By Dan Hosfeld
Life off the grid is interesting, sometimes challenging, yet mostly it's about routine. Like most things in life no matter where you live, the days are based on a routine. Although our off grid home winter routine probably looks a little different than yours. Yet completing these regular tasks makes life much simpler in the long run. And isn’t that ultimately what we off grid folks aspire to achieve?
The routine at our northern off grid home is set out in the following notes. I will start with our evening routine although I could just as easily start with the morning. Since my evening routine makes my morning better, I am choosing this as my starting point.
This post may contain some affiliate links for your convenience (which means if you make a purchase after clicking a link we will earn a small commission but it won’t cost you a penny more)! Read our full disclosure policy.
Evening Off Grid Home Winter Routine
So each night, before going to bed, I make sure that the woodstove is fully loaded. There are numerous reasons for this and in no particular order are as follows.
- It helps keep the house warmer on those nights with temperatures currently dip down in the -35C to -45C range. To our non-metric followers, that is coincidently about the same temperature where
Fahrenheit and Celsius are almost the exact same number.
- It allows us to put several water containers on our stove that serve different purposes, although each has a common objective of putting moisture in the air.
- The other reasons for having containers on the stove are:
a. Kettle: also is used so that we have hot water in the morning for our porridge, tea, coffee or other hot water requirements.
b. Cast iron aerator: which is specifically designed for its ability to put moisture in the air.
My wife adds cinnamon sticks to this brew which gives a very nice fragrance. Every day smells like Christmas and based on our length of winter, it really helps the mind.
c. Three-gallon stockpot: gets filled with water each evening because it is an integral part of our morning. It is a key aspect of running our grey water and I will explain more in the morning routine.
Before heading to bed I will generally unplug the fridge. If I forget to unplug, I will remember to do this when I get up for my personal nightly routine (read *going to washroom* here). Due to our capacity for stored energy in our battery bank being less than we would like, this is unplugged for about 4 or 5 nighttime hours. Part of the nightly routine is to also avoid opening the fridge during this timeframe. For those interested, we had a propane fridge yet it was too small for our family needs. The electric fridge is 26 cubic feet, and although excessive, suits our needs better. We are investigating solar fridges. For example, something like Unique Off-Grid Appliance's 16.6 cu/ft Solar Powered DC Fridge. We like their 36" propane (LPG) cooktop. So we're investigating further.
Related: How We Prep for Winter
Related: Batteries for Living Off the Grid
Morning Off Grid Home Winter Routine
Each morning starts before the sun comes up. Other people outside the Territories say the same because they are dedicated to getting up and starting their workday. Here, it doesn't matter whether you're feeling lazy or ambitious. In the winter, chances are you're getting up in the dark. That's because we "enjoy" close to 20 hours of darkness daily in mid-winter.
So the first thing I do each morning is to add wood to the fire. This keeps the chill out of the air.
The second thing I do -- maybe not a required morning action -- is check the morning temperature by looking at our kitchen thermostat. It might be that I am part masochist. Yet it helps the mind prepare the body before heading outside.
Checking Our Water Lines in Winter
Once the wood is added to the woodstove, I then look to the grey water system. The grey water, for those that don’t know, is the water line from the house to the back yard. This is where all shower, sink, dishwater, etc. go to the yard. This is the non-hazardous waste and certainly does not include toilet water!
With the temperatures what they are through the winter, this line can easily freeze. This is where the three (3) gallon pot on the stove comes in to play. Some of the water evaporates overnight. Half of what is left is poured into the kitchen sink. The other half goes into the main floor bathroom sink. This helps prevent (or at least reduce) opportunities for frozen water lines. You sometimes we get an unwelcome reminder of the importance of this task. I say reminded because we have frozen our lines a couple of times when this was overlooked.
My next morning task is to plug the fridge back in. When the fridge gets plugged back in, I then look to go outside and fire up our generator.
Starting the Generator
As earlier articles have stated, we have three different generators with my preference being diesel. These of course help refill our battery bank when we have so many nighttime hours.
Read More: Generators for Beginners
As I head outside to the generator shed, I am joined by our blonde lab. He too appreciates the idea of maintaining a routine. Unfortunately with -40 temperatures, his winter routine happens very close to the house. This makes it more entertaining when we have a spring thaw, yet that is a different article. I then walk to our generator shed 60’ away and fire up Fred. For the record, my wife named the generators Fred, Wilma and Pebbles, yet who am I to argue a good thing.
Read More: 10 Things to Know About Buying a Generator
Bringing in the Firewood
Once Fred gets going, I then head out to the woodpile.
Like any other routine, the woodpile can either be a chore, or an easy way to enjoy the outdoors. We are fortunate enough to have a beautiful view from all sides of our property. Chances are you will see some wildlife on our morning strolls. I figure that the routine of grabbing wood each time I head out makes it less a chore.
Of course, spending fall days chopping and stacking wood is more a chore, yet that too can be a future article. So the main point is that each time I pass the woodpile I attempt to grab an armful and bring it indoors. This allows me to get our daily requirements of firewood (and a little exercise) with it not feeling like work.
Running Electric Appliances in Our Off Grid Home
After I have grabbed the wood, the dog finishes his constitutional, and we head back to the house. At this point, the generator is charging our system, and at 10 kilowatts, we have a little extra power to burn.
I now put on our electric coffee maker (I know, blasphemy) which we both enjoy. We also have a couple really nice Bodum French presses yet sometimes the drip coffee is a nice luxury. Now's the time we advise the girls (our two youngest of seven are still at home) that if they want toast, this is the time. Sometimes we'll toast bread on the wood stove, and it does great, it just takes longer.
The microwave (another blasphemy) is also available to use with the generator running. However, it is great for heating up sausage, bacon, or any other leftovers.
With the generator running, we also determine if it is a good day to run laundry. If laundry is the plan, the kettle on the stove comes in handy. This allows me to pour additional hot water down our separate laundry grey water line. The vent at the top is 2” diameter and the kettle allows accurate pouring. This ensures an ice-free line to start laundry with.
We do generally set the washer to hot water in the winter for the obvious reasons. I am good with washing my own clothes since everything goes in at once. It is probably for this reason my wife does hers separately from me. And all I was trying to do was help… (Another successful plan…)
Cooking Breakfast in Cast Iron
I of course now get to the routine (and a pleasurable one) of putting the cast iron skillet on the flame of our propane cooktop. I will quickly heat it up and prepare for breakfast. We usually have eggs each morning for breakfast.
We don't have laying hens yet, which is unfortunate. My wife is determined to find out what kind of set up we need for them to survive the winter temps here without electricity in a chicken coop. We're open to any and all suggestions, so please leave your recommendations in the comments below.
And there you have it - a small part of our nightly and morning routine. What's yours like? Always happy for others to share how they handle their off the grid and homestead days.
LIKE THIS POST? DON'T FORGET TO SAVE IT TO YOUR FAVOURITE PINTEREST BOARD AND COME BACK TO IT LATER!
This post is part of the Homestead Blog Hop!
GET ACCESS TO MY FREE LIBRARY!
Subscribe (FREE) to my newsletter. As an added bonus you'll get instant access to free homesteading, homeschooling, self-reliance and off-grid-living printables and downloads.
Enter our free resource library for our latest free printables. Password is 'livefreetoday' -- please copy and paste that in at the link above. Thanks for being a subscriber!!