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how do you do without?  RSS feed

 
Posts: 154
Location: Rural Unincorporated Los Angeles County
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We live on the border of ten thousand acres of open land, so the recent wildfires in our area gave us a chance to experience what it's like to live without some of the things we depend on and expect to be there for us. Everyone was evacuated but we stayed to defend our own house in case the fire burned through. While it didn't burn where we are, we lived with no electricity, no phone, and no internet. We used our wood stove for home heating as we usually do.



Our propane kitchen stove isn't a "smart" electronic appliance, and although it normally has electronic ignition, the burners can be lit with matches when there's no electricity.



Our old fashioned propane tank style pilot light water heater also operates with no electricity so we had hot water. Kerosene lamps and candles provided light at night. When the power first went out I rushed down to the local gorcery store and bought a couple of bags of ice before they melted. We put them in the drawers of our refrigerator to convert it into an old fashioned ice box. This worked great to keep our food from spoiling.  We hand pumped water from our sewage treatment system and used buckets to water the fruit trees and grape vines.





It was a strangely quiet experience living alone with everyone else gone, but it was a valuable one as it was useful in helping us to better learn how to do without. Do you have any tips to offer on how you do without?



 
Posts: 424
Location: Middle Georgia
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Very nice setup! Especially your gas range. I am jealous. I have an electric range and when the power goes out I just put a single burner propane camp stove on top of it to cook things. We loose power for a week every couple of years.

Putting ice in the crisper drawers is also very clever! Never heard that before. I usually just stuff the freezer full (in advance preferably) and keep the fridge items in there. Fortunately power outages are usually a winter thing and the great outdoors can preserve things.

One thing I find indispensable is a small battery operated pocket radio with headset. Great sound quality and they run for 40-50 hours on 1 AAA battery. In your local maybe something that can pick up police/fire bands would be better so you know what is happening around you. The utter silence of a days long power outage can become very annoying especially when you want to get outside news, a little radio makes all the difference especially since you don't have to carefully ration your time on the device to preserve the batteries.

Philips Portable Radio FM/AM Analogue
 
Greg Mamishian
Posts: 154
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Absolutely.

AM radio was our only source of fire information. We have an old large hand crank radio like this one.



Our local news radio station offered excellent 24 hour fire coverage.
 
Greg Mamishian
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Lucrecia Anderson wrote:Very nice setup! Especially your gas range. I am jealous. I have an electric range and when the power goes out I just put a single burner propane camp stove on top of it to cook things. We loose power for a week every couple of years.



Thanks. My wife and I both enjoy cooking from scratch so this time we got a nice stove.



At only 24 inches wide, it's tiny like our kitchen so it doesn't dominate it. All of the parts on the top including the burners are made out of seasoned cast iron just like an old fashioned frying pan so any spills or grease spatters simply wipe off.

We live in one of the most extreme wildfire danger zones in the nation. Our electric company even installed a weather sensor and a remote controlled shut off on the main lines that feed our area. Their new policy is to premptively shut off the power when the winds get strong so that if any wires get knocked down, they won't be energized and spark fires. The result is that we lose power quite frequently. Rather than to try to compensate with generators and batteries and the like, our approach is to develop contingencies which allow us live comfortably for prolonged periods of time like in the 1800's before anyone had any electricity. So each power shutoff event becomes another useful opportunity to refine our skills and methods.



 
Posts: 206
Location: BC Interior, Zone 6-7
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We've been living without for almost three years now.  No running water, minimal electricity, wood heat, propane burner outside for cooking, and cheating on refrigeration.

We have a creek half a km away from the house that we can fill up buckets at, then filter through the Berkey for drinking or use as is for utility water.  Half a click is a long way to walk with a 5-gallon bucket of water, so we usually drive down.  If I'm on my own for a few days with no vehicle I use the wheelbarrow, though.  Showers are outside, water heated in a black shower bag in the sun, on the woodstove, on the propane burner, or a combination, depending on the weather.

In summer, we have a 40 watt solar panel charging a 12V deep cycle.  That keeps phones, laptops, and headlamps charged and runs an LED at night if we need it.  In the winter, we switch to a 100W.

Cooking outside is a drag in the winter when we get home from work and it's snowing and dark.  On weekends I try to cook a big batch of something we can eat for dinner all week or mix and match with quick to prepare things.  Last weekend I made a big pot of rye berries and steamed a squash.  Easy to heat that up on the woodstove while I make a bean salad from canned beans, stirfry some greens in a quick trip outside, or steam a pot of veggies on the woodstove.  I really miss my oven, though.  steamed squash is so inferior.  A rocket oven is on the list, for sure.  Cooking outside is great the rest of the time: no weird food smells in your stuff, no unwanted heat or moisture inside.

We've got a rotomolded cooler for our fridge.  The cheating part is that we fill up bottles of water, freeze them at work, and swap those out every few days to keep the thing cold.  In the winter we just stick them outside to freeze, of course.  First year at our place we had a "cold hole" that kept things cool, anywhere from 7-12 degrees.  That wasn't great for food storage though.  Really hard to keep mice out as well.

We also have to walk in to our property 4+ months of the year, so we have to cart around our hiking backpacks and big umbrellas for hauling groceries through a blizzard when we get home.

We don't want to live this forever, but we've gotten used to it.  We're slowly improving things, but really, expanding the (hand-watered, of course!) garden is more important to me than avoiding the occasional (admittedly really awful) shower in a cold north wind.
 
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We live in a very rural part of Maine so heavy weather is pretty common. Last year we had a windstorm and was without power for 9 consecutive days. In 1998 we had the Ice Storm and were without power for 14 consecutive days. Even as I type this, a major snowstorm is blowing through with 6 inches of snow and high winds.

