Tag Archives: off grid

homeschool papers

A friend of mine asked about how hard it was to home school and wondered if I was “making it up as I go” or if I had a curriculum.  She was curious how many home school parents shared resources with each other.  I thought it would be a great idea if more did.  I thought I would begin to share some of the pages I have made and keep in a folder for easy printing in a file named HomeSchool.


Nov 24/ New Snow

Just as I got the car unpacked, (it now sits at the bottom of the drive and everything must be carried up and up down,) the misty rain turned to snow.  Tired from fighting the wind while taking pictures that morning and driving in it for hours I headed to bed.  Fire built up, I hoped to sleep a few hours before I had to get up and restock it, but the cat seemed to have missed me and decided my head was right where she needed to sit.  When she did relent it was close to 4 am and she decided she needed to go outside.  I could see it was still snowing but was too tired to really take notice.  This morning however it was impossible to ignore.  Even as tired as I grabbed the camera.

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Pre-coffee I stepped out to get the sun on the snow but just as I did a cloud over the sun. I decided to take a few anyway.  I will go out later I am sure and try to get some with a bit more direct sunshine.

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These two old Tamarac’s tower up just outside the kitchen window.  They stand as guardians over the yard.  We call them the old grandmothers.

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The only sound this morning was the little wood pecker who has until now been almost magical in its way of hiding from the camera.  Its not the best picture I might have dreamed of, but I’m happy to have gotten on of this little guy at all.

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Pictures do not show just steep the last leg of the drive up tot he cabin is, but its a good work up going up and down.

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Looking up the mountain behind the little cabin.

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Around the Cabin

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Morning sun through the window on steam from the copper tea pot.

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The Forest Spirit Samahain costume in progress.

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Frozen Rain drop, first snow just beginning to fall

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Four avocados that decided to spout when I tossed them into the soil of a sad looking spider plant.  No toothpick and cup of water required.

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An important thing to know when splitting wood by hand, is the difference between a spitting maul and an ax.  This is an ax.  It is not designed to split logs, but as my maul is missing it is the tool I have been using.

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Snow back to rain.  Time to go split a few more logs.

Little Cabin Work -October

Little tasks keep getting done.  Bit by bit they come together one day to the next.  A part picked up here, a another purchased there and things start to function.  The biggest improvement in the last month has been the advancement of the wiring and the kitchen cabinets going in.

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The wiring is all 12 volt. It comes off the battery bank into the house with no need for conversion, thus saving a lot of the energy that is lost as people convert from 110 to 12 volt.  I have been limited to one old camper style light but have recently made huge steps forward.

new wall sconce, switch for that one and the ceiling light, (switch not wired in yet but the wires are in place behind) and 12 volt outlet.

new wall sconce, switch for that one and the ceiling light, (switch not wired in yet but the wires are in place behind) and 12 volt outlet.

With the help of the ‘snoring bear’ the has been run up to the vaulted ceiling.  I am now in the hunt to find  12 volt ceiling fan.  Two wall sconces I picked up at the Restore.  You can use any light fixture if you get a special bulb made for 12 volts.  These two I couldn’t pass up.  My 12 volt outlet is also hot now.  That means the lap top wont go dead every hour and a half, needing recharging elsewhere.  I can also now charge my cell phone and other such devices.

cabinet doors on

cabinet doors on

Soon the last of the insulation will go in and the sheet rock will go up.  The east end wall will be done in a rocket stove and cob next year but there just was not time this year to get it done.  A couple windows are still planned on but with the way the weather and winters can be in Montana it is a better idea to insulate and sheet rock now with plans to take down next summer for more work.

Being cold is a way to really ruin the joy of living in the mountains in winter.  Today is the first day snow flakes have come down here this year, quite late, but we have had cold rain for days.  The fire has been going and while I am a long way from having all I need for the course of the winter I have been warm and cozy this far.


After an evening of dealing poker (yes, Another, part time job) I joined the fire outside, table put away, chips locked up and shift over.  Standing around, most the people with a can of domestic beer in hand, enjoyed the unlikely pleasant October weather.  All of them I have known for years and could have followed any of a dozen conversations about the fire.  My conversation how ever went to my friend Joe. He and I talked about my rather shocking lack of firewood as of yet and other details of the little cabin.  In his 80’s Joe is one of the most generous men I have never met and he suggested I go up and check out his “junk yard”.  “…up the hill and past the old trailer, see what you find,” he said with a smile and a chuckle.  Today I will be heading up and see what gift he has in mind to put towards my projects.

After he stepped back inside to get himself another Kokanee a man I have known for several years gave me an odd look. “You really are doing it aren’t you?” he said with a very perplexed tone.

“Doing what?”

