Going old school batteries

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The Achilles’ heel of every off gridder has got to be the battery bank. It is generally the most expensive part of the system, especially if you are going big, but for even those of us who run a small system, the batteries are the part that are the most problematic as well as expensive.

I am hard on my batteries, I freely admit it, I run them down on a regular basis, I have gone though 3 sets of deep cycle batteries in 9 years. I have never had a large system, 2-4 batteries at most, fortunately we have never needed a large system, we run a few lights, radio, laptop, tablet, cell phone, router and internet antenna, a 12 volt water pump, a few fans and the biggest energy eater is our converted freezer to fridge unit. There are the occasional power tools that are used, but for the most part, on a daily basis, it’s just the first set of items listed.

I am on the poor side of the financial scale, I am in fact considered at poverty level, but since we have so few bills, the property and vehicle are paid for, we do pretty well on not much money. I generally don’t have the kind of money to put out all at once to get a bigger battery bank, I would also need to upgrade our solar panels (bigger and more) before even considering getting more batteries.

I did a search on YouTube for off grid batteries just to see what would come up, I know that battery technology is getting better and better as well as cheaper to buy, but to my surprise, an old technology came up in the search, Edison batteries. From what I have read, they are pretty indestructible, it’s even claimed that they would be the last batteries you would ever need to buy.

There are a couple of companies that are making and selling those batteries now, of course they are not cheap, especially since they claim to be essentially forever batteries. Watch this video and let me know what you think.

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What bit me?

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Being sick or injured is one of the things that you still have to deal with when living off grid. This summer we had a lot of insects, many of which bite or sting. Most of which aren’t really a problem, more a nuisance than anything else, but on occasion a tiny little bite can turn into something really nasty. This happened to me, I spend last weekend in bed with flu like symptoms, aching joints, headache, 0 energy, I couldn’t even walk up my hill without feeling exhausted.

The reason? Something bit me. It happened while I slept, it wasn’t a painful bite, it apparently didn’t even wake me up. I suspect it was a spider, but honestly I just don’t know what it was. This bite was on my shin, it started out looking and feeling like a mosquito bite, small, red, itchy… then it blew up, almost literally. It swelled into this hot, painful, red purple lump going in two different directions. I did try some home remedies, I’m usually successful at taking care of my own ailments, but this one turned into something that was becoming life threatening over the weekend.

By Monday, I had determined I needed to go to the doctor, the bite had really turned bad, growing into something that isn’t recognizable as a normal leg, I was running a fever, going between shivering cold and dripping with sweat. I wasn’t going to go in, almost had myself talked out of going in, then I saw the red spots that were popping up all over my body, it was almost like chicken pox all over again. That was the deciding factor for me.

Everyone who saw my leg was convinced it was a brown recluse, and it certainly had that look, but fortunately the doctor didn’t agree with that diagnosis, saying the reaction happened much too quickly for it to be that. But we are still unsure of exactly what did bite me.

Now, 3 prescriptions later I am on the mend. I still don’t know exactly what bit me, it sufficiently horrified the doctor and his staff, they took blood to find out if I have staph (they are treating me as if I do for now), lyme disease and no telling what else, I did hear something about a full CDC panel, whatever that means.

I’ll know more next week about what they find. I am already feeling better, I’m past the worst of it and will be able to go back to work in a few days. Fortunately it’s a lite week at work this week, so I was able to push my jobs to the end of the week.

It’s amazing to me that something that started out so tiny and insignificant could turn into something potentially deadly in just a few short days, of course these things almost always happens on the weekend. I’m just glad I was able to get this taken care of, infections like this aren’t something to mess around with. Even the most ardent DIY’r and off gridder needs to recognize when something has gone past their ability (or supplies) to take care of themselves, there is no shame in going to the doctor and having a professional medical person to take a look at a problem.


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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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Cooking with the sun

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There are several different ways to use the sun in cooking, aka solar cooking or solar ovens. If you live in a sunny place, the desert, anyplace with unobstructed sunshine, you can use a solar oven to cook most meals.

There are parabolic cookers, these are like using a hot grill, you pretty much have to be right on top of it all the time to cook with these.

There are panel cookers, these use a silver (usually mylar) foil covered cardboard, the DIY ones are often made from a window shade made for vehicles. The nice thing about these are they are very portable, light and easy to set up. The bad thing about them is they don’t reach and maintain a very high temperature, and being light weight, they can blow away in wind.

The third major kind are box cookers, these work just like a small oven, they can be made of a cardboard box, or for a more permanent solution, made of wood or plastic. It is essentially an insulated box with a glass top and to make them work even better, reflectors are added to the top. This is the kind I like best.

I have scoured YouTube in search of the best build, I see many mistakes being made, mainly in the materials used in building them, you don’t want to use anything that will off gas or become toxic when it becomes hot, using styrofoam, some types of glue, some kinds of wood even will out gas toxic fumes when heated, I cringe when I see these being used.

I found one video that really jumped out at me, though I’m sure there are many more, I liked this one. The first video shows how it’s built, I will admit that my ADD struck and I had to move the video along a bit, but the build is solid. The second video shows a whole chicken being cooked in this solar oven. Enjoy!



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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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It’s solar, what could possibly go wrong?

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When you are doing your own solar system, the key words here are “doing your own”, you will have to be in charge of troubleshooting if things go wrong.

Sometimes, often you can recognize there is a problem but can’t quite figure out what or where the problem is. You test each separate component and each of them seems to be working, but altogether there is a problem somewhere and it’s frustrating.

I am the unofficial “Geek Squad” tech person in my neighborhood, I can’t tell you how many times I have been working on a computer, taking everything apart, putting it back together and have it work, and I have no idea what I did to make it work, the same thing happens with solar systems. Perhaps it was just a loose connection, or who knows what, call it a happy accident.

I recommend building your system yourself rather than paying someone to do it, mainly because you will have a better understanding of how things go together, the hows and whys. The only exception I can think of is if you have the money to pay someone to come out and fix things each and every time things go wrong, of course then you are at the mercy of someone elses time schedule. There is nothing better than being able to do it yourself.

Watch this video about troubleshooting a solar system.


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Meet Gladys

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She’s burgundy, discrete, low cost and can take you wherever you want to go in comfort, well as long as you are named Dylan Magaster 🙂

The nice thing about living in a converted van is they are discrete, you don’t necessarily LOOK like you are camping out or living in your van, you can drive it nearly anywhere, you can park it without drawing unnecessary attention.

I like all the wood features inside this van, it is setup to cook, including a refrigerator – which is actually a converted freezer! Of course, being a female, I would want a toilet, Dylan speaks about not having issues using public toilets, I personally prefer using my own equipment, but that’s just me. It would be easy enough to have a small portable potty, either a commercial one or one I made.


Are you cut out for van life? It’s definitely not for everyone, nor is living off grid for that matter, so it’s important to try it out first. See if you can rent or borrow a van for a vacation, or even just a weekend. These folk suggest just spending the night in a WalMart parking lot to see if you are OK with doing that. If you have been to a WalMart parking lot, you no doubt have seen all the campers and RVs sitting on the outskirts of the lot, those are people who are traveling through and just want a spot to spend the night. WalMart allows people to do this, mostly in hopes of the travelers spending some green inside their stores…

I would think you would need to be good with having limited stuff, my friend Beth who has cycled between living in a van, to pulling a small camper to now living in a larger RV is always talking about getting rid of “crapola”, her word for too much stuff. I also think you are required to be part gypsy, you must enjoy traveling, something I don’t wish to do quite honestly, I’m a major homebody and once I find a spot, I want to nest.

Watch this video to get an idea if this is the life for 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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SkyCastle wall and updates

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The last few weeks has been quiet around the SkyCastle, spring is here, flowers are blooming, the days are warm and the nights are generally cool, making for great sleeping! Speaking of sleeping, it’s something I should be doing right now, but being the night owl I am, I am still up messing around on the internet.

