Tuesday, March 29, 2016

And Lovin Every Day

Have you ever been driving and a song comes on the radio and it fits your mood, or what is going on around you, so perfectly that it almost seems planned?  A musical synchronicity.  That is what happened to me on the drive home yesterday. It was the first time I had heard Luke Bryan's Huntin' Fishin and Lovin Everyday.  It was a perfect end to a 500 mile drive. So perfect that I want to share the song with you.

For spring break, I drove from Maryland to Indiana to visit my son and family. There is nothing better than visiting family; especially when that family includes your grandbaby.  As I drove back to Baltimore, from Indiana, I thought that I might stop for an overnight rest at my newly acquired hunting cabin.

Even though I was tired from the drive, and a bit sad about leaving family behind, I felt my spirits picking up as I drove the curving and scenic roads of West Virginia.  The sun was low and I'd be arriving at The Shack just at sunset.  I was looking forward to starting a fire in the wood stove and snuggling in a sleeping bag and relaxing for a night before finishing the long drive to Baltimore.  Then this new-to-me song started to play and I cranked it up.

The music and lyrics are not complex. In fact, they are a bit more repetitive than I usually like. But there is something moving about the song. I think because it speaks to country living and not just loving each day, but loving... every day. I look forward to when I'm able to replace the words with rockin' on my porch, pullin' weeds, and diggin' in the garden. Or milkin' goats and feedin' chickens.

Luke Bryan and Kill The Lights Tour

As soon as I returned home, I looked up the song.  I found that it is a track from the Kill The Lights album.  There are other songs on the album I am familiar with and love.  This is one of those rare albums that I'd buy for the entire album, not just one song. 

AND more good news, the Kill the Lights Tour begins in April 2016 and comes to areas near me - Charleston, West Virginia and Baltimore, Maryland!

Kill The Lights album

Related Music Site:

I tend to find my new country music Heart of Country Music.  The song reviews are really helpful and much of the music is sorted into very helpful categories. 

Sunday, March 20, 2016

How I Stay Warm at Night

Bass Pro Oversized
One of the biggest challenges of sleeping in an off-grid cabin is staying warm. At least it is for me.  I get cold easily.  Over the years I've used many different blankets and sleeping bags for camping. But I  always end up being the one who is bothered most by cold nights. There is good news. I have found a sleeping bag that is comfortable and warm. And works great for a chilly, off-grid cabin.

Sleeping in The Shack

So far, I have a solar panel set up that is sufficient for charging my cell phone, lighting a string of Christmas lights for light, and running a portable radio.  No running water and no utilities.  I have a wood stove for heat.  But even a wood stove in a Shack made of 2x4s and plywood isn't able to provide adequate heat in the cold nights.

I suppose I should mention that my shack sits just below a ridge in the beautiful Appalachians, in West Virginia.  It gets chilly and very windy there. The previous owners left a huge wall thermometer inside the shack. From where I sleep, in front of the wood stove, I can see it on the wall in the other room.  It has been between 20-30 degrees at times when I've been camping up there.

I'd be lying if I said I was completely toasty and slept through that entire night.  It wasn't toasty and I woke every couple of hours to refill the wood stove. I must learn to bank the embers a bit better than I do. But that will be a different story. Even though I wasn't toasty, I was comfortable.  And that was due to my sleeping bag. Well, the sleeping bag and the four-legged foot warmers.

In the Shack, I use a Bass Pro Shops Oversized Duckcloth sleeping bag.  The inside of the sleeping bag is flannel. Yes, flannel. I really like sleeping on flannel. The outside is "Duckcloth".  The heavy-duty zipper is clearly going to last for a long time.  One of the things I like the most about this sleeping bag is the wide area at the feet.  I hadn't realized how much I missed having room to move my feet in a mummy-style sleeping bag.

I only see two drawbacks for this sleeping bag.  One, it is so large that when it comes time to wash it, I will have to go to a laundromat with a super-sized machine.  Two, I would not want to use this bag on the ground - as I do other bags - because of my concern about washing it.  Otherwise, in a situation where there is some protection from the ground, this bag is an excellent choice.

A Sleeping Bag for Adventures Outside of the Protection of The Shack

As I mentioned above, I would not want to use my Bass Pro oversized bag on the ground.  I will continue to use my army surplus bag for outdoor activities where I'm sleeping directly on the ground.

Of all of the other sleeping bags I've owned over the years, this is my favorite bag for sleeping outside, directly on the ground. It is rated at 10 degrees below 0 farenheit.  There is a hood of the bag that draws shut to help keep the cold out.  And a "collar" or flap inside that also helps to keep the cold out.  The BEST part of this bag is that it is extremely washable and very quick to dry.  And stores easily in a small army bag.  I just stuff it into the bag. No bothering with folding or rolling.  Of course, as you know from the reason I love the first bag so much, you can guess that I feel confined in this bag. The mummy-style isn't my favorite thing.  I need room for my feet. And for my barking foot warmers to be able to get inside also.  But, that is just my personal preference.  Otherwise, this bag is also a great choice. 

Military Intermediate Cold Weather Sleeping Bag

There are many, many styles of sleeping bags to choose from. These are the two that fit my needs. For many years, I made the mistake of buying a certain sleeping bag just because someone told me to. Now I've come to the realization that it is better if I buy and use the bags that feel right to me.

Related Link: 

The Best Hiking, Camping, and Tiny House Pillow Ever Made. Does that sound strange? A tiny house pillow? If you have needed space-saving items, then you understand completely. This compressible pillow is perfect for small spaces and travel.


Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Do You See What I See?

Look closely, and tell me what you see. Take your time. And be honest.

Does this idea of living thrill you or traumatize you? 

This is a photo of almost half of The Shack. It is an off-grid, dry cabin. And I use the word "cabin" very loosely.  As you can see, it is little more than a frame and plywood.  I believe it was built in two sections. The top section (on the other side of the blanket curtain) appears to have been built first.  And appears to be more solid - as solid as 2x4s and plywood can be. The bottom section, the section you see, seems to have been thrown together.  There is not one thing that is square or level.  Not one section of the frame is "on center" and goodness, I won't even point out the so-called rafters.

What do you see?

I camp here now, when I can.  And I'll have to decide how to build or remodel.  I plan to retire here and homestead; living off-grid if possible.  I will eventually put a sewer in. But hope to never hook up to county electricity.  

What do you see?

I have friends who make a face while they ask questions about bathroom facilities, cooking, cutting wood, and etc.  I have other friends who excitedly ask when they can come along.  They see it differently.

I see hope  And a future.  

It is definitely along the lines of trash versus treasure. And beauty in the eye of the beholder.  Some of my friends are a bit horrified about my camping adventures.  About how quickly I'd live there if I could.  With the Shack in that condition, if I had local employment. 

I see hard work and happiness.

Speaking of hard work, I need to get busy and start that list like Tracey and Craig have for their simple living homestead.  I recently found their blog and was excited to see that A) someone has a list very similar to mine and B) it's possible to check things off that list as complete! 

I see a long to-do list and a sense of pride as I check off things as simple as adding to the wood pile all by myself. I see a dream slowly coming true. 

Related Links:

Wednesday With Words - The big changes that occurred in 2015 - which had something to do with my decision to purchase the land and The Shack.

My Renogy Solar Panel Review - I found that one of my first needs, during my trips to The Shack, was just a little bit of electricity. One of my Christmas gifts was this wonderful solar panel kit. I am not a solar power expert, but this panel works great for my needs. 

My blog is a mish-mash of personal things (from my dogs, to product reviews, to rambling stories).  But my homesteading-related adventures  and photographs can be found under the label: The Shack.