Called my apartment manager earlier today and gave her the bad news, that I was officially announcing my termination of agreement. I have until the end of March to pack up the rest of my “junk.” Not that there’s much there.
One thing I do have over there is my little helicopter fleet. I’ve nowhere to put them at the moment, but I’m sure I can find a safe place for them in here.
My birthday was the magic moment. The hot water lines were hooked up, and I took my first hot shower in the new cottage. And let me tell you, it was amazing.
While my brain was doing resource calculations and my muscles were basking in the 115 degree water blasting from above my head, something changed. The house is different now than it was, even when I was leak testing the gas line. That moment marked a paradigm shift between “building a house” and “living in a house.” There’s a new level of comfort and a new sense of security and safety that comes with a hot shower. It’s hard to explain, but I think it’s been the missing piece out here.
After all, I have electricity, even if I do need to run a generator every third or forth day to top off the battery bank for the moment. I have an internet connection through my cellphone, though it’s a bit slow. I have drinking water in little buckets, 5-20 gallons depending on how long it’s been since I topped them up. Technically, the sink water is just as good, but it tastes a bit different as the system breaks in. Maybe the iron content, who knows? Everything I NEED was already in place, but the shower was something I wanted.
Speaking of. My shower lasted about twelve minutes, consumed fifteen gallons of water and half a pound of propane. At this rate, a 20 pound bottle will last more than a month, so getting a big tank is kind of pointless. The smallest serviceable unit I can source so far out of city limits is around 150 gallons (a bit over 600 pounds), and since that would be about two years until a fill-up, it’s kind of pointless. I’ll likely be getting a 100 lb bottle and toting it back to town when it empties out, which is expected to be around twice per year. More on that later. My two little bottles will provide the hot water service for the moment. Propane is about 1.70 USD at the time of this writing, cheaper than gasoline, and my generator will run on it as well, just have to throw one switch and connect a line.
Water is the bigger concern. My current system size is just over 1000 gallons. Sounds like a lot, doesn’t it, but factor in 20 gallons per day (most of it for a shower), and that gives me about 50 days worth of water. If I don’t catch four inches of rain in those two months (it got really dry last summer) then I’m up that unpleasant creek with a busted paddle and a leaky canoe. Luckily tanks are cheap, so pretty soon I’ll start getting a pair of them monthly until summer starts. It takes a lot of water to clean one, so I need a good chance of more rain behind that. I plan on expanding the system to 2000 gallons or more for this year, and then when I get some money saved up, perhaps putting a big 5k cistern in the ground.
Summer brings with it another problem. I’m using around 1kWh per day at the moment. A tiny window air conditioner will bring this number well above 5kWh during the summer easily, possibly 8 or more on especially hot days, and that’s assuming that all these btu figures I’ve been calculating (some through experimenting with the stove, some through using formulas) are close to accurate. In any case, solar panels will be a must for an electric cooling system, and they will free up a ton of energy for me the rest of the year, so I shouldn’t have to bother with the generator much except on cloudy weeks or as a supplement in hot weather.
Right now I’m looking at around $1000 for the panels, and at least $500 for the mounting kit. That’s not counting wire and fuses. I already have the charger, so no big deal there. I’ll probably be doing another blog post on sizing solar and battery systems in the future (maybe tonight if you’re really lucky). It’s not exactly a simple plug-and-play setup, and does require a lot of thought, but mostly budgeting and down-sizing personal electricity consumption rather than up-sizing a system to handle modern wasteful habits.
As for wood, I have at least a cord cut and stacked in the hardwood forest part of my property, and hopefully enough stored up to get me through the rest of this year. I will need to do a lot more cutting to prep for next year so that I’m not scrounging again for something to burn.
A DAY OFF
While I did get quite a bit done today, I did very little on the construction front. The water heater had a leak at the hot water connection after my shower, so I broke and remade that connection this morning. Then the cold line started, same issue, same solution. All I can say is, for brass fittings, I’m just going to use teflon tape from now on. The goop seems to do nothing to help at all, and the teflon connections are both dry as a bone. That’s me, your mileage may vary. I’ll still use pipe dope on plastic connections, but always one or the other, not both. Wait, I think I steered off on a tangent.
So I fixed that today. I picked up a load of saw dust from the sawmill for my composting toilet (totally free if I fill my own bags and there are literally mountains of the stuff). I collected a bunch of aluminum cans that have been scattered about the property over time for various reasons, stood in awe at how many of them were Monster energy drinks. I washed some clothes using my bucket system, though they aren’t yet fully dry and I brought them in because I don’t trust “night weather” on hanging clothes. Those old sayings about the devil in morning dew? Yeah, there’s a reason people thought that, and brought their laundry in at night. Everything together, I did a lot today, but it was mostly chores and cleanup. I even mowed down some of this golden grass so the ticks won’t start moving into it. Also reworked my little garden area and covered it with tarps. Here’s a pic:
Look at that, my stupid fingers photo-bombed it! Oh well.
The difference with my working today was that it mostly consisted of “chores” rather than “building.” I’m cleaning up around the house a bit at a time, moving tools back into the shabbin, and squaring away some trash and such outside. I’m also getting ready for my full recycling setup, sorting cans, wood products, and plastic into different bins, as well as trying to figure out what to do with food canisters, which will make excellent little pots for a future greenhouse.
Areas are the house are being assigned different storage goals. Some probably sound normal, like a pantry area on shelves in the kitchen space. Others might twist some eyebrows, like why all of the laundry stuff will be stowed in the bathroom. (I think off-gridders and permies will get that, but not many other people).
For the moment, I’ve migrated to “life in the woods” rather than having that be some far-off goal. I still need some time for a couple of adjustments. Not having a washing machine was a rather late addition to my plan. There’s still construction work to do, but siding and the porch can be done as I have time, I’m not in the biggest of hurries, though the porch especially does need to be built and boxed in pretty soon. Most of it though, is making my new conditions normal. Washing clothes by hand (still working on a method to ring them out easily without spending a ton of money at the antique store), more cooking my own meals (berries and edible flowers will be here soon), and keeping my system running. Batteries need maintenance and I do check the charge status daily. Generators need oil changes, too. There’s no shortage of things to do, but it isn’t too bad, really, just a different list of shit to worry about.
As far as what I don’t need to worry about? Bills. As of today, I have a phone bill, a storage bill (~30 bucks), food, gas, and taxes. That’s about it. Time to start saving up money at my minimum wage day-job, hehe.
Anyway, this is getting too long. I’ll bid you a good night and best wishes. I do have some gripes and complaints about different issues, but they don’t have anything to do with the house, just circumstances and life issues. Wanted to focus on the positives today. I even took a walk around and found buds on a couple of my fruit trees 🙂