Off Grid Living

Cabin life is coming into focus, one screw at a time (we really are partial to screws as opposed to nails.  Amateur tip: they come out easily when you make a mistake!). We installed one of two small windows on the front of the house which will be topped off with solid triangle window panes. We have also started to dive into the whole process of finishing the roof off with fascia, j- channels and soffit stuff.  With the miracle of YouTube, the process is starting to look pretty easy! I think once that is done, we will be darn close to sealing off the ports of entry for the mice.  CLOSE. Not done, but damn close. 

As far as power goes down at the cabin, our main goal is to be fueled by the sun.  I think that is a very realistic goal, considering how much time we spend there currently and for how beautifully the sun hits the roof for a good part of the day.   We are in the market for the Goal Zero, Yeti 1400 which, after some research, we found out will support at least two pots of brewed coffee per weekend.  That, my friends, is amazing. Yes, we could walk up to the house to brew a pot, and we have. Yes, we can make a fire to boil water for the french press, and we have.  Yes, we can boil that water on a grill. Let me tell you, non- coffee drinkers, there is nothing more wonderful then pouring water into your coffee pot and flipping the switch for a fast cup first thing when you wake up.  No walking, no waiting, just brewing. It really is priceless. Be sure to click this link to see how powerful a coffee pot is compared to say, a full-size refrigerator.  A coffee-pot is small, yet mighty! 

Other than a coffee pot, other things we need electric for are simple:  phone and computer charging, power tool battery recharging, BioLite BaseLantern (our source of light in the cabin) recharging, and in the future, maybe a t.v.  We are going to need to be spending some serious time there for a t.v. to be given the gift of our precious electricity.  We are not quite set on a way to heat the cabin yet, but it will either be from propane or wood. 

What about refrigeration? We have recently been talking about getting one of those small cooler-type refrigerators.  Camp Addict has a good rundown of a few options.  But really, when the time comes, we may be best served with a mini-fridge running off of the solar powered generator.  We can go into more details about that later, but for now, we just pack a cooler. Over the summer when it was super hot, it was challenging to keep things at the right temps with a cooler full of ice, so recently we have been to trying to pack more food that does not even require refrigeration and it has been fun trying to come up with different menu options.

Below are some ideas of things that you can bring with you on your next off grid camping trip!  The freedom from ice is so liberating! The only catch for the things you cook, is that you might need to eat it all so you don’t take up any small cooler space for the leftovers! 

Shopping List:

We do have a small stash of things that we keep there in jars within a sealed plastic tub: Oatmeal, coffee, italian seasoning, olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper, cinnamon, some jarred nuts, and a few bags of tea.

Here is a basic list of things we bring there on occasion:

Apples:  Apples and pears pair so well with so many things.  Cheese and nuts are some of our favorites.

Slice a tomato and toast some bread, and you have the breakfast of champions.  In cool weather, butter can be kept nice without a lot of refrigeration which goes great with toast. 

Oatmeal:  all you need is some hot water!  Top it with nuts, brown sugar, and raisins or any other dried fruit.  Don’t be afraid to try some steel cut oats to change it up a bit. You can make it savory with some sauteed greens and a fried egg.  

Peanut butter! Peanut butter is delicious and filling and oh so shelf stable.   It is good for breakfast, lunch, snacks or dinner.  

Farm fresh eggs:  the beauty of fresh eggs is that they do not require refrigeration unless you had already washed and chilled them.  They come with a nice coating on them called a bloom which keeps them fresh without the need to keep them cold. It is amazing! Pair it with some corned beef hash instead of bacon or sausage if you need some breakfast meat with your meal.  

Tortellini, vacuum packed,  with a marinara made from some canned tomatoes and sauce.  Yes, you can just buy your own jar of spaghetti sauce, but as a grandchild of an italian immigrant, I am not allowed to recommend that.  You could boil any type of pasta, but the tortellini is a bit softer to start with so it cooks nicely when your heat source is a little energy sensitive.  

Speaking of cans, my dad would always make Dinty Moore beef stew when we went camping as kids.  It has been forever since we have had it, but I might need to try it again for old time’s sake.  He also made canned La Choy chow mein.  

Other food in cans: Tuna (you need some mayo), all beans (make a bean salad), soups, veggies, and fruits.

Last but not least, don’t forget the fresh fruits and veggies. They really don’t need to be refrigerator cold if you are going to be eating them in a timely manner: Potatoes, onions, squash, peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, garlic, apples, bananas, pears, peaches, citrus.

Homework: Try to use less energy. 

