My name is Sarita Harbour and I'm a homeschooling, work at home off grid mama living in Canada's far north. After three years of living and working elsewhere in Canada, my family and I returned to our lakefront, off the grid cabin. I work as a freelance business and finance writer while slowly learning the ropes of homesteading off the grid. Here's a glimpse into our latest adventures.
2017 is almost done and it has been a busy, busy few months.
A few months ago I wrote about what we found on our return to our off grid home outside of Yellowknife, NWT. Now that we're slowly settling in to hibernate for the winter, I have some time to share a little more about my daily life as an off grid mama. In a nutshell, I'm a homeschooling, work-at-home mom and aspiring homesteader living off the grid. Here's what we've been up to this month.
Freezup on the Lake
It seems to me that this has been a warmer-than-usual autumn for us. This week the lake froze up, and it's just gorgeous. The temperature has dropped, and it's -18 Celsius or -0.4 Fahrenheit as I write this. News reports say ice in the area is about 6 inches thick on the lakes. However we'll probably stay off it until January. This year we're hoping to clear a small area for skating just off the dock - can't wait!
Firearms Safety Course
So I finally did it - I took the RCMP Firearms Safety Course two weekends ago. I had been enrolled in it during the fall of 2013, but dropped out. I was nursing our newborn and didn't know the class would run for eight hours a day over the weekend. Too long for this off grid mama to be away from a hungry baby.
This was an introductory course on long guns and firearms safety. I learned the basics of safe gun handling, and how to identify various types of rifles/shotguns and ammunition. I also learned how to load and unload, and basic shooting range etiquette. In Canada, getting a Possession & Acquisition License to buy and own a rifle or shotgun requires successful completion of this course.
One of my sons hunts, and I'd like to give it a shot (no pun intended) next year. In the meantime I'll do some target shooting.
Big Batch Bread Baking
This past Saturday afternoon was a good time for the girls and me to bake bread. I've been baking bread for almost thirty years, but now that I'm an off grid mama, how I bake it depends on our energy situation (off grid or tied to the grid) and the number of kids we have at home.
Sometimes we knead it by hand and let it rise in bread pans. Other times I use a stand mixer to mix dough for two loaves at a time, and then line the pans up on the counter to rise. And when I'm in a hurry and it's sunny - which means our solar panels are soaking up that great energy - I use the bread machine. It takes a lot of energy for the 50 minute baking cycle. We have seven kids - five are grown and flown, but sometimes they come back, and they always want homemade bread.
Since we're dependent on solar panels to charge our batteries, and we have limited sunlight these days, we made our bread using our KitchenAid stand mixer to mix up the dough. I use the low setting at a speed of 1 or 2 only. This doesn't seem to have a huge draw on the batteries. We baked it in our propane wall oven. Next time we'll try baking it in our cast iron dutch oven in the wood stove.
Connecting With Homeschooling Group
As a homeschooling family living about 30 minutes outside of town, I was thrilled to find a loose-knit group of area homeschoolers through Facebook. We love our lifestyle homeschooling off the grid in a remote location, and enjoyed meeting another homeschooling family that lives just a short drive away. Gotta love social media for connecting with other homeschoolers!
More Unpacking and Organizing
Yes, it's been a few months since we moved in and yes, there are still boxes everywhere. Between a busy family life, my writing business, homeschooling, and getting ready for winter, I've been in survival mode since we got here. So all we unpacked were kitchen things and clothes. Now we have time to go through the other boxes and I've added "unpack one box per day" to my to-do list. It may take most the rest of 2017. And 2018.
Clearing Snow Off The Solar Panels
As the temperature drops in the north, and again when it rises in the spring, the solar panels on our roof get covered in snow. So they don't work so well.
Dan goes up on the roof to brush them off. Our first summer here he went up to wipe the pollen off the panels and fell off the roof. He broke his wrist, bruised his kidneys and cracked his ribs. So I get a little worried when he's up there with snow and ice.
Boiler and Water
One of my big concerns as an off grid mama in a cold climate is keeping my little ones (and my big ones) warm through the winter. We have a large wood stove in our living room. We also have a propane powered in-floor heating on our main floor with pipes up to our second floor, powered by a big old boiler.
Our boiler was on it's last legs when we left three years ago. We really weren't sure if it would even fire up when we returned this summer. After some tinkering Dan got it running and our main floor is toasty warm. The upstairs? Not so much. We're not sure why the upstairs pipes aren't heating, though it's not a major concern just yet as it's cool but bearable in the bedrooms at about 15 degrees Celsius (59 Fahrenheit).
Generators and Firewood Situation
Dan has both our main generator and back up generator working well, though that generator shed does get cold. We run a generator for one hour in the morning and one hour or so at night. That's usually all we need to keep everything running through the night during these darker days.
Related: Buying a Generator for Home Use
We have most of our wood in for the winter. This summer was just too busy to head out to the wood lot ourselves. So we bought seven cords, most of which was delivered right to us. Wood can be hard to come by up here. We're getting close to the tree line, so the trees are pretty spindly. Plus you need a license to cut your own in designated wood lot areas. And it's expensive at $300+ per cord. So next year we'll make a weekend of it and head out with the girls and our trailer.
Next week I'll be organizing our holiday activity schedule and my winter knitting and sewing project plans. I may even dig out our grow light to plant our winter kitchen counter herbs.