Category Archives: homesteading

How to Install a Mini Split : A DIY Guide

The Big Question is…..Where Have I been?

Since moving into our Cabin we have found a steady list of projects that need to be completed to make it more livable and comfortable, and get ready for the coming winter months. Besides working a part time job – which feels like full-time – I haven’t been able to devote as much time as I would like to my Blog!

Since today is a rainy day- and I need to get to work in a couple of hours, I’ll get started on my much needed catching up.

Why We Made Our Decision:

My wife and I needed to make a decision on how we would cool and heat our cabin during the summers and winters to come.  We purchased an 8000 BTU window unit from a local Big Box store in the beginning of the summer months to make some effort to keep us cool. We knew that we wanted to eventually purchase a Mini Split unit to provide both cooling and heating  when we needed it.  The window unit surpassed our expectations for keeping us cool and comfortable, but we knew we needed more.

Due to the affordability and ease of installation, we decided that a Mini Split unit was our best option for our size cabin.  We chose an AUX 12,000 BTU unit which both heats and cools. At less than 500 Square feet of cabin space, some would say a 12,000 BTU was overkill.  The particular unit that we chose is rated to heat and cool up to 600 Square Feet without any problems. This particular unit came with the installation kit which included both line sets, wiring, remote control, and the outdoor compressor and indoor air handler and wall mounting bracket for the indoor air handler.  Many of these units also arrive pre-charged with R410a Refrigerant.

Deciding where to put it —

After deciding where we would install the unit in our cabin the next step was to pour a concrete pad for the outdoor compressor. Sure, we could have easily purchased a premade concrete pad, however, they can get a little pricey. It was more fun just to level some ground and pour my own, not to mention- Cheaper!  I  used a couple of 80 Pound bags of Quikrete from our local hardware store.

I also installed four (4) 2 inch concrete anchors to hold the compressor in place….

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After letting the concrete cure for a few days and removing the forms, I was ready to install the compressor outside. You can see below the compressor in place and bolted to the pad with the concrete anchors.

If you really don’t like the idea of pouring a concrete pad,  there are several outdoor wall mounting brackets for mini splits on the market.  Most are universal and will hold from 100 to 300 pounds. In the event you prefer the wall mount option be sure to purchase the rubber anti – vibration mounts.  Many times you will not notice any vibration from the mini splits, however, they can be purchased if you want that peace of mind of not hearing or feeling any vibration.  The image below are one of the  mounting brackets available…

Universal Mini Split Wall Mounting Bracket

 

 

Next Step:  Installing the Air Handler on the Wall inside the Cabin ——

First,  select a location on your interior wall closest to the outdoor Condenser unit mounted outside.  Many Mini Split units come with the complete installation kit which includes the indoor air handler wall mounting bracket, two (2) 7 foot line sets, condensation drain line, and power cable and unit cable.  You will want your cables and line sets to be able to reach the Condenser outside. For clarification, your line sets are the copper tubing that supply the refrigerants between your air handler and the outdoor compressor.

Second,  Mount the air handler wall bracket provided with your unit in the location you chose.  An Owners Manual and Instructions will come with your unit when you receive it. Follow the instructions for installing the bracket.  You will only need a pencil, tape measure, and a level to make sure the bracket is level.

On many mini split units your wall mounting bracket is attached by a single screw located on the back of the air handler. Remove the screw and bracket.

You can build out with 2 x 4 ‘s as in the image above or simply mount the bracket to the wall using your existing wall studs.   In the photo you will notice the template that comes with some units. Notice the circles on each bottom corner.  Depending on where your drain lines, line sets, and wires are located on your air handler, this is where you will drill your hole to run the line sets, drain line and cables outside to the condenser.  Check the back of the air handler to find where your lines are located on the unit.  Use a 1 1/2″ hole saw to drill the hole for all of the above.

Once you have the hole drilled from inside to outside, you are now ready to mount your air handler to the wall. Before mounting it on the bracket, pay careful attention to the back of the air handler.  On the back top you will find the tabs that your mounting bracket will slide into.

Before mounting the air handler, also locate the wires, plastic drain line,  and the two copper tubes folded into the air handler for shipping.   Being careful not to crimp the copper tubes, ease each one out until they are straight. You can use both hands to straighten them. Dont  try and force them as you may either crimp them or break them. You may also notice on the ends of the copper lines are caps. DO NOT Remove these at this point…The air handler comes pressurized at the factory and will be released once the line sets are ready to be connected.

After carefully straightening the copper tubes, place those along with the wires and the condensation drain line through the hole in the wall.  You can use electrical or duct tape to keep them together to get  them through the hole to the outside. This may take two people to complete. Before placing the air handler in place, angle the unit to allow the condensation to drain while in air conditioning mode.  You may need to angle to bracket for this or install wedges when mounting the wall bracket. Many installers, using a level, will sometimes angle a 1/3 bubble depending on your needed drainage. Failure to adjust for condensation draining can cause water damage on your walls. Follow the instructions for your drain line.  Once your lines are through to the outside, you can mount the air handler to the interior wall bracket.  You will only need to lift it up slightly, tilt back just a little to make sure the slots in the air handler  slide down on the metal tabs on the wall bracket. You can push it towards the wall at the bottom until you hear a click.

 

Installing the Wiring for the Unit —

I decided to connect the Mini Split to a 30 Amp Double Pole breaker at the Main Panel Outside.  Our Unit is a 240 volt unit which would require at least a 30 amp breaker.  I purchased #10 gauge UF wire, which is commonly referred to as 10/2 UF-B with Ground.

I also purchased 1 1/2″ Schedule 80 Electrical Conduit to run from the junction box at the unit to the main panel.  Even though UF-B Cable is a direct bury cable, I chose the “for safety sake” route and installed the cable inside the conduit.

