Living off the Grid: Month Four to Seven of Our Homestead Development

While the first, second and third months on our property were event-filled, winter was much slower and we didn’t do all that much. After the last of the snow melted, we got straight to work tidying up the property and focusing on small projects. We thought we’d take a moment to catch you up to speed on what months four to seven looked like for us!

Officially Survived Our First Winter

Word has it that we had a fairly mild winter. In all honesty, this is what we were hoping for as our winterization strategy wouldn’t have held up in a severe winter. Come mid February, all the snow was melted and the sun was shining more often than not. This may mean that we’ll have an unpleasantly dry, fiery summer, but it is what it is.

Although it’s only March and we could have another cold snap, we like to think that we’ve officially survived our first winter! If you haven’t seen it, be sure to check out this post on our best winter living tips. We learned a lot, and we hope to pass a long that knowledge to anyone who finds themselves in the same situation as we were in.

Winter appears to be over... and we're happy about that!
Winter appears to be over… and we’re happy about that!

Finding Balance Between Working and Homesteading

Now that it’s warming up, we find ourselves wanting to work on the property most days. While that was okay for the first few months of this journey, going forward we will have to balance working on our business and developing our homestead.

While we are working to build passive streams of revenue and doing an excellent job at it, the reality is that we still need to work a bit to get our business off the ground.

Part of our admittance to ourselves recently was that we needed to slow down. This year, we are having an “optimization year” where we try to tie up loose ends on the property, with our business, and even in our personal lives.

Workin' our online business on the hot tub deck with a hard cider in my cup holder.
Workin’ our online business on the hot tub deck with a hard cider in my cup holder.

Cleaned Up Property

After the snow was gone, we didn’t know if it would return and therefor, didn’t want to get involved in hefty projects. The first warm days of the year were spent doing basic property cleanup such as picking up trees that had fallen down in windstorms over winter.

We made a video on what property cleanup entails for us here. Cleaning up as we go is importance to us because living off the grid while developing a property, it’s all to easy to let our property look like a pile of garbage! We are tidy people and thrive when things are in their place!

One of the things we did was pick up branches from the trees we fell and added them to our hot tub fuel pile!
One of the things we did was pick up branches from the trees we fell and added them to our hot tub fuel pile!

Assembled & Tried Out our Granberg Chainsaw Mill

When winter hit us, we were in the middle of milling lumber. We were using a homemade chainsaw mill but decided to upgrade to a Granberg.

We have made a small series of videos so far around the Granberg chainsaw mill including the unboxing, assembly (it’s easy!) and even making our first cut. In a nutshell, we are loving this chainsaw mill and the upgrade from our DIY version was worth every penny.

Our new Granberg chainsaw mill! Love it!
Our new Granberg chainsaw mill! Love it!

Finished Decking for Hot Tub Deck

We haven’t talked much about our hot tub deck on our blog (don’t worry, we will!) but we finally finished up the decking! Last fall, we fell a pine tree but due to complications with our ATV, we were unable to mill it up before winter arrived.

We’ve finally gotten into the swing of things with winching our logs into position, making our own lumber, and have all of our boards secured on the deck. Because we know you will ask, yes they are green, and we hope to do an elaborate video on the subject as we have time.

Isn't she a beauty? We have a few good videos planned to talk about the deck.
Isn’t she a beauty? We have a few good videos planned to talk about the deck.

Started Amending Our Soil

Because we made a joint decision to slow down a little on the property, we decided that we might try to start a garden this year after all, even if it’s small. Whether we do or don’t, we thought it would be a great idea to start amending our soil.

We’ve brought n some top soil, compost, and even started making our own biochar with this handy device! We’re excited to stick some seeds in the ground when the weather is a little warmer.

Love it! Can’t wait to see some tomatoes and peppers growing here!
Love it! Can’t wait to see some tomatoes and peppers growing here!

Started a Compost Pile

In addition to amending our soil, we also decided to start a compost pile. This took just an hour of our time and we can add to it over the year. Our hopes is that it will compost into a beautiful black gold that we can use to strengthen our soil.

This is why we love this lifestyle by the way, especially out in the country. We love not producing waste or if we do, we’re at least able to turn it into something desirable on our property. If you don’t have space on your property, composting is still something you can do with a device like this.

