Offgrid; Defeating the Summer Heat

Many of us live in areas that experience some periods of oppressive heat during the summer months. In my area we often have several weeks of temperatures above 100 degrees.
Electric air conditioning has only seen wide spread use in the last 25 to 30 years. How did people cool their houses before that? Lets look into some of the methods that were in common use;
1. They took advantage of the lay of the land. They didn’t build their houses on top of hills, or in open places with no shade. If they didn’t have shade they planted trees and shrubs to provide shade. If possible they would build on the side of a hill or mountain to take adventage of the natural air currents moving up and down the sides of a mountain.
2. Homes were built with high ceilings to allow the hot air to rise and escape from gable vents. Many were built on piers or had basements to allow for air space and had vents in the floors to allow the hot air escaping to draw cooler air from under the house. They also had more and larger windows to take advantage of any breeze.
3. A lawn of grass around the house had an actual purpose besides giving the man of the house something to mow on his day off. It insulates the ground from absorbing heat which is radiated back into the air after the sun goes down. Vines and shrubs against the exterior walls of a house have the same purpose.
This is useful information if you are just building your offgrid house. If practical you can incorperate these into your building to minimize your cooling problems.
But what if you already have a home that is built with modern standards? There are some things you can do too;
1. Use heavy drapes or curtains on the south facing windows to prevent heat from coming through to heat up the room. If practical, close off rooms on the south side of the house and mostly use the rooms on the north side.
2. Avoid cooking during the heat of the day. Do most of your cooking (especially in the oven) during the cooler parts of the day. If your hot water heater is inside the house make sure it is well insulated so it does not radiate heat into your rooms. Your refridgerator and freezer should be vented so the heat from the compressor or coils does not enter the room. Any appliance that generates heat should be well insulated and used during the cooler parts of the day.
3. Pay attention to your roof. Most of the heat that enters your home comes through your roof. Most modern homes have insulation blown in on top of the ceiling. Consider a double roof. This can be as simple as installing plastic sheeting on the bottom of your rafters. If you can stop some of the heat before it gets into your attic that’s less heat you will have to deal with in your house. By all means use gable vents. The solar powered ones are not that expensive and are very effective at removing hot air from your attic.
All of these things are common sense, if you think about it, but we’ve become so accustomed to using electricity for everything that we no longer think about it.
If you have just basic solar (100 watts or less), you can run 12 volt fans. If you are the kind of person that don’t think you can survive without air conditioning, you can do that too but be prepared to spend some money.
There are many things you can do to increase your comfort level during the summer heat and many of these things will help you cut down on your energy bill if you are on the grid.

Going Offgrid

These days I see many people talking and posting on social media about going offgrid. It seems that the idea of going offgrid has become a fad and everybody wants to get in on the act. There are more groups on social media devoted to this subject than I can count.

There are many reasons given for wanting to go offgrid; the high cost of electricity, insurance against power failures, and independence are just a few of the many reasons given.

After living offgrid for many years I have talked with many different people from all walks of life that express an interest in going offgrid themselves. Looking back over the years and all the people that have wanted to go offgrid I have noticed there are basically three different types of people that I have encountered;


Most people fall into this category. They will seem enthusiastic and talk and post about how much they want to get a rural property where they can live offgrid.

They will talk about how they will grow a garden and home can their produce, have chickens and other animals, bake bread in a solar oven, forage in the woods for wild foods, hunt, fish, and in general live an idealistic lifestyle while leaving all their problems behind in the city.

They may gather supplies, tools, and solar panels they think they might need and show them to all their friends and explain their reasons for needing these things and talk about how they are going to use them to accomplish this idealistic lifestyle they plan to build for themselves.

Sounds good doesn’t it? Very few of these people will ever make the first effort to get anything done to accomplish this goal. They are dreamers and procrastinators or they are just going along because they think it is the popular thing to do. Their tools will remain shiny and new and never see the first hour of actual use.


The second group of people are a little more serious. They will plan and save and gather supplies and tools and actually make the commitment to get it done.

They will actually find their dream place and get it bought or leased or whatever financial arrangement suits them and move onto the property. They will spend the first few days walking around looking the place over and deciding all the things they are going to do with it.

Now comes the part that separates the truly committed from the pretenders. Getting things done in a rural environment is WORK. Supplies are not just around the corner and many times must be trucked in from somewhere else, everything is harder than it looks and takes longer than you think it should, expect to sweat a lot and get blisters and calluses.

Basic changes to lifestyle must be made. From the kind of clothing you wear on a daily basis to the way your wife cooks and washes clothes must be altered to fit the situation.

Most of this group eventually move back to town or hook up to public utilities if they are available in their location.


These are the pioneers, the fully invested, the ones that will succeed at what ever the cost. They are willing to do the work, sweat, and deal with the blisters. They will make the necessary changes in lifestyle. They are committed to an offgrid lifestyle and will not take no for an answer.

While going offgrid may sound good to many it is not a good fit for most. Yes, it is easy to imagine yourself living in a cabin in the woods, heating with wood, and drinking fresh spring water, but the reality is quite different for most.

So look before you leap. Talk to someone that is actually living offgrid. Find out what the challenges are in the area you have chosen and decide realistically if you are willing and able to meet them successfully.

Going offgrid can be the best decision you ever made. The benefits are more than you can imagine. It can also be the worst nightmare you ever had if you are not able or willing to meet the challenges head on.

Are You Prepared?

Considering the recent developments in the news; Riots in Ferguson, Mo., Police misconduct in various places, and now, riots in Baltimore, Md. which may turn out to be worse than previous riots, more and more people are beginning to wonder what kind of measures they can reasonably take to ensure the safety of their families, property, and businesses.
There are no measures an individual can take which will guarantee they will not be affected by events in their neighborhoods. However, there are some things you can do to minimize the danger to your family and possessions;
· Avoid crowds, especially large noisy crowds. People in groups tend to act irrationally in a crises. If you have to travel route yourself around trouble spots. If you cannot avoid the known trouble spots, you may be better off staying where you are.
· Have supplies stashed in your home. You do not want to get caught out grocery shopping while the store is being looted. You also do not want to be needing supplies when the general public is panic shopping for the supplies they need as they do just before hurricanes or other natural disasters occur. This is doubly true of riots. How many supplies you need is up to you but remember, it is always better to have too much than too little.
· Keep a low profile; It is always safer to go unnoticed than to attract attention. Do not appear to have plenty when those around you have little or nothing.
· Always keep fuel in your vehicle; Your car will run just as well on the top half of the tank as the lower half. Never let your car get below half a tank of fuel. If you live somewhere where it will take more than half a tank to get somewhere you need to be then keep it full but travel only if it is absolutely necessary.
· Use common sense and keep cool; The worst thing you can do is panic yourself. Think the situation over and take carefully considered action. Only you know your abilities and you are the one that has to decide what is reasonable for you.
There are many things happening in our society that most of us have never had to deal with before. Most of us have no experience that has prepared us for dealing with the general lawlessness that is happening today. The Police have their hands full and are sometimes part of the problem. No organization is without it’s misfits and ne’er do wells and the Law Enforcement organizations are no exception. Most of the Law Enforcement Officers are good people just trying to do their jobs. Antagonizing them is not going to accomplish anything good.
In light of recent events it is only reasonable to be prepared if riots or unrest occur in your area. Consider your own situation, your abilities, and decide how best to react if such a scenario occurs in your area.

Enemy Wasp Nest

Spring, Summer, and Fall around here is a time when we have to deal with wasps of different varieties. They are pesky and always trying to build nests in places where they will be a problem. Since we do not like to use poisons they can sometimes be difficult to get rid of, however Cat has discovered a way to keep them away. It is cheap, effective, and does not involve any kind of poison. It works because most varieties of wasps are highly territorial and will fight to the death against any intruder into their territory.

We have always had wasps around. Mostly Red Wasps and the ones Jim calls “Mud Daubers” because they build mud nests. Since they have mostly hung around the garden and they do kill some garden pests, I wasn’t too worried about the occasional ones that got in the house. This year, however, they started swarming around the cabins in April and were becoming aggressive so I started researching wasp repellents on Amazon. After reading product descriptions and user reviews, this is what I came up with.

