It took us four years to actually find our property. When we were looking, we wanted property with acreage. After we looked at this house on one acre we changed our minds. I remember the day we moved in here in June of 1999. In fact it was on my birthday or the day after. The previous owners had left behind a lot of junk and furniture that we did not want nor need. Not only did we have all of our belongings, but my adult son, Jeff's too. We rented a truck and loaded that up a couple of times along with our old van. Instead of being a pretty June day, as is normal for that time of the year, it was rainy, dreary and cool. We wanted to get the rental truck back as soon as possible so we wouldn't have to pay for that extra day. Finally, we were all moved in and took the truck back. Whew!
Nikita in our garden
Little did we know how much work we had ahead of us! That night we slept on our mattress on the floor because there was no way to set up our furniture till we got rid of the previous owners' junk. Since they used it as a hunting camp, most of the things here was furniture they didn't want in their homes. I did not want to keep their beds and mattresses and we had to pay at the landfill to get rid of them. Later on when clearing our land, we'd find a lot of bedsprings buried in the ground in the woods (In fact, that was pretty common throughout the state land. Still to this day, people come from local areas to dump their old mattrresses and tires in the state land. Goodness, it only costs $4.00 to take a tire to the landfill! Just don't take a whole bunch at once and it won't break you. This is a dangerous practice to do with bedsprings, as once our dog, Nikita was hiking with my husband and stepped into one. She got caught and started crying until he got her out of it. We were very careful about looking for them after that. On our property though, I think we have removed every one we found.). Sleeping on the mattress on the floor, I had dreams of mice walking all over us, but when I awakened, I found our two cats in bed with us. I didn't worry about the mice after that.
Cinders, our cat enjoying the garden too!
You are probably wondering why we changed our plans to buy property with more acreage. The reason was because as soon as we saw it, we knew this was what we wanted. For one thing, both of us loved trees and the forest. Especially the thick forest that was around this house. On a dirt road was a plus for us too. We love living on one and at that time, there wasn't much traffic. The whole acre surrounding the house and front yard was forest. If we wanted to get horses, we'd have to clear some land for them and a barn. At that time, we just wanted to get started. We weren't getting any younger! Using wood stoves for heating and cooking, having all those trees to take down could be a good thing. Not having to buy the wood, just taking it off our land for a number of years would be very convenient.
A house to live in!
For me, one of my thoughts was that we wouldn't have to build a house. I thought we'd have to camp in something till it was built. Even though the house did not have plumbing, there was a working handdug well right out front. An outhouse out back. The propane refrigerator and cooking stove came with the house. I figured it would be easy to do this. Living in our previous house we had become used to not watching television, even though we had a big screen one. I gave it away when we moved because there was no place for it in this house. To be honest with you, I felt even if there was a place to put it, a big screen television didn't fit in my vision of what this life means. To me it wasn't becoming "old-fashioned" or anything like that, but it was about not letting trivial things be important to me, such as watching televsion shows because they are there. No, we never missed it and have never added it to our wish list either. We both still enjoy movies and shows we can buy on DVD's to watch on our computers. But at that time our big desk top computer was not being hooked up because we didn't have power for it. Back in 1999, the computer didn't seem so important.
Our First Wood Pile
What was important? Cleaning out the house, making it "our" house. Finding a spot to put in our garden. It was already the end of June, which is late for putting a garden in, but not impossible. We prepared an area on the front yard for the garden. Sometimes I think of doing that again. Surround the house with food plants instead of landscape plants. It did my heart good to see a front yard full of tomato plants and we got a good harvest from those. We did not hook up our wood cook stove at that time. It sat until 2001 in the kitchen not being used. I cooked on the propane cooking range or outside on the outdoor firepit. Now when I think about those days, cooking a big breakfast outside in the morning, smelling the coffee perking, the food cooking, my husband and son tending the fire, my stepdaughter and her baby, our puppy and I, all enjoying this new way of life. It really was the good life!
Copyright 2016 Kathleen G. LupoleAll Photographs Copyright 2016 Kathleen G. Lupole
Our house in Bainbridge, NY.
Preparing for this lifestyle change is something my husband and I did gradually. We lived for a couple of years in an apartment that was on an old farm. The first thing we did was set up a clothesline from our second floor porch so we could hang our laundry outside. Learning to wash the laundry by hand in our sink. At that time Larry was driving an over the road truck and I was working as a home health aid. So our schedules were not routine. When he was home, he started making homemade bread. About eight loaves at a time. He would take some with him on the road and freeze the rest.