The above photo is the junction box i used to supply power to the unit.  The conduit at the bottom of the box is from the main panel outside.  I needed to run about 50 feet of UF-B wire and the Schedule 80 conduit between those two points.

I then ran Liquid Tight Flexible Conduit from the Junction box to the Service Disconnect Pictured above.

30 AMP Service Disconnect

As you can see in the above photo, the wiring from the junction box is connecting to this 30 Amp fused Service Disconnect Box.  The cable entering the box on the left side is the Power Cable from the Air Handler unit inside the cabin.   It has a Yellow/Green wire, Brown wire, and a Blue wire. That is one of the two wires mentioned previously when installing the air handler and feeding through the hole in the wall to the outside.

Service Disconnect Wired

In the above photo you can now see the Service Disconnect has been wired. Service Disconnects are normally required by Electrical Code for Heat and Air Conditioning systems.  The wires from the main panel outside ( red and black) are connected to the Line terminals in the Disconnect box.  Line is commonly known as the power source.  The Green wire is connected to the Ground Buss in the middle.  At the Main Panel the Red and Black wires are connected to each pole in the Double Pole Breaker at the main panel. That’s the reason Double Pole breakers have two switches on the breaker.  Each pole is 120 Volts which gives it 240 Volts to your appliance.  Green is always your Ground in electrical current applications.

The Grey cable coming from the indoor unit (on the left) supplies power to your Mini Split unit.  The Brown and Blue wires are connected to your LOAD terminals that are marked as well for easy identification.  Your LOAD is the power being supplied to the appliance. In the event one of the fuses are blown or the breaker is tripped, it will shut off the power to your appliance.  The Service Disconnect is also a means to shut off power to the unit in the event it needs to be serviced without shutting off the main power.

We do sell the 30 AMP Mini Split Disconnect Kits for $49.99 plus shipping. Each kit includes Disconnect Box, 2- 30 amp fuses, one 4 foot Liquid Tight Whip with wiring and connectors, and one 6 foot Liquid Tight Whip with wiring and connectors.  If you need one please feel free to contact us to order.

Wiring the Indoor Air Handler to the Outdoor Compressor—

The second Black cable you fed through the wall to the outside ( as you can see pictured) is permanently wired to the wall mounted air handler inside. You will need to connect it to the unit pictured.  As you can see in the following photo each wire is number coded for easy connection.  This Black cable is actually your control cable which tells each unit in your system what to do.  With this particular model of Mini Split, the indoor unit provides power and instructions to the outside compressor unit.

Each of the wires above have a sleeve attached with the corresponding number embossed.  Simply connect them to the corresponding number behind the cover located on the outdoor unit.  The wires at the top are connected when your unit arrives.  Its that simple!

NOTE:  Keep in mind that not all units on the market are  the same in wiring. This particular unit we installed may not be the same as other units, so follow your units instruction manual.  If you wire it incorrectly, you can cause severe damage to your unit. If unsure, consult with a licensed and reputable electrician.

Installing the Copper Line Sets —-

Two (7) foot copper line sets are used with your unit. Purchasing a Mini Split unit with the installation kit provided will include the line sets.  They will arrive with foam insulation covering the outside of the tubing and the proper flair fittings.  While the installation of the Line Sets are simple, we chose to have a licensed HVAC Technician install them. Most units, as mentioned previously, come precharged with R410a Refrigerant.  Once the lines are connected between the indoor unit and the compressor, the lines need to be evacuated with a pump made for this purpose. These particular pumps, with the gauges and the proper adapters can be quite costly.  We actually couldn’t justify spending money for a vacuum pump that we would use only once.  A good pump is around $300 or more.

As you can see in the photo above the HVAC Technician curled the copper tubing before connecting them to the Compressor  ( as shown).  By doing that it saved him from having to cut the copper tubing and not having to flair the ends of the tubing again.  The fittings are then connected to the unit.  Each copper tube will be a different size and will connect to the corresponding size on the unit. One line is for refrigerant and the small line for heat.  The Tech also connected the line sets to the line set tubing attached to the indoor unit and fed through the wall to the outside. As Mentioned previously, this unit is pressurized at the factory. Once he was ready to connect the line sets, he removed the caps from the ends and you will hear air bleeding from the indoor unit.  This simply means that the unit will hold pressure and is nothing to be concerned over.  He then connected the outdoor line sets together with the supplied flair fittings.

The vacuum pump is connected to one of the fittings on the end of the Compressor to remove any moisture in the lines and also to remove any air or contaminates.  The process can take a few short minutes or can take longer if refrigerant needs to be added. Once the system is “evacuated” or “drawn down” as they say and  the proper microns or pressure is achieved, a valve in the end of the connections is opened to release the refrigerant into the system.   Not doing this properly can also cause damage to your unit or cause you to lose the refrigerant.

Hiring a Licensed HVAC Technician gave us the peace of mind that it was done correctly and our system would work properly.

Once we had it installed, connected,  and the HVAC Tech connected the lines, we were ready for the test.  Our unit came with a Remote Control to set the temperature and operate the system.  We can say the unit has worked flawlessly and we are happy with the results.  Installing Mini Split units are very easy and anyone can do it if you follow the instructions.  It can save you alot of money doing it yourself.

We also chose to purchase a Line Set Cover which you see pictured below.  They do a great job of covering the lines and wiring and make it appealing to look at.

 

 

 

 

Using Salvaged or Reclaimed Materials – Setting Up A PSO?

The first question I am sure you are now asking is – WHAT THE HECK IS A PSO?

