Owner builder Off-Grid adventure

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7 years 10 months ago #38040 by Solco
Hi all,

I have been here a lot lately and thought it’s time to sign up.
I’m really enjoying reading the posts – great forum and website, and great advice – thanks to you all!!

So, here’s our story:
My wife and I dreamed about building our own off- grid house for a long time, and subsequently bought an 3.6 ha bush block in the Karamea area, when lots in a new eco-subdivision became available (no services). The goal was to become self sufficient eventually.
It’s only a small house, after selling our rather big one in Nelson we decided the house we’re going to build should be small but efficient, and easy to keep warm.
We started with a small 12V solar system, 280W in panels, just to get a feel for it but with an upgrade in mind. In 2011, after having build a big shed (should have done this first) I did the solar upgrade and 2.3 KW in panels went on the shed roof (now on 24V system). It feels almost like living in a mains- connected house now, we can use all our appliances, even kettle – just not all at the same time and not all the time. But we find it easy to live with this as we grew into it slowly.

The whole thing was a big adventure and we saved a lot of money doing most of the work ourselves. Unfortunately, the work where we were required to use “professionals” (like plumbers) we had the most problems – but that’s another story!
The biggest issue we have now is with becoming self sufficient in regards to food production.
It has transpired that we both are not enjoying gardening as much as required, not to mention the never-ending battle against weeds (mainly gorse )!We planted a mix of a hundred acacias and eucalyptus for firewood (5 yrs ago), the first ones becoming ready for coppicing this year. We don’t have animals as we like to travel and don’t want to be tied to the property so much. We had 2 ducks at a time, but after a bird of prey killed one we decided it’s too much grief.
We enjoy the quite life and having no close neighbours, but we also feel the need to go away every so often for a change, so, we reckon another lifestyle change/adjustment becomes necessary in the near future.

Cheers....and looking forward to have some exchange of idea’s here :)

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7 years 10 months ago #491453 by Deanna
Hi and welcome Solco. I really enjoyed your story. Do I hear itchy feet? You have done a lot of work by the sounds and probably have a lot of knowledge and experience to share. We have no travel bug so are pretty much happy 'down on the farm. We have only been here 18 months so the vege garden is expanding. Just collected all my neighbours old carpet to help in the weeding area. Hope to see you around.

25 acres, 1400 Blue Gums, Wiltshire sheep, 5 steers, 2 cows, ducks, chickens, bees, dog, cats, retired, 1 husband and 3 grandkids.

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7 years 10 months ago #491477 by Solco
Thanks for your reply, Deanna - yeah, got itchy feet alright! But I have to complete all those 'little' jobs first.
I'm happy to share knowledge and answering questions, just fire away! BTW, would also love to hear more about your proposed solar system. (I'm a little obsessed with solar :-)

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7 years 10 months ago #491482 by stephclark
welcome solco.. love you comment about not enjoying gardening so much.. yip that's the down side of veg patch!..i love the idea of gardens ( we have over an acre in lawn and gardens.. 7 flowers beds 6 veg orchard etc ).. but boy does it take some getting going to keep it all under control.. :D

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7 years 10 months ago #491483 by Deanna
Haha, you'll be lucky, I know bugger all about it, really. We are lucky enough to be able to feed back to the grid, so no batteries. I know they have improved but they are still costly. We are putting in solar to reduce our costs once we are retired.

A 6 kw system would probably do, but we can afford a 10kw, so that's what we will do. It will be ground mounted and use good quality Winaco solar panels. Its going to cost about $35000. I have done the research and gained a lot of opinions and even been to see a 15kw system locally. We got 2 quotes that were pretty similar, so choose the one using what we believed to be better panels. It can also be added to in a few ways at any point.

25 acres, 1400 Blue Gums, Wiltshire sheep, 5 steers, 2 cows, ducks, chickens, bees, dog, cats, retired, 1 husband and 3 grandkids.

