WELCOME TO RIVER DAVES PLACE

Going off the grid, our family story.

Booshy

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Amazing update! you two look great and it sure does make you think about the life you live. I to enjoy reading the updates and have pointed this thread to many friends to read. Keep the updates coming as your able..
 

RichL

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Fairly new to the forum and the first time I've seen this thread. That being said, I think what you've accomplished is amazing, especially in the time period. Congratulations and best of luck. Will look forward to future updates.
 

RiverDave

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Fairly new to the forum and the first time I've seen this thread. That being said, I think what you've accomplished is amazing, especially in the time period. Congratulations and best of luck. Will look forward to future updates.
Welcome to the forum!
 

DrunkenSailor

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Fairly new to the forum and the first time I've seen this thread. That being said, I think what you've accomplished is amazing, especially in the time period. Congratulations and best of luck. Will look forward to future updates.
i joined last year and this is one of the first things I read. Took awhile to read the whole thing but man what a story.
 

TITTIES AND BEER

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The amount of time we have invested in growing those pasture grasses is hard to calculate but it was at least 1/2 the labor we did this year. Based on our high clay content we were skeptical regarding results, even the seed company wasn't sure our composting efforts would overcome the hurdles we faced. That being said, we were hesitant to spend money on tools and implements that might only get used once so we decided to do that 1/4 acre test bed by hand. 200 yards of compost spreading using shovels and the backhoe bucket. I gave my lower back a workout several times by using a battery powered hedge trimmer to cut back the grasses, stimulating new growth.

I searched locally for tools and equipment but not many people are doing any kind of grass farming around here. What I did find was expensive or junk. Knowing we had to make a trip to see Amys mom in Montana this October I started checking craigslist in her area for stuff. They practically give the stuff away up there that we needed to up our pasture management game for 2018. I filled a 20' trailer with old but still very usable farm implements for $450 total. These families are working 100 acres on up to 100,000 acres of grass or grain so upgrading to the latest, largest tools makes sense for them which leaves fields of retired tools laying around and plenty of friendly old timers to talk a guy like me through finding what I need.

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One thing I've learned about old farm implements- they were made when things were built right using good quality metal. This manure spreader is a mid 50's and all original, right down to the wood. Everything works correctly and is actually fairly tight. Attach to the old Ford 8N and evenly throw 2 yards of compost down at a time. I dig old stuff and the patina on this thing is just bitchin.

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One thing I was really happy to find was a mid 70's International Harvester sickle mower. The CASE/International dealer in Great Falls stocked all the service and wear items for me to rebuild this to tip top shape for under $100. No more hedge trimmer for me. The 5' sickle bar is odd as most or 7' to 9' but actually works better for me to work in some tight spaces.

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Remember when picking up that blade the cutter blade drops keep fingers away
 

Mandelon

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They have a pretty active Facebook page.
 

Lunatic Fringe

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He's busy butchering yard birds.
He keeps Fort Rock Farms Facebook page pretty updated though.
 

Bobby V

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I'm betting at least half, but probably more like 65% of RDP does not do fagbook….:p

Hopefully Wash11 can find the time to put together an update for us soon ;)
RDP has 14K people on their FB page. :p So I think your numbers are a little high. :D
 

Sherpa

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Caught this story yesterday and couldn't stop reading it until finishing just now. fully badass story and lifestyle........... envious.. Of course both of you are in it
for the full experience. having a spouse who might think this is partially over their head is probably what separates the Can-do folks like both of you, from the
Can't-do.......... I know I could do it...... but the wife I doubt would go all in.....

either way It an awesome story and read........ congrats.

--Sherpa

this does BTW need to be a sticky to be kept at the top.. I don't do fbook
 

MohavValley

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Joel you should check this out. This guy did a study on using goats to convert desert to grassland, could help with converting your desert to feed grass.

 

Mandelon

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For you Facebook haters, just make a fake profile. You can each use River Dave's photo. LOL
 

hallett21

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Trying to find their website again. Can someone post it?


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 

Sleek-Jet

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Hey, what happened to the super cool passive solar house with a trombe wall? :D
 

wash11

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“Daddy, I’m pregnant.”

It’s amazing how three words can change your life so fast and so completely. Let me explain. Medically, my oldest daughter wasn’t supposed to be able to have kids. Amy and I have made peace with this many years ago, which made the one-bedroom, tiny house design seem like a great fit. Our youngest kids are just starting their lives with no immediate plans for settling down and starting families, so again, tiny house living looked great on paper.