A PSO is nothing more than a Pure Salvage Outpost – Just a place that you can collect and store salvaged or reclaimed material to help others build their small house or cabin on their own land.  Many people prefer the Big House with a Mortgage with all those bells and whistles screaming at the neighbors to Look at Me!  This lifestyle of living small isn’t for everyone as much as living in a large house with immaculate landscaping isn’t something many minimalist want either.  Regardless of who you are,  choose what makes you Happy!

In my Business – by that I mean the Homesteading Website and Facebook pages that I publish – I see people who want to get away from big banks, Mortgage companies, and have a small house that they can buy or build themselves without spending a fortune. They also don’t want to worry about the ever increasing costs of new building materials and off-gassing from treated products.  Sometimes we just cant help that we need to buy these things that are so new and expensive because they aren’t available anywhere else.

Those things are available anywhere else – and its called Reclaimed Materials. They have been used and abused and lasted the test of time. Farmer Joe down the road may have built a barn many  years ago that wasn’t treated with harsh chemicals that make you sick.  I have seen many abandoned old houses on tobacco farms that were used a pack houses. Those sometimes have a great supply of old wood, doors, vintage light fixtures, or a good ole cast iron sink.

Reclaimed Material

Sometimes, a good place to start is a local Goodwill or Habitat Store to see what they have available.  Many times they have reclaimed materials, but they are still treated in some form with harmful chemicals – I don’t advocate not buying from them.  They are a great cause to help people find less expensive items that they can afford or build a house from donated materials for affordable housing.

Photo Credit: Roma Frank

What I do advocate is this – – Get with your like minded neighbors and community and start a PSO in your community. Pool together and find reclaimed items to sell at discounted prices like old lumber,  windows, fixtures and the many things you can use to build a small cabin or house.  Barter or Trade materials, tools, wisdom and advice.  You can find many items for FREE on social media or other websites that people are itching to give away. Take that money and use it to buy more reclaimed materials.  You may have something that a neighbor can use and they may have something to trade.  Best of all, help them build with your knowledge and they help you.  You will be much better off using reclaimed materials that look really cool, than buying new materials which can harm you!

My wife and I found a great business this past weekend in the Mennonite Community about a two hour drive from our place.  We were specifically wanting metal underpinning for our cabin. The local Sheet Metal and Roofing fabricators wanted $2.29 or more per foot . The shop we found sells it for .55 per foot, and in the color that we wanted.  It’s not impossible to find these deals if you look.

If you have some available property on your homestead that you aren’t doing anything with – this would be a good place to start a local outpost for reclaimed materials. It may take some time to accumulate things to make it worthwhile. You can also be a drop off site for those who are throwing things away instead of taking it to the landfill.

Personally, I would like to see these places pop up all over the country.  A great example is one that exists in Texas.  You can find it here and meet the creator!  Pure Salvage Living  

Photo Credit: Tiny Texas Houses

 

Wherever you plan to build your small house or cabin from reclaimed materials- with a little help from your friends – be sure to check your local zoning laws and codes to make sure its allowed.  If not, pick a place where it is allowed and get started!

Writers Note:  In this Post I have included photos submitted from Followers of our Facebook Page   Shed to House Conversions: A to Z .  Photos Credits are Given.

 

How To – Do you test for lead in your Homestead?

3M Lead test kit found in most big box home improvement stores

On our recent visit to our property in Tennessee earlier this month, we decided to grab a bite to eat downtown while waiting for our check-in at our rented apartment. We will get to the apartment accommodations ( they were outstanding) in a later post.

We found this quaint little restaurant tucked away inside a shared antique store ( Antique Market) with many vintage items to choose from including this great deal pictured.  It’s called the Apple Dish Restaurant located at 114 N. Court Square in downtown Livingston, Tennessee.  They have a small Facebook presence but no website. We wish they did!  It’s definitely a DO NOT MISS for a reasonably priced and great lunch and antiques.

Why Test for Lead?

Lead can be in many items in your homestead from piping, insulation, drywall and many plastic items, believe it or not.  It can also contaminate many cooking items, especially cast iron and metal. We found this gem ( pictured above) that my wife purchased as an early birthday gift for me.  After checking with my cast iron cooking resource we discovered by the appearance and Gate mark on the piece  that it was a pre-1900 cast iron bean pot.

As old as it is, it’s usually a good idea to check for lead before using it. Since the early days many homesteaders and gun enthusiasts used these to melt lead for ammunition and other items. Ammunition was and is the most popular. If you are like many of us, you don’t want lead in your food.

As an added gift, My wife picked up this lead test kit from our local Lowes Home Improvement store.  I decided immediately to give it a try.

How to Test for Lead–

These kits cost around $10.00 and come with two small vials of the test chemicals in each packet.  The kits includes instructions for testing many items including plastic, painted items, metals and alloys, copper pipe and drywall. You will need to scrape and clean an area to be tested. Its okay to leave some dust as the test will detect lead in the dust also.

The instructions tell you to remove a test vial, crush each end marked A and B. This will release the test chemicals in each side of the tube and combine them for the testing. Shake the tube twice to mix the chemicals. The contents will turn yellow.  Squeeze the tube until the cotton swab on the end turns yellow.

Once this step is completed rub the swab on the area to be tested for about 30 seconds. If the end of the cotton swab turns RED OR PINK their is Lead present.  I chose to test the bottom inside of the pot as this would be the area most likely to have any lead residue. Fortunately, my test did not turn red or pink, which was great news!

The kit will also include a small cardboard panel with circles on it. Each of these circles contain lead. After completing the lead test on the items tested, place the swab in one of the circles and move it around inside the circle. If the circle doesn’t turn red or pink, this indicates that your test was performed correctly and no presence of lead.

It is a relatively easy test to perform and give you some peace of mind about ingesting any lead.

