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Brand New Conversation from Suburbia to Off-Grid - would love a few suggestions.

 
Posts: 56
Location: LAS VEGAS BABY - NM! USyA!
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cat urban greening the desert
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It's about to happen.
I'm moving to Las Vegas, NM.
I had been planning this for years.

BUT!

My generalized plans seem to fail where boots hit the sand on a brand new plot of land, that has a small "hippy house" - no appliances - the commode is a "remove to humanure pile" - no electric (except a small solar panel setup) , no cell service, won't have telephone initially, has solar powered private well pipeded to a cistern and then to the sink inside. Glamping w/o the glam!

I will be walking into an empty home w/o amenities and an "empty" plot of land without immediate food production capabilities.
I want to import a minimal amount of garbage - tin, plastic, and other non-compostable items (I'm okay with glass).
I will need food, but so many prepared foods are in containers that must be exported to a landfill or recycle center.
I am diabetic - so the things that come in boxes - pastas and cereals - aren't ideal.
I will be about 20 min. from a grocery store.
I do have some freeze dried food - but packaging and quantity are a bit problematic.

What dry foods might be suggested until I can bring in more solar and RV appliances?
 
Rocket Scientist
Posts: 4353
Location: latitude 47 N.W. montana zone 6A
1453
cat pig rocket stoves
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Hi Rojer;
Congratulations on your big move!
Sounds to me like the living conditions, although sort of primitive are easily doable. Heck you got running water inside!
I can't help with your food choices, but I'm guessing you'll be driving to town often. At least at first, until you can start growing your own food!
You haven't mentioned refrigeration... I'm assuming that means a cooler? Or all dry items?
What about cooking? Propane range? Or outdoor fire?  

Do you know about rocket stoves? What about rocket mass heaters? We have forums all about them here at Permies!

I strongly suggest a generator, smaller inverter genset from harbor freight would be fine. You may find it comes in handy...

You mention a phone line coming in the future. What about power?  Or are you planning on going all solar?

You should think about purchasing a pure sine wave inverter and forget about buying RV appliances.  Bring your 110 appliances from home.
Make your power as 12 volt  and turn it into 110!  Cleaner power than the power company supplies!

That's a few answers and certainly enough questions for you for now.
Let us know what your plans are and we need photo's of your new hippy house...

 
Rojer Wisner
Posts: 56
Location: LAS VEGAS BABY - NM! USyA!
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Good morning Thomas.

The house has a small wood burning stove.
No refrigerator.
I'm not sure how soon I will have that.
I do have propane tanks and there are some janky propane lines into the house.
I will need to inspect and repair prior to using them.

So - I'm willing to purchase a propane camp stove either before I leave here or shortly after I arrive there.
I'm also bringing a small charcoal BBQ and a small propane BBQ.
I am brining a small Harbor Freight solar array, converter and battery along with but it won't be there for about a week or three (PODS doesn't serve my new location, I'll have to go to Albuquerque to unload everything into my truck and trailer).

I am aware of Rocket Stoves and Rocket Mass Heaters, and much of the wonderful work of the E. & E. Wisner's and others.

I am definitely going to buy a small generator - Predator maybe, Honda preferably.
Do you have any suggestions for brand of pure sine wave inverters? Most are stepped square wave.
I intend on adding a good sized "real" solar PV array and battery bank - eventually and could potentially bring in utility power from about a quarter mile away - eventually.  

I don't currently have any appliances that I can bring along except a microwave.

Curious as to why not buy marine/RV appliances and avoid dc/ac conversion losses.  

And (hopefully) here is the little house on the hillside:
_Hippy_House.PNG
Small Hippy House
Small Hippy House
 
pollinator
Posts: 1701
Location: Victoria BC
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Rojer Wisner wrote:Good morning Thomas.

The house has a small wood burning stove.
No refrigerator.
I'm not sure how soon I will have that.
I do have propane tanks and there are some janky propane lines into the house.
I will need to inspect and repair prior to using them.

So - I'm willing to purchase a propane camp stove either before I leave here or shortly after I arrive there.
I'm also bringing a small charcoal BBQ and a small propane BBQ.
I am brining a small Harbor Freight solar array, converter and battery along with but it won't be there for about a week or three (PODS doesn't serve my new location, I'll have to go to Albuquerque to unload everything into my truck and trailer).

I am aware of Rocket Stoves and Rocket Mass Heaters, and much of the wonderful work of the E. & E. Wisner's and others.

