The Homestead Outhouse

Welcome back. I had a question from a fellow homesteader about outhouses. We used an outhouse for 20 years in Maine and I’ve used them in remote exploration camps too. To a degree, even in our current off-grid home, we use an indoor outhouse. Seriously, an indoor outhouse? Sure, and I’ll talk about our current toilet setup in my next post. But for now, let’s talk about a traditional homestead outhouse.

Be aware, in some localities outhouses may not be legal. Check the laws and ordinances in your locale. Assuming a privy is legal, placement of an outhouse is a critical component of any safe waste disposal system. In this case, human waste. We all seek safe, clean drinking water so unless you want “flavored” water, it is critical to locate the outhouse a suitable distance from any well or drinking water source. Please don’t take chances with water borne diseases. Locate the outhouse well away from your water source. Figure 100 feet as a starting point. You may wish to ask your state public health department about the recommended set back distances from wells and property lines. Continue reading

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The Homestead Plan – Part 2

Welcome back! Continuing on from yesterday’s discussion, I asked numerous questions and suggested ascertaining all the different attributes of your property and mapping them out. Now let’s start to lay out your homestead plan using that information.

Laying Out the Elements of Your Homestead

If at all possible, I would situate the house so that the living areas face south. Why? Admitting natural light to the living room, dining area and kitchen makes for a brighter home, helps combat SAD(season affect disorder) and may mean needing artificial light for fewer hours in the day, a plus for any off-grid home. Having large picture windows that face south guarantee all of the above. Two other positives, in winter you will gain much heat from solar radiation on sunny days and come spring, you will have full sunny window sills for your garden seedlings. At the Maine homestead, the living room picture window faced west. The house was rather dark even on sunny days and our garden seedlings weren’t the best. Here at the wilderness homestead, we have 2 big picture window that face south. The difference in the brightness of the living spaces is dramatic as is the quality of my seedlings.

Continue reading

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The Homestead Plan – Part 1

I’ve written numerous articles regarding the basics; what to look for in a homestead site as well as options for the homestead water supply. At this point, I’d like to tie things together a bit. Let’s call it the homestead plan.

For someone just starting out with an existing property or for those who are still contemplating an off-grid homesteading lifestyle, the transition can seem daunting. How do I get started and what do I tackle first?

Questions to Think About

Presumably, while searching for your homestead plot, you have taken some of my suggestions from my earlier post Selecting Your Homestead Site to heart, and you have made the exciting purchase of a piece of land. The following questions will hopefully further define exactly what you wish to accomplish with your property now that you own it and how best to set everything up. For those with an existing house in the country who wish to be more self-reliant, the same questions will apply. Continue reading

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Increase Your Chances of Homesteading Success

Since the start of our posting, we have made a logical step by step analysis of the many considerations a person needs to ponder when contemplating a move to an off-grid homestead. Having done this for 37 years, it is second nature to us and has become our natural way of life. Personally, we can’t imagine any other lifestyle, but we realize that many of the aspects and concepts of off-grid life are foreign to the general population. We want you to share in the good life. It is our hope that our website and posts increase your chances of homesteading and prepping success.

Maine Home under Construction

Maine Home under Construction

To that end, I write this post as a reality check. It is a gentle prod for you to think everything through completely. It is so nice to fantasize about the simple little cabin in the woods surrounded by a lush garden with no cares in the world when you are stuck in a traffic jam or seated behind your desk at work. However, when it comes time to make your dream a reality, the path to success is often strewn with unanticipated pitfalls, any of which may seem insurmountable at the time unless you’ve thought ahead and have at least the seed of an alternative strategy in your mind. We hope we can help you achieve your goal of self-reliance by sharing our experiences with you. We encourage you to ask questions and comment. Continue reading

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Homestead Hot Water – A Thermosiphon Loop

In my previous post on homestead hot water, homestead-hot-water-part-1/ I discussed the hot water set up we had at the Maine homestead, the most basic system possible. For 20 years, we lugged buckets of water in by hand from a hand pump outside, poured the water into pots, set the pots on one of our wood stoves to heat and then we carried the hot water to the tub, sink or washer. This was great for building muscle and character. But yikes, there had to be a better way! And there is. A thermosiphon loop!

