Start of a Visit

I mentioned in my History and Goals post that I had come down to Kansas for personal reasons, and that Amy would come down later.  Well, Amy isn’t yet able to come down here permanently, but she did get the chance to come down for a vacation.  We haven’t seen each other for almost 8 months, and we’re working hard on working out some problems that had caused me to head to Kansas early.

Yesterday afternoon, I picked Amy up from the Kansas City airport.  Reuniting was amazing, and while it was emotional, it was also wonderful because there’s a feeling of familiarity and comfort that I wasn’t expecting.

We drove home, stopping in Lawrence for a bit and took some pictures.  We’re both huge fans of the show Supernatural, and Lawrence, KS has significance in the show.

After that, we drove home, and I introduced Amy to my family in Kansas.  She’d talked to Brie online, but this was their first meeting.

This coming week will be fun.  I’m going to show Amy around town, and show her the land we’re going to be building on, and spend time with the family.  I’ll keep up on the blog posts, but they may be a bit shorter this week because I’ll be out and about.  I will take and post pictures though and keep everyone updated.

How to Build a Water Storage Tank for $200

In previous posts, I’ve mentioned low-budget methods of building a house, and of powering a house.  Today, we’re going to talk about water storage.

For any kind of permanent home, you’re going to need a source of water.  Wells can be incredibly expensive.  If you have a stream on the property you’ve found, then you’re doing well.  The final option, and one that I recommend for most people, is water catchment.

We have water fall out of the sky all the time, and all we need to do is catch it and store it.  Now, the easy way to deal with water storage is to buy a plastic tank, place it on your property, and fill it however you choose.  These water tanks will cost $600 – $1000 depending on their size, and are made of plastic, which I try to avoid if I can.

The low-budget method requires a little more work, but allows you to create a tank sized as you need it, using sustainable materials, and you can always build another if you need more storage.

I’ve provided a link to an instructable on how to build a water storage tank out of earthbags.  The total cost, according to them, is only $200.  Obviously, if you decide you need more than 1000 gallons, your cost will go up, but you can always start with one this size, and build another next to it, as many times as you need, until you have the storage capacity you want.

This post has been about storage.  In future posts, I’ll explain cheap ideas for filtration so your water is clean and drinkable, and simple systems for catchment.  Finally, we’ll need to do something with the water once you’ve used it.

Links:

$200 Earthbag Water Storage Tank Instructable

Where I get Some of My Ideas

So, there’s a new social media platform called Bloglovin, which is specifically for blogging and those that follow blogs.  If you sign up, you can follow a number of blogs, and know when they post new updates.  It makes things easy for you, and easy for us blog owners to keep our fans up to date.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

That’s all I have for today.

How to Power Your Home For $30

Powering your off-grid home could cost you a fair amount of money.  On other blogs, I’ve seen people write about the need for solar panels, or how to price out the best wind turbine, and each of these blogs considers $5000 or more to be the absolute starting price for your power generation needs.

For the low-budget off-gridder, these aren’t options.  We need something we can build ourselves.  It may have a much lower power output, but a lower cost will get us started.

If you’re looking at a simple, low-output commercial wind turbine, you’re looking at spending $600 or more for a few hundred watts of power.  While this is slightly more affordable, it’s still out of the price range for some of us.

I recently stumbled onto a do-it-yourself wind turbine project that shows a lot of promise.  A gentleman in Europe named Daniel Connell has created the plans for a wind turbine that costs approximately $30 to build.  It requires scavenging for parts, and having a few hand tools, but the finished product puts out about 150 watts in a decent wind, and he’s tested it in winds over 60 mph and it continues to spin nicely even in winds that high.

The $30 cost does not include the cost of the power generator, but the community that has sprung up around this turbine has been testing the use of electric bike hubs, windshield wiper motors, washing machine motors, and a number of other options.

This turbine looks really unique, and is a testament to the power of redneck engineering.  It may not be a high output turbine, but it can charge a set of batteries, run a number of LED lights at a time, and even charge a laptop.  And if the power output isn’t high enough for what you need, this turbine is cheap enough to build that you can always add a second, third, or fifth turbine to your property.

Below, I’ve provided a video showing the turbine in action, and followed it with links to his website and Facebook group in case you want to get started.

Video:

Links:

$30 Wind Turbine Website

$30 Wind Turbine Facebook Group

Proof That You Can Build a Home for $250

Once you’ve found a piece of land that you can build your off-grid home on, the next step is to build a home.  There have been a number of options that have been invented and rediscovered in the past few decades that have caught my attention.

One option that I found amazing was cob.  I’ve seen several examples of this building style, and the cost effective nature of cob kind of blew my mind.  It allows you to build a home using material found right at the location you’re building.  You buy little to no material, keeping your costs down considerably.

