Pete's Converted Shed in Raglan

Pete's Converted Shed in Raglan

When we came out here about 35 years ago nobody really wanted it because there's no electricity, and a dirt road, you know, no mail delivery, and rubbish collection, and no services. I thought it was the best place ever!
Marie's Tiny House Revisited Reading Pete's Converted Shed in Raglan 13 minutes

Pete and Ben are running the Freedom Kit in their converted shearing shed!

Hi, I'm Pete, I live off-grid near Raglan on Mt Karioi. 
I'm Ben, that's my dad and this is my bird, Polly!

Pete: When we came out here about 35 years ago nobody really wanted it because there's no electricity, and a dirt road, you know, no mail delivery, and rubbish collection, and no services. I thought it was the best place ever! I work 
here on the farm and we have sheep and cattle and that's sort of what I do for work. Just awesome place got the best soil in the, in the country, beautiful trees 
bush all around us, ocean, great fishing, diving some of the best in the world! Everything's here, it's just a great place. 

Ben: I came here when I was about 9/10ish and it was a bit different at first from living with my mum but over time I got used to it and it was real good cuz I had the freedom to do whatever and it was like I lit fires and whatever and got to play with guns when he was around, that's sort of thing and it's good fun!

Pete: We live in here and we also share it with having our sheep shearing shed upstairs there, yeah it works good we're comfortable here. It's really it's just all open plan except for a bedroom at the end there which is Ben's and my one's on that side under the top floor, it's like two bedrooms. And everything else is open plan. This is our coal range, we just mainly use it in winter when it's cold. It heats the hot water does the cooking and heats the room up and it's really good and the food always tastes really different tastes better off the fire, than the stove, yeah.

When I came here there was no electricity, no power. My neighbours, Mark and Wendy, they came here after us later on and they got the solar power, yeah. I sort of saw how it worked and how good it was and I thought one day I'll get it cuz it's great! It's like you're independent, you're in control of it, no one else, you know, has anything to do with it and it's just a wonderful thing, we have all the luxuries that we never had before.

Ben: It's pretty good I'm getting quite into like carving and that, and I can use all 
my power tools now. I don't have to wait till when we turn the generator on. It's good just having the option there. 

Pete: Mark, he did the installation and we helped him all the way you know and it was really good it was a team effort and we learned a lot, a lot helping him doing it! 

Mark: At my work at the University about 3 years ago, we needed to put some solar panels into one of our new laboratories, where we were sort of trying to upgrade our electrical engineering program and make sure that the students were exposed to solar power. And I'd hunted around then and discovered GridFree as a great place to buy solar panels from. So we bought some there for the University and so when Pete started asking me about you know where we might get the right setups from, GridFree was the place that I went very first. And we did lots of comparisons with, you know, other systems to make sure that we were getting 
the right value for money, but certainly there was really no no question, it seems the the straightforward way of getting a sort of an uncluttered system and exactly what you need.

And so we looked around the property to sort of figure out where it might be that we could put these panels because there are trees around the house then this looked like the nearest spot to that shed which had almost unobstructed sunlight 52 weeks of the year. So we decided this would be the place to put the panels, although it created a slight complication of: putting the panels this far away from the shed meant Pete had to buy a fairly heavy cable for us to connect the panels back to the shed in order to avoid the power losses that otherwise would have would have happened. 

Pete: Well this is our control room for our, um, battery bank and our controller for our solar system. We got flasher and my friend Mark said we want an up-to-date generator, this new one we've got it's a modern one and it has computerised 
stuff in it to hook into solar power, well this controller it can be programmed so when it comes down to the minimum 48.5 Volts for the battery, this generator will switch on, on its own to top the battery up and then switch off. 

And we have the changeover switch in the corner here for our generators. We turn it right for the diesel one and left for the petrol one, whichever one we want to use, and this is the on/off button for the generator we can turn it on and off here, or in our shed where we live, yeah. We're pretty lucky all right got all these luxuries! 

Ben: My advice, maybe have a backup generator in case, you know? Being solely on solar is ah - we get real heavy fog here cuz we're on the mountain and sometimes we need to top it up. And I've heard of people who don't have that and 
it's a bit of a struggle sometimes so yeah having that little bit of backup with the petrol is alright, I reckon. 

Pete: And these batteries they're all sealed and it's not like the old batteries where you got to check the water and that - see nothing. Hopefully they go the distance I've heard that they're really good, yeah, long as you do the right thing by them! Honestly I couldn't, I couldn't get a better system, I love it, it's great, does everything! I'd recommend it anybody.

I would tell somebody wants to live Off Grid, do it! It's the best thing ever, it is!

See we got bright lights up here now. This is our mezzanine floor above our living area where we shear our sheep, yeah. The Sheep come up through the sliding door at the back here and then they come around they come around the back here into the catch pen, and this is where they're held for the shearer he pulls them out one at a time and he shears them. Yeah and when they're shorn they go down the chute down there and go back outside, Ben he picks up the wool and puts it in the press and when the press is full we make the bales and when have enough of them we ring him up and he comes with his truck and he takes them, he buys them off us, takes them. 

