Monthly Archives: August 2013

Preface: The Mission

So we’ve got a house and some land – big deal?

I have high hopes for the coming years, and though I’m sure things won’t work out exactly the way I’m planning them right now, getting any of them up and running is better than living on a postage stamp lot and relying on corporations and the government to get me what I need to survive.

I didn’t always have this mindset… I grew up on a crop farm and – to be perfectly honest – I avoided work when I could. (My parents will probably call me about that, saying they knew it all along) I suppose that as a kid, I just assumed that the table always had food on it, and water always came out of the faucet regardless of what I did. In recent years, after I got out into the real world/got married/got a job/etc, I started realizing just how different we live now than people did 200 years ago. What’s interesting is that folks 200 years ago didn’t live so different from folks 2000 years ago. Fashion changed, entertainment changed; but what you did to exist was the same.

In normal circumstances, in order for a human to survive, we need:

  • Clean water
  • Food
  • Shelter
  • Security

Everything else is just comfort or entertainment. If you had those things and absolutely nothing else, you might be lonely, but you’re alive.

Whether you were born in 13 AD or 1813 AD, a lot of people were farmers and/or hunters. Why? Food is somewhat important. Now, food is a thing that we put into a cart at Wal-Mart. Until maybe 100 years ago, it was incredibly common to draw your water from a well every day.

While technology have made many things easier to obtain, it is creating problems of its own. Food is riddled with genetic modifications and toxins. Water flows with chemicals and unnatural impurities.

And then there are the systems that deliver those things to us. Disasters halt delivery of goods to people who (during a disaster) need them most. Even small incidents can cause water to stop pumping from the city plant to our houses.

So, basically, after creating technology that will make our lives easier, we’ve become completely reliant on it. We promote industry to the point of poisoning our food in order to mass produce it.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not anti-corporation or against capitalism. In fact, I’m all about capitalism.

I just don’t want to be reliant on a system that will eventually break. I don’t want to keep paying for someone to do something for me that I can do myself – and that I can do better.

So, let’s go back over that list, and figure out the plan.

Clean Water

The house that we bought already has a well. Praise the Lord! One of the requirements for the house we were going to buy was that we could dig a well on the property, and having one here already sure save a ton of headaches (especially because we have pretty rocky ground). There’s even a filtration system already set up!

The only current problem is that after using the well for 27 years, about two years ago the owner connected to city water and disconnected the well pump. Well – not so much disconnected it as much as cut the pipes to pull the pump off and just place it to the side. I don’t know why they did that. So – during our upcoming renovations (more on that later), I’m planning on getting a new pump and reconnecting it. I already talked to a neighbor who is on well water, and they’ve had no problems with their water supply (one of my fears when hearing the previous owners connected to city water).

As time goes on, I’d like to add storage tanks, rain collection, and incorporate some DIY filtration.

Difficulty Level: Somewhat Easy

Food

This is the piece of the puzzle that is going to take the most work and time.

  • I’d been planning on raising chickens after watching my brother do the same for a couple of years. I’m hoping that I can learn from his mistakes and victories… The nice thing about chickens is that you get meat once, but eggs (almost) daily.
  • I want to keep some honeybee hives, which don’t necessarily bring a large quantity of food – but man-o-man I love honey. And I’d love to eventually convert my consumption of sugar to wonderful backyard honey. I have family that also make maple syrup, so at some point I figure I’ll tap into their knowledge. (And yes, I did mean to use that horrible pun)
  • We’ve already planted some fruit trees, and I’m on my way to Tractor Supply right after I post this to get some fertilizer. (My cherry tree leaves aren’t looking too good – most have already fallen off, and the remaining are yellowed, which google tells me that means they need some iron and nitrogen)
  • I didn’t think I’d be much of a gardener (again – as a kid I avoided it at all costs). However, I got a handful of plants (from my aunt’s greenhouse) when we first moved in, and to my surprise, I’ve really enjoyed …gardening…them… We don’t have a working kitchen yet, but I’m doing everything I can to keep pulling ripe tomatoes and peppers off the plants. I’m freezing them for now, hoping that they will be useful in the end. I keep moving them around, because we currently don’t have a lot of sunny spots on our property (mostly trees).
  • Eventually, I’d like to raise other animals. Holly’s not too keen on the thought of raising pigs, but I’m hoping I’ll wear her down. Man cannot live without bacon, right? The thoughts of goats, sheep, etc are definitely in the mix, but I haven’t thought that far ahead.
  • Fortunately, my wife’s mom owns a cattle farm – so we have access to natural, grass-fed beef. The way God intended a steak to be raised.
  • I need to figure out how to make my own reese’s cups…

Difficulty Level: Hard

Shelter

As long as I keep paying my mortgage payment, we should be good there.

