Family of Seven Going Off-Grid

Categories: Life Stories

3 Shelter 
This can take so many forms, one could write a book. A few suggestions: an RV, elk tent, yurt, micro cabin, camper, or trailer. We pulled up to our dream property in a used RV, not knowing if we were going to winter in it, or push to build our small cottage home. We ended up using it for a month on our property, before selling it to help pay for the wood package to build our home. We needed shelter, and fast! 

 I looked on Craigslist and found a complete Costco carport frame; this one became our storage tent. I soon found two more tents that were badly wind damaged, and combined all the useable parts to come up with a metal frame measuring 10’x14’. Without a doubt, 140 sq. ft. makes for cozy living for a family of seven. I called the local lumberyard and had all the needed material delivered to convert a carport frame into a bunkhouse.  

Starting from the ground up I used:

      Deck blocks to raise floor framing off the ground

      2x6 for floor framing

      ¾” T&G OSB for the floor

      Galvanized metal sheets for the walls and roof

      2x4’s for the front wall

      ½” OSB sheets for front wall

      30 lb. felt to cover OSB on the front

      Bundles of cedar under course shake

      A reclaimed wood door

      A free 4x4 vinyl window

      A couple cans of expanding foam 

The materials in this list cost around $600, but if you were able to even salvage the metal, you could probably cut the cost by a third.  

Fitting seven people into 140 sq ft. was challenging! I quickly built a bunk bed with the lumber that was just lying around. My wife suggested building a sleeping loft that would fit three of the children. We stacked bunk beds up one wall. This compact shelter worked surprisingly well for us while building our home. We now use it for our well house and storage. 

#4 Food Preparation 

Outdoor cooking was an absolute uncharted adventure for our family.  We needed an outdoor kitchen, so we looked around and found a reasonably priced canopy tent. Next we scoured yard sales and found a vintage sink and cabinet for $10. To that we added a kitchen island and an old trunk for food storage. 

At a local hardware store my wife and I spied a four-burner cook top that was self-igniting. We were so excited! With our setup my wife soon had pancakes stacking up and soups simmering. We also used the cook top to heat water for dishes and sponge baths. We were all surprised at how little propane the cook top used, considering everything it was used for.  

If I was going to do outdoor cooking over again I would without hesitation use the “Grandpa Jakes” campfire cooker to help us enjoy the true  HD Outdoor Channel--the campfire. This campfire cooker is truly the Swiss army knife of the campfire, and if I had known about it then, we would have saved lots of unnecessary effort in getting meals.

Next in the kitchen department was refrigeration. This took the shape of a Costco cooler buried in the ground to just below the lid, with heavy duty moving blankets to shield the top from the sun. We added a piece of tin to shed the rain. With four blocks of ice the cooler kept acceptably cool temps for 3-4 days. This worked well enough, as long as we watched the water level from the melting ice. We soon found a propane fridge on Craiglist and our food found an even better home. 

With these simple steps set in place, we got our homestead up and running. Those 6 months of camping prepared us to start thinking in a whole new way, and a love for the pioneer life began to grip our hearts. That first winter our online homestead business was born. We now handcraft three different drying racks, including the signature drying rack “The Homesteader”… as one customer puts it, “the granddaddy of all drying racks.” We not only sell drying racks, but other great tools for the homesteader.

We’re far from finished yet, but every day brings something new, and the journey has been challenging and exciting for all of us. We look forward to continuing our homestead dream for many years. 
Note: this is our story reprinted from Countryside magazine Volume 96 Number 3 May/June, 2012

By Daniel & Abby Jo VanHoutan / via ForgottenWayFarms
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