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January 15, 2014

Month One: Living off-grid in Rural New Zealand

Barbarian Home, Steff

kune kune pigs nz

Here’s a rambling life update, complete with pictures.

After months of non-stop work, we finally deemed our little “medieval barn” habitable, and in early December we gave our notice at our flat in town. This meant we had one 3 and a half weeks to pack up our entire lives, finish our house, including painting and flooring and hooking up our water tanks and solar power, and moving it all up there.

Poser.

Poser.

I had a goal: we would spent Christmas Eve in our own home. For the week beforehand, I frantically packed boxes, which CDH and his dad painted as much as they could paint, built a shed for the batteries, and finished sundry jobs, while Father Metal got on with the serious business of finishing the interior.

We had wonderful friends come to help with the painting and cleaning (seriously, you wouldn’t believe how blessed we are!) and after 3 trips back and forth every day for four days with carloads and trailerloads of our crap, we finally lay our heads on our pillows at our new home at 11:28pm on 24 December. Just made it!

friends 1

Flynn is awesome. If you need your house painted, call this dude.

Flynn is awesome. If you need your house painted, call this dude.

Carlos, our neighbour, is helping CDH install our solar panels. Carlos is a circus performer - his act involes turning himself into a human tesla coil and shooting around purple lighting. He did an amazing job designing and installing our system.

Carlos, our neighbour, is helping CDH install our solar panels. Carlos is a circus performer – his act involes turning himself into a human tesla coil and shooting around purple lighting. He did an amazing job designing and installing our system.

Christmas day was spent enjoying our first day. I cooked a roast and unpacked some boxes. CDH painted and napped. But then it was back to the grind – we still had two days of flat-cleaning to complete, and more painting and chores to go, as well as 15 metalheads arriving on NYE for an epic party.

Now that it’s just the two of us and the animals, we’re starting to get into new patterns and understand what our life is like out here. It’s pretty bloody rad.

off grid house 8

We scored these lights for $20 apiece at an outlet store. Score!

We scored these lights for $20 apiece at an outlet store. Score!

Being off-grid is AWESOME. The first week I was an absolute Nazi about the usage, running around turning everything off and checking the monitor every day (we don’t have a monitor in the house yet, so if you want to check your battery capacity, you have to go down to the shed). But with a fridge, a freezer, and running two computers, we’re at 99% capacity most days (thank you NZ summer), any we never have a power bill again, so we’re laxing up a bit. We will probably have to be more careful in winter, but we’ll wait and see.

Red feature wall in Lounge. The Anubis papyrus came from our Egypt trip.

Red feature wall in the lounge. The Anubis papyrus came from our Egypt trip.

country cottage kitchen.

I am slowly getting the kitchen organised.

Our gas calephont has a leak, so if you want hot water you have to run outside, flick it on, frantically leap into the shower, bathe for 30 seconds, then run outside again and flick it off. I’m hoping to get this fixed next week, but the gas man is on holiday and not answering his phone.

The tank water also doesn’t taste great, and is looking a bit discoloured, so we’re looking into what to do about that.

Small cottage kitchen. When we build the "great hall" I will be having a larger space, complete with a huge pantry and a cellar.

Small cottage kitchen. When we build the “great hall” I will be having a larger space, complete with a huge pantry and a cellar.

We've just got the floor in the kitchen/living room. I love the way it looks. We got this for a steal because no one else likes it and the shop wanted to get rid of it.

We’ve just got the floor in the kitchen/living room. I love the way it looks. We got this for a steal because no one else likes it and the shop wanted to get rid of it.

The internet runs like a dream, better than the net in our flat in town.

off grid solar house new zealand

And, of course, why we came here. Views of paradise in every direction, and our solar system keeping us running.

It is so quiet up here. At night you can hear the wind whistling down the valley, and peacocks calling (they sound like a chorus of wounded cats). There are stars everywhere, and no cars, no screaming children, no domestic arguments heard two streets away. We are about to destroy this with a massive drumkit, but hey.

kune kune pigs nz

our two kune kune pigs. Holmes is on the left, and Watson is the speckly-bummed one on the right.

Oh, and we have pigs! A Christmas present from my in-laws, they are two bundles of mischief.

kune kune pigs nz

Holmes telling me he wants more water in the trough.

I am trying to go for a run every morning, and we’ve been down the road swimming at the lake a few times. I want to go every day, but we’ve just got too much painting to do.

I’ll post more pictures once we’ve got the carpet down and the painting is finished.

Lake Ototoa South Head.

Swimming at Lake Ototoa, just down the road from our home.

Lake Ototoa South Head Auckland

Metalheads in the sun.

We’re finally here, in the house that has eaten my life for the past 14 months. And it feels amazing. Worth every sleepless night, every meltdown about money, every backaching day.

And now that it’s over, I have projects aplenty to get on with:

  • Installing raised garden beds to begin vegetable garden.
  • Chickens! They are coming soon!
  • Spring: Planting 100+ shelter trees, ready for orchard-planting next year.
  • Lambs to the slaughter and a freezer full of meat.
  • Learning to make cheese.
  • More mead-making merriment.
  • Getting fit again using The Centurian Method. More about this soon.
  • Finishing my novel At War with Satan, and publishing it. SO MUCH MORE about this soon. You will get sick of hearing about it.
  • Going into planning stages for Stage 2: Castle proper. This is: Great Hall, Tower, screens passage, battlements … the whole deal.
  • Swimming, kayaking, walking, hiking, all the wonderful things about living on South Head.
  • Having money again!
  • Saving up for a trip to Peru with Mother Metal, hopefully this year.

So that was my Christmas break – how was yours?

4 Comments on “Month One: Living off-grid in Rural New Zealand

Y.G.
January 22, 2014 at 6:11 pm

This is absolutely excellent, Steff! I can’t wait to see the Great Hall when it’s finished.

steff
January 29, 2014 at 2:44 pm

@Y. G. Me too! I can’t wait to see it finished, also :)

Vanessa
January 18, 2014 at 7:07 pm

Wow! Congratulations on moving into your new home at last.

steff
January 29, 2014 at 2:44 pm

@Vanessa – thanks! It’s such a great feeling, as though I can finally get on with real life again!

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