Off the Grid?

We’ve been full time in our RV since August 2017. In that time, we’ve had many things go wrong. We tried to travel, headed south, headed north a little, headed back south and ended up at a workamping job in Florida. We are stable now, but not prospering. Our bills are getting paid, things are slowly starting to improve, but we are still in Florida, still in a small RV, still on someone else’s land, and still in a temporary solution.

We want something more permanent. Something more stable, somewhere we can put down roots, build or find a small home, have a garden, a fenced in yard with a dog, and maybe an alpaca or a cow. Maybe some chickens too. We would love to be self-sufficient, able to have a small vehicle to get town when we need to, able to be completely power independent and not have to pay an electric company to power our house. We’d love to have a source of heat, a source of cool, and a solid roof over our heads. We’d like to be able to grow our own food, make our own crafts and products to sell online and be able to build up something to make us more stable and less reliable on everyone else.

We’d also like all that to happen back in Wisconsin.

Sure, Wisconsin winters are cold, summers can be hot and humid, and the growing season is short. But for me, that is still home and always will be. I never thought I’d end up back there, figured we’d wander for awhile, find somewhere nice and settle down, but Wisconsin still calls us back.

I also never thought I’d get Tiffany to move to Wisconsin and like it there, but I was pleasantly surprised. While she did not like the winters, especially being trapped in the apartment for months on end with nowhere to go and no reason to step outside, she really likes the people there. There is something about the Midwest and Wisconsin in particular, that makes people more friendly, more compassionate, and in far less of a hurry than other places we’ve been to. People still say hello to strangers, open the doors for others, stop to see if a disabled vehicle on the highway needs help and other things like that that just made us feel more welcome.

Tiffany did hate driving in the snow though, so that is something we will have to work on. Maybe get a snowmobile and just show her how awesome that is to drive around.

Finding a place to live

Now, we do not have much income, no savings, not great credit, no collateral, and a bunch of other problems that lead to things being difficult to buying land, building a house, and getting everything up and running. But since we are stable right now, we can buy things that can be taken with us to our new location and used again. We have nothing in the way of furniture that can’t be replaced. We have some electronics, plus clothes and kitchen things, and really that’s about it. We could probably even fit most of it in the back of a truck to get it back to Wisconsin. We could probably sell the RV or even just take it to a scrap yard to get rid of it.

I’ve looked at land all over the place on landwatch.com as well as some other websites, but finding something from half the country away, getting everything setup, and getting there, is not easy. If we had somewhere to stay for a few months, that would certainly make things easier, but we don’t want to move into someone else’s house with all our stuff and our cats, get comfortable, and then overstay our welcome. There are likely a few places we could stay if we needed to, but we don’t want to do it.

That means buying land and getting something there we can stay in for a little while as we build a house to live in, then moving into the permanent structure and figuring out what to do with the temporary one.

There is actually very little land available in the Fox Valley area where we’d like to relocate. Or rather, re-relocate back there since we did live there for two years. That means we have to either look north a bit or west. I’d still like to stay less than two hours from Oshkosh, just so we are close enough to my parents, my grandma, and Tiffany also has a cousin in that area. That would at least put us close enough for visits, be able to go somewhere for holidays, and have people around we know who can help us if we need it.

Living off the grid

To be off the grid, we’d need independent power, water, and waste. Since we rely on the internet for a lot of things, we’d also need decent cell coverage for our internet access, but that hasn’t been a problem so far. We can probably keep what we have or upgrade to a slightly better solution.

For water, we would obviously need a well. Depending on the location, that can get quite pricey. We’d also need some way to deal with waste, meaning either a composting toilet or digging a septic system. Composting is cheaper, but requires maintenance more frequently, while septic is more expensive, but requires more costly maintenance less frequently. Whatever county we can find land in though, I’ll have to research the ordinances for both.

For electricity, if I can figure out how to make it all work, we can go with solar and wind. We would need some more parts to make it work since all we have currently is a 2000 Watt inverter, but I think I can price that out. If we can make things efficient as possible, utilize solar temperature control ideas, and have a heat source like wood or pellets, then we would not need to heat with electric. We would still need to cool in the summer a little with an air conditioner, but hopefully even that can be controlled and tempered with proper placement of the structure and windows.

We’d need to figure out a way to get mail to us, but depending on the county or municipality, we can probably get an address and have postal and private deliveries brought to us. That would be ideal so we wouldn’t have to run to a PO Box to pick up mail a few times a week.

For food, we can grow as much as possible. Tiffany has started growing some herbs here at our campground, and she plans to grow more. If we had enough land to grow more food, we could start canning foods and have plenty of food to last over winter. There are some things that will never grow in Wisconsin, like coffee and sugar cane, but many other things we can make work. If we can build a greenhouse into the permanent structure, that would expand our diet more, give us fresh vegetables year round, and keep our bills lower.

Starting the process

To make this work, we need as much in place and ready to go before we move up there and start building. That means getting the land, saving up more money than needed for supplies like lumber and electrical, getting people ready to help with things we can’t do ourselves, getting tools, getting the solar system components, and eventually having enough money set aside to get furniture.

How do we do this?

I really have no idea. We probably have some places we can get things shipped, but first we have to have a plan. I’m not sure how many solar panels would be required to run a whole house, even though it would be a very small house. We could order a lot of things online and have them shipped to someone in Wisconsin, sitting there and waiting for us to come up there and start everything.

I also have to figure out how we want to build. I’d love to do something like Cordwood building, but that requires a lot of experimentation since I’ve never done it before as well as a lot of labor. We could build something smaller and easier, get something built, insulated, powered, and be setup for our first winter. Right now we live in about 250 square feet and have gotten used to it, so it isn’t like we need a lot of space. We really don’t need or want a lot of space anyway, but doubling that would be nice and give us more room to move around.

Ideally, I’d like it if we could have someone build us a basement and the skeleton above, with the main floor. From there, I can do a lot of work. I’d need help with plumbing and electric, but much of the rest of the work I can do myself. We could even start with something small, live in a studio basically, and add to it ever summer as we have funds, time, and get more skilled and knowledgable.

Starting the Research Phase

I need to a lot of work. Figuring out costs and how to pay things mostly, with figuring out building codes, ordinances, and what we can do in different locations in the area. That will affect a lot of our decisions about location and how we get there.

That’s the basic plan. Not sure how it will all pan out, but we’ll figure out something.

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