Some girls dream of being a Disney princes... I dream of waking up to microbial activity in my compost pile.
Some girls dream of being a Disney princes… I dream of waking up to microbial activity in my compost pile. Jesse loves me for it!

Picked Up Barrels for Rain Collection

Maybe we are getting in over our heads already with projects, despite trying to “slow down”, but we’re also hoping to start collecting rain water soon! We know we’re heading into summer, but we just want to start thinking about how we can go about this.

We picked up eight 55-gallon food-grade barrels for $15 each. In theory, these should be able to fill up completely during a wet month just from the roof of our 16×16 foot hot tub deck. In theory, these should be able to supply the garden with water and give us water for non-potable needs.

This should allow us to store 440 gallons of rain water!
This should allow us to store 440 gallons of rain water!

Bought a Pressure Canner at Goodwill

We also really want to be prepared to be able to take advantage of great deals when it comes to food, whether it’s stocking up on $1 bags of 10lbs of potatoes, grabbing end-of-season produce in bulk for pennies, or even picking up legal road kill (there are actually laws when it comes to this fyi… look them up based on your state).

We are willing to splurge on the right pressure canner, but we found this Presto pressure canner at Goodwill for $15. We had no idea if it was in working condition or not but bought it anyways. We took it to our local extension office where they test gauges for free (Did you know this? I didn’t either!) and it works great! We bought a new seal and the canner should be good to go.

$15... score!
$15… score!

I also splurged on the Ball Blue Book Guide To Preserving (the bible for canning I believe) and am really excited to test our recipes. I read through the book cover to cover and it was interesting to learn the science behind canning and why recipes are the way they are.

Can't wait to can sh*t! Salsa? Jams? Meat? Watch out world, here I come!
Can’t wait to can sh*t! Salsa? Jams? Meat? Watch out world, here I come!

Headed Into Spring and Summer

As I write this blog post, it’s officially the first week of spring and we couldn’t be more excited! We are loving the warm weather and we aren’t sure what the warm months of the year will have in store for us, but one way or another we know we will continue to work on our goals of developing a self sustainable off grid homestead.

We’re doing a lot of research on the building of our timber frame barn, so it’s likely we will at least start that, even if we don’t get it dried in by winter.

Stay tuned for more updates on our homestead and if you aren’t already, be sure to follow us on Facebook where we share almost daily, real-time updates!

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I am an aspiring homesteader on a journey to become self-sustainable and free. In my past, I've worked corporate jobs to make ends meet and get ahead a little; it didn't make me happy or confident in my future. Since taking the leap to self-employment and living a more simple life, my happiness levels have increased greatly and I've never felt more alive. I finally understand what I want in life and how to get there, and that is what this blog is all about.

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Comments

  1. Elizabeth Fuerst says

    You are the amazing duo! Great recap of your industrious adventure. The Spanish guitar music is very fitting as it matches your energy and motivation.

  2. Larry Haney says

    Hey Guys,

    Been following your journey since you started last fall. You are doing great and have my admiration. On seeing your Hot Tub an idea came to mind that would make a great video for Jesse to do.

    Your tub looks to be one of the galvanize livestock water tubs. The thing will last a few years but if you want it to last a lifetime, Jesse should check out the spray-on bed liner that they spray on the beds of pickup trucks.

    My youngest son decided the commercial places were too expensive so he found the DIY products and sprayed and brushed his own pickup bed.

    It turned out great. If you would spray the tub completely inside and outside it would last a lifetime. It would also give people an idea of how easy it is to do it themselves.

    Like I said, you two are doing great, enjoy your lives.
    Thanks,
    Larry

    • says

      Hey Larry, following our journey since fall is quite a while! Hope you’re enjoying our videos / posts! Interesting idea about the spray on bed liner. We are trying to sell the galvanized tub and go with a cedar hot tub instead, but we’ll see how it plays out. I’ll mention this idea to Jesse so that he can file it away in his mental filing cabinet! Thanks for the suggestion, regardless which route we end up going :-)

  3. Mike says

    Great video ! Its really cool watching you guys put this homestead together. Its a great deal of work but it must be very fulling and joyful at the end of the day when you are tired but get to see the results of your efforts.

    QUESTION:
    Is it harder than you thought it was going to be?

