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. 

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