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.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Gardening Off-Grid With Kids – Getting Started…

32 degrees outside - 11:29 am - cold and windy with high clouds...

We are about halfway through winter and spring is in our sight.  We have picked out the location for our off-grid garden and now have to level the ground, fence it in and build raised garden beds.  Just walking around with a tape measure, we think we can squeeze in a 60 x 60 fenced in garden with attached tool shed that will also house the chicken coop and run.  In order to start planting late winter / early spring fruits and veggies, we need to have all this done by the end of March.  I hope that is a realistic goal.

Our two children, who are 2 and 5, love having their own space, whether it is at their own desk area in the house, or the tent they’ve created with chairs and blankets in the dining room.  The same is true for the garden.  So we will be setting a side a raised garden bed just for them, which will be marked with a stepping-stone that has their names and handprints on it. 

Their garden will be kid-based.  This means that our daughter gets to help plot out the raised garden bed and generate ideas for what will be planted in it.  She has already gone thru the seed catalogs numerous times, writing down what she would like to plant.  Seed catalogs are like a good book that you just can’t put down.  We all love flipping through the shiny pages, filled with glorious colors that dazzle with this year’s must have blooms.  In addition to picking out what will be planted, they will help with the planting and maintenance of their garden.  They also get to pick out their own gardening tools.  Nothing motivates the little gardeners more than having their own shovels, gardening gloves, watering pails and wagons.

The best things we may ever cultivate on our property will be two little gardeners.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Wildlife on the Mountain...

40 degrees outside - 11:02 am - overcast and cloudy, on and off light rain, slight breeze...

Living in the foothills of the Cascade Mountain range there is an abundance of wildlife.  Some animals we see all the time; some we don't see other than the tracks and markings left behind; and some we only hear, somewhere off in the distance.
Northern Flicker  (aka woodpecker
who pecks holes in the house)
We enjoy watching and taking pictures of the many creatures we see.  Some of the more elusive creatures that we have seen but yet to snap a picture of are bald eagles, turkey vultures, raccoons, elk, mountain beaver, coyotes, and a few others.

After seeing the little black bear this week, I wanted to share some more critter pics.

Pileated Woodpecker (aka Woody The Woodpecker)

twin Blacktail does

Bobcat  (likes to follow twin does around)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Encounter With A Black Bear...

57 degrees outside - 3:32 pm - sunny with a few scattered clouds...

This week we have had spring like weather up here on the mountain and we have been thoroughly enjoying it.  The warmer weather must have coaxed a bear out because while I was driving home, I saw a bear for the first time this year.  He quickly disappeared down into the woods as I passed by.  Just wondering if the bears are coming out of hibernation already?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

A Fun Family Project – Transplanting Trees…

38 degrees outside - 7:19 pm - calm and quiet outside...

We have gotten so used to night after night of listening to the pouring down rain on the metal roof or the wind whipping by causing the house shutter, that last night was a rare, calm, quiet evening. 

This morning was just as rare, or at least it felt rare after the rainy, dreary weather we have had lately.  The sun was shining, the clouds were melting away, the blue sky was showing thru, the trees were actually standing still and the birds were signing.  It almost felt like spring!   
Such a beautiful day we just had to spend it outside!  Even with the sun shining, it was still a chilly winter day, so after putting a double layer of clothes on the kids; we headed outside in search of a shovel and some plastic nursery pots.                   

A few feet off the main driveway, along the section that was washed out, there are several dozen small fir trees that will be in the way when the new ditch line is put in.  So we decided to transplant them.  Tony dug up 20 trees (a few Noble Firs, one Hemlock and the rest were Douglas Firs), while the kids and I were putting them into the nursery pots for transport.  We then replanted the trees along the runway (a.k.a. driveway) and our lot.  It was a fun family project, and by lunchtime the kids were caked in dirt and mud with big smiles on their faces.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Washed Out Driveway Update…

38 degrees outside - 12:21 pm - it's not raining!!!

Ton of Rain + Warm Temps + Melting Snow Pack = Flooding

Yes, we are living on top of a mountain ridge.  Therefore, all the rain and melting snow had to go somewhere, down, wiping out several sections of our driveway in the process.  Tony has already spent numerous hours in the excavator repairing the driveway so it is drivable.  There is still a lot of work to do until it can be considered repaired.