To deal with all that I have a back up generator. Mine is PTO driven by my tractor so it is pretty big, 20 KW and can power (2) full houses if it had too. I have 275 gallons of diesel fuel for it, which gives me enough capacity to operate for about 20 continuous days.

Few houses in Maine lack a back up heat source. I can heat my house via Pellets/#2 furnance oil/Firewood/and Coal. I do not have a lot of pellets or coal on hand because I buy it, but do have fuel oil and firewood. Right now about 30 years worth of firewood!

To cook food I have just about as many options. There is my kitchen range which is propane powered, and just turned 101 years old this year. It is a 1917 Crawford and does not even have a pilot light. Turn the gas on and light it, and you can cook. But we can also cook on top of the woodstove. In fact a lot of the time I use the coffee maker to make coffee, then just set the decanter on the wood or pellet stove to stay warm. There is always the barbeque grill too.

Food itself is consists of a fieldstone basement filled with canned food (mason jars). I really do not know how much food is available for us. A family of 6 does eat a lot of food, but we have probably 6 months worth of veggies we can eat, and while our sheep are for commercial purposes, if it came to eating or going hungary, we would just slaughter one. Same for the ducks or other animals.

Again, with such a powerful backup generator, we normally are not worried about essential water, but we do have a back up, of a back up plan. This house was built in 1930, but came from a house first built in 1800, then burned. So there are 3 hand dug wells. I have attached a rope to a 5 gallon bucket and dropped it in the well and used the water out of it before. Not so much for drinking, but washing and flushing the toilet.

Farm wise we really are fine. Again we can always get the sheep water from the well with the backup generator, or more than likely, the power goes out on a night like tonight so they can just eat snow. Hay wise we have enough to go two winters...just in case.

Overall we are pretty self reliant. I am nowhere near as self-suffecient as my Grandparents as they were 100% self-suffecient, and we are not. We do not have dairy cows for instance, and gave away our chickens, but if we had to, we could get by.

This is our 1917 Crawford Kitchen Stove.


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Jan White
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Location: BC Interior, Zone 6-7
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Travis Johnson wrote:
I have a back up generator. Mine is PTO driven by my tractor so it is pretty big, 20 KW and can power (2) full houses if it had too. I have 275 gallons of diesel fuel for it, which gives me enough capacity to operate for about 20 continuous days.

Few houses in Maine lack a back up heat source. I can heat my house via Pellets/#2 furnance oil/Firewood/and Coal. I do not have a lot of pellets or coal on hand because I buy it, but do have fuel oil and firewood. Right now about 30 years worth of firewood!

To cook food I have just about as many options. There is my kitchen range which is propane powered, and just turned 101 years old this year. It is a 1917 Crawford and does not even have a pilot light. Turn the gas on and light it, and you can cook. But we can also cook on top of the woodstove. In fact a lot of the time I use the coffee maker to make coffee, then just set the decanter on the wood or pellet stove to stay warm.


Food itself is consists of a fieldstone basement filled with canned food. I really do not know how much food is available for us. A family of 6 does eat a lot of food, but we have probably 6 months worth of veggies we can eat, and while are sheep are for commercial purposes, if it came to eating or going hungary, we would just slaughter one. Same for the ducks or other animals.



Haha - sounds like "doing without" doesn't really mean that for you ;P
 
Travis Johnson
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BTW: No we are not trying to be throw backs to the 1930's. I bought Katie some authentic 1930 clothing, her favorite era and so we did some nostalgia photos in front of her stove. This is one in the living room. I know it is not a real authentic 1930's living room, but it was fun to put together.

I almost forgot, we got (3) treadle sewing machines too for making/repairing clothing.


DSCN5246.JPG
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Travis Johnson
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Jan White wrote:

Travis Johnson wrote:
I have a back up generator. Mine is PTO driven by my tractor so it is pretty big, 20 KW and can power (2) full houses if it had too. I have 275 gallons of diesel fuel for it, which gives me enough capacity to operate for about 20 continuous days.

Few houses in Maine lack a back up heat source. I can heat my house via Pellets/#2 furnance oil/Firewood/and Coal. I do not have a lot of pellets or coal on hand because I buy it, but do have fuel oil and firewood. Right now about 30 years worth of firewood!

To cook food I have just about as many options. There is my kitchen range which is propane powered, and just turned 101 years old this year. It is a 1917 Crawford and does not even have a pilot light. Turn the gas on and light it, and you can cook. But we can also cook on top of the woodstove. In fact a lot of the time I use the coffee maker to make coffee, then just set the decanter on the wood or pellet stove to stay warm.


Food itself is consists of a fieldstone basement filled with canned food. I really do not know how much food is available for us. A family of 6 does eat a lot of food, but we have probably 6 months worth of veggies we can eat, and while are sheep are for commercial purposes, if it came to eating or going hungary, we would just slaughter one. Same for the ducks or other animals.



Haha - sounds like "doing without" doesn't really mean that for you ;P




No I suppose not. A lot of time it depends. We check to see how many customers are with power and then make our decision on whether or not to power up. If it is just a few customers along our road, we will wait it out, but if there is a lot, then I will take the time to hook up the tractor to the generator and light up the house.

My generator has a dedicated spot right beside the house, always under cover in its own generator shed, and is hardwired into our home. 20 KW does not sound like a lot, but it is quite a bit of power actually.
 
Jan White
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Travis Johnson wrote: 20 KW does not sound like a lot, but it is quite a bit of power actually.



Well, I'm working with 40-100W, so I'm impressed :D
 
Travis Johnson
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PTO generators are kind of nice because you are just buying the generator, the expensive part...the engine is already bought by using your farm tractor. I had this one given to me, but new one are only $1200. That is pretty cheap for the number of KW's (20 kw).

They also produce "clean power" so you don't fry out your well pumps and other electronic devices like the portable generators do.

They also make "portable welders" only because you can tote a 220 volt arc welder around with your generator, plug it in and do welding out in the field without having to buy a portable gas-driven welder.

