Living "Off-Grid" in Idaho

Discussion in 'Places I Have Lived' started by Yvonne Smith, Feb 20, 2015.

  1. Yvonne Smith

    Yvonne Smith Greeter
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    At age 55 , and starting over (the story of my life) yet again; I found myself moving to a undeveloped 40 acre patch of land in North Idaho. The property had been in the family for close to a century, and was in the back part of a 160 acre old farm where my folks had lived during the Great Depression, and where they lived when I was born. The old farm house was said to have originally been a stagecoach stop for travelers going to Canada; but it had gone to ruin years back, and been taken down.
    Anyway, living on that piece of property helped me feel connected to something in life, and I really needed that at that time.

    The property had been logged over the years, and there were logging roads all through the woods out there.
    The part where I was going to live had been a loading area for hauling off the logs, so there was no grass; but lots of thistles, and chunks of tree branches every where.
    It was several hundred feet from the road, and I couldn't afford the cost of having electricity and water run up to where I was going to live.
    I bought an old single-wide trailer that didn't meet the wiring codes for where it was located, and had it dragged out to "The Ranch". I used kerosene for lights and for heating that first winter. I almost killed myself with the kerosene heater; but that is another story.

    With my Mazda pickup, I hauled water home in two 55-gallon drums which I kept loaded in the back of my truck.
    Gradually, I raked and cleaned an area around the house, and had many bonfires to get rid of the wood trash and pine needles. The thistles fourished even more.
    I eventually was able to get the electricity hooked up, thanks to the good-heartedness of the power company (That's another story, too.) That meant that I could have a refrigerator, lights, and even heat in the winter.
    Life was good ! !
    For the next two years, I packed water every day. On one day the water went into two additional 55-gallon drums, which were connected to an RV pump connected to a car battery, and that was how I pumped water into the house. The next day, I hauled another load and siphoned it out in the stock tank and also for the little garden I had started out behind the trailer.
    There were lots of deer, and in the summer, they all drank out of the stock tank just like the goat and llama did.
    Winters were not that simple, and yes, that is another story , too.
    image.jpg
     
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  2. Ken Anderson

    Ken Anderson Greeter
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    Sounds interesting.
     
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  3. Pat Baker

    Pat Baker Well-Known Member
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    You are a real pioneer woman. Hardy stock those woman. What a story.
     
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  4. Jenn Windey

    Jenn Windey Active Member
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    I applaud your efforts to be self sustaining. I have found as I am getting older that I very much want to also return to a simpler time. I have been working diligently to have enough things to do online that I can move someplace a bit more remote. There is a lovely area after Elmira NY going down rt 14 into Troy PA. It is remote though being on a side of a mountain. I always wanted to buy one of the cabin homes there when I retired. I can not begin to tell you how nice the area is if you like rural areas. I imagine it might be hard doing things in the winter but I am okay with that.

    I think sometimes people get to tied up in the 24/7 lifestyle. When I was younger things were slower. there were no stores open on Sundays much less around the clock. There was something to be said about that. less distractions to the mind, you could focus on things that mattered and there was definitely a better connection to the earth and it's creatures. So much today is thrill based, to me thrilling has always been watching the mist burn off the water at sunrise and appreciating the vast star fields overhead.

    I did want to ask Yvonne, why didn't you go with a generator instead of municipal electricity? was there a reason why this was not a good option? Also how are you dealing with the winters in the trailer? Do you use propane or electricity?
     
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  5. Yvonne Smith

    Yvonne Smith Greeter
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    @Jenn Windey , I do not live in Idaho anymore; and I do not think that I could do those things at my age now; although if I had stayed there, I would probably still be doing at least some of those things.
    I did have a generator for a while. It was a Lister Diesel; and it did a great job; but the fuel had to be hauled for it, and I am so NOT mechanically inclined. I wished that I had just gotten the electricity sooner, and not even tried doing the generator. The $2000 that the generator cost would have gone a long ways towards getting my electricity hooked up.
    The generator would have been fine for someone who was better with operating one of them; but I had a terrible time just starting it; so I didn't turn it on any more than I absolutely had to do.
    Living without running water was more doable for me.
    In the summer, I could just haul the water, and with the RV pump attached to the barrels and the trailer's water line; I could have water (sparingly) when I needed it.
    During the winter, the water in the barrels was frozen, so I had to shovel snow when I came home from work. I used a 5-gallon bucket, shoveled it full of snow, brought it in and dumped it in the bathtub. I did this over and over (2 buckets at a time) until the bathtub and also a large plastic trash container were full of water.
    Overnight, the snow melted, because I now had heat in the trailer. By morning, I had plenty of snow-water to use for household needs, and I just packed home my drinking water from work in milk jugs.

