Monday, February 15, 2016

This View

I wonder if I will ever grow tired of this view.  I know, the property is still very new to me. A novelty, almost.  But I truly believe that I will never grow tired of this view.

This photo was taken from the back "deck" of The Shack during one of my first full weekend visits there.  I spent the weekend cleaning the stove pipe, gathering wood, and murdering the invasive vines that are pulling down my trees. 

My trees.  Not someone else's trees. My. Trees. 

I daydream constantly about the best way to turn this into my retirement homestead with as little debt as possible.  I study about chickens, and rabbits, and goats.  I knew as soon as I set foot on the property that it was where I wanted to be.  Now it's just a matter of getting myself up there.

Speaking of view, this is the view on the other side of the road.  I'll know why my chickens will cross the road. To see the view on the other side.

Heaven.




Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Book Review - A Widow's Walk Off-Grid

A Widow's Walk Off-Grid: An inspiring true story of courage and self-determination is a story that resonated with me at this point in my life.  The author, Annie Dodds, responded to her husband's long terminal illness, death, and resulting financial poverty by finding life on a remote dirt road in an off-grid, rickety house. Anyone interested in a true story about transitioning into off-grid living will likely find it hard to put this book down. 




The Annie Dodds Off-Grid Story


Annie survives the long illness and death of her husband. Then has to decide what is next for her. While most people "plan to go off-grid" she tells us in a radio interview, "I think I was in an emotional coma, I didn't plan. I knew what I wanted to do, but I didn't have a plan".  

With very little money and few belongings, she moved many miles away from civilization into a rundown old farmhouse. She moved to the little house, with few neighbors and no corner stores, out of emotional and financial necessity; in order to live a dream.

"I would live a relaxed country life, the kind of life I once wanted, but had put on hold, because our dreams are not always the dreams of those we love"

Not a How-To Off-Grid Guide


If you are looking for a detailed DIY guide, there are better books to turn to. But if you would enjoy a woman's tale of finding riches in friendships and of finding life in an 80 year old rundown house on 50 acres, you are in the right place. 

Annie moves into a little house just off ten miles of caliche dirt road between two highways. Miles to the nearest decent neighbor and 30 miles to the closest real store. With no electricity, running water, or girls' room facilities, Annie and her dog Tippy make a home. Annie continues to live through some circumstances that would have overcome many people. 

"Live your dream, life is not chapters"

A Widow's Walk Off-grid is written like a journal, rather than chapters, because the past "keeps jumping up" and impacts her story. The story doesn't move in exacting linear fashion and seems to backtrack at times. But I found that this style echoes what it feels like when I spend time in my off-grid, dry cabin.  Life doesn't move in a nice, tidy line from point A to point B. 

Living and Living Your Dream

Annie is an example of jumping in and living the dream she had begun to imagine while reading Backwoods Magazine during her husband's illness.  She is also an example of how we can create family from friends and help each other live. 

While off-grid living is far from glamorous - in fact, it consists of daily hard physical work and moments of intense sadness and fear - there is something liberating about being able to fend for yourself.  The small joys of life become easier to see without the constant ambient glow of commercial life in our eyes. 


Recommended Reading by Annie Dodds:
Backwoods Home Magazine

Interview:
Lil Suburban Homestead interviews Annie Dodds

Similar Reading:
If you enjoy reading Widow's Walk Off-Grid; An inspiring true story of courage and self-determination I believe you will also enjoy reading Tales of a Female Nomad: Living at Large in the World. 



Sunday, February 7, 2016

First Meals at the Shack

Oh my wonderful plywood hunting shack perched near the top of a ridge. A perfect place to relax away from the rat race. It is an off-grid, dry cabin suitable for weekend getaways and camping trips. So far there are no utilities - no running water and no refrigeration. What follows are my first attempts with preparing hot and satisfying meals in off-grid conditions.

My Off-grid Kitchen Facilities


My "kitchen" at the Shack includes a dilapidated gas BBQ grill outdoors, a small wood stove indoors, no running water, no utilities, and no refrigeration. I have a refrigerator that the previous owners left. But I do not have utilities connected and I have no immediate plans to do so. Thus far, the refrigerator makes a fine mouse-proof dry goods pantry.

I really like hamburgers and hot dogs but didn't want to eat only hamburgers and hot dogs. I wanted easy and tasty meals. Usually meals for one. And because I carry in my water, I didn't want to have many dishes to wash after each meal.  Cooking in foil packets turned out to be a great solution.

Hobo Packs


My first few meals cooked inside consisted of meat chunks and veggies baked in tinfoil. I didn't didn't realize that someone had given this style of cooking a name. It's called a Hobo Pack.  I just learned that today while trying to find additional easy, off-grid recipes.



My version includes whatever meat was for sale at the grocery store closest to the shack. Cubed or sliced into smaller pieces. Sliced onions and bell peppers. Sprinkled with "hot shots" pepper.  I love my hot shots. If I can have only one spice available, I'd choose hot shots every time.

Hot Shot pepper blend
I have added cubed potatoes when I have some.  I spray the inside of the foil with a cooking spray if I am adding potatoes in order to keep the potatoes from sticking.  Then all I do is wrap the foil tightly and toss the pack into the coals to cook.  I turn the pack several times during cooking.

I warm flour tortillas on a skillet, on top of the wood stove, or laid across the top of the hobo pack inside the stove, to serve with these hobo packs.

I was able to finally find a small enameled cast iron dutch oven that fits perfectly into my stove.  Between that amazing little dutch oven and the endless flexibility of cooking in tin foil packs, I will surely eat well while at The Shack.

Give it a Try


I'm not good with sharing recipes, since I just throw things together. But I can assure you that if I end up with tender and tasty meals, you can too. If you need an easy way to cook while camping or off-grid, but aren't sure where to start, the Food Network provides a list of 50 Things to Grill in Foil.








Wednesday, February 3, 2016