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Home Forums General Discussion Help me plan to live completely off the grid?

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  • #65639
    gordo
    Participant

    chowan- air x definatley the goods. there are a ton of free ceiling fans over in jackson at the habitat restore with no mount brackets, free for the taking so i’m gonna throw one up and see what happens. if it works i’m sure it will burn up pretty quick.

    springtime- micro hydo is great – i hope next year the irrigation board that i’m on will let me put on in line. preasurized constant flow in a 4″ line. only problem is its about 200 ft from the house. lots of line/ voltage drop.

    cob/ definatly a dyi- what i like most is that its more load bearing so less timber framing than straw bale. oregon cob is just a newer way mixing all the positive parts of cob styles from around the world. definatley has r-value issues even if you sandwiched the walls with 2″ blue board you might get between 15-20 r.

    my ideal. would be …. working from the north to south. north earth burm. maybe dig back and in about 30 ft. throw in some support. straw bale that north east and west with a partition in the center. furthest north for drive thru garage with built in pit(no more creepers). next section shop. another straw bale wall. enter house. laundry shower then kitchen /lr/ greenhouse. interior walls cob(got tons of spoils from the cave). still not sure on south wall. if i built it hear in southern idaho probably not straw. im not convinced yet that in this wet desert they’ll last.

    my house is just stick framed. no bells, no whistles. didn’t have time, now i have plenty on time / but no money.

    g

    #65641

    Gordo – I couldn’t understand your post. Too much I don’t understand. I checked out some books at the library today and I am going to educate myself further on solar panels.

    Chowan – I think I have narrowed down where I want to live to either Montana or South Dakota. From what I understand there is lots of wind due to the fact they are plains states. The wind up there is so powerful that old homes have actually blown over due to high and powerful winds. However the winters are overcast and I think that wind would be my best option for continuous power with some form of back up.

    SpringtimeHomes – I think that compressed earth blocks would be superior to cob or strawbale since they are easy to make by yourself and they stay a few degrees cooler or hotter than adobe bricks.

    #65643
    gordo
    Participant

    there are lots of variables with batterys. but for the most part you will be dealing with 6 volt batterys. 2 in paralell make 12 volts like your car (dc)the system that you design will be 12v,24v,or 48v. 48 being the most efficient. but also requiring a minimum of 8 batterys 2800bucks. you dont want to plan on adding more batterys until your battery bank no longer does the job. maybe try a search .. solar schematic. im sure alt or sunelc have something on their sites. currently there is alot of used gear outhere i would be hesitant. one mis wire while building a system can toast something in a nano. sun elec does sell som blemish or referd that still come with warranty. but it will be 1 year instead of 2. also don’t buy until your about 10 days out from install. if it sits your waranty is ticking.

    outback solar gear is currently the rolls royce and worth it.

    as for you location. most people move every seven years, according to mortgage survys. build ing a home and a lifestyle is not something your going to just pick-up and walk away from unless it turns out differently then expected. there is sun and wind and hydro all over the intermountain west from canada to mexico. choose realitive to the community and the people in it. visit. move . rent.work make sure its right fit. doesn’t it suck when you buy a pair of everyday shoes in a rush. they end up a touch small. or some funny pinch. make sure you get a good fit. my car broke down in jackson 20years ago. i was on my way to alaska to build what i just built.

    choices

    g

    #65644
    chowan
    Participant

    what gordo said about battery voltage is correct put simply the higher the voltage means you need less current to do the same amount of work which means

    less power loss in your wiring.when you go with lower voltage you will need

    to use larger wiring (which is more costly) there are wire size calculators around places when the time gets close to you buying gear. but for your little home I would very much recomend 12 volt unless there is a very good reason to use otherwise like for example your wind turbine or solar panel are situated on a hill a long distance from where your battery bank and home will be.

    before I go to far just want to tell you I dont like high voltage AC power

    for many reasons health is one, radiation affecting low power radio signal

    is another (i dont like CFL light bulbs either for same reasons)I use it when I need to but when I dont I shut down my inverters and run of low voltage DC this is also more efficient use of power.basically AC produces RF radiation

    Im going to stick with 12 volt even after i have built my earthship and the reasons are these, price,availability and compatability

    price for 12 volt gear is much cheaper than other gear that runs

    of higher voltage DC simply because 12 volt gear is used in so many different

    circumstances 48 volt for example is very specialised in its uses.