However it forces you to put a lot of hours on your tractor. That kind of sucks. I am looking at taking a 50 hp diesel engine I have kicking around and putting that on the front of it so I can limit the hours on my tractor. Buying an old junk Ford Focus or something could do the same thing.

 
Travis Johnson
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Jan White wrote:

Travis Johnson wrote: 20 KW does not sound like a lot, but it is quite a bit of power actually.



Well, I'm working with 40-100W, so I'm impressed :D



Just remember it really is not watts that is the limiting factor for homeowners, but amperage.

This is a 20 kw unit, and by rights could power (2) houses since a house typically seldom consumes more then 10 kw at a time. BUT my generator has a maximum amperage capacity of only 83 amps. My house entrance panel is 100 amps, so I could not frivolously power (2) houses, as that would only be (2) 40 amp services. I could if I watched the big energy consumers in the house, but to just pretend we are not on backup power could not happen.

But my father, he just installed an on-demand 14 kw generator for his home, and it cost him over $6000 for the generator, electrician, propane tank (500 gallons) etc. It is a better system then mine for sure, but also quite costly. A PTO generator is the best bang for the buck, if a person has a farm tractor, and do not mind hooking up some wires and throwing some circuit breakers when the power goes out. My father has power in 10 seconds after the power goes out, it takes me at least 10 minutes.
 
master steward
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We have an electric range, so we can't cook on it in a power outage, but thankfully all but one of our power outages happened in the winter. We heat with a woodstove, and cook on it whenever we can, so we just use it to cook when the power goes out.

We have a well with an electric pump and pressure tank. So when the power goes out, we only use the tap for drinking water. We flush with water from our rainbarrel or pond. We also keep a few 5 gallon jugs filled with water during fall-spring, too.

For washing dishes, I keep a big pot of rain water on the stove to boil it. I used that water to wash dishes and wash them them inside another pot that we used to cook, and then rinse with boiled rainwater.

The longest power outage we had was for three days. Our taps never ran dry due to our conservation. We did use a generator a few times a day to keep our freezer cold, and we filled a cooler with ice to put our yogurt from the fridge in and ate everything in the fridge within the first day. Thankfully our fridge generally is just for storing yogurt, bacon, cheese and a days worth of meat. Most everything is fine a little above fridge temps for a while, or can be chucked in the freezer that lives in our cold garage.

The one time the power went out in the summer, we just cooked over a fire pit. Thankfully the weather was nice and the power was only out for a few hours because someone drove into a power poll.
 
Lucrecia Anderson
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Greg Mamishian wrote:Absolutely.

AM radio was our only source of fire information. We have an old large hand crank radio like this one.

Our local news radio station offered excellent 24 hour fire coverage.



This thread finally inspired me to buy the portable analog radio I was eyeing on amazon. Found a better price on ebay, only $12.50! With matching earbuds (which is the only way to get good sound quality out of tiny radios) it comes in at less than $20.  Bought one as a client gift, and it was such a good deal I bought one for me too, it will be nice out in the garden.

Makes a great x-mas gift for kids or adults!





 
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Travis Johnson wrote:

However it forces you to put a lot of hours on your tractor.



Travis,.....yeah, understood.  I'm thinking of upgrading from my 7000W gennie that runs off of either our John Deere or Yanmar tractors, both with PTO horsepower ratings around 20.  Now with the 32 hp Kubota, I could go up to the 13,000W model or maybe higher.  But also, we tend to lump "loading" of the gennie at specific times of day if we have a need to use it.  My wife will always be feeding the animals and needing the well pump from between 5 pm to 9 pm, so while she's doing that, I'm typically using loads in the house, but low loads to be sure.  I throw the breakers to 'off' on any amp-hogs (electric range, hot water heater, etc.) so as not to over-tax the generator.  So yes, that is still 3 solid hours of running the generator if needed, but it wouldn't hurt as well to have the extra watts that the Kubota could provide if the budget allows.  We have 9000W portable units if we wish to use those as well which are gasoline powered.....all depends on which unit is more accessible in an emergency.
 
Posts: 229
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I suggest ‘Doing Without’ also depends on ones upbringing and mindset – if you’ve never had certain things, or, did without them for years before getting them, it certainly makes doing without a LOT easier.

In suburbia it’s certainly easier if electricity, gas, water and phones are cut – for a relatively short time. The ‘eggs in many baskets’ approach works the best: a household with electricity, gas, wood, LPG, fuel oil, etc has redundancy = fail-safes.

• Water: there’s almost always water available for consumption in the pipework, just need to go to the lowest point and drain the system. In dire circumstances, the toilet cistern (if you have one and it’s not polluted by a ‘blue brick’ dye) is a definite go to, also a hot water tank.
• Gas: town gas supplies are rarely, if ever, interrupted; but, keeping a LPG gas bottle or two around the place with the various heating/lighting/cooking attachments is sensible e.g. some gas hot water and cooking systems rely on an electrical supply and won’t start without it – that’s a failure in design. (We’ve got an on demand hot system like that and it’s plain dumb that Bosch GmbH designed it that way.)
• Wood: no need to elaborate … wood fired BBQ, whose gonna complain about that! (No absolute need for heating here, though a fuel oil heater does the job in our short, mild winters.)
• Electricity: Other than refrigeration, not a big issue. Can do without TV, lights, air con and other distractions for a good while. In regards to refrigeration, just don’t open it! Alternatively, cook or use perishables first
• Phones: the mobile network (you guys call them ‘cell phones’) rarely gets affected. I believe that’s covered by the Federal Government Communications Legislation anyway. Time-outs are minimal.

In rural areas there’s always an alternative because we’re accustomed to outages. Rural people tend to be more self-reliant and ‘creative’ when it comes to such things – water tanks/wells, photovoltaics, solar hot water, preserved/fresh food, wood-fired whatever, etc. Also, if properly setup (like a good Permie should be), outages are eagerly anticipated just so systems can be tested and modified – never ending tinkering!

