Craig: With the cost of living the way it is at the moment we knew we had to give away another solar kit. This is our third year in a row now and my favourite time of the year. Today we're in the Far North with Sarah and her family to install her brand new Bach Kit.
"Kia ora, I'm Sarah and this is Awhina." "And I'm Tim and this is Miriama. Welcome to our tiny house in Hokianga. We just won the GridFree Bach Kit!"
Sarah: "It was quite surreal to win the GridFree Bach Kit, I got a message from Craig. I sort of thought, oh he probably just has a question about our living situation and then when he said that he had you know read our entry and really liked it and I just like I couldn't believe it like I was just so - like a bit speechless. Yeah, I just had to go and share it with Tim straight away!"
Tim: "When Sarah got the call I couldn't see her but I knew what had happen straight away cos I could hear her. She was crying and I knew she was on the phone so I sort of put two and two together, and it's hard to take it all in in one moment you sort of you don't really realise the full implications until you know a little while later. So I sort my reaction at first was probably a little bit subdued and just throughout the rest of the day I was like kept remembering oh that's right we've won this thing and oh wow like it's just going to make life you know that much easier, kept bringing a smile back to my face and and just really brightened the day it was um it was great yeah!"
Tim: "I grew up off-grid so it was very familiar to me and I quite enjoy it apart from just being out of necessity I also quite enjoy um the simplicity of of living off-grid and um and the challenges and the problem solving that you sort of have to have in your daily life. So I always imagined it was just going to be part of my adult life. Things really started to kick off when we bought this piece of land two years ago it really gave a shape to the vision, I think."
Craig: "We're installing the Bach Kit that was the giveaway for this year. I'm on barbecue duties so just getting a fire getting some embers going so I can uh get a nice barbecue going for everybody
and the electricians are up here installing the kit so they're doing getting that done it's going to be a long day for these guys to get it all done quickly but they making really good progress!"
Sarah: "Off-grid living means to me trying to find an alternative way of doing things that is less consumerist that has a lower impact on the planet. It means doing things yourself, using the resources you have at hand um you know making something out of nothing really and being happy with less I think is is a big one and I guess
creating a new normal we're not trying to strive for bigger and better all the time. Just seeing like the prices in the supermarket and just like knowing like what are the cheapest things on the shelves and it's not the healthy food, it's not the fruit and vegetables the whole foods it's the really heavily processed food and I think I've seen around me the desire for people to grow and produce their own food as much or as they can and for one reason or another it might be quite difficult to achieve that but um yeah we're really lucky to have a beautiful example of that in some of Tim's relatives where they actually produce a huge amount of what they consume. It's really inspiring to see like other people who have these ideals and actually get to live it
out and they're like sort of they're living what they're talking about and I think we aspire to that as well. So it's really special to see
people out there that can actually make that choice like no I'm going to do this myself and it means I don't have to rely on the big business, the big supermarkets, the food miles, my goodness
how far food has to travel to sustain us."
"This is my Māra kai, my garden and I'm hoping to subsidise some of our grocery bill with growing food from home. Trying to focus on more vertical like peas there. This is actually the first time we've gardened on the spot and so it was a bit of a challenge like actually starting like digging these beds. It's quite like a heavy clay soil, does have a good amount of top soil but yeah still quite heavy clay so yeah we're just wanting to enrich the soil as much as we can and something that we have done is actually when we're digging you can see here we've dug the paths as well and put them onto top of the bed so it actually
forms drains. One of our challenges here is it does get quite wet we've just sort of thought let's try with the good drainage and see how that goes. And how long you been gardening? The last few years every time we've sort of started the gardens we've only been able to do like say like one or to two seasons there and we haven't really been able to like commit to that place figure out what works well, so I'm really excited with this new garden and we are actually starting relatively small so big sort of hurdle to this was actually doing the fence around because we have plenty of wild Pigs and Possums and Rabbits and Pūkeko we really wanted to do the fence before we started you know making things really happen in here and it does give us a lot of peace of mind it keeps the kids out as well."
"I would like to choose the off-grid lifestyle, partly cuz it's just what I know, it's just fun you can be more creative you know and you're
you're forced to be more creative I quite enjoy that I think and aside from that then it's also it's an an ethical choice as well less consumerist and smaller carbon footprint and all all those environmental reasons."
