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 30, 2010

Beautiful Morning On The Mountain...

23 degrees outside - 9:10 am - blue sky, sun is shining, beautiful morning...

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A White Christmas Weekend…

39 degrees outside - 6:38 pm - raining...

It was a white Christmas weekend, and what a wonderful weekend it was!  On Christmas Eve as we were heading home we saw a bald eagle swoop down to the rushing river that runs along the road and snatch a fish out landing in a nearby tree.  Shortly after we arrived home another bald eagle made several low swoops in the backyard before returning to fly circles in the sky and then disappearing.  The next several days were spent laughing, talking and eating with wonderful family and friends.  It was a very busy weekend but a good one.

Now that the holiday weekend is over, back to work we go.  We currently have several inches of snow on the ground here, and the weather is in that freezing/thawing place where it will turn to rain, then sleet, then snow, then back to rain again.  The woodstove is always crackling away, but there have been a few nights when we were able let it go out overnight and rekindle it in the early morning.

Even though we have had snow on the ground since a week before Thanksgiving, we haven’t had that many days to actually play in it.  It is either a mini blizzard outside, pouring down rain or so windy we are worried the kids will be blown over.  The weather report for today is calling for more snow tonight and tomorrow with the snow level dropping down to 500 feet so we should get some more snow.  Hopefully we will have a few nice days of weather where we can go outside and play before school starts next week.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas Traditions…

35 degrees outside - 5:07 pm - cold, overcast winter evening...

We have not added an entry in a week.  We have been a little busy, baking Christmas cookies, taking care of two sick kids, planning and preparing for the upcoming Christmas parties, planning for our son’s second birthday party which is shortly after Christmas, snow removal, all in addition to cutting, splitting and haul in firewood.  Busy, busy, busy.

When I was little and still to this day, every December, a week before Christmas we would bring out sacks of flour, sugar, butter, oranges, and bottles of vanilla and almond flavorings.  We would spend all day baking Molasses Cookies, Orange Juice Cookies, Candy Cane Cookies, Old-Fashion Fudge, and the list goes on.  We would fill numerous containers with cookies and wrap with ribbon to give as gifts to family and friends.

Handing down traditions is what keeps families connected through the generations.  They may change slightly but the memories created are still there generation to generation.

We are extremely lucky that the majority of our families live within an hour drive from us.  Everyone lives fairly close to each other; we are the ones who moved “away”.  As the years go by, our family has gotten considerably larger.  It is harder and harder to get everyone together and people are starting new family traditions.

This year, being our first Off-Grid Christmas, we have decided to create some of our own family traditions, like picking out and cutting down our own Christmas tree, which according to my husband must be a Noble Fir (thankfully we have plenty to choose from), making our own Christmas wreaths and ornaments for the tree in addition to baking Christmas cookies.

Family traditions are the glue that binds one generation to another.  They give the children and parents something to look forward to, as well as something to count on during the hectic holiday season…and throughout the year.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Living the Good Life, Our Way…

36 degrees outside - 1:33 pm - half a foot of snow on the ground; a beautiful day on the mountain…

The morning was spent having some wintertime fun with a few of our wonderful neighbors.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A New Record High…

37 degrees outside - 10:54 am - cold and wet, on and off showers with snow mixed in...

Woke up last night around 1 am to see if the house had landed in Oz.  The wind was blowing so hard it sounded like a freight train passing by causing the house to shudder.  Since we have had the weather station up (about a month and a half), last night was a new record high of 74 mph winds.

{ Weather Update: 1:23 pm }
Just to add to the already crazy weather on the mountain, outside it is currently rolling thunder and snowing.  The air is filled with rumbles and the ground is turning white.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

We Guesstimated Wrong…

48 degrees outside - 4:12 pm - overcast and pouring down rain...

The past several days it has been raining constantly.  We now only have small patches of snow here and there.  Even though it has warmed up a bit and the majority of the snow is gone, the torrential downpour still makes it miserable to work outside. 

We had quesstimated that we would need about 5 cords of firewood to get us through the winter.  We quesstimated wrong.  Over half of our firewood is already gone and we aren’t even through December yet.  Instead of working on other outside home projects we are trying to hurry up and restock our firewood supply.  Looking at the weather forecast for this coming week it looks like we are in for more snow starting the day after tomorrow. 
 
