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  • in reply to: off grid in australia #68607
    CadeJ
    Participant

    I am already settled Phil, but I would like to offer my thoughts on how to set things up for a group. There is a great book “Creating a Life Together” about intentional communities and how to organize. You might want to look at that. My idea was to form a company, set up some simple by-laws and sell shares. When the company had sufficient investors, it would buy land and subdivide it (surf the cake-cutting problem). There would be a common area and assigned parcels to each shareholder. Shares could be bought or sold only between shareholders and the corporation, but if a shareholder brings a suitable buyer, the corporation must consider the exchange. Well, there are all sorts of ways to get started, but that is what I’d come up with . . . good luck to you.

    in reply to: off grid in australia #68492
    CadeJ
    Participant

    I cruised around on a sailboat for a decade, so I would just like to say “the sea is a harsh mistress”. A floating hulk like an old tanker or freighter would be a good starting point but anything smaller would not be very comfortable, IMHO. With a big hulk you would have some acreage for solar and some mass to reduce wave motion and some living space. Of course you might even inherit some infrastructure plumbing and wiring but those are higher value items that could have been stripped. You would have to invest in some pretty reliable pumps and spares to keep the sea out – she will find every weakness. Scantlings on older ships are usually more in your favor – a harbor pilot once told me they don’t use any more steel to make a Panamax container ship than they did to build a WWII liberty ship!

    in reply to: off grid in australia #68491
    CadeJ
    Participant

    I am living on a rural off-grid farm in the Caribbean where I get lots of time digging in the dirt and time to think. I recommend it to anyone. But, if I may, I have come to think the expression “it is all in your mind” has some truths that are not self-evident but worth considering:

    1. happiness – the study of happiness economics suggests that happiness is relative to our expectations. If you have a suitably low expectation, then you will be happy when the world turns out better than expected! This sounds STUPID on the surface, but modern media gives us a subconscious glossy view of reality. After a few days dealing with intractable mud and ant-bites I discovered that there is NOTHING in the world more wonderful than a simple hot shower. A comfortable bed, and reliable meals are precious elements of the good life, but it is hard to maintain happiness about these things when they come so transparently.

    2. love – religious folks preach that one should love his fellow man, and that generosity of spirit will be rewarded in the afterlife. More pragmatic philosophers suggest giving is its own reward. But these platitudes are difficult to internalize. I have come to realize that a loving and generous attitude creates internal happiness because when you are generous to others, you become generous toward yourself – you become more forgiving of your own shortcomings and disappointments. I do not mean you should delegate yourself to the couch-potato position and forgive yourself for succumbing, but don’t be harsh with yourself for the things you have not yet achieved.

    So by all means, set goals and go after them! Make a plan (don’t just save money and hope an affordable plan finds you) and implement it. And more importantly, learn to enjoy every moment spent along the way – that is where your life is. :)

     

    in reply to: Money money money money, MONEY! #68432
    CadeJ
    Participant

    Hi Beast, well I am a chemical engineer by training and my motto is “without chemicals, nothing would exist!” but I don’t add any “industrial” chemicals – but anyway I also don’t have any way to ship at this point – I presume you are not in the Dominican Republic (otherwise, you’d probably already have your OWN bananas!). For bananas, one must obtain an export license I think. That may be the case for coffee as well – I am not sure. A lot of coffee and bananas here are grown without use of fertilizers, herbicides or fungicides for the simple reason that such chemicals are expensive. But there is no guarantee – when I sell coffee, nobody asks me whether I fertilized or applied anything to the crop. Same with bananas. I think all my produce is bound for domestic markets – no exporting. But the commodity market is byzantine. Anyway, thanks for the inquiry!

    in reply to: Money money money money, MONEY! #68427
    CadeJ
    Participant

    My wife and I saved carefully when we worked, but we were always thinking how nice it would be to escape the 9 to 5. We were into sailing at the time and a retired neighbor told us to go cruising while still young enough. I think this applies to off-grid living generally. We took the advice and quit our good jobs at age 40 in 2001. Sailing is not easy – it is physically demanding at times and there is plenty of stuff to fix. Waiting until age 65+ makes it harder. We did our sailing and now we have it out of the system and live on a small farm in the Dom Rep. So we are still living off the savings. There is still a decade+ to go before we get any social security.

