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Off-Grid Bound  RSS feed

 
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I am a single 60+ year-old female in the process of saving $$ to buy land in the PNW or possibly MT.  Left Oregon last Fall to provide care for my newborn granddaughter in NJ for 18 to 36 months.   My dream is land with trees and pasture where I will build an off-grid sustainable home.  While surfing the net I gratefully happened across Permies and love this site.  Being uprooted from my beloved Oregon has been difficult.  My family here are well-rooted in the economy and culture of Western society (Manhattan style) and think I’m absolutely nuts for wanting a home off-grid.  While I’m here and making the best of it, I’m hoping to connect with like-minded folks on this site.  There is a wealth of valuable information and I’m enjoying the opportunity to learn as much as possible about live a self-sustaining lifestyle.  
Ideas on finding land and building a self-sustainable earthship-like home are my passion these days and would appreciate any information anyone would care to share.  Please drop me a line or two if you are so inclined.  
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master pollinator
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I am married, but I wish you all the best on your quest. In fact if I can do anything, it is to encourage you. We recently left our larger home, to a Tiny House and love it. I have only lived in two houses: my parents and that house, but found out; family is what matters, not the building.

Now that I am 44...with a wife and 4 daughters...we are getting rid of stuff and not getting more of it. My parents think we are crazy, and I think they are: 5200 sq foot house, 8 car garage...


Edited to say: Beautiful Grandchild by the way.
 
Dawn Compton
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The back-to-nature, less-is-better lifestyle gives us more time to gravitate toward our calling.  The more people see this shift in others, I think more people will follow.  You and your wife are giving your children an opportunity to grow and transcend the economy-based lifestyle the majority of "civilized" cultures are expected to embrace.  Thank you Travis for reaching out!  
 
Posts: 29
Location: Portland, OR
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Hi Dawn, I’m assuming you’re looking for a mate, since you posted in the singles forum.

So, I apologize for intrusion, I’m a female and married, but live in Oregon, and love to look at land. Love it even more when people with “good intentions” like permaculture people look for land.

I’d like to chat more, if you’re inclined. There are two pieces of land close to me for sale. And of course more come up all the time.
 
Dawn Compton
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Hi Liv!  Good to hear from you.  I lived in Oregon for 20+ years until Sept of last year in the Willamette Valley mostly in rural areas outside of Eugene.  There are beautiful properties outside of Portland, again getting far enough away to be called rural.  What land have you seen for sale?  My budget will be minimal for land and I have time before I'll be able to purchase.   I'm hoping sometime before the end of this year I can make a trip home to look at properties for sale.  Power and water are not necessary as I am committed to living off grid.  I've been looking mostly in eastern Oregon, but particularly want trees rather than high desert sage brush.  Would like to find at least an acre in Douglas, Lane, Josephine, Curry, Marion or Wasco counties.  These are counties in Oregon that are receptive to permitting sustainable structures. Really appreciate you reaching out!  
 
Posts: 58
Location: Rockwall, TX
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I have been involved in both earth-ship and compressed earth block building and they are both extremely labor intensive and time consuming. I don't expect to ever do either again. Have not done earth-bag, hemp block, or rammed earth. They may or may not be more viable options.
 
Liv Smith
Posts: 29
Location: Portland, OR
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Dawn Compton wrote:Hi Liv!  Good to hear from you.  I lived in Oregon for 20+ years until Sept of last year in the Willamette Valley mostly in rural areas outside of Eugene.  There are beautiful properties outside of Portland, again getting far enough away to be called rural.  What land have you seen for sale?  My budget will be minimal for land and I have time before I'll be able to purchase.   I'm hoping sometime before the end of this year I can make a trip home to look at properties for sale.  Power and water are not necessary as I am committed to living off grid.  I've been looking mostly in eastern Oregon, but particularly want trees rather than high desert sage brush.  Would like to find at least an acre in Douglas, Lane, Josephine, Curry, Marion or Wasco counties.  These are counties in Oregon that are receptive to permitting sustainable structures. Really appreciate you reaching out!  



There are two parcels with no houses on them, a 5 acres one, and a 7 acres one. Mostly wooded, and I think both have year round creek running through or adjacent to.

This is half an hour NW of Portland, off of Sunset Hwy. in Washington Co.

Yes, I know, different counties different rules.

Exciting to be looking for land, and to dream about the posibilities.


 
gardener
Posts: 455
Location: SoCal USA
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Hi Dawn, when you can make it back to Oregon, I highly recommend that you visit the Cob Cottage Company http://www.cobcottage.com/ which is in SW Orgeon, about 5 miles from the coast. They have several buildings made of cob and balecob (straw bales with cob coating, thicker coating on the interior to improve thermal mass) and teach cob construction and also rocket mass heaters. The insulation of strawbale covered by cob might be a good combo in eastern Oregon for some insulation value, I'm thinking about that for my "exterior wall" in a Mike Oehler/wofati hybrid on my own land, 4 years and counting till retirement!

Best of luck in exploring and achieving your dreams!
 
