retired profile of WrethaOffGrid

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It doesn’t feel like a sacrifice


After finishing school, Jocelyn and Jarvis had $96,000 of debt from student loans, credit cards, and buying a small rural property. This is the story of how they paid it off in just 20 months, and then built themselves a debt-free custom tiny house for their family of 4.

After ignoring their finances for a long time, the couple finally faced reality one night when they sat down and added up all of their debts, and compared it to the revenue they had coming in.

When they realized how much they owed, they decided to make some drastic changes so they could pay it off and stop worrying about money. To start, they moved to a smaller apartment, changed jobs, shopped second-hand, froze a credit card in a block of ice, switched to using cash only, and made a budget that allowed them to chip away at their debt.

They had a white board with a list of all their debts, which they updated every time a payment was made so they’d continue to be motivated. After 20 months, they were completely debt-free. After that, they continued with their minimalist, frugal habits and were able to save up enough money to build themselves a custom tiny house on wheels.

They’ve been living in the tiny house for over two years now, with their two children, and plan to continue living in it for as long as they can. They are currently saving money to buy a small acreage where they will build a larger off-grid home and keep the tiny house as an income property.

We’re very inspired by this young family’s dedication to improve their lives by paying off their debt, by their awareness of their energy consumption, by their efforts to buy less and live a low waste lifestyle. They’re trying to make positive change in every aspect of their lives, and that’s not always an easy thing to do.

Thank you, Jocelyn and Jarvis, for sharing your story with us! And for the beautiful day we spent at your place! Thanks for watching! Mat & Danielle



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Water glass eggs?

One of the things that some of my neighbors have done when moving out to the country is get chickens, some do it for the meat, but most do it to harvest eggs. One problem is getting too many chickens for the number of people living (and eating) in the household. It’s near impossible to buy just a few chicks or fertile eggs from a catalog, they often insist that you buy a dozen or more, usually more, that’s because of the mortality of live chicks being shipped out. Some of the chicks will die, either in the shipping process, or shortly after arriving. And it’s cheaper (per chick) to ship more than fewer. Some of the wiser neighbors will go in with another family or neighbor and split the chicks, but many will go ahead and order way too many chicks and will end up with far too many eggs at one time once the hens start laying.

Personally I would say that for one or two people, no more than 4-6 laying hens, if you think about it, each hen will lay one egg per day, unless you eat a lot of eggs, or are selling the eggs, then it doens’t take long to be overrun with eggs.

There are, however, ways to store the excess eggs where they will not go bad. And anyone who has been around laying hens know that they slow down egg production in the winter, so it’s a good idea to be able to save that excess of eggs for the winter when you will be getting fewer to none.

Before refrigeration was available, people would use hydrated lime to store the eggs, it keeps them from going rancid and if done properly, it’s said that you can keep eggs fresh for up to a year, possibly longer if kept in a cool place.

The best time to start this is in the spring going into summer, only use clean but unwashed fresh eggs, do not try this with store bought eggs as they have been washed and no longer have their protective “bloom” on them, the pores will be open and the eggs will suck in the hydrated lime making the eggs inedible.

Watch these two videos to see just how simple this process is.




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Elk encounter 3 years later

 

Those who have followed me for a few years should remember my elk encounter from about three years ago, it did quite a bit of damage, but PB was able to do “Bobbage” and make everything work again. Most of my front end was “customized” by that elk encounter 3 years ago, the air conditioner condenser and the radiator along with everything else up in the front area got pushed back about 4 inches, most of the hardware in there wasn’t attached to much anymore. And the 2 aforementioned items became concave where the elk body was cradled in the front of my truck. So replacing the concave radiator with a spiffy new flat one meant more customization by PB, also known as Bobbage, that magic he does when faced with a puzzle like this.