    Availability almost anything you could ever want as an appliance you can get in

    12 volt some i would not recomend using due to there high power needs like

    toasters, micrcowaves coffee makers etc

    all your bigbox stores like wallmart,target,harbor freight etc sell 12 volt gear as often as camp gear but somtimes they dont even realise the compatability to a off grid purpose look at the back of portable tvs and stereos if they have 12v inputs or battery slots that add to 12 you can run them of your home power.cordless battery operated power tools can almost always

    be run directly from 12 volt as well (wired in without the battery) 9.6-18 volt

    works well.

    Autopart stores,truck stops,hardware stores,rv supply stores,junk yards

    or junk cars,flea markets,camping outfitters,marine supply etc they all supply 12 volt gear.

    Compatability i already mentioned some instances of compatability like the

    stereo and power tools but if your doing this on a budget you may start

    hitting garage sales and flea markets for all sorts of bits to build your

    dream home often you will find inverters, batteries, solar panels and most will be 12 volt.if you pick up say a solar panel on the cheap you can add

    it straight into your 12 volt system but if you have a 48 volt system you

    will need 4 solar panels the same before they are usable.

    try this experiment hit the garage sales and or fleamarket for the day

    and keep track of how much gear you could pick up if you had a 12 volt system

    as opposed to a 48 vlt system.

    ill copy this post over into forum for its own discucsion as well

    #65646
    gordo
    Participant

    ..joys…. it sounds like you getten ready to go to the next phase. in one of your earlier posts if not first you asked for a list. upto now weve been focused on the homes shell and various power sources and ways to use them..

    when you land hunting….

    no covanents

    ideal to have waterrights. this will not be potable water but used for garden and animals. well pumps are expensive to replace and big energy drain(depending on depth)

    if in a climate with a solid winter. watch your distance from county maintained roads and your driveway length. 4 hours of wind at my place with no new snow and im drifted in if i dont go out and plow. plowing is expensive to hire out. but so is maintaining a plow truck.

    check with local board of health(probably the district you will get septic permit from and or county building dept) ask what the average well depths in the area are. do they vary? if so where are these different locations. try to shoot for a property you hope will be 200 ft or less. also local well driller will know.

    don’t be lured by trees you can always plant them . water .sun/wind/access.

    your in the slc area right? i know some sweet spots between there moab and grand juunction. that hole are is good and a lot of really cool communitys.

    til next time.

    gordo

    #65649

    I have been looking around at websites like landwatch and it seems that finding a property with water that is not contaminated is a problem. There are so many places that have run off from mines, chemical plants or other such pollutants that finding a decent piece of land might be the biggest challenge!

    I will certainly need a place with water and the rights to the water so I can use in for gardening and other such things. I can live with a tiny home but I certainly want a beautiful garden and that takes up alot of water.

    Although I like the idea of trees and forested area it makes it difficult to have a garden and a tiny home because of accessibility issues and light issues. Not to mention if I have to dig down below a frost line for a foundation! Tree root removal would cost a fortune and I can always plant the trees where I want them.

    I am within an hour or so distance from SLC. I know there are alot of nice people and places around here but I am looking to get as far away from big cities and towns as I possibly can.

    I have driven through Moab at night and those were the most beautiful stars I have ever seen in my life! It was about this time last year and the weather was cool and there was no light pollution. If I could find a remote location around there I could be compelled to stay if only to see those stars every night for the rest of my life. I know it sounds a poor way to choose land but if you have ever been there yourself you know exactly what I am talking about.

    Chowan – I know what you mean about getting rid of useless appliances. I can make due with just a tiny little mini fridge that would only be used on occasion along with my one little laptop, a washer that I would use once a week or so for my clothing and bedding and I think that is everything except maybe emergency LED lighting but I know I could live happily with candles and flashlights instead. For a stove I would love to learn how to cook over a campfire or a wood stove. I figure that I could get myself a nice clawfoot bathtub and just heat myself some hot water on the stove for my baths and live happily with that. Toning down my power usage takes some thought but I could manage it.

