Unconventional Farm

Not even sure I would actually call it a 'farm', yet. My intent when I first moved here from the clutches of the city, was to live a simple life. So far, I'm not disappointed. I have no (grid) electricity, running water, garbage pick-up, flush toilet etc.
And since I AM ecologically responsible, all those create problems to overcome. Which I am.
This is my second year down here in the woods, and except for the fact that I'm lonely sometimes, I Love it here. And the loneliness comes & goes.
I bathe in my creek, draw water from an underground spring, and cook over an open fire except in winter.

Today, I began with breakfast, 2 eggs, over-easy, toast, fried potatoes, sliced homegrown tomatoes and juice. All over an open fire.
Then me & my two Boxer dogs went down to the creek & took a bath etc. then played for a couple of hours (It was 93 deg. here today) then headed back to the cabin.
I'm doing some work on getting my water piped into the cabin, so I worked on that until it just got too hot. then back down to the creek for a repeat of earlier.

I can't think of what could dissuade me from living this life, but it would have to be quite compelling.
There are lots of problems with this kind of lifestyle, but they will all work out as time & effort continues.
basementsong basementsong
41-45, M
11 Responses Jul 16, 2010

Well g2bme, I believe you covered it all. At least the political aspects of it. But I wholeheartedly agree 100% that we start with taking a look at our consumption and modify our way of life. Actually, many so-called third world countries are excellent models for us. Thay don't 'modify' their life-style because it is just the way it is for them. They have been living like that for many years. I have a friend in Pakistan that tells me of life there, and they have a process called 'powershedding', where-by, at certain tomes of the day or night, their power is completely shut down and diverted elsewhere as needed. And so as not to glorify them, I am also told that people there abuse power just as we do and given the opportunity, would consume as much. But economics and environment dictate how they use power.<br />
This week, there is a reporter from California who is actually coming here to interview me per my life-style. Her draw was the fact that I am completely off the grid. She seemed interested in the 'technical' aspect of it, but I am going to actually give her my 'spin' and be a little preachy. Mainly I wish for folks to know and understand that a decision such as this DOES require a change in the way you live. And in my case, it's all being done on a bootstrap budget. Coupled with the fact that I have no help, it is a slow process. But I see that as a good model, because it lets the common man/woman know that if you are determined, it can be had under any conditions.<br />
I have heard of minimalist groups even in the cities, who are pooling their resources and erecting living quarters in which the all share common resources so as not requiring duplication as in single family homes. Things such as cooking and eating schedules being synchronized so that one use of energy serves maybe 5-6 family's. And of course they recycle, re-use etc.<br />
One of the aspects that I am always in conflict about is that 're-use' policy. Perhaps my methods are crude and unsightly, but they ARE effective. <br />
One must realize, that everytime you buy an item, you create a market for said item, there-by using natural resources, energy etc. to create, market and ship it. So, I have a mini-junkyard, in which I draw my resources from. If it can be made instead of bought, I do so. Also very time consuming and slows my progress down. However, in a community setting, of like-minded folks, this could be very effective, especially if you have people creative enough to fabricate many items. You would have a central 'junkyard', in which a person is in charge of, and materials are ******** down, shelved, and when someone needs, say, a piece of metal as a lawn mower blade, to make a digging implement or knife etc. it is available to them, there-by avoiding having to purchase it, and in turn, it is one more item that a market is NOT created for and the energy used and pollution created, is avoided. The manufacture of steel is a heavy pollutant.<br />
So, say if you have a T.V. that just bit the dust. Instead of trashing it, (creating a pollutant in itself) you take it to the junkyard. There it is disassembled and items such as switches, plug-ins, wiring and even electrical components as resistors, capacitors etc are all saved and reused at some future time. Even the plastic casing can be melted down and reformed into such useful items as flat boards for say a picnic table.<br />
So this is what I do, within certain limitations. However, self admitted, it is unsightly, and I prefer to be more organized, but again, I fall back on my same excuse: I'm just one person. But, even so, I still try to keep it somewhat orderly.<br />
I will look into that Zeitgeist project you refer to. <br />
I do see more and more of this type of thinking as time goes on, and seems to be a 'movement' of sorts and more people are jumping on board with these ideals.<br />
From an economical standpoint, I appreciate that it is not something that is happening all at once, because given the fact that we are a consumer ba<x>sed economy, if we put the brakes on all at once, it could create chaos if everyone did it at the same time. A gradual approach, I believe is best. But given the fact that the vast majority of people are NOT going to come on board quickly, if we have a 'ba<x>se' of knowledgeable people in place when it becomes necessary, the landing may be less of a shock to the economy. Even though I abhor the economy as-is, a realistic approach still must be taken so as not to plunge ourselves into immediate chaos by ridding ourselves of an economy, that regardless if we admit it or not, is still something that all of us depend on to varying degrees.<br />
As you intimate to me, I also say that I am glad to have met you and to know you're 'out there' doing more than giving it 'lip service'.<br />
EP has contacted me concerning my communication via messaging, and informs me that at first, the filters will block any email addresses etc. to aboid spammers. So given that fact, guess I can't complain. However they also inform me that as we message more, the filter relents and eventually will allow more. So I may be messaging you will small messages so as to get the mail familiar with me. At some point I will send you an email address, and we can send pics etc much easier and trade info.<br />
My hat is off to you for your attempt in the climate you live in. It will be quite an undertaking and you need some dead serious technology in place there to survive.<br />
I lived in N.Dakota for 4 yrs and cannot imagine doing what I am doing here, in that area.