This is what an elk cow does to a radiator, the “encounter” actually happened in March of 2015, so all in all, that radiator has held up pretty well considering… It finally sprung a leak over the weekend, I was going to drive to one of my farther towns to work this morning when I discovered it was more than a small leak. Thank the Lord above that I didn’t end up on the side of the road. The auto parts house 2 towns over had a radiator in stock and I got it.

After getting home, PB started working on it, eventually most of the neighborhood ended up over here lending their hands, tools and lots of moral support. Now I can go to work tomorrow. I am truly fortunate to live in such a caring neighborhood. I am also thankful that I know enough to be able to confidently call the auto parts stores in town to get what I need. And I’m thankful that I have the kind of job where I can take off a day without causing too much trouble.Though some might consider this a run of bad luck, I think this new year is starting out pretty well.



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10 years later…

It was 10 years ago on December 22 when PB and I (and our little chihuahua Pekoe) pulled up on our property, it was 3:30 in the morning, it was 14 degrees F, the wind was blowing a gale, we had driven for 12 hours, but we made it, we were finally here, we were about to embark on our new and exciting life living 100% off-grid.

We had planned on this for less than a year, yet this was something we had each wanted from childhood. It was a bit ironic, we had really never discussed our dreams to live like this, I assumed he wouldn’t want to give up his business or leave his family, he thought pretty much the same thing about me. But once we did broach the subject, we both realized it was really a mutual dream and we wasted no time making it happen.

I had worked for Best Buy for 10 years and had a small nest egg saved up through the company stock plan, little did I know that the bottom was about to fall out of the stock market, I cashed out at just the right time, and it was enough for us to purchase a bit of acreage in far west Texas, in a tiny community.

It was raw land, with absolutely nothing on it, no driveway, no pad, no utilities. In fact, it was near impossible to get up onto the property, it went from street level (unpaved dirt road) to a creekbed, then straight up about 10-13 feet, forget trying to drive up there. The real estate lady didn’t even want to take us beyond the creek bed. It wasn’t until we went back to the property a few hours later on our own that we climbed up the bank and were awed beyond belief at what we were seeing!

A quick phone call later and we had permission to spend the night on the property, we needed to see where the sun set and rose, and how much light the property actually received since we were going to go all solar. We pitched our tent and watched the sun go down. The following morning, we knew the property was perfect for us, I was in the realtor’s office throwing money on her desk. We made an offer and 30 days later we owned this little piece of paradise.

That was the summer of ’07, PB began driving out here and spending a week at a time building our soon to be SkyCastle. By the time it was nearly the following Christmas, we were here in a 16×16 box on stilts.

The “stilts” happened because PB set the corner posts, he was going to cut them down to size then decided not to build so close to the ground, making the top of the posts the main floor. …

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East Jesus

I think most everyone is familiar with “Slab City”, an abandoned military base in the Sonoran desert in California. This desolate place is a favored home of snowbirds living in campers and RVs during the winter. The summer temps can reach 120F but there are still year round residents.

There is one section called “East Jesus”, it’s an artist’s commune, a bit of a radical playground, think Stephen King meets Tim Burton. Wikipedia says:

East Jesus

East Jesus is an experimental, sustainable and habitable art installation located in the Slab City area. There is no religious connotation in the name East Jesus – it is a colloquialism for a place in the middle of nowhere beyond the edge of service availability; the off-grid facility operates with no municipal utilities. In early 2007, Charlie Russell left his job in the technology industry, packed all his belongings into a shipping container and sent it to a trash-strewn field where he began to surround his two art cars with sculptures that would become the foundation works of East Jesus. The Chasterus Foundation, a 501(c)3 non-profit formed after his death in 2011, has since guided the curation and expansion of East Jesus.
“East Jesus” sculpture garden entry

Made from discarded material that has been reused, recycled or repurposed, East Jesus encourages visitors to imagine a world without waste, in which every action is opportunity for self-expression. Assemblage and mixed-media art cover nearly every inch of it, interior and exterior. Sculptures and installations are constantly in development throughout campus, and the musical performance space holds a public address system, a stage lighting system, and a studio grand piano. There are also a solar power system with a battery bank made up of expired batteries disposed by telecom companies. Photography, multimedia art, performance art, writing and music are integral parts of a larger fabric, which their artists collectively are continually weaving. East Jesus artwork is living, growing and ever-changing, and embraces the thousands of varied voices from contributing artists who have added to the installation. Each day, residential staff gives dozens of free tours, and hosts visiting artists and overnight guests.

