OFFGRID DAY 2*
note: SF, got your PayPal donation. You're too cool for school, thank you.
Before we continue on from arriving home from work with the days water supply, I’ll cover the weekends when I didn’t cook or get coffee at my place of employ, or pick up a package of meat at the market on my way home. For breakfast, at first I started cooking wheat with propane. Biscuits, pancakes and similar. A cast iron skillet cook. Well, it didn’t take long to discover-wow, surprise-I was sucking down propane like it was water in an oasis. This simply would not do. I was on a very strict budget. In my case, working at the food bank, I had all the whole wheat factory bread I wanted ( most folks except old humpers with obstructed bowels wanted white bread-so most times the WW stayed there to mold and then go to the chicken or pig guy ) and I usually made grilled toast. Regular toast with propane, that little camp contraption that sets the bread in a pyramid, doesn’t work well at all. At least on whole wheat. I buttered the bread and laid it in the skillet and cooked it on one side until golden and THAT, my fine feathered minions, is a breakfast fit for the gods. I never tired of eating that ( well, especially compared to nuke bread ).
Now, if I was doing it again, no way would I buy $3 or $4 a loaf bread from the store, except as an occasional treat when I got too tired of flatbread. I would go back to making actual flatbread on a propane skillet once a week ( think that weird Indian-dot not feather-bread with the burn spots all over it, but many times better tasting ) and the rest solar oven flatbread ( for breakfast and lunch ). The solar oven is on my project list-I have enough galvanized sheet metal for the reflectors ( I need to see if that is reflective enough. Aluminum sheets are way more expensive so I’m trying cheap first ) but need more for the interior box, and then just a few more pieces of lumber and some black paint. I’m still on the fence as to whether I’ll go with the microwave or not. It might only be one more panel, but once batteries are no longer replaceable it will be useless unless I go all in on the direct-from-panel power. I’m not sure if a thousand bucks is a good investment. I don’t want an Edison battery for the same price, since One Is None. I’ll also be installing a rocket stove to curtail propane use, there being plenty of dead sagebrush on adjoining vacant properties.
For coffee I used a camp percolator in the winter, which went a long way warming up the place. The trailer was solar heat in the winter and the B-POD stayed warm enough ( with wool sweaters, socks and in the dead of winter, a beanie ) just from coffee and cooking. In the summer I used a French Press to minimize the heating ( I should have installed a propane stove upstairs also, but everything stayed austere budget after child support ended, both because of the now ex’s hospital bills and because I was going all out on preps after ten years of bare minimum prepping deprivation ). Now that I’m full on gay over Cowboy Coffee ( right up there with the queer Cowboy Poetry bullspit these Yuppie asswhores have fostered on to our poor embarrassed town ) it might be a bit harder to use the coffee making for secondary space heat, unless I just make an extra large pot and keep it under a very low heat ( a smaller pot just boils away as you can only turn the flame down so far. Of course, this assumes propane. Rocket stove use will deliver a lot more initial heat ) and then use that leftover the next day.
Okay, let’s double back to the end of work after you’ve loaded up your water jugs. Time to stop by the market for that nights meat. This really sucks. Single packs never give you any savings and your choices are always limited. At one point as chicken and beef prices went through the roof I was stuck with pork every night. The tough cut, too, with little flavor. It got to the point I almost didn’t want to eat dinner anymore, and that is or at least was my huge meal of the day to fuel up after work and an hour and a half of bike riding. Finally what I ended up doing after a couple of years was using the walk in freezer at work, a spot so high up the short boss never used it. In the future I’ll be getting a solar refrigerator, keeping raw meat in there a couple of days, then cooking it and keeping it another couple, so that I can get away from buying single cuts and buy family packs a couple times a week ( I leave the canning issue aside for now ). If you look at it just from the point of those savings, family pack verses single pound package, you are saving fifty percent or more on meat. Since I’m cheap, I’ll call that $1.50 a pound verses $3 a pound. And that savings alone pays for your solar fridge in slightly less than a year.
As it was, I had been spending $15 a week on fresh meat and another $2 or $4 on canned meat for the weekend ( all of which suck. I haven’t even thought of eating tuna or chili for years now ) for the two of us. That same amount now feeds me almost three times as long, with a freezer. I should be able to duplicate that on a weekly basis with a fridge. If you can’t afford the fridge, you can always just haul meat home as needed, and eat a lot of cheese and eggs or even beans. Just remember, if you buy refrigerated eggs they need to stay refrigerated. If you get fresh, they can stay room temperature. I was using the “eggs underwater” trick for keeping eggs a couple of weeks and I was always getting an upset stomach from them. Now I know why, since I was getting them from the store and they should have stayed in a fridge. For a short time there was cooked hamburger in a foil pack but nobody sells that anymore. You are stuck with canned fish, chili, Spam and other horror meats. Yes, I know a lot of you like Spam, and that makes you…lucky? Anyway, no fridge or freezer sucks as far as meat goes, unless you can yourself.
Once I got home it was time to bath. I alternated nights between shaving and bathing, and you gals can alternate between washing your hair and bathing. Most of the year I could use my solar hot water heater to bath with. This was an insulated box buried in the dirt slanted at an angle towards the sun, cover in a sheet of glass and with a flat black painted sheet of metal on the bottom. I had four Mason jars capped off with spaghetti sauce lids ( you can use the one piece lids they sell in plastic ), propped up off the bottom with two by fours to get full sun exposure, each with eight ounces of water in them ( when resting at an angle they can’t be too full ). That was my hot water, retrieved with an oven mitt and carried in a wire basket to the home. Simple and almost free. No soldering, copper pipes or etcetera. Sometimes they barely warmed and I finished heating the water on the propane stove. Other times they were too hot. I added cold water as needed, or propane heated water as needed, one quarter gallon total for shaving and one half gallon for bathing.
There are many ways to hand bathe and I think I’ve tried most. I tried the floppy solar shower bag, the bleach jug and the garden weed sprayer pressure thing, and none work as good as a simple whores bath. Don’t use a wash clothe, use a small thick hand towel. Start at your head and work your way down, skipping the pits, butt and crotch. With a sodden but not excessive dripping cloth, wet and scrub all. Usually unless you are really greasy you just need water scrubbed skin everywhere except the head, pits, crotch and butt which need soap. Less soap and less than daily bathing is better for your skin anyway, and skipping a day will not see you stinking or unsanitary. Just don’t skip more than that one day. Scrub all, then go back to the pits, then the crotch and last the butt. One half gallon is more than enough and you are refreshingly clean. The other gravity fed water delivery systems just roll down your skin, and use more water. The scrubbing method works much better and conserves water. You are also conserving razor blades ( if you must be clean shaven for work, use an electric razor there prior to punching in ).
We already talked about diner, so we skip to washing dishes. The lazy way is to soak everything. The water conservative way is to use a cooking dish and then immediately wash it with a cup or two of hot water. Use a vegetable scrub brush to remove food ( food catches in cloth or scrub pads, not so much in that one ). If you must soak it, place that minor amount of water on the bottom and keep coming back to scrub, especially the sides not underwater. Don’t give it a chance to dry and cake on. Plates, cups and flatware are washed in a plastic tub or small sink with the same cup or two of hot water with soap, immediately so it doesn’t set. Use a very minimal amount of soap. Even one drop per plate, dipping into the hot water and scrubbing, dripping back down where the other dishes lay. Use that cola bottle to squeeze water to rinse. Done correctly, dishes take almost no water.