    Must have been a lot of savings!? I don’t think so. We found that while sailing around (never into a marina), we could get along on about $1500 per month. But we did not have enough saved for that so we had to find jobs along the way. Now that we live on the farm, the cost is somewhat lower – but we are still investing some capital to get things set up. I HOPE that investing will continue to diminish over time, but I sometimes wonder. The monthly expense is down to $1000 for us now – and we have a pickup truck that guzzles diesel fuel.

    The farm produces some salable output, but that is pretty minor at this point. We generate about 15 bunches (a bunch is about 200 bananas) of bananas every couple of weeks $2/200 bananas! woohoo. Some years we have also been able to sell a couple hundred dollars worth of coffee. We also have a lot of avocados, but there are large producers near us that produce far more at the same time, so ours are not commercially valuable. Avocados go for almost $0.10 each at the farm – how much are they going for at groceries in the USA? We eat them till our poop turns green. J K

    Producing our own food is extremely gratifying and we want to do more of it. Every meal I eat that I gather off this mountainside is still like a $50 restaurant meal to me. If I add all those up – that is like a lot of income, right?

    in reply to: Perpetrator or Victim #68428
    CadeJ
    Participant

    I agree that it is not wise to get into individual specifics, but I think some general concepts are probably universal. When protecting one’s property it is beneficial to conceal, deter, and only defend as a last resort. People will not steal what they don’t know is there. If they know or suspect there is something of value to steal, they will steal it from the easiest place they can find it. Putting oneself in harm’s way to be that deterrent means you have not been creative enough at concealing and other deterrence – it is a last-ditch effort, so to speak.

    I live in a third world country and although I don’t have much by US standards, I have a lot by local standards. I keep the storage shed blacked out so curious eyes cannot see what is inside, and likewise minimize the opportunities for strangers to visit the property in general. I build a lot of fences and put bars on windows and doors (it happens to be very stylish here for some reason!). Guard dogs are certainly not infallable, but they are a useful additional deterrent. Geese and Guinea hens are also good “guard dogs”.

    The question of whether to kill over possessions is somewhat personal I think. Some will advocate firearms for that last-ditch defense, but for me it is not an agreeable solution. There are various non-lethal solutions that are common among sailors (who are sometimes in places where firearms are prohibited at penalty of boat confiscation). Among these are long-range wasp and hornet sprays, oven cleaner spray, electric shock devices like tazers or electric fences (home made versions are potentially enjoyable hobby outlets too!), spray jugs with acid or other nasty chemicals, and even various spears and blades. We have some of this sort of stuff around for backup but it has been of little avail. Thieves who have been able to bypass the deterrents and barriers people erect are often quite determined and last-ditch defense is, in my opinion, a losing game for most people. Better to get out of the way and salvage things later than stand your ground and die. That is a bitter pill, but LIFE IS SWEET! hang onto it.

     

    in reply to: Finally purchased my land…..now what. #68422
    CadeJ
    Participant

    consider buying and burying a container? A steel shipping container can be pretty inexpensive and the foundation is extremely simple since it is only supported at four very well-defined points – you just need four concrete pads with anchor bolts protruding. They can be stacked 7-high so you will not be likely to bury one too deep to damage it. By going in-ground you will get a lot of temperature stability. I have no idea  about the code issues for that however – welcome to America!

    CadeJ
    Participant

    I have 1700 W of Solar, no grid connection and no other power generation. The solar controller is a FlexMax 80 by Outback and I have a 2KW true-sine-wave inverter (off brand). I have 20 6V Trojan batteries in a 24V bank. Power use is about 6kWh daily. We run a 220 Liter capacity refrigerator and a 100 L  freezer (both top-loading), 2 0.4 kW electric pumps for potable water pressure (average of 10 minutes daily) and grey-water recirculation (around one hour per day). We have a full size high efficiency front-load washing machine and tumble dryer (propane heated). But mostly we line-dry the clothes. We run two computers – laptop is pretty efficient, but tower computers are energy hogs. All lighting is LED (except for a few rarely-used CCF bulbs). If it stays cloudy for a week, we have to start watching the power use (give up computer use, mostly). But that does not happen much – once each winter?

    The location is tropical (Caribbean) and the roof faces south. We are at latitude 20 North, so we have the panels tilted at a 20 degree angle from horizontal. The roof is hipped (pyramid shape, basically). The plan area is 230 sq. m, one-fourth facing each direction. No heating or cooling required (high ceilings).

    in reply to: Inverter & battery setup for small cabin #68410
    CadeJ
    Participant

    having lived on a boat for many years, and having been completely devoted to 12V living, I have to say that you should consider going with all 110V rather than 12V. The market for 12V devices is somewhat smaller than the market for 110V so your equipment costs for 110V devices will be lower – fans, lights, and especially equipment like refrigerators, pumps, and other more sophisticated devices. Try finding a 12V blender – they exist but $$. It is hard to know what your needs might be, but if you get a somewhat oversized inverter, you will have it all covered.