Tim: "And it's just it grows better humans basically. I think a huge resource for us is community and friends and family who are currently living this lifestyle or are striving to and are doing that to different extents and so we've got a lot of people around us who are actually just a wealth of knowledge and we can just pick their brains we're trying to achieve something or you know set up a composting toilet or what solar kit do you have you know all of these questions that people just seem to have to find out for themselves. It feels really uplifting to know we've got this big community around us who are doing life in a similar way and we draw a lot of inspiration from their lifestyles."
"For this property in particular it's a forestry block it's a huge resource actually in many different ways it's it's firewood it's we can use it as milled timber or even just as a raw material just for poles, or garden fences, all sorts of things we use it everywhere and if we didn't have it I think our life would be you know that much more complicated. I can see a few natives coming through here. Yeah, that's right the canopy cover that does exist has allowed some of these things to come up there's a lack of grass yeah and other things that would like to smother these small shrubs but up until very recently this was all being grazed still so the hope is that over time we will slowly encourage these ones through by felling a few of these big trees around it to provide more light as as well as planting a few specific species that we want to see here. Probably a bit of Kahikatea and Totara. So it'll be silly not to have something here."
"You have to be okay with failure and messing things up and learning from those mistakes so that's a resource there is is failure. So if I don't know how to do something I just give it a go and best on my best sort of judgment of the situation and usually it partially works or or it doesn't so then you know what not to do next time. So yeah just learning on on the job, basically. So one of the big struggles has been just the hand washing although I do enjoy it at times it can be like the last thing you want to do on a cold wet wintery day or the last thing you want to do when you've got a mountain of cloth nappies to scrub."
Tim: "Just having that is going to like just free up our time a lot so we'll be able to focus on like more things we enjoy like being with the children or gardening or just looking after this place. It's a more home based lifestyle, which I really love. The difficulty arises when you have to juggle home life and the off- grid life which demands your attention every day having to juggle that with going out and earning money to pay the mortgage or keep things sort of ticking along. Yeah, the ability to earn money from home would be the optimal sort of situation. So um that sort of leads into what I do for work now is I've established a small Manuka Nursery. So I raise Manuka seed from seed all the way up through to they about 9 or 10 months old um
by the time they get planted out. So that's been a huge breakthrough for us just means that I can be more centered around home and still make money."
Sarah: "And I can participate in it as well."
Tim: "Yes, yes that's right it's a family, family business. So these are my um Manuka seedlings which these ones are probably about two months or one one and a half months old. I've just broadcast sown them so there's hundreds in here."
Craig: "Gosh they grow like weeds!"
"Yeah that's right no they really are! When these get a bit older they've got about maybe 6 to 10 leaves per plant I'll take each each one of these is a cell I can I can sort of take that out and it'll have hundreds of seedlings in that one spot and I can just sort of wash away the soil with a hose just gently wash it away and that gives me a sort of a handful of of of seedlings and um and then I'll be planting them into trays like this about just one per cell."
"Man you'll end up with hundreds."
"Yeah thousands tens of thousands. So this lot here and then I've got another lot just up there together should give us plenty to get on with. We're hoping to have a nursery all set up here with about 30,000 Manuka that'll be what we're aiming for but you know there's always a few losses here and there so we might end up with a few less but you know I'd still like to think that we can get well over 25,000 seedings raised and sold. These ones I've sown them just in the last month or two they'll be ready to sell they'll be about 3 or 4 hundred mil tall and they'll be ready to sell this winter. They're selling like hot cakes."
"In terms of feeling proud about this place, you know, everything you see here is the work of our hands and hard work that we've put into this place and sort of gives you goosebumps, a little bit! Getting solar power means that I can put energy and time into other tasks and projects that I have I have so many things that I want to do, if my time is taken up with everyday small tasks then it minimizes the amount that I can spend on let's say the garden or the orchard or just improving our living situation around here, so yeah just gives us more time to focus on other projects.
"So this is the tiny house we completed it about uh 2020 yeah so I built it myself. Sort of a bit of a learn on the job. But yeah, it's it was an improvement from our last living situation, which was uninsulated there's no heating, there was no water. So having built our own place - although it is smaller being a tiny house."
Craig: "You two, two young children in this place - it's impressive! And you sleep all together in the same bed?"
