Beginners Need to Plan for Off Grid Living

Recently I received an email asking for advice.  It got me to thinking about people who want to live off the grid but have no idea where to start.  It can be overwhelming to think of all the things a person needs to learn before they can become off grid and independent.

The person who sent the email will be buying undeveloped land and wants to start out being off grid all the way.  This is a plus for them since they are not already tied to some property  they might not be able to modify because of where they live.

Because each family has similar and unique needs, it is important to evaluate all those needs before land is purchased.  Persons with medical conditions which will require frequent medical attention or may have life threatening attack probably should not choose to live 120 miles to the nearest hospital.  The longer it takes for an ambulance to arrive, the lower the survival rate for some emergencies.

With that being said, what you need depends on both your lifestyle, number of people and the ages of those who will be living in your home.   Factoring in how usage might change as people age.  You can get a rough estimate by gathering the annual usage statement for water and electricity.  Remember, older people often like a home that is warmer than a healthy 30 year old.

Search the internet for suitable locations in your state to put up windmills.  If there isn’t going to be enough wind, you won’t be able to Wind is important to living off grid.generate electricity.  Your windmill should be taller than any trees that might be near it for maximum output.  That being said, some generators will work at  wind speeds as low as 4 mph.  The department of energy put out this wind map. Solar panels to be roof mounted need to face the proper direction.  That determines the direction your home will face too.  
Choose your contractor wisely.  One who doesn’t know about off grid housing is probably not for you.  Quiz him.  Ask him questions that beginners wouldn’t know. The contractor who is building your house, if he is reputable, should be able to finish your home with those things in mind.  Perhaps with solar panels and wind generators included.

If you have not purchased the land, you will need to be sure to put a condition on the land purchase that the water and soil tests within acceptable levels of contaminants.  Likely the seller will want you to pay for those tests, but check with the local land office to see if there are tests on record.  

Given the water and soil test return a safe result, a water purification system will still be necessary for household use of Hand water pumps are important to off grid planning.well water.  The cost of having a well drilled on your property will not be cheap.  The deeper the well, the more it costs.  The more water you want to pull from the well per day, the more the cost.  There might even be a need for two wells if you are watering livestock.  Don’t fool yourself, cows drink a great deal of water.  Be sure to have a hand pump ready in case your pump stops working.  If you are moving to a community, you need to check the local laws because some cities don’t allow private wells.

If you are not going to be hooked up to city sewer services, you will need to consider what kind of septic system you want. Get a good one, and larger than suggested.  Having guests for a long period of time will increase the demands on your septic system significantly.  If you plan for two people, and some event causes another couple to move in, the demands on the septic system, and water resources, have just doubled.  Be sure to place the location of your septic system according to which direction the water will flow once it leaves the septic system.  
Do not put trees near a septic system because the roots will clog up the system and you may have to dig up your yard and have it routed out.  Look at mature trees of the type you want because what you see above ground is what you will see below.  Where the yard grows the best is where to put your garden.  
If you purchase land with maple trees, you will be able to tap the trees and sell the syrup for a good price.  We have friends who do it every year.  Some years they sell it and some years they have just enough for their use depending on annual rainfall.  The same holds true for fruit trees, if there are any on the land, you can sell the produce for money as well put up the harvest for the year by canning and making jams and jellies.
Try to get flat land, with no rocks.  If you get rocky ground, gardening will be difficult at best.  Removing rocks from the soil is tedious and time consuming.  Fortunately, you only have to do it once.  Try to look up online the regions you are interested in in terms of geology of the area.  This will tell you where good soil is and where the land is rocky and difficult for gardening.
Before you decide what kind of house to build, check out land prices.  The better the quality of land, the more expensive the acres are.  Five acres can make a great homestead to raise food for your family and to sell in farmer’s markets.
If you are going to go full off grid, consider livestock.  You might be able to include barns and what kinds of housing and fencing for your animals.  Remember to consider the winter months in your state.  Some animals might have to have at least some heat in winter.
The worst thing people do is not plan before they buy land and build.  Once you find out how much it all costs to get started, you might decide you want to build a much smaller home than anticipated, or maybe even buy a modular or pre-built home.  Some people even choose a mobile home because of the amount of space for the money.  It is best to dream big and then bring it back into the budget.
Lastly, don’t let all the planning issues overwhelm you.  Take it one step at a time.  Choose and buy land one year.  If you aren’t ready to build or move, you can at least decide where the house is going to be located. Which makes it the optimum time to plant your fruit trees.  Do just a little as time goes and you will see in a few short years you will be living off grid and be independent.
By no means is this intended to be a road map for every person who wants to become independent and off grid.  This is strictly a narrative on how to get started.  Everyone who wants to get off grid has to get started some how.  Hopefully this will at least give you some food for thought and some good ideas.  Good luck!