Additionally, having spent years in the bush, I’ve collected a range of camping/mountaineering stoves that run on multi-fuels which are always kicking around the place e.g. petrol, kerosene, Methylated Spirit (ethanol), Shellite (White Gas/Naphtha), and Hexamine (Esbit) tablets. So, ain’t gonna go without for a long while.

We have a transistor radio somewhere, sans batteries. Prefer just to go talk with the neighbours to see what’s happening, or look up in the sky to see if it’s still there - can’t fix it, not going to worry about it, have another glass of vino!
 
Travis Johnson
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John Weiland wrote:

Travis Johnson wrote:

However it forces you to put a lot of hours on your tractor.



Travis,.....yeah, understood...




There are so many plusses and minuses here that it really comes down to a person's choice. Like it does put a lot of hours on a tractor because if there is a 3 day power outage, assuming my tractor is running for at least 12 hours per day, that is 36 hours in one power outage! But on the other hand, how many times does that happen? And when it does, because the tractor is used for so many other things, it is almost guaranteed to start. That is not always true of a separate engine that might have dead batteries, and is an entirely separate engine to maintain. So yeah, when it is hooked up to my generator I am bummed because I can be doing other things with my tractor, or I realize how much wear is being put on it, but equally it is providing for my family too...isn't that why I bought it?

You also bring up a great point about the horsepower of a tractor. I said the limiting factor can be the rated amps, in my case 83 amps, but it really can be the tractor the generator is hooked too. Luckily tractor hp ratings are taken at the PTO so no extra calculations need to be made, but 1 hp=750 watts, So your 32 hp tractor should be teamed with no more then a 24 kw generator, or stated another way, that is all that it will put out.

But that is plenty! And a tractor has a quick acting governor as well as good rotating mass, so the whole set up can handle load spikes well, like my well pump coming on for instance.
 
Travis Johnson
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A quick reminder about fuels too in these situations: some fuels are better at long term storage then others. Keeping that in mind for intended applications can be a very smart thing to do.

Gasoline is the absolute worst to maintain in any long term storage situation. Stabalizers help, but have their own issues upon start up
Diesel fuel stores better, but due to algea, can plug filters
Propane is the best as it never deterioates with age
 
Travis Johnson
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F Agricola wrote:I suggest ‘Doing Without’ also depends on ones upbringing and mindset – if you’ve never had certain things, or, did without them for years before getting them, it certainly makes doing without a LOT easier.



This is oh so true, but this is also where, we...as an online community, have this ability to share what has worked in these situations. Some people are going to be closer to our situations than others, but everyone can determine that as they read. Like I went on to talk about a PTO generator because there is not a lot of talk about them, yet they give the most electricity for the price. I wonder how many knew they were available? But how many knew before I started that a tractor is not needed, just jack up a Ford Focus, chain one front wheel and flat-belt the other wheel to the generator? A $200 car and a $1200 generator for 20 KW's of power?

It is this kind of mindset that is always good to share. Who knows, maybe this information is not useful to a particular reader, but it sure is to a friend.
 
Lucrecia Anderson
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Travis Johnson wrote:
I almost forgot, we got (3) treadle sewing machines too for making/repairing clothing.



I think I recognize you from SB (unless there is another guy out there with THREE treadle sewing machines...lol).

And the photos are lovely. Mrs. Johnson is very photogenic, she also looks very Norwegian/Swedish, at least to me.
 
F Agricola
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Travis Johnson wrote: This is oh so true, but this is also where, we...as an online community, have this ability to share what has worked in these situations. Some people are going to be closer to our situations than others, but everyone can determine that as they read. Like I went on to talk about a PTO generator because there is not a lot of talk about them, yet they give the most electricity for the price. I wonder how many knew they were available? But how many knew before I started that a tractor is not needed, just jack up a Ford Focus, chain one front wheel and flat-belt the other wheel to the generator? A $200 car and a $1200 generator for 20 KW's of power?

It is this kind of mindset that is always good to share. Who knows, maybe this information is not useful to a particular reader, but it sure is to a friend.




I haven’t thought of PTO for years. Like a lot of things they go out of fashion or, more commonly, outcompeted by oily salesmen and their glossy generator ‘porn’ brochures.

Yes, PTOs are very valuable assets to any farm. They’re perhaps also overlooked these days because people draw straight lines between a generator and electricity, not considering other methods – more than one way to skin a cat. The generator market is a minefield where the only things in common are their upfront expense, unreliability, and huge fuel consumption versus kW.

PTO have been used here pretty much since the tractor was introduced. Due to often extreme isolation, most outback Stations (not exactly like a Ranch) use or used them to power just about anything imaginable. Common uses include: powering saw rigs and augers for fencing, thrashing machines, pumping water, and, like you’ve mentioned, for electricity. It seems their application is only limited by imagination – I’ve even seen them used to power winches to haul buckets of spoil out of opal mines then, at the end of the day, disconnected it from the truck and driven it into town to the pub!

Ironic that you use it to power heating,  we’d use it for air con and refrigeration: 20kW would power one very sweet cooling system … my neighbour is an oil rig refrigeration Engineer, note made and filed away for that idea! Respectfully, you can keep the ice-storms, snow storms and the like all to yourselves!



 
Travis Johnson
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Lucrecia Anderson wrote:

Travis Johnson wrote:
I almost forgot, we got (3) treadle sewing machines too for making/repairing clothing.



I think I recognize you from SB (unless there is another guy out there with THREE treadle sewing machines...lol).

And the photos are lovely. Mrs. Johnson is very photogenic, she also looks very Norwegian/Swedish, at least to me.




