Posts tagged ‘off-grid’

How-to: Gravity-fed Rainwater Harvesting Off-grid Plumbing System

Off-grid gravity plumbing system hooked up to barrels for rainwater harvest. No electricity, no pumps.

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Homesteading: How We Do It

People often ask, so here is a short rundown of how things work here at Twin Lamps Farmstead.

What is a Composting Toilet?

A must-have for off the grid lifestyles, a composting toilet is economical and easy to use.

An Alternative Method For Homestead Laundry

If you read our “Laundry on The Homestead” article, you know there are quite a few different methods for doing your laundry on the homestead, ranging from the very labor-intensive to the more laid back. There is however an in-between method. It combines some of the labor of hand-washing with the confidence and ease of a machine to create a middle-of-the-road product that we are very satisfied with.

Meet The Wonder Wash. It’s cheap, it’s cute, it works and to be honest, I wish I’d thought IMG_20160229_052050of it. Seriously, it’s so simple and works so well. You just add water (about a gallon and a half for a full load), add soap, add up to 5lbs of clothes, seal the pressurized lid and turn the crank. The instructions tell you how long to turn it per load, but to me it doesn’t seem long enough. I usually turn a full load for about 4 minutes. Then simply attach the drainage pipe and let the water out. You can either rinse the clothes in the washer by adding clean water and cranking some more (which I do now) or in a rinse tub (which I will do on the homestead). Wring and hang dry. Very easy and it cleans your clothes just fine.

We use this all the time already because though I adore my electric wringer-washer, this is much easier to use and requires less water. Sheets, small blankets, jackets and heavy sweatshirts fit in this little guy just fine as well, but for heavier blankets or coats, you’ll need to use a different method or go to a laundromat. You could probably smash them in there but it’s debatable how clean they would actually get.

It’s hard plastic that does not feel flimsy but obviously will break if treated too roughly, and it could use some stabilization when it is being cranked, because it moves a bit and that requires more work to keep it in place. It does have suction cups but they don’t prevent it from sliding. We plan to use screws to attach it to the countertop beside the sink at the homestead in order to fix this.

PROS:

  • It’s compactIMG_20160301_085849
  • It’s lightweight
  • It requires zero electricity
  • You have full control over how long clothes wash
  • It can use hot or cold water
  • It works

CONS:

  • It could use some stabilization to hold it while cranking
  • The drainage pipe is tricky and can be messy before you master it
  • For some reason, my washer has a pinkish tint; this is not a huge deal but… yeah
  • We recommend using a wringer; even with draining, clothes come out soaked

Overall, this little washer is definitely worth the $40 we paid for it. The purchase of the wringer will raise the cost of it overall, but a wringer should be purchased anyway, regardless of which method you use to do laundry. They are not essential, but your clothes will dry much more quickly if you use one. (You might think you can wring them out well enough by hand, but after you try a wringer, you will see that the difference is huge.) We are still taking our electric wringer-washer to the homestead but as we intend to build on to our solar energy system gradually, we won’t be using it for a while.

*This review is my own opinion and I was not compensated in any way. Bought the product with my own money.

Want to Bring Your Electronics to The Homestead Without Draining Your Main Solar Energy System? This Works!

So we’ve been testing out this little solar battery charger by RAVPower for the past few days. It’s a 15w solar panel that charges basically anything with USB charging capability. That means it can charge not just cellphones and tablets, but lanterns, lamps, radios and lots of other things. We bought it to charge cellphones and tablets on the homestead, that way they would not be a constant drain on the main solar energy system. (Larger systems are pretty expensive, so the less one needs to power, the better.) The way our current house sits is in a weird place between two large buildings; it doesn’t get sunlight all day on any one part of the house. To test the panel, we hung it out an upstairs window onto the porch roof in the morning.

Happy to report that it works like a charm. It provided a full charge to a 10 inch tablet in about an hour with full sun and in about 2 hours on a very overcast, snowy day. (This is at like 9:00AM in February, people.) It charged a 7 inch “phablet” type of phone and the 10 inch tablet together to almost a full charge in about an hour as well with full sun. For $50, we are pretty impressed with it. We also bought this battery pack to go with it, just in case. The battery pack came fully-charged (a very nice bonus), so we have not been able to test yet how long it will take the panel to charge the battery pack. ravpower

PROS:

  • It’s lightweight
  • It’s compact and foldable
  • It seems very sturdy and stitched together well
  • Has two USB inputs so it can charge 2 devices at once

CONS:

  • It’s not waterproof, so it cannot be left out in the rain or in a heavy snow
  • USB ports in general break or stop working easily
  • The charging capability is reduced quite a bit by overcast days
  • It does not work well indoors, even with full sun coming through the window

Even if we weren’t moving to the homestead, we are still glad we have the panel. We paid $50 and can now charge any of our devices for free, anywhere there is sun. This includes while driving and in any emergency. You can’t beat that.

*This review is my own opinion and I was not compensated in anyway. Bought the product with my own money.

Wood-fired Water Heater [DIY]

An excellent DIY tutorial.

Laundry on The Homestead

If you’re planning the move to your homestead property, one of the many things you’ve undoubtedly thought about is laundry. Depending on how primitive your accommodations are, there are a few options.

