Bultje family build a solar-powered, off-grid home at former race track

A local family has given new life to a former race track.

James and Klaudia Bultje began their journey in 2020 when they decided to sell their first carriage house and purchase a trailer.

“We made the rash decision to sell our carriage house that we built less than two years ago and bought a trailer since we didn’t know where we were heading yet,” said James.

The adventure took a turn as the family purchased a 27-acre plot of land at a former race track in May 2020.

“It was the craziest few weeks as we stumbled upon our dream property. We were beyond excited when we were told we were the new owners,” said James.

Ready to build their dream home with the expectation of connecting to power down the road, things quickly took a turn when the couple received the price for what it would cost to connect to power from Hydro One.

Klaudia said she laughed when her husband, James, proposed the idea of building a solar home.

“One day, he said, ‘well, what if we did solar?’,” she said. “I just laughed because I thought he was being ridiculous. We didn’t know any off-grid homes.”

James would soon begin googling and watching YouTube. Eventually, the local family began to buy into the idea of solar. The Bultje family worked with a local company that said it was possible and have never looked back.

Construction on the home officially began on June 24, 2020. As the couple quickly progressed with the construction plans, the house was liveable as early as November 2020, and the couple has lived there ever since.

Klaudia said one of the biggest hurdles was when they first planned to build the house; the municipality initially denied their building permit.

“That was like a big hurdle. If we wouldn’t have stepped up and challenged them, I don’t think we would have been able to do it. We kept fighting for what we wanted, which was sustainable living.”

According to Klaudia, one of the Bultjes’ goals with the new home was to be sustainable and off-grid. They achieved this goal with the help of a solar panel. The property also has an inverter to turn the solar power into electricity, a septic system, a propane-powered backup generator, a well, and a water filtration system.

“In case our battery bank ever runs low from a lack of sunlight, we have a backup generator which kicks on to charge the batteries that power the house,” said James.

In order to ensure the couple wouldn’t have any other housing bills aside from their mortgage, James did a lot of the work on his own, including electrical, water and more.

Klaudia admitted there are challenges with building a solar-powered home off-grid and said there are days when she wonders if she made the correct choice. However, she said the pros of having a cost-effective dream home make the challenges along the way well worth it.

“We just have a mortgage as opposed to having all of a mortgage, water bills, power bills, or hydro bills,” she said.

Known as the ‘Constructafam’ on social media, the couple documented the process on TikTok and YouTube, where they continue to give tours of their off-grid house.

Having recently gone viral, Klaudia said she uses her platform to educate others on her family’s experience towards building a dream home while also taking a big step toward sustainable living.

“It doesn’t have to be a shack. It could be your everyday house. I don’t think most people understand how much power they use and how much power they really need. We didn’t know until we started living with it. And we made adjustments along the way,” she said.

According to Klaudia, there is a misconception about having to have lots of money in order to build and live in a similar house to her and her family.

“It’s a lifestyle change,” she said. “Most people automatically assume they can’t achieve or attain something like this, whether going off-grid, building a house, or whatever it is. With a little bit of research, anything’s possible.”

Because the Bultjes’ built their dream home on 27 acres, Klaudia said they have lots of extra space, which they have renovated into an event space.

“We want to bring back the history of the property,” said Klaudia, who highlighted the couple has no plans to re-open the race track.

Klaudia pointed out that the 27 acres are perfectly divided by a municipal drain. She estimates her family is currently using eight acres where the drain divides and separates the house from the space. The property is home to an abundance of outdoor space to accommodate any event type, from large events to smaller events.

“Our beautiful location, privacy and natural scenery are what we are all about,” said Klaudia.

Called Timber Bridge Event Venue, the Bultjes’ hosted their first wedding earlier this year.

“It was quite the accomplishment,” said Klaudia. “We’re not officially open as we’re still under construction this winter. But by next year, we have some weddings booked. We’re grateful and excited for this journey.”

To get a glimpse of the building process, as well as the inside look of the off-grid, solar-powered home, the Bultje family captured much of the process on their YouTube channel “Constructafam.”

Bird Bouchard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Ridgetown Independent News