A Year of Work on the Homestead, Part One

Our front yard one year after moving, October 20, 2012

The past few weeks we’ve been celebrating living one year on our off-grid homestead, memories of moving, and enjoying our tiny house.

Just over a year ago our power source was a little 4000 watt generator (leftovers from Y2K), two 6v batteries, and a 350 watt inverter. We had no fridge except the tiny one in the camper, till we found a nearly new and very efficient 18 cu ft Energy Star refrigerator through Craigslist. We soon added a few more batteries, but the weather was beautiful as usual here in October, so we needed little electricity except for lights at night, our cell phone chargers, and laptops. We now have ten 6V batteries and a 2000 watt inverter/charger (which is as big as we plan to get), and we’re installing solar panels so we can eliminate the generator most of the time. Some day we hope to make a wind generator to help charge batteries at night or on overcast days.

Our power system three weeks after we moved…we had upgraded to four 6v batteries and a used 750 watt inverter, along with a car battery charger.

Now we have 10 6v batteries, a 2000w Magnum inverter with a charger (upper left), a cheap 2000w inverter as a back-up w/no charger (lower left), and a charge controller (upper right) for the 14 solar panels we already have installed.

We installed Thinfilm solar panels directly on our tiny house roof in August. They peel and stick to a metal roof, making them virtually theft-proof and storm proof, unless the roof is destroyed. It’s a newer technology, and we found a great bargain price from a supplier here in FL for a whole box at a big discount. We didn’t want to cut too many corners on this, since we are completely dependent on making our own power. This kind of solar panel works even if a leaf or shadow falls on part of it; the rest of the panel continues to work. It also works with indirect lighting, although not very efficiently.

We have not installed the remaining panels on the deck roof because of rain wicking between the sheets of metal with the shallow pitch. That is being remedied and we hope to have all solar panels up and be independent of generator power soon!

My dad and Blossom installing the first Thinfilm solar panel (also known as Flexlight)

Fourteen were installed on our house roof; the rest will go on the deck roof when it is fixed

Believe it or not, with the help of the children, I ran the wiring from the solar panels down to the charge controller while Silver Oak was at work so his precious time could be spent doing the final connecting of everything. Maybe I’ll become an electrician like my dad (just kidding!).

My dad and Silver Oak ran power out to the sheds. How wonderful to not have to grope for flashlights going into the sheds at night!

For over six months we lived here on our new homestead with no well. We’d hoped for one much sooner, but other more pressing deadlines and projects (like fences for the animals, working on our tiny house, remodeling the shed for the rest of our belongings, etc) always crowded time for well drilling. When we did tackle the job we had many difficulties and it took two and a half weeks to complete. What was supposedly going to take a few hours turned into a nightmare at times. It was one of the biggest challenges we’ve faced here, but the Lord saw us through and blessed. It is so wonderful to have plenty of running water.

Until the well was drilled Silver Oak would fill several 55 gallon drums with water from my parents’ well in town before coming home after work, or we filled them with the massive neighboring orange grove pump. He brought the filled drums home and used a small pump to run the water up to the tanks on our roof. We constantly monitored water usage because it was no small chore to refill the tanks.

Filling tanks with the huge pump in the neighboring orange grove

The back side of our house with water tanks on the roof

Digging that well with water and a PVC pipe with teeth on the end

One time Silver Oak was on his way home with a heavy load of water and he pulled off to check the wheels on his little trailer, making sure they weren’t getting too hot. When he burned his hand on the wheel he knew the bad bearing was worse than he’d thought. It was late on a Saturday night and he was totally exhausted from a long day of work in town and had a sleeping son in the truck with him, and now a burning hand. He figured he could leave the little trailer parked beside the country road and get it in the morning when he could see to replace the bearing. To his utter dismay the next morning it was gone; someone had helped themselves. That was a big disappointment and he still misses that little trailer, as well as the barrels it carried.

After we got our well we really splurged and bought an old washer to do laundry since it was no longer a big deal to use so much water. It’s a nice break from using plungers and a spinner as we did for over six months, but it also means using much more electricity than before. We’ll see how it works out when all of our solar panels are up and running.

It takes about 30 minutes to do a large load of laundry this way

The greenhouse is mostly built, thanks to friends who came in February and July for frolics. Everything else always seems more demanding, but when we can focus on that a few days we should be able to finish the structure and put the cover on, which is waiting in its box under a tarp.

Putting up the greenhouse

The view from our deck one year after moving

Silver Oak also moved the playground from our old house to our new back yard

In a few days Part Two will include more about our animals and plants and trees.

Our Tiny HouseBlessings,

Our Tiny House

Our tiny house last December soon after we moved in. Notice water tanks on the roof and camper awning on the left.