Have you been to Slab City? If so, what did you think of it?
https://youtu.be/EAWX5sD9tbc



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A day in the emergency room

I spent today in the emergency room, not for me, but for a friend. I had gone to church and found out my friend had slipped on ice on her way out and broke one knee cap (fully in half) and hurt her elbow. I left church and went to her house, the first responders were there, the ambulance wasn’t there yet. Where we live, there is lots of land between the houses, becoming injured when you are by yourself can turn into a death sentence, fortunately her neighbor was outside and heard her yelling for help. If it hadn’t happened that way, it would have been hours before anyone else would have found her, and she was laying on a wooden ramp, on ice and couldn’t pull herself up.

This makes me think about the risks of living by yourself in a rural, isolated area. Most of the time, it’s not a problem, but the day you fall or have some other medical emergency, if you can’t get to a phone or get someone to hear you, an otherwise minor issue can become life threatening.

I know many people who want to live off-grid or homestead are going to tend to be in rural, isolated areas, places where your neighbors are few and far between. So, what do you do to balance your wanted isolation and your safety?

One thing you could do is to carry a phone, assuming you have a cell signal, a cell phone, or if not, then a wireless landline, as long as your phone works, you could at least call for help assuming you are conscious. Honestly, I don’t have a good answer if you don’t have a way to call for help, perhaps have a buddy system where a trusted neighbor checks on you from time to time. This would be especially helpful if you are older or in poor health.

Out where I live, cell phones don’t work in most areas where people live, fortunately for my friend, even though she is older (70 years old) she is in fairly decent health and was able to call out loud enough for the far away neighbor to hear. If she hadn’t been able to get the neighbor to come over, I would have gone over there after church to check on her, but that would have meant laying in pain, in the cold, on the ice, I suspect she would have survived, but would have been much worse for the wear.

My friend is going to be OK, she has a fully broken knee cap, something I think is better than injuring tendons or other soft tissues, bones can be pinned back together and heal well, soft tissue or connective tissue takes a lot longer to heal. She does have a hairline fracture near her elbow but that will heal itself, she is …

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Van life in Vancouver
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Van life in Vancouver

Wow, that is my first thought about Atli and how she lives! She is a part-time bus driver, she can afford to work part time because she doesn’t have rent or other major housing expenses. Before Atli started her mobile life, she noticed a few other fellow bus drivers living under a bridge next to where they all worked, they lived in vans and were actually teased about being the “trolls under the bridge”, but instead of joining in on the good natured teasing, Atli decided she wanted to be one of those trolls.

Atli purchased and with the help of her dad, converted a commercial looking van into her home. I love that her dad helped her in this, that so reminded me of my dad, even the pictures of Atli’s dad made me think of my dad, it is so very sweet.

The van is very non-descript, she can park it anywhere and not draw attention, something that helps keep her safe, no one is going to pay attention to what looks like any ordinary commercial van, she purposely kept that appearance by not installing windows on the sides and by building in a bulkhead with a small door just behind the front seats. That also helps with privacy.

With the lack of windows, Atli felt that she needed to have some natural outdoor lighting so she installed a skylight right above her bed in the back, this not only gives extra natural light, she can look at the stars from the comfort of her bed. Atli also installed 2 roof vents, one has a fan, the other does not, this helps with ventilation, especially in the warmer more humid times of the year.

