WELCOME TO RIVER DAVES PLACE

Going off the grid, our family story.

wash11

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 24, 2011
Messages
1,657
Reaction score
2,676
I have had a recurring daydream of simple living as long as I could remember. As the years passed by the urge would grow but so did the responsibilities of a successful (and sometimes not so successful) business and a house full of kids. Right around 2010 we had a few clients fold up which left us holding a hefty stack of unpaid invoices. This was the first and only time I have been left with the uncomfortable feeling of financial insecurity for my family. The wife and I buckled down and fought our way through it, coming out much stronger on the other end with the urge for simple living now front and center.

Fast forward to September 2011. On a whim, we cancelled our annual trip to the Sand Show in Orange County and instead hopped in the wife's Jeep and hit the road for a week to start looking at rural property. These trips became the norm for us over the next year and a half. Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and Northern Arizona all made the short list with Idaho in the number one spot. Realtors were contacted, meetings with our attorney and accountant to discuss the sale of our company etc.- the wheels were turning and we were set to dive head first into something exciting and terrifying all at the same time. A serendipitous meeting with a rancher from Northern Arizona on my doorstep changed everything. He was in Havasu shoeing horses as a side job and responded to a Craigslist ad I had for a old spare tire a friend of his needed for a truck.

After paying for the wheel/tire he mentioned his 100+ mile trip back home which sparked a conversation that lasted the better part of two hours. He lived in a small community of full time ranchers a couple hours from us, pretty well off the beaten path. As he described his neighbors, the weather, available water and good soil I was hooked but did my best not to seem too excited. I had passed the exit on my way to Flagstaff a thousand times and never even wondered what was back in those hills. We hit the road that weekend to go check the area out and immediately loved it. Only problem we found- nothing was for sale and rarely did anything in the little area hit the market. When property trades hands it is usually to a friend of a friend or one of the ranchers buys to add to their current range holdings.

I can't even count all the trips we made up there. It didn't take long for some of the locals to stop and chat with us while passing on dirt roads. The cold reception was expected as it is a very small and tight community, not more than 20 families in the whole area. This is where we wanted to be. Period. We threw the short list away, Arizona is where we were staying. Far enough from Havasu to escape the heat but close enough to be able to hang onto the business while we built ourselves a new life. We went back every chance we got and introduced ourselves and our intentions to more people whenever the opportunity presented itself. By this time we had made some friends and had several lunch/dinner offers that would no doubt end with some sort of chores while we got to know our "someday to be" neighbors. We would hear more and more about properties that might be for sale from locals. We took this as a sign of acceptance and we happily followed through on any possible lead but kept looking on our own as well.

There was one property in particular that just felt like home. I actually hand wrote a letter (first time in years!) to the property owner and sent it to the mailing address listed for them on the county assessor site as I couldn't find any phone numbers for them. I explained our intentions and told them exactly what we had to spend. A week went by with no response so hopes were not real high. On day eight I received a call from the property owners to say they were getting too old to do anything with the property and they will accept our offer. We had the property deed in hand July 15tth 2013.

This thread will run you through what it has taken and will take for our family to develop 50 acres of very rural property with zero dependence on anyone but ourselves for water, power and food. I have never been in the construction trades nor do I have any previous experience with this stuff so please enjoy yourselves at my expense. Some of the mistakes have been epic:D.

This topic has been a running thread on another site for quite awhile. RD thought you guys might like it and suggested I do a condensed version here to bring us up to date.

There will be breaks in the thread from time to time as we vowed to do this without taking on any debt. Everything we have accomplished to date has been paid for outright. We have done this on an average middle class income, if there is such a thing anymore. We have gone from being the poster children for excessive consumerism to being ultra conservative and frugal in just 5 years. We started out slow but picked up steam fast when we saw how much we were able to throw at our new life every time we dumped another unnecessary expense. We've been pretty bare bones for the last couple years. I drive a 20 year old truck, the wife- a 15 year old truck. No cable TV, grow and produce most of our own food- the list of what we have changed is actually pretty long. Surprisingly, our quality of life has actually gone up and we certainly have not stopped having fun. This life definitely isn't for everyone (some of our old friends think we're bat shit crazy) but the response we've gotten is pretty positive from folks on the other thread who dig the mechanics of what are doing. I hope you guys enjoy the ongoing story of our big adventure.

