Meet Vince and Amy, a couple of Californians with a dream of creating their own off-the-grid homestead. Join us as we chat about our triumphs and our struggles, give advice, and together we can find out if this crazy idea is more than a pipe dream.
Or maybe it should be AQIred, since we also spend a lot of time talking about AQI in this episode. In any case, the exciting news of the day is that the skoolie is now officially on our property!
Here in California, everything is still on fire. And the slightly cooler weather and the firefighters’ progress on our local wildfires hasn’t seemed to improve the air quality very much; these days, in addition to checking the temperature before opening a window or going outside, we also have to check the AQI. So that’s a new thing for 2020: compulsively checking the AQI, or Air Quality Index. It’s a composite measure of a few pollutants, but the PM2.5 (Particulate Matter under 2.5 microns) is the main concern. Anything under 10 microns can get into your lungs and your bloodstream, so it’s very dangerous and insidious. Not something you want to breathe in.
But let’s not bury the lede here in all this talk of wildfires and AQI… the skoolie bus is now on our land! Vince drove it up with our friends earlier this month and it is now resting comfortably on our property. And maybe the most exciting asset on the bus is 2 sets of solar panels and a Yeti 3000 battery bank… we now officially have power! Which means we have refrigeration and (relevant to our AQI discussion) can run an air purifier. It’s very exciting.
P.S. This will make sense once you listen to the episode, but a group of turkey vultures is apparently called a “committee” or a “wake.” So actually we weren’t that far off with our silly guesses!
Yurts So Good
Hey friends. We’ve been struggling a little lately… between the pandemic, wildfire smoke making the air toxic, and the election, things have been feeling pretty bleak. It’s not easy trying to live our lives and create our homestead with all of that happening in the background, but like everyone else, we muddle through. It’s all any of us can do.
So today we’re talking about something that makes us happy: yurts! We’ve wanted to put a yurt on our property for a while now, and although we’re still in the Research And Planning phase, I wanted to take this opportunity to give everyone a little more info. Yurts are increasingly popular these days, but Karen on AirBnB did not invent yurts. So… who did? And how do they work?
Where There's Smoke
When we started this podcast, we thought it would be a chill low-key show about homesteading. But 2020 has been so insane, we find ourselves having to address “breaking news” more and more.
So today’s episode is about the current disaster that everyone’s talking about… the West Coast is on fire. It’s affecting us here in Los Angeles, with dangerous air quality from the Bobcat Fire, and the huge Creek Fire is filling our property with wildfire smoke up in Mariposa too.
But let’s talk about our latest property visit for a moment. Over Labor Day weekend, we went up to Mariposa with our skoolie friend! We installed a chain gate and did some surveying in preparation for the arrival of the bus, and we also poured some more concrete bricks and did more work on the greenhouse. But we also just wanted to show off our property to someone… not just the hard work we’ve done so far, but the natural beauty of the land itself. It was very exciting.
On the second day of our visit, though, everything changed when Vince spotted smoke on the horizon... learn about what happened, how we got to this point, what the governor has announced, and more on this episode of TGIFS.
Sand in a Sauna
Hey friends, welcome to The Grid Is For Squares. It feels like about a million years since our last episode, but (checks notes) nope, still just 2 weeks.Today’s big story is that we recently went up to the property to finish (well, “finish”) the greenhouse! We left on a Thursday after Vince got home from work and arrived in the dark, then we woke up ass-early on the prop and got to work. First we moved all of the furniture out of the greenhouse, then we installed our 4 aluminum boxes to provide ventilation.After that, Vince started making trips to Ace Hardware to pick up bags of sand while Amy laid 2 spirals of vinyl tubing for the future in-floor heating and cooling system. Amy may not be a plumber yet, but she’s certainly earning her landscaper badge! After all the tubing was laid, we covered it in a few more inches of sand. And finally, we laid down 3 bamboo mats with precise holes cut out for the drain and the ventilation boxes.It was very hot. And very dirty. And since we were moving all that sand and creating a lot of dust, we wore our cloth Covid masks for most of the day.But the greenhouse now has a real floor! No more nighttime crawly critters! It would almost be a proper indoor space… you know, if only it wasn’t 130 degrees.
