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, September 29, 2012

Plumbing {Prep Work}...

69 degrees - 2:59 pm - scattered clouds and a slight breeze...

If you have been following our blog, then you know that we have been living off-grid for two and a half years - with no indoor plumbing!  We do have water to the house, just not plumbed in the house.  We do have a toilet, but it’s a composting toilet in the “outhouse”.  That’s two and a half years of hauling water into the house, heating it up on the stove to wash dishes and take baths, hauling the dirty water back outside to dump it, and taking a not so short stroll out to the outhouse to...well you know.  So you can just imagine how beyond utterly excited I am that we are getting ready to rough plumb the house!!!  Yea!!!

So in getting ready to rough plumb the house, my dad brought up his little excavator earlier this week and then came back up yesterday to bring up a load of screenings (which is a type of fine round gravel). 
 


 
We need the little exactor to dig all the trenches for the drain pipes which will be laid under the concrete floor.  We could have dug the trenches by hand, but since we’ll have to be digging through lots of rock, it will just be so much easier with the little excavator.  We will be using the screenings to backfill the trenches to help protect the drainpipe from any sharp gravel and rocks.

To be continued...

Monday, September 24, 2012

Homemade Jam and Jelly...

54 degrees - 10:05am - slightly overcast...


We took a quick trip over to my Aunt's
house to pick some Concord Grapes
to make the Grape Jelly.
Ever since I can remember, my mom, sister and I have been making homemade jam.  We all get together a few times a year and have a jam-in.  That’s what we did this weekend and it resulted in 76 jars of jam and jelly.  We made 5 batches of freezer Raspberry Jam, 5 batches of freezer Strawberry Jam, 4 batches of freezer Grape Jelly, 2 batches of Raspberry-Lime Jam (first time ever and has now become a new favorite!), 2 batches of cooked Raspberry Jam, and 2 batches of cooked Strawberry Jam.


In our opinion, once you have had good homemade jam or jelly, you will never go back to store bought jams or jellies again!  It is so good, that we go through it pretty quickly, which is why we make so much every time.  And if you’re wondering, you usually make way more freezer jam than cooked jam, even though it does take up precious freezer space.

Of course there are pros and cons to everything and that includes homemade jams and jellies.  Here are some pros and cons for freezer jam vs. cooked jam.

Pros of Freezer Jam:
-Very easy to make with little or no cooking involved depending on the type of pectin used.
-The jam will taste much more like fresh berries or fruit.
-The color of the jam is more like the true color of the fruit used to make the jam.
-Not a lot of time involved.
-With the same amount of berries, you get more jam.
-Uses less sugar since it isn’t needed as a preservative, just as a sweetener.
-You can use any type of stackable containers rather than just glass jars, since the containers don’t need to “seal”.

Cons of Freezer Jam:
-Takes up freezer space.
-Difficult to give as a gift or ship since it requires refrigeration.
-Can make a mess in your freezer if you over fill your jars or containers since the jam expands a little during the freezing process.
-Sometimes it doesn’t set up quite as well as cooked jam.

Pros of Cooked Jam:
-Will keep in your pantry or cupboards for a long time without refrigeration.
-Sets up very well, and often has a thicker and more jam like consistency.
-Nice as gifts and easily shipped to friends or loved ones.

Cons of Cooked Jam:
-More time consuming than making freezer jam.
-Need to be very careful during the process so that your jars seal properly, otherwise the jam will not keep.
-Requires more sugar than a freezer jam.
-Less natural fruit taste than a freezer jam.

To sum it up, we like and make some of both for our family.  Whichever you choose to make, follow the directions carefully, but don’t worry!  Jam is not hard to make.  With a little work, you will be enjoying a wonderful treat all year long!

We loved the Raspberry-Lime Freezer Jam so much, that I just had to share the recipe with you!
 

~Raspberry-Lime Freezer Jam~
4 cups crushed raspberries
1 ½ cup sugar
1 package Sure-Jell
Zest of 2 small limes

Wash and rinse 3 1-pint jars with tight fitting lids.