Be sure to follow along as i am still working on our Blog post from our recent Homestead visit and the work completed.

 

Our Adventure is about to begin…..

The Road leading to our Property

 

In a couple of weeks we will make our annual trek to our property in the Cumberland Plateau of Tennessee.  For many of you following my Blog, Cheri and I will finally begin the process of clearing our property for our future homestead, and installing the necessary utilities that we will most certainly need.

It’s been close to a two year process in getting this far and we aren’t about to stop now.  In my previous Blog Post about our plans Here , I provided my insights in what we needed to do next.  With many ups and downs, and obstacles to overcome we are finally ready to get started.

During our few days there I will share with you our step by step process of how its coming along and hopefully have some pictures or videos to share.  We will see how good the internet speed really is in those mountains –

Please feel free to follow Cheri’s Blog for updates on our adventure at cheriannjones

She would love to have you follow along with her latest updates on our project and plans.

How To Plant An Onion That Has Sprouted? Grab These 9 Easy Steps Now!

Our Guest Article  is from Lucy Clark, Chief Editor at Garden Ambition

Hi there! I’m Lucy – founder of GardenAmbition.com and  
I’m a self-confessed garden fanatic. Gardening has always been a passion of mine and 
will always be my favorite pastime. Now that I am married and have one adorable son, I 
have the time to write and share my personal experiences with other garden enthusiasts 
like me.

Did you know how to plant an onion that has sprouted? If not, then now is the best time to add spice and yummy flavors to raw or cooked dishes through growing your very own onions. But how can you grow one?

 

 

Compared to other vegetables and plants, onion can grow again through planting either the part with a rooted mass on the bottom or an entire onion bulb. As soon as you planted and watered it, the roots located at the bottom will start to develop. After that, green onions will start to grow right at the top of the old onion.

HOW CAN YOU GROW A SPROUTED ONION?

Consider these step-by-step procedures if you want know how to plant an onion that has sprouted:

A Small onion held by hand with fertilizer

 

  1. Choose a healthy-looking onion which has sprouts in 8 inches or 12 inches pots. Pick one in every pot. Don’t forget to cut off rotted, pitted, or moldy parts prior to planting. Take care and maintain the core and the roots of the bulb.
  2. Start filling every pot with a good potting mix. As much as possible, leave some inches space on the top.
  3. Create a hole in the middle of the soil which about the depth and width of the vegetable.
  4. After that, put every onion in one pot carefully while layering it with enough soil to allow the base of the shoots meets the surface of the soil.
  5. Gently but firmly press down the soil to get rid of the air pockets.
  6.  Then thoroughly water the pot until the water goes out from the drainage holes.
  7. Next thing to do when you want to learn how to plant an onion that has sprouted is that you have to place the pots under a shaded spot for a few weeks. Let them get sufficient amount of sunlight but never expose them directly to the light. You should know that their roots need time to adjust and cultivate. Moreover, don’t forget to add fertilizer. You can also used shredded leaves and twigs as a natural fertilizer for your onions.

 

A closer look of onion while inside the plantation

  1. Slowly expose them to more sunlight after a couple of weeks. You may start at partial shade, then after some time, allow them to have a full sun exposure.
  2. If necessary, harvest the sprouts. You could utilize onion sprouts on anything you would utilize onion. It will surely make a delightful garnish.

 

IS IT SAFE TO EAT SPROUTED ONIONS?

The answer to that question would be a resounding Yes. It’s still good especially if the shoots and roots are still tiny. In fact, some individuals out there love to eat sprouted onions. This vegetable is well-known with vegans as they contain plenty of proteins.

 

Closer look of onions in the field

Just be sure to check for rot or mold particularly if this thing has been stuck around in a cool and dark area for more than one week. When you notice that there are molds, simply cut that part out and eat the rest. However, if the onion is already black in color or too mushy, throw it away.

 

WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO PLANT ONIONS?

Another thing to take note if you are determined to learn how to plant an onion that has sprouted is the right time to grow it. Many people plant their own onion as soon as spring comes. However, did you know that it is possible to have a head start right on your harvest through planting during fall too?

 

A fresh sprout in an onion

Why opt to plant during fall? Primarily, this is the time when there just a few tasks that you need to do. In addition to that, onions that are planted at this moment are more reliable and more productive than their counterparts. Most of the time, they are less prone to pests, which enjoy munching on these vegetables. To get rid of these pests, spray chemicals.

TIME TO HARVEST!

After knowing how to plant an onion that has sprouted, it’s about time to learn how to harvest it. Once you’ve noticed that the growing onion raised a bit out of the soil, and the leaves begin to turn yellow, this already indicates that it is time for harvest.

 

A bulb onion which has a short sprout

Generally, through bending its leaves, you are stopping them from growing further. Cut off the flowing sap so that you can divert all energy of the plant into the growing bulb. Approximately 50% of the top should be broken over prior to harvesting onions.

You can leave the onion in an open sunlight for a couple of days to dry the tops and necks. Take note that it is not advisable for extremely hot areas. Better use shady, airy places to avoid direct sunlight which might damage the bulb.

Fresh onions which can be found in the market

FINAL THOUGHTS

There you go – the things you need to know on how to plant an onion that has sprouted. Just like other veggies out there, you need to exert effort, time, and accuracy to achieve better results. Planting onions, as an essential kitchen staple, is a great help. Aside from the fact that it reduces the need to buy from supermarkets, it also assures you that you will receive fresh vegetables.

Thank you for reading this article, and don’t forget to share! Hope it helps you a lot.

Land Preparation- Is your Land Ready for your Homestead?

