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, December 31, 2011


30 degrees - 9:55 am - calm with scattered clouds...

When you come up the main driveway and pull into our private driveway the first thing you see is a small home dwarfed by a spectacular view (which you can see on most days).  With the 4,364-foot tall mountain in the background and the 60 to 120 foot tall trees all around, it really throws the size ratio of things off. 

Even those who are amazingly accurate at judging size and distance get thrown off.  It is hard to believe that the small home, which is sitting in a three-acre clearing, is actually almost a 2,600 sqft home.

Standing inside our home, with 11’ ceilings and 8’ doorways, it still throws your perspective of things off… until you stand next to something, and realize just how big or small it really is.

you don't realize how big these windows really are until
Tony, who is 6' tall, stands next to them

The thrown off size ratio up here on the mountain has just been another learning curve for us (when I say us, I mean mostly me).  Instead of grabbing the stepladder to use inside the house, go for the big ladder.  Instead of grabbing just any ladder to use outside, go for the tallest ladder.  You can’t just climb up onto the roof, you need to put on the safety harness and tie off first, and then you can climb on up the roof, which is 36’ off the ground.

At the end of the day, it is just one of the many learning curves we have had to endure building off-grid in the mountains.

New Year’s Eve…

30 degrees - 9:08 am - calm morning...

Yesterday the temperature started to drop, snow started to mix in with the rain and by nightfall it was snowing.  This morning we woke up to a dusting of snow.  What a great way to end the 2011 year.

the 60+ mph winds we have been having recently have torn
some of the tar paper off the chicken coop roof

bunny tracks - another camera shy animal

Friday, December 30, 2011

Wind And Rain…

39 degrees - 10:28 am - drizzling...

Sadly we did not have a white Christmas this year.  So far, this winter has been unusually warm and rather dry.  Although I think all the rain we have had in the past few days is really trying to make up for that. 

We have gotten 6.16 inches of rain in the past two days, which is causing all the streams, creeks and rivers to swell.  When is a stream a stream, and not a creek?  Or when is a creek a creek and not a river?  With all the recent rain, stream and creek beds that are normally dry are now overflowing with rushing water.

It sill amazes us how much water there is on our mountain ridge.  There seems to be water seeping out of the ground all over the place and little streams that pop up out of nowhere all year round.

The wind and rain took a temporary break this morning, so I took advantage and ran around and snapped a few pictures of the swollen streams and creeks.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Gravity Fed Water System {Still Trenching}…

35 degrees - 6:33 pm - cloudy...

Our last post about trenching the gravity fed water system was over a month and a half ago.  Since then, we have been busy with work, holidays, and other projects around the house. 

Now that the main winter holidays are behind us, and there is no snow on the ground, back to trenching he goes.  Tony now has just over 1,500 feet of pipe laid, and still has about another 150 feet to go to the holding tanks.  Once he gets to the holding tank area then he will have to lay another 200 feet of pipe from the new well down to the holding tanks.

The last few hundred feet of trenching has not been easy since Tony has had to dig through large amounts of rock.  The final stretch will hopefully be much easier and go much quicker.

Here are some pictures of what Tony has done so far…

laying out the pipe over the open trench, getting ready to put it in

last section of trench has the pipe in and is covered up -
ready to start trenching the last stretch 

the mini bosses out giving their opinions on what they think needs to be done

Jack pointing out the pipe to me and explaining what Daddy is trying to do

To be continued…

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Traditions…

50 degrees - 9:44 pm - windy...

My family has always celebrated Christmas on Christmas Eve.  When I was little, we had a group of 14 and we would have a progressive dinner every year.  We would start out at one house for appetizers, then go to the second house for dinner.  The third house was dessert and at the fourth house we got to open presents.

We have all grown up, gotten married, and now have kids of our own.  Our little group of 14 has grown to a group of 28 – spreading over four generations.  We have since simplified Christmas Eve while trying to keep the important things – everyone getting together.  One night, one house, 28 people.  Good food, good conversations, and a wrapping paper war (this year included a snowball fight).

Caitlyn and Jack with their cousins

snowballs for the indoor snowball fight
(lovingly made by my mom and my aunt)

Tony and I have lucked out in the fact that we get to spend Christmas with both of our families.

His family has always celebrated Christmas on Christmas Day.  Everyone gathers at his parent’s house and we all hang out for the whole day, eating, talking, watching movies, and playing games.

