Over the past year, we have had many success stories, some that are still in the works, and a few failures. Today, I am going to share a few stories that cover all these scenarios.
First is the "Hey! That Really Works!" category:
As I think of some of the random items we have used in interesting manners to fulfill our needs, I realized we have various types. There are those that we have used, thought they were wonderful at the time and then later upgraded to yet a better idea. There are others that we use all over the place as a solution to a myriad of challenges - our go-to accessories to off-grid life. And then there are those that, when we see them we realize they have potential and thus bring them home and find a purpose for them.
Problem: Showering With No Running Water
Solution: Backpack Sprayer Becomes Our First Shower
In past posts, you have read how we have had several revisions to our shower and we now have hot, pressurized water that can sometimes be practically unlimited as long as we have had recent rainfalls and the 275 gallon holding tank is not getting low. Despite these extravagant upgrades, we still keep the backpack sprayer attached to the shower stall as it was one of our favorite inventions and can still be used as a back-up if need be. There is a saying that "two is one, and one is none"... always have a backup!
Problem: Gardening On Property with NO Dirt
Solution: Wood Pallets and Kiddie Pools
I knew I would have to used raised beds for gardening as our mountain property is comprised of rocks (of all sizes) held together with clay as hard as concrete. I built one raised bed last fall because I had picked up some berry bushes on clearance. I started bringing in bags of top soil to fill the bed every time we went to Lowe's or Home Depot. I could not believe the amount of dirt it took to fill that one bed.
|My peppers and carrots did well|
in the pallet bed.
|Hoping the baby carrot plants will be ready to harvest|
before the first frost
|A broken tote becomes a|
Problem: Washing Large Laundry Items Like Sheets and Blankets
Solution: Zeke's Bathtub
When it comes time to wash sheets, blankets and throw rugs, I could just bundle them up and haul them off to a laundromat; but that goes against all our off-griddiness. For months, my washing machine was a 5 gallon orange Home Depot bucket. I could only fit in a few pieces of clothing at a time to 'churn', but as long as I did laundry often it was not a problem - except when it came to washing our bedding. After stuffing a sheet into the bucket, there was very little room to add water and definitely no way to get any agitation action with my hand washer (similar to a plunger).
|Zeke inspects his off-grid bathtub,|
complete with colorful plastic frogs.
Problem: A Plethora (my favrorite word) of Items that Need Secured for Various Reasons
Solution: Bungees Cords, Ratchet Straps and Zip Ties
I have lost count of the sets of ratchet straps (tie-downs) and packages of bungee cords and plastic zip-ties we have purchased over the past year. We have learned to always keep some on had, both at the property and in our vehicles. I will include a few photos of some of the more interesting ways they have been used:
|Rachet Straps in Use|
Getting our new mattress home, Constructing the shower,
Winching the wood burning stove up the stairs to the deck
|Bungee Cords in Use|
Rainwater collection tarp, Securing screening on the water trough,
Aligning the downspout over the opening in the IBC tank
Category #2 are the "We're Still Working The Kinks Out" ideas:
These are basically ideas we want to work on and haven't had the time (or incentive), or projects we have started on but have not perfected. Well, if not perfected at least working half way decently, but we know it is just a matter of time or finding just the right do-dad even if we don't know what that is yet.
The Not-So-Hot Tub
|A plethora of totes were set out on|
our deck to collect rain water from the roof
|Alan's not-so-hot tub|
(Remind you of a television commercial?)
The Greenhouse Food Dehydrator
|Greenhouse, Water Warmer|
& Possible Food Dehydrator
We really didn't use our warm water heater for long because we got the propane water heater for the shower soon after that and Alan plumbed it to be able to heat up jugs of water as well. However, is that another Ding! I hear (Ding!), I have been experimenting with another use for the greenhouse this summer. With the vegetables ripening, I decided I wanted to start dehydrating most of them. Yes, I love to can, but not when it is over 90 degrees everyday. And besides, dehydrated vegetables will take up a lot less space than canning them. I will be hiding most of the garden produce in soups and stews as Alan claims to be chlorophyll intolerant, so appearance is not a big issue in the final product.
