Sunday, 26 August 2012 17:00

An Average Summer Day

We get out of bed about 6:00. I know, you thought we would be up before first light. Well we are in the winter but not in the summer. 6:00 a.m. is a nice average.

While I start the coffee and tea brewing, Laurie heads outside to turn the animals loose and get their breakfast ready.

off grid, living off grid, self sufficient, homestead, sustainableLaurie then heads for the garden to hand water all of the veggies and I go to the computer for my morning computer chores. I have a routine I follow every day to keep our websites up and running, checking on Google Analytics and our Facebook page.

After that we generally do our household chores. Laurie does the typical inside duties like dusting, vacuum, dishwasher, wash clothes etc, and I head outside to clean. I scrape the “free range” chicken pooh off the concrete and then blow that and the dust off with my gasoline powered leaf blower or just use a broom. Then it is off to bait traps. We keep traps in our barn, garden, and exterior house area. All critters are welcome to live as they please otherwise. Have a raised eyebrow do you? I will explain in detail the thousands of dollars in damage they can do in another blog, just for your education. I’ve already received mine.



off grid, living off grid, self sufficient, homestead, sustainableThe rest of the day could be anything. You just prioritize as issues come up. I could be working on our three mile long access road. Working on our websites. Cutting wood for the winter. Cleaning up the wood cutting mess. Hauling and loading hay for the winter. Maintaining vehicles by replacing fluids and keeping tires inflated etc. Repairing fences, mowing, and weed eating to keep the grass down around the house during fire season. Pumping water and maintaining our solar power system. We do these things seven days a week. There are no weekends except I usually cook a big breakfast on weekends and eat all the things we aren’t supposed to.

Laurie works on the garden(s), taking care of the animals, grooming, watering, feeding, and administering medicine if required. She handles the bill paying, shipping and much of the shopping and household indoor chores. She also helps me outside a lot. She does most of the food prep like canning, freezing, drying etc. She taught me how to do fencing and drive a tractor.

We both cross train. We don’t have a “set in concrete” list of chores. We help each other as needed or just because we feel like it. If she has been cooking a lot I will step in and give her a break. She does the same for me. It works out great.

off grid, living off grid, self sufficient, homestead, sustainableThe thing I would like to stress the most about this lifestyle is that it does require more effort than most other living situations. I have lived in the city in a house on a lot. I have also lived in a condo. Both were easier than living on a modern homestead like we are. I like having a tractor to do the heavy work but just needing a tractor should tell you something about the extra requirements of living as we do. We also own a chainsaw, roto tiller, and snowplow blade. We have a solar power system to maintain and even our own cell phone tower and signal boosters. All of these items require attention in one form or another. They all mean extra work.

One other item to note is that because you are a little more intertwined with Mother Nature in this lifestyle, your needs and responsibilities change as the year progresses. I like it that my winter chores vary from our summer ones.



off grid, living off grid, self sufficient, homestead, sustainableI’ve read many clever things others have said about why they do it. Why they live this way if you don’t have to. It usually comes with comments about “healthier lifestyle”, “it’s more satisfying “or “I like being independent”.

All of those things are true I guess. I can’t really put my thoughts into words but it has something to do with the above statements and my own personal conviction that we have gone too far in the way of convenient living. As a result our food is lacking in safety and nutrition, we have a national concern over obesity and a multitude of health problems, many of which are avoidable by simply changing our lifestyles. We don’t have all of the answers but I think we are on the right track. I think we are more right than wrong.

Laurie – she just likes it here and enjoys doing the things we do. Hers is a simplified outlook.

When we aren’t working, we are riding our 49cc scooters on the National Forest roads, fishing just down the road, riding horses from our property into the National Forest, hiking directly from our property, panning for gold, and enjoying the local wildlife, our own animals, cooking over a live fire, and just in general – enjoying the outdoors. It’s like taking a vacation in your own backyard.  “You can’t beat that” as Dick Proeneke would often say.

Ed and Laurie Essex live off grid in the Okanogan Highlands of Washington State where they operate their website  and Off Grid Works.


Related items

  • Homestead - Where to Start?

    Off grid, homestead, good ideas for lifeWe all have a picture in our mind of what a homestead is and each one of our pictures will be different. Some of us will picture a little cabin in a meadow by a stream. Many of you will picture gardens, chickens and goats. Barns, greenhouses, and orchards will weigh in. All in all there are many different factors to be considered when deciding what your homestead will look like, so many in fact it can be difficult just figuring out where to start.

    One tool you can use to help organize your thoughts is something I learned years ago in a beginning journalism class – Who, What, Where, Why, When, and How?

    Who – Are you doing this alone or will there be others? If there are others, what considerations will they require? If there are children involved then schooling will be a factor. If some of you are in the elder category then health care can be a factor.
    Another consideration will be friends and family. How (if at all) do they factor in? An example of this is when Laurie and I built our homestead it was 250 miles from friends and family and that certainly became a factor, especially during Holidays.
    Just try to think of all the people who will be impacted by your decision to create your little piece of paradise.

