Some people may not know what off-the-grid or off-grid means, so here it is --- The term off-the-grid
or off-grid refers to living in a self-sufficient manner without reliance on one or more public utilities.

Off-grid living is no longer a one room log cabin in the woods. It's energy independency.
You don't have to rely on utility companies, you create your own power.
Today, there are more than 180,000 off-grid homes in the US.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Self-Sufficient Living - Root Cellars...

12:13 pm - 48 degrees - light rain and fog...


You stroll out in to the garden, picking ripe fruits and vegetables, knowing that come February you’ll still be enjoying their freshness.  For those of us attracted to the romantic aspects of self-sufficient life, this is an appealing scenario and one that we’re seriously looking into.  After searching the internet and Pinterest – this is what I found out...

{photo source: pinterest.com}

Root cellars, the ancient technology that enables the long-term storage of your garden’s bounty, are currently experiencing a rediscovery, but not merely because of the pleasures of eating self-grown food, but also because of the actual possibility of reducing expenses and providing for significant food storage in times of potential trouble.

Here is a little history on root cellars... Native Australians were the first people to take advantage of the cooling and insulative properties of buried foodstuffs in the earth.  Records indicate that over 40,000 years ago they grew large amounts of yams and developed the technique of burying their produce in order to preserve it for future use.  In the process, they also discovered the phenomenon of fermentation, and ever since, alcoholic beverages have been a large portion of those products stored in underground repositories.

Underground storage facilities from the Iron Age have been discovered, and the Etruscans commonly buries their immature wine, but the actual use of walk-in root cellars as a means to prolong the freshness of fruit and vegetable crops was probably an invention that occurred in 17th century England.  It might seem surprising that the great civilizations of China and Egypt did not develop root cellars, but the Chinese were the masters of food preservation via salting, pickling and the additions of spices; the Egyptians, residents of an arid environment, were the masters at drying food.  It took the right combination of cool winters and hungry Englishmen to finally invent the concept of root cellars.

Early American root cellar.  {photo source: pinterest.com}

Certainly the most notable practitioners of root cellar arts were the early colonists that arrived in North America from the United Kingdom.  The eastern halves of America and Canada contain thousands of old root cellars, and the small Newfoundland town of Elliston actually claims the title of “Root Cellar Capital of the World,” and boasts of over 135 root cellars, some dating back 200 years.

What exactly is a root cellar?  A root cellar is a structure built underground or partially underground and used to store vegetables, fruits, and nuts or other foods.  The basis of all root cellars is their ability to keep food cool.  They were, essentially, the first refrigerators.  A well-insulated root cellar can keep the food inside 40 degrees cooler than the summertime temperatures outside.  This coolness also has benefits during the winter, as maintaining food at a temperature just slightly above freezing has the effect of slowing deterioration and rot.  Temperatures inside the home, even in basements, are noticeably warmer, so food stored inside the house have a tendency to spoil much more rapidly than food stored in a cooler root cellar.  Temperatures above 45 degrees F cause toughness in most stored vegetables, and encourage undesirable sprouting and considerably more rapid spoilage.


The temperature in a root cellar is never uniform.  The temperature near the ceiling is usually 10 degrees warmer than elsewhere in the cellar, so the ceiling area is therefore appropriate for placement of produce that tolerates warmer temperatures well, such as onions, garlic, and shallots.

What can you plan on storing in your root cellar once you build it?  Certainly, many of us probably have visions of root cellars in the 19th century, packed with bushels of apples and sacks full of potatoes.  Today’s root cellars are really not much different, and potatoes and apples are two eminently storable garden products.  But the problem with that pair is that they don’t really go well together.  Apples have a tendency to emit ethylene gas, which causes problems for potatoes stored nearby, and will also make any exposed carrots or other root crops bitter.  As a matter of fact, many fruits, including plums, pears, and peaches, and some vegetables, such as tomatoes, cabbage and Chinese cabbage, are also notorious ethylene producers.