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The first is the most primitive: a washboard and tub. Most people are familiar with these, having seen them in old movies and on TV shows. The first tub contains soapy water. You would scrub the clothes against the washboard, then run them through the wringer into the other tub, which is full of clean rinse water. You can rinse them using another washboard if you like. Some recommend two tubs for rinsing. You then wring the clothes again and hang them on a clothesline or over a drying rack. To get rid of the wastewater, no plumbing needed. You simply dump it out in your greywater area.

This is the most basic laundry setup, requiring no electricity or plumbing and the most labor. You can certainly use a washboard and tub setup – it’ll work just fine – but you may want something a little less labor-intensive.

Wringer-washer

This is a wringer washer. It’s identical to the one I have in my home. We will be taking it to the homestead with us. I absolutely love it and will never use a “regular” washing machine again, regardless of where I live. It works similarly to the washboard and tub method, except the most labor-intensive part (the scrubbing) has been eliminated. It’s electric, but uses much less electricity and water than a modern washing machine.

To use it, first you fill the tub with about 15 gallons of water. You can use a bucket to do this or run a hose from a faucet directly in to the machine’s tub. (On the homestead, we will be using a wood stove with a hot water reservoir. It has a hose.) Next, you turn on the machine so that the agitator starts moving and add the detergent. Once it’s nice and soapy, you just add clothes and put the lid back on. You run it as long as you need depending on the load and amount of soiling (versus no real control with regular washing machines), then you wring, rinse, wring again and hang. To empty the water, there is a hose on the side of the machine. Some have a pump and others simply work from gravity. (Mine has no pump, but it empties in less than 5 minutes, so I don’t miss it.) This hose could be plumbed into a pipe that pipes it to your garden (as ours will be) or another drainage area. For now, I simply lay the hose in the shower and the water goes down the drain. If you’re going to use greywater to irrigate your garden, you’ll need to use more natural detergents.

These machines are very quiet and very efficient. The thing I like the most about them is that you can wash multiple large loads of clothes using the same water and they will all still be perfectly clean (start with whites and the least-soiled clothing).

You can of course use a standard washer and dryer on your homestead if you have electricity and plumbing. However, they certainly use far more electricity and water than the two options mentioned above, especially the dryer. When you get right down to it, a dryer is really only for convenience. A clothesline or drying rack in front of a wood stove works just fine. Some people don’t like the texture of clothes that have been dried on the line, but a little bit of vinegar in the rinse water softens clothes very well, ensures there are no leftover odors and does not leave a vinegar smell.

Perhaps the most important thing to many of us who dream of a homestead is cutting back on convenience and getting back to basics. The washing machine in my home has one button and one lever. I like that – a lot.

Living Off-Grid: Phase One COMPLETE!

Today my husband and I became the proud owners of 10 beautiful acres in the Midwest. By this time next year, we hope to be living off-grid completely on our land.

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Want to Live Off-Grid But Can’t Afford To Build a House? Try This.

The Leatherwood, by Wildcat Barns

The Leatherwood, by Wildcat Barns in Kentucky

A lot of us are yearning to live off-grid and with land prices so low, it’s a very realistic dream right now. However, some of us just don’t have the money to pay to build a house or the time and know-how to build it ourselves. In researching a solution to this, I found something that could be very workable: rent-to-own cabins. Most of these work on the same premise as places like Rent-a-Center: No credit checks and in many cases, no deposit. You pay a payment and sign the agreement, they give you the cabin and you either pay it off until you own it or you give it back when you are done with it (say if you just wanted it for one season at a hunting lease or for a few months at a vacation spot). You can also simply buy one outright if you have the money and with most companies I’ve researched, there are no penalties for early payment in full. Very easy. Basic models start at about $5,000, with the payment being about $200 a month. They are about the size of a single wide trailer (the biggest are around 18×40) and have loft sleeping areas. You can create other rooms in them if you’d like, of course.

They are cute, decently-priced and the company will deliver, set up and level them on your land for you. Some also build them on site. The basic cabins are not finished, wired or insulated, but you can choose one that is finished for more money. You could also finish it yourself. It’s all about what your needs are and what you can do. One thing I noticed, though, is that these do not seem to have a gutter system and if you want a rain catchment system like we do – and to keep the water from eroding the earth away underneath of your structure – you are going to have to put them on yourself.

cape cod cabin

Cape Cod, by Sunrise Buildings in Missouri

Other companies do not allow residential structures on their rent-to-own programs but they do allow structures that could be easily converted into living spaces, such as lofted sheds and horse barns. These guys will often do modifications for you to that end, such as insulated windows and doors. A converted horse barn could make a wonderful home and to be honest, it was my first choice and still is. These cabins are very cute though and affordable.

Living off-grid has never been more feasible than it is now. What are you waiting for?

Search “rent to own cabin” or “portable cabin” and your state. You should be able to find something. Most companies charge for delivery outside of a certain area, so check in your state first. Many offer statewide delivery for free, regardless of where in the state you are.

Heating & Cooking Taken Care of With One Appliance – No Electricity Needed

In our quest to become ever-more self-sustainable and wean ourselves off of dependence on others, we are constantly looking for ways to cut costs. By this time next year, we hope to be living almost totally self-sustainably and one of the things we will be purchasing is this: a pot belly wood-burning stove. It takes care of heating and cooking. This one is rated to heat 800 sq ft but a gentleman commented saying that it heats his 2000 sq ft home with no problem.

stove

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