Feb 18, 2020

Going off grid and debt free UPDATE 2-18-2020

(in the next post i'll go into detail about the cabin types and my poor-mans blueprints, promise)

So things have changed (as they do)
This is the first major example of WHY i wanted to do this as a journey type blog, rather than a post-success wrap up post at the end of it. Toward the end of last year i became mostly blind in my right eye due to something having a field day with my cornea. I was working a high paying machining job and though i hadnt had any accidents, i didnt trust myself running big expensive and dangerous machines with almost no depth perception past about 4 feet. Being "kinda blind" is so weird. So even though the job was paying the bills, i ended up leaving that job and started what i THOUGHT was going to be a simple warehouse job prepping pallets for shipment. (like working truck at a grocery store but on a bigger scale) Turns out the job was NOT at all like that. It ended up being a desk job where i had to deal with numbers and packing slips, quantities, math, sitting, quiet, no physical activity, desk job, pencil pushing, suicidal thought inducing..... fuck.
I couldnt take it. Apparently i was one of the few people who could actually spot the difference in a numbers sequence test (taken during the application) and i was "too valuable" to be transferred over to where i was told id be working. -.-
I lasted a whole week at this desk job fam. Monday - Friday
Yesterday i got up and started to leave for work and nearly broke down crying, am i proud of it? Not particularly, but i honestly hated life for a solid week. I know the work is fine for some but... ugh anyway. I am now unemployed for the first time in my life since i turned 16.
My dad, who i recently reconnected with after 11 years (back in 2018), saw i was wanting to build an off grid cabin for my lady and i in Alaska, he knew about my 16year plan and gave me a suggestion.
We asked our kids how they felt about moving to Arizona. They couldn't be more excited. So heres where the plans change guys.
We are going to sell our house NOW. I looked up our house's listing on the Zillows and apparently 2020 saw a huge increase in general property values, so just based on our 2016 house listing, we're looking at roughly $101,000-$112,000. (we bought the house for $84,000)
A couple things to consider.
1. We still owe about $78,000 on the mortgage, so when we sell it, we won't be getting near as much back as we had planned to get 15 years from now.
2. The listing estimate DOESNT consider the brand new roof/gutters we're getting installed this week, the encapsulated crawlspace with the sump pump, dehumidifier and french drains we had installed in 2018, the big fence we put up for our bird yard or the fact that the studio is now more than just a skeleton with vinyl siding on it since i finished its interior. So chances are its worth quite a bit more than $112,000.
We are then going to take the money we get from selling the house and buy a patch of land down by my dads place. Buy, not take out a mortgage or lease, buy land. Then while we are building our OFF MUTHA LUVIN GRID (practice) dream home, we'll be staying with my dad and i'll be working alongside him. (he has his own home remodeling and landscaping business thats usually just him but he sometimes hires a few pairs of hands for bigger jobs)
Couple quick notes on this as a whole.
1. this off grid home will be MUCH bigger than the tiny cabin my wife and i have planned for Alaska.
2. My dad has all the proper licenses and whatsits to do legal beagle plumbing and wiring and he knows the building and zoning codes. Dude built his own house on his own afterall and its beautiful. (and big enough to put up my family of 6 without getting in the way) So he knows what hes doing and i shouldnt have to worry about my inexperience getting my family into trouble (with CPS or the city/state/county)  with him helping on the build.
3. Since we will be buying land and building the house ourselves and will be off-grid, instead of paying on this house til its done, saving for a couple years, then selling. Our new financial plan is to "not get stupid" with all the money i'll be saving by not paying a mortgage/rent or utilities. Saving about 80% of my income for the next 15 years? Should add up. Plus then we could sell that property. I know it won't be worth much in comparison, since off-grid properties, no matter how nice, are an icky thing to realtors and mortgage lenders.
4. My wife has been BEGGING me to move us down to Arizona ever since we went down there last year so she could meet my dad. Our son has severe allergy problems that went away while we were there (no kentucky bluegrass mold in teh air down there) and my wife's skin problems cleared up while we were there too. So our overall health and quality of life really do stand to gain from this uproot. Its just, changes are scary and this is A LOT of change all at once.
So our current steps? Fixing up minor things around the house. We've spent the last 3 days painting, selling most of our belongings, i crawled my weak ass under the house and fixed all the squeaky floorboards, etc. We're trying to be down to Arizona by the beginning of May (when school lets out).
I still have about $2,000 left to pay on the crawlspace and when they finish the roof ill owe them about $2,800. So i'll be hustling to get them paid off asap. We don't want to take much with us, so we really are selling just about everything. This'll help get the roof paid off, and then selling the house should cover the trip down there, the small trailer we'll need to haul our crap and pay for the patch of land we've got our eyes on.
Oh yeah! We've already set our sights on this 20acre lot for $27,000. If all goes well and the property looks nice in person, we should be buying that. If not, my dad said we can take as long as we need to find a place. (i really dont want to though. the idea of moving in with my dad at age 26 is painfully embarrassing and i'd really like to be back on my own two feet under my own roof before the year ends)
So yea, on top of all that we've already got 2 potential buyers for this house, we wont really know for sure until we get the house appraised how that'll turn out. But its looking like it'll be a quick sell.
Hmm... i guess technically we will be going off-grid and debt free a whole hell of a lot sooner than 15 years. But i won't be counting this. I keep referring to it as 'practice' since when we go to Alaska, i don't want to also be working to support our lives. I want to retire, grow some food, raise some bees and chickens, sit on the deck in the middle of the woods with a hot cup of coffee and watch the sun come up over the mountains. I want to watch the sparkle in my wife's eyes and know she is just as happy and content as i am. I want to hold her hand and not have a care in the world for anything else in that moment.
Down in Arizona i'll still have 4 young kids looking up to me, so i'll have to keep working and saving and making sure they have the what they want and need. Oh well, they're worth every second and i cant wait to watch them grow up in a healthy environment from the house that we built for ourselves.

