Off-Grid

Choosing the Right Power for Your Home

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Hey there everyone!

Lately I have been doing a lot of thinking about all the electricity my husband and I use every day. I keep thinking that, at the amount of energy we consume every day, we would require a behemoth of a solar panel (probably several), plus some extra form of power like wind or hydro, plus a backup generator.

Looking into all those things, I didn’t find the results very promising. All that stuff gets pricey. And, pretty complicated unless you’re somewhat of an expert (self-made or otherwise), or borderline genius.

As stated before, I am a bit lazy and a big time cheapo. It’s much easier for me to come up with ways to avoid using electricity than for me to figure out how to obtain a lot of electricity.

I started thinking about all the basics that use “the grid” that we personally can’t go without. A stove, drinking water, some sort of refrigeration, a toilet, a sink for washing hands & dishes, and shower/bathtub topped topped the list.

I really like the idea of using a wood-burning cook stove during the cold months to cook on, with the added bonus of heating the house. Of course, unless the cook stove is separate from the main house, you probably don’t want to use it year round. My idea was to use a propane powered stove during warmer months, and cut down on fuel usage by using a pressure cooker frequently. Let’s see how this stacks up against a common electric stove.
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Typical basic electric stove– $400 + monthly utility bill

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Propane range with battery start ignition– $450

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Pressure cooker– $20

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Wood burning stove w/ 2 spaces for cooking– $380

I don’t know about you, but the few extra hundred dollars it would cost to buy both these kinds of stoves would be payed back many times in a few months simply by not having an outrageous utility bill every month.

Stick around, and soon I’ll talk about alternatives for all the other amenities on my list.
I’m really excited about some of the refrigeration methods I’ve dug up! 😉

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DIY

Updating Your Old, Gold-Framed Mirrors

Hello everyone!

I always hate throwing things away, even after they’ve long been outdated. I’m also too cheap to buy things I already have. This works out nicely.

I have a lot of old mirrors with unattractive frames, fake gold or plastic black. It’s really easy to sweeten them up with a little paint and add the perfect country chic touch to your home!

You’ll Need
– Painter’s tape
– Black paint
– Lighter colored paint
– Paintbrush

For this mirror, simply lay your mirror somewhere on a drop cloth or some newspaper to keep things from getting too messy.

Cover the mirror along the edges of the frame with painter’s tape.

Paint on your dark layer of paint. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Make it streaky.

Once that dries, paint on your lighter paint color. You are going to dip the tip of your brush in the paint, then wipe off as much excess as possible. Then drag your “dry” brush across the frame.

Doing this makes a light, distressed (streaky) effect. Keep doing this until you have achieved the look you want with as little or as much paint as you want.

You can choose whether or not to add a clear coat, but for me that is overkill.

I hope you like this quick little project! Enjoy!

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Off-Grid

Choosing the Right Place to Go Off-Grid

Good morning everyone!

With my husband finally getting some time off, we loaded up the furry children and made the drive to Mississippi to spend some much-needed down time with his wonderful family this week.

Ohh the peacefulness! My soul is at rest here with nothing but the trees, our animals, and our family. At our home in Florida, we are constantly disturbed by the sound of traffic, noisy neighbors, barking dogs, and the loudest train I’ve ever heard in my life. Everyone seems to be in a hurry; everyone seems to think they are more important than everyone else.

Here, life is much slower, and most people seem to really mean it when they smile. I can step out the front door and breathe in without being assaulted by the smell of exhaust fumes in the air. Obviously I want to live here.

I would say to anyone who is planning as I am to go off-grid: pick a place that brings you peace. In addition to that simple notion, there are obviously a few other aspects you might want to take into consideration.

To me, choosing the right spot for your home is just as, if not more important than, every other step in the process of going off-grid and beginning a homestead.

First, take into consideration the building codes and restrictions of that county. The most lenient counties are probably going to be rural. I doubt I could build any type and size home I wanted in Memphis and throw up a windmill, some solar panels, a rain cistern, a garden, and chicken coop without my parade getting heavily rained upon.

In addition, what permits will be required? And, I wouldn’t suggest any place that has a homeowners’ association. My mother once had a big storm blow through and knock down a section of her privacy fence. The next morning, there was a letter in the mailbox stating it must be repaired within 3 business days or she would be fined a hefty sum by the homeowners. I doubt those characters would take kindly to me building a chicken coop.

Keeping all that in mind, you can build according to your own preferences, for example: if you choose to build a log structure or another sort of primitive home, you definitely won’t want to build in a low spot where the rain will collect and potentially compromise the stability and longevity of your home.

Also consider your main water sources. Using a well for water is common, but can become pricey depending on how deep you have to go to tap into groundwater in your area. You can save money building in an area with shallow groundwater.  Rain barrels are a more inexpensive resource, especially if you are only using them for your non-potable needs, i.e. showering, washing dishes, irrigation, and animal drinking water.

If you go the route of using a cistern for drinking water, it’s not advisable to build near any large sources of pollution, such as factory. It’s wonderful to have a natural source of running water like a river or stream nearby, though that’s not always an option.

