Status Update: Off-Grid Living

We have been at our new location for three weeks already! Time is flying. There are endless jobs to do so every day we are setting and hitting small goals. This week we have continued the spring development project to get running water to a retention pond, painted the chicken coop, purchased 400 gallon and a 65 gallon water tanks, set up the rainwater collection system (just in time- we collected at least 20 gallons of water Saturday night from the first legitimate rainfall since we arrived!), researched sheep breeds, collected rocks for a sheep shed, built a compost bin, collected our first load of winter firewood, purchased a four wheeler and a mountain bike, and took Sahara on countless hikes through our land. Life has been SPECTACULAR! The calmest, healthiest, and happiest I have ever been! I say that, noting also this has been the most CHALLENGING time in my life as well. I’m pushed to my limits every day and still end up with a smile on my face.

 

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The cooler was a first attempt as a rock hauling basket, but it isn’t working out so well.

 

Water:

When we first got here we were having to buy 2.5 gallon jugs of drinking water and collect shower/ dishes/ pet water from the nearby creek that runs through our property. It is nearby, but not by any means an easy stroll. It is about 200 feet down in a wooded ravine. I love it for recreating, but that means we can only haul a few gallons each at a time. The most I carried was 4 gallons and it was killer. We learned really quick how much water we needed for two days and we made it work until our next trip. We had to supplement our weekly home shower with river bathes for a couple of weeks, but that wasn’t so bad! The worst part is that the ground has been so dry it is just brown dust. Even after a shower you’re immediately dirty when you step outside. Now, we have a huge 405 gallon water collection tank. This collects water off of our shed roof and can be filled also by transporting our smaller 65 gallon tank to a hose hookup we were welcomed to use in town. We just filled up for the first time in town on Thursday and having 65 gallons of water was like being the richest person in the world. We were so grateful. However, we do not want to use this option for long. It is not sustainable. I imagined as we sat and waited for it to fill, that we were hiking back and forth from the creek over and over again with 4 gallons. We would have had to make at least 8 trips in a row (an hour each trip) to gather than much water! We have come to use about 5 gallons of water per day. On a heavy water day it would be more like 8 gallons, when we both shower. That water is then collected in a grey water holding tank and deposited on our apple trees. It is the only way they are surviving the recent drought. We use all organic, biodegradable products. No chemicals, no unnatural materials, just soap. Nothing we put down our drain is harmful to the Earth.

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Challenge: Figure out how much water you use each day. Then, find areas where you know you use more than you need and focus on cutting it back.

Water is life. It is precious and needs to be cherished.  You may think it will just always be there, but stories of drought are all around us. Also are stories of toxic runoff and whole communities water supply becoming undrinkable. This can not go on.

Solar:

Our solar system is a 2 KW system. We have nothing running on straight DC. Everything is on AC and being converted (inefficiently). We have plans to supplement our solar system with a wind turbine. We haven’t looked yet for a DC fridge, but have it on the list for the near future. We are also going to add an additional battery. We currently have four 250 kwh batteries, but the panels are producing more than the batteries can store right now. The inverter we have is a modified-sine wave and we lose upwards of 30% of the solar collection in converting the power from DC to AC in order to run our normal outlets. We run an inefficient hot plate a few nights a week and grill out or eat raw meals the other nights which has worked out nicely. It is important for us to remain diligent about our electrical usage though. We have none to spare. There are a lot of times I realized I turned on a light when it was completely unnecessary only to quickly shut it back off. Now, we seldom turn on a light because we live by the sun’s cycle. I also realized you don’t need to turn on a light just because you are entering the room! If you have windows there is really no need for a light in most daytime circumstances.

Going to bed by 9 pm and waking up around 5 am is wonderful. Being in rhythm with the Earth is a truly relaxing feeling. We have not felt deprived of anything we previously had as far as energy or water. We are very happy to be using only what we need and not an unlimited amount. Remember where your water and power come from. It is at a cost much larger than the dollars and cents you pay for it. Please note there are solar systems much larger than ours. We chose small because we are working towards as little electricity as possible, with a few exceptions. This is all we needed. Research to determine the size of solar system you would need. I believe the average house would run on an 8 KW system. Right now, that would probably run you $15,000 – $20,000, but that is a ballpark estimate.

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Composting:

So we have been using our composting toilet for about a year now, but not full-time. We now have no other alternative. We were using cedar wood chips and diverting urine from the feces in order to attempt to decrease the smell. We had researched composting toilets and some say it should be separated. However, we didn’t think that worked well. We also stopped using cedar and started using mulch/ saw dust from our firewood collecting adventures (mostly pine). The smell has diminished tremendously. Yay! We switched back to a single bucket for all of it. Since it can be composted together anyway, there is no point in making two containers to empty instead of just one. Especially since the smell is no worse in our opinion. We just built the compost bin a few days ago out of dead fallen tree limbs from the woods on our property. Old free pallets are another good option. Then, we lined the bin with about 3 inches of grass/ straw from our yard on all sides of the bin and the bottom. We dumped in our humanure as well as our food compost and covered it up with another layer of grass/straw. We will continue to add to this same bin until it is full and then make a new bin and let this one cure for as long as it needs to heat up, some sources tell me a year. We need to get a compost thermometer so we can ensure the pile is curing correctly to eliminate all risk from the humanure. More to come on this as we perfect the process!

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All in all, we are loving life here on the homestead. Can’t wait to bring some dairy sheep home! We had found a starter flock on Craigslist in Idaho I was ready to drop everything and go get, but unfortunately that didn’t work out. We will keep on the look out as we build our fence and shelter. Oh yeah, we also got our first rabbits this weekend!

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Well, that is where we are and where we are going… Until next time, enjoy the journey.

 

One thought on “Status Update: Off-Grid Living

  1. Nancy Cole August 14, 2017 / 6:18 pm

    Thank you for sharing. Glad to hear all is good. Love you.

    Like

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