Feb 15, 2020

Going off grid and debt free (part 4)

Today i want to talk about LOCATION, FREEDOM, TAXES, and BUILDING TYPES.
-This post contains embedded videos and pictures that are not my own, i simply used them to help show the points i have a hard time trying to make.

I know that seems like a lot of different things to cover in just one post but you cant really consider one of these things without factoring in the others.
One MAJOR thing you need to consider when you decide to go off the grid is your location. Not just "do i like it here?" but you need to mainly focus on "is it even legal here?"
Sadly one of the main things that holds people with self sufficiency in mind back is local laws, codes, covenants, and ordinances.
Yeah, some serious crap. A lot of places (in the united states and most other 1st and 2nd world areas) will not allow you to go fully off the grid. Or at least not the way you want to.
Lets get to some examples, eh?
Here, where i currently live (Kentucky), there are FEW rural areas that allow you to do SOME off grid things. I'll get to the "some" in a bit. But for the bulk of the state you are allowed to have solar panels and get your power strictly through solar to your house. The only catch is that the solar panels have to be installed and monitored by the big LGE-KU electric company. So you're still paying a power bill, but you get to pat yourself on the back for being greener about it. (Frowny face)
Now you can still choose to get your own solar panels and hook them up to your house no problem, no law against that (as long as you dont disconnect from the grid and have them installed by a licensed electrician aswell). BUT if you live in a neighborhood you run the risk of being reported by your neighbors for being an eyesore. (face palm)
That doesnt just apply to solar panels either, neighbors can report you for ANYTHING they dont like. Got a garden? Got chickens? Goats? Hell even dogs? Neighbors can report you. If you have anything in your yard or coming out of your house (chimney smoke) they can report you to the city/county.
Why? You are decreasing THEIR home's value. Now, to be honest, this is totally fair. You really should be considerate and ASK your neighbors if they'd be okay if you, say... got bee hives or chickens etc...
Luckily i already live next to a farm, so my neighbors are super chill about all the things ive decided to take on while living here.
So i guess the first point im trying to make is that before you decide where you are going to maybe settle down, check and see if what you want to do is even allowed there first.
When my wife and i were looking for locations to go off grid and start a little mini homestead to retire on (at age 40 fingers crossed) we had a few wants/musts that we needed to check off.
-pine trees and/or aspen trees
-beautiful view
-off grid friendly (legal)
-maybe on the water
-maybe in the mountains

