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.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Colors of Spring...

7:20 pm - 51 degrees - cloudy...
Bear Grass (Xerophyllum tenax)
aka Indian Basket Grass

Bog Paintbrush (Castilleja suksdorfii)
aka Suksdorf’s Paintbrush

Pacific Bleeding Heart (Dicentra formosa)
aka Western Bleeding Heart aka Wild Bleeding Heart

Red Huckleberry (Vaccinium parvifolium)

Siberian Miners Lettuce (Claytonia sibirica)
aka Candy Flower

Vanilla Leaf (Achlys triphylla)
aka Deer’s Foot aka Sweet After Death

Western Blue Iris (Iris missouriensis)
aka Western Blue Flag aka Rocky Mountain Iris

Western Skunk Cabbage (Lysichiton americanus)
aka Swamp Lantern

Monday, May 27, 2013

Our Third Year Living Off-Grid...

11:28 am - 49 degrees - raining...

Ten years ago we had our first home built in a new subdivision.  We lasted just over a year before we started looking for property.

Our first home - 2,451 sq ft on a 6,153 sq ft lot.

We spent numerous weekends driving around trying to find that perfect piece of property.  We tried to keep it simple, our basic property search criteria was – acreage that was somewhat close to town.  We figured we would know when we saw it.

We never really intended to be off-grid greenies; it just sort of happened.  One weekend we went out for a drive in the mountains and saw a ‘Land for Sale’ sign, when we go home Tony called the number.  We went out and looked at it, went home and talked about it, went out and looked at it again (or rather Tony walked around and looked while I, being almost 9 months pregnant, sat in the car and stayed dry and warm – it was raining that day).  We talked about it again and put our home up for sale.

We sold our home and purchased 22 acres, off-grid, up in the mountains.  It was only 31 miles to a major airport, half hour drive to town, had a phenomenal view of mountains and valleys, no manmade structures in sight other than two radio towers way off in the distance, nice flat to semi-rolling build site for our new home, great new neighbors... we were sold.  The whole off-grid thing was not something that we had been looking for but would be kind of fun and different, so why not.

In the beginning we thought we were pretty prepared.  We had just had a house built two years ago and thought we could figure it out and do it again, but build it ourselves this time.  It didn’t take long for us to realize that we weren’t as prepared as we thought.  Everything has taken longer than planned and cost two to three times more than planned.  We have also had to work around the weather.  So needless to say, our home that we thought would take 12-18 months to build, is taking considerably longer to build, especially since we paying for everything out of pocket.  But it is all part of the adventure, right?

This weekend marks our third year of living off-grid.  Three 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.

Three years of living off-grid, the biggest surprise so far is that the transition has been easier than one would expect.  We don’t have a television but we do have a computer with internet; we have to wash the dishes by hand and heat the water on the stove or fireplace; go into town to do laundry; air dry the wet hair instead of using a hair dryer; if we want electricity for anything, we have to go outside and turn on the generator; and we still have to go on the almighty treasure hunt in the storage unit where the majority of our belongings are kept.  This may not sound like much fun, but it really puts things into perspective and makes you appreciate the little things in life that normally you would take for granted.

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.

We are living the dream, but it is not the romantic dream we originally planned.  It is the get-tough dream.  It is the realization that we can do anything!  We have learned that we are responsible for ourselves.  Those things worth having are worth working and waiting for.  We have learned contentment.

And yes, we do live the dream - just look at what we see out our windows everyday...

Each passing year, we stand a bit more humbled and wiser by our experiences.

"Humility does not mean you think less of yourself.  It means you think of yourself less." ~ Ken Blanchard

Memorial Day...

8:58 am - 48 degrees - raining...

Happy Memorial Day! Whether you’re relaxing at home, or enjoying a cookout with your loved ones, be sure to take a break from barbecuing at 3 pm for a national moment of remembrance and to reflect on the real reasons behind the holiday and honor our fallen troops.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Alaskan Chainsaw Mill...

8:15 pm - 50 degrees - showers...

A while back Tony picked up an Alaskan Chainsaw Mill off Craigslist.  So while he had it up and running today, I kept running out in between rain showers to take pictures.  I have never seen a chainsaw mill in action before, so it was very interesting to watch! 

After Tony clamped the Alaskan Mill onto his Stihl MS460 chainsaw with the 28” bar, the next step was to screw the slabbing rail on to the log.  This provides a level and straight platform to register the first cut from.

After removing the slabbing rail, the smooth freshly cut surface now provides a platform to register the next cut from.  All subsequent cuts are now registered from the previous cut.  Switching out the slabbing rail for the guide rail and the Alaskan Mill for the mini mill the vertical cuts are now ready to be done.

As Tony was making the cuts on the Douglas Fir log, all I could think about were fireplace mantels, timber benches, side tables, coffee tables, and oohhhh the possibilities of future projects are endless! 

This is what he made out of the log he was sawing on...

If you're looking for chainsaw milling supplies {click here}.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Day Old Fawns...

8:25 am - 44 degrees - foggy with showers...

a doe with her day old fawns, born in the backyard yesterday morning

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

More Clean-Up...

9:42 am - 35 degrees - snowing (but not sticking)...

There are so many projects going on right now and even more that need to be done.  This life style is definitely not for the lazy.  Even with a solid daily effort, there always seems to be three more things that need to be done on top of the handful of things we want to do.

