Life Style

Life Style (33)

40 Acre Off Grid Home

 This contractor owned and custom built home is located in the heart of one of Eastern  Washington's most treasured recreational areas for outdoor activities. Fishing is close  by and you can hunt and snowmobile from the property. Wildlife is abundant and the  view is spectacular.

 You can be completely self sufficient with this property. We produce and manage our  own power, water, and septic systems. Our modern home is designed with multiple  backup systems i.e. you can choose to cook and heat with either propane or wood.  Power is by solar with backup generator. You can grow food the year round in our  garden, orchard, and insulated cold frames. The house is loaded with passive heating  and cooling features eliminating the need for expensive heating and cooling systems. If  you want to be safe, independent, and self sustainable this is the property for you.


Our 40 acre property is located in the Okanogan Highlands of Washington State, 20 miles from the nearest town. We are at the end of the road, 3 miles from pavement with an  elevation of 4200'. We currently only have one full time neighbor over a mile away.

The house is 1400 SF with ICF walls, a metal roof, and hardi plank siding. The walls are 8" thick concrete with fire treated rigid insulation on both sides. The house is structurally engineered to withstand earthquakes and is virtually fireproof. The roof is a hidden fastener metal roof and over engineered for heavy snow loads. Wood shed, oversize garage, carport, and covered porch are all attached to the house and under the same hip roof system. You never have to go outside to run the generator or get wood in the winter.

 If you infill the garage door and the woodshed opening , it will more than double the size of the insulated house. All of the structure, insulation, and frost free footings are in place to do that.

The house is 3 bedrooms with 1.75 baths and an insulated extra space in the attic. It has a commanding view of the access road and valley below. The property is 15 - 20 degree slope and is all south facing for excellent solar exposure.

The well is 300' deep with a 3/4 HP pump. It has two separate water sources and produces 2.7 gpm. We have never run out of water or had the pump go dry. Water is pumped up to a 1900 gallon holding tank and gravity flows to the house. The pressure is 63 psi at the house. There is an extra 1500 gallon backup tank at the well. We also have gutters on the house that keep our 2800 gallon cisterns full for the garden and orchard. There is another 1400 gallon cistern at the barn that is filled from the barn gutters. The gutters were specially designed to withstand the snow and ice. We've never had a problem with them.

 We have a 6600 watt solar system with charge controller and a Xantrex inverter and 24  volt Solar One battery system. There is a built in 12000 watt backup generator under  cover in the woodshed.. The solar and generator power is 120/240volts. It operates the  house, barn and water pump. We have outlet switches for all of the outlets to kill the  phantom power. All of our appliances are energy efficient. There are 5 solar tubes in  the house for more light so you don't have to use overhead lights as often.

 The house is wood heat from a masonry heater and backup propane wall heaters. In  the kitchen we have a custom built wood burning masonry stove and oven as well as a  regular propane stove and oven. If you choose to go without propane you can cook and  heat with wood. We burn an average of 4.5 to 5.25 cords of wood each year. We get  most of our wood from our property. For $12.00 you can get a permit to cut 4 cords of  wood in the nearby National forest.

There are numerous passive heating and cooling features built into the house.

On the south end of the house we have 20' of built in insulated raised bed cold frames. You can grow green vegetables all year long with this setup. No artificial heat required. We also have a fenced garden and orchard.

The 40 acres are fenced into two 20 acre parcels and the house is fully fenced to keep animals away. So you can have animals on the upper 20 acres or the lower 20 acres for rotation. The property is about 50% open grass field and 50% forested. The area around the house and barn are cleared for fire prevention.

There is a 3 bedroom septic system in place. Everything on the property - house, solar, septic, and well is legal, inspected and permitted.

There is a 36' x 36' x 16'H barn with 12' x 36' roof overhangs on two sides. There are three horse stalls in the barn and it has a concrete floor. It is also insulated. The sliding door opening is 24' clear.

The house also has a built in cell phone system. There are no land lines here. We use satellite services for TV and computer and our VOIP phone.

 Wildlife consists of deer, elk, moose, bear, wolves, turkey, grouse, cougar, and many  other small animals and birds. We are located in the heart of Washington's outdoor  recreational area for fishing, hunting, and camping and there is a small ski area just a  few miles away. We can ride horses or snowmobile for miles and miles right from our  property on groomed trails and roads and the view from here is spectacular. We border  state land with national forest beyond that. It is really peaceful here.





