self sufficient tips

Discussion in 'Other' started by Sasha Bushell, Aug 29, 2016.

  1. Sasha Bushell

    Sasha Bushell Active Member Premium Member GOLD

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    This post is really a questions for anyone and everyone:

    I was just wondering how you have managed to be off the grid, what kind of bills you have and also what kind of income supports you if you do need to buy things?

    Do you have animals?
    And if so how do you feed them cheaply?

    Do you buy in bulk and if so what products?

    What are the best money saving tips you can provide to others?

    What kind of water supply do you have and why?

    What kind of electricity supply do you have and why?

    Many thanks
    Sasha
     
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  2. stevo

    stevo Backyard Farmer Premium Member

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    I pretty much suck at growing vegies so I keep it practical with things that work and I use, like garlic chives, chillies. I have a few young fruit trees that give a few fruit each year and are increasing so I think I have a lot that I call an investment in the future. Some vegies I grew like Tomatoes, Spinach, Broccoli were destroyed by pests, and sometimes I had heaps and a lot was wasted.

    I have a couple of small water tanks, 5500L in total. I use only tank water for the garden and pond which is great knowing you don't need to use on-grid water for those things, but I am connected to grid water so the minimum charges are most of the bill of $300 while your actual water usage is like $20 - $40, so there's no way you can reduce your bill even if you use no water. You'll see me whinge about that in various places on this forum :D

    I've got the normal ongrid electricity and no on-grid solar. I have a small off-grid solar set up that I run my computer, TV, Stereo, Lounge lights and fish pond pump with. I estimate I save atleast $250 a year with that. It's more of a hobby but it's a bit of research to see what kind of system I need to power things. I'd like to increase the size of it and run my fridge eventually. All this does cost money, and in reality I think it'd cost less if you just used grid power.

    I think going off-grid is expensive and only over a long time you might see any cost benefits and you may have to completely change your lifestyle and the way you use things like power, water, food.
     
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  3. Mark

    Mark Founder Staff Member

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    Yes, ducks, chickens, and quail...

    I supplement their food through kitchen scraps but my main supplementary feed comes from the garden and the free ranging area - this reduces costs significantly. Chickens and ducks eat a lot of grass (especially ducks).

    I often grow more veggies than we need and the extra gets fed to the birds. We have a "mongrel area" at the back of our patch where we let mustard and other self-sowing greens readily go to seed and come up constantly this is mainly used for feed although sometimes we'll eat it ourselves in salads etc.

    Hay/straw in the bigger bales is cheaper overall.
    Poultry feed is cheaper purchased in the larger bags - I see it cut down to 5kgs in generic plastic bags sold at those city pet stores for ridiculous mark ups and always have a laugh...
    Whipper snipper cord...

    Save your own seeds - it's so easy!
    Eat your own produce - it sounds basic but if you use at least something from your own backyard every day it will save money! Food can be grown all year in most climates (apart from extreme) so there's plenty of incentive to GYO for savings.
    Try to DIY as much as possible within your skill sets - give it a go rather than pay someone.

    We do have town water and that is handy...

    However, we deliberately purchased a property with an existing bore and this reduces our water bill significantly at least by 2/3rds. We also have tank water and a dam.

    Having several water sources can be a good way to risk mitigate especially when you need water for growing produce.

    Trucking water into a property that has run out due to a prolonged dry spell can become a very expensive exercise so water self-sufficiency would be at the top of the list for me.

    We are on grid but I would love to be off grid one day!

    We also have a 5kW solar system and this has paid itself off by the power it has saved us.
     
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  4. Ash

    Ash Valued Member Premium Member GOLD

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    Being off grid for power is very difficult. The battery storage technology is not quite at the level to be able to run the usual household appliances concurrently. I have solar with backup batteries that in the evening cannot handle more than 2kW of power drainage which it has to then rely on the grid for power even with full capacity. During the day we have a maximum of 4.5kW before the grid is used (inverter's maximum capacity). So we have to strategise our power usage to reduce our bill, and even then the power company makes us pay the 'service fees' for just having the infrastructure there. Without solar we'd be paying a lot more for electricity because we rely on pumps to get water to the house as we don't have town water.
     
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  5. Sasha Bushell

    Sasha Bushell Active Member Premium Member GOLD

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    Thanks Ash, great to know all of that info.

    Would you do any differently or change anything about your set up?
     
  6. ClissAT

    ClissAT Valued Member Premium Member GOLD

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    Ash, just a comment re your lack of stored power.
    It was always advised to us when we were out west that to run a household with most modern electrical appliances, there needed to be more than 10kw of stored power. Also there should be even more just incase there are a few heavily overcast days in a row.
    That's a rather large investment in batteries, at least as much as the cost of the panels, & one that most solar sellers neglect to inform their clients about for fear of frightening them away.
    However now there are those solid state batteries invented at a uni in NSW I think it was. Still very expensive but maybe not quite as bad as the 20+ batteries mentioned above.
     