To crush the raspberries, use a potato masher for best results.  If using a food processor, pulse to very finely chop.  {Note: Do Not Puree!  Jam should have bits of fruit it in!}

Measure exact amount of fruit and exact amount of sugar in separate bowls.  {Note: Reducing sugar or using sugar substitutes will result in set failures.  If you want less sugar try Sure-Jell for Less or No Sugar Needed Recipes Fruit Pectin for no or low sugar jams and jellies.}

Add the zest of 2 small limes to the crushed raspberries and mix well.  Stir in sugar into the rasp-lime mixture.  Mix well.  Let it sit for 10 minutes; stirring occasionally.

Stir 1 box pectin and ¾ cup water in small saucepan.  (Pectin may start out lumpy.)  Bring to boil on high heat, stirring constantly.  Boil 1 minute, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat.

Stir pectin mixture into fruit mixture.  Stir constantly until sugar is completely dissolved and no longer grainy, about 3 minutes.  (A few sugar crystals may remain.)

Pour into prepared containers, leaving 1/2-inch space at top for expansion during freezing.  Make sure the rims are clean of any spill and screw the lids on tight.

Let stand at room temperature for 24 hours until set.  Refrigerate up to 3 weeks, otherwise, store in freezer for up to 1 year.  Thaw in refrigerator.

Enjoy!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Dishes Are Done...

60 degrees - 4:54pm - blue sky...

Our friends and family joke that we are camping or glamping in our home because we live off-grid and still don’t have running water in the house.  (For those of you who have never heard the word glamping before its shorthand for glamorous camping or luxury camping.)  So obviously they are also very curious as to how I wash the dishes.

Well let me tell you...there is nothing! glamorous or luxurious when it’s time to do the dishes. 

Washing dishes normally should be very easy – fill the dishwasher, put in the soap, lock the door, turn the knob and/or press buttons, and the machine automatically cleans the dishes.  However, in our home, washing dishes takes on a whole new meaning.  Water has to be hauled in the house, and boiled on the stove.  The boiling water is then put into two plastic bins, with a little squirt of soap in the wash bin.  What do I mean by wash bin?  Well we don’t have a sink yet, so the dishes get washed on the dining room table in two bins – wash bin and rinse bin – then placed into the drying rack.  Then everything has to be put away.  Doing this several times a day gets a bit old, but it will just make me appreciate an actual working sink, and do I dare to even dream - a dishwasher someday.
 
 

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Amazing Finds...

76 degrees - 5:01 pm - blue sky, sunshine, breezy...

Caitlyn was very excited she found this amazing find...
a little filbert with a plant growing out of it.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Firewood...

73 degrees - 10:33 am - beautiful warm morning...

The firewood cutting for this coming winter is underway.  Tony has been falling trees and cutting them into rounds so they are easier to move around.  We are planning on having a minimum of eight cords for this coming winter and once again we are running a little behind schedule, but better late than never!





Friday, September 7, 2012

First Day Of School...

82 degrees - 1:00 pm - hot and windy with 29+ wind gusts...

Jack's first day of Pre-3!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

First Day Of School...

64 degrees - 10:37 am - blue sky and sunshine...

Caitlyn's first day of 2nd Grade!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Hiking The Ridge...

68 degrees - 4:48 pm - blue sky with a slight breeze...

This past Monday, the kids and I went on a quick morning hike around the main driveway loop that runs up the west side of the mountain ridge {click here}.

Today, we went on another hike.  This one wasn’t so quick or easy.  Tony took us around the east side of the mountain ridge.  It doesn’t matter what side you’re on, they both have spectacular views!!!
 



On this hike, we were hiking along animal trails and sometimes we were blazing our own trails.  As we were blazing our trail, we came across the National Forest Property Boundary marker.

The National Forest property line is a half mile from our home.

Hiking the east side of our mountain ridge we had a great view of the next mountain ridge over.  This is the same ridge that they have been logging on and it also happens to have these two huge rock formations that are great for climbing {click here}!


Once we broke out of the thick brush and foot snagging bear grass, we stopped on a rock slide for a rest.  Here we enjoyed the spectacular view on this gorgeous day before we headed back down.
 

 

You can see where they have been logging. 
The clearing keeps getting bigger and bigger.

Even though we had to blaze our own trails, and the logs that Tony and I were able to step over which the kids had to climb over, we all had a lot of fun and enjoyed our family time together.  What a perfect day!

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