We have decided to make our equipment available for an additional cost.
55 HP Diesel 4x4 Tractor
Polaris AWD Side x Side ATV w/ front and rear winch
DR Log Splitter
8' Quick Attach Snow Plow
8' Rear Blade
6' Quick Attach Snow Blower     
Brush Hog, Honda Trail Bikes, Riding Lawn Mower, 2 Seater Snowmobile, Agric Roto Tiller, Forks, and much more.

Serious inquiries only please. $350,000 for the house and land plus $45,000 for all of the equipment (OPTIONAL).


homestead, off grid, expense list, good ideas for life, sustainable, survivalMany people have contacted us the past few years asking about how to get started planning their own new homesteads. I have written numerous articles about how we went about building ours. They include articles like ‘Homestead - Where To Start? What Have We Gotten Ourselves Into?, Lessons Learned Parts 1 and 2’, and many others found here at Off Grid Works.

For this article I have created a checklist of potential expenses to consider when planning your own homestead. It is by no means comprehensive and most of the items you are already aware of as typical living expenses. The list is based on the probability that you will be living in a rural area although homesteading in the city is certainly possible. See (Create a Backyard Homestead).

As you may know, homesteads can vary hugely in cost depending on the level of comfort and convenience you choose. Some people may choose to live in a tepee and others like us will choose a more traditional structure. You may choose to have satellite services or not.

The list below is intended to get you thinking about your own expenses you may choose to afford and others you may not have considered. An “oops” moment later on can be expensive. Your own similar list can help you make choices on when to start your homestead, how much money you may choose to borrow, or what you are willing to live without to get started.

The List:


Realtor Fees
Road Building
House Construction
Barn or Out Buildings
Septic System or Other
Well or Water Source
Moving Costs


Pens and Fencing
Vet Care
Garden Supplies and Fencing
Farm Equipment
Craft Supplies
Food Prep Supplies

Monthly Bills

Homeowners Insurance
Medical Insurance
Fuel for vehicles, generators, farm vehicles, and equipment
Property Taxes
Other taxes (income tax, sales tax, etc)
Vehicle Licensing
Other licensing (hunting and fishing)
Clothing etc
Satellite for TV
Satellite for computer
Phone service
Propane or other heat and cool fuel expense


Repairs and Maintenance

homestead, goat, angora goat, good ideas for life, survivalist, sustainable, off gridIf you are thinking of starting your own new homestead, start by making a comprehensive list similar to the one above. Don’t be overwhelmed. Consider each item one at a time. Decide which items are necessities and which are conveniences and go from there. It’s better to be prepared and aware than not! Always keep your goals realistic.