I am not sure what SB is, but cannot think of a forum that I frequent with those initials. Yes that means I am having an adulterous affair on Permies Forums, but actually very few. (But then again doesn't every cheater claim that?)  :-) I only frequent (4), the others dealing with logging, coal stoves and bulldozers.

The three treadle machines came from my Grandmother who just refused to go to electric, though she had many of those kinds given to her. We just found the third one in our attic on Saturday. I actually have a photo of Katie sitting in front of one of our sewing machines. We were trying to highlight our 1893 Woods and Bishop Pot bellied Stove, but the treadle sewing machine made for a convincing backdrop to the 1930's era we love so much.

I do thank you for your kind words regarding my wife though. She works really hard to stay in shape by eating right and working out, but the 1930 green silk dress does not really show that.

We kind of have a fun hobby of getting dressed up and doing photo shoots in period dress. One you might really like was one we did that looked more like the 1940's then 1930's however. By using a tripod, and a the self-timer on the camera, we can take photos of ourselves. This photo looks nice, but we had to get up at 3 AM so Katie could do her 1940's style hair, and capture just the right light in the morning. That is me in the photo just so you know. It was taken at an old railroad station not far from where we live. A few movies have been done here because of how it looks as it did 75 years ago.


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One late winter, when our kids were still quite small, our well froze. I think it was our first or second year on the farm and we were quite unsure about everything, having lived in town before.
We called some professionals who came to check the situation and gave their estimate that as the underground pipeline from the well to the house is so long (75 m), it will cost thousands of euros to de-freeze it.  We didn't have thousands of euros, so we just said Okay, let's wait for spring then.

My first thought after this decision was: HOW are we going to live here without water!?! Panic!!

It turned out necessity is the mother of invention. In two days we had figured out how. We melted water from the snow (incredibly time-consuming), carried some water from town when we went there, sometimes took a shower at our neighbour's house and took our laundry to a laundry in town or washed them at my mum's. Luckily at that time we didn't have any large animals.

We found it was possible to wash yourself (hair and all) with just 5 liters of water. First you dip your head in the water bucket, to wet your hair. Then you stand straight and shampoo your hair. Then you rinse your hair by scooping some water (the same water that you used before) from the bucket to your head, simultaneously washing your other parts.


Two months later spring came and we had running water again! What a luxury! Though I must admit I actually kinda missed having those clothes come from the laundry all dried and folded nicely

Next winter the same thing happened. We were more accustomed to life on the countryside and my husband decided to take a closer look at the problem himself. He found that the problem area was actually just the beginning of the pipeline in the well. He defrosted that with some inexpensive tools and that was it!


 
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Travis, I love your photos. Two things that stand out that really, really remind me of my elderly aunts are the bright red lipstick and the tie high heeled shoes with sturdy heels. When dressed up they wore costume jewelry, clip on earrings, and brooches. Gee, I can almost smell the mothballs and menthol rub that I also associate with my great aunts. Smells associated with the uncles included cigars and pipe tobacco. I recall that most of them used suspenders.

Getting back to the topic......how do we do without. That's a tough one to answer without sounding like a hick. What so many people consider "doing without" we consider "doing with". Please understand that I was raised in the city with the usual modern conveniences. So it's not like I don't know what it's like living with my drinking water coming out of a faucet, my lights coming on with the flick of a switch, my heat and air conditioning controlled by a wall thermostat. But none of that is a routine way of life nowadays for us.

We live on catchment water. So if the municipal water system goes down, it's no big deal. We've got our own. The pump is dc and runs off our solar system. But it is capable of gravity feed, though the pressure wouldn't be as high. For long term gravity use we'd need to change the location of our shower for life to be pleasant again.

We live with off grid solar electric and a back up generator that can run on either gasoline or propane. The generator isn't a necessity, it's a convenience. We never notice when the grid goes down, not until I read about it in the news or hear it from a neighbor.

The little heat we need comes from a wood stove.

I cook on a non-electric propane stove in the house. But I also have a wood fired rocket stove outdoors, a wood fired cooking grill, and a solar oven. The propane basically is used for making a quick cup of coffee. It's the lazy way of getting hot water quickly or for reheating food already cooked.

Our hot water comes from a non-electric on-demand, propane fired water heater. Our Wwoofer gets his hot water via a simple solar set up. And we are soon installing a soaking hot tub which we plan to heat via a solar hot water system and a wood fired assist.

Our freezer & frig are both dc run off a small independent solar system.

No need for a handcrank radio since we don't get a radio station where I'm located. And in an emergency situation, we have plenty of ham radio operators around who can set up portable stations where needed that run off of battery power.

So outages don't much affect us. And we really, really like the independence. So you see......we don't deal with thoughts of doing without, we live with what we're already doing.
 
Travis Johnson
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Nina Jay wrote:One late winter, when our kids were still quite small, our well froze.




Nina: Loved your story! You really jogged my memory on a few more getting by without hacks.

One thing we do here is use a lot of compost to keep our pipes from freezing, and can use it to help thaw pipes. The compost really puts out a lot of heat, and insulates well, so in the fall I place it over some water pipes that are prone to freezing.

Another thing I do with compost is put it around the outside of my house. This Tiny House has a fieldstone foundation so the wind blows through it, so I "bank" the house, which is just putting compost around the outside of it. This really cuts down on the wind and cold and lets constant ground temperature in the basement of 57 degrees help keep pipes from freezing. It really helps. As I type this it is 4 degrees (4) here, with 25 mph winds, yet the basement is at 35 degrees. Close to freezing granted, but all without additional heat.  (I do have a woodstove in the basement that I could fire up if I needed too).
 
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Su Ba wrote:Travis, I love your photos. Two things that stand out that really, really remind me of my elderly aunts are the bright red lipstick and the tie high heeled shoes with sturdy heels. When dressed up they wore costume jewelry, clip on earrings, and brooches. Gee, I can almost smell the mothballs and menthol rub that I also associate with my great aunts. Smells associated with the uncles included cigars and pipe tobacco. I recall that most of them used suspenders.



