Off The Grid For Life

Wind Turbine

Wind turbine gives us power at night and during storms.


I often wonder why others try to discourage people, family or friends, from living off the grid? I see someone wanting to do it so badly, but to have her circle of family and friends saying thing against it, trying to change her mind. Since I have lived off the grid for 16 years now, I feel I can answer this question. As I see it, I believe they are jealous. Yes, they see you changing to do something new and innovative that they would never be able to attempt, let alone do. Why can’t they encourage you instead? Because they do not want you to be different from them. It is the same as smokers and nonsmokers. vegetarians and meat eaters, as well as a slew of others like religion, race, political, NON-GMO and GMO (yes, there are actually people defending their GMO’s on Facebook!), etc. 

The State Forest

The forest surrounds our little homestead.

I started researching this topic today and discovered the stories about living off the grid are usually about how it is illegal for someone or a family to be living off the grid. When I go to these stories, and there have a number of them lately, I find there is more to the story than living without utility electric power. Most of these are stories about someone in a city, not following the housing codes. Of course they are going to be fined. That would be expected. It has nothing to do with being off the utility power.

Sun Hitting Solar Panels

Solar Panels at work

Maybe these stories scare your parents or other family members who are afraid of what will happen to you, if you live this way. Most of the people I know personally, even homesteaders, will NEVER live off the grid. They are hooked on too many electricity hogs to give them up for good. When we moved here I owned a 42″ television, which was big for that time period. I gave it away. I knew it would look out of place in this house and we would probably never use it again. I was right. Now we don’t even own one and I have no interest in one at all. We are both too busy to waste time watching it anyway. 

Peaceful Forest Homestead

Peaceful Forest Homestead


We can still watch movies and television shows on DVD and buy them from Amazon. It is a rare that we watch anything though. Most of the time, I read on my Kindle and my husband likes to relax and go to be early. It is a pretty contented way of life, as long as you can keep the outside world from invading it. Our children are grown up and on their own, so it is just the two of us here. Our parents are all gone now too, so no one is trying to change our mind. They stopped trying after they saw we were really doing better than everyone else on the grid. Life is what you make it, on or off the grid! 

Solar Baby

Copyright © 2015 Kathleen G. Lupole
All Photographs Copyright © 2015 Kathleen G. Lupole

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Solar Cooking Challenges Us

Cooking with Propane

Cooking with Propane


Solar cooking is the biggest challenge on our homestead.  We are trying to find other methods to cook besides using propane. I think we have finally decided to test some appliances that we have both researched. One being a solar oven. I tried to make one myself, but it hasn’t worked very good yet. I am thinking of trying to cook something easy in it, like soup. Just to see if it would work. Not very positive about using one in the dead of winter though. Our winters are very cold.

Crock Pot

Crock Pot

I have used the crock pot when we were running the generator. It worked pretty good. It would be handy to have a solar oven to cook with when the sun is out. There is one on Amazon that I might break down and buy. I hate to spend money on something I can build myself.  I think I will take a chance on the portable solar oven I have on my wish list. Maybe it would work in the winter when the sun is out. I have two wood stoves in the winter to cook on all day long. So winter cooking is not something I have to worry about. Having the alternative energy system makes us want to use that for all our utilities. Solar cooking makes sense. Just like the solar refrigeration did.

Sunshine

Sunshine hitting the panels!

 My husband has his heart set on using an induction stove top for cooking. I hope we can. It would be great for us. We have decided to buy a small one burner one and try it. They aren’t very expensive and it will be a good start. If you are using electric to cook with, then it is solar cooking, because all our power comes from our solar panels and wind turbine. It is free for us to use. I am very aware of the fact that you are not supposed to use items that need heat. If you add enough panels though, you should be able to add items that take a bit more power…………in this case, a lot more power!   

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Copyright © 2015 Kathleen G. Lupole
All Photographs Copyright © 2015 Kathleen G. Lupole

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Build Your Own Alternative Energy System?

Solar & Wind

Using both solar & wind power!

