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, April 28, 2011

It's Snowing...Again...

34 degrees - 6:03 pm - snowing...

When I left the mountain this afternoon to pick up our daughter from Kindergarten, the sun and blue sky were peaking through the white fluffy clouds.  By the time we got home it was snowing and everything was turning white.

there's currently about an inch of snow on the ground and it's still coming down

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Chicks Are All Here…

35 degrees outside - 10:52 pm - rain/snow mix...

Today we picked up the rest of our chicks.  I should not be allowed to go to the feed store by myself anymore.  We were originally only going to have 8 chickens.  Since we already have 4 Barred Rocks I just couldn’t help myself and had to get 8 new baby chicks, so we would have 4 of each breed.  We now have a dozen chicks, four Plymouth Rocks, four Welsummers and four Cuckoo Marans.  We are still keeping our fingers crossed that they all turn out to be girls. 

The Barred Plymouth Rock or “Barred Rocks”, as they are called, are one of the most popular chickens for backyards or small farms.  They are supposed to be very friendly, great layers of large brown eggs and able to withstand cold weather quite nicely, which is exactly what we were looking for.

The Welsummer (Welsumer) are considered “chocolate eggers”, meaning their eggs can range from medium to a deep chocolate brown and their eggs are also speckled!  The chocoholic in me loves that cool fact!  They are probably best known for being the Kellogg’s Cereal Rooster.  They are supposed to be friendly, good layers, and do well in all climates.

The Cuckoo Maran, similar in appearance to a Barred Rock, is also considered a “chocolate egger”. Their personality seems to vary greatly and there seems to be mixed reports on their climate hardiness, but we are going to try them out anyway.

Now to build the chicken coop that we have already nicknamed ‘The Cuckoo’s Nest’.

Caitlyn holding a Welsummer chick

the large black chicks are Cuckoo Marans; small black chicks are Plymouth
Rocks; and golden red chicks with the stripe down the back are Welsummers

Monday, April 25, 2011

Easter Weekend...

39 degrees oustide - 12:21 pm - raining...

Easter Weekend…what a whirlwind.  It was spent jumping from one house to another as we visited with family and friends, ate good food and watched as the kids laughed and ran around while they hunted for tons of brightly colored Easter Eggs.



The highlight of the weekend, which our kids cannot stop talking about, came in a brown cardboard box.  The chicken coop hasn’t been built yet but the chicks are here!  Aunt Gail got our kids baby chicks for Easter and they are tiny fluffy balls of cuteness.  We now have four baby Plymouth Rock Chickens and will be picking up the rest of the baby chicks (a few more different breeds) later this week when they come in.  In the meantime, Tony and I will be keeping our fingers crossed that all the baby chicks turnout to be hens!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Little Off-Grid Garden - What's Happening...

36 degrees outside - 10:30 am - sunshine and blue sky are peaking thru the white cloud covered sky...

the kids are checking out the soon-to-be garden area

the debris pile is getting larger as Tony does more clearing over the weekend

he really wants to help Daddy, but will have to settle
with his toy Stihl chainsaw instead of this one

Tony cutting down a few more trees

Wildlife on the Mountain…

36 degrees outside - 10:12 am - sunshine and blue sky are peaking thru the white cloud covered sky...

What a great morning on the mountain.  I love waking up in a room filled with sunshine and the sound of birds singing, it’s always a great start to the day. 

After getting the kids up, dressed and fed, off to school we went.  Since I would have to drive 20 minutes to the nearest school bus stop, I just go ahead and drive that plus the extra 8 minutes to school everyday.  On our way to school we saw 8 elk and 3 deer.  We see deer all the time, in our yard, along the road, everywhere, but seeing the elk is a rare treat.  Unfortunately I have yet to be quick enough with my camera to get a picture of the elk on the few occasions when we have seen them.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Little Off-Grid Garden – Eggshell Seed Starters…

38 degrees - 8:37 am - yesterday 'April Showers' brought us 4" of snow, which is now being slowly washed away by the rain...

Did you know that back in the days before commercial peat pots and plastic trays people used half of an eggshell to start seedlings?  That’s right.  An eggshell is a great container to sow seeds in.  Eggshells are small, lightweight, porous, earth friendly, readily available and loaded with nutrients that can provide a healthy dose of growing energy to your little seedlings. 

Here’s the way to use eggshells for seed pots: 
Crack the egg high up on the small end.  Empty the contents of the egg and rinse out the shell.  Poke 2 or 3 small holes in the bottom of the shell, I used a toothpick.  Fill half the shell with seed starter soil and sow a seed.  Cut an egg carton on the fold so it will fit on a windowsill.  Replace eggshells in egg carton, put on a sunny windowsill and cover lightly with plastic wrap until seed begin to sprout. 

