Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Power vs. Solar... Ummm solar please

Hello Everyone,

When we bought the property we knew that it would be expensive to get power out to our property... we just didn't know exactly how expensive.  We had a PG&E guy come over and give us an estimate to put power poles up and lines to the beginning of our property on the road and to the middle, which is where we actually would need it to get to for our homestead site.  Well, as it turns out the estimate from PG&E came back at between 40K to 60K+ just to run lines and put up poles.  That doesn't even get us power to our actual house which is about another 1000ft away from the last pole, if we came all the way to the center of the road along the property.  With this new information we really decided to look into staying off the grid.  I always liked the idea and with living on the boat for the last 2 years we were used to minimal power usage and regulating the solar/generator for our battery banks.  After a ton of research (Chris) we decided to go with Wholesale Solar out of Mt. Shasta.  They are a small family owned company that have been living off the grid for over 25 years and are extremely knowledgable and helpful.  They design the systems for the DIY crowd and are very detailed in the installation videos and instructions.

First thing we always do when we get to the property is fill the pool... this is the kids entertainment and cooling off while we are working... Kava started a new fun pool time activity by making the biggest whirlpool by going in circles... I think 1/4 of the water came out while they were doing this... Super fun, thanks Kav...

So this last weekend our main objective was to get the foundation poles set for the solar panels so that we could install them in the next few weekends.  We are expecting the shipment on Friday so it was important for us to try and get this done prior to arrival.  After staking out 3 different sites for maximum sun exposure, minimal tree removal, minimal slope and of course the least amount of boulders....  We now know that our property has about 2 - 3 feet of top soil and then we hit the decomposed granite and rocks.  We found our site and after measuring and setting our stakes of where to drill we threw the auger on the tractor.  With much optimism with breaking ground we thought we would be at least able to drill about 3 feet.   Yep... nope we got about 18" and less.  Even with Chris standing on the auger while it was drilling (i'm sure that was safe) we couldn't get any farther... Okay so time to call in the bigger equipment.  We called an electrician, John Upchurch, that has been helping us with a lot of decisions for our electrical infrastructure and he was able to squeeze us in at 6:30am to help us drill the holes.  They brought their bobcat and a 12" bit that applies 7000lbs of pressure, a little more weight than Chris standing on the auger bit, and even with this was able to get 7 out of the 8 holes dug for us...

He also gave us a tip about an Ace Hardware in Ione that will rent a cement trailer with a yard of cement so that we didn't have to manually mix and pour 80 60lb bags of cement... Ugh that would have been a nightmare.

Kava came to help us and thank goodness he had the mind set and the shear willingness to tackle one hole that the auger couldn't get through... and yes with a pick axe and shovel Kava was able to break up the rocks that were stopping the auger... weird how they kept stopping the turning rotation of the bit so that the auger couldn't get through it and Kava was able to remove them so we could use ours on the tractor to get a little deeper of a hole dug and then we used a cement form to poor around the pole out of the ground.  I guess the solar bars have to be able to sustain hurricane force winds because of their angle they can act like a sail... so that is why they are set in the ground 4.5' deep with a 12" diameter...

although we learned that our strong winds from the property all come from the south so in theory they would rise right up over the panels.  I definitely notice the strong breeze every afternoon from the south and then it is weird how it swirls around to come from the north at night...

It was also nice to have Kava because he was able to help Chris with placement and alignment of the poles to make sure they were straight up and down, straight in a line and exactly 90" and 7'4" apart from each other.... patience and a new determination to get the job done right helps a ton....

After the poles are set we will go in and measure height and cut them accordingly so they are all level...

All in all it was a very productive 2 days.  Our goal was get the 2nd sheds rafters built before we went up to the property... Our awesome neighbors/best friends came up to help us get these built in record time Friday night... Since we have the walls up we couldn't build them on a flat surface up there so we decided to use the basketball court at home... Thanks Gwen, Jeff, Annika and Jasper!

We were able to get the siding up on the 2nd shed and the solar bars in place.  Again it always seems that things take longer than expected but at least we learn something new every time we attempt a project... and thats what we love.

Next items on the to do list are to finish up the roofing on both sheds, install windows and doors and make them weather tight.  Finish installing the solar panels, build power house shed for the batteries and electrical and then run electrical to the sheds, trailer and water storage container for the pressure pump.  Then we can start thinking about getting the land ready for planting and irrigation for planting.