I do have to work tomorrow, but work has slowed down from the insanity that ensued for a couple of months, now it’s down to a steady pace. I was offered a second job, and it came at the perfect time. I’m now the Foster Grant gal in far west Texas. It’s really a simple and easy job, I already knew the district manager from about four years back when he trained my friend who used to work with me. I was essentially already trained, I just needed to learn the administration part and I was good to go. Fortunately it’s in stores I’m already working in as a merchandiser. This will help get me through the lean times that hit during the holidays for merchandisers. Most stores don’t want us in there doing major projects, or really much of anything else during their busy season so our hours get cut until after the first of the year, when reset season hits for us and it starts all over again.

PB is still working on the wall, he has dug a trench around the outer perimeter and is pouring concrete in the trench as a base for the wall to rest upon. I am continually amazed at how quickly he can do something with just hand tools, and he did most of the digging while I was asleep so he not only got the trench dug, he did it really quietly so as to not disturb me, he is so sweet.

I assume he is going to move the wall to cover the concrete, mortaring the bricks into place one by one, it’s really looking good. He still had a lot more of these papercrete bricks, I asked him how tall the wall will be and he said around 6 feet tall when it’s all said and done. I don’t doubt anything he says about building, previously he said he wanted to build the SkyCastle up a couple of more floors, we already lived on the second floor, he has stopped at 4 floors tall, the 4th story being the observation deck, as I said, I don’t doubt anything he sets his mind to do.

Oh I almost forgot to mention, he and a good friend of ours built a carport, putting the roof on it just today, the roof was reclaimed metal from another neighbor, the one I mentioned giving a haircut to last week, bartering in action! All that needs to happen is a few finishing touches, moving more stuff out of the way and I’ll have a place to park my truck that is out of the sun and most of the weather.

One last thing, I have been in the market for a camera, I have been able to take great pictures with my tablet, most people can’t believe I use a tablet but I do and it works great, the only thing it doesn’t do well is zooming and low light photography. I narrowed it down to a Sony QX1, a Nikon CoolPix B500 and a Panasonic Lumix FZ80.

I really like the Sony camera, but it is just a hair outside of my price range right now, especially since I’d have to buy a lens (or three!) to go with it. I had been leaning heavily toward the Nikon because of the long optical zoom, 40X, but all of the images I kept seeing that people snapped on that camera looked flat, nothing had a pop or wow factor, I saw one photographer who took great pix AND he also was a master at post production so his pictures looked pretty good, but for the most part, I wasn’t impressed with the image quality. Then I found the Panasonic, has better zoom (60X optical) and more features I liked. But the most important part is the sample pictures I saw taken from this camera had great color and depth, pictures taken by average people looked good so I knew that anything I can do to them after that will only make things look even better.

The only thing I’m waiting on are some Amazon.com gift cards to roll in from some extra curricular “secret shopper” things I’ve been doing that pay in gift cards, I’m nearly halfway to being able to cash in and should get enough this coming week to get another $50 from them.

I really do need to get in bed, even though it’s not a big work day, it’s still a work day coming up in a few hours, I can sleep in a bit, but will need to get up and get out of here at a reasonable time. Night all!


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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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Is rooftop solar a challenge to power companies?

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electric meter

As more and more people are installing solar panels on their roof, I hear my friends talking about wanting to do grid tied solar so that they can make their electric meters run backwards and get a check from the electric company. I always hate to burst their bubbles, it is possible to do that, but it’s never as easy as it seems.

The electric companies are there to make money, that’s their bottom line, nothing wrong with that, but they will protect their ability to earn a profit at every turn. They need to be able to maintain the infrastructure they have developed that gets electricity from point A to point B and beyond. When just a few people were putting solar panels on their rooftops, it wasn’t a problem, but once solar panels came down in price and more people could afford them, it is becoming more commonplace to see solar panels adorning rooftops in neighborhoods.

Earning money from the power companies is a bit more complicated than just turning your meter backwards when you are generating more power than you are using. Many power companies would require a second separate meter to measure how much electricity you were putting back into the grid. They didn’t pay you what you were paying them per kilowatt either, just like any other industry, there is a wholesale and retail price. You are paying the retail price for your power, anything you sell back to the power company is done at wholesale price.

The power companies are trying to keep themselves ahead of the game, some are experimenting with charging extra fees if you are generating your own power while their customer, though in the case of the power company in the podcast, they quickly dumped that idea. They state that they aren’t trying to stop people from using solar, but are trying to make it work for everyone.

Listen to the show and let me know what you think.


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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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When snakes attack

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Earlier this evening, the sun had gone down just far enough to be called dark, but we could still see. PB and I (and the dogs) were down at my neighbor’s property doing some maintenance on my truck. We had gathered up all of our stuff to carry up to the SkyCastle, we started up the trail when we heard the sound that will make your blood freeze, it was a rock rattler. PB was within one step of stepping on it and it wasn’t happy about any of it.

Honestly, I had heard it about five minutes earlier but thought it was a cicada, a large insect that buzzes just like a rattler, I have yet to hear a rattlesnake that sounds like they do in the movies, they sound like an insect buzzing.

PB was about to step on this rattlesnake, the only thing he had in his hand right then was a small propane tank, he slammed the base of it down on the snake pinning and injuring it enough to keep it in one spot. We didn’t have a flashlight so I had to move my truck around so that my headlights would illuminate the scene while PB lifted the propane tank and cut off the snake’s head with a shovel.

A few weeks ago we encountered another snake in front of the SkyCastle, that time it was Zoe who discovered it, fortunately she was faster than the snake and didn’t get bit. We think this might be a sibling of the snake we dispatched today as they were the same size, but no guarantees on that, it’s just speculation.

We have been out here 9 years now and unfortunately have to kill several rattlesnakes each summer, we don’t enjoy doing it, but if they are near the SkyCastle or around the areas where we or the dogs walk or congregate, then they have to go, they are just too risky to leave around.

Rattlesnakes, like any other snake, they don’t really attack, they will defend themselves though, it’s all too easy to walk up upon one or startle one where you don’t expect to see one, they are quite capable of taking care of themselves and aren’t really out to bother us, but since we live where they do, it’s inevitable that we will encounter each other, I do my best to make that as little as possible.

I recently found a good article about what to do if you are bitten by a rattlesnake, especially if you are in a remote place. The article said you shouldn’t cut and suck the venom, you shouldn’t use a tourniquet either, both of those methods are more risky than the venom. The main thing was to remain calm and walk out to get help if you can’t make a phone call.

Personally I don’t want to have to deal with that sort of thing, I generally watch where I walk, don’t blindly step over things that might be hiding a snake, though after tonight, I’ll be even more careful. What about you, are there dangerous snakes where you live? If so, how do you deal with them?


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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 (https://www.off-grid.net/what-are-we-going-to-do/) 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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No go shopping

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no go shopping

Are you ready for no go shopping? What is no go shopping you ask? It’s when you live out in the boonies and there isn’t a place to go shopping within a reasonable distance. Where I live, it’s 20+ miles into the nearest town, takes about a half hour if everything is going right, of course there is the stopping to chat with a neighbor on the road, then the stopping to chat with a neighbor at the mailboxes… then when you get to town, you are likely to find someone to chat with, and at the store, no getting around the fact that you will most likely find someone to chat with there, so going to town for a quick trip to the grocery store isn’t going to be quick after all.

Where I live, if you want to go anywhere with real shopping, I’m talking malls, big chain grocery stores, WalMart, Sam’s Club, real restaurants and the such, it’s a good 3 hour drive at highway speeds. It’s something we don’t do very often, maybe a monthly thing at best, it’s usually more a quarterly thing, well planned and executed, it’s at least a day trip and sometimes requires an overnight stay.

