Archive for the ‘Planning and Goals’ Category

One of the issues we have here on the homestead is keeping food cold.  We have a cooler that goes through tons of ice all summer.   Then during the winter the food freezes.  We plan to put in a root cellar this year for sure, but what if we could do better, passively?
A fellow blogger is working on this very concept.  I am very excited about this project and can’t wait to see what they do.  If they succeed, it would mean so much to any of us living off grid.  I don’t know all the details of the project, but it looks like they are trying to use the winter ice to cool a root cellar all summer.  That would be amazing.  
If any of you out there are as excited about this as I am, check out the link to their project.
They are currently trying to raise some money to get things going, but the link also explains the concept.  If anyone would be willing to donate or to spread the word, it would be greatly appreciated.   Just think about what this could mean for us off gridders!


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This is the most exciting project list I have ever got to make. I love gardening and can’t wait to actually get to do some. I’m also thrilled that I get to start my orchard (again since my first attempt failed). This is the list that convinced me to turn my life upside down and move out to the middle of nowhere. The 2016 Planting List!

  1. Annual garden. I have been slowly preparing garden beds with all the branches and small trees that were left behind by the logger. This huge mess has actually left me with a ton of materials. I hope to get a very rich garden going to provide us with food for the whole year. This will be my first attempt at a garden this size, but I will have the need for it, so I should do alright. The kids will be able to help a lot this year too, so hopefully that will encourage them to take part in the eating of the vegetables. I will share more on this later.
  2. Orchard. This will be on the list for many years to come. I want to plant a few trees each year and set up guilds around them so that they can grow at optimal levels. The trees I plant this year will incorporated into the annual garden because this will eventually be an orchard only, but this area is the sunniest spot we have and by planting in the garden I have less preparing to do. The trees will be small this year and shouldn’t block any sun from the annuals. By the time the trees are big and do block the sun, we will be getting closer to moving in to the big house and the annual garden will be relocated closer to that house. We will see how this plan actually works.DSC_0309
  3. Beneficial bug garden. I have an area near the house that will be a garden just to attract beneficial bugs. I plan to plant some flowers throughout the garden as well, but this will be an area for butterflies and hummingbirds to come so that we can watch them as well as provide them with food.DSC_0307
  4. Mosquito garden. This will be a garden around the house to scare the mosquitos away. I will plant various herbs that offend mosquitos so that they will not congregate around our living area. I have already started collecting tires to make planters for the herbs.DSC_0292
  5. Herb garden. This is going to be a big deal in the near future for us here. I am very interested in learning more about healing herbs and maybe it will even turn into a source of income for us. I am going to pick a few different herbs that we use now and plant them throughout the garden or in their own spots. I’m new to herb growing, so I don’t really know what to expect.
  6. Perennials. These will also be very important to us in the future. These will be planted along the edges of the future orchard which will be the annual garden this year. Again as we move away from the tiny house in to the big house, the annuals will be relocated, leaving the perennials in a rich garden area. The placement of these plants will be as important as the placement of the trees. We likely won’t get much of a yeild from these this year, but once they are established, we will have them for a long time.
  7. Yard. We have nothing but clay and rocks right now. I will not be able to plant grass this year, but I will start with planting green manure cover crops to begin to enrich the soil. The main thing I will plant will be clover. This will also provide something other than mud for us to walk through. A couple years of growing clover to enrich the soil enough for us to be able to plant some sort of grass. I hope.DSC_0311
  8. Grapevine. I had already started this project, but it will have to be relocated in the spring to the new area that I have started preparing. After the logger went through, it opened up the land to us so that we could really observe our surroundings. I had the chance to rethink my plans and decided that there was a better place to put the grapevine. It is going to become part of the living fence along the outside property line. This will be a tough project because we will have to build an arbor in solid rock. I’m thinking a 5 gallon bucket placed on the rock with cob or something to weigh it down. As always, I am open to any other ideas people may have. We have plenty of logs down to make posts, I just need to figure out how to get them standing.DSC_0304
  9. Blueberry Hill. This is going really well so far, but I only have 3 plants started. I have prepared the spot pretty well, I just need to get more plants in the ground.DSC_0301
  10. Living playground. I’m thinking that part of the kids playground will be a hut of some sort with vines growing up it. If I grow them a bean house, they may even eat the beans while hiding in the hut. Maybe
  11. Duck forage. We will end up with a duck pond and of course ducks at some point. All I want to do with this this year is pick a location for the pond and plant some forage for the ducks so that it will be there once we get the ducks. Pea shrubs are on the top of this list.
  12. Living fence. This is another one that will be on the list for years. This year I plan to move some of the downed wood to the property line and plant some trees that will do well in the shade that will likely always be there. This should be a quick and simple project. Hopefully I can find enough trees and bushes that like the shade that are also edible or medicinal. I plan to relocate some sugar maples and white pine (free!) which will provide us with sap for various different products like syrup and pine tar soap and shampoo (good stuff).
  13. Jewelry garden. I’m planting some gourds in the garden anyway. These can be used for various decorative projects once they dry. There are also bushes and things you can plant whose berries naturally dry into beautiful beads. I am still looking for ideas for this.
  14. Rose garden. Mostly rugosa roses for their medicinal value. I think these are what the locals call wild roses, not sure though. I am a little of a freak about “Alice in Wonderland” and the rose garden will eventually be a croquet court. I do like croquet anyway, so this will work out well. As long as you don’t hit the ball into the roses. Anyway, I really just want to get a couple rose bushes planted so that I can propagate more for free when it comes time to really put this garden together
  15. Bog. We have tons of bog area. I would like to find a few plants that I can grow well in these conditions that will provide us with food or materials. Bamboo may be an excellent option if I can contain it.

