It’s really happening! Kimberly and I have both ceased working as of May 8th and are starting the next chapter of our lives. The house in Knoxville is for sale! We are ready to spend some time filling a lifelong dream to live internationally, ingraining ourselves into a culture, and serving that community. Upon our return we plan to live the simple life on Qberry Farms in Virginia. In the meantime, there is a lot going on and a lot of stuff to do before you can close up life at home in America. My hope is that at least one of us will turn out to be good at blogging, that would be a tremendous way to meet many of our goals for this season of our lives. Hope you’ll follow along as we try to figure it out.
Vietnam is so much more than we expected. Like the U.S. it differes greately from the North to the South, but that’s where the similarities end. During these first three days we were in Hanoi getting used to the traffic, learing how to cross the street, and generally getting our street smarts. We focused on learning what to eat and what not to eat as we give our bodies time to acclimate to the food. We are told to slowly ease into eating the street food as our stomachs will not be able to handle it at first.
Our trusty Hanoi guide also teaches us how to cross the road. Close your eyes he said and just walk. Don’t open them or look right or left or you will lose nerve and begin darting in traffic. This would surely get you run over because all the scooters, cars, bikes, etc automatically sense where you are going and just move around you. Therefore maintaining the same direction and speed when in the street in critical. the sights, sounds and smells are nearly more than our senses can take in. The constant horn sounds which are used differently than in the U.S., mean “look out, here I come, make way”.
The 3rd day of the trip we drove to an ancient area called Hua Lu which was the capital of Vietnam centuries ago. We went to the temple complex of Dinh and Le which also housed the Palace of the original capital. Tam Coc was our next stop where we paddled our way thru Three Grottoes. Named because the river actually passes thru mountains three times and you just paddle your boat right thru the darkness and out the other side. We had help paddling, well actually she paddled and I helped. I was amazed how she paddled the oars with her feet. It looked impossible but somehow it worked.
See the VIDEO
Stay tuned for the next part of the trip when we go to Sapa and hike thru miles and miles of mountains and jungle to visit villages and schools to deliver our supplies.
We spent 9 days “camping” in the barn over the July 4th holiday. I rented a mini excavator for the week and spent a lot of time cleaning removing brush and creating a new road through the woods to connect the two main fields. Well, road may be an overstatement. It’s really for 4 wheelers and tractors since its a bit narrow for full size vehicles. Its future use will be to give us a way to move cattle from one field to the other easily. We started the week at Floyd Fandango and it was a great way to unwind, relax and begin a vacation from work. The bands were great and so was the wine and beer tasting. As I look back at this week it is hard to believe all we did while still getting a lot of work done and relaxing done. After taking the excavator to grandma’s house to clean out the brush and re-make the trail to her pond, dad and I went fishing. Although there were huge bass to be seen in the pond, we ended up fishing for bluegills since we couldn’t get them to bite. We cleaned all the bluegill and Kimberly and I fried them up for breakfast at the barn the next morning. We also spent time at Foggy Ridge Cidery, The Country Store, Dino’s Hillbilly Greek Restaurant, Floyd Community Market, Grandma’s house and a cookout with family. Each time we have to leave the farm it gets harder and harder. We spent 9 days without tv and many normal creature comforts, like a couch and loved every minute as always. This is the simple type of living that we enjoy and it reminds us of all the things in life that really matter.
We just got back from a 10 day Alaskan Expedition a couple of weeks ago and wanted to post some of the photos here since Facebook can only hold so many You can check out the videos on Youtube…
It’s been a long time since an update, but we’ve gotten a lot of work and relaxing done since Christmas at the property. A lot of people have been asking about our power and water systems at the barn since finding out we are completely “off grid” at the property, so I thought I’d explain a bit about how we have done it.
We have always had power at the barn thru a very simple system of two 12 volt marine batteries, a solar panel to keep them charged, and a 10,000 watt power inverter to make standard 110v power. This has always worked great for us, although I did recently upgrade from a 1700 watt inverter. The upgrade was due to the fact that the 1700 watt inverter didn’t have enough power to allow us to use the electric skillet or coffee maker. These two marine batteries easily keep us in power for a 3 day weekend. The solar panel then recharges the batteries so they are ready when we return. I have also wired in lights using compact florescent bulbs which use very little electricity.
