Slow-going Off-grid

Hard to believe it’s June already! Time is flying by and monsoons are gonna be upon us before we know it.

Seems almost all our time has been spent building erosion control projects. Also trimming trees on our property. There are about 10 fairly large, and 7 or so smaller mesquite trees. We are using the branches to fill in cracks in the wash. Hopefully this will help save our land that could potentially wash away.

We had planned to do another strawbale workshop but that has been canceled.

We went to Pennsylvania for a couple weeks. Spent time with Brian’s Dad, Mom, brother plus nieces and nephews. Had a great time. Lots of laughs.

We went to something called an escape room. I had never heard of this. It was really cool and fun! There are different options but we chose the “magic” one. It was Harry Houdini based. Lots of great and creepy decorations. You have to solve different puzzles and things to make your way out.
It was an hour long and went by very fast. We worked together to figure out everything. We made it out with 3 minutes to spare!

We also went to St Vincent’s college where Brian went to school. Just explored the grounds. Its a catholic school and has really old buildings and a cemetery on the grounds. I love cemeteries. Just a fascinating and interesting place that I hope to stay above ground on. Lol

I couldn’t get over how green everything was since it doesn’t rain very much here it’s not very green and we don’t really get to experience the rain very often. It was pretty cool to see rain storms. I didn’t like the thunder and lightning though.

We ate a lot during those 2 weeks and both gained about 10 pounds. I’m trying to get back into my workout routine. It’s difficult to do everything before it gets too hot. Doing our best to get back on track.

Our RV toilet has a seal leak so Brian is trying to get that repair done as we speak.

We are thinking of building a shed out of wood because it will be quick and simple. We have to get our things out of the shed that is out there because rain leaks in and also mice have found their way in and are trying to chew up our recliners! Grrrr

Meanwhile, our neighbors are working very hard and are getting a lot accomplished. I’m very happy to have them here. They are very inspiring to us and help us out when we need it. They will probably be building their straw bale home in October and we will get to help them and get experience.

They have already built a shed (for solar equipment) out of straw bale and it is so incredible. I really love it and I can’t wait to have a home someday that is similar.

I hope you guys will tune in to our YouTube videos. Check out what’s going on because it’s hard for me to remember to do the blog. LOL

Until next time!

Straw bale workshop and Tires

Hello everyone! I hope you aren’t battling allergies like I am. LOL. I love the spring weather but I don’t love having the itchy throat and eyes and waking up and sneezing 100 times in a row. 😂

We went to a straw bale workshop a couple of weeks ago. Overall I would say it was great and we learned a lot. However it was a little crowded and a bit chaotic.
Bill and Athena Steen have been putting on this workshop for about 30 years now and I doubt that I have to worry about them reading this, but I guess I expected or hoped it would be a little more organized. I’m still very glad we did it, don’t get me wrong. It’s just that we are the type of people who like organization. 😄

We arrived around five in the afternoon and set up a tent. We met people as they arrived. That evening we all gathered in the living room and went around the room and individually introduced ourselves. There were 16 people in all. We went to bed that night and I swear I did not sleep a wink. It was really cold and windy and I had accidentally left my earplugs in the car. The next day I saw Athena and I mentioned to her that I had been cold at night. She said there’s a little house down the road and it doesn’t have plumbing yet but you are welcome to stay in it. It is one of the straw bale structures that is on their property. We took our stuff and slept in the loft on a futon cushion that was up there.
There was no heat but because it was a straw bale building, it was totally warm inside. I slept a lot better the next two nights there. I am very grateful to Athena for letting us stay in that building.
The first day we were there we had to start assembling bales for a temporary structure. They assemble and then take it down again to be reused. It was crowded and I had no idea what to do. The straw particles and straw dust was flying everywhere. Face protection is a definite must.
On the second day we met a couple who had already built their own straw bale house. Chad and Tiffany. It turns out they live about 30 minutes from us and they also said that they would like to help us when we build our house. I hope they really mean it because we will take them up on that. LOL We exchanged numbers and they invited us to dinner for next week.

