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.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Snowed In…

30 degrees - 10:58 am - snowing...

Last night the snow started falling again and by this morning we had another foot of the fluffy white stuff.  The driving conditions on our road have just gotten worse as the week has progressed and with this new foot of snow - we are snowed in today.

Caitlyn's working on a snowman and Jack's using his digger
Let’s go back a few days to Monday.  Monday was one of those days.  You know the ones –“THOSE” day.  We all have them from time to time.  Monday was mine.  They always come in threes – three things that happen – not three days.  I hope!

So just so you know we have “those” days up here on the mountain too, here goes…

School was two hours late due to the snow - I was happy about this because it gave me extra time to try and make it down the mountain.  Normally it takes me just under a half hour to drive to school so I gave myself an hour and a half thinking that would be plenty of time…

1 – {8:30 am} Loaded kids in the car and then found out I had a dead battery.  After jumping my car off a spare battery my dash lights wouldn’t work.
2 – Made my way down the mountain in 4-Low slipping and sliding the whole way – even with studded snow tires and chains on.  By the end of the gravel road (about 7 miles) my nerves were fried and my knuckles were white from gripping the steering wheel. 
{9:47} Stopped at the end of the gravel to remove my tire chains.
3 – After getting the chains off which took about 10 minutes, I jumped back in the car to head on to school.  Dash lights still didn’t work and now the 4WD and APT lights were on and my car wouldn’t get into gear – drive… reverse… nothing and I was still stuck in 4-Low.  By this point my stress level had hit an all time high and the tears started free falling.  (Yup, when I get sooooo overly stressed out my eyes leak – I hate that.)  Larry (a land owner neighbor) who was logging nearby, walked over and fix my car so I could get Caitlyn to school.

I finally made it to school {10:12 am} and even though I gave myself an extra hour Caitlyn was still late.  NOT a fun morning!

Tuesday – I managed to get to and from school without any major issues.  Tony was able to get off work a little early to pick Caitlyn up from school so I wouldn’t have to traverse the mountain again.  Chained up and in 4WD, on the last sharp corner on the main driveway he lost his traction in the new snow that had accumulated over the past several hours, stalled his truck and slid backwards down the steep driveway about 75 feet.  Thankfully he ended up in the ditch on the North side of the driveway instead of the 300 foot fall on the South side of the road.  When he got home all he had to say was “Well, that wasn’t my favorite thing to do.”  -  I feel like a total weenie because that probably would have freaked me out so bad that I probably would have been crying again.  Uhg.

So needless to say, with the new foot plus of snow, we are staying home today.

Tony and Jack out for a ride

Sunday, February 26, 2012

First Time For Everything…

27 degrees - 8:55pm - clear cold night...

This weekend it seems like we were living in a snow globe.  The snow was coming down hard and with the howling wind the multi sized snowflakes were swirling around every which way.  We’re not really sure how much snow this weekend has brought… some areas have 8 inches where a few feet away there is 24 inches of snow… the west side of the roof had 2 inches where the east side of the roof had 12 inches… the wind caused some really crazy snow drifts.

This morning Tony jumped into our neighbors brand new John Deere tractor with a brand new 96” Erskine Snow Blower to blow snow...

...that last about 10 minutes before he broke it.  Luckily it was only a shear pin. 

Unfortunately the nearest shear pin was a two hour round trip to the nearest hardware store.  We now have plenty of extras and are hopefully ready for the next dumping of snow on Tuesday.

Now, I have said before that I am not a fan of driving in the snow.  Well it’s not really driving in the snow as much as the very real possibility of sliding off the mountain while I am driving in the snow.  So today on the way home, I was very thankful that Tony was just a few minutes behind me.  There were some very slick spots on the snow covered road where all I was doing was sliding around.  Normally my 4x4 SUV has no problem, but today was the first time I have ever had to put chains on.  Well, I didn’t put them on, Tony did (thank goodness!), although I will have to figure it out tomorrow morning when I take Caitlyn to school.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Playing Outside…

39 degrees - 10:12 am - cold and gorgeous outside!...

