Josh and Jo's Family Cabin

Josh and Jo's Family Cabin

Off-grid living means being free. I feel like our freedom is something that we've taken for granted for so long now.
Eric's Housebus Reading Josh and Jo's Family Cabin 20 minutes Next Tony's Bach Kit in the BOP

Hi I'm Jo and this is Reef! And I'm Josh and this is Wolfie and we're living our off-grid dream on the Tutukaka coast in Northland!

"G'day Josh." "G'day, how's it going?" "Yeah not bad mate!"

Off-grid living means being free. I feel like our freedom is something that we've taken for granted for so long now and maybe through COVID it was a time when we realised, well how free are we?

So being off-grid I don't have to worry about anyone supplying me power, anyone suppling me water. I have enough land to make veggies, plant an orchard. Just be self-sufficient. I think that is why we've chosen to do this. We're not reliant on external resources you know? We've got everything we need to live here. Everything is provided for our family you know it doesn't matter what goes on, I know that we're going to have power, we're going to have water, we're going to 
have food, and we don't have to worry about all that sort of stuff. If worst case scenario I couldn't go to work we can live quite comfortably. 

"I like this view!" "Yeah, good view to wake up to!" "Yeah even better than the 
pictures on the Facebook group." "Oh it's pretty magic yeah, yeah. Do you 
want to come inside and have a look around?" 

We decided to line the place in ply. Having young boys you know we didn't want them smacking holes in the wall. I guess we kind of got a little bit of inspiration from old DOC huts. They're pretty indestructible. The kids can ride their bikes around and we can hang whatever we want on the walls anywhere and it's pretty hard to damage. 

"And so you insulated it?"

Yeah so we found a guy who installs insulation and so we would go and get trailer loads and trailer loads of offcuts. And the insulation in the ceiling is about 300 mm thick. So it's super well insulated probably more so than a normal house because it was free so we could use as much as we wanted.

"I like these lights." "Yeah these are awesome ah? We got them from mitre 10, wired the place because we wanted to be quite conservative of the power we're using, we put circuits through so one big main circuit which we use we need lots of bright light and then to save power we just turn that off and just have these lights on and it's a real nice kind of glow and these only use three watt power so basically using nothing and it saves a fair bit of power. "That's a smart idea." 

Living off good for us, has enabled us to spend a bit more time with the kids doing the things that we want to do. You know like if we've got jobs to do the kids can come and hang out and help and having the chance to grow a family in an 
environment that we wanted them to grow up in, yeah. We wanted our kids to be running around and playing in the mud and climbing around and running chaos this has given us a chance to be able to afford to do it. 

For me it was my husband's dream but there were some points along the way that definitely made me change to being off-grid. We both work in medical and we ended up being in the thick of COVID and I think that reset a lot of people being in lockdown. We couldn't see anybody we couldn't do the things we loved we couldn't go hunting we couldn't go fishing we would just work and back to our bubble. Taking away that freedom from somebody really makes you reassess life. 

We came out of Auckland, the Health Care System there, feeling pretty tired and pretty burnt-out.  And came up here and I work in town as an ambulance officer up here and work shift work two days two nights. Try and work as little as possible just to spend as much time with my kids as I can. The shift work enables us to have a bit of time you know during the day to spend, spend time with the kids I'm not gone Monday to Friday. You know, I work a couple of days work two nights and have some time off. So that enables me to spend a lot more time with the kids but also it has a bit of a stable income.

We decided that we're going to do the bus first so we traveled around on our bus and we were actually scoping out where we wanted to live. We did the hard yards we lived in the bus with a toddler and pregnant for six weeks.

So we had a deadline which was obviously our baby Reef being born and in the last three weeks it was just absolute chaos we had a cyclone come through we didn't have windows, we didn't have a front door, we had no kitchen, we had no water, we had no power. And I think we got down to the last 48 hours before Reef was born and we got our solar system all hooked up, and running and, we got running water, and it was just like this huge pressure. I think if there was ever a point where for me I'd had enough it was pretty close to then. And I just sat here and I literally worked 20 hours a day for about three hours three days straight just to get it safe enough to have kids and a baby in the place. Yeah, I can laugh now but man it was yeah it was stress, in a good way. 

I did a heap of research a lot of reading into different things like the septic system and how we're going to run that and we didn't want a traditional septic tank system. Jo was like, she didn't want any of that like pooping in a bucket or she didn't want to be able to see poop once it's gone down, it's like it had to go! 
So a flushing toilet was an absolute must so we found this really cool worm system.

"Ah so here they are down here yeah?" "The two tanks, like a normal house you 
know you flush the toilet and everything all goes down through the pipes into the first tank and the solids are separate, and then that's the feasting tank for the worms, so then it drains through a mixture of bark and rock, and then all the fluids drain into the second tank where some magic organic process happens! I don't really know much about that but it's apparently pretty good. And then from there it goes out into a series of pipes with holes in it, it just lets it all seep out into the ground the water that comes out of that second tank is really clean it's like you can literally put in a glass and it's clean water. So it's pretty amazing system real easy to put in. All Council certified, all the tests have been done on them you know you've got no risk of contamination. It's just a good turnkey system. So yeah really happy with it."