Tony spent the morning cutting rounds of Cherry that he hauled back to the house and is now splitting into firewood.  We have been using Alder, Cherry and Fir, but have found that Cherry is the best all around firewood.

Live and learn.  At least we will know better for next winter.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Lessons Learned…

41 degrees outside - 8:45 pm - showers...

One of the things we have found with this off-grid lifestyle is that things don’t always go the way you expect them.  It is a good thing to be humbled by nature but it does not make the lesson any easier.

I am a type-A personality; a perfectionist who likes to be in control and have things go a certain way.  My husband is a closet type-A personality; he is very easy going but also is a perfectionist who likes to have things go a certain way.  Yes, we do know that’s a little unreasonable, so we are working at paring down our expectations and instead sitting back and accepting where life takes us.  It’s a recipe for simplicity and yet we are finding nothing simple about it.

We knew there would be challenges building off-grid.  It isn’t that common in the area where we are living, so there has been a bit of a learning curve.  No matter how many books we read, questions we ask and online websites we visit, the only way to learn is by doing.

The learning started immediately.  After we roughed in the driveway and cleared the build site, we thought we would only need a couple dump truck loads of base rock for the driveway and a couple more to build up the build site for our home.  About twenty-four truck loads of rock and many thousands of dollars later (that we hadn’t budgeted for), we finally had all the rock we needed, for the time being at least.



Then there’s the aesthetics of the place.  When we lived in town, we used to be conscientious of what our house looked like, inside and out.  Beds were always made, dishes clean, floors swept, lawn mowed, flowerbeds weeded, everything was in its place.  But living off-grid, in a home that is also under construction, we have found that we have had to lower our expectations a bit, there is just too much to do and simply not enough time to do it.

To be honest, we have had our down moments when we think, “What the hell are we doing?” “Why isn’t anything going as planned?” “What have we gotten ourselves into?”  We can almost hear people telling us, “I told you so” and “Didn’t you see this coming?”  Perhaps.

But then we remember why we moved off-grid and what we’re trying to get away from.  Modern life is so often one of ease and convenience.  Too tired to cook a homemade meal?  Then run to the nearest fast food place.  We were guilty of that on numerous occasions, but we wanted a change.  This may seem unimportant to many people and understandably; it can be difficult to make the mental transition to an off-grid lifestyle from a lifestyle dependent on the ease and convenience of modern life.

Yes, this kind of work is not convenient, it is not glamorous and it is far from easy.  Truth be told, it is exhausting.  It is stressful feeling out of control, not being able to get everything that we want done, and everything taking way longer than it should.  But everyday we are learning something new and each lesson, good or bad, is taking us one step closer to figuring out how to make this all work for us.

Every night, under a dark sky filled with zillions of stars, we sit back and look at our home and property and think, “I wonder what tomorrow with bring?”


Ursa Major aka Big Dipper sitting just above the mountain.


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Slow Going…

38 degrees outside - 8:47 pm - raining...

We are building our home ourselves on weeknights and weekends.  So far it has been slow going.  Now that winter has descended upon us and the days are short, the work on the house has slowed down to the few hours of daylight on the weekends.

Since November 18th, we have had a blanket of snow on the ground.  With the high winds, low temperatures and frozen snow covered ground; it has definitely limited the outside work on the house and property.  Instead the weather has kept us inside working on the wiring, one of the many things on the long list of inside projects.  With warmer weather on the way and a 4,000-foot snow level, hopefully things will thaw out for a brief opportunity to continue work on the long list of outside projects.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary…

36 degrees outside - 4:48 pm - overcast, everything is still covered in snow which is slowly melting away...

How does your garden grow?  We have been giving a lot of thought to this question lately.  Well, not about Mary’s garden but our own.

With everything under a blanket of snow, the holiday season underway and spring ahead of us, I thought it was a good time to start putting plans together for our vegetable garden that will be built and planted come spring.  Yes, I know, garden dreaming and it’s not even Christmas yet.

Living on a mountain we are above the smog layer which also lets more UV light in.  We can have some really hot summer days and some really cold winter days.  Plants that did well in town may or may not do well up here on the mountain.  I think the first year will be more trial and error to see what does well in the vegetable garden.  Did I mention that we are also planning on attaching the chicken coop so the girls can run around in the fenced in garden during the day eating bugs.  Getting a little off track here, the chicken coop will be another post for another day.

