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.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Mountain Wildlife...

8:45 am - 62 degrees - cloudy...

"Mom! He's looking at me!"

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Sponge Water Bombs...

10:35 am - 55 degrees - raining...

I’m getting ready for summer even though looking out the windows today it’s just another cold rainy day.  Summer is on its way and should be here any day now... the weatherman said so!

When I think of summer, I think of two things:  BBQ’s and water fights!  So when I found these sponge water bombs on Pinterest I just had to make them!
 
 

Step 1 – Cut all sponges into fourths length-wise.

Step 2 – Stack 2 layers of 4 sponges.  Tie fishing line around sponges as tightly as possible.

Step 3 - Soak.  Squish.  Throw.  Play.  It’s that easy!
 
Sponge Water Bombs + Buckets of Water = Summer Fun for Kids!
 
Even cleanup is easy.  Just stuff them in a mesh bad and hand them out to dry.  And if by chance they get dirty, just wash them in the washing machine and hang them out to dry.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Swedish Torch...

10:28 am - 63 degrees - overcast...

Imagine a real log fire you can take with you anywhere, light instantly – then enjoy its flames, heat and magic for hours; well that’s what a Swedish Torch is all about!


The Schwedenfackel or Schwedenfeuer, when roughly translated means “Sweden Fire,” is also  know by other names including Swedish Fire Torch, Swedish Log Candle, Swedish Log Stove, Canadian Candle, Norwegian Fire Torch...and the list goes on.

The Swedish Torch gets its name from the Thirty Years’ War in Europe between 1618 and 1648.  During this war the torches were used by the Swedish soldiers.

Through a specially developed sawing process the soldiers were able to use fresh pinewood for a source of heat.  This way they didn’t have to travel great distances for firewood at camp, especially in snowy or swampy conditions.

These days the Swedish Torch is mainly used for leisure activities.  It also makes an excellent elevated cooking fire or a signal fire.

There are a few different designs that we have seen based on this idea.  Basically the Swedish Torch is a rocket stove.  It concentrates air and heat in a confined area and produces an incredible concentration of energy in the form of fire.  It is unique because it uses only one piece of fairly decent sized wood as its fuel. 

The log is either cut (usually only three quarters of the way down, but other variants do include totally splitting) and then set upright (ideally, the log needs to be cut evenly and on a level surface for stability).  Tinder and kindling are added to the top to start the initial fire.  Eventually, the fire is self-feeding.  The flat, circular top provides a surface to place a kettle, or pan for cooking, boiling liquids, etc.  The elevated position of the fire also serves as a better beacon than the typical ground based campfire in some instances. 

The Swedish Torch, made from a single log, can burn for several hours under good conditions.  Of course burn times will vary, due to factors such as log size, type of wood, moisture content, and wind and weather conditions.
 

Our Swedish Torch was 14" wide by 30" tall.  Because of the size, Tony made four top cuts, that went three quarters of the way down the log.


The tinder we used to start the initial fire was the left over shavings from cutting the log planters {click here}.



Once the tinder starts to burn, the hot embers drop down into the cuts on the log, igniting the inside.  The picture above was taken about 15 minutes after lighting the tinder. 






The above picture was taken about 2 hours after we lit the Swedish Torch.  You can see why its called a torch - it gave off quite a bit of light.


This morning, this is what was left of our Swedish Torch... and a little buck stopped by to check it out.

 

Friday, June 21, 2013

Working On The Mountain...

6:19 pm - 57 degrees - scattered clouds...

We have been very busy these past few weeks – both on and off the mountain.
 
On the mountain, Tony has stayed busy cleaning up {click here}.  Here is a photo recap of what’s been happening...

dragging logs to the staging area to
 get them out of the way


stacking logs

stopping to smell the flowers and catch butterflies

"staging area" - somewhere to keep all the good logs out of the way so we
can get to the underbrush and stack it into burn piles.

cutting off rounds to firewood length - easier to haul this way

getting a rough measurement of the tree 

moving kindling around

Log Planters...

5:13 pm - 58 degrees - cloudy...

My sister-in-law sent me this picture of stump planters saying I should add these to Tony’s to-do-list (not that he doesn't already have enough to do around here)... but these are really  neat!


So this is what he came up with...
 
Tony had cut rounds off of some trees that he had previously felled and
that's what he used to make the planters with.





These make a huge mess but they are so neat!  I wonder what I can use all
these shavings for... hmmm maybe the chickens would like it.


Kindling!

This finished product... a log round planter!  I love these...


...and so does Jack! 
Now I have to figure out what to plant it in and where to put it.
 

Samoa Cupcakes...

2:58 pm - 57 degrees - cloudy...

Our daughter wanted to try out Girl Scouts - so I started a troop with girls from her school {click here}.  Our first year as a troop has been a blast and tomorrow is our final badge ceremony and end of the year family picnic... and I’m bringing Samoa Cupcakes!

During our first Girl Scout cookies season (which was absolutely crazy by the way), I looked up recipes that use Girl Scout cookies and I found this one {click here} for Samoa Cupcakes.  They looked really good so I bought 4 extra boxes of Samoa Girl Scout cookies just so I could try this recipe out... and !WOW! are they tasty!  I am extremely tempted to buy an entire case of Samoa cookies next year just so I can make more of these cupcakes!  They are that good!