I am definitely going to buy a small generator - Predator maybe, Honda preferably.
Do you have any suggestions for brand of pure sine wave inverters? Most are stepped square wave.
I intend on adding a good sized "real" solar PV array and battery bank - eventually and could potentially bring in utility power from about a quarter mile away - eventually.  

I don't currently have any appliances that I can bring along except a microwave.

Curious as to why not buy marine/RV appliances and avoid dc/ac conversion losses.  

And (hopefully) here is the little house on the hillside:



Cute! Congratulations on the move.

Cost is the main argument against the DC appliances IMO. Solar panels are pretty cheap these days. 110v appliances are both cheap and broadly available, and pretty efficient.

Adding a  bit more wattage to the solar system to account for conversion losses can be more economical than paying significantly more for DC appliances.

Plus, 110v can be pretty much wired up to where you would like it, compared to DC where distances must be more carefully considered due to excessive wire size/cost for even moderate distances...
 
master gardener
Posts: 2784
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Hi Rojer!! How awesome is that!?!?? Note: 'Awesome' and 'easy' don't always go hand in hand, lol. In August '05, I moved (as a single mom, with my 9yr old daughter) into an old farmhouse. It did have (frighteningly dubious) power and indoor plumbing, but the only heat sources were a few inoperable fireplaces, that sucked heat out, and there were no appliances. For several months, we had a charcoal grill and a cooler, and I often cooked in the rain, lol. I'm hypoglycemic, so my dietary concerns are similar to yours, and we were 25 miles from town. We ate a lot of fresh produce. The cooler was reserved for milk (for my daughter), cheese and meat. If you can find a local source (someone who is freeranging their birds) for eggs, you can safely just keep them in the coolest spot you can find, in the house, and not refrigerate them, as long as you're using them within a reasonable timeframe.

As far as dry foods, things like quinoa, chia, amaranth, & coconut flour are your friends. They can be used in many ways, like flour, but without the carbs of wheat. Quinoa can be found as whole seed, flour, & flakes. As whole seed, it fills the role of rice, oats (which I still eat, on occasion), bulgar (excellent, in tabouleh), etc, and can be used as a great protein source, if trying to keep meat in a cooler is implausible. Quinoa is a whole protein source, all on its own, and tons of recipes are available for using it. If you go with chia, just be advised not to eat it, by the handful, without soaking it.

I hope this helps!
 
thomas rubino
Rocket Scientist
Posts: 4353
Location: latitude 47 N.W. montana zone 6A
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Hi Rojer;
I second everything that D. Nikolls had to say about d/c appliances.
As far as pure sine inverters.  
I have been using a 600 watt Cotek  for over fifteen years as my little inverter and I use a Magnum energy 2000 watt as our main power supply, its been in service for over nine years.
As far as generators.  The harbor freight 3500 watt predator is what I use. I've converted it to run on propane and it does everything I need it to do at 1/3 the cost of a Honda.

I should mention that I have been 100% off grid since 1983.  I have seen a lot of changes.

If you decide to go with solar only then spare no $ when it come to picking out the right battery's!  They are by far the most often replaced part of an off grid setup.

Carla has the food questions covered nicely.

 
Rojer Wisner
Posts: 56
Location: LAS VEGAS BABY - NM! USyA!
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Small Update:

I've been living here in my little hippy house for over a month now. I still haven't retrieved all of my belongings from the PODS container warehouse. They don't deliver this far away from Albuquerque so I have to drive my truck and trailer there and back. It will take four trips to get the rest of my stuff.
In the meantime I have survived the first snow of the season here. Perhaps only barely.

My heat has (up until very recently) come from a wood burning stove that seems to have too short of an exhaust pipe. I say that because when the stove isn't hot enough or it isn't windy enough I get a backdraft and lots of smoke in the house. I have a CO monitor and it has gone off a few times. Then I have to open windows and let the cold in and the heat out. Not ideal. And I can still have smoke without much CO and that is still unhealthy. I now have a gasoline electrical inverter generator and  a small portable tower heater. The house has two wall mounted propane heaters - close to the top of the wall. One works the other doesn't. I only recently took the time to test them. They are powered by the 20lbs (?) tanks outside. One hose and regulator seems to be clogged. The propane stove works. Each require their own tank. Including the non-working propane water heater. The water heater needs a few parts. I have an appointment scheduled for a large propane tank survey. They are going to inspect all my propane needs and make suggestions and provide an estimate of time frame and costs.

I knew that this house was a project house. But some of my efforts have been delayed by this covid crud or other priorities. That's okay - that's canyon living.
I'm still loving it.