With the ambient temperature between 90 and 100 most of the day, I figured the area inside the greenhouse would be warm enough to set up as a dehydrator. After some testing to verify the temperatures, I placed my first rack of tomato slices into my super-sized dehydrator and was looking forward to a batch of sun-dried herbed tomatoes. I forgot to take one thing into consideration - the bottom of the green house is not enclosed. The shelves sit on out deck and the plastic cover slides over the top of the shelves and covers all four sides when zipped, but not the bottom. Flies quickly learned of the opening, and as I did not want to store the dried foods that were fly-leftovers, I tabled this project for a while. This winter I will either perfect my greenhouse food dehydrator, or build a solar dehydrator. For this year, I am using the pilot light in our oven to dehydrate our produce. While I am prepping the food I turn the oven on low for a few minutes to heat it up a bit more that the pilot light does, then shut it off and pop in the trays of food. The trick is to remember to remove the drying foods before preheating the oven for baking, I did end up with one batch of blackened tomatoes.
The Canning/Pantry Shelves
We have a variety of shelving units around the house. Some are more industrial, such as the ones in the utility room which hold many heavy items such as cans of paint and our bottles of filtered water; while others are the cheap plastic pop-together type. However, none of these shelves fit a current need I have for storing my home canned foods and other pantry items. The flaw with all these shelves is the height between the shelves. I want shelves that are spaced more narrowly together, just a bit more height than a quart jar between each shelf. I do not want to double stack my jars on the taller shelves, nor do I want all the wasted space if I put just one level of jars on these shelves. So, I have been on the lookout for an inexpensive way to create the shelves that would be just right for my canning - very sturdy and with closely spaced shelves.
|Wood Thingies patiently waiting on my|
park bench dreaming of the day they will
be part of a shelving unit.
And finally there are those "What Were We Thinking" ideas:
These are the ones we hate to admit to, the ones we should have known were not good ideas.
Needed: Another Wooden Frame to Elevate an IBC
Not-So-Good Idea: Alan will build this one himself
Earlier in this now lengthy blog post, I mentioned that our son-in-law had built a platform that would hold a full IBC tank for a gravity feed water supply to the bathroom. I am sure you have all done the math to determine what this actually entails, and came to the conclusion that when filled the water alone (275 gallons) weighs over a ton. 2289.33925 pounds to be exact if the air temperature is 68 F.
|The IBC sits on the frame|
constructed by Alan...
I was working on other projects inside the house while Alan tackled this one. Every once`in a while you know there is a project that is best not worked on together, and I was pretty sure this would be one of them. I did occasionally check out the door to see how it was going, especially if I hadn't heard any hammering or muttering in a while. In a surprisingly short time, the platform was in place and the empty IBC was on it. While our bathroom IBC is cylindrical, this one is a cube, as most of them are. The majority of these large cubes are reinforced by being placed in metal frame cages, but this one had come in a cardboard box, which we had removed - think giant milk jug.
|... until water was added.|
|The sturdier IBC is now located behind|
the house AND on the ground
Needed: More Water
Not-So-Good Idea: Collecting Snow
If you have been reading these posts in the past, you will know I am somewhat obsessed with collecting water. When we started out, we realized keeping up with water consumption was much more difficult than supplying our electricity needs. We originally had to drive out and bring water back to the property. Then we retro-fitted the well on the property so we could draw water from it using a torpedo bucket. Next, we set up rainwater collection systems, which greatly boosted our water supply. Despite always having an adequate water supply, I still feel the need to collect all the water I can, it is so hard to watch water just pour from the roof onto the ground during a rainstorm.
|Snow collecting equipment|
|Buckets of snow|
equals cups of water
Needed: Containers to Transplant Squash Vines Into
Not-So-Good Idea: Using Children's Sand Buckets
This was my first time gardening in a long, long time. That and the fact that we have no dirt on our property means there was a lot of trial and error this year. My original plan was to use a flower bed that was already in place as my main garden for this year. After digging up hundreds of rogue flower bulbs from the plot, and ignoring all the rocks I was hitting, I was ready to start planting.
|Root-bound squash plant|
And that covers all the Not-So-Good Ideas.... When I started thinking about this section, I was hard-pressed for any failures to share. I am sure this dilemma was not because we had no failures, but because we so quickly forget them and move on to what we hope is a better idea. Hmmm, a platform for an IBC made from wooden-thingies and zip ties. Add a bit of duck tape and voila... CRASH!