Difficulty Level: Done

Security

I very much appreciate our second amendment (and Thank God that America’s founders had the foresight to write it down, because there sure are a bunch of people in the government who oppose it now), but I still need to get my carry permit. If the crap hits the fan, I’ll be focusing on security a lot more, but for now I’m focusing on the other things above.

Difficulty Level: Easy

So – there’s the plan as it stands now. This blog is chronicling my journey of a fully on-the-grid American to a fully off-the-grid survivalist. I’ll try to take pictures!

house

Preface: The Beginning

I’m not yet off grid. But I definitely want to be. The majority of these first posts will be more about what I’m hoping to accomplish over the years, rather than what I’ve accomplished or am accomplishing.

I’ve been dreaming out loud for a few years about “when we have some land,” and all the projects that would ensue. For the past five years, my wife and I lived in a subdivision with about a fourth of an acre, and for three years before that we lived in an apartment complex. Over time, my dreams felt heavy – like they were too unrealistic.

To be fair – I have a lot of unrealistic dreams. There’ve been a number of times that I’d email my wife with a question like “airfare to Europe is only $xxx right now – we could totally sell everything and live there for a couple of years…” or “what do think about both of us quitting our jobs and starting an interpretive dance company…”

Well – not interpretive dance, but you get the idea.

I was using her as a sounding board, but she was always afraid that I was determined for all of these random things to come to fruition. So, over the years, I’ve learned that I need to ease into ideas and let her process them. So, many of my ideas don’t even get to that stage; they end up on a notepad and never come to the surface again. Probably a good thing.

Around the middle of 2012, I started talking a lot more about “when we have some land.” Both of us grew up on farms so it’s been a dream that we share – and it didn’t produce the panic attacks that she associated with some of my other ideas. I would randomly look for homes with acreage, more or less just to see the kind of property that would be available when we eventually escaped from suburbia.

I found one in October or so – a foreclosure that was not yet on the market. I showed Holly and, to my surprise, she loved it.

We took a Sunday drive to the property, peered through the windows (it was unoccupied), walked the land, and even had a conversation with a friendly neighbor. We could absolutely see ourselves (and our future children) living there.

We definitely didn’t want to have two mortgages (we’re followers of Dave Ramsey’s plan), so before we knew it, we were frantically getting our house ready to sell. We finally got around to all the things that we said we’d do – fixing this, painting that, replacing the doo-hicky. We called my friend Jerry at Award Realty (if you’re looking for a real estate agent in middle TN, I can’t recommend him enough), and he told us we were ready to put it on the market.

Boom. The dream was happening.

Our house went on the market in December, and Jerry told us it would take a while, since the market is slow in the winter, but would pick up by April.

What? April? But… That house! It could be gone by April!

We prayed a lot that we’d sell our house quick, and that the foreclosure would come on the market soon after – if it was the Lord’s will that we get that house.

Well, the foreclosure came on the market in February.
Our house had not sold.
We were freaking out.

We justified to ourselves making an offer, but we set a limit that was well under the market value for the house. Again praying that God would basically make it obvious that He did (or didn’t) want us in the house.

After an emotional week, we did not get the house. Which is a good thing, because our house didn’t sell until the beginning of April. (It sold! Yes!!)

The closing date rolled around, and we were homeless.

We had friends who needed dog sitters for about a month an a half total, so we packed everything we owned into a storage unit, and hopped around between houses. We had no idea where we were going to end up, but we were prepared to jump on buying some property (while trying not to get too emotionally connected to anything).

On the day of the closing on our last home, I found a house and almost 7 acres for auction, so Holly and I drove by soon after. We had Jerry contact the auctioneer and got us in to the house before the auction, and he gave us a renovation plan (because it was… unique) were we to get it. He agreed to continue to act as our realtor, even though actions generally aren’t done through realtors, because we felt much better with him walking us through the process. (and because he had done a TON of work for us, and didn’t want to just skip out on paying him)

Long story short, we bought the house at auction with Jerry at our side – for under what we’d agreed we’d be willing to spend on it. After a whole of bunch of headaches with trying to secure a loan (because we wanted to roll a construction loan in with it at the start, and we only had 30 days), we closed on the home 2 days before our friend returned from Sweden and we no longer had a dog to dog sit!

Thus, the dream begins.