I noticed that as the sun got lower and the leaves fell off the trees more light was getting on the south side of the cabin roof than was getting to the clearing. So I moved the solar panels to the roof. I may angle one more East and the other West to get the best coverage. Another plus is much shorter cables which means more voltage gets to the batteries.
Since Lily keeps pulling off her bandages I got her some booties. She walks like something sticky is on her feet. I think she’ll like them in the winter. Her foot is pretty much completely healed. She gets the stitches out Wednesday.
Lily runs like a cheetah and leaps like a dolphin. Unfortunately there are some hazards in the woods not even counting the branches and rocks. There are leftover pipes and other metal pieces from long gone oil wells. Anyway, something got her and she cut the web between her toes and part of the pad on her back right foot. It was bleeding pretty bad and looked like just a bandage wouldn’t do, so I took her to the vet. She needed stitches and spent the night there. Amazing how lonely the cabin is for even one night now that I’m used to her being here. Now her foot is all bandage up.
She can walk on it but it doesn’t seem very comfortable. She gets the stitches removed in 2 weeks. The bandage can probably come off in a week if it doesn’t fall off first.
So living exclusively at the cabin has taught me some things. I thought my two 100 watt solar panels and three 75 aH batteries were sufficient. And I still do. But I did run into a problem. I had some problems with my jeep and ran my car battery down. I used my solar charger to charge it but it was rainy for days and didn’t charge very well. I used my deep cycle batteries to start it, then it took a while to recharge them. So I decided with the sun lowering in the sky it was time to redesign my solar panel mounts. So I ran an old dog run cable and hung the panels from it.
Now they are higher and easy to move along to track the sun. In the photo the line isn’t completely tight yet, so they are actually higher now. It works great! I may design a motor to slowly move them through the day. I did notice last winter that in the winter the reflecting white snow actually makes direct sunlight not as important to get charging voltage. Also I am now shopping for a 12v well pump so I don’t need to use the generator for water. I can then have water pressure maintained automatically. The next step towards indoor plumbing.
It begins. I have decided on $200 a month as my monthly cabin budget. Since I still have the house to maintain I am not county those cost as they will go away when I sell the house. I am allotting just $200 monthly for cabin living expenses. Here is the current budget breakdown.
Back in the 70s an 18 year old girl, pen named Dolly Freed, wrote a book about her adventures growing up with her divorced dad outside Philadelphia, in what would be today called a mini homestead. The book was called Possum Living, How to Live Well Without a Job and (almost) No Money. It is now available by audiobook, read by the now grown author.
The title Possum Living comes from the fact that possum’s don’t have to have day to day jobs and can still make a living and survive. Diogenes of ancient Athens was her father’s hero. He lived in an old barrel in the center of Athens and Alexander the Great is quoted as saying if he had not been born Alexander he would have prefered to be Diogenes. The bible gives an idea of the lifestyle in the quote “Look at the birds of the air, they do not sow or reap or stow away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feed them. Are you not much more valuable than they?”
So this brings me to today. I am calling it Possum Day.
For as long as I can remember I have dreamed of living in a cabin, away from the “civilized” world. This was my intention when I bought the Pithole Homestead several years ago. But instead of living on the land I have been trying to do a balancing act of living both at the cabin and at the house in town. This has never satisfied me. I want to actually be a member of the forest I live in. I have realized that one main thing has been keeping me from living this way. My vehicle. It is just too easy to jump in the car and head to town, when I really don’t want to.
So with my Declaration of Possum Day I will truly begin my adventure. It may take a couple of months to complete but starting today I will live on my land. My vehicle for now will be only for important trips and emergencies. Eventually I plan on not driving at all. In the 1976 book the girl and her father spent in one year $1498.75. Her fathers reaction was “where did it all go?”. Taking into account the cost of living from 1976 to today and that it is just me and my dog, my goal is to live on around $5 a day, or about $150 a month. For now I will calculate this not counting vehicle costs and taxes, Basically just the basic survival. The end result will be $5 a day, total. This does not mean I will start from scratch but I will make use of the the conveniences I have already setup, such as solar power, and I will attempt to maintain the status quo.
Today’s post is going to be a long one. In fact probably a week long.
I will document here what I have and what I will do will each thing. I wil list my goals. By the end of this post I will have laid out my entire plan. Possibly, a 5 dollars a day may have been a good idea in the 1970s, but I may decide to adjust it after full consideration. Maybe more like $200 a month. But I will document the journey every day.
So now on with the show.
What do I have now?
Here is my basic budget of $150 a month, leaving a little extra.
Of course this will be supplemented by what nature provides.
Here is my current status. As I write I will note other costs and adjust my budget later.
My new .5 micron water filter ($8 every 3 months) is doing a great job removing rust. I am thinking of attaching a home built, solar powered, UV filter, but .5 micron is actually smaller than most bacteria. Also another small water line and a solar pump would be nice.
The 100 foot well provides ice cold water, which I use to keep a few items fresh.
And of course my solar shower bag heats the water up for a warm shower in the summer.
