When we first bought our off-grid property, we decided to run it like a homestead – which means that we do everything that we can ourselves, we aim for zero waste, we use what we have and we buy little.
Now that we have been here a while we are slowly moving toward our dream of being 100% self-sufficient and eating only what we grow, catch and forage for thus reducing our waste.
When we decided to build a wood shed to store our wood for winter, we knew that it was going to be set back in the bush, no one can see it so it didn’t matter what it looked like.
We literally just said the other day that we need to start chopping wood to prepare for winter and wondered where we could find some tin to make the roof.
We used trees and manuka poles on our property for the sides and we have a small amount of tin that we put on the roof.
Then Mark’s workmate told him that he wanted his shed pulled down so he could build something else in its place so Mark went to his house and brought all the tin home – free of charge! The tin could have ended up in the landfill had we not salvaged it and upcycled it into our magnificent wood shed!
Now that we have our shed up and the first few pieces of wood in it, we can spend the rest of the summer and autumn making sure it is loaded to the top.
The really ironic thing is that we don’t even have a fireplace yet! We are going to put that in before winter so we are toasty and warm. The winter isn’t terribly cold here like it is in other countries but it still gets cold enough to light a fire. Because we live off the grid, we will use our fireplace to boil water, cook stews and curries and other delicious hearty, homestead meals.
What is something that you have upcycled recently?
It’s hard to believe we have only been living on our homestead for a month! It feels like we have been here all our lives. We have achieved so much in a short space of time but there’s still so much more to do. What have we learned after a month on the homestead?
1. Take small actions every day to make progress
Sometimes it feels like we haven’t made any progress – especially during the week when we had been working in town all day and then it was raining or we were tired after a busy day but we made sure we did something every day to keep the momentum going. We have a huge list of little jobs but most of them we can knock out in no time at all. These are things like building planter boxes and getting ready for growing veggies to hanging a mirror to fixing Eli’s spade handle. Every time we ticked something off the list it felt like we were getting stuff done and moving forward.
2. Things do not always go to plan
Things not going to plan is a lesson we have learned many times in the first month. We wanted our outside side to be up in the first weekend but it rained so we got all our inside jobs done first. Then the shed was a huge mission to get up – which was a huge realisation that we had to let things happen at their own pace. When we couldn’t get the shed up, we had a make another plan and even now it is still not 100% finished. Another thing that did not go to plan was our solar power upgrade. We were without power for 6 days – we have a gas oven so we could still cook – but we had no internet and no way to charge our phones. No things do not always go to plan but we got there in the end!
3. We can survive with less
Every time we moved we decluttered more stuff. Our house literally has 4 rooms – 2 bedrooms, bathroom and kitchen/living room. We don’t have space for more stuff! And being without internet for nearly a week really taught us that we don’t need much to survive and be happy.
4. Don’t overdo it
We have literally been thinking about this for 5 years and really planning this for over a year. When we first moved in we wanted to rush and get things done and we nearly burned ourselves out. We still work and then work harder on the weekends. Our poor son has been pretty neglected but he has found ways to entertain himself. We get him to help – he uses the power drill, digs in the garden and uses his dump truck to cart dirt to where we need it. On the weekends we made an effort to take breaks, go for swims in the (freezing!!) river, go on bush walks and hang out at the beach.
5. Make a list and tick things off as you do them
Ticking things off a list has been great for building momentum and keeping morale up. It can feel like progress is slow sometimes but as I said in #1, when we take a small action every day we look back over the month we have been here and are amazed at how much we got done. We had a huge list – but we have slowly ticked everything off and now we will make a new list!
6. Don’t try to do everything at once
It’s hard to not be disappointed when progress feels slow and we want everything done TODAY. We wanted veggies growing and to get pigs and chickens, get solar power and put a fireplace in. We have had to prioritise and know that we will get there eventually. We moved in a bit late to plant a garden but we did it anyway. We slowly chipped away at tasks – some things have taken longer than we planned but others have been much quicker – we do actually have veggies growing which we thought we would only have done next year.
7. Ask for help
This has been a big one. You can’t do everything on your own and sometimes you need to ask for help. We got help building our shed and with the solar power. We realised we couldn’t do the shed on our own so we found a local person to help us. This has been crucial as getting the shed up meant we could move some of the boxes and now our house looks less like a storage unit and more like a home.
What lessons have you learned on your homestead in the time that you have been there?
We are Mark, Jilanne and Eli Holder and we live off-the-grid in Charleston on the West Coast of New Zealand.
How Holder’s Hideaway Came About
Mark, a South African, has always wanted to live in the wilderness and have his own piece of land that he could grow food, hunt, fish and live a sustainable life. We searched the whole world over and finally decided to settle in New Zealand, where Jilanne is from and where Eli was born.
After 3 years living in Matamata, NZ, in the North Island of New Zealand we saw the perfect off-grid hideaway on Trade Me. We packed up the family – Eli was 2 at the time and our cat and moved down to the South Island. Mark is a huge fan of Josh James, The Kiwi Bushman and watched a lot of his YouTube videos so he knew that the West Coast was where he wanted to be. We looked at properties in the Far North of New Zealand but then decided to head to the West Coast.
The past year has not been without struggles. Even as little as 3 months ago we thought owning our own property would never happen. It was meant for other people but not for us. But it’s amazing how when the stars align, EVERYTHING falls into place.
We arrived in Westport on October 27th 2017 with the intention of buying our home within 6 months. We took over the house on October 31st, 2018. It took a bit longer than we intended but here we are.
Living off the grid
Our home was previously a holiday home and most of the appliances are for an RV or motorhome. It is 100% off the grid. We have a tiny TV, 3 tiny solar panels, and a 10,000 litre water tank.
We have to be careful when charging our phones and even having showers. You don’t realise that everytime you turn on a tap or flush the toilet you are using power to run the water pump. We turn everything off when we aren’t using it – even the Wifi!
Our washing machine isn’t hooked up yet because we don’t have the power capacity to run it. We will be upgrading our solar power system but until then I have been doing laundry at the laundromat until our generator arrives.
Our hot water, tiny RV fridge, and tiny oven all run on gas. When we upgrade our solar panel system we will be able to run our big fridge and freezer. For now though, we are doing fine with what we have. We are lucky that it’s coming into summer so it’s lighter for longer in the evenings so we still make power and we don’t really need the lights on.
This is an adventure and one we have been planning for a long time. It’s exactly how we imagined it would be. We still have a lot of work to do.
First we need to put up an outside shed so we can get rid of the last few boxes – our house will feel like a home and not like a storage locker!
Then the real work will begin – growing food and becoming real homesteaders at Holder’s Hideaway!