What we really like is making of the photos which starts weeks in advance. He we have Thrift Stores called GoodWill and that is where Katie got the skirt and blouse, along with the fake pearls and other jewlery. But the tie high heels (called Mary Janes here), are actually homemade. Katie had the high heel shoes, but to make the tie-back look, we simply cut straps from cloth, then hot glued velcro on one side of the strap/shoe. But to get the "snap", the bright silver dot in the picture...that is actually a shortened roofing nail, pushed through a hole in the strap, and hot glued on. The other props we had kicking around like the umbrealla that came from my Grandmother, the suitcase, and even the bike. Sadly, my clothing is far more modern.

Yes in some ways I am off-topic, and yet in others I am not. I do think it shows what me and Katie do for a hobby does not need to cost a lot of money (thus the getting by part), but is a lot of fun. Sure we could go on a "hot date" with a trip to dinner and a movie, but what lasting memories we have through these pictures, pictures we have in picure books, and memories we can share. I am glad to include my Permies Friends in that regard. We have so many more we want to do: don't you think Katie and I would make for a wonderful Bonny and Clyde? :-)

In the end it does one other thing: it strengthens our marriage because we are having fun. We are not lamenting about having four kids and no money to go on expensive trips and hot dates. Besides, what says romance like Little Red Ridinghood and the logger that saved her from the big bad wolf? :-)






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Lucrecia Anderson
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Jan White wrote:
We don't want to live this forever, but we've gotten used to it.  We're slowly improving things, but really, expanding the (hand-watered, of course!) garden is more important to me than avoiding the occasional (admittedly really awful) shower in a cold north wind.



If you can find an old wash tub you can bathe indoors in the heat. Just boil 2 gallons of water and add to 3 gallons of cold water in a bucket (so you have 5 gals of very warm water). Bend over the wash basin and use a cup to wet your hair, wash your hair/face and towel dry it, then strip and get in and wash your body rinsing off with cup fulls of water (it is warmer than standing up soaking wet and naked while shampooing). Our ancestors usually did this right in front of the fireplace.

 
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Lucrecia Anderson wrote:

Jan White wrote:
We don't want to live this forever, but we've gotten used to it.  We're slowly improving things, but really, expanding the (hand-watered, of course!) garden is more important to me than avoiding the occasional (admittedly really awful) shower in a cold north wind.



If you can find an old wash tub you can bathe indoors in the heat. Just boil 2 gallons of water and add to 3 gallons of cold water in a bucket (so you have 5 gals of very warm water). Bend over the wash basin and use a cup to wet your hair, wash your hair/face and towel dry it, then strip and get in and wash your body rinsing off with cup fulls of water (it is warmer than standing up soaking wet and naked while shampooing). Our ancestors usually did this right in front of the fireplace.




Now, now, now...I am pretty sure the husband and wife did sponge baths which eventually created us! :-)

I am teasing of course, and you are right. They say today the average family of four consumes 150 gallons of water per day. But I bet our ancestors, who had to pump it from a well, then had to lug it into the house,  was a bit more conservative! I know my father tells of fetching water from an old Spring nearby when he went to elementary school in a one room school house. he is only 70 years old so it was not that long ago.


To this day, I myself give directions based upon, "I am a mile ahead of where the old school house used to be." It burned in the 1980's!
 
Greg Mamishian
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Jan White wrote:We've been living without for almost three years now.  No running water, minimal electricity, wood heat, propane burner outside for cooking, and cheating on refrigeration.

We have a creek half a km away from the house that we can fill up buckets at, then filter through the Berkey for drinking or use as is for utility water.  Half a click is a long way to walk with a 5-gallon bucket of water, so we usually drive down.  If I'm on my own for a few days with no vehicle I use the wheelbarrow, though.  Showers are outside, water heated in a black shower bag in the sun, on the woodstove, on the propane burner, or a combination, depending on the weather.

In summer, we have a 40 watt solar panel charging a 12V deep cycle.  That keeps phones, laptops, and headlamps charged and runs an LED at night if we need it.  In the winter, we switch to a 100W.

Cooking outside is a drag in the winter when we get home from work and it's snowing and dark.  On weekends I try to cook a big batch of something we can eat for dinner all week or mix and match with quick to prepare things.  Last weekend I made a big pot of rye berries and steamed a squash.  Easy to heat that up on the woodstove while I make a bean salad from canned beans, stirfry some greens in a quick trip outside, or steam a pot of veggies on the woodstove.  I really miss my oven, though.  steamed squash is so inferior.  A rocket oven is on the list, for sure.  Cooking outside is great the rest of the time: no weird food smells in your stuff, no unwanted heat or moisture inside.

We've got a rotomolded cooler for our fridge.  The cheating part is that we fill up bottles of water, freeze them at work, and swap those out every few days to keep the thing cold.  In the winter we just stick them outside to freeze, of course.  First year at our place we had a "cold hole" that kept things cool, anywhere from 7-12 degrees.  That wasn't great for food storage though.  Really hard to keep mice out as well.

We also have to walk in to our property 4+ months of the year, so we have to cart around our hiking backpacks and big umbrellas for hauling groceries through a blizzard when we get home.

We don't want to live this forever, but we've gotten used to it.  We're slowly improving things, but really, expanding the (hand-watered, of course!) garden is more important to me than avoiding the occasional (admittedly really awful) shower in a cold north wind.



Wow... you really do without!

That's worthy of admiration. You must have acquired plenty of valuable useful adaptive skills from your experience. For 5 years my wife lived in a small village in Spain with no running water or electricity and she said they were some of the happiest years of her life. We look for that sweet spot between simplicity and comfort.

Humans are truly amazing in their ability to creatively adapt to changing conditions in their environment.
 
