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.

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.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream In A Bag...

2:20 pm - 61 degrees - mostly cloudy, light wind...

This past weekend we went camping at the beach and we made some homemade vanilla ice cream in a bag to go along with our Dutch Oven Peach Cobbler.  Let me just say... it was an amazingly simple and delicious camping dessert!

Everyone made their own individual servings of ice cream, in their own baggies and it took maybe 15 minutes... or less.  The hardest part of the whole process was shaking the gallon sized bag, half filled with ice for about 10 minutes.

~ Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream ~

2 Tbsp Sugar
1 Cup Half & Half
½ tsp Vanilla Extract
½ Cup Coarse/Canning Salt
Pint – size Ziploc Bag
Gallon – size Ziploc Bag

Mix the sugar, half & half and vanilla extract together.  Pour into a pint-sized Ziploc baggie.  Make sure it seals tightly.

Take the gallon-size Ziploc bag and fill it up halfway with ice and pour the salt over the ice.  Now place the cream filled bag into the ice filled bag.  Make sure it is sealed tightly and start shaking. 

Shake constantly for about 5-10 minutes.

Open the gallon-size bag and check to see if the ice cream is hard, if not keep shaking.  Once the ice cream is finished, quickly run the closed pint-size baggie under cold water to quickly clean the salt off the baggie.

Open the baggie and pop in a spoon and enjoy

Firewood Cutting Is Underway...

12:43 pm - 60 degrees - lightly raining...

A wood-burning fireplace is one of the simplest joys of the winter months.  It’s also a lot of work.

For us, our wood burning fireplace is currently our only source of heat, so falling, cutting, splitting and stacking firewood is an important skill for us to know and do.
Tony does all the falling of trees and cutting those logs into rounds.  Thankfully we live on many acres of wooded forest so we are able to start at the source.


I help Tony with the splitting.  Even when log rounds are small in diameter, it makes sense to split them.  Splitting speeds along the drying process and improves the burning qualities.

And we all pitch in to do the stacking.

Even though the ideal time to cut firewood is in the late winter and early spring months (this allows for the maximum drying time), we usually have so much going on, that we don’t get around to cutting, splitting and stacking our firewood until the end of July, beginning of August.

So firewood cutting for this coming winter is underway.  Tony spent last weekend cutting this pile of logs...

...into this pile of rounds. 

Now the splitting and stacking starts.  How much wood could a wood stacker stack if a wood stacker could stack wood?  We’ll soon find out...

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Dutch Oven Peach Cobbler...

10:51 am - 72 degrees - blue sky with lightly scattered clouds...

We’re going camping this weekend and this super easy and delicious Dutch Oven Peach Cobbler is on the menu!  Camping food just tastes better... it’s a fact.

If you are looking for a tasty, yet simple dessert recipe - this is it!  This quick, easy, basic cobbler recipe will satisfy and sweet tooth and can be modified depending on the type of cake or fruit that you like!  It can also be made in a fire pit, in a barbeque, or an oven.

~ Dutch Oven Peach Cobbler ~
1 box yellow cake mix
2 (21 oz) cans peaches
1/2 cup butter
Cinnamon, to taste
Dutch Oven
30 pieces of Charcoal
12” Dutch Oven

Rub the inside of the Dutch oven with cooking oil or butter.  Or you can use a disposable foil liner made specifically for Dutch ovens - make clean up a breeze!

Place the Dutch oven over approximately 10 charcoal briquettes or over coals on a flat spot in the fire ring.

Once the Dutch oven is hot, pour the cans of peaches into the Dutch oven. 

Spread the dry cake mix on top of the peaches and try to spread it out as evenly as possible.  Sprinkle the top with a little bit of cinnamon to taste.

Cut butter into even sized pats (small chunks) of butter and arrange on top.

Put the lid onto the Dutch oven and arrange about 16 hot charcoal briquettes or scatter hot coals over the lid.

Bake until done.  Depending on how hot your coals or fire are, this could be anywhere between 25-60 minutes.  After 25 minutes, check cake with a clean knife of toothpick, if it comes out clean, the peach cobbler is done.  If not, add a few more charcoal or coals over the lid and check again in 10 minutes.

Serve with vanilla ice cream or whip cream and enjoy!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Catch and Release...

5:48 pm - 76 degrees - scattered clouds, light breeze...

Two of our cats caught a little chipmunk and when our 11-year-old daughter realized what they were playing with, she freaked out a bit.   

After rescuing this cute little critter, we let him go in a huge slash pile.  Hopefully he'll hide out for a while and stay away from the cats. 

It's never dull when you live in the mountains.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

DIY Faux Shiplap Walls...

7:57 pm - 61 degrees - scattered clouds, light breeze...

Over the holiday weekend, I decided that I wanted to finish out all the closets in our home with a wood planking look.

Real shiplap is more than I wanted to spend, but that’s the overall look I’m wanting in all the closets – it’s a nice neutral texture that can be added to any space and can be styled in a lot of different ways.

A popular technique to get the shiplap look at a lower cost is to cut a piece of plywood into strips that you nail to the wall just slightly spaced apart.  This will save you a few bucks, but on the down side you have to rip plywood into perfectly straight strips and balance coins or spacers between boards to get the perfect spacing which would make the project a lot more labor intensive than I wanted to attempt.

So the best solution, at a reasonable price, that I found was to use tongue and grove planks.  It still gives me the look I was wanting and it was incredibly easy to install.  Altogether - planks, wood filler, sandpaper, primer and paint totaled just over $130 and the project took about 9 hours spread out over three days to finish.

