Well, we’ve made it yet another full month on our off grid homestead! While the first month and second month of our homesteading journey were full of finding reclaimed building materials, picking up tools, getting our septic installed, paving our driveway, setting up our portable RV garage, milling lumber and even building a cabin, month three was a much different pace! We actually slowed down for once!
When we were first preparing for our move to Idaho, we talked frequently about how we only had a couple of months to “get settled” before winter would arrive. That meant that we had a lot of work to do to have a shelter over our heads, a way to keep warm, a way to keep things from freezing, and a lot of other important things.
We worked our butts off for the first 10 weeks of our homesteading journey. Not only were we trying to get ready for winter, but we were trying to make as much progress as we humanly could on our property before the weather shut us down for the year.
Now that we are well in the month of December, winter has officially arrived. We weren’t sure what winter would be like because the past couple of years have been fairly warm with little snow, but this year seems to be cold and wet!
We’ve had nothing but cold temperatures, rain and snow. We’ve had a couple of days of sun in the past month, so we figured it was time to take things indoors and work on our businesses a bit.
Here is a summary of what we accomplished in month three, during the first month of winter!
Finished Winterizing Our Travel Trailer
Our first priority as soon as the temperatures grew colder was winterizing our travel trailer. If you are not living off the grid, then winterizing a travel trailer is fairly easy. However, when endless power is not an option, it means that you need to get creative.
We built a small off grid cabin that is 3-sided and attaches to our portable RV garage. We heat this with a wood stove and use a couple of air movers (run by our Honda Handi generator) to push the air to the back of the portable RV garage. We don’t run the fans throughout the night, but we do run the wood stove while we sleep so our shelter does retain enough heat so far.
When the stove is ripping, we’re able to keep the cabin portion at 68-70 degrees Fahrenheit, and the back of the carport is around 56 degrees which isn’t bad when it’s 20 degrees outside!
In addition to building our cabin addition using the reclaimed materials that we gathered from a demolition, we also insulted the carport with fiberglass (mostly salvaged but we bought one roll as well) and put high density foam in the top of the carport (salvaged).
Gathered 5 Cords of Firewood
As soon as our travel trailer was winterized, our next priority was collecting firewood! Ideally, we would have done this over summer, but we were too busy trying to get settled.
We found a man on Facebook that had a bunch of rounds leftover from building his timber frame house, and he was willing to let us cut them up in his yard for $50/cord. Since cords of firewood go for $150-$200+, we considered this a substantial savings over buying a done-for-you cord. This was also easier than going into the forest to cut down our own tree.
We made five trips to this man’s house over the month to collect all of the wood. It was a combination of fir, pine and even some tamarack. We weren’t too picky this winter.
Optimized the Burning in Our Wood Stove
As I understand it, every wood stove has its own little personality, and ours is no different. We had to do a bit of practice to get the wood stove burning reasonably clean, learn how to use an appropriate amount of wood, and learn how often and how much to stoke the fire, how often to clean our chimney, and even what size to cut the firewood into.
We got our wood stove to the point where it is running as efficiently as possible.
We did, however, have troubles with our chimney so watch this video to learn all about that, and what we did to solve the problem!
Had Our Off the Grid Internet Installed
As soon as things calmed down a bit and we felt that we were more or less set for the winter, it became obvious that we needed to have internet at our property… IMMEDIATELY! While we have 4G service on our phones, all of the work we do is online, and when we work, we can work 13 hours a day with intensive data usage, so internet through our phone companies wouldn’t be affordable.
We called up a local company and they were able to provide us with 1MB of internet for $65/month. There are cheaper options out there for folks in town, but we aren’t exactly in town! What we have is much better than satellite, and it seems to be pretty reliable so far.
Check out this fun video and blog post of getting our off grid internet installed, and to learn more about why having this done was so important to us!
Survived an Unusual Pacific Northwest Windstorm
Right at the third month mark of our homesteading journey, an unusual windstorm ripped through the northwestern part of the Untied States, and that caused a lot of trouble for us!
After working in a coffee shop all day with freakishly high winds, we came home to a carport that was completely mangled.