    • says

      That’s a great question Mike! So far…. yes and no. Let’s see if i can answer that in two parts :-)

      How it’s easier than we thought: Living htis lifestyle is WAY easier than I personally thought. I thought I’d fight happiness with living in a travel trailer, limited water, etc. but I’ve never been happier, especially because I know that this is what it takes to achieve our personal goals. Also, the labor so far can be tiring at the end of the day, but we’ve come up with creative ways to at least keep us safe when lifting and moving large objects, so while I’m sure we burn a lot of calories when working, we’re saving our backs. Once we learn the skills, the rest is somewhat repetitive and even relaxing.

      How it’s harder than we thought: So far, I think we’ve underestimated every project by a long shot! This doesn’t make it harder per se, but it means we have to continue reminding ourselves to have realistic deadlines. It’s also hard that we have so many things going on at any given tie, and so many projects that we want to achieve, that we struggle with our mental bandwidth capacity. At the end of the day, we often feel overwhelmed with the amount of options and information we’ve consumed. We also wish we had started collecting tools much, much earlier because there is still a lot that we know we want only we don’t want to bu everything new, but good deals can take a while to show up, so sometimes we are forced to buy new to simply get a project done. But none of these are unpleasant surprises, just things we are learning along the way!

  4. bryce says

    You two do one fantastic job of musically and video chorogaphy,wow if you don’t make money here on this site ,then a semblence of Hollywood would hire you for the most astounding piece as in most great Clint Eastwood flicks,ENJOY!!!!

    • says

      Thanks Bryce! Our videos have come a long way and we look forward to learning even more as we go. We do feel that this is a highly marketable skill that we can do from anywhere so it does open up the doors for income potential if we so choose to go that route! Maybe not full-blown movies hah, but little things here and there :-)

  5. Dustin Horn says

    Have you had a soil test done by your local agriculture extension? It’s cheap
    With the amount of pines around I bet your soil is acidic.
    Leaves are the best thing you can put in your compost (avoid Oak due to tannic acid).

    That pressure cooker can make chix soup in about 20 mins and cheap (buy drums and thighs). It is necessary to can meat, to avoid botulism. You stole it at that price.

    I would wax or paint the ends of your green boards to avoid checking and cracking. Takes a small amount of time. Get junk paint on clearance. Then you can cut when dry. Hope you screwed those down and did not nail?

    Very Interested to see the Hot Tub Plans.

    I would go horizontal with the barrels. (I use them vertically and it is not best).

    http://www.buildmyowncabin.com/waterbarrel/water-barrel-shelves.html

    • says

      We’ve not yet had our soil tested. We may, or we may just take the “stick it in the ground and see if it goes” route which has worked well for us in the past. We don’t have many leaves on our property so we’re making do with what we had. May snag some leaves in fall though if neighbors need them gone!

      Thanks for your other tips and suggestions! We’re interested to see how the hot tub works out as well!

      • Philip Bjorklund says

        Alyssa, When you lack refrigeration you can use that pressure cooker to keep meat. Buy a roast and cook it in the pressure cooker. When ready, cut a chunk off for your dinner. Bring the cooker back up to pressure and set it aside under pressure. The next day you can cut off another piece and return it to pressure to set aside. In this way you can keep meat easily for a week without refrigeration. We often did this while living in Africa.

        • says

          How interesting Philip… this is good to know! I read an article once about storing raw meat long-term in a root cellar (without canning it) and it does seem there are safe ways to preserve meat. I suppose if all else fails, it’s good to know about such methods when in a pinch! I’m sure Americans can learn a lot from how things are done in other parts of the world where endless refrigeration isn’t the norm.

  6. Mike says

    Been following your new life in Oregon. Congratulations with your commitment to living off the grid.
    A couple comments that I hope you take constructively:
    – the garden looks like a winner. I notice it lies at the base of a hill and it looks like it could easily wash way in a heavy down pour . It appears the top soil and composite lie on the existing surface. You might consider a boarder of some sort to prevent erosion.
    – you two are extremely talented with your blogging skills. In your discussions and encouragement to create blogs one must have the ability to write and make grammatic sense. Without that skill regardless of the depth of knowledge one has it’s absolutely step one. I am one who struggles with writing. Just thought you should stress some basics. Subject matter and video skills as well.
    Good luck in 2016

  7. Donna says

    Just so you know you can get a replacement three piece weight for that pressure canner at any Ace Hardware for a very small price. This will make canning easier as you will only have to watch the time after you see and hear the sound it makes when it is up to pressure. This will make your life so much easier and you can get more done while listening instead of watching constantly.