Winter is coming!
This makes me concerned about the timelines to warmth - air and water. It is difficult to wash one's hair with 35 degree water. I do not have a solar shower system yet and I'm not sure how well that would work once the snow starts to accumulate and cold, cold, cloudy days.

I'm not whining - just updating.
Thank you for your interest (if any).  
 
Posts: 12
Location: North Eastern Ontario, Canada Zone 3B
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Congrats on your move! You are going in the right direction and it will take time to get there!
It sounds like you have figured out your food so now,
prioritize your heat source. A generator and electric heater will annoy you with noise, eat your funds in gas $$ and I'm sure you didn't intend to pollute so much as a generator will. That should be your last resort for heat.
You have a stove now, so identify and fix the issue. Burning a stove efficiently is a skill and it will take learning and practice. Inefficient burning is dangerous, costly and pollutes more than you likely want.
A taller chimney will create better draft. Make sure you are burning dry wood and your flue is not blocked.  It should be cleaned regularly, and more frequently if your wood isn't seasoned or is wet. Don't try and burn too large a piece of wood unless you have a really good bed of coals. Crack a window  when starting your stove and let it get really hot to start the chimney drafting. Damp your stove down when you've got those coals and logs burning well, this conserving wood and managing the heat.  Let it burn really hot for 10 mins a day to keep the flue cleaner. Empty ash clean-out regularly.
As others have said, consider a rocket mass heater for your future or if your stove is not a high efficient stove, plan to sometime upgrade. Saving wood saves money and reduces polluting emissions.
 
Rojer Wisner
Posts: 56
Location: LAS VEGAS BABY - NM! USyA!
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@Marjorie Vogel - Thank you. I appreciate the discussion.

The current chimney was shortened because of frequent very high winds and gusts. It had been taller with guy wires - but was blown off along with the solar modules during sustained 80+ mph winds + gusts.
BUT - willing to try my hand at a taller one - eventually.
I have burned those chimney creosote "logs" to help clean out any current buildup.
Currently, I don't have much real wood, I am using two brands of fake logs, the Duraflame and the Ecology Log.
It seems like I have to burn one of each each time, especially when it is very cold but isn't windy out (the wind helps to really pull the air).
This stove has an electric fan to help extract as much heat as possible which also seems to cool the chimney too.

Yes - I'd like to reduce my pollution index.
I have an estimate for an external propane tank at about $600 - $800 to install and plumb. I am going to request a 120 gal. tank lease tomorrow, for my stove, two wall mounted heaters and an (needs to be fixed) on-demand water heater.
I REALLY need some hot water.

This specific house won't accommodate a RMH. It has poor foundations and seems to also suffer from soil shifting as well.
Not to mention that there really isn't enough space for a RMH.
I would if I could.

I will be looking into solar modules as well so that I can power my stove's fan, internet and computers so that I can burn less fuel except for when I need to run various power tools.

I will look into obtaining seasoned wood - probably once it reaches its peak price. )-;

 
Posts: 75
Location: Rural North Texas
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There is a guy in the UK who uses his junk mail to make fireplace logs for his wood stove.  Its a pretty simple process.  Shred the paper, soak in it water over night, strain out the water and shape it into something like a bread loaf.  Using his mail and his neighbors he managed to heat his house all winter with that,  He said he gets about 2 hours of burn time per log and that they burn really clean.  Maybe something like that will work for you.  
 
Rojer Wisner
Posts: 56
Location: LAS VEGAS BABY - NM! USyA!
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Lisa Sampson wrote:There is a guy in the UK who uses his junk mail to make fireplace logs for his wood stove.  Its a pretty simple process.  Shred the paper, soak in it water over night, strain out the water and shape it into something like a bread loaf.  Using his mail and his neighbors he managed to heat his house all winter with that,  He said he gets about 2 hours of burn time per log and that they burn really clean.  Maybe something like that will work for you.  



I still have a few of those paper logs left - I made some a few years ago. Some of them got wet and lost their shape. I split a 6' PVC pipe and used clamps to keep that shut tight while packing - squished as much water out of them and let them dry a day or three and then loosened the clamps and pushed paper logs out. They don't last too awfully long, they don't seem to get too awfully hot, but they are clean burning. I haven't tried adding any wax to them, but that might help to make them hotter and last longer - IDK. Being newly rural - I don't get much, if any, junk mail nor advertisements - so my excess paper has dwindled. I get a lot more cardboard from store purchases - but intend on using that for mulch.

Thanks for the info. ;-)  
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