"And so you did most of it yourself?" I did it all myself. I just had a plumber mate who signed off on it afterwards. I think it cost us about $10,000 right, but I think for someone else if you had a plumber in doing it I think you wouldn't get much change from maybe $15,000, so big savings in doing it yourself. You just got to have someone who can oversee it and make sure it's all done properly.  

Yeah when we moved on to this place we pretty much spent the majority of our budget on the land we really wanted to be living here debt free so by the time we bought the land and got ourselves settled we had maybe $20,000 - $30,000 left to build and that had to include like our solar and everything so it was an incredibly tight budget. So we wanted something that was comfortable and good for the kids and warm and dry and we just had to make every cent count, and I think all up this place has cost us definitely under a thousand dollars a square meter finished as it is now. Which is probably works out to be about $50,000.

So my daily routine is getting up getting out of the house going to play centre with the boys. It's sometimes quite a lonely place off grid, Josh works 12 hour shifts so he's gone 13 hours of the day so it's quite quiet. And also teaching the boys how to play differently like usually you're in a small space when you are off grid and you can't fill it all with toys. So it's teaching them how to play in nature. 

So when we moved on to the site we initially planned on building a big pole style shed kind of building over on the house site. We didn't have time to build that before Reef was born and we couldn't have Reef in the bus so we built this little place and it was just meant to be a temporary place just for six months maybe a year at the most while we built a bigger house. And we came out of a little 
a little six seven meter bus which was tiny and we moved into here and we're like this is awesome it's long and narrow and the kids can run from one end of the house to the other. And it catches the Sun and it's warm and it's got an amazing view and the more time we sit here the more we just go, man we actually don't need to build that massive place. We're just loving this and so we're just spending our money on things like building the big sand pit and building a bigger deck and so a lot of our plans have changed so just enjoying what we've got.

"This is cool!" "Yeah the playground for young fella. We needed a spot where we could kind of have him somewhat confined so we keep an eye on him, he's an adventurer so he'll be off up the hill or down the gully. So at least this way if we 
know he's in the sand pit he's kind of safe. So we dug it out of just bits of log and bits of Mānuka and Kānuka and smack them in the ground. And the sands from down at the local Beach and yeah yeah built a little paradise for him, complete with his own digger! And the trampoline we spend every night we spend probably half an hour or 45 minutes on the trampoline together just having a bit of a 
bounce burning off that energy before dinner time so yeah it's a magic little spot for him, and as you can see he absolutely loves it.

"And what you just cut down the tea tree and made a little fence around it?" Yeah just dug out a trench, yeah Wolfie loved it we went and got the logs and we towed them behind the Ute he thought it was amazing and dragged them down here and stuck them in the ground. Every time we went to the beach we brought a couple of buckets back and yeah now we've got a massive sand pit.

There's no tips, it's just you've just got to get into it and just cause chaos you know just get into it and just - things are going to go wrong, you're going to get the truck stuck, something's going to fall over, the doors are going to break, rain's gonna come in, you're going to get wet you're going to get cold, the kids are going to get muddy, it's just going to be chaos, and you've just got to be able to sit back at 
the end of it all and laugh, and go 'that was rough' - but we're living the dream, you know? And every now and then you'll have this moment where you know you might be walking down the track and you'll hear a kiwi scuttling off into the bush, you'll be down at the beach and just sitting there and there's no one else on the beach and it's just you guys, and you've just gotta go through all those tough times when it's really rough you've just got to think of those amazing times and 
those amazing moments you have and just enjoy it. 

Yeah so I think in building this place we built it for the sun and if there's one thing I would I would recommend it would be to make sure that your house is making the most use of the sun and the warmth that comes with it and the shelter where you position this quite carefully to protect us from the wind the prevailing winds. 
And we've got big bifolding doors that let the sun come in, and we hardly even need any heating. I think for having a young family if there was one bit of advice about your house it'd be just build it for the sun and build it for the environment you know? Just look at where your place is and what your needs are.

I think solar has enabled us to live where we are we're miles away from the nearest power lines like it would have cost us $30, 000 - $40, 000 just to 
get power to the site. And we probably would have taken power to the house site which is another 600m. Being off-grid and having solar we could put our house where we wanted to not having to worry about the cost of services to get here it 
saved us a huge amount of money and also enabled us to put our house in the perfect position.

If I was building this a second time around I think given our budget and what 
we had - there is virtually nothing that I would change with our solar. Right when we were first starting off I didn't think the Bach Kit was going to be enough for us and I rang up and spent ages on the phone with you guys.

