So, I’m currently writing an overall explanation of our off grid setup for people who are interested, but I have some other updates for you too. As you likely read, the building inspector insisted that we put in a septic system (tank and drain field) despite the fact that all it will process is gray water (so not sewage). We considered doing this ourselves, but with renting the equipment and the time it would take away from vital chores like putting away wood for the winter, we didn’t think that was feasible. With tremendous help, we were able to hire the guy who fixed up our driveway to put in the tank and the field.

We pulled out our mini-septic that I posted pictures about back in September, put in bigger pipe to the tank, and then he came back and put in the field.

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I was really upset that putting in a 20×30 field would be an eyesore and would require us to cut down one of the most beautiful maples on the land. I went to the health department to ask if they would let us just use the tank and pump it out and they said no. They did let us put in a smaller drain field, allowing us to save all but two small trees. So, as of late October, we have a functioning septic system. The health department also said that since we violated the composting toilet permit by putting in plumbing, we have to remove our composting toilet. Bryan is not exactly as in love with the composting toilet as I am, so he might not be as disappointed that we just ordered a regular toilet. We could have saved $900 by doing that in the first place, but we thought getting a permit meant we could always have it. No such luck! If you ask me, it’s all really silly that I can’t do what I want (responsibly) with my own shit (literally and figuratively), but we’re trying to be good little citizens and comply. We ordered a super low flow toilet (it only uses .8 gallons per flush), so that we won’t have to pump water every five minutes in order to have a toilet.

We’ve been sleeping on the futon for about a week because our air mattress bed popped it’s seams, creating a gigantic bubble that was impossible to sleep around! We’re waiting anxiously for the company to ship the new bed, which is much better on my back than our fancy mattress at home… DSC_0017

This weekend Bryan put up a lot of wood and we added the heater to the yurt. DSC_0022



DSC_0027We also took a bike ride, took in the mega waves on The Big Lake at McClain State Park, and watched with horror as Nitsa threw herself into the the very cold water because it’s so fun! It’s hilarious watching her come up over the sand dunes along Superior’s shores. She’s a bit like my mom in that there is really no place she’d rather be than near Lake Superior. You can imagine both of their levels of excitement ratcheting up as they gear up for our Christmas vacation on the big lake. My mom, John, and my grandma are renting a cottage on Superior near here over Christmas, so we’ll have a happy Nitsa for sure.

Anyway, if you think we’ve been working nonstop, you’re slightly wrong. Last weekend we had a delicious thanksgiving dinner with friends and I almost squealed out loud when it was revealed what we were eating. It was de.lic.ious. There is really nothing better than everything served for Thanksgiving dinner. We also went to listen to music at a little venue in town with friends and have discovered that while Blockbuster has gone under, not so for the Family Video store in Houghton. I laughed when I first saw it, but now I’ve discovered that I can rent two new releases for $1.30. Yeah, it’s ridiculous. And you get to keep them for days! We had one of Bryan’s math homies over for dinner last week and since he’s from Turkey, this was literally the first time he had ever been in the same room with pets. People (other than very few elite families) just don’t have pets. That’s hard to imagine having grown up here. You probably can’t make it to two here without  meeting someone’s pet! In typical Freyberg pet fashion, none of our pets imagined that he wasn’t there specifically to meet them, so Xena went straight to his lap when he sat down and the dogs insisted that he throw toys for them. I guess that’s one way to introduce someone new! :-)

I know I posted on winter’s arrival already, but until today, not much of the white stuff stuck. This morning I woke up to a couple inches of snow dusting everything and a slippery drive to drop Bryguy off at school. It sure makes the homestead look magical. It also reminds me of the fact that we have no shovels, snow plow, or snow blower yet… Time to make some decisions!





they got their pound of flesh and are out of our hair

We are done with the building inspectors!

A while back I posted about our little visit from the county building inspectors and all the changes they were insisting we make in order to stay living here. A couple months and a few thousand dollars later, and we have satisfied them, got our permits, and should be done with them.

We now have a full septic system, with tank and drain field. Did I mention that we have a composting toilet? So, that system is processing our Dr. Bronner’s biodegradable soap for us! Hurrah!

We added a bathroom sink, hardwired smoke alarms, added a gfci to the generator, took out our vent-free heaters, and installed our woodstove to code. We replaced the copper piping for the gas lines with coated copper piping, and we paid hundreds of dollars for our permits to be right with them.

Now, when they came they were all fire and brimstone. They told us we couldn’t live here, that we’d have to get an apartment, and that yurts were not for sleeping in (we reminded them that state parks in their state rent them out for sleeping in, but didn’t get around to the whole Mongolians living in them for centuries thing). They told us we should have asked for permission to do these things, not waited and tried to make it right after the fact. I know these people are just trying to do their jobs. I also recognize that their jobs require them to try to follow rules that do not always make sense or work for every situation. For instance, because their code is out of date, it doesn’t recognize other ways to live besides building a 2×4 framed McMansion. They don’t have code on composting toilets, despite the fact that dealing with waste that way is more environmentally sound than dumping it into our land through a septic system.

Anyway, after all the fear factor stuff, they were willing to work with us. They gave us a by on the yurt, in spite of the fact that we shouldn’t have built it in the first place, according to county rules. They didn’t charge us the 50% more they charge on all permits obtained after construction begins (so all of ours). They were polite about my waterworks. They didn’t say we had to put in a well or stop pumping water from our creek. Granted, we can’t find a law ANYWHERE that indicates that that is illegal, though the health department would claim it is. When I went to the health department to ask if they would let us just pump our water into the tank and then have it pumped, they said no. We were hoping to save thousands of dollars and avoid cutting down trees and creating a big eyesore behind the a-frame, but no such luck. She did allow us to put in a smaller drain field, allowing us to keep one of the biggest maples on the land. But, she said she thought that the building inspector was going to make us get rid of our composting toilet.

It’s a bummer that they found our place and that we have had to do a lot of unnecessary and some downright silly work to please them. All in all though, it could have been worse and they certainly could have made our lives much worse, so I’m satisfied to have that phase of yurt life be over.