The sun is shining, the sky is blue and the mountain is out.  Today just screams – “play outside!” and it looks like we weren’t the only ones who had that idea…

this big guy was chasing...

...these two little guys all over the yard and back again...

...and this one stopped to be king of the dirt hill.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Apple Pancake Rings…

33 degrees - 9:29 am - light rain/snow mix...

Here is a fun twist on the traditional pancake – fresh apples sliced and dipped in pancake batter, then cooked until golden.  Your kids will devour them, and more than likely you will eat a few yourself.  These are great for breakfast or for an after school snack!

~Apple Pancake Rings~

3-4 apples - peeled, cored, sliced to 1/8” thick
Pancake batter
1 t. vanilla
1 t. cinnamon (optional)
Maple syrup

Using your favorite pancake batter, make the pancake mix according to the instructions on the package.  I always add vanilla to my pancakes, it makes them taste like they didn’t come from a box.  This would also be the time to add the cinnamon if you wanted to use it.

Dip apple slices into batter, coating all sides.  {Just a quick note:  semi-thick batter will work best when it comes to getting the pancake batter to stick to the apples.}

Cook them just like you would a regular pancake, about one minute the first side, and about 30 seconds after you flip.  I have a gas stove so I always use my stove top griddle and I love it!

Serve warm with your favorite maple syrup or top with powdered sugar.


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Little Drummer…

43 degrees - 11:59 am - cloudy, foggy, raining...

When the dreary winter days feel like they will last forever and we will never see the sun again – I find myself longing for any sign that spring may be nearing.

For me, one of the exciting and heartwarming “signs of spring” is the little drummer – aka the Ruffed Grouse...  and lately we have been seeing Ruffed Grouse everywhere.

I haven’t heard the little drummers yet... but soon enough we should start hearing that unusual mating call; the courting ritual of the forest birds, that strangely enough you feel more than hear.  It’s an unmistakable “thump………thump……thump…whir-r-r-r-r!” of a male ruffed grouse “drumming.”

Monday, February 20, 2012

Gravity Fed Water System {Running Water}…

39 degrees - 2:31 pm - 5" of snow - raining...

This time, we really do have running water – outside the house at least.

A month ago we had a little ‘uh-oh’ with the gravity fed water system, but since then the system has been completed up to the house but has yet to be connected to the house.

For the past two weeks we have had the water running constantly.  This to make sure the water lines and holding tank are clear of any dirt, rocks or any other debris before we clean the system with chlorine. 

Any new plumbing, pipelines and distribution systems should be sanitized to kill bacteria when first put on line (or if repairs or service has been performed).  Shock chlorination is one of the most popular methods for sanitizing the pipelines.  Chlorine’s powerful germicidal action eliminated slime bacteria, molds and algae.  After the chlorine does its thing, then we will run the water once again to make sure the chlorine is out of the system and then we should be ready to hook the water up to the house.

To be continued…

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Snow Has Returned...

33 degrees - 12:01 pm - partly cloudy...

today's view out the window

Happy St. Valentine's Day...

33 degrees - 7:09 am - snowing...

I am a romantic at heart, and even though I believe you should show and tell that special someone all year long how  much they are loved and appreciated, Valentine’s Day is a good reminder (in case you’ve been a little too busy) for a little show and tell.

"The greatest treasures are those invisible to the eye but found by the heart."

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Perfect Waffle…

39 degrees - 10:11 am - cloudy...

Maybe it’s the recipe.  Maybe it’s the fact that I smother the waffles in maple syrup and butter.  I don’t know.  But these are amazing.  I hate to admit it, but I always eat way more than I should.  But I really cannot put down my fork.  Well, maybe I could but then I probably would just keep eating with my fingers and that’s not a very good example for the kids.  So I figure if the most self control I can exhibit is hanging onto my fork, then I better do it.

  ~ The Perfect Waffle ~

1 cup all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp granulated sugar
1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup whole milk
2 egg, separate whites and yolks
1 ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
4 Tbsp butter, melted

Preheat waffle iron.  Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.

