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Archive for March, 2013

PostHeaderIcon Still moving into my off grid solar camper & some new projects

The move is still on going. I have a full work shop full of tools that I need to put somewhere. And I have a household full of now useless appliances and furniture. In a camper you do not have much storage space and there is not much power in an off grid camper. These things need to be stored somewhere.

I have a large outdoor storage tent I will be putting together to hold my workshop. I hope to run solar power to the workshop and possible run some power tools out in the forest. That would be pretty cool.

My appliances are getting stored away neatly in boxes and will be put on shelves in the storage tent.

I cant wait to have everything finished and then get on to some real off grid living projects. I have so much planned for the next months.

I spent last night watching the house of a friend who is out of state while workers fixed a leaking pipe. I spent the night there. Cannot say that I slept there though. It is an apartment house with thin walls. You can hear a lot of noises in there. It is a huge difference from my little off grid home in the forest. Makes me love my home even more.

Sadly I could not get connected to their internet no matter what I tried. It is ironic that I have awesome internet in the middle of the woods but cannot get online in a house. Anyway, that explains why there was no video yesterday. Sorry.

This morning when I returned to my off grid camper it was COLD. It was 37 degrees in here. I had to get a fire going right away. It took a few hours to get it warm again. When you live in the forest and let your home get cold, it takes a long time to get it back up to a comfortable temperature again.

I have started to tap maple trees a few days ago and plan to make maple syrup this year. Keep watching for updates. I will be making a full video about the whole process when its done.

Today was a very full day. I got my old bicycle generator hooked up again. It was left here in the forest last October when I began my move. The winter weather prevented me from finishing the move. That is a good thing because here I am back again. I did not have to move that back and forth for nothing. I was riding it a bit today to charge my batteries. It was very cloudy today and there was not much usable solar energy.

Many of you will ask me how long it takes to charge up the batteries with a bike generator. Well, the answer is it depends on how low the batteries are. But it takes a good few hours to get them charged enough for an evening inside the camper with lights and my laptop. I figure about 3 hours on average, but as much as 10 hours if they were fully discharged. The solar panels produced some power though so I did not need to ride much. The bike helps assist the solar.

I also got my water tank back in place and ready to make a rain water collection system. Last summer I had a nice setup. I hope to rebuild it soon. I have a 30 gallon water tank from an old camper that I use for my rain water storage. Then I can pour from that into my camper. I can also take the large tank to the creek to fill up. I will show that soon.

I now have a welcome mat in front of the camper door. Its not pretty but it is functional. It helps take the dirt off my shoes before I enter. I do not wear shoes indoors, but take them off inside the door. But it helps to keep the dirt and dust down the less you track into the doorway.

Tonight I am able to run some of my overhead LED lights and keep my laptop charged. That is all I ask for now.

Here is today’s video:

PostHeaderIcon The Off Grid Solar Camper Water Supply and Dwindling Winter Solar Power

It has been cloudy for days here this week and my solar power supply is dwindling. I was down to 12.0 volts last night. My water supply is also running out. Last night I was down to my last half gallon.

Living off the grid is a balance between saving everything and trying to be comfortable as possible in the middle of the forest. This is a true learning experience every day.

When you have nothing but solar power to run your home, a few cloudy days can mean disaster. I did not have enough power to spare for light last night so I was using dollar store solar path lights inside to see my way around. I also have an LED rope light I string up to give a bit of light in the 32 foot camper.

I was also down to my last half gallon of water last night. In spring, after the freezing nights are past, I will connect a rain water collection system to provide fresh drinking water. I will make a water filter as well, to make sure the water is safe to drink. But for now, everything freezes at night and I have to wait. I was melting snow for drinking but now the snow is all dirty and melted down to the last few inches. Now my water supply is running out.

It is also very cold in this camper at night so I got a couple fleece doggie blankets yesterday at the hardware store on sale for $3 each. I put up the blankets over some windows at night to help keep the chill out a bit better.

I also got the idea to put up some aluminum foil on the ceiling. I have no paneling up yet, so the insulation was showing. This camper was water damaged and I got it for free, so I am not complaining. But it sure would be better to have it finished before jumping right out in the winter to live in a camper in the forest.

The aluminum foil should help radiate heat back down from the ceiling and prevent some heat loss at night. That is the idea anyway.

This morning I used a hand crank coffee mill to grind up some coffee beans for my morning coffee. I forgot how long this takes for a single cup of coffee. But it sure is worth it.

I was out helping some friends get to a bus this morning so I took my empty water jugs with me and filled them up. Now I have enough for another 4 days. I go though about one gallon per day in winter. This includes dish washing, bathing and drinking. You would be amazed how far you can make water go when it is scarce. In summer I use a lot more water. I normally drink a gallon of water per day in summer.