    #65651
    caverdude
    Participant

    Well my blog site has some info in this regard. https://larrydgray.wordpress.com

    I’m not off grid yet. Electricity is still the tough one. I have read that some feel that its better to be on-grid while you build up to being off-grid. That’s kindof where I am at. I will have off-grid water, and sewage treatment. I will probably try some recycling to minimize my need for trash services. For example all paper can be saved for papercrete. I’ll still be on grid(system) for much of my combustion engine needs, while attempting to find ways to produce my own fuels for engines, such as wood gas.

    I think its more of a wean yourself off-grid than cold turkey.

    #65654
    gordo
    Participant

    ….joys…. foundation – i prefere monolithic slabs – less exucuvation and still very stable. you wont have to go deep. i do like pouring closer to 6″ as the general 4″. when you crunch the numbers its the same amount of concrete with 3 less steeps.

    finding land with water isn’t that tough. i’m a little hesitant to brodcast those places over the internet. after being in the resort industry for over 20 years i’ve seen alot of wonderful places grow beond there means for exploitation and quality of life. then the quality is gone. i live in a town of 800. 4 mi from work, grocery,hardware, recreation, ect. but supper chill . utah and colorado definatley have more issues from mining but only in specific areas.

    lighting. tis da season. in the last couple of years ive become increasingly more against the cfl.. 1 13 watt really draws closer to 40 pluss watts. expensive, mercury , they also dont last as long as reported. there design to stay on. if you turn them on and off the internal ballast goes bad. i conveter a 100 room hotel property aprox 3000 bulbs. within a couple of months they where burning out. i dated all of them with sharped and had to send back to manufature. so in the coming months or just after xmas buy some led xmas lights. a strand of 50 for about 6 bucks. some strands use 1 watt others use about 3.8 to 4.8 ..start looking at boxes. you can also get a smal adapeter for existing licht sockets making it an outlet for a couple of bucks. i find intresting objects to make globes/fixture or just string up. also keep an eye out for solar garden lights. 2-4 apiece. i have them mounted outside windows the turn on automatically.

    if you want to contact me at gordorfood@yahoo.com we can talk land

    peaceg

    #65655
    chowan
    Participant

    water is the key and almost all of it is in some way regulated and controlled

    by fed gov.even if you are right on a river you will probably find that legally

    you need some form of permit to pump from it.

    even rainwater that falls on your roof is controlled in many states.

    In California they are wanting to put meters on private wells

    dont know what rules are elswhere but nevada has a rule where landowners are permited one well for private use only.

    land based runoff is huge and could easily supply all your needs but you would need to pond it for storage and most places even in remote location would soon

    have some sort of inspector turn up to tell you to remove the dam.

    this would be my favorite way to store water because at the same time i have created a habitat for fish and wildlife not to mention aquatic plants and

    insects which are a good food source for my chickens.

    The little pond I had in Californa when built also drained the surrounding

    ground which was nothing but a winter bog but was again useable.

    When I was young I read this book and have been a permaculturist and offgrider

    almost ever since I would very much recomend reading it both for ideas and inspiration

    another way you could get water in most locations would be a small pond and large water tank or cistern. Pump from the small pond into your cistern during the times of precipitation and runoff and the rest of the year the pond would dry up and not get any undue attention.better yet if you choose your land acordingly you could have this small pond above your tank and just gravity feed into it.

    if you were going to use a very large tank/cistern build it out of concrete or ferrocement cost should be cheaper than poly and it will outlast poly.

    lots of places have amazing stars. Sounds like your first step should be

    some traveling to the places you may be interested in living spend some time there maybee do some work that will help you with skills that you may not already have.

    I mentioned it before but plans change a lot and untill you actually

    have your piece of land and LEARN IT you will never be able to make

    more than a very basic plan no more than an idea realy and even when you have your land still your best plans will need changing.you will be an old lady living on your piece of land for 50 years and still your plans wont be perfect.

    If they were life would be very boring.

    #65657
    northern person
    Participant

    Its very interesting in the different reasons to live off grid. For myself its to simplify life and retire early. Im 52 years old and have built a very nice cabin in the bush in canadian artic. I plan to retire in two to three years until than I wish to have somebody house sit my cabin. Its 1200 sq ft with solar, cell, computer wood heat, hot water,located just off main highway 20 km from nearest town. Is anyone up for an adventure.