Turn a light off when you leave a room, unplug some dead energy like a stove, microwave, or computer that is not in use.  Adjust a thermostat when you are not home to enjoy it. I am totally preaching to the choir here because I need to do these things more too.  It is not only good for the world, but good for your bank account too!

P.S. It is beautiful at our spot in the fall.

October, 2019

These are a few of our favorite things…

There was no cabin to build last weekend because we stayed in the city to hang at Blink Cincinnati.  Blink is a multi day event in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky full of art installations in the form of light projections, sculptures, and performances that blanketed the area for the second time since 2017.  

We were able to go to the opening parade on Thursday night, then we went back on Friday and Saturday to explore the different exhibits.  It was so much fun to take the bus downtown each night. Because they had so many streets closed off, they moved the big bus stop at Government Square to the tunnel underneath the city.  It is one of my favorite places ever. It was the best surprise when the bus turned down to pull down the entrance ramp into the beautifully white and red tiled corridor. It really felt like the emergence into a big city to come up the stairs onto the sidewalk.

Last I heard, over about 1.5 million people made it to the city over the three and a half days that Blink was here.  There are only about a million people in all of Cincinnati so you could definitely feel the volume. On Friday night, Perriee and I went to check out the Roebling Bridge, which was lit up and had music playing to accompany the color.  You could walk across on either side of its walkways, and they had street closed except for small people movers zipping down the center.

The Roebling Bridge Experience

When we got on, it was crowded, but it was moving. By the time we decided to turn around it was almost gridlocked. It was packed to the point that you could not pass the person in front of you unless you pushed your way through.  I was trying to do the mental math regarding how many people would exceed the posted weight limit. I never figured it out. I was never so happy get back on land! Afterwards, we both shared with one another how it reminded us of the My Favorite Murder episode about the hotel bridge collapse!  The following day, we heard that they had to even close it down for a while to thin out the foot traffic.  Luckily, everyone made it through safely.  

The Roebling Bridge, Cincinnati/Covington, Friday, October 11, 2019

I would like to take a moment to brag a little here.  Not about me, but about every human who went to Blink this year (2019).  The City of Cincinnati reported one arrest all weekend for 1.5 million people! That is spectacular!  It was so crowded downtown. But is was also peaceful.  People really appreciated the art and maybe even had some healing from it all.  I really hope it comes back in a couple of years and I hope we can be there for it.

Neither of us are from here.  I am from Cleveland and Perriee is from  Chicago. I think it is safe to say that we both love living in Northern Kentucky.  Perriee and I love living so close to the city, so to round off this post, we brainstormed five places each that we enjoy in the Cincinnati area.  I will have to elaborate on them all sometime, because they all are pretty rad in their own way.

Perriee’s Picks 

Marietta’s Picks

Homework: Take the Bus

The bus is so much fun,  One of our first dates was tp take a bus ride to the Cincinnati Public Library.  I asked Perriee to take me because I had yet to ride the bus since I lived here and really wanted to try it out.  It was also my first time at that library, and even got some kisses in the stacks.  Finally, being a dork paid off!

During Blink, I actually felt a little bad for everyone I saw driving downtown last week while we enjoyed our leisurely walk to the bus stop each night (well, we had to run, once, but you know…exercise!).   For folks who may live pretty far outside of a local bus route, you can even benefit. Towns (like Newport) have park and ride stops, so you don’t have to drive all of the way into the city and deal with finding a place to park (or paying for one). The parking lots are likely a pretty direct shot right into where you are trying to go. Busses are pretty affordable, you get to watch the world go by, and its good for the environment. Just try it once.  The more you know…

A Win is a Win is a Win!

The Vocal Yokel Merch business is going, well…slow.  But it is going. There is definitely a lot to learn. Just this second, Perriee had the bright idea to send an email to our mailing list! We kew it was an option to do it, but had sort of lost sight of it in the midst of working on other aspects of the site. Worth a shot, right?  Even though it feels like it isn’t moving, we at least keep trying to learn something new about it and try something new whenever possible. Once we crack the code of ecommerce, watch out! It really is something we both enjoy, so I am sure we will get somewhere with it once we have a little more time to dedicate to it. Until then, we will forage ahead with the cabin whilst I daydream about working on our business, side by side from our a-frame’s shaded deck.    

After getting within a couple of thousand dollars of paying off our basement waterproofing that we financed five years ago, we decided to divert our cabin money towards paying the bill off.  I think we can say we are within three weeks or so of getting there so we are feeling really good about that part of life at the moment.  