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

off grid, homestead, survival, self sufficientThis is the last in a series about how Ed Essex - Washington, and Bruce McElmurray - Colorado, have dealt with weather conditions throughout the years they have lived in their respective mountain ranges. This last and final part is about how they would change their homesteads considering weather considerations, how big is their ongoing weather challenge and advice they have for those who would choose lifestyles similar to theirs. This series has been written to hopefully be of some benefit to those who would homestead in the mountains and provide situations and solutions they may not have previously considered which Ed and Bruce have learned through experience.
Would you change the way you developed your property based upon what you now know about the weather?
Ed Essex: There is only one thing I would change on my property after being here four years. I wouldn’t put the cisterns right next to the house and barn. I would have put them further away which would have made room for me to get the snow plow along the house.
Whenever the sun shines after a snowfall the snow on the roof starts to melt. Some of that goes into the gutters and into the cisterns. The rest goes over the side of the gutter onto the ground. When that snow piles up it creates a void right next to the house. When the temperature warms up and that snow melts it creates a pond of water between the snow pile and the house. It can cause problems so I like to get the snow out of there. Right now I do it by hand with a shovel. It would be a lot easier to just run the plow next to the house and barn and be done with it because it happens all winter long.
Bruce McElmurray: I’m not sure I would change much in the way our property was developed. Usually you build during the summer in the mountains and I would suggest that you envision large quantities of snow as you lay out your lot. If you build an A-Frame like we did snow will accumulate where it comes off the steep roof. If you can get a snow thrower to that area then you have no worries. If not you will either have to re-contour your terrain or shovel it by hand like we do. Does the contour of the terrain direct the rain and snow melt away from your structure? If you are going to heat with firewood I suggest you locate your woodshed far enough from the house where it poses no fire hazard but is still convenient to shovel to in order to access your firewood. Also look around where your house will situated and calculate if trees pose a hazard. Construction equipment will damage trees and they may die later. Will they fall on your home? Having a home nestled in the woods is nostalgic but is it practical? These are all things we took into consideration when building and should be serious considerations.
How big a challenge is the weather?
Ed Essex: Weather affects everything you do on a homestead. Most of our activities take place outside. Our animals are outside along with the woodpile and garden. When I used to go from my condo to the office I only had to figure out which coat I was going to wear. Now I have to decide on footwear, underwear, regular wear and outer wear.
Another way you might answer this question is by looking at all the design features and expense we put into our home and barn in order to keep them safe from extreme weather.
Bruce McElmurray: Weather will be the biggest challenge you will probably face and it will test you at every development and turn of your homesteading experience. I will not soft play the challenges of dealing with all types of weather in the mountains. It is difficult, strenuous and often hard but the benefits that it provides include far better conditioning than going to a gym, plus you are breathing fresh air while you are working with or around the weather. If you don’t want to spend hours shoveling snow or grooming your gravel driveway post heavy rain storm then you have to make a decision if this is the lifestyle for you.
What advice would you give anyone who plans to live like you do about the weather?
Ed Essex and Bruce McElmurray: Both Ed and Bruce are in general agreement with this question irrespective of their separate locations. When it comes to giving advice to anyone about anything we recognize that we all come from different backgrounds and approach problems in different ways but we still have some things in common like the weather and what it means to live on a mountain homestead.
The best advice Ed and Bruce can give is to do your homework. Talk to neighbors who have lived in your area for a while. Consider the weather patterns for your area and the terrain you wish to settle on. Consider things like extreme rain, snow, drought, wind and what you might have to do to mitigate those with the resources you have. Listen to others that have “been there and done that”. Your decisions will affect your family, your animals, your happiness and even the food types you intend to grow.
It has been the intent of Ed and Bruce to describe some of the circumstances directly related to the weather in their respective mountain homesteads so that readers who may be considering a similar lifestyle can make more informed decisions. It is our hope that this series has provided some food for thought to those readers willing to embark on mountain homesteading or homesteading anywhere.  