Yup, winter is a real concern here. Minus 20 and alot colder are realities. <br />
Love your "pesky fly" about methane comments! lol <br />
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I've seen some solar ovens online and it's on my to do list. It can be as saimple as aluminum foil on cardboard, though I would rather salvage some metal I think. We live in one of the longest-sunlight-hours areas on the planet so I really have to bake some beans or something like this, soon. So much to do! Interesting to consider steam power, that's not one I've looked into very much yet.<br />
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Natural gas could be a big help to the USA in these dwindling oil times. Personally it seems to me we think we can get something for nothing. I wonder about the planetary consequences of the drained oil wells (for example). I'm just guessing from my gut here but have we contributed to the frequency and intensity of earthquakes? We do impact the planet, so what is the environmental cost? Safe to say not much is spent on ascertaining those concerns or taking responsibility to mitigate the possible problems inherent in gaining our desired energy. I think the answers aren't simple but it makes sense to operate from a KISS principle (keep it simple sweetheart:) Diversity is key to answering energy needs but that is second after reducing consumption. Unfortunately people are too busy "protecting their way of life" (i.e. overconsumption) to ever consider if their way of life is even healthy! (Um, okay, so I like to get up on my soapbox too!)<br />
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Have you seen Zeitgeist? It's very informative and brings hope for a way out of the damaging capitalist society. A resource ba<x>sed economy. I just watched the second part of it and I'm stoked to make my life off-grid in every way possible. Off the power grid, the shopping grid, the grocery store grid, the banking grid....possibilities are endless! Sure it's gonna take time but my path is clearly set and we are so not alone! The Venus Project is also so full of hope for a new social paradigm. http://www.thezeitgeistmovement.com/ For now, I'm just going to keep simplifying my life and trying to find people in tune with that. So good to have found you.<br />
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Gonna go check my EP inbox now (10mins later......slow satellite internet) email would be better.

Oh man! You are where it takes some serious energy and living concerns. I feel very fortunate in-so-much as I don't generally have the severe winters that you guys have.<br />
I lived in N. Dakota for a few years and there are definite serious concerns to that climate in the winter.<br />
Also visited Saskatchewan several times.<br />
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Methane production has always been kind of like a pesky fly that keeps buzzing around your head, and I keep shooing it away.<br />
In spite of that, I have saved several hot water heater tanks in which to store my waste for that very purpose. Still, I see many pitfalls in it, bit very likely that I do not know enough about it.<br />
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I have seen on some other self-reliance sites, different ideas from passive solar that I thought perhaps worthwhile investigating. One guy had built a 'solar oven' (which apparently is very simple to do) He states that he can heat foods as high as 500 deg. His reasoning is since 212 deg. is all it takes to boil water, then one certainly could use it for steam power. Though he showed no plans, he claimed that he had already built a prototype of a steam generator. However, as in any solar endeavors, you are limited to daytime and sunny conditions. Still, if you can get 6-8 hrs of steam powering a generator, I see many possibilities there. Not just alternative energy storage but the use of tools such as a saw mill etc. and other tools you would only use in the daytime anyway.<br />
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Just to note: My brother, (being financially capable) has approached me concerning CNG for running automobiles. (Compressed Natural Gas) He further has informed me, that the U.S. has over 400 yrs. of natural gas reserves in the ground! Which, as is my understanding, able to provide consumers with a source of fuel for their autos that is virtually non-polluting, and at the equivalent of $1.25 per gal. (of Gasoline) If this is true, there may well be other uses for it as cheap fuel.<br />
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This is an exciting time for me, in that there are so many possibilities, and there are grass roots folks like us out there experimenting with it, I'm wondering what is going to win out over-all. I suspect it will be more than just one. But endeavors such as hydrogen production and use in autos, though very exciting and hopeful, is too high tech for my purposes and once again I see corporate America finding a way to enslave me to it. Been there, done that! And though my reasons for doing what I am doing now are by no means primary to that, it certainly is a factor. In my thinking, there needs to be a way to remove the control that corporate 'world' has over the individual. And I don't expect them to roll over and relinquish their control over mankind. If history is proof of anything, it shows that it has never been the case, in large part due to their political clout and ability to outlaw any efforts to escape their grip on a mass scale.<br />
Which is another reason that the alternative energy movement should be on a very quiet, grassroots level. Perhaps if something is in place and has a strong following by the time they become aware of the advances made, the 'masses' may not allow them use of their 'clout'!<br />
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(THUMP)<br />
(Sound of me jumping off my soapbox)<br />
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Anyway, stay in touch, at least here on EP. Though I am going to contact you privately and give you my email, which will also make it easy to trade info back & forth.

We're up north in Manitoba, Canada about 52 degrees parallel. Thx to the internet though, we can still share information and encouragement.<br />
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Yah, the prob with solar is the prohibitive input costs! Our criteria for energy production, and all systems we implement, is accessibility for all!!<br />
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http://www.highlonesomeranch.com/LivingWithoutElectricity.htm this site has a lot of practical info. <br />
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This is the site I'm investigating right now http://www.motherearthnews.com/Renewable-Energy/1973-03-01/Modest-Experiment-in-Methane-Gas-Production.aspx prob won't be able to try this out until I can come up with a few parts for the job but it's very exciting!

Thanks G2bme,<br />
It's been sometime since I heard reference to the Sterling engine. Can't even recall why I turned away from it. Probably higher tech than I wanted to go at the time.<br />
I believe you're right about being led to where we need/want to be. This has always been a conscious dream of mine, but implementation has always been my dilemma. Finally though, I made the leap of faith,<br />
(or was pushed), but I got here. <br />
Multiple sourced of energy creation is to my thinking, about the only means with which I see it becoming reality, particularly in my situation. I live in a state (Ky) that has no consistency of wind, to fully power with solar at this point is economically prohibitive, and though I have not yet researched it in any depth, it appears that hydro is going to be labor intensive to realize anywhere soon.<br />
And, since I'm a one-man show, it moves pretty slow, but continues just the same.<br />
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What part of the country are you homesteading in?<br />
I am always interested in collaboating with folks of like mind and sharing info as it comes.<br />
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Best wishes for your endeavor, and keep me posted on your progress.

I'm thrilled to find this discussion! My family and I have been downsizing and building our dream of going off grid in the simplest way possible. My internet connection is too slow for me to do a lot on EP but I've been searching for minimalists and off-griders. <br />
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Your story is amazing ba<x>sementsong! Kinda sounds to me like maybe you're getting what you truly desire. Please forgive me if I'm wrong. I mean I know personally how divorce can be, and I've often thought I wanted certain things but life "forced" me into certain situations and then I realize I'm getting the very best things for me as an individual. I think we get what we truly want/need in life whether we know it or not. For me this realization is motivation to know myself better. Nature is my greatest teacher and solace from the storms of life.<br />
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We moved out of the city 2.5 yrs ago and lived in a tent for 3 months. First at remote campsites then on land with nothing but nature. We come from rural backgrounds and had done wilderness camping before so we knew a few things but there is so much to learn! Personally I've been working hard to get rid of the social conditioning surrounding issues about cleanliness and social status because I know I've always been a child of nature but have been waylayed by the glitz and glamour of consumerism. My 16yo son has called me a hippie so many times and I consider it a compliment :) I keep telling him I was probably conceived about the time of Woodstock so I'm a bit too young to be a hippie. lol<br />
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Your composting toilet is what we plan to use when we go off grid next spring. I've done some research on methane production so maybe we'll be able to get some power from our waste but likely we would need some animals for an adequate supply. I mean, I can be full of s**t sometimes but maybe not quite enough to provide power! <br />
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My most recent project has been soap making. I rendered the fat and am waiting to see if I've suceeded in making lye from wood ash and snow water. I have a garden every summer but have been wildcrafting for many years. I'm going to try planting my vines on the egde of the forest floor this spring. I've been researching greywater recycling systems too. My partner is working on a battery reconditioning technology to extend the life of rechargeable batteries. He's been working on plans for a sterling engine heater/power source. We intend to use a mix of power sources as you do but as you know the top priority is reducing consumption habits!<br />
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All the best to you in your endeavours! It is a lot of work but the best kind of life work a person can have.

Well, there IS a 'standard', but unfortunately, what was once a rigid EPA standard, has been watered down to meet commercial guidelines. <br />
I have gotten so frustrated with it that I just walked away and buried my head in the sand. I don't keep up with it anymore. But, the understanding I have, is that the EPA had strict guidelines and definitions as to what constitutes 'biodegradable'. Which essentially breaking down at the molecular level so that the material will go back into the earth and either become part of the ecosystem, or at the very least, is benign. But there were problems with that definition and they modified it yada-yada and it itself is now benign.<br />
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If my figures are correct, off the top of my head, I believe that the tolerable temperature range for ideal enzyme activity is from 68 deg to 92 deg. <br />
You can go higher but some material just burns up. But it makes the process faster. Too much higher and you just have an incinerator like the cities use.<br />
But within that range the enzymes flourish. Then there is a degradation on the speed as you go cooler. It will compost at a very slow rate. But if it's too cold, the enzymes go dormant.<br />
But on average, it takes approx. 2 weeks for it to break down to usable material with the right conditions.<br />
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One of the ways we have some fun with it, is to shoot the full buckets with a .22 for aeration. We make sure there's plastic under it in case it wants to leak. But if anyone asks us what we did that day, we just tell 'em, "aw, nothin' really, just shootin' the sh*t"