One day of Christmas fun is done and over.  The kids have said their goodbyes to Red the Elf, since he will be going home to the North Pole tonight.  Peanut Butter Corn Flakes and a bottle of water have been set out for Santa.  The kids are all tucked in their beds, although Caitlyn keeps coming out to see if Santa has come yet.  And I am off to get everything ready so we can get up and go tomorrow morning for one more day of Christmas fun.

Peanut Butter Corn Flakes and a bottle of water for Santa.  --- Caitlyn said
that a glass of milk would get warm to quickly so a bottle of water was better.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Where Are You Christmas…

35 degrees - 11:40 am - dreary and drizzling...

Tony is at work.  Caitlyn is on the couch reading a Dr. Seuss book.  Jack has decided that his mission for the day is to bug his sister and nothing seems to change that.  And I am currently looking out the window at the dreary, cloudy, foggy, drizzly day and wondering, “Where is all the snow at?  It’s just not Christmas without snow!”

this is the view out the window today

Christmas is just a few short days away.  Our tree is up and decorated.  Presents are wrapped and tucked under the tree (still missing a few though).  Christmas music is playing on the radio.  The oven is hot and the kitchen is full of delicious smells.  And I still find myself wondering, “Where are you Christmas?”

a year ago --- it really did feel like Christmas time with all the snow

We are living off-grid in the mountains.  Christmas just isn’t Christmas unless everything is covered in a twinkling blanket of white magic.

last Christmas --- and what I am hoping for this Christmas!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Working On A Dream…

39 degrees - 10:20 am - bright blue sky, sun is shining, scattered clouds...

Living in the mountains off-grid, we have come to the conclusion that you have to love the movie ‘Swiss Family Robinson’ and the television series ‘Little House on the Prairie’.  Basically you have to be hard working, creative, ingenious, able to visualize the end product, and most importantly a dreamer.

Since the start of this project we have had to change course a few times, alter our expectations, and deal with disappointment when we have let our hopes get a little too high… but, we are still working on our dream.

Instead of our dream home being completed in the 12-16 month time frame that we were originally thinking, we have now broken it down into phases. 
Phase 1 – complete the house 
Phase 2 – complete the garage, with great room above and enclosed breezeway
Phase 3 – complete the shop
One nice thing that has come out of this project taking so long… it give us a little more time to dream and tweak the house a little here and there to make it a bit more unique, and something that we will be happy to live in for a very long time to come. 

Here are a few photos that are inspiring some of our dreams…

Front Porch
we love the use of natural elements and they will be both inside and out

Enclosed Breezeway from House to Garage
ours won't have so many windows but it will be suspended in the air

Kitchen Nook
side of the fireplace facing the kitchen - great place to
store cook books - love the wood and stone look

Great Room above the Garage
a much needed extra space so the family can spread out a bit at all the family gatherings

Bunk Room above the Garage
a place for family and friends to sleep when they come and visit

It’s fun to be a dream, especially when the dreams come true!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Little Ballerina…

35 degrees - 8:42 am - drizzling...

Our 6-year-old daughter started taking ballet lessons in March and just loves it!  She no longer walks around the house – instead she chasses through the rooms, pirouettes around the furniture and does an arabesque when picking up a toy off a shelf. 

Last night was her second ballet performance at a local high school’s performing arts center.  Her 5-7 year old class, which has 9 little girls in it, danced to the song ‘Where Are You Christmas’ by Faith Hill and they did a fantastic job! 

Dancing to the song 'Where Are You Christmas' by Faith Hill

Caitlyn is the fourth ballerina from the right.

In fact, all the 100 or so dancers who ranged from 3-18 years old and performed everything from ballet to hip hop to jazz, to river dance, all did a great job and the night was a success!

Caitlyn after her performance holding one of three flower
bouquets.  She was so happy everyone got her flowers.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

What’s Red Been Up To Lately…

31 degrees - 10:03 am - bright blue sky with scattered white puffy clouds...

Red the elf… he is a mischievous little guy.  He has been traveling all over the house keeping an eye on the kids while having a bit of fun himself.  Here are a few pictures of Red having some fun – these were the kids’ favorites from the past week.

Barbie and Red were watching movies
in the back of Jack's dump truck.

Jack:  “Ahhhh!  I found Red!”
Caitlyn:  “Where is he?”
Jack:  “Him and Barbie are in my dump truck!”
Caitlyn:  (laughs) “What!?  They are on a date!”
Jack:  (very seriously) “Not in my dump truck!”
Caitlyn: (walks off still laughing)  “Red and Barbie sitting in a tree.  K-I-S-S-I-N-G…”

Red had two of his friends, Gus and Jasper, over to play cards. 
They came from the North Pole via Great-Grandma's house.

