Off-grid, handcrafted life on Oregon farm & workshop

This is the full length video interview of Brian’s off-grid farm and Zen house that we featured the other day.

“Brian is an “obsessive craftsman” who believes he can build most anything in his life. On his Oregon farm he has built, or renovated, 5 tiny structures. After being told by the county that he couldn’t erect a yurt, he built a code-approved main house “to give us a place to legally stay”.

Once the main house was built, he created several smaller structures (less than 200 square feet) on the property from 90% local materials.

The farm is completely off the grid and Schulz points out that this doesn’t mean they rely on propane or lots of photovoltaics. Nearly all their tools for living have been adapted to fit the off-grid lifestyle. For his prototype solar-powered bathhouse Schulz used recycled solar hot water panels, salvaged hot water tanks (from the dump), a solar thermal window and a recycled soaking tub. Indoors, Schulz has adapted a chest freezer to create a low-consuming refrigerator (using a tenth of the electricity of a regular fridge) and a 1940s wood-fired cookstove to cook, heat and as a heat-exchanger, harvesting waste heat and thermo-syphoning water to heat up the home’s hot water.

Schulz models much of what he builds on the Japanese aesthetic and tries to make everything in his life not just functional, but beautiful (e.g. his bathhouse was designed not just as a shower, but as a way to de-stress).”

This is another great Fair Companies video.

1 thought on “Off-grid, handcrafted life on Oregon farm & workshop”

  1. This guy gets “it” on so many levels.

    He understands what so very many people miss about solar technology. That is the fact that solar THERMAL is where the efficiency is. Solar thermal is amazing. It’s like a furnace that you never need to feed fuel to. It’s cheap and easy to build yourself, and lasts for decades.

    Solar Photovoltaics are okay, they have their place, but solar thermal is so underutilized that it’s ridiculous. The overwhelming vast majority of the general population simply have no clue about the advantages of Solar Thermal. The beauty is, lots of the time, solar thermal can replace or greatly supplement typical systems that use electric, wood, natural gas, propane, oil, etc. The more solar thermal you use, the less of everything else you use. PLUS IT’S LABOR FREE once the solar thermal system is installed.

    No hauling or stacking wood to feed it.

    You may not be able to use solar thermal 100% of the time, so you still need backup systems, but what this guy has done is maximize what he can get easily and cheaply from the sun. VERY SMART.

    Micro Hydro is another amazing technology that is very underutilized. If you have any running water on your property, you can harness that energy for electricity production on a small scale. I love the way this guy covers himself with multiple systems to keep costs down and redundancy/reliability high.

    About the only thing he has missing is a simple anaerobic digester to create his own biogas (natural gas) as another option for cooking, heating, electric generation, and even transportation. That option might save him a lot of manual labor collecting, cutting, hauling, splitting, stacking, and stoking firewood. Not eliminate the need for firewood, but significantly reduce it and save him time and effort. Not to mention that the wood resources he doesn’t burn can then get used for other things like his craftsmanship, and turned back into the soil for organic matter.

    Add to that his aesthetic choices, and he really is putting it all together.

    Lots to admire about his property, but more to admire about his good sense. Well done.


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