The property has plenty of character as the elevation changes from 5300" to 5100' down in the pasture. It slopes South/Southwest making it ideal for orchards, gardens and solar power. Juniper, Oak and Pinon Pine are the majority of the trees in the area surrounded by plenty of native grasses and shrubs. Some people prefer the huge trees of a thick forest, heck we do too but the cost and hardships of growing anything in that setting didn't make it practical for us to even consider. The one constant we hear from people on their first trip up is, "Your pictures don't even come close to showing what it's like back here". Most seem very surprised at the quiet beauty that I can't seem to capture with a camera. Honestly, I gave up trying so most pics will be of things we are working on at the time.

post-18960-1405434993.jpg

post-18960-1405434935.jpg

post-18960-1405434899.jpg

IMG_8707.jpg

IMG_8714.jpg
 
Last edited:

wash11

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 24, 2011
Messages
1,657
Reaction score
2,676
We started with property that was absolutely untouched. There was "kind of" a goat trail of a road getting to the property line that needed major improvements. How hard could it be? There are nice dirt roads all over the world, this is going to be a breeze. Go ahead and mark that as the first of many underestimations on my part. When it was all said and done we had rented lots of equipment, burned a ton of diesel and handed out some hefty cash on the bigger parts. We now have 1.5 miles of decent road from what was once a goat trail that gives us access to the whole property.

We started by camping and hiking, just getting to know the place. Over time we started hanging ribbon on trees that gave us a general outline of where we wanted the roads to go. We then used a older 450 Deere to start pushing them in.
IMG_8637.jpg

IMG_8631.jpg


That turned into needing a backhoe to dig out the big rocks and a Gannon to help shape the final project. The first year we could only afford to rent equipment or pay a neighbor to bring his up and run it.
IMG_8640.jpg

post-18960-1405438680.jpg


Then it was time to bring a blade and loader in to finish things off. The blade operator was key to keeping the roads as long as we have. He cut in drainage in places I wouldn't have dreamed of. Easy to see why with the first big monsoon storm.
IMG_4092.jpg

IMG_4090.jpg
 
Last edited:

wash11

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 24, 2011
Messages
1,657
Reaction score
2,676
Not all the roads needed heavy hitters. There is a shelf of nice, fertile material that sits above the bluff. We were able to use a Bobcat for the road down to pasture. A nice change expense wise. This is our 14 year old (at the time) daughter running the 963. This was to be a family affair from day one so we have taught the kids to use every piece of equipment and all the power tools etc.

post-18960-1405440062.jpg

post-18960-1405440172.jpg

post-18960-1405440219.jpg

post-18960-1405440195.jpg
 
Last edited:

wash11

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 24, 2011
Messages
1,657
Reaction score
2,676
We have lots of varying slopes so drainage is always the first consideration for anything we do. Running roads through existing, natural drainage is just making more work for yourself. Over some beers we came up with the idea of a bridge made from old (free) telephone poles and some lumber. I dig the clankity clank sound when crossing a bridge so we decided to build using dowel instead of bolts or screws. Again, I underestimated how much work the dowel idea would be but it turned out bitchen and still goes clankity clank today.

IMG_8866.jpg

IMG_8872.jpg

IMG_8876.jpg

IMG_8890.jpg

IMG_8900.jpg
 
Last edited:

wash11

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 24, 2011
Messages
1,657
Reaction score
2,676
Packing tools back and forth every weekend was getting old. Money was tight after doing the roads so I had to wait for the right deal on a storage container to come up. Ugly, dented and for some reason the previous owner cut the hinges off one of the doors. It was a project for sure but at $1000 delivered, too good to pass up. We leveled a spot between two trees at our makeshift camp area and picked up some green home depot paint with a yellow tint to match the Junipers so it blends in as opposed to being an eyesore.

IMG_9426.jpg

IMG_9430.jpg

IMG_9431.jpg

IMG_9434.jpg

IMG_9442.jpg
 
Last edited:

wash11

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 24, 2011
Messages
1,657
Reaction score
2,676
Water. If you don't have it, all you really have is dirt. If you do have it, your property has a heartbeat and can grow into anything you can dream up. Knowing we would not be able to drill a well ourselves we started socking money away for the well driller from day one. The plan from the beginning was to get water as soon as money would allow so we knew what we were dealing with before spending anymore money on the property. Obviously, roads had to come first to get the drill rig and crew in. From there, nothing would happen until we knew "if" and "how much" water we would have to work with. Neighboring properties had good water so we were optimistic. The only difference is, I wanted the well on the bluff. A couple months of research and online geology lessons helped me decide this. The internet is never wrong, right?

