Living Without A Refrigerator

Peaceful Forest Homestead
Our house with the generator in front and covered with a tarp.

Living without a refrigerator is tough. Preserving foods without refrigeration was done for centuries and is still done in many countries. Most people take refrigeration for granted. It does make life easier and convenient. If you want to live without paying for that convenience it can be done. I have lived off and on without it myself. When my husband and I moved to our homestead here the house already had a Servel gas refrigerator in it. We were very pleased with it even though it was a very old model from the 1930s. I liked the fact that it was very quiet and the food stayed at a constant temperature without the fluctuating  temperatures that the electric models have. My Servel had one of those tiny freezers. I managed to squeeze packages of meat in it as long as I re-wrapped so it was as small as possible. Usually it was harder to get out than get in! It would freeze as hard as a rock and become embedded in the frost build up. I would go at it with my ice pick!

solar refrigerator
Our solar refrigerator!

Now we have been here for eighteen years and my husband has been slowly remodeling our house which included insulating it. Once the house was closed up and insulated, the propane for the refrigerator started bothering me. I could not breathe. So we had to sell the refrigerator. We managed to live for over six years without any refrigerator except an ice chest. Our plan was to purchase the SunDanzer refrigerator and freezer. They are two separate units built the same as the chest freezers. Use very little power and are perfect for anyone generating their own power. We did purchase the SunDanzer refrigerator in 2013. Very thankful for that!

Root Cellar
Inside Root Cellar

Our house was built in the 1850s and included an old fashioned root cellar which is also part of the refrigeration system. My root cellar has a dirt floor and fieldstone walls. It also has a big built in bin that is connected to the ceiling with no legs on the floor. I think it may have been used for storing apples since our property had many apple trees. I open one of the windows in the root cellar to let the cool night air in. Then in the morning I close that window so it does not heat it up. I want to keep it cool. The pantry is connected to the root cellar by a door and stairs. In the morning when I close the root cellar window, I open the pantry door a crack and let that cool night air cool our pantry all day. It works well. In the summer it is still cool, but not as good as I’d like.

SunDanzer in Pantry
Pantry

My pantry is presently being remodeled to be the ideal food pantry. We are removing the window as it just takes up space and I will use a light in there. Dark is better for your stored foods anyway. It will have steel or metal flooring, walls and ceiling. There will be a air intake register on the floor to allow the cool air from the root cellar to come into the pantry to keep it cool. Presently everything in the pantry has to be covered and protected from the mice that always find their way in. We are hoping the new walls, flooring, ceiling and removing the window will help keep them out. I always planned on having open shelves in the pantry so anyone could go in and find something on their own. Not to be. I will be putting in metal cabinets with a tight fitting door that is strong enough to hold home canned jars of food. Even if I have mouse proofed it as much as possible, there is always that one mouse………

Canning Cupboard
Top shelf of my canning cupboard

Luckily, I love to can! That was the key to our survival during this period. I will still be canning even if we had our Sundanzer freezer. When we have a freezer we will be able to freeze some foods. I will always try to use types of food that do not need refrigeration as much as possible. I am always canning many foods and even did that when I had the gas refrigerator. I can meat often and it keeps much longer than frozen. If you think canned meat tastes like the stuff you get in the store…….then you are in for a real surprise! Your own home canned meats are excellent. The taste is so good that sometimes I cannot believe it myself. I like to buy a big roast or big turkey breast or something else like that and cook it slowly in the oven at a medium temperature till it is more than half cooked. Then I can it and let if finish off cooking in the pressure canner. I save all the broth and juice and can that too. So tasty that I even drink it for a snack. Or use it for soup or gravy. What a savings that is!

Canned Cheese
Canned Cheese

Then there are those dairy products which make it the hardest for someone not using refrigeration. That is the whole reason I really wanted the Sundanzers. Cold dairy products are the main thing I missed. We used to put a bottle of milk in a cold pail of water or in a ice chest packed with store bought ice. It didn’t last too long and you have to consume those foods pretty quickly. I dumped a lot of sour milk and cream! Canned in the half pint jars I am able to can cheese and butter and keep them in the pantry for future uses. Some people will say “yuck, canned cheese?” or “Butter can be preserved without any preservation methods.” I know this. I like to store it for a period of time and not have to use it up. Canned cheese needs to be heated a little to get it out of the jar when you go to use it. The only thing you cannot do with it is put a slice in a sandwich. It comes out in a lump. For grilled cheese sandwiches I just spoon some out and put on my bread and it melts perfectly for the normal grilled cheese sandwich or anything else you need it for.