    I used to use the snow water for brushing my teeth. That changed one night when I had just finished filling the bathtub up, heaping full of snow.
    My cat came into the bathroom, jumped up into the snow, and went potty.
    After that, bathtub snow water was only used for flushing the toilet.
     
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  6. Yvonne Smith

    Yvonne Smith Greeter
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    One of the things that I did really enjoy when I lived by myself out on the property, was the feeling of being "connected to my roots", as the saying goes. My mom and dad had lived on that same property (although on a different part of it) from the Great Depression until after I was born. Since there was no electricity in the rural areas of North Idaho at that time, my folks were instrumental in helping to get people signed up for the rural electrification program in the area, and then my father became one of the first lineman for the newly formed REA, Northern Lights.
    Even after they moved, they still kept the property, so a trip to The Ranch as a child was a special time for me, and it is still the place that I live in my heart yet today.
    So, even though it was a hard time in my life, it was actually one of the very best times, and the time when I was the happiest.
    I could walk around on the property and know I was walking where my mom and dad had also walked.

    Here is the old ranchhouse where my folks lived when I was born. It was on the front part of the 160 acres, and my little trailer was on the back part.

    image.jpeg
     
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  7. Yvonne Smith

    Yvonne Smith Greeter
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    Here is an addition to this story of my life in Paradise Valley in Idaho.
    I think that I mentioned in some thread about how bad the driveway would be drifted full of snow in the winter. I only had the little 2 wheel drive Mazda pickup, but I did have four studded snow tires on it and a couple bags of heavy grain or alfalfa bales in the back over the read axle for better traction.
    Even so, when it snowed, I had to go out and drive up and down the drive way every half hour or so to try and keep the snow packed down enough that I could get out the next morning to go to work.
    Sometimes, it snowed all the next day, and then it would be drifted too deep for me to get through the snow when I got home from work; so I had to park out on the main road where the electric substation was, and then walk in the driveway, and back out the next morning.

    After Bobby and I got married and we moved from the trailer, my son and his family put in a nice house and they live there now, and use my little trailer as a guest house and place where my son has his ham radio equipment.
    He has one of those quad-ATV’s and he has a snowplow on it for winter time.
    Today he posted this youtube video of plowing the driveway, and since it is the same one as I used to go in and out from, I wanted to share the video with everyone here.

     
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  8. Holly Saunders

    Holly Saunders Veteran Member
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    Ooh we have to pretty much do the same here when it snows Yvonne, because we don't have seasonal tyres here..well we do but because the weather is so changeable, one week of snow then melted etc.. so no-one changes tyres here it would be too expensive..and also no-one uses chains...so we have to do a similar snow dance with our vehicles as you once did... that said, I watched the video, of your son on his snow plow..wow I would love one of those.. but thankfully the snow is rarely as thick as that here... but what fun, I bet you wished you'd had one of those back in the day.. :D

    BTW did you realise that this thread is 3 years old now since you started it...doesn't time fly?..wow!!
     
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  9. Shirley Martin

    Shirley Martin Veteran Member
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    @Yvonne Smith , that sounds like a grand adventure. Sort of. ;) We should write your life story and make it into a movie.
     
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  10. Yvonne Smith

    Yvonne Smith Greeter
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    I was thinking that it would have been nice to have had some kind of a snow plow when I lived up there. I did have great neighbors though, and when we had one of the really bad snowfalls, someone with a plow on their 4x4 would often come and plow out my driveway for me.
    By the way, the picture of the deer in the drive way on my first post is almost identical to the picture on the front of the video with my son and his ATV. You can see the trees are the same if you look, and can see my little dirt driveway.
    He now has graded it smoother and put more gravel on it, so when the spring thaw and breakup happens, they can still use the driveway.
     
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  11. Frank Sanoica

    Frank Sanoica Very Well-Known Member
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    @Yvonne Smith Idaho can be very cold in winter. When we did our stint in the woods in Northern Arizona, it was at altitude 6700 feet. Thanksgiving Day we got 20 inches of snow. We had skimped and saved for a turkey with little income available, and fortunately the big stores were all but giving them away.
    • [​IMG]
    • Not our Elmira, but close enough. We have no pictures, unfortunately. We bought it brand new in Lakeside/Pinetop from a self-sufficiency store we suspected had Mormon ties when we were forced to give up our home in Phoenix. The delivered it out to our 40-acre plot, on which I had built a two-story Gambrel-roof cabin. Of course, we lived upstairs, where all the heat congregated. The two delivery guys struggled mightily getting it up the stairs. My wife prepared a 20 Lb. turkey perfectly in it!
    • Frank
     
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  12. Bill Boggs

    Bill Boggs Veteran Member
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    I take my hat off to you, Ms Yvonne. Someone said you were a true pioneer. I agree, especially up in that country. A real home grown surviver.
     
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