Travis Johnson
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I finally got around to taking a photo of our Generator Shed housing the PTO generator.

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Jan White
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Lucrecia Anderson wrote:

Jan White wrote:
We don't want to live this forever, but we've gotten used to it.  We're slowly improving things, but really, expanding the (hand-watered, of course!) garden is more important to me than avoiding the occasional (admittedly really awful) shower in a cold north wind.



If you can find an old wash tub you can bathe indoors in the heat. Just boil 2 gallons of water and add to 3 gallons of cold water in a bucket (so you have 5 gals of very warm water). Bend over the wash basin and use a cup to wet your hair, wash your hair/face and towel dry it, then strip and get in and wash your body rinsing off with cup fulls of water (it is warmer than standing up soaking wet and naked while shampooing). Our ancestors usually did this right in front of the fireplace.



This sounds like a good idea, but we've found the humidity in a small house is just too much.  Also our house is too small (12' x 16') to store a washbasin in so every bath would mean digging the tub out of the snow, chipping off the ice, hauling it inside (covered outside storage space is at a premium; anything that can survive uncovered must), and taking over most of our floorspace.  It's already a bit of a time-consuming project to shower as it is.  It's also quite an extravagant use of water.  My showers use about 3L, less than 3/4gal.  When you're hauling water in, you learn to be pretty miserly.

My husband did build an enclosed shower outside to keep the wind off, but a dirtbike found its way in there and shows no signs of leaving ;)

We only have a few really unpleasant showers a year, and coming up with a new system is pretty low priority at this point.
 
Jan White
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Greg Mamishian wrote:We look for that sweet spot between simplicity and comfort.



We spent May through most of October of our first year here living in a tent in one of the coldest, rainiest, most awful summers ever.  We got into cold, damp bedding every night and put on cold, damp clothing every morning.  Nothing dried.  Ever.  We threw out a mattress, a few articles of clothing, all our bamboo utensils, some other stuff I've forgotten about because it all got moldy.  We didn't realise how much food we had to eat to stay warm and give us enough energy for all the hard work we were doing so we were hungry ALL THE TIME for the first couple months at least.  Near the end of October we moved into the unheated and only partially insulated house.  It was still cold and damp, but it was above freezing at least.  Midway through November we got our woodstove set up, got the place roasting, and spent the day in our underwear.  By mid January we were deep into an uncommonly cold winter.  It didn't get above -15C for three weeks.  (I fully realise everyone further north is busting a gut right now.)  We finally got the insulation under the house and stopped coming home from work to frost on the floor.  We also broke down and bought firewood so we didn't have to burn the damp, punky birch we'd been using.  Probably spent another day roasting in our underwear at that point.  Unfortunately by this time we were heavily snowed in, so the whole cord of firewood had to be carried in by hand, a process that involved getting up a very steep hill.  Once it was up the hill, we could load it on a sled and drag it the rest of the way, but anything going up the hill needed to be carried in arms or on back.  But, eventually, spring came, and we started to get our shit together.

I feel a bit like one of the four Yorkshiremen, "Well, o'course, we 'ad it tough," but I think I've earned it ;)

My point is, we feel plenty comfortable now, after how we started out.

 
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Jan White wrote:

Greg Mamishian wrote:We look for that sweet spot between simplicity and comfort.



We spent May through most of October of our first year here living in a tent in one of the coldest, rainiest, most awful summers ever.  We got into cold, damp bedding every night and put on cold, damp clothing every morning.  Nothing dried.  Ever.  We threw out a mattress, a few articles of clothing, all our bamboo utensils, some other stuff I've forgotten about because it all got moldy.  We didn't realise how much food we had to eat to stay warm and give us enough energy for all the hard work we were doing so we were hungry ALL THE TIME for the first couple months at least.  Near the end of October we moved into the unheated and only partially insulated house.  It was still cold and damp, but it was above freezing at least.  Midway through November we got our woodstove set up, got the place roasting, and spent the day in our underwear.  By mid January we were deep into an uncommonly cold winter.  It didn't get above -15C for three weeks.  (I fully realise everyone further north is busting a gut right now.)  We finally got the insulation under the house and stopped coming home from work to frost on the floor.  We also broke down and bought firewood so we didn't have to burn the damp, punky birch we'd been using.  Probably spent another day roasting in our underwear at that point.  Unfortunately by this time we were heavily snowed in, so the whole cord of firewood had to be carried in by hand, a process that involved getting up a very steep hill.  Once it was up the hill, we could load it on a sled and drag it the rest of the way, but anything going up the hill needed to be carried in arms or on back.  But, eventually, spring came, and we started to get our shit together.

I feel a bit like one of the four Yorkshiremen, "Well, o'course, we 'ad it tough," but I think I've earned it ;)

My point is, we feel plenty comfortable now, after how we started out.



Oh Jan, I am so sorry you went through all that.

I have to admit that I can get pretty whiny sometimes, and it is good for me to hear these kinds of stories.

We just moved in to my Grandmother's old Tiny House and I am not sure how they ever did it. When we moved in, we added 60 new outlets compared to the 6 that were here, and INSULATION. She lived her for 70 years without insulation. Yesterday it dipped below 0 (f) for the first time and I got whiny because it meant starting a fire in the stove in the basement so the pipes did not freeze. Boo hoo huh?

Sometimes I wish I knew of people who were in situations like yours so that I could extend to them the kindness others have extended to me over the years, but I do worry sometimes that people will take advantage of that kindness too. It is the ones who are really struggling that you want to pat on the back, tell them to come over for some dry firewood, and see in what other ways you can help them. I know I come across on here as a total jerk sometimes, and rightfully so, but I really do care about the welfare of people. I hate to see people suffer.

If you can help someone today, you really should, because you never know when you might need help. I learned that the hard way.

