Monday, June 20, 2016

Things You Should Know For Off-Grid Living

There are some things you REALLY need to know when you go off-grid. I mean, you really, really, REALLY need to know some of these things, because they make your life just that little bit easier when transitioning. Granted, I had the advantage of being semi-off-grid for the last few years with no running water while living in that crap trailer on the mountain, but being completely off-grid now, with my only power coming from the gennie, it just imposes those things I learned before a little bit more harshly. I will say do not skimp frequently in this, because being miserly is great in a lot of things when homesteading, but certain areas, you want to be as generous as possible. These are some of them.

1. Toilet. If you are one of those not blessed with running water for a while, you learn to conserve it. This also applies to the toilet. If you have a sawdust, composting or camp toilet, which has to be emptied regular one way or another, and no flush toilet, you are going to have odor from your bathroom facilities. There is no worse smell on this earth, I think, than coming home after work on a hot night to find your house smelling like the sewer backed up. It is awful.

There are ways around this. If you have a composting toilet, use lots of sawdust. Don't skimp. The stuff absorbs moisture and odor and will break down with everything else. Sawdust is cheap and your nose will thank you. If you have a camp toilet (they do flush, in a way), or a sawdust toilet, empty it regularly. In hot weather, I highly recommend at least twice a week. If someone has issues, like diarrhea, even more often is necessary. Again, with a sawdust toilet, like the composter style, do not skimp on the sawdust. Generosity means emptying more often but it also cuts down on odors.

Air fresheners also help. Those little gel doodads from Renuzit or Glade or whoever are a nose-saver. Change it out whenever it gets used up. It will help to cover up a lot of odors as well. I keep a good stock on hand during warm weather. When the temps get into the triple digits, as the heat indices have been for the last few days, I use two. You can always close the extra one up when it's not needed, and finish it later. They cost about $1, and are worth the cheap cost of effective odor control.

2. Dishes. Do them frequently. At the least, scrape and rinse when you're done with them. Soak overnight if you have to, but do them up first thing in the morning to clean them. Dish drainers are great for air-drying, but make sure you change your towel under it every few days or wash off the plastic drain pan underneath also regularly. Mildew and odor will build up and it's nasty. I do dishes every couple of days. It only takes a few gallons of water in my dishpans and keeps things neat. Also, paper plates and plastic silverware are a help when you do not have running water, as it saves on a lot of dishwashing. You end up with pots and pans and not much else to deal with.

3. Trash. Get it cleared out regularly. Again, do not skimp on getting it out. I have one big 30-gallon can for house trash and three small cans for beside the bed, desk and bathroom. They are emptied a minimum of once a week and the trash burnt. I had someone question why I burn my cans with the trash. I live in the country, and there is a lot of wildlife here that would love to tip over an outside can to lick the food cans (like cat food) clean and make a mess of the yard. I hate cleaning things up more than once if it is not necessary, so all cans go into the house trash and are burnt. They are then cleared up and taken to the scrap yard for recycling and gain me a couple of bucks of cash. Took a load the other day and got $11 and change for four bags of cans. Prices flucuate, but what the heck, it's easy money.

4. Cooling your home. If you are off-grid, passive cooling is essential. Active cooling is things like air conditioners, which basically refrigerate the air. Problems are that they not only run up your electric bill (or use a lot of your off-grid power), but that also when you leave your home, you end up feeling worse than if you didn't use A/C. Fans are a good source of active cooling - they actually move the air, which can dry it up some. If you need to humidify the air a bit, making a swamp cooler from a fan is easy. A deep pan of water set on the floor in front of a fan works fine to improvise that and cool the house without A/C.

My favorite, however, is convection cooling through completely passive sources. As many of you know, I was finally able to get a roof wind turbine installed this past few days in the cabin. It is much more comfortable now. The way it works is that the top of the turbine is installed to be higher than the roof peak. This allows the heat from the house to escape the house when it rises. With the windows open, it also draws in the cooler air from outdoors (though the last few days, cooler has been a relative term), thus moving air in a convection current throughout the house to cool it. As small as my cabin is, one 14" turbine cools the whole house to about 68 to 70 degrees at night, and it has not gotten above 90 during the day, despite humidity driving feels like temps to well into triple digits.

5. Windows. If you're going to go off-grid, you're going to want LOTS of windows, especially in warm weather. They will allow in lots of light and air. Cover them during the hottest part of the day, possibly leaving a small opening at the bottom to let air flow. Open at night to let as much cool air in as possible, because that helps keep the house cooler for a longer period during the heat of the day.