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

For more on Bruce and Carol visit them at Bruce and Carols Cabin Blog spot

off grid, solar power, weather, survival, Ed and Laurie Essex and Bruce and Carol McElmurray both live in different states (Washington & Colorado respectively) and both deal and contend with the weather at their mountain homesteads. They both have learned to work with the weather and adjust their lives around their respective weather. There is much to be learned from their experiences at their homesteads. This is part 4 of a series of 5 regarding their experience and advice on living remotely and dealing with the weather. They answer how often they experience bad weather and self reliance and the weather.
How Often Do You Experience Bad Weather:
Ed Essex: This is our fourth winter. To date we have had a 4.6 earthquake, a record breaking wind storm, at least three torrential rainstorms that did a lot of damage around the area including flooding further down the valley, a wildfire and a lot of wet snow last year which is difficult to plow and because we got so much. It really piled up alongside the road and caused a lot of road damage when it melted. Cold snow doesn’t do that and mostly just seems to disappear when it warms up.
The scary thing about weather comes from watching national and world news. Nasty record breaking weather is no longer unusual. If you are thinking about building you really need to consider the weather extremes.
We added earthquake reinforcement to our concrete walls. We installed drainage around our house which no one else does in this area. We beefed up our roof structure to handle extra weight for record snowfall amounts. We virtually fireproofed our home. We installed a more expensive metal roof system to help combat high winds. It all cost more but is certainly less expensive than damage repairs or replacement.
Bruce McElmurray: This is our 17th winter here. We experience a variety of weather at our elevation. Mostly we have to deal with lots of snow. We receive an average of 264” a winter and occasionally that comes 24-36” at a time. While it is labor intensive it is something accepted and dealt with when living in the high country. We have experienced one earthquake of moderate severity but no one recalls having one before or since in our community. It is a rare occurrence for our area. The most scary part was the noise it created which sounded like a sonic boom. Our mountain area is mostly rock and it was those rocks grating together that made the noise. We have experienced a micro burst and several gusty windstorms. Our only damage was a few trees that we put to good use by making lumber and firewood from them.
Our greatest concern is wildfire. We have installed a metal roof and have real native stone exterior along with a mist system that keeps our exposed wood wet and operates off a low pressure system. We have cut trees beyond the required distance from the house and trimmed tree limbs up to 20’ high. We cleared away undergrowth to eliminate a potential fuel source. We have had one near miss but residents who live in the mountains spend a lot of time preparing for wildfires. Our association has a fire truck and a water truck to assist fire fighters. We are prepared but nothing is ever certain when dealing with a wildfire. All these increase our chance of survival in case we are unable to evacuate for some reason.
Self Reliance and Weather:
Ed Essex: Fire and snow are always going to be our nemesis in mountain weather. Prevention is going to be key.
You can’t stop a forest fire from starting but you can take steps to assure your survival and the survival of your dwelling. Some of the fire prevention steps I took are listed previously in this article.
You can’t affect how deep the snow is going to get but you can be prepared for it. Make sure you have more than one good snow shovel. I have two methods for plowing our road so we can get out. Next year I will add a snowmobile for a third option. I still have to make sure my machines are well maintained and there is plenty of fuel for them, in other words they need to be ready to go when the time comes. Make sure your vehicle has the proper chains. Try them on to make sure they fit. All of these things go toward prevention. Prevention is always less expensive than reaction.
Bruce McElmurray: Being self reliant is one of the most essential elements of living remotely in the mountains. If the weather controls your lifestyle - and it does - you need to be prepared for the numerous contingencies it will throw at you. Whether it be high wind, hail, lightning, power outage, heavy snow or whatever you have to be prepared to deal with it yourself in most instances. We have the equipment to deal with most weather instances but mother nature can also be unpredictable. When we are forecast to receive 2” of snow we could receive 2’ or more. Being self reliant also means being flexible when the unexpected happens. When a chain saw won’t start, or when the snow exceeds what is predicted you need to be capable of dealing with that situation. We have shoveled our way out when the temperatures were too low to start the tractor. It helps if you possess some mechanical, plumbing, electrical and carpentry skills.
Mountain winds sometimes blow trees over and they always fall in the most unlikely and inconvenient places. You need equipment that you can count on when the unexpected occurs. Some of the well maintained equipment we use has to be properly maintained so when it is needed it is in working order and available. Being self reliant is an important aspect of living where repairman or service companies may be located 40 miles away. Many times you have to be capable of making the repairs yourself until a proper repairer can be dispatched or reach to you.
The next and final part of this series of dealing with mountain weather will cover changes in property development to accommodate weather. How big is the challenge of mountain weather and what advice would Ed and Bruce give new homesteaders.

