Neal and Elisha Homestead Update #1: April 2016

We did it! We finally made our move to Missouri. I wanted to provide an update so our friends and family back home can keep tabs on us : ) but also to be transparent for those interested in learning from our experience. A common curiosity we encounter is the logistics of what we’re doing, mainly how we’re making it work. I’ve tried to outline how we’re making our dream a reality – from how our plans have evolved, to how we’re “getting by” in a rural area, to the very first step of the build (a.k.a. all the prep work for the build site).

We set up camp along a bordering easement road.
HQ for our first week of construction in March, 2016.
Neal with our good buddy, Eric, who purchased some acreage about 20 minutes from us.
Neal with our good friend, Eric, who purchased some land in the neighboring town!

Our original plan was to camp on the land while we built the house. Clearing most of our overhead would allow for me to work part time and build part time with Neal. After 8 days of camping in March to set up the land for our big move in April, I had this terrible realization…I couldn’t do it long term. Neal had already built our solar panel system so we’d have electricity while we camped. He had also built our entire water organizing module and solar water heater so we’d have clean hot and cold running water. Even with electricity and water, it still would have been rough. Neal (who’s lived/camped outside for months on end on two separate occasions) kept telling me how hard it would be, but I didn’t quite understand until I was living it during our preliminary trip. Hats off to all the folks who have endured long term camping, you’re my hero!

Our dog Stevie sat on patrol every morning. This is what the land looked like before we started clearing.
Pickaxes, saws, chainsaws, axes, shovels, and weeders could not compete with the speed of heavy machinery!
By the end of the week we had cleared a pathway and the location of our future camp site.

Luckily when I told Neal I wanted to work full time so we could afford a small apartment and only help build on the weekends, he was very understanding (and possibly a bit relieved). Even luckier, most of the prep work we completed in the previous months as well as the land prep we did in March will still be useful while we build our home. During our “March trip”, we cleared a pathway and a portion of the land with an excavator so we’d have a level camp site. Though we’re not camping, this cleared area is now home to our storage tents for the duration of our build. We also collected a ton of free sawdust and pallets, which made a great mud-proofing floor in the storage area.

While the beat up ones were free, we found some beautiful pallets in great condition for $1 each.
Enjoying our new pathway!

The only component Neal pre-built that won’t be utilized until the home is complete is our water organizing module. The solar panel system was a huge chore, but even without camping it will still be needed. We’ve got to power those electric saws and tools somehow! Depending on the type of off grid build technique your utilizing you probably won’t need a ton of electricity – a generator might even be a better alternative.

Though we won't use our WOM right away, it's a big component of the house that we can check off now.
Though we won’t use our WOM right away, it’s a big component of the house that we can check off now.
Solar Panel System
Our 12V system with panels, charge controller, meter, inverter, and 430Ah battery bank.

Having the compost toilet on the build site is a nice luxury to have! As an added bonus, we will be using the waste in our humanure compost piles – an important part of our soil rebuilding efforts. (Don’t worry, we aren’t using our waste on our edible plants – though it is  completely safe and a widely used practice).

compost toilet collage
DIY compost toilet!
Checking out the worksite’s new bathroom! :)

The storage area we set up will house all of the building supplies, equipment, and tools. Since we’re trying to build as cheaply as possible, we didn’t want to spend hundreds (or thousands) of dollars on a pre-built storage unit. So we used what we had: a greenhouse tent, sawdust, and pallets. We also set up our composing toilet in a utility tent so we’d have a little privacy for when nature calls.



We’re (mostly) all moved in to a townhome in Osage Beach, MO, about a 45 minute drive away from our land. I was fortunate enough to find a digital marketing position working from home, so it seems everything is falling into place.

Getting moved into the new place, about 45 minutes away from the land.

For those of you who need to work while simultaneously building your home, a work from home job is not necessary! There are tons of different solutions and approaches others have taken, a little research may inspire a workable solution. If you need to depend on the local economy, at least out here the cost of living is absurdly cheap. Even at Walmart, some of the goods we purchase are literally 50% cheaper than Houston. Not to mention the rent in more rural areas is substantially less expensive – even some of the apartments on the lake were as low as $400. Regardless of the situation you’re in, where there’s a will there’s a way.

Hello! :)

Work has recently resumed on the land. Please subscribe to our newsletter to stay up-to-date on our progress, we’ll have a big update next month!


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