6. Hot drinks. It sounds silly, but if it's warm out, drink hot drinks instead of cold ones. The heat in your gut makes your body pull heat from your innards and sends it to your skin to cool your gut. This heat evaporates through your skin and will cool you off, or at least make you think you're cooler. Cold drinks make your body pull your body heat to your core to keep you warmer, and thus, will make you hotter in the long run. Cold drinks are nice for a treat, but lots of warm drinks will help more. Warm water or tea are favorites of mine in really hot weather, especially as I'm not much of a coffee drinker.

7. Bedding. Change your sheets for the seasons. Don't skimp on the cost of good sheets. Skip the microfiber stuff, as it's mostly useless. Go for cotton in the summer and flannel in the winter. Both are cool when you lay down on them, but cotton will stay cool in the heat and is good for helping you sleep more comfortably. Flannel is basically brushed cotton, so it's cool when you go to bed, but absorbs heat quickly and retains it well, making cold weather sleeping much nicer. Wash your sheets weekly no matter what, but especially in the heat. You're going to sweat and your bedding will smell like it.

Blankets are a must, and lots of them. No matter how many you think you need, have more on hand. If you won't be using them, they'll come in handy for guests. If it's cold enough, you'll have plenty on hand. In this case, microfiber comforters are good, afghans and quilts (REAL quilts, not the wimpy stuff you find in Wal-Mart that calls itself a quilt) are good. You want thick and warm and lots of it in cold weather. In winter, I have been known to pile as many as six afghans on the bed. Granted, you won't be moving much under them with that many on top of you, but you will be warm. The more comfortable you are for sleeping, the better you will sleep.

So there's a few musings from me on things you should know for off-grid living. Until next time!

Sunday, June 5, 2016

So, um, yeah, I'm bad

I took these photos last weekend, and forgot to upload them to here. Bad me. Better late than never?

Butterfly on some flowers near the top of the property.

The cabin from the roadside by the mailbox. Looks tiny!

Taken closer to the house, from the top of where my driveway starts.

More flowers near that spot.

Another butterfly "puddling" in the yard.

A few tomatoes starting finally. Two on the leftmost are Large Cherry, the other is a beefsteak, Mortgage Lifter.

This is what you get when you dump out the burn barrel. I drag a trash can out by the dump pile, put a bag in it, and toss all the metal into the can. The bags of cans go to the scrapyard whenever I get up early enough on a Saturday.

Some cucumbers and broccoli starting.

The beans so far, both plantings are doing well.

The tomato starts I bought and plants. They started out down by the lowest string. Now look at them!

Mazda (front) and Shelby (rear). Finally got photos of the rest of the cats.

Smokey. He moved as soon as I took the picture, then ran and hid.

And Cocoa. She has a sweet face.

So, yesterday, I hit up Home Depot. Found out they are still dumping plants cheap at 4/$10, so I picked up a green pepper, purple pepper, straightneck squash and buttercup squash. Also picked up a few more seeds. I'm out of Brandywine Red and couldn't find any more, so grabbed Black Krim instead.

Today, I broke more ground out behind the existing garden, such as it is, and put them in. I also replanted the last of what I'm going to try to get growing this year, redoing things one more time. I did find that two of the Brandywine Reds had started, so I replanted the other four cells with Black Kirm. I don't have a lot going right now, but whatever I get now will be the summer garden, and I'll put in a bunch of greens and late roots (carrots, radish, turnip and so forth) in a couple months, to harvest just before first frost.

As of today, I have growing the starts I bought, a bunch of Blue Lake 274 Green Beans, a whole THREE corn (Country Gentleman, I think), 3 Large Red Cherry Tomatoes, 2 Brandywine Red Tomatoes, 1 Mortgage Lifter Tomato, 1 Hale's Best Cantaloupe, 2 Straightneck Squash, 2 Sumter Cucumber, 2 Marketmore Cucumber, 2 Straight Eight Cucumber, and 4 rather leggy Calabrese Broccoli.

Chores got done early - trash out and burnt, bed made, laundry put up, and I will make me some spaghetti for supper pretty soon, with Italian sausage and garlic sauce. Back to the salt mines tomorrow.

Had to send HIM to Tractor Supply for liquid wormer for the cats - found out that at least four of them have a roundworm infestation, and Fuzzy, the most physically delicate of the lot, has the worst load of any of them. Treated them when he got back with the stuff. Most of them were okay about taking it, though Stars fought it (apparently, she doesn't like fish, and it has a fishy flavor to entice them to take it better), and Trouble and Oreo just let me give it to them without issue. The others varied in amount of "I don't WANT to take the medicine!" but all got treated. Retreat in ten days, and this time, I'll dump it in their wet food in the morning, haha.

Oh yes, and I made a video with my camera that I put up on YouTube to sort of show what I have going on here! If you want to see it, here's the link:

Bountiful Farm, June 2016