S’more Indoor

During the summer months, there is nothing like sitting outside surrounded by tiki torches with a fire in the center to roast all beef hot dogs for dinner and marshmallows for dessert.  As the hour gets later and the sun sets, the treetops are softly lit by the glow of the fire.  Our son is quietly put to bed, and my wife and I swing gently on the hammock counting each star or planet as it begins to first appear in the sky.

Enjoying the moment… Relaxing by a campfire by extending our home into our backyard.

It’s a wonderful feeling hearing the transition of the diurnal animal sounds being replaced by the nocturnal.  After a hard day’s work, the reward is to lay in a hammock and allow your muscles to relax.  The fire is blazing from all the scrap wood and branches from the day’s firewood gathering.  My wife and I swing slightly in the hammock with a blanket across our battle scared legs from hiking in the brush.  The temperature is dropping rapidly without the sun overhead.  Dusk is shifting into night.  The sky is so clear at times we can see the occasional shooting star, the big dipper, and even the Milky Way across the roof of our known night sky. The bats begin to dart about us overhead, taking the mosquitoes that attempt to plague us for their dinner.  My wife’s natural bug repellent a mixture of citronella, rosemary, and lavender keep the biting bugs at bay.  This is our outdoor family room in the summer as we expand from the confines of our home to wide-open spaces.

So, as seen in the video below, this discussion did happen. We are depressed that fire restrictions have put a damper on our outdoor family room this entire month of August.  The fire pit remains dark, the tiki torches are no longer flickering, and the glow of the fire has given way to the glow of a night television.  My wife has included into her candle line a candle called “Toasted Marshmallow”, which smells exactly like its namesake.  We realized others during the fire restrictions are probably feeling their summers cut short as well, so we wanted to share our humor and solution to having a s’more safely despite restrictions.  The smell of the candle and the marshmallow actually roasting over it was very appealing.  We used our favorite chocolate for the event, Endangered Species natural dark chocolate with espresso beans ground up and mixed in.  Delicious.

Have you ever? … Roasted a marshmallow over a toasted marshmallow candle?

We hope you enjoy our solution of bringing the outdoors indoors with a roasted s’more for dessert.  By having two candles, there was no waiting for one person or trying to rush for the other.  We decided to place the “Toasted Marshmallow” candle on sale on our online store, Pauper’s Candles Company; 2 candles for $20, so a couple or friends could enjoy the experience at their own pace.

Let us know how it turns out when you try it.

Tankless Water Heater Install & Northwest Fires are Affecting our Solar Panels

It seems this summer, that firewood and the tankless water heater were the majority of my progress.  The weeks have passed by rapidly.  Family has come to visit and days have been filled with which project to do next.

Having the tankless water heater working has been a blessing. After a long day working in the dust, I enjoy a hot shower to relax my pulled and exhausted muscles.  The dishes are easily done with hot water accessible from the sink. Our laundry is cleaner now that the stains and dirt can be rinsed in hot water.  Life has been relatively normal as it was during our on grid days.

In this Youtube video, I explain how the install went and what I had to do to compensate for the wall thimble installation. I also demonstrated the bypass I created and explain the overall system.  Next week, I will crunch the numbers and show how much the unit cost to install including all the parts I had to purchase.

Hazy Days… This morning’s sunrise over the birch trees on our property. I can almost look directly at the sun without hurting my eyes.

As far as life today goes, we are discovering the smoke from the fires in Washington, Oregon and Canada have descended into our area for the past two weeks. Our sun has turned red in the sky at sunset and our moon last night was a deep orange.  We have noticed our battery bank has not been receiving a full charge the past couple days.  Today, we chose not to water our garden or orchard in hopes of keeping from having to pull the generator out in the middle of summer.   Yesterday, when we awoke our battery bank was at 67% charged when it usually is at 94% charged in the mornings.  No clouds, just smoke causing the low charge rate.  Yesterday, I checked periodically the solar panels’ charge rate and it was at half the production it would be on a typical sunny, non smoky day.  The odd thing is we can see the sun.  The sky is not blue, but hazy, yet the panels are greatly affected by it.

If you are off grid and in the northwest region of the United States or nearby in Canada and have solar panels, how has the smoke affected your power generation?

Out with the Old; in with the New… (no more temporary hot water)

Each year it seems we upgrade our systems.  Much of what we setup to be as temporary finally gives way to more innovative devices that help modernize our home.  We have lived with the Ecotemp L5 propane tankless camping hot water heater for 5 years until it finally died this past May.  We managed to use our wood cook stove to heat water a little longer than expected this spring until we could find its replacement.  Once something “temporary”‘ goes out, the only logical thing to do is make the move to replace it with something more permanent and easier to use.