Why build your own alternative energy system? Off the grid living is not like what the general population thinks.  Living in an off the grid home makes us think of more ways to do things differently. As I have written of many times on here, my husband mows our lawn with an electric lawn mower. He bought four batteries for it when he purchased it in 2006. The batteries need to be replaced within this next year. He is thinking of rebuilding two of them soon. We charge the batteries with our power system so there is no extra cost in using an electric mower. Free power! I want to add too, that this Neuton lawn mower is still going 9 years later! That is unheard of for most lawn mowers. I know this for a fact since my father used to rebuild lawn mowers. People would replace their mowers and give him their old one, which usually wasn’t that old, for free. He’d rebuild it because he enjoyed working on them.

Solar Lawn Mower

Mowing with solar!

Most people will ask about living with your own alternative energy system, but then say they want everything they have in their house the way it is right now. In other words, if I can’t have it all, then I’d rather pay the electric company so I don’t have to put out any effort using my own system. So why bother asking about it? You know yourself. You know you want to use appliances and electronics that are energy hogs. So just stick with the utility companies.

Tesla Motors

Electric cars are perfect for living off the grid! Photo Credit

My husband had to put out a lot of work, mental as well as physical to set up a small alternative energy system for us. It is much easier to have installers come do it for you. Expensive too. So he set out to learn. And learn he did. He keeps learning how to do various things to the system to make it better and better and keep up with the times. No, he is not going to let it become outdated. Our plan is to one day be able to add at least one of Tesla’s electric cars to our life and power it with our system. Which is definitely on the horizon for us! We can do it! 

“The first step is to establish that something is possible; then probability will occur.” -Elon Musk

Solar Baby

Copyright © 2015 Kathleen G. Lupole
All Photographs Copyright © 2015 Kathleen G. Lupole
Unless otherwise stated on photo

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Being As Independent As Possible.

Solar Baby's Alternative Energy System

Solar Baby’s Alternative Energy System

When we moved to our house in 1999, we had one thought in mind, and that was to be as independent as possible. At the time we did not know we would start using solar for power. We figured we would use kerosene lamps for lights. Propane for refrigeration and cooking. And a wood stove for heating and one for cooking. Our water came from a pitcher pump on a shallow well and there was an outhouse out back. What more did we need? 

Sunshine!

Sunshine!

Baths, showers and sinks? We covered that by installing a cast iron claw foot bath tub, bought for $125. at a junk shop. We had to carry the water to the wood stoves to heat, but it worked. Once the drains were installed to the tub and the sink, it was set. During the summer we used green soda bottles sitting in the sun all day for showers. Just pour them over yourself in the tub. Easy. It all worked great. 

Wind Power!

Wind Power!

The only thing that changed for us was wanting to be on the computer. Once that became important to both of us, we had to have the power. I’d say if the internet disappeared, we wouldn’t need anything more than what we started out with. Our expenses wouldn’t be as much a month if we did not have computers and the internet. For me it is my socialization and some of my income. But I could live without it. A simple system for very low cost that we have increased little by little over the years. Didn’t cost much at all. Right here in the middle of the state forest, with big trees all around us…………we generate our electricity. So don’t say it can’t be done. It can. I know, because we do it.

Solar Baby

Copyright © 2015 Kathleen G. Lupole
All Photographs Copyright © 2015 Kathleen G. Lupole

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Your Own Power System is Independence

Sink

No gadgets on my counters


Your own power system means independence. If you look around most people’s homes (maybe even your own, if you are not generating your own power), they think that most of the electric items they use are normal. The more things the manufacturers of these items can introduce into your daily life, the more you need them. If you get used to not using these items, then you will find that you don’t really need them. Items like microwaves, coffeemakers, toasters, can openers, tea kettles (Yes, they make such a thing! I couldn’t believe it myself), blenders, food processors, bread makers, etc. The list can go on and on. 