That is my huge planting list for the year. Many of these are being started this year just so that I can get a couple years into the plants before I try to take cutting to propagate more. It would be far to expensive to buy enough plants to set up the living fence I want, but if I can propagate the majority of the plants, the cost decreases dramatically. I clearly still have a lot of research to do and will be very busy doing so. I will also have a very busy spring. Stay tuned for the results…

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2016 Goals

This next year will be my year. This year we had to get established and the man pretty much was “in charge” of what needed to get done and when. I didn’t get to do much landscaping and planting or even cooking for that matter (we ate a lot of simple boring meals). I have a whole goals list for myself as far as the planting is concerned. But the man still has a project goals list of things we need to get done that are much more boring than my planting plans. They are still important so I’ll share the list. I actually put things in order of importance this year so we could be a little more organized. I plan to hang the list so that we can stay on track.

  1. Chop wood. This is our number one project for a good reason. Having wood that is not properly seasoned is a huge pain. I’m hoping this gets well under way long before spring even gets here. The man plans on cutting through the winer, which is supposed to be the best time to cut anyways.
  2. Cistern. We really need to spend less time going down to the stream to collect water in gallon jugs. This is annoying when it is cold out and you have to get your hands wet. It will eventually be to collect rainwater, but in the interest of saving time early on, we will get some sort of a pump system to fill the cistern from the stream or from one of the many springs we have on the land. We have yet to decide how we are going to set the cistern up so that it won’t freeze in the winter, but we’ll get there.
  3. Root cellar. With all the planting I am going to be doing, we need a place to store all the food. We have a tiny house with almost no storage space, so we will have to build ourselves a root cellar. Again, no specific plans as to what we are doing, but we have the winter for planning specifics. I also welcome any ideas people may have or advice on how they built their own root cellar.
  4. Outhouse. We need to build a new one. Ours has blown away. This may not ever get done because we do have an indoor bathroom, but it would be really nice to not have to go inside every time we have to go. Saves on emptying the composting toilet too.DSC_0303
  5. Outdoor kitchen. Our cooking space this year has been rather annoying really. It worked and we were fed, but we can do better. I have already started constructing a rock wall with raised beds to go around the new cooking area. I have big plans for that garden. It should end up being a nice place to cook by the time we finish.
  6. Roof. Our roof will have to be unfinished for the winter. We have been assured that the covering we have on the roof will be fine for this year, but we need to cover it asap. This will also allow us to maybe collect the rainwater off the roof.DSC_0305
  7. Wood storage. We plan to build a covered area off the side of the house to keep all of our firewood for the year.
  8. Siding. The house currently just has that paper webbing on it to protect the wood. Again, good for this year, but should be taken care of asap. I hope to get an alaskan mill and make out own boards. Maybe we can scavenge some old cedar posts or something like that from Uncle Henry’s.
  9. Tool shed. We have outgrown our current tools shed. It has also taken a bit of a beating from us going in and out of it. We need something a little more solid.DSC_0294
  10. Playground. The kids are outgrowing their little play area. They need a bigger place to play and don’t really need to be fenced in as much as they have in the past. There are tons of options for natural playgrounds and I hope we have the time to build one for our kids.
  11. Observatory. I have mentioned the plans for this before. I doubt we will have the time to finish this, but I hope to be able to at least start it. We are thinking about building it with earth bags, so it shouldn’t even cost us too much.
  12. Bug hotel. I had started this project last winter and never really go to put it together. It will likely not happen too early in the year, if at all, but I would really like to try.
  13. Outdoor shower. I really loved having the shower outside. I plan to try again with something more solid. I want to build something similar to cordwood, except with beer bottles. I have been saving the bottles in hopes of a good project, this may be it. Cordwood houses often use bottles as windows, I’m hoping to build the whole shower this way. The bottles are dark enough that you won’t be able to see through them, so it may just be perfect.DSC_0300
  14. The last goal we have is to clean up the mess left by having the lot logged. The “mess” is actually providing me with tons of materials for many different projects and even some firewood.DSC_0289 DSC_0291 DSC_0290 DSC_0295 DSC_0296

