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.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Saturday Evening Post…

42 degrees - 8:56 am - clear blue sky...

A small glimpse into our lives as we live off-grid… sort of like eves dropping.  It may be a quote or a conversation; funny, sweet or sad; but it will always be true.  We will see if it resonates with you…


6-year-old daughter:  “Wow Mom, it’s pouring cats and dogs outside!”
2-year-old son:  “Where, where… I don’t see any dogs!”
Me:  “No, no, no Jack.  Caitlyn means that it is raining really hard outside.”
2-year-old son:  “Oh…. hahahaha silly dogs.”
(thunder and lightening start)
2-year-old son:  “Mom the dogs are barking!”
6-year-old daughter:  “That’s not dogs!”
Me:  “Guys, it's just raining really hard and that's thunder and lightening.  No Jack, there are no cats or dogs outside right now.  The sky is just putting on a neat show for us.”
Kids:  “Oohhhh.”
{It’s cute how kids see things differently sometimes.}

Friday, October 28, 2011

Beef Enchiladas…

44 degrees - 8:46 am - cloudy...

What’s for dinner?  We had Beef Enchiladas last night.  I have had this recipe since high school and it’s always been a favorite.  It is a great change from the standard red sauce enchiladas and very easy to make.

So once again, as requested here is the recipe…

Beef Enchiladas in a stone baking dish - I just love cooking with stone & cast iron!

~ Beef Enchiladas ~

Filling:  Mix the following ingredients in a bowl.
1 to 1 ½ cups Monterey Jack cheese, grated
1 to 1 ½ lbs ground beef
3 to 4 sliced green onions
½ teaspoon cumin
dash of garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste

Sauce:  Heat the following ingredients in a saucepan until warm.
1 cup sour cream
1 can cream of mushroom soup

Preparation:  Grease 9 x 13-inch baking pan.  Pour about one cup of the sauce into the bottom of the baking pan.  Use one package flour tortillas, about 12.  Set each tortilla in sauce, place ½ cup or less, of filling mixture on tortilla; roll and wrap tortilla around filling, and place seam side down in baking pan.  Once all tortillas are in the pan, pour remaining sauce over the top of all enchilada’s.

Bake at 350°F for 35 to 40 minutes.

You may garnish with slices of fresh avocado and paprika or slices of green onion and a dash of paprika.  But we always serve it with sour cream and salsa.

{Just a side note: whenever I get a new recipe, I always make it exactly how it says.  They I tweak it a bit to suit our taste.  This is the original recipe.  I have since tweaked it by using Pepper Jack Cheese instead of Monterey Jack just to give it a little extra zing.  Oh and I always use more cheese than any recipe calls for!}

--- Enjoy!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

A Hike Around The Homestead (Welcome To My World)...

38 degrees - 12:31 pm - gorgeous day outside...

I grabbed the camera as Jack and I headed outside to enjoy the gorgeous day.  We ended up going for a little hike around our off-grid homestead. 

I just love this view!

I love that our home is always warm with a fire in the wood stove

step out of the yard and you are back in the forest

our wind gage that is getting quite a bit of use lately

the much needed and loved firewood

this was the extent of our garden this year - green onion and sweet basil

four legged wildlife

two legged wildlife

burned out snag from the 1902 forest fire

burned out snag from the 1902 forest fire


one week = just over three dozen eggs - those girls are busy

Vine Maple in the fall

Grouse

the bridge on the driveway going over Last Chance Creek

Last Chance Creek
the trees see everything...  :)

Hope you enjoyed our little "hike"!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

First Triple Yolk Chicken Egg…

35 degrees - 8:56 am - blue sky and burrrr, baby it's cold outside...

Remember my post ‘Weekend Update’ where one of our chickens laid a HUGE egg?  Well this morning Jack wanted to make some brownies.  The recipe calls for two eggs, so I figured I would use that HUGE egg, guessing it was a double yolk.  Wow!  To my surprise I just cracked open the first triple yolk egg that I’ve ever seen in my entire life!  (I hope it doesn't make my brownies turn out funny.)

Yes, that's right - all three of those yolks came out of that one huge chicken egg!

