Off-Grid Homestead in FL

The maintained dirt road leading to our property is flanked by pastures of cattle and horses, orange groves, and friendly neighbors.

Welcome to a virtual tour of our old off-grid homestead in Florida, where we learned much to prepare us for life here in South America. This tour was created when our 20 acre homestead was three years in the making (October 2011-14) and was still developing, but fully functioning. We witnessed many examples of Jesus reconciling visible parts of His creation to Himself (Col. 1:16-21): barren sugar sand transformed into rich soil full of earthworms, palmetto patches exchanged for lush grass and nutrient-dense edible shrubs, chiggers replaced with song birds and butterflies, and thick underbrush broken by our long winding lane through the woods. From the time He provided this property for us debt-free, we were amazed at His undeserved blessings, even in the hard times. We often wondered what He was leading up to. Little did we know that in 2015 we would dismantle this homestead, sell almost everything, and move to the Southern Hemisphere! Please join us for a look around the place we used to love and call “home.”

A 1/4 mile lane winds through the woods, mostly oaks and some pines. Two cross fences divide the property into three sections: one with pasture, pond, and wild FL scrub habitat, another with the home site, bio shelter, and gardens, and the third cleared and wooded for livestock to forage.

The pasture at the front of the property.

The pond, stocked with tilapia and mosquito fish, containing mature largemouth bass.

Great for cooling off on a hot day!

Entering the home site you see part of the small barn with chicken coop and milking parlor, the red storage shed, and beyond that a corner of the house. Notice the windmill peeking up behind it.

A closer look at the red shed and barnyard.

A view from the other direction, showing the tiny house and enclosed deck.

Welcome to our humble abode!

The enclosed area contains the house, herb garden, raised rows for annuals, young food forests, edible shrubs, and fodder beds.

Past the house is the garden and orchard area.

Entering the living area, looking at the front door on the deck.

Another view, with the acerola cherry bush (vitamin C) on the right, and one of the moringa trees (green super food) near the center.

Sunrise from the front steps.

Also from the front steps, looking into the herb garden, with a view of the bio-shelter (greenhouse). The herb garden is normally full of edible and medicinal herbs, but is here rather bare after numerous attacks from escaping young chickens which took a while to outsmart. They decimated the stevia bed and numerous other herbs. That, combined with the unusually intense and dry heat last summer, put a big dent on the herb population.

Small food forest incorporating fig trees, lemon grass, roselle, edible hibiscus, and sweet potato.

Typical gathering of greens for the dinner salad from the edible perennial shrubs in the landscaping, often including malabar spinach, cranberry hibiscus, moringa, edible hibiscus, garlic chives, roselle, opal basil, aloe, okinawa spinach, purslane, moluchan spinach, sweet potato greens, and okra leaves.

In the herb garden…aloe, oregano, sage

The old fashioned pitcher pump, mounted in antique brick by Silver Oak, is the centerpiece in the herb garden. It pumps water from the well.

Herb garden accents include my grandparents’ galvanized tubs and old cream separator. Notice the pineapple patch in the background.

One of the pineapple patches, bearing big delicious pineapples only two years after planting!

From the herb garden we look to the north side of the house to our windmill, annual garden area, and small orchard.

The bamboo trellis in the garden built by Silver Oak and his dad, and the windmill installed by Silver Oak which is the primary pump for the well.

The raised rows are here being redressed with barnyard scrapings and mulched for the winter planting.

Raised rows with young bean plants.

The Wind Engine windmill pumps water from the well into tanks of the roof. It is an 8′ mill on a 21′ tower.

The overflow from the water tanks runs to the rock fountain in the future water garden. Behind it is one of the portable chicken coops and fences. The chickens get moved around the garden or other areas to cultivate and eat weeds.

A closer look at the portable coop, or chicken tractor.

Next to the windmill and portable coop is the bamboo teepee usually used as a trellis for climbing beans, and a few young citrus trees with companion pigeon peas bushes planted next to them to fix nitrogen. Behind them you can see a bed of bush beans in the small keyhole garden which were grown between rows of corn now harvested.

A young Hamlin orange tree flanked by sweet potato vines looks like it will yield some juicy oranges this winter.

One of the two varieties of FL peach trees that produced abundant and deliciously sweet peaches in early summer! Notice the banana trees in the background.

Cavendish bananas coming soon…the tastiest you’ll ever eat!

Luffa gourd growing on the fence; the young gourds are edible and the mature ones make natural sponges when dried. Beyond it grow lush velvet beans which make excellent animal fodder.

Turning around the other way we face back toward the house…the bamboo trellis, wash line, water tanks on the roof, and two varieties of bamboo which will mature to provide cooler airflow through the house windows.

Same side of house from the front, with empty wash line. The crawl space contains our electric well pump as a back-up for water supply.

Photo taken from the garden again for a bigger perspective. One of the two varieties of young FL apple trees is on the right.

The shady back yard.

In the back yard facing the back of the (L to R) house, deck, and camper.

The wetland garden with elderberry and horsetail (powerful medicinals) that catches gray water from the washing machine and camper. Nearby grow young moringa trees, moluchan spinach, Everglades heirloom tomato (edibles), and an antique rose (vitamin C).

