few need-to-do little projects off the list in the last couple of months since getting the septic finished. Some of them so small, I didn’t even bother to take pictures. But some of them were significant enough that they have made our life so much easier.

Like our garden hose hydrant. We dug a trench (more trenching!) from where our water line crosses the driveway over to where we wanted the hose faucet next to the landscaping rocks.

The trench.

Tee into the water main

Princess Girl got in on the action

The gravel in the bottom of the pit is to aid in drainage since this is a frost-free hydrant. That means that every time the water is shut off, the water that is in the top of the pipe drains out of a small hole at the bottom of the trench so there is no water up in the pipe or faucet to freeze in the winter. We did put in a shut-off valve just in case we ever need to shut the water off to the faucet for any reason, but theoretically, we shouldn’t ever have to use it.

We have water!

And it works like a charm! And made our water situation around here so much easier! Watering the gardens were a breeze with 1700 gallons on tap. Yep, that’s how big our cistern is. We fill it up from the well as needed (every couple of weeks at the end of summer) and it supplies all our outdoor and animal watering needs. Right now it is mid-November and we haven’t gotten any moisture all season long. Great for working outside, not so great for our fruit trees and perennial plants. So we’re still having to water the trees and gardens every once in a while. This hydrant also makes it super easy to re-fill our rain barrels (because, you know, no rain). We use the water in the rain barrels for the animals. Before having the hydrant, we would have to turn on the big generator and well in order to fill barrels, etc. Now, with 1700 gallons of water at our disposal, we only need to fire up the genny and well pump every…actually, we don’t know how long it will take us to go through that much water this time of year. Suffice to say, it will take a while. And since it’s all under ground, it won’t freeze during the winter. Yay!

Another project we were able to check off the list was to move the electrical conduit for the garage. We hired out having the garage built, and we ended up needed to scoot the whole building back a few feet, which means the place where we originally had the conduit coming up was no longer in the correct spot.

New perimeter lines drawn

You can see in the pic above that the conduit was now several feet away from the wall of the garage. So, once the construction crew dug the footers, we came in and extended the conduit so it comes up inside the garage near the wall where our solar power system will be installed.

Electrical conduit extended

Again, not a huge job, but it HAD to get done.

Another small job that made our life so much easier was installing shop lights in the house.

Let there be light!

Now that the days are shorter, we needed light in the house so we can keep on working after the sun goes down.

And speaking of the days being shorter, and therefore colder, we finally got our laundry room door ordered and then installed.

A real door!

We could have had this door in place since January since it’s frame is part of the steel building, not the interior wood frame like all the other doors will be. But last winter and spring we were on hold with the house and the house only had this one wall anyway. And over the summer it wasn’t needed because of the weather. It was only when it got cold enough that we needed to stop the breeze from blowing through the house that we got our butts in gear and got it done.

And yet another small job we got done recently was replacing the rain gutter on our mud room. We had scabbed together something when we first built it, but after two winters it needed to be replaced. So we got a real gutter system. And now we’re set for this winter. And hopefully we’ll get a lot of rain and snow this year. We need it!

Princess Girl is learning all sorts of skills living here on the homestead.

So much nicer than the old system.

And that’s about it for now. As I said, there were plenty of other odd jobs done that I just didn’t document. And in the middle of all that, there was one major project that we worked on over the course of a couple weeks…

The floors!

But that’s a post all on its own. For now I am going to sign off.

I gots things to do!

House update: nothing really to report

You know that saying, “Use it or lose it”?

Yeah, I think I lost it.

After a whole winter of sitting on my butt, one hour, just one hour of shoveling kicked that butt.

Last summer/fall I did great. I could work, work, work all day, and get up and do it again the next day. Sure, it was hard and I was tired, but I could do it. I was actually amazed at my stamina.

But a few months of sitting around just…waiting, and I am so out of shape!

In my defense, the dirt I was shoveling was wet clay. You ever tried shoveling wet clay?

Let’s just say there are extra challenges!

I’ll tell you what I was working on in just a sec, but first, a picture of the progress on our house. Our should I say LACK of progress?

Yep, looks exactly like it did the last time I posted about it. We are still waiting on contractors. But I won’t go into all that. Because I’m trying to keep a Christian attitude. 😒

So, what was I working on today? As tempting as it was to work on Pajii’s garden boxes some more, I decided to finally start finishing one of our half finished projects: our septic system.

We dug the septic line trench from the house to the septic tank last fall when we had the backhoe, but were not able to get the pipe laid before winter came.

So all winter long the trench has sat there, slowly filling in with dirt and rocks. I’ve been avoiding getting back in that trench this spring because, dirt work. I would much rather be building walls, etc inside the house. But, well, I can’t right now. So, since we have a couple days of good weather, I decided to stop being an avoider.

And since I really didn’t want to do it, I told myself I only had to work on it for one hour.

One hour and I only cleaned up 10 feet of trench. And my body obviously thinks I put it through torture.

Yeah, this is going to be a fun spring while I whoop myself back into shape!

On the bright side, here’s the cuteness I got to spend time with while I shoveled.

This girl loves to play in the dirt. And the messier the better.

So tomorrow, I challenge myself to spend two hours on that trench, ’cause there’s only another 30 feet to go!

Oy.