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 28, 2013

Here Comes The Storm...

10:36 am - 53 degrees - fog, wind (26+ mph) and heavy rain...

There is a big storm on the way (the remnants of a tropical typhoon), and the area we’re in is supposed to see rain fall totals in the double digits.  Since we’ve gotten 3.53 inches of rain in the past 24 hours (even with the wind blowing over the rain gage), I think we’ve got a good chance of seeing that, especially since the largest portion of the storm isn’t scheduled to hit until tomorrow.
We've already got a small stream flowing down the driveway

If the rain rolls in as forecasted, our area could set a new all-time record for rainfall in September.  The last time we got over a foot of rain in just a few days, it washed out our driveway and flooded the mountain {click here}. 
With this much rain, we’re guaranteed some damage to the driveway, but we’re hoping to keep the damage to a minimum.  So yesterday and today Tony has been on the excavator clearing the ditches and making sure the culverts are clear of debris.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Ape Caves Hike...

7:38 pm - 50 degrees - raining...

It’s been many years since Tony or I have been to the Ape Caves and now our kids are old enough to make the hike and enjoy it.  So this morning we drove the two and a half hours, passing through rural towns, lakes and lots of beautiful forest to get to our destination where we met up with a group of friends (there were 36 of us).

The Ape Caves is a lava tube located in Gifford Pinchot National Forest just to the south of Mount St. Helens in Washington State.  Its passageway is the longest continuous lava tube in the continental United States and the third longest (in total mapped length) lava tube in North America at 2.5 miles.  It was formed about 2,000 year ago when hot molten lava from Mount St. Helens poured down the volcano’s southern flank and entered a stream channel.  The surface of the lava cooled, forming a hard crust, and insulated the lava flowing beneath, which was able to travel a great distance.
{photo source:}

Once inside the cave, there is no outside light source and temperatures drop to about 42 degrees.  With flashlights and head lamps fully functional (although threatening at times to go out), we conquered the lower Ape Caves lava tube.

We had a great day exploring the wonders of the volcano that is right in our back yard.  Those of you who live in Washington or Northern Oregon please take the time to explore these caves.  Children of all ages will enjoy it, and so will you!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Off-Grid Mountain Living – Winter Prep...

10:06 am - 55 degrees - mostly cloudy...

It snows in the mountains.  Its part of the allure for most of us living here...fluffy white stuff to play in through the crisp (hopefully sunny) winters.

It does take some preparation to enjoy the winter months.  Just to stay mobile we need four-wheel drive vehicles, tire chains, and a snowblower or snowplow - our neighbor has a John Deere tractor with an Erskine snowblower attachment and we just got a 1991 Dodge Cummins Turbo Diesel with a Boss 7’6” commercial snowplow.  Typically our annual snowfall can range anywhere from 24 inches to 164 inches.  So it’s best to be prepared for whatever Mother Nature brings our way.
Tony had been searching Craigslist for the past several years and
he finally found something that he liked and fit our budget...
1991 Dodge Cummins Turbo Diesel with a Boss 7'6" commercial snowplow

The temperatures are dropping, the rain is falling, but we can’t sit back and enjoy the amazing burst of fall foliage just yet. 

To keep winter weather concerns at bay, a little preparation can go a long way.  Right now, for us, it’s important to get outside and ensure that our home and rigs are safe for us, our guests, neighbors or anyone else who stops by.  While these tasks likely aren’t at the top of our favorite winter activities list, they will save us from bigger headaches as the season progresses.
the sun is trying to break through the clouds this morning

Before the snowflakes start to fall (which is about a month away) we need to finish hauling, splitting and stacking firewood; clear the ditches along the driveway; service the snowblower; service the snowplow and Dodge truck; service our daily rigs;  stock our rigs with extra blankets, jumper cables, a tow rope, shovel, snowshoes, and some snacks and activities  for the kids (just in case we get stuck in the snow); stock the pantry; and try to complete as many outside projects on the house as we can before the snow comes.


There’s no denying that there are some headaches that come along with winter.  But if we try to be as prepared as possible, we will spend more time enjoying the season instead of laboring outside.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Welcoming Fall With Pumpkin Cheesecake...

8:11 pm - 51 degrees - raining...