On the last day of the workshop we helped a young couple who are in the process of building their house out of straw bale. They were working on adding earthen plaster to the inside and outside. Athena showed us how to make big batches of the earth plaster (clay, sand, straw and water). I never really understood how to plaster it onto the walls correctly or was able to do it well. Brian had the same problem. I just felt like there were so many people jumping in and doing it and there was really no room. So I just stood back and watched. I feel like people probably thought I was lazy or something but I really just didn’t know what to do. I need someone to tell me what to do. That’s just me. I need someone to tell me what they’re doing and explain to me what you’re doing while you’re doing it. It was strange. I didn’t like that last day much at all. But I did see some wild turkeys running around and we saw lots of deer.

Since we have been back we have been workin on getting tires into the big cracks on our land. Some of it is past our property but will eventually meet our land. I hope this will work. It is a lot of WORK! It’s a great workout though!

Brian and I also built a raised bed garden. It is still empty at this moment because I am waiting until I learn a little bit more about planting. I don’t want to plant a bunch of stuff and then have it die. We put a cover over the top with chicken wire so animals won’t be able to get to it. We are making a video of that as well.

Hopefully we can get to 1000 subscribers on YouTube soon.
We are close with 900 at this time. I’m not sure if people know we hope to make money from YouTube eventually. We can only achieve that by having people watching.
Doug? Are you watching our videos? Lol. We have to have 1000 subscribers and at least 4000 hours of watch time in order to get paid for ads on YouTube. The amount we will be paid will be very little but at least it is something. We don’t have jobs so every penny counts. LOL

For May we have a trip planned for Pennsylvania where Brian’s family live. We haven’t been back in about 10 years. Looking forward to that.

Hopefully we can visit Texas in September to visit my family. We haven’t been in a while. I miss them terribly plus my Dad is 85. I want to see him while he’s still around.

In July we will attend another strawbale workshop. Until then we got plenty to keep us busy! Thanks y’all!

Hiking the Grand Canyon

The South Kaibab Trail of the Grand Canyon is supposed to be the best but least traveled. On the first day of our hike this is the trail we followed. It descends 4,820 feet to the bottom. It is very steep with very little shade. It is 7.5 miles to the Bright Angel campground where we stayed two nights.

Craig, Nicki, Brian, and I each had a backpack weighing 17 to 30 pounds. Mine was the least, weighing 17 pounds and Craigs weighed 30 pounds. They have a little weigh station where you can see how much it weighs before you take off.

When we started off We all felt great. I was very excited and felt like I could conquer the world. But the constant downward motion wears on your feet and knees. After a while it starts to hurt tremendously. Pretty soon every muscle in your body is just crying out in pain. There is no turning back though. All you can do is take a break and continue forward. The hard part is knowing that you’re holding everyone else back. Ha ha! Fortunately, the scenery is just spectacular and out of this world beautiful! We took a lot of breaks. You keep telling yourself I am going to the bottom of the Grand Canyon! It’s just unreal.

We got to the campground and set up tents and sleeping bags then set out to make our dinner.

We had these bags of dehydrated food and Craig had something called a jet boil. He would boil water and we would pour in to our bag of food and stir it up and it becomes like a meal. It wasn’t bad at least on the first day. After two days it was getting pretty old. LOL It’s something like army rations I believe. My favorite was chicken and dumplings.

We had to completely empty out our backpacks into a lock box, then hang the backpack on a tall hook. You cannot have anything scented in your tent either. Apparently the squirrels have gotten smart and figured out how to get into peoples backpacks for food. It makes it a real pain because then you have to pack everything back up in the morning. We had to do that at each site. Squirrels are not afraid of you here. They come after you! Lol

The second day getting up was pretty hard since my legs and feet were very sore. I wasn’t alone though and misery loves company! We all got up and had oatmeal and did some stretching exercises to loosen up and then hiked to a place called Ribbon Falls following the Bright Angel trail. It’s 6 1/2 miles to the falls, 13 miles round trip. It was really a spectacular sight.

