We have a dream. It was a 5 year plan with no years left! Due to COVID we need to extend the plan to build, but we we are flexible and decided to build the garage first.
The dream for our future is about living on a debt-free homestead and being as self sufficient as possible. We have planned out the steps to achieving this goal and are accomplished!
The steps themselves were fairly simple but required time, and of course, money. Which is why we needed to go slowly. We also needed to make sure that each step was done the best way we could including value, eco-friendly plans and materials (preferably recycled), and efficiency. Of course meeting all those requirements entailed a lot of research, but more on that later.
Here are the basic steps we planned out toward attaining "Our Simpler Life" goals:
Step 1 (2017): Buying Land - Completed!!! - Purchased 30 Acres in Adirondack Park 1/23/17
This is what we just accomplished and we couldn't be more happy. Patience and perseverance paid off and we finally found a piece of raw land in the right location, with the right soil and slope, with just enough fresh water, large enough to homestead on and split off to give a few acres to each of our children. You can read more about what we found on our blog post "Homestead Dream Step 1: We Bought Land!" If you are thinking about buying land and want to know all of the considerations before you do, then check out our post, "Are You Thinking About Buying Land?"
Step 2 (2018): Driveway, Homesite Cleared, Septic Install, and Well Drilled! 1. 650' Gravel Driveway and Clearing the Homesite
The official driveway and homesite clearing has begun!
We started clearing the rough road in October of 2017! Lucky for us that there are old logging roads all over the land. Some of the old logging road is also used by the snowmobile trails that cross through our land. We will be using the first 300' of snowmobile trail for our driveway and the rest is a logging road that we cleared enough for the ATV. Read more here.
As of 5/31/18 we are in the process of getting a proposal from an engineering company for the design of our septic system and leach field. Unfortunately they are very backed up so we will not get that proposal until August. Depending upon the cost of the design and installation, we are hoping to also be able to put in the well this year.
UPDATE as of 10/15/18 - We have a permit to install the Septic. The Blueprints were finally completed by the engineer and we got approval from the county so we are ready to go! Unfortunately the season is pretty much over so we are going to have to wait until the spring to do the actual installation. Good thing the permit is good for a year!
3. Well Drilled
Completion of this for 2018 depends on how much money we have left after the road and the septic and if there is time to drill it in the all when everything else is done.
*****UPDATE****** We decided to do the well first since the engineering company that we want to design the septic is soooo backed up and water is really a priority no matter what!
This isn't a necessity, but it will be really awesome to be able to stay up late around a campfire and wake up early with the sunrise on our own land! It will also make it easier for us to really spend a whole day on the land both for work and play!
Step 3 (2019): Underground Electric, Septic System 1. Septic Tank and Leach Field Installed We have the engineered blueprints/design, the site location, and the building permit completed last year (2018). Installed 8/2019!!! And then we had to plant grass seed over the leach field to prevent erosion....Be sure to check out that video (below) as well! Check both videos out below, or at this link where you can also like and subscribe! Thanks :-)
2. 650' Underground Electric Installation by National Grid *** update*** we have an appointment with a planner in September! We have already reached out to National Grid and begun the process, but in doing so learned a few REALLY IMPORTANT FACTs! We only learned this because I research EVERYTHING before making any decisions. I watched just about every YouTube video and read every blog post about landowners getting buried electric installed and I discovered that there was NO CONSISTENCY to their claims. No matter how much research I did I absolutely could not understand why! They were all using National Grid (which covers pretty much the entire United States) but some of them got 'help financially' from National Grid and some did not. Nobody had an answer as to why and as good as I am at research, I couldn't figure it out either. That is, until I took it upon myself to do what I did below. Now it all makes perfect sense!! I get the feeling they really don't want you to know your options because they want the business to go to private electricians....hmmm. Anyway, here is what I learned and what you should do and NOT do.