    What – What are some of the things you want to accomplish on your homestead? Animal husbandry, fresh vegetables, going off grid, and becoming more self sufficient are just a few of the reasons people create homesteads.
    We wanted to live a more active and healthier lifestyle and have a more positive impact on our environment and we have accomplished that with our current homestead living. We’ve learned to be more conservative with our resources and grow and preserve our own food. Decide what your own goals are before you even look for property.

    Where – Some of the things to consider in deciding where to build your homestead are growing zones, climate, the local real estate market, neighbors, and local regulations. If you are going to have chickens, you need to make sure you can. If you are going to capture rainwater for your personal use or garden you need to make sure you can. Different government jurisdictions have different rules so once you figure out what you want to do on your homestead, make sure you can do it legally. Typical regulations include building codes, water, sewer, and yes, even whether you can have a rooster or not. Do you want a compost toilet and gray water system? In many jurisdictions anything considered “alternative” can be difficult to accomplish. Houses such as straw bale, cordwood, and other less common construction practices can be difficult to achieve in some jurisdictions.

    Why – Why do you want a homestead? It’s important to ask this question because if there is more than one person involved it is good to answer this question with similar goals. You need to be on the same page as your partner. It will be best if you both want a garden and want to preserve your own food, want to heat with wood. A homestead requires a lot of teamwork and cross training. You probably won’t be in a situation where one person can just push a button and get food or heat or even water. Homesteads require a lot of physical work and commitment. It is imperative that everyone directly involved is on the same page and has the same goals.

    When – Shall we do this while we are young? Should we wait until the kids are gone? Shall we wait until we are established financially? These are all normal questions people ask themselves about homesteading.
    We waited until we were in our mid fifties because that is what life threw at us. Only you can decide when the best timing is. Other than your personal circumstances I don’t think there is a right or wrong time. We know people from between the ages of 20 and 65 who are just starting their homesteads. The only thing to add here from experience is “the sooner the better”.

    How – And finally we get to the big question of how to go about creating your own homestead. My suggestion is to start reading and talking to those who have already been successful. We started in our local library checking out books. Today the Internet is full of information. We also subscribed to three different magazines like Mother Earth News to get our knowledge firsthand from those who have “been there and done that”. On my own website Off Grid Works there is a ton of information from planning to property use to building tips and all kinds of gardening and animal articles. You don’t have to BE experienced. You have to GET experienced.

    Laurie and I made our move in 2010 and have never looked back. We have made a few mistakes but not very many due to the amount of research we did before we took our first step. There is no set formula for the perfect homestead. The perfect homestead is the one you create for your own reasons.

    Ed and Laurie Essex live off grid in the Okanogan Highlands of Washington State where they operate their website and Off Grid works.


  • Summer and Winter - So Different

    off grid, living off grid, self sufficient, homestead, sustainable, flowers, summer, winteroff grid, living off grid, self sufficient, homestead, sustainable, flocked trees









    Our seasons here are not super extreme but there is a clear separation between summer and winter. We all know the difference between fall, winter, spring, and summer but do we really stop and take notice of the differences or in this case the rather large contrast between summer and winter. I think it is kind of amazing and I definitely have learned to appreciate the differences living a little closer to the land than I used to. Summer sees temperatures up to 100 degrees F and winter can get to below zero.

    off grid, living off grid, self sufficient, homestead, sustainable, chickens, free rangeoff grid, living off grid, self sufficient, homestead, sustainable, chickens









    During the summer we get eggs from the chickens and you can see them roaming the property looking for bugs. Today only one will lay an egg (maybe) and they are all huddled in the coop because it is 7 degrees F.

    off grid, living off grid, self sufficient, homestead, sustainable, horsesoff grid, living off grid, self sufficient, homestead, sustainable, horses









    In the summer our horse’s coats are sleek and shiny and you seldom see them because they are out grazing on green grass. Today their coats are thick and fuzzy and they eat hay in the morning, go for a nap, and come back in the late afternoon for dinner.

    We have goats this year. Little Angora’s. I have no idea how I might see a change in the seasons but you can be assured of one thing – lots of goat pellets on the ground in the summer and winter. Always the goat pooh. It’s everywhere. I have noticed one thing already - they eat green grass as long as it lasts and then they switch to green pine needles off our pine trees in the winter. I think green is their favorite color.

    off grid, living off grid, self sufficient, homestead, sustainableoff grid, living off grid, self sufficient, homestead, sustainable, tractor, snow plow









    In the summer you never know what you will see on the tractor – forks for helping cut wood, a rototiller, mower, or the front loader moving dirt. From October to April it has a snow plow on the front and chains on the rear wheels and it only has one purpose – to plow snow.

