Living off the Grid: Month One of Our Homestead Development

Well, we have made it! We have completed our first month of living off the grid on our bare land while we develop our homestead. Time is moving so quickly and we are having a hard time keeping up with our homesteading blog, so we thought we’d do a roundup post of everything we’ve accomplished during month one. Hang on, it’s going to be a wild ride (and watch the video for the highlights, featuring one of our new favorite songs)!

Despite how busy we were during the first four weeks or so, we couldn’t have been happier as we were finally living on our land. Even though we are living in a travel trailer and even though winter is rapidly approaching, we wake up every day with excitement and gratefulness as we are finally out of the rat race.

To sum it up, month one consisted of 90% running errands, picking up materials and homestead tools, and 10% working on the property. In all honestly, we thought we’d hit the ground running and be building our barn within the first 1-2 weeks. This couldn’t be further from what actually happened. We had no idea just how much time we would need to get settled.

We spent 90% of our time picking up tools and materials, shuffling stuff to and from storage, getting settled, etc.
We spent 90% of our time picking up tools and materials, shuffling stuff to and from storage, getting settled, etc.

We hoped to get our barn built in the first couple of months which would mean that we would have a cozy setup for winter. However, everything was already chaotic, we didn’t know exactly where we wanted the barn, we needed a ton of tools, it took a long time to get settled, and we decided that we really wanted to savor the journey rather than burn the candle at both ends to get the barn built.

Here is an outline of everything we accomplished in month one (or the first 4-5 weeks or so). On this list you will NOT see canning, raising chickens, or starting our garden! This is reality, folks. Starting a homestead from scratch includes very little homesteading in the beginning… at least in our experience.

Put up a shelter for our travel trailer.

The firs thing we did when we arrived on our property was put up a portable garage for our RV. When we got our RV it had some leaking problems, not to mention dry rot on the front, so even though we caulked it, it was critical that we protect it from the rain.

While we wanted to build a solid structure for it, we arrived in the rain and needed a shelter ASAP. We ran down to Home Depot and settled on aGarage in a Box. This has been working wonderfully for us and has allowed us to direct our focus to developing our property rather than fixating on our temporary RV.

Garage in a Box

Build a deck for our travel trailer.

As stated in our week one roundup post, we also built a deck for our RV. We quickly realized that keeping the RV clean was going to be a challenge with all of the dust. We also had no place to set a garbage can or a place to quickly step outside in our socks.

We went to the local building store and built a solid deck for the side of the trailer. We also used the framework to raise the Garage in a Box enough so that we could comfortably drive in and out which was critical as we were doing numerous septic and water runs.

Creative solution for living in a travel trailer! A raised Garage in a Box + platform for kicking off your shoes.

Spent too many days and hours picking up tools on Craigslist.

As we are trying to build our homestead with frugality in mind, we wanted to be sure that we were spending every dollar wisely. While we are not opposed to buying new things, it made a lot of sense to buy many of our tools used. Even though we had to make many loops around the Northern part of Idaho and even into Washington, we did save a lot of money in the end.

Some of the things we had to pick up to simply start developing our property included:

  • 4×4 four wheeler: We knew we would want to save our backs as much as possible and use a four wheeler to transport materials on the property. We wanted to use this for firewood, milling lumber, moving rocks, moving tools, etc. We found a Yamaha 4×4 ATV for $1,000 and it’s been working perfectly for our needs. A new one would have cost us a fortune.
  • Stihl 660 chainsaw: We needed a powerful chainsaw to start milling our own lumber with our homemade chainsaw mill. As we didn’t want to continue buying lumber from Home Depot, we made buying this a priority. There weren’t many on Craigslist but we found one for $775 just an hour south of us. It runs great, it works for our needs, and we ended up saving maybe $700 compared to buying a new one.
  • Small utility trailer: We knew that just a four wheeler wouldn’t cut it… we also needed a utility trailer to tow stuff around the property in. We ended up finding one for just $300. We’ve been using this non-stop and it’s extra great because no longer do we need to use our 1990 Ford pickup truck for towing… we could simply attach the utility trailer to the Subaru and call it a day!
  • Wood stove: We knew we were going to need a wood stove for winter. We plan on winterizing our trailer somewhat and having some sort of enclosure that we could warm with the wood stove. We will also use this long-term for heating the barn and our hot water supply. This we found a couple hours south for $200 which we deemed a great deal.
660 Stihl Chainsaw for Timber Framing
Our 660 Stihl chainsaw… this thing is a beast!
Our 4x4 Yamaha ATV + utility trailer. What a great combo... we are in love!
Our 4×4 Yamaha ATV + utility trailer. What a great combo… we are in love!

Bought a handful of new tools.

We are fully aware that our time is valuable, so we only deal with Craigslist when it really makes sense. Many things we ended up just buying new because we didn’t want to wait for a good deal on Craigslist, only to end up saving $20.

