What is farm life like off the grid, in 300 square feet, on the side of a hill, a 10-minute walk from the road, without plumbing or electric in the middle of winter? Disclaimer: often, it’s not quite so picturesque…we live on a farm! Sometimes there are dead things, thunderstorms, muddy dogs, crabby humans, chilly nights and unexpected problems of all sorts that don’t make it into photos…
Most of our cabin is a kitchen. We installed a sink but don’t have it plumbed anywhere yet. We don’t have a refrigerator, but this time of year we can do a little dance of inside/outside with a cooler and put “perishables” by the door to keep things cold. But not too cold! Any shelving, counters, and tables were all built hastily by us from extra wood from building so it keeps changing all the time and we are in the process of building more. We store our drinking water in the big stainless filter. We cook on our woodstove and on a Coleman two-burner campstove on propane.
Our dollhouse woodstove really is adorable. As you can imagine, lots of life revolves around this little gal. We keep a kettle of water on all the time for humidity and for drinking. In the mornings we drink tea, warm the place back up and watch the deer scamper in the hills, listen to mamma cows bellow to let their calves know its time to visit the water hole, let Travis back in after a night of guarding and wait for the sun to make it over the east ridge. Winter mornings are truly beautiful things.
Winter chores on the farm are pretty light. We feed and water our chickens once a day and collect eggs. The birds are older and have also slowed down a ton due to light availability so once a week we butcher a couple or so for soup. We are planning on restarting the flock next year with younger stock.
We feed out hay to the cows once a day. You can’t give cows too many bales at once or they’ll just lay and poop on all of it, so we bring up a couple every 36 hours or so, and feed them back in the valley near the studio. It means we are around the cows all the time with the dogs, so we get lots of time to get to know each other, and just hang out.
We ran out of time to really get all of our wood squared away, chopped and stacked before winter so Peter spends about two hours a day finding, cutting, hauling, and chopping firewood. Travis is very helpful.
Most days we walk down to the spring and get water. We haul it in some rubber bladders or in plastic milk jugs, which we can dip in the spring pretty easily to fill. We like winter because we can use a heavy-duty sled to haul everything. The load gets heavy uphill the whole way…especially if we’re also bringing home laundry and groceries but the trip is usually only about 10-15 minutes one way and enjoyable because it takes us past the cow herd, the chicken coop, the spring and some of our favorite trees.
Because we are far from any electric or telephone lines, we are working on building a solar arsenal and battery bank. So far we only have one panel and a couple of batteries, just enough to charge our electronics on sunny days. We use an ipad or our phones on the cellular network to run business communication. These days we have lots of paperwork and logistics to take care of, as well as designs and research and some other surprise projects. This winter has been tough because there have been very few sunny days. Sometimes we have to run into town if we need to charge up all our batteries, and our own with some hot showers and laundry.
Tehya spends her days on the couch in her elderly state. She’s pretty much the only one that uses it actually. Travis hangs out
outside and chews on animal parts he’s stashed all over the valley in very strategic places I’ve sworn not to tell anyone about…
We don’t have a great lighting system yet; the battery christmas lights leftover from the wedding we had in the yurt bit the dust so we rely on headlamps, light from our woodstove and a motley collection of candles I keep melting down into new ones. Which means it’s pretty dark at home from 5:30 pm on. We play music at night and have business meetings or catch up on reading.
We wash the dishes in two plastic tubs that we dump into a 5 gallon bucket under the sink. We take it out daily with the compost. We heat about a gallon of water on our woodstove and can do dishes super efficiently that way. We try to be really conservative with water since we carry it so far. Candlelight dishwashing by necessity….romantic, eh?
And of course no day is complete without a check-in with the herd. The little calves are growing nicely, having fun playing with each other and exploring the woods for good scratching trees. Mamas are all healthy, too. It’s amazing that we’ll all have babies in a few short months. For now we are gathering strength, getting some rest and relishing the calm of a winter farm before the epic whirlwind that is spring is upon us.