The Tri-Metric Meter

The Tri-Metric Meter


Since living here with our own power system, I have learned to not need any of those items. I admit to using an electric hand mixer, but many times I just use the manual rotary mixer instead of getting out the hand mixer. It seems to be easier and if I am mixing something that only needs a few minutes of mixing, why bother? You have to remember if you are paying an electric bill, every time you plug something in or turn something on, you are paying money for using it. On the other hand, if you are generating your own electric, when you turn those items on, they are free. Yes, no cost at all.

Our Electric System

Our Electric System

I have found that people who do not have their own power systems, think the cost of the panels and equipment is more than their electric bill over their life time. Where did they come up with that? Probably from the electric company. Another thing they start on is the effect of making solar panels or whatever equipment on the environment. I guess that means NOTHING in their house is manufactured with that effect. Of course, that cuts their vehicles out also. That is an argument that others use to try to put down what you are doing. Well, just because I am living with my own system, doesn’t mean I am telling them to do it. Not everyone is cut out for this life style. 

Solar Baby

Copyright © 2015 Kathleen G. Lupole
All Photographs Copyright © 2015 Kathleen G. Lupole

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Using the Generator in the Winter Time

Solar Panels on Barn

Sunless Days of Fall

Using the generator in the winter time, when the sun is scarce, we have to use it more than we’d like. Our generator is built exclusively for an off-the-grid home and was sold as a kit. We bought it back in 2004, from Backwoods Solar for around $800.00. They don’t sell this one anymore. I just checked today and they only had one rebuilt Delco Alternator in their generator category. The one we have charges DC only. When we first started out, we just charged the batteries with a regular car or truck pulled up to the house. Stinky! Expensive! It was nice when we changed it.

Time to Add More Panels

Time to Add More Panels!

Now we are trying to get some projects done around here so we can put our money into more solar panels. They make the difference in how much you have to turn that generator on. When you don’t get much sun, like in December, January and February, you have to run the generator in order to charge your batteries because the sun isn’t doing it. We use one light in our kitchen at night. We get to bed early, and get up early too.  Then we have our coffee when it is still dark…………not a problem around here! Stays dark in the morning too.

Our Generator

Our Generator

The rule of most off-the-grid homes is to buy a really good generator, then use it as little as possible. Last summer we hardly ever turned it on. I don’t remember using it much at all. More panels means the batteries will reach their charge, so you can use your lights, computers or television (if you have one) during the night. Some people only use solar panels and have no batteries. That means they can use their various electrical items when the sun is on the panels. Not after the sun is off the panels.

Solar Refrigeration

Solar Refrigeration

We now have solar refrigeration, so we don’t want to run our batteries down too far. In fact, my husband is constantly monitoring our system. He knows where it stands every minute. A solar energy system is not as complicated as you may think. When we first started with one panel and two batteries, we were able to watch videos every night. That was before we had our computers. We had a big desk top computer, but it wasn’t easy to use it with this primitive system. Now our laptop computers can be on almost all day. It has been a learning experience for us. By building it yourself, learning as you do it, you will definitely know your system top to bottom! 

Solar Baby

Copyright © 2015 Kathleen G. Lupole
All Photographs Copyright © 2015 Kathleen G. Lupole

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Heat Powered Stove Fan Works Well

Heat Powered Stove Fan

Heat Powered Stove Fan

 A Heat Powered Stove Fan sounded like a good way to get the heat from our wood stove into our bathroom. The bathroom would stay cold, even during the daytime. I saw one of my off-the-grid friends had two of these fans sitting on her wood stove in her photos. I mentioned it to my husband and he thought we should get one. So we did.

Alcona Wood Stove Fan

Alcona Wood Stove Fan back

Heat powered stove fans result in better hot air circulation. In our case, it has. Our bathroom was considerably warmer last night.  That is even during the night when our stove was banked back. It uses no electricity but runs with a little motor, that is powered by the wood stove burning wood.

Motor on Heat Powered Stove Fan

Little Motor on Fan

A heat powered stove fan is designed to sit on freestanding wood stoves with a surface temperature of 400°F. to 650°F (205°C. to 345°C.). Any hotter and it may damage the fan as per the instruction manual that came with it. It is very important where you place it on your stove.  Cool air should travel over the fins on the back.

