Prosnowboarder’s golden ratio

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It took a little over 5 years for pro snowboarder Mike Basich to build his 225 square foot off grid cabin, the work during the winter was the hardest because of the cold. Basich designed the cabin himself based on the Golden Ratio, everything grew from that.

The rock work by itself is impressive, along with the native and natural materials incorporated in the build, this is a blend of engineering and beauty.

The cabin is wired 12 volt, mainly for the most efficient use of the battery power he uses. Basich says being attuned to nature means that he is able to keep his solar system smaller, going to sleep at dark, waking at dawn meant that his solar setup cost him around $500 instead of the amount he would have spent to be able to keep the lights on into the night.

I hope you enjoy this video of Basich’s cabin as much as I did.


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Strictly for the Birds (book review)

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A nightingale - star of the final chapter

Read it and Cheep

Birds are the constant companions to an off-grid life. Alone, in pairs, or most mesmerizingly in flocks, birds are a distraction for the eye, they are food, and they are a soundtrack for humans in the wild.

But it in the UK, people who go out in search of birds are called Twitchers, and they form a network – tipping each other off whenever there is a rare sighting. Recently on the Sussex Coast, a boatload of illegals from Iran landed silently in the early morning on a little known beach. Their plan would have worked brilliantly on any other morning, but unfortunately for them word of a Golden Eagle had gotten around, and as they strolled onto the beach, there facing them was a 40 yard line of camo-clad birdwatchers, monoculars and cameras at the ready – its hard to know which side was more disappointed.

A new collection of poems and aphorisms about the avian world, Buy it on Amazon – As Kingfishers Catch Fire, captivates through the diversity and the sheer love that some of us humans have for our feathered friends. “This book came to me in a cabin in the woods…near Athens, Georgia,” says author Alex Preston, as he introduces a chapter on the Nightingale.

The Robin redbreast is at once the humblest and most loved of common songbirds. Preston says English Essayist William Hazlitt valued the Robin more than a friend or a lover: “Give me the robin redbreast pecking the crumbs at the door, or warbling on the leafless spray, the same glancing form that has followed me wherever I have been….”

But this is no literary history. Preston gives us an intensely personal account of his reaction to the appearance of birds in literature. We learn that a Robin was living in a shed when he bought his bleak new house in South Eastern England. His son nicknamed the bird Mr Bulldozer.

The Dove is introduced via the diagnosis of Preston’s father with cancer. A pair of doves bookend his memory of caring for the old man: “We spoke about the doves, about poetry, to avoid speaking of other things, or rather as a way of speaking about them….”

The relation between doves and death is continued in TS Eliot’s in the Four Quartets:

“After the dark dove with the flickering tongue
Has passed below the horizon of his homing
While the dead leaves still rattled on like tin
Over the ashphalt where no other sound was….

Other chapters take in the Gull, the Nightjar, Kestrel, Peacock , Crow and many more. The Nightingale is saved for the final chapter. It’s a bird that to this writer signifies walking home through City squares after a late party. For Preston it’s a song heard from the bedroom that inspired him to what Wallace Stevens called “the yellow moon of words about the Nightingale.”

Buy it on Amazon US – As Kingfishers Catch Fire Buy it in the UK

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Huge tiny home!

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This has to be the biggest tiny home I’ve seen to date, it’s 37 feet long and 8.5 feet wide, 13.5 feet tall, it weighs in at 19,000 pounds. This is built on a goose-neck trailer base, with a triple axle setup (3000 pound each). It would take a larger truck to pull this.

This thing is a monster! A beautiful monster though, it doesn’t look for feel like a tiny home, I suspect this would be one that you would place somewhere and leave it instead of traveling around with it.

The bathroom is huge, it contains a full size tub & shower and even has a washer/dryer unit built in. I love the stairs, mainly because of the drawers built into each step, and the bottom step can accommodate a full length broom.

One area that is small is the closet, it is very small, there are built in shoe racks, but that’s the best you can say about that. I suppose if you live in a tiny home, even one this grand, you will still need to be a bit of a minimalist. 🙂

Watch the video and let me know what you think about this tiny home.


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Missing my dad on Father’s Day

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Today is Father’s Day, a bittersweet day for me. My Dad was instrumental in my interest in living off grid, as well as actually getting to live off grid.

I grew up in a very tight knit family, we had a few close friends, but mostly we depended on ourselves, the family, to get through life. We would gather around the TV and watch Nature, Jacques Cousteau, NOVA, we also enjoyed watching Grizzly Adams. Those shows molded my love for nature. We walked an odd line though, one of loving nature and one of being conservative, we were definitely not tree huggers (not that there is anything wrong with that, said in my best Seinfeld voice).

I have wonderfully fond memories of sitting with the family and watching these shows, then heading straight out to emulate what I had watched, building tent forts, digging holes in the dirt to see what lived there, saving the baby sparrows that always fell out of the nest built over the porch… neither of my parents made much of a fuss when I brought home a grass snake, toad or horned lizard, and believe me, I brought home everything I could find.

We lived in the suburbs, though we all dreamed of moving to the country, plans were always being made that would end in us buying some acreage out in the middle of nowhere. I remember when my dad and I discovered the Monolithic Dome Homes located in Italy Texas. We took a day and visited the site, they are very friendly folk who don’t mind people wandering around. We spent years after that drawing out plans for the dome home we were going to build, I can still see it in my mind. Life would be perfect.

Unfortunately our family never fulfilled those dreams, at least not until I had my family and they were grown up. Most of my family is familiar with how I live now, my mother was the only one who never got to see my current home, she passed away 15 years ago. My dad did get to be part of it though. He came out for his first visit before there was anything built on the property. We set up tents on the lower part and spent several hot days enjoying the peace and quiet, meeting the neighbors and getting the lay of the land.

After that, he would come out and spend a month in the summer with us, his first extended stay was the impetus to build a separate bedroom, I loved my dad but we needed some separate space (LOL). He enjoyed helping us, both financially as well as keeping us stocked up in goodies. About a month before his impending visit, he would call and ask me what we needed. Dad would buy up toilet paper, paper towels, Kleenex, can goods, dry goods, he would bring out an extra propane can to leave with us, filled of course. His truck bed would be filled with all the love he could pack into it.

It’s been over 5 years since his last visit, we just used the last of the toilet paper he brought out, believe me when I tell you, those were precious rolls.

My dad will be forever entwined in this property even though he never lived here, his heart was here and always will be.

Thanks Dad for my life, my loves, my stubbornness, my sense of adventure, my DIY streak and everything else I received from your DNA. I miss you.


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Modern vs retro tiny home

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From ultra modern to a retro 50s look, you can have just about any look and style you wish in a tiny house.

My first thought when I looked at this tiny house is it’s inside out, though it’s really not. The outside looks like you can attach many different things to it, very modular, not sure if in fact you could do that, I can see a planter box being held in a groove, one of many on the outside.

The inside of this tiny home has very clean lines, it has an uncluttered appearance, with most parts hidden behind walls & doors. I love the sideways Murphy bed, it gives me ideas as to what we can do with an extra full size mattress that is being stored behind the couch in the living room in the SkyCastle.

Watch and enjoy

Then there is the 50s themed tiny home. With the shake shingles on the outside and the retro green color all the way through, this tiny house begs to have a housewife in pearls and a frilly apron baking cookies in the full size stove.

I LOVE the vintage refrigerator and the metal trim on the shelf & counter edges. The clever way the stairs are built into the tiny dining table. I do have to wonder how long the hydraulic pistons for the bed will last, how hard are they to replace and how hard are they to find? I’m guessing the builder has a line on those and as long as that builder is still in business, it shouldn’t be a problem.

Watch and enjoy

Which look do you prefer? The vintage retro look or the sleek, clean, ultra modern look?


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What is? What if?

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I watched a man die at one of the stores where I work doing merchandising. He just fell over and died right there about 15 feet away from me. I didn’t go over, there were already several people gathered around, 2 people were performing CPR on him, the store had already called 911. I stood back and prayed silently as I continued to work.

I watched the paramedics work on him and take him away. I saw one of the paramedics in another store later in the day and asked about the man, she told me what I already suspected, he didn’t make it.

As you can imagine, that weighed heavily on my mind the rest of the day. I have now witnessed 4 people leave this earth, each had a somewhat different affect on me, this one made me think about just how fleeting and temporary life truly is. This helped put life into perspective, what is really important, what is really insignificant, what do I need to go ahead and do instead of putting it off for later. I wonder what that man might have done differently that day had he known it would be his last day to spend here on earth…

These words are not meant to bum you out, but rather are meant to get you to look at your life, let go of the insignificant things, realize what is important, live your life to the fullest each and every day… Hug someone you love.

All too often, we put off what we really want to do, we get caught up in the minutia of life and focus on the insignificant parts. We all have things we want to do, at least I can say that I do. But going to work, doing a job we hate just to make ends meet, taking a vacation once or twice a year and believing that will recharge us for the rest of the year. I’m not saying quit your job and become a bum, you should be reasonable, but you could be using that time while living day to day to work toward living the kind of life that is more satisfying.

What are your goals? You DO have them, right? What would you do differently today if you knew you were going to die tomorrow? Of course that is an extreme, but we ALL have an expiration date, we just don’t know when that is, it could be before you finish reading this sentence, it could be tonight, tomorrow, next week, next year, in 10 years… you get the idea, it’s going to happen, it’s just a matter of when, not if.

So what are you going to do with your life? Here is what I decided to change, I have been wanting a camera, a good one, I can make money with it, it will also be pleasurable for me to use. Nearly everyday, I see some scene that I could snap a great picture of, but I keep putting it off. I do it for various reasons, there are always more “important” things to buy, there is money coming but it isn’t here yet, the problem with that thinking is, yes, the money does come, but I don’t spend it on the camera and it gets nickle’d and dime’d away.

I have the money saved right now to more than buy the camera I want, there is nothing stopping me from buying this camera, right now, the only thing standing in the way is me, my pitiful excuses, well no more, I am buying that camera, I’ll have it in my hands by the middle of next week. I’ll test it out and write a review on it, I’ll write about it here.

What would you change right now if you could?

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What are your super skills?

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How do you get what you need and want if you have little or no money to buy? I assume you have some sort of skills, something you know how to do and can do it pretty well… there must be something you can do, maybe it’s a job you do or have done in the past (or present), maybe it’s a hobby you enjoy, maybe it’s a talent you have, whatever it is, you can offer that skill in trade for something you need or want.

This is called “Bartering”, it’s an age old method of trade rather than using money, it just cuts out the middleman, you simply trade your skills with someone who needs what you can do for something they have, whether it’s a skill they posses, or an item, or even cold hard cash.

For me, I am able to do things that not everyone knows how to do or wants to do. I used to be a licensed cosmetologist, which is a fancy way of saying I know how to cut hair. I actually don’t enjoy cutting hair, which is why I don’t do it professionally anymore, I did it for 10 years, I paid off the student loan I got to go to school to do hair, the only reason I stayed in it the last few years is I was offered a management position in a department store salon and thought it would be interesting. It was interesting, until I developed another interest, computers.

But that skill is something that not everyone knows how to do, honestly I kept it a secret for quite a few years after moving to our off grid home. Little by little though, the news got out, I still keep it on the downlow, but people still ask me to cut their hair and I usually agree. I don’t do the ultra modern cuts, mostly just men’s haircuts and traditional haircuts for women, and no chemical processes, no color, no perms… just haircuts.

One of my neighbors (and good friends) get haircuts about once a month, they have chickens, lots of chickens, which means they have eggs, lots of eggs, so I get eggs from them and they get haircuts from me. We do other things for each other as well, he sharpened my work knife for me a few days ago, yes that is something I could do, but I asked him to do it for me while I was cutting his wife’s hair.

A few days ago, while cutting another friend’s hair, yet another neighbor and friend stopped by, I ended up giving him a haircut in return for some metal sheets to use for the roof on a carport that PB is building for me. That wasn’t planned, it just happened. In this process, I am very careful about sanitation, I keep a spray bottle of rubbing alcohol in my kit, everything gets sprayed and sanitized between “customers”, it doesn’t matter if I’m working in a salon, or in my front yard, I must use common sense, I must protect myself and my friends by keeping things sanitary.

Another “skill” I posses is I am pretty good at fixing computers. I am no computer expert, but I know enough and have the patience to be able fix problems, be it hardware or software, I’ve been able to fix what has been put in front of me to date. Again, I’m trading out services for either things I can’t do or for things I don’t have.

Did you know that there is even an IRS section for bartering? I know that because I used to “work” at a country store in the center of our neighborhood, I didn’t earn a paycheck, but rather I was paid in barter, I earned an hourly “wage” that was traded for goods at the store, food, snacks, medicine, fuel… I had worked consistently before that and knew I would probably work a regular job after that, I didn’t want the IRS to wonder why I had dropped out of the system, so when I found the section for bartering, I put in my “wages” there, I never had to pay tax on any of it, there just wasn’t that much financially involved, but it kept me in the system and off their radar.

If you are just trading on a small scale, then obviously you don’t need to let the government know about it.

Another way we barter is for our water. We get our water from our next door neighbor’s well, in exchange we look after his house while he’s out of town. We also do upkeep and cleaning on his house, small maintenance, the normal things that need looking after on a regular basis. It works out well for both of us.

Think about what your skills are, even something you don’t think of as significant, it can be a lifesaver if you find yourself in need of something and don’t have the means to pay for it. It’s best to have your network in place first though, you don’t want to have to go out and find someone in need of your skills right when you are needing something yourself. Word of mouth works wonders here, having your skills out there ahead of time means it will be easier and quicker to get what you need when the time comes.

So, what are your skills? Do you barter now? Let me know in the comments below!


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Truck garden

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Growing up I had heard of truck farms, usually small family farms, when the produce is ready, the farmer takes the produce to a farmer’s market in a truck, thus the name “truck farm”… but this is a different concept, this is actually a garden that is contained in a box truck!

This truck came to Nick Runkle and Justin Cutter in a roundabout way, large windows had been placed in the box part of the truck when it had been a mobile art gallery in its former life. The windows made it a perfect greenhouse, which is exactly what it became. Getting their funding from a Kickstarter program, they reinvented the truck to make it a fully functioning greenhouse on wheels.

As part of the renovation, the truck was converted to run on waste vegetable oil, making it even more sustainable. Where is it legal and upon getting permission, they are able to pull up behind a restaurant, they pop a hose into a barrel of waste cooking/frying oil, they hand crank the oil into a tank where it is filtered 2 times before being used as fuel. The truck comes complete with rain water catchment and its own composting box, so nothing goes to waste.

Not only are tasty veg grown inside of this truck, it is used as a teaching tool, going around to schools, spending the day teaching the kids all about sustainable gardening, from kindergarten to universities, they travel all over the USA, spreading their knowledge and wisdom.


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Bug season!

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Duck season! Wabbit season! Does that bring back memories of the old Bugs Bunny and Daffy (along with Elmer Fudd)? I grew up watching that, now I am adding my own responses to it in Elmer’s voice, today I add “Hehehehe, it’s bug season!”

Spring has sprung, except for the last two days of our last(?) cold snap, we have been having warm, even hot days and more importantly, warm nights, which brings out the bugs. Tonight as I sit in my fuzzy PJs and thick robe for probably the last time until next fall, I don’t worry about insects as it’s too cold for them. But rest assured, the bugs are coming.

We had a relatively mild winter, PB really didn’t even have to cut wood, we survived off of what we had leftover from the previous winter, as a result, I suspect the bugs will be prolific this year. Some of the bugs are interesting and fun, others are merely annoying, still others are a pain in more than one way.

I have gotten quite used to the bugs, though I still don’t like them coming inside the SkyCastle unless they are well behaved. Most aren’t, but right now we have a largish spider, a funnel web of some sort that has taken up residence in and around our solar stuff on the inside. She (all spiders are “she” until proven otherwise) has stayed put pretty well, but I noticed her web is getting pretty dusty and filled with moth carcasses, it’s going to have to go, probably sometime tomorrow or the next day we will encourage her to vacate, hopefully without having to dispatch her, I’d much rather have her out on the front porch growing fat on the myriad of moths and other light loving insects that are attracted to our glass door.

With bug season upon us, it’s time to re-evaluate the tightness of the SkyCastle. That means checking windows and doors to make sure they close securely, checking for new and widening cracks in the floors, walls and ceiling, anyplace that has an opening wide enough to push a credit card through is wide enough for spiders, scorpions and centipedes to enter.

I will also be going outside in the evening, just after dark and hunting scorpions. I haven’t had to do it much the last few years so I’ve become lax, it’s time to get out there in the warmer evenings and actively hunt the scorpions. Normally I’m a live and let live kind of gal, but a few years back, we had a rash of scorpions inside the SkyCastle, one got me good on the finger, we were killing one and two each night INSIDE the house, that’s when I declared war on them, or at least the ones within a 10-15 foot diameter around the outside of the SkyCastle.

I use a blacklight LED flashlight to light them up like a cheap kid’s glow in the dark toy. They light up a bright green and don’t seem to know they are lit up. Using a regular white flashlight, the scorpions are well camouflaged, in fact if I have one in a good spot, I’ll go back and forth between the blacklight and the regular flashlight and they practically vanish from sight under the white light.