I know that you’ll have to wait a few months before Girl Scout cookies are available but I just couldn’t wait to share this recipe... save it, print it out, pin it, add it to your favorite’s list – this is definitely a must try recipe.  If you like Samoa Girl Scout cookies then you will love these cupcakes!

 
~SAMOA CUPCAKES~
 
1 ½ cup (3 sticks) unsalted butter at room temp.
1 ½ cups light brown sugar, packed
4 large eggs at room temp.
1 ½ tsp coconut extract
2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
1 cup coconut milk
 1 box Samoa Girl Scout Cookies - cut in half
 1 box Samoa Girl Scout Cookies - chopped up
 
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Line 2 cupcake pans with 24 liners.  Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl and set aside.  Measure out the coconut milk and set aside.

In a mixer, beat butter on high until soft.  Slowly add sugar and beat until light and creamy.  Add eggs one at a time, making sure to beat well after each egg.  Add the coconut extract and mix until incorporated.

Add about ¼ of the flour mixture followed by 1/3 of the coconut milk and mix until incorporated.  Repeat this step until you end with the flour mixture.  Mix just until incorporated.  Fold in the chopped up Samoa cookies.

Fill cupcake liners with batter about ¾ full.  Bake for 15-17 minutes or until cupcakes are golden brown.  Let cool in pan for at least 5 minutes before transferring to cooling rack to completely cool before frosting.

Frost with the caramel coconut frosting, drizzle with melted chocolate (optional) and top off with ½ a Samoa cookie.
 
I made a double batch of cupcakes so I used four boxes of Samoas.
Half of the cookies get chopped up and folded into the batter, the other half
get cut into half and get top off the cupcakes.

I know that you're not supposed to eat the batter...
but I just cannot help it - even the batter was yummy!

The finished product (minus the chocolate drizzle on top).


~CARAMEL COCONUT FROSTING~
 
2 sticks unsalted butter
2 cups packed dark brown sugar
2/3 cup coconut milk + 2 Tbsp more
1 ½ tsp coconut extract
2 lbs sifted powdered sugar

In a small sauce pan, melt the butter on medium high heat.  Stir in the coconut milk and coconut extract.  Slowly add the brown sugar and stir until completely dissolved, about 2-3 minutes.  {Do not let the mixture boil!}

Remove from heat and pour into a large mixing bowl.    Add 1 cup of powdered sugar at a time and mix with a hand mixer.  Scrape the sides of the bowl after each addition.  {If necessary, add up to 2 Tbsp more coconut milk to create the consistency you want.}  Mix on high about 2 minutes, scraping sides making sure all the sugar is incorporated.

While the frosting is still warm, work quickly to frost the cupcakes.  {Before you make the frosting make sure you’re ready to frost your cupcakes as soon as the frosting is ready!  Once it cools, it will set up and harden, making any piping or spreading more difficult to do.}

~Enjoy!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Tiny Twin Fawns...

9:08 pm - 61 degrees - calm night with a few scattered clouds...


We are very fortunate to live in an area where this is a daily sight this time of year. We had to wait for these cute tiny twins to make up their minds (took about 10 minutes) to move off the driveway so we could go to town. 

Friday, June 7, 2013

Backyard Fire Pit Ideas...

12:34 pm - 67 degrees - partly cloudy...

This past week the weather has been just gorgeous and last night was the perfect night for roasting hot dogs over a backyard campfire. 

More than nearly any other outdoor feature I can think of, a fire pit (or backyard campfire area) instantly makes the yard the place where everyone wants to be.  It easily becomes the focal point of a space, drawing friends and family together around its warm glow.  Whether your ideal vision includes kids roasting marshmallows, or just sitting back and relaxing with a cold beer, there is just nothing better than sitting around a fire in your own backyard.

Currently we have a small metal fire pit surrounded by a few slab benches that Tony has recently made.  It’s a temporary thing because we want to make an actual campfire area in a different location – and we think we have finally picked out the perfect location!

Now that we have finally picked out the location, we need to decide on the type of fire pit we want to make.  There are so many ways to make your own fire pit and so many different designs... above ground or flush with the ground; surrounded by built-in benches or leave it open for chairs; leave it open or surround the fire pit in a 16x16 screened in gazebo...and the list goes on.

Here are a few photos that are inspiring our perfect backyard fire pit area...
 
{photo source: www.feeltheambiance.com}

{photo source: www.martysplace.com}

{photo source: www.popularmechanics.com}

{photo source: www.portlandmonthlymag.com}
 

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Hand Milled Timber Bench...

6:00 pm - 60 degrees - mostly cloudy...

Last weekend Tony got out his Alaskan Chainsaw Mill and started cutting on a storm damaged Douglas Fir tree {click here}.  He continued to work on that same tree all week, milling out several live edge and slab style benches and is getting pretty good at it.  The benches look great! 

Here are some pictures of what he’s done...


4' and 5' unfinished Douglas Fir slab benches

the Alaskan Chainsaw Mill creates a lot of sawdust 

Start to finish... one storm damaged Douglas fir tree
 turns into a 10' unfinished Douglas fir slab bench.
 If you're looking for chainsaw milling supplies {click here}.

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