Add one more complication- our oldest had recently fallen in love with a great guy and moved to Texas to be with him. Not only do we need more space for our grandbaby (and the parents that often come with them), but we now need the ability to travel for extended periods to enjoy that “Grandparent Life.”

Well, shit.

It was time to get busy automating the time consuming, daily stuff, and making chores easier for neighbors and more efficient for us. It was also time to come up with a new plan regarding the house, and it’s looming lack of space for what was to be our new number one focus.

The list of changes was overwhelming, so we just picked a spot and started digging in. First up was a complete re-design of our egg-laying production. Up to this point, we have enjoyed the daily work that goes with having a large laying flock. It’s how our day has started for a few years now. Clean and refill waterers, top off feed, then open the coop door so they can spend the day outside doing their thing. It’s also how we end the day. Collect and wash eggs, then lock them in the coop for the night so critters can’t get in and have a chicken dinner. Every couple of weeks requires a good clean of the coop as well to keep things sanitary and your birds healthy. Our original wood coop design required hand scrubbing and likely never dried as good as we’d hope after a deep clean.

It’s not hard work but easily takes up an hour total per day. Add drive time, twice daily plus needing to be on a schedule, and you’ve just burdened your friends and neighbors every time you try to travel.

Strong, affordable, sanitary, easy to move, and easy to build were the guiding requirements. A certain amount of automation was needed as well, so we can stress less while traveling. These upgrades give us an easy 24-36 hour window when taking short trips and require less attention from anyone watching our place. It also frees our days up a bit to give attention to other projects.

Waterproof feeders holding several day’s worths of food that are secure from rodents and small, native birds and are easy for the chickens to operate. A freeze-proof freshwater system that replenishes itself every 6 hours with drainage and a spillway into grasses to keep mud from becoming a pathogen breeding ground. A solar-powered entry door controlled by a photocell opens the coop up in the morning and secures the birds inside at sundown to protect against predators. We purchased a professional-grade laying box from Hen Gear that immediately separates the eggs into a secure storage area that keeps them incredibly clean and protected from hens that might otherwise peck at them if not collected in the evening.

We used as much galvanized metal as possible, which makes chemical-free sanitation as easy as firing up the steam cleaner when needed. I have a weird love for the old WWII era Quonset Hut buildings, so the design was an easy choice, especially knowing we wanted it to be metal.

Square footage, roost bar space, and nest box capacity will accept up to 75 hens without overcrowding. To be safe, we are running 60 in this design as we figure out the manure load. We are using Premier electric net fencing to rotate them through three separate runs of pasture grass, so they always have fresh greens and bugs without overgrazing any one area.
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wash11

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Predator losses in 2018 were pretty extreme. We had a mountain lion destroy a new chicken coop and eat nine birds while stressing and injuring several others. Fox and skunks got to 19 of our meat birds while on pasture throughout the season.

Livestock guardian dogs were always part of the plan, and it was time. Our very good friends and neighbors had a litter of 9 Great Pyrenees/Anatolian Shephard mix puppies from 2 experienced working dog parents. We had always loved our neighbor's dogs, Stella and Bosco, and had secretly hoped there would someday be a litter. Yes, puppies complicate things in the beginning but once trained, we’d feel better about being gone knowing they are there to keep undesirable visitors away. Amy and I were in Texas for our daughter's wedding the day they were born, but as soon as we arrived home, we went right over so Gus could pick me as his new daddy.

Amy took her time, and after weeks of watching them grow and interact, she picked the biggest dickhead of the bunch. This little furball would drag all the other puppies around by their tales and terrorize the bunch of them anytime she was awake. Ironically, Gus and Maggie palled around together, not knowing they would spend the rest of their lives by each other's side. They would be old enough to come home around the time our granddaughter was to be born, so we made them a comfy home as we were heading into the coldest part of winter.
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wash11

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Finishing steers is a daily chore. There’s just no way around it. Over the years, we have picked up little design ideas from other ranches and had come up with our wish list to make our daily routine faster and safer when handling 1100lb animals. I love that the new pens look simple enough, but they were anything but that. We wanted something that blended with Amy's huge 8' tall garden fence, something that didn't look like an afterthought. Being able to feed critters from outside the pens makes life easy if we need a neighbor to babysit while we're traveling. The pen location gives us access to load out from behind using the existing alley to direct in and out of trailers easy and peaceful. It would also give great natural drainage since it's on a good slope. Trying to make gates work and look good on any grade is pretty tricky, but I think we pulled it off. Oh, and we wanted to have the pens open to our irrigated pasture grasses so we can graze without overgrazing. AND, we wanted to be able to contain pigs too, which is why you'll see the heavy screening on the bottom.