Heat Powered Fan on Wood Stove

Fan on Wood Stove

It is very quiet which was important to us. We had a small fan in a pipe in the Sun Mar composting toilet when we first moved here and it about drove me crazy. I had my husband remove it and he removed the toilet as well (Too much work to maintain it compared to a saw dust toilet, but that’s another story all together.). The heat powered stove fan worked immediately after being placed on top of our wood stove. It hasn’t stopped spinning yet! 

Heat Powered Fan Spinning

Spinning! Moving Warm Air!

This is the link to the heat powered stove fan that I bought. It runs about $80.99 and with Prime, I got free shipping. I believe it is worth every penny! 

Heat Powered Stove Fan link at Amazon

Solar Baby

 

 

I write this blog based on my experience living an off-the-grid life as a modern homesteader. Some of the links you may click or products I recommend may or may not compensate me for including them in my post. Be sure to read my disclosure page if you are concerned about that.

Copyright © 2015 Kathleen G. Lupole
All Photographs Copyright © 2015 Kathleen G. Lupole

Posted in Off-The-Grid Homestead | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Water, Food, Heat and Shelter

Homestead

Homestead

Water, food, heat and shelter are your priorities when living anywhere, but especially when you are living a homesteading lifestyle. Electric, internet, computers, telephone and television are not on that list. With good reason too. You do not need them to survive. I too, love my computer and internet connection. But could I live without them? Certainly! I have lived without them in the past and could easily do so again. 

Pitcher Pump

Pitcher Pump


If you have a good water source where you live, then count yourself very blessed. Water, food, heat and shelter is basically routine chores for us. I have seen through many of my Facebook friends, and on homesteading blogs and forums, that not everyone can count on a water supply. Our homestead has a shallow well with a pitcher pump. I do not take it for granted as something could happen to it at any time. That is why storing water is something we do. When our root cellar is finished, we will have more stored than presently. No matter how good your supply is…………please, store some today!

Summer Squash

In our garden

The next part of the equation  of water, food, heat and shelter is food. None of us want to go without that! Good food is central to a happy homestead. Not many people would want to live off-the-grid if it meant they couldn’t have a decent supply of food. The key is to grow what you eat. And stock up on what you don’t produce yourself. Our garden plays a big part in our food supply. 

Jewel Wood Cook Stove

Jewel Wood Cook Stove

The next component of  your homestead is heat. Of course, it depends on where you live, as to how big of a heating source you will need. Living here in upstate NY, we need a good, dependable source. Presently we use two wood stoves. One for heating and one for cooking. You can cook on the heating stove. Then you would only need one. Heating with wood gives you the independence of supplying your source with the fuel. Instead of purchasing fuel from an outside source, if you have wood on your property.

Peaceful Forest Homestead

Peaceful Forest Homestead

Your shelter is your house or dwelling where you live. It all comes together there. Staying cozy, well fed with plenty to drink, cook and clean with. Feeling safe and secure from the outside world or civilization in your own home, is the ultimate independence we are all looking for. See how planning ahead for your water, food, heat and shelter comes together in the end? Your homestead should be your haven or safety net. Plan for it now!

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Copyright © 2014 Kathleen G. Lupole
All Photographs Copyright © 2014 Kathleen G. Lupole

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How Those Ten New Panels Did This Summer

Solar panels wind turbine on barn roof

Sunshine & Wind Power!

Are you wondering how those ten new panels did this summer? We had a few sunless days last week, but for the most part, sunshine daily. This summer has been crazy! Crazy as far as our weather goes, that is. We had a cooler summer than usual. Quite a bit of rain too. Our garden did great. We didn’t have to water it, but one time, that I can think of. 

Fifteen Solar Panels

Dark clouds overhead!


To answer your question, those ten new panels have done an amazing job! We have not run our generator once this summer. Not one time! I can tell you, that has saved us a lot of money at the gas pump. Didn’t have to hear that roaring sound outside, or smell the fumes of that gasoline motor. I always hated that sound. One of the things I have loved about living in the forest, is not hearing all that noise you hear in other places. Just the birds singing. We don’t even hear airplanes except at night, or the occasional helicopter keeping an eye on the state forest (so nobody starts a forest fire).