On the mountain, the sky is truly the limit and we are faced with loads of decisions and choices – heirloom seeds versus hybrids, early, mid or late season varieties (or all three), what veggies should we plant, how much should we grow of each veggie, will it grow well in our climate, do we have room for it, how should we configure the raised beds and when will we ever find the time to install a drip irrigation system?

With all this talk of climate change, peak oil, long food miles, tainted produce and food recalls, factory farming, GMO’s, not to mention the words “global economic downturn”, we’ve decided that becoming more self-reliant isn’t simply a lifestyle choice – it’s a necessity.
                                              
We are looking to make the “right” decisions and “optimize our prospects for success”.  So far we have the location of the vegetable garden picked out.  It will be completely fenced in to keep the deer and other critters out and keep the chickens in.  We will be making raised plant beds with graveled pathways in between and attaching the chicken coop/tool shed in the Northeast corner of the garden. 

This of course is still all in the dreaming stage which will hopefully become reality come spring time.  Off to order seed catalogs (as suggested by my husbands green thumbed grandma - Thanks!) and write down a veggie wish list.

After a little bit of clearing brush, some moving of dirt and leveling,
this will be the future site of the vegetable garden and chicken coop.

{ Update - Dec. 8 }
Here is our ‘Veggie Wish List’:
Blueberries, Carrots, Corn, Cucumbers, Garlic, Green Onions, Lettuce (several varieties), Parsley, Potatoes, Pumpkins, Raspberries, Red Onions, Rhubarb, Strawberries, Squash, Sweet Basil, Tomatoes, Walla Walla Sweet Onions, and Zucchini.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

An Off-Grid Wilderness Mountain Community…

40 degrees outside - 3:20 pm - overcast, slight drizzle, ground is still covered in snow...

Looking out the windows of our home, you see an amazing view of mountains and valleys.  The only man made structures in sight are two radio towers way off in the distance.  We have 22 secluded acres in the wilderness, on a mountain, yet we still live in a small off-grid community.

A twisty gravel road hugging the mountainside leads you through the evergreen forest up to the top of a mountain ridge where the main driveway turns into a roughed-in runway.  Off the runway are a few breaks in the trees where four private driveways lead to homes or build sites.  The runway turns back into a driveway twisting further up the mountain ridge to four more private driveways. 

We have some wonderful neighbors who are all within walking distance.  One family already has a home completed and three more families (including us) are in various stages of building.  Once the last few lots sell, there will be a total of eight families in our little off-grid community.  It is very refreshing to live in a community where you share a common interest, similar values and everyone helps each other out.

We have chosen to live off-grid, that doesn’t mean we have chosen to live in total isolation. 

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Wildlife on the Mountain...

30 degrees outside - 8:17pm - clear, cold, winter night...

Over the Thanksgiving weekend the temperature hit a low of 8 degrees outside and the snow hit a high of about two feet.  The temperature has warmed up a bit so some of the snow has melted leaving about fourteen inches on the ground.

Now that the snow is here we haven’t seen as much wildlife around.  We still catch a glimpse now and then, like the young buck trudging through the snow in the backyard or the porcupine walking along the driveway.


Monday, November 22, 2010

Frosty Is Being Burried...

23 degrees outside - 9: 15 pm - 60+ mph wind gusts, still snowing...

We have over two feet of snow and it is still snowing outside.  It has been a mini blizzard with strong wind gusts all day.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Frosty the Snowman…

32 degrees outside - 2:48 pm - snowing...

There is nothing quite like waking up to the joyful squeals of children as they are looking outside to discover that everything around them has been covered in a twinkling blanket of white magic.

After getting the kids all bundled up in their snow gear we headed outside to play and explore.  After a morning full of snow angels, snowmen, and snowballs we headed back inside to warm up next to the fire.

Watching our children’s excitement as they run around and play; seeing their curiosity as they taste snow for the first time; or watching their amazement as a little snowball turns into a snowman are all treasured moments of sheer bliss, plain and simple.  Little moments like these help us rediscover the wonder and magic of the season.

Jack, Caitlyn and Frosty

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Everything's Covered In White...

32 degrees outside - 5:03 pm - snowing outside...

This morning we woke up to see everything covered in a blanket of white snow.  About 5-6 inches had accumulated over the night. 
  
The last time it snowed like this before Thanksgiving, we had snow on the ground until May.


Monday, November 15, 2010

Insulation...

47 degrees outside - 10:32 pm - it is raining at a rate of nearly .75 of an inch an hour, with wind speeds gusting 30 to 55 mph out of the S/SW...

