How We Have Tap Water Off Grid

How We Have Tap Water Off Grid - SledDogSlow.com
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Do we live off grid? Yup. Do we have clean, drinkable, running water on tap? Yup, got that too! I thought today I’d talk about how we cobbled together our water system to create clean tap water off grid.

Check out this video detailing our system!

And just in case you would like to read about it rather than watch the video, I’ll include an explanation here as well.

As anyone who has been following our off grid, off road adventure so far knows, we haul our water from a nearby creak to our property. We’ve been hauling water roughly 20 gallons at a time for a year now, but thanks to our new Yamaha Rhino, we can now do 100 gallons at a time! The water is then poured into our recently acquired 1100 gallon reservoir tank, then the appropriate amount of bleach is added for purifying. From there we use a pump inside our house to move the water.

First the water is pulled through a sediment filter.

This filter catches any large detritus such as leaves and bugs. The filter is placed before our pump so that it doesn’t get gummed up with anything.

Next in our system is the pump itself.

 

We have a this Everbilt pump. It pulls water from our reservoir, through the sediment filter, then pumps it into our well tank.

We have an 86 gallon Water Worker well tank.

The steel well tank has a bladder inside that is pumped full of water. The rest of the tank is filled with air so that it pushes on the bladder when full. This is what creates pressure to push the water through pipes into our other systems. The air pressure and water pressure both have to be right for this system to work!

Next on our system is a pressure gauge, then fittings for our hoses leading to other systems.

The pressure gauge needs to be at the waters exit so we know if we have enough pressure to run everything. Our fittings lead hoses to our sink, washing machine, shower, and an outdoor garden hose. It may seem odd to pump water inside then right back out to the garden, but our well tank had to be indoors to keep from freezing during Alaska’s harsh winters.

The washing machine and garden hoses lead directly into those systems. Our shower hose leads into an Eco Temp propane instant hot water heater.

This allows us to have instant hot showers when ever we want out here. We really love this system because we spent a year heating water on the stove and pouring it into a camp shower. Having a shower that’s a tad longer than 5 gallons is such a luxury!

Another hose leads to our water filter, which feeds into our sink.

This allows us to have tap water off grid. I still find it hard to believe sometimes that I can just turn the faucet and get a glass of water! For most of the last year we had been using a DIY berkey filter we made with 5 gallon buckets (post here). It worked great for filtering drinking water, but it was really slow. There never seemed to be any extra water, so we boiled or bleached water for dishes and bathing in. Our water filter now is a Kube system. It can filter 1600 gallons before the filters will need to be changed, and has a class 4 filter for things like giardia and cryptosporidium.

 

And that is how we get drinkable tap water off grid!

 

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The Good, The Bad, The Gross – Outhouse Care

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Before we decided to go crazy, drop our entire lives, and move to the Alaskan bush, I had rarely used and outhouse. I’d used park maintained porta potties mostly. And maybe a real, honest to goodness outhouse in an orchard or on a camping trip a few times. But I’d never needed to even think about maintaining an outhouse until now, and as we all know, maintenance matters! Outhouse care is especially important when the outhouse is in use 24/7/365.

The Good, The Bad, The Gross: Outhouse Care by SledDogSlow.com

Proper outhouse care starts with building an outhouse correctly.

Outhouses are receptacles for waste. This means that they should not be placed to close to buildings, gardens, or water supplies. In many areas there will be codes regarding the building and use of outhouses. Check with your local municipality to make sure everything will be placed to code. Fines for improper waste disposal can be huge! And there really is an outhouse sweet spot that is not to far from the home, but not to close either, so placement really matters. Next time we move it, I think the outhouse could stand to be a little further away, and actually in line with the house rather than going around the back side.

There are a lot of things to think about that go into caring for a year round outhouse, once you get it built.

One of the considerations of using an outhouse vs a septic system is animals. I’ve touched on our issues with the dogs briefly in this postbut there are other critters to consider. I’m still trying to figure out how to remove the sneaky wasp nest that showed up before it gets to big. And yes, before we fixed the back of our outhouse there was the occasional chicken party in there (blech!). There are also mice, voles and squirrels which all love to steal toilet paper, fresh or used! Switching from using a flushing toilet to an outhouse has had a definite ick factor that we needed to get over.

Part of that “ick” factor is what to do with toilet paper and wipes.

Unlike plumbed toilets, an outhouse will only hold so much before a new hole needs to be dug. It’s important to dig the hole deep enough, and fill it slow enough, that the contents have time to compost. A well cared for outhouse can last years in the same spot! To keep our outhouse from filling too quickly, we made the decision to bag butt paper, which tends compost slower than other things going down the hole. And wipes take even longer to break down than tissue paper, so we burn them along with the rest of our cardboard and paper garbage. It’s definitely gross, but better than an overflowing outhouse!

