Although many people would not want to rely on the off grid water systems that we have put in place, here are the major pieces of our water around our off grid homestead:
1. Drinking Water
The primary source of water for this home is the rainwater catch cistern. However, with much of the North being in a drought since August of 2011 the cistern is not as full as it should be, along with a shortage of ice for the ice house.
For years the homeowners’ carried their drinking water from town. The land cooperative decided to spend the money and drill a deep well, with a solar assist pump, not only for drinking water, but bathing and irrigation of the gardens. Although these homeowners’ continue to use their cistern as their primary water source, they do have the option of the deep well water also.
2. Hot Water, Showers and Bathing Off Grid
This is a truly ingenious system for taking a shower! The reservoir is filled with hot water from the cook stove (Or depending on how fast or how many are going to take a shower, half cold water and the rest hot water.) and gravity feeds to a shower in the basement directly below the reservoir next to the “ash catch” room.
A simple lever is used to access the heated water into the shower. And even though there are teenagers in the home, the parents note that there are no problems with long, extended showers that so many teens are prone too! The basement is also unheated, so that may be a factor as well.
Below is a picture of the upstairs “washroom”. It is located between the master bedroom and the open loft area of the children’s rooms.
A simple pitcher and wash basin are the fundamentals for face and hand washings and brushing teeth. I am not sure whether this is plumbed into a gray water system or has a five gallon bucket below the vanity curtains. That is an extra hand mirror on the side of the vanity and behind is a closet covered with more muslin curtains.
The claw food bathtub pictured above is seldom used anymore, but when the wife was pregnant she said she spent many hours in it trying to relieve the ache of back pain related to pregnancy and working in the fields. It is located kitty-corner from the wood cook stove in the kitchen. Now it just holds the laundry basket.
3. Our Water Well
Although this home is totally non-electric, solar grids on the greenhouse are used to pump drinking and cooking water from their 300’ deep well up to the house.
All other water is pumped by hand from a cistern beside the house used to collect rain water.
4. Off Grid Toilets
Beside the water room is a half-bath with a flush toilet. This is usually only used in the winter and flushed with a pail of water. Again it had the pitcher and basin for washing hands.
Note this nice rustic, traditional outhouse. It is built on a side hill and has a porch. The inside is “papered” with all kinds of pictures cut from various magazines!
5. Off Grid Laundry
This homeowner prefers to do laundry in town when they make their weekly trek to the library for homeschooling and internet access. However, they dry their clothes at home. Here is the obligatory clothes line. If this doesn’t bring back memories of wind fresh sheets, I don’t know what will.
I remember hanging clothes on the line during the winter. They freeze dried! I would bring the jeans into the house and stand them up against the wall until they thawed and finished drying over a chair. This suspended wagon wheel in the living room next to the masonry heater is for drying clothes! How charmingly inventive!
(Off grid laundry ideas and off grid washing machine recommendations here)
This is part of an off grid series, where I take you on a tour of the off-grid home without solar assist and a walk around the farm.
If you enjoyed this post, be sure to check out the other posts featuring their: home without electricity, masonry heater, gardening efforts, and homestead businesses.
My hope is that you will enjoy the experience as much as I did and perhaps learn, or remember, a bit of an older/newer lifestyle.
I have always had a ‘pet’ idea about re-using grey-water – (Given a perfectly sloped landscape, a climate like VA that never gets crazy-cold for very long at one time and no noxious chemicals used) – to use a couple downhill cheap megamart “kiddie swimming pools” (maybe with clear dome coverings, insulation, black plastic lining for warmth, etc) as “settling ponds” to feed a farther-downhill greenhouse drip-irrigation system, and provide extra compost pile material for free.
Who knows, you might even be able to pipe rising hot air from the greenhouse back into the home in the winter with a ‘solar chimney’. It’s definitely on my own “bucket list” to try out.
A lot of the original (printed) info on the basic ideas is gone, or hard to get, but a web-search on “New Alchemy Institute Ark” or “New Alchemy Institute Journal” will yield some decent information, if you have any interest. A bunch of other 60’s-70’s “hippies” who didn’t reject Science (quite a few PhD’s, actually) , and came up with a lot of practical, usable, low cost ‘appropriate technology’ solutions to a sustainable lifestyle that are just being “rediscovered” again lately. Definitely worth a look.
Great idea Wyzyrd! And THANK YOU for the Alchemy info!
Input is ALWAYS appreciated! Sometimes I feel like no one is out there! :)
I have a sneaking suspicion that if the New Alchemy folks hadn’t done their well-documented research back in the 70’s, we wouldn’t be finding “Tilapia filets” on restaurant menus, or in Walmart freezer chests today. Nobody ever heard of this critter in 1967 – it’s a big sustainable food source today – a mild flavored freshwater fish that is an algae-grazer. Young fish and sunlight in, protein out.. Yayyy, scientific research…
Here is the link to the research: http://www.thegreencenter.net/
I believe you are right about the fish. But there is so much more that we can glean from all their sustainability research! :)
Thank you, Bev, That is one I hadn’t found yet, and I appreciate the link :)
NAI was one of the first to present some common sense ecological principles to a lot of us who didn’t grow up in the country to learn real life common sense, with experimental results to prove it. Things like “put algae-eating fish in a sunny pond, add some ducks to eat some of the fish, then they poop in the water as free fertilizer for more algae to feed more fish, then eat ’em all”
Us humans are part of the whole ecosytem, even when we mess with it.
Ohhhh both Bob and I got a belly laugh out of that! THANK YOU! :)
Just a thought, Y’all obviously don’t have the same type of climate as Arizona, but there is a lot of good info to be found here as well, just in case you hadn’t already seen it before:
Thanks Wyzyrd! This IS a good site! Self-sufficient in a year and a half! :)
They are pretty impressive, even if we don’t all have that much sun. Not bad for what started out as a backyard hobby experiment.
Their last tweet was especially impressive, IMHO.. “We just dropped off over 350 pounds of food to United food Bank from our annual Halloween Party. Thanks”
Growing their own, and giving back to their community. Well done.
LOL, and I have a lot of those plastic shelf units in my closets, holding various junk.. Can’t wait to move a bit farther out into the country and set up some “shelfponics” :)_