Minimalists Family of Four Off Grid

Side-by-Side Review of Water Jugs

We moved onto our property just as winter hit and before we could set up our water catchment system; consequently we had to haul our water.  Here are the 3 types/brands of jugs we used and how we rated them.

*Note: these are our honest reviews and opinions.  We were in no way compensated.

Side-by-Side Specs

  Midwest Can Co. Igloo Reliance
Size 6 gals / 22.7 L 6 gals / 22.7 L 8 gals / 30 L
Place of Purchase Sporting goods store Hardware store Big box store
Cap type Twist n’ lock Push on Screw on
Spout ring Fuel type Screw on with eyelets n/a
Spout Type Traditional Traditional Spigot
Intake Caps n/a part of spout Pop out Screw on
Air Intake In spout Hole in container body Hole in container body
Handles 2 top/rear 2 top/rear 1
Manufactured Made in the USA Made in the USA Made in Canada
Flow Moderate Slow Fast
Material BPA free BPA free Food Grade Polyethylene
Extra features n/a n/a Wheels and pull-behind handle

Read more to see Rubric Rating charts on each of these and which one was #1

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5 Mistakes We Made Our 1st Winter OFF-GRID

Our first off-grid homestead winter seemed easy until Storm Maya hit.  We had 30 inches of snow in two days with a brief break followed by another foot of snow and rain.  While we have still lived through worse winters ON GRID; being off grid for our first winter we had a few mishaps.

#1  Snow Removal Plan for a Snowpocalypse

We are used to shoveling heavy NE Ohio snow in subzero temps with high winds.  So shoveling 6 inches of snow in the sun and 20s F was easy breezy even for our long drive.  Then Storm Maya hit the PNW and we were put to the test.  We called every snow removal service we could and all were occupied.  Calling last minute was obviously no fun and put us at the bottom of the lists.  Especially, as new-to-the-area people.  While plow equipment was not in the budget this year, we should have researched snow plow/removal companies prior to the big storm.

#2 Park Our Truck by the road

Why oh why did we not park our truck at the end of our drive?  We’ve done this before when we expected snow.  For some reason…we forgot!  We ended up snowed in for over a week.  Our road was cleared day 3.  Which means we could have run to the grocery store and merely shoveled a human walkway down the drive to the truck.

#3 Get chains for our truck

Just before the big snow we had big ice.  We struggled and found ourselves wishing we had chains for our truck.

#4 Have more Fuel Storage

We have a gas generator to back up our solar generator.  While we did not run out of gasoline, we ran close and I had to curb my work on my laptop (our greatest gas guzzler) to conserve energy.  From this we decided to double our fuel storage.

#5 Stock up on pet supplies

Hmmm, seems obvious but when you are used to running to the store anytime you need something, there’s bound to be a period of adjustment when prepping.  Yes, we had enough dog food and cat food but ran out of cat litter!  We know what you are thinking, throw in dirt or woodchips, well we have a particularly finicky cat who needs one kind of cat litter or she simply won’t use the pan!

How We Survived Snowpocalypse 2017 on our Off-grid Homestead

We unexpectedly found our homestead just before winter’s first snow and while we didn’t have everything we needed for winter (See Mistakes We Made); we did plan ahead for a potential winter storm holding us captive in our home.

Here’s what we did to stay safe for a homebound snowpocalypse:

Prepare AND maintain water storage

Every time we went into town we filled up 40-gals worth of water jugs.

Every day we collected snow to melt for laundry, dishes, and cooking.

This allowed us to keep a constant 55-gal food grade barrel full of water.

Kept a drinking water filter on hand to filter melted snow water.  When melting snow for drinking water we boiled it first.

Store Bulk Food and Meal Plan

We do not yet have a pantry, nor any other storage options for food i.e. root cellar, garage, basement, shed, etc.  Therefore, we had to pick a few bulk items to keep on hand.  We chose rice, beans, flour, honey, chicken stock, tomato sauce, frozen turkeys, and constantly kept 5 dozen eggs rotated.

General Meal planning not only helps us keep within our food budget and keeps daily life simpler BUT meal planning helped during Snowpocalypse 2017 by allowing us to have 3 days of meals before we had to dip into our bulk food.  Practicing meal planning allowed us to look at our inventory and make a meal plan based on those items.