It's a gamble. If they don't hit water they still hand you a bill for $10,000 to $15,000 for a dry hole. So with fingers crossed the crew set the rig up at 7am and got right to work. The whole process is fascinating! I didn't get many pictures as I was wrapped up in what they were doing. I have never seen a harder working crew and although I don't stand around and watch well, I knew I would just be in the way with how fast they go. "Working strong" is another thing to see. I'm quite sure these guys could hold their own in any crossfit gym. Everything they do is on the run. Everything they lift is at least 100lbs on up to 250lbs. These guys have retarded monkey type strength.

IMG_9403.jpg

IMG_9406.jpg

IMG_9408.jpg

IMG_9414.jpg

IMG_9420.jpg
 
Last edited:

wash11

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 24, 2011
Messages
1,657
Reaction score
2,676
My closest neighbor had hit water at 280' at about the same elevation we were drilling so when we were still dry at 300' I was starting to sweat it. Had I picked the absolute worst spot on the property? How long till I could afford another to punch another hole? The crew tripped up another rod and finally hit water at 310'. Big smiles from everyone, high fives all around. He estimated about 20 gallons per minute which is enough water for our family to have a ton of animals, huge garden etc. I had enough cash to go to 400' and asked him to keep going. This is a forever place that my kids will end up with. I wanted the best water I could afford. Within the next 20 feet it absolutely erupted. Water was everywhere and the crew was hooten and hollering. They went to 379' and the owner said that's all he can do. He can't get the water out of the hole fast enough to keep going. We had just won the lottery as far as we were concerned. 100+ gallons per minute with static level at 225'.

 

wash11

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 24, 2011
Messages
1,657
Reaction score
2,676
We celebrated that night with many, many, many beers.

Now it was time to get to work on getting it out of the ground and distributed around the property. I liked the simplicity and reliability of a gravity fed system even though I knew it was going to be a TON of work and a TON of material. Basically, you have one pump in the well that is sized correctly to push water uphill to storage tanks. It only requires one line that can easily be tee'd off to whatever you might need. The elevation difference is what gives you your water pressure and the line is always charged. No pressure pumps to go bad or need power. No bladders etc. So simple, some of my friends had trouble grasping the concept of what I was doing until they saw it work in person.

The storage tanks total 10,000 gallons and sit 152' above the well head. There is 1800' of 2" main infrastructure water line with several fire hydrants and frost free valves/faucets. Each tee off for hydrants was extended 5' past so we could easily dig up and tap into later as we build. The end result was over 60lbs of water pressure and legit fire lines that reach out 100 feet of spray. Since dialing 911 does nothing for us, having a decent fire system is a big deal.

First up was getting tools and materials up there which is a job in itself. Here we are bringing in the water tanks and a quarter mile of 2" pvc to start with. The Ditchwitch belongs to a neighbor and was a huge help down low but was no match for the rock up higher on the property.

 

welldigger00

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 18, 2010
Messages
2,376
Reaction score
3,139
My closest neighbor had hit water at 280' at about the same elevation we were drilling so when we were still dry at 300' I was starting to sweat it. Had I picked the absolute worst spot on the property? How long till I could afford another to punch another hole? The crew tripped up another rod and finally hit water at 310'. Big smiles from everyone, high fives all around. He estimated about 20 gallons per minute which is enough water for our family to have a ton of animals, huge garden etc. I had enough cash to go to 400' and asked him to keep going. This is a forever place that my kids will end up with. I wanted the best water I could afford. Within the next 20 feet it absolutely erupted. Water was everywhere and the crew was hooten and hollering. They went to 379' and the owner said that's all he can do. He can't get the water out of the hole fast enough to keep going. We had just won the lottery as far as we were concerned. 100+ gallons per minute with static level at 225'.

View attachment 453154
That's outstanding! I've done many a job that the owner was standing by as we got to TD, and still blowing dust. It's hard to tell them we gotta go deeper when they're at the end of their checkbook. I've ran hundreds of feet for free over the years just to get someone water when they've spent as much as they could. Good for you, and good luck!
 

