I have been trying to work up something to post lately, but haven’t. Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, Twitter, Snapchat, and TikTok haven’t seen much from us. We do not lack material or things to share; we just started some large projects, made some life changes, and haven’t taken time to structure it around social media. So, here is an attempt to provide you with an update.
As a lot of you know, we are a family of seven living in a small house in a small drug infested town. We had gone from teaching our oldest two children, when they were little, to ride a bike in the ally, to now locking the youngest inside due to drug trafficking and needles lying around.
For the last five years, we have been working toward moving. We know that the drug epidemic is everywhere, but if we were in the middle of six acres, it would hopefully make us feel like we were away from it and would provide plenty of room for our kids to play.
From sheds to houses, from swamps to mountaintops, we have seen our fair share of properties in searching for our forever home. Strangely, we ended up not where we thought. Deposit in hand, contracts awaiting signatures, we were ready to close on a beautiful piece of property we visited earlier last year. Our hunt and wait were finally over. The house was a foreclosure, and in the middle of closing, the property holders asked the strangest question, “This loan doesn’t require property repair before approval does it?” It didn’t, but there was nothing wrong when we were there, did something change? We asked, but didn’t get a straight answer. We told them we wanted to revisit the property before we proceeded. Lucky for us, we didn’t sign that day. A slip had formed in front of the house. The complete front yard had slid over the hill revealing the home’s foundation and covering the driveway below.
This incident made us realize a few things and made us change directions. We know what type of land we want; mountain living, we know what kind of house we want; custom design, we know what kind of lifestyle we want; off-grid self-sustaining. So, we took our deposit and bought around 37 acres of property we looked at last winter.
THE WORK BEGINS
We have been working the property for a month now, and we have learned a lot. First off, Weather; Respect it! Second, Trees; They don’t always fall where you think. Third, Thorns; They hate you and find enjoyment in stabbing and slicing you.
Our first plan in living on the mountain was to move our tiny modified toy hauler/camper on the property until we could build a 500 square foot tiny home. After the first couple of weekends, without the oldest two, we realized this wasn’t going to work. We were continually moving tools in and out, and bad weather would keep everyone trapped in a 60 square foot box with no windows for days. It felt like five people in a jail cell. We desperately were going to need an upgrade.
CAMPER LUCK, OUR UPGRADE!
Some acreage further up the property sold, and the new owners wanted the previous owners to move their Camper. I put in an offer to purchase the Camper with hopes they didn’t want to move it. Luck so happened, they already bought a new camper and accepted our offer to purchase it.
We had two weeks of rain, and getting the Camper moved to our land was a complicated mess, but we were able to hire a guy who transports heavy equipment to move it and place it on our property.
Once level, we fired up our generator to see what worked and didn’t. The Camper is dated, but we were highly impressed. There were no leaks, and everything worked but the microwave. Heather did a massive cleaning of the inside, and a hunt for mothballs took off.
Our first week in the Camper was much better than staying in the toy hauler. We went from 60 square feet to 240 square feet, which was a vast improvement. Heather has been working on the inside, trying to make it homely as possible and more to our style. The kids think it’s a blast and love being able to fold the couches into beds and to play board games and do homework at the table.
The previous paragraphs may make it sound like it went smoothly, but this is not the case. The Camper is in fantastic shape, but no one has been in it for over a year. We found a squirrel’s nest under the sink that we had to clear out, and we have now killed over 50 wasps. Wasp battles are a daily event and done 3 to 4 times a day. We have knocked down six nests, but we seem to discover more and more as the days get warmer. Also, we may have removed the squirrel’s nest, but we think it’s still in here. We hear things in the ceiling, and the dog goes crazy. It may be mice, it may be a squirrel, but whatever it is, it needs to go.
We are loving life on the mountain. If I were writing a brochure, it would never be accepted, “Mountain Living: Hard Work, Collect Water, Grow Food, Cut Roads, Harvest Firewood. Toss Away All Your Amenities And Join The Movement.” In town, life is so much easier, press a button, and stuff happens. Within’ one month of living on the hill, a sense of pride and fulfillment has overcome us. Yes, it’s hard but worth it.
THE MIGHTY CHAMPION HAS FALLIN’
Now, did we toss away all of our amenities? No! We have a Champion. Well, we had a Champion. We are working toward complete sustainability. Are we there yet? No! Do we hope to get there? Yes! We are currently running a hybrid power system. I have installed a 400w solar array, and we use a 3500w Champion Generator in case we need more juice. But, within the same paragraph, I bring you sad news: Our Mighty Champion has fallen. He has run a good fight, but now after almost eight years, he tossed in the towel. R.I.P. Champion (26 Dec 12 – 28 Mar 20).
I went online shopping for a new Champion and think we have found his replacement, but I’m not sure which model I will settle on. A lot has changed in the generator world in the last eight years. They now even have a remote start option. What?
Update 30 Mar 2020: (30 Mar 20: The Birth of a Champion) We made a decision. I picked up our new Champion today. Hopefully, he is ready to take on the challenge and give us a good 8 to 10 years of work. This one doesn’t have a remote start, which after last night would be handy, but it is three times as powerful and runs on gas and propane. Propane for us is an excellent fule alternative since we have plenty of tanks.
The Champion was working overtime last night. He was showing us he was in it to win it, or burn us alive. We currently don’t have our furnace running in the Camper. Why? Because a lot of the bees were coming out of the heat vents. So, we sprayed them and covered them. We have currently been heating with a Mr. Heater Big Buddy propane heater. But, with the extra juice, two space heaters got plugged into the camper outlets when people got cold. Both cranked on High and was too much for the trailer plug. The complete power system shut down on the Camper. The Champion just kept running, and he was melting the power plug to the Camper.
With our A.C., electric gone, I was wondering if our D.C. electric still worked. Remember the M.O.G., our Mobile Off-Grid Toy Hauler? It has a 400W Solar System on it with some deep cycle marine batteries. I ran a new D.C., line tying in the Campers D.C. to the M.O.G’s. The gauge was low, and I was losing voltage, but it was enough to get us through the night. Now I’ll be picking up a new TT-30P (plug), and hopefully, the A.C.; System will work.
Update 31 Mar 2020: We are excited to announce that the A.C. system is back up and running. It seemed that the TT-30P (plug) melted and fried the inside of the power plug. We have now learned our lesson and back in business. I am so relieved it was just the plug and not the converter/inverter in the Camper itself, and mostly, that there was no fire and that everyone was okay.
We have found a place for our garden, good morning sun, slight shade mid-day, and a little sun in the evening. We need to work on the soil and build some fencing. This year we will most likely grow some vegetables in planters until we work the land.
We have found four springs on the property, not sure if they are from the same water source or not. We are currently working on building a path down to the first spring so we can make a small spring house.
With the global pandemic of COVID-19, we feel fortunate and blessed to have moved off-grid when we did. Chris is still an Essential Employee and has to take upmost precautions before returning to his family, but we are glad that he still has a job and wasn’t laid off or lost his job due to this virus.
With the kids now needing to complete their school work from home, we have set up a learning center in our Camper for homework and e-learning. The oldest two use their hot spots to remote into their classes and work their content.
As parents, the threat of the virus is real, the worry and anxiety are real. As kids, it seems to be their best life. They are camping, riding bikes, hiking, playing board games with the family, and closing out their day with night time bonfires. I hope that when this is over, their stories will be, “Remember that time we were out of school for months and we stayed up on the mountain and did all this stuff; those were the best.”
We hope you and your family are well. As we adapt to our new lifestyle, we will try our best to update as we can. Stay safe out there, and until next time, many blessings from our family to yours.