When it’s time to plant the seedlings in the garden:
Gently crush the eggshell, dig a small hole, place the pieces directly into the garden soil along with your seedlings and backfill.  Pretty simple.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

First Flower Of The Year...

41 degrees outside - 13:31 pm - foggy and raining...

Whtie Trillium - found while excavating the garden area

Little Off-Grid Garden - What's Growing…

40 degrees outside - 11:08 am - still raining...

While Tony is busy getting the garden ready outside, the kids and I are getting the garden ready inside.  Rain or not, if we plan on having a garden, now is as good a time as any to start planting some garden starts.  A small packet of seeds will yield a complete tray of seedlings for the same price that you would pay for just a few retail plant starts.  Another advantage of starting our garden with seeds is that in a few short weeks the kids will get to witness one of the most exciting times for little gardeners, the birth of new seedlings as they emerge from the soil.

This morning the kids and I got out some of the little plastic pudding containers that we have been saving, Chives and Sweet Basil seed packets, a bag of potting soil, and laid plastic down over the table.  We were now ready to plant our garden starts.  The kids had fun planting and watering their tiny seeds.  We put the cups up on the highest south-facing windowsill (so our 2 year old wont “try” to help them grow) to get the most sunshine possible.  The kids are now eager to see the first green shoots sprout from the dirt.



Little Off-Grid Garden - What's Happening…

40 degrees outside - 10:37 am - raining...

Last week in the pouring rain, head to toe in his yellow raingear, Tony was out measuring the garden.  While he was climbing under, around and through all the Vine Maple and Salmon Berry bushes, the kids and I stayed warm and dry and watched him through the windows as he staked the corners of our soon-to-be garden.

Yesterday the sun was out, the birds were chirping, and Tony was on the excavator clearing and leveling out the marked garden area.  There are quite a few fallen down snags that need to be removed along with some other trees and debris that need to be moved out.  Any nice ferns or little fir trees that he happens upon, he is setting those aside for me to replant in another location in the yard.

It doesn’t look like much yet, but the before and after pictures will be amazing!


Monday, April 4, 2011

Off-Grid Internet…

42 degrees outside – 8:14 pm – it’s been raining all day, currently raining at a quarter inch per hour (2.82 inches total for today so far)…

I have two books that need to be written this summer.  In order to write them, I not only need my computers (desktop and laptop), but access to the Internet. 

Nowadays, there are Internet solutions that don’t require wires.  So, theoretically, we should be able to get the computers on the Internet in a place where wires don’t go.  Like our place in the foothills of the Cascade Mountain Range, which is entirely off-grid.

Now if you are not familiar with the phrase off-grid, it’s pretty simple.  It means that there is no access to public utilities, such as electricity, telephone, water, gas, or cable television.*  People who live off-grid have to provide for their own utilities.  Off-grid does NOT mean being some recluse who is untraceable and completely disconnected! 

With satellite, wireless Internet and wireless phone service it’s possible to have communications in even the most remote areas.  Anyone choosing to live off-grid can still enjoy efficient communications via one or more of these options.

Our computer-Internet hook up consists of desktop and laptop computers with Internet service currently being provided by Airspeed Internet.

Airspeeds network consists of a series of Repeater towers that relay our Internet signal to their base station, which is wired to a dedicated high-speed connection in town. 

Airspeed provided us with all of the hardware that connects to our wireless router, which in turn allows us to have Internet access throughout the house. All we need to do is turn on the generator, then the computer, and voilĂ  we’re online.  So yes, it’s not only possible, but also simple to have an Internet connection while living off-grid.


*Yes, technically you can live in the middle of the big city and choose to be off-grid by not connecting to or using public utilities and instead providing them for yourself.  We don’t have a choice in the matter, so the ‘City Off-Grid Living’ is for someone else to blog about.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Wildlife on the Mountain...

33 degrees outside - 10:40 am - snowing and windy with a windchill of 24 degrees...

a pair of Pileated Woodpeckers searching for their breakfast


Nearly as large as a crow, the Pileated Woodpecker is the largest woodpecker in most of North America.  They can get anywhere between 15.7”-19.3” in length and have a wingspan around 26”-29.5”.

Cool Fact --- Pileated Woodpecker pairs stay together in their chosen territory all year round.  They will defend the territory in all seasons, but will tolerate floaters during the winter.

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