To show just how cost-effective cob can be, I found information about a gentleman that built a cob home for only $250.  It’s a simple, one-room home without indoor plumbing, but it shows the simplicity of the design, and allows you to see just how beautiful and natural a cob home can be.  With some of the other options we present on our blog for water, electricity, and heat, you can see how a larger, more self-sustaining home can be built and still maintain a very low cost.

Here is a video that shows this beautiful little cob home.  Take a look, and you’ll see the possibilities.

 

Part of the joy of going off-grid is the minimalist approach.  Being able to figure out what you really need to live and be happy is an amazingly freeing experience.

So, do you think you could live in a home like this?  Would you need more room?  Running water?  Electricity?  If not, then this home is for you.  If you do need those things, as most of us do, then check out the rest of our articles to show you how to do it.

Our Chicken Coop Experience

IMG_4709At the end of March this year, we picked up half a dozen baby chicks.  I’ve never had chickens before, so this is new for me.  I did a lot of reading beforehand to know the basics, and one of the people in our house grew up raising chickens, so we have the experience required to keep them happy and healthy.

When we first brought them home, I had a large rat cage that wasn’t being used, so we filled it with wood shavings, put food and water in, put a heat lamp on it, and wrapped 3 sides and the top with a blanket to keep the heat in.  I kept them in my room to keep watch over them, and they flourished.

IMG_4739Now, we didn’t yet have a chicken coop set up in the yard but figured we had lots of time to set one up.  We were going to do this as cost-effectively as possible.  We had an old tin shed that wasn’t really being used, and it has some sturdy wooden shelves that had a lot of space for half a dozen chickens.  We built a door to cover the front of the shelf, filled it with straw, and when the chicks were old enough, they went out to their new home.  They were quite happy with all the room they suddenly had once they got used to it.

Our next step was to give them space to run and scratch and get fresh air.  We did this during the week that they got used to their new coop and made it their home.

IMG_4717We had a bunch of 8-foot posts that we recycled into french posts.  a couple of $25 rolls of chicken wire,
and we had our fence area.  We had the yard space, so our chickens have an area that’s about 12 feet wide, by 25 feet long.  We have a simple ramp up to the door of the coop and designed a sliding door that used our wood scraps.

Every day, we let the chickens out into the yard, and they enjoy the run.  They’re absolutely hilarious to watch, especially when one of them finds an earthworm and starts screaming in terror as 5 other chickens start chasing her for it.  They’re tame enough to pet and pick up when needed, but for the most part, we leave them alone and they work hard to clear the yard of insects.  At the end of the day, when it gets dark, they go back into their coop on their own, and we go out and close the door for the night.

It cost us roughly $100 inIMG_4773 materials total to build our coop, to buy the chicks, and to buy their food.  For six chickens, we buy an $8 bag of feed once a month, and that seems to be it so far for costs.  I’m sure that something will come up that’ll cost extra down the road, but so far, they’re doing quite well.

We’ll keep everyone updated as they grow and eventually start laying eggs.

Why You Want to Raise Chickens

Simply put, when it comes to a food source that you can raise yourself, chickens are your best option.  They are relatively inexpensive to start up and cost almost nothing to care for once you have their initial costs taken care of.

Chickens can be raised in most cities, so if you’re not quite ready to go off-grid, this is a good starting point if you have a yard.  The chicks themselves cost a few dollars each, and you will need to buy chick feed, which costs under $10 in most places for a twenty-pound bag.  You can buy a feeder and waterer, or you can make your own.

Your largest initial expense will be to build a coop and a yard for them, and you can cut a lot of expense here too.  Building a coop can cost hundreds of dollars if you want to create something fancy, or you can repurpose old pallets and it will cost you a bag of nails.  If you have a fenced-off yard, you could allow them the full use of that yard, or you could buy chicken wire and give them a smaller area.  The choice is yours.

Once you have your chicken coop, and a yard set up for them, and your chickens are fed and watered and happy, there’s almost nothing to taking care of them. You let them out every day, and close up their coop when it gets dark, and in return, they’ll give you eggs.  Six or eight chickens is more than enough to make sure that a couple has enough eggs to eat every day.

Chickens lay eggs for an average of two years.  After that, you can choose to keep them as pets, or you can use them for food.  Chickens are a very healthy meat and high in protein.

So, in your off-grid adventure, if you’re looking for something to eat that doesn’t cost very much, requires little in the way of continuous care, and gives a great return, it would be a great idea to invest in half a dozen chickens.  If you want to earn an income from chickens and have your private plot of land, you could scale up a chicken operation to a few hundred chickens over time, and earn a living from them.

