Living 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 I'm pretty sure our off grid home winter routine looks a little different than your winter routine.
Completing these regular tasks day in and day out makes living off grid 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.
However, my evening routine makes my morning better. So I'm choosing this as my starting point.
Evening Off Grid Home Winter Routine
So each night, before going to bed, I make sure that the woodstove is fully loaded. There are a couple of reasons for this.
Load up the Wood Stove
This helps to keep the house warmer on those nights with temperatures currently dipping 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.
Each night as part of my off grid home winter routine, put several water containers on our stove. While each serves a different purpose, they all have a common objective of putting moisture in the air.
Fill the Water Containers
Here's the rundown:
- Kettle: is also used for hot water in the morning for our porridge, tea, coffee or other hot water requirements.
- 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 in our four-hours-of-daylight winter months.
- Three-gallon stockpot: this 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.
Unplug the Fridge
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.
EDIT: December 2021 - this is the first winter we might not have to do this, as we now have a new solar system in place. Will keep readers posted!
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's needs.
The electric fridge in our kitchen is 26 cubic feet. While this might seem large, it suits our big family appetites better.
From time to time I've investigated solar fridges, like Unique Off-Grid Appliance's 16.6 cubic 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
At our home, each morning starts long before the sun comes up. Now, other people outside the Northwest Territories (or down below 60) might say the same. And that's 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. Because the sun doesn't rise until around 10:00 am to 10:30 am.
That's right - 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 to check the morning temperature by looking at our kitchen thermostat. It might be that I am a 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 greywater system. The greywater, for those that don’t know, is the water line from the house to the back yard.
This is where all showers, sinks, dishwater, etc. drain out to the backyardyard. Take note, readers, this is 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 into play.
Some of the water evaporates overnight. Then half of what is left is poured into the kitchen sink. The other half goes into the main floor bathroom sink.
Pouring water down the drains every winter morning helps prevent (or at least reduce) opportunities for frozen water lines. Yes, sometimes we get an unwelcome reminder of the importance of this task. I say it's a reminder 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.
EDIT December 2021 - Our two Lombardini diesel generators were lost when our gen shed burned to the ground on Christmas Eve, 2019. We now (finally) have a new 11Kw Kubota diesel generator.)
Read More: Generators for Beginners
As I head outside to the generator shed, I am joined by our old yellow lab, Leo. 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.
EDIT December 2021 - sadly, Leo passed away at the age of 13 this past spring. We miss him sorely, especially our youngest daughters, now aged 11 and 8.
I then walk to our generator shed 60’ away and fire up the genny.
Read More: 10 Things to Know About Buying a Generator
Bringing in the Firewood
Once the genny 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 I will see some wildlife on my morning strolls. And I figure that possibility when I'm heading out to grab wood makes it less of a chore.
Of course, spending fall days chopping and stacking wood is more of 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, I head back to the house. At this point, the generator is charging our system, and at 11.5 Kw, we may 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 of 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 children are still at home) that if they want toast, this is the time. Sometimes we'll toast bread on the woodstove, and it does great, it just takes longer.
The microwave (another blasphemy) is also available to use with the generator running. My wife doesn't like it, but it sure is useful 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 the laundry is the plan, the kettle on the stove comes in handy.
This allows me to pour additional hot water down our separate laundry greywater line. The vent at the top is 2” in diameter and the kettle allows accurate pouring. This ensures an ice-free line to start laundry with. This is especially important once the temperatures his -30C or colder.
We do generally set the washer to hot water in the winter for 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.
Last winter we had over 30 chickens and an overabundance of eggs. So my morning routine often involved helping my daughter break the ice in their water dish, give them chicken feed, then monitor the temperature in the off grid DIY chicken coop.
This year, we were traveling for the autumn and harvested most of them (plus three turkeys) then gave away the rest. We might get more in the spring. We'll see.
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.