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7 years 10 months ago #491488 by Blueberry

Solco;496231 wrote: Hi all,

The biggest issue we have now is with becoming self sufficient in regards to food production.
It has transpired that we both are not enjoying gardening as much as required, not to mention the never-ending battle against weeds (mainly gorse )!
We don’t have animals as we like to travel and don’t want to be tied to the property so much. We had 2 ducks at a time, but after a bird of prey killed one we decided it’s too much grief.


hmm, so you don' like gardening, and you don't want to keep animals, but you'd like to be self sufficient in food......:confused:

well, if you turn vegan, and you grow heaps of fruit and nut trees (the nuts are important in that sort of diet...), you might be able to hack it. A lot of research would be required to find enough variety to have fresh supplies at any time of the year.

have you ever read the 'one straw revolution' by Masanobu Fukuoka? that might inspire you

[;)] Blueberry
treading lightly on mother earth

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7 years 10 months ago #491758 by Solco

stephclark;496279 wrote: welcome solco.. love you comment about not enjoying gardening so much.. yip that's the down side of veg patch!..i love the idea of gardens ( we have over an acre in lawn and gardens.. 7 flowers beds 6 veg orchard etc ).. but boy does it take some getting going to keep it all under control.. :D

Thanks stephclark, well, the “idea” of gardens I like too J - the implementation is the hard part J How many people can you feed on those 6 veg orchards – and how big are they?

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7 years 10 months ago #491759 by Solco

Blueberry;496285 wrote: hmm, so you don' like gardening, and you don't want to keep animals, but you'd like to be self sufficient in food......:confused:

well, if you turn vegan, and you grow heaps of fruit and nut trees (the nuts are important in that sort of diet...), you might be able to hack it. A lot of research would be required to find enough variety to have fresh supplies at any time of the year.

have you ever read the 'one straw revolution' by Masanobu Fukuoka? that might inspire you

Yes, I know I’m sounding ridiculous.....
We may have to give up the idea of our own food production, at least for now. Maybe becoming part of an intentional community where people share their skills, knowledge and work might be an option!? There are interesting concepts out there. Quite a bit of soul-searching going on...
Thanks a lot for the tip on the ‘one straw revolution’ – inspiring indeed and I’ll look into it!
I also had a look at your website, seems you’re pretty self sufficient in the food department already? I really do admire people who are able to tend to gardens and animals (and children not to forget) and sometimes even manage to hold a job outside, all at the same time!

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7 years 10 months ago #491760 by Solco

Deanna;496280 wrote: Haha, you'll be lucky, I know bugger all about it, really. We are lucky enough to be able to feed back to the grid, so no batteries. I know they have improved but they are still costly. We are putting in solar to reduce our costs once we are retired.

Deanna, $3.50 per Watt sounds pretty good – if it’s incl. Installation! (Haven’t heard about Winaco panels though) I’m just wondering how you’re handling excess power?
Let’s say you’re using something like 20 KW/h per day (average consumption in NZ, I think) and producing 40 (calculated with 4 sun hours ave. for your location) – and let’s say you’re getting 10 cents per unit – and paying 25c a unit (just an assumption) you’ll have excess worth around $1100 per year that you’ll be “giving away”. With using more power during day time (and less at night) you could tweak that in your favour.

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7 years 10 months ago #491775 by LongRidge
I thought about installing a grid when the power sale and purchase prices were the same. Back then, about 5 years ago, the payback period was about 7 years from the information I got for our hayshed, sunlight hours, etc. Since then the sale price is less than the purchase price :-(. But PV cells are relatively cheaper.

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7 years 10 months ago #491816 by Deanna

Solco;496588 wrote:

Deanna;496280 wrote: Haha, you'll be lucky, I know bugger all about it, really. We are lucky enough to be able to feed back to the grid, so no batteries. I know they have improved but they are still costly. We are putting in solar to reduce our costs once we are retired.

Deanna, $3.50 per Watt sounds pretty good – if it’s incl. Installation! (Haven’t heard about Winaco panels though) I’m just wondering how you’re handling excess power?
Let’s say you’re using something like 20 KW/h per day (average consumption in NZ, I think) and producing 40 (calculated with 4 sun hours ave. for your location) – and let’s say you’re getting 10 cents per unit – and paying 25c a unit (just an assumption) you’ll have excess worth around $1100 per year that you’ll be “giving away”. With using more power during day time (and less at night) you could tweak that in your favour.

Sorry, I have read that 3 times and am not sure what your asking. For us the installation is just an investment in cheaper living in the future. If we left it in the bank we've worked out we would be possibly about the same off.

Giving away? I think we will get 17 cents a kw back from our power company, of anything we don't use.

Sorry, its probably me, as soon as it get technical my brain looses track.


25 acres, 1400 Blue Gums, Wiltshire sheep, 5 steers, 2 cows, ducks, chickens, bees, dog, cats, retired, 1 husband and 3 grandkids.

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