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, May 30, 2012

3-Day-Old Twin Fawns...

53 degrees - 9:38pm - partly cloudy...

these two cute little babies plopped down in the middle of the road to "hide"


this little one waited about 16 minutes before he got up and ran off...

while this one waited an extra 11 minutes
before he got up and ran to the side of the
road to plop back down again.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Our Second Year Living Off-Grid...

47 degrees - 9:57 pm - clear night...

We never really intended to be off-grid greenies; it just sort of happened.  While we were searching for the perfect piece of property where we could build our dream home, a search that was complicated by the paucity of our finances, we ran across this 22 acre parcel.  A piece of land we could both love and afford.

But there was a catch.  Of course, there’s always a catch.  The 22 acres were off-grid.  That’s not something we had been looking for but figured it would be kind of fun and different, so why not… that was seven years ago.

This weekend marks our second year of living off-grid.  It doesn’t feel like it has been two years already... two years of living like ‘Little House on the Prairie’ – only in the mountains and with internet.  Most of our friends and family seem to think we have lost a marble or two, while others think it’s fantastic.

The biggest surprise so far is that the transition has been easier than one would expect.  No, we still don’t have hot water. Nor do we have a washing machine, a coffee maker, a microwave, or a television.  If we want to use the internet, or the toaster, we have to go outside and turn on a small generator. 

A lot of tasks are harder up here, sometimes living the simple life isn’t so simple.  But we have daily adventures, and are surrounded by National Forests, rivers, fir trees, and wildlife galore.  We have chirping crickets on starry summer nights, and the sweet smell of warm earth and fresh flowers in the spring, along with the crisp morning air after winter’s first frost.  Living up here is what it is... it’s pure and simple.









Each passing year we stand a bit more humbled and wiser by our experiences.
{you can read about our first year here}

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Monkey Bread In A Jar...

45 degrees - 2:00 pm - cloudy with on and off showers...

Oh mason jars... how I love them!  I use them for everything - from canning, to holding my fine tipped paint brushes.  So why not put some Monkey Bread in them also? 

I have two Monkey Bread recipes that I love – one is completely made from scratch (which is how I prefer to cook) and this one; it is a quickie semi-homemade version (which is nice when you’re in a hurry).  These take just a few minutes to prepare and the kids love it when they get to help me cook.


~Monkey Bread In A Jar~
10 refrigerated biscuits – cut into quarters
1/2 c sugar
1/2 c brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 stick of butter, melted (optional)
4 - 8 ounce mason jars

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Then spray the four mason jars with cooking spray and place them into a deep sided baking tray.

First, separate the biscuits and cut each one into fourths.  In a bowl mix the white sugar, brown sugar, and cinnamon together.

Each piece of biscuit will then be tossed into the sugary mix for coating.  {Optional:  Melt a ¼ stick of butter, and then lightly coat each piece of biscuit before putting them into the sugary mix.  This is not necessary, but it does add to the flavor of the Monkey Bread.}

After the pieces are sufficiently coated, place ten of the biscuit pieces in each of the prepped mason jars, periodically sprinkling some of the extra sugary mixture between layers.  {Note:  Only fill the mason jars ¾ of the way up, this allows for bread to rise and not overflow.}

Place the mason jars back into the high sided pan and bake at 350 degrees for approximately 15-17 minutes, or until the dough has risen and you can see the sugar bubbling.
 
Remove from the oven and let the jars cool for about 5 minutes before serving.

--- Enjoy!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Saturday Evening Post…

41 degrees - 6:48am - blue morning sky...

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…



3-year-old son: "Mom! Grab your camera! Look what I found! He is going to be my new pet!"
Me: "Oh neat a snake. Did you find him on the rock or did you put him on the rock?"
3-year-old son: (all proud of himself) "I put him on the rock!"
Me: "He is very nice, but you cannot keep him, he has to stay out in the woods." (after I said that the snake lunged at Jack)
3-year-old son: "Wow! He thought I was his dinner or something!"

Me: "See, that's why you cannot keep him!"

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

EEEEeeeeWWWW...

50 degrees - 10:12 pm – clear...

This morning our six-year old daughter walked out of her bedroom still sleepy eyed, and wanted to know what that bump behind her ear was.  To my utter disgust (yes, it even made me instantly nauseous) it was a tick, just sucking away my little girl’s life blood with its ugly little face.

Caitlyn wanted me to take a picture so she could see what a tick was.
Even though this is only a picture - it still grosses me out!