I don’t have a favorite season; I really love them all, but for different reasons.  Spring is a time of new life; Summer is full of warm days playing outside; Fall brings brilliant colors; and Winter is a white magical wonderland.  I think what I enjoy the most is the changing of seasons.  I enjoy each one, yet cannot wait for the next one to begin.

Fall deserves the full attention that leaving summer behind grants it.  Mother Nature is decorating the forest in shades of red, orange, gold and amber as a backdrop from every angle.  As much as I love the summer months, I have to admit that I am happy fall is here.  It’s a time for scarves, boots, apple cider, pumpkin spice everything, rich hearty food, the beginning of football, brand new school supplies and that crunching sound when you walk through the fallen leaves.  Yes, I even enjoy all the Northwest rain, I love the sound it makes when it hits our metal roof and I live for the occasional thunderstorm.  Yep, I love it all!

With the cooler mornings and crisp afternoons now upon us, it is time to welcome Fall with open arms and there is no better way to do that then with one of my fall favorites – Pumpkin Cheesecake!

~Pumpkin Cheesecake~
1 ½ cups graham crumbs
5 Tablespoon butter, melted
1 Tablespoon sugar
3- 8 ounce pkgs. cream cheese, softened
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup canned pumpkin
3 eggs
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon allspice
whipped cream

{Note: this recipe can be made into a large cheesecake using an 8” springform pan or 12 mini cheesecakes using a mini cheesecake pan.}

Mix crust ingredients together, just till coated and crumbly. Press onto the bottom and 2/3 up the sides of the pan. Bake for 5 min. at 350 degrees. Set aside.

Beat the cream cheese, sugar and vanilla in large bowl until smooth.  Add pumpkin, eggs, and spices, beat till smooth and creamy.  Pour filling into prepared crust(s).

Bake mini cheesecakes for 20 minutes (bake a large 8” cheesecake for 60 minutes).  Remove from oven and cool for about 15 minutes.  Cover lightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate.  After it has thoroughly chilled, remove from pan.  Top with freshly whipped cream and serve!


Saturday, September 14, 2013

Winter Readiness ~ Firewood…

8:33 pm - 67 degrees - calm, quiet night...

As the summer season winds down many of us look forward to the cooler temperatures and fall colors.  But we must not forget what is lurking behind those crisp fall days – old man winter.

It is hard to determine what type of winter will be in store for us.  Since we purchased our property eight years ago, every winter has been different.  We have had everything from little to no snow up to over 10’ deep snow with 14’ deep snow drifts. 
The venerable Farmers’ Almanac is predicting a nasty 2013-2014 winter.  It says that this winter’s shaping up to be cold, frosty, wet, snowy winter for most of the country.  It is predicting that a drop in solar activity and a change in ocean patterns point to colder-than-average temperatures and higher-than-average snowfall totals. 

{photo source:}

Regardless of what Mother Nature brings our way, it is best to prepare for the worst so when the snow flies and the east winds howl, with just a little planning, we can stay nice and toasty warm. 
the fog was moving in this morning

This will be the fourth year we have wintered up on the mountain.  For us, our major heat source comes from our wood burning stove; we go through four to five cords (a cord is 4’ high x 8’ long) of seasoned firewood a winter. 

For those of you who thought firewood was firewood and don’t know what seasoned firewood is…  Seasoned firewood contains about 20 percent to 25 percent moisture content, compared to freshly cut or “green” wood, which can contain about 45 percent water.  Softwood (like fir or pine) reaches good seasoning in six to twelve months, while hardwood (like oak, ash or peach) takes a bit longer.  During this time, whether the wood rests on the forest floor or sits stacked and properly stored at your home, wind and sun work to evaporate excess moisture.

When compared to green wood, seasoned wood is lighter given that it contains less moisture.  Due to the lack of moisture, seasoned wood ignites quickly, lasts longer, burns efficiently and allows for minimal creosote buildup.

So needless to say Tony has been cutting a lot of firewood lately and a woodshed (yes, we still haven’t built one) has moved to the top spot on our to-do-list.
Tony and his dad cutting up logs

we currently have about two cords cut and split... only three more to go.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Pros and Cons of Mountain Living...

12:05 pm - 84 degrees - hot and windy...

A large amount of literature exists that puts great emphasis on the alluring qualities of the mountain experience, and as a result the more “negative” aspects are often overlooked.  Most everything you do in daily life will naturally have some negative features associated with it, and life in these mystical hills is no exception.