On the way to town and back I charged up my cell phone in the car. When you are off the grid, you take every opportunity to charge up your electronics.

The sun was shining on and off quite a bit today so I have light this evening. Nice.

Here is today’s video:

PostHeaderIcon The off grid solar camper. Snowbound for days, I finally got out.

I have been snowed in since Monday when I moved the camper to its new off grid location deep in the forest. After bringing my car out to the middle of the woods with a load of personal items, it was snowing so heavy I was not able to get it out again.

Yesterday I tried to get the camper out of the forest, but it was too slippery with all the snow and mud left over from the heavy snow storm on Monday. But early this morning I had an idea. It was about 20 degrees F outside and my camper door was frozen shut. When I finally did get out, I checked the ground and it was frozen solid. Hard as a rock. So I fired up the car and drove right out, all the way to the main road, as if driving on pavement. The ground and snow were so hard it was perfect.

I left the car and headed back to the camper for my morning coffee. Remember, I ran out of coffee grounds and have no coffee grinder to grind the whole beans I have. So I dug around and found an old box of coffee singles. These are like tea bags full of coffee. They expired in January 2010, but I was desperate. So I heated up some water and poured it over a coffee bag.

I anxiously sipped on the coffee (mud). It tasted terrible. Oh well, its coffee right.

Today I will head out and get my coffee grinder from my old place.

I am tired of hand cutting wood, so I dug out my Homelight chain saw battery. I have a battery powered chain saw I never used. I got it cheap at a pawn shop because the batteries would not take a charge. There are two batteries and a charger. It holds about 30 seconds of charge, just enough to test the machine. Then the batteries drain themselves overnight again.

I hooked one up to my Bedini generator which restores lead acid batteries, hoping it might help. I need to cut wood easier somehow. This may take some time to restore the battery though, but its worth a try. I will follow up later.

When I tried to get out of the camper this morning the door was frozen shut again. I had a hard time getting it open. It was only 35 degrees inside this morning and about 20 out.

I went to town this afternoon to get some provisions finally. At the hardware store I found a couple fleece doggie blankets on sale for only $3. I got two of them for my camper windows.

I also got a sawzall blade for my battery operated sawzall that I never used. I figured I could give it a try on cutting fire wood.

After shopping I headed back to the old address, in the forest and picked up my old 87 GMC truck. Its a 4wd but has street tires on it. But I made it out of the hills and slopes of the old property and got it safely home with a load of my shop tools.

I will NOT be snowed in again. I have my truck!!

I also brought my seedlings home from the old place. I hope they make it here in the cold camper. We will see.

Here is today’s video:

PostHeaderIcon Off Grid Camper Living – Laundry Bathing And Dish Washing Off The Grid

Today was laundry and washing day. When you live off the grid water becomes a very valuable resource. One of the most valuable and important things in your off grid life. You will learn to save water and use it very sparingly. See how I wash, bathe and do dishes off the grid.

First..

Yesterday afternoon I spent some more time trying to insulate the camper more against the freezing cold night temperatures. This camper was free because it was badly water damaged. It is a work in progress, but is still not finished. Normally you would not jump out in the middle of winter to live in an unfinished camper. But I had no choice.

The cabinets above the desk (formerly bed) had some previous water damage and I had removed the old, rotted wood and insulation. But I never finished it. Yesterday I stuffed some insulation against the bare metal siding and closed it off with some dollar store hobby board. This has paper on two sides and foam in the middle. It adds another layer of insulation. And since this is a cabinet that only I will see, it does not matter how pretty it is.

Last night was very cold. The fire went out in the night. I cannot run the boiler at night for safety reasons until I get it fixed. I am snowed in so I cannot get supplies right now. I did not sleep well.

This morning it was 35 degrees in the camper. The outside door was frozen shut. I had to use a lighter to heat the door latch to even unlatch the door. The door frame was frozen shut all around as well and I had to kick it open carefully. Sadly this pulled off some weather stripping I will need to repair later.

I got the propane heater going on high and got a fire going in the wood stove to take the chill off. I only use the propane sparingly in order to save gas. It costs $20 for 15 pounds around here. A tank lasts about 4 nights if I use it on low all night. That is not very long.

When I went to make my morning cup of coffee, I discovered a terrible shock. I have coffee beans, but no coffee grinder. I left the grinders at the old place. The blizzard stopped me in mid move and half my stuff was left behind until the snow melts off.

I tried to get my car out today but failed. It is too slippery. I am stuck.

I want to say Thank You to a fellow youtuber who sent me a carbon monoxide detector and batteries for my safety. Thank you.

How to wash dishes, laundry and how to bathe off the grid…

Today I had to wash some dishes. Put a little water on the stove to heat up. Then pour a little bit of cold water in a bowl or container. I only had a bowl to wash, so it became my container. If you have a lot of dishes, use a plastic container to hold our wash water.

When your hot water is ready, pour a little in to get the water warm, not hot.

Wash your dishes all up first.

Now, if you have a lot of dishes, empty the wash water and rinse the container. Now pour some half-half hot and cold water in it. Rinse your dishes in the container.

When you are done, pour out the water. If you have a garden, this could be used to water plants.

The same thing goes for bathing yourself. Pour about a quarter gallon of cold water into your container. Then pour about a quarter gallon of hot water into it to make some warm water for bathing. Now you can dunk your head in and get your hair all wet. Then use soap and get it all lathered up. Now you can dunk your head back into the water to rinse. Cup your hands to bring up water to pour all over your head. You can also use a cup to rinse with.

When you hair is done, dry it with a towel. When living off the grid in winter, it will be cold. Bathing is done in steps.

Now take a wash cloth and start from your face, and work your way down to your feet. Soak the wash cloth in your bath water and use some soap to wash up with. Rinse in the tub of water each time.

When you are done, either pour out the water or use it for plants.

Today I washed my laundry. I had a decent load of clothes. This would normally cost me about $5 at the laundromat. No longer. I took a 5 gallon pail, my clothes, homemade soap and a new, clean toilet plunger down to the creek. The creek is about a good ten minute walk through dense forest by my off grid camper.

To wash clothes off the grid the easy way, fill a bucket half way with creek water. Put in some clothes. Not too many. Either 3-4 t-shirts, 6 pair of socks, 6 underwear, or a pair of jeans can be washed at one time.

Put in a little bit of laundry soap or shave a little bit off a bar of homemade soap. It does not take much at all.

Now take your toilet plunger and vigorously agitate the water for about two minutes. Then finished, take the bucket far from the creek and pour the water out.

Refill the bucket and put your clothes back in for the rinse cycle. Now agitate for about 30 seconds. When done pour out the water again and repeat the rinse cycle. Your clothes are done. You can hang them on a tree branch to drip off or leave the there to dry. If you have a laundry line, after the clothes have dripped out, you can hang them out to dry.

If you have very soiled clothes, you can heat up some water and put in your clothes. Add some soap and agitate for about 30 seconds. Now leave the clothes to soak for a couple hours. Then agitate for about 2 minutes. Rinse twice and your clothes should be cleaner than ever before, especially if you use homemade soap.

Part of solar living is that you are constantly monitoring the angle and position of the sun. I am always moving my Harbor Freight solar panels to point directly into the sun for the best charging current. If you keep doing this from dawn to dusk, you will see a gain in total usable energy each day.

Here is today’s video:

PostHeaderIcon Insulating and improving The Off Grid Solar Camper

Today was another very busy day getting the off grid camper insulated from the strong cold winds that seem to penetrate the camper from all sides. This old camper was free and needs a lot of work improving and insulating it for winter. Fine time to start, in winter.

Last night was freezing cold. After a relatively nice evening in the camper, I went to bed thinking I had done well with the day of work yesterday. I let the fireplace go out because it is not safe overnight with the boiler system. I cannot watch it, so I let it go out. Then it got really cold.

This morning it was 35 degrees in the camper. It was hard to get out of bed. The door to the outside was frozen closed and I had to break it free to get out. It was snowing again.

I had a one of the finest cups of coffee you would ever imagine. I used melted snow water which is fresh and pure tasting and adds a nice flavor to your coffee. It was good.

I finished duct taping off some of the windows I did not get to yesterday. Some of the windows were full of condensation and I wanted to let that out first. Today the sun was shining for a little while and it burnt off the moisture so I could tape off the rest of the windows on the outside of the camper.

I was also able to fire up my homemade radiant energy charger which restores old lead acid batteries. The sun was out so I was using the extra power. I have a pair of old electric wheel chair batteries I am trying to restore. Lets see how it goes.

I had my laptop, cell phone and battery powered vacuum cleaner charging as well.

When you live off the grid, and the sun shines, you use all the power you can and charge up your devices right away. You never know when the sun may come back out again.

My snow cooled refrigerator was doing well. My meat and cheese stays nice and cold inside. Just like at home. I do not have enough solar power to run the fridge, so I am using snow. It works well.

I have been melting snow in a pot on top of my old wood stove for drinking water. After it is melted, I filter it through a coffee filter into a milk jug. So far I have made about 3 gallons of water in 2 days. It takes a lot of heat energy to melt a pot of snow. I guess that is why my snow fridge is working so well.

Another day of work is done. It does not sound like much, but living off the grid itself is a full time job. There is always something to do.

Watch today’s video: