First Year Building An Off-Grid Homestead: A few Things I Learned Along the Way


Guest Post:

Jacob Meals

Jacob Meals

A homesteader on 40 acres in Northeastern Arizona he calls Camp Jasper. A single man trying to live a simple and self reliant life away from the hustle and bustle of the city and desires to do so organically.
Jacob Meals

I will start out by saying I tend to learn things the hard way. It is not that I am unwilling to take advice from others but I tend to jump into things and then ask questions later. Sometimes it is a fun learning experience and occasionally it is a what was I thinking experience. When it is one of those moments I could kick myself in the butt for, I try not to dwell on it and find something small I can accomplish and feel good about.

One of the more comical things I learned within the first few weeks was what NOT to do if there are a few cows rummaging through your stuff. I had finished a call to get my cabin delivered when I pulled up to my place and saw a few cows and their babies poking around the few things I had. I was not that worried but still wanted them gone so I did the first thing that popped into my head…..honked my horn. I immediately realized my error. All of the sudden, out of nowhere, I had 20 to 30 cows running for my truck. They thought I was the rancher with hay, who must honk is horn to call in the herd. So if you do not want cows following you, never honk your horn once you get on the dirt road.

A more frightening but fun to tell lesson is if you feel something on you, look. It was in the morning and I went out to check on something and saw a little cottontail rabbit sunbathing at the edge of my cabin. I did not move so not to scare it and watched it for several minutes. I felt something on my leg and thought it was just a fly and ignored it. I slowly walked away and told my mom, who was out here at the time, to come look at the bunny, she likes those sort of things. As I was walking back to I felt something tug at the bottom of my shorts and heard something hit the ground. I looked down and was surprised at what was on the ground. A HUGE spider. Surprised may be an understatement, there was likely profanity yelled at that time. It was not hairy like a tarantula but my guess was some type of trap door spider. Some of these holes are large enough to drop a quarter down and all around it is a web with grass and dirt. Needless to say, I look at the ground for holes and if I feel something on me I look to see what it is.

From my first post, I told the story of why I was desperate for living quarters and why a tent was not even a short term option. This is where I could kick myself in the butt. I really did not have time to think through what I wanted and how I was going to use it. I just knew I needed something solid to get me out of the wind and the rain. There was more storms on the way. I went to town and found something that I could afford a monthly payment on. I found a shed that was 10 x 16 and had a loft on each end. I thought it would be perfect. I could do a lot with 160 square feet. It was a dramatic upgrade from a tent. I’m glad I got it, but I found out that it does not easily work with what I have.

I planned on putting my bed up in one of the lofts. I have a queen mattress and knew I would have to extend the loft to fit it since it is only 4 feet wide. Well, when I started to write down what I would need I made some measurements and my heart stopped. I had assumed there would be just enough head space for a mattress and me. I did not realize how thick my mattress was. Until this point I never worried about how thick a mattress was. At 14 inches thick, there is no way it was going to work.

Without going into too much detail, my wife at the time, convinced me to buy this really nice memory foam adjustable bed because of my injuries, and it worked great. It was one of the few things I got, and because of its COST, I did not want to part with it.

Now I have this dilemma, do I keep it for when I get a bigger cabin or sell it because it takes up most of the available floor space. If i sell it, then I would have to buy another one down the road. I have a twin mattress for when my kids come out to visit, but if I use that and sell the queen, because I have no way to store it, I’m short a bed.

This is the one thing that I’m always contemplating, how can I make this work and lose the least amount of money. Still have not come up with a good solution.

You would think a simple single room shed would be easy to convert to a tiny cabin. I found it not so easy. If I had known before hand how important the layout with doors, windows, and lofts were, I would have gotten a different style. If you have the time, my advise would be think about all the things you want to do in that finite space. Consider the furniture size, which way doors will open, and if light from windows will be blocked when you put up a wall for a shower or bathroom.

In my next post I will discuss what I learned AFTER I installed my solar system.

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One Comment

  1. Haha. I had a very similar mattress issue. We had to buy a cheap thin mattress for our loft and throw away the most amazing mattress ever.

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