Discover the building projects fueling my off-grid living 2023 adventures.
Last Wednesday, my Great Pyrenees, Maycee, and I arrived in the woods of the Upper Peninsula of Mihcigan to begin our off-grid living 2023 adventures. In that time, I have decided on the perfect spot for the 16-foot by 12-foot “shed” to build for immediate shelter and to get us out of our tents.
After a winter of planning and gathering vintage hand tools and a few power tools, too, it’s time to get to work.
This is meant to be a going off grid for beginners starter guide, if you will.
To keep things simple and efficient, I’ve had lumber for the flooring delivered. Sunday I started clearing a new work site.
I can’t stress how much I crave a familiar, safe, and secure environment for us this year. This is a journey of self-sufficiency and personal growth. But we’ve also encountered a new villain for our Season 2 storyline: a young black bear. One that made two visits in and around the site Tuesday.
So, let me share with you many of the projects I have on the list to complete. These include projects that require completion before I can do the bigger tasks. After completing these projects, I’l be able to experiment with alternative power solutions, rainwater capture, and waste management. But none of that happens if these things don’t get done in the right order and as soon as humanly possible.
No stress, right?!
By reading my posts, watching for updates on TikTok, and long-form videos on YouTube, you can be part of this adventure and help shape the direction and success. Let’s make this off-grid living dream a reality together. Let’s embark on this exciting journey into the world of off-grid living in 2023.
Upcoming off-grid living and timber framing projects
In order to achieve simpler living, I’m opting for a series of projects to help make the work ahead easier to accomplish.
Finishing site clearing and putting up the tents
I left the UP in October, 2022 unable to pack everything I wanted to take with me for the winter. Some things were left behind in a lean-to.
Heavy, wet snow fell in the Marquette area in May. This brought down a number of trees leading out to the land, but it also collapsed my little structure. No big surprise, but in itself, an experiment. Stronger beams with much greater diameters might have had a better chance.
I won’t make that mistake again.
The snow load for structures in the UP is 70 psf. Most places in America have a much lower load demand requirement.
Cleaning up the mess took a few days, but it’s cleared now.
Where I will set up both tents Wednesday, July 12, 2023.
We have a 10-person tent Maycee and I occupied last summer. I can’t find a level patch of ground to put it up. So I have stuff under a tarp outside and stuff in the car. I’m doing what I can to keep it organized, but not having things where they belong is driving me buggy.
In the meantime, we’re staying in a tee-pee tent.
The temporary off-grid living 2023 tee-pee made by Ozark Trail.
Putting up the big tent and us moving in will be of great relief to me. But we’re a ways from that happening, even after another long day of work.
Monday evening brought torrential downpours, thunderstorms, and hail to Marquette.
Sleeping in the tee-pee that night was a little damp.
Did I mention the problem I’m having with a young black bear.
Monday I decided to put the big tent in a particular spot. With that, I also made plans to move the tee-pee.
I had a good spot picked out Tuesday afternoon.
After hours of clearing two prime sites, I then saw our little black bear friend no more than 40 yards away. I roared at him, trying to “be the bigger bear.” The ursid stopped and looked at me. I roared once more.
It blinked as if it were saying, “That’s all you’ve got?”
So I fired a shot over its head.
The first time, that got it to move. About 15 yards. Then it looked at me once again.
I roared once more.
The bear just sat there looking at me looking at it.
This time I called for Maycee as she did a great job of scaring off the bear(s) we encountered last year.
Calling Maycee made the bear take off; this time running 30-40 yards half-way up the ridge where I really want to put a “shed.”
I called Maycee once more.
The bear stood at the side of the steep incline for a few more seconds and I fired in its direction again.
This made it climb higher up the ridge. No simple feet, let me tell you.
Out of site, I set my focus on my Great Pyrenees. My champion defender.
About five minutes later I found that she’d taken off down the road toward the way out of the woods.
When she heard me honking the horn and starting up the car, she finally came back to me.
All this is necessary to tell because I’d decided to put the new 16′ x 12′ shed/cabin not far from where I saw the bear at first.
But I’d also been planning to put the two tents out there, too.
Getting our supplies inside the tents
Assuming Maycee and I do not get eaten by the bear(s), our supplies need to go into our two tents.
The many supplies that need to go into our tents.
And then I can also empty the car of stuff I’m hauling around because I don’t have the current tent space.
Making other amenities–A beginners starter guide 2023
These are tools I need to build, will post to YouTube and TikTok as I go.
The first necessity before moving forward is saw horses. I need at least two and at this writing, I’m not sure if they’re going to be made from lumber or logs. Most likely, there will be sets from both forms of construction.
But I need them to make other projects and to work on logs for subsequent structures and projects on the land this summer.
My simple workbench developed by Rex Krueger, had to stay in Montgomery. There was not any more space in the car when we rolled north.
I need to build a couple of these. One for outside projects on the new quick and dirty site.
I’ll need another for woodworking I do for timber framing, making wooden custom crosses to sell, and a host of other reasons.
This likely is going to be another situation where I have one or two built with lumber and then others that are hand-hewn logs, etc. I am looking forward to using my left- and right-handed bearded hewing axes.
A roller board
To make this I will take a 4″ x 4″ x 2.5-foot beam and put a hole through it so I can attach wheels to opposite ends. From there, I’ll add a 2 x 6″ piece of wood to each side. When I need to move things like osb 4′ x 8′ flooring, I’ll plop them up on the gizmo, and off we’ll go.
This will alleviate the burden on my already bad back, while also ensuring the tongue and grove don’t get dragged through mud or dirt.
A compost toilet
Yeah, a crappy subject.
But try going potty outside with the mosquitoes, flies, and ticks.
I’ve got the toilet seat, buckets, bags, wood chips, and urine separator already. This project also includes plywood siding, more 4 x 4s, and hinges for the lid.
A full-sized bed
The other night at Walmart I bought a blow-up full-sized air mattress.
Last year I slept on the ground in my sleeping bag.
My back, this year, says, “No mas!”
So with some 2 x 4 x 6″s I will build the supports and use more 4 x 4s to make the four posts.
Add in some timber frame-like mortises and tenons and the bed will be as good or better than your favorite bedding place.
And I’ll be sleeping in the woods in it!
Picnic table and desk restoration
The next project is to make a picnic table out of 4″ x 6″ x 8′ boards for the top and seats. I’ll likely use 2 x 4s for the legs and braces.
My desktop made it through the winter under a tarp.
The legs, nailed underneath didn’t fare so well. So I’ll be using some 2 x 4s to shore those up and lock them in place, too, with some cross braces.
Other tools I need to make to do more projects.
For now, I’m just going to list the next “projects” in a list. I’m getting tired and the rain is subsiding for the meantime.
A 16-foot ladder
A pole for Peavy/Kant
Flats to keep things off the ground in the stuff off the ground in the storage tent
Further clearing of the area
Off course, all these things also include the construction of the initial shed.
Here’s the best part, to me, at least.
I’m not going to be done with any of these things any time soon.
Well, I will be ticking them off the checklist to move on to the next project, but what I mean is that there’s a constant string of projects to keep my mind occupied and to provide video and tutorials about as I go forward.
In my post for Monday, I included information about how for now, I am posting as The Timberlander on TikTok.
I have a new mailing address:
Donald J. Claxton c/o The UPS Store
3224 US Highway 41 N
Marquette, MI 49855
Now that you know even more about the projects to come, if you want to help support my efforts, I’m humbled.
Your generosity is so special. In fact, one reader sent $100 via Venmo Tuesday night, and for that, I’m sincerely grateful.
Small miracles of support like that encourage me and also help me keep going.