Canned Beef, Chicken and Broth
Canned Beef, Chicken and Broth

I found that living without refrigeration helped me save money at the grocery store. I did not buy all those extras that I used to buy since I could not store it back then. Now with the SunDanzer refrigerator we do splurge more often. I have found a store locally where I can purchase our condiments in the little packets that do not need refrigeration, such as mayonnaise, ketchup, mustard, salad dressings, etc. So for a time being we used those but they were more expensive. Yes, the refrigerator made life so much easier. It takes up a lot of room in the pantry, but is so worth it. In the winter, it never turns on at all and when it does, it uses less power than my energy efficient laptop. It doesn’t lose the cold air when you open it because it is all down in the bottom of the unit. I love having the convenience of cold food! Still don’t have the freezer yet……..but we will!

katlupe

Copyright © 2017 Kathleen G. Lupole
All Photographs Copyright © 201
7 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.

Moving Off The Grid

Off Grid House
Our house in 1999

Moving off the grid in 1999 was an experience for me. I had never really thought about it or what it would be like. The scariest part of it for me was being in the middle of the state forest. At that time my husband worked at night and I would be alone here. Yes, I would be lying if I said I was not afraid. I had our dog, Nikita, with me and she was a good watch dog. Only sometimes she would get scared herself! That did not help me. She was a young puppy and outgrew that phase pretty quickly. The bears and mountain lions I pictured forcing their way into my house at night never materialized in all these years.

Eventually I found that there was nothing to be afraid of. It was all in my head! In fact, living in the forest especially now in 2017, feels much more safer than living in residential areas. If it wasn’t for the hunters and the party people, I would say it was the best place to live. In all the years we have been here, we have only seen evidence of bears twice near our home. The property up the road used to have a rental trailer and the man who lived there said he had seen a really big bear. Not us down here though. Mountain lions or bobcats…….none of them either. We had a tomcat hang around here who looked like he had some bobcat in him.

Woods and House
Woods around the house in 1999 with outhouse in back.

The actual day we moved here it was raining. We had to try to move our stuff in and move the stuff the previous owners left behind out. Most of it went to the local landfill. It cost us some money to do so, especially because there were several mattresses and box springs. Since this property had been a hunting camp, there was a number of beds scattered about the house. We managed to get rid of them and make room for our furniture and belongings in a short time. We were still not considering electric power in any way. Moving off the grid for us meant that we just lived here the way it was. Not having electric is not really a hardship unless you need computers and the internet connection equipment.

Servel refrigerator
Propane Refrigeration works well for off the grid living.

The house had propane lights and refrigerator, though we brought our own collection of kerosene lamps and used them. There was a gas cooking stove and I used that. We changed the downstairs bedroom into a bathroom and installed our claw foot bathtub that my husband, Larry had found at a junk shop. I had located a SunMar composting toilet for $200. that a family had used while living in a school bus. It was like new. So we had all that we needed at that time. It didn’t cost much to move into an off the grid house. Using a propane refrigerator made the transition to this lifestyle much easier. We were fortunate that it came with the house, otherwise they can be quite pricey. Finding a used one for someone starting out would be the best option.

Exhaust Pipe for SunMar composting toilet
Exhaust Pipe for SunMar composting toilet being installed.

The very first thing Larry did was to install drains to the sink in the kitchen and to the bathroom for the tub. That way we were able to use them by filling them with water and letting it go down the drain. Made my life much easier as soon as that was done! At first I had to wash the dishes in a dishpan and then carry it outside to empty it. Kind of scary when I had to go outside to do that in the dark and I was home alone! I really appreciated the drains and still do.

Ditch for Drains
Ditch for the drains from the kitchen sink and bathtub.

