I have been living and working, for about 2.5 weeks, in a small off-grid home in the north woods of Wisconsin. We share the energy system with our property owners. I would eventually like to do a whole post about that system but that may be a while before I get it done. So as I learn how to manage and monitor the system, I have found a few things that really make my life much more manageable. I purchased all of these products, with the exception of my work computer, so I didn’t get paid to write this, basically. I use this stuff because it works, and works well.
I have some interesting requirements being a telecommuter, I need power, and I need internet or I cannot work. So beyond food and water, a laptop, power and internet are absolutely required. I am lucky that work supplies me with one of the most energy efficient laptops on the planet, a MacBook Air. This thing draws .2 amps when it is fully charged and plugged in. That is about 25% of the load of a compact fluorescent light. I do not use an external monitor but I do use a magic trackpad, and a laptop stand, that puts the laptop up at the correct height.
We do not have running water in the house so we fill 5 gallon jugs for drinking water. The greatest improvement for these jugs are the Dolphin Water Pump. With a few pumps you can fill up a tea kettle, water bottle, drinking glass or a pan for cooking. There is no flipping the jug over, or any funny business. This thing fits on glass or plastic jugs and it just compresses when you screw down the ring on the top. Very easy to use and makes water management very easy.
Without an abundance of grid power, we conserve power and that means not having lights on when you don’t really need them. This is where the headlamps come in. The ones that we use have 7 settings. White or Red LED’s and bright or not bright. They are amazing for just about anything including reading, cooking, late night bathroom breaks. My only gripe about this model is that you have to cycle through all of the settings to turn it back off. So if you are using the red LED’s, you really need to put it in your pocket to cycle through to shut if off or you will blind yourself.
Continuing on the topic of energy savings. We have gone through a period of cloudy and still conditions. That means that power is at a real premium. So that means we need some alternative forms of light. Head lamps work ok but for cooking and things it is really nice to have a wider area of light. The property owners here have installed a propane gas light in the house. I picked up a new mantle for it the other day and we have used it a bunch since. It burns one pound of propane for each 11 hours of light. And it is really bright on full power.
Wood heat is amazing and a lot of work. I don’t really mind managing the wood stove, but I have not gone through a whole winter yet. It gives off a nice even heat and I always have hot water for coffee, tea, dishes, bathing. I also like cooking on it. It has way more BTU than a gas stove. I am thinking that once we get our own place, we will want a summer kitchen outside to cook without heating up the house.
Since I have moved up here, two things are always on my belt. A mini LED flashlight and my Leatherman Wave multi-tool. They are both extremely useful and I did not realize how often I would use either of them until I started wearing them around full time. These have a solid reputation and are backed up by a great warranty. They work and last.
Living in the country means dealing with cluster flies. Spring and summer these bastards get in the house and they go crazy. Hundreds of them invade homes at these times of year. There is not much you can do, and they don’t lay eggs in your food or anything but they are very annoying. Putting a few strips of fly paper near windows or lights takes care of them pretty quick. It is amazing when you get 200 flies on a piece of paper they can actually move it around. They also sound like a model airplane engine. Totally creepy.
I am sure that I will find some more products as I continue to live here but for a small amount of money these items really make living much more enjoyable and comfortable.