Alternative Heat Source

When we first moved to our property we had to play catch up on cutting wood.  We purchased some North Idaho Energy Logs to get us started.  Later when our unseasoned wood needed constant 24/7 vigilance to maintain heat, we supplemented our fire with fifths of the energy logs.  We decided to purchase a pallet load to keep on hand for emergencies too.  Emergencies such as if one of us was out of commission and we could not keep cutting wood, OR a snowpocalypse!  Next year we will have wood stored but for this season it was important to have a contingency plan for providing our family with heat.

Keep shoveling Snow

We have a long drive, a road maintained by neighbors, and a 2WD pickup truck.  What could go wrong?  We knew at some point we may get stuck but to keep the odds in our favor we shoveled every time snow fell.  This kept our drive manageable and our only concern the road.  But life is still unpredictable.  So head on over to Mistakes We Made and see the rest of this story.

 

Our Greatest Winter Challenges 1st Months Off-grid

The long-time locals told us that our first winter on the off-grid homestead was the worst winter for snow accumulation and temperatures in 21+ years in our area.  We posted our TOP 5 Reasons this was the best season to start our homestead but that doesn’t mean we didn’t have challenges.  TWO big challenges to be exact.

Score 2 for our beautiful treacherous road.

#1 Living on a back road

The most inherent aspect of living on a back road is road maintenance.  We knew this when we bought our property and were prepared for the fact that along the way it was going to be an issue.  We had not experienced a North Idaho winter and were not entirely sure of the severity.  However, as we are both raised Ohioans having experienced “Lake effect” snow storms from Lake Erie; we were confident we could handle it.  Additionally, we planned our relocation by studying microclimates, therefore we knew our property was well situated in altitude and weather to our needs and capabilities.  However, seams of doubt cracked open as we heard more and more horror stories of N. Idaho winters.  Only time would tell and it did.  While we thrived in the winter, and maintained our long drive the challenge was our road.  Maintained by neighbors, we learned to plan on hunkering down on the homestead 1-2 days after each snow storm until the road was cleared or other vehicles made enough tracks that made it passable.  Twice we found ourselves digging out and the first time was our fault for not following our own rules.  Our solar battery/inverter died and when the replacement arrived we had to venture out when our road was not cleared.  We easily dug out of the soft snow bank.  The second time however, proved more challenging.  When warmer weather melted a half of our accumulated snow fall, followed by a deep freeze, we found our road to be a solid sheet of ice. A neighbor in a 4 x4 got stuck and we ventured to the post office anyway.  On the way home our truck couldn’t make it up an icy hill and slid backward into a snow bank.

So, what did we do?

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TOP 5 Reasons Winter was the Best Time to Start Our Off-Grid Homestead

#5. It’s easier to stay warm than cool when you’re OFF-grid
Okay so this may be a matter of opinion. Tom and I are fortunate that we both feel it is easier to stay warm than cool when you are OFF-Grid. This is a double edge sword because one of the worst

Tom geared up for winter-time wood cutting.

things about starting an off-grid homestead in the winter is not having properly dried fire wood. This has been problematic for us. Nonetheless, we’ve maintained 70 and 80 degree temperatures in the cabin. It has been a matter of the fire staying lit throughout the night that has been the issue. We did come up with a semi-solution and are anxious to cut and season wood this summer! Regardless, having a nice warm cabin has been great for moral and productivity.

#4. Learning to Cook on a woodstove is easier in the Winter
Because we use a wood stove for heat, we had ample time to cook at our convenience as the stove was always hot. As spring is upon us and we have had warmer days; we are finding that is no longer true. Keeping the fire going on warmer days is a waste of fuel (wood) and leads to 90-Degree temps in our cabin. Therefore, our cooking on warmer days occurs during mornings and evenings. When we first started, we were trying to acclimate and it was super convenient to cook whenever we had the time or to slow cook something all day.

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Escaping Negativity

What to do with naysayers?