Things we researched and purchased include:

  • Fiskars axe: We needed an axe for felling our first trees so Jesse found this at our local hardware store. Check our our unboxing video of this axe.
  • KFI ATV winch: We couldn’t fall any trees until we had a way to move them, so we ended up buying an ATV winch. We were hoping to find one on Craigslist but found nothing decent so we bought one new. It’s been working wonderfully and we love it! Check out our KFI ATV winch unboxing video.
  • Ratchet straps: These are a great thing to have around any property or even home. We’ve been using these when we pick up stuff on Craigslist so that it doesn’t wiggle too much in the utility trailer, to fall trees in the right direction, to hoist logs up onto cutting stands, and more.
Our Fiskars axe. Seems legit so far.
Our Fiskars axe. Seems legit so far.
Using our 2500lb winch. This thing is awesome, and our backs are thankful too!
Using our 2500lb winch. This thing is awesome, and our backs are thankful too!
Pure love. How awesome is this? We love our ratchet straps!
How awesome is this? We love our ratchet straps!

Created a barter flyer.

As some of you may know, our entire idea with this journey is to get away from the need of money. So long as money as we know it exists we know that we will never be 100% free from it, but we simply want to need much less. With that said, we would love to start trading for materials and resources, so we created a barter flyer.

We put these up all over town, old-school style with tabbed phone numbers.
We put these up all over town, old-school style with tabbed phone numbers.

With this flyer we introduced ourselves, made a long list of things we are in need of (tools, materials for building, etc.) and announced that we were open to trades. There is a large barter community here.

To our surprise we haven’t had a lot of calls from the flyers but the calls we did get were valuable. While we haven’t yet had a trading experience, we were able to secure 5 double pane vinyl windows and tons of insulation for about $250.

Became friends with neighbors and others in the community.

The first couple of weeks on our property we ended up meeting multiple neighbors. As this is a small town, everyone seemed to notice that someone new was around. We had numerous people simply stop by to introduce themselves which was great. We also spent hours chatting it up with our immediate neighbors and we love them which is always a relief!

We made an appoint to go the farmer’s market a few times and ended up making a lot of friends. Rather than just window shopping, we talked with many of the vendors and made some great connections. I think every farmer’s market visit was at least two hours because we were meeting so many great people!

Building relationships is important to us, and the farmer's market is a great place to do that.
Building relationships is important to us, and the farmer’s market is a great place to do that.

We can’t stress how important it is to us to get to know the neighbors and others in the community. We like knowing who we can reach out to if we ever need help, who we can offer our support to, who to call for various services, and who to simply call up for a family BBQ.

One thing we quickly learned is to always have some extra drinks on hand for visitors. I also went to the store and bought a bunch of supplies to make no-bake cookies! We plan on surprising multiple neighbors with cookies and drinks for longer get-to-know-you chats.

No oven in an RV? No problem! Satisfy your cravings with no-bake desserts! Oh, neighbors love them too :-)
No oven in an RV? No problem! Satisfy your cravings with no-bake desserts! Oh, neighbors love them too :-)

We also didn’t get as much done in the first month because we didn’t realize how time-consuming building relationships is. Most people we bought stuff from on Craigslist ended up in 1-3 hour conversations! We even stopped in at a local butcher and ended up talking for 2 hours!! While we feel best when we power through our day and get a million things done, this was why we moved to this community: to build relationships. We are having to learn to slow down and not packing our days so full.

Paved our driveway with rock.

While building our RV deck helped to reduce dust in the trailer, Jesse decided that it would ultimately be best if we paved our driveway with 3/4 minus rock. All said and done, we had 3-4 truck loads of rock delivered. We now have a beautiful driveway and living space on our land. We love it!

We now have a clean path to the trailer!
We love going in and out of the trailer all day as we now track in minimal dust.
Before and after paving our driveway.
Before and after paving our driveway.

Received a septic permit.

Quickly, we realized that we despised moving the trailer so frequently to dump our waste so we moved a septic system up the priority list. We were on the fence about whether or not to get a permit but after taking everything into consideration, we decided to go through with it.

We rented an excavator, dug our test holes, had the inspector out, and had our permit granted to us. We will elaborate on the permitting process in a future blog post (hopefully we can post that within the next week!).

septic percolation test
A shot with the inspector during our perc test.

We hope to have our system installed within the next week or so. It should have been done already but we have an issue with the permit, we went out of town with family for a few days, and now we are waiting to reschedule.

Fell our first trees.

After running around getting supplies, and identifying the trees we wanted to cut down, we finally were able to fall our first trees! This was quite a rush. I’ve never seen a tree cut down before so it was an entirely new (scary) experience.

We now have almost enough lumber to build our hot tub deck out of the two doug fir trees. Even better, we have a couple of huge sections of the tree leftover for timber framing beans. We will let these season for a bit.

We will be writing a blog post on falling our trees so stay tuned! It was quite eventful.

Jesse in his tree falling attire. Safety first, kids!
Jesse in his tree falling attire. Safety first, kids!

Milled our first lumber with our DIY Alaskan chainsaw mill.

So this we did just after the one month mark, but we milled our first lumber using a DIY Alaskan chainsaw mill. This was such a cool experience. I can’t put into words how it feels to build stuff using the materials on your own land vs. running down to Home Depot to pay for something.

This is such a huge topic so we will be doing a series of blog posts about milling lumber with an Alaskan chainsaw mill. We already have a lot of footage and are excited to start producing some videos on this process.

Check out our first milled lumber!
Check out our first milled lumber!
DIY Alaskan chainsaw mill
Jesse workin’ the DIY Alaskan chainsaw mill.

Dug our barn footings.

