Research, Research, Research

We have lost our minds. There is not one day that goes by that my husband and I aren’t researching something concerning homesteading. He is on the fuel research warpath and trying to gather up some of the things we’ll need for running the farm. I am busy taking care of business (literally) and gearing up for gardening this summer (with my sis) and planning the homestead layout. All we need now it to sell our home and get outta here!

Here is a list of who’s doing what:

Hubby

· Researching bio diesel production
· Researching which vehicles run best on bio diesel
· Researching which generators run best on bio diesel
· Researching rocket mass heating
· Researching solar and steam production as forms of energy
· Seeking out abandoned propane, feed storage and cyclone tanks
· Making a list of restaurants that throw out old cooking oil
· Learning about soap making with the glycerin byproduct
· Learning about composting with the glycerin byproduct

Dee Dee

· Researching which animals are best for us to raise
· Researching which foods are best for us to grow
· Researching how to earn income with what we raise and grow
· Cataloging all our personal belongings
· Cataloging all leftover building materials
· Designing/planning the property layout (buildings, fencing, driveways)
· Rough-drafting plans for our home
· Learning new ways to live in a sustainable way
· Beginning a “practice year” of gardening, in anticipation of when the real farming starts!

The problem is that nothing else matters right now. We still have the ‘to do’ list for the house from months ago, bills to consolidate, and we haven’t been out to lunch together in ages. Sure, the hubby has to go to work. And yes, I have to clean the house, cook and what not. But it really seems as if our lives are completely on hold until we sell this house and turn our research into real action. Thanks to my sister (who rented a garden plot that I can help her with) I now have something else to focus on. And my other sister has suggested we take another all-girl trip in the RV again, which has me thinking about things OTHER than the homestead. Good. Now I feel myself coming back down to earth. Okay so, garden plot, garden plot, garden plot. Big Momma, Big Momma, Big Momma. Nope. I still can’t take my mind off building the homestead. So the research continues…

Big Momma, by the way, is my RV. She is a real good girl and is very easy for me to drive and I can take a quickie vacation alone if necessary. (And sometimes it is necessary!) We bought her after toying with the idea of renting an RV for a trip to Washington many years ago. The hubby didn’t like the huge “rent me” ads and the fees had him running out the door. So he suggested buying one. I thought it would be a huge mistake because how often do you really use an RV and would the cost be worth it in the end? It reminds me of time shares – money down the drain in my eyes.

So here’s the deal: We would have to take several trips in her every year for the rest of our lives just to break even on how much we paid for her. (We kinda got ripped-off. Car dealers!) We had to buy a small apartment’s worth of kitchen and bathroom supplies just to take our first trip in her, when we could have taken a traditional camping trip for just the cost of food. (We already have tents, sleeping bags and everything else you could need for camping.) And we have to find RV-specific campgrounds and hope they have all the hookups or we may as well just boondock, in which tent-camping is more fun anyway. So what do I say to that? Well, I say so what… I love her! I love Big Momma. (A name I immediately gave to her the moment I sat behind the wheel.) She provides a home away from home – not just the necessities, but the feeling of a home. And since we lived in her while building our house, we feel like it really was money well spent. Here she is on a (necessary) trip I took for the weekend:

I got it! I’ll grab a bag of food and we can take Big Momma on a quick trip for the weekend. We’ll be in a different place and maybe that will be just what we need to realize there is more to life than our future homestead. Ah, I’m just kidding. Now where’s my reading glasses and Kindle? We gotta convert this girl to *biofuel.

With all the research being done for our new life, we can’t forget about the good things we did here. Here is a list of things we intend to do again. They are such great ideas that if you can do it, you really should.

The hubby goes green

Radiant heat: His do-it-yourself, radiant floor system is one of a kind and anyone can do it and save a bundle of money. And he has many other terrific ideas just waiting to come out. In fact, I convinced the hubby to write an ebook with me to detail how to do it and share the knowledge. If we can ever get to it…

Cooler thingy: The hubby’s whole-house cooling system is based on filling a tank with water and burying it under ground to stay cold all year, and then simply “drawing” in the cool air it creates… FAB.