It hasn’t rained in the past day and a half and the weather forecast is looking good for the weekend and coming week.  Hopefully everything will dry out enough so we can have a little neighborhood work party sometime this coming week. 

The guys have decided that they would like to add four new culverts along the driveway to hopefully prevent it from washing away again.  We also need to get more gravel, redo the ditch lines and widen the driveway in several spots.  With our neighbor in the bulldozer and Tony in the excavator, hopefully we can get most of the repairs done quickly.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

It’s Flooding On The Mountain…

47 degrees outside - 9:00 am - foggy, heavy rain and flooding...

It has been raining almost non-stop since last Wednesday.  In the past four days we have gotten a total of 16.24 inches of rain and it is still coming down hard!  The warmer weather (now in the 40’s) along with the near constant rain has melted all the snow.  Everything is now flooding.  With the snowmelt and the rain together it is too much for the culverts along the driveway and the county road and the water is now running over the road in numerous spots.  Below are pictures of our driveway where the water has taken over.  They are a little blurry because they were taken thru the rain and fog.

The goal for today is for Tony to jump into the excavator and try to save the driveway and keep it passable so we can still get in and out.  We will not be able to completely repair it until it stops raining.

{ Update: 8:51 pm }
The parts to repair the snowblower are here, but instead of working on that today Tony was trying to salvage the driveway.  The above pictures don't even compare to how bad the road got before Tony was able to divert the water and make it passable.  It will take about another two days of excavator work before the driveway is 'repaired'.

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Broken Snownblower Blues…

40 degrees outside - 9:26 am - raining...

It looks like there is a broken flanged universal drive yoke between the impeller and augers on the snowblower.  It is now a mad dash to get the snowblower repaired and running good before the next round of snowfall.


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Winter Storm Update...

19 degrees outside - 8:49 am - cold, windy, clear blue sky with a wind chill of 9 degrees...

Yesterday morning the trees were still heavily covered with snow.  After a night of strong winds, there is barely any snow left on them.  This morning, the wind is still blowing strong and snow twisters are popping up all over the place.  The weather report for this coming winter storm has changed daily.  Originally we were supposed to possibly get around 3 feet of snow by the end of Thursday and now it has changed to a possibility of 1 foot of snow with freezing rain by tomorrow morning.

The kids keep looking out the windows and all they see is a big clear blue sky and lots of snow so of course they are begging to go outside and play.  Unfortunately with a wind chill of 9 degrees, gusty winds, and snow twisters popping up everywhere, they will have to wait until it calms down outside.

{ Weather Update:  Jan 12 - 1:10 pm - 44 degrees outside - raining }
Wow, the so-called “winter storm” was highly overrated!  It was just another ordinary day on the mountain for us.  Yes, it was windy, but no more than normal.  We even had a little bit of snow but it was tiny wispy flakes that were being blown around in the wind.  Now it is raining and turning most of the snow into slush.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Winter Storm Watch...

28 degrees outside - 9:52 am - foggy and snowing...

Woke up this morning to 6 1/2 inches of new snow, and it is still coming down hard.  The weather report for the week says there is a possibility of 3 feet of new snow by Thursday.  Time to fill the pantry, haul in as much wood as we can store inside and hunker down for the coming snow storm.

the mountain is hiding in the fog

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Last Chance Creek...

39 degrees outside - 7:30 pm - foggy...

the creek that runs under the bridge on the main driveway

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

More Lessons Learned…

36 degrees outside - 7:56 pm - cold, windless, rainy night...

We are only one third of our way through winter and have already learned some valuable lessons.  Instead of spending more time working on the house, we have spent time cutting, splitting and hauling firewood (since we guestimated wrong on how much we would need) or dealing with the snow and ice (the last mile of the county road is covered in a sheet of ice).  We will also need to re-grade the driveway this spring to give it a more even incline.  This winter we have had a handful of days were it took us several tries to get out of our driveway due to snow or ice.

Said once and we’ll say it again, the only way to learn is by doing, especially when we are talking about building and living in the mountains off-grid!


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