The weatherman on the radio this morning said that the snow level is supposed to drop to 1000 feet by the end of the week.  Everyone knows how hard it is to predict the weather in the Northwest and how quickly the weather reports change.  If this one is accurate than that means we will have snow by this weekend.  Since I have already told you that we heat our home with firewood, I figured I would tell you how we are keeping the heat in.

There are numerous insulation products available and just as many arguments as to which one is the better.  We went with Knauf EcoBatt Glasswool Insulation, which is made primarily from sand and recycled glass.  It contains no phenol, formaldehyde, acrylics or artificial colors.  It is also Greenguard certified for children and schools. 

We are putting R-30 and R-38 in the roof, R-30 in the second floor, and R-21 in the walls.  The first floor will be concrete with radiant heat over R-12 foil backed foam board insulation.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Pictures of Winters Past...

36 degrees outside - 9:14 am - cold, light rain, snowing on the mountain in the distance...

Woke up this morning to see snow on the mountain again.  Started thinking of the past few winters on the mountain and wanted to share some pictures of winters past. 









Sunday, November 7, 2010

I’m Not Santa Claus…

39 degrees outside - 8:12 pm - cold night with showers...

Today my husband strapped on his safety harness and climbed up onto the peak of the roof, which is 34 feet up in the air, all to switch out the chimney cap.

At the beginning of this year we searched Craigslist for a woodstove.  After many weeks we finally found a Buck Stove model 21FS for $450.  When we went to check it out, to our surprise, it came with nearly forty feet of insulated stovepipe, flashings, roof supports, adjustable double-wall interior pipe, and all the hearth accessories. 

We needed a temporary heat source for the upstairs, which is just less than 1300 square feet.  This model was the perfect freestanding unit with a heating range of 800 to 1800 square feet.  We would still like to add the optional blower, which will give maximum heat circulation.
 
Due to the high winds and heavy rains, that were very determined and persistent on coming down the stove pipe, we had to switch out the standard cap it came with to a high wind directional cap. This cap should help stop the wind from down drafting and the rain from sneaking in.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Winter Readiness ~ Before the Snow Flies…

52 degrees outside - 6:26 pm - sky is clear, sun has just set, and the wind is still howling...

I recently read somewhere that winter in the city is to be endured while winter in the country is to be experienced.  That really resonated with me, for some reason.  Most years, although I love looking at and playing in the snow, I’ve grumbled about the cold and the slush but this year, it’s different.  This year will be our first year of actually living off-grid during the winter months. 

The temperatures are dropping, the rain is falling, but we can’t sit back and enjoy the amazing burst of foliage just yet.

Before the snow flies, we need to get our propane tanks installed and filled; clear the ditches along the driveway; service the snow plow and snow mobiles (which belong to our neighbors); stock our vehicles with extra blankets, jumper cables, a tow rope, shovel, along with some snacks and activities for the kids (just in case we get stuck in the snow); stock the pantry; and try to complete as many outside projects on the house as we can before the snow comes.

As long as we have a stocked pantry, a roaring fire and we don’t have to drive anywhere, I say, “let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.”

60+ MPH Wind Gusts...

57 degrees outside - 3:38 pm - gorgeous fall day with strong winds...


We recently picked up a weather station that has a wind gauge (aka anemometer) because we wanted to see just how strong the wind really was where are living.  The wind gauge records wind speed, wind direction measurement and wind chill.  It records the wind speed/gusts every 11 seconds and then stores the information for the day so you can look back and see what the highest wind speed/gusts were. 

Last night the wind howled all night long, and our wind gauge recorded gusts around 62 mph.  We are still in the building process so we have building material stacked up outside, which by morning time was scattered everywhere.  The wind has not slowed down at all today so we are probably in for another very windy night.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Generating Off-Grid Power...

55 degrees outside - 12:03 pm - overcast and raining...

Living off-grid.  You know that it means no more utility bills and generating all of your own power, but what is involved in that?  No, it isn’t as easy as putting up a few solar panels on the roof and calling it good.  When it comes to generating off-grid power, there are a handful of methods that can be combined to generate all the energy you will need to live comfortably off-the-grid.  Listed below are three common off-grid power systems, two of which we will be making and using ourselves.