Again, the sunsets never cease to amaze me and I so appreciate that time... Have I said that before????

Hugs and Love,


Walking home to the trailer after the sun went down.....

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Sheds, sheds, sheds....

Hello Everyone,

It is amazing.....When you lock your keys in the trailer and the only one that can fit through the tiny window is swimming in the buff.....

Hello Everyone,

Time is flying by and instead of heading the warning from a few that we should observe the property for a year before we begin breaking ground... we just can’t wait.  We truly love it up there and are so at peace that it is hard to wait.  Our goal is to get the land developed just slightly above glamping so that it is comfortable to stay for a weekend and bring some friends/family to enjoy it with.  

After school got out Alexia wanted to take a few friends up camping since they hadn’t been before.  The girls had a great time hanging out literally in the stock tank since it was 104 degrees the 2 days we were there.  I also brought a friend for Amaia and Alina up so it truly was a girls weekend.  I was able to do some tractor work that needed to be done and also get the foundation railings leveled and set for us to start building the shed when we got up there on the 4th.  

We also came back with a new member of the family.  I went to the feed store to get Amaia some cowboy boots for her birthday and she came out with a stetson hat and a new kitty.  Alexia found him first and since he has a moustache there was no way we were going to leave him there.  The kids have named him Sir Gunthar... but Chris and I call him Pedro.

We have decided that in order to do this we needed to have a few sleeping/kids cabins, a civilized bathroom facility, a hot and cold water shower, and power.  

We have started to build our sheds they are 10’ x 12’ with little porches.  We purchased the blue prints off of the internet from and they have been really helpful and the plans are incredibly detailed and easy to follow.  

We headed up to the property for the 4th of July week with a goal to get one shed done and the other started.  We arrived on a friday to receive the shipment from Meeks Lumber Supply so that we could begin first thing Saturday Morning.  

I of course thought it would be much easier and high hopes in getting both sheds completely built... LOL.  Chris on the other hand had read through the blueprints and studied what needed to be done and had a more realistic timeline in his head.  Not only was it just Chris, myself, Tristan and Alexia to build these but the temp was also an average of 100 degrees and in the dirt and dust it seems to get much hotter.  By the end of the day Chris and I were pretty exhausted from the heat.  It was quite refreshing to have our little stock tank to dip in with the ice cold well water.  

When we first got to the property the little girls ran to the pool and realized that since we didn’t drain it before we left, it became a frog oasis habitat.  They had the best time collecting and playing with all these little guys while I unpacked the car and the big kids got their tent set up.  

Saturday morning thru Monday night all we did was build, build, build.  It was super helpful having all the kids help us in each step of the process.  Everyone took a part when they could and we couldn’t have done it without them.  

Along with building the sheds we also had a few visitors to complete some of the other jobs and get quotes on new ones to do.  Allen Epperson our excavation guy came by to help us snake some electrical lines all throughout the conduit from all the future camping sites, solar power shed site and the well.  We also were able to get a water truck and a load of a truck of 3/4 cleaned rock laid on the driveway so when you drive there isn’t a cloud of red dust that follows you down the road.  

The kids busied themselves between helping us with a ton of reading, music, riding bikes, catching frogs and playing in the pool.  They also took many naps through out the day.  

It reminded me of our time on the boat.  Since we don’t have good cell reception it forces the kids to get off the electronics and find other things to do.  They turn to their kindles and just read read read... 

4th of July weekend we were able to get one shed up and the walls of the next... It is so nice to be able to physically see change and the vision of our garden area dreams beginning.  Ultimately what I am envisioning are 3 sheds that will be completely finished on the inside for sleeping, fire pit, covered outdoor kitchen and lounging area, raised beds and water features... but lets take one step at a time...

We also finally got our temporary outdoor shower built... It is so nice to be able to shower after a dusty long day of working in the sun...

As always my favorite part of the day is sitting back and watching the sun go down... Listening to the silence of nature...