 

 

My wife and I decided that we wanted to find the perfect place we could call home and be certain that the land was sufficient for the things we wanted to do with it. We needed to focus on land preparation. We began that journey more than a year ago as I posted in a previous Blog Post. Without some basic research, we ended up with a property we couldn’t do anything with. You can read about it here –>>https://www.homesteadinghowto.com/a-place-to-call-home/

We found another piece of land that was a little smaller and decided to venture back to Tennessee and meet with the Land Specialist to look at it. A few days earlier we decided to do as much research on this property and learn as much as we could. After all, we didn’t want to end up in that same boat we had been in before. We quickly found the contacts for the utilities and if a title search was needed on the property. Title searches can show you any discrepancies with the property and any obstacles over ownership or deeds. After talking with the Register of Deeds Office in that particular County we found that the property was free and clear of any potential heartaches. That was a good sign!

The Road to Our Homestead:

When we arrived in Tennessee, we checked into our hotel in preparation for our trip the next morning to look at the land we were interested in. Traveling those mountain roads is a lot of fun and we ended up on a gravel road which led us several miles, it seemed, up the mountain to our future homestead. We passed old farmhouses that appeared to have been there for many years. The gravel road lead us under tree canopies, past small farms and cattle, and an occasional old tractor or pickup truck. In some areas the edge of the road appeared to be washed out from the rainfall, however, the road was still passable and well maintained. Once at the top of the mountain we saw a wooden sign appropriately named ” Big Sky Acres”. Our future land would be at the end of the road. We were told that the area was once supposed to be an exclusive development with an airstrip. The road in front of our future property was part of the old airstrip runway. The development, in all its expected glory, never materialized. The area has cabins and homes in the area with a few neighbors scattered here and there. The property is mostly wooded and underbrush with a bluff in the back of the property overlooking a portion of the Obey River below. We can’t wait to see the view in the winter months when the leaves are fallen!

Utilities:

Many people do prefer the “off grid living lifestyle” and that’s fine. At this point in our lives, it’s just not for us, particularly when we will be new to the area and we aren’t that young anymore!

It didn’t take long to find the local electric co-op for that particular area the property is located in. After speaking to the Engineer and later meeting with him, we found that electric service was much easier than we thought. A service pole is within 375 feet of the property boundary and they would install a pole if needed, adjacent to or on the property at little or no cost to us. A little tree limb adjustment on the neighbor’s property would be needed to run the lines at very little cost to us.

In subsequent phone calls, I located the water utility company for that particular area. That was a little more difficult since the utility companies in that area have different boundaries for service. You will find that a lot in rural areas. Once we connected with the right company we quickly found that a water main runs directly in front of and ends at the property. This was also a good sign! The manager was very helpful and knowledgeable about the water in that area and informed me that he used to own the water system and could happily tell me all about it. A water tap will cost us a few hundred dollars to have water for our homestead.

Land Clearing:

We knew once we walked the land, asked the right questions beforehand, and we came prepared with some needed answers before we arrived, we felt we could do something with this. It was about a week later we decided to purchase it. We realize that we would have to have the land cleared somewhat before we could decide where to put the cabin, driveway, and the things to make it livable. I found a local contractor who gladly went and looked at the property and gave us an estimate on clearing and installing a septic system. We had thought once before that we would try to clear the land ourselves to save some money. We made a decision that in the interest of time, we would have the contractor clear those areas that we needed for the cabin and access, and do the rest ourselves, at the pace we wanted. His price was also affordable and could be completed in about a day!

The contractor we are hiring has various pieces of equipment to complete many tasks, but we asked him to clear ours with a forestry mulcher. If you haven’t seen one in action, they are quite impressive! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XXyEOX1srf4

These Mulchers will clear the brush and small trees and provide a mulch for the ground on our property. It helps the environment and saves us from disposing of unwanted underbrush and limbs. We will use the larger trees that need to be removed as firewood for our small farm. We also plan to leave the road frontage untouched to provide a buffer for privacy. If you live or have property in the area, feel free to give him a call with your needs! He is very knowledgeable and great to talk with!

You can find him here —->http://www.tuckerfarms.farm/

If you prefer to go the old-fashioned way with a lot of elbow grease and hard work then you will need the right tools to do it with. I recommend a good quality chainsaw that will last! I chose the Stihl 170 chainsaw for the work I want to do! You also need a good wood splitting ax to chop or split wood. You can also rent equipment to clear land or dig holes, but keep in mind, if you break it you will more than likely be responsible for repairing it.

Building or Setting up a Cabin:

My wife and I decided to purchase a 14x 40 Pre-Built cabin to live in. Once it is ordered and delivered it will be set up on concrete blocks or pillars. We want it a little higher off the ground to be able to easily install plumbing and drain lines underneath for easy access. Our ground is suitable for that since we previously had a percolation test to determine the absorption rate of the land. If you have soft and sandy ground I would recommend a foundation support under it. It can be in the form of concrete footings in the ground that go below the freezing level or concrete pillars. You can find the pictures of our future cabin in an earlier blog post.

Organic or Non-Organic Garden Preparation:

When we are settled on our Homestead we plan to start an organic garden, meanwhile finding out what we can grow, and cannot, in our new surroundings. The land should be ripe for growing as a result of the mulching that will be done to clear the property. Regardless of where we are, we have found that different areas of the country have different growing seasons for different plants and vegetables. A good resource, if you are just beginning, is to contact your county Agriculture Extension Service. They have a wealth of knowledgeable people who can guide you along the way and they are free. They can also put you in touch with the right people for soil testing. Organic farming can be a little more tricky and time-consuming since you are trying to keep away all the pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers. There may be farmers in your area you can contact for advice.

We plan to use as many natural protectors as possible in our garden for the food we eat. We also plan to install a small greenhouse to provide us with food during the winter months. Planting cover crops and plants on your property also help with garden growth and pollination and will provide some food for our renewed bee hives! Look for what grows best in your area and start there!