Winter is still heating water on the stove and washing up indoors.
Heat is provided by a wood stove and supplemented by a propane tank ($17 a month).
The tank can feed a heater, a cooking stove, a bright lantern, and maybe soon a water heater. I can also use the large tank to refill small 1lb bottles.
Well, it is actually more of a porta-potty than an actual outhouse, or a lugable loo, as the Brits might call it. State laws don’t allow for creating and actual pit outhouse. So I have designed an 5 gallon bucket, composting outhouse, which uses replaceable, biodegradable plastic bags ($10 a year) which can then be placed in a composting barrel.
To keep the electrons flowing I have a 3 battery storage bank and a large 100 watt solar panel.
I also have a smaller 40 watt panel that I feel bad when I see it making electricity but not going anywhere.
40 watt solar panel
This powers my tv, computer, recharge phones and tablet, provide light and even a fan.
At full battery bank charge I have about 1500watts available. That’s about 12.5 Amps max at 120VAC (depending on power factor of equipment run) or 125 Amps at 12VDC. All 3 batteries charged provided about 120 AmpHours meaning I can run a 5 watt LED light bulb for about 12 days continously without recharging. But they recharge nearly every day.
My well pump requires 220vac with about 3500 watts peak surge so I still use a gasoline generator when I need to pump water, or run heavy power tools. If I double my battery bank I could probably run my well pump.
So that is the basics, except food. For now I purchase my food, usually in bulk.
There are many wild foods, and as anyone who has ever planted a garden knows, squash multiply. Even better than loaves and fish. If you plant one you’ll be giving them away for months.
Soups, rice, pasta, canned goods, etc. But it is 2018, so I don’t really have to go anywhere to get my food.
Yes. A large part of my budget was cell phone/internet. I can order my groceries and supplies through Amazon, etc and have it delivered right to my mailbox. I plan on putting a special large package box behind the regular mailbox.
UPDATE: I have added the package box.
Yes, I am living in the woods. Nature is my entertainment. With bears in the morning, raccoons at night and chipmunks, squirrel, birds and deer 24 hours, there is plenty of nature. But that is not all.
Yes. I have a tv. And along with broadcast channels I have streaming video over my internet. Jeremiah Johnson eat your heart out. Remember, I am posting this online, and part of my meager income is via the internet. And when I say tablet I’m not talking pen and paper.
While there is no power, water or sewage connections here, there is an old telephone pole with a telephone connection. It isn’t connected and with decent cell service here I see no reason to connect it.
I also have many tools and equipment for building and repair.
And I just got a new addition to my outdoor furnishings.
At the end of my driveway is a ditch.
It presently can be crossed with a 4 by 4, but I plan on digging it deeper because I have a removable bridge.
Also there is a gate.
This gate is normally closed, even when, or especially when I am in the cabin.
You may have noticed that Lily has discovered the joy of photobombing. Everything I want a picture of, she suddenly becomes interested in.
Also, as I have stated elsewhere, please contact me before just dropping in. I am a friendly hermit, but I am also a well armed veteran and don’t want any misunderstandings.
The time has come to make the big move. I’ve been splitting about half the time at the house and half at the cabin. Time to make the cabin home. Things are set up enough at the cabin, in many ways better than the house. For now I’ll only go back to the house to get the mail and mow the lawn. Soon I’ll sell the house completely and stay out of town.
But first, today is the fourth anniversary of the previous pack member’s death. Frisbee never got to see the Pithole Homestead. She was a good dog. In her memory.
Now, Introducing a new member to the Pithole Pack.
She is from the Venango County Humane Society. They say she is 1 year old and named Lily. I have considered changing her name but she already knows it. Also when I say Lily real fast a bunch of times, like yodeling, she gets excited. She’s a Labrador Retriever mix, just as Frisbee was.
Today I did a little dressing up of the inside window frames on the cabin. This is what they looked like unfinished.
Although they were framed and didn’t leak they weren’t very pretty. So I made use of the 1 x 4s I had left from when I took the shelving out of the original shed. A little measuring, cutting, routing and painting and this is the result.
Two curious bruins were exploring the homestead this morning. One looked in the the window and said “somebody has been sleeping in my bed”.
After reviewing the video I believe what I thought were two yearling cubs was really a mother and her yearling. The bear who stayed back in the woods appears a bit larger than the one who came to the door.
Not really a composting outhouse. This basically an outhouse with a removable holding tank. The outhouse is designed to moved forward on skids after the back panel is removed. This allows the storage tank to be removed for composting and a new tank put in place.
The storage tank is just a 55 gallon blue poly drum. It is partially buried but can easily be pulled out.
The outhouse has been built but is not in use. I am not sure of the township and state legal requirements so I am currently using a portable camping toilet. I hope to replace the tank on the outhouse with an incinerating toilet which I’m sure is legal and does not need inspection. Composting toilet are also legal in Pennsylvania but most likely require inspection. The blue tank does not even have a hole in it yet. But it looks cool. When I permanently move here I will take care of residence legal requirements. At this time the cabin is actually still just a fancy shed.