    • says

      Hey Donna, I literally know nothing about pressure canners but I heard that the weighted gauges were less maintenance as you don’t need to keep an eye on them…. with the one we have now, will we really have to keep an eye on it the entire time? Is it that sensitive? Good to know we can upgrade the part if we need to, I suppose I didn’t know that was an option.

  8. lesley Harris says

    Hi, re your compost don’t use acidic food it sours the heap, keep it covered to stop nutrients leaching out, if you can get him to ask hubby to save same pee it speeds up microbial activity, and yes i blushed writing that. Les x

    • says

      Thanks for the tips! No worries on the pee… our neighbors use pee too and that’s on our list of things to look into :-) I think that’d be a fun experiment to jump-start our pile!

  9. says

    Greetings from a snowy Utah!

    I’ve been following you guys since autumn last year and you’re helping me and my family look at what we really want and where to move to for our homestead so thank you so much for sharing your story!

    Guy’s pee is a great compost activator (lady’s not so good, it’s the hormones) I’m afraid to say that the lads in my family have peed in the compost heap and it got going (i.e. decomposing) much quicker! If that’s just a bit too far for you, comfrey leaves and yarrow (Achillea millefolium) are great compost activators too.

    Too many leaves will stall the decomposition of the heap (they’re the brown or carbon rich material that needs a lot of nitrogen rich or green material to help break it down) same with a lot of sawdust. That being said, it will all break down eventually and once you start clearing unwanted plants off the land your green matter will add up like mowing the lawn and you will need to mix it with more fibrous material like leaves, shredded paper or sawdust. I have a leaf mold pile next to the compost heap for the leaves from my neighbor’s tree to break down separately because they take much longer than a normal compost heap and to save the leaves ready for when spring finally hits Utah and all the grass clippings need to be composted.

    Whilst your soil is probably likely to be low pH, you can scatter a handful of wood ash onto the soil to raise the pH if needed, cheaper than lime.

    Pine needles when decomposed make some of the best compost but they do take a long time so don’t be disheartened if things don’t look like they are going too well, keep the heap moist and pop a cover on it like cardboard or a tarp to reduce water loss and once it’s built up turn it to introduce oxygen and it will help speed up the process.

    I look forward to reading more from you both.

    PS the hot tub deck looks fantastic and the view from it will be spectacular :)

    • says

      Greetings! It’s still snowy in Utah? WOW! So happy to hear that our blog has been giving your family stuff to think about, and you’re very welcome for blogging about what we’re learning!

      Thanks so much for the compost tips. I’ve heard that urine is a great activator, but I didn’t hear that women’ urine isn’t as much. It IS easier for a man to pee in a milk jug than it is for a woman… so I guess that would work out well? Hah! Right now, it seems that it would be a miracle if anything breaks down. I feel like the pile is growing but it feels pretty cold, then again, it’s still pretty cold during the evenings, and some days are still under 50 degrees or so. It’s great to hear there are so many options, especially if I get desperate!

      We just finished our mulching (pine) so we’re curious to see how that works out, and we have plenty of wood ash if we need to raise the PH of the soil. I think we’ll soon stick some plants in the ground, see what happens, and then adjust where necessary.

      Thanks again for the tips! Composting is so new to us so it’s nice to hear what you all have to say, especially those that have experience.

      Keep in touch and take care!

  10. Patty says

    Nice going guys!!!

    I live in the piney woods too, only in the midwest on the Ozark Plateau. Here’s some of what I’ve found works in my area – we used fallen pines (house already built when we bought) to make raised garden beds as our soil is very rocky and we needed the heightened soil for the plants to get established before they have to fight through the rocks.

    In the plants department here are some fruiting bushes that work: Nanking bush cherry, Hansen’s bush cherry, serviceberry, blueberry, highbush cranberry, raspberry, blackberries and goumi are all from plant families associated with pine forests. Just remember on the blueberries they will need to be out at the sunny edges. Ask me how I know. Waaa Waaa Waaa.

    Where we are we have white pine so can’t do the gooseberries that I’d like to do as they cause some kind of pine rust that kills the pines. Don’t want that. You might check w/your extension agents for fruiting bushes that will work w/the pines you have in your area. I’d also advise to plant fruit & nut trees to the sooner rather than later part of your gardening schedule as many can take 3-5 years to start producing!