Ol Man

Well-Known Member
Joined
Dec 20, 2007
Messages
511
Reaction score
342
What an awesome thread. Nicely done. Can't wait for more.
 

wash11

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 24, 2011
Messages
1,657
Reaction score
2,676
Part of cutting the roads in included a nice big pad to be leveled for the water tanks. I hauled about 6000 pounds of sand from the creek bed below to lay out for the foundation. We then used the forks on the backhoe to get the tanks from camp to their new home the morning after they were dropped off.

IMG_9647.jpg

IMG_9650.jpg


My rigging partner, picture taker and all around adorable, hard working wife.

IMG_9653.jpg
 
Last edited:

phuggit

Well-Known Member
Joined
Oct 9, 2007
Messages
1,078
Reaction score
436
I have kept up on your endevor thru GD.com Awsome undertaking and your hard work looks to be paying off. I think this thread will deserve a bar light.
 

waterhorse

Well-Known Member
Joined
Oct 2, 2008
Messages
2,271
Reaction score
859
Great story, and hard work but well worth it.:thumbsup
100 GPM is big water.:thumbsup
 

wash11

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 24, 2011
Messages
1,657
Reaction score
2,676
I needed to make sure I had enough room to build the equal length manifold to tie the tanks together so dug it out with the backhoe. Problem is, the rocks are so big up that far on the property we had to use diamond blades, jackhammers and rock bars to finish it off. What should have taken 6 hours took 3 very long days to complete.




At this point, Amy had to head back to Havasu to run the office while I got to stay behind and work on water lines. "Be home soon!" I said.
Another gross underestimation of time on my part. I've lost count of that by now.
I was fortunate enough to have friends come up for a couple days at a time and Amy on the weekends but did the majority of the water lines on my own. I was there for 3 months straight.

Good, honest work but it was the first time I had been away from my wife for any length of time. If you know us, you know we are attached at the hip. Being apart was the only downside, the rest was fantastic.

3 months with no cell phone, no crap food and sleeping sundown to sun up kind of resets a guy. I wrapped that project up feeling better than I had in years.











 

HAVASUSUN

Well-Known Member
Joined
Mar 26, 2008
Messages
603
Reaction score
280
Awesome! Some of the pics are not showing. Please repost. I would love to see everything. That is my dream as well. Hoping to be at that point in 5-10 yrs.
 

wash11

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 24, 2011
Messages
1,657
Reaction score
2,676
Awesome! Some of the pics are not showing. Please repost. I would love to see everything. That is my dream as well. Hoping to be at that point in 5-10 yrs.
I just text Dave about the pics. Not showing for me either but they are on tapatalk. I can click on them and they show.
 

RiverDave

In it to win it
Joined
Sep 13, 2007
Messages
98,853
Reaction score
70,190
The only pic that didn't show for me on TT was the lost with the deep drilling on the well. That single pic didn't load the rest loaded fine.
 

wash11

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 24, 2011
Messages
1,657
Reaction score
2,676
RD says he's going to check into the picture issue later this evening. I'll jump back into the thread tomorrow morning and start posting again.
 

h2o225

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 29, 2011
Messages
1,879
Reaction score
266
Way cool. A friend of our did the same thing about 20 years ago. We have lost touch over the years. He moved to Utah some where around Nephi if I remember right.
 

wash11

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 24, 2011
Messages
1,657
Reaction score
2,676
The water lines ended up between 30 and 36" deep which is wayyyy below our frost line. Overkill, maybe- I just wasn't looking to do this twice. Here is a pic of Amy flattening a high spot in the trench with her boots. Gives you an idea of the depth.



In some areas the rock was just too much to go any further than 15" so we eventually hauled in more material and just raised the road over the lines. Anything that comes up out of the ground was done in galvanized pipe. It's been two winters now and we have had no issues with frozen water lines.
 

wash11

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 24, 2011
Messages
1,657
Reaction score
2,676
After three months of digging and plumbing, the end was in sight. It all came together at the well head. I plumbed a second line to nowhere to tie into later if needed. I had underestimated the tools I would need for the water system. I borrowed a few but bought the rest knowing I would need them again down the road. Decent tools definitely left a mark on the budget.







At this point I took a break for a week while waiting for the well pump to be shipped to me.
 

Stainless

Banned
Joined
Jun 28, 2010
Messages
23,671
Reaction score
9,036
Are all the picture showing up for everyone now?
Yes, I can see all of them.

Have you got electricity on your property?

This is one hell of an endeavor, I can appreciate everything you are doing, from digging the ditches to assembling those 2" frost free hydrants, this is real mans work.100 gallons a minute on a domestic well is huge. I'm guessing you're restricted by your permit though, 35 gallons a minute?

