Uncategorized

Random Rant

I have had sooo much on my mind this past week! Do you ever feel like you have so much running around in your head you aren’t even present anymore? I keep catching myself staring into space for unknown amounts of time.

So I suppose this will be a post about a jumble of things!

In the past, I’ve discussed choosing the right place to go off-grid. Now, all that is great and well, but when it comes down to it, choosing a piece of land to purchase and call home is huge.

For starters, if you are like us, you are choosing that area,  city, and state FOREVER. Forever? That’s huge. If you purchase 20 acres and start building your off-grid life, it’s pretty permanent. Not to say you couldn’t sell, but… Who has that kind of time and money to invest for fun?

We were getting overly excited about purchasing property and trying to change our ideals to fit certain tracts available, when it hit me. This is a lifetime commitment! I want to find something absolutely perfect. But what is perfect? That’s subjective. Much of land that is for sale already has a home on it. Is this good or bad? We want to be able to build our dream home, but that can be a headache.

In the end I think, the best thing to do is to wait and watch, and when the right thing comes around, we’ll know.

On another brain wave…
We are going on leave in a couple weeks, and while I’m so excited to see my family, I’m so dreading the drive. And the money spent on gas. And traveling with pets. And the disorganization/chaos that will inevitably ensue.
However, I do fully intend to show up at my in-laws’ house with 2 pieces of furniture that I am currently working on fully refurbishing for them. (They’re gonna be awesome!) Sneak peek “before”:

image

On a final random note, I have recently become obsessed with the 1940s. I mean, I always have been a little bit. I adore the glamour and the music, the patriotism during the war, and that all-American mentality. I love that women were so feminine and soft and sexy, yet strong feminists at the same time. I’ve also realized that 1940s hairstyles are some of the only styles I find flattering on myself. I’ve always sort of struggled with this semi-wavy, semi-thick hair that can’t make up its mind, and an unusual shaped face that makes more modern hairdos difficult without looking like a chipmunk or giraffe or something. The soft, full waves and rounded styles of the 40s are so flattering. Our grandmothers really knew their stuff about beauty.

image

Advertisements
Standard
Off-Grid

Choosing the Right Refrigeration for Your Off-Grid Home

image

Hello there!

In my last post, I talked a little about how much solar and wind power it would take to power my wasteful energy habits. Most off-grid families cut down on their energy use drastically anyway, but to help that switch to conservative usage, I suggested installing appliances in your home that use an alternative source of power.

My first example was replacing an electric stove with a wood-burning stove for winter, and a propane powered stove for warmer months. Now, I want to propose a few more ideas about some really great off-grid refrigeration methods!

There are a lot of options out there to choose from. Propane powered refrigerators are pretty common and a great solution, however, I’m not planning on going too crazy with the propane. It might be great to have one as a back up, but as far as year-round use, I’d like to have a more reliable way to store food. You never know when something like propane might not always be so readily available. 

My first stop was to check out “clay pot” refrigeration.  Also called a zeer, this method dates back to around 2,500 B.C. in Egypt and the Indus Valley. The basic idea is that one clay pot is placed inside a larger one, and the gaps in between the two are filled with moist sand. The food is placed inside the smaller pot, and the top covered with a cloth. The evaporation of the water in the sand through the outer pot draws heat from the inside and keeps the food much cooler than the outside temperature.

image

To me, this seems like a great method for modern day off-grid families to use for storing vegetables and grains, etc.

I really got to thinking hard about ways I could use a natural source of running water for keeping more perishable things like meat and dairy. After a while, it suddenly popped into my head. Almost ten years ago, I visited a place called Exchange Place in Kingsport, Tennessee.  It’s an 1850’s living history farm, and used to be an entirely self-supporting farm (the off-grid mindset has been around quite a while!).

There I remembered the spring house!  This is where it gets exciting. I remember it being pretty cold in there.  In July.  The spring house is where they kept their milk and perishables.  Apparently, these were pretty common back in the day, both on Southern plantations and Northern farms, and homesteads all over the country.

image

The idea is this: a structure (well insulated, and preferably stone or brick, though wood is acceptable), is built either over the source of a natural spring, or beside a natural flowing creek or river.  The cold water is diverted through the spring house in trenches. Ceramic ware filled with milk was set into the water to preserve it,  and vegetables and meat were placed in containers in the spring house. The cold water kept the temperature in the building plenty cool enough to be considered a giant walk-in refrigerator!

Place some zeers inside your spring house and you have a double whammy! This idea just really appeals to me. I love the thought of going into the spring house on a hot summer day to cool off and get some milk that has been chilled naturally in a clay pot. So charming!

It’s a great idea to build your homestead close to running water, not only for refrigeration, but for many other reasons. For those of us who aren’t so lucky, a root cellar seems like a great option.

image

Root cellars are most often dug fairly deep into the ground, with a home or structure built on top, and a trap door leads to the root cellar. The natural temperature of the earth at that depth keeps food cool during the summer but keeps it from freezing in the winter.  Other root cellars are built into the side of a hill, and some (in rockier areas that are tough to dig) are built on top of the earth, with natural materials piled on.

These are all great methods and I think ideally, I would love to use a combination of all three. What do you think? I’m very interested in learning more about other methods of refrigeration that don’t depend on the grid. 

Next, we can talk about toilets that don’t require plumbing! (Yikes?!)

Standard
Off-Grid

Choosing the Right Power for Your Home

20131107-090141.jpg

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.
20131107-115538.jpg
Typical basic electric stove– $400 + monthly utility bill

20131107-115734.jpg
Propane range with battery start ignition– $450

20131107-115843.jpg
Pressure cooker– $20

20131107-120010.jpg
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! 😉

Standard
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.

Standard
Uncategorized

Welcome!

Hey there!
I’m Lainie, and I’d like to welcome you to my brand new blog. I hope it can be an adventure for us both. Before I go off ranting about all my favorite topics, I’m sure you’d like to know a little bit about the beast behind the madness. So here goes:

I’m from Memphis, Tennessee– born and raised– and I’ve never been to Graceland. I’m told I’m not missing much, though some of you may be entirely offended by that. If so, I apologize.

I just got married in June to the love of my life. He’s pretty great and definitely my soul mate. After a long and
dramatic Nicholas Sparks worthy romance, we have finally made it.
image

He’s even nice enough to help me out with some of my wild DIY projects and sit and throw around ideas with me for hours. And he is from a wonderful place in Mississippi that I hope to make our home someday.

Which brings me to my next point:
No, I do not own a homestead. We live in Jacksonville, Florida. That doesn’t mean I’m not going to! It’s my dream, and his too, I think. If you don’t already know, a homestead loosely defined is a home and a piece of land that you grow or farm on. For our purposes, usually when I talk about homesteading it will be with the ultimate goal of going completely off-grid.

We all know that things have gotten a little out-of-control with our government. To say the least. And especially with our economy. I don’t know about you, but for us, times are tough. And being able to make what you want instead of buying it is a skill I can’t afford not to have.
image

Of all my research on simple living and going off-grid, hardly any of the answers I have found have been simple enough for someone like me, or, bluntly put, pretty enough. If I am going to take the time to build my own stuff it had better be functional AND attractive.

My goal here is to help others learn how to achieve similar goals in an easy way.
Please give me feedback! Comments & emails always welcome. Have you done any DIY (do-it-yourself) projects lately? Have you seen any DIY’s lately that you would like to try but just seem too difficult?

I am ALL about making things simple and easy. Stay tuned for an instructional on my DIY Shabby Chic Nightstands, one of the first projects I did.

Standard