Solar Power  ---  Solar power is probably the one that jumps into mind for most of us when it comes to off-grid energy.  The sun-powered option, which includes photovoltaic solar panels, an inverter and batteries, can provide lots of electric power (especially if you get a lot of solar exposure where you live) for a long time, without any moving parts and a little maintenance.  The downside, at least for now, is the cost: it is rarely cost-effective to power an entire home entirely with solar power.  Add to that the wide variance of solar exposure by location and the fact that solar only works when the sun is shining.

We live in the Pacific Northwest, in the foot hills of the Cascade Mountain Range.  We rarely get enough solar exposure for a solar power system to power our entire home.  So in our case, we will not be using any solar panels at this time.  We will instead be using wind and water to power our home.

Wind Power  ---  Generating electricity from wind turbines is another option for off-grid energy.  Knowing the average and wind speed ranges, you can estimate how much electricity a given system will produce.  Keep in mind, wind speeds in a specific location can vary significantly from the area averages depending on local topography.

As with solar, there are pluses and minuses to going with wind energy off-grid; the biggest, most obvious one is the need for wind.  If the wind doesn’t blow, the wind turbine stays still and electricity isn’t being generated.  Wind turbines also have moving parts, which means more things that require maintenance and have the possibility of failure.  But if you have a good consistent stiff breeze blowing through the back yard (which we usually do), you can be consistently harvesting energy.

Water Power  ---  Probably the least-known of the off-grid energy systems is hydro electricity, which uses a source of running water, like a stream, to generate electricity.  It is produced from the energy in water flowing from a high level to a lower level that turns a turbine at the bottom end of the system.

Hydro electricity generation can be the most cost effective of the three.  It runs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, providing lots of off-grid energy for a long, long time.  Because it produces so much more consistent energy, fewer batteries are needed to store the energy because there is less (or zero) time that the system isn’t generating energy.  Of course, as with the other two, it requires pretty specific on-site conditions; if you don’t have a stream in the backyard, you can’t use hydro power.

Our off-grid property is ideal for a water power system.  The west fork of a river bisects our lot and even though we are on top of a mountain, we have a lot of water in the ground.  We will be diverting most of the ground water into several drain ponds, in addition to being a nice landscape focal feature they will second as a hydro system that is located closer to our home.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Laying Conduit…

44 degrees outside - 9:22 pm - calm, cloudy evening

Part of putting together an off-grid home is incorporating the power, gas, water and communications design into a manageable product.  This takes a bit of ingenuity, craftiness, lots of research and tons of planning!

One lesson we have learned is you can never plan enough.  In addition to finding the best location for our off-grid home, we have to find the best locations to put our propane tanks (two five hundred gallon tanks), battery bank, back-up generator, well and water storage.  The top four things we took into consideration were accessibility, drainage, elevation and visibility.

One of the many projects we are currently working on is laying out all the PVC conduit and water lines in a trench, that runs from the home out to the propane tanks, battery bank, back-up generator and water storage.  We have chosen a location that is around 200-300 feet away from our home that is still accessible but not visible from our home.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

First Snow of the Season...

46 degrees outside - 1:50 pm - beautiful fall day, chilly with a slight breeze...

The view from the master bedroom of the first snow of the season - white mountain peaks.

Monday, October 25, 2010

La Niña Winter and What it Means to Us...

39 degrees outside - 9:13 pm - raining with wet snowflakes mixed in...

You cannot predict the weather, but it doesn’t mean that people aren’t going to try.

Short-range weather predictions can even be flawed, let alone long-term predictions about such variable conditions as temperature and precipitation.  It is even harder to try and predict the weather here in the Pacific Northwest, which sits between a mountain range and a costal range.

The La Niña weather pattern this coming winter means one thing for sure – there will be unusually low sea surface temperatures across the Equator in the Pacific Ocean, disrupting the jet stream.  This tends to bring wetter and colder than normal conditions across the Pacific Northwest and dryer and warmer than normal conditions across much of the southern tier of the United States.

According to weather forecasts released this week, winter will hit the Pacific Northwest earlier and harder with colder temperatures, above-average precipitation, higher-than-average snowfall in the mountain ranges, and more winter storms.

To us, this means that it is going to be a cold winter on the mountain!

We live up around 2,200 feet in elevation.  So in our case, it is not a question of if, but when the snow will come.  We are at the very end of a gravel county road, that is one of the last roads in the county to get plowed, so we need to be prepared incase we get snowed in.  In the past years, the county has done a good job keeping our road passable.  Beyond the county road, there is just less than three quarters of a mile of gravel driveway, up the mountain to our house, which we have to keep plowed.  Thankfully we have neighbors who have a snow blower!