Luckily, there are ways around this problem.  A good root cellar has a variety of shelves, some higher than others, and some closer to the air vents.  Placing the ethylene producers up high and nearer the exit vents has a tendency to move harmful gases away from produce stored on the floor below.  Many root crops are also regularly stored in boxes of loose soil or sawdust, further insulating them from their neighbors’ emissions.  Some produce, like cabbages and onions, often emit odors that can taint the flavors of other vegetables, as well as fruits, so finding high, remote corners for these pungent items is a good idea too.

One of the key control features of a root cellar is the set of air vents that allow air to enter and exit the cellar.  These vents not only allow a greater amount of temperature adjustment than available to a static space, but the air circulation can also be a valuable tool to deal with the ethylene gases and odors produced by a mixed assortment of fruits and vegetables. 

Inside the cellar, the arrangement of shelves should allow for generous distances between them.  The shelves should also be kept a few inches away from the walls to encourage greater air circulation.  Materials placed on the floor should be raised a few inches by small blocks or racks.

The down side to root cellars at the pests.  Rodents are the single most common pest problem for food stored in root cellars.  Installing metal wire mesh in common entry points, such as open vents, is a good idea, as is a frequent trapping program.  The next most vexing problem for stored food is plain old rot.  The saying that “one rotten apple with spoil the lot” is quite true in this situation, so care should be taken to remove any spoiling produce or other foodstuff.  In general though, the lower temperatures will combat the mold and bacteria problems that are common in warm, wet conditions.

{photo source: pinterest.com}

{photo source: pinterest.com}

{photo source: pinterest.com}

Food You Can Store In Your Root Cellar

APPLES – store at 32 degrees – 90-95 percent humidity – shelf life: 2-7 months depending on variety

BEANS (dried) - store between 50-60 degrees – 60-70 percent humidity – shelf life: 1 year

BEETS - store at 32 degrees – 90-95 percent humidity – shelf life: 3-5 months

BROCCOLI - store at 32 degrees – 90-95 percent humidity – shelf life: 1-2 weeks

BRUSSEL SPROUTS - store at 32 degrees – 90-95 percent humidity – shelf life: 3-5 weeks

CABBAGE - store at 32 degrees – 90-95 percent humidity – shelf life: 3-4 months

CARROTS - store at 32 degrees – 90-95 percent humidity – shelf life: 4-6 months

GARLIC - store between 50-60 degrees – 60-70 percent humidity – shelf life: 5-8 months

JERUSALEM ARTICHOKES - store at 32 degrees – 90-95 percent humidity – shelf life: 1-2 months

LEEKS - store at 32 degrees – 90-95 percent humidity – shelf life: 3-4 months

ONIONS - store between 50-60 degrees – 60-70 percent humidity – shelf life: 5-8 months

PARSNIPS - store at 32 degrees – 90-95 percent humidity – shelf life: 1-2 months

PEARS - store at 30 degrees – 90-95 percent humidity – shelf life: 2-3 months

POTATOES - store between 40-45 degrees – 90-95 percent humidity – shelf life: 4-6 months

PUMPKINS - store between 50-60 degrees – 60-70 percent humidity – shelf life: 5-6 months

RUTABAGAS - store at 32 degrees – 90-95 percent humidity – shelf life: 2-4 months

SQUASH - store between 50-60 degrees – 60-70 percent humidity – shelf life: 4-6 months

SWEET POTATOES - store between 55-60 degrees – 60-70 percent humidity – shelf life: 4-6 months

TOMATILLOS - store between 50-60 degrees – 60-70 percent humidity – shelf life: 1-2 months

TOMATOES - store between 50-60 degrees – 60-70 percent humidity – shelf life: 1-2 months for green; 4-6 months for varieties intended for winter storage


TURNIPS - store at 32 degrees – 90-95 percent humidity – shelf life: 4-6 months

First Flower Of Spring...

10:01 am - 46 degrees - raining...

White Trillium

Friday, March 28, 2014

Help for Oso...