Okay, now it is nighttime, so we concern ourselves with electricity. Solar is easier than ever. If you can replace a wire under the hood of a car, you can set up a solar system. One panel, one charge controller and one battery will provide you with your lighting and even TV for the night. $250, bulbs and wires included. Any other appliances such as the microwave or fridge get their own system ( there is a reason for not sharing panels or batteries or controllers. One goes out, there is your replacement you can cannibalize. And while parts last five to eight years, something is always going out at the worst time ). From your panel, run a positive (+) wire and a negative (-) wire from the panel wire down to your battery. If you keep it from freezing it will last much longer, so I bury mine. The holes for wires vent the charging gases, which is why batteries can come inside, but not charge inside. Right alongside the battery, the panel wires connect to the charge controller ( this stuff is easy, + to +, - to - ), and the controller wires to the battery. Now, separate wires with that O end connector, the O connecters on the same wing nut battery stud as the controller connection, lead back into your dwelling. To the light fixture ( RV store or auto parts store, you are using a bayonet bulb LED ) or to a cigarette lighter plug in for 12v appliance ( they sell 12v TV’s, mainly to semi-truck drivers ). The cigarette plugs always come with a glass fuse. Have plenty on hand. You can also wire to an inverter to use regular 110 AC power.
Note that your factory rated panel of 100 watts usually produces less than 100 watts, even on a bright shiny day. Usually 15% less. Charging your battery eats another 10% or so, and using an inverter kills another 10%. This is why I generally overproduce and under consume. Just try to do the same. Don’t try to max out your use or the battery won’t last as long. I use a simple Wal-Mart RV & Marine battery. The least efficient but the easiest to replace on my budget. Above ground I get two to three years daily use, buried I get about five years. Charge controllers last seven or eight years, LED bulbs and panels nearly forever ( at least my lifetime ). Your battery has a cold crank rating. Usually 600 or so watts. A good rule of thumb is that is the amount of watts you can use before your battery is drained half way. Try not to go below that level, to maximize battery life. LED bulbs are usually five watts, and a small TV about 12 watts. I could run my light for six hours a night and my TV for two, and I’d use about 55 watts total. Which is almost what my panels were ( don’t worry about subtracting the 15% and the 10% for this calculation ). Even with a week of snow or rain clouds I never had an issue with my batteries not being charged the next sunny day after several hours. Under use, over produce.
In the evening, or even early morning, the middle of winter, sometimes cooking didn’t heat enough. I used to use Mr. Buddy heaters but they went south on quality as the prices rose. And hardly anyone sells small BTU ( 4k or so ) indoor propane heaters. Now I just take an ungreased cast iron skillet and put it on my cook stove under low heat to bathe or take the chill off. Use the cast iron propane stove they sell at Sportsman’s Guide, which is the same cost as the crappy soon to break Wal-Mart sheet metal camp stove. You want the new propane stove that use the small hose with built in regulator on the hose, not the ones that use the bigger disposable tanks or their adaptors. The camp stoves with built in gas pressure regulator are built to break 90% quicker than they used to. Once settled for the night, you don’t need heat. Under the sheet, place a squishy foam pad. That reflects heat. On top of the sheet, wool blankets. Never buy a blanket under three pounds or under 70% wool content or it will be nearly useless.
On top of the blanket(s) put a feather comforter ( synthetic feather works just fine ). Don’t neglect a duvet cover. In time your white comforter turns grey and is embarrassing. Using the above, I’ve slept comfortably in eight degrees ( the outside was eight below ). Sometimes you need to sleep in a T-shirt, or if in a trailer rather than underground you need a synthetic comforter between the wool and the down comforter, but other than that you stay toasty warm. To wrap up, a new odds and ends. You can just use disposable battery powered lamps, lanterns, stick up pucks and the like, not even needing a large 12v solar panel ( just a small unit to charge the AA and AAA batteries ) as long as the lumens ratings are good. LED’s have gotten much brighter using less power in the last five years. The toilet is easy, just a sawdust in the bucket to cover solid waste ( the urine bucket is separate ), then moved to a solar heated underground composter. For laundry, the towns Laundromat is your friend. You need to go shopping or to work anyway. I had a large gym bag with strap I hauled mine in on my back, the bike baskets full of water. Since time slows to nothing in a Laundromat, defying the laws of physics, eventually I couldn’t stand it anymore and stopped using their dryers ( my work slacks kept shrinking in the length, also. Dryers kill clothes. Boycott dryers! ) and just strung a clothesline. In the winter, I brought them in at night if not dry, hanging them from every nonporous surface and repeated the next day.
Sweet Baby Jesus in a Yugo, that is more than enough for today. I’m sure I covered it all. Frugal off grid living, oh my.