Greenhouse or Garden Plot?

Most gardeners have a plot of land, small or large, to raise garden vegetables, herbs, and flowers.  Depending on where you live, you may wish to have a greenhouse to lengthen your growing season.  Both types of gardening have advantages and disadvantages.

Let’s talk about the advantages of the time honored plot of ground.  In a perfect world, this is the best way to grow produce.  Rain sprinkles down at just the right time, the sun shines 13.7 hours a day on average, and the dirt provides all the nutrients plants need to grow strong and healthy.

Except, drought is expected every few years, or sometimes several years in a row.  Local wild life eat your produce before you can pick it.  Weeds are constantly encroaching on your plants.  That is if the bugs, molds and diseases don’t kill them off first.  Just to throw in a little excitement, moles and gophers uproot your garden, causing your plants to die.

A properly set up greenhouse can provide a growing environment, the right amount of sunlight, moisture, and the weeds don’t get in so easily.  The downside of greenhouses mostly depend on latitude.  They need heat in the winter and appropriate ventilation in the summer.  In the subtropic latitudes over heating the greenhouse must be guarded against.

If you live in a region that gets snow, you will need a more expensive greenhouse that can tolerate the added weight.  In the southern regions you will have to install cooling systems to protect your fragile plants.

Placing garden cloth and mulch on the floor of your greenhouse keeps out weeds and stuff just like it does in the garden plot.

Greenhouses come in all sorts of construction, sizes and prices.  It is important to plan your choices based on what Tunnel Greenhouse
your greenhouse is going to endure.  Snow in the winter, high winds year around, searing heat all determine how long your greenhouse will last.

Greenhouses change the way you garden.  Containers instead of in the ground, usually.  Consider the amount of space you will need and how you will use it.  Will you also hang baskets overhead?  If so, plan for that extra strength.  Maybe you will experiment with growing plants in water only.  Greenhouses allow you to produce more produce with less soil.

Maybe a greenhouse would be great, but the additional heating expenses during winter months will be excessive.  For those regions, converting a room of the house into a plant room could serve as a greenhouse.  Installing grow lights in strategic locations will provide the hours of light needed in winter when daylight is in short supply.

No matter what type of gardening you prefer, one thing is for sure, when there is a world-changing event, having the ability to grow produce year around can make all the difference in the world.

What Does Windstorm and Hail Insurance Cover?

If you live in a coastal region, your home is at risk of hurricane damage.  Your home is important to you and likely you have home owner’s insurance.  But is it insured for windstorm and hail?  How about flooding?  It is important to know what your policy covers.

Windstorm insurance does not cover flooding.Homeowners’ insurance may not cover windstorm, hail or flooding.  It is important to know the risks of the area you live.  For instance, when a hurricane comes, if it doesn’t blow a hole in the wall or rip off part of your roof, you may not be covered for water damage.  Hurricanes bring a tidal surge with them which is labeled flooding by the insurance companies.  If you don’t have flood insurance, you might just be trying to figure out how to pay for an uninhabitable home.

If you live in Texas, you may download a sample of the Texas Windstorm and Hail policy.  Variables are deductibles, premiums, and payout.  Read through the policy to determine what other types of insurance you will need.  Remember, when you file a claim, your property will be “depreciated” by the insurance company.  In other words, you will never get enough money to make life normal again.

The amount of coverage you buy is important too.  Insuring for less than 80% the total value of the property will trigger another depreciation clause on the dwelling.  But, as with all insurance policies, they will never pay out more than the total dollar amount for which you paid premiums.

The policy is very clear on which events it will and will not pay claims.  The policy premium must be paid more than 30 days before the storm to be in effect when a hurricane makes landfall in your neck of the woods.  Keep in mind that policies change from year to year, so you need to evaluate your coverage yearly.  If you don’t understand the policy, ask a licensed insurance agent.

Edit:  Changed “. . . does not cover windstorm . . . ” to read “. . . may not cover windstorm . . .”

Edit:  Changed “. . . you are not be covered . . ” to read ” . . .you may not be covered . . .”