11:23 am - 43 degrees - raining...


Last Saturday, March 22 at 10:37 am, there was a horrific landslide in the small town of Oso, Washington, covering an area of approximately 1 square mile.  The mudslide engulfed nearly fifty properties, dammed the Stillaguamish River causing extensive flooding upstream, and blocked Highway 530.  The recovery of bodies is still ongoing.

We’ve been listening to stories coming out of the area.  They are in desperate need of so many things – right now the focus is on recovery, and the firefighters, the National Guard, and the relatives and friends of those lost are in need of simple supplies.

Will you help shed a bit of sunshine on this little town as they try to put their lives back together again?  I know that whatever is raised will be put to good use, however it is allocated.

Here’s how we can help:

RED CROSS:  American Red Cross workers have been providing food and shelter to residents, families looking for loved ones and first responders affected by the slide.  They have established two shelters - one in Darrington and the other in Arlington, these shelters have acted as a meeting place for families.  The Red Cross is also taking donations.  People can call 800-733-2767 to donate or text “RedCross” to 90999 and $10 will be charged to their phone bill.

ADDITIONAL ASSISTANCE:  The city of Arlington posted on its website that a disaster relief account for slide victims has been set up at the downtown Union Bank through Cascade Valley Hospital Health Foundation.  Online donations can be made {click here}.  Also, the Washington state Combined Fund Drive has launched a special campaign to help victims {click here}.

{photo source: KATU news}

Off-Grid Living - Wood Stove...

10:51 am - 42 degrees - raining...

Generating heat is always a major challenge when living off the grid, and the number one way to do it, is with wood. 

Once our home is completed, we will have two main heat sources – concrete radiant floors and a wood burning fireplace.  While we’re in the building stage, our main heat source for keeping our home warm in the cold seasons, which is usually September through May, is a wood stove in our main living area.  

In addition to heating our home, the wood stove also heats all our water for doing the dishes, taking baths, and we even cook on it.

Multi-purpose wood stove... heating our home, heating a pot of water
to do the dishes while cooking a cheese quesadilla.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Hike To The Falls...

10:31 am - 47 degrees - a few scattered clouds...

There are waterfalls all over this mountain, and yesterday we hiked down to one of them using animal trails and sometimes blazing our own trails. 


Spring really is here!
We found a White Trillium that's almost about to bloom!

Even Tabby (one of our three cats) came along for the hike.






Even though we had to blaze our own trails, and the logs that Tony and I were able to step over which the kids had to climb over, we all had a lot of fun and enjoyed our family time together.  What a perfect day!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Spring Cleaning...

10:44 am - 44 degrees - sunny...

Spring cleaning ironically is not as necessary as it once was.  Back in the olden days, spring cleaning was a much different concept then it is today.  This cleaning was a necessary routine because of how they had to heat their homes and keep them lit.  Using kerosene, wood, gas, oil, and candles caused the house to develop dark sooty grime around it.  This grime created the need for a deep cleaning of the home.  Their deep cleaning restored the beauty of the home and also gave them the opportunity to get out the lighter linens, rugs and furniture that they used during the warmer seasons.  Not only did they divulge in spring cleaning, they also did fall cleaning as well to prepare them for the cold season of winter.


Today we do not have the need to do spring cleaning although in many families it is a ritual that brings about peace and renewal in our homes after an entire day or week of intense cleaning.  In this day and age, however, it is hard to be able to set aside that much time to get all of these tasks done.  Our schedules and days are so full that it’s hard to devote more than the few hours necessary just to keep our home running smoothly.