As far as the annoying bugs go, it’s mostly the moths and other creatures that are attracted to the light coming through the front door, which is actually a window that slides open and closed. We don’t have a curtain, so the bugs that are attracted to the light have nothing to stop them except for the glass itself. I end up going nuts while I’m cooking and the big and small moths are playing kamikaze dive-bombers right into the pot or pan of food I’m cooking. Then when I’m using my laptop or tablet in the dark and it’s the only light, those same insects (the ones who haven’t died in my stir fry) are buzzing around my screen. I wouldn’t mind if they just landed there and stayed still, but no, they have to land, fly around, land, fly around and so on…

For tonight, I can sit here, un-assaulted by the insects in the cold room, not minding the cold toes, knowing this will not last, it is a last respite.

What about you? What insects do you deal with where you live?


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Another brick in the wall

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Another brick in the wall

It’s been a while since I’ve posted an update on the SkyCastle. This is going on our 9th summer out here, we started out with raw land, just under 6 acres on the side of a mountain in far west Texas (yes, Texas has mountains).

box on stiltsWe went from a box on stilts with 2 out of the 4 walls being builder’s plastic and wire. Now things are quite a bit more advanced now, growing almost organically over the last few years.

So now, the newest thing PB is building is a wall. We were gifted a large load of papercrete blocks ( almost a year ago, we debated as to what to do with them… my idea being a keyhole garden, PB wasn’t as on board for that as I was. We had even started to regret getting them.

PB had been wanting to put up a wall around the sitting area in front of the SkyCastle, to protect us from the wind, to delineate the sitting area, he wanted to put it up closer to the sitting area, I thought we should make it bigger, following the walkway/path that we take around the front. Last week when I came home from work, PB had placed a line of papercrete bricks around the outer perimeter of our sitting area, where I wanted it to go, it looked pretty good there.

For now he just has the blocks laid out and some wire around the whole thing, he will ultimately use concrete to encase the blocks and make it more permanent. We will also have to clean up quite a bit of brush and tree limbs that litter the ground out there, it’s really a snake haven. Last week a small rock rattler almost got Zoe, our terrier mix dog, fortunately she was faster than the snake and it didn’t get her, but it was close, that was right out there where we sit.

Here are some pictures of how things look for now, I’ll post more updates as they happen.

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Build your tiny home like a boat

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It’s a funny thing, I had always thought people who built tiny homes, especially the portable ones did build their homes like a boat, water tight, flexible, but I suppose I was wrong about that assumption.

Tiny home like a boat
There are different approaches to building, it’s like the old saying, everything looks like a nail if you are a hammer… so if you are a carpenter, you will build as a carpenter does, which is not the same way you would build for a marine environment.

Building a home that is also your vehicle, you need something that will flex without cracking or breaking, no nails were used, it is all mortised, glued and screwed. This tiny home built on a truck is a one of a kind, it’s filled with unique beautiful and useful items, I really love their stove! It does seem tight and cramped, maybe it’s the table that sticks out in the middle, I think I’d shrink that down or make it where it folds out of the way, just my personal observation, obviously they live with it just fine.

He mentions gypsies, this does have a gypsy feel and look to it. Watch and enjoy, let me know what you think below 🙂


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Frugal noodle

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Let’s use our frugal noodle to come up with some frugal ideas. For me personally, I’ve grown up frugally, I didn’t know or even understand it when I was younger, I just knew we didn’t throw things away until they were used up, worn out and even then it was probably saved for parts. We didn’t call a repairman when things broke, my dad fixed it, we didn’t go out to eat, my mother cooked, and she cooked from scratch. For us, it was just a way of life, we didn’t have the money to pay someone else to do the things we could do for ourselves. I suspect that even if we had been wealthier, my family would have still been the same way, frugal.

Being frugal is about saving money, but it’s also a mindset, here are some of the ways to be frugal, I suspect it will remind you of your grandparents 🙂

1. Save jars. Frugal people never throw away good glass (or even plastic) jars or containers, especially if they have a good lid and a wide mouth. When we moved off grid, I remember bringing out a few boxes of empty jars.

2. Buttons, did you grow up with a button jar? I did. Every button was saved, even if it was just one button, they are infinitely useful. If you have a shirt that is going into the trash, be sure to cut off all the buttons and save them.

3. Fabric, even small fabric scraps are handy, from patching things to quilts, fabric scraps are very handy to have around. I even save the legs of jeans I cut off for shorts.

4. Newspaper, it has so many uses after it’s been read, from wrapping gifts, crafts, cleaning glass, filler in boxes for moving or shipping…

5. Bread ties, this so reminds me of my dad, we had this junk drawer (don’t laugh, you have one too), it was full of straightened bread ties, they are great for tying other things together.

Rubber bands, this was one of the other things in the junk drawer, all sorts of rubber bands, they are so useful, and if nothing else, you can make a rubber band ball to keep you amused. Of course, rubber bands have a limited life, especially out here where we live, it’s so dry that the rubber becomes brittle, so they have to be used quickly…

7. Hardware, drawer pulls, hinges, screws, nails, anything that you could take off of anything that would be tossed in the trash, again this was stored and found in that junk drawer, or perhaps in a small glass jar.

8. String, I have fond memories of this piece of wood with a long length of string wrapped around it, it belonged to my dad, he would dole out a length of string to use for what he was working on, but he didn’t cut it, it was often one of his projects where he would need a straight level line, then he would carefully wrap the string back onto the piece of wood. Occasionally he would have to cut a piece to use in something, it was always done with care so as to not use too much. Other string, if quality string and long enough, it would be wrapped up and saved.

9. Food scraps, when cutting up vegetables, carrots, onions and the such, the bits that are cut off can be frozen, when you get enough, you can make a very tasty stock, either a vegetable stock, or used with meat trimmings to make meat stock. You can also compost what’s left over to enrich your garden.

Time, it’s the one thing that can’t really be saved and yet it can, it can’t be put up for later, you can’t make more of it, you can waste it, but understand it’s a most precious and valuable commodity, once gone, once it has passed by, you can’t get it back, so make the most of the time you have each day, it’s not a matter of getting more done, but make the things you do during the day meaningful things.

What about you? What do you do that is frugal? What would you like to do that is more frugal? Let me know below in the comments.


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Planting by the moon, hype or help?

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I was born in 1965 so I grew up less than one generation removed from those in my family who really farmed and those who went through the Great Depression. We saved everything, we didn’t throw anything into the trash until it was used up, worn out, reused and even then, it would be more likely put aside for parts…

I remember hearing my dad talking about “planting by the moon” as I grew up, one summer he decided it was all nonsense and would just plant whenever, with no regard to what the moon cycle was doing. Well, that year our garden wasn’t as good as it usually was, after that, we went back to planting by the moon.

What does that mean? Well, to simplify it, anything that is harvested from underground (root vegetables, carrots, onions, potatoes) need to be planted by the “dark of the moon”, when the moon is past full going toward the new moon. Anything that is harvested above ground, (corn, tomatoes and the such) should be planted by the “light of the moon”, meaning after the new moon going toward the full moon. If you get an “Old Farmer’s Almanac” it will get even more detailed as to the specific dates when you should plant based on the moon phases.

There is science behind this, it’s not hocus pocus, the moon affects water on earth, just look at what it does to the tides. Here is a video explaining how all of this works.

What about you? Do you plant by the moon? Do you believe in it or do you think it’s nonsense? Let me know below!


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Is it healthier to live off grid?

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Are there health benefits to living off grid? I’d say yes, for me there definitely are. First, I find living in a more simple manner is much less stressful, of course I’ve been a more laid back type of person to begin with, something that I believe has helped keep me in a healthier state of mind.

Having fewer and smaller bills tends to keep the stress levels down as well. Since I have fewer and smaller bills, I am able to work fewer hours outside of my home, giving me more time to spend at home, another stress buster.

What about more physical health benefits? In my case, living on a mountain side without a way to drive up the hill to my house means I am hoofing it, walking, hiking up and down, usually carrying something uphill, things like groceries and packages. I know that has kept my more fit. It’s something I don’t even notice anymore, until I’m walking up with a guest and they are complaining about how hard the walk up is while I’m in front of them breathing pretty normally.

Now to the less tangible, something that perhaps can’t be measured but is something I feel is just as important. In this modern world, we are surrounded by electronic pollution, that is caused by electronic appliances, faulty wiring, radio waves, bluetooth, wifi, I could go on… living off grid, having fewer appliances around and not having them powered on all the time, having fewer radio waves because of the very rural area, cell phones don’t work out here, neighbors are few and far between so there is much less wifi going through the air. There are some who don’t believe this can cause health problems, there are others who do believe it causes health problems, that is up to you to decide, but true or not, I have much less of it around me. I can actually turn everything off, wifi, radios, every electronic item and have the barest minimum of electromagnetic pollution, it’s really nice to know I can cut everything off at the flip of a switch.

So yes, I do believe there are health benefits to living off grid, there definitely is for me, what about you? What is your opinion of this? Please let me know below.


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Bonita domes

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bonita domes

I think I have always been attracted to unconventional homes (I live in a small castle after all…), when perusing my YouTube page with all the suggestions of what I might like to watch, this definitely caught my eye. I’m not sure how much was the color of the building, I do love the warm yellows and oranges, and how much was the dome shapes. As a teen, my father and I went on a short trek to Italy Texas to visit the Monolithic Dome homes factory, I fell in love with domes right then and there.

I LOVE the organic shapes on the inside as well as the outside of these structures, I wondered if the counter tops were custom cut, then on a closeup, I could see they looked like concrete, so they could be poured into any shape they could create. I like the individual separate spaces for each use, the shower dome, the kitchen area, the kiva pit. Living in the desert myself, dealing with the winds that blow, I know the importance of having a protected space if you want to have an open fire.

The shower dome looks really interesting, I want to make a separate shower space for us to use, it would be a seasonal space, used when the weather was warm, it would be away from the SkyCastle, organic in shape and using solar to heat the water, but I digress from the home I’m talking about here.

The best way for you to experience this is to watch the videos for yourself.

A dome to make me jealous!


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Digital Detox: let your mind off-grid

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Digital Detox, phone, smartphone, social media, internet, camp, off-grid, technology

We need to stop looking down and start looking up!

Rising heart rate, a sense of panic, breathing becoming shallow and inconsistent. It is highly likely that you have experienced these very symptoms at some point during your life. Perhaps you were in a confined space, feeling claustrophobic, or you were in a large crowd feeling disorientated….or perhaps you misplaced or lost your smart phone. Maybe you hadn’t even lost it, but the battery symbol was flashing red – oh no my cell’s going to die! If this sounds like you or someone you know, chances are you have smartphone separation anxiety – a.k.a. “nomophobia”. This has led to the need for us to have a digital detox.

What is “nomophobia”?

This term was coined in 2010 and relates to the feelings of anxiety linked to losing your phone, having no network coverage or when your battery is running low. Researchers at Iowa State University have found that there are four main components to nomophobia. The first is the fear of not being able to communicate with people or being in contact; the second is losing connectedness in general; the third not being able to access information and the fourth is not having the convenience that a smartphone brings. Watch the video below from Iowa State University to find out more about nomophobia.

But why does this anxiety happen?

Smartphones and technology have many benefits, but it has also infiltrated every aspect of our daily lives. Let’s face it, we rely on our phones an enormous amount – because they can do so much! Need directions? Check a date in the calendar? Don’t know the answer to a question? Need to make a call? More often than not, we all reach for our phone. If we think about it, they organise and navigate our daily lives more than we think.

Research has shown that we rely on our devices as much as we rely on a life partner. That is a scary thought – surely a device can’t replace someone as important as a spouse or significant other? The psychology behind this subconscious thought process though is very interesting. If we have a reliable source of external information on a specific topic, then we are less motivated and likely to remember that information for ourselves. If we need the answer to something we go to our reliable information source.

Before now, these reliable sources of information would take the form of people, and to some extent still do. For example, my dad knows a lot about cars I however, live in blissful ignorance and know very little. But I know all too well I can go to him for help so I am less motivated to learn and retain information about anything car-related.  The exact same process happens in our brains except now we don’t turn to people for help, we turn to our smartphones. Why should we bother remembering things when we can ask Siri? This reliance has led to what scientists are calling “digital dementia” – reduced cognitive abilities related to the overuse of gadgets.

It’s not just Digital Dementia we have to worry about

Digital detox, online, technology, smartphone, off-grid, mind, mental

Even when we’re on holiday, we’re still connected to our phones and technology – no online detoxing happening!

There are plenty of other health impacts from the overuse of our devices. Staring at phones and screens for extended periods of time, especially in low light, can lead to eye strain and headaches. The blue light can also impact our sleep patterns, especially with use just before sleep. After all, who isn’t tempted to check your favourite social media site just one last time before you close your eyes? Plus using social media sites in place of social interactions with actual people, can also lead to depression and anxiety. Constantly comparing yourself to others through an Instagram filter or the selfies on Facebook can impact your self-esteem.

Decreases in physical activity are also common place. After a long day at work, it’s very tempting to veg out in front of the television, laptop, i-pad, or pick up your phone to keep connected.

We need a Digital Detox

So far it’s all sounding pretty doom and gloom isn’t it? But there is hope on the horizon, in the form of a digital detox. A study, funded by company Kovert Designs, observed 35 people with no gadgets in the Moroccan Desert. The results were astounding. After four days researchers observed improved posture with greater eye contact being made during conversations. Memory also improved as people were more present in conversations instead of having one eye on their phone, meaning they were better able to process and store more information from the conversation. Remembering finer details from conversations also helps people to build stronger bonds and relationships with each other. Improved sleep patterns were also seen as the participants weren’t checking phones before sleeping. Therefore, their melatonin levels weren’t suppressed, enabling them to have a more uninterrupted night’s sleep.

An off-grid mind set

The results of the study have shown that digitally detoxing can have health benefits as well as improving your relationships with those around you. It also helps stem your whirring mind and unplug from the world for a short while – which is no bad thing!

Companies like Digital Detox, offer retreats providing off-grid accommodation and workshops – no digital technology allowed! The idea behind these retreats is to disconnect with the online world and reconnect with your sense of self. Camp Grounded, Mendocino, California is set in a beautiful 2,000 acres of woodland and described as a pure, unadulterated camp for grown-ups! Hiking through the countryside, practising mindfulness and yoga, as well as art and writing workshops are all a part of this all-inclusive program. Testimonials from Digital Detox include it being a “rejuvenating time” and a “transformational experience”.

The next Camp Grounded retreat offered by Digital Detox is from May 20th to May 23rd with tickets starting at $695 based on options chosen.


What can you do day to day?

If you don’t have the funds to spend a long weekend detoxing from your smartphone device, there are some things you can do at home. Tania Mulry, a digital marketing guru gave some tips on having an immediate digital detox in a TEDx talk at La Sierra University.

  • Turn off your notifications to quiet unnecessary noise from all of those apps.
  • Get rid of toxic apps and pages that bait you into wasting hours of your life by dragging you into commenting.
  • Go into Airplane mode, just because it’s in the title doesn’t mean this has to be solely used for airplanes. This takes you out of the rat race of notifications until you’re ready to reconnect with the online world.
  • Set a time in the evening after which you don’t touch your devices and gadgets, this will help you settle back into a healthy sleep pattern without your melatonin levels being interrupted.
  • Occupy your free time with a new hobby instead of filling your time with scrolling through screens.
  • Deepen connections with those around you by interacting face to face rather than through an online device.

See the full TED Talk from Digital Marketer Tania Mulry about the need for a Digital Detox.

You might like:

Simplify Your Life: Disconnect to Reconnect

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Travel trailer living with 3 boys?

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Travel trailer living with 3 boys?

…and 2 dogs. Wow, that is amazing, I’ll first give my un-requested opinion about it… honestly I don’t know how they do it, living in an RV with one or two consenting adults is one thing, even with a young (read YOUNG) child, but once you have more than one kiddo, especially when they start getting near the teen years, I just can’t imagine. That being said, apparently this family is doing this and doing it well.

I think this must be some good experience for the 3 boys, being home schooled on the road, they are getting an education they would never get in public school, and I suspect it’s a much safer environment since they can choose where to stay at any particular time.

I did enjoy getting the tour of the trailer, there are many really interesting and handy features of this trailer, I especially love the large pull out drawers. The square nesting pans really caught my eye as well, I cook on a stove that came out of an RV so I have the same issues with round pans bumping into each other if I use more than one pan at a time, will have to look into that.

Another thing I enjoyed about this video is it’s real, this is how they live, it’s clear they didn’t do any major tidying up before the camera came in, I’m sure there was some tidying up, but I noticed the washcloth hanging in the shower and the stuff laying around, so this speaks real to me.

I don’t know how long they will continue living this way, I’d love to know what the 3 boys think of this lifestyle. I do believe this will be a positive life experience for them. Enjoy the video and let me know what you think below.



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Not in my face!

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flashlight etiquette


We live in one of the darkest areas in the lower 48, there are even laws on the books pertaining to outdoor lighting to prevent potential light pollution for our local observatory. One of the things that are a must have item are flashlights, I keep one or two in my truck at all times, I prefer two but one is usually being used to get me up and down the hill in the dark.

When we have family and friends over, I try to have enough flashlights to go around for everyone to use, and because we actually USE our flashlights, they are often in varying states of power, some being brighter than others. In practice, I have come up with a list of flashlight etiquette.