It is a hefty project list, especially for a secondary project list, but that is it. As always, I know that we can’t get everything done, but I hope to get most of it done. We will see!

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This Past Year…

I have shared along the way all of the goals I had listed to accomplish this year. I have shared at least one that I did not accomplish. I just wanted to show them all in one place and tell you about what we have learned this past year.

  1. Put up the wall tent. I am happy to say that it is still standing in pretty good shape. We never did fix that hole we had made. It didn’t let too many bugs in. It is currently being used for storage while we get the house insulated and then some of the stuff we have will get moved into the storage loft. There is no way it will all fit, but we will have to get creative.DSC_0299
  2. Build an outhouse. We had a tent outhouse that we used throughout the summer. It worked great, no real issues. However, after we moved into the cabin, we had quite the windy day and the outhouse blew down the hill. I’m fairly certain this tent is not usable ever again. We will likely build a new one in our spare time.DSC_0303
  3. Plant a garden. I already shared that this had failed miserably. I think we got two tomatoes. I am, however, still planning on hosting a seed exchange ad rather than exchanging saved seed, I will exchange the extra that I buy this year. I cannot possibly plant all that comes in all the packets.
  4. Outdoor kitchen. We had a cooking area. Actually a few. But we never actually put together the outdoor kitchen. I have already started next years attempt in hopes that this will actually happen.DSC_0310
  5. Warm shower. We had a warm shower most of the time. We managed to get plenty clean without freezing most of the time. It worked, but I would like to do better. It is on the very bottom of the list for next year, but it is on the list.DSC_0300
  6. Cistern. This did not happen at all. We had the stream that we used for our water source, so it was never really urgent to get the rainwater cistern set up. We tried a few times, but it just wasn’t a priority and so did not get done.
  7. Root cellar. This never even made it into our heads. We never even considered working on it because we were so busy. I remembered it had been in the plans when I looked at the list to do this post. It made it to the top of the list for next year though.

Most of these goals were secondary to building the house. The house took up almost all of our time. We knew this would be the case, but made the list anyways as I always do. Overall, not a bad year.

So, what did we learn in all of this?

