Off-grid kitchen and scullery

Most people couldn’t imagine doing dishes in the snow or cooking in the rain. Since we started with bare ground here, we’ve done both. Often. We’re thrilled to say that is no longer the case (for the most part). Two years in the making, we are now settled in to our more permanent arrangement with an efficient compact kitchen inside the yurt, and a full-featured utility sink and storage area within steps on the deck. Read on to see a review of our progress in photos!

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Our Sahalee is a different kind of country club

Every now and then we run a web search of ‘Sahalee’ to see what pops up. Since starting our blog a couple of years ago and promoting it more over the past year or so, we’ve noticed a much higher frequency of the posh Sahalee Golf Club in Washington. (We’re still not sure if they were feeling squeezed since we came on the web, or coincidentally hired a better marketing firm. haha) While our high desert Sahalee is worlds away from the lush greens of the Evergreen State country club, we admit the inspiration came from their neighborhood.

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Off-grid doorbell

It was a Sunday morning around 7am. The gate rattled. A mile and a half away from the pavement on a dead end 4-wheel-drive road, we were just coming out of our nightly slumber.

It had been three months since moving into the yurt and we were sure to expect some unsuspecting visitors who were more familiar with our place than we were. I heard the intruders first and Ben lit up in action to put on pants and grab the pistol.

As he snaked his way up the path toward the gate, I put on some clothes and quickly retrieved the little .22 that I first shot with my dad in our old Colorado backyard. I watched him from behind the trees and listened in…

He questioned the visitors – two rough-looking men standing outside of the green Chevy pick-up, the driver with one hand on the gate and the other holding a can of Bud Light. The passenger, watching warily by at the hood of the truck, coddled his own beer.

“What are you doing?” Ben asked over the gate with an authoritive tone and posture that emphasized the accompaniment of his sidearm.

“Oh! We were just out 4-wheeling and got lost,” said the driver in a slowly slurred accent with his arms raised, moving closer to the truck door. “We’re out drinking beer all night and took a wrong turn,” he said in a shabby half-smile.

Both men climbed into the truck with their blue cans and the driver tried to reverse. The passenger got out to put the hubs in so they could roll out in 4-wheel drive, and they lumbered on back down the road.

Ben and I hung back for about a 30 minutes to make sure all was clear before we went to see his mom in town who was staying at the B&B that weekend. It was a great way to start the day and gave us a dramatic tale to share over breakfast!

Since then, we’ve had a few more visitors rattle the gate, but most have been friends and neighbors showing up unannounced. The others are the subject of another story yet to be written…

Do you have any stories of unexpected guests – good or bad – to share? Tell us how you answered the door in the comments below. Thanks for reading and sharing!!

Groovy Yurts Super Ger Review

I mentioned ‘tipi’ with an air of seriousness, and the discussion wobbled clumsily off of the Airstream. (You can read more about why a yurt.) From viewing the enticing collection of nomadic structures at Colorado Yurt Co., to drawing out a footprint 20′ in diameter in our Florida front yard, our plans for long-term temporary shelter at Sahalee came full circle with Groovy Yurts.

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A half a kilo

We started with three, but that just wasn’t enough. Make it four. Okay, keep it coming… Double it! Eight- Eight it is!!

After nearly two years and a two-stage 500 Watt upgrade, our gruesome little 300W start-up stick-mount PV system has been elevated to its proper form and function to meet our off-grid power needs. (HUGE thanks to Mark for being our indispensable consult along the way… We’re waiting to see what’s next for the little yurt!!)

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So you wanna be an off-gridder…

In case you don’t frequent SahaleeOffGrid  on Facebook, we wanted to make sure you knew about the wonderfully amazing crowdsource for people pondering a move to off-grid life, currently learning the ropes of living off-grid, or those who have perfected the art (or not) by having many years of off-grid living experience to share… 

The So you wanna be an off-gridder group on Facebook’s social network was our attempt at raising a real-talk informational forum that fostered collaboration and knowledge exchange to explore the myriad of  challenges and creative solutions to maintaining a self-made livelihood off the traditional utility grid. 

Power generation, food production, water and waste management, employment, construction, childcare, legalities, health and safety… Every possible aspect of self-sufficient living was fair game for people to explore from novice to expert.

Well, the notion caught on like wildfire and our little social chat of a couple dozen quickly grew to over 6K in a matter of several weeks!! It was amazing and truly humbling to see the rapid growth and rich conversation that developed with people sharing openly, honestly, and respectfully with another about the possibilities and limitations of off-grid life.

