We have solidified the plan for living off-grid.
The road access is making progress. There are several breaks in the road and several places where it is fine, so it is a connect-the-dots sort of situation. They have filled in one gap and there is only one more gap for them to do that would get us road access to our house. Unfortunately, they have had trouble obtaining supplies, so they probably won’t even start on it for another week.
There will be several stages to our plan, making it easier and easier to live the farther we get through the stages.
During the flooding, while we were still in our home, we lost electricity. It later came back on, but then we were told they were going to shut it off because of safety reasons with all the water and flooding. They did not end up turning it off, so we still have electric. However, there may be times during restoration that it will have to be turned off for long periods of time, so part of the plan is a back-up generator.
Electricity is needed to keep our refrigerator and freezer going, as well as for us to cook (we have an electric stove and oven). We also need electric to run the tank heater to keep our water from freezing in the winter.
This one is a somewhat simple answer, we will be using a camping toilet. We can let gray water go down our pipes from our sinks and tubs and such, just not toilet.
Our house uses hydronic baseboard heat. Water is heated in our boiler (which uses propane) and then forced through the pipes along the baseboards. We also have two wood burning stoves, one in the dining room and one in the living room. Those two stoves cannot heat the whole house enough to keep pipes from freezing since they are somewhat isolated from large amounts of the house.
In order to have the heaters work we would need a propane truck to be able to come onto the property, and we would also need pressurized water flow (I will talk about this in the water section). Once we have both those things, we could have the heat working. But at first, that won’t work. So we won’t have heat except from the wood stoves. This is fine, until it really starts freezing. Once it gets cold enough, if we still don’t have pressurized water and the ability to re-fill our propane, we will either have to drain the system and winterize it, or we will have to set-up electric space heaters around the house to keep the pipes from freezing. Winterizing is more likely the choice. Then we would just move our beds into the living room and live completely in the living room/kitchen/dining room area where the wood stoves are.
This is the big one.
First stage of this is obviously just hauling our water in by the bucket or jug, which is what we are doing now. This is fine for a while, but won’t work long-term for a family of 6, especially when the winter hits, and definitely doesn’t allow us to get all the animals back because then we also have to haul water in for them. The dogs and cats came with us right away, and some smaller animals can come in now because we still have full rain barrels that we can use to water them (until it starts freezing or they run out), but the rest will have to wait for more water.
So we are going to use water tanks. We will put one big one in our mud room, and then put another one on the back of my husband’s truck (he will need safe road access to the house). He will fill the one on his truck and then use that one to fill the one in our house. We can put an electric tank-heater in it to keep it from freezing. We can fill buckets from this tank and haul them into the house at first, but ideally we would like to have it hooked to the house pipe system so we could use our heaters and have water coming out of the faucets.
To do this we need to pressurize it because our system is pressurized normally by the town water system. So we will get a water pressurizer and hook it, and the tank, up to the whole system. This would also give us hot water (if we had propane), because the hot water heater is hooked to the whole system.
And, having that tank of water will also mean we can easily bring back all the small animals; the chickens and rabbits for sure, and maybe the sheep. But the cow must wait until we have full utilities again because of her high water needs.
One tank has already been brought in, and the pressure pump is arriving today. So this weekend we will start doing all the hook-up. We also have to frame walls and a door around the tank in the mud room because it needs to be in darkness so we don’t have to deal with algae issues. The mud room has two glass doors and tons of sunlight comes in all year long. So we will do that this weekend too.
So that is our plan. I am sure it will probably evolve and change as we go through this and as we get more and more information about how long it will really be before we have back our town utilities. But it is a start.