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, July 20, 2017

Berry Hike...

3:30 pm - 72 degrees - cloudy...

I love, love, love living in the mountains.  Being able to step outside the front door and walk around our property harvesting wild berries, is just amazing!  Now that harvest season is upon us, it’s time to go on another berry hike and see what we can find.

There are so many different types of shrubs and trees that offer up a berry tempting variety of fruits for our taste buds.  However, it’s always important to keep in mind that not all fruits found in our forest are safe to eat.  So after a tasty stroll around the property, here’s what we found...

Blackcap aka Wild Black Raspberry {Rubus occidentalis}

Blackcap aka Wild Black Raspberry {Rubus occidentalis}

The Blackcap or Black Raspberries are closely related to the Red Raspberry but the black fruit makes them look like Blackberries.  Even though many may get them confused, they have a taste that is uniquely their own and oh so delicious!

Blue Elderberry aka Blue Elder {Sambucus cerulea}

Whether it be red or blue, Elderberries are easy to like.  They are user-friendly.  Jam, jelly, pies, syrup, schnapps, brandy and wine can all be made from those tiny little berries.  The flowers are also edible and can be used in pancakes and muffins or just dipped in batter and fried.  They also make a nice tea.

Blue Huckleberry {Vaccinium deliciosum}

Any hiker in the Pacific Northwest worth his or her weight in Huckleberries, know that late summer hiking has joys all its own...of a juicy, purple/blue variety.  The wild Blue Huckleberry is a very coveted berry.  Pickers often find themselves competing with Black bears, cougars, and other native animals for the sweet, juicy huckleberries which are just delicious in pies, jam, pancakes, muffins, ice cream, syrup, and oh so much more.

Oregon  Grape {Mahonia nervosa}

The Oregon Grape is not related to true grapes, but gets its name from the purple cluster of berries whose color and slightly dusted appearance are reminiscent of grapes.  The berries are highly acidic (sour), but they make a delicious jam.

Oval Leaf Blueberry aka Alaska Blueberry aka Early Blueberry {Vaccinium ovalifolium}

The wild Blueberries that we found in our yard are likely the most well know berry on our list of berries we’ve found here.  And personally I think they taste just as good if not better than the ones bought in the store.  I even had to pick a handful so I can make Blueberry pancakes in the morning.

Red Elderberry {Sambucus racemosa}

Some references say Red Elderberries are edible, some say they are not.  Basically what I have found out is that if you eat a lot of raw, whole, Red Elderberries, you will most likely end up with an upset stomach.  If they are deseeded and cooked, then they are just fine.

Red Huckleberry {Vaccinium parvifolium}

These delicate translucent berries have been a source of food for generations of Northwest natives, animals and people alike.  As heavily used as they are, not everyone enjoys their tangy-tart flavor.  It is for this reason that the Red Huckleberries are usually combines with other berries, like the Blueberry to add sweetness.

Salal {Gaultheria shallon}

The Salal’s dark blue berries and young leaves are both edible, and both with a unique flavor.  Salal berries were a significant food resource for Native Americas, who both ate them fresh and dried them into cakes.  More recently, the berries are used in james, preserves and pies.  They are often combined with Oregon Grape berries because the tartness of the Oregon Grape is partially masked by the mild sweetness of the Salal berries.

Salmonberry {Rubus spectabilis}

The Salmonberry, Thimbleberry, Trailing Blackberry and Black Caps all share the fruit structure of the Raspberry, with the fruit pulling away from its receptacle.  Books often call the Salmonberry “insipid” but depending on ripeness and where you found them, they are good eaten raw and when processed into jam, jelly and wine.

Stink Currant aka Blue Currant {Ribes bracteosum}

Stink Currant is named for its skunky aroma.  It’s far less pungent than Skunk Cabbage, and the name doesn’t always translate to flavor.  It seems that the flavor of these berries can range anywhere from nasty to delicious. 

Thimbleberry {Rubus parviflorus}

Thimbleberries are larger, flatter, and softer than Raspberries, and have many small seeds.  Because the fruit if so soft, it does not pack or ship well, so Thimbleberries are rarely cultivated commercially.  However, wild Thimbleberries can be eaten raw, dried or made into jam.

Trailing Blackberry {Rubus ursinus}

This Blackberry is not the big brambly invasive bully lining area rivers and roadways.  Our native Trailing Blackberry likes to spread.  Instead of forming self supported brambles, it rambles about the landscape as a vine-like ground cover, but tastes just as delicious as the brambly Blackberry.

...we found quite a few actually!  I just love having all these delicious wild edible berries around our home!  

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Off The Mountain Fun...

4:57 pm - 43 degrees - raining...

Every now and then we just need to get away from the daily grind, which sometimes means getting off the mountain to go exploring.  

One of the many reasons we love living in the Pacific Northwest is because it's one of the most ecologically diverse areas in the country. 

Head North and you’ll run into Olympic Nation Park which is home to the Hoh National Rainforest – the largest rainforest in the United States.  There is also the Puget Sound which is comprised of inlets, channels, estuaries and home to the San Juan Islands. 

Head west and you’ll see the beautiful rugged coastline of the Pacific Ocean that is lined with steep cliffs, moss covered trees and enough rainy days to keep is gorgeous and green. You also have the Long Beach Peninsula which is an arm of land that is known for its continuous sand beaches which also happen to be a Washington State Highway.