  • Do not shine a flashlight in anyone’s face, it is rude, it will blind the person and affect their night vision for quite some time. Shine your light down as much as you can instead of up. If you must shine it at a person, shine it well below their face so they aren’t blinded by the light, this also includes dogs, cats or other animals, they don’t want to be blinded either.
  • Try to have enough flashlights for everyone, or at least one for every 2-3 people.
  • If you don’t have enough to go around, be sure to give them to those who would be most experienced with them, those old enough to be able to help illuminate the path for someone else.
  • Be sure to give the brightest flashlight to the one who needs it the most, it’s up to you to decide who that might be.
  • If you are walking with other people and your light happens to be brighter than theirs, keep your light away from them, their eyes will grow accustomed to the brightness of their light, if you shine your brighter light around them, you will overcome their light and they will have a harder time using their dimmer light while their eyes re-adjust to their amount of light. If they ask you to light something for them, then go ahead, but don’t just shine your brighter light in front of them.
  • If you are in a situation where there aren’t enough flashlights to go around and you are holding the flashlight, walk behind or beside the person without a flashlight but shine your light around them or in front of them, you don’t want to walk behind someone and shine the light on their back, that casts a shadow directly in front of them, making it even harder for them to see the path.
  • Instead of turning your light off and on as you need it, try covering it with your hand or pushing it up against your shirt or pants, that helps extend the life of the light and the switch.
  • Before turning on your flashlight at night, cover the light end first, that way you can slowly bring the light up by uncovering it, and if you have one of the new multi-function lights that has the blinking or flashing function, sometimes that can come on the first switch and you don’t want a strobe effect when you first turn it on. By covering it first, if it does start to strobe, you can make it stop without blinding or annoying others or yourself.
  • When I walk up and down my hill at night, I will often cover part of the light with my fingers so the light is slightly dimmed, I point it on the ground in front of my feet. Keeping the light dimmed this way allows me to keep my night vision in better shape and if I need to see something better, I just need to uncover the light. I don’t have people camping around me, but if you are in a camping or hiking situation with other people around, keeping your light dimmed is a courtesy to everyone else.
  • If you are in a camping situation, don’t shine your light toward other people’s vehicles, campers or tents at night, it’s disruptive, rude and might get you hurt if you offend the wrong camper.
  • The main rule though is never shine your light in someone’s face, it’s really an easy thing to accidentally do, but keep your light pointed at the ground as much as possible.

I’m sure there are other tips and pointers, if you have some, let me know in the comments below 🙂


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Simplify Your Life: Disconnect to Reconnect

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Simplify, Unplug, Disconnect, Reconnect, Social Media

Unplug from social media and take some time out

We all need to simplify our lives. We live in a world where we are constantly connected, consistently plugged in and never switched off. The demands and responsibilities of life: jobs, bills, children, insurance, medical care and social media means we are constantly occupied. Balancing and juggling a hundred tasks whilst ensuring Facebook and Twitter knows only the best version of ourselves. The version that is carefree and doesn’t have a million things racing around in our mind. Our lives are anything but simple.

In fact perhaps in this world we live in, the hardest thing to do is simplify our lives.

We are constantly surrounded by external stimulation – the text message beep, the Facebook notification, the ever growing number of rules and regulations we must live our lives by.

Do we blame technology for this? More often than not, the answer is probably yes.

Should we blame technology for this? If we think deeply enough, perhaps the answer is no. We have the power to simplify.

Technology has given us the option to be connected. But it does not force us to remain so. We have a choice, and too often we choose to remain embroiled in all of life’s demands and responsibilities. When in fact we have a responsibility to ourselves to take time out. To remove ourselves from the constant clamour and buzz of modern day life – to “chillax” as the kids would say.

Even those who live off-grid, a supposedly “simple” life, can still feel the need for a release of responsibility.

Off-grid living is far from simple! Hunting, scavenging, collecting water, the mere act of trying to survive in isolation is complicated. Whilst city dwellers are dealing with the tirade of information from the huge numbers of people around them, off-gridders are trying to control the rampages of their own thoughts and imagination.

For Christmas, I received a book titled “The Little Book of Hygge”. The word “hygge” derives from a Norwegian word meaning “well-being”. It has lead me to think that simplifying my life doesn’t have to be releasing myself from the demands of everyday life – or my responsibilities.  It is instead a state of mind.  Ensuring that every so often I indulge myself in some time out – a mental release if you will – allows me to be clear minded when it comes to coping with life’s stresses.

Everyone has their own way of unplugging and finding time for themselves. Some do yoga and meditation; others sink into a good book or wander around an art gallery lost in thought. My dad tinkers with his pride and joy, a classic car, and I take my camera and amble off into the countryside. Whatever it takes for you to take a mental release and come back refreshed, make sure you make the time to do it on a regular basis.

Whether on or off-grid, simplifying your life is really very simple – it is your state of mind.

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Reverse culture shock – going ‘on-grid’

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Prisoners in fron of the fire see only their shadowsIf you ever study the faces of people who have recently returned from time off-grid or long periods of adventure travel, they seem to have this strange sharpness in their eye. It’s almost like they mistrust their newfound mod-con environment (perhaps rightly so).

I think of it in a Plato’s Cave kind of way. Plato’s Cave is an allegory written by the Greek philosopher Plato, and describes a situation where many prisoners’ are living in a cave and only have fire light to see by. They see their own shadows cast by the fire behind them onto the wall in front of them, and conclude that is the reality.

This cave is the prisoner’s entire reality until one escapes and realises they had been living in a cave all along.

The point of the story is meant to show that without education and knowledge of things greater than ourselves, we are confined to live in a distorted reality and mistake superficial appearances for truth.

Going off-grid is rather like moving from the cave to the sunlight. It’s also why going back can be difficult too; it feeling strange to suddenly bury yourself deep underground again.

Going back ‘on-grid’ after being off-grid can be even more shocking than the other way round.

As it is winter now, some of us will be thoroughly back ‘on-grid’ waiting for the summer to come back around.

But never fear, during these times of duress we will be here to entertain you, inspire you and comfort you with stories and information about getting back out there!

Also if you have any good going ‘on-grid’ stories share below or write to!

Like Charlton Heston discovering the decimated Statue of Liberty protruding out from the ocean on an island run by monkeys; returning to civilisation can sometimes make you want to scream, ‘you maniacs’ and start hysterically pounding the floor.

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Tiny house build in Alaska

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I’ve never been to Alaska, I live in what most would consider a challenging place to live, on an undisclosed mountainside in the high desert of far west Texas… but I have to give props to those who live year round in Alaska, those are some really tough people 🙂

The people have to be tough, and their homes have to be equally as tough, this tiny house is built very to withstand the wilds of Alaska and honestly has most (if not all) of the amenities I would want to have. I thought that having an elevator bed, one that would go up and down would be a great idea, apparently someone else had the same thought and actually did it. This works and works great!

I really love the amount of open space as well as the storage space. Each space has been well thought out and is multi-functional, most components have at least 2 to 3 functions each, I’d say that this tiny home is the pinnacle of all the tiny homes I’ve seen to date.


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Living in a tree stump – past and present

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I lived for a short period of time in Oregon, it was many MANY years ago, I still remember the first time I visited there, I would get behind these logging trucks hauling felled trees. I was amazed at the size (diameter) of these trees, each truck would be hauling one to three trees, they were huge. A few years later when I moved out there, I noticed the logging trucks were hauling many more but smaller trees, they might be hauling 5 or more trees per load. Based on the size of the trees I was seeing the first time I visited, I can’t even imagine how large the trees were 100 or more years ago.

In the early 19th century, there were many folk looking for a life in the pacific northwest, logging was the way most earned their living, the result of logging meant there were lots of very large tree stumps around, they weren’t useful for anything and were mostly ignored by the loggers. A few ingenious free thinkers saw a way to use these very large tree stumps, as their homes. They were doing the tiny home thing long before it would become a movement in modern times.

All they needed to do was hollow out the inside, leaving sufficiently thick walls on the outside and build a roof over the top, cut out doors and perhaps windows, and viola they had a nearly ready made home.

Fast forward to today, and in Vancouver’s Stanley Park, British Columbia, a modern day “pioneer” is living inside his own version of a tree stump home, the difference is he is living minutes away from a major city center. Unfortunately Matthew is dealing with addiction and other problems, he does have a roof over his head, this video was uploaded in 2009, I sincerely hope his life has gotten on a better track since then.


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Please don’t eat the bunnies

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I’m really concerned about how people, especially young people will fare if/when TSHTF, I am right now, as I type, having a conversation with a young lady (23 years old she told me) on a Facebook group about frugal living. There have been some photos posted of people butchering their meat animals, chickens, roosters, rabbits and the such, though as I went through the page, honestly I saw only a couple of photos of someone with the dead animal in the photo that they intended to butcher.

This particular young lady posted a plea to the group to not post photos of animals being slaughtered (her words) for meat as these animals are cute and in her mind shouldn’t be considered for food, or at the very least not discussed on the FRUGAL living group as this “upsets her”. She posted a couple of pictures of cute baby chicks and baby bunnies to drive home her point.

I carefully penned a reply explaining why it’s frugal to raise and butcher your own meat animals, and that I’d prefer to see an animal raised on a home setting or small farm setting and butchered in a humane manner rather than animals being raised in commercial settings, never seeing the light of day, never touching the earth, being fed soy based feed, growth hormones, antibiotics, to have never felt the loving hand of a human and the such.

I wrote in the most polite and empathetic manner possible, but the conversation quickly degraded to her asking me why I don’t raise cute puppies for meat. You can see the full conversation below, I blurred out the names for privacy purposes. For the record, she also told me she does eat meat, just not red meat or rabbits. I am not interested in bashing or making fun of this young lady, I am sincerely concerned about the lack of knowledge as to where our food comes from, and the future of our society, especially if things go south.


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Reality of living in a tiny home

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01 copy

By now you’ve seen many tiny house videos. Many of them are showing the building in progress, even more show the tiny house before anyone has moved in, in pristine condition. The few that do a video tour in a lived in home, well just like you would do before company is coming over, things are picked up, cleaned and made presentable. I don’t know about you, but I don’t live my life in a pristine condition, there are dishes in the sink, there are dirty clothes in the hamper, there are crumbs on my stove, you get the idea.

So what is the reality of living in a tiny home? Is it easier to keep clean and tidy or is it more difficult? What if you are the type of person who has lots of stuff, clutter? That is who I am, I tend to have lots of clutter, I would love to lean more toward tidiness, but it’s just not in my DNA, you should my collection of ebooks on busting clutter…

A few weeks ago I wrote about Ariel C. McGlothi’s tiny house in a cold climate, she does seem to keep a tidy home, I suspect it is almost a requirement otherwise you wouldn’t have any room to live yourself. She has created a follow up video answering some questions she received, and to show how her tiny home really looks, how she really lives. Enjoy!


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Bed shed in the bush

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bed shed

Given a handful of primitive hand tools, I mean a sharpened rock, a few sticks of wood and not much more, what could you build? In today’s modern world, most of us have access to modern tools, at the very least, simple tools like a knife, a saw, hammer and nails… you can even get inexpensive tools in the dollar store. But what if you wanted to know what you could do with real stone age type tools? That’s exactly what the man behind Primitive Technology does.

It’s interesting to see him work his magic in the bush of Australia, he doesn’t live off grid or out in the bush, this is a hobby, a serious hobby, he does it just to see if he can, and based on what I’ve seen on his YouTube channel, I’d say he is successful at being primitive and getting things done.

In this video, you see Primitive Technology creating a bed shed, a protected place up off the ground to sleep that is also covered against the rain. He is seen chopping down small (diameter) trees, digging post holes (remember he is doing this BY HAND), setting the poles, lashing them together using some sort of vine that looked wickedly prickly. He thatches the roof with grasses, he weaves a bed frame and more. He also creates a fire, close enough to reap the benefits of the fire without catching his bed and shed on fire. I am impressed!

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Women off grid

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When you think of someone living off grid, chances are you either think of a man or perhaps a couple (or even a family), but it’s doubtful you will think of a single woman going off grid, especially an older lady. Well I’m here to tell you, there are women living off grid on their own, homesteading, doing the things that are traditionally done by the men.

As a female myself, I can tell you it’s convenient to have a man around to do the hard jobs, to do the really messy jobs, to reach the taller things, even to unscrew that stubborn lid, it’s convenient but not a requirement! I love my man and am glad we are doing this together, but it’s not an impossible thing to do on your own ladies, if you really wish to do this!

As long as you are in decent health and have a few skills, ladies you can do this. Having some smarts helps too, of course there might be somethings that are just physically difficult to do, that’s when you hire someone to help, whether you pay with money, or you trade something you can do (cooking, mending, fixing, and the such), don’t get fussy with me if you are a liberal woman and are offended by my words, this is what I would do if I didn’t have my PB around to do the heavy lifting.

Out where I live there are quite a few ladies, some in the +60 and even +70 age range who live on their own, not necessarily living off grid, but living in a wild place with no city amenities or conveniences around. Many of them grew up on ranches, but not all, some did come from the city and just made it work through their own strength and perseverance.

Here are a few ladies who are doing this on their own


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Not getting sick

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With winter in full blast mode, people are sniffling, sneezing and coughing all around me, I work in the public, not necessarily with the public, but I’m still exposed to all sorts of nasties during the week. I haven’t been really sick in quite some time, I have those down bla days from time to time, but haven’t had a full blown case of anything since last year, and I intend to keep it that way.

Last week, I thought I might be coming down with something, I had a sore spot in my throat, it lasted a full day but fortunately never turned into anything worse. I have a few tricks up my sleeve to help keep me in tip top shape, it’s not 100%, but I believe it helps. When I very first noticed the sore spot in my throat, I immediately grabbed an Emergen c fizzy packet, it’s packed full of nutrients, specifically the vitamin C and zinc were what I was wanting.

A few weeks ago, in one of the stores that I service (as a merchandiser), I saw an employee that I hadn’t seen in a while, I went over and shook his hand in greeting, it was after that handshake that he informed me that he was at the tail end of a cold… oh great I thought, I stayed out of his air stream and air bubble, that area in which viri accumulate en masse. I noticed him coughing a lot.

After washing my hands, I decided to purchase a hand sanitizer, now this is something I don’t typically use, but thought it prudent for now. Another thing I do is I try my utmost to not touch my face, especially my nose or eyes with my hands, especially if I have been handling the shopping cart handles, those have got to be the germiest place to touch.

If I hear someone cough or sneeze, I will stay away from their air space, if I am already walking past them, I’ll hold my breath until I am well beyond them. I know that might sound silly, but I’m not interested in breathing in whatever made them cough or sneeze, you should see the videos created that show sneezes and coughs in slo-mo, here is one

Now do you still think I’m being overcautious? I didn’t think so 🙂

If I have to cough or sneeze, I will often pull my shirt up as I duck my mouth down and sneeze or cough into my shirt, I don’t want to use my hands to cover my mouth, especially when I’m working because I’m handling items that the public will be buying, I’m also shaking hands with people. I don’t typically wear long sleeve shirts so I’m not going to cough or sneeze into my inner elbow. So into my shirt it goes, it might not catch 100% of it, but it’s going to prevent a major spray of potentially virus infected droplets from spewing into the air.

Of course, washing hands, even if you just rinse them well with water it’s better than nothing, keeping my hands away from my face, getting plenty of sleep, eating well and taking vitamins all work together to keep me from getting sick.

What do you do to keep from getting sick?


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How to “go” when you are on the go

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Food goes in and it must come out, that goes for you, me and even folk who live on the road. It’s one of the things that people either don’t think about or that’s all they think about. For those who live in their van, you can choose to toilet and bathe in your van, or you can stay close enough to places where you can toilet and bathe. It’s possible to go a few days (or even longer) between showers, you can so what my parents referred to as a spit bath (my dad used to say chorus girl bath), but you have to use the toilet on a daily basis.

For me, I would do the bucket method like Will Burson, I think he has a good setup, I’d personally want a better “seat”, but other than that, his setup is great, a double layer of trash bags in a 5 gallon bucket, a bit of kitty litter and a Gamma Seal lid and he’s setup.

He also shows a bit how he cleans himself, using baby wipes, and using a small sink to shampoo his hair. I understand he goes to a gym for regular showers, but when he’s not close to that gym, he cleans up between time in this manner. I read some of the comments people left on his YouTube page, most understand but it’s amazing at the number of people who say how gross this is… hello? Everyone poops, EVERYONE, how can that be gross? Do these people not use the toilet themselves?

Here is the video, enjoy!


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Twenty seventeen

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I am not believing it’s 2017 already, in just 3 short years, it’s going to be the year 2020, now that will take some getting used to! People traditionally pick the New Year day to make their resolutions, I’ve never been one to stand on ceremony, I don’t do resolutions. I prefer setting goals, big and small. I will admit that I haven’t been setting goals for a while and I need to start doing that again. I think one thing I need to do is save more money, since we live very much on the cheap it should be easy, right? Well not so much but it’s something that has to be done.

I also want to, need to, start working on upgrading and replacing my solar system. I will keep my old stuff and use it in other locations around the Sky Castle, I really want to have my refrigerator (chest freezer to fridge conversion) on its own system, separate from everything else, I’ll most likely use my current setup for that and have the new hardware for everything else.