One of the fodder beds for livestock feed. Our fodder crops include chaya, roselle, perennial peanut, sweet potato, katuk, mulberry, comfrey, cassava, moringa, and cranberry hibiscus.

New starts of cassava grow in front of the 4,000 gallon tank to be used for future rainwater storeage.

Weaver’s bamboo…being trimmed in this case for rabbit feed. We have 12 varieties of clumping bamboo (non-invasive) whose uses include construction, weaving, animal fodder, air cooling, and beauty.

Looking over the back cross fence into the back section of the property which is forage area for the livestock and has been partially cleared of undergrowth. Future plans are to create paddocks for rotational grazing.

The rest of the back paddock area looks like this.

Between the camper (house area) and the barnyard…the back side of the red shed, the silver utility shed, and a papaya tree (L).

Facing the other direction is our oldest daughter’s 18-hole rabbitry, although openings between many cages allow more room per rabbit. Some of her rabbit forage beds are shown with cranberry hibiscus, Spanish needle, and Perennial peanut which is companion to the Meyer lemon tree (L).

Some of the rabbit hutches.

More hutches.

The hutches are all in the shade most of the day, but some are equipped with fans and blinds to make sure they never get overheated in the intense FL summer heat.

A happy (and terribly cute) rabbit family.

The side walkway from the sheds to the front door.

The camper, which serves as guest quarters, a second bathroom, and school room is pretty much a permanent fixture next to the deck.

Come on in…this is the deck: screened, roof with radiant barrier, catching breezes that flow through both ends in old fashioned dog-trot style. This is our favorite place to hang out, unless it’s too hot or too cold to be comfortable.

Another view.

More of Silver Oak’s handiwork with antique bricks. This is our most loved spot to snuggle up to when it’s cold.

From the back of the deck looking toward the front door.

Our main dining area. On the left is the door to our tiny house…a converted 48′ semi trailer.

When you enter and turn left, the far end beyond the living room and green curtain is the children’s bunk room.

There are three bunks on each side, an open closet at the end, as well as a fire escape door behind the closet.

Each bunk has its own 12 volt reading light.

Another view of the living room from the kitchen.

Turning around we see the kitchen from the living room. The “master suite” is behind the white door at the front end.

One side of the kitchen.

And the other side.

Entering the kitchen from the door, showing the fridge.

Entering the “master suite”…bedroom and bath all in one…our loft bed with closet below.

The foot of the bed near a window you can’t see (on the right).

From the closet, the back of the door, shower on right.

The sink and toilet. Now you’ve seen the whole house!

Over in the camper there is more sitting space.

The slide-out makes it roomy.

The camper kitchen. The bedroom is at the other end with a fair-sized bathroom with separate toilet room in between.

Now we’ll head back outside, first to the little barn near the entrance to the home site. The feed shed is to the left (needing a little paint), and the goat milking parlor is under the lean-to. The enclosed part is the chicken coop.

This is around the side of the chicken coop, showing another lean-to out the back which is more shelter for livestock and has the milking stall for a cow. Notice the neem tree which is a source of natural insecticide.

In the barnyard facing the back side of the barn.

A close-up of the cow milking stall.

A larger view.

Door to the chicken coop and gate to the goat milking parlor. Eggs can be accessed from the milking parlor.

View of some laying boxes inside the coop.

The goat milking parlor has two milking stands, and is an alternative nursery for newly born kids and their mamas.

Now let’s head out to the bio-shelter. It is 30’W x 40’L x 15’H, with steel trusses. The doors were added since this picture was taken.

The large white shade cloth is removed for cooler weather. The fence panel will hide future tanks to store rainwater after guttering is installed.

A closer view of the front entrance with interior trellises visible.

These sturdy wire trellises are on the south facing side and can hold many heavy vines. The bio-shelter is still being developed, hopefully some day to house a small aquaponics system, nursery, and a year-round producing food forest.

An updated picture of perennials and annuals growing on and around the trellises: FL Seminole pumpkin, butternut squash, McGee beans, velvet beans, cucuzzi edible gourd, cranberry hibiscus, roselle, malabar spinach, plantain, lettuce, cabbage, carrots, tomatoes.

The new doors

The back side of the bio-shelter with another door hidden by the bamboo.

Near the bio-shelter area is a grove of a dozen young olive trees to some day soon provide olives, oil, and tonic (olive leaves).

The sugarcane patch provides excellent fodder for the animals and nutritious cane juice and syrup for the humans. 🙂

Our off grid system is powered by 45 68-watt Unisolar Flexlight solar panels installed (self-adhesive) on the roof of our house and deck. More efficient than conventional panels, they will produce with only ambient light or even if partly in the shade, cannot be stolen, and won’t break in a storm.

So far our 12 volt power system seems to work best with eight deep cycle 6 volt batteries and a Magnum 2 kw inverter/charger.

Beautiful fall wildflowers (including medicinal goldenrod and black-eyed Susans) freshly picked!

Read about our sugarcane harvest and growing patch on another post: Old Fashioned Sugarcane Harvest.

Many thanks to MW, a good friend who was visiting and took many of the above photos for us. And thanks to the Lord who has made all of this possible. We hope you enjoyed the tour and thank you for stopping by!


Why We Live Off Grid in a Tiny House, Pt V