Fill out the initial application yourself and DO NOT put any electrical company on it. Fill it out as though you are doing the work yourselves (self contracting). This is important because we were told to put an electrician on the paperwork after being given an estimate of $18,000 from the pole to the house site for buried electric. What was interesting is that the company that gave us the estimate NEVER told us what other options there were for installation. We would never have found out how much money we could save if it wasn't for me filling out the papers myself and only putting my name on them. This meant that National Grid had to reach out to ME and only ME and they let me know what all the possibilities were so it doesn't cost us $18,000. And believe me, there are options!
In fact, if you have three out of four requirements in place, National Grid will pay for a portion of the underground installation! This is a savings of about $5,000!!! NO BRAINER! But we wouldn't know this if we did not do the paperwork ourselves. If you have three of these four things: house foundation, driveway, septic, and/or well, then National Grid will pay the equivalent of 100' of overhead power. They will also cover the cost of the transformer and connection to the pole at the road. This is because with three of those four things the service is considered permanent electric instead of temporary. This also saves you the $800 fee for temporary service installation! All information we would not have known had we NOT filled out the application with National Grid ourselves.
Because of this knowledge we now changed our steps. The road is done, but this is the reason we are doing the septic and the well first. It will save A LOT of money!!
We also learned that National Grid will install the wire in the ground beyond what they cover as stated above. Right now it is a little more than $18 per foot and we don't know if that is reasonable or not as yet. However, whatever portion they put in the ground they will be responsible for maintaining. Beyond that point (and the connection with the meter) is our responsibility. We are also responsible for having the 18" ditch dug and backfilled with sand.
But what is interesting is that we don't have to go all the way in right now. We eventually have to go in about 700', however if we want to only go in 350' right now we can! With National Grid covering a hefty portion of the cost, this would save us a lot of money until we are ready to install the other 350'. The second 350' would also be considered privately owned and be our responsibility. So, we have a lot to still figure out but again, we would KNOW NONE OF THIS if we hadn't filled out the paperwork ourselves.
What we need to still check into: How much it would cost per foot to have an electrician do the electrical (with us digging and back filling). Then we can compare this to what it will cost per foot through National Grid and see which is a better value. Of course, the electrical meter install is on us either way so we would get that estimate separately.
Lastly, we want to add cable and phone wire into the electrical ditch so we already know the ditch has to be about 2 feet wide (they need to be 12" from the electrical wire I believe). Again, more to look into but at least we have the process started!
3. A Permanent Home for our Trailer
We moved the trailer and built a screened in deck to have a little more living space. This will be the trailers final home for the next two years as we build. Done 7/2019
4. Begin Landscaping and Planting (Zone 4)
Small garden near the culvert pipe - 7/2019 we transplanted rose of sharon, purple coneflowers, black eyed susans, and mint from our zone 7 long island home to the property which is a zone 4. Looking forward to see how everything fares during the winter!
We planted Agway Conservation Grass seed and some creeping thyme seed on our new leach field. We also planted black eyed susan seeds all along the rock wall border - 8/2019. Looking forward to seeing it in a month or so to see how it is doing!
4. Build a Shed
We built a 10x10 Saltbox shed kit from Curtis Lumber. At least now we know that we can work together well when we build our house in a few years! Done 8/2019
to move rocks (and we have a lot of them), build rock walls, landscaping, etc.
to dig ditches for drainage, wires, pipes, and more
to clear the road/driveway of snow
to clear atv trails
to dig up stumps and rocks
to dig holes to plant trees
to help with animals (hay, straw, feed, etc)
to dig gardens
and so much more we can't even think of right now!
5. More landscaping! zone 4 planting
Apple Orchard - We already have the area cleared, so we would like to plant about 12 - 14 apple trees with some sort of a grass among them. We want to get these planted as soon as possible so that they have time to grow. They can take 3-5 years to get established and begin producing apples so the timing should be just about right for us!
Flowers along the sides of the driveway. I want to keep these simple and plant only perennials such as lilies, black eyed susans (my favorite), purple coneflowers, and daisies. I will plant a few others as well but only what will grow in a cold climate. I did try transplanting some Rose of Sharon and so far they are thriving but we need to wait and see how they do over the winter since this is a zone 4.