The reason I like separate systems is as a backup in case something should fail, having redundant systems is something I recognized as very important from the very beginning. Speaking of redundant systems, I have 2 separate on demand water heaters, one in my kitchen over the sink, the other in the shower. A few months ago, the one in the kitchen started acting strangely, when you turn on the hot tap, the tank clicks a piezo starter and ignites the propane, I noticed that when the water coming through was warmer (from the water tank), it worked just fine. But if the water coming through was really cold, the piezo clicker would continue clicking after the fire was lit, then it would shut off the entire thing. I thought something was failing on the system. We went the whole summer like this because it would work while the water coming through was warmish, not a problem in the summer. But once winter started in earnest, I knew we had to figure out what part needed to be fixed or replaced.

On a whim, I changed out the batteries for the piezo clicker and voila! It worked again, well duh! It was needing fresh batteries, what threw me was the fact that it worked when the water was warmer, then it would stop working if the water was icy cold, it would work in the daytime when the temps were mild, but once it began to get cold at night, it would stop working right. So now I have both of my water heaters working again.

As I said above, I don’t “do” resolutions, especially not ones based on an arbitrary date, I set goals, big ones, small one, and even achieve many of them, we all need goals, a goal is a wish with a date attached, where do you want to be tomorrow, next week, next month, next year, next decade? If your goal is nothing, that’s exactly what you will achieve.

I do wish everyone a prosperous and happy New Year for 2017, many blessings on my family and friends, even those of you I have never met in person (my digital friends). Let me know what you want to achieve in 2017 below! And happy New Year everyone!


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Preppers can relax now that Trump is in

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I typically steer clear of politics and religion as topics for me personally to discuss here, not that I’m anti religious or not political, quite the contrary, I’m a conservative Christian with slight libertarian leanings, the reasons I don’t typically discuss it here is, to those who believe as I do, well I’d be preaching to the choir, and those who don’t believe as I do, I’m not likely to exert much influence on them, and I’m not interested in arguing with anyone 🙂

That being said, let’s talk politics 😉
Honestly, I’m not going to talk about whether or not President Elect Trump should or should not be… I’m going to discuss what I’m seeing on the Internet about prepping. The question has been asked if people should stop prepping for the worst now that Trump is about to step into office. The short answer is NO! This is just plain common sense, it doesn’t matter who is in the oval office, it’s important to be prepared for as many potential problems as possible, from major social upheavals, think people rioting in your town, wouldn’t it be better if you had enough supplies to shelter in place at home for a few days to a few weeks rather than having to try to get to the grocery store through crazy people? It doesn’t matter what political affiliation the rioters are, doesn’t matter what their skin color is, if they are in uniform or not. You don’t want to leave your home and family unguarded and try to drive through a riot because you ran out of food.

There are other reasons to continue to prep for emergencies, from major weather related catastrophic events, to just getting snowed in for a few days. There are financial emergencies, from having your hours cut, to losing your job, perhaps an unexpected bill hits at an inopportune time.

These are just a few reasons to continue prepping for emergencies, there are many more, too many to list. Don’t let the political affiliation of who is in office, liberal or conservative, trick you into becoming complacent, don’t be tricked into thinking the government will take care of us in a major catastrophe, I don’t care if those in charge have a D or R next to their name, they will be more concerned with themselves first, then maintaining their power, we the citizens will be pretty far down their list, with the possible exception of controlling the masses. We, that means you and I, need to be more responsible for taking care of ourselves in as many situations as possible. Are you ready?

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Christmas! And off grid vlog 05

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This Christmas, we celebrated our 9th year living off grid (actually the 22nd), I thought it was our 10th year and was so excited, then I realized I was having a senior moment and apparently forgot how to count. Oh well, 9 years isn’t anything to sneeze at, right?

Yesterday we had our Christmas Eve music special at church, I’m in charge of the music, I even have a title, Music Director, sounds fancier than it is, I pick out the music for church and our special events, including Christmas. It was quite nice, we had some new voices in our choir, good strong voices. Today we had our regular service, after which I came home and made a brunch of fried potatoes with onions, in butter of course, toast and fried eggs with runny yolks. It’s one of our favorite meals, it’s easy to cook, it’s frugal and tasty.

The weather has been so very nice, we have had a few cold days & nights, but for the most part, it’s been in the 50s, 60s and 70s (F) during the day all month long, the nights get cold, cold enough for a fire in the woodstove, but nothing terrible. It’s been nice enough that PB has been pouring concrete again, this time working on the back of the SkyCastle.

I will leave you with another chatty vlog, ignore my pleas for the phone, I’m just having a droolfest over the phone mentioned in the video, I’ll eventually get one, hopefully this coming year, my son got one and he has been telling me all about his, I’m only a tiny bit jealous 🙂 but I’m glad he has one.

I hope everyone had a great Christmas and has a wonderful New Year!

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Best Beats Unplugged

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Music, Festival, Off Grid

It is not often that large events can call themselves self sustaining. But two upcoming music festivals on two entirely different continents are bucking the trend and doing just that – going off grid.

Introducing Off The Grid Melbourne Festival in OZ and Camphill Village Music Festival in South Africa. Two very different but self-sustaining events. Off The Grid Melbourne is taking place on 21/12/16 at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Arts in Melbourne and Camphill Village Music Festival on 25/02/17 at Camphill Village near Cape Town. This will be the third music festival for both events, which have been getting bigger and better each year.

The Melbourne festival will be powered entirely through solar energy. Panels will be connected to a battery bank, which is rigged up to the sound system. This ten hour event will have music, food and plenty of dancing, with not a single piece of waste going to landfill. The company behind this festival, Finding Infinity, aim to make Melbourne a completely sustainable city – one renewable event at a time. Artists playing at this event include home-grown Australian Andras Fox and the eclectic, high energy No Zu.

The Camphill Village Music festival is a slightly different affair, but no less energetic. This festival helps to raise funds for Camphill Village, a community home to 90 intellectually disabled adults who aim to live self-sustaining lives. The farm includes a dairy, bakery and cosmetics shop, whose products are sold in the Cape Town area. Partnering up with Rays of Hope helped Camphill take the first steps towards living with no reliance on the grid. The dairy is now entirely solar powered, taking the community one step further to complete self-reliance. The festival will bring the whole community together and create a great atmosphere, with the sounds of Rockers Bootleggers, Albert Frost and the soulful Majozi keeping everyone dancing long into the night. Being located approximately 40km from Cape Town, there is the option to camp overnight – so the party really can go on all night long.


Both events are set to be real showstoppers, proving that you don’t need to be on the grid to have a good night out.


More information for both events can be found here:

Off The Grid Melbourne               –    

Off The Grid Camphill Village      –    

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Positively negative

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I’m amazed at how the people in your life can become your biggest and loudest critics when you decide you are going to do something, especially something positive and life changing. You have decided to take the plunge and move off grid, then there they are, your friends, your family, they begin telling you all the things that can go wrong, all the mistakes you are going to make, how you are going to fail, how risky change like that is, how you shouldn’t even try, bla bla bla.

What’s even worse, is these people will most likely never do anything like this with their life, they are afraid, afraid of change, afraid of risk, perhaps even afraid of succeeding. As a result, they don’t think anyone else would be able to or even should be able to make such a change in their life. They will take every opportunity to let you know that your chances of succeeding are so slim, your chances of failure are so sure, they will do everything they they can to pull you down to a point where you will give up your dreams.

I’m here to tell you, yes stepping away from your regular life is risky, everything you do is a risk, sitting still is risky too. Don’t listen to the naysayers, don’t allow the negative people to decide which road you take, you are the only one that gets to do that. Choose to walk the path that leads you to your dreams, to the things you have always wanted to do. If you are here, reading this, I have to assume your dream includes living more independently, perhaps even off grid.

Start making your plans, set some goals, learn more skills that will help you now and in the future. If your circle of people around you aren’t supportive of your plans, then enlarge your circle to include more positive supportive people. I’m not saying to ditch your current friends, just know which ones are supportive of your dreams and which aren’t and understand that the ones who aren’t supportive, aren’t necessarily trying to pull you down, they are just afraid, or perhaps they are content in their current life. If you aren’t content and want to move toward a different life, then DO IT, surround yourself with folks who will support your dreams and even help you achieve them. Start the new year off with a new direction and a more supportive set of friends.


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Barn living, level-expert!

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I’ve seen many barn conversions but this is the best one I’ve seen to date! I LOVE the sliding barn doors that completely cover the windows, giving privacy and security. The rock work on this building is top shelf, it was obviously created by a master rocksmith.

Here is the video, enjoy!

When Carlos Alonso and his sister Camino (partners at Madrid architecture firm Ábaton) were looking for a country home for their extended family, they stumbled upon an abandoned stable in rural Extremadura, Spain and recognized it as a special place.

High on a hill and far from city water or an electrical grid, the crumbling cow shed was far from the conventional image of luxury estate, but Carlos and Camino could envision a transformation.

This part of the province of Cáceres (near the Portuguese border) has been home to generations of cattle ranchers and the Alonsos recognized the wisdom those who came before them.

Building on the instinctual knowledge of the ranchers before them, the Alonsos preserved much of the old stable. The old watering trough became a fountain and interior patio where water now helps cool the home in summer. The hay loft above became bedrooms. The facade is still the original stone, though given the homes crumbling state, they were forced to add cement behind it.

Without access to the grid, the Alonsos added photovoltaics and hydro power and worked to ensure the home wouldn’t use much energy. The original position of the stable worked to their favor. The southern exposure allows for the sun to be the main source of heat during the winter.

The Alonsos also added large wooden shutters that slide closed like a second skin, covering the large windows at night to trap in most of the home’s daily solar heat gain.

The home was located far from city water, but perfectly positioned below two streams that flow year round. Since there is no one else above the home on the mountain, the water is pure and can be used for drinking and bathing (after a simple filter and rest period).

Greywater is purified and the water is put back to use on the property for watering the fields. On those fields, cattle still graze.

Even local rancher José Vicente Jiménez, whose family has worked this land for generations, is still here. His cattle graze the property and he clearly is pleased the Alonsos have rescued the old stable from certain ruin.

Original story:


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The egg

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What does it take to be a good neighbor… One thing is being willing to help when help is needed. I don’t have really close by neighbors, but they are within shouting distance. Sometime this last year, we got a few new neighbors, we have gotten close to one couple in particular. They are the type that tend to make it out here, being DIY’ers, knowing how to do things for themselves, they are also independent souls.

A few months ago, they were going out of town and had another neighbor who was going to feed & take care of their menagerie, several dogs, a cat, 2 horses, a goat and a bunch of chickens. That fell through at the very last minute and we were asked if we could take care of the animals over a long weekend. We agreed and had a great time. One of the perks was we could have any eggs we found. It’s been a while since I’ve eaten really fresh eggs, I have to tell you, there is a huge difference between commercially purchased eggs and fresh homegrown eggs.

Over the Thanksgiving holiday, those same neighbors went out of town again, we again agreed to look after the critters, those chickens are so sweet, they come up to you and cluck, they seem to like the interaction, or perhaps it’s the food… At any rate, the eggs were there for us to collect, PB diligently collected all the eggs he could find and brought them home.

A few mornings ago, I decided to cook up some fried eggs with those fresh eggs, they needed to be washed first, then I proceeded to crack the eggs into a bowl. The first one cracked just fine, with a rich golden yolk, it was going to be good! The second one, well, it wouldn’t crack. I know these homegrown eggs have hard shells, but this was ridiculous! It even sounded different as I continued to whack it harder and harder on the sink. Eventually I figured out that it was a fake egg made of ceramic.

I spoke to my neighbors when they got back, and sure enough, they had put in 2 of these fake eggs, put in there to teach the hens not to peck their eggs, I have no idea where the second one is, we checked all the other eggs that we collected, it’s not at my house… I am amazed at how real these fake eggs look AND feel, they even have the weight correct.

That’s my egg story and I’m sticking to it! Oh, one more thing, I have wanted chickens since before we moved out here, but PB wasn’t really crazy about the idea, one thing that tends to happen out here is someone will get chickens, and usually get far too many for their needs, having a dozen or more laying hens, when there is just one or two people in the house. It doesn’t take long to have more eggs than you can eat. I only want to have 3 or 4 laying hens, no roosters. After PB took care of this flock and received the benefits of said flock, he mentioned to me that he might like to have some chickens. Yeah! I hope to have some hens by this spring.


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Tiny home made with SIP

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This video caught my eye because it used the term SIP, I didn’t know what that meant until I watched the video further, it’s structurally insulated panels. That makes perfect sense, they are structural, and they insulate, so that helps to keep the weight down yet is strong and insulated.

This tiny home is wider than the average, coming in at 3 meters wide, it is just under the legal limit where you would need special permits to move it, this owner is happy where she has placed her home, it’s always a possibility that it would be moved in the future.

I especially love the propane bottle wood burning stove, I will need to check into that more to see how it’s made and works.


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Composting toilet – one year later

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Everyone poo’s, everyone. It’s just a fact of life, even if you life in an RV. These folk have a nice rig and use an Airhead composting toilet. They have graciously, honestly and with lots of humor, given us a blow by blow of the good, the bad and the ugly of using a composting toilet in an RV. Based on what they describe, I’m not sure I would want to use that sort of system, I would say a bucket would work better, but it seems to work OK for them, even with a few issues.


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Thanksgiving! And off grid vlog 04

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off grid vlog 04

Another Thanksgiving has passed for us, as we wind down another year living off grid, I have much to be thankful for. Good health, great friends, wonderful family, a beautiful place to live, getting to live our dream. This Thanksgiving, we spent our day with our church family, we had a feast of food and communion together. After that, we went to the other church in our neighborhood and spent a bit of time visiting with them as they ate their Thanksgiving feast.

I am definitely blessed. I hope you, dear reader are getting to live your dream, if you aren’t yet, please start today, we are not promised tomorrow, don’t let excuses get in the way of your dream.


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6 Months Living in beauty

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We’ve been full-timing in our Airstream since April. That’s 6 months of LIB (Living in Beauty). So far, we’ve been visitors of 23 communities in 11 states, and have traveled 4,592 miles.

So starts Jim and Carmen Beaubeaux’s latest blog post about living full time in their Airstream RV. They have had quite the adventure and are looking forward to many more.

They started out much like the rest of us, edging toward retirement with a sticks and bricks house, and lots of possessions that they decided were weighing them down and holding them back.

Having been backpackers in their earlier life, they were no strangers to living on the road, but at the time they considered big trucks hauling large RVs more of a hazard to pedestrians and cyclists than something to be desired.

You can listen to their latest podcast here:

I love reading about how other people are living their dream, the thing all of these folk have in common is they took a chance, they stepped out of their comfort zone, they didn’t just dream, they DID and they DO.

To find out more about Jim and Carmen, you can peruse their blog here:

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Two years in a tiny home

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Two years after moving into his tiny home, Bryce Langston came back for a return visit to see how Brett Sutherland is getting along, what he loves about living tiny, what he would have changed, what he would improve. To me, this is the meat of living tiny, seeing how things are working a few years later. Watch and enjoy

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WrethaOffGrid vlog 02

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This is a semi-quick video where I’m chatting about what’s been going on this week. The main things are that my daughter and my 2 grandchildren came for a visit, they only stayed overnight but it was nice to have them out. Tomorrow my son is flying in for a longer visit.

It’s easy to forget that we don’t live like “normal” folk, our setup is unconventional at best, not just the off grid parts, but things like the hot water. If the water gets too hot, you would turn it down, but at our place, you would turn it up to get more water flowing through the propane fire, that cools it off. Our toilet is very unconventional, being a composting potty, and the such.

There are also privacy concerns, basically living in 2 rooms, cleaning up and dressing is something that will have to be coordinated so we don’t embarrass anyone (or ourselves).

It’s been a while since we have had any real visits from far away family & friends. My dad used to come out and stay for a month every summer, I’d say it’s been a good 5 years since the last visit like that.

If you have any questions about how we live, or anything else, please write them below and I’ll do my best to answer them in the next vlog. Enjoy!

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Now’s the time

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It’s nearly Halloween here in the USA, which means the Christmas merchandise has been in the stores for at least a few weeks now… I am a bit tarnished when it comes to the commercial element of the holidays, mainly caused by the years and years of working in retail and in malls, it tends to bring out the best, and unfortunately the worst in people.

I prefer doing something a little more personal for gift giving, in the past I have created my own Christmas cards for my friends and family, hand drawing and painting each separate one then giving them out, I never had a specific number of them to make, I would just make as many as I could and hand them out to ever increasing circles of friends until I didn’t have anymore to give away.

I think this year I’m going to do something with my photos that I have worked on for the last couple of years. I have been picking the best scenic photos, editing them and uploading them to a printing service ( to print out as post cards. I decided on them because I can do small runs, and can even do multiple images per pack, all the others that I have found require one image per pack and for now, I don’t need 100+ of the same post card, at least not yet.


I am pretty excited about this, not only to give out as Christmas cards, but to sell in town. I live near 3 different towns that rely on tourist dollars, there seems to be a great need for inexpensive souvenirs for the tourists, something they can pick up for their friends and family back home that will remind them of their trip to the towns here. I have seen a few attempts by the locals here to print and sell post cards, when I look at what has been available at random times (nothing consistent), I believe I have a real opportunity. I just need to get this off the ground before it gets much closer to the holidays, that’s when the gift shops in town will be looking to buy from local artists.

I am including some samples of my photography here, they are lower quality than the originals and they have a watermark, some are not fully edited and ready for production. Once I get my first run printed, I’ll post images here of those cards.

If anyone reading this has had any experience with this print company (, or another print company, I would love to hear your experiences.