Whisk milk, yolks, vanilla, and lemon juice together in a second blow, then add to dry ingredients.  Blend just until moistened (batter will be slightly lumpy).  Stir in the melted butter.

Beat whites to medium peaks in a bowl with a hand mixer, then gently fold into the batter.  To cook, pour batter into the waffle iron and cook according to waffle iron instructions.

Top with your favorite waffle toppings and serve!

{You probably won’t, but just in case you do have a few leftovers, you can freeze them for up to two weeks, then recrisp in a toaster on low heat.}


Thursday, February 9, 2012

Off-Grid Power {Inverter}…

40 degrees - 9:47 am - light wind and rain...

"power center"
The inverter system, sometimes called the “power center”, is the most important part of the off-grid power system.  The power center contains all the gear that converts DC electricity produced by solar panels, wind turbines, hydro systems or generators into useable 120 or 240 volt AC power and directs it into the home.

The combo of inverter(s), charge controller(s) and safety components is responsible for running our off-grid power system.  That simple reason is why we have been doing so much research on inverters.  We want to find the best “power center” that fits our budget and needs.

After several months of research we finally decided to go with the MS-PAE Series Inverter/Chargers made by Magnum Energy.  Magnum Energy, based in the state of Washington, has been blazing a new trail through the off-grid industry since 2003.  Their products rival the leading competitors as far as quality with a more user-friendly interface, simple design and a better price.

Magnum MS-4448PAE
We are looking at the MS-PAE, which is a pure sinewave inverter designed specifically for the most demanding renewable energy applications.  The unique design of the MS-AE Series provides two 120VAC output lines that are 180 degree out-of-phase with each other, so that the combination of the L1 and L2 lines total 240VAC and the voltage between either L1 and L2 and neutral is 120VAC, eliminating the need to purchase two units and stack them together to get 240 volts.

Now that we have done our research, watched a chunk of money go bye-bye as we placed the order, it is now time to wait in anticipation for the big heavy box to arrive in the mail!  Thank goodness for free shipping; otherwise we would have been taking a little road trip to central Oregon to pick it up.

Friday, February 3, 2012

What A Day {What A Week!}...

37 degrees - 5:22 pm - clear sky and howling wind...

Oh how sickness changes things!  All of our plans for this week were quickly shot down when Caitlyn got sick… followed by Jack… then me… and now Tony, who is currently down and out with that horrid cold that has wiped the family out.  Needless to say it has been a very long week.

The weather is finally in our favor to get some outside projects done… well not really I guess because the wind has been howling outside – 70+ mph wind gusts today alone… and even though the sun is out, you just can’t do much when you are sick.

On my way to pick Caitlyn up from school (which is about a 25 minute drive by the way), halfway down the mountain I was stopped by a tree that had fallen across the road due to the wind.  All I could think of was being late picking Caitlyn up and how I didn’t have any bars on my cell so I couldn’t call the school. Ahhhh!  Now, I don’t know if it is my Type-A personality or just me, but I hate to be late.  Especially when it has anything to do with my kids. 

Living off-grid on top of a mountain, you might think that possibly, just possibly I might know how to use a chainsaw and could have just cut the tree down myself.  Nope.  Tony has very skillfully avoided teaching me how to use a chainsaw.  For some reason he seems to think that I might cut off an arm or leg or something because, yes I do tend to be a bit clumsy sometimes.  Although my clumsiness has nothing to do with power tools… I just don’t know how to use stairs properly – I am constantly falling up and down them.  

Since there was a huge tree in my way… I had no way to move it or clear it… and there was no way to drive under, over or around it… I turned the car around and raced home. 

Now Tony has been in bed all day with a fever and he’s been throwing up, so I felt horrible that I had to wake him up and ask him to go chop down a tree for me... 

...and that is exactly what my knight is shining armor did!

while Tony was chopping up the tree, I was moving
 the branches and rounds off to the sides of the road

Yea, the road is now passable again!  Oh how I love my man!


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