We are new to raising chickens so I didn’t even know chickens laid triple yolk eggs!  What a great surprise!

{Update - Oct. 27}
Our double/triple yolk layer is one of the Welsummer girls - Hazel, Mabel, Nutmeg or Penny.  Now we just have to figure out which one...?

Saturday, October 22, 2011

“Spring Cleaning”…

52 degrees - 12:32 pm - foggy and raining...

Spring cleaning ironically is not as necessary as it once was.  Back in the olden days, spring cleaning was a much different concept then it is today.  This cleaning was a necessary routine because of how they had to heat their homes and keep them lit.  Using kerosene, wood, gas, oil, and candles caused the house to develop dark sooty grime around it.  This grime created the need for a deep cleaning of the home.  Their deep cleaning restored the beauty of the home and also gave them the opportunity to get out the lighter linens, rugs and furniture that they used during the warmer seasons.  Not only did they divulge in spring cleaning, they also did fall cleaning as well to prepare them for the cold season of winter.

Today we do not have the need to do spring cleaning although in many families it is a ritual that brings about peace and renewal in our homes after an entire day or week of intense cleaning.  In this day and age, however, it is hard to be able to set aside that much time to get all of these tasks done.  Our schedules and days are so full that it’s hard to devote more than the few hours necessary just to keep our home running smoothly.

Instead of doing one deep cleaning I have vowed to “spring clean” four times a year – once every season.  I will go through closets and reorganize, donate what we haven’t used in awhile or set it aside for a summer garage sale, wash windows inside and out, clean out my fridge and pantry, etc.  A few things that make my “seasonal spring cleaning” go a little easier are: 

- Checklist – I make a list of everything that needs to be done.  It may be a little overwhelming when you first see that long list, but it motivates me as I see the list shrink
- Cleaners – I take an inventory of my cleaners and the tools that I will need in order to accomplish all of the necessary cleaning.  Nothing is worse then getting ready to do your task and then finding out that you are missing that one component needed to complete the task. 
- Clutter – I don’t care for clutter very much.  There was a time when I used to want to fill my home with loads of stuff.  Now I look at everything as one more thing to dust and care for.  If I don’t like to dust it, don’t love the item, it doesn’t have a proper home in the home – it’s gone… trash, garage sale or donated!!
- Cleaning Caddy – I keep a caddy of cleaning supplies on each floor.  I find it much easier to clean my house when I know that the tools that I need to accomplish my task are just a few steps away.
- Schedule It – Sometimes life is going by so quickly that you loose track of time.  It sounds silly, but don’t you remember your appointments and engagements better when it is written on your calendar?  It is hard to ignore scheduled tasks in glaring print. 
- Helpers – The kids and hubby can be active participants in getting the home organized just like they help to contribute to the clutter.  Involving the family can be beneficial in showing them all that you do to keep the house running smoothly.  Although I will admit that sometimes, it is just faster if I do it myself.

I still need to do it for fall… our house could use it too!  It seems to be overflowing right now.  Tools are everywhere, since we are still in the ‘construction phase’.  We also have some stuff here that is not necessary at the moment and could go back into storage for the time being.  So today I will be running around doing errands and picking up needed supplies and tomorrow is “Fall Cleaning”.

So… what kind of "Spring Cleaning" do you do?

Young Bucks...

48 degrees - 9:10 am - foggy and raining...

our two resident young bucks
{it's hard to take a good picture thru fog}

Friday, October 21, 2011

Chicken Carbonara…

50 degrees - 5:00 pm - cloudy and the fog is rolling in...

Chicken Carbonara is one of my favorite pasta dishes.  Italians have been making pasta alla carbonara for years – it was created by coal miners.  The same principles apply to this version; it’s a fast, hearty meal after a hard day’s work.


~ Chicken Carbonara ~

½ cup Parmesan, grated
2 eggs
¼ cup heavy cream
½ tsp kosher salt
½ tsp black pepper
½ lb thick sliced bacon, diced
1 lb chicken tenders, seasoned with salt & pepper
¼ cup dry white wine
¼ cup chicken broth
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
12 oz dry spaghetti
1 cup frozen peas

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for the spaghetti.  While spaghetti is cooking, whisk together Parmesan, eggs, cream, salt, and pepper in a large bowl.

