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, 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.

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