What are you doing to celebrate the holidays? Do you create gifts or do you buy them?


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Heard of a Walker stove?

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Me neither, but once I discovered it, I am definitely intrigued, it takes the best of rocket stove, thermal mass heaters, masonry heaters and the such puts it together. I have been trying to interest PB into doing a thermal mass rocket stove but I have had very little luck peaking his interest to even consider trying it. His main complaint has been the thought of having to use and continually add small sticks to the combustion chamber, which is one of the hallmarks of a rocket stove. Watching Matt start a fire in his Walker stove/oven, he barely seemed to have the fire going and he packed the combustion chamber with lots of larger wood logs and it took off like crazy. Being able to load the combustion chamber with that amount of real logs, and not just twigs means not having to continually add wood to keep things going.

There will be 3 videos here, one is essentially a commercial for the Walker stove, the other two are about the build of the stove. If you go to his website you will learn more about the Walker stove and discover that he is using a Creative Commons license on at least one of his designs, meaning you can build these for yourself, see the whole licensing agreement here (scroll down to the bottom of the page)
Let me know what you think about this… Enjoy!

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WrethaOffGrid vlog 01

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I have been doing more and more reviews online, including video reviews so I have been getting more comfortable with being in front of the camera instead of always in back of the camera. I decided it was high time to start doing a regular vlog videos, so here is my first one.

I am open for comments and suggestions as well as questions from you, I would love some feedback and would love to answer your questions, you may ask whatever you wish, though I can’t guarantee I’ll answer ALL questions, I’ll do my best. 🙂


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Tiny turf houses in Iceland

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I love seeing how people used to live, “back in the day” as we like to say. It’s interesting and educational to see how people used the natural materials available to them to build their homes, more than mere shelters, these were places where families lived together, I like how they made individual places for each part of living, one building for living/sleeping, one building for cooking, another building for storage and so on. They kept each building small so it could easily be heated in the winter, and also so that it could easily be torn down and rebuilt without disrupting the entire household.

They didn’t have access to wood (trees) so much of what they used was volcanic rock and turf. They also tore down and rebuilt the spaces about once a generation, reusing the rock and anything else they could reuse, digging out new turf to chink between the rock. They also built partially into the ground, using the earth to insulate and protect their living spaces. They built in small narrow hallways, or tunnels between the living spaces so they didn’t have to go outside to get from one living space to another, a real heat saving move in the winter.

I don’t know how their summers were, but I suspect being dug into a hill also helped to keep the living spaces cooler. It seems they didn’t have much privacy, everyone slept in the same room, fortunately it seems everyone had separate beds, at least only a couple or a few people slept together per bed, there were slight partitions between the beds, but nothing like how we live today. I suppose if that’s all you know, then you would be used to it and live accordingly.

I also understand that since they had very little wood, they actually used their own body heat to keep the living spaces warm, another good reason for everyone to reside and sleep in the same room.

This video was quite interesting and eye opening, apparently that way of life has just come to an end, merely one generation ago, there are still people alive who grew up living that way.


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Knowledge and experience

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Since we aren’t naturally born with all the knowledge (and experience) we’ll ever need, we have to learn. Hopefully we are learning something new everyday, whether it’s something we are interested in for ourselves, or something we have to learn for work or our lives, learning is one of the cornerstones of what makes us human.

We used to do much of our learning by reading, going to the library was one of my very special treats, I loved reading, I still do, but today I read much more digital (and audio based) content. Books are a huge source of knowledge, you can still go to the library and find a wealth of information sitting on those dusty shelves. Presumably you even own some books yourself, these are great backups as there is always the chance that an EMP, whether natural or man made, could wipe out our digital sources of knowledge.

Speaking of digital, with the internet, places like YouTube, Instructables, eHow and the such, you can research and learn just about anything you are interested in. I personally find YouTube to be a huge source of information for me, from art related, crafts, DIY, building, cooking, the list I could make would practically be endless. When I needed to do some work on my tablet, an item that is not supposed to have end-user changeable parts, I went to YouTube and found out that first, I can change out these parts, and second, how to do it. This completely free source of information saved me from having to buy a new tablet, saved me money and time. For just a few dollars, I was able to fix the problem and I was able to see HOW to do it.

Just go to YouTube, you don’t HAVE to have an account with them, but it makes things much easier since you can “like” and save videos as well as subscribe to channels you enjoy. Go there and do a search for the subject you are wanting to learn about. There are many ways to filter your search, some of my most used filters are by date and length. Don’t forget you can also include negative search terms, that is simply inserting the minus sign then the word (without a space between the minus sign and the word), use words you do not want to show up in your search term, for example, if I wanted to look up dog videos, but didn’t want puppy videos, I could do a search for “dog -puppy”…

Now go through the search results, I personally prefer right clicking on the video in the list and opening in a new tab, that way I can just close the new tab and immediately go back to the search list without having to wait for the search to happen again, I can also open a bunch of new tabs with videos at the same time then go through them.

Another way to learn something is to find someone who is good at the thing you want to learn and apprentice under them, if you know this person, all the better. You might offer to pay them for their time, or offer to do something nice or helpful for them in return. Be respectful of their time and efforts, people aren’t like video tabs on your computer, you can’t just shut them off if you suddenly aren’t interested in what they are saying or doing. Learning from someone else’s experience is a great way to learn how to do something.

Now we get to experience, you must actually DO the thing you are learning, it’s great to get the theory on how to do something, you can read all about it, watch someone else demonstrate it, you can think about it all you want, but until you actually DO IT YOURSELF, all you have is knowledge, it’s time to turn that knowledge into experience. Practice until you become proficient and can do it in your sleep.

Once you become the expert at doing this, then pass on your knowledge and experience to another person, teach someone else so that they can also pass on the knowledge.

What are your favorite ways of learning? Let me know in the comments below.


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First fire of the season

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We had our first wood fire this evening, it’s not really cold, not as cold as it will get, but it was one of those chilly, grey, damp, rainy days that just begged for a nice wood fire. Of course there is the fantasy of sitting in front of a nice toasty wood fire and the reality of having to clean off a summer’s worth of junk, dust and dog hair from the wood stove, none of which smell very good when they get hot 🙂

Once I had it all cleared off, I almost didn’t want the fire anymore, but it didn’t take much cajoling to get PB to go outside and grab a few pieces of damp wood, almost too damp to burn. A handful of paper trash later and we had a nice toasty small fire going, it was nice to hear the crackle of the flames and smell of the burning wood.

The wood stove is now nicely warm as I sit in my winter configuration, having my laptop inside the SkyCastle, at the table, just behind the wood stove. I’m looking forward to not fighting the bugs that are attracted to the light of my laptop, not worrying about what may climb up my leg outside.

PB has been working on updating the kitchen. Earlier this summer, one of our neighbors gave us an interesting stove/oven that came out of an RV. It’s the same size as the blue one I’ve used from the beginning, but instead of a turquoise blue, it’s a dark cherry red, I tried to find another one like it online, but couldn’t find another in the same color, rare. We have spent the summer wondering which one to keep inside and which one to leave outside for the outdoor kitchen area. PB decided on a third option, keeping them both inside.

I wasn’t sure I liked that idea, that meant having to lose some of my precious storage, and honestly I don’t see myself cooking on BOTH at the same time. I wanted the red one inside. But once PB got everything mocked up, the two stoves side by side look pretty sharp. I also like the arrangement of the burners on top, the blue one has 2 burners in front and 1 in back, the red one has 1 in front and 2 in back, they look like they were made for each other.

The red one has a thermostat for the oven, something the blue one doesn’t have, though I have been able to cook and bake in it just fine, having a thermostat will come in handy. I did lose some of my storage, but I think I’ll be able to live with it, things have been condensed in another area and will probably end up working better. PB is planning on building a vent-a-hood over the whole thing, that will also work as a way to remove the heat that accumulates in the house in the summer, negating the need (want) for a cupola in the roof. It will be much appreciated next summer for sure.

That’s the going’s on at the SkyCastle this early fall, what about you?

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I love looking at alternative type housing, even if it’s a bit of a fantasy, I do live in a SkyCastle after all 🙂 I watched this video a few days ago in pure fascination. I was a bit disappointed to discover it’s really the set from one of the Hobbit movies, I am glad it was saved from destruction and is being kept around as a tourist attraction.

I do know there are those who do live this way, people with whimsical ideas about how to live, those who don’t listen to what polite society has to say about how to live.


Watch this short video and tell me you wouldn’t want to live like this 🙂

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SkyCastle photos

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Sometimes, you just have to shut up and let the photos do the talking 🙂



This is how the SkyCastle looks currently.


The following pictures are PB’s version of photoshop, trying to decide how to make the SkyCastle look…







I think I prefer the old shield we had, will have to talk to PB about this 🙂



Some of my photography







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Overcoming your fear

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Fear (from Google)
noun: fear; plural noun: fears

an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.
“drivers are threatening to quit their jobs in fear after a cabby’s murder”
synonyms: terror, fright, fearfulness, horror, alarm, panic, agitation, trepidation, dread, consternation, dismay, distress; anxiety, worry, angst, unease, uneasiness, apprehension, apprehensiveness, nervousness, nerves, perturbation, foreboding;
informal the creeps, the shivers, the willies, the heebie-jeebies, jitteriness, twitchiness, butterflies (in the stomach)
“he felt fear at entering the house”
phobia, aversion, antipathy, dread, bugbear, nightmare, horror, terror;
anxiety, neurosis;

verb: fear; 3rd person present: fears; past tense: feared; past participle: feared; gerund or present participle: fearing

be afraid of (someone or something) as likely to be dangerous, painful, or threatening.
“he said he didn’t care about life so why should he fear death?”
synonyms: be afraid of, be fearful of, be scared of, be apprehensive of, dread, live in fear of, be terrified of; be anxious about, worry about, feel apprehensive about
“she feared her husband”
have a phobia about, have a horror of, take fright at
“he fears heights”

Fear is a natural reaction to things that could cause us harm, it is perfectly normal and necessary, without it, many of us wouldn’t be here reading this today. But all too often, we allow fear to rule our lives, we let fear hold us back from living our dreams, it’s the “what if” syndrome, the biggest one being “what if I fail?” or even worse, the fear of succeeding… yes that can be a fear as well.

PB and I have lived off grid since Dec ’07, we are still here, living and loving our life. Not all of it was an easy ride, but we are still going forward, making things better and better, still very much on a budget. It was scary to walk away from our previous lives, previous jobs, friends and family to move some 500 miles to the west, to an area where we knew no one and nothing lined up except the raw property and a dream.

We could have allowed our fear to freeze us in place where we used to live, I shudder to think of how we would be living if we were still there, we could have taken the “safe” route, we could have done things much slower, but we wouldn’t be where we are now if we had done that.

Our only path was forward, we had to let go of our old life to start our new one.

What is your dream? I hear and read people bemoaning their current life, wishing to live a different one, yet not taking the steps necessary to move toward their dream. What is holding you back? Are you waiting for someone or something to change? Why not be the change? Why not make the change happen yourself? You don’t have to jump into things all at once, there are legitimate things that could slow you down, but that doesn’t mean you can’t START now.

Sit down and write out a list of what you would do if money were no object and circumstances were perfect for you. Now figure out a way to start doing those things, set goals

A goal is a wish with a date attached

Set big and small goals, work out the steps necessary to achieve those goals (mini goals) and start doing what it takes to make those goals happen. What are your goals? Let me know in the comments. 🙂


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Floating paradise

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If I weren’t living where I do now and loving it, this is how I would want to live, on a homemade island home. These two artists are truly living the dream, I can’t imagine how it must be living on the water like that, but they sure have made it work. Listening to them talking, Catherine King and Wayne Adams, I can hear PB and myself in them, especially the part about him knowing every board and nail in the place as he put each one there himself.


Seeing it from the sky is the best way to get a sense of the place, it’s bigger than it seems. I love the way it seemed to have grown in an organic manner, not seeming to have a plan, but just being added on to bit by bit as it was needed or wanted. It has taken them 24 years to get it to this point. One last thing I’ll mention before moving on to the video, they have 2 chihuahuas, anyone with chihuahuas are alright in my book. 🙂

I hope you enjoy watching this video as much as I did.


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Handmade home off the grid

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Meet Jesse, he lives in a tiny house in Maine, he built this himself and is quite ambitious – to live simply. I can appreciate how he lives, he is obviously a packrat (like I am), his little cabin is filled, stuffed to the rafters with stuff, but it’s not too much IMHO, though it if you are more of a minimalist, it might set your teeth on edge.



I like that he even builds some of his own tools, that’s the best way to learn, just jump in and try thing, if it works, great, if it doesn’t work, then you have the challenge of doing something different that does work. I love his pizza oven, I’d love to learn more about how he built it, it looks small and simple, something a person could do on a small scale.


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Late summer 2016 SkyCastle update

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Things are happening at the SkyCastle, as you may or may not know, late last winter I spilled a very large, very sweet cup of coffee (complete with melted marshmallows) into my laptop, I was able to get it rinsed out and dried pretty well, but things did not operate correctly after that, my keyboard pretty much died, I limped by using an external keyboard. Other things quit working or didn’t work right, I really hated to give that computer up, I had it set up just the way I liked it. Fortunately I had a Square Trade drops and spills accident warranty on it (I HIGHLY recommend them), I contacted them and they shot a prepaid return box to me, they had my computer the following day, then a few days later then let me know they couldn’t get parts quick enough so they cut me a check for what I paid for my laptop.

I hung on to the check for a while, not ready to buy another laptop yet and not wanting to take the chance of touching that money, I realized it was getting dangerously close to the time when the check wouldn’t be any good, I deposited it and began the process of picking out another laptop. Fast forward to now, and I’m writing this on my spiffy new laptop, an Acer Aspire E 15, 15.6 Full HD, Intel Core i7, NVIDIA 940MX, 8GB DDR4, 256GB SSD, Windows 10 Home, E5-575G-76YK. Not having my laptop meant I had to do everything on my tablet, that’s why my articles here have been so thin on words, it’s not easy to type on a small screen, especially the amount I like to write. 🙂 I’m still getting this setup like I like it, installing my old software and getting used to Windows 10.

So now to the rest of the update, this will be a video update of the west side of the SkyCastle, PB has been busy working on the roof area over the laundry room, it’s also the deck area (3rd floor) where the round tower is situated. We have wanted to make that a small nook like place where we could sit down and survey the neighborhood, maybe even have some friends over and some meals. The original roof leaked, and leaked badly, whenever it rained we would have to go in there and move things (my clothes mainly), put out buckets and plastic to protect what couldn’t be moved. That is all fixed now, PB used a product called Redguard on the new plywood he laid down, that is a paint on coating that is used in shower pans to waterproof the wood below it, the idea is to keep the wood from rotting should moisture get to it. Then he used wide flashing as the next layer, now we have to decide what to put on top of that, until then, we are careful when we walk up there as to not do any damage to the metal.

PB also put in a bump out on the front in the form of a semi-circular walk way that goes in front of the round tower, it gives a more castle like appearance. He also added a semi-circular wall below on the south facing side of the laundry room to match the profile of the round tower above, giving the appearance that it is one big round tower, he will continue that profile down to the ground, but that is for a future date to complete.

You will see in the video, I am walking up the stairs in the square tower (on the north or back side of the SkyCastle), the stairs are narrow, you can see as I walk up. I walk out onto the 3rd floor deck and around the round tower, then back down, I pause the camera as I walk down the steps and go out to the front of the SkyCastle. Next I show the updated face of where PB has been working.

Here is the video, hope you enjoy watching it, if you have any questions, please feel free to ask.


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Floating tiny home

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This is one of of the most interesting tiny home / floating homes I’ve ever seen! I love the look of this,  I could totally live in this.  I would have to put in some solar,  and I’d probably want it a bit more South, but other than that, it’s great…


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9 great places for a UK break

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Bring your Yurt or Camper Van or rent one from these sites below – to learn how you will cope with a longer, or total, off-grid experience. Many of the places below are in the South-West England – Britain’s off-grid heartland.


ENJOY a peaceful and secluded retreat at Driftaway, where there are just two fully equipped safari tents.

Everything is provided, including bedding and towels. Each tent can accommodate two adults and three children – or kids can sleep in a small tepee.

There’s a sink, gas cooker, wood burning stove, a washstand, plus two baskets of firewood and a toilet cabin. Two nights is from £250, based on five sharing (£25 pppn). To book, see

2. LOWARTH GLAMPING Wadebridge, Cornwall

SURROUNDED by fields in an area of outstanding natural beauty, the small and secluded Lowarth Glamping is an idyllic retreat for summer. The fully equipped Belle Tents have wood-burning stoves and a small kitchen annex, with cupboard, cool box and worktop area. Each is named after a wildflower, even if they look more like garlic cloves.

The site’s amenities are spotless and there’s a communal fire pit with cushioned seating for al fresco dining. There’s even a spa cabin for shiatsu treatments.

A seven-night stay during the school holidays in the Bluebell tent sleeping four people is from £540. See more at

3. LONGTHORNS FARM Wareham, Dorset

FOR a chilled-out, back-to-basics break, relax in a simple shepherd’s hut.

While shepherds would have made do with just basic furnishings, this version has a double bed, wood burner and kitchenette with traditional Dutch oven for cooking hearty stews.

There is also an outside fire pit – perfect for grilling and heating water.

