We have been very productive with all our projects these last few weeks so I have lots of updates to share. I liked the format of my last post so I will do the same today in order to provide an update on what we have been up to.
1. We are done with our travels for now: Although the US border appears to be opening soon, we made the decision a few weeks ago that we would not be travelling south this Winter. We came to this decision based on the continued uncertainty around the border and because we realized we really liked our new property. We have really enjoyed our projects so far and spend almost all our days outside. Even when it’s raining. We don't feel like leaving our new home for an extended period of time at the moment. We loved living in an RV and it was a great experience for the kids. But we are even more excited about our new adventures ahead.
2. We have electricity!: Last week we finalized the installation of all the components of our solar panel system. It’s now working great. Again, I plan on writing a more complete post in the future on this aspect of our off-grid home but in summary we have 6 x 430 watt panels capable of generating up to 2500 watts of energy per hour. Our battery bank has approximately 12kwh of usable storage capacity. Based on our estimates, we will use approximately 3000 watts of energy per day so we have 3-4 days of energy at our disposal regardless of the sun. However so far, even with limited sun, most days the bank gets back to 100% pretty easily. We bought a backup generator to use if ever the batteries need extra help charging. I don’t anticipate this happening a lot but it’s a good backup to make sure the batteries don’t get drained if we go a long stretch with absolutely no sun in the middle of winter.
Next step is getting our running water. We have been relying on getting water in town every few days as well as using 2 large rain barrels. Our system works but we are looking forward to having this luxury back. We are scheduled to have a water well drilled in the coming weeks.
3. New chicken run/ dog pen: This project was really fun as we built it using almost all recycled materials. This was supposed to be a Spring project but we were ahead of schedule, had the materials available and just wanted a fun project to work on.
This 16 feet x 30 feet x 5 feet high fenced-in area only cost us $250. We bought 4x4 wood posts but braced them 18” in the ground by mixing some leftover cement bags we had into some cinder blocks we found on our property. This meant we needed very little cement and the posts are very solid as they and the cinder blocks are attached and buried together.
For the fence part, half was done with a roll of chicken wire which was our only other expense. For the other half we used old wood siding that we removed from the house. We also used the same wood siding to create face boards on the fence posts and to build a gate. All the screws and used in the project were recycled and odd leftovers from our house renovations.
The next step in this project is to build a coop inside the bus for our future free range chickens.
4. Meet Nala: We knew we wanted a dog to be part of our homestead but we didn’t anticipate getting one until the spring. However, when this perfect match became available from a nearby breeder we couldn’t say no.
We wanted a dog primarily to eventually protect the chickens. But we also just like dogs in general and have the perfect property, far from any roads for an off-leash dog.
Nala is a hybrid of two super intelligent dogs. Her parents are a Border Collie and an Australian Shepherd. We read a lot about dogs in the last month renting almost every dog book from our local library. We had decided we wanted a Border Collie. They are a good working dog that is not necessarily meant to guard chickens but we did not want just a guard dog. We wanted a dog we can train to do many things and also add a deterrence to nuisance animals around the chicken run.
So far Nala has proven to be very smart and calm. She already follows basic commands and follows us around everywhere. She is also off leash all day and has not wandered at all. Although the cats didn’t like her in the beginning, they now get along pretty well and even nap side by side on the deck during the day.
When Danielle announced she was going to pick her up I spent a day working on another super fun project, the dog house. Again I used all recycled materials, costing me nothing to build it.
I used an old 50 gallon barrel and built a frame around it. The frame is insulated twice using leftover scraps of 1.5” foam board on the walls and then I added leftover pink insulation between the barrel and the frame. The house itself is further protected from the wind and rain because it’s located where the driver's seat of the bus was. There will be a wall separating her area when we build the coop section of the bus.
5. 199 plants of garlic: We planted 199 garlic bulbs in our garden and they have already sprouted. These will produce 199 cloves of garlic come next summer.
6. TVA episode: Lastly, if you wanted to learn more about our journey to early retirement, TVA launched a great docu-series this fall and featured our story in one of their episodes. They did a great job summarizing our adventure so far. You can check out the episode on their digital platform here.