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

For more on Bruce and Carol visit them at Bruce and Carols Cabin Blog spot

off grid, homestead, weather, survival, self sufficientPart one and two of this brief series is about how Ed Essex - Washington, and Bruce McElmurray - Colorado experience and cope with the mountain weather at 4,200’ and 9750’ elevation. Part three is about their greatest weather fear. Their answers are below:
What is your greatest weather fear.
Ed Essex: There are four situations that can cause us some grief.
1. Snow - if we were to get a really deep snowfall we might get stuck here on the mountain. No one is going to come and get us. I keep the road plowed with a good size tractor and 8’ snowplow with all four wheels chained but if it is several feet deep all at once it may not be big enough to clear the snow. This summer we bought a 45 year old dozer that will help with that situation. Next year we are going to get a snowmobile. We can’t leave here in a big snow because of the house and animals but our plans are to have friends bring groceries to the bottom of the hill and use the snowmobile to go get them. We also have a pantry full of preserved food and a chest freezer.
2. Fire - We had a wildfire here our first year. We had taken precautions for such an event and got tested right away. The walls of our house are made of concrete. The siding is Hardiplank, which is a non combustible material and our roof is metal. We also put slotted metal soffits in our eaves so there are no bird hole vents for embers to get into the attic. We cleared the land 100’ all around the house and keep it mowed. We installed water cisterns that capture water off our roof and store it. We have over 6000 gallons on the property between the cisterns and domestic holding tanks from water we pump from the well. When the fire crews showed up they were so impressed they pulled all of their trucks off except one and took them to other dwellings (neighbors) that were more at risk. They also thanked us for our foresight and efforts.
3. Torrential rains - As stated earlier our access road is just a dirt and gravel road 3 miles long with a 1000’ vertical climb. When it rains really hard here the road can wash out. The dozer we got this year should be able to help with repairs we need from now on.
4. Earthquake - We’ve already had a 4.6 earthquake here. We are in a high risk area. I had my house engineered to withstand most earthquakes.
Bottom line is that we are on our own and need to plan and prepare for the worst circumstance because no one is going to come to the rescue. Add to that all of the weather records being broken worldwide and it seemed prudent to prepare for extreme weather the best we could. Most weather conditions can be mitigated with proper planning and foresight. All in all our extra weather precautions were not a large line item in our budget.
Bruce McElmurray:
I believe our greatest weather fear is drought increasing our wildfire hazard. Our mountains are very wooded and as such we rely on snowfall for enough moisture to prevent dry conditions that facilitate a wildfire. Colorado is a semi arid state; therefore snowfall and rain are essential for our safety and well being. We have installed natural stone siding on our exterior and have a metal roof. There is no external source of fuel that could warm our stone exterior to ignite the under laying material. Our home is an A frame so the roof is very steep. We have cleared double the normal requirement out from the house to allow a defensible space. We have thinned trees to exceed the required Forest Service recommendations. We cut limbs up to 18-22’ high. Our only exposure is our front deck where we have a low pressure misting system to keep it wet if a wildfire threatens. We formulated an evacuation plan and what to do if evacuation is not possible. Our community is approximately 15 miles long and 6 miles wide with one road in and one road out. It is important to have an individual survival plan in case we were unable to evacuate. We store water under the house which is below grade. In a recent Forest Service audit we scored 10 points better than excellent and have since taken additional precautions which would increase our score further. It is essential that we have our own plan in place even though we live in a gated community that has its own water truck and fire truck.
Our other concern is snow. We have had as much as 6 feet of snow at one time which is rare but a reality. Two or three foot storms are not that uncommon. Our community also has a road grader and front end loader to keep our roads open and maintained. We have a small 4WD diesel Kubota tractor with a blade on the rear and a snow thrower on the front to keep our 300’ driveway clear and open. We maintain a well stocked pantry and also a chest freezer in case of equipment breakdown where excessive snowfall could strand us for a few days. We keep an ample supply of dog food for our pets in emergencies. While snow is a concern our community is capable of handling the annual snowfall properly and therefore not a major concern for us.
Our last concern is summer lightning storms. The thunder and lightning displays can be intimidating when you live at this elevation. They do not bother us as much as they sometimes scare our dogs who seek a place to hide in the house. How do you fit a 80+ pound dog in a space the size of a shoe box. Visit us when we have a lightning storm to see this impossible task first hand. Thunder echoes off the mountains and can be scary to pets. We have only had one lightning strike that caused any damage and that was to our deep well and washing machine. Seeing the intricate lightning flashes is awesome to watch but our dogs do not appreciate the natural display of beauty.
Beyond that our weather concerns are no more that what others experience at lower elevations and not as severe as many.

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

For more on Bruce and Carol visit them at Bruce and Carols Cabin Blog spot

off grid, homestead, survival, self sufficient, snow plowPart one of the joint collaboration between Ed Essex and Bruce McElmurray dealt with the question how does the weather impact your life and homestead. Ed and Laurie live in Washington state and Bruce and Carol live in Colorado. Both live remotely in the mountains with Ed living at 4,200’ elevation and Bruce living at 9,750’ elevation. While they live several states apart and at different elevations they both share similar weather experiences along with a few variances as well.

In this the second part they will answer what is their most difficult weather season and what their greatest weather experience has been. Both Ed and Bruce living at different elevations and different western locations have similar but slightly different concerns with the weather they experience. Their respective answers appear below.

What is the most difficult season you face each year?

Ed Essex:Winter has to be the hardest season for us. We’ve already mentioned the extra work taking care of the animals and our road. We also spend more time indoors. To combat cabin fever we built one extra room just for Laurie and one for Ed. If either one of us needs to “get away” we can go to our special hideouts.

Laurie uses her room for her many crafts. Sewing quilts, weaving and felting. She even has a tapestry loom in there. Ed built a typical man cave complete with sports, martial arts, outdoor sporting equipment and a TV.