 Another outhouse issue to consider would be insects.

Composting waste of any kind tends to attract flies, and outhouses are no different. Cutting down on the smell helps prevent this to some extent. We use wood ash from our wood stove for this purpose. Products such as lime and pine shavings also help cut down on smells, though lime will slow decomposition.

Outhouse buildings should be completely enclosed and have screens over any vents to prevent insects from making their way inside. This will help with flies and mosquitoes (because nobody likes itchy privates).  Also, if you are lucky enough to collect a spider in an outhouse try to leave him be. Spiders make short work of many flying insects and are beneficial to have in outhouses.

 Year round outhouse care means additional winter chores.

On top of the gross scale for outhouse care would be tipping the ‘poopcicle’ in winter. Decomposition slows to a near stop in freezing temperatures, which we definitely had this winter. Freezing temperatures also meant that things would, well, freeze. Combine the two and what’s left is a frozen tower of yuck in the outhouse that gets taller with every use. If the original hole is deep enough, or the outhouse isn’t always in use, there is no need to think about the ‘leaning tower of pee-za’. If one (or neither) of these is true, then it become necessary to take a big poking stick into the outhouse to occasionally knock that sucker over. When things start to thaw out, so will the toppled poo pile.

Freezing weather also means a cold toilet seat. I know some people who hang their outhouse seat near the fireplace when not in use and bring it with them when using the loo, but  I didn’t want to carry a toilet seat back and forth all the time. What we did instead was use two inch foam insulation board as a toilet seat. The foam board reflects body heat back to you and nearly instantly warms up to body temperature. It feels warm to sit on even if there is snow on the seat (ask me how I know!).

The best thing about outhouse care though, is having the funniest ice breaker for meeting neighbors in the bush!

I’m grateful to every one who talked outhouses with me when we moved here so we could figure these things out. There’s nothing like a little potty humor to make instant friends  😉

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Rookie Mistakes We Made As Beginning Homesteaders

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I’ll be the first to admit that when we first started our homesteading journey, we made a lot of rookie mistakes. We spent to much on things we didn’t need. Then we turned around and didn’t buy things we really should have. We skipped around when adding animals, buildings and tools. That is, until we learned to prioritize better. We have learned a lot of lessons the hard way. Starting a homestead from scratch, and building all our own infrastructure, is much harder than I had ever imagined it could be. Hopefully writing this all down will help you avoid a few of the mistakes we made!

Rookie Mistakes We Made As Beginning Homesteaders - Sled Dog Slow

Our biggest rookie mistake was not planning anything.

Sure we had ideas for what we wanted to do, and we wrote things down, but we never really had a set plan. There was no “house goes here, chickens go here, garden goes here” kind of plan. Not until we had already put the chickens too close to the house. So as we expanded we just threw things where it was convenient right then, rather than were we knew we wanted them permanently. If we had planned better we could have saved ourselves from a lot of the other mistakes. A homestead planning binder is necessary to keep everything organized.

Another mistake we made was jumping in to new things without preparing.

We’d get an idea and go for it. More chickens? Heck yeah. Pigs? Lets do it! Greenhouse and garden? Check! And then the inevitable fail. We wanted everything to work and be productive right away. Kyle was so disappointed to find out our chickens wouldn’t lay until the spring after we purchased them. At least we were able to push our pig order back to this summer, and have learned enough to hold off on beehives and other animals until next year.

We didn’t understand the weather in our new area well either.

Personally, coming from a desert area, I didn’t truly understand what living in a rainforest meant until we were hit by our first rainy season here. A little drowned garden and a lot of mud later, know I know how wet it can be! It also helps to know where the low spots collect so we can avoid building there. We also thought we were prepared for long winters, but they are much longer and darker than I could have imagined!

Also, we made the mistake of not budgeting from the beginning.

We have spent so much money on materials for our homestead, when we should have just invested in a saw mill from the beginning. Small purchases can add up really quickly. We should have figured out sooner that just because something is new doesn’t make it better. At least we have a few places we know to go for cheap homestead goods now!

The biggest lesson we’ve learned in starting our homestead from scratch is that it’s okay to go slow.

There is no reason to push to the point of injury to get everything done in one day. Pacing yourself in the endless work (it is endless) of beginning a homestead is extremely important. There should always be a realistic timeline for goals to be completed. This will save so much frustration down the line.

All things aside, we are still learning on our homestead journey. I’m sure there will be many more mistakes and lessons for us in the future!