 
Greg Mamishian
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Travis Johnson wrote:Sometimes I wish I knew of people who were in situations like yours so that I could extend to them the kindness others have extended to me over the years, but I do worry sometimes that people will take advantage of that kindness too. It is the ones who are really struggling that you want to pat on the back, tell them to come over for some dry firewood, and see in what other ways you can help them. I know I come across on here as a total jerk sometimes, and rightfully so, but I really do care about the welfare of people. I hate to see people suffer.

If you can help someone today, you really should, because you never know when you might need help. I learned that the hard way.



That's a useful lesson to learn, Travis... in any way.
Everything we do for others returns to us...

...and so does everything we do to others! (lol)
 
Jan White
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Travis Johnson wrote:Oh Jan, I am so sorry you went through all that.



A lot of it was caused by us being stubborn and cheap, so no need for sympathy.  And now we've got some good stories!
 
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Jan White wrote:

Travis Johnson wrote:Oh Jan, I am so sorry you went through all that.



A lot of it was caused by us being stubborn and cheap, so no need for sympathy.  And now we've got some good stories!



Yeah it kind of sucks for us right now...in some ways at least...because we decided to move out of our big house and move across the road to another house we have. We had some people that came over and wanted to rent our old house out, so we put a bunch of money into this Tiny House and moved in, so they could move into our other house. Then the people decided they did not want the other house. So that house just kind of sits there, all heated and everything. We are not really sure what to do with it; not really wanting to sell it, but not really figuring out a good use either.

It kind of grates on me, because yesterday I was down in the basement of this tiny home, putting insulation around the rim joists to keep the cold out so the pipes do not freeze. It was nasty with 88 year old burlap, newspaper, old insulation, and rodent feces, and yet across the road we have a modern, huge, heated home with radiant floor heat. I do know that in the end I will be better off, I will have two nice houses worth a lot of money, but it takes nasty work to get there.

By the way, the cold was intense. It was official and all over the news yesterday; Thanksgiving 2018 Maine was the coldest spot in the world. It went to sub zero cold and that is in (f) not (c).
 
Greg Mamishian
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Travis, do you think the world is going into another Ice Age? The reason I'm bringing this up is that I'm experiencing the opposite situation here in California with a drought.

I read that the sometimes upper latitude bitter cold in some areas occurs along with lower latitude severe drought in others. Solar sunspot inactivity and volcanoes also figure into the mix. Successive solar cycles have been getting smaller and smaller.



In the past, California has had megadroughts which have lasted over one hundred years. So we're asking ourselves the question: How do you do without water? And the answer is: "You don't." So far we've been doing just fine by recovering all the water from our household sewage so we can reuse it irrigate our fruit trees grapevines and garden. Last year we got 8 inches of rain which is about one third of what we were typically getting. I believe we could be entering another long process of desertification. We're both old so likely we'll be gone before things become really unlivable. But for those who are here, there may be some future large scale migration activity as a response to more extreme conditions.

 
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Not long ago, I lived in an old minivan for 3 years, on 5k a year, and sold my plasma for 3k a year. I did oddjobs from craigslist for the rest. I saved my college loans and what I made selling cast bullets and doing day labor in the summertime. I used my VA homeloan to buy a big old house and now clear 30k a year from renting out 8 very small rooms, $100 a week each, because my own housing/utilities/wifi bill is built into the expenses of the building. I never once needed to cook a meal in the van. I ate lunch at the baptist church, supper at the SA mission, drew food stamps and staples from the food bank. i'd buy some $1 or less item at a convenience store, or $5 worth of gas now and then, so that I was a 'customer'" and used their microwave. I hung out at the college library or their gym. Planet Fitness, for $10 a month, offers 24-7 access to electricity, wifi, shower, toilet, a place out of the weather, and a legit place to park. I used a pee jar a lot, rinsing with bleach after dumping it.  I had a litter pan and litter for solid wastes, but only needed it half a dozen times in 3 years. I just stayed parked near the college, the gym, a convenience store or a construction site's porta potty.
 
Greg Mamishian
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Bill, you offer an excellent example of creative adaptation. Your self motivated resourcefulness is inspiring. Rentals are the biggest "industry" in our area. They make it possible for many of the folks here to afford to live in their homes. I also avoided college loans by apprenticing in a trade and then going into business for myself doing repairs and upgrades on landlord's rentals as well as on their own homes.
 
bill Russell
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Greg Mamishian wrote:Bill, you offer an excellent example of creative adaptation. Your self motivated resourcefulness is inspiring. Rentals are the biggest "industry" in our area. They make it possible for many of the folks here to afford to live in their homes. I also avoided college loans by apprenticing in a trade and then going into business for myself doing repairs and upgrades on landlord's rentals as well as on their own homes.

They will let you stay out of loan default with a 1% per month payment. If you owe  50k, you pay them $500 a month. My rental rooms easily paid off my loans in 2 years. Now I live very comfortably and about all I have to do is guard and maintain my home, which I'd have to do anyway, without anyone else living with me. 1 year of schooling, full time, will suffice to make you an LPN,  $18 an hour with VA.  RN is another year, then it's $23 an hour. You dont have to have a 4 year degree, and if you are an RN,  you can get a job anywhere in the US.  If you'll work a bit of overtime, you'll make  60-100k a year, depending upon the area and how much OT you work. You can get a 4 year degree in something else, half time, in 2 more years. I suggest criminology,cause in the US, prisons are one very secure job and the Fed ones, at least pay very well, with lots of overtime and a great pension after 20 years, civil service AND union protection, great medical insurance. 100k a year is pretty common, after you've been with them a couple of years, at least in some parts of the US. Easy work and less dangerous than tending a bar.
 
Hey cool! They got a blimp! But I have a tiny ad:
Useful and fun gifts for a homesteader
https://permies.com/t/97875/fun-gifts-homesteader
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