Tony was already at work, so I wasn’t able to run to him for help (which is what I normally do in these kinds of situations).  I have never tried to get a tick out before, so I looked on YouTube to see how it was done.  Even after watching that disgusting video, I still failed to get the little nasty guy out.  So off to the doctor’s office we went.

Almost two hours later (most of that time spent driving to town and waiting in the doctor’s office), some very sharp tweezers, some serious digging by the doctor with a fat needle, a few tears shed, and the tick’s head was finally out.

So after all of that, we needed a little cheering up... there is nothing better than Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Fudge Brownie for a good pick-me up, so off to the store we went.  No, it didn’t matter that it was only 10 am, we still got our ice cream.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Footbridge...

61 degrees – 10:28 am – beautiful outside...

A month ago we had a work weekend to clean up all the winter debris.  While doing this, a pathway started to take shape.  Since we have rocks everywhere, I just started tossing them aside to get them out of the way and rock walls along the pathway started to appear.  

a picture from our work weekend a month ago

It has now become a full on pathway that leads to a little sitting area (that we carved out and will eventually have a bench swing).  A little further up the pathway it will break off and you can continue onto the garden or head straight on up the little incline to the chicken coop.

Tony is getting the support beams in place while Jack supervises

It still amazes me how much ground water and how many natural springs are up here on the mountain.  So to direct the flow of all this water, Tony has put several drainage ditches in.  One of these ditches is right between my newly formed pathway and the garage pad (where we will someday build a garage).

The total cost for the footbridge was $24 which was spent on the two
pressure treated 4x4 support beams.  The decking was free - never been used
3x6 doubel tongue n grove boards salvaged from the in-laws house.

Anyways back to the point of this post...we finally built a footbridge!  It is soooo nice!  Yes, I could have continued to leap over the little drainage ditch, which isn’t very wide.  But not holding an armful of rakes and shovels, and certainly not with the wheelbarrow.  So a cute little footbridge was the answer.  All I wanted was a very clean, simple footbridge that would be a nice feature of the yard.  As usual Tony’s standard of workmanship is sublime.

The completed footbridge!!!

Now all I have to do is finish my pathways, transplant a ton of plants and I’m done!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Wildlife On The Mountain...

60 degrees - 8:24 am - blue sky and windy out...

Chipmunk

Band-Tailed Pigeon

Stellar Jays

P.S. - We have been having some crazy weather lately... Thursday and Friday we woke up to frost on the ground and today and tomorrow it is supposed to be 80 degrees and 85 degrees out!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

More Building Supplies...

62 degrees - 7:18 pm - blue sky with patchy white clouds...


Unloading another trailer load of lumber and getting ready for a work weekend this weekend.

Simplify...

62 degrees - 6:44 pm - blue sky...

In the past eight months (since Sep 1st), we have had 114.22 inches of rain up here on the mountain.  Ketchikan, Alaska’s average annual rainfall is 152 inches, and the next runner up is Hilo, Hawaii with 128 inches of annual rainfall… I think we have a very good chance of beating those records.

Even though we are now into May, at the end of last week Mother Nature just couldn’t make up her mind if she wanted it to snow or rain.  Thankfully it wasn’t cold enough and the snow never stuck, but the crazy weather did keep us indoors.

So with the slushy rain coming down outside, I spent my time inside decluttering and reorganizing.  When I look around the house and see piles forming here and there, I feel like I am being overrun by stuff.   It’s time to simplify.  So I found myself digging thru drawers, closets, file cabinets, basically anywhere stuff gets stashed and started cleaning house.  I ask myself if it has been used, worn, or needed in the past year or two... chances are if it hasn’t, it won’t in the future either so out it goes.


I feel that a house with less paraphernalia is easier to clean and keep clean so when you look at your belongings they should have purpose or cause a warm sweet feeling, such as precious presents from children, family heirlooms, or anything that has a special meaning.  But to just see how much one can accumulate or squeeze into your dwelling is silly and consuming.

“Our life is frittered away by detail.  Simplify, simplify.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Look! Up in the sky...

48 degrees - 8:36 am - beautiful blue sky...

It’s a supermoon!  The full moon in the month of May is known as the “Flower Moon” as in majority of the places flowers are in abundance.  It is also known as the “Full Corn Planting Moon” or the “Milk Moon”.  It is also called a lunar perigee that was later dubbed a “supermoon” by astrologer Richard Nolle back in the 1970s.  The term is used to describe a new or full moon at 90% or more of its closest orbit to Earth.

Last night's "supermoon" was about 221,802 miles away from Earth.
That's about 15,300 miles closer than average, making the moon appear
about 14 percent bigger than it would appear if it were
at its farthest distance during its elliptical orbit.