After walking the property a bit, we decided where we would like to build our barn. Since we were already renting an excavator for the percolation test and paving our driveway, we figured that we should try to get our footing beds dug as well.

This went quite smooth. We were able to dig 2’ deep beds, fill the bottom with 3/4 minus rock, and we can’t wait to start building! Seeing the footings makes the idea of the barn really come to life.

Digging our barn footings. This didn't take long at all.
Digging our barn footings. This didn’t take long at all.

Planned our off-grid, wood-fired hot tub.

Since we realize we are in for a long, chilly winter, we decided that we needed to have a hot tub. 30 second showers aren’t enough to get toasty. We knew that after a long day of building it would be incredibly nice to soak in some hot water.

Jesse drew up some plans for a deck on the side of the hill and came up with an elaborate plan for a wood fired hot tub. We already bought our 8’ diameter water trough, a radiator, pier blocks, a pump, and have our lumber milled. Stay tuned for the building of our hot tub!

See that metal thing? That's our future hot tub!
See that metal thing? That’s our future hot tub!

Drank A LOT of Redd’s Apple Ale.

Now Jesse and I aren’t heavy drinkers (or drinkers at all, really) but we’ve been going through Redd’s Apple Ale like it’s our job. After a long day of work whether it’s on the road or working on our property, it’s nice to have a refreshing beverage. We were on a cider kick for a while but Jesse picked one of these bad boys up out of curiosity and we’ve been hooked.

Work hard, play harder! No guilt.
Work hard, play harder! No guilt.

We can’t wait to sip this in our wood fired hot tub, although by the time that’s finished, we may want peppermint schnapps hot chocolate instead!

Wrapping it up.

The past month has been so hectic. Whether we are researching tools to buy, picking up materials, working on the property, working with our consulting clients, working on our blog, or taking the trailer to dump and fill up on water, we’ve been busy during every waking moment of the day.

I think our biggest takeaway is this: You can only do what you can do. Often, we all set unrealistic expectations for ourselves and starting a homestead is no different. It is all too easy to rush for the sake of getting your basic needs covered as soon as possible but you can only move so quick, and you may miss a lot on the way. Relocating is also a big deal, especially when you are trying out an entirely different lifestyle, so give yourself some time to adjust. Don’t feel bad if you don’t get as much done in the day (week or month) as you had planned. Work hard but remember to be kind to yourself and cut yourself some slack as you are only human. Plan well, but be liquid and patient.

Going forward: We hope to accomplish a lot in the next month including winterizing our trailer, building our hot tub deck, assembling our hot tub, having our septic system installed, and then we just might try to chill out a little bit.

Get involved!

If you have your own homestead or property, how did the first month compare to what you thought it would be? Do you feel that you try to cram too much into a day or month like us? Let us know in the comments below!

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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. Pat says

    I am so loving watching you two! We started our homestead over two years ago. Though we had all the buildings…over 70 years old…we have had to update a lot of the infastructure! Our focus has been on sustainable food. We are at least twice your age and it takes twice as long to do stuff. Can not wait to learn about the lumber mill!!!
    Keep it up and enjoy every minute!

    • says

      Hey Pat, glad you are enjoying our blog! We’re trying our hardest to produce the highest-quality content possible and really try to focus on the transition for folks. I’m sure updating the buildings was a big deal. We recently had the opportunity to rehab a house and it was SO much work. Of course, the whole thing was built wrong from the start, but I’m sure simply updating is a lot of work too. We can’t wait to dive into food but there is simply too much to do right now. We’ll definitely start some sort of garden come springtime though. Do you grow and can most of your own food and even meat? And we will definitely be doing lots of videos on the chainsaw mill! We’re trying to figure out how to package it up in a way that won’t overwhelm everyone. There are lots of parts to the process… maybe we’ll make a music video and call it a day haha 😉

      • J. Verheulst says

        Hi Guys,

        In response to your ‘Get involved!’question:

        We already had a house that we could live in on our property.

        We will be tearing it down in the future after building our Waybee Model Earthship with extra triple layered and very deep greenhouses on the south side and towards the west and east.

        The layout of the earthship with its extra 3 layers of greenhouses will almost look like it
        wants to hug the sun into its widely outstretched greenhouse ‘arms’.
        With a large Y-shaped pond in front of it that acts as a mirror.
        To reflect extra sunlight into the greenhouses.

        So because of the comfort of the already existing house and before anything else, we have planted, all over our property, our fruit- & nut orchard and other trees like birch and maple for sap, oaks for timber and some windbreak spruce, etc.

        Because most of those trees take ages(10 to 40 years) to grow and produce to their full potential.

        We’ve planted several different variaties of every species including lots of rare endangered ones.
        We’ve also planted methodically for an optimal harvest spread across the seasons.
        We’ve also tried to cover the renowned ‘hunger gap’ as much as possible (the rest by planting edible trees in temporary greenhouses).

        We’re also planning to experiment in the future with leaving late apples and other hardy fruits onto the trees as long as possible wearing so called ‘japanese winterjackets’ and maybe covering the trees in bubly plastic.

        Plus we also planted extremely fastgrowing Leylandcipresses as windbrakes that also house our bats.
        Whom we ’employ’ as our workaholic, nocturnal insect eaters on steroids(a term I use a lot for extremely effective animals and plants).
        So we have 24/7 coverage, together with our owls and hedgehogs.