What do we get in return for no go shopping? Well, living where there aren’t many other people for one, it’s nice to not hear or see your closer neighbors most of the time. It’s quiet, dark at night, and private.

We have come to rely on delivery services for many of our purchases, besides groceries (I wish we could order more grocery items) we can order just about anything we could want out here. I am an Amazon Prime member, it’s paid for itself many times over, it’s something I pay for each year without fail. I know my UPS delivery driver by name, I know the FedEx drivers too, though they seem to go through many more of them than the UPS company. Of course there is also USPS, we all know our postal workers, the only problem is our mailboxes are some 6 miles from my home, so for me, it’s more convenient to order things that will come UPS or FedEx so it gets delivered directly to my home.

I don’t even mind the few day wait, I know if I were to go to the closer town to buy what I would order, first if it was even available, it would be very expensive, taxed and I’d still have to wait a day or two before I’d be able to go there. If I planned to go to the bigger farther town, it might be a week or more before I could get out there, so it’s better for me to order through Amazon Prime and get it in 2 days, delivered to my door.

I just ordered a pair of boots, some socks (gotta have new socks to go with the new boots LOL), and some 200 clear plastic 5X7 sleeves. The boots and socks are obvious, but what’s up with 200 clear plastic sleeves? I’m finally getting my photos printed up to sell in one of the shops in town, actually several shops, I need to protect the prints, I can’t imagine where all I would have to go to pick up just those 3 things in a physical store.

So what do you prefer, shopping in a brick and mortar store or shopping online? Let me know below 🙂

Hate shopping?
Survivalist shopping list


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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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How to properly (and safely) dehydrate water for long term storage

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dehydrated water

For those of us who live off grid, and others who camp or are just interested in prepping for whatever may come, having a source of clean potable water is high on the list of necessary things. You can easily go out and purchase dehydrated foods of all kinds, these are commercially available, you can also dehydrate as well as can your own foods. But it’s always been a challenge to safely store clean water for drinking, cooking and cleaning, until now.

Someone has finally come up with an easy way to dehydrate AND can water so it can always be ready for you, this takes up much less space than fully hydrated water, if stored properly, it will not go bad, it cannot leak, it weighs practically nothing in the dried state and can be quickly and readily re-hydrated with nothing more than clean pure water.

I found this video with step by step instructions, that was a lifesaver for me, I have always wanted to try this but was afraid I would make a mistake and sicken everyone in my house, possibly even causing death, but this guy really laid it out, step by step, simplifying it so that even I couldn’t mess this up. Now I need to go out and buy more mason jars.

I couldn’t believe this, for those of you who don’t want to go through the trouble of dehydrating your own water, or like me were afraid of making a mistake in the process, I found a company that sells dehydrated water in #10 cans, these are large enough that several would last one person a week or more (depending on how carefully you metered it out), though probably not recommended you could always add more water to stretch it out and make it last longer.

And for those who want or need a smaller amount, try this.

Now I am wondering about the difference between dehydrated and freeze dried? I suppose you could try freezing some of the dehydrated water just to see if it would convert to freeze dried, I suspect it would store even longer then…

Let me know what you think below in the comments, have you tried this? If so, would you do it again? And do you have any tips & tricks to make this even easier?


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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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Growing in a bale

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Straw bale gardening
Straw bale gardening, it’s becoming more and more popular. I wondered if it would be as good as growing in raised beds, I had great luck growing in raised beds using a thick layer of straw as a mulch, the Ruth Stout method. A few years ago, one of my neighbors and friend who had very poor soil, in fact she had mostly rock. She took a large chain link fence dog kennel and 4 or 5 bales of hay and gave it a go.

That year, we had a gardening round-table in our community, we discuss tips and tricks for growing at our elevation and climate, my friend mentioned that her garden was going crazy, we were invited to come over and take a look after the meeting, I think most everyone at the meeting eagerly went over to see her garden.

It was unbelievable, the plants were bursting out of the dog kennel, when she went inside the kennel, you couldn’t see her anymore, the plants completely obscured her. The plants were quite happy and healthy, she didn’t even try to keep the plants inside the kennel – allowing the birds and other animals to nibble on the plants that were escaping the chain link fencing.

Seeing her garden really sold me on the straw bale gardening method. One thing I’m going to be contending with starting this year are gophers, they have been around in other parts of the neighborhood, but I’ve not seen them around this area. This year, I’ve started to see the tell tale signs of the gophers, they are small, not like the ones I remember in California, those created holes large enough to step in and break a leg. Our gophers our here make holes that are only a few inches across, though they do create lots of piles of dirt. I’ve seen them around the garden area on our property, I suspect they will be very interested in whatever I choose to plant in the garden.








I’m thinking that growing in straw bales, closer to the SkyCastle, I can protect it better than out farther away. What about you? Have you grown in a straw bale? If so, how did it work for you and are you going to do it again? Let me know in the comments below 🙂

Strawbale gardening dangerous?
keyhole gardening
gardening roundtable


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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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The trash on trash

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    The trash on trash

The trash on trash

When we lived in the city and had city services, one of the things that was taken care of with no thought at all was the trash. Two times a week, a big closed dump truck came by and took our trash from the curb, all we had to do was have it bagged up and set out by the curb. I remember hearing the trash truck coming and running to make sure the trash was all out there. We didn’t worry about how much trash we had, or how much room it took up as long as we weren’t getting low on trash bags.

The city did provide blue totes for recyclables, hoping the neighborhood would take the trouble to separate out some of their trash, cardboard, glass, and plastic, some of the neighbors did it, some didn’t, honestly it was just easier to put everything in a bag and drop it by the curb.

I also remember, that even then PB tended to condense our trash, he was a human powered trash compactor, crushing plastic and cardboard containers, we rinsed our food containers so it didn’t stink (and attract animals), things like milk jugs and glass bottles were stuffed with cut down plastic and paper trash so they wouldn’t be large empty spaces in the trash bags. We had fewer but heavier trash bags. PB also enjoyed going out and chatting with the trash guy as he helped toss our trash bags into the truck.

Move ahead several years and we are now living on a mountain side in far west Texas. We don’t have “local” trash pickup, not even in town. There is a trash service of sorts, you can rent a small dumpster that is kept in a central location in the neighborhood, many of our neighbors do that. They go in together, several households to a dumpster because of the cost, it’s several hundred dollars per year (over $300 last I heard). Dumpsters are very coveted, you don’t want to be seen putting your trash into someone elses dumpster.

There is a trash dump in town, it’s not a landfill though, the trash is put into large dumpsters and a company comes by and takes the trash away, presumably to a landfill in some other town. There are fees for using this place, a couple of dollars per trash bag, a set fee for a truck or trailer load. We have used this place before and it’s pretty convenient, they even have recycling dumpsters that are free to use, for cardboard, plastic and glass.

Honestly though, we take care of our own trash most of the time. First of all, we generate very little trash, especially as compared to everyone else, I really notice it when we have visitors stay over or when I’m at someone else’s house. Before trash is even generated, I am considerate of what I buy, what kind of packaging it comes in. Paper and cardboard are the best, this can be burned, whether as fire starter in the wood burning stove, or outside in the burn barrel. Plastics get condensed, as well as metal cans. Again everything gets rinsed off so it doesn’t attract animals. Food leftovers that aren’t going to be eaten get composted.

We end up going to the dump about 4-5 times a year, we do have a truck load of trash, neatly condensed, clean and ready to be tossed into the appropriate container, metal into metal, plastic into plastic, glass into glass.

For those of you who live in more rural areas, how do you deal with your trash?

You might also like


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Why are chimneys on the outside?

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Why are chimneys on the outside?

Why are chimneys on the outside?

Unless you live in a very tropical or year round warm area, you will need a way to keep your home warm. For many of us, that means having a wood burning stove or a fireplace. Have you ever noticed that chimneys are often built on the outside of the house? Ever wonder why?