We were fortunate enough to have clear skies last night so we were able to witness last night’s “supermoon” - the biggest and brightest “supermoon” of 2012.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Carrot Cake With Cream Cheese Frosting...

35 degrees - 8:19 am - overcast...

Every year, when my daughter’s birthday approaches, I find myself trying to figure out what kind of “birthday” cake and cupcakes I will be making.  I usually try to have about three or so different flavors to satisfy everyone’s taste buds with a personal cake just for the birthday girl. 

In my 20-something years of baking, I have never made a carrot cake, so I thought it would be fun to try it out.  And just so you know, this one will be one of the cupcakes at Caitlyn’s party this year.  These are extremely moist, sweet, and perfectly dense cupcakes.  Add the Cream cheese icing to the carrot cake and you have the perfect combination; one of those food combinations’s made in heaven!


~Carrot Cake~
2 cups sifted flour
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 cups grated raw carrots
4 eggs
1 1/3 cups vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Mix dry ingredients and oil with carrots.  Add one egg at a time and beat well after each egg.

Bake for 50 minutes in a 9x13 inch pan.  Let cool completely.

(Note:  For cupcakes, half the recipe and pour batter into greased or lined muffin tins.  Fill about ¾ of the way to the top and bake for about 12-15 minutes, or until tops have popped and spring back when you touch them.)

~Cream Cheese Frosting~
8 ounces cream cheese
1/4 lb. butter
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 lb. powdered sugar

Beat cream cheese, butter, and vanilla until creamy.  Add powdered sugar.  Spread frosting over cooled cake.

Refrigerate and eat cold for best taste!

(Note:  It may sound weird to refrigerate this cake and eat it cold, but seriously, it’s a must!  It gets so moist and yummy after sitting in the fridge overnight.)

--- Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Homemade Laundry Soap...

37 degrees - 10:04 am - cloudy...

Making your own laundry soap is extremely easy!  No longer do you need to rely on store bought detergents.  With a few ingredients on hand you will be able to make batch after batch of laundry soap – and the cost savings by doing this is incredible!

Your basic ingredients:  bar soap, washing soda, baking soda and borax.


The Soap:  The most typical type of soap to use is Ivory, Kirk's Castile, Zote, or Fels Naptha.  Although you can use any kind of bar soap either store bought or homemade.  It can be found in the toiletries section of the grocery store.

Washing Soda:  This is NOT to be confused with baking soda - they are not the same thing!  Washing soda is sodium carbonate or soda ash.  It is a white powder.  Its purpose is to help remove dirt and odors.  The brand to look for is Arm & Hammer Washing Soda.  It can be found in the laundry section of the grocery store.

Baking Soda:  Baking soda is sodium bicarbonate.  It is a fine white powder.  Its purpose is as a replacement for softener and also to remove odors from clothes.  Sodium bicarbonate is also effective in removing heavy stains.  The brand to look for is Arm & Hammer Baking Soda.  It can be found in the baking section of a grocery store.

Borax:  Borax is a naturally occurring mineral – Sodium Borate.  It is a white powder.  Its purpose is a laundry whitener and deodorizer.  The brand to look for is 20 Mule Team.  It can be found in the laundry section of the grocery store.

Here are two recipes for homemade laundry soap – one is liquid (3-ingredients) and one is dry (4-ingredients)

----------------------------------------

~Liquid Laundry Detergent~
1 bar of soap
1 box of Arm & Hammer Washing Soda
1 box of 20 Mule Team Borax
3 gallons + 4 cups tap water
Five-gallon bucket with lid
Big spoon
Measuring cup
Cheese grater or potato peeler

Step One – Put four cups of water into a pan on your stove and turn the heat up on high until it’s almost boiling.  While you are waiting, whip out a cheese grater or potato peeler and start shredding the bar of soap.  After you have shredded the whole bar of soap, stir the shavings into the hot water.  Continue to stir soap/water mixture until the soap is dissolved and you have some highly soapy water.

Step Two – Put three gallons of hot water into the five gallon bucket.  Then mix in the hot soapy water from step one.  Mix in one cup of the washing soda and stir until blended.  Mix in half a cup of borax and stir until blended.  Once everything is dissolved, put the lid on the bucket and let sit overnight (min. 24 hours) – and you’re done!
 
One cup of liquid laundry detergent to one full load of clothes.