        We call them our ‘asylumseekers’ as we hadn’t planned on inviting them, but we’re extremely happy with them.
        Because they cover an important hole in our insect(pest)defence.
        And it saves me a massive amount of nocturnal hours hunting pestbugs and other critters with my Petzl headlamp on.
        http://www.petzl.com/en/Professional/Lighting?l=INT#.Vi2KWitjSB4

        Because of poor sandy soil we planted all our trees with extra mycrorizae, bacteria, and
        wormcastings and coconutcoir and activated(!!!is crucial) biochar mixed up with the dirt.
        As we were not yet producing all this stuff ourselves we had to buy it all.

        Together with Groasis Waterboxxes(yes with 2 x’s) and deerprotective telescopes to jumpstart their growth (incl. an almost 100% succes rate) and to protect the saplings from animals.
        https://www.youtube.com/user/Groasiswaterboxx/featured

        We also invested in quite a few bigger trees instead of saplings.
        All the trees were planted with their crucial protective companian plants around them like comfrey, lavender, dandilions, ferns and so on.

        Later on we also built some portable electric net fences around some of our larger trees to bug off the deer that tried to do “a PacMan-act on steroids” to some of them.

        We now have the deer only in the outer ring of our property as we Permaculture designed our Hoch- a.k.a. Highbeds in a large oval ring in such a way that the deer no longer can come into our inner (Permaculture zone 0,1,2&3) ring .

        Plus we now use the deer to prune the higher branches of the non edible trees in the outer ring.
        So they have become our “employees” that save us a lot of (forrestfire preventing) pruning work.
        We also reward and spoil them with plantings of free standing young sacrificial saplings that we produce ourselves from our inner- and outer ring trees.

        We also surounded each (non-sacrificial) tree(sapling) with a Holzer Hügelbed ring (max. 1 mtr. high) with goodsized rocks and small boulders on the inside (south-, east- & west facing) slopes.
        The stones act in winter and on other cold days as a thermal heat sink battery.
        Mostly above ground radiant warmth towards the tree.

        We also planted a lot of the larger companian plants on the northern ridge of each bed and on the nort-east and north-western ridges to act as windbreaks.

        The insides (logs, branches, manure, king stropharia spores and green matter) of those
        Hügelbeds start to compost almost right away.
        This produces quite a lot of heat that can’t rise out of the bed very well.
        As both the coconutcoir soilmix covering the logs and the extremely thick woodchips blanket on top of- and inwards of- and around the ring, both form an insulating blanket.

        So most of the warmth dives down into the ground and inward towards the rootsystem of each tree, protecting it against harmfull temperature variations.
        Plus the beds retain loads of water that prevent the tree from drying out in the summer.

        As much as possible we planted next to old treestumps.
        That saves the new trees a lot of work in breaking up the ground(was already done by the previous trees) to develop their root system.

        Although it’s more work digging the planting holes next to old tree stumps it’s certanly worth the hasle I can asure you.
        A good Pulaski Forrest Service type of digging axe helps a lot.

        Plus the decaying tree roots from the old stump are a gold mine of benificial microrizae, bacteria and other things, for the new trees.
        With my Pulaski I cut and dig away quite a few rootpieces from the old stump.
        That are, therefore, all being chucked back into the plantinghole, when we plant the rootclump of the new tree.

        The old pieces of root also help with airating the soil.
        Which also helps to jumpstart the tree in its new habitat.

        Moreover we’re planning on adding so called snaking (orchard) walls in a few spots on our property to enable us to grow more subtropical types of fruit trees outside of our greenhouses.
        See the link below for an example of such a wall in the Netherlands:
        http://www.slotzuylen.nl/tuin/wandeling/slangenmuur/

        Though we wil add insulation and earthen berms on the north side of our snaking garden walls and plant windbreaking foliage on top of these berms.

  2. says

    Hello Alyssa,

    Congratulations on your leap of faith and transition to a better life! My family and I are in the process of transitioning our lives (8th year) Our journey began with a diet and lifestyle overhaul and has progressed to include changing all of our gardening methods, and now working toward going off the grid. We are transitioning our property to a food forest, creating greywater systems, adding solar, etc.

    Have you looked into permaculture yet? Our favorite guru is Geoff Lawton.

    Shaunie

    • says

      Hey Shaunie, sounds like quite the transition! As ad as we all want these things to happen overnight, they simply take time. And a lot of it. Good for you for tackling new skills one at a time. I’m sure looking back on where you were just 8 years ago is a good feeling. We can’t wait to share similar experiences! We have not yet looked into permaculture yet but we’ll take not of Geoff Lawton… thanks for the recommendation :-)

      • Megan says

        Permaculture is the idea of permanent agriculture. It stresses designing “gardens” to mimic the real world forests. More reliance on perennials and re-seeders than annuals. Planting only things that are useable for food, shelter, building materials, etc, instead of ornamentals.

        I’ve turned my .18 acre city lot into a minor food forest myself and plant only a few annuals every year. I’ve swapped a lot of annuals (which take a lot time now that i’m older and lazier) and replaced them with their perennial cousins. Walking onions instead of annual onions, carrots and lettuce that are allowed to go to seed and end up re-seeding the ground, perennial root crops, etc. About 8 fruit trees, nut bushes, a lot of herbs for cooking as well as medicinal uses.

