Category Archives: Homesteading

The Green Barn

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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.

A Country Christmas

Sample ImageWe 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.

Weeks Work

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. 

Spring Sprung

We are so excited to be back in action at the barn.  We camped inside the barn a few times over the winter and it was COLD.  We pitched a tent inside the barn and had a propane header going and it was still very cold.  Hopefully we’ll have a wood stove before next winter!

We spent Easter weekend camping inside the barn as well.  I had 40 tons of 357 rock delivered to give us a driveway and had them graded out as good as possible thanks to our neighber and his John Deere.

At the end of May I’ll be at the barn for an entire week.  I will be renting a trackhoe and working on the railroad tie retaining wall and a few other projects.  I’ll get some new pictures up ASAP.

First Barn Camp

Sample Image A lot has happened at the barn in the last month. We have a tin roof and log cabin wood siding on the barn now. It is complete as a structure and we have already camped in the barn. That first camp was a challenge as it dropped below freezing and there was no way to keep the whole barn warm thru the night. Therefore we pitched our tent in the barn the next night and the propane heater was able to keep it nice and cozy.

There are still lots of plans left for the barn. We have decided to forgo the stucco on the bottom half for now and just paint it. We can always stucco it later or even use stone siding some day. We want to add a bathroom so we have some amenities when camping. This of course means we need power, water and a septic tank. I’m still trying to decide how to handle the power and water. We don’t want to bring grid power to the barn at least not until we are living there and we don’t want to dig an expensive well just for the barn. So, I think I will use a combination of solar panels with batteries and a generator for power. Then we can add a 50 gallon water tank and 12 volt pumps to feed the fixtures. I can fill the 50 gallon tank by pumping spring water from the creek whenver we need. This leaves the septic tank which is needed, I’m not willing to forgo this amenitiy.

I’m hoping to take another week off during Thanksgiving and spend it driving a trackho. There is still a lot of grading and work to do around the barn that requires some heavy equipment. Still lots of updates and work to come as we work on the power source, plumbing, build a bathroom and etc.

We are dry!

We are so happy to finally have a roof.  We now feel like we have a useful structure even tough we need to complete the log cabin siding, stucco and one more barn/garage door.  At least now we could actually camp in the barn in the cold/rain, keep our stuff stored and dry.

We may do the stucco ourselves which would take a long time, but it isn't time critical.  Finding someone who wants to do it for hire has proven difficult anyway.

I've put a few more pictures in the album showing the roof so check them out.

Almost Done…

Well, it actually looks like a builidng now and not just a hole in the ground.  Come next Tuesday we will even have a tin roof.  Then the major project left is putting the log cabin siding on the upper level and stucco on the lower level.

We also got to celebrate Kimberly’s birthday.  I rented a cabin nearby, actually our neighbors own it.  You can check it out here.  The whole family came over for a celebration which really surprised Kimberly.  Rays Restaurant in Floyd cooked the meal and it was great.

Several people have asked what we will do with this barn since we don’t live in VA.  Well, at some point we will live there and it will be a horse barn.  Until then, it will be used to store our camping supplies and etc.  Maybe even a tractor for bushhogging soon.

See the pictures below.

We have walls.

This was a big weekend for the barn. We went to camp on the property, visit with family, and yes… To check barn status. We now have fresh concrete block walls. The footers went in and the block crew finished a few days later. We have a renewed level of excitement now that we can actually see some serious progress. Also, the driveway to the barn is finally in good enough shape that any 2 wheel drive vehicle can make it all the way to the barn.

Next week: Floor joists, the upstairs floor and walls and quickly to follow will be the roof trusses. It should go fast from here on out. We will return in three weeks to see what we hope will be a complete shell of a barn.

We still need to hire someone to mow/bush hog the property. The property will quickly get out of control if we don’t keep up with this aspect. I can’t wait to have a tractor and my own bush hog as well as the time to do it myself, but for now we have to find someone to hire. Can’t wait to show more pictures of progress in three weeks.  See the ones from this week here.

The First Dig

ugm_10_images_600x450-img00075Now that winter is over activity at the farm has picked up. I had planned on having the basement area dug out for our barn by a professional. However, I happen to know a professional, and it didn’t take much more than a casual mention that I could rent a trackhoe and do this myself to have my interest piqued. I could play with a trackhoe, get the job done and a whole lot more AND save money!

Next thing you know, I’m taking a week off to dig this hole in the ground and having an absolute blast. With professional help (thanks Ken), I was able to complete the dig, clean out brush, trees, move large rocks, dig out some deep areas in the creek, and generally tear up anything in my path. More pictures from the clean up and changes to the area coming soon.

Kimberly joined me on Thursday night and we camped for the weekend. It actually got down below freezing those nights, but we were warm and cozy in the tent with a propane heater while watching a movie. Many family members came to visit, play on the trackhoe and drive the four wheeler. I busted the tire on the four wheeler, but luckily it was the last day.  It has been replaced and is ready for more action now.

We are hoping to complete the barn by the end of June. I’m thinking barn-raising while pig roasting…. Anyone?


Thanksgiving Campout

We are planning to camp out at the farm Friday – Sunday after Thanksgiving. Hopefully weather will permit. We heard the burn ban has been lifted due to the recent rainfall so as long as it isn’t below freezing we are in! We just can’t get enough of being there and didn’t want to leave the last time. We’ll keep you updated on the plans and would love to find out if anyone else wants to brave the cold with us. I’m sure a serious bon fire will make us warm and toasty.