    #65669

    I plan to build whatever kind of home I decide on to code and in cold places I don’t know for sure if I could get away with a monolithic slab foundation although due to the simplicity of one that is what I am hoping to be able to build. I won’t be able to work on that until I find myself a good piece of land first and figure out what my option are. I just find it incredibly wrong that a government or state would be able to tell me what I can and can not build on my own land.

    Northern Person – A Canadian cabin sounds wonderful. Good luck finding a cabin sitter. Also be aware that to leave a home that long I think that anyone who lives in a place that long who is not the owner can apply to become the legal owner. At least that is the law in the U.S. Please be wary of that! I would hate to see someone take advantage of a kind woman such as yourself but unfortunatly there are bad seeds everywhere these days.

    #65681

    Just thought that I should pop back in and update this thread!

    After taking Chowan and Gordo’s advice I have taken a look at several pieces of land. Although I haven’t found what I am looking for yet I have found plenty of examples of what I am NOT looking for.

    In evaluating my needs, wants and personal desires I have come to realize that living by yourself is one thing but living without neighbors is something else entirely different. I have come to the realization that while I do need a bit of acreage for myself I do want neighbors. Quality neighbors. With that said I think I need to look not only for good land but good land that is near the type of self sufficient people that I want to be around and aim to become myself and that revelation should help me focus my land search quite a bit.

    Speaking of revelations it turns out that I am capable of doing quite a bit more than I thought I could. I went and visited a few different farmers over the last couple of days and I have learned quite a bit about self sufficiency.

    The first farm I visited wasn’t really a farm in the traditional sense. The only thing this farmer grew was cotton. I guess it was a plantation and not really a farm but they did have a barn which they used to store the cotton bales. During this visit I learned the valuable skill of cotton textile manufacturing. I took part in a workshop and I learned how to turn cotton straight from the fields and turn it into thread and yarn. I learned about how to use and to make your own cotton gin and how to turn the cotton into what is known as a rolag ( a MUCH fluffier piece of cotton ) by carding it with hand cards which is a bit of fun but tedious and hard work. I learned how to take those rolags and spin them with a spindle to turn them into usable thread and yarn. Needless to say I now have a much greater appreciation for the clothing on my back! I plan on going back to this plantation for another workshop on calico making.

    The second farm I visited was a livestock farm. It is a small, family run operation that raises cows, pigs, goats, chickens, sheep, horses and ducks. My reason for visiting this farm was to get a first hand look at how hard it is to work on a farm. I arrived first thing in the morning and I worked my tush off! The farm didn’t look all that big but it certainly was more hard work than I expected it to be. I was up at four in the morning feeding the chickens while the farmer’s sons collected the eggs. There was this mean hen who didn’t like me very much and chased me around the little fenced in area. She kept trying to peck and bite at my shoelaces. The farmer’s wife who was out there with me thought that this was just hilarious. She explained to me later that this particular hen was blind and must have thought that my long shoe laces were a worm of some kind. I took a look at her shoes and she didn’t have any laces, only a pair of slip on shoes. Clearly I needed to wise up and fast! She showed me how they took their kitchen scraps and fed them to the pigs, how to clean horse stalls and even how to mend a small tear in their wire fence. This was all before noon! After lunch however came the coolest part. I got to milk a cow. It is alot harder than it looks but once you get into a rhythm the time flies by pretty quick. I was told that a single cow can produce anywhere from six to nine gallons of milk every day! After this it was time to feed the sheep their food. The farmer and his sons were out there with us and he explained that sheep graze in the morning and around sunset and that the best time to feed them their supplements was during the heat of the day so you won’t disturb their grazing patterns. They had these HUGE merino sheep. The animals themselves were tiny but their fleeces were the thickest and fluffiest I have ever seen! Apparently the farmer’s wife taken the wool and turns it into yarn for use in her online hand dyed wool business and makes a bundle. I had a really good time overall and from what I have learned I think I could handle a cow, a few sheep and maybe even a chicken or two.