        It’s a fascinating method and would fit right in to your goals of living with the land instead of straight off of it.

        • says

          That is awesome Megan. I’m aware of the concept butididnt know it was called permaculture haha. Yes we will definitely Eli be looking into that. I have a book called “Edible Landscapes” that doesn’t necessarily focus on perennials per we, but stresses designing a landscapes that focus us on food and herb production rather than making things strictly look pretty. We put all this time and energy to maintaining our landscaping, why not make it produce for us? We are really excited todo what you says when the time is right. Sounds like a rewarding experience to say the least :-) I bet your lot is awesome!

  3. says

    I think as human beings we always try to get more done in a day than is ever possible. Sorry to be the “rascal relatives” to delay the septic tank. Having it working will save you so much time! Truly hope it is done very soon. So fortunate you took a well needed break and shared your precious time with us. Praying winter holds off a bit longer so you can accomplish more. With best of wishes on your wonderful undertaking. You 2 are so happy with the process. It will be great, and you will getter’ done. Love & hugs, TAKE CARE!
    l

    • says

      The septic installation delay has nothing to do with your visit! Here we are a week later still waiting. Hopefully it can be done later this week. So happy you and Udie made it up this way and we got to spend so much quality time together! We think of you frequently, especially when we find our driveway easily at night, and whenever we see a bunch of Seahawks gear! Hugs to you both <3

  4. Kathy says

    Hi! My husband and I are on the same journey in Queensland Australia. We purchased 170 acres in Jan 2014 and are living in a partially converted farm shed while we save for a house. You are very wise to concentrate on establishing yourselves before diving into too much! We brought all our animals with us (we produce our own meat and have horses and a herd of cattle) and there were NO facilities on our new place. Every paddock was either full of rubbish or poisonous weeds and taking care of the stock as well as trying to convert the shed was exhausting. We are just starting to get on top of things now, and there are so many things I would do differently, but the lifestyle is worth all the hassles.
    I love reading all your news and hope to pick up some tips for when we build though our regulations here are very strict particularly in regards to building yourself. We are actually looking at strawbale construction which hasn’t been done in our area ever!
    Keep up the great blogging and can’t wait to see the hot tub!
    Best Wishes
    Kathy

    • says

      Wow, what a journey! How we’re you able to feed your animals with no water on sight? We are curious about strawbale construction as well. Any idea if that is possible for you with somewhat strict regulations?

  5. Lisa says

    Hello,

    Thank you for sharing your wonderful experience with us! I love reading your posts and watching your videos. Such great advice. We are in the process of beginning are homesteading journey. We are leaving Texas THIS Monday, where we’ll head out west to California to see our family. We sold our car, bought a van and a travel trailer, and are selling just about EVERYTHING! We will be visiting are folks for the winter months, then head up the coast of California to Oregon where we will be buying land. Like you’ve said before, it’s a start. We don’t plan on building our forever home on our first piece of land. You have to be careful with the building permits out in Oregon, but we’ve found a couple counties that are pretty lenient. My husband, two and a half year old daughter, and mother-in-law will be on the journey with me as well. We are so excited! It’s been a dream of ours for quite a while! Good luck on y’all s journey! Keep posting! =) Can’t wait to see the hot tub!

    Lisa Brown

    • says

      Sounds like an awesome adventure ahead Lisa! I’m sure you will feel fairly liberated when younhitnthe road if you don’t already. What parts of Oregon are you looking at, roughly? We moved from the Medford area. Building codes were a nightmare there which is one of the reasons we would not have attempted this journey there. We didn’t look into all counties, though. Oregon is a lovey place. Sounds like you will have a full car on your journey, best of luck to you all! Keep in touch!

  6. Sue says

    While I don’t see any homesteading in my future, I am going to really enjoy watching you two getting going. A tad envious but I am excited for the two of you. I also live in Idaho….. And thank you for sharing your adventure!

    • says

      We hope you enjoy the blog Sue! Idaho is a beautiful place – we hope to explore the area more as we have time to travel but definitely need to get some serious work done on the homestead before doing anything too serious. Thanks for stopping by!

  7. Phill Carpenter says

    Hi
    Love your blog it’s fascinating. I’m in the UK very little room in our country to justify a tract of land and do your own thing. There’s all sorts of planning regulations – building permits etc. You can’t do this or that here type of stuff.
    I’d love to follow your story, please keep me posted
    Phill.

    • says

      Hey Phil, we’ve heard that about the UK. Is it difficult to even do such things in more remote areas? Most counties in the he US are pretty bad… Note sure how many basically have zero building codes, but it will likely only get worse. We wonder how long our particular area will have loose regulation. That said, we hope you enjoy following our blog and are able to find some useful takeaways :-)

  8. Robert says

    Hi I’ll be following this very closely. As I hope to take on a similar project. I’ve recently moved to my parents homestead here in northern Missouri and secured employment here although my plans are to be a little more primitive and completely off grid. I like this one already because you even include the small purchases that you don’t think of when taking on a project like this. So please keep posting its seeing things like this that keep me motivated and saving :). I hope you post a lot on your building processes. And I do heating and air conditioning for a living if you have any questions related to that feel free to email me.