What About Composting Toilets?

With the new and popular trend about owning and living small, every Homestead owner must consider how to deal with using a toilet and living with less.  This should explain how a Composting Toilet works, the different types available, and how to maintain it and get the best  efficiency  from its use.

Composting Toilets are a dry toilet that treats human waste by using an aerobic process with no water or very small volumes of water for “composting” or managed decomposition. We find them in our  national parks and hiking trails.

 

Composting toilet systems normally mix human waste with raw sawdust, coconut coir, or organic peat moss which support aerobic processing, absorbs liquids, and mitigate odors from the toilet. Aerobic processing is simply the availability of oxygen to speed the decomposition process. Anaerobic is a lack of oxygen and slower decomposition found in wet  sewage treatment systems such as septic tanks.  This method is widely used by Tiny House dwellers, unless they have opted for conventional plumbing.

Slow composting or “ moldering” toilets are used  in moderate or seasonal use areas. “Moldering”  is  achieved by low temperatures, humidity, in which the temperatures aren’t high enough  to destroy bacteria and pathogens. This method is also known as “cold composting” which rely on long retention times for reduction of the waste.  Combining  with readily available Red Wiggler worms have been found to speed up the decomposition process known as Vermicomposting.

Manufactured Systems-

Many manufactured self contained systems on the market may contain chambers to separate human waste.  Some are equipped with fans for aeration and optional features such as heating elements.This helps in speeding up the decomposition process and maintain temperature. Heat speeds up decomposition, which is why many composting toilets should be placed inside. Generally, composting or decomposition work faster when temperatures are 55 degrees and above. Many systems on the market also use additives, or what is known as “bulking agents”.  They are absorbent carbon materials to absorb liquid, create air pockets between layers for better processing, and to create an odor barrier.

 

Maintaining your toilet-

Many brands on the market today provide different provisions for emptying the finished or composted product.  This usually depends on the speed of the decomposition process and the capacity of the composting toilet.  These can range from a few months (hot composting) or a few years (cold composting).   Many units separate the solids from the liquid waste, however, you shouldn’t  allow  “bulking” agents to become too wet.  Simply add more peat moss, raw sawdust, or coconut coir, to thicken it up.  It is highly recommended not to use Miracle Gro  Peat moss in your composting toilet since it contains additives. It is best to use organic as much as possible.

Properly managed units which produce 10 percent of composted material is suitable for soil amendments for agriculture, however, be sure to check with your local health departments as some localities have strict regulations on doing this.

Finally, when cleaning your composting toilet a simple environmentally friendly solution of water and vinegar will clean it up nicely.

 

 

 

 

A Guide to Help You Pay for your Homestead

In this post,I hope to provide you with some guidance in how to pay for that homestead you have dreamed of owning. You may be one of the lucky ones with a wealthy relative or you just happened to win the lottery. Like many of us, you are looking for those alternative ways to pay for it and make your homesteading work. The goal of my wife and I are to pay for what we will need to make it a reality by saving money and paying cash. We will indeed have some monthly payments involved, however, we want to keep those at a minimum. It really defeats the purpose of giving all of your hard earned money to corporate interests. Who really wants to have a never ending mortgage or high interest rates.

You always have the option of going to a Commercial lender and borrowing the money. That will only result in up to a thirty year mortgage, with most of your payments being interest. The downfall in commercial lending is that never-ending mortgage, high down payment requirements, mandatory insurance and property taxes. I am certainly no financial expert in these matters, but I can certainly see the writing on the wall and want more for my homestead while spending less to get there.

The Rural Housing Loan Options-

Your first option is always paying for everything in cash by saving. If you cant quite get there and your homestead is rural, try a US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Housing loan. They have two loan programs available depending on where you live. The first is the Single Family Direct Housing Loan, also known as a Section 502 Direct Loan. These are loans directly from the Department of Agriculture and you deal directly with them, and loans are based on your income level and ability to repay. They also require either a low or no down payment and the interest rate is much lower than a commercial lender. Another positive is that you do not need a perfect credit rating or credit score. First, you will need to submit a pre qualification form to determine if you qualify.

They also have the USDA Guaranteed Housing Loan which are loans through a participating lender that are guaranteed by the USDA. In these you may see a higher down payment requirement and the credit score may be higher. Each area will have different income requirements. The link below will also give you a search function to learn if the programs are available in the area you may be interested in. Without repeating the nuts and bolts of their programs, here is a link to their site and offerings.

http://www.rd.usda.gov/programs-services

Earn While you Homestead-

Perhaps you have a desire to have your homestead pay for itself. Ideally,we would all be able to make our homesteads pay for themselves right away, but it doesn’t always work like that. I will list for you several ways to get started in paying for your homestead.

1. Get out of debt and stay out of debt……

Pay off all those credit cards and other bills as fast as you can. As with us, even if you have a small mortgage on the property itself, you can pay extra each month without a prepayment penalty and pay it off sooner rather than later. If you stick with it, you can pay it off in 15 years instead of 30 years.

2. Buy Used….

This goes along with the whole idea out of staying and being debt free. As much as possible, pay only cash for things you buy, especially equipment. You may end up buying an old truck or tractor and spend some time making minor repairs or upgrades on them. In the end, you don’t have an enormous payment or any glamour. It can make it worthwhile in the end. I will stress not to compromise safety in the interest of buying used. It’s not a wise idea to purchase used electrical panels, wiring, or receptacles for your home or shop. Most applications will require an electrical permit if you are a Do It Yourselfer. Think about the safety of you and your family!