Due to passive design features in our home we don’t heat or cool the house from July through mid September but all of the other months we heat with wood. We heat with a masonry heater. When the temperatures get below 15 F we also fire up the custom masonry kitchen stove. Maintaining a fire for that many months can be a lot of work. The masonry heater helps with that a lot because you don’t have to tend it all day and all night long. You just build a fire every 12 hours. It will burn for about two hours and you shut it down and enjoy the radiated heat for the rest of the 12 hour shift.

Even though winter is the hardest we are most physically active from April to October. Property maintenance, gathering wood and gardening are quite time consuming.

Bruce McElmurray:While winter is 7-8 months long and we are involved with an average of 264” of snowfall per year I believe the other three seasons are more labor intensive. In the winter we plow and throw snow with our small Kubota tractor coupled with considerable shoveling. We heat our small cabin with a Yotul wood stove and while we carry in firewood each day the more intense physical activity is the cutting, splitting and stacking the 9-11 cords of firewood required to see us through the winter season. As soon as the snow melts we initiate cutting firewood and usually stop around the first of September.

Between doing house/property maintenance, growing a garden, walking our three German Shepherd dogs and working in some recreation the other three seasons are far more physically intense than winter. Winter is actually quite pleasant with the low humidity and temperatures between 0 and 30 degrees F. Our cabin is pretty small so we spend a lot of out time outside comfortably. We live pretty close to nature and Carol makes most of our meals from scratch and what we have grown during the summer.

Since we live where wild predatory animals also live we have our back yard fenced with a 6’ high fence. Therefore much of our time is “let the dogs out, bring the dogs in, let the dogs out, etc” While we have never had a serious close encounter we prefer to err on the side of caution and keep our fur friends as safe as possible. Summer thunder storms can be loud and intimidating for our fur friends even though they are indoor most of the time. Thunder echos though out mountains and can even intimidate us. The Winter is a quiet time of the year for the most part and the quiet can be daunting but we have TV, books to read and enough outside activity to keep us busy plus we get along together very well.

What is the most difficult weather you have experienced since living in the mountains?

Ed Essex: In our four years here we’ve had a wildfire, an earthquake and record wind and rain storms. The fire was the scariest. If we had not taken all the precautions we did we would have lost our home and everything else.

Bruce McElmurray:In the 16+ years we have lived here we have had unusually heavy snow storms (6 feet in one storm), a 4.7 magnitude earthquake, a lightning strike very near our home, and several micro bursts that broke off several trees about half way up. We also had a wildfire that came within about 15 miles from our home. Other than that our weather is usually very nice and with low humidity it is easy to be outside without feeling chilled to the bone in the winter. We have a lot of sunshine and our temperatures range between 50 degrees F in the summer to 80 degrees. The earthquake was the first one anyone recalled in the past 100+ years and the micro bursts have been very rare. While the weather controls much of what we do and can regulate our outside time for the most part it is mild and pleasurable weather.


In the next parts Ed and Bruce will discuss their greatest weather fear, how they would change their homesteads differently due to the weather, how often they deal with bad weather and being self reliant considering the challenge of mountain weather and what they have learned dealing with the weather in the mountains.


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

For more on Bruce and Carol visit them at Bruce and Carols Cabin Blog spot



When mountain homesteading remotely the weather tends to be a major player in your lifestyle with its ever present changes and has to be considered a major factor in the life of a mountain homesteader. The following is a collaborative effort by Ed Essex and Bruce McElmurray who both homestead in the mountains but with several states between them. They both answered eight questions on how weather affects their lives.

Ed and Laurie Essexoff grid, homestead, survival, self sufficient

Ed and Laurie moved to the Okanogan Highlands in Eastern Washington State while in their late fifties. Their 40 acre homestead consists of half open space with green grass and sage brush and the other half forested with pine, fir, and tamarack trees. The elevation is 4,200 feet. Their three-mile-long access road to the property is dirt and includes a 1000-foot vertical climb. The nearest small town is 20 miles away and anything larger with more services is 50 miles from the homestead.
They currently have 2 horses, 3 Angora goats, 11 chickens, 2 cats, and an Anatolian Shepherd livestock guardian dog. They spend their time maintaining the property, wood cutting, taking care of animals, gardening and they both work at their website business: or Off Grid Works.

