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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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!).
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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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