Instead of doing one deep cleaning I have vowed to “spring clean” four times a year – once every season.  I will go through closets and reorganize, donate what we haven’t used in awhile or set it aside for a summer garage sale, wash windows inside and out, clean out my fridge and pantry, etc.  A few things that make my “seasonal spring cleaning” go a little easier are: 

  -  Checklist – I make a list of everything that needs to be done.  It may be a little overwhelming when you first see that long list, but it motivates me as I see the list shrink.
  -  Cleaners – I take an inventory of my cleaners and the tools that I will need in order to accomplish all of the necessary cleaning.  Nothing is worse then getting ready to do your task and then finding out that you are missing that one component needed to complete the task.
  -  Clutter – I don’t care for clutter very much.  There was a time when I used to want to fill my home with loads of stuff.  Now I look at everything as one more thing to dust and care for.  If I don’t like to dust it, don’t love the item, it doesn’t have a proper home in the home – it’s gone… trash, garage sale or donated!!
  -  Cleaning Caddy – I keep a caddy of cleaning supplies on each floor.  I find it much easier to clean my house when I know that the tools that I need to accomplish my task are just a few steps away. 
  -  Schedule It – Sometimes life is going by so quickly that you loose track of time.  It sounds silly, but don’t you remember your appointments and engagements better when it is written on your calendar?  It is hard to ignore scheduled tasks in glaring print.
  -  Helpers – The kids and hubby can be active participants in getting the home organized just like they help to contribute to the clutter.  Involving the family can be beneficial in showing them all that you do to keep the house running smoothly.  Although I will admit that sometimes, it is just faster if I do it myself.

Along with the changing of the seasons, come time to "Spring Clean"… our house could use it too!  It seems to be overflowing right now.  Tools are everywhere, since we are still in the ‘construction phase’.  We also have some stuff here that is not necessary at the moment and could go back into storage for the time being.  So today we will be working around the house "spring cleaning" and we might even sneak in a hike later today also.


So... what kind of ‘Spring Cleaning’ do you do?

Spring Is Here...

10:34 am - 47 degrees - sunny...

The relentless winter of 2014 continues for much of the U.S., but there is at least some hope (even if it’s only symbolic) for warmer weather – March 20th marked the spring equinox, which signals the end of astronomical winter in the northern hemisphere.

Of course here on the mountain spring was ushered in with a light dusting of snow.

On the bright side (literally), the sun is up for more than 12 hours now, so it’s only a matter of time before spring arrives in earnest!

I’ve already started day dreaming about the warmer days, the start of everything turning green, the fading of the long winter, and getting together with friends and family and firing up the grill. 


We woke up this morning to a blue sky and sunshine!  Knowing that spring has officially arrived, there is now light at the end of the tunnel...and Mother Nature has taken the hint – this weekend is going to be gorgeous!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Questions and Answers...

8:51 pm - 44 degrees - light breeze...


We get a few comments and questions posted on our blog but for whatever reason we get way more that are emailed to us.  So here is another round of Questions and Answers…

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I just found your blog through Facebook and I LOVE it!!! 
I ended up spending an entire afternoon reading every one
of your posts.  I have noticed that you have slowed down
on blog posts lately and I was just wondering why that is?


Thank you!  We have received numerous questions as to why my posts have slowed down and to be honest, we have just been really busy with life off the mountain.  Tony has been busy at work, working a lot of overtime and working on our rigs.  I have been busy with our kid’s school, Girl Scouts and other random things. 


Things are starting to slow down (for the time being at least) so we have been spending the last week and a half planning and researching.  We have a lot of work to do around here, on the house and in the yard and we want to get as much as we can accomplished.  We have to hook up the windmill, hook up the power system, do some work on the house, burn some huge brush piles, move several large piles of stumps, the garden area needs to be prepped, laid out and planted, and I really want to get honeybees and a new batch of chickens which will need a new chicken coop.  In order to get as much as we can accomplished in a very short window of nice weather, we are trying to get everything organized and make a plan of what needs to be done in what order.  In the meantime, I will try harder to write more blog posts.


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Generating your power through gas generators,
is it not more expensive to your pocket than
the electricity from your town? 


Over the last several months we have had several good wind and ice storms come through which caused numerous homes to lose power.  Since we’re not hooked up to the local power grid and we have our power system we never lost power.  It was nice.


Since our power system is not completed yet, we do burn through quite a bit of gas running the generator.  When we compare it to our friend’s electricity bills, our gas generator is still the cheaper route.