We decided our hot water system would receive an upgrade.  However, I do want to give some credit to our 5 year temporary fix, the Ecotemp L5.  When I purchased the unit, I did not expect it to last as long as it did.  I figured it would buy us some time until we could save for the house unit we originally hoped to install.  The small system had a lot of glitches we had to figure out; eventually, we learned its quirks and had the thing dialed.  Our overnight guests, however, got to experience the exponential learning curve and many would skip showers after their first experience.  Water pressure is key to maintaining steady water temperature.  Knowing the dials on the unit and adjusting them before hand was helpful, but when the pressure tank had to be refilled, we learned how to manage the fluctuation from the faucet easily.  Our son, who loves showers and bath time, became a pro with managing the water temperature.  Now, with the new larger unit installed, it’s like a regular every day shower on the grid with no knobs to fiddle with; it’s all temperature controlled at the unit.

This system was a great fix for our needs at the time.  It didn’t take a lot of plumbing to get it working and I was able to have it up and running within a few hours, which included a run to the store to purchase parts and the construction of the stand to hold it in place.

Our off grid home has evolved nicely these past 6 years, and we look forward to the new innovations to come.

Save Money on Plumbing, Also Building a Bypass for a Tankless Water Heater

Tankless water heaters are prone to corrode with hard water deposits and propane water heaters have a possibility of freezing in the winter due to the cold air sneaking in through the ventilation. A bypass is an easy way to avoid both scenarios. I created this bypass with parts anyone can purchase at a hardware supply store to drain and clean the tankless water heater when needed.

If you ever want to save money, learn the basics of plumbing, so you will never need to call a plumber.

I put a disclaimer on the end of the YouTube video to explain that I am not a certified plumber. My plumbing skills developed when we lived on the Oregon Coast.  We purchased an older home and every faucet gave out while we were living there due to corrosion.  I replaced every faucet, hot water tank, and shut off valve during a break to stop every leak in the house.  I self taught myself everything and asked detailed questions of the George Morlan crew who sold me the parts I needed.  I spent probably $500.00 overall by purchasing closed out fixtures.  Later, my neighbor came to me and complained about a faucet of his giving out and how it cost him over $100.00 just for a plumber to drive to his house.  Then the plumber charged him for the faucet around $200.00, but it was a special order part, so he had to make a second $100.00 trip.  The third $100.00 trip was to fetch a special connector the plumber did not have in his truck that the new part needed.  When I heard that I replaced every faucet in my house, over 6 of them, for the price of one faucet by a professional plumber, I vowed never to call a plumber for any work I might need done.

Bypass Finished… I used faucet connectors to run the last leg to the tankless water heater. I can loosen them to easily drain or even build a pump system to flush the unit using these flexible water lines on the left.

Eventually, I will need to clean the tankless water heater of hard water deposits.  I will design a pump that can flush the system with vinegar using the original connectors that I can easily disengage using the bypass.  However, since it is new, why rush things by spending money and time building a system we won’t need for a few years.

Thanks for joining us on this plumbing adventure.  I will say this… as my wife already knows from long ago on the Oregon Coast…”I hate plumbing, but I love the money we save.”

Gas Vent Install & Thoughts about Blogging

Installing the tankless water heater gas vent was a bit of a challenge.  I had to measure the outside wall and match it up with the measurements of the inside wall.  I used a window to base the measurements to make sure that I would place the hole in between the studs correctly, which I couldn’t see or figure out on the outside of the house.  The reason I decided to work from outside in was, I wanted the top of the wall thimble on the outside of the house to tuck under the siding.

The gas vent install worked out a lot smoother than I thought it would.  I am not one who likes to cut 6 inch holes into a perfectly solid wall.  One mistake and the patch job could be horrendous.  I have not installed a vent hole since the build of the home when I installed a vent for our battery bank to vent the off gassing of the batteries during charging and equalizing, and the necessary vent for the plumbing on the roof.

It’s the initial cut that finally gets me moving in a steady course.  Once the main hole from the 10” x 1/4” drill bit was made.  Everything fell into line smoothly after that.  I did much of the work during a slight drizzle that day, which was a few weeks back.  We haven’t had much rain since.

I created another video about organizing the closet, which needed to happen to start the tankless water heater install, but I decided to wait on posting it, and post it out of order.  I felt that I needed to show the progress on this project since a few people who know me and watch our YouTube channel commented to me that they were surprise that I had hot water since I hadn’t posted the finished project yet.