“The off grid thing.  You are seriously going to do it.  You truly want to.”

“Yes.  I am seriously doing it and yes,I actually want to.”


Why is a good question.  It is a question that anyone who is thinking about stepping away from the grid needs to truly think about.  There is always a very romanticised approach to off grid living, the tiny house movement and even home-school.  All these things I do and while I happy with each choice not everyone is going to be.

So why have I made this choice?  Firstly and beyond most peoples choice is the fact that the older I get the more sensitive to chemicals of all sorts I must get further from them.  That however, is not enough to make a person love the life style.  I truly believe that it is a spiritual need to know the sound of the forest, to seek to give back to a suffering planet and to stop being part of the abuse. A person can not wave their banners, and stomp their feet expecting things to change if they leave their starbucks cup on the side walk, drive their SUV back too their suburban house, turn on the sprinklers to water the lawn and watch fox new while they microwave dinner.  For those that don’t know how to start making a shift it starts with little things and a simple awareness of the world around you.

It is beyond choice to me at this point.  To be a part of that system is painful to me both physically and spiritually. We do not need to burn coal, we do not need to pull oil from the earth, we do not need to rush from task to task with the white noise of hate mongers and false wars being made into nothing but ratings.  We can be good to each other and to Gia and still have lights that turn on, internet to connect us, music of a thousand genres at a touch of a button, the freedom to travel around the world or even just down the road to visit a neighbour.

Every piece of food you put in your mouth, every piece of clothes, every square foot of space you occupy is a choice. If you are reading this blog you are aware, at least on some level, that there is another way of doing things.  If more people stepped off grid without becoming hermits and cut off from the world it would become easier for others to do so as well.  When my sister comes out to show her nephews that there is a place where there is neither cell service or flushing toilets it changes his awareness just a little.  So when people ask me why my answer is not all this, or nearly so long.  I simply say

“Because I can; because its right for me.”

It is not right for everyone or sadly not obtainable for what ever reason but if you cant take that leap at least try to be aware, support laws that help others to do it, stand up for them.  From gardens in the front yard, to solar panels, rain barrels to backyard chickens, all of this under pressure to be denied to all with the stroke of a pen from corrupt or simply ignorant governments.  When I mention laws and the ever building move against off grid, sustainable, and the first steps towards either, people often ask me if I vote and what party do I belong to.  I vote at local government levels, I attend town councils meeting and if the laws did not deny me I would likely run for the council.  I vote for the sheriff, I vote for the governor, but do I vote on a national level? No.  I do not. I do not, because not only does my vote mean nothing, it is not who votes that matters but who counts the votes. I will not vote for someone I do not believe is being handled or controlled by greed.  The “party” I follow is Ubuntu.  If you do not know what that means it is time you learn.  Take the time to learn and consider it, to imagine a world that we could have with such a shift of focus.  http://www.ubuntuparty.org.za/p/about.html

The Sanctuary

There is a place up a narrow gravel road, around a sharp turn and up the mountain side.  Tucked in among trees that count time in centuries and stones that count in ages you will find the cabin.  Looking like something from a beginning pages of a fairy tale this place is called the Sanctuary. 


With neither running water nor electrical this place is as rustic as can be but holds all the charm one might fantasize about. 


While some might see only a 100 square feet, like most magical things, the closer you look the more you will see.


Dwelling in this place like a forest guardian is what some might say an old hippie but if you look with the eyes of a child you might just see something else. 


Tucked about the yard are works of his hands



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when you walk in the woods always keep your eyes open, your mind open and see the wonder about you.
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you never know what you might see
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It was into this little section of forest that I spent a year.
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Choosing a Site

So often people who dream of the “off grid” life are lured there but stunning images of a little cabin next to a creek or a lake. While beautiful such sites are normally a summer vacation home. You can get away with this in warmer climates but here in Montana this is a bad idea.
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One of the most important things you can do in a sustainable space is have a garden
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and while it might seem wise to put it near a water source this often leads to seasons too short.
While it feels wonderful in a hot dry summer to be near the water for the same reason it will frost late in the spring and frost early in the fall. This can lead to a great deal of disappointment and frustration.
A standard rule is that from any water you need to be at very least 50 feet away and elevation does count. Cool air will follow the shape of the land.
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It is always ALWAYS a good idea to take a full season to watch the land, to learn how it moves with sun, wind and water. Before you put in a long term garden (and that is very important) using pots for the first year is a good idea. It allows you to move your garden much easier than digging it up and remaking it.

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Gardens will be dealt with this spring as I put in new beds.
(the picture of the frozen creek is from early Nov. While frozen and frosted out about 100 feet from the creek itself just past that point it was my tomatoes were still producing with minimal protection.)