With those wants in mind we set out looking at all over. We looked at the Ozarks, good ole Missourah! There are actually several counties that have chill building/zoning laws in southern Missouri.
Building codes and zoning laws are very important things to consider when going off grid.
This also ties into choosing which BUILDING TYPE you're going to want to go with. Most places in the civilized world won't allow you to build an off grid, 1 room cabin and then live in it as a primary residence. It just isn't allowed. ESPECIALLY if you have kids. If you aren't connected to the grid (even if you have your own solar/wind/gas/whatever power source) You can expect CPS or other fun city officials to come down, kick you from your own home, tape up the door, and even take your kids away.

Now, i AM NO FAN of Alex Jones, but the family in this video is very real and this did and does happen. So i feel i should warn anyone thinking of going off grid with children to really pay attention to where you can and can't live this lifestyle. Even if you dont have kids, like i said you can expect to be forcibly removed from your own home and watch it be demolished by the city if you build it the "wrong" way or in the "wrong" part of your own property.
Now i understand that the building codes and zoning laws are there for your own personal safety but some of the limitations are just absurd. You wanna live in a 100sq foot tiny house on foundation? Nope. That doesnt meet the minimum square footage required to count as a primary residence.

If you want to avoid MOST of these rules, build your house on wheels. Having your house on wheels (a typical trailer style tiny house) makes you exempt from almost all of these insane rules. It counts as a temporary dwelling and as long as you change locations from time to time, you're set.
Now this isnt a bandaid patch to fix everything, theres still some problems, lawmakers are getting wise to this loophole and are starting to crack down on the tiny house movement so i cant honestly recommend this choice.
Mobile, you can pick up and go wherever you want whenever you want.
Same rules apply to them that apply to a mobile home/RV (which isnt much)
Very low maintenance
Legal in most places if you study local zoning loopholes
Usually very small
Lawmakers are adapting and making it harder for tiny homes lifers to live
Most places REQUIRE you to move every so often (so no settling down) UNLESS you were to rent out a parking spot like at a trailer/RV park. (this defeats the entire purpose of trying to be "debt free")
That out of the way, the Ozarks. Missouri is a wonderful place for off-grid, homesteaders. If you don't want to live the van-life or tiny home on wheels life, you're going to want to find a place with either no zoning laws or really lax zoning laws. These areas wont typically be near the big cities so dont go looking for land with a Starbucks on every corner and expect to legally live off grid.
Heres the pros and cons of land i found that could be suitable for off grid living.
Image result for missouri
Southern Missouri (wow 3rd time mentioning it!)
There are several counties in the southern bits of Missouri that just dont give a crap how you live so long as you arent, ya know, hurting anybody. The particulars are bound to change over time so i wont bother posting a list of those counties as it'll surely be outdated as soon as this is posted, but just do a quick google search, i believe in you!
The pros are, well, freedom! Beautiful views, trees, great wildlife.
The cons? More of a personal thing for me, there are still SOME asinine building codes and such that apply, nothing too major, but it still grinds my gears.
The climate. Aside from me being an angry anarchist, the main reason i want to leave Kentucky is that im no fan of the humidity. I grew up in Arizona and i love the dry climate. Missouri is pretty much the exact same climate as KY if not MORE humid and mosquito filled. (also a good portion of the "chill zoning laws" counties in Missouri are wet swampy marsh type lands)
So theres pros and cons for Missouri if thats where you think you might want to make a life for yourself, go ahead! This is just a guideline based on my wants and research results.