Sauté bacon in a large sauté pan until crisp.  Drain on a paper towel-lined plate; pour off all but 1 Tbsp drippings.  Add chicken; sauté 4 minutes per side; transfer to the plate with bacon.  Deglaze the pan with wine, broth, and juice, scraping up any bits on the bottom.  Reduce by half, 2-3 minutes.

Cook spaghetti in boiling water, stirring often.  Drain pasta into a colander with the frozen peas.  Shake pasta to remove excess water.  Combine the bacon and chicken mixture with the egg mixture.  Add hot pasta and toss to coat.  Serve immediately.

{Notes:  When you drain the boiling pasta over the peas in the colander, the water is hot enough to thaw them. --- The eggs are the heart and soul of carbonara.  Don’t worry about them being raw – they will cook when tossed with the hot pasta.}

Quick and satisfying, this pasta carbonara will fast become a weeknight family favorite!

--- Enjoy!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Weekend Update…

48 degrees - 10:50 am - blue sky and sunshine...

What a wonderful weekend.  We had gorgeous weather and got a lot accomplished.

The kids and I headed to the beach property for an end of the year clean-up weekend.  We had to winterizing everything since we won't be back until next year.

Took a little break to go and enjoy a walk on the beach.

Tony spent the weekend at home kind of doing the same thing.  He also flagged out a path where he wants to dig a trench for the water lines that will go from the well to the holding tanks, which are near the propane tanks and generator house.

And the chickens… they set a new record with 8 eggs in one day.  I think one of the girls might have an identity crisis and thinks it’s a duck.  The eggs that come out of her are HUGE double yolkers!  Anyways, with the chickens laying basically a bakers dozen ever two days, I currently have over four dozen eggs in the fridge.  Yikes!  I need to either start doing some serious baking or pawn them off onto family and friends.

Check out the size of that egg!  It's HUGE!

Off-Grid Mountain Living - Winter Prep…

48 degrees - 10:26 am - blue sky and sunshine...

Wildlife is abundant.  No lions or tigers here… bears, bobcats and cougars, yes. 

Sunshine is intense.  At this altitude, it’s easier to burn, both in summer and winter.
And it snows in the mountains.  It’s part of the allure for most of us living here… fluffy white stuff to play in through the crisp (hopefully sunny) winters.  The winter winds may be harsh, but those who live in snowy, cold climates know there is still charm to be found in the season.  When you are relaxing in front of a warm fire or enjoying a rich meal with a gathering of friends and family, it’s easy to forget the wintry weather just outside the door.

It does take some preparation to enjoy the winter months.  Four-wheel drive vehicles, snow tires or chains, a blade or snow blower, all just to stay mobile.  Typically our annual snowfall can range anywhere from 24 inches to 164 inches.  So it’s best to be prepared for whatever Mother Nature brings out way.

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

To keep winter weather concerns at bay, a little preparation can go a long way.  As the flakes start to fall (which is less than a month away), it’s important to get outside and ensure that our home is safe for us, our guests, neighbors and anyone else who stops by.  While these tasks likely aren’t at the top of our favorite winter activities list, they will save us from bigger headaches as the season progresses.

Before the snow flies, we need to get our propane tanks installed and filled; clear the ditches along the driveway; service the snow blower and snow mobiles (which belong to our neighbors); stock our vehicles with extra blankets, jumper cables, a tow rope, shovel, snowshoes, and 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.

There’s no denying that there are some headaches that come along with winter.  But if we try to be as prepared as possible, we will spend more time enjoying the season instead of laboring outside.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Feedback…

52 degrees - 12:06 pm - clear blue sky and sunny...
 
We are constantly being told how gorgeous our place is but how crazy we are for living so far out… in a forest… and off-grid!

Yes, we know we are crazy, and yes we do have our down days, but we truly love it out here.

I also love hearing feedback from those of you who read and follow my blog.  Here is a comment that I recently received and wanted to share it - it made me smile.  It's nice to know that there are people out there who truly get what we are trying to do.