The van is fully insulated, not only to help keep the temps more enjoyable, it also keeps down condensation from the inside metal surfaces. Atli used a lot of wood in her van, personally I would have not used the tongue and groove wood as it does add a lot of weight, I would have preferred a lighter (weight) paneling, maybe something that had a light colored finish, but that is merely my opinion, everyone has their ideas.

I LOVE LOVE LOVE how much room she has inside this van, it’s not cluttered or crowded at all, she can fully stand up and walk around, there is plenty of storage and she can cook real meals on her 2 burner cook top. There is running water and a sink, cleverly made from a stainless steel bowl purchased from a dollar store. There is a pull out table with lots of room for eating or working, it fully retracts under her bed, a design feature that I find very handy.

The only “lack” in this setup is a bathroom facility, no toilet and no shower, things that Atli doesn’t require because she is able to …

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Privacy? They are listening

I grew up in the time when cable TV boxes were supposed to have a camera or at the very least a microphone inside so they could see (or hear) what goes on inside your home. I remember covering up the cable box at night before going to bed. I don’t know if that ever really happened or if it was one big conspiracy. Today however, nearly everyone has smartphones, tablets, computers, smart TVs, smart appliances… all of these have cameras and microphones, and with the apps on them, they DO listen to you, many silently await your command to come to life and answer your queries. Have you ever had targeted ads that happened because of something you merely TALKED out-loud about?

I have gotten used to targeted ads online, I know that Google and other websites actively track what I type and where I go online. Honestly, I don’t mind the targeted ads because if I am going to have to look at ads, they might as well be something I’m actually interested in. What does disturb me is the alleged eavesdropping on my conversations when I’m talking to a friend in person, not over the phone.

Do I have proof of this? No, not hard proof, BUT I have seen enough to satisfy my own suspicions. Let me give you two examples that have happened in the last few weeks and today.

About 2 weeks ago, I was with a few lady friends, we had been discussing women being abused, this is not a subject I search for online, once we moved on to another subject, I wanted to demonstrate how Google assistant works by saying “OK Google” to activate it without touching the phone, I did a search for something innocent, I think I asked “where am I”, it answered me, then it populated the the ads and some of the results with things related to women being abused, books, websites and the such.

Now fast forward to today, I was scrolling through Facebook, I noticed an ad for a FB page promoting handmade rustic dolls made of fabric, it really caught my eye because it was a different ad than I usually get, most of my ads have to do with Amazon products that I have looked at lately, watercolor related items and the such, I have NOT done any searches for handmade dolls in the last 2-3 years.

I had been in a dollar store on Tuesday, I was looking for colorful knee high socks, I explained to my friend who was with me that I intended to make sock creatures (dolls) with them as Christmas gifts, I find it quite curious that I suddenly get ads for handmade fabric dolls a couple of days after merely DISCUSSING this in person with a friend.

So now, what to do? I know this happens, even …

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Stealth camping in the city

Most of the people I know of who live in their vans or other vehicles are travelers, they camp, they don’t tend to live in the city, not so for Jay, he lives in a retired U-Haul truck with his cat and a great dane! Yes, I said a great dane, as large as those tend to be, it’s apparently not too big for this conversion.

I like how Jay did his conversion, he kept everything very simple, which kept the weight as well as the cost at a minimum. Though the weight was much less of a factor since he used a commercial moving van as the base, it’s meant to carry a lot more weight than standard build vehicles.

I have always thought that U-Haul moving trucks would make a great camper van, they have plenty of power, they have lots of space, the kind of space you can use to create your own personalized living space. The other nice thing about the U-Haul (commercial style) trucks are they are inconspicuous, you will not draw much attention, especially if it’s painted white, it will blend in with any other commercial vehicle in the city.

Jay does in fact use his van as a delivery vehicle, so he is actually driving it around town, he left a space between the back roll up door and the inner wall/door so that he can place the items he delivers without showing that he is actually living inside his vehicle, and when he’s not using it in town, ie in a safer place, he can leave the roll up door open and use that space as a porch.