You are so deep in the middle of the Grand Canyon and the walls are just towering around you. It is just unbelievable. The scenery is breathtaking the whole way and in every direction. It didn’t even seem like 6 1/2 miles, (13 miles round trip)and went very fast. The aching muscles and soreness eased up. We had to cross a river and that was somewhat difficult but we made it. Then we could see the falls in the distance. It is very narrow and that is why they call it ribbon Falls. It is surrounded by greenery and moss. I wish I had better words to describe it.

We had started out at 10:00 in the morning and didn’t get back until 7:30 in the evening We were exhausted but it was worth it.

Day 3 we wake up and start the 5 mile hike to Indian Garden campground. This is following the bright angel trail heading back up the very steep inclines, working our way back up to the top. It was very shady at Indian Gardens and cool. Craig, Nicki, and Brian, decided to do a sunset hike that’s 3 miles round-trip called Plateau Point. I just did not have the energy and stayed behind and did stretching exercises and relaxed which was really nice. They were gone until after dark and had to use their headlamps to find their way back. It was pretty chilly at night, every night and I don’t think any of us really slept all that well.

Day four we wake up and all of us are very sore except for Brian who said he could’ve done it again with no problem and I wanted to punch him. 😆

While waiting for everyone to get ready I saw 3 deer very close up. That was an amazing experience!

We start off to begin the 4 1/2 long miles to get to the very top on the bright angel trail.

It really is a mental struggle. Plus the added weight of the pack you are carrying. You have to keep telling yourself I can do this. Really there is no other choice because it’s keep going or a helicopter is going to have to rescue you.

There were times when pack mules passed by. (I got some footage that will be in the video.) A long line of people on mules and then another line of mules carrying their belongings. The mules were very sweaty. I felt sorry for them but Craig said they treat them well. I hope he is right.

I would go as far as I could until I felt like my heart would explode and all of my muscles in my legs and feet hurting so bad. I couldn’t take it and then I would stop and rest. They were letting me lead the way because of course I am the slowest. I am also the oldest!

As we get closer to the top there are more and more people because all of the tourists come down from the top a little bit and then turn around and go back. It is also a lot colder at the top.

As you near the end you feel like it’s going to never end but you keep pushing forward. Finally, we make it! We were all very excited. I had to use the bathroom very badly and it turns out some of the bathrooms were out of order so the lines were extremely long. I was getting cramps in my legs and my stomach and a couple of people ask me if I was OK. I told them that I had just hiked about 30 miles over the past few days. Then it seemed like everyone wanted to let me go in front of them. I think they felt sorry for me because I looked like a homeless person ( or because I hadn’t showered in four days!). It made me feel good that there are still nice people in the world.

All in all it was an excellent trip. I can say for sure that this was a one time thing that I will not do again. I am glad I did it but it was just too painful. We got some pretty good footage and plan on making a video. Of course It can’t compare to seeing it for yourself.

I will forever be in awe of the Grand Canyon. I will never forget it, that’s for sure!

Now it’s time to get to work on things here at home. I am so glad to be home !!!

Erosion Control

Lately it seems like we’ve been working a lot on controlling the erosion of our land. It’s really important that we get this done before the monsoon season starts because we are in danger of losing more land.

Our friends Steve and Donna in Phoenix were kind enough to bring us a load of bricks and also had more at their house which we picked up. We really appreciate it Steve and Donna! Brian took some of these bricks and made a dam in one of the ravines where the water is washing land away. Time will tell if it will hold up or not but I think it looks pretty good.

We found a place where we can get old tires for free and it is close by plus they are willing to deliver them to us. There’s many things we can do with old tires plus there such a large area that needs to be dealt with, we need the cheapest option we can find.

During this last month we have been helping our neighbors out by taking all of their tree trimmings and branches, as well as our own tree trimmings and putting it in the wash where the wall is eroding. Hopefully the trees will slow things down.

We have been using barrels to catch water from the shed and we have gotten quite a bit. Plus catching it in buckets just here and there. Today it is raining so we will be getting quite a bit more.

We have also been training for a hike in the Grand Canyon. It will be about a 4 mile hike down where we will set up camp. The next day we will do approximately 16 mile hiking and spend the night at the campsite. Then we will start the hike out which is about 4 miles up and stop and camp that night. The next day hike the rest of the way out which is about 4 miles.