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Three Surprising Places To Find Cheap Homestead Goods

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Homesteading is not cheap. From animal feed to fencing to the animals themselves, there are quite a few things a beginning homestead will need. When we first started out we made the mistake of purchasing everything from a big box store. We spend thousands of dollars before we realized we could buy things way cheaper, we just needed to know where to go.

Second Hand Stores

One thing we’ve figured out is that second hand stores are often full of tools. Shovels, picks, drills, chainsaws. You name it, a second store probably has it. I’ve even seen a few bigger ticket items at the second hand stores around here, like tractors. Second hand stores are also great places to purchase homestead goods because you can usually haggle the price.

Peoples Yards

If there is something in the neighbors yard they don’t use that you could, why not ask to buy it? While this may seem somewhat odd, anyone who’s seen the show Pickers knows that its worth it to ask. We’ve gotten old trampolines, building materials and even a saw mill this way. It’s also possible to get plant cuttings or seeds and bulbs like this. Even if the person says no, you didn’t loose anything by asking. Just make sure to have cash in hand for an offer!

 

Facebook

It seems like Facebook is taking over the world (or at least the internet) these days. We’ve purchased second hand cars, goats and chickens this way. Facebook is also a great way to get information. Our peninsula has Facebook groups just for animal and garden advice. Take a look around, maybe there is a group in your area that will be useful. I also find Facebook especially helpful when I have something in mind that I need. It’s easy for responders to tag friends who might know something in the comments. Even if the person reading my question doesn’t have what I need, they usually know someone who knows someone, and I end up getting the things I need.

I’m sure there are a lot of other great places to find cheap homestead items, but these are the main three that we use here. Where do you find your homestead deals?

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5 Risks When Living Life By The Tides

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5 Risks When Living Life By The Tides - Sled Dog Slow

One of the biggest challenges of where we live is our access. We live off road, and how we get to our home changes by the season. During the fall freeze and spring break up we are stuck on our property. During winter there is a 4 wheeler trail that, depending on the weather, can be driven on with a truck, wheeler, or snow machine. And during the summer, well, during the summer we live life by the tides.

Living life by the tides brings with it certain risks, and a lot of adventure!

Risk Number One: The possibility of getting stuck mid-beach with tide coming in.

We live about 15 miles from the end of the road. This means 15 miles of beach driving that has to be timed just right. The tide also goes right up to the cliff face, and there only two spots between our place and the road that you can get off the beach. There have been several times where we have left our wheeler on the beach and walked home. Either due to break downs or not being able to drive around a rocky point without flooding the engine, missing tide is never fun. There is even the possibility of sitting as far up the cliff as is manageable for several hours to wait out tide if the timing is wrong.

Risk Number Two: Getting Out In Case Of A Medical Emergency

On our beach there are two high tides and two low tides each day. During high tide there is no land access to our property, which means for roughly 8-10 hours a day there is no way to go anywhere. I’ve had one major accident out here already, when I fractured my teeth on the wheeler. Luckily that happened at low tide so I was able to drive right to the hospital. By the time the three hour drive to get there was over, my adrenaline was gone and I was starting to hurt. Having to wait for tide before leaving would have been even worse. Any serious emergency during high tide would require being medevaced out via helicopter. That’s not something I ever want to experience!

Risk Number Three: Damage To Vehicles

Ever seen a completely rusted out vehicle in a junkyard? Salt water does that, and really fast. Driving a car, truck or wheeler on the beach means rinsing it every trip (if possible). Even if the vehicle is rinsed, driving on the beach does serious damage to electrical and metal frames. Beach rigs don’t last half as long as road rigs, but this is the only way to get to our place for half the year!

life by the tides

Risk Number Four: Beach Changes

The beach changes every tide, and I really mean every tide. Rocks are moved, driftwood gets pushed around, and the occasional net (or whale) shows up.  The places that were solid last tide are suddenly soft now. Driving on the beach requires 110% concentration, or you end up with risk number five.

Risk Number Five: Loosing A Vehicle Entirely

We got to experience this one yesterday. There is an interesting combination of water/mud/clay on this beach that basically makes quick sand. There are several trashed vehicles on the beach from people getting stuck in this stuff. We got our new (to us) vehicle stuck, and where unable to pull it out with our come along, winch, and two wheelers. At this point we have to leave it until someone else risks a vehicle on the beach, then we will ask for some help getting it towed back to the road. I don’t have my fingers crossed or anything, but there is always the slight possibility that it may run after having all the fluids flushed. Provided the ocean doesn’t take it completely first.

Even with all the risks that our beach brings, and the heartache it’s caused, we are still enjoying every minute of living out here!

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