Moving off the grid is not for everyone. No way would I say it is. It can be hard on you as you get older and don’t have everything done yet. It can be difficult to buy the equipment for an alternative energy system. My question is do you really need all that electrical stuff? I have had this on my mind for awhile now, as our batteries for our system are in need of replacing, and they are VERY expensive. If we did not want to be on the computer or use our electric refrigerator, it would not matter if we had a system or not. Those are things to think to think about. If you want to move off the grid, do you want a regular house with all the conveniences? If so, that will cost some money. I am not saying it cannot be done. It can be but you will need to spend some money to do so. The big question is how big of a system do you want or need?

 

katlupe

Copyright © 2017 Kathleen G. Lupole
All Photographs Copyright © 201
7 Kathleen G. Lupole

 

 

 

Welcome to Solar Baby!

solar and wind on Solar Baby
The alternative energy system at Peaceful Forest homestead in April 2017.

Welcome to Solar Baby and take a peek at my husband’s and my life of living off the grid in this day of fast paced living centered around easy convenience. Larry and I have been living this way since 1999. It has not always been easy and I am not saying it is, even today. I previously began this blog back in 2008, but it was attacked and I lost all those previous posts. I believe the people who destroyed it are web designers, SEO people and hosting sites. I just don’t need them. And I am going to rebuild this site, but now with more information than before.

I have been trying over the years to share how to live with a small system. It is more affordable that way. So here I am attempting to teach the average people about solar energy. To the average person the thought of solar or wind power is way beyond their world. Yet they think nothing of throwing their hard earned money to the grid powered systems daily. Most people think you have to be making a six figure income to put one in their modest homes. I am here on Solar Baby to tell you that is not so. I know because I live with it….every day and have since July of 1999. Yes, it is a learning experience over time, but it is VERY affordable for the simple living folks like us.

3 solar panels on Solar Baby
Three solar panels powered our system for many years.

Back when I started this blog, in 2008, we lived with 185 watts of power coming from three solar panels. In the dark days of winter, we had to use our generator more often. In the summer, it was a very different story. We only had to run our generator about once a week. In case you didn’t know, we have to run the generator to charge our batteries if the sun doesn’t shine enough to do it. I call our system a “add as you can system”. Meaning that we add a component as we can afford it. It is best to buy good equipment so you have to spend some money on each one. That is better than buying cheaper equipment that doesn’t last.

Right now we have 24 used locomotive batteries that we replaced our original fork-lift truck batteries with. A charge controller is essential to any alternative system as it controls how much of a charge is going into your batteries. Our controller is the Xantrex C-60 charge controller (60 amps, 12 volt) and back in 2004 it sold for $245. at Backwoods Solar. We have never had any problem with it at all. I would highly recommend it to anyone just building their system. A meter comes in handy for letting you know how much power you have going into the system and how much is going out or what you are using. The meter we have is the Tri-Metric meter made by Bogart Engineering.

generator wagon on Solar Baby
A generator powers the system when there is no sun.

The generator we use is made especially for off the grid systems and is sold at Backwoods Solar. It is a DC only generator and has made the biggest difference in our system. When we started out we used an old car for charging the batteries and not only did the exhaust stink, the car was noisy and the gas was expensive. The generator is not as loud as most generators, but you can definitely hear it. Works great and uses less gas than a regular generator. Some day when our system is built bigger, we will use our generator less and less.

My thought is that anybody can do this. How many people complain about the cost of their electric bill every month? Just start small. Hook up one 50 watt solar panel with a small charge controller and pick up a couple of the golf cart batteries. Then hook up an automotive inverter that can be bought at Walmart or any truck stop store to your system. Now you can run your lights and television without adding to your electric bill. Do you know what the best part is? You will not be without them during a power outage! Everyone else will be in the dark, and your house will be all lit up.

Be sure to check back here on Solar Baby as I rebuild my site. I hope to cover everything needed for anyone starting a new alternative energy system with a low budget. Thanks for reading!

katlupe

Copyright © 2017 Kathleen G. Lupole
All Photographs Copyright © 201
7 Kathleen G. Lupole