    Happy Spring ya’ll!!! ~Patty

    • says

      Thanks so much for the tips and suggestions! Talking to the extension office is a great idea. Planting any sort of trees of fruit-producing bushes sounds overwhelming at the present time but you’re completely right that it takes time for them to produce… so if we could swing it, our future selves may thank us for it. Blueberries would be awesome… we actually have a large blueberry farm down the street from us, so that must mean they do well here. Sounds like you’ve learned your blueberry lesson, eh? Thanks for passing that along to us. And happy spring to you too!

  11. Patty says

    Oops. Also meant to add we used the fallen pines/other trees to help w/erosion control by stopping runoff and to direct runoff to where we wanted it to go/stay. Also by using the logs to make raised beds it helped the weed-eating portion of the program by protecting the food from the hubs and his zen state that often was so mesmerizing that he got ‘carried away’ and blitzed everything in his path. Ruuuu-Ohhhh! “(

    Before fencing can be had we also use them by laying them end to end on the ground to define ‘yard’ and ‘not yard’ or ‘not so wild/wild’ if you will. Even using thin straplings they can be very useful to visually lay out an area for planting/building as well.

    We used the brush created in clearing & cleanup several ways…to make hedgerows for some of the wild critters and birds and mostly to create a tall keyhole bed – ‘retirement garden planning at it’s finest!’ We laid it out w/putting up a few fence posts & scrap fencing and then lined w/cardboard and started to fill ‘er up w/fallen brush & limbs. That bed also ate a lot of the cardboard we had coming in as we are bit too far to run to town so online ordering means the postal lady brings a LOT of cardboard. What cardboard didn’t go in the keyhole bed was used to start lasagne gardening. Nowdays it goes in the compost bin. Soon? We’ll be using the rocks around here to concrete & rock that bed into a more booooootiful permanent installation.

    You are finding out what Coors used as it’s motto….”Waste is a resource out of place!” Ya’ll are doing AWE.SO.ME!!!!

  12. says

    Good job guys! We just got our house under contract and will close on April 28th. 16 weeks on the market and we got our asking price. Now we will move out to the 13 1/2 acres we bought 18 months ago. We have repaired the culvert so we can drive out on the land. It was broken so we had a new one put in. We bought a camper and moved our goat heard, llama protector animal, and chicken out there last August. My husband or my whole family go out every night, feed, water, and milk the goats, sleep there and then feed, water, and milk in the morning and head home. We both work from home during the day. When we move out to our vintage 1981 32′ camper end of April with our two sons 16 and 14 and our dog and cat, we will have temp power but no well or septic. Those will come soon after though as we can use the equity from our home sale to do most of the building of our new Quonset Hut home (1,000sq ft). It’s been a long time coming but we are getting excited to NOT HAVE A MORTGAGE

  13. RB says

    Hi guys, I’m really enjoying following your exploits.

    I looked at your post about the costs associated with your blog and, as someone who is in the same line of work (websites, video and photography) I want to say that you could save a whole lot of money by making a few changes.

    It is madness to be paying $50 a month to Adobe and that is very much “on the grid” in my opinion. A $150 secondhand PC has the power for editing HD (I know, I use one) and there are free or relatively low price options when it comes to video editing software. And you don’t need the latest version of Photoshop to prepare photos for a blog, or even Photoshop.

    Hosting $50 a month! This is incredibly expensive for one blog. I run about ten websites, some of which include blogs, and have a full reseller hosting account for $14.95 each month. This includes various options to run an email mailing list at no further cost. I can’t understand how that is an extra $100 per month for you? Unbelievable!

    I would suggest DVDs for storing your HD footage. Two copies at 30c per disc. A DVD will hold about 45 mins of HD footage. If you are only storing on one hard drive that is extremely dangerous in terms of losing all your video in future due to a hard drive crash.

    • says

      Hey RB! Our #1 goal isn’t saving as much money as humanly possible as we value quality tools that get the job done, every time, with zero headaches, and we also like to make wise investments. Our purchases are extremely well thought-out. I don’t have time to explain what our businesses entail and why we use the tools that we do, at least not for an off grid blog as the two aren’t really related and most of our audience would not benefit from the breakdown. We’re confident in our strategy and the tools we use and if you do something different that works for you then that’s great! But thanks for the suggestions.

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