The same freeze-proof water design we used for the chickens was a great fit for the steer pens as well. The hay manger can hold an entire day's feed in case a neighbor can only get up once per day. Anytime we are gone, we let them out on the pasture grass as well for an additional buffer in case someone can’t make it up.
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Bear Down

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Great update Joel, nice to see the next stage of life coming together and making the necessary adjustments to enjoy and engage into the new responsibility. None of this surprises me with you 2, you're a blessing and inspiring to many.
 

Go-Fly

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I've told you before how much I enjoy this thread and how you do things. Life changes when grandkids come into the picture however. The need to see them and spend time with them is overwhelming. What are your house plans now?
 

wash11

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The House:

If you’ve made it this far through the story, you know how much time we’ve devoted to this subject. From simple cabin ideas to large passive solar designs to tiny houses- we’ve explored them all. With a baby on the way, we opened up to the idea of pre-built, modular homes to speed the process up a bit. I geeked out on research once again and narrowed my choice down to two builders, and after touring the factories chose Cavco Industries to design and build our home. We were able to customize an existing two-bedroom, two-bath floorplan to meet our needs and take advantage of our views. Upgrading every possible building material option such as doors and windows, insulation package, 2x6 construction, roofing, flooring, etc. the price per square foot was up there but not obscene like a stick-built home with all the trip charges because of our rural location. Once ordered, it was a ten-month build time.

With all the travel to Texas between the wedding and our granddaughter's birth and visits, we used up all ten months just getting ready for the house to come in. Our first step was doing the dig for a ground set. It’s more work upfront, but the finished look is much nicer, and the money saved on patios and outdoor living easily cover the cost.

The building pad had been finished years earlier, with the views already figured out as well as drainage. We would need to tie into the water system and septic system, which was made easier by our pre-planning. We sized the house to fit on the existing pad with a drive-through on one side to allow easy access for trucks and stock trailers and concrete trucks for the future patio.

Here is the dig out for the ground set and a picture of all the material screened and ready for backfill (if you look close you can see Amy sitting on the pile). You guys that know dirt work can easily see that this was quite a job.

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We spent several weeks trimming trees and working on the roads to be sure the house had a clear path on delivery day.
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11 months after deposit, the house shows up behind two trucks.
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wash11

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The block does not support the house. It is simply a retaining wall for the backfill. Our dig was down to bedrock and the house is supported by 60 plus stands. It's surprisingly solid. Connect the plumbing, septic and run conduit for fun projects later and we were ready for backfill.

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Taboma

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Awesome Joel !!!
I noticed the name on the delivery truck 'Mohave Homes, Golden Valley' is that who you ordered through ? Not nearly as many dealers in the area as there were pre-recession.
After watching our property neighbor Benjamin's struggles getting his 0ff-grid stick built home up at SVR Hackberry, I'm pretty sure you had the right idea.

I sure love this thread, sure wish I were 30 years younger, lol :rolleyes: :D
 

wash11

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The amount of small projects is staggering. Ceiling fans, audio video (because I love kids movies of course!), outdoor electrical- it goes on and on.

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Plumbing and electrical for an outdoor kitchen down the road.
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Oversize 500 gallon propane tank to run the stove, hot water heater and gas dryer.
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wash11

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By now, we were completely comfortable with our solar-powered off-grid existence. We had the practical experience to size our system correctly and worked with an engineer at Northern Arizona Wind and Sun to put together the final plan, which included solutions for placing our panels so far from the house (so we don’t have to look at them). They provided everything we needed to apply for our owner-builder permit on the system as well.
Easily the most expensive load this old stock trailer has ever hauled.
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As I mentioned, the panels are a good distance from the house. The solution was high voltage so the wire size could be reasonable. (I believe it ended up around 540 volts or so). I wanted a pre-wired, plug and play panel and Schneider was the only company that offered one with a 600 volt charge controller. I had my heart set on Outback equipment but couldn't be happier with this set-up.
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Our array is right at 4000 watts, which is less than the original design. We changed to Lithium batteries which charge faster and require a smaller array. I was skeptical at first but Northern Arizona Wind and Sun had never steered us wrong. They were correct, we are at 100% by 9:30am on average. When permitting a system like this there are no shortcuts. Everything is so over engineered to cover a nationwide variation in extreme weather. Not wanting to spend extra money on an engineer to tell us the minimum we could do, we just went with the supplied engineering plans to keep the county happy.