We spent every spare moment we found running to the local library. Bringing home books about being self-sufficient. At that time, we were thinking about living off our land and not so much about no electricity. At that time we wanted to find land to move to, but hadn't found anything yet. On week-ends we would take trips to the country to look for places to live. We moved from that apartment to a house in the country on a bigger farm. This place was even better. We were the last house on a dead end road and surrounded by private land. At this house, we went even further in our research of living a self-sufficient life. By the time we found our house and moved here, we had learned a lot.
Larry tending our garden!
Some of the skills we perfected while living on this property was using kerosene lamps, heating with a wood stove and cooking with a wood cook stove. But the most important skill we learned, I feel, was growing a garden. Our garden was very productive. We didn't use a rototiller, but a wheel hoe cultivator that we bought second hand and Larry repaired it. He used it to put in our garden there and our garden was just amazing. We had so much that we both learned how to can and using Larry's grandmother's canner we put up so many jars of food that I lost count. It wasn't just me doing the canning. I was working as a home health aid and when I was gone, if Larry was home, he'd harvest produce from the garden and can up jars of food with no help from me.
So here we were living in this house and trying to prepare for living this way when we find our own house. We were doing pretty good there. Then a blizzard happened. All our neighbors and landlord's family had to leave their houses and go stay with relatives because our road was out of power for days. Our landlord ended up using a generator from his hardware store. We were the only ones that didn't leave their house. And we were renters! Yes, we were the talk of the neighborhood after that! Nobody was laughing at us anymore.
What made us able to survive a power outage in a normal on the grid house?
1. Wood heat. We had an oil furnace, but we had put a wood heating stove and a wood cook stove in the front room of the house. We were using them daily. Once we learned to cook on the cook stove, we did that a lot. It was fun and good.
2. Kerosene lamps. For lighting we had more than a few kerosene lamps and we had been using them in the front room every evening anyway.
3. Food. We had canned a lot of food and could cook whatever we wanted on the wood stoves. The fire department gave us dry ice to keep in our freezer to protect what we had. But we cooked that up pretty quick.
4. The sense of adventure. Yes, we loved that time. It was fun being the only ones in their house for miles around us. I still find it amazing that country people were not prepared for something as common as a power outage.
Copyright 2016 Kathleen G. Lupole
All Photographs Copyright 2016 Kathleen G. Lupole
Welcome to Solar Baby!
Welcome to Solar Baby! I am writing about our off the grid life on this website. My husband, Larry and I moved to a hunting camp in the middle of the state forest in 1999. At the time we purchased our property, I didn't think too much about the house not having electric or plumbing. It was an adventure that we were looking forward to! In the beginning when moved here, we lived without any power at all. We didn't even have a generator and didn't think about getting one, or that we needed one. It just never came up. This house was not a normal hunting cabin type of camp. It is a well-built two story farmhouse. Built in 1850, with trees from this land and made into boards by the sawmill on this property at that time. It had never been updated except for a sliding glass door and the deck on the end. So it was the perfect off the grid house! It came with a Servel propane refrigerator, a propane cooking range, propane lights and a huge wood heating stove. What more did we need?
No bathroom. No running water. An outhouse out back, a fair distance from the house. Not a bad walk on summer night, but still was a little scarey when we first moved here and the forest came right up to the house. No barn or horses out there to keep the demons away from me! Larry worked nights, so I was here alone after my son got his own place. Before we moved in, we found an old clawfoot bathtub in an antique shop. Then a SunMar composting toilet bought used from a homesteading family that lived in a bus while building three houses for three families. There was a downstairs bedroom that we made into the bathroom. After we moved in my husband dug a proper leach field to connect the drains from the bathtub and kitchen sink. Even if you do not have running water and/or indoor plumbing, it is essential to have working drains to make using the sinks and tub and convenient. That made it so much easier!
What did we do about water? The house had a pitcher pump on a handdug shallow well, right out front. That is still our water supply to this day. The well has never gone dry in all the years we have lived here. In the winter, as long as we remember to drain the water down, and put the handle up, it works perfectly. Never lets us down. Just pour a cup of warm water down it and in five minutes the pump is thawed and ready to use. So we moved in here with our collection of kerosene lamps, lanterns, a wood cook stove, 2 cats, a puppy, my adult son and us. What was ahead of us here? At that time having our own power system never entered my mind. I was ready to live simply and make do without all that convenience. In fact, that was what I was looking forward to!
Bridge to our house!