END ( today's related link http://amzn.to/2hUq3uO )
* By the by, all my writing is copyrighted. For the obtuse out there
This information is gold, it has been tried out and perfected into every detail.ReplyDelete
However, it's not "bushcraft-badass" survival nor "don't-survive-thrive" deluxe survival. How can you attract high-spending yuppies to your blog with such an extreme worldview. You don't mean to say that the collapse will make us poor, do you ?
Ha! Strange, I got that surge from FaceBook, from my usual 1200 daily to up to 3300. It dropped back to normal one week later. Then it went LOWER. Now I'm at half of normal. I hope all my regulars went on vacation to see the eclipse, or that means the Yuppies looking at my site leave AND take a regular with them! I not only don't attract them, they shrink my reader base! Arrrgh!Delete
I designed and built a solar oven using a mirror as the various reflectors. I had an old mirror and paid a pro to cut it to fit the sides which I had built of plywood. Used as old ammo box, painted black, as a base. Placed black-painted glass containers in the box.Delete
It works, but is slow. I can't get it to boil water, altho it gets hot enough to slow cook. Most of the bugs die after a few minutes exposed to 165 degrees f. Higher temperatures hasten to process.
I also built one using a stainless steel sheet as a reflector. It sort of works. Got the SS sheet salvage.
I much prefer the little volcano stove, which I enclosed in fire bricks and put on a platform. We have lots of oaks on the place and dead twigs drop all the time. Plenty of fuel for the volcano, if it does soot up the bottom of the pot.
Cooking is a problem that must be solved. I'm working on it. Complicated by the sheltered/unsheltered aspects of cooking.
I have pictures of that as well.
Hope your regular readers come back. I sent you something snail mail yesterday. I like your stuff and encourage you to continue.
When I was living cold, I slept fully dressed except for boots. Would wake up if my hat came off.
Took plenty of sitz baths squatted over a small tub. Once you can see the purpose of any activity, you can improvise.
One of the major things I like about your writing is the notion that many, many things/activities are not worth selling your soul for; not necessary at all.
I appreciate it, thank you. Pictures would be cool, I'm not set on any idea. Hell, even poorly working solar at least suppliments fire if it won't replace it. But I think given my success with hot water, adding reflectors SHOULD cook the food. Hell, the sun feels like it is baking my brain more than in the past-perhaps the ozone is actually going this time.Delete
What is the best method for sending pictures? I'd like to stay grey.Delete
CD through the mail?Delete
Yep went and saw the eclipse. Totally cool to see the totality. Totally insane how many people gathered in a place pretty much the back end of nowhere for an event like this. Keep it in mind- as long as people can spend the money on petroleum fueled travel they will go ANYWHERE for something they think significant enough. There were HUNDREDS of european tourists in the little cheap motel we stayed at, over 5 hour drive away from the center of the eclipse. And yes, they flew in and took a tour just to see the eclipse in an area with nothing much else to offer.Delete
I wonder about this insane spending and gathering. Where are the priorities and panic? Oh, well, already did an article on it.Delete
"Taint"? You lost me. Sorry. I know it isn't funny if you have to explain it. Just drank a half pot of coffee and I'm just drawing a blank here.ReplyDelete
I agree with you on the pros of having a freezer.ReplyDelete
After moving off grid, we lived without a freezer for almost 2 years. Then a friend let us have a milk crate worth of freezer space in their freezer in town. That spoiled us and we wanted a freezer at home.
After another 2 years, we saved enough to expand our solar power system to run a freezer here.
Freezers make a lot of sense for an off grid home. In the summer when it's hot at there is lots of sun (hence, lots of solar power), the freezer has higher power needs.
In the winter when the freezer and outdoor temperature is closer, the freezer uses less power. That assumes that you keep your freezer outside and live in an area with cold winters. For years, we would bring the freezer inside for summer (where it was cooler) and haul it to the outside porch for winter. Now it just stays in my husband's unheated shop where it is cool year round. Another option was to put it in our root cellar but there wasn't enough space.