“I realize you lose some of the conveniences but you are so lucky to be able to live a life style that will enlighten your children about what living is really about and instill values in their daily lives.  AWESOME.” ~ Anonymous

Thank you, and keep the comments coming!

Saturday Evening Post…

52 degrees – 12:01 pm – blue sky and very cold outside…

A small glimpse into our lives as we live off-grid… sort of like eves dropping.  It may be a thought, quote or a conversation; funny, sweet or sad; but it will always be true.  We will see if it resonates with you…


Jack and I had just gotten home from dropping Caitlyn off at school.  Time to do the morning chores… refill the firewood and kindling bins, clean up kitchen, make beds, etc…  I told Jack that he could play outside while I was hauling in the firewood, but when I was all done, we both had to go inside.  I just finished bring up the first load of firewood and turn around to see Jack right behind me…

2 year old Son:  “Look Mom, I’m helping!”  (as he is carrying in a piece of firewood)
Me:  (huge proud smile)  “Why yes you are my big helper, thank you so much!  I love you! (and continue to smother him in kisses)
2 year old Son: (blushing and laughing with a huge proud smile)  “Ahhh Mom, your big helper loves you to!”
Me:  (smothers him in more kisses and then head outside to get another load of firewood)

This continued for four more loads of firewood.  I am very easy to please and boy was I pleased when he spent his outside playtime helping me carry in firewood (and I didn’t even ask him to!).

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Ahead of the Curve…

50 degrees - 12:17 pm - cloudy...

It appears that we are ahead of the curve according to an article on Yahoo! Real Estate today.

Things that make up the home of 2015 will be: 2,100 sq. ft. homes, open living spaces, no living rooms, no formal dining rooms, no hallways, and detached garages.  This allows for a more energy efficient home, with a more creative design, more amenities, and a better flow.

Hmmmm…

just a glimpse of the floor plan, and what's going in it...
(things that I am loving right now are natural colors, natural elements,
industrial pieces, collections and pops of color)

Sounds familiar to me.  It’s so nice to be trendsetters.

You Know You’re From the Pacific Northwest When…

50 degrees - 10:28 am - it's not raining!!!...

I thought this joke was very suiting for today (and soooo very true!).
 
-----
You feel guilty throwing aluminum cans or paper in the trash.

Use the statement “sun break” and know what it means.

You know more than 10 ways to order coffee.

You know more people who own boats than air conditioners.

You feel overdressed wearing a suit to a nice restaurant.

You stand on a deserted corner in the rain waiting for the “Walk” signal.

You consider that if it has no snow or has not recently erupted, it is not a real mountain.

You can point to at least two volcanoes, even if you cannot see through the cloud cover.

You notice “the mountain is out” when it is a pretty day and you can actually see it.
Look - the mountain is out!

You can taste the difference between Starbucks, Seattle’s Best, and Veneto’s.

You know the difference between Chinook, Coho, and Sockeye Salmon.

You know how to pronounce Sequim, Puyallup, Issaquah, Oregon, Yakima, and Willamette. Also…Snohomish, Skykomish, Swinomish, Squamish, Squaxim, and Skookumchuck.

You consider swimming an indoor sport.

You can tell the difference between Japanese, Chinese, and Thai food.

In winter, you go to work in the dark and come home in the dark - while only working an eight-hour day.

You never go camping without waterproof matches and a poncho.

You are not fazed by “Today’s forecast: showers followed by rain,” and “Tomorrow’s forecast: rain followed by showers.”

You have no concept of humidity without precipitation.

You put on your shorts when the temperature gets above 50, but still wear your hiking boots and parka.
Instead of wearing our hiking boots, we're wearing our Muck Boots.

You switch to your sandals when the temperature gets about 60.

You have actually used your mountain bike on a mountain.

You think people who use umbrellas are either wimps or tourists.

You buy new sunglasses every year, because you cannot find the old ones after such a long time.

You measure distance in hours.

You often switch from “heat” to “a/c” in the same day.

You know all the important seasons: Almost Winter, Winter, Still Raining (Spring), Road Construction (Summer), Deer & Elk Season (Fall).