Next theres the Colorado/New Mexico rocky mountains
Image result for rocky mountains
Real quick pros and cons
Pros- perfect atmosphere, view, altitude, humidity (lack of rather), trees for days, plenty of national parks and state land nearby so you know there isnt going to be a walmart built next door in a few years of urban sprawling. really chill zoning/building codes
Cons- (again and always, personal opinions on the matter, you may not care)
Colorado has some really odd laws regarding your water. Apparently you can live off grid all you want as long as you have over 5 acres of land and nobody reports you within a couple years.(for being an eyesore with solar panels or having chickens and whatnot) BUTTTT you have to have a legal, professionally installed septic system installed and it has to be checked, semi regularly, by the county. Not exactly compost toilet friendly. There still are ways around this, like building your house on wheels, but then you have to move your house every so often and im not about that life.
And you have to pay property taxes

Next place we considered is Oregon
Image result for oregon
Oregon pros- Hits a lot of the checkmarks, trees, views, off-grid friendly especially in areas with no vagrancy laws in place, wonderful climate (once you get away from the shoreline)
Cons- THE DUMBEST water restrictions i have ever heard of. You CAN NOT collect your own rain water if it adds up to more than a couple barrels worth. I have seen people being fined big moneys over starting their own little private ponds on their own lands because Oregon counts rainwater as THEIR property, not yours. and to top that off, that 2 barrel rule is fairly recent, rainwater collecting used to be entirely frowned upon and if you got caught (neighbors reported you) youd have to pay for it bigtime. So if you want off-grid water in Oregon, you'll need to dig your own well which could set you back about $10,000+
And finally we have Alaska (unorganized borough)
Image result for alaska unorganized borough map
Image result for alaska size vs us
Alaska is PERFECT FOR US. The entire state is about the size of the rest of the united states (top to bottom) and its ALL beautiful. Mountains, pine trees, aspen trees, views, wildlife, condoms, whips, chains! the works!
Pros- Everything listed above (minus a few odds and ends), and the bulk of the state has VERY chillaxed building codes and zoning requirements. You can go off-grid just about wherever you want within reason. obviously not within any city limits. lets not get cray cray.
The unorganized borough, however, is THE last frontier. You have ultimate freedom there that you just cant get anywhere else. Want to buy about 20 acres and start a compound with your family and all your friends families? Go for it! Want to build your dreamhome the way you want? Chet yea boi get it done! want to start your own town? ayyyyyyy.... building codes and zoning requirements range from a silly joke to nonexistent in the unorganized areas.
NO PROPERTY TAXES.!!! none of the cons of established government and all the benefits (you can still receive emergency services if needed)
Cons- Alaska can get VERY cold and that may be a huge drawback for most. The land and wildlife are unforgiving so you have to be sure  (which i am) that Alaska is right for you before you go. Alaska is known for earthquakes... like WELL known.
Next building type point? yea
When we were looking at Colorado, we were wanting to build a roundhouse type building on a set foundation. like this video

Problem is, solid foundations and earthquakes dont mix well.
Image result for stilt cabin pier foundation
once again, not my image, found on google, not a professional blog, take it or leave it
So NOW ive planned out a cabin on stilts and pier foundation pillars. With these being separate blocks of foundation, you may FEEL an earthquake amplified a bit more, but the pillars wont cause as much damage to your home that a solid foundation might (split your house in half)
This doesnt mean its super dangerous, chances are you may never even experience an earthquake living there. Ive seen a few off grid homesteaders i follow in Alaska post about post-earthquake damage and the most they ever have to complain about is their glass jars fell off the shelf. (install closing cabinets, problem solved btw)
So yea, i think thats all for this post. In my next one i think ill go into more detail about building types and the specifics of the cabin i plan on building myself in Alaska.

NOTE: if you are unsure of where off grid living is acceptable, search the zoning and planning maps of the county you want to live in. Anything "unorganized" and sometimes "agricultural" land is a safe place to start. But always check with the city first before do anything final.