A Few Thoughts About Living Off Grid

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.

food storage

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.

food storage

 

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.

Food Waste: Our Country’s Disgrace

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.

image from PBS, Google images.

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.

click on image for more information

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:

Huffington Post: Farm to Landfill

EPA.gov

gracelinks.org

 

 

Goat’s Unique Eyes

Goats are fascinating creatures, smart, funny and even tempered.   They are beautiful and have such expressive eyes.  Those big, beautiful eyes that seem to see right through you.   And what’s with their rectangular shaped pupils?   So unusual, have you ever wondered why?  Nature doesn’t do anything without good reason, so what is the reason for this?

Did you know that when a goat lowers its head to the ground the pupils remain in the the same horizontal position?   No matter which direction they move their heads, the pupils always remain horizontal so, unlike we humans, they always see the world the same way.   If we tilt our heads to one side, the view becomes tilted.

If this has peaked your interest, follow the link to video by the National Geographic Channel to watch a fascinating video on the subject.

Explorer: Goat’s Unique Eyes

Goats may not seem that extraordinary, but recent studies reveal a special secret about the goat’s pupil, an adaptation that gives it an incredibly wide range of peripheral vision.

Posted by National Geographic Channel on Friday, February 12, 2016

My Salmon Patties

I created this recipe many years ago when I needed something quick for dinner.  It has become my favorite way to eat salmon.

My Salmon Patties                                            Wild-Salmon-Cakes-with-Sour-Cream

1 can, about 12 oz, salmon
1 small to medium sized cooked potato (not a waxy potato)
1 egg
Your choice: chopped fresh dill or chopped fresh chives.
flour or bread crumbs for coating patties (you can use your favorite crumb)
small amount canola oil
sour cream (add dollop when serving)
Prepare
In a small size bowl:
beat the egg with dill or chives and set aside
In a medium bowl:
coarsely mash the potato and salmon together
Add the egg mixture, and work it in to the potato/salmon mixture with a fork
Heat a skillet then add enough oil just to coat the bottom.
Form the salmon mixture in patties about the size of the palm of your hand and about 1″ thick.
Coat each side of the patties with flour, and remove the excess
Cook
On medium heat, cook the patties about ten minutes on each side
When you see the sides of the patties have cooked halfway, flip and finish the other side.
Remove patties from the skillet to a paper towel covered plate to absorb excess oil.
Serve
Serve with dollop of sour cream and green salad.

Slow Cooker Roast Beef with Mushroom and Onion Soup mix Gravy

I have been making my roasts this way for as long as I can remember. Usually in the slow cooker, but sometimes in the oven in a covered cast iron dutch oven.  It has been a family favorite for at least four generations.

I use 2 cans of soup and 2 packets of soup mix because we like lots of gravy.

Slow-Cooker Roast Beef with Mushroom and Onion soup mix gravy.

image from Google images

4-5 pound chuck roast
1-2 cans cream of Mushroom Soup (Last night I used one can mushroom and one can cream of celery,  yum)
1-2 envelopes Onion or Onion Mushroom Soup Mix
fresh mushrooms (optional) Leave the mushrooms whole or in large chunks.

Put everything into the slow cooker, turn on high for about an hour, then reduce to low for a few hours until the meat is done to your liking. I let it go until the meat falls apart, about 5-6 hours.

Dynamite My Way

This substantial sandwich is a Rhode Island classic with a few adaptions of my own made over the years.  Make it with as much kick as you want and serve it up on a sturdy roll or in a bowl.   This was the #1 food found in our picnic basket when we went to the beach to dig for clams throughout my childhood.  And then it became the #1 hot dish for family cookouts and get togethers, it’s especially good for tail-gate parties and watching football games.

Enjoy!

Dynamite Sandwich Recipe

Makes a lot but it freezes and reheats beautifully.

5 lbs ground beef

4 lbs green peppers diced  (I sometimes us red, yellow and orange peppers just for their color)

3 lbs onions diced

Salt, pepper and red pepper, a dash or two (or 3-4) hot sauce

About a tablespoon Italian spices (combination oregano, basil, etc)

1 large can tomato sauce (this can be a #10 can, or a combination of smaller cans of kitchen ready, chopped, or pureed tomatoes)

Fry the hamburger and drain well. Place hamburger, pepper s and onions in a large pot. Add tomato sauce, adding until mixture is completely covered. The mixture should be nice and thick. Add salt, pepper and slowly add red pepper to taste. Let simmer until peppers and onions are cooked throughout, stirring often. Taste to adjust the amount of kick you want from the red pepper and hot sauce.

This always tastes better if made the day before and slowly reheated the next day. Make sure it’s completely cool before refrigerating.  Serve over grinder roll (traditional) or other sturdy roll.

Pumpkin Fruit and Nut Loaf

This is a large quick-bread which I  have been making every autumn for as long as I can remember.

It is moist and full of flavor from the wildness of the Black Walnuts and tartness of the fresh cranberries.  Fresh or dried apples provide a bit of sweetness along with the raisins, all with a fresh pumpkin base.

Enjoy!

Ingredients:

1 3/4 cup flour

1/4 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp. ground cloves

Combine and mix in a medium bowl and set aside.

1 cup sugar

1/3 cup soft butter

1 cup pumpkin puree

2 eggs slightly beaten

In a large bowl, beat sugar and butter together until well beaten.  Beat in pumpkin, then add the eggs.

1/3 cup milk

1/2 tsp. vanilla

Mix together and add alternately with the flour mixture to the pumpkin mixture.

Fold in:

1/2 cup pecans or walnuts

1/3 cup raisins

1/3 cup coarsely chopped cranberries

1/4 cup dehydrated apples or 1//2 cup fresh apples

(If using dehydrated apples let them soak is either water or apple juice for a while before adding to mixture)

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Pour into greased loaf pan and bake 1 hour until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.