1. Wasp traps seem to work best with apple cider and a little dish soap. The dish soap breaks the water tension so the wasps can’t bounce off the surface. They do not stop the wasps from coming around though and may even attract them to the area.

2. Several products of various names are simply bags that you stuff with filler and hang up to mimic an “Enemy Nest” and the wasps will avoid the area. These bags range in price from $6 to $20 on Amazon. The best deal I have found from Amazon is Tanglefoot 300000430 Waspinator  .

Buying the ready to stuff bags from Amazon is good if you are not the DIY type but making them yourself is easy. Since we already had a roll of the generic 30 gallon trash bags, I figured to save the money and make our own Enemy Nests. Pictures below will show you how.

Enemy Wasp Nest

Enemy Wasp Nest 1

Divide a large trash bag into 4 parts and cut into 4 sections.

Enemy Wasp Nest 2

Enemy Wasp Nest 2

Take the 2 bottom sections and fold loose corners inside forming a triangle shaped bag.

Enemy Wasp Nest 3

Enemy Wasp Nest 3

Stuff the bag with old plastic bags or other filler.

Enemy Wasp Nest 4

Enemy Wasp Nest 4

Gather the corners and top to form cone.

Enemy Wasp Nest 5

Enemy Wasp Nest 5

Tie off at the top leaving enough string to tie up outside.

Enemy Wasp Nest 6

Enemy Wasp Nest 6

Hang in an area you want to keep free of wasps.

Keep in mind that this method will not kill wasps, just keep them away. Also, you need to clear the area of existing wasp nests as this method will not run them off if they are already established. Knock existing nests down at night before you hang your enemy wasp nest for it to be effective.


More on Bugging Out


If you have been reading my articles ( Is Bugging Out A Good Idea?) you already know that I do not recommend bugging out as an emergency plan unless you have no other options left. There seems to be a lot of controversy about the idea of bugging out so I will give some of the reasons why I arrived at this conclusion.

  • Timing; unless you have forewarning of an event, you are going to find out at the same time everybody else does. This means that you are going to be part of a herd of panicked and desperate people trying to evacuate the area. The roads will be clogged with traffic and broken down vehicles making travel difficult if not impossible. Police will be overwhelmed. Fueling stations will be closed or so clogged that it will be next to impossible to get fuel. Price gouging for fuel and other supplies (groceries, for instance) are almost a certainty. A few hours into the ensuing panic fuel and supplies will be unavailable for any price.

  • Bug Out Retreat; If you are one of the folks that have spent a lot of time and resources providing yourself with a retreat you are probably not going to get there. Unless you are already in your retreat (recommended) when the emergency occurs, you have probably wasted your time and money. Somebody will probably appreciate it, though.

  • Bug Out Vehicle; I have seen pictures of some impressive heavy duty 4WD vehicles different people have prepared with the idea that these vehicles will make it possible to travel to their bug out destinations carrying all their supplies. Good luck! These things use a lot of fuel and even if you carry enough fuel to make it to your destination, you still are not likely to get there due to clogged roads, highwaymen, and impassable terrain. Try fording a river or even a good sized ditch with one of them because the bridges are blocked.

  • Travel; As I mentioned before the roads and bridges will be blocked and impassible so travel will only be possible on foot. The average American lives a sedentary lifestyle and is overweight. How far can you travel on foot while carrying your supplies? How about your family? This will also leave you vulnerable to highwaymen and others that will want your supplies because they have none of their own. They probably are not going to ask nicely.

  • Armament; Traveling during an emergency unarmed is a fools errand. If you are not armed and skilled in the use of those arms you had better stay at home. Have an expensive assault rifle, fine pistol, or nice back pack? It will probably wind up in the hands of some 12 year old country boy who temple shot you from hiding with his single shot .22 as you trudged along the road.

I assume all of my readers are intelligent enough to realize they are not going to bug out to the woods and live off the land. Foraging, fishing, and hunting require knowledge and skills which are the result of years of training and experience which very few if any have. Those that are knowledgeable in these skills would not even try it. There will be enough dead bodies smelling up the woods without adding yours to them.