I graciously receive support via PayPal.me as DonaldJClaxton and Venmo using the same.
What gets lost in the journey to get off the grid is that doing so is not inexpensive.
Sponsor a project or contribute to the effort.
If I’m doing all of this off-grid establishment work, I want to share it with you. Sponsorships and contributions help make that easier to do.
If you have a product or project you want me to test that involves off-grid living and want to ship it or become a sponsor of the building video and posts, please use the address above.
You can also use social media to send DMs.
I really want to do some experiments with solar, wind, and hydropower this summer in the UP.
Not to mention rain-water harvesting, purification, and consumption.
Gardening, building a greenhouse, and so much more.
An update on the operations, developments, and plans for 2023.
A month longer than planned, Maycee and I long for the 2023 return to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
In 2023, we tent camped for 13 weeks and 4 days on my dad’s 40 acres of rural forest land near Marquette, the largest city in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Twenty-four thousand people live in Marquette.
Upon making our return, we will resume our off-grid living adventures. Our time there is anything but a typical Upper Peninsula Michigan vacation.
We don’t spend a great amount of time visiting Upper Peninsula attractions. Of course, other than the ones in the Marquette area.
No matter though. If you check out my YouTube channel you’ll see we have plenty of adventure on our own.
The longer we are away the higher the level of “overwhelm” I feel increases.
Many things delay the road trip to the UP at present.
Finishing the overhaul of donaldjclaxton.com
Editing several YouTube videos from last year’s video cache
Finishing repair or making of timber frame tools we’ll need when we get there.
Developing some plans to use for timber frame projects to do this year.
Figuring out better ways to supply power and water to our new site in the woods.
Getting packed and on the road.
Ugh! But what about more words on the page?!
These activities also include generating a massive amount of content before we go to the UP.
I need four more iterations of myself to tie up presentations, tools, and more.
Let me rephrase that. I need four or five others who know much more than me, to work things into shape!
Donald J. Claxton emoji with me at one of my Macs, overhauling donaldjclaxton.com and creating feverishly; until there’s a distraction! Then the offender gets a special look as I continue to prepare for a return trip to the UP.
Overhauling donaldjclaxton.com by using Divi and WordPress tools.
My family and friends as me what I’m doing today: the answer is always the same of late.
I’m working on the website.
Learning new ways to use the Divi Builder.
In the last month and a half, I’ve learned that many things I was attempting to do with the site were wasting my time.
Many aspects of the Divi Theme Builder, made by Elegant Themes, improved over the last year.
Many of them while Maycee and I were out in the woods. (Disclosure: This link to Elegant Themes website is an affiliate link. If you buy Divi, I may receive compensation from the company at no expense to you.)
This, while the ironic point is, has not been, “easy.”
As with off-grid life, completing one thing requires finishing 20 or 30 more before the intended task.
YouTubers who focus on Divi.
But I have learned much from each of the following YouTubers. Thank you to all, you’ve been so very helpful.
Each YouTube channel will help you get your head around advancements to the Divi Builder.
Speaking of YouTube…
Here’s how to watch last year’s videos from the UP.
Last summer brought an increase in subscribers to my YouTube Channel @DonaldjClaxton.
While overwintering in the South, I thought there’d be much more time to get to the catalog of raw clips needing editing and posting.
Unfortunately, between learning all I can about as much as I could, I’ve not gotten to them yet! But they’re coming.
This summer, I’ll also be adding drone footage from above the trees. (Get an FCC Remote Pilot License aka Part 107 Certificate, and practice flying the thing!)
Timber frame vintage hand tools repair, sharpening, and making
Before going to the woods for the first time in years last summer, I spent an insane number of hours watching Canadian YouTuber Shawn James on his personal channel and on “My Self-Reliance.”
This also included binge-watching Trustin Timber and his Canadian modular log cabin build.
To his credit, I’ve emailed Trustin twice and he’s responded in about five minutes each time. I appreciate him making himself available like this. I really, really do.