The homestead consists of a 1,400 square-foot home, a 1,300 square-foot barn, and a few smaller outbuildings including the chicken coop. They are completely off grid. They utilize a septic system, water comes from a 300-foot deep well, and power is solar with a backup generator.


Bruce and Carol McElmurray

Bruce and Carol live in S. Colorado near the small town of Ft. Garland. They moved to their mountain location on 11 acres, 9,750 feet in elevation, in 1997. Their property is heavily wooded with two springs that that flow all year long. They live within a gated/covenant community of land owners and as such are not allowed to have live stock or fowl. It would be risky trying to maintain those animals anyway with the wild animals such as bear, coyotes, bobcat, lynx, wolves and mountain lions presence.

They live in their 900 square-foot cabin and have a woodshed and detached garage. They heat our cabin with a Yotul wood stove and a small space heater. They are on the grid for electricity and have a 215’ deep well that provides them pure and tasty drinking water. The association of land owners does dirt road maintenance and snow removal and we have over 4,500 acres set aside for recreation. Both Bruce and Carol are retired but work harder at being retired than when they held salaried jobs. They live in their cabin with their three German Shepherd Dogs, Bozwell, Sarah and Echo.

They cut, split, stack about 9-11 cords of firewood per year to keep them warm in winter months. The nearest town (Ft. Garland) is 20 miles away and the next nearest town is 45 miles. For more on Bruce and Carol and their lifestyle go to:

How does the weather impact your life and homestead?

Ed Essex: Our weather consists of all four seasons. Spring, summer, and fall are short and winter is long. Our winters start sometime in October and go through March. Spring is typically April through June. Summer ends in August. Fall is September and part of October. Weather has a huge impact on our daily lives. In fact our whole lifestyle. Temperatures can range from +105F (rare at this elevation) to -13F and even colder in years past. The growing season is short so we have to start plants early in the house and transplant to the garden. We built an insulated cold frame for the south side of the house so we could grow vegetables in the winter. We’ve also learned to grow vegetables inside the house in winter.

The weather affects our 3-mile-long dirt road. We are the only ones up here with the capability to maintain the road. That means repairing washouts after a torrential downpour and plowing snow all winter long. It might even consist of spreading sand by hand on the scariest portions of the road when it turns to solid ice.

Cold weather makes taking care of the animals more difficult starting with keeping their drinking water from freezing. Laurie often feeds the chickens warm meals she has to prepare. Because we produce our own power we can’t afford enough watts for luxuries like heated water troughs.

We spend way more human energy heating our home than most people. We start cutting, splitting and stacking wood on and off from April to September. Fire season is hot and dry and wildfires are common. We experienced a wildfire our first summer here. Fire prevention is part of our property maintenance.

Bruce McElmurray: The weather is probably the largest condition that impacts our life and homestead. Weather in the mountains is pretty unpredictable. We actually have five seasons with winter lasting about seven months. The other seasons are Spring, Summer, Fall and Mud season which falls between Winter and Spring. Much of our spring and summer is spent cutting, splitting and stacking firewood. Winter is long and plenty of firewood is required to keep us warm. Spring is a time for planting our little garden since the growing season is very short. At 9,750’ elevation we have to have hardware cloth enclosed garden boxes with a sun filter over them to keep the young plants from burning up or the rodents from eating all we produce. Weather dictates we have to take extra precautions to bring our garden to maturity. Often we have to use spring water on the plants as Colorado is a semi arid State.

The weather actually dictates what we can grow and how we have to structure our lives in the mountains. Late winter when the roads get muddy we have to time our trips to town when the roads are frozen in early morning or after the sun sets. Two of our dogs are sensitive to thunder storms and we have to plan our trips to town when there are no storms forecast. Thunder storms are pretty awesome in the mountains where the thunder echoes off the mountains. It is not hard to see why it scares the dogs and counter measures and training have not been able to calm them.

Our temperatures range from low 80’s in the summer to a few degrees below 0 in the winter. Our temperatures are very comfortable with low humidity and few bugs. Good for sleeping nights with the windows open in the summer and cozy in the winter. Even in the winter when the temperatures drop at night the days are comfortable around 20-30 degrees.


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

For more on Bruce and Carol visit them at Bruce and Carols Cabin Blog spot


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.



Four years ago we moved from our cozy convenient condominium to a custom off grid home in the mountains of Eastern Washington State. We are located 20 miles from the nearest small town and 40 miles from something larger.