  7. ClissAT

    ClissAT Valued Member Premium Member GOLD

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    Sasha to answer some of your questions... if you are planning to live off-grid & maybe up a long dirt road with several low creek crossings between you & town, it is important to think far ahead. Worst time of year is wet season followed by fire season.

    Have a dark cool pantry where you can store many bags, packets, tins of your favourite or necessary food stuffs. Hunt down tins that will seal well to use to store unopened packets of food in. Check the supermarket specials brochures & buy large tins of coffee, tins of fruit, baked beans, dried fruit, large bags of bread mix flour, etc & stuff you can freeze like butter, bread if you don't make your own, milk. When you have a glut of eggs, freeze them, same for your fruit & veg or preserve them.

    Be aware though, that the further away from town you are the more the power will go off & the longer it will stay off too. If you are off-grid you might have a long bad wet season where your panels don't produce enough to run everything so you have to do without some things so the fridge & freezer can run.

    Check out stuff like waterglass to preserve eggs. There are heaps of good recipes here & on youtube & google for preserving, jamming, canning, drying or dehydrating. Buying a dehydrator & experimenting is a good idea, as is getting a good pressure cooker for bottling. Although I use an elcheapo pressure cooker that I have had for many years & still works very well. Once you have a handle on the basics, you can bend the rules to suit your needs. I bottle tomatoes every year (usually, although none this year), & I use a variety of methods to reach the same bottled conclusion.

    My pressure cooker is a slow cooker, pressure cooker, rice cooker, steamer, sterilizer, canner. A very good investment for the grand sum of $50 that it cost me 10+yrs ago. My only gripe is that I only have one insert for it. Being the cheaper variety, the insert got tainted quickly from savoury foods so now I cant cook sweet foods in it other than steamed puds which are wrapped in many layers or bottling which is already sealed.
    I've sterilized jam in it after making the jam & decanting into pre-used cleaned but not sterile jars with metal lids then pressuring in the cooker for 20mins. Comes out really well. So any jar that has a metal lid that has a rubber seal inside it & can be resealed.

    As for animal feeds as well as all other rural needs, go to the rural suppliers for all those needs. Having moved to the 'bush' you have also gained the privilege of shopping at the rural suppliers! ;)
    But before you buy a 20kg bag of feed make sure the intended livestock will eat it! I have a bag of high quality $40 chook food my cluckles wont even look at! No amount of starvation will induce them to have a go & they came from a free range farm where they ate crumbles much like what I bought. But they must be able to see infrared I think to know the difference & that this new feed has soy in it. I am slowly going through it 1tbsp at a time by mixing it into their minced meat they get every second arvo. If I mix more than that they refuse their most favoured feed! So goodness knows what's in it but Heritage is supposed to be one of the best. But it became a very expensive flop. If you live a long way up a dark ally its a long way back to town for another bag of feed.

    re water supply, dams & tanks are invaluable as are water pumps of whatever variety you need, ie petrol or electric. Catching rain water is a must in the bush using as many tanks as you can afford plus more. Dams are almost as important for pretty much any size of land above an acre in town. Out of town all blocks need a dam if there is room. You cant water a garden in a marginal rainfall area on tank water alone. There isn't a roof big enough to feed the tanks. Every building, be it house or shed needs as many tanks on it as you can afford or have room for.

    These costs may be over & above your initial purchase price as the property may not have a dam or tanks or those that are there may not be functioning as could be the pumps or mills. Then there is the thing about buying in an area where the soil will actually hold dam water without it draining away. So as you are driving around in the dry season checking on whats for sale, keep a note of whether you are seeing dams with water in them, are they spring fed or are they dry. If dry, they may not hold water very well. Its true about running a mob of sheep through a dam to puddle it up to make it hold better but its where you get that mob of sheep from in the first place that is the issue! :p When I came here the dam leaked badly, had already been seeded with bentonite but it wasn't working very well. Then we had a dry year so the dam dropped a lot & my horses puddled the dam walls down to below the water level of 3ft. So now it only leaks below that level. So I didn't need that flock of sheep afterall. :D

    I could go on about the nuances of pumps at the dam as opposed to pumps at the shed or house but the best people to talk to about that would be the rural pump shops like Cooloola Pumps or Gympie Pumps & Irrigation both in Gympie. They would also tell you about good dam builders as will the rural supply shops ie Grady's Rural Suppliers Nash & Tozer Rds, & their Real Estate, Mary Street Gympie. They are the go to people in town.
     
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  8. Sasha Bushell

    Sasha Bushell Active Member Premium Member GOLD

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    Far out you guys are incredible and have really made me think that perhaps we should live there before we buy.

