November 05, 2013

Tiny Off Grid Cabin Q&A

We have been receiving a large volume of questions about the cabin. I will try to answer as many as I can.

Is the cabin "tied" down, like they do single wides? Are you concerned with the severe weather? and what is your safety precautions if bad weather comes?
Our cabin is set on a pier and beam design. We had winds up to 40-60 mph in surrounding areas. We felt none of it. The house never moved and the walls had no drafts. We do plan to build a storm shelter, along with a cold cellar. I feel safer here than I did at the place we just moved from. It was a double wide in the middle of a big field

How did you come across the land and cabin? Was the cabin expensive?
Long story short, we found a local real estate company that did in house financing. The cabin was a separate purchase and we have created a 2 year pay off plan for it. The purchase price with my custom requests was around $6,500. This was not our original plan. Our goal was to build from scratch, but life never goes as planned! Once the cabin is paid off we will push those payments towards the land. Best case scenario is its all paid off in 6 years. Otherwise our goal is 10. 

What about a water source?
Best laid plans would have given me raw land. But this land was previously occupied. This means there is a septic and a well or cistern. We have to hire someone to come out and asses them. Until then we haul in water. I get drinking water from the store and refill at work, we get bathing, washing water from a local feed store that has a well. We will also be setting up a rain water collection system. 

Which kitchen items do you consider essentials?
We have been minimalistic for a while, as we have been preparing for this for some time. The kitchen item I miss most, is my crock pot. But boy, they pull A LOT of electricity! We are working on a rocket stove under a pavilion for all weather cooking. We have one plate, fork, spoon, bowl, cup for each person. We have cast iron skillets, stainless steel mixing bowls for prepping meals, and 3 large stock pots. We also have a toaster, a food chopper and a mixer we can plug into the generator if need be. So far, this has worked for us. I am sure later I will think, crap I needed XYZ!

Do you have a blog post on patience while living in such small quarters with so many people? If you do I need to read it!
We have done well to live in tight quarters before. I don't think small home living creates any more person issues than a large one did. We have lived in big homes and my children gravitate to small areas. Our last two houses had 4 bedrooms and we usually used two. In our last home, my children had all taken to sleeping in a giant living room fort.. We literally had 3 empty bedrooms that they never used. In the summer they move the forts outside to the yard! 

Bathroom and shower accommodations?
We currently have an outhouse type  setup for that. Its not MY ideal, but my family seems fine with it. We plan to build a small bathroom section of the cabin much like an RV. We heat water over the fire, but we will have a instant hot water tank that will run off the generator. 

What kind of flooring and insulation? Also, what kind of storage and organizing stuff are you going to use? The cabin is a shell. Flooring is 5/8" treated plywood, nailed to 2"x6" floor joists placed 16" O/C and notched into skids 1".  We plan to insulate bit by bit. I have decided to go with regular house hold insulation for this. We had hoped to build from scratch and use the straw bale method, but that would take up much of our square footage.

Storage is minimal, we will have many shelves for books above the seating/table area and on the wall next to it. The seating itself will be for clothing storage. I have one wall space dedicated to food storage. I love open shelving and baskets. An hour on Pinterest can give you AMAZING ideas! 

 Inspiration photo from Pinterest 

How will you set up the kitchen and where every one will sleep? And will you be installing a well or something for water? The kitchen will be mostly an out door pavilion type kitchen. We will be installing a counter and sink with a propane cook stove. We were supposed to pick up the counter this week, but the lady who is donating it from her remodel had a family emergency. This is my inspiration kitchen 
Photo from Pinterest 

*see above for water

How do you keep the peace and not bicker with each other living in such small quarters? As with every family, the bickering happens regardless of living space. The benefit here is we have some big woods to go take a cool off walk if people need to. We also do well to teach the children  by working on it with ourselves, to work out conflicts. That is something we have done in big and small spaces. 

My concern is are the windows on the cabin properly flashed so they will not leak? What about the roof? (If not, plz make sure and fix before installing insulation/drywall) and if you do solar panels, how will you not hook up to the grid since the ones I've seen require grid hook up. The windows and doors are professionally installed with the build. It has a one year warranty on workmanship and a 40 year warranty on exposed materials for rot and decay. Its a well built building. We have a quality metal roof.

Most solar panels are designed for independent use. We have lived on solar panels before, and plan to use a similar system. We will install several panels to the roof of the home. This will require an inverter and a battery bank.