Running down the center is the Cascade Mountain range that splits the area in two from north to south.  There are also a handful of active volcanoes, along with the remains from the many lahars (volcanic mudflows).

Running across the center from east to west is the Columbia River.  Along the Columbia River is the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area which protects the spectacular canyon where the Columbia River cuts through the Cascade mountain - with cliffs and overlooks of Washington to the north and Oregon to the south.

You want the high desert, head to the east side and you’re in the Columbia Basin which is a dry, open country, rich in stark scenery.

There are so many different options to choose from, a few hours in any direction and you have something beautiful, different and amazing to explore and enjoy.

Still, home is where our hearts are.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Learning How To Use A Crosscut Saw...

10:45 am - 48 degrees - overcast...

While we were at Tony's parents' house, his dad brought out one of his 5' crosscut saws - he has a collection of them.  Grandad showed the kids how to use the crosscut saw by cutting a round off of a downed tree.  

By the end, they were getting pretty good.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Mountain Chores...

3:42 pm - 40 degrees - raining...

Yesterday we had a break from the wind and rain.  It was in the mid-40s, that’s winter t-shirt weather up here; basically it was the perfect day to spend outside and do a little outside spring cleaning.  

We still have patches of snow here and there, but the majority of it has melted away.  So yesterday I started to rake all the small rocks that were tossed into the yard from the snow blower back onto the driveway.  One bad side effect of using the snow blower on a gravel road are all the rocks that are tossed up to 16+ feet into the yard.  There are so many little rocks in the yard that unfortunately it doesn’t even look like I did anything there yesterday. 

We also spent a good portion of the day picking up and burning most of the fallen and broken tree branches from around our main driveway.  Tony walked around with a pole saw cutting off the broken branches from the trees.  He got a little side tracked and started limbing the trees up, so we had quite a pile of branches and twigs to burn. 

The kids decided to take a break from all the yardwork to sneak in some bow and arrow practice.

By the end of the day, everyone was tired as we sat around our bonfire to roast some hot dogs and marshmallows.  All in all, it was a good productive day.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Mountain Traffic...

5:36 pm - 42 degrees - raining...

You would think that living up in the mountains we wouldn't have a lot of traffic or any traffic issues.  Well there is and we do.

On nice days there are people up here who just want to drive around in the mountains, or some are heading to a trail head to go hiking.  With all this rain we've been having lately, there are a lot of kayakers who are braving the swollen river - apparently its a great class four run. In the fall there are a lot of hunters out and about scouting getting ready for hunting season and even more during hunting season.  

Currently its the loggers who we're seeing the most of.  There is quite a lot of land around us that is owned by a large timber company and there is always something going on, so we run into loggers rigs, company rigs, equipment trucks, log trucks, semi's bringing in large equipment, etc. 

They were parked there to let everyone know to be extra cautious
on the blind corners, a lot of dump truck traffic on the that day.

Normally all the traffic isn't really a big deal, but there is one sharp hairpin corner on the gravel road to our house where accidents regularly occur.  And this morning the county road struck again...   

The lowboy trailer was too long and didn't quite make the corner.  They had to unhitch the trailer from the semi and unload the bulldozer.  They used the bulldozer to pull the trailer back onto the road.  After getting the trailer straightened out, they hooked the trailer back up to the semi and off it went, with the bulldozer following at its own leisurely pace.

It's not the first time this has happened {click here} and it definitely won't be the last time.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Spring Is Here...

1012 am - 38 degrees - overcast, windy, raining... 

...even if it’s only symbolically.  Yesterday marked the spring equinox, it signaled the end of the astronomical winter in the northern hemisphere.  Yet the signs of winter are still hanging on.  This morning it was 36 degrees outside and we still have very large patches of dirty snow all over the place.

On a dreary, cold, windy, rainy day like today, I find myself longing for any sign that spring, and warmer temperatures, may be nearing.  I’ve already started day dreaming about the warmer days, the start of everything turning green, the fading of the winter, what we’re going to plant in our garden, firing up the grill, hanging out with family and friends around a roaring bonfire and 9pm sunsets!

Even with the chilly temperatures and the slowly melting snow, there are a few small signs that spring is truly on its way, from the new huckleberry buds to the tiny green onion sprouts in our mini herb garden.

The wildlife are also coming out of hiding.  I haven't heard the little drummers yet (aka Ruffed Grouse) but we're starting to see them more and more.  Soon enough we should start hearing that unusual mating call; the courting ritual of the forest birds, that strangely enough you feel more than hear.  It's an unmistakable "thump...... thump...... thump... whir-r-r-r-r-r!" of a male ruffed grouse "drumming".

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Saturday Evening Post…

10:49 am - 42 degrees - raining and windy...

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…

Me:  “Jack!  Stop riding your bike in the backyard.  I want the grass to grow and it won’t if you keep riding there.  Tony, can you please make him a bike track somewhere other than the backyard.”

8-yr-old Son:  “But I like riding in the backyard.”

Hubby:  “I’ll go find a spot.” 

Me:  “Jack!  Why are you riding your bike in the backyard?  You and Dad just built a new bike track for you to ride in?!”

8-yr-old Son:  “I like the backyard.”

Me:  “Look around, you have acres of land to ride your bike on.  Stay off the grass in the backyard!  And put on your bike helmet!”

8-yr-old Son:  "My jumps and trails are in the backyard."

Me:  "Go plan out some new jumps and trails over in and around your new bike track... away from the backyard!"


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