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.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Graveling The Driveway...

7:24 pm - 38 degrees - calm night...

Ditches are cleaned out, and now it's time for gravel!  

This morning four dump truck loads of gravel was put onto the main driveway.  Tony spent the rest of the day grading it all out.  The driveway is looking really good!


While Tony was down working on the lower section of the main driveway, I was working around the house enjoying the falling snow flakes!  It wasn't cold enough for the snow to stick, but it sure was exciting to see!  Tony's hoping that the snow will hold off for a few more days so he can get the snowblower and snowplow mounted and running.

Red The Elf...

7:11 pm - 38 degrees - calm night...

Last night we got our Christmas tree up just in time... Red the Elf is back for another 24 days full of Christmas shenanigans!


By the way, that's a noble fir.  It's the only kind of Christmas tree Tony believes in, so that's the kind of tree we get every single year.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Saturday Evening Post...

4: 39 pm - 40 degrees - overcast...

A small glimpse into our lives as we live off-grid… sort of like eves dropping.  It may be a thought, quote or a conversation; funny, sweet or sad; but it will always be true.  We will see if it resonates with you…


Me:  “Babe, when is it going to snow?”
Hubby:  “Forecast says the snow will be here on Thursday.”
Me:  “I am so ready to be snowed in!”
Hubby:  “Really?”
Me:  “Oh yeah!  I want to be snowed in for about a week.  Well as long as you can get in and out if we really need anything from town that is.  Otherwise, I’m past ready to be snowed in!”
Hubby:  (Laughs)

Clearing Ditches...

4:11 pm - 43 degrees - overcast...

When it comes to maintaining our personal driveway and the main driveway, there are three main objectives – control the flow of water around the road, remove obstacles, and fill in the holes/ruts.

Water in any of its numerous forms – snow, ice, sleet, rain – is our number one enemy when it comes to maintaining the driveway.  Water run-off will always take the line of least resistance and when the ditches are full of debris, that usually means the water is running down the middle or across the driveway somehow.  Also, any low spots that collect water will also collect snow and freeze causing bad slick spots during the winter.

So Tony has been in the excavator all day clearing the ditches out along the main driveway.  He’s hoping to get all the ditches done and a fresh layer of rock on before the weather turns on Thursday (weather reports are calling for snow!).


He’s trying to prevent washouts that seem to happen every year due to heavy rain and snow melt.  Hopefully this year we won’t have to deal with any of this...





Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Turning Logs Into Lumber...

2:05 pm - 36 degrees - raining and foggy...

Most people get their lumber from the local lumber store or local big box store, which is what we usually do.  However, Tony wants to build a woodshed and needs larger lumber, which of course costs more.  After crunching the numbers, he saw that it would actually save us some cash to have the lumber milled out versus going and buying it at the store. 

One of the trees that was felled to make lumber.

 

So a couple weekends ago Tony had a local guy come up with his portable bandsaw mill to mill out some lumber for our woodshed project.  A portable mill is basically a piece of track, called the bed, on which an adjustable band saw rolls back and forth on.  You lay the log on the bed and trim slices off the log with the band saw.

After they got the portable bandsaw mill in place, it was crucial that the bed, which is the reference point for the entire mill, was level and square.  If the bed isn’t level and square, all the lumber that is produced will be slightly off. 

After the mill was all set up, it was time to load one of the 20’ logs on to the bed.  Depending on the size of the log, this can be a bit tricky.  The portable sawmill had a wench that was used to hoist the logs into place, but an excavator was used to the place the larger logs that were just too big for the wench to pull.

Cutting the end off.

The first cuts made on a log produce slabs, which is a piece of wood that has bark on one side and a clean cut on the other.  The next cut is a flitch cut, which is a board with two flat sides, but has bark on one or more edges (this is also known as live edge boards).  For the typical log, it takes about two cuts on each of the four sides – one slab cut and one flitch cut.  In theory, that will result in a large, square piece of wood called a cant.

Making the first cut on the log.



Second cut on the log.


After all four sides have been cut, they start milling the lumber.


Of course not all logs are the same.  Depending on the size of a log, eight cuts (4 slab cuts and 4 flitch cuts) can waste a lot of wood.  However, the edges of the flitch cuts can sometimes be ripped down to make a good board or the can be used at a live edge board.

Out of four 20’ logs, we ended up with four 20’ 6x12 beams, twenty-four 20’ 2x12s, four 20’ 1x12s and a pile of miscellaneous boards and live edge boards.

Left over piles of scrap and live edge boards.

Pile of scrap live edge boards.
I'm sure we can think of something to do with these!

Left over logs.

When milling your own lumber you must also be aware that you can totally ruin everything you have just milled by improper drying.  Softwoods develop fewer defects than hardwoods, partly because the total overall shrinkage is generally less.  Some warp is inevitable and you may want to saw hardwoods a bit larger to be sure you can get the final planed thickness you are wanting.

To properly dry freshly milled lumber, you must be quick and carefully sticker the boards.  Stickers are pieces of wood that provide air gaps in a pile of drying lumber.  Stickers are only ¾ x ¾ inches.  This is a great use for scrap lumber.  Using dry stickers every 16 to 18 inches or, according to some, as close as every 12 inches for hardwood lumber.  The purpose is mainly to separate wet boards and to allow air circulation, but the wood's own weight in the pile helps control warping.  Using stickers at the ends of the piles reduces end checking as well as warping.  Tony also painted the ends of the boards with anchor seal which also helps to prevent end checking.