History and Goals

As I mentioned in a previous post, I’ve been interested in going off-grid and living sustainably for several years.  My girlfriend Amy and I have been struggling to keep bills paid and a roof over our heads for years due to a lot of different factors.  At two points in our history, we’ve actually been homeless, and that taught us a lot about ourselves.

For me, it was homelessness that showed me that things really needed to change.  I realized that living paycheck to paycheck wasn’t sustainable.  I realized that being stuck in jobs that could be lost at any moment, and losing the paycheck I needed to keep a roof over my head, wasn’t how I wanted to live.

The first time we were homeless, we lived in our van through a Canadian winter.  We were allowed to stay in people’s houses during the worst of the weather, but it was a truly miserable time for us.  We ended up collecting bottles and cans for the deposit so we could eat, and it turned out that this was fairly lucrative, and enabled us to get enough money together to get an apartment.

The second time we were homeless was really different.  This time, I was employed, but our bills had gotten out of hand, and our landlord required we move out so they could have family live there.  We couldn’t get the money together for rent in a new location, and a damage deposit, and moving costs, and even if we could, we couldn’t find a suitable place.  So, we moved out, and all our stuff went into storage, and Amy and I borrowed a camping trailer and lived in that for a couple of months on a friend’s property in the country.

I lost my job due to discrimination over my personal life during this time.  We managed to get by, as we didn’t have bills for those few months.  We had no running water and minimal electricity.  But we spent a great deal of time outside in the sun.  We woke up each morning and the fresh air welcomed us.  We had a tiny little bit of space inside our living area, but there were acres of space outside, and it was peaceful.

Time passed, and our living situation changed, and our goal is to live sustainably, and we won’t back down from that.  We have set ourselves a number of steps we need to reach to make that happen.

I moved to Kansas for personal reasons, and Amy is coming later.  The two of us have the ability to become American citizens, so we’ll be able to stay and start a new life here.  In Kansas, I have a family that I love and respect and think the world of.  They have a home, and they have a large plot of farmland nearby that we plan on using to create our sustainable life.

We have goals that we needed to set up in order to make things happen in a way that works for us.  We are not wealthy people, so we have to do things that cost as little as possible.  Below, I’ve listed our goals, and we’ll document our journey as we reach each goal.

Goals

Short Term Goals

  1. Have an income that we can set aside specifically for creating our sustainable life
  2. Start creating food options that we can raise and grow ourselves to cut down our food bills
  3. Create simple, low-cost housing that we can be comfortable and happy in.
  4. Heat, power, and water at a low cost

Long Term Goals

  1. Plan for a business we can create on the land that will sustain our lifestyle

All of these goals are possible without breaking the bank, and we’re going to show you how with each step.  Thanks for joining us on this journey!

Why Low-Budget Off-Grid

I’ve been really interested in the off-grid movement for years.  I’ve been unhappy with the rising cost of living.  The utility bills, rent, and food costs I’ve been paying have been steadily increasing, and the only reason I can see for it is greed.  When I started seeing things in my social media feeds about off-grid living, I was intrigued.

I started getting interested in the tiny house movement.  Living small with only the important possessions, and caring more about the actual life I live, was an idea that appealed greatly to me.  This led to learning about the Earthship movement, cob building, straw bale construction, and more.

There are a lot of different ways to live off-grid.  And there are many different blogs that will tell you exactly how to start.  They’ll tell you about how to buy land, and they’ll tell you how to set up your solar and wind installation.  They’ll explain how to build a great portable or self-sustaining home.

What they don’t tell you is that those options, for the most part, are for people who have managed to put away a savings fund, or have sold their house to fund their self-sustaining future.  The options they present range in the tens of thousands, to the hundreds of thousands of dollars.  Those options are great for people who have that, but what about the rest of us?

Low-Budget Off-Grid is designed to help people like me.  It’s designed to help someone who has little to no savings, or that can’t get a loan or mortgage.  It’s designed for those that are struggling with the high costs of basic survival.

We’re going to show you how to build a home at low cost, heat it and power it at low cost, and how to eat food you grow yourself, at low cost.  This isn’t to say that it won’t take effort, and a lot of hard work, but that’s the way things work in the world.  You can choose to pay a lot of money, and make it easy, or you can do things at low cost, with a lot of labor.  This is also not a website that will say that things will be free. It’s possible you can source a lot of material for free, but it can’t be guaranteed.

We’ll show you things in different cost levels to help a number of people.  For some, building a tiny house for $10,000 is worth it, and is certainly a low cost to some.  For others, spending $250 on a house that will keep you warm in the winter is stretching a budget.  I’ll also show you my own journey in low-budget off-gridding over the next few years.

Read on, and we can show the world how it can be done.