    • says

      Awesome start Robert! We hope to do a post soon of everything we could have done before moving to our land. We were. Airily pressed for time and busy, but we have spent thousands of dollars on unplanned expenses and we could have done a little bit more homework and tool buying to get the best deals. Then again, we were severely limited on space so there is no one answer for everyone. We will definitely document our building projects and we will let you know if we have any questions on heating and air. Stay in touch!

  9. Wylie says

    Thank you for taking the time to photograph everything so well and record your adventure with such detail. While the end result is usually lovely, I know it must be stressful to keep up with everything. Seeing your journey gives me hope that I too might be able to live my homesteading dream one day. I wish you both all of the luck for this coming winter and beyond!

    Wylie

    • says

      You’re welcome Wylie! Before we decided to take this journey about two years ago, it seemed daunting if not impossible to do in such a short time for location reasons, financial reasons and more. We hope to help others to the same thing with the strategies we used. You’re right… It takes a lot of time to record and document everything for the blog. Many hours a week, but we love doing it. What type of info are you in highest search of in order to start your homestead?

      • Wylie says

        You both are an inspiration for seeing things through, that’s for sure. :) We’re all thankful for your time and energy! My personal journey right now is focusing on limiting my spending so I can start working less. I went to art school, took on debt for it, and am marginally working in my field without much reward there. I want more time to develop my metalsmithing skills but that’s not going to happen if I don’t change my lifestyle from spending and being unhappy to working more for myself (also, maybe moving out of Massachusetts – very expensive here).While currently you’re farther along than I am in that journey, it has been very helpful to see someone I can relate to from a career-perspective making this happen. Big thank you for your resources, tool list, and transparency on your online business endeavors. I might have missed it, but do you happen to have a list of homesteading books or communities you sought out early on? I am hoping in the next year or two to try and meet local homesteaders and get more involved in my local community, but an active online one would be great too.
        Thank you,

        Wylie

  10. Megan says

    Hey Alyssa. I’m 25, my fiance is 27, and I am looking for similar-minded women online who blog. We are just at the beginning of our adventure as well – we are blessed enough to be able to live on land that my father owns (about 46 acres) and we are converting an existing raised pole-barn into our house. It will be about 500 square feet. We are currently living in an apartment closer to his work, and plan to be out there in the spring. I can 100% relate to all of the purchasing during the first months. We love every moment we get to put our tools to use, and can’t believe how after every purchase we think of five or ten more items we could really use. Especially when the ultimate goal is not needing to spend money – but we recognize that buying the important things now, and treating them well to last, will pay off in the long run.

    I just finished reading a book called Farming the Woods and another one called The Encyclopedia of Country Living (by Carla Emery) and really loved both. It sounds like you’ve invested in woods (as have we) and the Farming the Woods book really inspired me, beyond basic gardening or milling lumber; but how to utilize the woods in a way both beneficial to its longevity and making my life easier as a homesteader. The Encyclopedia is really fun to read, and extremely informative. I highly recommend it.

    Anyway… I’m rambling. Just wanted to reach out from all the way in Ohio and say you are not the only ones who don’t like the way everyone else lives! We have had so many conversations like you mentioned you both did, and we actually renovated a home built in 1914 before we decided to start living off-grid together as well. I wish you both the best of luck. I have never subscribed to another blog, but I would really like to see your progress. I think Idaho looks absolutely beautiful, and if it weren’t for family and land here, I’d be looking in that area. I am starting a blog as well (mostly photo-oriented) to share with family and friends, and once I’ve got it going I’ll send you the link if you’re interested.

    My best wishes,
    Megan

    • says

      Sounds like you and your fiance are on quite the adventure as well! Sounds like a great plan of converting a pole barn into an apartment. 500 sq ft is plenty of space as well. Our RV is super tiny and we have no problems with it yet.

      Yea, we’ve spent thousands on tools in the past two months! Sometimes I feel we’re just spending money, but even if we spend $40,000 in tools, we can then build our house for next to nothing rather than spending $300,000 over the course of a 30-year mortgage. So every tool is actually priceless and we’d rather have our money invested in tools rather than sitting in our bank account. I’m sure they can also be passed down for generations to come…

      Thanks for the book recommendations, both sound great. We’ve been loving all the different ways we have found to use tree scraps… I bet that book has a lot more! It’s so great to work with our land and the forest rather than against it. Working with materials from the land may be hard work, but all said and done, it’s way more satisfying than to run down to Home Depot.

      I wish you the best of luck on your journey as well! There are many beautiful areas of the US and all areas have pros and cons. Having family nearby is definitely nice, not to mention some land to work with. I’d love to see your blog when you get it up so drop me a link!

      Take care!

  11. Lisa Vincent says

    I can totally relate :) We spent years trying to find the right piece of property and found 3-1/2 acres on Chehalem Mountain (Oregon) just 2 years ago. The place was so overgrown in blackberries that you could not make out several of the outbuildings, and it wasn’t until we cleared two sections of the horrible plants that we found an additional cherry and apple tree. I was dead set on not spraying, so for the first several months, we dug the darn things out by hand. Many nights were spent with a heating pad and then ice and a few Ibuprophenes!!! Sure you can relate to that :) We fell 8 trees the first three months, limbing and chipping until after dark most nights. We have a lot of deer and coyotes up here so in order to safely have a garden and keep the chickens from harm, we had to set up some 5-6 foot poly fencing before an other plans were made. The work and time spent paid off, as we have only lost one chicken due to a skunk and the gerden critters have been kept to the bare minimum (gophers and voles).