Turning logs into lumber was definitely a learning experience. 

Tony spent one full day picking out the trees he wanted to use, falling the trees, limbing the logs, and hauling them into place along the driveway.  Another full day was spent milling those logs into lumber.  And yet another full day was spent cleaning up most of the mess and stacking the lumber.  Three days into that project and we still have several piles of unused logs, scraps, slabs and live edge boards and we have to wait until the freshly milled lumber has time to dry a bit.  

In the end, yes it did save us some cash, but it did cost more in time.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Chimney Sweep...

6:55 pm - 38 degrees - raining...

We heat our home with a wood stove from roughly around September until May.  This ends up being one long continuous burning season at our elevation of 2,200 feet.  

Having a wood burning fireplace definitely has its ups and downs.  The warm glow of a fireplace is one of nature’s simple gifts... if you can ignore the mess and hassle that come with their daily operation.

One downside is the creosote that builds-up on the inside of the chimney and in the chimney cap that can cause chimney fires.  Creosote builds up gradually over time and can become a very serious fire hazard. 

There is no one-size-fits-all rule when it comes to how often you should clean out your chimney.  Tony cleans out our chimney every fall, right before the cold season hits.

After Tony has all the ladders in place and secured, he climbs up and removes the chimney cap. 

Fishing a safety line up and over the house.

That is a lot of creosote built up on the chimney cap!

Then he moves inside to remove the double wall section of the chimney and takes it outside to clean later.

Creosote build-up on the inside of the chimney.

After taping a large plastic garbage bag to the bottom of the chimney inside, he then heads back outside to start cleaning the chimney with the chimney brush.

After he has everything cleaned and as creosote-free as possible, he re-assembles everything and cleans up the mess.  Over all, it probably took him about an hour, maybe an hour and a half from start to finish. 

Tony up on the roof putting everything back together.

Though creosote inevitably builds up over time, by using only properly split and seasoned firewood, you can slow the creosote accumulation.  If at all possible, try to steer clear of the slow, smoky, smoldering fires, these tend to create creosote rather quickly.  Clean, hot burning fires are the ones that generate the least amount of creosote. 

A Close Call...

5:16 pm - 39 degrees - raining...

Last week Tony had a very close call.  Just even thinking about it makes me shutter.

While Tony was out elk hunting, he came to an area where there were signs of elk all over.  He sat down on a log and did a few cow calls.  Out of the corner of his eye he saw some movement.  A big head pop up about 30 feet away, and a cougar continued towards him with its mouth wide open.  The cougar was so close when he shot it, that the bullet went straight in the mouth, entering in the back of the throat without even nicking a tooth, leaving no visible entry/exit wound.  Yikes!



This happened about 3/4 of a mile from our house.  I don't even want to think about what would have happened if he didn't turn in time to see the cougar coming at him.   I know we live in the mountains, and there are predators around, but that was just way too close for comfort!  

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Mountain Chores or Mountain Fun...

5:20 pm - 61 degrees - mostly blue sky, light breeze...

Mountain chores or mountain fun...?


First thing he wants to do when he gets home... run the weed whacker!


Trombone in the morning.  Trombone in the evening.  Trombone all day long!

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Fall Is Almost Here...

3:37 pm - 63 degrees - mostly cloudy, light breeze...

The nights are getting colder, the mornings are getting darker, and the rain is slowly returning.

Yesterday was a soggy, soaked to the bone, wet reminder that Summer is almost over and Fall is nearly here. 

Jack's second soccer game (they won 11-5),
 and we all got soaked to the bone!

As much as I love the lazy summer months (although this summer was insanely busy and very short), I have to admit that I am happy fall is here.  Yes, I enjoy all the Northwest rain, listening to it hit our metal roof (one of my favorite sounds) while we’re inside all warm and cozy (not outside getting soaked to the bone).  I live for the occasional thunderstorm and truly am a homebody at heart.  I could curl up on the couch and watch movies with my hubby and kids all day with the flames blazing in the fireplace.  The crispness in the air, the brilliant colors of the changing leaves, the fall scent outside, the spicy scent in the kitchen from all the fall favorites being baked, I love it all!


However... in order for us to have those warm, flames blazing in the fireplace, we need dry, seasoned firewood and our woodshed is still in the planning stages.  So Tony had to run out yesterday morning and try to cover the majority of our firewood with plastic and tarps to help it stay dry. 



I cannot wait until Tony’s woodshed is done!  So far he has marked out an area that is 24’ wide x 16’ deep.  Hopefully posts will be going in this coming week – that’s weather dependant of course.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Mountain Chores...

7:45 pm - 59 degrees - clear, calm night...

...firewood splitting and stacking continues.

For the past month, in between work and other activities, we have been spitting and stacking firewood (I saw we, but it's mostly been Tony).

I started out splitting the huge pile of rounds with an axe.  After about an hour, my arms were killing me.


Some friends lent us their log splitter, which has made the chore of splitting firewood a breeze!
  

Tony only has a few more rounds to split and then firewood will be done.  Then we need to stack it all.

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