These are only some of the things you will have to deal with if you should decide to bug out. In the event of an emergency serious enough to shut things down where you are at things will get serious real quick. This is not a movie or game it is life and those that make the wrong decisions will not live long.



It seems that everywhere I look lately, I see articles and hear people talking about “bugging out”. Is it really such a good idea?

 While there are circumstances in which you would have no choice such as fire, flooding, chemical spill, leaving your home is rarely necessary nor is it a good emergency preparedness plan.

OK. So you are one of the thoughtful ones that have planned ahead and prepared a bug out location away from the city and stocked it with sufficient supplies. Are you sure you can get there? Are you sure that someone else has not arrived there before you and taken it over?

 If you have not prepared and stocked a bug out location, where are you going to go? What will you use for supplies? What will you use for shelter? Do you really expect folks that already live in the countryside to be glad to welcome you and care for you?

 Let’s face facts. By the time most people realize something serious is going on or has already happened, it will be too late to travel. During the evacuation away from New Orleans as a result of Hurricane Katrina, the roads were impassable. Cars were packed bumper to bumper, accidents and cars out of fuel and broken down blocked every road. Travel was on foot and refugees were turned back at bridges at gunpoint and prevented from even fleeing on foot. Hurricane Katrina is only one example. There are many more.

 Fleeing refugees were accosted by roving gangs of armed people and robbed, molested, and otherwise harassed. Can you protect yourself? Are you in good enough shape to travel far on foot, is every member of your party or family?

 I suspect the idea of “bugging out” has been pushed beyond reasonable limits by people selling bug out supplies. Bug out bags, books to tell you how to build your own bug out bag, books telling you how to sneak out of Dodge, articles and books about the best survival gun, knife, or backpack cookware and stoves abound on the internet and media. All in the name of trying to make a buck.

 I am not saying you should not have a bug out bag in case you have to grab and run, heck I have one. I am also not saying that people should not try to make an honest living. What I am saying is that someone needs to interject a little common sense into the situation.

 Once you leave your home you become an instant refugee. The only supplies you will have are what you can carry. The only shelter is what you can find along the way unless it is already occupied by someone else that just may relieve you of the burden of your supplies before they turn you away, that is if your supplies have not been taken from you by force before you got there. Even if you do manage to make it to your bug out location safely, there is no guarantee that someone else hasn’t gotten there first and moved in.

Your best chance for survival is in most cases to stay in your home if possible. Home is where your supplies are. It is where you know your surroundings, and neighbors. Home is also where you are the safest unless it has been made unlivable due to fire or other means. Is not safety what this is all about?

Bugging out should only be considered as an extreme last resort. It means abandoning everything you own and becoming a refugee. .

Living Offgrid


                The Dream vs. The Reality

There are many people that dream of a simple life living offgrid in a “little cabin” in the woods or mountains somewhere. I see and hear every day people making comments and posts about it on Facebook and other Social Media.

They will post a picture of a small offgrid cabin in a mountain meadow or other idealistic setting and make comments like “ I had much rather live here than in a city”. They visualize leaving all their problems behind in the city and living a carefree existence free from responsibility in a beautiful and tranquil setting.

The reality of the situation can be quite different than most people visualize. When you relocate from the city you are leaving many of your city problems behind, that’s true. What does not occur to most people though, is that you acquire an entirely different set of problems that you did not have in the city.

Cities have many undesirable things such as crowds, constant noise, crime, vandalism, gangs, drugs, high cost for housing, and more. Any time you have a concentration of people you are going to have to deal with these things.

Cities also offer many conveniences that you are not going to find in a rural environment. Stores where you can purchase almost anything, employment, entertainment, culture, medical care, schools, emergency services, and many other things are always nearby.

People that are accustomed to city life may be poorly prepared for the problems of living offgrid in the mountains and the transition can be difficult.

In the rural environment you still have some of the less desirable things, you just have less of them because there are fewer people.

We have to travel miles to the nearest store and a trip to town usually takes all day. If we want something out of the ordinary we have to order it and wait. Then you have to make another trip to town to pick it up.