    The day right after this I went on to the next farm. Here they grow all kinds of vegetables and fruits for their roadside stand business. I have been buying from their little stand for at least four years now and they have the sweetest, juiciest corn on the cob you can imagine. Unfortunatly I didn’t get to pick any of that because the crop has already been picked and sold and tilled under for the winter. I did however get to pick the beginning of their apples! I took home a whole barrel of these huge, crunchy, juicy and bright red apples home with me and I plan on turning them into an apple pie. Picking apples wasn’t as easy as I thought it was either. Some of the apples didn’t want to come off the tree just yet and the farmer had to instruct me on the pull and twist method and I still couldn’t get some off because I was just so sore from all of the farm work from the day previous. Lessons learned there! On the brighter side the farmer took me into his little shop and taught me all about what was planted on the farm, what grew well here and what didn’t. He also taught me a bit about crop rotation and guarding against pests. Alot of detailed information was gained here but just too darn much to type up!

    Evidently I missed the honey collection for this year but next year that is something I want to learn more about. Although I am alergic to bee stings there are some kinds of bees that produce honey that are incapable of stinging and honey is a valuable sweetener, additive and preserver on top of having anti bacterial properties and I would be thrilled to learn how to keep my own supply.

    Maple syrup production is also something I want to have a look at since not only is the syrup tasty but you can boil it down and create maple sugar for baking and other purposes like creating my own jerky ect. However maple trees take 30 – 40 years before they can be tapped for their syrup so I either need to plant my own stand and let my future children have it or find land that has this resource already.

    Now if I can just find out how to produce salt I think I might be completely self sufficient in terms of renewable food sources. I know there are certain plants that have alot of salt but as for taking the plants and extracting the salt and turning it into granules for storage and use in rubs ect. I have no idea.

    I figure I can handle a single cow for milk, a couple of chickens for their eggs and maybe even small flock of sheep for wool. Sheep also prefer to eat clover and if I could plant clover fields it would be perfect food for bees to make clover honey too. However I also need to consider how much more land I will need as well as how much it will cost to care for these animals.

    Anyway there is my update. Hope the rest of you are doing well too!

    #65682
    gordo
    Participant

    cool . thanks for the update. there is definatly a difference between isolation and being self sufficiant. for some living off the grid conjures images of isolation. to me its more relative to one of the many eliments in or daily lives that in fact we by the most people don’t think of. some of the stuff you can start looking into will be the amount of land required for particular live stock. ie i can run about 10-15 sheep on my 2.5 acres.

    some food for thought…. i’m focusing more on mass production of a few comoditys for trade and cash value(if it exists) and then sustainable items for personal consumptiuon. that way you don’t get spead to thin with managing different crops and plants. a nice read and wealth of info. “carrots love tomatoes” louise riotte. about compatible planting with great notes relative to pest and disease controls. also on the web a university in the area you may pic will have an extention for agriculture with great tips on particular varities/ soil compositions / ect for the are.

    back to the land. if your narrowing the areas out many areas will have place for rent where people have built gardens,sheds/barns. and you can not only tune some skills but meet mebers of the community before commiting. ive been taking my time with the infrustruction make sure i have my own reasources in place before i plant too much. building and maintaining infrustructue is as much work as the chores of production and harvest. i dont want to neglect my crops because i’m drawn to other maint duties.

    as i mentioned and i think chowan did too. make sure you like where your at before you commit. some agricultur communityis may be more old school large farm/ petrobased fertilizer style and some may be more diverse community workshare style farms. also maybe search “slow foods” and see where there are established communitys of local growers(like minded neighbors).. i.e slow foods in the tetons.

    nice work getting your feet wet.

    peace gordo

    ??? cotton plantation in utah????

    #65683

    Hello there Gordo,

    Yep. One of the members in my ward runs a cotton plantation in southern Utah near the Arizona border. From what I understand they are not opened up to the public except for a few workshops they hold every year. If you get the chance I recommend checking it out.

    Back to my land hunting I still haven’t quite figured out how much land I will need just yet but I need to find that out before I can go pick out some land. Water sources are more important than I thought they would be!

    #65687
    gordo
    Participant

    ahhh.. water. for those that by 16 oz of bottled water at 1.29 each thats about 10 bucks a gallon. and people complain about petrolium? water is the most precious of resources. also the ability to move it from point a to point b. when you find a property with water rights. try to get info from who ever manages them to find out what dates the water is available, maintanence fees for using the water, does the source ever run dry.some places may have rights but from season to season in more arid locations it may be very limited. (further north more water/ further south more sun) another variable on water would be finding a plot with a natural spring.

    it took me fifteen years to find my lot. patience is a virtue.

    peace g

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