    I grew up in a rural area and we had all the things you havr mentioned but you also mentioned a few things i had not considered before such as checking dams in dry season. I know dams arent as easy as digging a hole but never thought of a way to really check the capability of an existing dam before.
    Ideally we want a spring or creek as that would make life easier, however dam and tanks would be the other alternative if we cant get it.
    We have started considering buying a block and building our dream home rather than modifying, and we understand that starting from scratch may cost more as we will need to build other structures (sheds, barns, dams etc) plus fencing and soil building potentially on top of that. Then the luxury items at the end, fire pits and pizza ovens etc :) i know its going to take alot of work and even more money but i feel like if this property is where we reside for the rest of our lives.... why not build it from scratch?
     
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  9. ClissAT

    ClissAT Valued Member Premium Member GOLD

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    Renting before buying is a very good idea, Sasha.
    Buying a vacant block is good if you are young enough & able bodied enough to do as much of the work as you can inplace of contractors. Having the luxury of designing the whole property layout from scratch is the envious way to proceed.
    Do a few permaculture design courses. That will give you a very good grounding in common sense farm design. There is a permaculture farm not that far from me & they run courses from time to time. The property is called Bellbunya & they are near Kin Kin I think. Google them. They have a working methane producer also.
    If you go down that track, mark my words, you will probably build back to front & make the pizza oven & fire pit first because you will use it as a practise for your earth built house, shed or chook shed! lol
    If buying in a bushy rural, somewhat remote location, knowing how fire acts in your area is also a very good skill because it allows you to design your property, buildings & plantings to break up a fire front or give best protection & provide best evacuation paths.
    Thinking about building from scratch, if you are thinking along the lines of earth construction, get hold of or view on iView, the latest series of Grand designs set in NZ where one episode was devoted to the construction of an amazing earth & timber house. Also search on youtube 'earth ships' for a mindboggling array of alternative building techniques.
    Many years ago I helped with a building technique where sand, sawdust & cement powder was mixed & poured into timber moulds laying on the ground with wire netting stapled in for strength. Now I am thinking of revisiting that process for my new chook shed. Now that I am rather physically incapacitated, I need a process that is light weight & easy to do in small amounts. I have a fantastic source of sawdust now & the sand is easily obtainable from the landscape yard. So making an amount using just 1 bag of cement powder, I can do one wall panel at a time & stand it up myself.
     
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  10. stevo

    stevo Backyard Farmer Premium Member

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    Sounds like an awesome childhood Mary! ...... it'd be like the kind of lifestyle everyone would be chasing now... but is a world away
     
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  11. Mark

    Mark Founder Staff Member

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    But Mary, if you ever had to live off-grid again you'd probably cope better than most!

    I'm not saying everyone should have an off-grid childhood like you; however, it certainly would be good for a lot of younger people today to experience what it's like to live a real self-sufficient life.
     
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  12. carrie

    carrie Member Premium Member GOLD

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  13. stevo

    stevo Backyard Farmer Premium Member

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    Channel 7 (Brisbane) had a short bit last night about how people are doing the "self sufficient thing" in suburbia. They showed a family's vegie garden, chooks and native bees. I thought some websites might get a spike after that. I think a lot of people do it as a normal lifestyle anyway, maybe not so much a big self sufficency thing.
     
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  14. Mark

    Mark Founder Staff Member

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    It's not normal yet Stevo - not enough anyway - and not as much as World War periods or great depression but I think with the rising cost of living, suppressed wages growth, and concerns about the chemicals in mass-produced food there is a move towards backyard food growing again and I think that's great!
     
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  15. Flatland

    Flatland Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    I'm old enough to remember the 50's when what you are talking about was normal. Everyone in my suburb had fruit trees in the backyard & bottled the excess. Probably every second house had a dozen chooks 12 being the number allowed by council. Everyone handed clothes down into & outside of the family. Many families didn't have cars so walking & bike riding were pretty much the way to get around. Not saying it was a wonderful life just saying at the time it was normal
     
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  16. ClissAT

    ClissAT Valued Member Premium Member GOLD

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    Yes I too remember growing up with a vegie garden & fruit trees.
    Everyone in the street in both the towns I spent my childhood in had gardens.
    My paternal grandfather was a very keen 'organic' gardener.
    He made compost under a HUGE soursop tree that obviously benefited greatly from the good food supply including the 'night pan' from in the house.
    It all went into a large corrugated iron bin which turned into this black stuff which he then sprinkled along the rows of veg & hoed in.
    Their block was 1ac in the middle of Mackay North which provided room for a cow, lots of chooks & I think maybe a few ducks for xmas, quite a large vegie garden, massive lawn & lots of flower gardens too. The lawn was mowed with a push mower!
    The second little township where I grew up was beach & dune sand with highly calcium laden spear water so we were limited to what would grow but we still managed corn, tomatoes, etc along with citrus, sweet pots, pumpkin, mint & a few scattered flowers.
    However, my father used a victor to 'mow the weeds'! :D
     
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