Living offgrid means that you will have no electricity or you will have to make your own with solar, wind, or a generator of some sort. You will have to plan your electricity usage so you don’t exceed your ability to produce it. You will no longer have access to the unlimited source of electricity which the national grid provides.

You make your own living here or travel to a job in a town and the pay scale is usually less than you would like. While the cost of some things is less than in the city (such as land), the cost of others is higher due to having to be transported from their source (such as groceries and fuel).

The only emergency services you’ll find here are the Rural Fire Department, the Life Flight helicopter, and the Sheriff’s Department. All of which will take so long to get there that you had better be prepared to deal with emergencies yourself at least until they can get to you.

Living offgrid in the woods or mountains has many benefits; the scenery, the wildlife, and peacefulness, the feeling of independence and freedom is not the least of these.

For those of us that have already made the move, the knowledge that we are not dependent upon public services for our welfare, and the beauty and tranquility as well as the privacy of our daily environment more than compensate for any convenience we may have left behind in the city.

The dreamers will continue to dream of living offgrid but most will never make the move. Living offgrid is not for everyone. Going from a city lifestyle with all the conveniences of a city to an offgrid rural lifestyle is an extreme change. It takes a level of motivation and commitment that most will never have.


Offgrid Homestead Security #3


                                        Other People;

One of the most common mistakes most people make is to allow other people into their home to view their belongings. It is a good idea to keep in mind that anyone you invite into your home is a potential security risk.

Most of us like to entertain family and friends occasionally. We invite them into our homes and it never occurs to us that we may be opening ourselves up for security problems.

Relatives can be the greatest risk to your home because most are trusted. Many times you will show them things you wouldn’t show a casual visitor. This can be a mistake.

Some of you already know that I make Lee Custom Knives. I recently had my wife’s son (by a previous marriage) visit who has seen the knives and where we keep them.

Before he left he went into the room to change clothes and then left quickly. After he left we discovered he had taken at least 22 new and unused custom knives worth between $4000.00 and $6000.00. Only 2 Bowie knives were left and that was because they were too large to fit into his bag.

Even though the Police in his hometown have the serial numbers of the knives, we’ll never recover them. He now has a new (used) motorcycle that he couldn’t afford.

Some lessons are more expensive than others. I’m sure most folks have items in their homes that are not replaceable like family heirlooms and other personal mementos. Be careful who you let see these items.

The most likely person to take advantage of you and rip you off is someone you trust. Others will not be given access. Be careful who you allow access.

Do not leave valuables where they can be seen by a casual visitor or by someone going through your house to use your restroom. Do not put valuable items where they can be seen through a window or doorway.

This was a hard lesson for us not even considering the value of the lost items or trust for a relative. These knives were the ones I had chosen to keep after a 38 year career of knife making. I am retired and no longer have a shop in which to make knives. A custom knife is a one of a kind item because it is hand made and cannot be duplicated and therefor, cannot be replaced.

Hopefully, by sharing this information, I can give you cause to be vigilant and not have to deal with a similar loss.

Anyone interested in viewing the stolen knives can access the photo bucket page here. These are just some of the knives that were taken.

Building A Dry Weather Strawberry Hill

This winter I have decided to build a dry weather strawberry hill. I have ordered 75 ever-bearing strawberry plants for spring delivery.

Due to the extreme dryness and heat of the last 2 summers, I have lost most of the plants in my previous strawberry hill even though I watered them daily. A summer without fresh strawberries is unthinkable.

Base for Strawberry Hill

Base for Strawberry Hill


Rotted Wood

Rotted Wood


Shovel Work

Shovel Work


 Strawberry Hill

Strawberry Hill

I believe I have found a solution to the problem in an experiment I did in my main garden last summer. It is a method called “hugelkultur”. I’m not sure who originated the idea but it works really well in dry weather. The idea behind this method is, basically, to bury decomposing wood underneath your plants and the wood will hold moisture and release nutrients into the soil as it decomposes.