Hugs and love,


Saturday, June 10, 2017

Slow and steady progress

Hello Everyone,

As always it has been a busy few weeks.  Trying to keep up with the speed of my husband and his multitasking is sometimes like hanging on to the tails of a hummingbird for dear life.  It seems these days that I am asking him for my to do list and I usually get one or two tasks and then he lists off his multitude of accomplishments for the day... not only his full time job, but also keeping track of decisions to make on the property.  This involves learning all that is needed to make a educated guess in a short amount of time (an hour) as to setting up our infrastructure for the next 20 years... and trying to plan out our stages of development without wasting 1000 feet of trenching and irrigation or conduit because we are going to need to change locations.... solar, water, driveways that can't be undone... 

At some point Chris and I thought... this is typical Tzortzis fashion... go in like a bull in a china shop and just get'er done... Maybe we should take a moment to really try to plan this out... it is just hard when you don't know enough about solar and how far you can run the lines before you get the amperage drop and then you have to increase your wire... but wait the conduit we ran now isn't big enough to hold the cable... so, again in typical Tzortzis style when you don't know just throw in the commercial grade size piping so you don't have to worry... unless of course it was all laid in the wrong spot... UGH!

So what we decided to do of course is to get the initial roads or driveways in for the well rigger and us to get our trailer set up... done!  The mose important thing was to first get water... We don't have septic yet... hopefully in August or September but for now we have made other arrangements.  We decided to get the portable toilet... and a pop up tent... 

 and then we made our camp site and finished off the fire pit with a few yards of gravel around the base... since the water wasn't done yet we just had a baby campfire in an enclosed ring....

We were able to have a wonderful weekend on the property and hanging out.  Oma came up and stayed with us and helped us do a bunch of work.  That woman I swear.  I always forget that she will be 80 next year.  I think she alone spread half of the 20 yards of sand on the beach volleyball/badminton court we were making.  Of course it was the first thing we tackled so after a hard days work we could enjoy a family sunset game... and we got the glow in the dark birdies with LED lights... so the game can go on... and on... and on... 

Kava and Rel were able to come up for the day and visit and check out the property.  It was so fun sharing it with him and being able to show him what we had in mind and where we wanted to put our wedding venue barn, orchards, ag barns, zip lines... driving green... you know the fun stuff.  He had fun driving tractor... and had some stow aways... but not the safest so won't do that again.... 

We also had some surprise visitors .... so fun.  Since we don't get cell reception up there we didn't know that our friends Katia/Andy and Joycie decided to make the 2 hour trek to come and sit in the creek with us for an hour and then drive home... it was a wonderful surprise.  Of course they were greeted with Amaia and her new found friend that stayed on her head for a few hours... She just loves the toads and lizards out there.  Katia made this little collage for us.

Super good news on the well.  We are so fortunate.  We struck water thanks to Hunt Drilling and our magic water finder guy from Oregon.  We decided to not use the switch witch guy to find the water but ended up using Tim from Oregon that carries more sophisticated water finding equipment.  We knew there was water below us but what we needed to find were the cracks in the granite in order to not have to drill through 400 feet of solid granite.  Also they say you need to find the split in the rock because that is where the water is forced through and you get more water pressure for your well.  

We hit the jackpot.  A typical good well is between 30 and 40 gallons a minute...  He was able to find the split and went 420' for 100 gallons a minute. We are so thrilled and excited for this.  With water our opportunities are endless.  

Allan with Epperson Excavating is up at the property now installing our 2600 gallon storage tank and running conduit and pvc to connect the well, tanks and make four running faucets for our trailer, 2 campsites and for the outdoor showers we are going to install.  We will buy an instaheat for hot water and connect with a propane tank.  He is also grading for footprints for our 2 10x12 bunk sheds (blue prints bought by we will build for the kids and guests.  We will put a queen and a twin on top in each to allow for a multitude of combinations... plus floor space.   We have received the materials list from the local lumber company and will have it all delivered the week prior to fourth of July.

Of course with the weather beginning to get hotter up there and the creek drying up because it is only seasonal.... I had to come up with another plan for the kids to cool off.  Sooooo I ordered the cowgirl pool.

What more could you ask for... that is until we figure out where to put our nature pool/pond.

So after the 4th week we should have a little bit better idea of a glamping site.

 I am just looking forward to having the ability to have a shower on the property.  With all those new dusty roads and tractor driving you get a little dirty op there.  Then of course to go sit in my chair and watch another amazing sunset.