A Week of In Betweens
Thanks for tuning in to The Grid Is For Squares today! This week I tried a new microphone setup which ultimately was a step backwards for our sound quality, but next episode we’ll be back to our old soundscape. Thanks for your patience as I tweak our process here.
Today’s episode finds us in a bit of an “in-between” zone. Vince went back to Joshua Tree to help some more with the skoolie, I called the Mariposa County Building Department about permits, and plans for our yurt are starting to come together. Baby steps eventually lead to marathons. Hopefully.
On his trip to Joshua Tree, Vince continued to work on the pumped potable water system. He successfully ran a pressure test and all of the fittings were water-tight, which is great! Our friends decided to wait on flushing the system, though, since they’re on a well water system at the house in Joshua Tree and didn’t want to waste that much of the well. If they provide their own potable water for a little while, though, after a few refills and a little bleach, the system should provide water that’s clean enough to drink.
In RV world, they actually recommend you add a little bleach every time you fill up your water tank. I found similar info while researching survivalism for my novel… the EPA recommends 1/2 tsp bleach per 8 gallons of water, but do your own research before drinking bleach please, as amounts differ depending on how soon you plan to drink it, what kind of bleach you’re using, and more.
The best news of the week is that I fought the Permits Dragon and I won! You may recall that permits are the only thing that scares me more than wildfires... I hate bureaucracy and I hate phone calls, but this week I put on my Big Girl Pants and called the county building department and it was good news all around! I was so nervous I sounded like a babbling lunatic, but I managed to ask what kind of permit we’d need to build a shed on our property… the county told me that we don’t need a permit to build a shed as long as it’s less than 120 square feet, one story, and has no electrical or plumbing. We can even build more than one!
The next thing I asked about is whether we can stay on the property while we work on it, and the lady said that we can stay on our land for up to 14 out of 90 days. I asked if that applies to an RV or a bus too, and she said yes! Riding high on all this good news, I made the final leap… I asked if we can park a converted schoolbus on our property for an indefinite period of time. And they said yes! They actually said yes specifically to a skoolie. This is such good news!
It’s a big weight off our shoulders to know that we’re not even rolling that dirty yet. Permits are still a big scary dragon to me, but I’ve gone on my first official slaying mission and triumphed. Hurrah.
In our next episode, hear all about our trip back up to the property and our valiant attempt to finish the greenhouse!
A Skoolie in the Desert
Hey everyone. It’s been a rough couple of weeks for us and the world. We briefly talk about the state of the country and how it’s a bummer you can’t rely on individual humans to do the right thing.
Then we talk about the importance of art. I published a novel recently, a weird lil thing I called "The Planets, Or: How I Kept It Cute At The End of the World." It’s about a girl with anxiety who survives a nuclear apocalypse on a homestead, and although I did write it before we purchased our property, clearly the subject was already on my mind.
But on to the topic of the day… we recently went to Joshua Tree to help our friends work on their skoolie! If you’re not in the lingo, a “skoolie” is a school bus that’s essentially been turned into an RV.
But our assistance is coming from more than the simple goodness of our hearts. Our friends will soon be moving overseas for a year and plan to park their skoolie on our 10 acres while they’re gone! (Or at least, they were moving overseas before Covid hit… now, who knows? But all we can do is keep moving forward.) Their bus will have solar panels and battery storage, a potable water system including a shower and a washing machine, a compost toilet, enclosed sleeping quarters, and more.
In general, we see communal living as the future. Both Vince and I are introverts who are protective of our personal space, but we’re gonna have to get over that and embrace communal living because it’s the only real viable solution to late-stage capitalism. These days, few people (particularly few millennials) have the resources to truly be self-sufficient. The only way we’re going to beat capitalism is by banding together and pooling our talents, pooling our resources. So this bus is a big step toward that model of living… our friends have a bus full of amenities but nowhere to park it, and we have 10 acres of land but very few amenities. It’s win-win.