Caitlyn:  (shocked) “Mom!  There are two more elves!”
Me:  “Wow, what’s the note say?”
Caitlyn:  “Meet Gus and Jasper.  They came to play cards.”
Me:  “Good job.  It looks like Red was having a fun night of cards.”
Caitlyn:  “But Mom, look!  They must be from a different department at the North Pole!”
Me:  “Oh, why do you say that?”
Caitlyn:  “Mom!?!?  Look at their uniforms, Red’s is wearing red and white, and Gus and Jasper are wearing red and green.”
Me:  (laughs) “That’s true… you must be right.”

Brrrr, Baby It’s Cold Outside…

31 degrees - 9:44 am - bright blue sky with scattered white puffy clouds…

The wind has finally calmed down a bit.  For the past several days the wind has been howling with 66+ mph wind gusts causing things to fall over and fly thru the air.  Even with five layers of clothes on I was still freezing as I was running around the yard picking stuff up and trying not to get blown away myself.

Even with the wind temporarily gone, it’s still freezing outside right now.  Everything is frozen and in the backyard, we have strange looking ice crystal called needle ice.  Needle ice can form any place where the ground freezes.  Needle ice is made up of thin ice crystals that grow upward, starting just below the grounds surface.  These ice crystals have made the ground rise several inches.  I think they are really neat looking so I just had to take some pictures.

these strange looking ice crystals are called 'needle ice'

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

One-Pan Skillet Cookie…

29 degrees - 11:36 am - windy with a clear blue sky and brrr, it's cold outside...

I am a chocoholic, a dessert lover, and new to cooking with cast iron (which I now love also).  So when I ran across this recipe for a giant gooey chocolate chunk cookie in a skillet on sophistimom, I just had to try it!  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

~ One-Pan Chocolate Chunk Skillet Cookie ~

 1 stick (8 Tbsp) unsalted butter
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup light brown sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 egg
1 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp kosher salt
1 cup chocolate chunks*

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Melt butter in an 8-inch cast iron skillet set over medium-low heat.  Stir in sugars and vanilla and remove from heat.  Let rest until pan is warm, but no longer very hot, about 5 minutes.

Crack an egg onto the butter and sugar mixture, and use a fork to whisk it well into the mixture.  Place flour, baking soda, and salt on top, and very carefully stir into the mixture until smooth and well-mixed.  Stir in chocolate chunks.  Place in the oven for 15-20 minutes**, or until starting to turn golden on the top and around the edges, but soft in the center.  Serve with vanilla ice cream.

{*Guittard semi-sweet chocolate chips work the best.  They’re very smooth and use real vanilla.  If you happen to be where only Ghirardelli chocolate chips are sold, you can get them too, but the chocolate just doesn’t flow very well in a cookie.}

{**Cooking time can vary greatly depending on pan size, how hot your pan is when you put it in the oven, etc.  When you are making it, judge the cooking time according to the doneness of your preference.  You may have to wait a little longer than the recipe says, but you won’t be sorry.}

When you serve this, spoon it out as you would a warm cobbler, in great heaping spoonfuls, with a scoop of the very best vanilla ice cream.

--- Enjoy!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Polar Express…

30 degrees - 8:06 pm - foggy...

Today we jumped into the car and headed up the Columbia Gorge to the Hood River Railroad Depot in Hood River, Oregon for a little family fun.

Cape Horn Lookout, Columbia River Gorge

“All Aboard” said the conductor, as our train ride on the Polar Express began.  We sipped hot chocolate and ate cookies while we took our train ride to the North Pole.  While we were enjoying our snack, the crew walked up and down the aisles with the Polar Express book and read it to all the passengers.  The train did have to stop once because there was a heard of caribou in the way, but once they moved, we were on our way again.  And before you knew it, we saw the lights of the North Pole.  When we arrived, Santa and his elves where outside waving to all the passengers.  All the lights of the North Pole were amazing.  As the train reversed to head back to Hood River, Santa was nowhere to be found!  He had jumped on the train and was going from car-to-car greeting all the passengers and handing out silver sleigh bells to all the children.  And boy were Caitlyn and Jack having fun jingling those bells (really loudly) and singing Christmas carols all the way back to the station.

Caitlyn with her Polar Express ticket.

Our niece Joslyn telling Santa what she wants for Christmas.

