So what’s next after you buy an off grid property? I get asked from co-workers. “you bought 43 acres? what are you going to do with it?” I really have to laugh, you don’t have to do anything with it! most people think if you don’t drive it, or if it isn’t consumable then it is a waste of money. If I say a vacation house, they all raise their eyebrows and say “ah” or “awesome”. The whole thing about no water, no electricity, and an outhouse just blows over their collective heads. 99% of people have no concept of living without modern conveniences, there is no mental reference. The ex mil guys I work with get it, civilians generally don’t.
But what do you do? Since a off grid place wasn’t really in our thought process when we set out on this adventure, it has kind of opened some possibilities and some challenges. In the beginning and right up until we found the place we purchased we were not out looking for places that were off grid. It was mostly raw land, or land with an established homestead. The raw land we did look at for the most part had infrastrure near by either with county water at the road, electrical service near-by, county garbage pick-up. All the modern conveniences.
After we closed on the property I did a little exercise in how do I bring the those modern things to our land? My first call was to the local electric company to see if we could have power run to the cabin. They said Sure! $7 a foot! and by the way? roughly, that will be $18,000. I thanked the engineer for his time and hung up. So electric is out of the question for now. Maybe down the road we will look at solar, wind power, or a generator.
Water, well? (no pun) a few options available are, have it delivered? about $200 for 2000 gals. Bring it in ourselves? Rain water catchment system? Or drilling a well at $10 a ft? I was able to look up what the average well depth in the area of the cabin. 850 ft. with a static level of around 700 to 750 ft. and no guarantee of hitting anything other than rock. Then how do you pump it out without 222 volt electrical service?
Grey water and black water? We do have an outhouse. And a pretty decent one at that. Grey water right now just runs outside, we produce very little grey water.
The poop house, or what I call the shit factory
We spent 5 days over the Christmas Holiday in the cabin and had a few learning curves to go through first. No refrigeration, no flushable toilet, no showers, and conserving the water we did bring in by using it sparingly. Our potable water was hauled in using 5 gallon plastic carboys that I purchased from Walmart for $7 each. During our stay our daily usage was about 5 gallons a day for 2 adults and 1 dog.
The cabin is fully wired and the previous owners used a generator to hook up to the cabin from outside connection or plug in. I found out the hard way that the inlet was wired initially for a 50 amp 220 volt plug. I swapped out the 50 amp inlet (female plug) to accept a 30 amp male connection so I could connect my generator to the cabin. Easy right? Remember I mentioned 220 volts a few lines above? Yeah well, when you change to a 30 amp 120 volt connection to the wire or circuit that was wired for a split 220 volt input you now have 2 hot wires, a common, and a ground. I learned this after the incident, read on.
I plugged in a battery charger for my screw gun and I have never seen that amount of pure white sparks come out of a piece of electrical equipment like that in my life! Kinda cool but it did cost me $70 to replace the charger. Lesson learned. I did have a circuit tester with me and went around and tested all the outlets before I plugged anything else in. I found only 1 outlet and 2 overhead lights that worked “properly”. Only knowing basic electricity I am going to leave it up to the pros to come out and look at how the panel is wired. I know the previous owner was a welder by trade and he was using a generator that he runs his welding equipment with to power the cabin. Most of those are 50 amp 220v right?
Propane is the main source of heat and cooking for the cabin. A really neat thing is the previous owners installed Humphrey Gas Lights negating the real need for electric lights. Based on my experience, these little lamps kick out the heat, enough to keep the entire cabin warm enough to sit around in a t-shirt and jeans on a 30 degree night. I mentioned that cooking is also done with propane. There is a propane stove/oven installed and we cooked a pot roast during our Christmas stay, it was 57 degrees out that day and close to 95 inside with that oven going. Talk about kicking the BTU’s!
These are all challenges, not show stoppers in our book. And what is really cool? we don’t really need any of the modern conveniences to enjoy our stays.
In the immediate our intent is to use the property as a vacation get away for now. Long term? slowly develop the property or maybe not. I do know we are going to install a rainwater catchment system for our needs into the foreseeable future. With 800 sq ft of roof? why not? it’s not California and the rain is still free.