Hugs and love,


Thursday, May 18, 2017

Moving in.......

Hello Everyone,

Happy belated Mother's Day to all you fabulous, amazing, incredible mothers out there.  For our Mother's day we started off the morning with a wonderful 10 mile hike with Tristan's boy scout troop.  Tristan and his friend were in charge to lead the trek.  It is a wonderful beginning to the day.  Kava and Ariel were able to join us with their dog Ruby so Bula would have a friend to tag along with.  Kava and Rel hiked with the old woman the whole way.  Well I ended up peeling off a little early so that I could go get the trailer ready and buy lunches for our picnic.

I am having the best time and get the biggest kick out of all the new people we are meeting and how wonderful the community is up there.  I think I have mentioned in the past but I can't say enough how amazing it is to talk with the most random people up there and discover how interconnected and the history they all have with each other.  I know it is a small town but the people there have connections that span back to the gold rush days and their grandparents or as they say "relations" coming over on wagon trains and helping the settlers bring lumber down from the saw mills drawn by horse and cart...

It seems that we have stepped back in time.  If you have read Stephen Kings, 11/22/63, you will know how I feel.  Chris and I have been talking to a number of people about getting work done on the property, advice for development, insurance, and getting supplies delivered.  When I first started calling around I spoke to a farmers insurance agent out of Jackson, which is about 15 miles from our property.  We ended up talking about how his grandparents names are Veautaw and they came over with the gold rush and the road we are living on "Votaw" is named after them and they have relations all over the county.  Chris and I are looking to get gravel and sand delivered to the property for the volleyball court and to layer for the driveway to help prepare for the winter and keeping the dust down.  So I called Kenny at plymouth sand and gravel and was explaining where it would need to be delivered and he said, "Oh Herb's old place, the sheep shed.  I used to go up there and help with the sheep and repair fences and hang out with him."  Then he explained that he doesn't have road base and so I should call Mitch to get both delivered and that he knows Mitch will get the sand from him and then the road base gravel from someone else.  In talking to Mitch he also used to go up to the sheep shed and play in the creek and roam the property and help with the sheep.  I guess the Farnham's (who we bought the land from) used to own a ton of acres up in the Plymouth and Fiddletown area... Rob Farnham's Uncle used to own the saw mill up in Fiddletown and the road that they wagons would use to transport the lumber to the gold mines and connected Fiddletown to plymouth in the gold rush days went right past our property.   I am just loving talking to all these guys and finding the small connections they all have.

It is refreshing to hear the old fashioned good ole neighbor network and the systems they put in place to make sure everyone gets their share of the work.  Also, everyone operates by snail mail and either cash or check still.  I asked Mitch how can I pay you and he says, "Well I live right around the corner from you.  Just go on past the walnut grove, past the little vineyard, down the dip, cross the creek and then on the right will be a pipe fence painted white... go on down the driveway and my wife Donna will be there... just go on and hand her a check."  No street address needed.  I am sure I will find it. Hee Hee.

I have been looking forward to this day for awhile.  We were able to get our eye sore trailer out of the driveway here in Lafayette and moved up to the property.  I think she is really happy up there... I can't wait to join her over memorial day weekend.

We had a great time playing on the tractor,

getting the trailer all balanced and set up

Tristan exhausted or just bored.. not sure which.

and then playing a little imaginary volleyball and badminton on our new court.  I am having a bunch of sand delivered today so that we can spread it for some play time on memorial day weekend.

Alina loves playing in all the dirt mounds left behind when the roads were cut out and the volleyball court was made.

Gotta have a few swings to hang out in.   

Alexia and Tristan love driving the truck around the property....

One of the best spots on the property is on top of a little knoll with a large oak tree and some granite... It faces the west and overlooks the vineyard.  This particular spot grabbed my attention immediately.  I couldn't wait to put a bench and some adirondack chairs and a little table and sit there and watch the sunset.

And then Monday was the Boy scout Mother's Day tea where the boys bring you flowers and serve you tea and cookies and then stand up in front of everyone and say how much you mean to them and why they love you.... most of the boys say they love their mom's because they feed them excellent food, drive them everywhere and do their laundry.... Hmmm... sounds like we need to do less for these little treasures.  The things we do for all of our kids.

Hope all is well and hugs to everyone,