Jack ooohing and aaaahing at everything.

An afternoon with family and friends (15 in total), a train ride, hot chocolate and cookies, kids in their jammies, caroling, elves, Santa himself… what a fun experience.

By the end of the ride, the kids were all tuckered out.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Saturday Evening Post…

34 degrees - 4:16 pm - light rain with a few snow flakes mixed in...

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…

Hubby:  “We need to get a milk cow.”
Me:  “What?  Why do we need a cow?”
Hubby:  “All survival sources say you need a cow.”
Me:  “But I like 1% milk.”
Hubby:  (laughs) “Where do you think 1% milk comes from?”
Me:  (laughs) “Haha very funny.  It doesn’t come out of the cow as 1% is what I mean.”
Hubby:  “You have to process it.  Skim the fat off and add water.  It can’t be that hard.”
Me:  (laughs) “Can we get an Oreo cow?
Hubby:  “What?  No!  They don’t taste good.  I am partial to Herefords.”
Me:  (laughs) “We will see…”

{Side Note: Just in case you are wondering what an Oreo cow is – it’s a Belted Galloway.  They are a black cow with a broad white belt, hence the nickname Oreo cow.}

The Coop Controversy…

35 degrees - 12:02 pm - cold and cloudy...

This is our second house that we have built.  Granted the first time, we walked into an office, picked out the floor plan, and had a builder do everything.  So this is the first time that we are doing it ourselves.

Building our own house… how exciting!  This is our chance to make our home exactly how we want it to be, from size to color to location.  This could be the greatest project of our lives, or the end of life as we know it.  Believe what people say; there is a lot of stress involved in building a house.  But other people have survived it, and so will we.

Throughout this whole process, Tony and I have pretty much been on the same page when it comes to decisions and choices having to do with the house.  So it has come as a surprise that there has been so much controversy over the chicken coop!  Where to put it… what style to build… why is it taking so long… have all caused some heated discussions.

The style of the coop is no longer a topic of discussion since it is already half built. 

Where to put it… hmmm…  I thought that topic was closed but when the kids and I got home last night from running errands in town all day, something looked different.  It took me a minute to realize the chicken coop was gone!  What???  The moon was so bright last night, that I didn’t even need a flashlight as I walked over to the big clearing near the propane tank area and what do you know… the coop was there.  I will admit that I do like it better over there and yes, I did tell Tony that.

Why is it taking so long…?  Well, that one right there… that one little question has been the hottest of all the heated discussions.  All twelve baby chicks arrived around Easter and have since had a very lengthy stay at the in-law’s house.  We cannot bring them home until the coop is completed, which yes, it is on my list for Santa this year.

So without going any further into The Coop Controversy… here are some pictures of the chicken coop and it’s current (and hopefully permanent) location.

looking out the back window at the chicken coops new location

chicken coop - under construction - in its new (and hopefully final) location

{Side Note:  Even though we have gotten into a few heated discussions over this darn chicken coop, at least we can still laugh about it.  ---  Tony and I took a walk out to the coop this morning so he could show me in the daylight what he had done.  I told him that even though I liked it better in its new location and how he made everything look really good, I was still going to do this post.  He just smiled and laughed at me.}

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Christmas Cards Are Done…

32 degrees - 2:47 pm - foggy...

Every year I take a picture of the kids or have someone take a picture of our family to be used for our Christmas card.  I then work a little computer magic, add some wording, and send them off to Costco to be printed.  For under $15, I have custom photo Christmas cards and I am happy that one more item gets checked off my holiday to-do-list!


32 degrees - 2:25 - foggy...

This afternoon one of our two 500 gallon propane tanks was delivered.  Tony had previous cut out and cleared an area for the propane tanks to sit that is 200 feet away from the house and cannot be seen.  If we have to have propane tanks, I don’t want to see them!  The area is big enough to fit four 500-gallon tanks, but hopefully we won’t need that much.  Tony also had all the conduit lines ran and buried between the house and the propane tank area.  So when the propane guys got here they just had to unload the tank from their truck…

…then Tony jumped into the excavator and placed the tank…

…then the kids had to check it out…

…then one of the propane guys and Tony (down in the hole)
had to push the propane line thru the 200 feet of conduit…

…so it popped out in this hole by the house (the last 6 feet where the
hardest, having to push thru the last of three 45 degree bends)…

…after the conduit was pushed thru then it was time to hook up the regulator…

…then fill the tank (looking out the back window) and
after $1067 worth of propane we are done!


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