Our Off-Grid Refrigeration and Battery Choices

I have a more comprehensive update post coming in the next few days regarding how things are progressing on the new homestead but for now I wanted to pass on some preliminary info that others might find of use. As you might be aware, living off-grid requires thoughtful consideration on appliances and special power equipment. Some of the items needed are inverters, solar panels, and of course, the batteries which are the heart of the off- grid system. For now, let’s talk about our off-grid refrigeration and battery choices.

I want to be right up front with the information I am passing on. I am not endorsing any product. I researched and placed an order for the following couple of items but I haven’t seen them in person yet. I have them but have not unpacked them yet. I am merely letting you know of a couple new items that I am trying and once I hook them up and get some experience with them, I’ll make a new post to let you know what I’ve discovered. Continue reading

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Our New Off-Grid Homestead is Underway!

If you’ve been following along via facebook, you know we arrived safe and sound in Nova Scotia. We haven’t stopped since arriving. We own two properties along the coast and we had the hard decision of which one would be the new homestead. After evaluating all the pros and cons, we’ve made the big decision. Our new off-grid homestead is underway!

Scenic Overlook from Homestead 2

Scenic Overlook from Homestead

Selecting the Homestead Site

Many of the criteria we have espoused in previous posts on our blog  http://www.inthewilderness.net/2017/01/09/selecting-homestead-site/ were used to evaluate the two properties. Some of the things we considered were ease of access, private location, potential for future close neighbors, good soil for a garden and orchard, a woodlot for aesthetics and firewood, strong potential for clean drinking water and a soil structure to insure a proper, standard septic installation. Johanna wrote up a spread sheet so we could  compare the parcels against each other. We rated each parcel in regards to each criteria. This helped us to reach our decision. Continue reading

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Farewell Hockley Lake!

I wanted to give an update on our life. As some of you know, we’ve been on one big, long adventure. We’ve homesteaded off-grid for the past 37 years. The last 17 have been spent alone in the wilderness of northern Saskatchewan on remote Hockley Lake.

Wilderness River North of Our Off-grid Homestead

Wilderness River North of Our Off-grid Homestead

We’ve been on the cusp of a major change. We have one more adventure in life before we hit the checkout counter and that is to move to Nova Scotia, somewhere on or close to the ocean, to start over again and build a new off-grid homestead from scratch. The last 6 months have been spent packing and preparing. Continue reading

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Floor Plan For The Perfect Homestead Dwelling – Part 2

Welcome back! In this part of designing the perfect homestead dwelling, I’ll discuss more factors to consider when developing your floor plan, beginning with the workshop.

At the Maine homestead, the workshop was attached to the barn. This was convenient for tool storage since most repairs took place outside but it was inconvenient for Ron to do his woodworking. He’d have to make a fire and warm up the shop before any work could take place so he seldom engaged in his hobby.

Johanna's "Woman Cave"

Johanna’s “Woman Cave”

Here, the shop is an enclosed room in the house. Enclosed so wood shavings and dust are contained. It’s somewhat inconvenient having to run inside to fetch tools when Ron is working outside, but that’s balanced out by the fact that he’s more inclined to do wood working since his shop is located in the heated house. If you’re able to locate the shop so that it’s near the entrance, tramping through the house to retrieve tools when working outside is kept to a minimum. Continue reading

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Floor Plan for the Perfect Homestead Dwelling Part 1

Designing the floor plan for the perfect homestead dwelling, whether it be on or off the grid requires careful thought and consideration. Let’s face it. You’ll be engaging in activities most people have never dreamed of doing. Certainly modern houses aren’t designed with activities such as butchering and food preservation in mind so you’ll need to devise areas and work spaces with these activities in mind.

If you’ve purchased property with an existing house but plan on doing some remodeling, you can incorporate many of the features I’ll discuss. Doing so will make your homesteading life easier and more enjoyable.

If you’re building the house on your homestead from scratch, you have a wonderful opportunity to include features into your floor plan that are integral components of an efficient, smooth running homestead dwelling. Continue reading

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Homestead Road Building

Busting a road through the woods is an expensive proposition. You may have to pay a logger to drop trees. You will have to hire a bulldozer to clear the roadway. Then you will need to pay for load after load of gravel that will be hauled by a dump truck. If you are trying to convert a boggy area to a road, you will be astounded at how much gravel the area sucks up before you have a passable road. For spots with high spring run off or year round flows, you may even need to purchase culverts. All these expenses need to be factored in when figuring the cost of homestead road building.

