Thursday, August 9, 2012

day off grid part 2

It’s time to come home from work.  I trust you’ll be hopping on your valiant steed ( iron horse, human powered ) and peddling home.  If you trust in your private automobile you are making a huge financial bet that gasoline will be available long after you finally finished paying off your friendly local loan shark for the car.  It is certainly possible but I have my doubts.  Owning a vehicle has never been cheap, but it seems to me that nowadays it is worse than ever.  You are being forced to subsidize corporate stupidity on every level from domestic manufactures that blew all their pension funds and bought foreign turds like Land Rover or whatnot to insurance companies that lost billions at the derivatives gambling table ( you pay $19.95 a month for a life insurance policy that pays a half mil.  Do the math.  In forty seven years, assuming you started at age eighteen til retirement, the company pockets a hundred grand.  How else to pay out on your death and still make a profit than making desperate investment wagers ) to local government incompetence where public employees were promised pensions the taxpayers couldn’t afford as soon as houses didn’t make twenty percent gains a year and thus your gasoline taxes, DMV fees and everything else are jacked way up.
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Riding a bicycle not only saves you a ton of money, it gets you in great shape.  Your body, given enough exercise, self regulates the amount of food your body needs.  You will get in good cardio shape ( don’t go up too many hills until your heart gets strong enough not to blow up ) and good muscle tone.  You can stop going to the gym ( I know, I’m laughing too.  Like you ever went there ).  Now, you can buy a bike trailer.  You can haul a lot, but you’ll be walking it up every hill.  I prefer racks.  Not cheap, but you can get racks rated for fifty pounds.  I haul home up to six gallons a day in my front and back rack, plus a two liter in my backpack.  I don’t have to do this all five days a week, but it is nice to have the capacity ( the two of us consume twenty to twenty five pounds a week ).  In summer I drink a lot more water at home.  Not only do I haul water home on my bike, saving thousands of bucks on a well and storage and pumping energy, I also stop at the grocery store every night after work for a pack of fresh meat.  This eliminates the need for a refrigerator.
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Eggs will store if underwater for several weeks.  Cheese will lose its firmness if not in the fridge but it remains safe to eat for days.  Butter lasts at least a day, more if you store it in one of those ceramic dishes and water combos.  All condiments other than mayo last a long time without a fridge.  If you cook exactly what you need without leftovers there is little need for a fridge.  If you can your meat there is no need for a freezer.  Think about getting a pressure cooker.  Off grid, you mostly don’t have a microwave and you’ll be surprised how much fuel old fashion cooking uses.  If you do have a microwave, it will have to be used sparingly.  Okay, say you have a small 800 watt microwave.  If you max out its use at fifteen minutes ( say, two nuke breads, three minutes per side per bread ) you need 200 watts.  If all your lights and your TV uses a total of fifty watts a day, an extra 200 is a huge difference in panel requirements.  I’d say the investment would eventually be worth it, as after the apocalypse nuke cooking would solve a lot of problems ( scarcity of fuel, woodsmoke ) but if you are just starting to live off grid it is a luxury for a later day.  Assuming you get sun everyday, an extra 30 watt panel might suffice.  But even at my desert location I have to plan on an average worse case of six days cloudy to one day sun.  So, I only use one hour of panel production for the whole days wattage allotment.  Hence, I use fifty watts a day and have about fifty watts in panels.  On a cloudy winter week, that sunny seventh day replaces what I used for the week.  Using my location, I’d need $900 to get an additional 200 watts ( I know they sell panels cheaper but I’m a big believer in multiple smaller watt units in case of panel failure- one panel with high wattage is an accident waiting to happen ).
Once I get home, it is shower time.  I have an aluminum covered extra thick Styrofoam cooler that I bury at an angle.  The opening is above the ground level, covered with a panel of glass ( of course safety glass is best, but if nothing else at least get a panel in a frame to increase its strength ).  Inside are Mason canning jars with the one piece lids.  This is my solar water heater ( I have yet to try to cook in it ).  Let me tell you, even around fifty degrees on a clear day with a strong sun, it very nearly boils the water.  I’ve taken the water out of the jars, placed it on the stove and almost instantly it starts forming small bubbles on the bottom on its way to a boil.  I don’t expect the same performance come winter but at least it will preheat the water somewhat.  The difference in a solar hot water heater is that I can go from one month kitchen propane use for a five gallon tank to three months if I’m not boiling water for bathing, just cooking dinner and making coffee.  More on bathing and everything else tomorrow.
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  1. Going on the string from the last post, pine needles contain vitamin C. Chop them up and make a tea or just chew them. That is what the Indians did. -SemperFido

  2. I heat water for bathing in a couple of 2 liter soda bottles, spray painted black. Even on a day like today, with little sun, the water in them is comfortable. It's like they'd work even better in your insulated cooler.

    I bought another 50 pound bag of feed corn today. My local feed stores don't carry wheat - the feed stores in the DC suburbs did, oddly enough. I'll pick up wheat when I have business in Maryland next week, I guess. The dang corn is already $12.80 for 50 pounds.

  3. For food storage have you tried a 'zeer' pot

    I made a small one from a flower pot, some sand, and a plastic inner cup weighted down so that it wouldn't float up. I put a cork in the bottom of the flower pot to keep the wet sand in. Place it near a window where there was a breeze. It was considerably colder inside but it's normally humid around here so it didn't work well most of the time but might be a good in the desert if it's dry.

    I had thought about water, I used to have a dehumidifier in the basement and it made a lot of water - and used a lot of power but needed to keep mold from forming. I don't know how they work but could the compressor be turned by a small windmill instead of an electric motor, could that pull moisture out of the air? I don't think it would work but maybe, chances are not in a desert and if it's humid there is likely a shallow water table so it's better to dig a surface well for water.

  4. Good post again. About condiments: for those without refrigeration, don't forget about the little packets (fast-food giveaway kind) that contain mayonaise, ketchup, mustard, hot sauce, etc. They last for years.

  5. Any advice on the bicycle tires that don't require air to run. I remember some time back that their rigidity caused bicycles to prematurely 'shake apart' because of non cushioned ride, or something like that. Any new thoughts or suggestions now ?

    Thanks again for the recap - its good to visit these topics again.

  6. We lived and cruised for several years here in Florida and the Bahamas. In all that time we never refrigerated the Mayo. The trick is to never double dip with the utensil thereby contaminating the Mayo in the jar. It will keep for a long, long time this way . Just remember, only one scoop allowed !! With a CLEAN utensil.

  7. Anonymous August 10, 2012 10:37 AM
    Any advice on the bicycle tires that don't require air to run.

    I assume you mean 26x2.125
    At Walmart buy the firmest available tennis balls.
    Put them in your bicycle tires. Tell us about the
    PS In July 2003 I installed 26x1.95 airfrees on my Schwnn Impact.
    I have not yet had any damage to spokes, rims etc.
    I am honestly puzzled I weigh 270.

  8. You might try digging a pit on the North side of your trailer James, and burying to the top, a 32 gallon plastic can.

    I'll bet one of those big blocks of ice will hold up for a long time under this condition. You could also get creative, and create a drain for the runoff, filtering if necessary for drinking or other use.