Raising Turkey for Meat

Preppers overlook turkey as poultry to raise for meat.When considering fowl for meat, people often overlook raising turkey.  Most people, preppers included, only prepare the obligatory holiday bird for Thanksgiving and Christmas.  What a shame!  More shameful is the fact that turkey, like all livestock, is better when you raise it yourself.

There are several varieties of turkey from which to choose.  The “modern” breed of white turkeys is the most common in grocery stores.  However, other breeds produce good meat as well.  Choosing to keep turkey will provide a great source of protein with a unique flavor compared to commercially produced birds.

Turkey, like other creatures, need to be handled when young and through out their life so they are not fearful of you.  All birds will try to protect their homes from invaders.  The trick is to get them to see you as a friend.

When deciding which turkey breeds to raise, it is important to know if you plan to use the birds for breeding.  Some varieties, like the Broad Breasted Bronze Turkey, can’t naturally breed.  If you want them to breed naturally, consider the Standard Bronze Turkey instead.

Also, consider the skin color of the birds you choose.  The dark skin of the Broad Breasted Bronze Turkey isn’t as pretty to look at as the modern white breeds when on the table.  But the taste is amazing.  If you think your family can get used to a different appearance, you will be better off in the long run.

The males of both varieties can reach 30 pounds while the females reach 12 to 15 pounds.    Given these are good meat producers, don’t limit your selection to the most popular.  Take a look at heritage turkeys.  These birds are beautiful and some of them reach weights of 36 pounds.  A quick search for “Heritage Turkey hatchery” will bring up several options.  Try to choose a hatchery close to home.

Our favorite choice for looks is Royal Palm Turkeys *Heritage Breed.  But we will choose for meat production and the ability to reproduce.

If you are going to order turkeys, plan ahead.  They will need about six months before butchering.  Some people want to wait a year to gain the most fat and juicy meat.

Have you raised turkey?  Please tell us about it!  Post a comment!

 

Conserving Water while Gardening During Drought or HTF Event

When you can't use your lawn sprinkler, you still need to water your garden.As discussed in previous articles, the drought is still here and it looks like it doesn’t plan to leave any time soon.  All of us are looking for ways to irrigate our gardens, save our lawns and trees, and enjoy our homes.  Unfortunately, there isn’t much you can do when the rain just stops.  That doesn’t mean you give up.

Gardens in open spaces are easy to access with the garden hose and to harvest your produce.  Unfortunately, there are few ways to control evaporation.  Using garden cloth, mulch, and making sure to keep weeds out are pretty much your only hope.  These methods should be practiced at all times, but are fine for a short term mild to moderate drought.

Severe and long lasting droughts bring with them strict conservation regulations and requirements that may not allow you to water a lawn or garden.  Under such conditions the actual number of gallons of water a household is allowed to use is monitored.  This is when homes suffer loss of decorative trees and grass.  Even if the gallons of water are rationed, a family shouldn’t suffer the loss of the ability to produce food.

One way to make sure each plant gets the water it needs is to use micro or targeted sprinklers.  The smaller the sprinkler, the better control over where the water lands.  The key to success is placement of the sprinklers and the amount of water flow.

Placing the sprinkler heads as close to the soil as possible reduces the chance water bounces off leaves and dirt and is wasted.  Positioning it  close to the plants allow the plant the most opportunity to absorb water.

Water should be set to low flow, just a small amount at a time.  Use a timer to automatically turn on and off the water to allow plants time to absorb water between waterings.  Check the soil often to determine if you need to reduce or increase the amount of time between waterings and the duration the water flows.

 

 

 

 

Should Preppers Use Stored Water During Drought?

Water consumption is limited during a drought.In a word, no.  No, you should not, even if your well goes dry, as long as you can get water from any other source.  Even if you have to drive a long distance to haul water, you should not use your water preps.  It took a long time and much effort to get those water resources built up.  In fact, you should continue to build up your supply even in the face of drought.  You will know when to use your water supply.

  • Buy bottled drinking water for drinking and cooking.  It’s cheaper than soda.  Stop buying soda if money is an issue.
  • Fill jugs in water supply stores.  Many of these stores are found in California.
  • Contact a local water delivery service which services water coolers.  They will deliver water in three to five gallon containers, or maybe larger.
  • Contact a water hauling company to deliver water in bulk.  Treat this water like lake water.
  • If you live on the ocean, install a desalinization plant on your property.
  • Remember public lakes and some rivers will most likely be considered part of the public water supply.  Pumping from these sources might be prohibited during a severe drought.