The concept of buying things second-hand goes beyond just vehicles– Some are yard sale fanatics and purchase a large number of clothes, household items, and kitchen stuff that way. If you are just beginning, yard sales are a great way to find items that you may need. Its also a great way to sell many items you want to get rid of.

3. Become a DIYer….

I am fortunate that I was able to learn many skills to be able to do things myself. Some were learned from others and many I learned myself, by doing them myself. I have been able to complete electrical, plumbing, woodworking, carpentry, landscaping, and welding. These skills will become invaluable when building our homestead. Sometimes local laws require hiring professional contractors to complete tasks like electrical installation, and its unavoidable. You too can learn these skills and complete many of the same tasks. For a nominal fee many local Community Colleges offer courses and certifications in these areas. It may cost you in the beginning, however, in the long term you will have the knowledge that will last much longer.

4. Barter When You Can….

Whenever you can, barter for goods and services. You may have skills that someone else may be in need of, and they may have something you really need for your homestead. Many people will be happy barter with you to save some money. I have known people who traded electrical work for tractor work. Some will happily trade farm animals for other animals. People will always barter food and produce. Much of this also depends on your location and whats available. Check local advertisements through websites, newspapers, and social media sites.

5. Be Creative with Small Income Streams…

Like many, I eventually hope to have a small income from this blog alone. Many others are creative and find ways to make money on sites like Ebay and Craigslist. Ebay mostly consists of buying, selling, and shipping. Craigslist provides the same opportunity but keeps what you are buying and selling more local. Income can be made but use caution with Craigslist and meeting people in person. Handmade items,if you are artsy and creative, are great ways to make some extra money!

If you want to use your homestead to make money, many grow vegetables for their own consumption, while some sell their excess at a local farmers market. My wife and I plan to grow our own organic vegetables and start raising our honeybees again once things are settled on our homestead. Raising chickens and selling eggs are an additional source of income for your homestead.

You can find through most ads people wanting some type of service or work done. If you lack the expertise in some areas, consider getting the training that you need. You can always write off the expense of the training on your taxes, along with the investment in equipment and supplies. Remember that some areas like electrical, plumbing, and heating and air require a license to operate as a business.

There are many other ways to generate income and pay for your homestead and its up to your creative imagination to get there! Happy Homesteading!

 

 

 

A Place To Call Home!

A Place to Call Home….How to find it?

Many people look for that perfect place to find and call it home. I hope to help you along the way in finding that perfect spot just for you. My wife and I spent quite a bit of time looking for property and deciding where our homestead would be. We insisted on a place where we could end up with some peace and serenity, yet be able to build our homestead where it would be functional, yet affordable.

We decided that we wanted to purchase where the land was affordable, the costs were less, and we could spend that extra money on our homestead and cabin and not worry about giving most of it to Uncle Sam.

We wanted to have the freedom to roam our property, decide what we wanted to do and not worry with overburdening regulations. We wanted something quite different from the daily traffic grind, neighbors on top of each other, HOA’s, mounting urban regulations, and increasing property taxes.

We decided to try our luck with the mountains of Tennessee.  Everyone has their choice of where they would prefer to be and that’s okay. Perhaps you want to be near family again or that a certain area appeals to you. For us, we chose the high ground of Tennessee to start our search. Why? It came down to the desire for mountain property, the experience of a change of seasons, the land was affordable, and taxes were much less than surrounding states.

We began by taking a short vacation to the Volunteer State and the Great Smoky Mountains. We rented a great little cabin for two days near Greeneville Tennessee, while we had made arrangements to meet with a Land Specialist later in the week to look at property. After looking at several pieces of property in the Cumberland Plateau, we decided to continue to explore this great state and enjoy the family vacation.

After our return home, we decided to evaluate our options and decide what we wanted to do. Do we decide on a purchase or don’t we?  Where would we be happy at!  We eventually decided on purchasing five acres near Crawford Tennessee. We could spend time clearing the property ourselves and decide where each little piece had to go. We spent over a year deciding and making plans, as well as making payments on the property. After a year of planning we purchased our new camper and decided to head back to the property and “get to work”. Well, that was short lived!

In the interest of getting to the good stuff with helping you find your way and get started, I’ll just ask you to visit my wife’s blog at www.cheriannjones.com and find out what happened!  She will also appreciate the visit!

Finding Your Property-

Whether you want one half acre or 100 acres, first decide where and why you want to live there. There are many choices in finding property. Perhaps a family member or an acquaintance has property they will let you settle your homestead on. Many properties can be expensive and many can be affordable. Finding a realtor is an option, but remember, the idea is to save money and spend less. Realtors are in the business to make money, and some have high commission fees. Very few of them deal in rural homesteading property. We decided to search for property using alternative methods like internet searches and Craigslist Ads for private owner financing property for sale. Be careful while using this method since the property may be affordable and the size you want, however sometimes the land is just not usable for building or homesteading. To give you an example, the first property we found we contacted the owner, and decided while In Tennessee we would go look at it. The price was right, the size and the location were good, but the property was straight uphill, and We mean uphill.  You can’t farm it much less build anything on it.

We finally found a Land Specialty Company located in Tennessee. They have a no thrills website, yet told you enough to get you interested. They are owner financing, and have useable property in most size and price ranges. The great thing is they finance with a low down payment, military and veterans discount, and reasonable monthly payments. If for some reason you aren’t satisfied with your purchase, you can return the property to them or trade for another. Best of all, if you purchase from them, and make a referral, and they purchase, the company will waive one of your monthly payments. No bank will do that for you!