When choosing a location for your home, one more consideration to make is the soil. For example, depending on what sort of crops you intend to grow, you will probably want very rich soil, though if you are going the route of casting your own bricks from native soil, soils with a high sand content make the most stable composition.

Most of all, choose the place that’s right for your family and individual needs and preferences. With the right mindset,  you can make your home at whatever place speaks to you.

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Design, DIY

Getting Creative in a Rental Home

Hello my friends, and Happy November!

For those of us who are renting, making a space your own can be difficult. Limitations on what I can change in our home definitely puts a damper on my creative spirit. I have these ideas in my head, picturing how I want a room to look, but just can’t make it happen without tearing up walls, painting, changing faucets and hardware, etc.

For example, I can’t stand the paint in our bathroom (or living room, or dining room). I’m a neutral kind of girl. I have these images of an adorable little rustic chic space, and the coral and yellow walls aren’t doing it for me.

I just decided to work with it and make all of our decor neutral instead. After covering a sinfully hideous window with a DIY curtain (more on that another time), putting up cute little towel hooks, laying down rag rugs, and staining an old wood crate for holding knick knacks, one thing in particular was gnawing at me. Towel bars.

Is it just me? I HATE towel bars! We have two of them! Big ones! Ugh. Maybe it’s just me. But I hate them.

I sat and thought for a while on what to do with them. Googled it. Pinterest’d it (is that a verb now, too? :/). Lots of creative ideas. Not for me. I wanted a cute way to display towels without the run of the mill, slap-it-over-a-bar look.

Lightbulb! I saw some adorable square baskets on sale at Marshall’s. It got the gears going. Picked up the baskets, tossed in some shower curtain hooks, and voila!

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I attached the hooks to the baskets and hung them on the towel bar. I added the fluffy white bath towels and monogrammed fingertip towels that my sweet Mawmaw-in-law gave us. I also use one hook for necklaces!

Much better.
What do you think?
I got my way without ripping those suckers off the wall. Now only to tackle that shower door…

Thanks for reading! See you next time 😉

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Off-Grid

Can I Go Off-Grid?

As promised in my first post (and suggested by this blog’s name), I want to start talking about homesteading. Going off-grid. What is this exactly? Why would I give up the life I am accustomed to? Who does this?

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If you Google either one of the terms, homesteading or going off-grid, a lot of results come up.  Most of these results I found discouraging, simply because of the exorbitant amounts of money that these sites suggest is necessary to “go off grid.

Why should it cost us so much money to downgrade our modern lifestyles? If this whole blog is about doing things for yourself, why would I write telling you to pay someone $15,000 to install some solar panels on your house? I won’t. Not here, because I’m just not buying in to that.

My grandpa used to tell me about growing up with no electricity. He was born in 1917, in Tennessee, out in the country. While I know he later loved watching his football games on television ten feet from his recliner, I doubt he grew up feeling he was suffering terribly, simply due to the fact that he wasn’t watching TV.

Now I’m not saying that deciding to live off-grid means you have to forgo electricity. Not at all. The point I’m trying to make is that our ancestors thrived on a lot less convenience than we do. And with a lot less money.

So, that being said, some of you want to know what in the world I’m even talking about anyway. I’ll give you a little background into my thought process, and then we can discuss what off-grid really means.

I have always been a little discontent.  The way of the world, this work-all-day just to keep the utilities and cable on, is not doing it for me.

Why do we need all this stuff anyway? Because society says we do. We go to work, come home, spend time with our families (or not), and live another day to pay another bill. Because it’s normal. It’s what you’re supposed to do.

Not me. I don’t need normal. I don’t need to have so many bills to be happy, and the power company is for the birds. Just plain crooks if you ask me. $400 a month just for power is plain old-fashioned robbery.

Well then, what does going off the grid really mean? For starters, not depending on utility companies for your day to day lifestyle. Not paying a monthly bill for water, electricity, gas, or telephone. For me, the thought of that kind of life is accompanied by the idea of growing my own food and becoming self-sufficient. This is homesteading.

So why would you do it? If the thought of breathing fresh air away from the city every day makes you cringe, it’s not for you. If you can’t imagine growing vegetables, feeding chickens, or drinking filtered rainwater, then no, of course you wouldn’t. But if these ideas appeal to you, I want to prove that it can be done, and done without spending rich man money.

Who does it? A lot of people. More and more Americans are dropping off the power grid every year. Some are major corporations that spend millions for “clean energy” and some are just average Joes. I say, the amount of money you spend on going off-grid depends on your creativity, just how much you are willing to do by yourself, and how modern you want your life to be.

Our goal is to achieve an off-grid, homestead lifestyle in the next several years. This blog will help keep us on track and make plans. Feasible plans.
We can get off the grid. Anyone can.

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DIY

DIY Rustic Initials

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Hello lovely friends!

As you might notice over future posts, our house is a work in progress. I mean, for goodness’ sake, we have a guest room sitting around with nothing but a dresser and a rug in it!