One of the things we’re (I really mean Tony – I’m just around on this one for ideas and support) working on is the clearing of the defensible space {click here} around our house which works its way into the pond area {click here} and the new driveway / extra parking area.

The defensible space and pond area are pretty high on our priority list.  We had a very dry winter compared to previous years and the rainfall for this year is already way down.  We’re thinking the fire danger for this year is going to be fairly high and start earlier than usual.  In this case, we would rather be safe than sorry.

While Tony has been clearing the defensible space and pond area, we’ve been talking about reworking the driveway.  We’ve been talking about this for several years now and we think we have finally decided on the general area.  This project is going to be a major undertaking.  There will be a lot of dirt to be moved and a lot of base and top rock to be purchased.  {More posts on the driveway to come.}

In the meantime, this area needs to be cleared.  Large trees that are within falling distance of the house are being cut down, limbed, and placed into a “staging area” just to get them out of the way.  The underbrush needs to be cleared out and burned along with the stumps and limbs from the trees.  This is the phase that we are currently in. 

When all the clearing is done, then the dirt work will begin to make everything look pretty again.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Saturday Evening Post…

7:58 pm - 48 degrees - foggy, drizzling...

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…

The setting outside our home is beautiful.  It also provides a natural playground for our children, with infinite possibilities for discoveries right outside our doorstep.  Along with the benefits and positive experiences that come with raising children in natural areas, come many moments of anxiety as a parent.  There are more than enough risks and hazards in our natural setting to keep a parent’s imagination active with possibilities of what could go wrong...and I have a pretty darn vivid imagination!

If it’s not raining or too windy, then the kids are outside playing.  As they race to throw on their “mountain clothes” and hurry outside, I’m usually yelling at them to “be careful” and “stay where I can see you”.  It is our belief (or hope) that growing up in a rugged natural environment, our children will start to recognize the hazards and become responsible when they need to.

Earlier this week - just got home from picking the kids up from school...

Me:  “Go get changed, then go outside and play.  It’s supposed to start raining in a few days, so enjoy the sun while you can.  I’ll call you when it’s dinner time.”
Kids:  (running to get changed) “Yea!!!”
Me:  (as the kids are racing to get outside) “Be careful!!!  Stay where I can see you!!!”
4-year-old-son:  (stops, walks back to me and starts patting my arm) “Mom, its okay, I’m always careful.  I’m just not when you’re around.  I love you!”  (and races out the door)

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Clean Up...

8:40 am - 61 degrees - cloudy...

During the past couple of months, when the weather has cooperated and he has been home during day light hours, Tony has been falling trees.  When he comes home from his day job, he then goes to work on one of the many projects here on the property.  The past week however was spent doing a little bit of clean up. 

Tony has cleared and leveled a “staging area”, where he’s been putting all the trees that he’s felled and limbed.  Off to the side he has been stacking all the debris into huge piles that are ready to burn.  We have to wait until the cooler and rainy weather hit, which the weather report says is coming tomorrow, so burning may start as early as this coming week. 

Ollie likes to roll around in the cool dirt and supervise.

While Tony has been busy outside, I have been busy inside with Girl Scouts, school, working on my third book, and getting seed starts ready for our garden this year.  For seed starts I have tried planting the seeds in egg shells, peat pots, rolled up newspaper, toilet paper rolls, and plastic pudding cups – which are what I keep going back to. 

The plastic pudding cups are the only one that I cannot put straight into the ground, but they are also the least messiest to keep in the house with two extremely active children.  I line up all the seed starts in the window sills (which are two feet off the ground), and for whatever reason the kids have accidently knock every single one off the window sills...except for plastic pudding cup seed starts.  This is probably because they don’t take up as much room on the window sill, where as the others took up the whole window sill.  At any rate, this is how I am starting my seeds for this year. 

Even though I’m not starting my seeds in egg shells this time, I’m still saving them.  Egg shells can be used in a variety of ways to enrich your garden.  They provide a valuable source of calcium for growing plants and also deter certain pests without the need for chemicals.  Egg shells consist of 93% calcium carbonate and other trace elements that make them a practical fertilizer.  In the garden, for fertilization purposes, crushing egg shells (or put them in the blender to turn them into powder) helps them break down so that they may readily supply calcium to your plants.  Powdered or crushed egg shells are best placed around fruit trees, tomatoes, roses and in potted plants, though it will be of benefit anywhere in the garden.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Falling Trees...

8:37 am - 60 degrees - gorgeous day...
For the past week and a half the wind has been howling up here on the mountain.  The wind periodically takes a break and Tony takes advantage by falling some more trees.  He now has about a dozen or so trees down and about another six or so to go.  {click here}
Tony dug around the base of this tree then pushed
the tree over, root ball and all.


Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Mountain Traffic...

9:45 am - 48 degrees - blue sky and sunshine...

It has been very busy on the mountain this week.  I drive around a curve on the single lane gravel/dirt road and run into a big piece of equipment.  They have been logging both sides of the road, dragging trees across from one side to the other and stacking them up in piles.  Since it's a single lane road, we have to wait until they clear a path (only the big stuff) and move the equipment before we are able to drive by - driving very slowly over large branches and other debris.

Around another corner is more equipment... they are laying down more rock (thank goodness!)  So this time we wait for the grader and the dumps trucks to finish what they're doing before we can sneak by.


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