Sarah: "Three of us up there and Miriama's down here. Sometimes cos it's our couch in the day and her bed in the night and some evening she says 'I'm tired I want to have a moe (sleep), go away.' Like where are we supposed to go, to bed. It does have issues you know we're probably reaching capacity, I'd say. So yeah we do have plans uh to to build an extension, we're going to we're going to put another room through these french doors, it'll just lead on into a room. The Loft is just hot, um all the time and quite claustrophobic. So you know it's quite it's quite it would be nice to have another room and just allows that um flexibility."
"Tips and advice for other people who are considering a off-grid lifestyle, don't be afraid to get your hands dirty um you know there's a sort of a certain DIY element to it that you sort of just have to be okay with and just being happy with with everything just being in a being
a work in progress, basically. So you're going to have exposed drains and things that aren't quite finished and that's just all part of the journey and it doesn't mean things are going to be like that forever but I think you do have to be okay with it at least for some period of your life. There's a real value in like being able to observe your land or your surrounds before you build or you know make advancements. We owned this place for a year before we actually moved on and we were coming and visiting and Tim was working here milling and we're you know doing the driveway and the tank and just and walking all over it. And that gave us the chance to like really like get to know it and observe and be like okay where's a good house site, you know, come on here with our friends who have also you know set up off-grid lifestyles and you know where do you think we should build our house? Like do we go over the view, do we go off the shelter, do we go with the dry spot? Actually giving yourself the time and the space to observe."
"How did you come up with the design?"
"So there's a few things, because it's on a trailer it's technically a vehicle. So being a vehicle there's certain uh parameters you have to work with and so it's only allowed to be so high you know 4.2M from the from the road level um up to the top of the roof so that sort of governs how high you're allowed to go um and the width is only to be 2.4 M wide before you have to start getting extra travel permits and you know complicated things like that. So when you're working with those dimensions that narrows the design down a fair bit you there's only so many things you can do. Having the walls this lighter colour makes it feel larger than than it is and it um helps reflect the light. We also quite like um the natural wood look so having a wooden floor some wooden you know sort of table and cupboards and then also a wooden exposed ceiling it's a nice contrast. I guess things like having here these exposed wooden beams this is native Timber and it's got
quite a retro look. We recycled the floor of an old house and these were the joists um for that so we sort of thought we'd have them on display. And then other little things like the hardware you can make a cheap job look a bit fancier if you um so I just spray painted these with a sort of a matte black you know just a can of spray paint.
Craig: "It works, now the other thing is storage. It's not a very big space, how do you deal with that?"
Tim: "We've got steps that also double up as cupboards."
Craig: "Yes, you see this."
Tim: "We have these L shaped bench seat around there and so that that's more storage stuff that we don't go into very often but it's it's just somewhere to keep stuff that we need."
Sarah: "Getting solar power for us means that more time more flexibility and just sort of takes a bit of that sort of struggle off the off-grid living so we can focus on the good things. I think there are a lot of community initiatives that everyday people would like to get involved with but they find that they're too busy or life is just a little bit too stressful or something like that and so having extra time now that we have because of this GridFree solar kit, it means that we can get involved with community initiatives that we might not have been able to. There's a lot of need around here and I think if we weren't also busy then we might be able to help each other out a bit more.
Craig: "Your new Bach Kit!"
Tim: "So cool!"
Craig: "Excited? You want to power it up?"
Tim: "Yeah, yeah!"
"So this one, this one, then this one, and it'll be running!"
"Okay here we go!"
Tim: "There we go, wooo, awesome!"
Craig: "What do you plan on running now?"
Tim: "Well we got the freezer up and running here yeah and um next thing on the list is the washing machine.
Craig: "A washing machine!"
Tim: "We are pretty psyched about that!"
Craig: "And a fridge for your beers?"
Tim: "Yeah, oh yeah yeah well you know we'll see see what I can get away with.
Sarah: "Thank you, yeah, yeah, awesome! Having this new GridFree Bach Kit installed uh it's exciting cuz we're going to be having ice blocks um tomorrow straight out of our freezer that's pretty cool and we can we can put um meat in there and and store that and get meat out of the freezer whenever we want. But also really excited for like the possibilities and yeah just freedom and yeah just be able to push that button. It's definitely going to make our lives easier and more enjoyable I'm really grateful for this!
Tim: "Darling now that you've got this washing machine what are you going to do with all your spare time?
"Oh, just sit here and watch the cycle."
"That's a very worthy use of time."