We had our basement waterproofed several years ago and are just about to pay it off.  At the time, a ten year loan did not sound so bad but three years into it, and I was ready to wrap it up. Don’t get me wrong; we both agree that it was an amazing investment.  Our house was built in 1911 and she had a musty under-carriage. Having it waterproofed and ventilated gave us the opportunity to use the space as a type of rec-room which came in really handy when we starting hosting through Airbnb.  As a matter of fact, I am typing this post while sitting in it, right this very moment. It is going to feel good when we can say that we own this fresh basement air.  

In spite of the temporary diversion of cabin funds, we have really been able to make some progress on getting the cabin weathered in before the first snowfall.  We had enough materials on hand already to knock out several things and still have things to do. The front windows are framed in, we covered the front with plywood, Tyvek is up on the front of the house, and we are getting ready to put in windows and doors.  We already have the back windows in, but will be putting in the window above the door opening this weekend and will be trying our hand at retrofitting a steel hollow door. Once we are back in savings mode, we can get ready to purchase the rest of the windows for the front of the house (and maybe a door, if this one does not work out).  

The current plan is to get two big-ass triangle windows which will be installed on either side of the door.  That journey in and of itself has been a big to-do! Because we are going super custom, and we are doing them ourselves,  we have been in contact with many different places. Some do them, some don’t and there are other factors like delivery and price which have varied quite a bit.  We are finally settled on Lowes, but I will keep you updated because there is a great chance that could still change.  

Homework

Recognize your wins.  

Of course we want to report through the roof merch sales, and of course we want to report that the cabin has a door on it, and we will.  But for now, we can focus on paying off this basement bill five years early, We can also celebrate not running into another long-term loan and work really hard to keep it that way.  Building a solid financial future is just as important as building a home and I think that is something we do really well together. Good job us! Good job you for that thing you rocked out!

Perriee napping in the rec-room with Mr. Mittens!

It is gettin’ hot in the kitchen

Talk about taking our own advice!  As a recap, the last homework assignment  THREE WEEKS AGO, I had instructed you to toss some pasta.  Well we have tossed some linguini, spaghetti, bucatini, TUTTO (everything)

Since we last spoke, we upgraded our laptop, purchased a microphone and pop filter to start a podcast, and started a print-on-demand Shopify store (vocalyokelmerch.com).  That is also precisely the reason it has been so long since I have last posted anything.   I have to prioritize the time that I do have and spend it where it is most likely to be fruitful.  By fruitful, I not only mean financially, but emotionally as well. If it would be too stressful to sit and write a blog post, I would be wasting my time doing it.  The whole point of this grand experiment is to spend more time on meaningful things, right? We can do anything, but we cannot do everything.  

Perriee and I have made a commitment to make some moves.  Since we have gotten the new computer, we have been regularly doing one thing, however small, each evening after work to move towards our goal.  Looking back, we have accomplished a lot!

Computer

I surveyed my nerdy coworkers (as a fellow nerd, I write that with love and affection) to see what they would buy.  Out of the five who responded, four of them recommended the Microsoft, Surfcace Pro and two of those also recommended the MacBook.  We have enjoyed our Surface Pro so very much!  

Podcast:

In order to help prepare for the transformation of the tipi, into a dream getaway spot, we want to start to survey our guests who stay here as well as other Airbnb hosts to get their perspectives.  Perrriee and I truly get a gift of some sort from every guest we have ever hosted here, and we would love to share that unique perspective of our guests with you. Examples of some of the gifts we have received: a private viola recital, a copy of a book authored by a guest, leftover beers, photo slide shows, and all around amazing conversation. I really belive the type of people who use the shared-housing services as hosts or guests have a special perspective  and wouldn’t it be fun to share that with the world? We have already recorded a five-minute pilot episode which only my dad has heard so far. He gave us rave reviews, so consider this your teaser!  

Our first set-up: August 2019

Vocal Yokel Merch

It is a progressive thinking online tshirt store.  This is where we have been spending the most time over the last few weeks.  Perriee has been wanting to make tshirts for so long, so we finally took the plunge and it has been so much fun! We set up our Shopify storefront and got our @vocalyokelmerch on Instagram up and running.  Samples have been ordered and we are getting pumped to start taking pics in the new gear so we can post them online. Wowza it has taken some time!  We had no idea the print on demand hustle took such effort getting set up. Hopefully, once we get rolling, it should work on its own for a large part of it. It has been super interesting to see how the different programs integrate with one another and learn the different systems.  If nothing else, it is keeping our minds sharp to learn all of the systems! By working with different programs in my day job it has really awakened my ability to learn the new ones we continue to encounter.  

