March, Don’t Stop Us Now: A Busy Month in Review

snorkeling in the KeysMarch 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…

Going On-Grid
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.

After checking with the neighbors who own the right-of-way, it looks like we’ll be able to have the trees Chris took down: a few red cedars, some medium-sized sycamores, a smallish hackberry, and a dozen or so small-fence-post sized poplars and locust. We’ll find uses for all of it. Hopefully, the cedar will side our hunting blind.

hunting blind before windows and siding
Fort Turkeybird: Chris’ hunting blind/camping hut

The Hunting Blind
What hunting blind?” you ask? 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 our neighbor ended up creating something more than a blind. It’s 8×8′ and next to our main campsite, so it will double as shelter for campers, especially in these months before the dome is built. It awaits siding and a “Fort Turkeybird” sign but is nearly done and is an awesome place to relax.

Driveway
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 a trusted local source (our power guy) and scheduled the one with the best quote. Besides preparing the driveway, they’ll install a tile where the spring is barely underground and creating a big soggy spot. And they’ll level a spot for the barn, clearing the kudzu in the process.

We’ll have to shore up the driveway again after construction vehicles do their bidding, but they won’t even make it up here if we don’t grade and crown the driveway first.

The 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 of the corridor necessary for our two power poles.

We hope to have this done by mid April but are guessing that even securing the quotes months in advance won’t mean that happens in a timely way. We are patience, we are patience.

dsc03321Finances
The biggest concern we’ve had about this process is financing the home we’re about to build. Construction loans are a rip, sparkling credit scores or no. 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 excellent advice, we formed a multi-pronged solution to avoiding a construction loan, which I’ll post about when we’ve solidified more so as not to jinx.

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.

picking up trashGeneral Cleanup
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.

 

And How
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 letwildflower 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.

 

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