Raspberry bushes around the back perimeter of our clearing.
STEP 5: Blueprints Finalized, Building Permits Obtained 1. Design/Purchase Engineered Plans For Home
The basic plans that I designed are for a 1500 square foot open ended dome shape home that will be completely covered with earth. The open end will face south and consist of all windows that will allow for light and passive solar heating in the winter. Being small will minimize the amount of utilities, housework, etc. that will be necessary indoors. Regarding it being an earth sheltered home, there are so many advantages I don't even know where to begin. I would say the two most important to me are the fact that the internal temperatures should remain between 55 degrees F in the winter and and 70-75 degrees F in the summer. This means it will require very little heating in the winter and no air conditioning in the summer at all. Super efficient! The second reason is because it will require literally no exterior maintenance. My husband and I plan on living out our years in this home so we want it to be simple to maintain and affordable to live in. A wood stove in the winter is really all we will need to supplement the 55 degree F temp in the winer (but we do plan on having propane baseboard heat as well). In the summers it will be comfortable at 70-75. The majority of the exterior of the house won't need to be painted or stained. The worst part will be washing the windows! You can read more about earth sheltered house FAQ's at http://www.formworksbuilding.com/about-formworks-building/ or http://www.earthshelter.com/faqs/.
2. Build the Garage -
Garage: We are building a 2 car garage with attic space on the second floor. We originally planned to live in this while the house was being built but have recently come to the conclusion that this simply won't work. Since we also plan on repurposing or reusing many supplies, the garage will provide a great dry place to store what we find as we find it, but now we intend to build a shed on skids that can be moved as needed. In the future the shed can be converted into the chicken coop! This is still a a great way to be economical, earth friendly, and efficient even though it is not our original plan of living in the garage.
✔A tractor to help maintain and develop our land. This would also be used to plow snow on our long driveway down the road.Check out video here!
Amazon Affiliate Links to purchases we have made - we get a small percentage for recommending you at NO additional charge to you! You pay NOTHING more! Just click through one of the links below and thank you in advance for all your support!
✔Shed: We need this to store our ATV and other land essentials in. We have been renting a storage unit nearby but it is not convenient for some of the items we need on a daily basis so we purchased a shed kit and will be sharing that video soon! Done 2019! Check out the video here or below!
✔Shelter Logic Garage in a box: We need this to store our new Kubota B2650 tractor! We want to be able to keep the ice and snow off it in the winter. We know this is not necessary, but we believe in protecting our investment!
Carport: We already know that the garage will house the snowmobiles, the ATV's and my husbands workshop so cars probably won't be fitting in there. That means we will need a carport for two cars to keep the snow and ice off of them in the winter (in the Adirondacks this is a must). We would also like it to have a small woodshed attached to it for convenience.
Greenhouse: this is a must! We want to be able to grow food all year long. This means there will need to be some sort of heat in the greenhouse for the winter and that many plants will be grown in pots so we can easily move them (peppers, tomatoes, carrots, lettuce, herbs and more). I am thinking that the back of the greenhouse will be bermed to aid in insulating it and we might even dig it down into the ground some as well, again, further insulating it for the winter months. It would be super great if it was connected to the house to avoid having to go outside to get to it! It is also important to have water catchment containers in the greenhouse as well as rock walls and floor for thermal mass in the winters.
Chicken Coop: This will be bigger than any coop we have had in the past as I would like to have at least a dozen chickens. I would also like it to be connected to the greenhouse so they can have a heat source for the winter (indirect heating). Preferably the egg laying boxes (3 to 4) will extend into the greenhouse for easy access and retrieval! A door between the coop and the green house would be convenient in the winter as well - especially if the greenhouse is connected to the main house too! The coop itself will be an open-air coop which I believe is best for them. It will get heat from the greenhouse so they should be warm enough in the winters. There will be an large fenced outdoor area (top, bottom, and sides) for them when we can't let them out to free range for whatever reason. I really want a spigot right in the outdoor area to make filling their fresh water easier. Lastly, I want to be able to stand up in the inside and outside portions of their coop to make cleaning easier!