However, there are some things that just can’t wait. The empty white wall behind our bed was one of them. I wanted something unique to us as a couple, that still maintained the rustic vibe I want to give off.

When I spied some white wooden letters in Michael’s, (and had my 25% off entire purchase coupon!) I knew just what I was going to do.
BTW: sign up for Michael’s emails. They give awesome coupons every week!

We had some old wood scraps lying around that I wanted to turn into a sign.  For this project, they don’t have to be the same length. Uneven boards add to the “rustic” quality. Our boards were hideous. We even had to pull old nails from them.

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What You’ll Need
– Scrap wood
– Nails
– Wood stain (I used Minwax’s Special Walnut)
– Paintbrush
-Wooden letters
-Twine
Optional: sandpaper & sanding block
– Burlap, made into a bow
– Hook for hanging

How I did it:

First, I stained all my wood, and sanded my letters in some places to give them a worn quality.

Then, I laid out my boards face down in the order that I wanted.

I went ahead and tied my twine (for hanging) around the top piece of wood, before it was nailed to all the others. Doubling the twine for extra support is a good idea.

With the help of hubby, we put two wood pieces on the back vertically as support and nailed them in. We made ours short enough to support all the pieces but not show on the front. I think it would be lovely to make them longer, so that the supports show and add to the rustic dynamic.

Using a LOT of hot glue, I glued my letters into place.

Once they were dry, I hung my sign on an ugly little hook in the wall and glued my burlap bow to the hook.
If you want you use a big decorative hook, that would be great too, and you could probably glue your bow on before hanging.

Ta-da!
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What do you think?
Stick around for more little projects like this tomorrow!

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DIY

DIY Shabby Chic Nightstands

Hello lovely friends!
As promised, my first DIY instructional! I promise you, not all my projects are this labor intensive. I’m lazy.

When we first moved into the house in Jacksonville, we literally had no furniture. Nothing. My random collection of furniture was all still in Memphis, and we ended up waiting an entire month on a military funded move because some lady in some office screwed up all our paperwork.

I digress. During this time, I learned the ways of the magnificent world of Craigslist. Now, as a disclaimer, I must warn you that their are some strange people on there. Hopefully you have decent enough judgement to weed out the crazies from the good stuff (They want $30 for a broken CD player? Come on!).

I knew I wanted a unique pair of nightstands for our master bedroom, and most certainly was not going to pay $99 a piece to get them. Not even $50. I had every intention of finding two totally different pieces and then painting them to match. Plans change.

After several days of Craigslist browsing, I came upon a matching pair of Ethan Allen nightstands. These little beauties were banged up, scratched, and missing some knobs. Perfect! And the best part? $10 a piece!
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The way the drawers were carved to look like 6 little ones instead of 2 big ones (like a card catalog!) made me want to paint them to emphasize that feature. I wanted them to pop, so instead of painting the whole thing and distressing it, I decided to paint only the drawers and to sand and restain the rest.

What You’ll Need
Thrifty nightstand find (try craigslist.com or your local Goodwill)
Screwdriver for removing/adding knobs
– Sandpaper I used 60 grit and 120 grit
– Sanding block ($4 at Walmart) OR electric sander (as low as $20 at Walmart)
– Wood stain
– Paintbrush
– Latex interior paint
– Polyurethane
– Painter’s tape

Step 1
Take all hardware (knobs) off of the drawers and pull the drawers out.
Mine didn’t have all the knobs. I stored them in a Ziploc bag.

Step 2
Sand the finish away (with the wood grain) This will go very quickly if you use an electric sander, though I took the long way and used a sanding block and 60 grit sandpaper plus a bit of elbow grease. Coarser is fine if necessary.

I wasn’t very concerned with getting every bit of finish off. Quite a bit got left on the legs, actually, but this only adds to the shabby look we are going for!

Step 3
Sand again lightly, using 120 grit. This prepares the wood for staining.

Step 4
Stain the wood.
I used Minwax’s “Special Walnut” and applied using an old paintbrush.

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Please do this outdoors. I learned the hard way that there is no such thing as low fume when it comes to wood staining. You will get a massive headache and possibly worse if it is not properly ventilated. It is very dangerous. My husband had a coach who died from this.

Step 5
Paint your drawers.
Since I wanted to emphasize the drawers’ detail, I waited for the stain to dry then cut painter’s tape into thin strips and placed in between the little boxes. Then I painted them using a satin coral latex interior paint from Walmart and let them dry overnight.

Step 6
Distress.
I used my coarse grit sandpaper to scratch up the paint on the drawers and make them look worn around the edges and knob holes.

Step 7
Spray with a couple coats of Polyurethane. This will seal and protect your project.

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I used Minwax Fast Drying in a spray can.

Step 8
Put your hardware back on!

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Since mine were missing some knobs, I picked up a pack of drawer knobs from Target. They have some adorable ones! I mixed them with the existing knobs.

Ta da!

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Hope you enjoyed my little project!
Stay tuned for tomorrow’s project!

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