Last year my husband and I moved to our little farm in Virginia. We bought a small abandoned farm where we are beginning a new chapter in our life. A new simple life.
For several years we had been raising our own food by gardening and raising chickens for meat and eggs. Now here at the farm we have the space for the addition of Nubian goats for milk and a Great Pyranees named Sophie to our homestead.
Currently we are living in our 32′ motorhome while the century old farmhouse is being restored. It’s small, but comfortable.
This will be a busy year as we establish our first garden and build new homes for the livestock as well as begin work on restoring the old farmhouse.
This quiet life-style is quite different from the hectic pace we lived for so many years. No more sounds of sirens, squealing tires, and loud neighbors.
Here, where there are no city lights, we can see the night sky in all it’s glory, and watch as hundreds of fireflies light up the fields. The only sounds we hear are the insects, and once in a while a distant “mooo” from a neighboring farm.
This is where we intend to live, quietly, peacefully and simply as our grand-parents did a century ago.
I wish I had better news to share, but the fact is I don’t.
We finally made contact with a personal engineer regarding getting a design for a waste water system. That’s where the good news ends, at least for now.
It appears that nobody moves very quickly in the south. In fact they would need to pick up the pace just to move at slow speed.
After getting the report for our soil we delivered it by hand to the Health Department agent in town who is supposed to be our “go to ” guy. He is about as helpful as a blind man telling you which tie you’re holding looks best with your complexion.
He gave us a list of personal engineers to interview for our waste water management system, and after going through the entire list only two were actually still around, and one never answered his phone, returned voice messages, or responded to email.
That leaves us with one from the long list given to us. They at last returned our call, and maintained email contact while we sent them the documents they need to review. Great, right?
It has taken nearly three months to get to this point. Last week we were at last ready for a face-to-face meeting to discuss the process, the options and the price for the design.
Mind you, this waste water system is for a one bedroom, one bath home with two adults, and a composting toilet. No dishwasher or other water consuming appliance.
Including watering the animals, we use less than ten gallons of water daily.
They are telling us what we need is a 1,000 gallon sealed tank (plastic), chlorination and de-chlorination equipment and an ultra-violet system which will leave the water pure enough to drink…… but instead of pumping it back into the house they plan to have it pour out onto the ground.
The entire system will be installed above ground, in what they refer to as a “mound” system and will cost around $20,000 and will require monthly maintenance.
That’s not including their design cost of $4,000 and it is not guaranteed that it will be approved by the state.
They’ve said that when we meet and after they do a site visit (tell me again why we had the other guy do a site visit?) they may be able to design a less expensive system.
We asked for an appointment for a meeting this week, but apparently the “engineer” is on vacation until next week.
Meanwhile, we are looking at all our options including giving up and moving to another state that is a bit more relaxed.
If you wash dishes by hand and, like me, use a metal dish pan (mine is an antique enamel tub), place a folded dish towel in the bottom of the dish pan to keep your glassware and dinnerware from possible damage by the contact with metal.
When it comes to hand washing dishes, rinsing off that soapy residue can use quite a lot of water. Since we don’t have running water I use three containers of water.
The first is the dish pan with warm, soapy water. Begin by washing the cleanest things first.
Also, before washing, clean off the cookware and dinnerware first by wiping away any food debris and disposing of it. A hot pan or skillet is much easier to clean than a cold one. While the pan is still hot, drain off any liquid, then wipe away anything that remains. You can easily completely clean a skillet this way.
Glassware first, then flatware, cups, plates and bowls, last cookware. Just as each is washed separately, remove the washed articles to the first rinse water container which holds warm water and vinegar. Then from there move them to the final rinse bath to remove possible hint of the vinegar or soap. By the time the second load of dishes is washed and rinsed, the first load is air-dried and ready to be put away.
I have tested this method against my “former” automated dishwasher, and I had all the dishes washed, dried and put away in less time than it took the DW to start its wash cycle. Just think of all the water and electricity that DW used compared to the 2-3 gallons I used doing them by hand.
After the dishes are finished I can continue using the same water for other cleaning, such as washing down the counters, cupboard doors, and stove. Or use it to wash the floor.
Penny gave birth to two little girls this morning, we found these in the barn. It was a surprise because, although we knew she was expecting, her belly didn’t get very large and we thought the other goat, Charlotte, who’s belly is quite large, would be first to kid.
These are also our first births and we are quite excited…. now to figure out what to do next.
I thought I’d share this story about a Florida woman who was living completely off grid. She harvested rain water, had solar power, etc and was completely unconnected from the utilities and was evicted from the home she owned because of it. Lately I have been hearing about states that are trying to make illegal to not be “connected”. If someone has solar power, they must use the power company for backup instead of batteries. How stupid is that? I believe, however, all the states now permit harvesting rain water. Here in the US, each state has its own rules and regulations. Evicted for Living Off Grid
LIVING OFF GRID:
We have been 100% off grid since moving here last October. No electricity, no running water, etc. If we cannot produce what we need, we do without. We don’t let the generator run 7/24 as it is a waste of fuel to have it running during the night just for the fridge, so we time it so it will run out around mid-night. Then Nick fuels it before he leaves for “the office” in the morning, about 8 hours later.