April will be here before we know it. We are going to a straw bale workshop at a place close by and spending three days there. Hopefully we will be learning a lot of helpful information.

Our neighbors, Bill and Yvonne have build a solar shed out of straw bale and we have been helping so that has been a learning experience as well.

The carport has been put on hold for now and I believe we are going to try to build a straw bale bathroom starting in April after we get done with our workshop.

The March winds have arrived. We have been doing everything in the morning because the winds come around noon and then it’s almost impossible to get anything done. Doing our best though.

Thank you to everyone who is sticking with me and reading this. LOL

Starting Rain Catchment

Hi y’all! Things have been a little easier lately. Knock on wood. Time is flying by too fast. February is going to be over before we know it.

Brian installed a rain gutter on the shed. He put one of our barrels under to catch the rain. It will be nice to have water close to the compost pile. If y’all didn’t know, composting requires water. If it’s to dry, it doesn’t “cook”. Brian is also starting an area for a new composting area with a roof to cover the strawbales so they stay dry. So far he has the post holes dug and the posts are secured.

We were in Tucson the past 2 weekends because I took a self defense class with my friend Nicki. It was from 9 until 3! Two Saturdays in a row. It was fun and also free! Now I feel really good about walking around hiking alone. Who knows if an animal decides to attack me and I have to fight. Lol. Or a human.

The wind is just non stop blowing so hard. It’s really annoying. It’s getting cold again. Our weather has been really screwy as of late.

Getting quite a bit accomplished and feel really great. Training for the Grand Canyon. Going to hike in March.

Thanks everyone who is reading this. Appreciate y’all!

Surprise! More Setbacks😃

Well well well, big surprise we take one step forward and 3 steps back. Trying to keep a good attitude though it is hard.

On a good note, Brian got materials to make a compost station and there will be a roof in the middle to cover our straw bales. It will also catch water. Our neighbor Bill came over and drilled eight holes for us to put the posts in. Just as they were finishing up I noticed that the ground was wet over where Brian had already fixed a leak. So he had to stop and try to repair it. While we were outside working on that there was an incident with the toilet inside the trailer. There is a pedal that you step on and it makes the water run, so you can flush the toilet. Since the water had not been on we didn’t notice that the pedal was stuck in the down position. When we turned the water on to see if the leak was fixed little did we know the water was flowing over out of the toilet and flooding the trailer. I guess it could’ve been a lot worse. We caught it before it was too terrible. Brian grabbed the shop vac and we got it pretty much vacuumed up and then used towels. We left for Phoenix for the weekend and left a fan going and when we got back it was actually dry. He is at the hardware store now getting some pipe and things to repair the water leak since it still has a slow drip. Ugh.

Hopefully things will be a little warmer now. We think that the pipe keeps freezing and that’s why it was leaking. This morning it was freezing again even though the weather said it wasn’t going to. Grrrrrr. Brrrrrrr!

I have been working on a straw bale wall. It is only a single straw bale. It has been a lot more physical labor than I bargained for but luckily I have a friend Yvonne who helped me. Yvonne and Bill are our neighbors who live close by in an RV just like we do. They bought land with the same intention as us.

I put a layer of cob (sand, clay, and straw). I still have to plaster over the strawbale again to prevent cracks. So far it’s pretty good. I put a layer of rock on the bottom and then stacked bottles across the bottom and held it together with clay and sand mortar. I plan on adding some tile accents as well. It will serve as a bench over by the greenhouse.

I have to be honest, I am ready for warmer weather. I guess it will probably be summer before we know it and then I will be wanting cooler temperatures. LOL

It’s been sunny and dry so that’s been nice!

We have not had much of a chance to make any new YouTube videos. I’m trying to put one together now though of how I built the strawbale bench. If you are reading this and you haven’t watched any of the videos, I hope you will try to because eventually we hope to try to make money from YouTube but we have to have subscribers and watch time. Lately we haven’t gotten any new ones.

Thanks to all y’all! For sticking with us.