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Category Archives: trip to a new life

  • Well, we’re in

    That’s it, we moved into our little 16’x16′ 2 story gambrel. It’s far from finished inside but it’s dry and cozy. For now it’s a little bit like camping which is quite ok in the Summer.

    We love the outside shower

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    It’s a very interesting process to start from scratch and one that we wanted to go through. The smallest improvements we make have a drastic impact on our lives and are cause for celebration. The shower above started as just a solar heating water bag, we added a platform, then something to hold the bag, then a couple of walls.  It will soon have a water tank perched above. We are currently going through everything in our lives and carefully deliberating what we really need. And it turns out, we don’t need a whole lot.

    We’ve been without plumbing or electricity for the past 3 weeks and it barely registers as an encumbrance. Sure we have extra chores related to this (emptying buckets, charging batteries, doing dishes) but the simplicity gains largely offset them so it’s pretty much a wash. I’ve been messing around with a couple of solar panels and it opened my eyes to the world of 12V DC power which boating or RVing are familiar with. I’m starting to see that 110V AC is for a specific type of use (centralized power generation, distance distribution, high use) and that it doesn’t fit well the new world of high efficiency devices with batteries. It makes no sense to burn coal and loose 84% of its energy through conversions (coal->motion->electricity->transmission->charger) so you can charge a low powered DC device.

    Picture bellow, charging a tablet, a cell phone, a USB shower pump/head, cellular internet access, and lighting with 1 solar panel.

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    Everything we need has its own battery, this is why running straight from a solar panel with no charge controller is fine. The battery bank and charge control is delegated to the devices. Truth be told, I will probably have a battery in the final solar design for the convenience of being able to charge things at all times of the day, especially in the winter. I’m still figuring things out, but one big discovery is that power inversion to 110V AC and the loss that comes with it is far from necessary. It does mean no big appliances like a dishwasher or clothes dryer. For refrigeration there exist pretty neat 12v DC fridges but it’s not the type with 2 doors and an ice dispenser.

    We still have major projects to complete before the Winter, because when the cold and the short daylight hit, everything we’ve learned is off the table.

    • we need a good roof
    • more insulation downstairs
    • a chimney and hooking the cookstove to it
    • septic installation

    I recently spent a good chunk of time on the roof finishing the rakes, making a few last cuts and flashing it to get it ready for the roofers… Yes, we’re buying our way out of this one. Hours spent doing high altitude acrobatics and a few good storms will do that. We need a real roof fast and I’m sick of being up there. This means we’re also getting a standing seam metal roof with no punctures into the underlying sheathing. I’ve learned how much harder gambrels are over conventional roof designs.

    However it’s hard to resist that New England barn charm

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    Now we are hypocrites in some regards; there are things that our household doesn’t support right now. We get potable water from outside. We do laundry outside. Lastly, we use gas to power equipment (generator, chainsaw, ATV). We’ll be addressing the first 2 soon but our reliance on gas is unlikely to go away unless we start rearing horses. Which, I really don’t see happening anytime soon.

    5 years after giving up motorcycles, I get to ride again in the good name of Utility :)

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    Overall this is an awesome experiment to go through. There’s a lot of self discovery, learning, eye opening, liberating & fun going on. I can’t believe we’ve been in there 3 weeks already.

  • Here we go

    Only a year after buying our chunk of land we are building a house. The dream we came to pursue in Vermont is finally happening, 4 years in (we had planned on 2). Vermont felt right going in, there simply could not have been a better place, better people, better circumstances to surrounds ourselves with to make it happen. These 4 years were more than necessary to make the adjustments needed for such a lifestyle change. We are extremely appreciative and in debt to everyone who helped a couple of flatlanders get acquainted with all the awesome skills we wanted to develop. To this list of skills that is so nicely summarized in the “categories” of this blog, we are adding “building”.

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    We spent all Winter learning how to build a house & designing it. It completely blows my mind that we live in a time where all this information is available online. I spent countless hours reading and watching videos on building techniques. Not only is information ubiquitous, so is stuff. Every specialized tool or object referenced in these videos is available to purchase online, with reviews, and unboxing videos…

    Preparations in no particular order

    • septic permit, the only paperwork/requirement
    • Sketchup design
      • extensive reviews by multiple trusted builders
    • research & acquire needed tools
      • skill saw
      • clamps
      • rip & plywood blades
      • generator
      • run generator and charge devices with it to avoid surprises
    • create guides for sawing
      • 2×6 with 22.5 angle
      • plywood 4′ & 8′
    • find cheap recovered windows & fix them up
    • visit local lumber yards to get material pricing & delivery fees
    • buy portable shower & potty
    • emptying our current house of superfluous things we’ve accumulated to get ready for downsizing
    • budgeting
    • scheduling
  • Acres

    In what is probably the biggest step taken towards our dream, we just bought a chunk of land of ~50 acres.

    We have little money left to do anything with it at the moment but we’ll throw a house on it in due time. We are cleaning it up in the mean time.

    It is an invigorating feeling to stare at your life goal.

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  • Trip to a new life

    Not a whole lot of cell coverage in Wyoming & Nebraska :)