Not being prepared for the demands of moderating such a large group, in addition to some general feelings of discomfort with being on Facebook altogether, we opted to pass the torch in managing the passionate online community to our compatriots whom we know will carry on the same spirit of beneficial dialogue for the greater good. We are thrilled to see the group thrive with an ever deeper encyclopedia of off-grid living, and can’t wait to see more of what folks come up with next! We hope you will enjoy, as well!!

Stairway to Heaven

Sahalee is heavenly, and the big deck is our perch over the world. For the past year, we’ve been without a formal staircase and gained access by the lowest point on the uphill corner.

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Yeah, It Sucks.

For those of you who have been following us since Florida, you’ve been invited to see our transformation from the conventional corporate climb to our guided-by-the-stars #yurtlife in New Mexico. We’ve tried to be open and honest about the challenges we face in making the transition we instigated, and part of that honest story reveals how we actively redefined our values and expectations from what we thought we ‘should’ be doing to what we really wanted to be doing in this world (like updating our solar power plant).

Since making the move, we’ve found ourselves on an exciting journey of small business ownership and self-employment as part of managing our off-grid finances. Along our way, we’ve had the good fortune to become acquainted with the dear Dina Louie who generously and kindly invited us to share more with her ‘Real HUMAN Resources’ initiative, Yeah, It Sucks, on the topic of making active life choices. Read the Q&A…

Life Choices: The Decisions We Make…


Suncloud Duet Rose Stripe Sunglasses Review

As John Conlee reveals, rose-colored glasses show only the beauty…

My rose-colored glasses save me day after day, backed by psychological research reinforcing the therapeutic effects of viewing life through lenses tinted with Baker-Miller pink.

Beyond vivid UV lenses, the other requirement I have for my sunglasses is that they have to be constructed of a no-frills lightweight solid frame with an inset or molded nosepad. This design has fewer entrapment points to catch and pull my hair, and make the gear easy to wear and store while living an active lifestyle.

BONUS: Made in the USA!!

After going through one incredibly stellar designer pair made in China that caught me in a retail therapy splurge when I had a lot of money to spend, then a well-functioning no-name sport design from China for $40 on special at a race expo, and finally desperately seeking a made in the USA option that was less expensive than these “unstoppable” Oakley’s, I was incredibly pleased to stumble upon the Suncloud Duet Rose Stripe sunglasses for UNDER $30!They are super lightweight with stable hinges and a comfortable fit around the ear. The lenses are happily clear and polarized, helping to better define the horizon and distant figures in an expansive landscape. The pink lens is bright but not too disruptive. A subtle wood-grain design akin to tiger stripe adds a little flair to the translucent rosy frame.  Along with the glasses came a satiny storage pouch in the same color with a smooth black flat ribbon cinch, all delivered inside the minimal clear plastic zipper bag packaging.

I’ve been lucky enough to take them out in a variety of conditions in places near and far, and I am completely smitten with my new specs. When I wear them, I feel like I know a secret about life that only those in the rose-colored club can truly understand. I still might follow my urge to buy just one more pair as a back-up before I can’t find them anymore!!Adding just a little bit of color to life…




The Firewood Meditation

The pile is dwindling. It’s probably only a third of the size it used to be. Every load taken away to burn begs the question, ‘will we have enough to make it through?’

I figured I touch each piece at least four times on its journey from its natural state to its final incantation. The tree it belonged to is a character. I want to properly recognize it for what it was, and what it is providing.

Warmth. Security. Connection.

I study the details of grain and bark. The different textures of solid and brittle, dark and light, grooved and smooth, old and older make each section a treasure not like the one before.

The weights, shapes, and features are varied. This directly affects the way the flames behave when they’re set ablaze. Each one hand-selected for a specific purpose stove side.

We aim to start cutting and hauling on July 4th when the breeze is warm and ground is soft. The dust flying from the saw fills our nostrils and lands on our lips. The sounds of cracking wood remind me of impermanence.

I cradle the forest’s gifts for the value they hold and imagine how they started as a mere fleck of green all that time ago. What has passed beside, below, and overhead I will never know. 

The work is quiet on the inside. Gathering and couriering across the rising and falling topography. There is assurance in the collection that results. A wide open space marked with chips is where the memories pass through and fade away.

Some split easily, and others twist and shred around hidden knots. You think you know what’s inside until the wood shows you something different. I save the ones that are too rare for civilian duty to remind us of what we can’t make ourselves.

Each season I think I’ll remember where the severed pieces came from when I put them in the hot iron hole. In the end it doesn’t really matter. Some embers glow brighter and fly farther than others. They all turn dark and gather in the low spots.

It is a cycle of cycles. Repeating but different. We change and age like the pine, oak, and juniper. Some will notice but we will all forget. The smoke lifts what was once underground and then itself fades to leave us all wishing for a flight as light and with a cause so noble.

Will we have enough to make it through?