Are you fenced yet? That's real work too!
 

wash11

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 24, 2011
Messages
1,657
Reaction score
2,676
I decided early on to attempt anything having to do with water myself. 1. It's fascinating to me. 2. Being this far out, I didn't want to be dependent on anyone else if I had a pump failure. Luckily, I did not underestimate the amount of work this would be and lined up my favorite people to lend a hand.

Our entire property will be solar powered so the water system was designed around this. After 3 months of research and talking with anyone in the field that would take my call I went with a Grundfos 6 gallon per minute pump that will take solar or generator without missing a beat. It is rated for 850' of head pressure so my 375' is nothing for it.



By this stage of the game I had become pretty good at finding the info I needed on the internet. Between youtube videos and manufacturer websites, most of what you need is out there. Add some common sense and basic mechanical ability and you have a recipe for success. Here we have everything wired, taped and secured on the pump.



We unrolled the 300' roll of 1" poly pipe, ran wire and safety rope from the pump and taped it every 10 feet.





Then I tied it off to our Ranger in case it started to get away from me and had my daughter slowly drive down the road as I hand fed it into the well.





Setting that by hand brought me right to my physical limits. My hands ached for weeks. I can see why pump guys use boom trucks.
 

wash11

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 24, 2011
Messages
1,657
Reaction score
2,676
Once the pump was in the hole we just had to button up the plumbing and do some temporary wiring for a pigtail to plug into the generator.



After firing the generator we saw water from our own well for the very first time. Exciting? Oh yeah.



After pumping to tanks for a few hours this is the volume and pressure we saw at the hydrants.



 

wash11

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 24, 2011
Messages
1,657
Reaction score
2,676
As the tanks were filling and we verified there were no leaks we jumped right on back filling the trench in front of the tanks. I didn't want 80,000lbs of water caving it in.





In that last picture you can see a wire that connects to a float in the tank. It is over a 1/4 mile long and was buried with the water lines. It goes to the main pump controller and tells it when to turn on and off. It has worked flawlessly for the last couple years, tanks are always full without me having to think about it.

Next up was back filling the lines after checking for leaks. A friend and neighbor loaned me his loader with a 3 yard bucket so I could run sand from the wash below to shade the lines in with great material. I was able to shovel it in by hand, 1800' in 3 days. Talk about shoulder pump:D

I was working as fast as I could at this point because we were right at the beginning of monsoon season. One good rain was going to make a mess of my open trenches.



 

wash11

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 24, 2011
Messages
1,657
Reaction score
2,676
I ordered all my solar stuff the week before setting the pump so there wasn't much of a break in between back filling lines and getting right back to work. Solar energy is super cool but pretty darn ugly. The well is close to the eventual home site and honestly, I didn't want to look at solar panels if I didn't have to. I found a nice natural clearing about 150 feet from the well and pushed a road to it then dug a shallow trench for conduit. Followed up by a 7' hole with the backhoe to set the pole in.

I had become pretty good friends with my well driller by this time and asked him to order me a 20' section of 6" well casing for upright. Way stouter than the thin wall tubing that Zomeworks spec'd out. Again, I never want to do any of this stuff twice. Moving it around was a chore but we handled it.





Running the mixer and trying to pour onto a makeshift chute by yourself is not something I would recommend.








Was still waiting on the Zomeworks tracker and panels to show up so I went right to drinking beer.

 

wash11

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 24, 2011
Messages
1,657
Reaction score
2,676
One of my buddies is a kick ass fabricator so I asked him to build a nice box for the pump controller. He did a great job. Vented, reflective and secure.







I'm really impressed with the Grundfos products and support. Dummy proof design (great for a guy like me) and easy installation. We wired it with plug ends to easily cut power from panels or to plug into a generator.

 

wash11

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 24, 2011
Messages
1,657
Reaction score
2,676
The well site, back filled and wired.



This is what we ended up with for fire lines.



That wraps up the water system. It's been plugging away ever since. Very satisfying to put that much planning and work into something and have it turn out as well as it did. At the time, I figured that would be the toughest job we did up here. Turns out, it was just the beginning.
 

FlatNv

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jul 15, 2011
Messages
643
Reaction score
289
That's pretty cool :thumbsup, thanks for the post... i remember when you posted before about the well, having gone thru it on my rural acreage ...congrats on hitting water!!! nerve racking:yikes
 
Top