Our new home is at 4200’ elevation and is a homestead of sorts with goats, chickens, and horses. We grow much of our own food and have learned to garden the year ‘round.

I’ve always defined off grid as providing your own water, septic, and power. So what DID we give up by going off grid?

off grid, survival, septic field, gravity septic system, self sufficientSeptic/Sewer – We installed a larger than needed septic system on our property. It is designed in the simplest form. It is gravity flow down the hill from our house and consists of two 60’ lines and a 1000 gallon two compartment tank. 
The only maintenance required is to have the tank pumped out periodically. Recommendation is once a year but with only two of us using an oversize system it won’t be necessary to do it that often.
We are now responsible if anything goes wrong but with this simple gravity system it should last for years to come trouble free. If there is an issue we have 40 acres to choose from on where to relocate our present system.
Once installed the only thing we have given up to provide our own waste management system is the monthly bill (from the local government sewer provider) which always seems to go up.

well, deep water well, pure water, off grid, survival, self sufficiency

Water – We get our water from our 300’ deep well. It has two sources, one at 118’ and another at 200’. Our well has been in operation for about 10 years and has never run dry. The water is clean and delicious.

We have to maintain our well, pump, and waterlines. With a public water source you don’t have to maintain anything except for maybe the waterlines on your own property. As a tradeoff for assuming full responsibility for our own water we had to give up the following:
Rising costs on a yearly basis or the threat of rising costs due to a “less than average snowfall” each year. Water additives like chlorine and fluoride. Agencies fighting over control of the water. Private and public fighting over the use of water from lakes, rivers and streams. Where I came from there was always a discussion or battle concerning water control and use.


living off grid, solar panels, solar, solar power, solar energy, self suffcient

Power: We get all of our power from our solar panels and battery backup system. We have all of the conveniences and appliances that any modern household has but since many of you find that hard to believe I will list them here specifically: microwave oven, TV, computer, washer and dryer, dishwasher, refrigerator, freezer, and vacuum cleaner. Our water pump is ¾ HP 240V. I can plug in a 240V welder and use it if I want to. Solar power has come a long way in the past 10 years. We are now in our fourth season with solar power. Again, as in the two examples above, we have to maintain our systems. No one is going to do it for us.

What have we given up for the use of the sun? To date our system has been operational 24/7 since we made the final connection. No more worries about outages due to downed power lines from wind and ice storms or someone taking out a power pole with their car. No more unsightly power poles and lines. No more monthly bills or threats of rising costs, in fact solar costs have been going down.

All in all we haven’t really had to give up anything except convenience for producing our own sewer, water, and power and the maintenance and repairs do fall on our shoulders.
Public services are more convenient but come with a list of negatives from rising costs to battles over jurisdictions and what we should or shouldn’t add to the water or whether we should or shouldn’t have dams and on and on and on. I’ll take off grid anytime now that I’ve lived both ways because self reliance generates more old fashioned values and benefits than the alternative.

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


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.


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  • Our Home Design Features Part 1

    Our off grid home has many design features you don’t normally find in most houses. Many people come here to see what some of these features look like or how they operate. Since I seem to struggle with my memory more and more I thought it would be nice to list them out along with a little explanation of them. Most of them are explained in detail on prior Blogs. Roof overhangs – our eave length is calculated to keep the sun out of the windows in the summer which helps with natural cooling, and let the sun in during Read More
  • Our Home Design Features Part 2

    Our off grid home has many design features you don’t normally find in most houses. Many people come here to see what some of these features look like or how they operate. This is the second installment of features. Part 1 was published last week. See Part 1 Insulated cold frames – on the south side of the house we put in raised bed insulated cold frames. We have grown fresh cold weather type vegetables as cold as 18F with nothing to heat them but the sun. They are attached to the side of the house which never freezes. Plug Read More
  • I Built My House for Extreme Weather

    I went to work in the family commercial construction company in the early 1980's and by the end of the decade had worked my way into the office as a project manager. Commercial construction is entirely different than residential construction. For one thing, everything is engineered - structural, mechanical, and electrical engineers all take a part in the design of commercial buildings. It wasn't long before I discovered the term "100 year storm". Many structural designs and mechanical designs were based on the 100 year storm (I'm over simplifying for the purpose of this article). Things like concrete foundation design and Read More
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