My 2023 timber frame plans
Over the last six months, viewership of other channels has taught me so much about building timber frame shelters and small projects.
This also has led to finding vintage hand tools via eBay and at any flea market I pass.
I’ve saved tons on buying from these sources.
Tons, I tell ya!
Mr. Chickadee, the best YouTube to watch to learn about timber framing.
Hands down, the best, rugged force in building timber frame anything(s), is Mr. Chickadee. He is an ex-US Marine who moved from California with his wife to a small farm in Kentucky.
This ex-Marine has read every how-to book there must be on the art and skill of timber framing.
Sure, there are commercial enterprises out there offering incredible services, but just as Shawn James and Trustin Timber et al. are you there specializing in building log cabins, Mr. Chickadee rules the roost as far as I’m concerned. Millions of others seem to agree, too.
Mr. Chickadee includes techniques he’s learned and studied by the Japanese, Chinese, and Koreans.
Know how to do a “kerf to the pith” to keep timbers from cracking or checking as the green wood dries out?
He is the only one I’ve found in hours and hours of searching who even knows, and teaches, how to construct one, and he doesn’t even include it on his own channel!
This is not an exaggeration. And it’s the solution to a lot of problems.
What is a kerf to the pith?
Mr. Chickadee claims it is a practice from Southwest Asia. One that’s quite old.
You may not also know that there are structures in Japan, China, and Korea that have stood the test of time.
Estimates say they are 1,300 years old and likely will survive at least another 800 years.
In a nutshell, a “kerf to the pith” is a 3/4’s-inch cut in the southern face of a timber beam or post, that creates a channel for moisture to escape and not cause structural integrity or cosmetic appearances of the wood.
On a tour of the property he teaches on, Mr. Chickadee points this out, almost as an “Oh, by the way.”
But this is a BIG deal for anyone whose cut wet timber and tried to do something with it.
In fact, many local ordinances across the United States prohibit the use of wood that has a large moisture content.
Because as wet wood, aka, greenwood, ages, the fibers shrink and also may twist.
This cut to the pith of the wood provides a place for the sap and water in a timber post or beam to evaporate out of the wood near the same rate as the wood on the outside.
A kerf to the pitch reduces the chance of cracks and checking happening in large timber posts and beams.
My vintage hand tools collection.
I’ve tapped into a gold mine of treasures in regard to collecting, restoring, and using vintage hand tools.
Peavey or Kant head–just need to cut a piece of oak when I get to the UP and fashion it to fit
All of them are well over 60 years old and in all probability, closing in or exceeding 100 years.
You see, in the woods, there aren’t all that many trees one can plug into and receive power from. And, to boot, as far off the beaten path our camp sits, there are no power lines either.
So in large part, what I use out there is hand tools. And we all know today’s made-in-China tools aren’t built to last 10 minutes.
Steel and iron may be a lot heavier, but the tools I have weathered time well.
Creating plans for the planned projects for this year.
The summer of 2022 in the UP became a lesson and reminder of what I didn’t know about what I didn’t know.
Maybe you have discovered times in your life when you’ve faced this, too.
We drove into the woods last summer with limited tools and resources. We made good and survived for 13 weeks and four days.
In 2023, I expect to find write the next chapters of “More About What You Don’t Know About What You Don’t Know.”
Last year I found the top of a steep grade where it’d be nice to camp and enjoy the summers.
My plans this year include doing more to establish this site.
Sheds that measure 12′ x 16′ because they do not require permits to add out there in the woods.
An outdoor kitchen
A shower house
Rainwater capture system
Expanded solar and electric capabilities
Some semblance of a garden
Perimeter fencing to keep Maycee in and bears, deer, rodents, and uninvited humans out.
We did without these things last year.
As John Lennon once sang as a member of The Beatles, “Not a second time….”
What to do about off-grid power, water, and waste management.