I was a bit surprised to find that Jay needs 2 air conditioners to keep the box cool, mainly for his animals, but only during the hottest part of summer, I wonder if he could add any more insulation, especially to the roof area, that might help keep the box from overheating and help keep in the cool air.

Watch and enjoy, let me know if this is something you would like to do, I’d be curious to know how you would implement this.



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Stealth van build and tour

Could you live in a van? I could if I had this one, it’s designed to be a “stealth van”, it has loads of space and the space is used in a most logical and efficient manner. I like that it is tall enough to comfortably stand, even for the taller chaps. It does have a bathroom, as of the time of this video, the bathroom only contains a toilet, but it will eventually contain a shower.

The video briefly shows and explains the following features of their van:
-Garage and storage area
-LPG storage box
-Bedroom
-Natural light and ventilation
-Benefits of a ‘stealth’ style conversion
-Kitchen and dinette area
-Overhead storage cabinets
-Bathroom and toilet area; and
-Battery storage and supply (lithium phosphate)

https://youtu.be/J7dgPL0ZNbw



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Fantasy cottage by the sea

Do you remember the fairy tale Hansel and Gretel? Well, if they had a house today, this would be it! Located next to the ocean in Vancouver BC, this 600 square foot cottage is so unique on the outside, the first thing you notice is the roof, high pitched and covered by custom made cedar shakes. Next are the windows and doors, all locally sourced and made.

Once you pass through the gorgeous front door, you are immediately struck with the contemporary look of the finish. It was designed to be functional as well as beautiful. The loft bedroom is spacious enough for a queen size bed, and the tall ceiling makes it easy to walk around without having to crouch.

Living in a small castle myself, I can appreciate the fact that people will stop and look at your house if you live in an unusual house, ours is a bit more private than this is though since it’s right on the water, passing boats have a magnificent view of this cute tiny house.

Watch and enjoy!



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Are you nuts? When can we come visit?

Friends, family, most of us have them, and for most of us they play an integral part of our lives and decisions we make. Making the decision to completely change your life, the way you live can have some pretty interesting, potentially disturbing reactions from those around you.

Moving and living off-grid is a fairly big life change, it often means moving to another place, most likely it’s going to be much farther away than you realize. Chances are that many of your less close friends will eventually fall away, you will be meeting new people and making new friends anyway. Family, well that’s another story, they tend to stick with you (for better or worse LOL)…

You will likely get one of two reactions, the first is the “Oh wonderful, a new vacation spot, when can we come visit?” and the other is “Are you nuts?”.

Let me address the second reaction first. It’s an unfortunate thing that so many people don’t follow their dream or are such negative people, those are the ones who will most likely try to talk you out of making your move. They are often the ones who don’t like or want change, especially in their family dynamics, so any major changes you might make would be perceived as a threat to them. Don’t let someone else’s fears or concerns stand in your way. It can also be hard on those who are close to you and rely on you for more, they might see your leaving as a removing of their safety net, whether financial or emotional. That is something you will have to work out with them, again don’t let someone else’s fears or concerns stand in your way (assuming they are adults and you aren’t responsible for them).

Make no mistake, the people in the “Are you nuts?” category might be pretty persuasive in their arguments to stop you, from trying to scare you with all the unknowns, to threatening to cut you off from them, yes you probably will make some mistakes, yes things will happen that are out of your control, but don’t let that stop you from living your dream. Hopefully the negative Nancy’s will come around once they see you are doing fine and life didn’t end for them just because you left.

Now, to the other reaction, hopefully you will experience more of that side from your family and friends. Moving away, there would of course be some tears, but if they are happy for you it’s all the better. If they can see some benefit for you and them, that is a big help. Your place would more than likely become a destination for visits and vacations, you might even convince some of your family and/or friends to move where you are and live the off-grid life as well.

Either way, change is never an …

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