Dawn Compton
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Hi Mark!  You are a saint!  I ran across information on the Cob Cottage Company a couple weeks ago, and then couldn't for the life of me couldn't remember how to find them again.  Thank you for leading me back to them!  Their website is now bookmarked and I'm excited to reach out to intern or attend a workshop possibly this summer or fall.  I believe the universe directs us if we are receptive to its guidance. Do you have land? Are you planning on staying in Cali?  Will you be building with cob? I dream of the satisfaction of putting my hands in the dirt and creating a space to live life and feel alive.  Stay in touch if you like and thank you again for guiding me back to the path.
 
Best wishes to you and your endeavors.
 
Mark Tudor
gardener
Posts: 455
Location: SoCal USA
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I'm glad that link worked out Dawn!

I bought 20 acres in NE Washington state and plan to build there when I retire, southern California isn't my cup of tea but waiting until 50 allows me to start getting my retirement that I was forced to pay into and will be plenty to live on when I'm not paying California prices for everything.

My goal is to use some of the trees on the site to build a home, mixing techniques to essentially build a log cabin that uses earth berms and a waterproof barrier extending out on the north/east/west sides to provide a lot of thermal mass, and heat it with a rocket mass heater. The south wall will probably be strawbale for insulation with cob on the inside and outside, and an attached greenhouse on that south wall as well, sort of like an earthship I guess. I'm trying to get black locust and osage orange trees started to use as a coppice and hedge for fuel and to protect plants from all the deer, and plant a small orchard and perennial gardens.

The cost to bring grid power to where I would likely place the house is over $20,000 according to the utility and then I pay to use it, and need the various permits and inspections to hook it up as well, and could lose power during storms. So I plan to buy a solar system instead, and if the winters are really overcast I'll either increase the number of panels or get a generator as a backup. Probably will have a well put in, since the roof of the cabin will be a living roof, so collecting rainwater will involve additional buildings and cisterns, but I'm considering that as well to have both.


It's so much fun to come up with ideas and plans to try things out and see what works and what really inspires you to experience life and enjoy it!
 
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I live in clatsop county oregon in an off grid cabin with my partner and three kids 8,9 and 13. A little less than half of our 13 acres is available to someone who is a good fit. It's bordered by a river on the south side and 20 miles of state land to the north. Been here long enough to know and get along with our neighbors. It's a shared land kind of deal not individual ownership, way below market value... It's not profit we are after but community with like minded individuals.
 
Posts: 596
Location: In the woods, West Coast USA
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Dawn, living off grid can be very rewarding, but it's very difficult.  I am not telling you these things to discourage you, but to help you make an informed decision.  Maybe you know this stuff, but for anyone else reading this forum, this might help.

The majority of enthusiasm about living off the grid comes from companies that want to sell you equipment to do it.  And if that seems harsh, history shows that the only people who made money on the California Gold Rush were the retailers who sold the mining stuff to the miners.  It's true!  So be very skeptical about equipment for sale, especially solar equipment, and what it's capable of doing.

It's a life of needing to know electricity (AC and DC), sewage handling, water development/storage, more small engine maintenance than you ever imagined, (pumps, mowers, chainsaws, weed wackers, generators, maybe a tractor or ATV, and keeping maintenance charts of every hour they have been turned on).  It's a life of sheds and making sure you have literally a hardware store in one of them, because when something goes wrong it will be raining, or snowing, or freezing, or windy, or so hot there's no way to be out in the direct sun.  

There's roof maintenance, climbing up on and fixing leaks in wind (which I particularly hate), or rain, or it's so hot you can't sit on the roof shingles.  It requires storing gasoline, propane, extra car batteries, roofing tar and extra shingles.   It requires being able to get your car out of the mud when it's stuck, deal with ticks, hornets in the ground and in paper nests under eaves, and snakes.  Pack rats chew through wood, and car wires and hoses, and build nests under the hood.  One just found its way into the intake area for the engine air filter, and all the fur it pulled out of itself to make a nest got sucked into the air filter of the engine and plugged it up.  Luckily I caught it in time and the engine didn't have problems.

It's a life of living with rodents, stinging insects, downed fences, mud, falling trees, mountain lions, poison oak, all the things that exist out in a rural location that have always been there.

So if you buy property, it helps to watch it weekly/monthly for a year to watch what happens there every month, how the ground water flows, how the wind blows before and during storms (this helps for siting a house), how long the sun stays on an area in all times of the year,  before you make any location decisions for a house/driveway/garage/shed/solar panel and shed.   Since there is so much to deal with and learn (almost always the hard way) be prepared to be overwhelmed and scared and defeated on occasion.  Mother Nature is not an easy coworker.

If you can buy property with a starter house, so you have a solid place to go out of the rain, where you can cook and bathe safely and easily, and do laundry without driving into town, be warm in the winter, it will make all of the other things much more optimistic to deal with.  I didn't say easier, but keeping one's spirits up is 60% of the deal.   And if you are really eager to build something, add on to that building, and that way the core house is still solid and reliable.  You can always detach an existing dwelling from power and stay safe.  It's a lot more exhausting work to create a safe dwelling and try to add onto it.