As I mentioned above, the elephant in the woods comes in the shape of these three elements.
UP power sources in the woods.
Last year we began with absolutely no solar last year.
By the end of the summer, we were using a 300 Watt power portable inverter. This absolutely saved the day.
But I’ve been using the Renogy power needs calculator and come to realize that to do most of what I “need” out in the wood puts me somewhere at 5000 Watt-hours per day.
In essence, that means having a bank of some 50 solar panels to even get close!
That’s not about to happen either.
This means complementing the power load with additional sources–wind, hydro, and thermal.
Going in this direction also gets tricky because these other sources generate electricity differently from solar.
What I’m saying is you don’t walk out into the woods, plop down a wind turbine, dangle a few wires from a pole, and connect them to the same box that’s feeding a 300 Watt inverter.
So, I’m completing my plans for how to make this work.
Water sources in the woods of the UP
Water is one of the four basic needs of human and dog life.
Last summer, I made a habit of buying more water each time we ventured into Marquette, Michigan, a fair drive from our remote location.
On average, I kept a minimum of 10 gallons on hand at all times.
That worked for me and Maycee, but this also created limitations.
A couple of times I was able to “shower” by standing out in the rain and giving myself a wash.
Rainwater, even in the summer in the UP, doesn’t get all that hot.
2023 hydration and irrigation plans
Thanks to Katie and Greg from This Off-Grid Life on YouTube, I learned this winter about “ram pumps.”
Katie mentioned that they had seen a video from a family in Panama using one. This led to watching multiple videos of The Nomadic Movement.
How ram pumps work.
It’s a matter of physics, but basically, hydraulic pressure, free from the need for electricity, pushes captured running water high up a hill and over crazy terrain.
You can watch the video below for more. They’re not expensive to build, PVC pipe and hoses are probably the greatest costs.
Aside from the shameless sexual exploitation of this married mom’s nipples, (yesterday morning was a thumbnail of her in purple leggings that featured every nanometer of the place God split her), their ram pump worked and delivers water uphill. If Little Red Riding Hood’s grandma lived in their house in Panama, (not Florida) this would give new meaning to the phrase, “Over the river and through the woods….”
That was a cool video, where do I buy a ram pump and how much are they?
The DIY ram pump in The Nomadic Movement‘s video costs somewhere around $130 US to build. (Seriously, y’all down in Panama, I’m sickened by the regular vulgar exploitation of your wife, Kaylee. Stop it.)
eBay has various-priced ram pumps for sale, pre-made.
This would be a plug-and-play deal, with a little bit of work.
A couple of springs on the land in the Upper Peninsula would lend to this project.
How close they are to the hill remains to be seen. At one point, I calculated that it was 1,400 feet from one spring I located last year.
I need to find springs closer to the hill if I go in this direction.
The 2023 waste management plan
This goes beyond packing one’s trash.
Yes, I packed our trash and hauled it out.
But aside from walking around with a little trowel all the time for other wastes, well, one of the first things to do upon arrival is to construct a compost toilet.
There are still a few issues to resolve, but for the urine converter, I’ve found a couple of alternatives that will work, for free.
Life has certainly changed around here the past week with the addition of Maycee, our now 10-week and two-day old Great Pyrenees.
Wednesday we went to the vet for our nine-week’s shots. Our wonderful breeder had said she might have weighed about 8.5 lbs when we got her. No. She’s up to 16. Or was on Wednesday. She weighs more by now I’m sure. She’s clearly bigger this week than she was last week and over the next nine weeks or so will double in size and weight, easily.
We’re settling into a morning routine. The crate training is progressing. When she gets out, we head straight to the “spot” and she does her business. Then we get a little play and exercise, a little food, and then it’s back in the crate. The more we can acclimate her to the crate, using the command “Kennel” the better off we’re going to be in the long run.