You actually understood these jokes.
-----

This past week has done everything from spinkle to showers to rain to down pour, with 40+ mph winds mixed in.  It has either been cloudy or foggy, so the mountain has been “hiding”.  The temperatures have dropped to the 40s so I have traded in my flip flops for my Muck Boots (love these!).  But today… it’s not raining, the mountain is out, and it is 50 degrees outside which is still a little chilly for flip flops but I am wearing them anyways!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Saturday Evening Post...

51 degrees - 10:58 am - cloudy but the sun is trying to come out...

A small glimpse into our lives as we live off-grid… sort of like eves dropping.  It may be a quote or a conversation; funny, sweet or sad; but it will always be true.  We will see if it resonates with you…


Me:  "I never wish life was easier, because its all a journey that shapes us... but sometimes I wish life was easier, because I don't want to be shaped!"
My Brother:  "You should be well shaped by now."
Me:  (laughs) "Yes, I think so too."

Thursday, October 6, 2011

It’s Going To Be Another La Niña Winter…

43 degrees - 9:33 am - foggy and lightly raining...

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 weather predictions for this coming winter are saying that we are in for another La Niña winter.  Did you know that there have only been 19 La Niña events since 1950?  Last year was #19. 

Last Winter --- using the excavator to dig out Tony's truck

Last Winter --- trying to keep our personal driveway open

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!  With this past summer being unusually cooler than normal, and the evening temperatures already hitting the low 40s, I am starting to wonder if that means this winter will be even colder than last winter.

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.  Last year the first snowfall was Nov. 17th, and the year before that was Nov. 18th.  We are thinking that this year the snow will come even earlier!

Our gate is 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!

The firewood for this winter is all cut, split and stacked, we have already dug out all the snowshoes and tire chains, and in a few more weeks we will be putting on the studded snow tires.  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.

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

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Witch's Brooms...

43 degrees - 10:36 am - foggy and raining...

Here is another super easy and cute idea for Halloween and you probably already have everything at home to make these.  My sister and I made these a few years ago, they were a huge hit and everyone loved them!


You will need:
- brown paper bag (2 for each favor)
- twig
- yarn
- scissors
- can’t forget the candies & treats!


Starting at the upper edge of the first bag and stopping just above the base, cut bag into narrow strips.  Starting at the upper edge of the second bag, cut strips only half way down the bag (***this is important so you can still fill up the broom***).  (Note: The lunch size bags are sort of big, so we just cut several inches off the tops to make them a little bit smaller.)  Now place the half cut bag inside the fully cut bag and fill the bag up with treats.  Put your twig into the bag, gather upper edges of bags around the twig and tie the yarn around the bags and the twig.


--- Enjoy!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Weekend Projects…

50 degrees - 10:17 am - raining...

It’s a cold, rainy, fall day outside but thankfully it’s nice, warm and cozy inside because the weather forecast for this week is showing nothing but cold temps and more rain.  Fall is definitely here, and the number of nice days is now limited.

Tony spent the entire weekend out in the mud and rain trying to get some important projects done – smoothing out the backyard and getting the conduit project completed. 

After spreading out the large dirt pile in the backyard, we were left with a yard full of rocks and sticks.  So Tony borrowed our neighbors John Deere tractor to remove the debris and smooth out the dirt.  Now all we need to do is plant grass seed, hopefully it’s not too late in the season for that.

the backyard doesn't look that big --- but then I remember
that those stars are 12'x12' and the backyard is the size of the lot
that our last 2,164 sq ft house sat on --- so yes, it's pretty big in comparison.

He was also able to finally dig the last stretch of the trench for the conduit lines, from the edge of the backyard over to the well and propane tank area.  The conduit lines have been laid out but we were two sticks short.  Once we get those last two sticks in, the trench can be filled in. 

conduit lines at the edge of the backyard


conduit lines - black line turning left heading to the well and the gray lines
heading staight to the propane tank and generator house area

conduit lines for the propane tanks and generator


looking back towards the house and backyard

I just love it when things get to be crossed off the To-Do-List!

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