"What made you select the Bach Kit?" I think that everything just came in a package and when you bought the Bach Kit you had everything you needed and you knew that all the components worked well with each other. We looked at going independent and just grabbing like an inverter from here and panels from here and all sort of stuff and we just didn't have the time or energy to try and make sure that everything worked. We wanted something we could just grab off the shelf put into the house and get it finished.

"You've actually got more than the four panels that come with a Bach Kit." Yeah, so we started off with the four the Bach Kit came with we decided we needed a little bit more production on those kind of like overcast days so we don't have to rely on the generator. Yeah so we've added two more and then we've got room for another two more again. It's kind of like a Lego set you can just keep on building on building on it. When we started we had to talk to Zed and he recommended I upgrade to the hybrid inverter so you've got more scope for growth in the future. So that was a really good bit of advice that really helped us kind of plan out what we're going to do. 

I was a little bit naïve I guess and then I thought that we live in Northland we're always going to have enough solar power and we added the extra panels and there were days when we got right down our batteries got down to absolute bare minimum and we were running around turning stuff off and turning the freezers off and the fridges off and it only happened a couple of times but it was just enough to go man we kind of need to have a generator. Just for those few occasions where we just need to top the batteries up a little bit and we've only used it a few times it just enabled us to have that security knowing that if we get three days of rain we don't have to turn the freezer off.

Being able to just ring you guys up and just talk with you guys and know that someone's going to answer the phone and you talk to someone who knows what they're talking about, it was perfect! It just made it so easy it was just no stress. You know it's all compatible, so yeah. I'd absolutely recommend it to anyone, it's just easy.

"And you were thinking of building a house on this location here but we're standing here at the wind is quite strong." Yeah it's not shorts and t-shirts weather by any means like it was over at the house. Oh it's so warm over there and it's so cold here, yeah it's even it's even cloudy here right now and you can see it's sunny there. Yeah um now this spot gets the wind from every angle we get it from the Poor Knights, we get the Northerly, we get the southerly, yeah it's just cold yeah. And so I think for the guys that are going off-grid you've got to spend a bit of time and just really think about where you're going to put your house, yeah, and so we lived on this site for four months almost five months in a bus and we just grew an absolute hate for this site and an absolute passion for being over there, yeah. 

"That's a good tip for people because you want to sort of park somewhere and decide whether it's going to actually be a good place to build a house yeah before you build. And how many chickens do you have?" So we've got nine running around in here um they are free range around most of the time. We had a few issues we got five and then we got another four yeah they didn't integrate they were too staunch um so they got locked in here for a week to sort it out yep. And um yeah so there's a bit of a scratch area.

"And do you get good eggs?" We get a heap of eggs yeah and in fact when we 
came here we still haven't had a chance to dig veggie gardens and so we came up with this idea that would get a heap of chickens and then swap eggs down in the community for people who have got veggie gardens they don't have chickens. So we've gathered like we've got two dozen eggs at the moment and tomorrow morning we'll go down to the local café, and a few people get together and we 
swap eggs for produce yeah and someone will swap some lemons for some avocados or some lettuce and so we've kind of got a bit of a food swap going on so our contribution is eggs. 

Choosing this lifestyle has also meant that I can be a stay-home mum that is so amazing for me so we took a long time to have kids we had IVF and it took us six years to get Wolfie. And in that time I really had time to work out like what a mum looks like and for me personally that's a stay home mum. Like when Wolfie falls over I want to be the one that picks him up and wipes away his tears and you know if he gets, like I do go to play center with him and if he gets hurt by another child I'm there we can talk it through and I feel like if your kids to just go to daycare and somebody else is bringing them up you miss out on so much of that time and like you pick them up at five o'clock in the afternoon you're just getting the grumpy time so for me just being their rock and being there and being their person and I thank Josh all the time when he goes off to do a shift that he's enabling me to be able to do that with the kids.

Jo being able to spend time with the kids and and watch them grow up and be there for them 24/7, it's just something that we really valued and not everyone  can afford to do that and so we feel we're really lucky to be able to live in a place like this and we've made sacrifices you know we are living in a house which is a quarter the size of our last house it's enabled us to live on one income comfortably and to have the quality time with Jo and the boys.

What I love most about this lifestyle is my children how they are going to grow up and I wish I could have had an upbringing like this. So they're pretty much free range they can go anywhere I don't have to worry about traffic or cars or people, so that for me was a changing point is where I know that my kids are going to have an amazing upbringing in the most amazing place.

Being able to have two young boys who have this whole valley to themselves you know they can do whatever they want we can go bush walking, we can go play in the creek and it's just giving me so much more family time and it's in an environment I want to spend time with the kids you know we're not having to get in a car and drive off to go bush walking or drive off to go to the beach or drive off to do all these things we love because we've got them all around us here. So less time driving and less time traveling and more time just feeling like we're on holiday.


Check out more of our customer's amazing stories here, or find the perfect kit for your off grid lifestyle here