Discover more from Wild Life with Amy Jay
A Day in My Off Grid Life
I’m going to be honest, winters here are hard. There’s a lot that Curt and I have to do to sustain ourselves. If we don’t, things turn bad very quickly. Being here in the winter is one of the most rewardingly difficult things I’ve ever done. The magic of being here doesn’t just make the tough stuff worthwhile but makes it enjoyable too.
‘I have to go for a magical snowshoe hike to go get firewood?’ Oh, nooo…
I wake up when the sun is rising. A tall mountain to the east prolongs the beginning of the day, casting bright shadows across my yard. Usually, the house gets down to around 5C overnight. While still cozy under the warm blankets I don’t notice the cold. Most of the time Curt is here, making it harder to get out of our warm nest.
I climb down from my loft bed, throw on my housecoat and slippers and start a fire. Once it’s crackling and promising some warmth, I grab the shotgun and put on my snow boots. I jog down the snow-packed trail in my housecoat and boots for the morning trek to the outhouse.
Once back at the house, it’s coffee time! I fill the kettle and turn on the propane stove. I would love to warm my kettle on the wood stove, but that would mean overheating the house. I also don’t have the patience, if I’m being honest.
In the winter I try not to feed the animals too early, causing them to stir from their warm beds before the day begins to warm up. That said, they really look forward to their breakfast! Especially the pigs who look happiest either in their bed or eating. If I look out my window and see them patiently waiting, it’s time to start ‘chores’.
The goats are almost entirely unphased by inclement weather. The chickens do well too and never stopped laying eggs this winter. The rabbits are the absolute champions in frigid temperatures. To check a rabbit to see if it’s feeling chilly, I gently hold its ears. Cold ears mean a cold bunny.
Last winter I stressed and toiled over getting them water every day, just to find they’d drink none and let it freeze, happily chomping on snow instead! Eating snow reduces their body temperature, so on really cold days, I still bring them water. The goats never drink it, and the chickens have a few sips before getting bored of it. The pigs have gotten smart and fill their black dish with snow, then wait for it to melt in the sun.
Relaxing, then Snow Removal
Once I’ve had my first coffee and fed the animals I can relax for a bit. I like to sit in the ugly cedar chair that I made, have another coffee and some breakfast. It’s also a good time to collect my thoughts and figure out which projects I’ll work on - weather permitting. At the end of winter, I get a lot of cold rain/wet snow, which I avoid being outside in, preferring to stay inside with my warm coffee.
The motor home, which I like to call the ‘guest house’ can’t hold much weight on the roof. Every few inches of snowfall needs to be removed. The snow has gotten so deep, I can shovel off the roofs without a ladder. This also applies to the tent and the shed. We didn’t shovel walking paths this year, opting to make packed footpaths instead. It was way less work!
Firewood and Water
Getting more wood is something that Curt and I usually do together. Felling big trees can be dangerous, and is best done as a team. He wields his big chainsaw to cut it down, then begins to take off branches. Then my job is to begin cutting branches off with my smaller saw. Once we’ve made a few 6-8 foot lengths, I tie them to the back of my snowmobile and drag them home.
I like to have at least two days worth of wood split and stacked in the house. Curt usually splits the wood and I help to bring it inside. On days like today, when he’s not here - I get to do it! Purposefully breaking stuff to keep warm is cathartic, rewarding and fun! Every day, or every other day I split some more and top up the indoor pile. Using a splitting maul I break rounds into smaller pieces, then an axe to make them smaller still, and into kindling
My water catchment experiments have been working astonishingly well! In the afternoon the sun bakes the snow and fills my water jugs. I pay attention to when they’ve overfilled to make the most of the bonus water. I pour the jugs into the ‘sink bucket’ and my drinking water filter. The leftover melted water goes into a storage cube outside, to be used in the spring.
Evening Chores and Dinner
At the end of the day, I lock the chickens and goats up for the night. I haven’t seen many predators, but I know that if I don’t lock them up it will only be a matter of time. I check on the rabbits as well, and make sure everybunny is well-situated for the night.
We use a little propane stove/oven to make meals. When I’m on my own I tend to keep things simple. I usually make something like spaghetti, chilli, or if I’m feeling really lazy, a bowl of ramen. After using an old electric range for a few years, the propane camp stove feels pretty fancy! It even has an igniter, so I don’t have to use a lighter to start it.
A big consideration when cooking is dishes. This is nearly 90% Curt’s job. I tell myself that he likes to do it.. but who does, really. Obviously we don’t have a dishwasher and everything is washed by hand. It’s a love/hate thing. I love putting intention behind what I do but MAN it can be tedious. I don’t have hot water piped to the sink so, heating water for washing is also very intentional.
Ready for Bed
It’s dark in my little house, and I like it that way. Without much artificial light I find myself more in-tune with the seasons. At sunset I stoke the fire, getting it nice and hot before dampening it all the way down. That way it’ll continue burning slowly through most of the night. It’ll be out and cold in the morning, but that beats overheating the tiny house.
The short days of winter are a nice time to catch up on sleep and enjoy being cozy. When summer comes around, the days will be much, much longer. Muscles that haven’t been sore in months will ache again, in the happy way they sometimes do. It’ll be dirty and dusty and undoubtedly buggy. It’s best to enjoy the last of these short snowy days while I can.