Homework

Purge your calendar of a few things that aren’t moving you forward.  If your time is anything like mine and Perriee’s, it is limited. To make the time to spend on these side-hustles, we have had to replace our evening tv time with working on our projects.  It has only been slightly challenging .

Luckily we get to work on things we are so excited about. Even better is the fact that we get to do it together!  Even if it is 10 minutes, you have to schedule it in, and be consistent! We pick one thing every night after work and spend some time on it.  Some nights it was making tshirt designs, sometimes it was figuring out how to upload them or edit them. We did something to make sure we were a step closer to our freedom so the next moring we felt a little bit closer. 

Keep throwing the spaghetti on the wall!

What??  Throw the spaghetti on the wall?  Yes! Keep throwing it on the wall.  One day it is going to stick! In case you haven’t heard about that before, when you cook pasta, you can toss a piece of spaghetti on the wall (or ceiling, if you are feeling feisty) and when it sticks, you know it is done.  I don’t think I would recommend throwing a lasagna noodle or manicotto on the wall. Although it would be impressive to see, it might leave a big glutenous smudge. Long spaghetti seems to be the best choice, or perhaps a delicate angel hair or hearty bucatini.  Once again, I digress.

Perriee and I have been tossing the spaghetti on the wall for a few years.  Most of the time, it falls off. Sometimes, it never even reaches the wall, but we have had a few small wins for sure.  Ok- maybe just one sizable one: Airbnb stuck. This is our 5th summer hosting! It is hard to believe we have been rolling with it this long.  I am hoping we can develop our space here a bit more so we can charge a little more and generate longer stays by offering the kitchen space for use.

One little project that slid down the wall was hosting dinner parties through a site called Feastly.  Although fun, it did not generate any income at all!  We made this amazing dinner with spaghetti and meatballs and homemade cheesecake.  It was delicious and our friends who came loved it, but it never stuck to the wall or generated any momentum outside of our close friends and family who both humored and honored us with their presence.  It did stick to my waistline. This side-hustle pre-dated our time hosting through Airbnb. The silver lining? It served as a bit of a catalyst to get the guest space together enough to show it off to strangers and the improvements haven’t stopped since. 

Cabin Corner

We installed the two back windows last weekend!  Hands down, one of the easiest and most rewarding projects we have done on the cabin so far.  Special thanks to Jonathan from MunozStuccoPA for helping is out with his awesome YouTube videos! The only installation flub we had was nailing the bottom flange all the way across, as opposed to leaving some extra gaps along the bottom for water to flow out, if needed.  That was all my bad. Perriee questioned it and I confidently responded on the contrary and we did not rewatch the video to confirm. As directed, we did NOT use the flashing tape along the bottom of the window.

Check out our thank you videos: Before

After:

These windows were ordered at the end of June and finally arrived the week prior to us installing them  As you can imagine, we were so excited to get them installed so that is exactly what we did. Since we ordered two of the same window, I assumed they would match.    Several minutes after we got the second one in, I noticed that they are different! Ha! There were only supposed to be 4 panes of glass on the top and bottom sections of the windows and one of them has 6 panes of glass on the bottom section! This is one of those things we will call good enough because they are not coming out again.  One of them will technically be in the bathroom and the other in the kitchen anyhow, so you will be less likely to notice from the inside of the house anyway. We are blaming this on Mercury in retrograde and Home Depot, of course.  

Regardless, the windows open, they have screens, and nothing can mess up the view you get while looking out of them.  It is beautiful. I watched some crows dancing in the woods from them the following morning. Overall, it was a huge win.

 

Homework

Keep tossing the pasta!  You can only hope you will end up with a wall-full, but realistically, most will not stick.  Don’t be afraid to try different types of pasta either- if you want to try blogging one day, then a basic website the next, do it.  The only thing that keeps you from succeeding is not trying. I have recently been listening to a couple of inspiring podcasts that have been getting my wheels turning to think of new ways to make money and getting the guts to try.  

Failing Forward is a Cinicnnati based podcast with the premise that even failures can lead to our successes.  In that respect, you should hope to fail at some things. Learn the lessons and move on. Use them as learning experiences to do different things the next time.  Keep tossing the pasta! 

The Side Hustle Show has over 300 episodes packed full of ideas and success stories of people who are now working for themselves.  One hot tip was to make a list of 50 ways to generate income for yourself. By the 50th one, you will have a list with at least a couple of ready to eat noodles.  And if you don’t? Well, make another list.  

The mousenest of the week…
We said goodbye to the hoosier cabinet in the tipi and found this bad-boy behind the bottom drawer. It was its own ecosystem (spool of thred for scale).