A year ago when we moved to our off-grid homestead we thought we’d live in a camper for a few weeks till our tiny house was ready. But we waited a month and a half for it to be delivered, stuck in the sand, unstuck, and properly put into place so we could start remodeling for a family our size. Our tiny house is a 48’ semi trailer that was once converted into office space, then further converted into living quarters by relatives of ours. They had added beautiful flooring, windows, insulation, finished walls, ceiling, a kitchen, and more.

When we finally got our tiny house, we made a master bedroom at the front end which was formerly a bathroom/laundry room. We removed everything except the tiny shower and toilet, added a pedestal sink (found in someone’s trash beside the road) behind the door and built a loft for our bed with closet space below. It has been quite comfortable for us and we enjoy our “master suite!”

Our tiny house was delivered but got hopelessly stuck in the sand near the front of our property.

It took several weeks to get it unstuck and moved into it’s final resting place.

Renovating the laundry room/bathroom at the front of the trailer that would become our master suite

Building the loft and reinstalling cabinets in new locations

The finished product

A slightly different angle

The pedestal sink behind the door, next to the toilet

The other end of the tiny house became a bedroom for our six children. Silver Oak built triple bunks on each side, with a little storage space underneath and closet space against the rear wall. Each child has their own private bunk space, and they have totally adjusted and enjoy all sleeping in the same room. We’re blessed seeing our children develop close friendships as they grow older, and find this tiny space to be positive.

Building the bunks in the far end of the trailer

View of completed bunks, not yet painted

The front door of our tiny house is on the side of the trailer, opening into the kitchen. If you turn right upon entering you will face the door to the “master suite.” In the master suite the shower is immediately on the left, with the toilet directly across from it on the right, and the pedestal sink snuggled in behind the door. Standing in the doorway you will face our loft. There are two small chests of drawers before the loft, and our closet and other storage area is beneath it.

Turning around to leave the master suite you will face the kitchen with counters, sink, stove and fridge lining the sides and a walkway down the middle. Beyond the kitchen is the antique secretary on one side, doubling as a china cabinet, and small table and chairs for the younger children on the other side. Next is the piano and living room. A big green curtain divides the living room from the children’s bedroom at the back end of the trailer, making it possible to close for privacy or open for air circulation.

Our range is across from the front door.

Next to the range

The counter on the other side of the kitchen

Beyond the kitchen, this is how it looked when we were getting it ready to move in.

This is after it was finished. The bunks are beyond the curtains at the rear.

The view from the living room back into the kitchen. In the background notice the door into the master suite. The front door is to the right of Evensong.

A wonderful addition to our 350 sq. ft. house is a large covered deck connecting the house to the camper which we use for a schoolroom, second bathroom, and guest house. This makes it possible to live quite comfortably in a tiny house even with a family of eight. We had hoped to complete the deck last winter but more important things came first, like drilling a well, building fence, and preparing to grow food. A small part of the deck was built in January, with more pieces added a few weeks later, including a temporary tarp roof.

The first small section of deck is built from upcycled materials soon after Christmas.

More deck is added plus a tarp roof which served us for four months

In May, with help from family and friends, we built the big roof over the deck and camper which is a huge blessing in protection from the elements. Finally, last month the rest of the deck was added to span from our house (trailer) to the camper, creating a wind tunnel, dogtrot style, to keep us cooler during the summer. Right now we are thoroughly enjoying this lovely deck! The next phase is to enclose it with screen to keep out bugs and mosquitoes. That will hopefully happen this winter.

In May the big roof was built.

It covers the deck and camper

Recently the rest of the deck was added over to the camper.

Silver Oak’s big helper

When the upcycled lumber ran out we had to buy some new boards which makes an interesting pattern.

Our deck exactly one year after moving to the homestead.

Another view at one year

Next time I will update you on more happenings and improvements made this first year on the homestead. As you join me, be reminded that all has been provided by our loving and gracious heavenly Father. Starting from scratch with very limited finances may be tough, but the blessings from all we’ve learned and the richness we feel living on our own land with no debt (including no mortgage in case you don’t classify that as debt) is invigorating and worth it. The Lord meets our needs in unexpected ways many times. Witnessing His undeserved faithfulness when we are helpless grows our faith in ways we would not have experienced otherwise.

Memories of MovingBlessings,

Memories of Moving

Linked w/Morris Tribe, Natural Living Mama, Chicken Chick, Growing Home, Backyard Farming Connection, Frugally Sustainable, My Simple Country Living, The Wilderness Wife, Natural Living, Homemaking, Live Renewed, A Rural Journal, Simple Lives Thur., LHITS DYI Linky, Farm Girl Fri. Fest, Farmgirl Fri., Ole’ Sat. Homesteading Trading Post, and Seasonal Celebration.