There are very good reasons why chimneys are often built on the outside. It had a twofold purpose, one was safety. Originally chimneys weren’t lined with anything, just a stack of barely mortared rocks, you might even be able to look through the cracks and see the flames on the inside.

There was always a risk of fire, back in the early days there was not a fire department to come put out a fire, nor was there insurance to cover any loss, and losing your home, especially in winter could have been a matter of life and death assuming you survived the fire. People had to take care of themselves, if there was a chimney fire, if it was on the outside of the house, you could lasso the chimney and pull it down, allowing it to burn itself out in the safety of the yard instead of burning down your home.

The other issue is space, many of the cabins built back then were small but functional. They needed to keep as much room free in the main room as possible, you couldn’t have a fireplace taking up valuable room elsewhere in the house, so it was put on an outside wall. I understand that issue, our place when it was first built was a very small, 16×16 room, we made the front door a sliding door rather than one that would open into the room, that saved us some very valuable floor space.

Watch this video to learn more about chimneys and their location.


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Working on it!

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Living off grid, you might ask, what I do for a living? Actually I have the best job in the entire world, IMHO… I am a merchandiser for a large nationwide company, I thoroughly enjoy my job and I still have time to do the other things I want to do. We typically slow down during the holidays though and it makes me wish for more hours during the slow time.

Be careful what you wish for… the company I work for (Driveline), we do merchandising, mainly in Dollar General stores, Walmart, and a plethora of other stores, it’s a great company to work for. I have been with them for 4 years now, and did merchandising for 10 years for another company when I lived in the DFW area of Texas. Let’s just say I enjoy merchandising.

During the holidays, from about Thanksgiving until after the first of the year, our business slows down as the retail stores ramp up for their biggest time of the year. The stores do not want us working and blocking the aisles during their peak time. It’s nice to work in retail and have less work during the holidays, but it makes for tiny paychecks. Thus the wishing for more hours.

Now our reset season has started in earnest, and it’s busier than ever for all of us. So I go from working just a few hours each week to working 12+ hours a day, not counting the drive time getting there and back. For me it’s a minimum of 40 miles to my nearest store, and a good 100 miles to my 2 farthest stores. Mind you, I am NOT complaining, I am very happy to have the work, I do wish they could spread it out a little more, but that’s just the way it is.

So what does a merchandiser do you ask? Well let me tell you, I go in to the stores with a printed list of jobs, mostly having to do with moving products around. Sometimes it’s just a few products, such as the store getting in a new product and getting rid of an old product line. When you walk into one of these stores, you will notice (or maybe not) there is a place for everything, so we remove the old-going away items and place the new items. Sometimes it’s a full reset, which means everything comes off of a particular section, shelves may move, cleaning happens, new tags go up and the product is placed back in their new configuration.

It’s a good job and I love doing it. I enjoy getting to set my own hours, it’s almost like being self employed, in that I have to be able to manage my own time, though with all the extra work right now, I am working a lot, but it’s worth it. Even though this is a large company, it has a small company feel because you are often working on your own, not with other people, in fact for me, I rarely get to see another Driveline employee for most of the year. Another nice perk is besides not working a lot during the holidays is they don’t want us working on the weekend either, that is unheard of in retail!

I would suggest that this might be a good job to have, if you live in a rural area (like I do) chances are they need some one to work the Dollar General store and/or Walmart in your area, if you live in a bigger town, they are most likely looking for people to help with the work that is going on right now. You do need to have reliable transportation and you need to be in fairly decent physical shape, you don’t have to be superhuman though 🙂 We have many older gray haired peeps working for us. Personally I consider the physical parts of the job to be a good thing, it helps keep me healthy, that’s what I keep telling myself as I squat for the umpteenth time or climb up and down a ladder to get product from the top shelf…

If you live in the USA and are interested, go here to check out the company.

Women off grid


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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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Tiny house in BC

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This tiny house has a rustic beauty that I like, the wood and corrugated metal makes me smile, it reminds me of the old barns and homes out here in far west Texas. The warm look is mirrored by the tight envelope created by a soy based foam insulation, allowing the home to be heated by an equally tiny marine style heater.

This tiny house is designed to be self sufficient with solar power, 12 volt goodies to run fully off grid, or you can hook up to regular 110v power. I might have changed the tiny sitting area and made it more of a wider bench so that it can seat more people and be used as a guest bed.

I do like the mudroom entrance, giving you some separate space before you enter the main space. I also like the ladder design. The closet is great, it’s large, often that is lacking in the tiny homes, but not in this one.

The wet bathroom is something I would like in my home, it creates more space for taking a shower, another thing that is usually lacking in a tiny home, this is designed very well.

Enjoy the video tour


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Baking soda hacks

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I think just about everyone has a little orange or yellow box of baking soda in their kitchen cabinet, it’s inexpensive, especially if you are willing to forgo the name brand, though I have found the large, super sized box of the name brand stuff in my local stores really cheaply priced, either way you go, it’s worth stocking up, you can even find it in by the bag.

I think everyone knows the main use, putting it in baked goodies to give them some lift, and the other tried and true method of putting an open box in the fridge and freezer to keep down odors, there are many MANY other handy uses for baking soda.

You can drink a very dilute mixture in water if you have an upset tummy, it is essentially going to neutralize the acid in your stomach, giving you relief.

If you have a buildup of hair product on your hair, you can add a small amount of baking soda to your shampoo in your hand, shampoo your hair as normal, rinse and be sure you condition your hair well afterward, it will strip out anything that isn’t your hair, don’t do it very often as it can be harsh. As a former hairdresser, I can attest for this working, I learned this in beauty school and continued using it to this day.

You can do a baking soda scrub on your skin, it will gently exfoliate your skin leaving it squeaky clean.

You can use baking soda as a tooth paste, you can use it straight, but most can’t deal with the salty taste, you can add mint essential oil, xylitol will add a sweetness that is actually good for your dental health. You can also mix in some coconut oil which is also good for your teeth.

One use I have re-discovered recently, it’s great for stinky shoes, and yes, this off grid gal sometimes has stinky shoes 🙂 I tried it before and found the straight baking soda was a little uncomfortable on my feet inside my shoes, it felt a tiny bit gritty, I wanted to try it again and added corn starch, making a 50-50 mixture, I out it in a fine shaker bottle. I shake a very small amount in each shoe and shook each shoe to equally distribute the powder. It felt quite normal, not gritty, the addition of the corn starch made the difference. It works every time, no more stinky shoes.

There are many other uses for baking soda, I have only touched on a few personal uses, there are many other uses from personal, health, cleaning, deodorizing and the such… what do you use it for?


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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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Ford Ranger tiny house

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I love YouTube for the plethora of entertainment as well as the educational value, just about anything you would want to learn can be found there. Today I found 2 tiny home videos, one of which really hits home for me. That would be the tiny home build on a Ford Ranger pickup truck. For those of you who aren’t familiar, a Ford Ranger is a small, very small pickup truck, there is nothing full sized about it. The reason it really tugged at me was I got my mother’s Ford Ranger after she passed away, she didn’t have many possessions, but had told my sister and I that when she passed away, which ever of the two of us needed it worse would get it, that fell to me as my vehicle had just bit the dust and I was in real need of a reliable vehicle. Several years later when we were moving to our off grid home, we traded it for a classic VW Beetle (bug) knowing it would last longer on our rough roads out here, I do miss driving that little truck.


The second video about tiny homes features a small trailer build, it’s 60 square feet, but contains everything you would need in an aerodynamic and tasty package. I like the corrugated metal siding, it’s my kind of style, he even calls it “the outhouse” LOL. It contains a couch/bed, a kitchen, a shower and composting toilet, and a big screen TV, there is lots of room in this very small space. I don’t know if I could LIVE in such a small space, but it would be great for traveling around, living part time.


