Blog post #1 for Off Grid and Underground
I would like to start out my Blog postings with an introduction to our quest for a simpler life. Most of our lives we spent working to make money to pay the bills to keep us comfortable while we worked to make money…. You get the picture! As we became empty nesters with both our son starting their own families, we decided to see if we could simplify our lives and remain comfortable doing it. At the time, we were living in an urban environment and realized that to really simplify our lives, we would need to find a more rural situation.
We found a 10 acre piece of raw land in 2000 and started out be camping on weekends to begin to get a feel for the land and what was available around it. The next year, we built a small cabin that we could leave our camping stuff in – a 10 x 12 that did not require a permit. Up to this point we were hauling water by barrels to mix concrete with for the small foundation.
As we got closer to selling our urban house, we took out an equity line of credit so we could begin to but some basic infrastructure in for when we decided to make our move. Our first consideration was to get a well in place. You can read our story about the well in the book, “Off Grid and Underground”. By the summer of 2002 we were ready to put an ag-barn in place which only required a $60 ag- permit. We even had a barn-raising campout week and invited some friends out to camp and help us with the basic framing of the barn. It was actually a lot of fun even though the whole week was over 100 degrees temperature.
By September of 2002, we had our barn closed in so we could move our household possessions in when we sold our house in the city. We bought a 5th wheel trailer to live in until we were able to build a home and finally moved onto our country homestead.
Our electric was by generator and when we inquired with the power company about getting electricity out to the homestead, we were told it would be at least $20,000. We decided to take that money and put it into a solar system which has evolved into a very reliable system with panels, batteries and back-up generator. Our well is even solar powered now even though we didn’t have that at first.
We put in a small septic system for our trailer at first, but the next spring, we got a county permit and put in the largest system they allowed for single family plots with the anticipation that we would expand our accommodations as time went on. We also built a freestanding kitchen, bathroom, and laundry building so we could use part of the barn’s upstairs to live in while preparing our meals in the kitchen so we could let the trailer go.
We spent a lot of time and money developing the soils on our homestead so we could plant an orchard and large garden. Looking back on it now, we would do it differently as I explain in our book “Off Grid and Underground”. I’ll probably write another post on better agriculture options somewhere along the way too. It is important to have the ability to grow your own food if you are going to simplify your life – no question.
We were trying to build a conventional home and going through the permit process with the county, but we kept running up against obstacles. The plan we had chosen kept requiring alterations and new engineer work and it finally got to the point where we had wasted so much money trying to make the county happy that we finally pulled the plug on the whole project. We decided that we would just live with the arrangements we had in place and take some time to think about what we really wanted to do.
By 2007, we had a better picture of what we really wanted and began to seriously work on plans for an underground structure. We felt it was important to achieve the benefits of a more constant temperature that underground structures provide so that we would be spending a lot less on energy requirements for both heating and cooling. You will find detailed information on what we finally built in our book, “Off Grid and Underground”.
Our current situation is that we have a wonderfully comfortable home that is solar powered, has the ability to grow our own food, and uses very little energy to stay comfortable. We don’t need a lot of money to keep our homestead up and running. We don’t have city water or electric payments, and our taxes are quite low because we are rated agriculture. We have lots of room between ourselves and our neighbors, and we can see amazing star displays at night. We wouldn’t trade it for anything.
It takes a different way of looking at things, but it’s definitely worth a try!