Goat/sheep/pig Barn: Yup, I want goats. Or sheep. And or pigs. Maybe Llamas or alpacas? I am not 100% sure which one yet but as of 4/10/18 I am leaning toward sheep for three reasons: meat, milk, and wool. They will also need a large well fenced outdoor area, preferably in and around our future orchard! I will also need a place special platform to be able to easily milk them.
Root Cellar, Spring House or both. We have a small creek on the land so the springhouse is possible, however a root cellar could be built closer to where the homesite is so that would be much more convenient.
Natural stone Patio.The property is loaded with rocks of all shapes and sizes. As we clear the land we will be creating piles that would be suitable for a patio or piles good for other things like fencing, etc. I would like to create a natural stone patio on the south side of the home using all the stone we collected while cleaning the land.
Built in pool - this is my one splurge. I know it is not economical but I so absolutely love jumping in the pool after working in the yard that I just can't give it up. It is also a great attraction for company to come and visit. The pool we have now is 16 x 30 so I am thinking to go smaller and more economical as far as maintenance. I think I will also go with a saltwater system rather than chlorine and heating will be by propane because the reverse air conditioner type system we have now will not be as efficient up there in the spring and fall due to cooler temperatures. Oh yea, since the pool will be smaller there will probably not be able to be a diving board. We will see, more research will need to be done. It can also be considered an alternative water source in an emergency such as for drinking, putting out fires, etc.
Fenced "back yard" area. We will really need a fenced area to keep animals out and kids in (and the dogs, chickens, and goats in too!). However, we don't want to block the view to the South which should be pretty nice (it is downslope so we will have a view of what we plant there and of the mountains off in the distance). We have several ideas for this but I am currently toying with the idea of raised garden beds made of local stone about 2 feet wide with the fence installed on top of them. This will allow plantings in the beds, and raise the fence a little higher. The fence itself might be wood posts with a large metal mesh (like 3" squares?) attached. I know it needs to be economical, pretty, but not block the view.
From day one we intend to begin clearing the homesite and a large area of the slope to the south. To the south we want to grow a lot of lavender and raspberries (maybe blackberries too). We would really like to have some beehives interspersed for fresh honey, and maybe to sell the extra because one healthy hive can really produce!
Around the outside of this area we would like to plant some smaller trees such as apple and pear. Beyond that we are going to try black walnut with paw paw in between (they apparently grow well together). Near the stream area we are going to try growing some cranberries and maybe even cattails and or ostrich ferns (fiddleheads!).
Other perennials that will be scattered around near the home (easily accessible) are blueberries, grapes, asparagus, garlic, onions, chives, indian rice grass (achnatherum hymnodies - great for livestock in the winter and can be eaten by humans too), kale, jerusalem artichokes, globe artichokes, malabar spinach, and perennial scarlet runner beans.
No grass. I seriously want nothing to do with mowing a lawn or having to water it. Some alternative ideas that will require more research: Irish moss, Aerenaria Wallowa (moss like), Thymus pseudolanuginos (a drought tolerant thyme), clover, chamomile, creeping thyme, and/or creeping jenny. Of course after doing more research whichever one is the tastiest for humans or livestock, that will be the absolute winner! -
✔UPDATE - We had to plant grass on our leach field. Unfortunately it was the only seed that we could plant right away that would help prevent erosion. We also planted creeping thyme but that takes a long time to take and we needed something that would begin to grow immediately. Check out our video here to see how it grew! but here is a link to the creeping thyme seed we purchased on Amazon: Creeping Thyme (affiliate link)
Snowmobile(s). Yup, we will be getting our own. One to start, but definitely two down the road :-) Especially since the local clubs snowmobile trails go right through our property. We can jump on the trail right out our door! So awesome.
"Picnic Point" - we have a very high elevation way at the back corner of our property that has an absolutely amazing view. We would love to make a nice little spot there (with a trail to reach it of course) where we could hang out, picnic, and enjoy the view, or at night have a campfire, and look at the stars.