Exactly Vignette, the term biodegradable is now a commercially defined term.<br />
It does not mean what you & I think of as biodegradable. Without going into the specifics (which are long and boring) I will say that so far, of the products that give reference to their 'methods' of testing, are no proof to me. To be truly biodegradable, a product must break down at the molecular level. The test done commercially, does not prove that, one way or the other. Which tells me they're hiding something.<br />
On some products I have found in the reputable organic food stores etc., they make no reference to ANY kind of testing. My guess is one of two things: they too are hiding something, or the product is so benign, that it's ineffective on some levels of cleaning, Which I already have! <br />
One should always keep in mind that when you speak of commercial products, large or small companies, 'profit' is the name of the game. And, as it should be. However, I loath to trust how far that idea will carry many, even those who begin with the best intentions. I've seen too many 'honest' folk, turn greedy, after profits are realized or if not and business turns into a struggle and they seek a way to realize those profits. Often at the expense of the consumer.<br />
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The composting toilet will absolutely amaze you! No odor at all, except maybe on rare occasions that you are in the near vicinity, top up, and perhaps uh, 'stirring' things.<br />
If maintained correctly, of which very little is involved, it will be clean and odorless. There are already commercial versions on the market, in which necessitates some remodeling of your existing bathroom. And can get quite expensive. <br />
Mine however consists of a place to sit comfortable and a five gallon bucket under that! ;-)<br />
Each time you use it, instead of flushing, you merely pitch the humus or whatever you use to break it down, into the bucket. When full, place the bucket outside or any relatively warm area, for approx. 2 weeks, with ventilation, then dump it into your compost bin as you would any other compost. Now, I'll say, that because of the 'nature' of the material, you won't be inclined to stick your hand in it until you use it for some time and build up trust that it is not the original product that 'fell' into it at first. But just by looking at it, you see that it has no similarity to anything originally deposited. You do NOT need special 'biodegradable' toilet paper. (which BTW there really is nothing 'special about it. It is simply thinner, or otherwise known as 'cheap' toilet paper that they sell at twice the cost of regular.) <br />
When you use it, turn it often beforehand, to keep it 'working'. It must have air.<br />
Other than those things, maintenance is simple.<br />
I do want to say that when you use the term "unpleasant endeavor", of course it's a relative term. The closest I find to unpleasant, is pulling the buckets up. However, I now cap them first, so I don't have to see the contents. But even then, if you've been vigilant about adding the enzyme stimulant, there should be no smell.<br />
In the 'fancy' commercial systems, an idea that works well is that they have successive buckets, sitting on a turntable, and by the time it gets around to the first bucket you filled, it is already broken down. And there are many innovative ideas out there to ease the burden of the 'gag factor' for those with weak stomachs.

Vignette, I believe what your friend refers to with the sawdust, is one and the same. I use several things and always begin with the actual humus on the forest floor. One could use their own compost as well. On occasion, I will use a commercial product used for septic tanks. It break the waste down faster. there is a heat component to this also and there is a range that is suitable for breaking the solids down. Start from the optimum range and as you go warmer or cooler, the process slows until reaching a point where the enzymes go dormant or are destroyed. In the winter, they go dormant.<br />
I just wrote about the biodegradable soap for an hour, and EP gobbled it up. Will remark on that later. But the short answer is yes and mostly no.