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John’s nomadic house truck

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The older I get, the more I like seeing grey haired (geezers) living the life! This is no different, yes John is living his dream, he has built 12 tiny homes on wheels so he has the process down pretty well, he knows what he likes and what doesn’t work as well.

I like the looks of his house truck, it’s large enough to be spacious, it is high off the ground and 4 wheel drive, but it also has a compactness to it that makes it look easier to drive and park. I could live like that if I was to become a mobilista. What do you think? Do you like it?



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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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Watching TV off grid

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pff grid TV

One question I frequently hear is how do I get TV or movies while living off grid. I will tell you that I have been living on a mountain side, in the high desert of far west Texas (yes, Texas has mountains), I am in a very rural place far away from any city centers. I cannot put up an antenna, even a high gain one to get over the air TV stations, we only have one radio station that comes over the air as well. So how do I get my entertainment?

Well, first of all, I refuse to pay to watch TV, so no satellite, cable or anything like that. I do have (somewhat) high speed internet, fortunately it’s an unlimited kind of service with no data caps, so as long as our internet is up and running, I can watch streaming videos as long as I wish to. For those of you who have data caps because of satellite internet or using your cell phone service for internet, I have some suggestions below. Second, I don’t have the power to waste on a regular TV, even one of those low energy LED or LCD TVs, so I use my laptop or even better, my tablet, it doesn’t use very much of my precious power.

I have several online sources for watching TV shows and movies, I’ll name a few here. My go to streaming service is Amazon Prime, I get loads of free (included with Prime) TV shows and movies, lots more than I could even begin to watch, they are also beginning to add their own produced original TV shows and movies, some I like, some I wouldn’t give you a nickle for, but that is just my taste, yours may vary.

One I just watched recently is Mr Church, a superb show starring Eddie Murphy in a serious role, it’s one of the best movies I’ve seen in a while, I recommend a box of tissues to go with it, you’ll need it 🙂

At $99 a year for Prime, it’s a chunk of money up front, but it includes free 2 day shipping, since I buy many things through Amazon, it’s worth it to me, the included streaming videos (and music) are a big bonus to me, not to mention the myriad of other goodies included. Recently they have added a monthly rate if you don’t want to or can’t cough of the yearly fee, it’s $10.99 a month. You can try it free for 30 days here Try Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial.

A few other places to stream TV shows and movies, Hulu and Netflix. I have used Netflix before and was happy enough with them, but ran out of shows I liked so I dropped the service. Hulu, I’m less excited about, though I have many friends who love it. The main reason I dislike Hulu is their commercials they insert in the shows, even if you pay for the premium service, there are commercials, sorry but that’s just annoying, so no Hulu for me.

Of course, one of the biggest streaming video sites is YouTube. There is even a premium service through YouTube where you can watch movies and TV shows, though I have never really looked into that, it’s there. If you do searches, you can find where people have uploaded full TV shows and movies, it’s not legal and eventually they get caught and their channel vanishes, but for a while the show is there to watch, I’ll leave it up to you whether or not you wish to watch shows like that, I’m not suggesting you do it or not, I’m just saying it’s there.

Now for those of you who have data caps and can only download so much per month, most satellite companies give you a period of time during the overnight hours to download all you want without it counting against your data bandwidth allowance, I don’t know if cell phone plans have that, but I know that satellite companies do.

With Amazon, you can download shows and movies on a portable device such as a tablet or phone (apparently not on a computer or laptop) to watch later, I have never done that, so I’m not sure exactly how it works, I just know it’s available. You can download YouTube videos easily even though it’s no setup for that, there are many YouTube video downloaders out there, just search for them. Download the shows during the overnight hours while your satellite company isn’t keeping count of your bandwidth, then you can watch these shows at your leisure.

If you are more adventurous, you can find just about any TV show or movie streaming online, I would classify these sites as very risky, and you are more likely to get a virus on your computer by going to theses kind of sites. The legality of these sites is often questionable, chances are you wouldn’t get into trouble unless YOU are uploading to them, personally I wouldn’t risk using a site like that, at least not without having some heavy duty protection, such as addons to your browser that will aggressively block java, javascript and popups (and probably a slew of other things I haven’t even thought of).

Have I missed anything that you know about? If so, please let me know in the comments below.


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Cooking from scratch

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cooking from scratch

Cooking and eating are two (of many) pleasures in life for me, I learned how to cook from watching my mother who was a fantastic cook. She could take just a few basic ingredients and make a meal fit for a king. I remember pushing a kitchen chair up to the counter and standing on it so I could see and help my mother cook. My first dish that I made all by myself was scrambled eggs, standing on a kitchen chair to reach the stove top, of course my mom was right there, but she let me do everything myself, I was so proud of that plate scrambled eggs.

My mother cooked everything from scratch, we never had boxed or pre-prepared anything, I will admit that I was a bit jealous of my friends who ate TV dinners from foil trays, they ate macaroni and cheese from the blue box, and white bread from plastic bags, I thought we were just too poor for such luxuries. Little did I know how lucky we were to have a mom who was talented in the kitchen. Once I was older I discovered just how tasteless that institutional food really was and appreciated my mother’s skills all the more.

One thing I learned from my mom was how to cook without having a recipe to follow, I call it “cooking by the seat of my pants”, I know how to follow a recipe, but I also know how to tweak a recipe, how to make it even better, how to substitute ingredients and best of all, how to make up my own recipe for the things I want. A few benefits of cooking for yourself is it’s usually more frugal, another reason is you know what is going into your food, no mystery ingredients (or ones you can’t pronounce) and best of all, it’s often tastier.

The other day at the grocery store, I purchased a package of English muffins, there were only 6 in the package, they were tasty but rather expensive. We quickly ate them over a matter of 2 mornings. I decided I wanted to make some, I had made them before, I know there are 2 different methods, one is to make a dough, roll it out, cut out the rounds, allow them to rise and grill until cooked on both sides. The other is the batter method, where you make a thick but pourable dough, I already knew I preferred the batter method as that results in English muffins with the nooks and crannies.

I searched through many recipes online but couldn’t find one that I wanted to use, so I just made one up. It’s not difficult, I poured some milk into a pan, added some butter, sugar and salt, I warmed it up until the butter melted (but not too hot), removed from heat, added a packet of yeast, stirred, then began to add flour, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring well until it became a thick batter. I covered it and kept warm until it bubbled up nicely, then I cooked them on a griddle top using silicon egg rings to contain the batter as it cooked. Sorry, I don’t measure anything, I just add ingredients until it looks right 🙂


Once cooked on each side, remove from the griddle, cool a bit (that’s hard when fingers keep reaching for the hot muffins), slice each one in half and toast on the grill top. Eat as you wish, you can eat them with butter and jam, or you can put whatever filling you want, my favorite right now is a fried egg, sausage, bacon and cheese, we call them egg-a-muffins (can’t call them anything with a Mc in the name, but you know what I’m talking about). I’ll try to work out a recipe with measurements below.

The egg rings made it easy to do, both for the muffins and for the eggs, I received them to review and they work just fine, you can find them here: Silicone Egg Rings by Ozetti.

Here is a rough estimate for the ingredients, I think it should be easy enough to follow

2 cups milk
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter
1 packet rapid rise yeast (regular yeast will also work)
approx 2 cups flour

Add milk, sugar, salt and butter to a pan and warm until the butter melts, remove from heat, do not allow it to get too hot, add yeast, mix well, then start adding all purpose flour in half cup increments, stirring well (I use a whisk) after each addition, you want it to be a thick but pourable batter, it may take more flour. Cover and allow the yeast to work, the warmer your kitchen, the quicker it will happen, it should bubble up and nearly double in size in about a half hour. Heat a flat grill, griddle or frying pan, use the silicon rings or you can use canning lid rings (be sure to oil them), I touched the butter to the pan inside each ring, then scoop the batter into each ring, don’t fill too full. Allow to cook on a low flame for about 5-8 minutes on each side. Once cooked, allow to cool a bit, then slice in half and toast before eating.