In the event that we do get snowed in, we have already started to stock up on winter clothing for the kids, extra blankets, canned food and bottled water.  Today I refilled the flashlights with new batteries and went on the almighty hunt in our storage unit and found the snowshoes.

The La Niña winter is certainly here and looking outside today you can tell that we are rounding out the month of October on a very wet note.

P.S. – Did you know that there have only been 18 La Niña events since 1950?

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Cold, Wet and Windy…

37 degrees outside - 8:09pm - windy and raining with a bit of lightening and thunder...

Last night and today have been very cold, very wet and very windy.  We have had heavy rains with the occasional snowflakes and hail mixed in; some scattered thunderstorms with the occasional lightening; and it was extremely windy last night blowing over several trees.

It looks like it is going to be another stormy night on the mountain…

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Appreciation…

49 degrees outside - 11:45 am - it has temporarily stopped raining and the sun is trying to break thru the cloud cover...

Generally, appreciation means some blend of thankfulness, admiration, approval, and gratitude. In the financial world, something that "appreciates" grows in value. With the power tool of appreciation, you get the benefit of both perspectives: as you learn to be consistently thankful and approving, your life will grow in value. ~ Doc Childre

Off-grid living means many things to many people.  Some think that living off-grid means to live a minimalist life style; while others that live off-grid will tell you that you don’t have to give up anything.

During the construction phase of our home, we are living a minimalist lifestyle.  We don’t have a television but we do have a computer with internet; we have to wash the dishes by hand; go into town to do laundry; air dry the wet hair instead of using a blow-dryer; if we want electricity for anything, we have to go outside and turn on the generator; and we sometimes have to go on the almighty treasure hunt in the storage unit where the rest of our non-minimalist lifestyle is kept.  This may not sound like much fun, but it really puts things into perspective and makes you appreciate the little things in life that normally you take for granted.

Living off-grid doesn’t have to mean living poorly, or going back to the Stone Age.  We are looking at achieving self-sufficiency by doing many of the same things our great-great-great grandparent used to do, but we can use modern technology to do them much more quickly, easily, and effectively than they ever could have.  We now have a huge appreciate for those who came before us with the hardships they had to endure on a daily basis along with a huge appreciation for modern technology.

Once construction is completed and our off-grid power system is up and running, we will have the microwave, dishwasher, washer and dryer, and television, all of the things that we have been missing and will appreciate so much more when we get them!  Normally people seriously dislike moving due to the packing and unpacking, but for us, when it is time to empty and get rid of the storage unit and unpack all our stuff into our completed off-grid home, it will be like Christmas!

Appreciation is a powerful tool to shift perspective.  Finding something to appreciate during a difficult situation quickly moves the perspective to the big picture from the little picture. ~ Doc Childre

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Water Storage…

1:06 pm - 50 degrees outside - calm with an increase in clouds...

The need for water storage has been around forever.  A water tank provides for the storage of drinking water, irrigation agriculture, fire suppression as well as many other possible solutions.  Most often water tanks store water for human consumption.

In the US, estimates vary, but each person uses about 80-100 gallons of water per day.  Which means, the average family of four can use anywhere from 320 to 400 gallons of water per day.  This is where the water storage tank comes into play.  Our water storage tank system will allow a large volume of water to be placed into inventory or storage and during peak demand times we will be less likely to run low or out of water as the tank is constantly be replenished by the well.

We have a well with a pump (our water source), that pumps water up into the cold-water storage tanks that are buried up on a hill that is higher in elevation than our house.  The water that is stored there will then be pumped to the house when needed.

A cold-water storage tank is simply a tank designed to hold water at the current temperature and pressure in the atmosphere.  This water is generally used to feed cold water to the home or to the hot water heater and the taps in the home.  The reason for putting the tanks higher than the house is to have a constant feed of water.  If the pump at the water storage tanks should happen to fail, we would still have some water coming to the house from gravity.  The pump at the tanks is just to give added water pressure.

We are custom building our own water storage tank system.  We went and picked up two, used food grade, 275 gallon IBC Totes.  Being used food-grade totes, they previously held potato starch and have since gone thru a triple wash and are ready for us to use.  We eventually would like to have 8 of these, which will give us 2,200 gallons of stored water.