Our Canadian homestead has a piston pump and draws from a hand dug well. You can read about it here. homestead water supply That pump/pressure tank combination supplies pressurized water to the house. A wood cook stove in the kitchen set up with a thermosiphon loop and a storage tank provide our off-grid homestead’s hot water. Continue reading

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Homestead Hot Water – Part 1

Running hot and cold water are taken for granted in this day and age and yet, it wasn’t that long ago, that all of our water was hand pumped and bucketed into the house by hand. For 20 years we did that routine until we “modernized.” In the next two posts, I’ll explain how, over the last 37 years, we’ve supplied the homestead’s hot water.

Bathtub and Stove in Maine

Antique Claw Footed Bathtub and Water Kettles on Stove

There are any number of ways to heat hot water for the home. Typically, a home has either an electric, gas or oil hot water tank. For anybody wishing to live off the grid, the electric powered water heater doesn’t make sense from an energy consumption perspective. It takes a lot of electrical power (watts) to raise the temperature of water adequately for daily use. That power could be put to better use elsewhere on the energy efficient homestead. Continue reading

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Homestead Water Filtration

In my previous four installments, I explained how we’ve met our daily water requirements from a drilled well, a lake, and a hand dug well. Today, we’ll discuss homestead water filtration.

Any open body of water, no matter how pristine it looks, should be considered contaminated and treated accordingly. Unless you are fortunate enough to have a spring bubbling up from the ground, all water needs to be treated in a manner that will insure your safety when utilized.

In our case, it could prove fatal if we don’t take filtration seriously. Medical care is a long flight away, assuming a float plane could get in here. Even a drilled well needs to be treated initially and back at our Maine homestead, our well driller used some bleach to do this. I deferred to the well drillers expertise on what quantity to use but essentially, once the bleach was in the well, I pumped water until I could no longer smell the bleach in the water. At that point, I did some extra pumping for good measure and then the well was considered safe at that point. Continue reading

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The Homestead Water Supply – Hand Dug Well

In the previous three posts, I’ve explained how I’ve set up our homestead water supply over the last 37 years garnering water from a drilled well and from a clear, cold lake. In this final installment, I’ll tell you how we modified our wilderness water system so we’re able to draw water from a hand dug well.

Living as remote as we do, safety is always paramount, especially when there are two times of the year when flying in help is almost impossible. They are freeze up and spring thaw. At those times of the year, float planes are unavailable. They cannot land safely on the lake.

Digging Our Well

Although we thoroughly filtered our water from the lake before we ever drank it, we knew we would have more peace of mind if we could eliminate the possibility of any waterborne disease or bug. So we decided to dig a well. This meant we would have a safer water supply. As an additional advantage, since the well would be closer to the house, we could save considerable power because the heater cable would be shorter. For the well’s location, I selected a flat site 100 feet closer to the house which eliminated half the distance of our suction line. Continue reading

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The Homestead Water Supply – Part 3

Welcome back! In parts 1 and 2, I discussed our Maine homestead’s well water supply. As you know, 17 years ago, we made the big move to a remote off-grid location in the wilderness of northern Saskatchewan where we have a pristine lake from which to draw water. The lake will be the source for our homestead water supply.

The question I had to answer was: what system and pump do I incorporate to supply the new home with water. After a great deal of research, I chose a Dankoff Piston Pump. http://dankoffsolarpumps.com/pdfs/Dankoff_SolarForce.pdf

I am very satisfied with this pump. It was a great choice. The documentation states that it has a vertical lift capacity of 25 feet but again, depending on the elevation, tubing size and joints, it will likely be somewhat less. I figure 18-20 feet is well within limits. As it turns out, our sand knoll sits less than 20 vertical feet above the lake surface. Continue reading

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The Homestead Water Supply – Part 2

Welcome Back! In homestead water supply part 1, I explained how I had a deep well drilled and had an outside hand pump installed. I will now discuss how we upgraded our water system.

Pitcher Pumps

Even after I got married, we used the outside hand pump for all of our water needs. But there came a time when we decided to get really modern and have “running water”. I installed a hand pitcher pump at the kitchen sink. The pump had a chamber with suction leathers. But this setup had limitations.

Our Maine Homestead Kitchen w/ Pitcher Pump

Pitcher Pump at Kitchen Sink in Maine

Theoretically, you can only suck and lift water 33.9 feet high (vertical distance). Realistically, it seems 18-20 feet of lift is a more practical number. A pitcher pump relies on your water source being within that dimension. Your pump and situation might be able to improve somewhat on that lift number and sometimes the only way to tell is install the pump and see how it performs. There are many variables to calculate the lift and as far as I’m concerned, that’s better suited for scientists. Since our water table was only 5-7 feet below the surface, our new pitcher pump worked well for us. Continue reading

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