How big is it? Will there be bedrooms? What are you cooking on? Are the fish in your pond edible? What is the average temp inside the cabin?
The cabin dimensions are 12x32 for 384 sq ft on the main floor. We have two lofts on either side of the cabin that give us an additional 300? sq ft of floor space. The older children (6 and up) sleep in the lofts. Our sleeping area is on the main floor ( see above kitchen photo) I will raise the bed to allow for roll away beds for the little boys. Currently the 2 year old still bed shares but I hope to move him with the other boys by March, when the new baby arrives.

We are cooking over a camp fire right now, we are building a rocket stove as well and plan to put a propane cook stove in the cabin. The fish should be edible but we have discussed a water test, that will be done with the well/cistern check. The fish are good size, so I hope so! 

 I have no idea the temp. We keep warm enough my chilly body hasn't complained! We did position the cabin so the front with the double doors faces south. This helps warm us in the winter, although it may backfire in the summer! Of course we hope to have a covered porch by then. 

I was wondering about refrigeration and cooking? Also was wondering about water coming into the cabin for baths/showers?
When we went off grid last year for 9 months, we did a trial to see what we could and could not live without. Interestingly, a refrigerator was not a necessity for us. We do plan to set up a freezer, but for now, we make do without. In the summer we kept a cooler for cheese and yogurt when we bought it and in the winter we use the cooler, we just save on ice :)

*see above for other questions 

How about lighting at this point?
We are using oil lamps. We have used them in the past and have been happy. We also have flashlights and solar lamps for the children to keep on hand. I do plan to get some low wattage white Christmas lights that will run off a small solar power battery. I actually love the light they give off. Even when we had grid power, I liked to use them for lighting a room. 

What will you do if someone calls CPS cause its such small living quarters?
We have actually already crossed that path. Didn't take long did it?! We know our rights and we will continue to defend them.

How do you do laundry in the cabin and do you have a stove to cook on.
We use the laundromat. We were doing it by hand over the summer but with the colder weather and the water issue, we have found a laundromat that works great for us. We can wash 5 loads for $7. We dry the little stuff and hang the rest. 

*see above for the cooking

Are you still going to have internet access?
Yes, we have smart phones and pay for the tether option. This allows us to connect our laptop to the internet via our phones. We have had this plan for nearly three years. We have great service. 

Are you going to get chickens to raise for eggs and to eat.
Yes. We will most likely wait till spring to get the coup built, but we plan to allow them to free range with a safe place for nesting. We also plan to raise rabbits, and get more meat goats. 


  1. I really enjoyed learning all this! I think I am living vicariously through you, off grid in a small house on a lot of land is really my dream. Occasionally my husband is open to it....we're working on that. :)

  2. Oh, document your rocket stove! Although we don't need it for cooking, I kinda wanted to make one with the kids for outside cooking instead of a grill!

  3. Now following your Pinterest ;p
    I'd also really like to see your rocket stove go up! We're planning on building one in the spring too, along with a cob oven. Can't wait! :)
    I was wondering if you were planning a home/unassisted birth? Its a fascinating topic, I've never done either.
    Also, I really enjoyed seeing your sewing projects. Are you still sewing? What other types of crafts does your family enjoy?
    God bess you and your family.

    1. I planned all of my homebirths, including the unassisted ones.

      I haven't had much desire to sew lately. maybe in the deep of winter. We like to do all sorts of things, but rarely have the time.something I need to work on.

      many blessings to your family!

  4. Thanks for sharing. It all sounds so wonderful. I am happy for you all reaching for your dreams and goals. Lot's of luck.

    I agree completely with happiness and problems arising no matter what size the house. We have seen it and lived it first hand. Ugh!

  5. Love finding you and knowing you are in KY. We are in Clark County now, moving to Bath County in the spring. I'm a midwife's assistant in training so if you need any help in that area, please ask! My midwife has been doing this and teaching new midwives for over 20 years here. We homeschooled, too, both boys grad GED in 2010. I will keep following -- thanks for blogging.

  6. Love reading this! So excited to see how your home comes together!! <3

  7. I read you say you miss your crock pot terribly. Have you heard of thermal cookers? Basically you just simmer on the stove a bit and then lock it down in the cooker to slow cook on it's own. If the link doesn't work just look up Saratoga Jacks Thermal Cooker on Amazon

  8. There is also a method called haybox cooking which has been around for hundreds of years (probably more). There is a DIY on Mother Earth or you can just search for "haybox cooking." Best thing is you just need a pot, some hay and some boards to make the box.


Thanks for reading and leaving your thoughts.

If you choose to leave a comment, put a username in the dropdown box that says Username/URL. You can usually leave the URL box blank, or if the system requires one just put in my URL. Harassing comments from anonymous people will not be published. You will need to sign in if you wish to be rude.

Don't forget to check the "notify me" box to get updates on comment replies!
This makes it easier for conversation. Thanks!