The next issue to overcome was the lack of running water. Although there is very clean stream on the property as well as springs, etc; we really didn’t want to dig a well or have large expensive pumps (especially with our limited power source). So, after installing a septic tank, toilet, sink and shower I moved on to a system to capture rainwater from the roof of the barn. I used two rain barrells and black corrugated pipe to capture the rain from the gutters. I cut holes in the top of the barrells to allow the overflow to run off into the drainage pipes and be carried away from the barn. See some pictures here… A simple 12 volt water pump designed for a camper was installed to pump the water from the barrells into the fixtures. The best part is a small propane powered hot water heater that comes on instantly when you turn on the hot water at the sink or in the shower and heats the water to very high temperatures nearly instantly. This was also an expensive system designed for RV’s and mobile hot water uses. It connects to a standard 20lb propane tank and will lasts for many months as little as we use it.
The next trip is this coming weekend. It’s bee a great 4 day weekend for us with friends and family as we grill out and enjoy what we have worked so hard to build. I am definintly prepared to start sitting back and enjoying as opposed to working the whole we visit as in the past. Although, I’ll always enjoy a simple project every now and then. Besides, I still have a bench swing and a chair swing to hang somewhere.
We had a real old fashioned country Christmas on the farm this year. We cut down a small pine tree to decorate. We made our own decorations from cotton and paper. We had hot food and hot drinks, opened presents, and went sledding. It was really great and I hope will be a new tradition for us. The snow made it especially nice I think.
The sled was really a piece of 4×8 roof tin and I don’t think you could ever want a faster sled! I put two holes in it and tied a string to make it easier to steer and pull up the hill. It was so fast that you had to just jump off at the bottom or you would wind up in the creek!
The pictures below.
OK, I know I haven’t been on top of things lately posting to the site, but we are still working on the property. Recently I spent another week working with a mini-excavator to clean out the area where we hope to have a pond one day soon. It was kind of swampy due to all the springs in that area and therefore it was overgrown with trees, bushes and etc. I did some serious de-forestation in that area and it drastically changed the look of the area. I’ll post pictures of this as well.
We recently went to Nicaragua for a vacation with our friends Larry and Mitzi Bodie. Now, if you know anything about us, you know we really try to do some good and spread some love and goodwill wherever we go and Nicaragua was no different. We got to visit a couple of schools and take supplies and do a little work at a medical clinic. Mitzi is a nurse so she provided a ton of help at the clinic and Larry was assisting the dentist with pulling teeth so this was very helpful. Somehow Kimberly and I ended up with the job of weighing babies to ensure they get the right amount of medicine. We even got to help start a scholarship fund to send kids to high school. Virtually none of the childres in that area go to high school because free public school ends at the 6th grade and they cannot afford to continue school.
It was certainly a vacation as you could tell by the house we rented on the beach. It was absolutely amazing, even having it’s own light house tower. The house was fully staffed and every meal each day as well as snacks and anything else we needed was prepared for us. I would definitly recommend this place to anyone. We found it on cyberrentals.com under Nicaragua, it was the only house for rent in the Playa Hermosa area. Check out a few of our photos here.. We also put up a few videos on our youtube channel here…
Well, I had a great time and got a ton of work done too. Thanks to my cousin Josh and his friend (also Josh) who helped out I finished the retaining walls on both sides of the barn/shed/shelter. I even had time to build a nice little walking bridge over the creek.
Kimberly came up and stayed the weekend as well. Together we planted about a dozen trees, spread grass seed and layed straw over the banks. Check out the pictures.
I don’t know what’s next yet, but we will need to paint the concrete block sometime to make it look a bit better. I would also like to get a small tractor and bush hog for keeping the aread of the farm cut down that do not get mowed for hay. Maybe we will spend more time taking it easy there for awhile now that we have all the big stuff done though.
I call it a vacation when I get to spend a week on a track hoe working at the farm. It’ll be the second time I’ve taken a week off to rent equipment and play at getting work done. I’ll be looking for some hired hands to help me complete the rail road tie retaining walls as well. I may have more gravel brought in as well. Kimberly has building a bridge over the creek on my list too, but that is going to take some more planning I believe.
Kimberly will come up to spend Memorial Day Weekend there as well. I’ll get some good pictures to post of the before and after.
Bye-Bye for now.