For added authenticity, the farm even has its own herd of cows and alpacas. A seven-night holiday from August 7 costs £613. Check it out at

8. GRANGE FARM Newport, Isle of Wight

YOU don’t have to travel to the plains of Africa to see water buffalo – simply catch a ferry to the Isle of Wight for a stay at Grange Farm.

This working farm campsite, yards from the beach, allows children and adults to interact with a wide range of animals, from water buffalo, alpacas, micro pigs and common farm breeds.

Onsite amenities include free hot showers, a laundrette, shop and children’s playground.

Large pitches start from £423.50 for seven nights during the school holidays, based on eight sharing, working out at £7.56 pppn). See

3. BLACKBERRY WOOD Ditchling, East Sussex

THIS leafy site is well known for its quirky accommodation and in May unveiled a new fairytale treehouse.

It even has its own turret and terrace and there is space enough for a loft bed, shower room and kitchen.

Other ways to spend the night at the extraordinary Blackberry Wood include in your own double-decker bus or helicopter.

Three nights here from August 1 will set you back £735, based on four people sharing.

For further details, see


IF you have a taste for two-wheeled adventure, it’s worth aiming high – to the Highlands of Scotland.

Mountain bike facilities are second to none in Scotland and Glencoe Mountain Resort in the Highlands offers everyone a chance to improve their skills – with lessons from former junior European champion Sam Flockhart, no less.

Glencoe has bike trails of varying difficulty on site, from a basic Valley Trail all the way up to chairlift-accessed downhill Black Route.

Stay in a tiny microlodge with space for four, from £350 for seven nights, starting August 15. Bike coaching available on August 17 at £70 per person. For more information and to book, see


FOR the ultimate in kitsch cool, try this place with its classic tin-can Airstream caravans. All have been updated to make them cosy and welcoming, but many of the original features remain.

Another nice touch is the abandoned army truck in the kids’ play area. Prices start from £325 for a four-night stay from August 11, sleeping up to five. See

5. CAMP KATUR Bedale, North Yorks

IF you have a head for heights, this site offers a whole range of activities for all ages.

You can go quad-biking along woodland tracks, take a Segway tour, clamber over a giant adventure playground or check out the bushcraft area.

There is also a treetop adventure course with a climbing wall that leads to a rope bridge, which crosses to a zip wire that then flies you safely back down to the ground.

Prices start from £760 for a safari tent sleeping four, based on four nights from August 15. See


STAYin Branwen, a 1946 Austin truck sited on a traditional five-acre farm on the borders of Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire.

Inside, the decor is boho chic and you will find a comfy double bed, tables and chairs and a wood burning stove. Just outside is a cabin with loo and shower, plus a picnic table, barbecue and outdoor sink. The off-grid location provides a tranquil break.

Prices start from £70 per night for two (£35pppn), minimum two-night stay. Book at

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SkyCastle upgrade

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SkyCastle Upgrade

The SkyCastle is getting a facelift, or an upgrade, however you wish to look at it. This all started out from PB needing to repair the roof over the laundry room, it has leaked pretty much from day one, that’s one of the drawbacks of using used/recycled materials, sometimes it works great, other times, not so well.

The big round tower is actually a water tank, PB converted it into a storage closet, put a pointier roof on it and placed it on the 3rd floor deck over the laundry room. He had to break it loose and move it out of the way to replace each roof section. He pushed it over the front about 2 feet and decided he liked it there, it gave us more space on that deck area and he could make it look more castley (I know that’s not a word, but it is now LOL).

PB has worked the last few days to cover the area where we will be able to walk around the tower, I have another edited picture of what the west side will eventually look like.

I would say Photoshopped, but PB uses Paint to do his Photoshopping 🙂  Now we will have to get PB to work on the other side of the SkyCastle, it’s starting to look lopsided…

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The truth about solar

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The truth about solar

A current and interesting look at solar power today,we have truly come a long way. Of course battery technology is still pretty far behind, prices for solar panels have dropped significantly over the past few years making it affordable for more and more people,and the solar panel kits make it simple to get exactly what you want to get started.

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A woman living off grid

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As a woman living off grid, I can speak definitively about this. But apparently I’m not the average woman. Many women I speak to, they tend to say things like “that is wonderful but I could never live like that…”, I suppose they think I’m living like a cave woman. I can assure you that I do not live like a cave woman, but I am more comfortable with a level of primitiveness (is that even a word? It us now, LOL) that most city dwellers might not find pleasant.

I watched this video talking specifically about this subject, I will say that I personally agree with most of what they discussed, but some of it, we’ll IMHO I think they have some learning ahead of them.

Guys, this is where you can skip ahead or skip altogether if you wish, though if you are planning on bringing along some female company, these are things you will deal with directly or indirectly. Either way, you have been warned. 🙂

The monthly curse, I like the use of the menstrual cup, I have one, I’ve used it, but with my age comes that other M, menopause, so that is becoming less and less of an issue for me, and for that I am eternally grateful. The thing I personally don’t agree with is the requirement of a daily shower. Especially if you have limited water, if you have to haul it in and such. Of course if you have unlimited water, a well or some other source and have the fuel to heat the water, then daily showers are fine, but for many living off grid, it’s a luxury that is best saved up for when it’s more necessary.

For me, I’m quite happy taking a sponge bath everyday, I take a full on shower once a week or so, of course if I do something that makes me grimy, yes I’ll take a shower as needed. In the summer I’m likely to hop in the shower and just do a quick rinse between regular showers. But I do not require a daily, full on shower. No I don’t stink, I don’t look dirty, I do work in the public so I have to be presentable. I also don’t wear makeup or bling, it’s just my personal choice, to each their own. 🙂

Here is the video, watch and enjoy.

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Can I Know God And Believe What I Want?

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Can I Know God And Believe What I Want?

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“Reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle,” said President George Washington in his farewell address.

But Washington’s words can be more broadly understood as a good representation of how many Americans view religion — useful, respectable, good and honorable — although most Americans are vague in what they exactly mean by that. President Washington mentioned “providence” many times in his speeches and addresses, but rarely if ever explicitly mentioned Jesus Christ.

Indeed, this fits well with many Americans’ view of democracy: tolerant, inclusive and expansive. We would think people undemocratic who are sectarian and narrow-minded.

So, does it matter what you believe? Beyond believing in a providential Being who may have wound up the universe and is somewhere out there in it, does it really matter what you believe? If you are a good person and believe in a god and live a good life, does the “fine print” really matter?

We know that the details of what you believe matter in concrete things like believing whether to add a teaspoon or a cup of baking powder to a recipe, or mixing concrete with 12 parts water instead of 2 parts water.

But in the metaphysical realm, does it really matter what you believe?

For the answer to that question, we turn to 1 John 4:1-6. We will see that the Apostle John addresses if it matters what you believe and how you know what to believe.

1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. 4 Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. 5 They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. 6 We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.

1. It does matter what you believe (4:1)!

John says here to be careful what you believe. Christians believe there is an objective, real world besides this physical world — there a spiritual world. What John is saying here is that there are people who won’t tell you the truth about this spiritual world; they are misleading you and lying about the unseen world.

Christian Heroes For Christian Kids: These Amazing Stories Are Putting God Back Into History!

Is John paranoid to warn against false prophets? No. Actually, Paul, Peter and Jesus all warned believers several different times to beware of false prophets and lying teachers (2 Tim. 4:3-4; 2 Peter 1:16; Matt. 7:15-17, etc.).

Can I Know God And Believe What I Want?

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Christianity teaches that it matters greatly what you believe. What you believe isn’t simply on opinion for a nice, quaint discussion.  Rather, it is your belief about reality, the nature of man, the nature of God, the existence of sin and evil, and the purpose of life.

If you are irreligious, did you ever consider that what is true may not be obvious to you? Beware of a subtle arrogance that would tell you only your experience and perception and natural observations can tell you the truth about the world. Just because you don’t believe something is real or will happen doesn’t mean you are right. There can be many things that happen that you may believe shouldn’t happen or won’t happen, but do happen — illness, pregnancy or malnutrition.

As Christians, we must be aware and discerning, because it matters what we believe. Theology matters! What someone thinks about God affects how they respond to Him — either in repentance, trust and love, or in indifferent dismissal, ignorance and rebellion.

If you’re a Christian, you should be like the Bereans, searching the world of God to discern the truth (Acts 17:11). There are many, many false prophets in the world who aren’t your friend. These individuals speak falsely and don’t tell the truth.

We must be mature and test everything. Unbelief can be a mark of spirituality and Christian faith just as much as belief. We must test everything and be careful what we believe. Let us prove, test and validate ideas before we embrace them through the all-sufficient Bible. There are a lot of ideas that are dangerous.

Why should we work at better obeying what John is saying? So we can know God better through His Word and so we know God’s Word better and can more wholly follow Him.

Do you pursue this each day? Do you work to show your dependence on God and renew your mind (Rom. 12:1-2)?

2. How do we know what to test? (4:2-6) 

So we know we should test what people tell us to believe. But that begs a question: How do we test it?

How do we evaluate what we see and hear and are taught? What standards of judgment can a Christian use to examine teaching? How do we know who belongs to Christ?


John says we can test a person’s attitude toward Christ. John says there are anti-Christs in the world — that is, people who teach false things about Christ.

There has always been popular debate over Jesus’ physical appearance, coming to earth, and the time of His return. But the fundamental and most important debate is over Jesus’ identity. Those who deny the Son have neither the Father nor the Spirit. Every person — teacher, businessman, scribe, churched person or otherwise — who doesn’t acknowledge Jesus as fully God and fully man doesn’t know Him. Anyone who denies that Jesus is fully God and fully man is against Christ, having the nature of an anti-Christ.

This can’t be minimized: Christ is at the heart of Christian faith, not just of Christianity. Understanding the identity and work of Jesus Christ isn’t a time for creativeness or cleverness — it is a time for clarity.


The world here is not the physical cosmos, the created earth, or the terrestrial ball hurtling through outer space. The world here that John refers to is the system of people and spirits in rebellion against God’s rule. The simple fact is that man is by nature, fallen. We are naturally rebels. John is saying that worldly people listen to the world and buy-in to its lies, lust and rebellion. There is always a bustling market for false teaching.

Can I Know God And Believe What I Want?

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This understanding of the antagonism between the world and the truth is a fundamental difference between Christianity and Islam. Christians don’t believe that any amount of physical coercion can bring about spiritual conversion. There is no political order that can bring us back to God.  No, we’re by nature rebels and our best efforts are fallen and sinful.

Friends, we should never be surprised that the world doesn’t like Jesus. We should never be surprised that unsaved people are comfortable being “religious” and “spiritual,” but don’t like talking about the truth claims of Jesus. The world has never been and never will be a fan of Jesus. We shouldn’t expect secular sources to understand sacred truths.

Remember: The cross is a stumbling block to some and foolishness to others (1 Cor. 1:18-31). We shouldn’t expect authentic discipleship and worldly applause. We can’t follow Jesus and popularity. We follow a Savior who was killed because He was unpopular and controversial.

But John isn’t discouraged because of the world not liking Jesus. No, John is encouraged, saying that the believers to whom he is writing are of God and have overcome the system aligned against Christ.

How can John be so sure and hopeful, you ask? John was a monotheistic Jew who traveled with Jesus, learned from Jesus, and saw Jesus die. But most importantly, John saw this “Spirit in you,” the one “greater than the world,” raise Jesus from the dead. John already saw God’s Spirit overcome the death and the grave and wants his readers to understand that it is the same resurrection spirit who is at work in them.

Dear friend, what is your hope centered on? Is your hope centered on God’s Spirit alive and at work in your life? Is your hope centered on the church, victorious because of Christ’s work on the cross? Do you meditate on Christ being the Firstborn of the Dead, the first man to get up from the grave, and the forerunner of those to come?

As Christians, we have every reason to be hopeful because what we have before us is better than what we have behind us. This doesn’t mean that tomorrow will actually be a better day than some time last week. No, we look forward to the great day when we, too, will get up from the grave and know full, final victory over sin through Christ. The best of all is still to come. Our joy is built upon the rock of hope — Jesus — and what He has done on the cross. This is the truth John celebrates.


John says that those who belong to God follow the faithful people of God. Worldly people don’t listen to, obey and follow the faithful people of God.

What does this mean for you? No true Christian can be indifferent about doctrine. The Gospel has always been the bedrock of the church. False teachers are not listening to the Gospel and those who articulate it; they are perverting it.

Don’t let your feelings inform your doctrine; let your doctrine inform your feelings. Doctrine in the mind should never be dry in the heart, but should ignite our souls for God.

We must follow men and women who have been faithful to God’s Word. How do you respond to God’s Word? Are you willing to change how you live based on it? We cannot pick what we want to obey. We must submit and follow.

“Doctrine is useless if it’s not accompanied by a holy life. It’s worse than useless — it does positive harm.”

–J.C. Ryle

Life updates in west Texas

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20160519_141825Things have been going pretty well here in the SkyCastle, summer is definitely knocking, warm to hot days, cool to cold nights… The rainy season seems to be trying to start early. I even got caught in a fairly heavy hail storm last week between towns, I pulled over because I couldn’t see and the road was nearly white with ice. But a little farther and I cleared the storm OK.

I took my laptop to town to get it sent away for repair, I had spilled sweet coffee in it a few months ago, it finally quit booting up altogether. Fortunately I had purchased an oops drops & spills warranty through Square Trade, I am so impressed with them. They overnighted a box for me to return it in, complete with a prepaid return label.

I handed it to the FedEx driver at 3pm, Square Trade had it in Dallas the following day. A few days later, they said they might not be able to get the parts to fix it, then another few days later, they confirmed that fact, they immediately cut me a check for the purchase price I paid for it.

I emailed them to ask what they do with the data in the hard drive, they never replied to my email, but a few days later, I received a box that contained the hard drive! Yes, I am impressed and happy.

Now I have the task to pick out another laptop, I’ve been using my tablet, but for writing, it’s nowhere as easy to use, I can type fast on a regular keyboard, but on a tablet, I just don’t have those crazy thumb skills I see all the teens & 20somethigs doing.

In this same week, I finally got a haircut, it’s only been 2 years, the lady who does it is a jewel, Im sure we chatted longer than she worked on my hair… You can see my way picture above, a rare selfie showing off my new trim.

I hope to have my new laptop in hand in the next couple of weeks, I have some fun and serious things to do with it, more about that later.

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Modern old school wind power

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Wind power, here in the US and other countries, we use wind power on small and large scale, mostly to generate electricity, but the Dutch really harnessed wind power long before the era of electricity. As I watch these two videos, I see an orchestra of gears and cogs playing out a symphony of work in beauty, grace and power.

There is an elegant play of massive wood timbers and steel, pushing, pulling, vibrating, it’s almost a living thing, needing constant tending to tighten and loosen, to bring into and away from the wind. I am fascinated by how this works, and even though I’m a major homebody if I were to travel somewhere, I’d love to see one of these windmills in action.

And just for fun, this is about those iconic wooden shoes

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There are many things that motivate us, motivation is neither positive or negative, though many think of it as a positive thing, but it isn’t necessarily good or bad, it just is… let me give you an example, if you see a large rock rolling toward you, then you are motivated to move out of the way.

We humans tend to be lazy, we take the path of least resistance (much like electricity), often we aren’t motivated to move, or do something, even if it’s something we wish to do, until something happens to force us to act. What sorts of things tend to motivate you? Are you self motivated? Or do you wait for circumstances to force you to move?

I thought of something this week that really struck a chord, I want it to be my motivation to achieve my goals from now on. Let’s say you found you that you have a terminal disease and you are going to die tomorrow, there is nothing you can do to prevent this from happening, you have 24 hours to think about your life and what you have done with it. You take a piece of paper, you create 2 columns on the paper, in the first column you write “I’m glad I _________”, and in the second column you write “I wish I had ______________”, then you fill in the columns with what you are glad you did and what you wished you had done, not so much what you wish you could own, but what you wish you could have done.

Which column will be longer? I suspect it’s the second, “I wish I had…” column. You have the chance right now to create that page with your achievements and your wishes, don’t wait for some major life change to think about these things, the time is NOW, you will never get another NOW, each second is another NOW slipping by.

Why do I write so much about these things? It’s simple, I want you to live your dreams, if there is something you really want to do, then it’s up to you to do that, you have to figure out how to achieve your dreams, it’s easier to sit and live the life you are living now, living paycheck to paycheck, paying your bills, riding the treadmill of life, it’s time to step off of that treadmill and start living for yourself. What are your dreams?

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Hunting in the evening

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I went hunting tonight, my quarry is small and hard to find, unless you have the right equipment. I only bagged one this evening, it was a bit too cool for them to be very active, a young one was in my path and I stomped it to smithereens.

My quarry tonight was the not so humble scorpion. This is a creature that has plagued us since our first summer out here in the desert. I tend to be a live and let live kind of gal, but when they come into my house, fall on me (and my dogs) and sting, that’s when I declare war.

We don’t have the really painful (and deadly) ones, just the small brown ones, they do pack a punch though, I found out the hard way.

I know all the wild creatures out here have their place, but I’d rather they stay outside. We had our first scorpion of the season inside the SkyCastle just a few weeks ago, it was crawling across the ceiling and dropped right on Zoe’s nose, (one of my dogs), fortunately it didn’t sting her and she didn’t mess with it after she shook it off. And equally fortunately, we saw it happen and was able to put it out of its misery before it caused us any misery.