If you want to do solar, you've got to absolutely....absolutely know electricity, be prepared to spend many thousands of dollars for a system big enough to run a house, and be prepared to maintain it monthly.  Be aware of how many hours of sunlight between 10:00 and 2:00 you've got in Oregon where it rains, which are the only hours/days that will charge up batteries.  If there's overcast for more than a couple days, it's important to have another source of power, usually a generator.  And that requires large amounts of stored gasoline, a shed to put gas in that is separate from the shed with the generator in it, big enough so you can stand in the shed, fill the generator with gas out of the rain or snow, where it has lots of venting so the fumes don't cause problems.  Maintenance on these basic machines is crucial.  

Your friends will be curious about your life, and come to visit once, but I've found it's rare if anyone comes a second time.  They all say it's too far, too hard to drive in the dark on winding mountain roads, it's too difficult even to visit.   I've had to do all the driving to keep old friendships, but I find I had less and less in common with them, and they really didn't want to hear about life off the grid.  So your neighbors will be your new social network.   And it's a small town life, and you will be the newcomer, so joining in becomes very important.  



 
Cristo Balete
Posts: 596
Location: In the woods, West Coast USA
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One more thing, always give yourself the option of changing your mind.  If you start out rural but not too remote, you can sell the place if you change your mind, even if it's 5 years down the road.   You'll have neighbors for safety and for telling you things you'll want to know about your place.  They will know all kinds of things about your place!!

And if it works, you can always sell and get more remote.  But a remote place is harder to sell, takes a long time.   If you want out, you might have to have it on the market for a year or more.
 
Dawn Compton
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Thank you Cristo for sharing your experience with off-grid living.  My goal is to live sustainably but not isolated.  Before moving to NJ I was living in the wilderness with a 70+ year old woman who was stung 9 times by ground bees last summer while working outside on her property.  She would treat the wounds with bee pollen and go about her business.  The neighbors in the area discouraged me from raising chickens and goats because the livestock attract bears and the area has a dense bear population.  The previous tenant had to shut down his beekeeping because the bears always got to the honey before he did.  It was an interesting experience and definitely not a lifestyle I would do alone.  Your advice on knowing electricity is appreciated.  I do want to use solar and have zero knowledge about how it works so that will be researched thoroughly.   Appreciate you for your thoughtfulness to share the realities of off-grid living with me and others.
 
pollinator
Posts: 786
Location: Victoria BC
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Gas sucks. You'll need a generator to back your solar/other energy sources, but if at all possible, propane is generally much preferable.

Diesel is good if you're going to be storing it anyway for other equipment, and can afford a quality unit.. but propane stores best.
 
Cristo Balete
Posts: 596
Location: In the woods, West Coast USA
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I've given up on propane because it's a pain to get, there are very few places that carry it where I am, so it requires more driving to get there.  The price is up much more than gasoline, and doesn't fluctuate like gasoline, so using it will only cost more.

I have to go to the gas station anyway, and need gasoline for equipment with motors, so it saves a lot of time.  Propane may go farther, but the containers are very heavy (I used to use 7 gallon tanks and 10 gallon tanks).    If a vehicle can't get close to where it needs to be used, which is a different place from where other tanks  are stored, lugging them over mud or snow/ice several times a season is risky because it's easy to slip on mud, ice or snow.  

Neither propane nor gasoline should be stored near a pilot light, like in a garage where there's a heater with a pilot, even if it's an electric pilot that doesn't run all the time.  The pilot light can still set off fumes that have collected in an enclosed space when it's on.  

I've had valves go bad on two rather new 5 gallon tanks, and I'm tired of paying a lot for the tanks.   Some places won't fill a propane tank if it's over 10 years old, and then we're stuck buying a new tank.  

A lot of gas appliances won't run unless there's a 100-gallon tank installed by a company that requires a truck to arrive and fill it.  That propane company is connected to the fire department that has to have access to your house, and they tell each other whether everything's legit there, or whether they are willing to use what is existing to get to the property, (too-steep a driveway, a driveway without pullouts for two-way traffic or fire trucks, a bridge over a creek that won't support the weight of a fire truck or propane truck)

I use propane for the BBQ and that's it.  

It's a good idea to have a backup form of heat anyway, because we need heat when there are bad storms, and what if the road closes and we can't get out for either fuel?   So a wood-burning stove, a fireplace insert with a fan works well.
 
Cristo Balete
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Location: In the woods, West Coast USA
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Dawn, that sounds like a good plan.  

I didn't know about bee pollen, I'll remember that.   I just opened up an 8-foot patio umbrella the other day, that gets used maybe 3 times a month in winter, so it had only been a few weeks since it had been open, and there were 15 hornet queens hanging out in there.  It's still late winter now, so they aren't building nests yet, and were just overwintering.  I've never seen 15 in one area.  Maybe I've seen a couple in a door frame or behind window trim, but never 15!  I don't know what kind of omen for hornets nests that is for this summer.   Word got out they had a Taj Majal, apparently!

I just learned that milk is the best thing for removing pine pitch.
 
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