Winter off grid. Fluffy white snow, sparkling snowflakes, moonlight nights twinkling starlight skies. Ahhh the sound of this is indeed dreamy until reality hits. Snow that is piled so high you cant leave the homestead. Ice that is so treacherous even taking out the "humanure bucket" is dangerous! The spring water freezing, the chickens freezing, the constant hauling of wood!!!!
So often people who dive into this off grid adventurous life overlook the simplest things. WINTER! Why winter? On grid winter is, well, just easier. Sorry friends, but it is!
Because we choose to move to the pacific Northwest where terrain is unrelenting and steep, we were now being awaken to trials that we believed would never be issue. I think in our infantile misplaced arrogance we thought our Wisconsinite winter hardy background and the fact that we had over 40 plus years of exposure to brutal temps ice and snow would thoroughly prepare us for these seeming easy mountain winters.
Nope. Not really.
First year just making it up and down the driveway was a learning experiment. a exercise in learning I did not find fruitful or productive. Sliding backwards towards the mountain drop off having only two options....BAIL out of the car or keep stepping on the brakes and praying, just wasn't my idea of off grid winter lessons.
Neither was watching my husband slide the tractor the first time it snow off the edge barely preventing the whole machine from rolling over an crushing him. Lovely.
Life insurance policy for both of us had crossed our minds. Why not even get them for the dogs since they to were at risk!
Thus plowing became a big issue. Moving snow and maintaining the driveway became a unexpected surprise. As did other tasks like keeping our shower water heated. In off grid style we had rigged up our wood stove to heat the water. Sounds novel. Save on propane use the free wood heat. But like most things off grid there just isnt a manual now is there?
So you could be enjoying a nice warm shower encapsulated in glorious lather and bubbles when the water would decide to spew forth a flaming hot froth from hell and basically almost scald you to death! The next time you could be in that same lather heaven and experience darts of piercing ice cubes being thrown at you. Temperature regulation that first year with the wood stove to say the least, was a daunting task.
From carrying wood in daily, to maintaining the wood stove heat, to endless cloudy days that made solar not so desirable, everything seemed to be in a heightened state of difficultly
We tried so many different things that first year even when it came to our solar. Put the fridge outside, use a cooler, plug it in. unplug it. Put the freezer outside. Plug it in..nope..unplug it. Run the generator for a hour. No run it for five hours. Lights off, all lights off. wait we need at least one! UGH!!!
Thus even as seasoned winter experts we found off grid life quite a adventure that first year.
Despite the challenges we appreciated every day that came our way. We felt empowered, and we felt FREE! We were able to fill the pantry up with fish ( ice fishing was a great way to go to the outdoor grocery store) We were able to hunt and harvest some game.
Canning during the winter kept my stock of beans and other veggies well supplied. We grew beautiful indoor veggies and herbs. Mr Hilder got to trap and do some tanning of the skins. And we explored the endless landscapes by ski and by snowshoe. Endless adventurous days filled with beauty and peace! We loved it! The dogs loved it.
If there was indeed a manual written for winters off grid it would be a long one! Preparation made things easier, having plenty of tools and the right equipment helped. and keeping a humble and joyful spirit went along ways in overcoming the daily trials.
And when spring would gently roil in melting the last of the mountain snow, a sense of relief but sadness always overcame us. I wouldn't give away my winters off grid for anything in the world. A priceless piece of off grid life!