    We saved one large log to cut in half for a fire pit bench. I wold love to know where you picked up your Canadian Saw mill attachment. ? We have used most of our downed trees for firewood as our house is so cold. We added a second woodstove on the other end of the house just 6 months ago. I love that you are milling yours to build.

    We have slowed down a bit on the major cleaning up now that we have the berries under control. We purchased a couple of bottle baby goats that are now assisting us with that work :) The 4,000 SF garden gave us just about all the produce we need for the year and we were even able to donate quite a bit as well. That’s such a great feeling. I am learning much about the health benefits of fermenting veggies so saving these later veggies for that. We LOVE bartering. My husband was a farrier for 32 years and is now driving a truck as it is not so hard on the body! We barter horse trimming for some great local bacon.

    If you are into reading here is a great book from an Oregon author who homesteaded a place in Sherman County, Oregon. I ended up at her house one morning after getting pretty sick from heat stroke, rafting the John Day one 109 degree summer day. Did not remember anything but waking up at her house at seeing posters of all of her books on the wall. It turns out that my sister in law knew her and thought it was safer to stay there as apposed to driving hours to the hospital!! She gave this one to me before leaving. http://www.jkbooks.com/Pages/Homestead.html

    Rambling…sorry :) Just keep taking pictures and videos. We made a short video compiled of 100’s of first year pictures and it was amazing to look back at the work that was done. Lots of long days and short nights, pain and lots of gain, but SO very satisfying. Keep up the good work and looking forward to seeing your progress!
    Lisa

    • says

      What an awesome story! I can only imagine having multiple acres covered in blackberry bushes. I know what you mean about avoiding spraying at all costs… I would feel the same way. I’m sure it was nice to get the bushes under control and even find that you had fruit trees. We feel that same drive right now to get to a stable point as we head into winter. We simply can’t keep going at this pace… we’ve been burning the midnight oil for almost 2 years!

      Your 4,000 sq ft garden sounds awesome. We’d love to have extra produce one day. I haven’t fermented any veggies, but I’ve also heard of the health benefits.

      We ended up making our sawmill attachment, although we look forward to investing in a Granberg. In this case, there is no substitute for an engineered, quality tool. Our DIY version gets the job done but likely won’t work for timber framing which is ultimately what we’ll be doing. We’ve been loving the lumber it puts out, however, and are getting close to being finished with our first project using our own lumber.

      We’ll bookmark the book recommendation as we always love quality reading material.

      Thanks for stopping by the blog, always love to hear others’ stories and what they’ve overcome to get to a stable point on their property. Keep in touch!

  12. says

    Wow, Alyssa!
    Great website. I am really enjoying your adventure
    We have been living our dream adventure down here in Chile for the past 2 yrs
    And this year we got our farm and have been living the simple quiet life
    Though not always easy!
    I really appreciate your article on starting your own homesteading blog.
    I’m definitely going to be working on your steps to improve my blog
    Please check it out
    Ourchileanadventure.blogspot.com
    Thanks
    Lori

    • says

      Cool blog, Lori! Glad you found some useful stuff in the homesteading blog post, even though there’s still lots I’d like to add! You may be the same folks that commented on one of our YouTube videos, so if so this may be redundant, but we were curious about homesteading / land ownership / home building / off grid in Chile. We’re heard the country is fairly relaxed that way but I suppose there’s no way to really know without talking to someone first hand or visiting the country for ourselves.

      So happy to hear your family is living your dream adventure! So empowering to go back to living just a simple life.

      Thanks for stopping by our blog!

      • says

        Yes, that was my hubby on youtube at chile expat family.
        Property rights here are very strong even for foreigners. The government is stable, the economy is strong and growing. The only problem is there is no MLS so finding property is by word of mouth. We bought 6 fertile acres of field and wood for $25k. No property taxes so the farm is truly ours. We don’t need permits to build , no codes, no nothing in the campo. Low crime, homeschooling is legal
        And you can be totally off grid. We just love it here!

  13. Lance says

    Hi Alyssa and Jesse,
    It’s really neat to watch the growth of your homestead and to hear that you made the right choice starting the new lifestyle. I think more and more people are starting to figure out that our ancestors really had it right with regards to living closer to the land and living within small local communities. About 3 years ago my wife and I bought 6 acres of land in the Ouachita mountains of Oklahoma. Our land is located within a community of other like minded people who feel like life should be slower and simpler. Three weeks after buying the property we had a 300 sq ft cabin moved in, just about every neighbor showed up to help cut trees and hold back branches while the cabin was guided into place. I can’t describe how great it felt inside to have these people show up on their own accord just to help with no expectation of anything in return. I just don’t seem to see this attitude outside of the smaller communities anymore. Whenever we go up there on weekends we have to set aside at least 2 hours just to visit with the neighbors. It’s hard for us to slow down to their pace sometimes because my wife and I are still on the we’ve gotta go go go corporate treadmill and the neighbors have jumped off of it. It takes a lot of nerve to do what you guys have done and I have a lot of respect for ya’ll. Hopefully one day we can muster up the same nerve and take the leap of faith. Keep up the good work!