You can use water instead of milk, if you do that you can add powdered milk or even a bit of non dairy creamer, or just go with plain water.

This batter reminds me of the no knead artisanal breads that are all the rage, the dough is wet and when you mix it, it becomes “shaggy” looking as the yeast does its thing and the gluten is developed. Let me know if you try this and how it works out for you 🙂


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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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Legalities of tiny homes

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You want to live in a tiny home, you have done your research, you love what you see, but now you are finding out the bumps in the road about building and living in a tiny home. It seems that the reason most tiny homes are actually built on a trailer chassis, that gets around most of the “building codes” that are enforced in most towns, and even out of town in some municipalities.

But where are you going to park it? Most places will not allow you to park on a property for more than a set period of time, many areas will not allow you to park in someone’s backyard and LIVE in it, there are rules and regulations for both mobile and fixed tiny homes, it’s up to YOU to do your homework to find out what these rules (codes) are in the place where you want to plant your tiny home. I would say to get out of the city, as far as you can, get somewhere where there are very few building codes. I know that isn’t ideal for everyone, but if you are able to get far away from government intrusion, that seems to be the best way to go.

Watch this video to hear about some things you might not have considered before jumping in the tiny home movement.



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Can you live in a tiny house in winter?

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Cold tiny house

The tiny house movement us huge (no pun intended), and is even becoming more mainstream. The fact that most of them are built on trailer chassis make them legal in many places where a non-mobile home would be illegal. Living year round in a tiny home means it’s going to be winter for you at some time unless you live in a southern latitude that doesn’t experience much or any cold weather. For the rest of us, it means you are going to have to deal with chilly air, snow, ice, cold wind and the such.

Fortunately it would seem that these tiny homes are built well for cold weather, being small they are usually easy to heat, in fact you often have to worry more about overheating your small space when keeping your digs toasty. If you have enough insulation, it doesn’t take much to heat your tiny space. Other than overheating, another problem is moisture, condensation. Propane heat usually generates moisture, we humans also generate moisture, living generates moisture, these tiny homes being well insulated as well as being tight, you have to be conscious of the amount of moisture in the air so that you aren’t creating problems.

Ariel C. McGlothin lives in a tiny home in Wyoming, a place known for beautiful vistas as well as cold temps in winter. She deals with snowfall, which she says her tiny home handles very well, with the steep pitch of her metal roof, it sheds the snow very readily and easily, she does have to shovel snow, to make paths to the various areas she needs to get to, as well as keeping various areas around her tiny home cleared for safety and access.


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Who do you use?

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A few weeks ago, our internet service all but stopped working for nearly 2 weeks, I finally figured out it was apparently caused by the solar storms going on, it really made for some quiet days (weeks) since we couldn’t stream anything during that time. Once things got back online for us, it wouldn’t last, last Saturday we enjoyed a rare thunderstorm during January, and I do mean thunderstorm, complete with lots of lightening! We took a direct hit, I was online using my tablet and actually got shocked through my tablet screen, it wasn’t terrible, but it was a surprise, we heard the crackle before the strike and heard the loud boom. We figured we had taken a direct hit but didn’t know for sure until the following day when our friends across the valley told us they saw the lightning hit our place.

Fortunately it didn’t do any damage to us, the SkyCastle is well grounded so most of the energy from the hit went to ground. But the storm did take out our local internet, it was out for the next 3 days, our street was the last one to in the neighborhood to get our internet back up and running.

The first few years we lived off grid, we didn’t have internet ourselves, our neighbor had satellite internet and I went to his house to check my email about once a week. I knew before we moved out here that my internet options would be very limited so I had shut down quite a bit of my internet activities, shutting down several websites and the such. I hadn’t really gotten into buying online yet and streaming anything was not really going strong yet.

When we found out that an internet company was reviving the old internet towers out in my neighborhood, I jumped at the chance to get back online. I asked lots of questions before signing on the dotted line, mainly about data allowances, if they had any caps, I let them know ahead of time that I was a power user and would be using a lot of data. I was told that would be no problem, I could eat all I wanted at their internet buffet, so I signed up and haven’t looked back since.

Before we moved out of the big city, we had just gotten DSL, I think our speed at the time was in the 3MB range, coming from dial up (56K), that seemed really fast. After getting here, my neighbor’s internet was painfully slow, but it was pretty much the only game in town (before the wireless net was reintroduced out here). I learned that I didn’t want satellite for reasons I’ll explain below.

One question I get asked is how do we get our internet. We use a wireless system, there are antenna towers interspersed in the neighborhood, atop strategic mountains, we have to be line of sight in order to get the service. We were one of the first houses to hook up, being right across the valley from the first tower put up, actually the hardware was already in place but had gone defunct long before we moved out here, mainly because it cost too much to maintain at the time.

Our internet speed was 3MBPS (megabyte per second) down and 1MBPS up. That seemed to be screaming fast compared to my neighbor’s satellite. I had checked into possibly getting satellite, but it was expensive, slow and most importantly, this is the thing that was the deal breaker for me, they meter your bandwidth. What that means is they measure how much you download in any certain period (per day or per month depending on the company) and if you go over the amount they deem enough, then they spank you back to dial up speed for a period of time. I knew I would blow through that allotment in a matter of hours, that would not work for me.

I wish we had DSL available, we have been promised DSL for years, but we can’t have it unless we get fiber optic lines installed, they have promised those for years as well… I don’t see it happening, they have a hard enough time maintaining the copper lines, living in a mountainous area, with not that many people per square mile, it’s just not financially feasible for them to invest in fiber optics, at least not in the near future.

We pay quite a lot for internet service out here, when I first signed up, it ran $40 a month for the slowest speed (3MBPS), over the years it has gone up, it topped out at $60 for the slowest tier, I recently upgraded to the next tier, 6MBPS for $80 a month, that’s 6 down and 2 up, yes I know that is expensive and slow, especially compared to what most can get in the city. But I don’t mind really, I wouldn’t trade it for city life.

Those are our options, satellite or wireless. There is one more option, but I don’t find it to be any better than satellite, and that’s using a cell phone service, it’s sort of available, if you invest in a large antenna to capture and amplify the signal, that’s IF you can get a signal at all, honestly cell phones do not work out here for the most part, I have no problem with that either.

Today I am enjoying my 6MBPS connection, it is more than fast enough to stream anything I wish to watch, listen to or download, hopefully it will be a while before our next outage.


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I know a lot about solar – I love solar

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President Elect Trump is quoted in saying “I know a lot about solar, I love solar…”, it gives me hope that Trump will work with the powers that be to encourage more alternative energy resources. The next part of Trump’s statement was about solar being so expensive, that might give pause to the solar power companies, but I hear that a bit differently, I don’t hear Trump trying to stop alternative energy, I believe he is interested in bringing the costs down even further than they have come down in the last 5-10 years. I interpret his statements as wanting to do something about the costs, making it more affordable as opposed to shutting it down. As a business man, he would be interested in getting goods and services at the best possible price, being our president, I can see him doing that for the whole of the country.

I listened to a quick podcast on NPR on this subject

The original story can be found here

What do you think?


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What happened to PB?

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There are some things that can be (or look) fun about living off grid, but there are many things that are less attractive, but still have to be done. One of those for us is truck maintenance. I rely on my truck for work and getting to town and back. We live some 20+ miles from the nearest town, what I tend to go through the most is tires and oil. Driving on the rough, unpaved, rocky, mountainous roads is very hard on tires as well as suspension. I drive slow to keep the damage at a minimum, but it still wears my tires out, I have to be prepared at any time to change a flat tire, and on occasion I have had to buy tires earlier than I wanted to because of having my spare on (in use) and getting another flat. I will need to look at buying tires once work starts building up again. Being in merchandising, our work slows down during the holidays, it’s about to pick up again and I can’t wait.