With the warmer weather comes the bugs, and we live in a very buggy place, it’s one of the things I like about winter, no bugs to speak of. But as soon as the weather warms up, especially at night, out they come. I even saw a couple of Junebugs, a whole month early, of course there are a plethora of moths and other flying & crawling critters that seek any crack or opening to come inside.

I knew that scorpions light up (fluoresce) under blacklight (UV light), they glow like a cheap kids toy, the great part is they don’t seem to know they are glowing and don’t try to get away, that gives me a few extra seconds to take aim with my boot. My light of choice is a 51 LED UV flashlight, it doesn’t seem to put out much visible light, which is a good thing, it puts out just enough visible light to be able to see where I’m walking, and when it hits a scorpion, the light that comes back is sooooo bright!

I haven’t actively hunted the scorpions in the past couple of years like I did the first year I started, I put a pretty good dent in their population that first summer. I don’t want to kill all of them, just the ones that are within striking distance of the SkyCastle. I suspect I’ll be doing much more hunting this year.

What is your nemesis in the warmer months?

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Updates on the SkyCastle

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Building up and across is what PB (Primitive Bob) likes to do, here is an update on 2 of his projects, works in progress, or Bobbage as we like to call it around here.

The first of the two is the bridge, it had been put on hold for most of the winter, the plan is to eventually be able to drive across it, for now it’s a walking bridge. To recap, the frame of the bridge was made from the frame/chassis of a defunct mobile home that was being dismantled up the road from us. It was pulled across the seasonal creekbed, PB added some plywood decking so we could walk across it. The support beneath is concrete that is dug down quite far into the creekbed, it has already withstood some heavy storms and the accompanying water deluge.

We had a shorter trailer that was used to bring the last load of our stuff from the DFW area of TX to our west TX home, PB hauled that frame over the bridge and extended the bridge quite a bit. As you can see from the pictures he didn’t have any room for mistakes, the wheels were only touching the edges of the bridge by a few inches. But in true Bobbage he did it, all by himself, he tends to wait until I’m gone to work to do these things.


You can read more about the bridge here
The second project is hardening the front door, making it even more castle like. PB wanted the stairs to draw up and by golly, he has done it. Not only do they draw up, you can do it one handed thanks to the counter weight. Of course, like everything else, this is a work in progress. There are essentially two doors, one glass door, then the stairs then a heavy wooden gate, the stairs-once raised become sandwiched between the two doors.

Here are PB’s own words describing this feat of engineering
“This was a test to see if I could raise the steps and film it all without falling off the porch. Success! A little refinement and clean up and it’ll be in the history books. The chain and sheave blocks will be replaced with a streamlined counter weight soon, probly a 4 inch pipe stub,12 inches long filled with sand. The ‘C’ clip came loose in one bearing. The glass door in the video is dirty/foggy, so that birds and dogs and old white guys can see it. I’ll try to get a better video soon. (the glass door must be closed to raise the steps)”

Watch the video and enjoy, I especially love the sound of the stairs moving up and down, sounds like a creepy old scary movie 🙂

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She built this

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It’s said that necessity is the mother of invention, well this mom and her three young kids were very much in need of a place to call their own and a purpose & direction. After her divorce, Kelly Lewis decided to build her very own tiny home, she did get help with the shell and a few other things, but for the most part, she and her young children did the majority of the work. Watch and enjoy 🙂

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What are you waiting for?

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I hear so many folk saying what they’d like to be doing, they want to go off grid, they want to be more self sustainable, they want to have a smaller footprint… they want and want, but never seem to do, they often dream but stop short of actually taking the steps necessary to achieve their dreams.

There are excuses, many more excuses than reasons to move ahead, often it’s a matter of waiting for something to happen so they can move forward, waiting for that raise, that promotion, the summer to arrive, getting kids raised, getting kids through college, retirement… and in all that waiting, time is going by, that is the one thing you can never get back. Time is irreplaceable, it cannot be added to or subtracted from, it can, however, be wasted.

There are many important things to do in life, but waiting for something shouldn’t become your normal status. I’m not saying you should dump everything and move to the woods, I am saying that if you want to achieve something, no matter what it is, if it’s something you can’t do all at once, then start moving toward it. Start taking steps to achieve your goals, even if they are baby steps, DO IT.

I saw a Facebook meme, it said “At this moment, you are as old as you have ever been, and as young as you ever will be again”, those are profound and true words.

How much time are you wasting (losing forever) waiting for some THING to happen, how long will you put your dreams on hold? What are you dreams? What are you doing to achieve them? Let me know below.

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Mobile homeless

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I write quite a bit about tiny homes, both on and off wheels, many choose to live this lifestyle in tiny accommodations, some of the fortunate ones have property to plant their tiny homes, others rely on their friends or family to park their homes.

Unfortunately there are those who are living this way against their will, living in their cars, living in vans and campers, often it’s financial reasons, loss of a job, health issues, divorce or other life altering conditions.

This video shows a few families and singles who are one step away from living on the streets, I say one step away because at least they have a vehicle or camper to live in, they truly aren’t ON THE STREETS, yet.

Even though the video is a bit dated, it still illustrates what can happen to any of us, many of us are just one paycheck away from being on the streets, even those who have good jobs, it can happen in a heartbeat.

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Why not leave them alone?

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I have to be brutally honest here, I am generally against squatters, particularly if it is on private land, I have lots of reasons, but the biggest reason is all too often, squatters tend not to be careful or respectful of the property, trashing it, sometimes doing other illegal things there and the such. But when I read this story, I was blown away.

Image from

Image from

This was the first time I thought, “Why not leave them alone?”. They aren’t hurting anyone, their camp was clean, apparently not even a trail in the surrounding area was created by this mystery person. As always there is more than one side to such stories, upon reading further, I did learn that there was potential for this person to be injured or even killed because trees were being marked to be cut down, as well camouflaged as the cabin was, there was the possibility of a tree falling on the cabin.

Image from

Here’s the story, a forest ranger stumbled upon this well hidden and tidy cabin while marking trees to be cut down. No one was home (Goldilocks anyone?), he left an eviction notice on the door, about 2 weeks later, he revisited the cabin, it was clear that things were being moved out, the following day the site was clear, cleaned and near pristine, no clear trails were visible from this person. The only thing that was left was an international squatters symbol created from charcoal that means a squatter was here, created a living space, then moved on.

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You can read more about this story here
and here

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What is it? Look to find out…

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Kind of cabin, kind of small house, kind of cave-underground home, this house has it all. I love the color concepts and the design of the home. This truly is a man cave, but in the most tasteful way.



And the views from this tiny abode, well you just have to watch to believe.

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Hobbit house vs high tech underground homes

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These two videos demonstrate the vast differences you can get in an underground home, personally I prefer the more rustic home, I don’t think I would ever be comfortable in a modern structure, they are too sterile and cold for me, but each person has ideas about how they wish to live.

This first video shows a very rustic hobbit style underground home, in fact you can’t stand upright inside the main space, I would want to be able to stand up, but wouldn’t require extra headroom besides that.

The second video here showcases more modern underground homes, enjoy!

What do you think? Would you live underground? Would you prefer rustic or modern?

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Small is the new large

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Since moving off grid, many of my day to day things have had to be downsized, my fridge for one, I went from having a full size, side by side with ice maker to a small chest type freezer to fridge conversion. The large fridge and even the small dorm size units used too much power for our small system. One thing I discovered along the way, when I had a full size fridge, I tended to store leftovers in it until it was time to throw them away, I am forced to be more frugal with the smaller box now.

But the biggest thing I have downsized on is my computer. I used to build computers as a hobby, a serious hobby, I could tear down and rebuild a tower from the ground up. I knew we wouldn’t have the power necessary to run all the computer equipment I used to have so I went to a laptop, that was mentally difficult, guys think going from a Harley to a kid’s bicycle, that’s what it felt like to me.

I did eventually embrace my laptop, even though there was very little I could do to it to improve it, short of adding a bit of memory. I have gone through 3 laptops since moving out here. I am looking at getting #4 soon.

Last year, I discovered the joys of tablets. I wouldn’t have gotten one, except that I needed one to do my job in merchandising. I quickly discovered I could do most of the things I did on my laptop each day but the really great thing is they use so little power! I generally only boot up my laptop 2-3X a week now, preferring to do most things on my tablets.

I can go to bed with my tablet next to me, falling asleep watching Downton Abbey via Amazon Prime without worrying about draining my small solar system. In fact, I generally leave the internet running 24-7 now, something I never did before. I’ll turn it off if no one is going to be at the house, but that is a rarity.

That tablet is an 8 inch Samsung Galaxy Note 8, I purchased it factory refurbished, paying a small percentage of what they cost new. I love the size, bigger than a phone, but still portable, with a screen that is comfortable to view.

I have since acquired a larger tablet, a 12 inch Galaxy Note Pro, I use it for some photo editing and such, but honestly I prefer my smaller tablet for day to day use. Yes, these are older technology, but for me they work just fine.

Now I’m asking those who have gone off grid, what and how have you downsized? Do you like it, does it work for you? I’d love to hear your ideas 🙂

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Blog update and family visit

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This week has been a really good one, work is picking up after our slow down that happens during the holidays, I got my original work partner back after her hiatus, I’ve enjoyed working with her on our team jobs in merchandising this past couple of weeks. The really nice thing is I don’t have to train anyone new and I know the work will be done right.

The other good news is PB’s long lost brother showed back up in his life, this is a half brother, and blended families often have extra problems, fortunately it seems that much of that is water under the bridge and they are getting to pick up their relationship. Both PB’s brother and his wife came out for a visit this weekend, of course any new visitors to the SkyCastle can be a strain, not because of them, but because the SkyCastle is such a different place, nothing is standard, everything has to be explained, demonstrated and sometimes done for them.

One example of our strangeness is the hot water tap in the kitchen, because it’s an on demand propane water heater, if the hot water is getting too hot, you turn the hot tap on more. It’s counter intuitive, but that’s how it works, then there’s the bathroom, the nearest “flush” toilet is at the neighbor’s house, here you “go” in a bucket, and it’s composted, something not many folk want to deal with.

Turned out they weren’t able to actually get to the property on this trip, so we went to them in town and spent the last 2 days getting to know them. We had a really good time and look forward to future visits. Turns out that she and I have some things in common, art, writing and a major interest in photography. Her iPad ran out of battery and was having trouble charging up, I suspect it had a lot to do with the fact that there is very little to no wifi or phone signal and that runs the battery down on a phone or tablet very quickly. So I used my tablet to take the pictures for them, I’ll be sending the pictures to them soon.

We played tourist, visiting the areas around here, going to the local observatory, eating out a lot, driving the scenic loop, trying not to hit the local wildlife in the process… It was all quite good, but it’s time for them to head back home, and it’s time for us to get back into the rhythm of life.

Hope your weekend went well. Did anything fun or interesting happen?

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Humor, off grid

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Living off grid, much of our entertainment is self generated, in other words, we crack ourselves up 🙂 A couple of days ago, this conversation could be heard at the SkyCastle

PB: What is the stuff they make down pillows and blankets from?
Me:… uhhh, down?
PB: No, the material?
Me: Ohhh, I think it’s called ticking…
PB: Yes, I need some clothes made from ticking…
Me: Hahaha, your clothes are ticking…
PB:… but then I couldn’t fly on an airplane…

Guess you had to have been there… 🙂

So today I did a search for “off grid hacks” on YouTube, this video was in the first few that showed up, it’s quite amusing as well as informative. It’s “10 things we wished we had known before going off grid”, they are quite cute with their deadpan faces explaining what some might think of as obvious, though honestly I think these would be “mistakes” many of us would make. My short list of “what I wish we had done differently” will be listed below the video, below…

I agree about carrying water is the worst, maybe not the complete worst, not having water would be worse, it’s what we did the first few months (carrying water) so I can completely understand where they are coming from. Another thing I wish we had known before is how we were going to ultimately use the space inside the SkyCastle. Of course when we first started, we had one room, 16’X16′, it was our everything room, we made the best of the space we had, but I would have liked to better plan the layout instead of it growing so organically.

I wish we could have planned on the storage of our future building materials, we got things here and there, mostly things people were throwing away, over the years it has grown like a weed, we have stacks of this and that here and there, it could be neater.

I also wish we could have planned on the out buildings better, things that were suppose to be temporary end up being more permanent that first planned, this is mentioned in the video about temporary things becoming permanent, that is so true, so don’t build something in a place where you might wish it wasn’t…

I think of the things we brought with us when we first moved out here, we tried to anticipate what things we might not be able to get out here, it’s funny to look back on that, what goes through my mind is “what were we thinking?”, things like empty jars and bottles (with lids), plastic grocery bags, yes grocery bags, we weren’t planning on buying much from the store and figured we could use those extra bags for other things…

Well, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it 🙂 I certainly don’t regret anything about our life, we have settled into a comfortable routine, living off grid is natural to me, normal, I love it.

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Tiny home in 40 days

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Pascal and Catherine built their tiny home in 40 days and live in it as their second home. This tiny home is very cute and has thoughtful touches to make the tiny space seem bigger, th001 I personally like the white along with the wood, it looks clean & sleek. I also love the tiny wood burning stove.


You can learn more and follow them here

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Three things this week

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First thing, as I sit here tonight, sipping herbal tea that tastes like a sugar cookie, it’s quite a different night from last night, for one thing, it’s quiet, all I hear is the hum from the inverter fan and the clicking of my fingers on the keyboard.

Last night, the wind blew, it blew really hard, at some points I wondered how the roof would stay attached. I’m certain we had gusts of near 70 MPH, as I lay in bed watching videos on my tablet, it was loud enough outside that I had trouble hearing the tablet’s tiny speakers. PB was under the SkyCastle, I heard a loud crash on the roof of the bedroom. It sounded big and it sounded as if it broke up into pieces when it hit. We never did figure out what it was, there was no visible damage the next morning and nothing laying around that looked like it could be the thing that hit the roof.

It’s difficult for us to have a fire in the wood stove when it’s that windy, the wind tends to blow the smoke back into the house, fortunately it was a rather warm night, well warmish, I had the windows open but was wearing my cold weather nightwear, 2 layers, thermal underwear and flannel PJs. This morning we discovered new items in the yard, things that blew in from the neighbor’s properties, I found out that some of my neighbor’s didn’t fare as well as we did, one lost a carport, another lost their trampoline. Yet another neighbor wrote on Facebook about how we can’t leave things out like ladders leaning against the building or anything else that can become airborne.

We are supposed to have another couple of high wind days coming up, it hasn’t hit yet, but there are fire dangers because of the wind and how dry it is, a spark is all it would take and we could be in real trouble.

Second thing, work has been picking up, as promised after the first of the year, our bigger merchandising projects are starting to show up. I had been trying to find someone to take one of the two farther towns I travel to each week, Presidio. We have hired several folk over a period of time but none of them seem to work out for very long, this seems to be the type of work you either love or hate.

I learned that the lady who used to work with me expressed an interest in coming back, she wanted Presidio, that is perfect, I can happily hand that town over to her, there will be no training time and no worries about her ability to do the work, it’s a win-win situation. She will either start this week or the following week.

The third and final thing that has happened this week, I spilled a large cup of hot, very sweet coffee on my laptop, bummer! It even had melted marshmallows, they stuck nicely between the G and H keys. My laptop was in hibernate mode, I turned it over, wiped as much as I could out of the keyboard, then made an executive decision, I knew that what was wet was already wet, I was worried about the sticky sweet syrup, after removing the battery, I sprayed water with a spray bottle into the keys, wiping it as it dripped out. I figured it would be better to try to get the sugar liquid out than to let it dry inside.

I let the laptop sit for 3 days, open, upside down, not knowing if it would boot up or not. Fortunately it booted right up, but about half of the keys don’t work, the number pad doesn’t work at all, I’m sitting here typing on an external keyboard that I bought for PB about a year ago. I am going to try taking the laptop apart and see how much I can clean out and if that will work. If it doesn’t, then I suppose it will be time for a new computer…

How was your week? Good I hope, let me know what you did.

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Living in a greenhouse

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I’m sure I’m not the only person who ever wondered how it would be to build a greenhouse around your house, these folk in Stockholm Sweden did just that. It looks quite ingenious, and even pretty. I love the plants they have growing, the fig tree for example, there is no way they could grow that without it being inside a greenhouse, and the tomatoes look fabulous! Most people don’t know this, but tomatoes can be an perennial plant if the weather is mild enough in the winter.

The area where they live is normally just a summer getaway for most, but with the greenhouse around their home, they can stay there year round in comfort. I imagine it was not a cheap venture, but the money they save on heating in the winter will eventually pay for itself, and the fact that they are more self sufficient with growing food (plants) year round, it must all add up.

Here is a video showing this home, enjoy!

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He was my inspiration

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Tribute to Dan Haggerty as Grizzly Adams-artist Bennett Klein

I grew up in a family that did things together, we didn’t have the money to spend on vacations or trips, but we always ate meals together, and we watched good TV shows as a family. I fondly remember watching PBS, nature and science shows, we also loved watching Grizzly Adams.

Even at such a young age, I decided that was the way I wanted to live, in a small cabin, on a mountain side, in the woods, with few people around, and lots of animals. Each week I looked forward to sitting in front of the TV and studying how he lived, how he hunted, how he survived. Of course I understood it was just a TV show, but it was as close as I could get at the time to living my dream.

