Sunday, January 12, 2014

These Are A Few Of My LEAST Favorite Things

I was originally going to write this  first-of-the-year blog entry as a countdown of the things I do not like about living off-grid. But after sitting looking at a blank list, I realized there is nothing I do not like about my new lifestyle, there are just some things I like less than others. Even these 'drawbacks' have merits in their own way.

Let's start with the first thing that always pops into my mind when people ask me what I miss about my old, dependent life -
1. No Ice Cream! Our solar system provides us with a fairly abundant power supply, in fact, we recently upgraded to a larger refrigerator that is a converted chest freezer that is powered by our bank of solar charged batteries. We originally set up our kitchen with a small propane powered refrigerator. When shopping for the propane fridge, we could have opted for a 'typical' fridge design that even included a freezer, but one of these models would go through much, much more propane than the model we chose to meet our needs.

Once we realized the potential of our solar system, we decided to break one more dependency - that of buying propane for refrigeration, and switch to a solar electric option. However, with both of these refrigerators, neither has a freezer compartment. Well actually, the propane fridge was less accurate when it came to temperature control and we did at times end up with frozen milk and other items during hot weather!

THE MERIT of no ice cream in the house - There are actually two; first I tend to keep a supply of yogurt in the fridge and have that as a snack at night instead of ice cream and, second, stopping for ice cream while out running errands is a big treat. Oh, one more possible merit, we were at a birthday party a couple weeks ago and I did not feel guilty having a second helping of ice cream at the celebration.

This is NOT the spider I found, nor is it my hand!
2. Poisonous Spiders. Technically, this is not an off-grid issue, and as I think of other items I plan to include on this list some of them are not off-grid-centric but are more apparent and/or prevalent due to (a) moving south and (b) living out in the woods. Besides the brown recluse bite I had a few months ago, I also saw my first black widow spider a couple weeks ago. I was bringing in wood and one of the logs had a small black spider on it. Fortunately said arachnid was deceased, but I noticed a small bit of bright red on it, and upon closer examination I saw the tell tale red hour-glass shape on the abdomen. There were also red spots on the top side of the body, which I was not familiar with. A quick 'googling' confirmed that juvenile female black widows have these red spots.

THE MERIT of poisonous spiders - not a one that I can think of.

3. Ticks. See #2 above as to their relationship to off-grid living and their merits or lack there of.

4. Bitterly Cold Weather. On the whole, I love the volatile weather we get living in the Ozarks. In typical winters, there are days below freezing, but these cold fronts usually last for a day, or two at most, and can be immediately followed by balmy 50 and 60 degree days. Also, below zero temps are almost unheard of. However, this has not been a typical winter. We have already had a six-day stint of below freezing temperatures in December and this week we had two nights in a row where the thermometer dipped below 0. Again, this condition is not a symptom of being off-grid, but being off-grid adds some interesting complications when could weather hits, such as:

A 38 degree toilet seat!
  • Going back to carrying water to the bathroom for flushing the toilet and taking showers as the hose from our gravity feed tank outside is frozen.
  • Making sure we wake up every two hours or so at night to add wood to the fire. Normally we keep the bedroom door open at night so that the heat from the main area of the house also heats the bedroom, but on the below zero nights we slept in front of the fire in the living room and closed off the bedroom door so as not to try and heat the extra space. 
  • We also kept the bathroom door closed to corral all the heat in the main living area, but this led to some very cold situations when it was time to 'use the facilities.' You may recall in a very early post, I had inadvertently named our toilet 'Yipee!' Well, lets just say in this last cold spell Yippee was a bit nippy.
THE MERIT of periods of bitterly could weather - Despite the drawbacks listed above, there is a great sense of accomplishment as we realize our off-grid life is not nearly as disrupted as those living a less self-reliant life during these conditions. We sit in our warm living room watching the local evening news as sleet pellets are making a gentle tapping noise as they are blown against our windows and we realize everyone else is worrying about:
  • Power outages - our batteries will last through several overcast days and if need be, we can supplement the sun by charging them with our emergency generator or bicycle generator.
  • Loss of heat due to power outages  - our wood burner requires no electricity and even though some rooms may be a bit chilly, we are quite comfortable snuggling up by the fire. During the very frigid temperatures I found out some of our  friends were having a hard time keeping their house any warmer than about 66 degrees because houses are not winterized down here like they are up North.
A productive canning day:
One canner load of quarts (meatloaf patties & stew meat)
One load of pints (ground beef, sausage and venison)
  • Not being able to get out to the store due to icy roads - with all the canning I have been doing, based on the fact that we do not depend on a freezer, we always have a supply of ready made meals and meats and my sourdough starter provides comfort foods like sourdough pancakes for a filling breakfast. We also have a supply of shelf stable milk so there is no need for that storm induced necessity of stocking up on bread and milk that permeates our society at the sight of the first falling snowflake.
Oh, and one more MERIT to the extra cold weather this winter - It will hopefully wreak havoc on the tick and spider population next summer!