Thinking about going rural? Here is a blueprint on how to homestead while still taking zoom meetings
This is a stream of consciousness.... enjoy!
For the past two weeks, I’ve been living offgrid in Wonder Valley, 5 min from Joshua Tree National Park. It’s 9 hrs from my apartment in Oakland in the Bay Area. I’m working remotely on my devices and joining zoom video meetings.
It’s been great to be here: so much more relaxing than being in a city surrounded by people who might have Covid-19.
I feel very fortunate that my bf already had this land, and we were already designing and building the second tiny house together. We also got a container to put on the property so that we could secure out equipment.
It’s peaceful out here. There are no lines at grocery stores. It’s easy to practice social distancing on raw land, and neighbors a ¼ mile away. Luckily, our neighbors have a well and were willing to let us run a hose to our property, as well as a power extension cord. With power and water, albeit at a minimum level, staying here is sustainable.
I visited this property back in January to help my boyfriend build tiny houses. There are two tiny houses that are both about 80% done.
I’ve put some thought into what it would take to create another homestead property from scratch. It takes three things:
Homesteading (stream of consciousness):
Around Joshua Tree and Twenty Nine Palms, It’s possible to get more than an acre, with no utilities, for under $10k. It typically takes about 30 days to finalize a real estate transaction, but with cash, it could be done faster. The extra cheap properties can be pretty far out and most likely are only accessible by dirt roads. Not all dirt roads are made the same, so ask the listing agent about the road quality.
Ironically, land in Joshua Tree and further east to Twentynine Palms and Wonder Valley, do not have Joshua Trees. Much more of the land to the west and north has Joshua Trees, from Yucca Valley up to Landers. The further east and north you go, the land becomes more basic and generally only has scrub bushes. With water, anything will grow. The foliage is only limited by water. When a property has water, there are generally big trees and plants surrounding it. Grey water will also enable plant growth.
Basic tent, van, or adapt a shed for a bed setup
My bf got a 2019 Ram ProMaster 2500 high top in Arizona for $20k in January. The high top means that we can stand up straight in it. It’s a big deal for back health. We haven’t had a chance to build it out to a gorgeous VanLife van, but we spend $100 on a very basic functional conversion. We have black and yellow storage boxes plus some trimmed plywood as a platform for a full-size bed. We used the remnant of the fancy plywood (a $35 1in sanded plywood 4ft by 8ft board) to create a table, which is supported by more storage boxes. We already had a foldable mattress from Ikea, but Amazon as a memory foam mattress for under $200. We also purchased handing shoe racks from Ikea as convenient storage and hung the racks from the ceiling. It was a cheap build-out hack!
We use the van for shelter and transportation. If you have another vehicle, but it’s not big enough to sleep in, a bell tent, will do well. Amazon has them for $400-$600. On our property, we made tent platforms with reclaimed pallets and cheap plywood. The platform can be used as a deck or you could put the tent on it. We finished the plywood with
There are sheds that are a good basic structures from $500-$2,000 at Home Depot or Amazon.
Another option is Jamaica Cottages, but you’d have to wait for delivery and then build the structure.
Other prefab structures are actually way more expensive than you think. The cool basic prefab studios or 1-bd homes are $300k+. Yikes.
If it’s a permanent structure, you’ll have to permit anything that has a footprint of over 120 square feet and 12 feet tall. As far as I know, anything that isn’t permanent is fine to put on a property.
Super basic: With some detective work and diligence, you can find a place to fill up water containers in town. One gallon per person per day is the standard measure for portable water for drinking, food, and dish cleaning.
If it’s an option: run a hose from a friendly neighbor. Our neighbor’s water is delicious, even tastier than city water.
Big water tank: A 2500 water tank, plus a basic water pump, plus delivery and hookup, is $1300. And water delivery of 2000 gallons is $125 in Wonder Valley. There is one water tank guy and one water delivery service in Wonder Valley. 125 gallon food grade tanks are also available, but water is only delivered in 2000 gallon increments, so a 2500 gallon tank allows you to have a little left while calling in another water delivery. It’s not completely off grid, but it would work to some level for some time. Tractor Supply, in Yucca Valley, also has water tanks, but I believe we’d have to figure out delivery and we’d have to rig the system ourselves.
Dig a well: In the more rural areas without a water system, about 10% of people have wells. Wells cost $10-15k to drill, with water pumps and storage containers on top of that. In the desert, there is some risk that the water could be brackish (too salty to be potable).
We started with 4 small solar panels, only $12 from the Habitat for Humanity ReStore in Oakland. It allowed us to charge anything via a USB: our phones, a 2012 MacBook pro with the lightning adapter, the iPad we watch Netflix on.
I have a 3-prong laptop charger for my clunky work laptop, so running a line from my neighbor made sense. If we wanted something more permanent, there are power lines on the property so we could have PG&E drop a meter on the property, but we think this would be about $2k. Not too bad, but we dug out conduit under the road from our neighbor, plus some extension cords, and that was under $300. It’s our Minimum Viable Product.
In the next year or two, we will figure out a solar + wind offgrid electricity system. GoalZero has kits from a few hundred dollars to $2k that could solve all our power requirements.
Stay in touch. I send out an email once in awhile.