I was saddened to hear that Dan Haggerty died from cancer, I still picture him in that cabin, young, in the peak of health, that’s what we do to our entertainment icons, we freeze them in place, and see them at the same age as they were when their shows aired.

I believe his portrayal of the character Grizzly Adams must have inspired many other people to want to live like that, in freedom, away from the rigors of city life, in the wild, with your own two hands doing what was needed to survive and thrive.

You can watch the show here, I just watched and for a little while, I’m a little girl again, full of hope and dreams.

The picture at the top was created by a wonderful artist, Bennett Klein, he created a beautiful tribute to Grizzly Adams and Dan Haggerty, and was very kind to give me permission to use his image, thanks Bennett! Click here to see more of Bennett’s artwork.

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Iron age reality show

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The original reality show, filmed in 1978, 12 adults and 3 children were chosen from around 1000 volunteers to live in the “iron age”, they lived this way for 1 year, fully immersed and living the life.

The nice thing is they weren’t in competition with each other, no one was “voted” off, they lived and worked together as if it were the iron age. It also interviewed the people some 30 years later and how it affected their lives.


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No debt

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No Debt

As I watched this video, listening to Karen and Bob describing their life in the home they built themselves, the one phrase that really jumped out at me was “no debt”. That was their main motivation. I know (from personal experience) that they did most if not all of the work themselves, which is one of the biggest money eating parts of building, you would have to buy the materials anyhow, but doing the work yourself means YOU know what is in your place, no one else has cut corners unknown to you, I think it’s great!

I love the look and style of their home, it is warm and inviting. Watch and enjoy.

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School teacher’s tiny home build

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Tiny home

When I was a little girl, my dad had converted our single car wide garage in our home into a dining room on one end and my bedroom on the other end. He built in a small closet, I remember taking everything out of the closet and pretending that space was my home, my hideaway. I would climb into the top shelf of the closet, that was the best spot, it felt safe and it was all mine.

I get that same feeling when I look at these tiny homes, of course they have lots more room than my little closet, but the sentiment is the same, it’s safe and it’s yours.

This tiny home is a real custom job, created over a period of years using about 80% recycled, repurposed material, working on weekends and summers, Ian and Jessie put together a really interesting home. I love the kitchen since they used full sized equipment, I could really cook there.

The one place where they deviated from most tiny homes is the toilet, many prefer using composting toilets, theirs is a plumbed flush toilet, I suppose you have to draw the line somewhere, and that was their line (grin).

I like the use of windows, light and the high ceiling to give the feel of more space than is actually there. Watch the video and enjoy this tiny home.

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Freezing week

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Snow in the Mountains

A great deal of the USA went through a major deep freeze, we were not spared here in far west Texas. We got dumped on with snow, it snowed as far south as Presidio, an area where one rarely needs more than a light jacket in winter. There were road closures from highway 10 all the way down to Presdio. Fortunately it happened over a weekend, and a holiday weekend as well. We had plenty of notice, and for me it was a payday weekend, I was able to stock up on some comfort food (soups, chili and the such), we were also able to stock up on some extra fire wood, we went through a LOT of firewood over those icy, snowy days and nights.

It’s funny because the Friday and Saturday before, the temps were getting up into the 70s F, T-shirt weather, but halfway through the day on Saturday, the wind changed direction and the temps dropped like a rock. PB and I were out by the road talking to a friend when the first few snow drops fell, yes I said drops, not flakes. These were marble sized, rounded snow drops, heavy, wet and hitting hard. The rest of the night and the following day, it snowed pretty much non-stop, we ended up with 6-8 inches of heavy, wet snow.

Normally our snow out here is powdery, dry and light, not this time. But all in all, it wasn’t a bad long weekend. My boss, who lives in Lubbock and got nearly a foot of snow, emailed everyone in the district to let us know we shouldn’t try to go out on the roads if it wasn’t safe, I didn’t even try to venture out until Tuesday afternoon. By then, the snow had pretty much melted off the roads and our dirt roads were dry enough to drive on without slipping and sliding.

Today, over a week later, there are still some patches of snow in the protected nooks and crannies out here, I am a little disappointed that I didn’t venture out and snap some pictures, but it was just too cold for me, too cold and too wet, I much prefer the powdery stuff that doesn’t stick to you and taps off of your boots. Yes, I’m getting to be a bit of a wimp, but with PB keeping the SkyCastle warm, the good food I cooked and warm dogs to snuggle with, I really had no interest in going outside during this snow event.

Fortunately, PB snapped a few pix.


Snow on the solar panels

Depth of the snow in a chair


Lots of snow

SkyCastle in snow

View from the bedroom

Break time


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Chopping and stacking wood

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suprise wood-splitChopping and stacking wood is a pastime where the world makes sense once more. Because our relationship to fire is so ancient, so universal, it  in learning about wood, you can also learn about life.  As well as this more philosophical approach, there are a host of practical issues to attend to.

Assuming you have access to a source of wood – your own or someone else’s – some basic questions you should ask yourself before cutting are:

. Which trees should I cut?

. When is a good time to cut the trees?

. Should I dry, then split, or split the wood first?

. Will I ruin my woods/lot by cutting out trees for firewood?

Before you begin the firewood process, think about all you want from your woods/lot. Cutting firewood works for most owners, but where some trees might be good choices to cut for firewood, others might be left for use by wildlife, or to keep for landscaping or property value reasons.

When you inspect your trees for firewood, you should look for trees with evidence of disease, like cankers, bleeding lesions, and dieback in the crown. Crooked or densely arranged hardwoods often benefit by thinning, and make good firewood.

The trees selected to remain standing, should be clearly marked as “keepers” to help you monitor your progress as a property owner. You might want to take a closer look at trees that are acting as a wind-break, or as a stream or hillside soil retainer. Consult with a forester or arborist to determine if certain trees have a greater value left standing than as firewood.

Plan your firewood removal process to maximize chainsaw safety by planning out which trees to cut first, and to provide room to fell other trees afterward. If you decide to do this yourself, you should work with a partner and keep each other in clear communication and visual contact, to prevent accidents.

Trees with crown dieback may drop major limbs during the cutting process. It is also advised to check and mark trees in the late spring where you can easily see the dead branches against the green emerging leaves.

Also, before you start, you should consult with the city, county or subdivision codes/regulations to make sure that you are not on a variance or there is some other restriction. Checking with utility companies if any poles or lines are in the area is also a highly advisable.

Remember to look up first before you cut. Many trees grown close to, or may fall on electrical or telephone wires and cause serious damage to your property or neighbors. Along these same lines, check and make sure a tree will not fall on fences, water tanks/troughs, outbuildings, etc. before you cut. If any of these situations are present, you should consult or hire a professional.

Indoor wood stoves/fireplaces should be supplied with only fully seasoned hardwoods like sugar and red maples, hickory, oak, ash, beech, hornbeam, locust and pecan. Softer trees like birch, willow, silver maple and pines should be burned only sparingly, if at all. Thus, your firewood tree scouting efforts should focus only on those species that burn hot and long.

For campfires, there are no restrictions on which species of trees can be burned as campfire wood. However, using fully seasoned wood will reduce the smoke generated. Avoid fresh wood of any kind, as it will have too much water embedded in the wood to burn well. Again, avoid burning diseased trees, or trees that have been sprayed with insecticides or other chemicals.

Once a tree is felled and cut into pieces sized to fit the wood stove or fireplace, it should be split as soon as possible. Green wood splits more easily than dried wood, and the smaller pieces will dry out faster than intact round logs. Cut out notches and burls that will be difficult to split.

For household use, an 8-pound splitting maul or borrowed/rented log splitter are usually more economical than purchasing a log splitter. It will take practice to learn to read the grain, cracks, and knots that make firewood splitting easier. Use a splitting block to stabilize logs you are striking with a maul and always wear eye or other safety protection

A full cord of wood is a 4-foot-by-8-foot-by-4-foot stack. Keep firewood dry, off the ground, and stacked so air can circulate. In the Piney Woods, it is also a good idea to be able to check your stack for snakes and other “critters” that might be using your stack as a home or resting place.

Also, avoid stacking wood on your porch or close to the side of a house or cabin, as this invites ants, termites, other insects. As well mice can be a problem if firewood is stored too close to the house. To keep insects and ‘critters’ out of your firewood, it should be stored outdoors away from the house and under a shelter or tarp. Also avoid storing the wood in the forest or wooded area where wood-eating insects could nest in your firewood.

Firewood that is fully dried yields the most heat, and is the safest to burn. Firewood should be seasoned to complete dryness under a shelter for at least one full year. Trees that were cut for firewood this summer will be ready to burn now only if fully dried. Dry wood burns efficiently, has fewer insect problems, and will minimize creosote accumulation in your chimney.

Only bring in enough firewood for a day or two. Before bringing wood inside, remove the loose bark flaps and inspect the wood for insects or signs of insects (holes that have been bored), and check hollow logs for mouse nests. Wood infested with insects should be split into thin segments to remove the insects, and then used for kindling. Any insects accidentally brought indoors should be swept up or removed with a vacuum and insecticides should never be used to kill insects on your firewood.

Norwegian Wood: Chopping, Stacking, and Drying Wood the Scandinavian Way by Lars Mytting

 Who better to impart this wisdom than a Scandinavian wood-head, where the extreme climate has obliged generations to hone and share their skills with tools, wood and heat production.

Lars Mytting has distilled the wisdom of enthusiasts, from experienced lifelong growers, stackers and burners to researchers and professionals of combustion and tree culture. Part guide to the best practice in every aspect of working with this renewable energy source, part meditation on the human instinct for survival, this definitive handbook on the art of chopping, stacking and drying wood in the Scandinavian way has resonated across the world.

Chopping and stacking wood, Mytting believes, “is a very healthy thing to do for a modern person”. “So much of our life is based on a digital lifestyle. Chopping wood is so extremely different,” he said. “It’s a hands-on experience, which is only you, with simple tools, and very organic material – old trees that have spent up to 200 years growing, that are heavy and stout and really give you resistance when you chop them. It gives you a reward that is exactly equal to the effort you put into it.”  Whether you are a seasoned woodcutter, or your passion is yet to be kindled, Norwegian Wood is a great fireside read.

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Do you see what I see?

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There are many things we can live without and still do pretty well, but eyesight isn’t one of them. I know there are many folk who live with limited or no sight, but living independently is near impossible without good vision.

As I am getting older, I have noticed my eyesight going south, it’s not terrible, but I have used readers for a number of years, and my night vision has been something troublesome for more years than I like to admit. I can see OK at night, but lights bother me when I drive, street lights, oncoming traffic, I noticed I was getting “dazzled” by lights at night while driving, nothing that would stop me from driving, but definitely something that bothered me.

A few months ago, I flashed my brights at an oncoming car out on a lonely dark road, I felt like they had their brights on, that car turned around on the highway and came back toward me, I thought that I had really ticked someone off and was getting prepared to defend myself. Then the red and blue lights came on, turned out I had flashed a highway patrol car. He was very polite, and I was very contrite, I didn’t get a ticket, just a warning. That’s when I decided I needed to do something about my night vision in particular.

After a bit of research, I settled on 2 (technically 3) supplements for my eyes. The first is Bilberry, after taking it for a good week, I added a Lutein & Zeaxanthin combination, I had read the reviews and many said after using the 3 together, they noticed a difference within a week, I didn’t know if I believed that, but I’m going to tell you that after taking the 3 for a week, I noticed a difference, specifically in my night vision! The biggest change was the fact that lights, oncoming traffic and streetlights no longer bothered my eyes. If that is all it does, I’ll be happy with those results, but I’m expecting even more results as I continue to take them.

According to, Bilberry has a long medicinal history in Europe. It has been used to treat anything from kidney stones to Typhoid fever. During World War 2 British pilots noted that Bilberry jam before a flight dramatically improved night vision. Modern research now supports these claims.

WebMD says Lutein and Zeaxanthin protect the eyes from harmful high-energy light waves, such as some ultraviolet rays in sunlight. Studies suggest that high levels of lutein and zeaxathin in eye tissue are associated with better vision, especially in dim light or where glare is a problem.

I am absolutely a believer now, fortunately these are inexpensive supplements, especially for their benefit. Have you tried these? If so, how has it worked for you?

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Free energy

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Manoj Bhargava
A few years before we moved off grid, I had discovered an energy drink that I liked and worked, it was 5 Hour Energy, I didn’t use it often, but when I needed it, it worked very well for me. It hadn’t been out on the market very long and wasn’t available like it is now, the only place I could find it was in a Vitamin Shoppe store, and they only got in a very few each week. I would go in and buy out all they had, there was another person who did the same thing, it got to the point where the manager at the store would tell me if I had gotten there first or the other person. 🙂 As a result that store eventually began carrying a larger stock, but it was still hard to find.

I wanted to buy it direct from the company but they didn’t sell to the end user yet, I talked a local stop and grab store near us into carrying it shortly after that, I assured him that once people tried it, they would buy it. I am happy to see that now it’s available everywhere. What I didn’t know until yesterday is the founder and CEO of 5 Hour Energy is even more brilliant and wonderful than I could have guessed. I feel even better about buying 5 Hour Energy knowing I am helping to contribute to such a great cause.

Manoj Bhargava is using his financial success to give back to the world, one building in his compound where they make 5 Hour Energy is an experimental test lab, they play and create many interesting and useful items, the three they discuss in the following video are a free energy bike, a water purifier, and a medical device that seems to work on many problems. Of course the thing that caught my eye was the free energy bike. While not a new concept, Bhargava’s team put together a simple system using a reclining/recumbent bike, a flywheel, a generator and a battery. They claim that you can pedal for one hour and have power for 24 hours, I’m not sure how much it can power, I’m sure it’s probably for a small system, a few lights, a cell phone, a tablet, a fan… I suspect it could be enlarged, add more batteries. Well I’m just dreaming now.

Watch the video and learn about Manoj Bhargava and his wonderful inventions.
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Brad Pitt’s latest role: a smart off-gridder

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Brad Pitt is the smartest man in Hollywood, says the Toronto Globe and Mail. Scoff away, but it’s true. Not many people could have massaged The Big Short, Michael Lewis’s chewy book about the 2007 financial crisis, into a comic drama – especially with a writer-director, Adam McKay, who’d only made Will Ferrell comedies. It’s full of mortgage jargon. Its heroes are villains – sure, they’re smart enough to see the meltdown coming, but they profit from it.

McKay’s comic and clear-eyed adaption has a handful of finance speculators predicting a downturn in the housing market only to realize, to their horror and immense profit, that they’ve effectively bet against America, and won.

It’s a rollicking, outrage-fueled odyssey through the financial collapse of 2008, from the carefree offices on Wall Street to the subdivisions in Florida, that gradually reveals not just a market bubble but a colossally bankrupt system and a nation that blissfully teetered into absurdity.

It was made into a film largely thanks to Pitt’s clout. His production company, Plan B Entertainment, provided financing that saw it through a long development process. Then he secured the rest of the funds by taking a small (but pivotal) role as Ben Rickert, the smartest of the smartypants, who saw the crisis coming, got out and is now living off the grid, growing his own food.

The film stars Steve Carrell, Ryan Gosling and Christian Bale, but “Brad’s presence in the film was key,” McKay said at a recent screening in Toronto.

“He knew he had to play a real role.” He did it for the right reasons, too: The financial world is as dodgy as ever, and Pitt says so on every red carpet he walks.

You could argue that a megacelebrity who craps from his aerie on how other people make money is a hypocrite. But Pitt is “not just the smartest guy in town,” McKay says. “He’s also the most generous guy. He wants to address the poverty gap. He builds houses for people. He genuinely cares.”

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Blustery December

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Winter is officially here, we have had a few hard freezes, it even snowed a bit the other day, fortunately the snow and other weather doesn’t tend to last long out here in the high desert, I always look forward to the sun coming out and warming up into the 50s, 60s and even the 70s (F). Of course it almost always cools off as soon as the sun goes down, and going into fall, I have to remember to take a jacket with me when I go anywhere, even if it’s warm out during the day, because guaranteed once the sun goes below the mountain, the temps drop like a rock.

This week has been a bit chaotic weather wise, we have had some 70+ degree days, but they warned of a cold front coming in along with some rain, and wind. Lots and lots of wind. And wind we got, it reminded me of our first year out here, the difference is the SkyCastle is hardened against the wind now and doesn’t shake and rattle like it did. But I’ll tell you, that first year, even the first few months were a trial for us, the wind out here does try to scour you off the mountains.

I read on Facebook, an internet friend of mine near Presidio lost her chicken coop and lots of fencing, the wind just snapped it right off, I saw the pictures and it was quite a mess, but later she posted that all chickens were accounted for even though they were free range all night in the blowing wind.

We did receive some damage ourselves, it was the covered area where we like to sit in the summer, PB built a hoop style covering, in the past we used tarps on it to make shade, but the tarps only last one season (because of the wind). Last year PB replaced the tarps with metal sheathing that was scavenged from an old shed. It worked very well and made a very nice place to sit and relax.
Sitting spot

This latest windstorm pushed the whole thing right over, it also blew a few of our lighter plastic chairs away, we will go collect them from the neighbor’s property soon. Now we are debating on moving that sitting area closer to the SkyCastle, maybe in a more sheltered place, though I do like the view where it is now. We have plenty of time to decide before next spring.

Sitting spot

The wind is still gusting, but I’m not complaining, it’s just part of living in the wilds, and it’s true, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. 🙂

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