Here is the link in case you are interested!   www.countryplacesinc.com

Once you have found your land-

A good place to start is the county or city tax collectors office. You can easily research online to find most information about any parcel of land. The people selling you the property can also be valuable in providing this information, but don’t always rely on that either.  Double check the information on your own just to be sure. Most tax collectors offices can tell you how much taxes you will be paying annually on the property and whether a title search has been done. Title searches can tell you whether the property is free and clear of any liens or other issues. Most of the local government sites have an online database to search for property or parcel information. If you can’t find it online, call them. Many times you will only need a physical address and an owner name.

You can also contact the city or county government and obtain the contact information for the local utility companies serving that area. You will need that information before you purchase to know whether that property has available water, sewer, and electric service. While purchasing our first piece of property we took our realtors word for it that all of these services were readily available and close to the property. We found out different, and I don’t want you to make that mistake too. Double check everything!

We easily had electric at the corner of the property, however, we found much later that the nearest water line was about a half mile away.  We didn’t want the added expense to run that much water line to the property. Well water would have been another option but that can get expensive in drilling and pumps. And, there’s no guarantee the company drilling will find water. If you want to try your hand at well water, be sure to check with any neighbors who have been there for along time.  Most of the “old timers” can tell you whether it’s worth it or not! Who knows!  If you happen to find property in the mountains, a spring fed water source can be valuable if one is on the property.

While we are at it, be sure to look closely at the property boundaries on a survey map. Any property being sold will have a map drawn by a licensed surveyor. Pay  careful attention to the boundaries.  During our search we found that the neighbors property line included a roadway adjacent to our property, which we had initially planned to use for driveway access. This can make a big difference in right of way access or not. That owner was not willing to grant a right of way along this route, and we found access at the main road was not possible without additional expense because it washes out during heavy rains. This was the deciding factor, for us, in trading the property for another. The Land Company was more than willing to do that for us. Many people, like us, search for land that we want to eventually use for gardening, raising poultry or livestock, or replacing our honeybee hive. We wanted a “homestead” with as few restrictions as possible. Many areas have dwelling size restrictions, requirements on connecting to water and sewer, and keeping or having farm animals. That was one of our requirements in searching for property to have some minimum restrictions. In our case, the final property we purchased only required a minimum square footage of 650 square feet of living space. There were very few restrictions on domestic farm animals, only that we can’t engage in commercial operations.  That was not an issue for us as our only interest was for personal use and consumption. You can find many codes here at www.municode.com

The three most important things in choosing your future homesteading property is to (1) Walk the boundaries and get a layout of the land. The boundaries, especially if mapped by a surveyor, will be clearly marked. (2) Do your research on utilities and access to the property before making a commitment to purchase (3) decide if you can afford it and that the property is adequate enough to do what you want to do with it. Most areas have some type of building codes and restrictions to deal with.  The areas we chose in Tennessee, especially the rural areas, have very few restrictions except for electric and sanitary waste disposal. These are safety issues and expected almost everywhere requiring permits and inspection. You really don’t want someone else’s waste seeping into your ground water do you?

Disposing of Waste-

Many people choose homesteading for the freedom to live as you want to live without any restrictions or interference.  You have choices almost anywhere when deciding how you want to dispose of waste, especially human waste. I wrote about composting toilets in a previous blog and how they work. Many states and locales allow composting toilets with certain requirements. In our case, they are allowed as long as the toilet is certified by the manufacturer as meeting certain standards, and the property has running water, meaning, a public water system.  In our case, we are choosing an in-ground approved septic system. Our process was fairly easy from the percolation test to finding a licensed contractor. The first step after deciding on our property was to have it “ perc” tested, or Percolation test. In Tennessee, in urban areas you are required to obtain a permit through the County or City health department. In rural areas, permits are obtained from the State of Tennessee. Once we submitted the application and paid the required fees, the Inspector came out and conducted the on-site test. It took about 30 minutes.  The “perc test” simply tests the soil for absorption of liquids into the ground from the septic system drain field. Most of the solids remain in the main tank and need to be pumped out by a licensed disposal contractor who disposes of the solids properly.

If you are required to have an approved septic system, it is worth the minimal investment. Some will not want to spend the money and self dispose of their waste, but, that’s something I wouldn’t recommend over long periods of time. Many areas obtain their drinking water from underground aquifers and these contaminants seep into the ground into those water sources. We chose a 1000 gallon lowboy septic tank which is more efficient and the installation is less work for the contractor, especially if the ground has rock. Removing rock is an added expense. Be sure to check with your local health department to learn what is required and the process.  It can get very expensive if not followed properly. Disposal of waste is a safety issue for everyone!

Electric or Solar-

While many homesteaders would prefer to go off-grid and get their electricity from solar power, it can get quite expensive. While the solar panels get their energy from the sun, that energy needs to be stored somewhere for use, and that’s usually in the form of batteries. What you use the energy for can determine how large your system needs to be. Some areas give tax credits for solar installation while some utilities even buy the energy from you. Honestly, the return they can give you isn’t all that great but it’s better than nothing I suppose!

We would probably use solar at some point as a backup in the event the power went out or use it to power other low demand sources for our homestead. For now we will use the local power company.  When choosing the local power company, or in our case, the only choice was a local Electric Membership Co-Op. Personally, I would prefer them, because customers are voting members and have a say in the direction and operation of the company. Many times they are cheaper with their rates and service.  Not everyone will have that ability and will be stuck with some of the major power providers.  One of the Engineers with the local Co-Op met us and gave us some good information about what needed to be done to get power to our property. It was a positive experience and they seemed happy to work with us to make that happen.

We did find that we needed to contact the adjacent property owner to get permission to trim some limbs on their property to run the power lines to ours. The neighbors agreed!  The only cost to us will be around $100 .00 to have the limbs trimmed. Not a bad expense at all!

Stay Tuned!  In my next Blog post I will provide you with creative ways to help pay for your Homestead!

 

Happy Hunting!