Overcoming Autism, Diabetes, and Physical Challenges to Create an Off-Grid Home

by Dawn Greer 3 months ago in house

And the anxiety and sleepless nights it created along the way.

Overcoming Autism, Diabetes, and Physical Challenges to Create an Off-Grid Home

It's Been a Wild Ride Since Arriving In Oklahoma

This is my blog to explain the processes of how I went off-grid and lived with my own small, self-installed solar power system, used my own composting toilet. It will evolve into a DIY blog on how I installed all these things, how I have overcome personal challenges as a female with physical challenges, to get these things in place on my own.

I've been faced with car repairs, leaking windows, and so much more. I've learned to fire my first handgun to be safe on my own and I've gained two rescue kitties that came to my porch, starving and crying in the rain one day.

Unable to work a typical job, I've found ways to earn money from home and I work by day and work all of my odd jobs and chores around that work. I'm currently putting-off getting started on an article for pay as I write this instead, sipping coffee, listening to my beagle snore, and attempt to wake-up.

I hope for this blog to be inspiring and to show people that have physical challenges, or who live with autism, to know that they can make their own way. It is possible to live a full life and to achieve dreams.

The Way It Started Out

First of all, I found out that the neighbors at my last place (which I didn't know were there when I initially bought the lot) were extremely loud, fought with each other constantly, had multiple arrests and drug-related issues. I was completely unnerved living next to that sort of crap and I essentially raised hell with the seller of the land, who also sold to them, until he allowed me to move to a different lot.

The first cabin next to the crazy, loud neighbors.

The last straw, for me, was when one of them wandered over in a drug-induced stupor, asking me for a glass of water. I knew that it was likely an excuse to come over and see what I had, so they could steal things they wanted. I wasn't having it.

It created a lot more expense and whole lot more stress but we are moved into a new cabin, a few blocks away. The top photo is the cabin we are in now, which I had built to my specs. This lot is also much nicer. I actually came out of the deal in better shape, in my opinion. The road is a nicer, the neighbor across the road and down the street is a really nice lady who is quiet and keeps to herself. I feel safer and more at home here.

Having learned from the other cabin, I chose to have more windows for more natural light in more hours of the day installed in this one. I chose the galvalume roof to reflect sunlight, rather than a dark roof that bakes us in the summer. and I chose a bigger floor plan because the animals and I in the smaller cabin were just on top of each other. I wanted us to be able to live without killing each other. I also opted to have them install the insulation because fall was creeping in fast and I was running out of time.

Putting up vapor barrier is essential to seal out the elements and if you are using propane heating, it is essential to keep condensation from forming on the inside of your walls.

My new cabin was ordered from a Derksen dealer and the ordering process was great. The waiting was ridiculous. It was a full month past the promised delivery date. I had to spend an extra cabin payment on the old cabin and then found out I would need additional expenses such as a culvert and driveway slip. They call culverts tinhorns around here. The financial stress of moving was really bad.

Within the first week of hustling all my things and animals over to the new cabin, so we could vacate the old place (already late), it poured. I was appalled that one of the windows, on the side that the rain was coming from, leaked like a damned waterfall. Water was pouring in over the top and the bottom of the window, leaving a lake on the floor of the cabin. I used every towel I had and then turned to using the dirty laundry. I had to throw my mattress out of the way to keep it from getting drenched as well.

The wind and water poured through these cheap windows they used and never sealed at all. I had to use foam to fill these huge gaps and also caulked outside.

Derksen sent a dude out who brought his kid in tow, drove three hours to get here and spent about five minutes to put a paper-thin layer of caulk over just the top of the window outside, never checked any of the other windows, and left after installing the tie-downs that I had requested be put in.

Four days later, we had the biggest storm of the year. We had tornado warnings and straight-line winds. The tie-downs ensured that we didn't even feel a gust, but every single window leaked—even the one he caulked. The bottom of the door sill even leaked! My mattress was still on the floor and we were living in a bare-bones building with the intention of finishing it off as I earned money.

Let me explain to those of you who don't know me; I'm a 51-year-old female with bad knees, diabetes, and autism. I am a writer, by day, for websites that need content. I'm what you hear referred to as 'high-functioning autism' all the time, though autism is autism. It's a spectrum but in the old days, I was referred to as an adult with Asperger's. Now, they don't use that name anymore—it's all autism.