{The finished liquid soap will not be a solid gel.  It will be more of a watery gel that has been accurately described as an “egg noodle soup” look.}

{SAVINGS BREAKDOWN - Out of three gallons of liquid detergent you will get about 48 loads of laundry.  If you do this six times, you'll have used six bars of soap ($0.70 each), one box of washing soda ($3.49), and about half a box of borax ($4.35 / 2 = $2.17), and have washed about 288 loads of laundry.  The breakdrown is - $9.86 in supplies divided by 288 loads of laundry = about $0.03 per load of laundry.  (FYI - Store bought laundry detergent (on sale) is about $14 for 52 loads = $0.27 per load - this equates to a savings of $67.90 for every 288 loads of laundry!)}

----------------------------------------

~Dry Laundry Detergent~
3 bars of soap
4 lbs. of Arm & Hammer Washing Soda
4 lbs. of Arm & Hammer Baking Soda
4 lbs. of 20 Mule Team Borax
Five-gallon bucket with lid
Big spoon
Measuring cup
Cheese grater or potato peeler

Step One – Grate or Shred the three bars of soap.

Step Two – Mix all four ingredients in the bucket and stir and stir and stir until fully blended – and you’re done!

Two heaping tablespoons-full of dry laundry detergent to one full load of clothes.

{This is VERY IMPORTANT – if you have a front-loading machine you need to take out the little tray that is meant for liquid only.  If you put the powder in that tray it will clog.  With the tray removed you can just add your scoop of dry detergent with no problems.}

{SAVINGS BREAKDOWN - One batch of the dry laundry detergent will do about 150 loads of laundry.  So for one batch of laundry detergent you will have used three bars of soap ($0.70 each), one box of washing soda ($3.49), one box of baking soda ($2.39) and one box of borax ($4.35).  The breakdown is - $12.33 in supplies divided by 150 loads of laundry = about $0.08 per load of laundry.  (FYI - Store bought laundry detergent (on sale) is about $14 for 52 loads = $0.27 per load - this equates to a savings of $28.17 for every 150 loads of laundry!)}

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{Side Note:  The soap is a low sudsing soap.  So if you don’t see suds, that is okay.  Suds are not what does the cleaning, it is the ingredients in the soap.  ---  High Efficiency (HE) front-load washers require “special soap” for one reason alone – low suds.  Because they use less water, they require soap that is less sudsy (this homemade laundry soap is very low suds).  The “special” HE detergent is just another advertising mechanism to push consumers to buy “special soap” for unnecessarily high prices.}  

{Side Note:  This is the best laundry soap to use with septic tanks because it contains zero sodium and zero fillers (like montmorillonite clay) that cause commercial powder detergents to clog lines.  It is also completely non-toxic so it will not harm necessary septic bacteria like toxic detergents and antibacterial soaps.}


{Side Note:  One more thing!  Use white vinegar in place of fabric softener.  It helps keep whites bright and colors bold.  It helps remove any soap reside and it works as an anti-bacterial too.  Use about ¼ cup...just enough to fill the softener reservoir.  It will NOT make your clothes smell like vinegar!}

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I found this darlin’ Wash Day instruction on the internet and thought it gave a great perspective on what the homemaker in the early 1900’s had to go through to do a load of laundry!  Now I understand the meaning of “Wash Day”.  It took the whole day!


ADVICE TO A 1912 BRIDE  ---  Years ago a Kentucky grandmother gave a bride the following recipe for washing clothes (misspelled words and all):

1. Bild fire in back yard to heet kettle of rainwater.
2. Set tubs so smoke won’t blow in eyes if wind is pert.
3. Shave one hole cake lie soap in boilin water.
4. Sort things, make three piles.  1 pile white.  1 pile cullord.  1 pile work britches and rags.
5. To make starch stur flour in cold water to smooth then thin down with boilin water.
6. Rub dirty spots on board, scrub hard, then boil.  Rub cullord but don’t boil – just rench and starch.
7. Take white things out of kettle with broom stick handle then rench, blew and starch.
8. Spred tee towels on grass.
9. Hang old rags on fence.
10. Pour rench water in flower bed.
11. Scrub porch with hot soapy water.
12. Turn tubs upside down.
13. Go put on cleen dress, smooth hair with side combs, brew cup of tee – set and rest a spell and count your blessins.

Yes!  That Kentucky Granny had it right!  At the end of your day “sit and rest a spell and count your blessin’s”!

Times sure have changed!  Still it’s fun and even delightful to find ways to live the simple “Vintage Life”!  Making homemade laundry detergent is one way to give a nod to the charming past while being thankful for our modern conveniences.

Eight Years...

37 degrees - 6:30 am - foggy and raining...

Today is our 8th Wedding Anniversary.

we had a barefoot beach wedding in Maui

And he is still the first person I want to see in the morning
and the last I want to see at night.

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