Had Fun Cooking with Our New Solar Stove
We got a solar oven (a GoSun Stove) a couple of months ago but because we were so busy trying to get ready for winter, we didn’t have much of a chance to use it! The past month has been extremely NON-SUNNY, but on the sunny days I did whip the stove out to have a little bit of fun!
I was able to successfully cook a couple of omelettes, chocolate chip cookies and a delicious batch of PERFECT chocolate, gooey brownies!
Re-Visited Our Online Businesses
While we love nothing more than working on our property, and while we’re working towards needing less money, the reality is that do still do need an income. We’ve taken the past six months off from work so now that it’s winter, it’s time to get back in the saddle!
We’ve spent almost a solid two weeks re-visiting our online businesses and there has been a lot of cleanup to do! We have big plans for our businesses in 2016. In taking six months off from work, it’s given us a lot of time to have revelations in the direction we want to take our online income so we’re now working on overall strategizing and implementing our new strategies. Lots of work ahead but we’ve never been more confident with our income path.
In case you missed it, here are six ways we make an income online while homesteading >>
Bought a Couple More Tools
While we spent A LOT of money on our homesteading tools in month one and month two, month three has slowed down a lot! We still did have to make a couple of purchases but again, we consider our purchases to be investments and not simply frivolous spending.
Because we knew we would want to stay put throughout winter and not leave our property daily, we invested in a few more of these 6-gallon water jugs. These are easy for us to lift, easy to transport, and now that we have eight of these guys or so, it means we can only go to town every 5-7 days for water, depending on how conservative we are being.
We also purchased two of these air movers to put by the woodstove to push the hot air to the back of our shelter / front of the RV where the water tank is.
I (Alyssa) was chronically cold on the chilly fall days, and since we were working hard and I only had one pair of long underwear, I decided to purchase a second set. I’ve finally learned how to dress warm in winter, and the key to my warmth are these SmartWool merino wool long johns!
Did Some Property Clean Up
Because we were moving at such a rapid pace during months one and two, we had very little time to do clean up on the property, tool maintenance or even vehicle maintenance. On a couple of the warmer days this month, we were able to do some cleanup on the property so that everything continues to look tidy, and so that all of our tools and vehicles run as efficiently as possible!
Going Forward: Goals for the Remainder of Winter + Spring 2016
We have a lot that we want to get done over the remainder of winter, but what we will actually get done will depend on our work load (online work, that is) and weather. Some of the things we hope to wrap up or work on include:
- We want to finish building our hot tub deck: This was something we thought we’d have done early on in our journey but that’s okay. We didn’t build it simply to have a hot tub but to validate the skills that we were learning to see if, in fact, we could actually build stuff with lumber milled ourselves! To finish the deck we need to mill the decking, put on some additional bracing for support and to build some sort of roof for the deck.
- Finish milling lumber for the hot tub deck with our new Granberg chainsaw mill (watch our Granberg chainsaw mill unboxing here): Our newest homestead addition is a Granberg chaisnaw mill. Many of you know that we were using our own DIY, homemade chainsaw mill and while that worked okay, we’re ready for a professional tool. We’re excited to put it to use when we mill our lumber for the hot tub deck!
- Rethink our timber frame barn design: When we first arrived on our property we thought that we’d do a gambrel style roof for our barn, but now we’re thinking of doing a simple gable roof. More on that later.
- Practice our timber framing joinery: Before we left Oregon, we purchased a bunch of dowels to practice building our timber frame barn with. We’d like to build a full, to-scale model barn so that we understand what we’re building when it comes to build the real thing. This will give us a chance to really learn and understand some of the timber framing joinery.
- Play with cement: Pouring cement isn’t something either one of us has much (or any!) experience with and as we’d like to pour our own or have a concrete slab poured for our barn, we’d like to play with the stuff a bit to understand how it works.
- Play with rocks: We have A LOT, like WAY a lot, of river rock on our property, so we’re wondering if we can use it to build a foundation for our barn or even build up some of the walls with it. It would be fun to practice a bit to see if it’s a viable option… maybe we can cover the outside of our hot tub with the stuff?
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