The other part of maintenance is oil changes, I have 2 choices, I can go in and pay to have it done in a garage, around here that is expensive, we’re talking about $60 or more, that’s just for a standard oil change and new filter, regular grade oil, nothing special. Or we can do it ourselves, like how I snuck in the “we”? Actually PB did it.

I ordered the oil and filter from Amazon, and I purchase an extra 2 quarts at a local store because my truck takes 7 quarts. It’s handy to be able to order most of what I need from Amazon, with the Prime service I have, I can get most things (including the oil and filter) here in 2 business days.

Yesterday, PB crawled under my truck and proceeded to change the oil, being able to do that ourselves saved us at least half what it would have cost to do it in town. I put a lot of miles on my truck so I need to get more regular oil changes, that will help keep my truck going for many years. One thing PB wants to do is incorporate a remote oil filter, that would allow me to use a larger filter, which would ultimately be safer for my truck, it’s something we will be looking into soon.


The other thing I did while the hood was up, I anointed the engine compartment with peppermint oil, it’s for the mice, out here in the country there is a terrible problem with rodents, they have a tendency to chew on things, and those things become expensive to repair, not to mention potentially being stranded somewhere because of an electrical problem. The mint is a rodent repellent, they don’t like it. Now my truck smells minty fresh!

What have you done to your vehicles lately to improve or maintain them?


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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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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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Dump your camper in the lake?

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Would you drive your camper into the lake or river? You would if you owned an amphibious RV! I’ve seen “redneck” versions where they put a small pull behind camper on pontoons, but this was really made for the open road AND floating on the water.

It doesn’t appear to be very large, but the amenities inside are multi-function, with the table converting into a bed, it’s more than ready to head off for a long weekend. It’s not something you would live in, it’s more for playing and enjoying yourself.




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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: http://faircompanies.com/videos/view/abandoned-stable-now-luxuriousf-grid-family-dream-home/


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Tiny homes for veterans

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All too often, our veterans are being left out in the cold, literally, there are many who are homeless for a variety of reasons, and unfortunately once you are homeless, it’s usually much more difficult to get the services you need to help get you back on your feet.

There are several communities who are doing something about it, they are creating tiny home villages specifically for veterans, some are allowed to live there indefinitely, some are temporary until they can transition into something more permanent for themselves. I think this is a great idea, giving back to the men and women who gave so much of themselves to serve our country. They often come back from war with physical injuries and PTSD from the things they saw and experienced, it’s difficult for them to talk to friends and family about their traumas, it’s also difficult to transition back into civilian life. Many choose suicide as a way out from the pain.

This gives dignity as well as a place to live, here are a few videos about the communities giving back.






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Here we go again…

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I’m very conflicted, I just signed up for a “service” that I would ordinarily want to have, especially at the monthly cost I’m going to be paying, but I’m so very extremely annoyed at the fact that I’m FORCED to purchase this “service”, or else. I’m sure you have figured out I’m talking about healthcare, or as it’s more commonly referred to as Obamacare.

So what is the “or else” if I choose not to participate? Near $700, that would be my fine if I don’t sign up, and having the IRS come after me, something the IRS was NEVER meant to be part of. I concretely believe that this is unconstitutional, forcing citizens of the USA to purchase healthcare or any other commercial service, but as one tiny blip on the radar, what can I do? I don’t mind having the coverage, I rather like having inexpensive healthcare, and if it were available without the “or else” hanging over my head, I would be first in line to sign up, it’s the “or else” that is just plain wrong.

Today is the last day to sign up to get in for the 2017 coverage starting in January, being the procrastinator that I am, I waited until today to sign up. I have been getting the email reminders as well as the automated phone calls telling me that today was the last day I could sign up… they make it sound so dire, as if the world might come to an end if I ignore their pleas, who knows, it just might.

When I got to the website earlier today, it was quite clear that I’m not the only procrastinator, I was put in a queue (line, on hold for those in the USA) to wait my turn for the website to accept me. I waited less than an hour so all in all it wasn’t terrible. I actually started to do this last night, there was no wait time, I got right in, but I was on a tablet, I needed some information that was difficult to get on my tablet so I gave up, figuring I would finish today with my laptop.

I actually signed up last year, for much the same reasons, the “or else”, I ended up never using my healthcare insurance all year long, for a variety of reasons, the main one being I never needed to use it, of course I understand that anything could have happened, an accident, an illness and I would have used it then, but as a healthy 50 something year old, I have just never had the need to go to the doctor much in my life. I also understand that the premiums I paid went into a pool to help offset the costs of other people who did use their healthcare coverage.

I wonder how things might change with President elect Trump about to come into office, one of the main things he plans on changing is Obamacare, they are supposed to replace it with something else, I don’t see how they can abolish it completely as there are so many using it now (rightly or wrongly). I hope they are able to change some of the laws that restrict the insurance companies from truly being competitive, right now if another state has cheaper insurance that covers the same or more, I can’t access it, that is just ONE thing that can be changed.

As I said, I don’t mind having access to inexpensive health care, I just don’t like the “or else” part, it should be voluntary, not forced upon us. One of the complaints about those of us who don’t want Obamacare is not offering any sort of alternative option, well…

I have an idea that might work, of course this is easy to come up with sitting where I am, not knowing all the in’s and out’s of how these things work, but here goes: There is a need for inexpensive or even free healthcare for many people, but it is expensive, doctors and other medical and support staff have bills to pay, student loans and the such. Let’s have a plan where the government pays for people to go to medical school (and any other schooling needed for the medical and support staff), it can be completely free for the person wanting to enroll, BUT they must agree to work in a government run hospital or clinic for X number of years, let’s say 10 years, could be more, could be less depending on how long they go to school and what their degree is in… they would earn an income but would have to complete their time, if they failed to complete their agreed time, then they would be responsible for paying part of all of what it would have cost for them to complete their education.

The public could use these government hospitals, their payment for services would be based on a sliding fee scale, they would pay what they could afford based on their income.

I know that sounds simplistic, but I suspect it could work, I think there would be a lot of people lining up to get their free education, they would have work waiting for them when they completed their education, the public would have access to inexpensive healthcare, problem solved.


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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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Staying warm in the cold weather

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As I sit here next to the wood burning stove, I am cozy warm inside of the SkyCastle. The temps are dropping and we just might have our first real cold snap of this winter later on today, at least that’s what the weather wizards keep saying. I have been watching the radar and there is wintry precipitation just north of us (that blue and pink stuff in the picture), but so far it hasn’t dropped south, maybe it will snow a bit in the morning, I don’t mind if it does, I have finished working for the week (it’s slow for merchandisers during the holidays), for me a nice snowy day means I’ll get to take some interesting pictures.

The SkyCastle is really simple to deal with in the cold, the wood burning stove keeps things warm enough inside, though we don’t try to keep things very warm, we dress warmly for the most part. Sleeping means bundling up in layers, I typically have thermals on (top and bottom) as well as thick PJs and regular socks & thick fuzzy socks. My blankets are also double duty, having a regular blanket that I sleep under year round, in winter I add a wool blanket, sometimes 2 of them, that is the real secret for me to keep warm in bed. I also utilize a hot water bottle. I know they are old fashioned, but by golly they work! I’ll usually put it next to my pillow with the blanket over it until I’m ready to get in bed, then I kick it down to the end of the bed to keep my feet warm. Having a warm dog is also another nice warm spot in the bed.

I found a couple of videos on how RV’ers keep warm in the winter. Honestly I don’t think I’d like living in a RV or camper in the winter if I had to be in a cold area, I think I understand why they move to warmer places in winter, those vehicles just aren’t meant for the cold IMHO.