In my research, the cost to purchase a propane freezer was almost equal to the cost of a regular freezer + the cost of upgrading our solar power system to handle the extra energy needed. Plus, we don't have to spend money on propane. Sometimes we have to run the generator (so more expense for gas) to charge the batteries because of the freezer, but not often.
I often do a mental exercise and rate the modern luxuries in my life. As in, "If I could only have one modern technology item, what would it be." "If I could only have two modern technology items.....three....four....etc" (This listing is obviously personal and each person would have their own list based on area /climate /geography /ease of life /health /fitness /pet peeves /family size /age /etc.
1) 4WD truck (we live a ways out of town up in the mountains with lots of snow in winter so a bike wouldn't be very useful.)
2) Chainsaw (very much needed when you live in the woods -- firewood, clearing downed trees, etc)
3) A little electricity from a generator or solar power system. (Just a smidge of electricity can be a BIG difference in upgrading your lifestyle.)
4) Running water. (A small 12 volt pump that draws from our rainwater cistern.)
5) FREEZER. (More important than a fridge IMO. You can always freeze jugs of water for an ice chest.)
Don't forget FLIR scope. Kidding! I saw the "chainsaw" and couldn't resist.Delete
Well, they make battery recip (Milwaukee-type) saws.. yeah, OK, FLIRs are battery, too..Delete
OK, spill it, I gotta hear more about this contradiction called a solar fridge. It doesn't involve a peltier does it?ReplyDelete
A regular freezer, with that plug in adapter you buy for $65, runs it warmer to fridge temps, only uses 150-200 watts a day. Don't know what else to call it. I guess I should stick with "converted freezer only using 200 watts a day"? Gotta be an easier label so every one knows what I'm babbling about.Delete
OK now I remember you mentioning it before. I put it on my amazon wish list and then forgot about it. Will investigate it again. Saw a small, 7cf (I think) chest type freezer at Rural King the other day that was rather fetching - it was camo! And only about $150.Delete
Okay, I'm going to pretend that everything I write is so important you say it aloud until you retain it for all time, and you must have just been too busy that day :)Delete
Not to be a pedant or anything, and you've probably got the math right in your head, but the electrics equation is kinda useful to know - Watts = Volts x Amps.
A battery has an Amp/hour rating (eg 100AH@12V). If you want to work out how many hours a 12V light of 5.5 watts will run before wrecking your battery, you'll go 5.5 = 12 x 0.45, and so you suck 0.45 AH from that 12V battery for every hour you use the light. With only using half of the battery capacity (eg 50AH), you'll get more than 100 hours of useful light.
On the other hand, if your guesstimation encourages under-use, then it is a good thing for battery life.
A car battery might not have a visible AH rating, cos they're not designed for deep discharge. They'll still work fine though, as long as you wrap them in cotton wool discharge-wise...
For about 5 years all I had was a 20W panel, a 25AH SLA battery. Had a half dozen LED lights, car radio, small inverter for hair clippers and dremel etc, and never once ran out of juice. I upgraded to 140W panels and 100AH battery, but then lost everything in a bushfire. I'll go back to that sort of size when I move back to the bush.
I love the easier way of remembering the watt hours, cause I'm terrible remembering the formulas, no matter how many times I read it. My brain wants to block certain knowledge, embraces others. Hence my theory math dudes are wired different.Delete
I was going to mention what was the easiest solar oven that I’ve seen, but your hot water contraption is almost the same. The version that I’m referring to uses an old tire that’s wider than the pot that you’re using is tall, with a plate of scavenged glass over the top. You would probably want to cut out the side walls for more room. You could set it on a black painted piece of plywood and angle it slightly towards the sun. You can then set up reflectors on the inner sides of the tire.ReplyDelete
I’ve also seen people use the reflective automobile dashboard protectors, and some scrap cardboard, to make a relatively easy and cheap solar oven.