State Forest

The field beyond our paddock.

I realize our Peaceful Forest Homestead will always be an ongoing project. We both think of new things we want to do, and how to improve our life here. We are both older now, and want things a bit easier. I was tempted at one point last year, to move to a grid-tied home. I have changed my mind on that. How could I live like that after living here for fifteen years? It would be such a step down! This really is THE life! I think our ten new panels is what made the difference. 

Trimetric Meter

Watching the charging light!


Watching our Trimetric meter’s little green charging light has been a lot more fun since we got these ten new panels. I am not saying you can’t live with a smaller system. We did, and we could again. It is just that once you build your little system larger, you really do appreciate those items you didn’t have enough power to use before. Which items? I will be writing about those in the very near future. So stay tuned! 

Solar Baby

Copyright © 2014 Kathleen G. Lupole
All Photographs Copyright © 2014 Kathleen G. Lupole

I write this blog based on my experience living an off-the-grid life as a modern homesteader. Some of the links you may click or products I recommend may or may not compensate me for including them in my post. Be sure to read my disclosure page if you are concerned about that.

Posted in Solar Panels | Tagged | Leave a comment

Living The Off-The-Grid Lifestyle

Peaceful Forest Homestead

See the outhouse to the far right?

People are always asking me, what do I mean by the “off-the-grid lifestyle?” What is it? What do you mean by “lifestyle?” For most people who do not live off the grid, they have no idea what that means. Yet I think, it intrigues them. Is living off the grid that much different than living on the grid or grid-tied? I had to think a minute on that one. YES! It is definitely different, much different. YES, it is definitely a lifestyle!

Forest Morning

Morning

The truth of the matter is that when we moved into this house on my birthday, June 24th, 1999, I had no idea what was in store for us. It was like camping. Or at least vacationing in a cabin in the forest. I’d say to myself, “this is the off-the-grid lifestyle.” It was a fresh new way of life. For me, it was totally different from my previous life. What was so different? At that time, we did not have a generator or our solar system. It was different!

Peaceful Forest

Peaceful Forest BEFORE the tornado in 2000!

This house came with a propane refrigerator and it worked fine. It had a gas light on the wall, one that used a mantle. We had been preparing in advance of moving here so we had quite a nice collection of kerosene lamps. We preferred to use those. There was a small propane cooking stove. We brought our little antique propane cooking stove with us. It wasn’t long before we had that hooked up, and was cooking in style. So we were set!  

Pitcher Pump

Our Water Supply

What about the water? Well, the water had to hand pumped by using a pitcher pump. It is right outside the front door, so not that far to get to. One of the first things my husband did was to install drains to the bathtub, (that we brought with us when we moved in) and the sink in the kitchen. That way, we could pour water in the bathtub and the sink, and let it go out through the drains. I appreciated that little fact so much over the years! 

Antique Gas Stove

Antique gas stove that we used for a period of time.


In the first years of living here, we took outside showers. Yes, nobody ever drove down our road. We were really alone out here back then. There was no bathroom here. The former owners were planning on making the room off the kitchen, that leads to the cellar, a bathroom. They just hadn’t gone any further than setting a toilet in there, but never hooked it up. We had bought a SunMar composting toilet before moving here, so we set that up in the tiny downstairs bedroom. That became our bathroom. My husband set our claw foot bathtub up in there and oh, boy, I could take baths! Living off-the-grid didn’t seem so hard once we were actually living it. Planning for it was essential! 

Solar Baby

Copyright © 2014 Kathleen G. Lupole
All Photographs Copyright © 2014 Kathleen G. Lupole

I write this blog based on my experience living an off-the-grid life as a modern homesteader. Some of the links you may click or products I recommend may or may not compensate me for including them in my post. Be sure to read my disclosure page if you are concerned about that.

Posted in Off-The-Grid Homestead | Tagged , , | Leave a comment