 

 

Preppers: Take Water From Thin Air

How many of you have an air-conditioner?   You know how it has a drain tube to let the condensation drain away?  What if you could capture that water and use it for drinking water?  What if you could use the same principle to gather thousands of gallons of water for storage?  Have it drain into a cistern or other water storage containers and you have it made.

These people have created a similar device.  It heats, it cools, it makes clean water.  Wow.

We have no financial interest in this product.

 

Near Vertical Incident Skywave (NVIS) Antennas

Near Vertical Incident Skywave (NVIS) Antennas

by

Matt Moody

During my years in the military I was surrounded by communications equipment and great men and women that operated the gear. One thing I learned very quickly as a Private First Class when I was going through communications school at the 13 Area (Main side) facilities at Camp Pendleton, California was that 95% of the battle with communications was a good antenna. Over the years this has been proven time and time again. Having a good antenna that is resonant makes all the difference in the world. It can also mean the difference between saving your life or not.

The antenna being discussed in this article is a bit controversial in that some believe that it has very defined capabilities on just certain frequencies while others feel that it has greater capabilities than generally described. What I know is that I have used Near Vertical Incident Skywave (NVIS) antennas in the military and as a ham operator under very different situations with good results. That’s all that matters to me.

As an amateur radio operator (ham) I have developed my own version of the NVIS antenna and have found it to work remarkably well in different modes and on different bands. Over the last couple of years I have used it for the numerous digital modes available on the ham bands and have found it to work very well. I have been able to make contacts in Canada, Mexico, throughout the United States, and even had a screen shot emailed to me from an operator in Japan while using a digital mode called Olivia. He had a 100% copy on me. Amazing! Some would say that was impossible but it happened. Suffice it to say, the antenna was not designed for long distance communications. It was designed for operators to communicate over mountains, islands, buildings in large cities, and over short (500 – 1000 miles) distances.

The NVIS antenna comes in several different varieties; loops, end-fed long wires, mobile verticals that are bent over, a few types of dipoles, and the other designs. The design I developed was a version of one I saw years ago. By adding a couple of “tweaks” here and there I was able to end up with a really good antenna. Mine is a modification of the one shown in Figure 1 below.

Communications during an event is one of  the most important aspects of survival.

Figure1

(Source: http://www.vcars.org/tech/NVIS.html)

 

This particular antenna design seems to work well as it has a very high takeoff angle which is critical for any NVIS antenna.

 

Figure 2: Example of an Elevation Pattern of a 75-Meter Dipole NVIS Antenna

Communication over a mountains is easier with nearly vertical signals.The whole concept of the NVIS antenna is to have the signal going almost straight up (thus the Near Vertical terminology) and hitting the ionosphere reflecting back to the ground like the “ribs” of an umbrella. (Figure 2) Three factors must be kept in mind when utilizing NVIS antennas and they are POWER LEVEL, ANTENNA HEIGHT ABOVE GROUND LEVEL, and the FREQUENCY being used.

When communicating over mountains, such as the ones I have in my area of the country, this can be accomplished with very little power. In fact, I communicate daily on National Traffic Nets (NTS) and with other hams in the Rocky Mountain Region using 10 watts or less. Most of the time I use 5-10 watts of power to communicate on the digital modes and up to 20 watts or a bit more on phone (SSB voice) depending on the band conditions. Again, having a great antenna is 95% of the battle in good communications in amateur radio.

One thing that is critically important to remember with NVIS antennas is that internal tuners, those packaged with the particular radio one is using, do not always work well in tuning NVIS antennas. I highly recommend using an external tuner for the best possible match. I use a Yaesu FT-857D radio with a LDG YT-100 external tuner and it works very well. The tuning on the 20, 40, and 80 meter bands is very quick. My antenna works well on 17-meters but takes a bit longer to tune up.

NVIS antennas have been around a long time and I don’t take any credit for inventing the things. I have used them with great success and love them. There are numerous designs for single-band operation and others for multi-band use. The important factor here is that being able to set up quickly and communicate during localized emergencies or worse will be a great “tool” for you as one that is serious about covering all of your preparation bases. My suggestion is that individuals build or acquire a good NVIS antenna, get on the air with it, find out who you can talk to, and exercise the thing often on various bands and modes. Get comfortable using your antennas and other amateur radio equipment. Set up nets and talk with other individuals who are preparing for whatever may come. Set up an amateur radio prepper’s club and have some fun in the process of preparing and training. Have a “build it” night with other like-minded hams in your area and build the NVIS antenna of your choice. 73 (Best Regards)

Matt Moody is a former Sergeant in the United States Marine Corps and a former Army Signal Officer. He has been a licensed amateur radio operator (Amateur Extra Class) for 36 years. He has been a Platoon Sergeant and a Platoon Leader/Team Leader. He was involved in numerous air assault operations in the late 70s and in Special Operations in the 80s. He was a member of the Marine Corps Base 29 Palms Shooting Team (’77-’79), shot in numerous Division Matches, and is sniper qualified. Matt is also a graduate of the rigorous Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center and the Marine Corps Escape and Evasion (E&E) Course. Matt holds an AAS degree in Special Studies (Military Science) from Ricks College and a BS in Criminal Justice from Utah Valley University. He is a former Supervisor with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) where he was assigned to the Salt Lake City and New York City (JFK) airports. He enjoys teaching emergency preparedness and communications courses to individual and groups.

© Matt Moody 2013

Emergency Preparation: No Toilet Paper – No Problem

by

Matt Moody

Over the years I’ve taught numerous emergency preparation classes to more people than I can count. In that time one of the things I have learned is that most individuals and families are taking one thing for granted – the availability of toilet paper. Like comfort food during emergencies we need toilet paper, or something else, to complete the process.

Empty Roll?  Whatcha' Gonna Do? Emergency Preparations Need to Include Lost of Paper Products.What happens if supplies of toilet paper, like so many other things, is disrupted or canceled altogether? When I ask that question to the students I often get laughter followed by their sudden realization that they are clueless as to what to do about a replacement for toilet paper. The answer is simple – toilet cloths.

cloths

We then put them into bundles of twelve (12) and used rubber bands to hold them together. We now have them in every bathroom in the house. A few years ago the local Sears™ store was going out of business and had everything on sale. My wife and I went in and grabbed up every washcloth we could find.  We picked up every color they had because the color doesn’t matter. We took then home and using a serger, which sews the edges as they are cut, we cut them into fourths.

The only addition to the toilet cloths is the necessary bucket to throw them in once used.  Do not flush them down the toilet! I acquired a 5-gallon bucket and placed a mixture of bleach and water in the bottom. I use about four to five inches or more of the bleach and water combination in the bottom of the bucket. Once full one can use a homemade “agitator (5-gallon bucket, lid, and toilet plunger combination) and wash them in hot water and bleach as you would wash other things under austere conditions. If your washer and dryer are working then use them. If they are not working then use another similar bucket with rinse water to finish the cleaning process.

 I know some families that have gone totally to the toilet cloth concept and are saving money not buying toilet paper at all. Most will not do that but at least now you have an alternative to no toilet paper at all.

 Okay, I can hear it now, Matt, we use toilet wipes so your toilet cloth idea is pointless. Hey, toilet wipes are a super idea until You'll run out of these too!you run out of those as well. If you have a warehouse full in your emergency storage then I applaud you. However, what happens when those run out or are no longer available? Utilizing toilet cloths will save you money and you will already be comfortable with the idea of using them when an emergency occurs.

Remember, these ideas and concepts are for camping or emergency situations. Personally, I prefer not to have to use leaves or the phone book should an emergency bring about tough times. I believe that this simple idea will relieve some stress under dire circumstances.

Matt Moody is a former Sergeant in the United States Marine Corps and a former Army Signal Officer.  He has been a licensed amateur radio operator (Amateur Extra Class) for 36 years. He has been a Platoon Sergeant and a Platoon Leader/Team Leader. He was involved in numerous air assault operations in the late 70s and in Special Operations in the 80s. He was a member of the Marine Corps Base 29 Palms Shooting Team (’77-’79), shot in numerous Division Matches, and is sniper qualified. Matt is also a graduate of the rigorous Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center and the Marine Corps Escape and Evasion (E&E) Course. Matt holds an AAS degree in Special Studies (Military Science) from Ricks College and a BS in Criminal Justice from Utah Valley University. He is a former Supervisor with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) where he was assigned to the Salt Lake City and New York City (JFK) airports. He enjoys teaching emergency preparedness and communications courses to individual and groups.

© Matt Moody 2013

Texas Prepper Greenhouse can be Multi-Purpose Buildings

The following video is about prepper greenhouses, but as you will see, TexasPrepper2 has created something much more.  Some climates require something more durable than PVC pipes.  This one is not only easy to build, but sturdy as well.  It’s the design we’ve been looking for.  Hats off to TexasPrepper2!  Grab your notebook and enjoy the video.