Last summer I had 2 rows in my main garden in which I used this method. I only had to water these 2 rows 4 or 5 times all summer. They were the only 2 rows that had healthy plants that produced well while the other plants in my garden were barely surviving and producing nothing even with frequent watering. Needless to say, I will use this method for the entire garden this year.

I started by digging a ditch about 2 feet deep and filling it rotting wood that I gathered from the woods around the property. I heaped the wood about a foot above ground level and covered with about a foot of soil. This gives me a strawberry hill that is about 2 feet high and 20 feet long.

I can plant on the top and both slopes of this hill and, hopefully, have a thriving dry weather strawberry hill to enjoy that will produce plenty strawberries for us to preserve and enjoy fresh.


More On Offgrid Homestead Security

There is more to know about securing your homestead than can ever be covered by a few articles on a website. My purpose here is to give you a few ideas that will start you thinking about your own homestead security.

Whether it be in a community or deep in the woods there are things you can do to improve the security of your property or home to protect it from vandalism or theft or worse.

  1. Situational Awareness; Pay attention to the unusual. Notice things that are different from normal. Strange vehicles parked nearby or cruising by slowly with driver or others looking over the area, strange faces, people loitering where they have no business, anyone acting strange or suspiciously, all these things can be indications of possible trouble. Pay attention to your animals. They will most likely be aware of anything unusual before you are.

  2. Do Not Advertise; Make sure your valuables are not visible to outsiders. An open window curtain with a large screen TV in front of it is asking for trouble. An ATV sitting in the driveway is likely to invite unwanted attention. Do not leave anything in view of the public that would tempt them to violate your space.

  3. Access; Become aware of all the ways it is possible to gain access to your property. This could be driveway, alley in back, gates in your yard fence, an opening through a neighbor’s property, or any other way a person could approach your property either in a vehicle or on foot. By knowing how an intruder could approach, you can take measures to prevent his entering your property. You can at least make it inconvenient (like planting a thorny bush in his path, blackberries are effective for this as are others). The more inconvenient you make it, the more likely they will bypass your property in favor of something more easily accessible.

  4. Obvious Deterrents; The less inviting your place looks, the less likely you will be bothered. Things like fences with gates, bars on windows, dogs in the yard, anything that would make it hard to get into and out of your place quickly will act as a deterrent.

With the number of home invasions increasing, there is a need to be concerned about preventing anyone forcibly entering your home when you are there. No one likes to think about someone forcing their way into their home so here are some ways you can discourage forcible entry into your home.

  • Locks, Chains, and Bars; Always have the best locks (deadbolt)you can afford and a chain on your doors. A bar across the middle of your door will make it hard to break into. Always have a peep hole in your door so you can see who is knocking. If they will not stand where they can be seen with the peephole, you can expect trouble. Never, ever unlock or open your door if you can’t see who is knocking.
  • Spotlights; Place a bright spotlight above your door under the eaves and aim it to shine on the area in front of your door. Besides being blinded by the light they will be very visible and nobody intent on breaking in wants to be center stage of a spotlight to be plainly seen by everybody. Place this light on a switch you can turn on when someone knocks. The effect of the light suddenly coming on (even in daylight) lets them know they are being observed. This is also a good idea for any ground level windows you may have as someone might try to gain entry through a window. Do not forget the back door as it is less visible than the front.
  • Obstacles; In the event someone does break through your door, obstacles placed on the floor inside the door (allowing room for the door to swing open) will trip them up as they rush into the room, possibly allowing you time to escape or to subdue them if you are so inclined. I prefer a cable stretched tight about knee level just inside the door. The cable will take them down. You need to research local laws before you do this as it is illegal in some places, since it is just effective against a dynamic entry by Police as it is against home invaders. Now that I think about it, a dynamic entry is a home invasion regardless of who does it.

There are many more things you can do that I haven’t mentioned here. You will just have to think about it and decide what is appropriate for you and your situation. I’ve given you some things to think about and some places to start. I’ve read recently that the Supreme Court has decided that it is not the job of the Police to protect you or your property. It is their job to apprehend and prosecute people who have committed crimes. Until that crime has been committed, they have no responsibility. That means it is up to you. Actually, homestead security always has been and will always be up to you.