Road Building to My Maine Homestead

Road Building to My Maine Homestead

Out of curiosity, I inquired years ago how driveways through the woods are priced in Canada. Per foot was the response. A lot per foot as it turned out. It was an absurd figure. So absurd, I never bothered to put it in my memory vault for future retrieval. Paying a pile of money per foot to bust a trail through the woods wasn’t going to happen in my lifetime. Continue reading

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The Indoor Outhouse

In my last post, The Homestead Outhouse, I alluded to the fact that there is an indoor version as well. Composting toilet manufacturers probably wouldn’t be too keen on my characterization, but an outdoors outhouse is essentially a chamber that solids drop into for composting. A commercial composting toilet is essentially the same concept. So let’s chat about the homestead’s indoor outhouse.

Our Off-grid Homestead Bathroom

Our Off-grid Homestead Bathroom

In Maine, many years ago, we purchased a non-electric composting toilet. Liquids (urine) were supposed to magically evaporate and solids were to turn into a nice crumbly compost. It was a nice idea but it didn’t work. In fact, it was a disaster. I installed it properly including the vent tube through the roof and ultimately installed a small fan hoping to aid the evaporation process. What really happened was a mostly solid mass formed in the rotating drum. This occurred even though we added other organic matter after each use. Because the drum door didn’t close properly sometimes, with each turn of the crank handle, some debris fell from the drum into the collection tray, mixed with the liquid urine and formed a disgusting goo. And guess who had to clean out the mess? It was an expensive fixture that turned out to be essentially unusable and a waste of space.

I would discourage everyone from a non-electric composting toilet. Any composting toilet should be an electric version that has a heater and fan to really heat and dissipate moisture. Even though I put one of those small metal wind driven turbine fans on the stack pipe outside, it didn’t make a difference. Just not enough air flow to draw moisture out of the toilet. Continue reading

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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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The Homestead Water Supply – Part 1

A reliable water source will be vital for your homestead’s success. Not only will your survival depend on a safe, adequate supply of water, but if you are considering animals, they too will rely on their daily drink. Let’s discuss the homestead water supply.

Water Well Drilling Rig at our Maine Homestead.

Water Well Drilling Rig at our Maine Homestead

Because this topic is so important and has so many facets, I will break it into four installments. In this post I’ll discuss our water system we had for our Maine homestead. Continue reading

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Selecting Your Homestead Site

You’ve decided you want to live off-grid. Now what? How do you proceed? How does one get started picking the perfect homestead site? The process can be overwhelming but let’s start logically and take it one step at a time. One of the first questions to address is where do you want to live off-grid?

The following are questions to ask yourself when seeking the perfect off-grid homestead plot. They are in no particular order.

Points to Consider in the Quest to Find the Perfect Homestead Site:

1. Access to employment- Will you need to be close to an existing job or will you need to find a new source of income? If you don’t need to worry about income, access to a job may not be a big consideration as to where you ultimately settle.

2. What dangers do the local area have? Deer with prevalent Lyme Disease, mosquito borne Zika or other?? No place is utopia so delve into what traits the local area has that might be of concern.

3. Are there dangerous animals in the area? You don’t necessarily have to be afraid of but respectful of. Bear? Cougar? Poisonous snakes? Continue reading

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Why Homestead? Why Live Off-grid?

Welcome kindred spirit. Thank you for stopping by. Why homestead? Why live off-grid? Two great questions whose answers vary depending on each individual’s unique circumstances.

Maine home in summer

Maine Home in Summer

In my case, back in the old days of the 1970’s, I had a career in electronics. It was an entertaining and challenging choice and I was prepared to work my life away until I retired in the standard, conventional way. But I’ve always had an adventurous, independent streak, and it wasn’t long into my work regimen that I started to question whether this was all there was to life. Get up in the morning, drive to work, pay the bills, make the company owner prosperous, get old and eventually hit the checkout counter.

Seemed there had to be another path through life and it was my work supervisor who suggested homesteading. That suggestion changed the course of my life. Since then, I/we have homesteaded off-grid for a total of 37 years. Continue reading

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