I didn't find out I was autistic until I was in my late 30s and it finally made so much sense to me. My whole life has been a series of events that often made no sense to me.

For example, I had no comprehension of time ever and the way in which I've dealt with appointments and schedules has been to live wearing a watch and be ridiculously early for things. It is better than being late, but I have always started stressing early in the morning about needing to be somewhere at 3 PM in the afternoon. Thanks to cell phones, I can now set reminders and alarms.

Back to the cabin...

Derksen said that they'd send that guy right back out as soon as possible. I was angry and it was supposed to rain again that week. To be totally honest, I'm not a carpenter but I know a fair bit about it. You don't choose to live off the grid if you don't have some common sense and the ability to build things for yourself. At the very least, you need to be able to troubleshoot and fix things.

I told that area supervisor that I didn't want that repairman back to my house. I use italics because he was anything but a repairman as far as I was concerned. While he was here, he tried to tell me the window leaked because the paint guy hadn't put enough paint to seal it. Seriously? Blaming the paint guy for gaps big enough I could stick my finger in them?

No, I'd take care of it myself. I did. I told him that I had zero faith that the guy could handle it and that I'd do it and know it was done correctly. I did the work and the next time it rained, every window remained bone dry. The door didn't leak anymore either.

After getting vapor barrier up, I also became aware of some other issues with the walls not being all that airtight either and I went outside just this week and caulked all the trim at the base of the walls where they met the subfloor frame and also caulked the corner trim. These would normally seal pretty well with enough paint, but there were big gaps and they have all been sealed now.

Through all of this, the heater that I ordered never shipped. Eleven days went by and they never shipped it. Sportsman's Guide couldn't give me a reason over the phone for why the heater never shipped after I ordered it and they couldn't get it to me any faster than anyone else at that point, didn't offer to overnight it, regardless of the fact that an Arctic freeze was bearing down on us, so I canceled that order and went somewhere else.

The temps were already getting down to the low 30s at night. I was huddling in a twin-sized bed, with three dogs and three cats. It wasn't fun. To use an expression that I have used frequently at this point in my life, "I'm getting too old for this shit."

Gracie (kitten) and Hannah (7 year-old beagle) stay warm together.

I decided on propane heat because I have allergies and a wood stove would have had my asthma in high gear all winter and not been good for me at all. Propane was a good solution because I can also cook and heat water with it when I have all that hooked up.

If I eventually can get my hands on a propane fridge, then I'd be in really great shape is my thought process. I've got two solar panels and they run my mini-fridge right now, but even with four deep-cycle batteries, it's rarely enough to run it all through the night. I have everything wired as 24-volt and it's been working great.

I was able to finally get a heater ordered and sent from a retailer on eBay and it is a ProCom 10,000 BTU heater that was easy to install and is currently running off 20# propane bottles. It kept us warm for the Arctic freeze that hit us the day after I got it installed. Thank goodness!

The temps dropped to 17 degrees F and we stayed at 62 degrees indoors. It wasn't even vapor barriered yet! I hadn't caulked the walls yet either. The propane lasted exactly as it should have.

For a 10,000 BTU heater, a 20# tank should have 45 hours of burn. If it is on full-time, then it is going to be gone in two days. If it kicks on for 15 minutes out of every hour, then it will last much longer—four to five days.

The method for calculating your potential propane usage is as follows:

You simply divide the energy content of the propane by the burner consumption: 91,502 (the amount of BTUs in a gallon of propane) ÷ 10,000 BTU for my heater = 9.15 (hours of burn time from one gallon).

So if you are using a 20# propane tank, there is about 4.5 gallons of propane in that tank and that means you should get approximately 41.22 hours of burn time from that tank. Not bad and a great solution for me. Unless it is severely cold, a 10# tank of propane will last me four to five days. When it is severely cold, it only lasts two days because it actively is burning almost nonstop.

Alex and I staying warm. I'm the human.

Bit by bit, we have gotten things under control. It is almost Thanksgiving and I'm about ready to put walls up as soon as I've earned the money. The insulation and the vapor barrier are keeping us warm. I've got all but two windows covered in plastic as well.