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You don’t have an electricity source in your locality? 
The administration of your town should take steps
on this matter.


The closest power lines are about 7 miles away.  It is too expensive to bring power lines out to our property, so that is why we’re creating our own power system.  We personally like it that way. 


We don’t want our town or county or state to take steps to connect us to the grid.  “The grid” is a common name for the power grid – the linked system that delivers electricity to the masses.  A typical house is connected to power, natural gas, water and telephone lines.  Going off the grid means going without these public utilities in favor of creating your own energy.  This is not a bad thing! 


It’s impossible to get an accurate count of exactly how many people in the United States live off-grid, but in 2006, Home Power magazine estimated that more than 180,000 homes were supplying their own power.  That estimate is 8 years old.  Every year more people go off-grid.  The back-to-the-land movement gets bigger every year, and more people in developed urban areas are looking to get off the grid as well.  For most, it’s a good way to be friendly to the environment.  For others (and ourselves), it’s a relief not to rely on overworked utility companies to meet their needs.


--------------------------------------------------


Have you thought about making some videos of your
projects around your homestead?  I think you take
great pictures, but I would love to see some videos.


The thought has crossed out mind once or twice, maybe we’ll try to make a video and see how it turns out.  If it’s not too bad, we’ll post it on our blog.


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I’m truly enjoying your blog.  The design and layout of your
site, it’s very easy on the eyes which make it much more
enjoyable for me to come here and visit more often.  Did
you hire out a developer to create your theme?  Superb work!


Thank you very much!  Our blog is through Blogspot, which lets me create the theme, layout.  I wanted the overall look to be clean and simple.  Glad you like it!


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Your property looks strikingly similar to mine.  I am in the
initial stages of going off grid; just purchased 20 acres. 
Any tips for someone who just got land?


Congratulations on going off-grid!  As for tips... drainage, drainage, drainage – take care of it before you build.  Large swales work well and look better than ditches.  Even if you don’t normally get that much rain, strange things happen when 3 feet of snow melts.


When you’re ready to build we would suggest a full southern exposure for your home or at least no conifer trees to block winter sun.  Build small with quality, simple roof lines, lots of storage, a large pantry and place windows so you can get the optimum amount of natural light inside.


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Keep the questions and comments coming, we love hearing from you!

To see the other Q&A post {click here} and {click here}.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Freezing Rain...

30 degrees - 10:39 am - freezing rain...

After a night of freezing rain, this is what we woke up to... everything covered in a thick layer of ice.

Tony pulled these chunks of ice off a tree.




Saturday, March 1, 2014

Garden Dreaming...

12:05 pm - 29 degrees - snowing and windy...

This time of year, what could be better than sitting in a comfy chair, warm and snug inside while it’s snowing outside and looking through new seed catalogs, dreaming and planning for the new season of growth?

I have started flipping through those shiny, colorful pages full of pictures of ripe fruit, veggies and herbs, and pouring over tiny type.  A new growing season is like a clean slate – the chance to start over... and it all starts with the seed catalogs!

Now that I have flipped through the catalogs and made my ‘Garden Wish List’, it is time to plan out the garden.  What grows best next to each other (aka Companion Planting)... how much do we really want to grow of that particular item... how much space will everything need... etc.

Our ‘Garden Wish List’ for this year:
Blueberries, Carrots, Corn, Cucumbers, Garlic, Green Onions, Lettuce (several varieties), Parsley, Potatoes, Pumpkins, Raspberries, Red Onions, Rhubarb, Strawberries, Squash, Sweet Basil, Tomatoes, Walla Walla Onions, and Zucchini...at least that’s the list so far.

We are also looking at building a cattle panel greenhouse this year!  We would like a greenhouse and this is an inexpensive way to get one.  Here are some pictures of cattle panel greenhouses...

photo source: motherearthnews.com

photo source: peakprosperity.com

photo source: squarefoot.creatingforum.com
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