    • says

      Hey Lance, thanks for the comment! This lifestyle just feels so “right” but you’re right, it takes time to slow down and smell the roses. Our neighbors are the same way- super friendly and helpful. We frequently engage in long conversations and take twice as long to do things because of the relationships we are building, but relationships are invaluable. In the end, all we can really count on are ourselves and our neighbors so a strong community is critical to survival. When we go into the city, we can spot the change of pace immediately and the unfriendliness it has introduced into society. Are you hoping to live on your property permanently one day or is it more of a vacation spot?

  14. says

    We ran into the same problems when we bought our homestead earlier this year in April. We severely underestimated the amount of work and time everything would take and we already had a house there. The garden took longer than expected, the soil was worse quality than expected and the weeds were more vigorous than expected. Now that we have a good idea of the land here, we can continue to improve! I can’t wait to see what you guys are working on next!

    • says

      Haha I see a similar pattern! I think the general rule of thumb is… estimate how long it will take, and then double it! Our multiple it by 2.5! Glad you’re making progress on your land despite running into similar issues!

  15. Matt Sevald says

    I just discovered you through mother earth news while slogging away at my city job, dreaming of being free. I applaud your family’s decision and your hard work. I pray you are successful.

    Please continue with your fresh-faced blog, and if it isn’t too boring or doesn’t take up too much of your bandwidth, I would be so thankful for the nitty-gritty details of your projects in the videos or blog posts. I hope to one day do exactly what you’re doing and all the help you can give would be much appreciated. A lot of the TV shows I watch skip out on the “how to” aspect in favor of faked drama and it disappoints me since I love to absorb knowledge.

    God bless, be safe, and thanks again!

  16. F. Burnette says

    Wow- I saw your articles on Mother Earth News while searching something completely different, and I really love your story. Definitely going to read over your blog here and keep posted. My husband and I decided shortly after being married that we wanted to live differently than we were, and now we are building a cozy little cabin by hand on a few acres of land that requires you to get to it only be four-wheeler or foot. It’s been a great experience to humble ourselves and work on all this ourselves. We currently raise chickens, rabbits, and ducks (you should consider chickens if you have not already- barter for two or three hens and they pay for themselves quickly with eggs, and meat once they have grown too old for laying). Having a four-wheeler is a big help, isn’t it?! After we sold one of our vehicles, we not only invested in a sawmill to mill up our own lumber, but we also bought a four-wheeler. It helps haul our lumber out, which saves our backs too! I’d really love to talk to you and share ideas, as you both are doing a fantastic job so far. (P.S. That Alaskan chainsaw mill is tough isn’t it! My husband got one when we first got started, and it’s pretty nifty, but somewhat hard on your chainsaw after a time).

    Best wishes from the Wolf Branch Homestead
    (Alabama)

    God Bless!

  17. says

    I have just come across your blog and it made me smile to know there are so many other people out there, doing the same thing as us. We moved to rural France just under a year ago, in search of a simpler way of life and it is the best thing we ever did. We’re far from being “off the grid” but step by step, we’re making progress towards a sustainable life for our family. Feel free to read my blog for an insight into our adventure so far: http://www.permaculturelivinginfrance.wordpress.com
    Well done to you both for making the decision and sticking to it. It’s not always easy, but getting closer to nature and enjoying the simple pleasures in life certainly has its rewards. We feel incredibly happy and proud that we made it happen, and I’m sure you do too. All the best of luck for the future,
    Lisa

  18. Eric says

    Hey nice to see others doing a similar thing. I also came across this searching a totally un-related thing on Mother Earth News…

    We have been living completely off grid for almost a year and a half now in the mountains of Idaho(near Boise). We have no running water or power connection in our ~200sqft tiny house with 2 adults, 1 child, cat, and had a dog(but she recently passed). Honestly, I prefer being off grid to grid tied. Its funny because we will go to town or meet with friends and they will talk about the power being out, and we are like “what power outage” lol. Having your own power system has its advantages.

    Its pretty awesome how frugal you guys are at getting things done.

    • says

      Hey fellow Idohoan! That’s so funny… our immediate neighbors frequently mention how the power has been out for days and we say the same thing… “Oh, there is a power outage?!” We just have a generator but can’t wait until we install a full solar setup. That may happen in 2016. Glad you found our blog through Mother Earth News, lots of folks find our page through there! Thanks for the comment :-)

  19. Vic says

    Hi Folks :))
    Liked the vid’s, End of March i take possession of a 3 acre property that has a house on it that will need a TON of work to it, but at least it has a strong base. Going to concentrate on outside ( gardens etc ) when it’s dry and inside ( gutting and re-building ) when it’s not so dry outside :))
    You’re a tad younger than I am ( I’m 60 ) SO … no competitions ok ? LOL

    Best wishes for your endeavor , may all of your bumps be small ones !!!

    Vic Penfound <—– my name on facebook

    • says

      Hey Vic! That’s so awesome you are about to take possession of some land! I think having a house would be a great foundation, even if it needs a bit (or a lot) of work. I like your plan… make hay while the sun shines! We look forward to having an indoor place to work as right now, if it’s wet and muddy, we are really SOL when it comes to working as we have zero dry spaces. We definitely won’t engage in any competitions with you… we may be younger but also may be wiser and wisdom can beat youth any day! Best of luck on your journey as well and we will keep an eye out for you on Facebook!

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