    Since you are starting small, you can invest more in solar panels and not buy the expensive MPPT controller. Buy an inverter that is oversized and hook it to your batteries. The battery bank should be sized for using only about 30% of rated amp-hour capacity because 1. you do not want to draw it down below 50% and 2. your basic solar panel connection will not often get the batteries over 80% charged if you are using it regularly. If you find yourself using more power than planned, an MPPT controller upgrade later and more battery-bank is a potential upgrade. You can always use some 12V devices directly from battery power, but you will notice that you need much bigger wire for the 12V circuits than you would need for 110V so that is another mark in favor of 110V.

    in reply to: Battery question, need advice #68411
    CadeJ
    Participant

    a battery management idea for those with lead-acid batteries: I bought a big box of “baking soda” – sodium bicarbonate – and put most of it on the floor of my battery box before installing batteries – to neutralize any acid spill that might run down the side of a battery unseen. Then I use the remainder to dust the top of the batteries – not too close to the fill caps. When there is an incidental spill or splash of battery acid – such as when checking electrolyte density – the acid is immediately neutralized. Of course you would NOT want to let any of the soda get INTO the battery, so don’t over do it.  I have no corrosion issues at battery terminals and no acid burns on my fingers. :)

    CadeJ
    Participant

    the shed specification says 12 or 14 foot width and length is not given, but looks like 20 feet mol. You can scale from these numbers if I used the wrong ones: 12X20 is 240 s.f. so one inch of rain gives you 20 cubic feet of water (150 gallons). It depends on how much and how frequent your rains are – how much do you need to store. You can find data for your local area total rainfall and get an idea of total rainfall per year and evaluate if that is enough water for your needs (assuming you can store enough).

    Let’s say you get 50 inches per year and store it all. That is 50×150 = 7500 gallons or about 20 gallons per day. But you don’t need a 7500 gallon tank if it rains a little every day – just 20 gallons would be enough – you use it as you catch it. If you have a dry season, you need storage to get through it. Simple enough.

    For the USE of the water, you are probably accustomed to city pressure which runs around 30 psi or more. That is equal to an elevation of about 60 feet. If you collect water at the downspout elevation in elevated barrels then you won’t have much pressure for using conventional plumbing fittings – use larger pipes and valves or you won’t get flow. If you want more pressure, you can pump the water to storage at higher elevation, or pump it up to pressure as you use it. The energy cost will be about the same either way. You can pump water manually (energy from muscle instead of solar or etc.). It is significant work. You can actually bail water from a storage barrel and pour it into an agriculture sprayer (devoted to showering only), pump it up and spray yourself down. 100% manual powered. This saves water too since you will NOT waste a drop!

    Solar will run a pump. Most panels these days are made for grid-tie, so their voltage is not well matched to battery voltage. MPPT controllers are great for making the most of solar panel output, but they are expensive. If you hook up grid-tie panels (higher voltage) to conventional 12 volt batteries, the panels will just operate at the battery voltage, so they will not necessarily damage batteries (though they can if they put out more than the batteries can store) – but also the panel capacity may be somewhat wasted. You can prevent overcharging with a conventional charge controller that is much cheaper than MPPT type, since solar panels are getting cheap enough that you can afford to waste some capacity in exchange for lower investment. If you want 360W but no MPPT, then you might wind up buying more like 700W of panels (they would be able to run at 25 or 30 volts, but you actually connect them at 12 or 14 volts and correspondingly get only half their rated wattage. You spend more on panels and save on controller – you have to work out the details on that.

    You can probably run a pump directly from panels with no battery but you’d need some other kind of controller I guess – others would have to step in on that. I don’t know about it.

    There are 12 volt pumps at marine stores, but most are 110 volt (or 220 volt in europe). You will need an inverter to run such pumps from batteries. The inverter capacity will need to be more than double the rated motor capacity since motors have a large starting current surge, and generally have a high “power factor” meaning they appear to consume more wattage than rated because of “inductive load” which causes the inverter to operate inefficiently. You will have to look into specifics for your situation.

    hope that helps – probably just makes more questions . . .

Viewing 11 posts - 1 through 11 (of 11 total)