 

We have been discussing alternative housing and homesteading with our family and friends for years but when our offer on a property was accepted, our supporters suddenly turned into naysayers.  We were not prepared for what would happen when our dreams became reality… to other people.  Consequently, we found ourselves overwhelmingly in a bad mood about our decision to homestead and the property we were purchasing when a few days prior we were literally jumping for joy.

The Secret Ending (spoiler alert): A friend just asked me, “if you could do it over, would you buy the same place?”  Another asked me, “so you guys still going to keep doing this off-grid homestead thing?”

To both I happily answered “YES!”

I (Charlie) can be moody but when Tom is in a funk it’s rare and therefore extremely apparent.  He is the most even keeled unflappable person ever.  The effects of sharing our good news with everyone was a resounding of our every micro doubt into a wave of fear and a shattering of our confidence.  And to me this became obvious when Tom was upset.

Even our perception that “everyone” was against this was off because of the weight we gave that negative feedback.  One supportive friend helped turn our perception around.  We shared the feedback with him and he dismissed it reminding us that we have researched and made informed decisions, we have backup plans, etc.  And if we didn’t do this we’d always wonder “what if?”

Suddenly we found our courage again.  This just built as we talked to our RV neighbors; all of whom were also buying properties, and they dismissed our fears with logic.  That went something like this, “what if we don’t have time to get our cistern water catchment system set up before it snows?”  This was a fear that a well-meaning friend put in our heads. Our RV friend replied, “snow melts.”  Snow for water. That simple and something we had already planned.  However, letting all the doubt in our minds put up a zero-visibility cloud and suddenly we were not looking at our lives through our own researched and planned eyes.  So here’s what we did to turn back into our homestead-lifestyle-seeking selves:

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Meet Charlie & Tom

Charlie

Charlie

NE Ohio born and raised Charlisina (Charlie) Newport, first discovered a love for the mountains by traveling in her teens on cross country trips with her grandparents.  Later she discovered a love for permaculture in college, minimalism and traditional nourishment in motherhood, and homesteading while living the full-time RV life with her family in the western U.S.  Charlie was never fulfilled by her entrepreneurial career or career by employer endeavors; rather found creating a healthier lifestyle alongside her husband to be a more natural calling to her hearth and home instincts.  When she’s not traveling, or working on off-grid homesteading research; Charlie is creating a daily photograph journal of her family’s adventures backpacking, hiking, kayaking, homesteading, and living life to its fullest.

Tom

Tom KayakingNE Ohio born and raised Tom Newport grew up in the quiet suburbs of Canton/Massillon where he was always drawn to the outdoors.  His natural knack for management and merchandising led him to a successful 20+ year career in retail management.  Most his career he moved around northern Ohio opening and managing big box stores.  His career later took he and his family to California.  Burning out on the rat race that left him no family time and unethical corporate practices he changed careers to land management.  This took his family on a full time RV adventure stretching from the California coast to the high Rockies of Colorado.  During this time, he renewed his childhood connection and love of the land.  There was much talk and plans of homesteading in the future.  As life is unpredictable (see why we chose to homestead) the homestead timeline was moved up.  Tom now finds himself learning new skill sets in homesteading, applying his land management skills to his own land.  His days no longer end in ethical torment and stress induced physical exhaustion.  Now he finds his body and soul nourished by the homestead lifestyle and is living a successful life in fatherhood, as he says, “the real wealth of this lifestyle change is time with my family that the retail world would never allow me.”  Now long days of rewarding work are capped with reading his two boys to sleep, and fireside chats with his wife Charlie.

About Nonetheless Off Grid Homestead

4 cats

We found our dream off-grid homestead property. 10 acres and a 400 sq ft cabin in the woods.

1 dog

2 kiddos

2 hermit crabs

ONE precious life to live &

ONE big decision to live a natural minimalistic life!

May 2014 in a rented RV we drove away from a large house, large yard, community where everyone knew us, literally sold box truck sized loads of stuff, and for my husband he left a 21-yr high paying career with all the perks…Why? For a lifestyle we believed was best for our family. Presently, our RV journey took a U-turn and we’re now in a phase of life we call Homestead Happiness.  I hope you will follow along as we journey through this life finally answering our question of, “RV There Yet?” and answering the call, the echoes we heard in our daily conversations, “Nonetheless, I just want to homestead.”

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