Sounds like you have the right idea Vignette. Hope it happens. I can't speak for anyone else, but I am very happy here.<br />
I have a 12V lighting system, which lights the cabin and 'porch'. I use 'tiki lights to light up outside. I am developing my own electrical system over-all, using solar at present, which charges a battery 'bank', which in turn powers my inverters to supply 120V where I need it. Though everything is in the proto-type stage right now, it's coming along as expected and am not disappointed. Ihis state is a 'low wind' area, and much research is being done to develop a turbine efficient enough eo work here. However, my needs are immediate, and cannot wait for them, so I am developing some of my own design, with only partial success. My intent is to combine solar, wind and water. (And i am working on an innovative idea that I see as hopeful)<br />
Once these systems work to my satisfaction, I plan to share the technology, on a grassroots level, free of charge. I hope to keep the gov't and corporate America out of the loop, as the need in this country is 'cheap' energy, not just 'oil free' energy. My vision present day, see's it happening, but people have to do their part as well, in that a move like this will require changes in lifestyle. Since I have no trust or admiration for the media, I have no TV etc. by choice. For me, a computer is a must, but a laptop does everything I want, and runs off a low voltage source. My inverters charge up batteries for my drills etc. I have a host of air tool which I use, powered by gasoline air compressors, which though necessary, I hope to someday eliminate. <br />
I'm still in the very early stages of this 'experiment' been here 2 yrs now, and sometimes progress is painfully slow, mainly because I have no help and live alone. But everyday is a move forward in small increments.<br />
Right now, I take my clothes to town and wash them, but when I can find a 'cheap' alternative to laundry soap, that is 'truly' biodegradable, I have a few designs for a hand operated washing machine. <br />
I have 2 underground springs, one I use for storing perishable food, the other as a water source. <br />
I cook outdoors on an open pit, until the weather just absolutely forbids it.<br />
Have a woodstove that I use in the winter for some cooking, but also a propane camp stove. Redundant systems are a must out here. <br />
Trash, is a problem, but I try to generate as little as possible, recycle most of it and what remains, I take to a dumpster in town. I barter my labor to an apartment complex for the use of it.<br />
There's a story that comes with the answer to my human waste. To begin, unfortunately, there seems to be an aversion to this publicly, but I use a proven system, (and if nothing else I myself am proof) called 'self-composting' toilet. What's humerous about this is when you asked, you did so very gracefully, but this is one of the systems that I shout from the mountain about. When some friends visited, they had the same questions, so I took them on a tour, and touted my success with this, to no end. When over, one of my friends commented and said, "well, I guess we could safely say that you are a man who is proud of his ****!" And that I am.<br />
my waste is never deposited in the ground. A septic system is 'designed' to leak, which means, though limited, it still allows human waste, in it's raw form to enter the ground. Mine is turned into compost, very efficiently, which gets recycled back to Earth Mother. It in effect, becomes a useful product, and anything I grow, is grown organically. No chemicals!<br />
Right now, in the early stages, I'm limited on what I grow, and am mostly finding out which vegetables are conducive to the earth in this area. I will not forcefully make Earth Mother grow anything that does not seem to fit here.<br />
To-date I have no farm animals, that comes later. Myself and a friend of mine, have discussed raising buffalo here, but that is strictly in the talking stages right now. I do plan on getting some type of draft animal, so I can stop using a gasoline fed tractor. We'll see about that.<br />
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It sounds like your plans are well thought out, and you won't be going into it in the blind. Once you have a vision of what you want, much of it is merely a matter of getting up and doing it. Shamefully, I have wasted many years, just looking at my vision, and hesitant because of my own fears and/or a reluctant partner. I urge you to do something towards your vision each day, keep it in sight, and move on it as soon as possible. The years slip by quickly and unnoticeably in the hustle and bustle of life, Love and career.<br />
Follow your dream and you won't regret it!

I hear ya. Sounds like you're in touch with or at least questioning your motivation etc. And I will confirm that doing it alone is the pits sometimes.<br />
My reasoning for not doing this sooner was the same as you. I was married to a woman who would never think of doing this. So, for family harmony, I gave the dream up. Then we divorced, that excuse gone, still no movement. As a result of many factors, not the least being the divorce, which devastated me, I spiraled downward, lost a job, retreated to my basement for the next two years and just wrote music.<br />
(hence the moniker basementsong) Next thing I know, sheriff's knockin' on the door, foreclosure.<br />
I had the property, so here I am. All-in-all, it was the best thing that happened to me! However, I make no claim for having the courage and the fortitude to just DO IT! Didn't! My hand was forced by circumstances unforeseen and truth be known, that may have been the only thing that did it. At my age,<br />
I'm not sure I would have made the choice on my own. But however I got here, I am happy I did.<br />
How old are you and where do you live?