Yeh, most designs I see are lightweight disposable material like cardboard and foil. The winds here rarely stop, except when it is hot and you need it, and that crap wouldn't last long. Plus, you want longevity as you are using it daily. I like the tire idea. I might incorporate that rather than a plywood box.Delete
Here’s a few pictures to give you some ideas:Delete
main page: https://permaculturenews.org/2014/05/20/solar-tyre-cooker/
main page: https://36readyblog.com/2013/06/
main page: http://www.solarfoodcooking.com/posts/solar-tire-cooker/
With regards to the poster above, here’s a few real simple ways for you to remember electrical formulas Jim. Hopefully this is obvious, but in case it’s not, I’ll provide a few examples: Take the first pyramid in the image below. P is at the top, and I is at the bottom left, and V is at the bottom right. P=power or watts, divided into I=current or Amps=Voltage. One more example. VxI at the bottom =P or power at the top. So let’s say 12Volts X 10Amps = 120 watts. Those pyramids will probably do most of any of the calculations that you need. You probably won’t need to resort to the wheel in the bottom link.
Most excellent, thank you for the links. I'll try the formulas but all I heard while reading about them from you is blah, bla, blahblah. No offense, I know you are helping, I'm just saying my brain literally shuts down on this crap. Maybe the pictures will be more intuitive. Hope they're more factual than the Food Pyramid.Delete
Well, I’m not the best at explaining things either, so I’ll give one more example. All that you have to remember Jim is PIV and VIR. It’s a 3 part pyramid with P at the top, I at the bottom left, and V at the bottom right. Same with VIR, just switch the letters. You only multiply and divide. Since P is at the top in the first example, you can only divide it by I and V. Since I and V are along side one another, you can only multiply them by one another. Let’s say I want to know I (current). Divide P into V, it’s the only choice you have. Let’s say I want to know P (Power or watts) multiply IxV. I hope that I didn’t confuse you further, but once you get it it’s easier than Madonna on Spanish Fly 😀Delete
Hey, funny is funny :)ReplyDelete
It's that bizarre nether region between the fore and aft septic systems. Hell, I thought everybody knew that, 'specially ex GI's. It taint fore and it taint aft, it's just taint!ReplyDelete
Years ago I made a wood solar oven with aluminum reflectors. I painted the inside with black paint (unknown type) per the instructions I was following. It worked fine, except the paint on the inside of the box would not stop offgassing. I tried several days worth of dry runs to get the paint cured, followed by a pot of water, which made the water smell like paint. Then I tried some food in a pot with a lid. The food smelled like paint too. Eventually I gave up and paid for the All American Sun Oven. Well worth the price if you can afford it.ReplyDelete
Okay, good to know, actually. I would have made the same mistake. I'll paint some sheet metal rather than any interior wood.Delete
Have to agree about the All American Sun oven. Mine has lasted many years of sporadic use. It's easy to store inside house after finished. The new model has a larger inside capacity. Also the adjustable telescoping arm on oven's bottom is T-shaped on end that touches the ground and has hole for ground stakes if wind is an issue. Still some coin, but Emergency Essentials has on sale for something like $327. This also includes bread pans, a dehydration rack, water pasteurization indicator, and a few other things. S., FlaDelete
And what is it going to cost to build? $32.70 at most. I just can't see that kind of markup, even if they do construct it to perform better.Delete
I'm sure I never heard of it since we were the new generation of more caring and sensitive PC soldiers.ReplyDelete
Just looked @ SG re:propane stoves.. do you mean the Guide Gear 2-burner ($35)?. The reviews are pretty bad. Plus $20 for the hose & reg... Maybe they changed it...ReplyDelete
I'm sure we're talking about the same stove. Compared to the $30 Wal-Mart sheetmetal stove, it is great. And a hose and regulator is $20 at Home Despot, with the hose only a foot or so. I'll go check out the reviews, get back to you, not sure what the problem is.Delete
Okay, it is true the little pegs holding the pot over the flame are flimsy. I had one arrive broken off. But there are like six of them per burner so no big deal. It seems like those folks who used them for camping hated them and those who used them at home fixed in place loved it. So, don't keep moving the damn thing around. Mine worked fine under daily use for two years or thereabouts, perhaps longer. Good enough that I ordered a back-up one. For camping, no. For off grid home use, yes.Delete