Yeah they make stuff out of the New Zealand wool, all the best stuff! And then when these two are full, this one comes up and goes on top and then it gets all pressed into one and that makes the bale of the Sheep's wool or or that one there like Lamb's wool. Yeah the Sheep's wool today is it's not worth anything really, it costs more to shear the Sheep really than you get for the wool, you know, it's a bit sad really but hopefully it'll come back.

I sort of taught myself and um asked other people that I knew for advice when I needed it. And they was always happy to pass the knowledge on to me and basically that's how I sort of learned to farm. Yeah and same to the water system the gravity system just sort of learned as we went. When I had a problem I'd ask, you know, people that I knew cuz you know they were they were doing it and yeah got the problem sorted out. Here each day there's always work there's always things to do it never ends, there's always fences to fix, to repair weeds to spray and you know you got to drench the Sheep at times and the cattle and get 
the Sheep crutched when they get dirty and shear them at least once a year. There's always things to fix. 

Ben: I'm making a handle for this ax head I got given. I was given it by my sister so I was thinking if I put this new handle on it I was going to give it to my nephew and um I'm not particularly good and it's a bit rough at the moment but uh you know all the practice helps. And I'm using all my new tools and that, you know, don't usually use them but I thought I'll give it a try. What I've been doing so far is using the chisel, my saw, my little ax - rough it out and then after this I'm going to go over it with a planer, hopefully and make it usable.

This is our Wash House this is our bath and it's made in 1911 it's a really old cast iron bath it's cool it's real comfortable, lots of room and over here is our um old concrete copper we had first that we were boiling our water for the bath and our bucket there we used to bucket the water from the copper to the bath cuz we 
tried siphoning it but the water was so hot the hoses just collapsed. Years later we got flash and we got the little gas califont on the wall and so now we just turn on the tap and we got the hot water.

There's our washing machine for our washing now cuz we've got the solar power it's great! We still use our little hand ringer sometimes when we've been to the beach and we rinse our salt out of the clothes. This was one of my favourite achievements cuz it was just so good to have it! We've just decorated over the years with bits of junk from the beach and around the country.

When we didn't have the electricity we didn't miss out we still had our gas fridge, and our gas cooking, and the fire to cook, and heat the water but now having electricity it's just more convenient. I've always been happy to make it work whatever with whatever I had at the time, you know.

Ben: First it was a bit of a struggle to catch up with my mates in town on that but once I got a bit fit enough I could ride my bike into town and it wasn't so bad and uh that was really the only thing and I don't have Wifi or anything and my mates struggle with that but uh it's just how it is.

Pete: I like those puriri trees yeah cuz they had the berries for the birds, the flower and the green, you know the leaves all year round they're amazing! And my old neighbour, Mr Jackson, he told me that they use them for strainer posts in the ground in they last 100 years, yeah real hard wood. And we had one down the 
road tip over a while last winter well the winter before we cut it up for the firewood and I tell you what it was like picking up lumps of rock, just heavy, beautiful wood and it burned hot, you know, like hot, best wood I've ever burnt for the fire keeps the heat.

Here's our little garden, overgrown, overgrown. But the fruits there and the two rows that are completely overgrown they they were potato they they died off just waiting to dig them now and there's some silver beet, and cucumbers, we grew enough potatoes and kumara to last a year yeah for me and him, oh we give a few away, ay, yeah to our friends. That was my old Caravan after I had a tent. I had a tent, then I got that and it was luxury to stay in before I had a shed. I help when I can on the fences and that. He does running repairs on the sheepyard and that, when we're when we're when we're working and things bits and pieces break he fixes them yeah he's a great help.

Ben: Sometimes! Not many people can just go hunting but I can just walk up the paddocks and it's right on the bush and you know go out whenever with him when it's with the gun but um I got me a bow and arrow recently and I'm using that not the best but, uh, getting better it's a lot of fun, you know. Some of the things I hunt for mainly rabbits and possums you know small game like that and if I see a pig I won't turn it down!

Well my favourite feature is the house site up there it's got great views and 
you can just see everything but what I really love about this lifestyle is uh living on the land having the garden killing my own animals and stuff you know like to get the food I'm not buying it and it's just all there it's pretty good. And and some of the cleanest water in the world yeah yeah it's beautiful water. 

Living off grid can be hard but it's the life out here in the outbacks, it's great, I wouldn't I wouldn't change it for anything. It's healthy, fresh air we love it! All my original neighbours out here they all been here since the 1800s and they all live a long time time they've all lived a long time well into their '90s, it's just a healthy life! I just love being out here cuz it's free and it's got all the space and it's just back to nature. It's just great we've got everything got everything here now we're in 
luxury we're in luxury now. 


Keen to start your off-grid journey? Check out Pete's kit here, or browse the full range!