I saw this video, thought it was interesting and decided to add it for you.


What about you? How do you keep warm in the winter?


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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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No I’m knot kidding

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Knots, everyone needs to know how to tie different kinds of knots, whether you are living off grid, or in the big city, it’s a handy thing to know. I a woefully inadequate at tying knots, I will be watching the videos below and learning too. I am always impressed when I see someone tie a knot in some interesting and useful manner, it’s almost like performing magic (to those who don’t know how).

These two are longer more detailed videos


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The secret to successfully carry a P38

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The lowly P38 (or P51 depending on the size), I would say that all military folk and most preppers know what these are. This is a very simple can opener for those of you who don’t know. It is small, portable, and people powered (ie not electric). It has 2 parts that hinge together, they are great if you are opening a small to medium can, raise your hand if you have ever opened a #10 can with one, LOL, my hand is raised.

You can keep them in your pocket or like me, on your key ring, the problem comes in with the sharp pointy end that loves opening up at inopportune times, either tearing a hole in your pocket, your pants or whatever it has decided to catch upon. Years ago I decided that it was only an emergency backup tool, not something I would use on a daily basis so I taped it closed, each time I wanted to use it, I would remove the tape, clean off the tape residue, use it then tape it back up again. If I didn’t use it for a long enough time, the tape would deteriorate, I would often notice when it snagged my pants or shirt. I knew there had to be a better way.

Enter the era of the earbuds, everyone had them, everyone used them, everyone threw them away when they failed working. I had my fair share of them. One day, as is typical of me, I decided to take one apart to see how it worked. Low and behold, I found a little, tiny, magnet inside of it. I should have known, speakers have magnets, earbuds are merely tiny speakers that go in your ears.

The magnet is very small, the flat ones shaped like a washer with a hole in the center are my favorite, but you might find a solid magnet, it will work too. It didn’t take long to decide it would be perfect for my P38, the magnet fit perfectly between the two parts, it wasn’t strong enough to catch other items, it would be reusable and wouldn’t wear out.


All you have to do is find a broken pair of earbuds, if you don’t have any yourself, ask around. Disassemble the earbud, you are likely to find what appears to be 2 magnets per earbud, but only one of them is actually a magnet, the other is a duplicate shaped piece of metal, it’s easy enough to figure out which is which. Then place the magnet between the moving parts and viola, your P38 (or P51) is now safe to carry around.


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Off grid vlog 03

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Here is another chatty off grid video shot on site on the 4th floor observation deck of the SkyCastle, the things going on lately are my family and friends visiting, all fun and games 🙂 It’s been a while since we have had any family visiting, it’s been very nice. Enjoy the video.


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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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SHTF cake aka comfort food

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In times of stress, and SHTF would create a lot of stress, it’s good to have some comfort food to help bring the stress down to bearable levels. While sugar isn’t good to eat in excess, during stressful times, sugar helps release dopamine, which makes you feel good.

I found a cake that can be made with common prepper foods, here it is

2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter (from canned butter, or use shortening)
1 cup sugar
3 eggs (or 6 tablespoons egg powder + 9 tablespoons water)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 cup reconstituted powdered milk

Pour everything into a large bowl, mix together (a wire whisk works great here), butter an 8×8 pan (or equivalent), bake at 350 degrees F for 35 minutes or a toothpick comes out clean. Cool and dust with powdered sugar, or mix powdered sugar with a little water or reconstituted powdered milk to make an icing.


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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 (http://www.moo.com) 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 (moo.com), 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 http://walkerstoves.com/ 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) http://walkerstoves.com/walker-riser-less-combustion-core.html
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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Off grid underground Hobbit house

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Kristie Wolfe is no slouch when it comes to building unusual homes, she goes in with ideas put to pen and paper and begins to build her dream. This time she is building a Hobbit style village on some acreage in rural Washington. Being off grid is as much something desired as it is necessary, it’s cost prohibitive to put in electric service, or any other commercial city type service out there.

She built into a hillside, taking advantage of the earth as a natural insulation against the heat and the cold. I’m not sure I would enjoy the layout of the first Hobbit home she built, putting the front door in the bedroom. It does make for some nice views, I prefer my bedroom area to be more private myself… The “fireplace” is not real either, it’s a facade created around a propane heater, I certainly don’t mind propane, I use it myself, but I’d like to see a real fireplace with a real chimney so that wood could be burned in it if you wanted.

Other than those two things, I love the Hobbit home she build, I can’t wait to see the next one. Here is a video tour of the home, enjoy!


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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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Could you live on a narrow boat?

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When I think of living on a boat, I think of being on the ocean, or on a lake, but there are other waterways, called canals where people live full and part time, on what are called narrow boats, these are long, narrow boats of 7 feet wide (or less) and up to 72 feet long (though usually shorter). The width and length being determined by the locks that allow these boats to rise or be lowered to different depths in the canal systems.


Looking at these boats, I think I could live on one, though I wonder if I could really pare my belongings down enough to really live in such a small space, especially if I was doing this with my husband. PB could probably do it well enough, he seems to be happy enough with few belongings, me on the other hand, I come from a long line of pack rats, I got the junk gene in spades.

0102Back to our story here, we meet David Johns, a former TV journalist from the UK who quit his job, sold his house, and bought a narrowboat to cruise the canal network, he planned on giving it a year to see how he liked it, apparently it grew on him and he is still doing it. Not only is he doing it, he is documenting it as well. Here is the original video that caught my eye, I’ll include a link to his YouTube page below.



Here is David Johns’ YouTube page


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Art in the desert

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Amazing see-thru cabin built in California

You can see many things in the desert, some see desolation, others see stark beauty, yet others take what they see and transform it into an even more interesting and ethereal vision. Light is one of the driving forces in the desert, by adding mirrors to this run down shack, this artist took what would be ignored and passed by into a reflection of the surrounding beauty. The wood appears to float, seemingly supported by air. At night it transforms yet again into an ever changing palette of color. Have you been there or seen this?





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13 year old kid invents free energy device for under $15

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You think of 13 year old kids as playing with their game machines or their iPods, but this kid has invented a real free energy device, he is really harvesting energy from the air, he is modeling his life after Tesla in many ways, I like this kid! It makes me wonder just where he will be when he grows up.


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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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Hugelkultur, pronounced hugle (like bugle but with a “h”) culture, it’s really simple, combining raised beds with lots of organic material under and on top of the mound. You take wood logs and twigs, preferably older ones but fresher ones can be used, cut them to the length of the bed you want to create, lay them in a pile then put dirt on top of them, you will be planting in this dirt. The idea is the wood logs decompose and hold lots of water, meaning you don’t have to water as often. It’s a win win situation. Some even work swales into the hugelkultur beds to help capture water that would otherwise run off too quickly.

I know it’s the end of the summer gardens for most of us, but this is the perfect time to begin planning and building our gardens for next summer. I still want to make a keyhole garden, I might incorporate some of the hugelkultur into a keyhole garden by using decaying wood logs and twigs that we have an abundance of around here, putting it in the base of the keyhole garden. Also working with the rocks and wood when the temps are cooler will be safer (for me) from snakes, scorpions and other creepy crawlies that sting and bite.

Here are a couple of videos about hugelkultur gardening.





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Off grid tent living

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This is interesting and unexpected, it’s a 4 season tent,  the video shows it in winter with a blanket of snow.  Unlike a yurt, this really looks like an old style tent,  it reminds me of being in Girl Scouts.

The tent is divided into 4 sections, a sleeping area,  living, kitchen and dining.  It can sleep up to 4 people, though you’d best be good friends or family, there is no privacy to speak of.

The toilet is an outhouse down the trail, one nice thing about an outhouse in winter is less to no odor and no bugs.


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