Higher Octave

Let’s Go To Idaho!

Wagon trains headed to Idaho
Wagon trains headed to Idaho

It all began in 2011. My wife, Mary, started a blog entitled Let’s Go to Idaho. We lived in central Alabama at the time and we decided to purchase (site unseen) a quaint cabin on Black Lake, located a little under an hour outside of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. The cabin was only to be temporary until we found our more permanent homestead. We purchased it mainly for the giant pole barn to store all our stuff.

Our humble cabin on Black Lake in Idaho
Our humble cabin on Black Lake in Idaho

Mary chronicled our journey to Idaho and continued to share our experiences getting settled into our new abode. Although the cabin wasn’t ideal, we decided to put down roots there. We really enjoyed the neighbors and the Black Lake setting.


The old KahnVurj.me logo
The old KahnVurj.me logo

After about a year, the title of Mary’s blog no longer seemed relevant, so we changed it to KahnVurj.me (“Converge Me”). I joined her in blogging.

The summers in Idaho are fantastic! But the winters are brutal, especially for my sun-loving wife. After a couple of years, we began having discussions about moving to a more temperate climate, somewhere closer to the kids. In the spring of 2013, after a visit from our daughter, Kristie, we learned that we would become grandparents. That cinched it.

Back to ‘Bama

Packed up for our trip back to Bama
Packed up for our trip back to Bama

I scrambled to get the property ready for sale, listed it, got a contract and had it sold within 4-5 weeks. It was hard to leave a homestead that we had put so much into, including:

  • complete off-grid solar system & backup generator
  • lifting the entire cabin to replace the insect eaten wood posts with a concrete & block foundation
  • completely new and expanded bath
  • excavation & landscaping
  • complete updating of paint, hardware, light fixtures & fans, appliances, wood stove, kitchen countertops & island, on-demand water heater – the works
  • a full 1,000 gallon propane tank

We made arrangements for temporary living and storage of all our stuff in Alabama. The trip back was an adventure all its own. A four day trip turned into two weeks.

For the next five weeks, the hunt for a new homestead was a full time job. We finally settled on 23+ acres of raw, hilly, hardwood covered land in the Talladega National Forest. Later, a purchase of 3+ adjoining acres would give us road frontage across the entire property and bring our new homestead to nearly 27 acres.

Project Petra Begins

Breaking Ground
Breaking Ground

We broke ground the day after closing. The mighty oaks and steep hills were quite the challenge for Terry, our excavator, and his Caterpillar D-9 loader. As Terry cleared the property, we kept moving the build site as the lay of the land became more evident. Taking into account the needs of both the house and solar array, we settled on a build site. Said site ended up being rock, hence the name we gave it, Petra.

Building our insulated concrete form (ICF) home
Building our insulated concrete form (ICF) home

The house is earth-bermed on three sides. It is constructed from Quadlock insulated concreted forms (ICF’s), including the roof. Most of the 10 months of construction was covered on this blog and my YouTube channel.


Vandiver Flip - Last one before moving to Idaho
Vandiver Flip – Last one before moving to Idaho

I’d flipped houses in the past and had some experience with remodeling and construction. But this was the first house I had ever built from scratch. We used contractors very little (septic, well, initial excavation and minimal concrete and block work). The majority of the effort was performed by us. As it turns out, building the house was just the beginning of the work. It wasn’t quite done when we moved in and some of the finishing touches are still incomplete. We were running off of generator power and the solar array still needed to be installed.

The challenges of excavation, poor soil, steep hills, building retaining walls, putting in garden beds and other issues totally overwhelmed me. I decided to take a hiatus from blogging. The last post from that time is dated 10/26/2014.

Birth of the Higher Octave Blog

Higher Octave Logo
Higher Octave Logo

Fast forward 2-1/2 years. Though there was still much to be done on the homestead and there would always be something, things had finally settled down a bit. I could finally come up for air.

I looked back over the years. We had done so much and made numerous mistakes along the way. It was (and still is) a real learning curve. What began as a blog to share with family and friends had taken on a different role. In spite of the absence of any new blogs, the site and the YouTube channel continued to get traffic. We continued to receive inquires. Many admired what we were doing, even if it wasn’t something they felt they could do themselves. But they enjoyed living vicariously through us.

I began to have a bit more time to join social media groups and forums related to homesteading, off-grid living and related subjects. Some of the same questions kept coming up repeatedly:

And many other questions, but these were the big three. And wudya know? I actually have some experience with these questions. Not just theory. Not just something I read in a book or another blog. But actual real life experience.

I also observed that many of these questions were often unanswered or answered with bad, false, dogmatic or rude advice. Even if good advice was given, it was lost among the poor advice. And as much as I wanted to help these questioners, it just wasn’t practical to respond in sound bites, though I tried. Most of these questions would take a lengthy article or even an entire book to answer.

So, at the beginning of 2017, I set out to reincarnate KahnVurj.Me as Higher Octave. This would give me a platform to answer those questions. And, instead of typing in a response, I could just paste the appropriate link from the blog. Higher Octave went through many iterations and there were many difficult technical issues. And I’m still working through a few more.

Higher Octave Podcast

Higher Octave Podcast Cover Art
Higher Octave Podcast Cover Art

But I noticed one more thing that kept nagging at me: as I mentioned above, sometimes people would receive “rude” advice. It’s not that the advice was bad, incorrect or false, but it would rub people the wrong way. Sadly, I could be one of those rude people. It’s not that I try to be rude, but unless I put forth the extra effort to avoid it, that’s how I can come across.

However, if a person can hear my “tone”, then I don’t seem to come across quite as rude. So the solution was obvious: podcasting. And now, another learning curve. It is progressing slowly. But progressing.

Introductory Higher Octave Podcast

Two episodes have already been published. More are in the queue, ready to be pressed. The outlines for Selecting a Homestead Location and Off-Grid Solar series are complete and in the process of being recorded.

So, there you have it, an overview of our six year journey towards Higher Octave. This doesn’t even include what inspired us to start our quest. But that is a whole other story (or two).

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