Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Nerves of (melting) steel

Just a quick status report today.

THE SUN IS SHINING! (cue the Angels on High)

Evil back spasm spirits have invited friends. We've got a lot going on today but I think I'm going to have to give in again and consult some sort of professional exorcist. I tried a massage last week to no avail. Will call another massage therapist. If that doesn't work, while I have more faith in a witch doctor, I don't know any around here so I guess I'll have to settle for a medical doctor. If the medical doctor suggests that I go home and take aspirin, this blog could be in for even more changes unless I'm allowed my computer and internet connection while incarcerated.   

We located and purchased our hay for the next year back in September. Last night, The Husband started hauling the hay here and put it up in our barn---the equine version of a pantry. His lordship, Diesel, is pleased.

As part of our shift from productive members of society to retirement, we have spent this entire year selling things, paying things off, etc. More on that to follow but today we have a closing appointment. We are re-doing our mortgage. Lower interest rate! Little happy jig. Ouch, dang back spasms.

And....another drum roll moment please....we have a video chat interview today for a possible opportunity to share our off-grid systems on a never before, unprecedented scale for The Secret Cabin. What this could mean to you is a professionally shot video tour of The Secret Cabin in action complete with solar pole dance if need be. I'm wanting this to all come together pretty badly so I've got a little case of nerves going on. Unless that's the back spasm spirits. Anyway, please think positive thoughts  for us on this. Thank you!

Monday, October 28, 2013

How to be productive whilst staring at the ceiling

I have lost track of the number of days I have been possessed by evil back spasm spirits. Pain sucks. Laying on one's back and staring at the ceiling day after day sucks. However, as unbelievable as it may seem, I have made great strides towards building up a food pantry all from the comfort of my memory foam mattress. I would not have been able to accomplish such a feat without the support of my memory foam mattress hogging feLION assistants. I'm sure my being contorted around furry bodies in what space is available to me after these tiny beasts get into bed and stretch out from one end of the king size mattress to the other is also speeding my recovery. How do they do that? If there were a dog and cat "Bed Pig" equivalency chart, I'd bet a cord of firewood that one seven pound feLION of any breed and hair length is equivalent to a 120 pound bull mastiff. We've also got another mystery afoot. How did a vegetarian (yours truly) get on the mailing list for a fish catalog? Not just any fish mind you, but canned, wild caught Alaskan salmon aka not cheap fish. Tiffany Anne has posted on facebook before and now my pain, aspirin, and valerian root induced state has me suspicious. Anyhow, I ordered food from Mary Jane's Farm and Outdoor Herbivore. This organic camping food translates into low energy requirements for turning dehydrated food into palette satisfying nourishment. We've tried Mary Jane's Farm food before. Knowing we like it, I ordered a stash. I ordered a few different items from Outdoor Herbivore to give them a try. If we like the taste, we'll order a stash from them too. I also plan on supplementing these with cans of soup, potatoes, almond butter and....that's as far as I am. I also started a spreadsheet. The Husband and I discussed what, specifically, are we looking to accomplish here. At this point, we are building a thirty day supply and planning on moving on to a ninety day supply. It feels good to have this project started and it feels good to do something besides stare at the ceiling.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

DEFCON status

photo from here

There have been moments during off-grid mayhem and mishaps where I imagine one of those caged, oblong red light bulbs flashing while an alarm whoops and the words "DEFCON ?" bellows repeatedly over a loud speaker. The "?" is because I never knew if 5 or 1 indicated "oh shit!" So, I googled. It's 1. DEFCON 1 is "oh shit." But wait, there's more. DEFCONs are Defense Conditions. There's also EMERGCONs, Emergency Conditions, but those are for "reactions" to "missiles in the air attacks." That would be "OH SHIT!" Hmmm? I'm thinking snow rather than missiles. Yes, missiles are really bad but snow is not to be toyed with either. Yes, I'm going to establish for the purpose of this blog that EMERGCON is for impending doom incidents which could be a snow storm, the government taking another expensive vacation on our dime, and/or a missile in the air among other such things, etc. EMERGCON 2 is when we have a couple of cans of fuel for the generator on standby; EMERGCON 1 will be when ALL appropriate storage cans for fuel are in fact full. Food and supplies for both (wo)man and beasts should also be stocked: enough for one incident would be level 2; stocking for a minimum of 3 months would be level 1. (Definitely, I cordially invite you to set whatever protocols are best for you here; we're all different with different situations.) The five DEFCON levels and the two EMERGCON levels make up what is called LERTCONs, Alert Conditions. I learned all this from FAS. While I cannot recommend enough how one that lives off-grid should really be at DEFCON 1 and EMERGCON 1, which I am guilty of not always doing, I have listed the other DEFCON levels for your day-to-day status and/or panicking convenience (taken directly from the aforementioned link). I'd say The Secret Cabin is at DEFCON 4 moving toward DEFCON 3 as November 1 rolls towards us. I expect to be at DEFCON 1 by December 1.

DEFCON 5 Normal peacetime readiness
DEFCON 4 Normal, increased intelligence and strengthened security measures 
DEFCON 3 Increase in force readiness above normal readiness 
DEFCON 2 Further Increase in force readiness, but less than maximum readiness 
DEFCON 1 Maximum force readiness.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Dealing with a case of Crabs

Sincere apologies for the title. Yes, I'm giggling. I know it's gross but I just can't resist playing with words. In this case, when I say crabs, I'm referring to the mood commonly known as crabby. When one is crabby, one has a case of Crabs. And yes, if you are crabby around me, I'm going to tell anyone that asks me what your problem is that you have a case of Crabs. Your welcome. I like to help out in any way I can. An alternate title I was batting about was When the Honeymoon is over. I think a case of crabs sounds more scandalous and read worthy.

This picture has nothing to do with today's conversation but I just wanted the whole world to see why one should not burn paraffin candles. Yep, that is soot on the naked wood ceiling. Now imagine your lungs. Yep. Not doing that again. That is the last time I succumb to buying an awesome scent unless it's soy or beeswax and phthalates-free fragrance.  Okay, back to our regularly scheduled program.

I recently had an opportunity to share some of our off-grid experiences with someone. Let's call her Katie. Katie asked me a couple of questions and and it’s prompted some thinking. And remembering. Remembering why, on a deeper level, that we wanted to go on this off-grid adventure to begin with. I told Katie the whole "we watched too much Little House on the Prairie, romantic, writer/artist in the off-grid cabin in the woods" reason because that’s what I remembered off the top of my head. The question has hung in the air since Katie asked and it goes back farther and deeper than that. The only thing I had ever done was ride and show horses.  I also felt my small town school provided an inferior education experience. Yes, I put myself through some college but I’ve always felt completely useless and like I didn’t know how to do anything. I wanted to be self-sufficient. I wanted to be able to take care of myself and call my own shots. Make my own decisions. Live life on my own terms. Have my own life.  "I'm going to go out and see the world," I swore to myself. How could I forget something like that? I guess a case of Crabs will do that to a person. Katie asked what was next. Again off the surface of the grey matter, "Garden. If it were up to our garden, we'd have starved," I admitted. Upon further reflection, yes, garden. Successfully. Put food up. Can. Pantry. All of a sudden, I feel myself slowly, reluctantly, waking up again. Reluctant. Yes. I’m not sure I want to go down that road again. It's like as soon as Mike retired, I parked my behind on a large boulder along this off-grid journey. But now I remember and it’s about more than the cabin and living off-grid. I've been stuck between this anger/ disappointment/fear cloud and the present. I don’t know if I want to step into the present. When I was here by myself and Diesel was attacked by the hot water racks, vulnerability rose up like a giant monster roaring right in my face complete with stinky spittle spraying my skin and blowing my hair straight back behind me. We shifted from productive members of society to retirement and loosing half our retirement savings on the farm. I waited all those years. A slave to Mike's job and the feLIONs. "When I retire, when I retire," he kept saying. Enter mid-life crisis. Thoughts of roads not taken and opportunities passed. Mourning and grieving. And still feeling like I haven’t done anything. Definitely, nothing in society’s eyes I assume. I am thankful I have a roof over my head. It just that I had more dreams and I'm still drawing breath. Fear has me wondering if I get wrapped back up in the off-grid thing is it going to cost all my other dreams. And how in the heck did I forget my dreams of self-sufficiency and being useful. For someone that's allegedly bold enough to leap off the cliff and live off-grid, some days I just don't wake up and join the rest of the class. I’ve always said that I would love to share the real information we’ve learned about off-grid living. Now, there's been this shift. The honeymoon is over is what I’ve been saying but there’s more to it than that and it’s not as bad as it sounds. I'm finally understanding this shift. Just like when two people move forward from the honeymoon stage, they are moving into something deeper and more real. It’s the same with off-grid living. It’s not this new, all consuming toy any more, it’s a lifestyle that’s so engrained it’s part of who I am now. It's in the background. It can be a foundation for where I stand in the present and I can build from there. It's like everything is normal again. I just have to decide and/or remember what I want to build and it doesn't have to be either or. It can be and. It's waking up again and getting off one's parked butt and moving down the path again. I can deal with the monsters of vulnerability when they pop up. So what's next? I think knowing that at some point one is going to shift from being completely consumed by all things off-grid back into life again is useful. I am hoping for the opportunity to share our off-grid lifestyle and what I know with more people. I know I want to paint my bathtubs and put them in my garden. With the exception of deer staring at me, I do enjoy bathing al fresco. The word integrate floats around my brain. Art and writing do not need to be segregated and protected from off-grid living; they can be built on top of off-grid living or alongside. Integrated. Whole. The garden needs an artful overhaul. My garden skills need a lot of work. I've always wanted to learn to can. In my recovery from Crabs, I am currently taking steps to build up a food pantry. When I lived here by myself I could go three days without dragging the generator out and running it in the Winter so I've been thinking about energy conservation to cut down on generator usage. I could re-start my riveting cooking experiments in the heater. Baked potatoes sound good, don't they? As I reported yesterday, Mike is venturing into making our own firewood. Of course, Mike would still like to add a wind turbine. The system we have was originally designed to have one but....well, you've heard the horror stories....

One of my favorite things to do is come up with diabolical plans so I'll have to think some more about what's next. I do think we're witnessing a new chapter here in off-grid living at The Secret Cabin. Something deeper and more real.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

drum roll....and Here it is....plus bonus news

Ooooooh. Cool, but why is it fenced in? Remember, according to Diesel the racks attacked him. This is to keep the racks from attacking poor, innocent equine passersby.



Uh huh, Bheki, you're starting to bore me.

Oh. That is a big pipe.

Okay. I am on day seven of being possessed by some sort of evil back spasm spirit so my writing is a little dry today. So. The usual answer, "yes, it works." What we really want to know is how well. You know the song, "....Summertime and the living is easy." The hottest the boiler had ever been with the heater was 107 degrees. This Summer, we saw 130 on the tank. What little Summer was left, I had nice hot showers. Mike and I could each take a hot shower every day. We even took the aerators out of the shower head for a little more water pressure. We didn't really get more water pressure but we got more water coming out of the shower head. The Husband offered to crank up the pressure on the tank but I didn't want to push my luck and run out of hot water in the middle of being all soapy. I even stood there under the running hot water for a few minutes to fend off aforementioned evil back spasm spirits. Yes, I totally wasted hot water but it felt really good. We were able to do loads of laundry with warm water if we wanted to but I didn't really get a chance to use hot water for the dishes and household cleaning. Now, it's what I like to refer to as "turnaround time." This is the time of year where we start the heaters up about ten days before the weather gets cold. We usually end up running around in our underwear for a couple of days because there's a little overlap in warm weather and the heaters curing out and putting heat into the cabin. We also had an added bonus this year of overlapping and over heating the boiler. Yeah. It worked that well. Scared the hell out of us. But, you know The Husband's saying, "Better lucky than good." The Sun was making hot water and the heater was making hot water. Because yours truly has a bug up her butt about all things contractor and off-grid, I did not pay attention to the men (said like I have a mouthful of poo) and the job they were doing with the hot water system. Well, they plumbed the system so the solar hot water used the ground loop for cooling that was formerly plumbed for the masonry heater. Because the sun had been out on this eventful day, it was 71 and 73 on the front porch and bathroom, respectively, so those zones were satisfied so the switches for the in-floor heat for the rooms shut off the pump for the loop going through the masonry heater. Mike had gone downstairs and did the fire. Next thing I knew, I heard all this banging and I yelled at Mike figuring he was being pissy. He didn't say anything back and it sounded like Diesel was down there so I got up to yell at Mike again only to meet Mike coming into the cabin as I got to the stairs for the lower level. Shit. I asked Mike if he was making noise out on the porch and that's when I got my pissy response and I bitched back that we have a problem. We both ran downstairs to hear the pipes banging like a bad horse that wants out of his stall. Then we see the pump not pumping. At this point, I didn't know what had been done with the loops. We shut the air intakes on the heater but it did not snuff out the fire. We ended up throwing burning logs out the back of the cabin. Without the fire going, the hot water tank/boiler cooled down enough that the switches switched the heater loop pump back on. When the hot water started running through the pipes again, it melted the pipe insulation. Then Mike was like, "Oh, we actually made enough hot water that it was going to go to the in-floor heating in the porch and bathroom but that's warm enough because the sun was out today." I said, "why the hell didn't it use the ground loop?" "Because we have the solar loop going through there and that loop is only on if the solar is on which it isn't because it's dark now." No man is worth my freedom, no man is worth my freedom, no man is worth my freedom.... So, we have now disconnected the switch going to the front porch so it always stays open and are using that loop as the dump zone for the heater loop. Additional little note: We have also slowed the pump down just a little for the heater loop giving us hotter water. 

From the Department of Firewood: We asked for our firewood to be delivered this Summer. We got one and a half cords and then the rest about a week ago. This is not acceptable. We absolutely, positively HAVE to have wood that has been split and put up for at least six months. It's even better if it's nine months to a year. Mike is thinking of just getting saw logs in the future for the economy of it and cutting and splitting it himself. Taking down some of our own trees even. But only the ones that aren't doing well. As it is, we have been paying for split firewood only to have to split it down even further. After three years of splitting with axe and chisel, here we go. 

And last not but not least for today, a skeleton from my closet. Oh. My. Goddess. What. A. Shameful. Garden. To be continued....