March has been a month of travel, which has translated into me being tapped out by the time evening rolls around and I’m supposed to have time to write. The good news is that plenty of progress has been made on the homestead, even if it hasn’t been reflected here. Here’s the shortlist, because that’s all there’s time for before I fall asleep…
After pricing solar and even speaking with a helpful “domie” (a fellow dome enthusiast) in Vermont who runs a couple of domes mostly on solar, we’ve 100% confirmed our decision to be on-grid.
The cost of full solar setup + ongoing maintenance is so astronomical there’s no way we can reasonably justify solar over the power grid.
We aren’t opposed to disconnecting ourselves in the future. But for now, our only solar plans are to use smaller arrays to lower our electric bill and maybe even “reverse the meter” by selling wattage back to the grid.
To prepare, Chris spent 2 afternoons clearing trees for power lines in a way that won’t scar the land along our right-of-way or compromise the privacy of our acreage. I’m so grateful he put in the legwork to do that. Chris is good at things. I didn’t know that a cleared area could look this good. Rather than missing the trees, we’re enjoying a pretty new path through the woods. We’re excited about the new space for [appropriately coppiced] fruit trees to feed us and wildlife. The hardwoods adjacent to the power corridor have more bandwidth to grow.
Early in the month, Chris decided to break ground on the land by creating our very first structure in time for turkey season.
He and a neighbor built an 8×8′ building next to an existing campsite area, so it could double as shelter for campers, especially in the months before the dome is built. It awaits siding and a “Fort Turkeybird” sign but is a nice place to wait out bad weather when we’re on the land.
Our land is 1/3 mile from the road, so a driveway that’s travel-safe and durable is a priority.
Chris interviewed 3 excavators recommended by our power company rep and scheduled the one with the quote that made the most sense to us. Besides preparing the driveway, they’ll install a tile where a spring is creating a boggy spot. Lastly, they’ll level a place for the barn, clearing kudzu in the process.
A big upside is that this project will double as the final preparation for our power installation. As they clear the way for the barn and driveway, they’ll be opening the last stretch of corridor needed for power poles.
We hope to have this done by mid April but are guessing that, like everything, it’ll happen when it happens. We are patience, we are patience.
The biggest concern we’ve had about this process is financing the home we’re about to build. Construction loans are a rip, with or without sparkling credit scores. Rather than be sunk by bad loan rates for the unconventional home (dome) we’re planning, we started to consider less adventurous housing options, like a cabin or rondette.
But we want a dome. So we have gently harassed a range of friends and family members with financial savvy to give us suggestions. Thanks to their advice, we formed a multi-pronged solution to avoid a construction loan.
Spoiler though, that it won’t involve crowdsourcing or Kickstarter. If you follow enough homesteader feeds, you’ll eventually find those guilty of asking for donations without plans to reinvest the money to benefit the greater community. It’s not okay to ask your friends to pay for your chicken coop unless you’re offering free eggs in return, y’all! Salvaging and repurposing and eschewing money are all worthy acitons, but #basic homesteaders living off others’ handouts should be nothing but a reality TV cliché.
Most homesteaders are about sustainability and giving back, but everyone is different. For more about where we’re coming from, check out our philosophy.
A professional cleanup service assessed the garbage in Sinkhole Barry. Their quote to was fair at $2,500, but we’d rather spend that $$ elsewhere, so I’ve started wandering into the abyss every few afternoons with a goal to take out at least 2 bags of trash. It’s surprisingly effective. The slopes are starting to look more natural, stripped of their mattress springs, old trailerhome parts, and, most of all, soda cans. Whoever dumped here was a huge fan of diet soda.
I’m still slowly, gingerly working on taking tree litter out of the spring and will be slowing that process down even more until May to let the salamanders and crayfish finish their hatching season.
Nature’s working, too. Wildflowers, especially in the shade by the creek, have begun in earnest and are amazing. Another reason to stop working in the creek for a while is to let the wildflowers run their bloom cycle. The wild geranium look like they’re about to light up the hillside in magenta. The rue anemone started one at a time and are popping up in bunches already.
Dogwoods have started to pop in the last days of March and promise to be in full bloom soon.
Turkeys have been active and tame.
Chris has been adding all kinds of interesting seed and mowing the field to choke out the saplings and invasive weeds.
We’ve begun plans for our orchard, screened porch by the creek with hammock-hanging capabilities, and firewood shelter.
April, here we come.