  1. Chop wood early. We had a bunch of cut wood that was siting around, not chopped. We have been fighting with burning wet wood since we moved in to the tiny house. It is very frustrating. We are not locals and the locals have known this fact since they were kids. This will not happen to us again. The man plans to start getting wood together over the winter for next year. We are also going to finally be buying a few cord of wood this week. We had to wait until the finances had lined up right. Either way, we are warm.
  2. Houses take time and money to build, no matter how small. We underestimated the time and money aspect of the house. We assumed as much, but when it is staring you in the face, this is a different ball game. We made it through just fine, a little frustrated, but fine. We do plan on building a bigger house, but it will be of materials we gather as much as possible which will save money and it will not be a rushed project. We are living in a house now, not a tent, so there is no need to rush.
  3. Living out in the sticks is a very different experience. Being off grid makes that even more different. You learn to watch the weather and plan around it. You have to be aware of how much water you have. You have to store much less food since you don’t have a fridge. I’m sure many of these things will get easier as we get established, but we have worked harder this year than we ever have in our lives. It is still all worth it. It is beautiful out here. Life is getting easier every day. The more we get used to our new lives and the more we build our home (including the lot) the more we are able to enjoy it and maybe even relax. Yesterday, we noticed that we really only have a couple more things we need to do NOW before we can take it easy. Sure, we have to do the inside of the tiny house and cut next years wood and deal with the snow when it comes, but we are almost settled in to a comfortable point. It feels amazing.

This really wasn’t much of a learning year. We were too busy. I haven’t really even had much of a chance to reflect on it yet. This is the first time I really looked back on our year. I only have a chance to do this because I got up early and everyone is still sleeping. We also have to wait for the morning frost to clear a little bit before we can do much work. I’m actually trying to get a fire going with wet wood so that I can have my morning coffee sometime today. We splurged this week and got some delicious flavored coffee. The house is starting to smell good. Apparently it is not too early for hunting though. I can hear the distant gunshots outside the house. That is a skill we need to learn someday too. Someday…

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We never actually built an outdoor “kitchen.”  Rather we have scattered cooking “appliances”  for whatever we need to cook.  What we use most is the small, two burner propane grill.  We have this set up on our “kitchen table” under the awning from the tent.  Most of our meals are super simple and don’t require much for cooking.  We use our cast iron fry pan almost always.


We have an open fire pit that we can use a variety of “appliances” on.  This cooker is great for the fry pans and the dutch oven, it flips over to accommodate either.  I really like it because when we build our house, it came with special bolts so that we can build it right in to a large cooking hearth in the house.  It can move between the house and outside.


We have a large propane burner as well as the small one.  It works great for boiling water.  We have to boil a decent amount of water for washing dishes and for showering when it isn’t too sunny.  This burner will get a lot of use when I get to start canning and when the man starts brewing again.

DSC_0297We also bought this grill grate to cook over the open fire.  It works just fine, but we get more use out of it as a table.


I have not yet been able to build the cob oven or rocket stove burners.  They need a lot of time to dry and we have had tons of rain.  I think we would be living in our tiny house by now if it had only rained half as much as it has.  I started the cob oven a month ago and it hasn’t dried at all.  I need to build a proper roof over the area where I am building it before I can even start to build it.  When I have time.

I still plan to build the outdoor kitchen I had planned, but not yet.  Once the house goes up and we have a chance to spend time in the area, them I will know where the perfect spot for the kitchen and then I will start to build it.

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Well, we have a hot shower, but not quite what I had in mind.  I had started making the shower walls by weaving branches between posts I had put in the ground.  I quickly realized that this was really time consuming and it would never make solid walls.  You would always be able to see through them.  Then I realized, Who cares?  You can’t see any of the neighbors or the road from where our shower is, so nobody can see us in our shower.  So I weaved enough branches to stabilize the posts and that was it.  I had hung a couple shower curtains to hang for when we have company, but nobody really uses the shower but us so we don’t really even use the shower curtains.


In order to have warm water, we have a solar shower bag.  I think it was about $10.  You fill it up and put it in the sun and you have warm water.  It is plenty warm for a nice shower.  Not much water pressure, but it works just fine.  It only takes a couple hours to heat, and we lay it out on a big flat rock to make it even faster to heat and it gets warmer.  It is actually a very nice shower if you don’t mind being out in the open.  I still plan to make a nice bath house when time allows, but this is it until the house is built.  No complaints from me!

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I did not plant anything that even resembles a garden.  I had planted some seeds with the plan to transplant them and it just didn’t happen.  We just did not have the time.  I always, always, always plan more to do than I will have time for.  But I will share some pictures as a comic relief.



DSC_0184Next year is the year of planting and all things gardening.  This will not happen again.  Oh well.

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