The generator gives us power for lighting, the computer, the little RV fridge, the microwave and electric appliances such as the water kettle, electric skillet and slow cooker. We also have two propane camp stoves, each with two burners, and I have a camp oven which requires only that is rest upon one of the gas burners to operate. I can bake anything in it that I would normally bake in my “big” oven…. only smaller. It can hold a pie, loaf pan, 6 muffin tin, etc.
Back in the old days when I had my wood cooking stove I used one on top of that. I haven’t yet tried it on a camp fire.
So far we haven’t built an outhouse or gotten a composting toilet, though both are on the list. We have a bathroom in the motor-home and Nick empties the holding tank to a “special” composting bin. There is an excellent book available that is probably the best resource out there regarding how to gather, compost and use humanure and is one of my “go to” books. The Scoop on Poop
For now we have a bored well, about 20 feet deep, from which we, that is Nick pulls up water in a bucket. We boil around 10 gallons for safety, every day, for watering the livestock and for bathing and cleaning. We buy water for drinking and cooking…. just because….
Laundry is done either by hand with a wash tub and plunger/agitator; or Nick takes it to the laundrette while he is in town. He can work anywhere as long as his mobile hotspot has a signal. I still struggle with him to at least bring home the wet wash so I can line dry it, but more often than not, he doesn’t.
This is the first year in many that I don’t have any food from my garden to preserve. Thankfully, I thought ahead last year anticipating this, and there is plenty of food still on the shelves inside the house.
The old farmhouse has become a storage facility for our household goods which are all in boxes and plastic crates. We still have all the furniture to move from the house in CT.
Living here, without pubic utilities, has given us ample time to learn what works and what doesn’t, especially when it comes to the old farmhouse. We had intended to restore it, but the red tape in doing that has gotten out of hand. So we are now planning to build a new cabin, further back on the property, for our home.
Recently I discovered a Canadian television video series about two couples who went to live in rural Ottowa, Canada for an entire year as pioneer settlers of the 1870’s. They had very little with them, we actually have more tools than they had, with which to build their homes and farm. There were also faced with the wettest spring and coldest winter in 120 years. I learned quite a bit from watching how they managed to live, totally off grid, and recommend to anyone wanting to live off grid to view it. Both for what can be learned, and for its entertainment value. It is a good show. Pioneer Quest
For now, we rely on the food I preserved and stocked last year. Except for chicken, we are running low on beef and so must get some things from the market. Now that the farm stands are open I will be getting fresh produce from the community farmstand nearby, and we found a place that sells local meat, and the goats will be kidding soon and we will have our own milk. And though they won’t be laying for a few months, our new flock of laying chicks will be arriving in about ten days, along with a dozen meat chicks. We will need two dozen meat chickens to put up for the coming year.
I would love to be able to build a cabin from the trees on our land, but at our age it isn’t a project for us. We are looking at “kits” and “build on site” cabins for our new home. Once the shell of the home is constructed and finished by professionals, we intend to do the interior work ourselves.
For my first birthday with DH, many years ago, he surprised me with a wonderful gift. The box was about the size of a shoebox and was quite heavy. When opened I found a little jewel box with a beautiful ruby and diamond ring…. but what gave the box its weight was the special gift… a brick with a note reading that this would be the first brick laid in our new home. It’s taken 16 years to get there, but it looks like we will finally get to lay that brick this year.
Now the question is how “connected” this new home will be to the grid. I would love it to be 0%… but until we can afford to get the wind turbine………
Are you living off grid? How do you manage? I’d love to know.
This morning as I was looking at the what remained of my seedlings after the dog explored the garden my first thoughts were of the waste. The lettuce and beets seedlings had been thriving until Sophie decided to chase bugs by digging into the garden bed. There was no rescue for those that had been removed…. but there is still time to replant.
Nonetheless I wasn’t experiencing the best start to my pay and I thought a cup of tea, a quick check of my email, and read through my blogs and forum would provide a fresh start while it was still early morning.
Usually I play a You-Tube video in the background while I work and this morning I selected a John Oliver episode about Food Waste, just the topic for this day. While I am upset over the waste of a few head of lettuce and what would have been at least a peck of beets John Oliver was telling me about how this country sends 40% of its perfectly fresh produce directly to landfills straight from the farms!
This is appalling! Farmers were actually saying that it isn’t even cost-effective for them to donate the produce to food kitchens, etc.
In sharp contrast, in France it is illegal to throw away good food, whether it be a restaurant, or a market.
Sorry folks, it just doesn’t make sense to me.
The farmer described how it would involve the cost of planning where the food would go, arranging for trucks to deliver the food, etc.
Perhaps if he spent a couple of hours one day phoning area churches who hold soup kitchens, or safe houses, or other local organizations who feed the poor and the homeless he would find that “they” would be more than happy to come to him and collect the free food.
Maybe I am being harsh in believing that there is no reason thousands of tons of fresh, edible food should be going to the garbage dumps instead of the thousands of hungry families struggling each day to put food on their tables.
I vow, if my garden ever gets to produce a sufficient harvest to feed both my family, and another, I will be sharing the excess with those less fortunate.
For more information on Food Waste and what you can do follow these links: