Building an Off-Grid Homestead from the Ground Up, Part 1: Advice for Beginning the Build

Reader Contribution by Tammy Trayer and Trayer Wilderness
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Are you interested in building a homestead or off-grid homestead from the ground up? Well, you are in the right place. Pssst! If you are interested in grooming a place you already have or purchasing something and fine-tuning it, well guess what? You are still in the right place!

Before I dive in, let me share a little bit of a back story. A decade ago, my family and I felt the restraints and limitations from our home stomping grounds of Pennsylvania and felt God guiding us to the Pacific Northwest. We both grew up on farms and in a traditionally minded setting and were seeking the wholesomeness we experienced as children.

My husband was a professional bull rider for 11 years and he also guided pack trips and hunting trips into the backcountry of Wyoming. He saw every state in the U.S. except four and when I visited him in Wyoming in 2008, my heart was quickly captured by the West.

We started looking for property in the fall of 2009 in Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho. The parcel we purchased kept popping up no matter what we searched and when the realtor said, “it would take some special people because of the location.” We were sold and knew God had guided us to this parcel.

We packed up everything we owned and drove 2,500 miles to the raw, overgrown wilderness parcel we purchased sight-unseen. No utilities; only wilderness. It was perfect!

We set up a wall tent that we called home for 8 1/2 months while we groomed the land and built our off-grid homestead. You can read more about our story in my book How to Embrace an Off-Grid Lifestyle: Our Journey and a Step-by-Step Look at the Lifestyle. Living in that wall tent was the most amazing time of my life and I have yearned for that simplicity every since.

Embrace an Off-Grid Lifestyle with These Lessons

So many benefits. Our homestead was the most tranquil, amazing place that truly served us well. It enabled us to sustain ourselves, raise our son, who as a result of our lifestyle and natural treatments, has overcome 97 percent of his autism/Asperger tendencies and as I write this, he is a first-term student at Moody Aviation, which is the missionary aviation mechanic and pilot program of Moody Bible Institute. It also provided me a place like no other for my healing.

Don’t let adversity debilitate you. In 2016, I experienced life-saving surgery as a result of breast implant illness and have been on a 4-year healing journey. I am a true believer that everything in life happens for a reason, and I believe I was used as a vessel to save lives. Still, we could not get our footing from the extreme medical debt and needed to list our labor of love for sale.

Fast forward to Good Friday of 2020, God provided us with the perfect buyer that enabled us to caretake our labor of love while preparing a new piece of raw wilderness land for our new off-grid homestead.

The day following the sale of our home, we hit the ground running and have been doing so ever since. We cleared the land of all the stumps and debris, getting our building location ready, bringing in a lot of rock to create a pad for our two 40-foot containers (more on their purpose ahead), cleared some space for our garden, orchard, and greenhouse, and have moved most of our belongings.

Although you missed the prep work thus far, you are in luck, because I take photos and videos of everything and our footage will be shared on our YouTube channel and you will be able to subscribe and share in the process and the entire journey there.

Learn to roll with whatever comes your way. We experienced a lot of chickens before the proverbial eggs with spring being very wet this year in northern Idaho so we couldn’t get our containers in place to move things until it dried out and we couldn’t get containers in until the stone was in place and again it was too wet.  But like most years in Idaho, you have the wet spring (this year was very wet) and mind you, it goes from winter to wet (kinda skips spring) to summer and we have been experiencing the 90-degree to 100-degree temps and things dry out fast.

Power of prayer. I mentioned our extreme heat right now, but I lifted a little prayer last week and prayers were answered. We dug our holes for the pillars for our new house and poured the concrete the following two days. Both of those tasks are miserable to do in extreme heat and because of my illness, my body reacts very extreme to toxins, so the concrete dust was a concern. Knowing I could combat the dust by wearing a mask, glasses, a hooded flannel, jeans, boots, and gloves, I would most likely be ok, but with the extreme heat it was more likely I would fall over from heat exhaustion in that get up so we were blessed with 68-degree temps the first day and then low 70-degree temps, which quickly jumped back up to 96 degrees when we were completed! How is that for answered prayers?

Here is a glimpse into our project and our amazing view:

Less is so much more. We look forward to sharing this journey with you all! The next step will be milling trees to build a unique tiny log cabin. Our inside dimensions are 17-by-19 feet with an 8-foot upper and lower porch on the front and an 8-foot utility/storage/washroom/pantry off the back of the house. What makes our log cabin unique is that the logs will not be run horizontally like your traditional cabins, but vertically.

MacGyver to the rescue. My husband, Glen, is a jack-of-all-trades and a master of many, but humble he is. He has such amazing God-given talents that enable him to do everything on our homestead, from hand-forging nails in a pinch, to MacGyvering something, repairing something else, and yet repurposing something else. You will see much of his handiwork as we progress with this series. You can find a lot of his DIY projects on our YouTube channel.

In 2012, Glen fabricated a bandsaw mill for us which has gotten a lot of use over the years. It enabled us to build a 15-by-18-foot traditional log guest cabin, a chicken coop, stilted treehouse and small goat barn, and all the finish wood for our labor of love prior to selling it.

Work well together under pressure. As I write this, we have about a week and a half to two weeks of work to do on our labor of love before the new owners will take it over and then we will be going full steam ahead with our tiny log cabin build. Because it is just Glen and I, building and constructing our new homestead, I encourage you to join us on our YouTube channel. Live videos happen to be the easiest as we are working to get under roof before the snow flies, but I will return soon with an update on the progress of our new off-grid homestead build and provide you with a lot of takeaways that can be used on your homestead.

Always something to do, so take time to share. A little FYI: After we are under roof, we will be progressing with many other projects to make our homestead complete and we will share the entire process with you including how to budget it all and how to keep track of big projects, the garden, greenhouse, containers, guest houses, some woodstove cooking and my from scratch recipes, and even some dirt time in the wilderness as we head out for a relaxing day in the wilds.

Takeaways for Beginning Homesteaders

Continue learning through life. Because of the skills sets that we brought to the table and the skill sets we have learned along the way, we are able to do EVERYTHING on our homestead ourselves. Knowledge is not power unless you put action to it! Learn new skills often and put them into practice so you can fine tune them. If you don’t have the necessary skills needed for a project, consider bartering with someone who does.

Always have a plan. Put your ideas together (in writing; I use Evernote) with all the things you would like to see come to fruition on your homestead.

Break each project out with a materials list, budget, and an estimated time for the project. This helps keep things in the budget and helps to determine what project may be next based on the time needed and the funding necessary. It is always good to review your notes and your materials lists. Sometimes things are overlooked or forgotten, so it is always good to revisit your ideas, because once the juices start flowing and you have written things down, more ideas will come to help you fine tune your dreams and desires.

Create checklists in Evernote or I may use WorkFlowy to keep us focused on the tasks at hand and also to be doing things in the order that will provide the most efficiency possible for the project. This also helps if you have multiple people involved because you can create lists of tasks for each person to really keep things moving forward and in the right direction.

Only do what you can afford to do, be frugal-minded with your materials and look for ways to get the materials you need at a discounted rate or for free. This is possible and can enable you to get projects done sooner.

Tammy Trayer is an author, freelance writer, and a radio show host at Mountain Woman Radio.  Tammy and her family live traditionally off-grid and have a passion to help educate others by sharing their experiences of living off the land, dealing with autism, gluten-free and dairy-free cooking, self-reliance, wilderness survival, traditional and primitive skills, and much more. Listen to Tammy’s podcast, Mountain Woman Radio oniTunes, Stitcher, iHeartRadio, and TuneInRadio. Keep up with Tammy’s informative articles and videos by subscribing and Trayer Wilderness on YouTube. Follow her onInstagram, Facebook and Pinterest, and be sure to check, where Tammy and her family are teaching their homesteading, off-grid, traditional and wilderness survival skills to like minded people just like you! Read all of Tammy’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

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