After a trip to the hardware store for supplies, Tony and I started getting out all the tools I would need for this project (I always have to get organized before I start a project).

What I used...
- 8 packs of v-groove pine wallplanks (6 planks to a pack)
- Tape measure
- Level
- Brad nailer with nails
- Putty knife
- Sandpaper
- Primer & Paint

The kids’ closets are 11’3” wide by 2’7” deep with a back wall + slanted ceiling measuring 6’10” with three door openings –-- soooo... there was a lot of measuring and cutting involved.

I started the first board in the bottom left corner, used the level and a scrap piece of sheetrock to keep the board half an inch off the subfloor (the spacing will allow for the future installation of flooring) and nailed in the board using the brad nailer.

After serveral trips up and down the stairs to cut boards, I quickly found my rhythm alternating the plank lengths as I worked my way up the wall.  It took me somewhere between one and a half to two hours to get all the planking up.  

After the boards were up, I went back and filled all the nail holes and smoothed out the seams with wood filler.  After the wood filler had time to dry, I went back and sanded all those spots smooth.  Then paint!  I used half a can of primer (one heavy coat + touch ups) and half a can Valspar Snowcap White (one heavy coat + touch ups).

He wanted to help so bad, so he's filling nail holes with wood filler.

Putting on a coat of primer.

Putting on the final coat of paint.  Final paint on the left, primer on the right.
I absolutely love how it turned it.  One kid’s closet done, one more to go!

All done!  Love it!

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Surf Fishing...

2:31 pm - 60 degrees - mostly cloudy, on and off showers...

This past weekend we took a road trip to the Long Beach Peninsula to get away for a couple days, meet up with family and do some surf fishing for Perch.

The first day, the weather was cold, raining and windy but that didn’t stop Tony and Jack from surf fishing for sea perch off the sandy beach where the kids and I had been clam digging last month.  When Tony told me they were going to go surf fishing this trip, I wasn’t really expecting much, so you can imagine my surprise when Jack reeled in a huge Red Tailed Surf Perch on their second cast out!

Standing on the sandy shores of the Pacific Ocean, surf fishing.

Second cast out, and caught a huge Red Tailed Perch!
Heading back out to catch some more Perch.

Sea perch are abundant in the waters off the coast of Washington and Oregon year round, so a sunny day during the winter, or a cold and rainy day during late spring, you can still catch perch.

In between the changing of the tides, which is when you want to go surf fishing, we ran around town, drove on the beach and enjoyed time with family.

Did our good deed for the day and helped out a
couple girls who got their car stuck in the sand.

Saw a cute little seal pup in the surf.  Don't worry, we didn't
bother or touch the little seal pup.

During our short two-day getaway, the guys went fishing several times and caught quite a few Red Tailed Perch... none of which made it to the freezer.

That's a 12-inch cutting board!  Those are some big perch!

The morning catch.

The weather definitely wasn’t the best, but everyone still had a great time.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Slipforms – Rock Hunting...

9:23 pm - 57 degrees - cloudy...

The rock hunt has started, so far I’ve gathered 18 sq ft of rock! 

My goal is to only pay for concrete and coloring oxide mix.  The rock will be collected from around the mountain.  The slipforms will be made from scrap materials lying around the house.  And I’m hoping to find some scrap wire and rebar somewhere.
Two days of gather rocks - 6' x 3' pile.

Our home is a 36’x36’ square and I plan on rocking the first 4 feet all the way around the house with slipforms {click here} – so that equals 544 sq ft of surface area that I’ll need to rock.  Actually, I will need less rock than that due to door and window openings, but I’d rather have more rock than needed on hand.

Over the years we have dug up so much rock we have piles of it everywhere, so I have started to dig through those piles looking for rocks that have at least one flat side and nice coloring.  I have also been walking around the mountain and just picking up nice rocks here and there that are lying on the ground. 

Now that I have a small pile going, I think I need to actually start sorting them out according to size – small, medium, large, extra large.  This will help when it comes time to actually building the wall – I can go to the specific size pile that I need instead of having to dig through one large jumbled mess.

I’ll also have an “uglies” pile – the rocks that go behind the front flat-faced stones – these will be used as filler, we’ll use less concrete that way.

Sorting rocks - small, medium, large, extra large.

Since almost all of our rocks have a rough, jagged look to them, we will have a “random rubble” look.  Random Rubble walls don’t have perfectly square or rectangular rocks or stones laying in nice straight rows, instead it’s a technique in which a coursed or obviously horizontal seaming effect is avoided.  A random rubble wall is just that – random.  Stones of various shapes and sizes are placed according to their best fit.  This technique is perfect for a beginner since there isn’t any cutting or fitting of stones required.

As I sort out the rocks, I’ll also have to clean them off.  Any loose dirt, debris or anything else that can end up between the rock and the concrete needs to be removed – a clean surface is needed for the concrete to properly adhere to the rock to produce a strong wall.  With that being said, I’m keeping the lichen on the front flat-faced rocks.  I’ll clean the lichen off all the other side’s where the concrete needs to adhere to, but I like the unique designs the lichen creates and I think it will add more interest.

Rock with lichen on the end.

Rock covered in lichen.

Rock covered in lichen.

With the use of the natural, rough, jagged looking rocks, I think our home will reflect that same characteristic and will have an interesting rugged appearance.  I can’t wait to see what the finished product will look like!

“The fact that the stones are used in their natural state as they come from the fields on which the house is build, gives a sense of self-improvement through thrift, rather than by acquisition from others... The material itself combines that sense of permanence, solidity and security so necessary for the establishment of a home.” ~ Frazier Peters, HOUSES OF STONE 1933


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