Clear streams from every direction; clean, fresh mountain air; majestic valleys filled with rich fir trees; and a host of recreational activities through the summer and winter.  This is likely the picture many of you paint in your minds when you think of the mountains, but what about the negative?  Is there any?

In our opinion there are two – the really crazy weather and the gravel county road.

Winds in the mountains are unlike anything we have ever experienced.  To say that the trees dance in the wind is an understatement.  The trees really do flex and sway from the bottom up to the tips.  You would be amazed to see how far a tree can sway.  It takes a while to become accustomed to the high winds, with gusts over 60 mph.  We’ve gotten used to it now.  It’s not such a negative anymore...until you add rain to the mix.

Rain really is a good, it keeps everything lush and green and I love the sound of the rain on the metal roof.  Rain turns into a negative when you’re trying to unload a car full of kids and groceries and you get absolutely soaked to the bone in the process.  Since the winds like to swirl around the house, the rain comes from every possible direction.  After the rain, comes the fog; fog so thick that you cannot see anything out the windows but white mist.  Trying to drive the curvy, narrow mountain roads when you cannot see past the hood of your car can be a bit unnerving.

And of course we cannot forget the snow...which is usually on the ground for at least six months of the year.  Whether it’s a lot or a little, you will see snow.  Some years we have just a few inches (like 10-36 inches), and other years we have anywhere from 2-10 feet.  Unless you make plans far in advance of the snowfall, you will be repeatedly inconvenienced by the snow storms.  If you have a steep gravel driveway, as we do, you will be snowed in several times a season (which can be fun sometimes).  You can plow or blow gravel, but you lose gravel with each pass.  The snowfall is beautiful, treacherous, and inspiring.

Overall the weather isn’t sooo bad, mainly because we have gotten used to it. 

The county road on the other hand is a negative year round.  We drive 7 miles (one way) on a gravel/rock/dirt county road that is poorly (in some areas not at all) maintained.  Most days I drive this road several times – that’s 28 miles or more on a bad gravel road a day.  You can probably tell this is a sore subject with me and it is!  It is killing our rigs {click here} and putting a huge dent in our wallets – money that should be going towards the construction of our house.  

I don’t mind gravel roads, really I don’t.  I have even gotten used to swerving from side to side to avoid the numerous boulders sticking out of the road, the too-many–to-count tire swallowing potholes, or the metal culvert that is being unearthed.  I have gotten so used to it that it has become normal.  I am only reminded of it when we have people up and they comment on the horrible road conditions... or when my rig breaks and I almost go off the edge of the narrow road and down the steep hillside (which is what happened yesterday morning).
Here are just a few obstacles...

That darn county road is slowly (or maybe not so slowly) killing our rigs.  Yesterday morning I was on my down the mountain heading to take the kids to school, I was coming around a corner heading into another corner when my brakes and steering locked up.  This caused me to almost go off the edge of the road and down the very steep hillside, but somehow I managed to land in the ditch instead.  Yes, I had to sit there for a few minutes and calm down – it scared me so bad that I was in tears.  There is no cell coverage in that area, so I started the car just to see if I could make it the rest of the way down the mountain or if I had to sit there and wait for someone to come by and rescue me.  Somehow the kids and I made it down the mountain where I was able to call Tony, and somehow he was able to understand what I was trying to say in between sobs.  Handsome, handy husband to the rescue!  I love that man!!!

Over $400 dollars later (that was supposed to be a bathroom cabinet) my rig is back up and running. 

This is not normal wear and tear maintenance; this is flat out abuse from the poorly maintained county road.  Just one more speed bump in our off-grid mountain life...

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Throwback Thursday...

6:30 pm - 56 degrees - raining, rumbling thunder...

We set up a work area in the middle of our pole barn style house.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

First Day of School...

7:58 pm - 65 degrees - scattered clouds...

...started out pretty early this morning.  Mother Nature decided to wake everyone up shortly after 1:30 am with a house shaking crack of thunder that continued to rumble on.  Then came a short rain shower followed by a light show in the clouds (no pictures this time).  The distant rumbles and strobe light clouds fizzled out after a few hours...and then the alarm clock went off.  Welcome to the first day of school!

{ UPDATE:  September 5 }
10:55 am - 58 degrees - thick fog, light rain...


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