I've put together a cheap platform for my bed so it is not on the floor anymore. Getting up and down was really getting difficult for me. My knees are completely shot. I paid a guy to put a new tie-rod on my car which split a tire and then my spare too and ended-up being the tie-rod that was wobbling on the road.

I ordered everything necessary to change it at home but found that due to my torn rotator cuff injuries from last year, I no longer had the strength to get the damned thing off. I paid a guy to deal with it and watched him also struggle with it. In the end, the tie-rod got done for several hundred dollars less than if I had taken it to a mechanic.

I caution you that it is very important to measure the old parts and mark them before you remove them so that you can assemble the new parts to be the exact same length. You'll eventually need a front end alignment but by taking this step, you can put it off for a few months.

Instead of paying someone, I put my fence up in a day last week and now I can open my door and let the dogs out which is saving my legs and knees considerable wear and tear.

It took me an entire day to put up 200-feet of fencing and it made me so sore that I could have cried, but I got it done and now I'm able to hobble to the door in the morning and just open it up, let them out and then make coffee as I keep a watch on them from the windows.

I put together a compost bin yesterday and I composting my toileting. I know that sounds disgusting to some people, but it's no worse than dealing with the cat's litter box and there is no smell if you tend to it. I use wood shavings, sawdust, or leaf litter which is abundant right now in November.

Each time you go, you toss in enough of one of those to cover it. It's working great. I pee in a different bucket and I mix that with gray water from washing dishes or doing laundry, then toss it outdoors wherever I choose. No smell and actually good for the environment.

My compost will break things down to a point that they become nothing more than rich fertilized soil that can be dumped under trees, added to low spots to build ground level up, etc. If you hold it long enough to kill all microorganisms, then you could effectively garden with it if you chose to. I suggest reading the book, Humanure by Joseph C. Jenkins. It goes into great detail that I don't wish to go into here.

The bottom line is that we waste millions and millions of gallons of perfectly good water, flushing waste down a toilet. In the process, we contaminated other water supplies and create a whole lot of unnecessary mess and waste. Dry toilets and composting are far better for the environment and Mr. Jenkins clearly spells this out in great detail in his book.

I mentioned before that I'm 51. I'm feeling very old recently and due to the autism, I've got issues like anxiety that play with my thoughts and cause me stress. Lately, I've been laying in bed at night and worrying about how much longer I have to live. I wonder if I'll get this cabin finished to be able to actually enjoy it and relax a little. Concern for my little dogs creeps in too.

I'm alone. My parents passed away many years ago. I've no partner or children and I don't want any relationships at my age. Relationships only ever seemed to bring me drama. I just want to live alone and have my routines, drink my coffee in my underwear, and not care about things beyond the boundaries of my yard.

Part of my yard. I hope to have the other side, with more trees, filled with miniature goats in a year.

I've got about an acre, and want to have miniature goats by next year. Still, I worry if something happens to me, how anyone would know and what would happen to all my babies? It may make no sense, but anxiety never does. In fact, anxiety makes zero sense most of the time.

Sometimes I miss someone that I can just hug and will hug me back, but I can't say that I've felt loved, as far as romantically loved, by anyone that I've ever been with. I've always felt judged and taken for granted. I've often felt used. I've always felt misunderstood. I just decided that being alone was best for me. I'm still human and I wish that I could talk to my mom or my dad again. They were gone too soon.

I've not been eating right the past couple of months because if the way I've been living and the stress combined with lack of facilities. I'm going to do better. Tomorrow evening I'm going to go to the grocery store and I'm going to stock up on some things that will enable me to eat healthier.

I think that eating better will make me feel a lot more secure about my lifespan? I also think that if I eat an anti-inflammatory diet that my knees will feel a lot better and I won't feel like I've got one foot in the grave.

I've been on a raw food diet before and, to be honest, that had me full of energy. It would also enable me to use less cooking fuel because I wouldn't be cooking food, just making things like coffee and tea. I think I'll pull out some 'uncook books' tonight!

We, my pets and I, invite you to join us as we share our adventures, our trials and failures, and our ultimate successes, as we learn to tackle off-grid DIY issues, like creating our own water catchment and filtration system for survival. It's all coming soon!

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Dawn Greer
Dawn Greer
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