Insulated windows: We joined Direct Buy for a while and actually saved tons on the kitchen cabinets, the exterior brick siding and all the windows. The window discount was comparable to a contractors’ discount which is great for the average family remodeling on their own. We were able to get top-of-the-line, Hurd casement windows with screens (aluminum clad wood, double-paned, glazed/insulated) that just aren’t available at your local home improvement store. Thanks to the splurge (they were a bit costly) the house stayed cool in the summer and warm in the winter, which saved us money in the end. (We went from a $500/month electric-gas bill in our previous home to a $200/month electric-propane bill instantly! Awesome!) Joining a program like the one at Direct Buy isn’t for everyone though. When doing a small project, you should save the money it takes to sign up. It’ll be more headaches than what it’s worth and the savings really only come with big purchases.

Reclaimed wood: The hubby stored all the fallen and cut trees from the property and wants to buy a small saw mill (if one ever comes up on Craig’s List) to make our flooring for the new house. I liked this idea ever since I came across a company that sold only “reclaimed wood” and “fallen tree” flooring. They make you wait for it (up to two months before they find something and mill it for you) and that makes them as green as you can get in this day and age. What a wonderful idea.

Optimum air-flow house design: When we learned that we had to go up since we couldn’t get a bigger footprint on the hillside, the hubby knew he wanted to place the windows in such a way that the air would “flow” through the house with ease. This set of skylights along with another set upstairs were instrumental in filling the house each morning with fresh air. If it was summertime and the weather forecast was hot, the windows were opened at the crack of dawn and then closed back up to trap the coolness in. Though we installed a cooling system, we rarely used it due to the way we used the air-flow system. Pretty cool.

Fab insulation: And finally, if you can, splurge on the insulation. If this is the only place you can splurge then do it. We went with spray-foam insulation and had to pat ourselves on the back. Even with all of the above, the house would not be as efficient without the foam. Heating and cooling a house of this size would be a small fortune in this part of California – everything just costs a lot more – and so it’s worth it to save up the duckets. All of it just works so well together, we’re quite happy with it.

I am green

Solar lights: Natural light was a must for me. Especially since I learned that mold cannot grow in it. So we installed these lights into the master closet, the laundry room and both showers in the upstairs bathrooms. They are very cheap and super easy to install. We use less electricity and things just look better in natural light, you know?

No VOC paint: Since I am affected by many things (hay, mold, paint and thinners, etc) I knew I had to think about alternative finishes that wouldn’t taint the indoor air quality. Enter no VOC’s. This stands for volatile organic compounds and paint is one of those things that knocks me off my feet every time. The good news is that just about every brand out there now has a line of no VOC paint and it should be easy enough to find. Here’s to being able to breathe!

Bamboo flooring: The radiant heat system the hubby installed called for a floating floor. We could have gone to the local Lowes or Home Depot and found something that would do, but you know me, it just wasn’t right. As a matter of fact, each board I picked up smelled funny to me, and I could imagine my home being filled with it. Ew. Turns out that the glues they use to hold the bamboo strips together are extremely toxic (and smelly). I then found a company that distributes a bamboo product that uses non-toxic glue and so we purchased our first floating floor. And it is a very well-made floor that will last 10 times longer than the other stuff. And it’s a renewable resource of course. Score.

I wondered what “green” really meant and whether I should use the term or not. As I understand it, people are steering away from the word since EVERYONE is using it now whether it’s true or not. But I still kinda like it. It’s so nature-like and sounds nice. I am calling the things above green because an efficient home that is less toxic deserves to be called a really nice word.

Resources for research

The Homesteading Handbook: A Back to Basics Guide… (Abigail R. Gehring, Amazon.com)
Getting Started Making Biodiesel: Utah Biodiesel Supply (http://www.utahbiodieselsupply.com)
Quicken Home and Business, Turbo Tax and Quickbooks Pro (http://www.intuit.com/)
Business Plan Pro (http://www.businessplanpro.com/)
The Farmer Fred Rant (http://farmerfredrant.blogspot.com)
Journey to Forever (http://journeytoforever.org)
Harvest to Table (http://harvesttotable.com/)
Lotsa blogs and more: Good Neighbors

See also: 45 Ways To Coexist

*I since found out that because the RV doesn’t have a diesel engine, she can’t be converted. So sad. Do we give her up for something “eco-friendly”? Oh, say it ain’t so. Big Momma and I have been through a lot together. Will you forgive me for keeping her? Pleeeeease?