The two IBC Totes we just picked up.
IBC stands for Intermediate Bulk Container.  IBC Totes are large tanks, which are used to store and transport fluids and other bulk materials.  IBC Totes are composed of 3 primary components – the plastic container bottle, the galvanized steel tubular cage, and the container’s galvanized steel pallet.  Measurements are approximately 45-1/2” tall x 39-1/2” wide x 47-1/2” deep and they weigh approximately 125lbs empty.  They have a 6” screw on cap center top; 2” NPT male connector with cap, controlled by a lever actuated butterfly valve.  These are excellent for potable water storage containers, hydroponics reservoirs, rain catchment tanks, etc.

To Be Continued (once everything is in)…

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Disappointments and Frustrations…

9:30 am - 57 degrees outside - very windy with a clear blue sky

No we are not rich, we do not have a boatload of cash, and we are not able to buy everything brand new.  We are an average single income family.  My husband works while I stay home with our two young children.  All of the work put into clearing the build site and building our home, is done mainly at night and on weekends.  The majority of the funding for this project is coming out of our pockets a little bit at a time; we do however have a small mortgage on the land.

A major disappointment came early on when we started to look for contractors to build our home.  We had just spent over $1400 dollars having blueprints drawn up and engineered.  We found a contractor that we really liked and he gave us a quote that was in our budget and our home would be completed in about a year.  We were so excited to be starting this new adventure.  To save a little money, we wanted to clear the build site of all the trees, brush, stumps and rocks ourselves.  When we went back to the contractor to tell him we were ready for him, we found out that his original quote had somehow tripled.  This put everything way out of our budget and we were forced back to square one.  Our blueprints still remain in the box they were mailed in, unused.

We are fairly handy people and thought that we would be able to build our home ourselves.  This would save a considerable amount of money by not having to pay a contractor and being able to shop around for the best price on building materials.

Since we decided to build our home ourselves we also decided to downsize our home plans.  Not wanting to pay for another set of blueprints, we instead bought some graph paper and drew our own floor plan.  We talked to our new neighbors, who had been living off-grid for several years, to find out what was essential to have and what we really need to fit into our new down sized floor plan.  Their response was storage, lots of storage.

We did have some construction know-how but not enough to build a home start to finish.  So we researched tons of books, magazines and online articles.  After finally settling on a floor plan we started building. 

Building our home out-of-pocket will be great in the end, because we will not be up to our eyeballs in debt, but it was not our first choice.  Being an owner-builder on a remote off-grid home makes finding anyone to lend on the project nearly impossible.  You find yourself constantly looking for that next $500 or the next great deal on materials.  The frustration comes from the fact that the project is taking considerably longer than we thought it would.

Even though we have our disappointments and frustrations (too many to list), it has been and still is a great adventure.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Wildflowers on the Mountain…

4:28 pm - 60 degrees outside - another gorgeous fall day, have to enjoy them while we have them...

Living up around 2,200 feet in elevation puts us just above the smog layer.  This is just another perk of living off-grid on a mountain. 

Caitlyn with a Foxglove
Every time we step outside, it is almost a habit now to take a deep breath and inhale the clean, fresh, pure smelling mountain air.  Just looking around at all of the different plant life surrounding us, as you take that deep breath you realize that you are probably breathing in some of the cleanest air possible.  As that clean mountain air passes you by, you smell an evergreen fragrance in the air, along with the fresh smell of wildflowers and you think to yourself “This is definitely a moment to remember!”

Caitlyn and Jack
out for a nature walk
At nearly any time of the year you can step outside, look around, and you notice all of the native plants and wildflowers.  On one such occasion we happened by a single Western White Trillium.  Our young daughter was amazed at how this single delicate looking flower managed to come up thru the forest floor and had to have it.  So instead of having her pick every single wildflower in sight, we started a Nature Book for her.  We now go on nature walks and take pictures of all the beautiful wildflowers and wildlife to put into her nature book. 

There is still a thrill of discovery when we chance for the first time to find a floral gem in a forest clearing or high on a mountain side.


Western White Trillium

Miners Lettuce

Pacific Bleeding Heart

Bunchberry aka Dwarf Dogwood

Western Blue Iris

Bog Paintbrush

Oxeye Daisy

Great Hedge Nettle

Harsh Paintbrush

Queen Anne's Lace aka Wild Carrot

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