Each morning we’re going for walks. The first portion of them tend to be “drags.” She resists walking on a leash, particularly if we’re going up hills. Once she’s been dragged to the top–I say that loosely, mind you, she does some walking, but she’s in large part resisting following–she walks fine going down hill. I need to be more insistent on her walking immediately to my left and heeling, but I’ve not been doing that so much. I’m going to give it a few more days.
But good for me and for her, we’re increasing the length of our morning walk. Before bed time we take another walk to tire her out in hopes of her sleeping through the night. So far, this strategy is working supremely. There’s not been any more mid-night whimpering nor crying nor barking.
Oh look, I’m so lucky, she captured the Mop.
I’ve read different tips about when and how much to feed a growing Great Pyrenees. So far we’re doing a cup of food per meal. She gets one after our morning walk, one around lunch time, and then one around dinner time. I let her have something of a smaller meal/snack around bed time.
In her crate, I found a bowl and a water spout that attach to the cage and so she can get water while she’s in there, but it’s sips.
She has several toys we’ve been insisting she play with. In the picture to the right, you will see she’s taken that to an extreme by capturing the mop. She’s done really well with tennis balls, those fake bones you can get at Walmart, and I’ve even given her a couple beef rib bones to gnaw on. This dog is SPOILED.
We’ve got the command SIT down. We bought a clicker the first week and a bag of Milk Bones treats. We’re now working on SHAKE.
The other major thing we’re working on is crate training. She won’t go in it without being placed, gotta work on that. When she weighs 75 lbs it’s going to be a little more challenging. My last Great Pyr didn’t learn to use the crate until she got older and it never worked. It was too late. And she was so powerful by that point she even snapped off some of the vertical wiring she was so strong and so ticked about being put in there. For Maycee, we’ve made it her’s from Day 3 of being here and I intend to stick with it.
She’s in there a good bit and if we leave her here, we do not make a big deal about coming in or going out in order to reduce the anxiety or fuss about our being here.
Another thing I’ve been doing is turning on Sounds For Life Ocean Waves from iTunes when we’re not here and at night and turning it up just enough to create white noise cover. Great Pyrs are known for barking at real or imagined things at night, so I’m hoping the practice of the ocean waves will give her a safety feeling like she’s still in a womb, and add cover for the comings and goings outside. So far, it’s working.
There apparently is an urban legend about the dangers of feeding dogs ice. I found a couple sites citing vets who say not giving your dog ice because it’s dangerous is nonsense.
I can go into the kitchen now, open the freezer, move a piece of ice out and tap the tray and then close the door. When I do, if she’s not in her crate, I have a white fuzz ball sitting, literally sitting, in front of me waiting for the cube. Here in Texas, where it’s been toying with 100 degrees in the daytime, Maycee already has come to appreciate ice.
My last Great Pyr, Molly, did not ever do well in cars. A couple of times she left me big presents in the cloth seats of my Armada.
Not so with Maycee. We’ve made sure that she goes for at least one car ride a day. Sometimes I put the windows down.
When we got gas this morning, the windows were down in the front seat. As I was pumping gas I heard a voice from the other side of the car, “Alright sir, what kind of dog is this sweet thing?” And Maycee had made two more friends.
I’m trying to let Maycee meet as many new people as we can, see as many new places as possible, and hear as many different sounds as possible. The more of that she can do now, the less she will be afraid of it later on, and hopefully, she will have less of a desire to growl or bark at whatever.
Today’s walk included a trek around City Lake Park in Mesquite. We saw ducks, geese, fishermen, walkers, pigeons and more.
And while I had to drag her along for the first part of the walk, she pretty much got with it the further we advanced.
Life has certainly changed the past week for us. Maycee has been a good addition and a good fit. It’s added to the stress around here a little, but most importantly, we’re finding love in new ways. In addition, we’re all walking more and we needed a catalyst like this to make that come to be. I’m quite thankful for this new, sweet dog.
God is great. Good just doesn’t say enough about him.