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,
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17 thoughts on “A Year of Work on the Homestead, Part One

  1. It has been a joy reading about your family and your off grid living.We are still trying to get use to the idea of even moving to our place.I’ve posted before on here.We found out we have a well already on the property so we are already one up on things.The shed/barn will need work but thats ok.Then we found out that we have to be there to sign the papers on getting the rent to own cabin(alot of people are going this way) and we will have to either borrow or rent an rv/camper til they get it done.So far we can’t find anyone to help on that.But if we have to rough then oh well.No we cant stay in the shed its not that put together,thought I’d throw that in.I have always felt that this was the way to go and I tell people to listen what God is telling you and do what he says.Me being disabled isn’t going to stop me from reaching this goal nor the fact we are over 50 so if we can do it so can someone else.The only reason we won’t stay with relatives,we have a dog and he is an inside dog and where we are going there are plenty of coyotes and he isn’t a country dog yet.So you and yours have been truly blessed on your life and i pray for you to continue being happy.Please say a prayer our way to help us.

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    • You are blessed to start out with a well on your property, and even a shed to work with. That will help you avoid the difficulty of no water supply, which is major. If we could have had time to work more on our property before we moved we would certainly have done things differently, but we couldn’t afford another month in the temporary rental in town, so we just moved and worked on things as we could.

      Even so, moving to your property will probably be tough for a while, but things will get better. 🙂 When you start out roughing it every little improvement feels huge! I pray the Lord will work things out in His timing for you.

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  2. I found you through the Backyard Farming blog hop and have really enjoyed reading some of your posts and looking at the pictures. Our family left Pinellas Co. in 1997 to live rurally in VA where I grew up. The only think I miss about FL is the ability to have two growing seasons. You are doing an amazing job. I look forward to reading more. Blessings to you and your family.

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    • So glad to connect with you! I love the two growing seasons too, although we haven’t yet had a lot of success during the summer because of the heat and bugs. As we get better at it and learn to use our greenhouse hopefully that will improve. We can’t store produce long term in root cellars and such, but we do have the advantage of growing year round if it’s done right. So much to learn!!

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  3. Wonderful. Didn’t realize I haven’t been getting the updates. Do you know what I need to do? It’s been quite some time and I really envy all you are able to do to be off grid.
    Thanks for sharing.

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    • Hello Deb. Do you remember how you were getting updates in the past? I don’t do FB anymore, so if you were getting them that way that may explain it. The best way to get posts is to subscribe using the little orange sign-looking thing in the upper right corner (RSS feed). Click on that and sign up. Hope that helps. Let me know if you still have questions. Thanks for checking in again!

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