When creating videos, there is a process of editing, and I space out the posts to once a week. Our videos are about 3 weeks behind real time.  I enjoy blogging and writing articles about what we do, but I also like to read others posts as well.  One thing my wife and I agreed on was to post at least once a week, maybe one midweek for special events or to catch up on video releases.  I once followed bloggers that would post every day, and to be honest seeing bloggers post up to 6 times a day gets frustrating.  One, I don’t have that much time to spend on one blog reading 6 different articles.  Two, other bloggers I follow get buried, and I can’t find their posts within the post dumps some bloggers do.  I know that they’re following some prescribed rule of mass posting to get more hits on their websites, but for a subscriber or follower, it creates more digital clutter.

Personally, I don’t have the time or interest to post every day.  Projects take time, filming, photographing, and writing about each moment takes time and bogs the process of each project down.  During our initial build, I didn’t even have a blog.  It wasn’t until all our necessities were in that I finally was able to take a breath and reflect.  Blogging has helped me do that.

If you are a blogger, and a do-it-yourself-er, you probably understand what I am talking about.  During the past 2 years of blogging, many of the blogs I used to follow have cease to post or even exist.  Living a Sustainable Dream is perhaps the slowest growing blog and YouTube channel out there. Why, because we pace ourselves.  We blog once a week and create a list of posts that may be interesting to others to read or watch.  We schedule filming, editing, and posting times.  We’re sustaining our blog and YouTube channel by being realistic about what we can do with our time.

If you are blogger who hasn’t posted in a while, don’t feel guilty.  In the beginning when I started blogging, I took two or three days and created several posts, usually during a vacation or extra-long weekend.  I then set each post to release on a specific date and time about a week a part.  I then went back to work or continued with my projects knowing each post would release at the predetermined time.  YouTube, however, does not have this option, which has bogged me down somewhat, but I am talking to mainly bloggers here.

How are you bloggers sustaining your blogs?  Please share how you maintain an active blog and encourage others who are seeking to do the same thing.


Welcome to YouTube…

Brief Background

I started the Living a Sustainable Dream YouTube channel back in the beginning of 2015.  I had an iPod Nano and our Nikon Cool Pix and filmed a couple segments about how to clean our wood cook stove, making a waffle on the wood cook stove, and troubleshooting our electric log splitter (our most popular YouTube video, go figure).  Then we adopted our son and every video I made was dedicated to making his transition to our home easier.  We made a brief movie introducing him to our home when we visited the first time and several music montages of his daily life with us over the years (these videos are for him and are not meant to be shared publicly).

The Dream

At the beginning of 2017, my wife and I decided to give YouTube another try, so we started making more videos about what life is like living off the grid, some how-to fix it videos, and getting the word out about our off grid homestead business, Pauper’s Candle Company.   We saw YouTube as another potential income maker for the homestead.  If we could get thousands of views, we could earn money just for documenting what we do and providing helpful tips for others considering living off the grid.

The Reality

However, a reality check happened, and we realized the possibility of making money from YouTube was quite low due to the click bait problem.  YouTube’s algorithm was another death knell to this vision of view related income as we realized that shock and awe videos seem to be the only way to promote oneself in this platform. The once popular channels that I watched for content were slowly morphing to create titles to get views versus titles that categorized the actual content of the video.  We also began to witness more YouTube drama being engineered to show “potential” or imagined peril to get more views.

Our Solution

Seeing how the game is played, we decided to choose a different path.  Our channel and the YouTube platform is simply an extension of our blog.  So far, we are free from the above-mentioned reality on YouTube because our livelihood is not connected to YouTube.  We are free to explore what we want to do with our channel and we have decided that we want the channel to give helpful tips for living off the grid, be an encouragement to others who happen to cross it, and to promote our homestead business.

Overall, I am happy to learn this new hobby of cinematography and hope to improve upon it.  Some people like painting, I like video editing; it’s a form of artistic expression that I want to explore.  We updated our camera to a refurbed camcorder as we attempt to improve our video quality.  We use free editing software known as the “infamous” Microsoft Movie Maker as well as the free, open source Blender.  Combining the two free platforms has helped greatly. We are not heavily invested into our video equipment; instead, we have chosen to purchase just enough equipment to hone our skills without detracting from our homestead projects.

Some questions for you…

Why do you blog?  What struggles and successes have you had along the journey?  How has blogging become an artistic expression for you?