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My buddy came up with the idea to use uni-strut to build a frame to hold the uprights through the concrete pour. Time consuming but we squared it within a 1/16th". It worked pretty bitchin.
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We may have gone a little overboard on the grounding but wanted to steer clear of trouble during our monsoon storms. 4 8' ground rods plus 4 3" galvanized uprights all chained together with exothermic welds and 4 total 600volt lightening arrestors throughout the system.
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charlyox

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Great job Joel and Amy. I am one of the many that love reading about your incredible journey. I know your hard work is paying off. Merry Christmas and a prosperous new year to you and yours.
 

Gelcoater

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wash11

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With lithium batteries you now have the ability to mount your system indoors with no special venting requirements. The up front cost on the batteries is high but when you factor in not needing a separate shed or building to house everything on top of the expense of keeping it somewhat climate controlled through the year- it pencils out in the end. We sacrificed the spare bedroom closet to house the entire solar system with room to spare. We added jacks under the framework of the closet to compensate for the extra weight as well.

We tied directly to the wall studs to hang the pre-assembled panel to. Out of the box it is just shy of 340lbs. Three guys in a closet trying to hang that weight in front of us took us to our physical limit but we got it done. I've never wanted a transmission jack more.
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At this point it was time for me to step back and let Chicken Dan do his thing. He owns Done Right Electrical in Havasu and unfortunately for him, followed us up here back in 2014. He could probably retire off the billings from all the free shit he's done for us since becoming our neighbor. Machinist, fabricator, mad scientist- he's the guy other contractors call in for explosion proof installations or troubleshooting multi-station manufacturing machines and carwashes etc. He speaks well with the engineers that designed this stuff and even caught a couple of their mistakes during installation. On final inspection, "Wow" was the first word out of the inspectors mouth.

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Two very expensive lithium batteries.
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Final installation:
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JDKRXW

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Livestock guardian dogs were always part of the plan, and it was time. Our very good friends and neighbors had a litter of 9 Great Pyrenees/Anatolian Shephard mix puppies from 2 experienced working dog parents.
AWESOME dogs for their intended work purpose, and great family pets if you've got little kids visting. But if I ever come around your place.......please introduce me to them as part of your family :)
 

wash11

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Once we moved in I had to break out all our kids old DVD's. It was like seeing old friends again! It was a long time coming but we are enjoying life in our very comfortable little house. We've been in for a few months now and still have lots of little projects we're working as time and money permit. The solar has exceeded our expectations in every way and the build quality of the house keeps us comfy on 100 degree days down into the teens without having to use a bunch of power.

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wash11

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We finally got around to putting up the flagpole at the tip of the pad we built years ago. The neighbors can easily see the Patron flag when it's drinky drinky time. We also said goodbye to the faithful 5th wheel that allowed us to live up here while we worked on this full time. If you remember, we built the fence after the 5th wheel was parked. We used an old 5th wheel hitch from craigslist to modify so it fits on forks to use a skid steer to pick the trailer out of a tight spot.

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RichL

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Once again I'm just blown away. Congratulations on all of your successes and Happy Holidays to you and your family.
 

Singleton

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This is my favorite thread.
Love reading the updates!

Best part, it now reminds me how the wife and I would send the boys to papas ranch for the summer.
 

t&y

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SERIOUS QUESTION:

Would you be interested in offering a onsite (not right next to your house) camping/farmer/rancher for a day set up?

I'm not sure how much unused space you have on your property. But after reading this entire thread and following along, I think your life style and daily work is something that could seriously be a destination type location. I would gladly drag my trailer out there for a couple days just to get the experience for the kids. I'm in if you ever decide to do that type of thing.

This thread has to be one of the all time best threads on this site. Good work to you and your family.

Merry Christmas!
 

wash11

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One of our first big projects was a concrete walkway around the house. Keeping mud from splattering during rain and keeping the inside clean is pretty important to us and this helps a lot. We added 30x12 to one side right off the French doors for a patio at the same time.

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After that cured we jumped on getting the patio up before Winter shows itself. We tied higher into the roof to still have enough slope to use matching shingles and kicked up the end of the patio a bit to have it as high as possible to keep our view. More expensive and a bit of a pain but it's these little details that make such a big difference when it's all done.
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We wanted it to match the house as delivered so we replicated material and trimmed it out the same way the front porch pillars came but added some more trim (which we'll do to the front porch at some point so it all matches. It's just a cleaner, more finished look. We prewired for all sorts of light, outlets and ceiling fans before closing it in.
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Done and ready for final lighting. We literaly just got this far yesterday. You guys are now up to date!
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