    In the summer we have to mow the open grassy areas around the house. It looks nicer but it is also a fire deterrent. During the winter all you see around the house is snow and a lot of it has to be shoveled away from the house especially in the spring to prevent water damming up against the house when the thaw comes.

    off grid, living off grid, self sufficient, homestead, sustainable, cold frame, insulated cold frameoff grid, living off grid, self sufficient, homestead, sustainable, cold frame, insulated cold frame









    Our garden is a highlight in the summer. Approximately 3000 square feet of vegetables and berries. Next spring we are going to add apple trees. We also take the tops off the insulated cold frames and grow tomatoes, and strawberries. Now – a few heads of lettuce and cold weather veggies in the cold frame and you can be assured it has the top back on. We’re not sure how cold it can get before it destroys our plants but so far that hasn’t happened. Our current weather will be a real test because the cold is lasting so long this time. Usually it just hits us for a few days. Right now it is forecast for the next 10 days!! Our garden is completely under snow.




    off grid, living off grid, self sufficient, homestead, sustainable, firewood, woodpileoff grid, living off grid, self sufficient, homestead, sustainable, Our masonry heater stays dormant in the summer. No ash floating around or the occasional smoke. The windows are open a lot. The house mostly heats itself passively. The woodshed is empty in the summer and full in the winter.

    We drive our little blue truck to town in the summer. It gets really good mileage. Back to the all wheel drive gas hog during the winter. 3 miles of compact snow and ice between us and the plowed paved roads.

    I’m taking notice of these things because the seasonal contrast here is greater than where I came from. Because I used to live in a condo and work in an office -  the biggest difference I noticed between seasons was what coat I needed to wear.

    Ed and Laurie Essex live off grid in the Okanogan Highlands of Washington State where they operate their website and Off Grid Works.


  • An Average Winter Day

    off grid, living off grid, self sufficient, homestead, sustainableOur winter lifestyle here is different from where we came from so we thought we should share what a typical day is like. When I say winter, I really mean sometime in October to sometime in April, that’s how long we have snow.

    We typically have snow here that averages about 3’ deep once it builds up to that. We don’t usually get more than a few inches at a time. It settles and then snows a little more but it stays around 3’ deep.

    Like summer time, Laurie and I work from 7AM to 5PM seven days a week.

    Animals: Laurie does most of the animal work. She takes care of the dog, cats, chickens, and horses. The horses graze on our acreage in the summer but need hay in the winter. We have some beautiful and affordable river bottom hay from a friend of ours. Plus the water needs to have the ice broken twice a day so they can drink.

    Laurie goes the extra mile for the chickens. You won’t believe what I’ve seen going out the door to feed them in their nice warm chicken coop. They get hot meals. I kid you not. Our chickens get rice dishes, heated leftovers, and the occasional hot cereal. Me – I just throw the door open and they can come out and eat mash or not on the frozen ground I have shoveled clean for them.

    She takes care of them all twice a day no matter what the weather.

    I get up in the morning and get the coffee and tea going. It’s also my job to fire up the masonry heater.  We burn it twice a day so bringing wood in from the woodshed is also one of the things I do daily.

    We both work on the computer an average of four hours per day. Laurie handles most of the packaging and shipping, invoicing, book keeping, and deals with a few of our vendors. I get the rest of the vendors and handle all of the website operation which includes uploading and updating all of the products. I also do the product blogs on the website and blogging for Mother Earth News and therefore Off Grid Works as well. I handle all of the maintenance, advertising and SEO for the websites. We go to the Post Office / UPS shipping place three times a week. In the winter that can be a real challenge on our road.

    off grid, living off grid, self sufficient, homestead, sustainableAs most of you know we grow fresh food in the winter. We started experimenting with our insulated cold frames last year. They are going full bore this winter. Inside the house Laurie has started on a new hydroponic system we are trying out. If it works we will add it to our “growing list of food growing products” on our web store Good Ideas For Life. We like to use the products we sell so we can answer any questions from customers. Because of that some of our time goes to experimentation.

    Laurie handles most dinners and most housework. I love to cook breakfast and eat all the things we aren’t supposed to. We both clean up.

    I take care of the garbage. It has to go 3 miles down the icy road every other week. I also take care of all of the generators, solar equipment, and battery charging and maintenance.

    You might get the idea we are the Cleavers with traditional roles but the truth is that I’m pretty good with an apron on whether it be cooking or cleaning and when I get stuck mechanically or need some extra muscle with a shovel or wood cutting, I call my best mechanic, logger, and laborer – Laurie (mans best friend).

    off grid, living off grid, self sufficient, homestead, sustainableLaurie does craftwork. She makes things for people and for us. So far this winter she finished a quilt for her niece’s new baby and a wool rug for our living room. She also sews shopping bags for people to use that don’t prefer plastic.

    I shovel most of the snow from around the house and barn and plow our property roads and the 3 mile long access road we use to get to the highway.

    We both do odd jobs for other people to bring in extra money and stay busy.

    off grid, living off grid, self sufficient, homestead, sustainableWe don’t leave much except to go to town for fresh supplies. We do manage to have some fun in the winters. We visit friends and even go ice fishing when it’s nice. We also go for walks from our house. We live next to National Forest land. When the snow gets  too deep we switch to snowshoes. It’s almost magical walking through a snow covered winter forest.

    We like our winters but I’m sure we would both say they could be a little shorter.

    Ed and Laurie Essex live off grid in the Okanogan Highlands of Washington State where they operate their website  and Off Grid Works.