On sunday I wanted a nice chilled out relaxing day. Lets face it I would be happy with this most days, but sunday in particular I was so tired! It was the kind of day where you want to just stay in your PJs and sit on the sofa watching tv all day long. But then I wondered about how I would relax when my off grid dreams come true? What could I do instead of watching tv, playing on my gadgets? What is laid back but doesn’t use electricity?
I had previously looked into entertainment options that don’t rely on electricity, but most required me to use my energy and that defeated the point of this day.
So on Sunday I decided to cope without my electrical gadgets and entertain myself in a nice chilled out way.
- Read – To be honest this is basically all I did on Sunday and realised its just as relaxing as watching tv. I rotated between a comic book (for when I felt really tired as pictures helped), a non-fiction book (this one was about living off-grid which fixed my google addiction) and a fiction novel. This surprised me, as although I like to read I usually think of it as quite a tiring activity but it wasnt.
- Simple crafts – I’m talking knitting, crochet, sewing etc. Something you can do whilst sitting on your butt!
- Music – By this I mean play an instrument. I’m not very musically talented but I found the ukulele quite easy to learn and like to sit down and play on that in an evening. Would work just as well on a lazy day
- Bake – I’ll be honest if I hadnt removed all the tempations of processed quick foods, I may have faltered on this one on sunday. I couldn’t be bothered to bake. But once I did I felt quite good. I baked a simple cheese and onion pasty but something like cheese scones would do. If you have a bit more energy than I did you might want to try and bake something a little mote complicated.
- Snuggles – lets face it snuggles and hugs make us all feel good. So if your family is around snuggle up and have a little chat together, if your on your own then why not spend time with your pet if you have any. I love sitting with my bunnies and having little cuddles. Heck if your lucky convince a willing friend or family member to give you a massage!
So there are five of my favourites, but im sure if you just comit to no technology you will all come up with lots of other things you can do to chill out without electricity.
This week an electrical fault in my house had me considering possible off grid eco lighting sooner than expected.Without much thought I went to candles as the most eco friendly form of lighting in my mind, but is it really that straight forward?
The realities and practicalities of using candles was a bit of a shock. I love candles and had been managing to read by candlelight every night for a couple of months. But using it for everything certainly had its challenges.
Granted I let a child do this to me… but you get the concept!
Work days in winter wasn’t the best time to start. Getting dressed in a presentable manner, putting on make up and navigating around the house weren’t impossible but certainly a lot more difficult. I managed it for all three days but did miss lighting and appreciated natural light so much more. For example, cleaning was no longer a night time activity but best left to daylight on days off. And due to work, I didn’t see my house in daylight for the whole three days… which meant it definitely needed a clean by this time.
But also, I didn’t know about the environmental downsides of candles. I did some digging and one article compared burning petrolium based candles to the likes of burning diesel in your car…. not so eco then? But my idea was to eventually get a beehive and use spare bees wax to create my candles with… so would this be more eco friendly than conventional lights? I would still think so, but now I’m concerned about the practicalities of it.
I think my current thinking for the FreEco Bus is to install conventional low energy light bulbs which would be powered by the grid and get a couple of torches or camping lights (which can be recharged) to be powered by solar panels (for necessary use only). So for example when I’m doing my make up, but to try to use beeswax candles for most of our lighting needs.
However, I am still researching this area so it may well changed. Feel free to post your suggestions or good resources in the comments box!
So this week I have been thinking about water conservation and sources of water.
Fresh water is not an infinite resource
I know that when I get the FreEco Bus I want to be off-grid for water, so I need to carefully consider my land to ensure that there is a nearby stream that I could use or the likelihood of creating a good well. I will also need to consider how I will purify this water for consumption. I will also be trying to collect rain water as well. But right now, as a preparatory step for being off grid, I need to be focusing my efforts on water conservation.
According to a water calculation the average water useage per person per day is 150l. Our useage before being particularly concerned with water conservation was 102l per person per day according to a calculation I did (details are below). They suggested that this was as low as I could get it, but that wasn’t good enough for me. There is no way I can justify 102l per person to day taken from the environment. Imagine carrying that amount each and every day? So I needed to make some drastic measures.
Where is the water going?
The first thing I did was work out where I use water at the moment.
- Drinking – minor useage in comparison but still something to consider
- Cooking – including scrubbing muddy veg and boiling potatoes
- Washing Dishes – by hand using a washing up bowl
- Washing Clothes – A+ rated washing machine still uses a surprising amount of water
- Bathing / Showering – Usually share the one bath between us with medium level of water
- Hand Washing – Tap running
- Toilet Flushing – Often… kids ey?
- Brushing Teeth – Turn the tap off whilst brushing
- Watering Plants – House plants mainly
- Animals Drinking – Rabbits and chickens water bottles and bowls
- Washing the Car – Rarely… it’s a mess. If so, couple of buckets
- Goldfish – In a tank currently that gets changed every 2-4 weeks
Goals and Changes Made
Fresh water is not an infinite resource
- In terms of drinking water I haven’t really changed this nor aim to reduce it as a family we don’t really drink enough. So the aim is really to reduce our use of fruit juices and drink more water and herbal teas which can be sustained when we go off-grid.
- Cooking – Our use of water for cooking is minor, however I noticed that I would leave the tap running when cleaning vegetables which was wasteful. Now I use a salad bowl which I fill to a certain level and scrub my veg in that. I then keep the dirty water and use it water the house plants instead. This conserves some water and adds nutrients from the mud to my house plants. Win win really!
- Washing Dishes – Currently I am using tap water in a washing up bowl to wash my dishes which is a relatively good level of water useage and possible sustainable off grid. In the longer term though I would like to use rain water for this instead to get me used to collecting the water for use and also conserve a bit more from the tap water. In order to do this I need to source some more water storage containers as the one I have at the moment will no be enough.
- Washing clothes – Currently I am using my washing machine. The aim is to use grey water or collected water to wash my clothes and no longer rely on the washing machine. I am considering getting a hand crank washing machine and mangle instead to use collected water and save energy in the future.
- Currently me and my girls share a bath, well actually take turns as we can’t all fit anymore! This used less water than each of us showering individually, especially with the length of time my girls would take in there. However, in order to be off-grid we are going to have to be even more frugal with our water than that. It is likely to be a good old strip wash most days. To get used to this we are taking the odd strip wash now but not every day to get used to it. I actually felt surprisingly clean using this method, but need to work on the hair washing technique! Gradually we will increase this to be mostly strip washing with the occasional bath.
- As for hand washing, we only really do it when our hands are dirty so it’s not too big a deal. To reduce it a bit, if I’ve just got a bit of soil on them when I’ve been in the garden and it’s a rainy day then I’ve been a rather odd lady rinsing them in a puddle haha! I guess really what I’m saying is in the future I will be looking to use more rain water for this.
- In terms of toilet flushing I think this is the one I am most concerned with at the moment. I can not install a compostable toilet in my rented house (I will get one put in the bus though). It’s really hard to get out of the habit of flushing so much though. Currently I am using grey water from our baths to flush when possible and generally trying to operate the (sorry folks) if it’s yellow let it mellow technique. It’s taking a bit of getting used to but I think if I can get a couple of buckets for the bathrooms to store grey water, we could definitely start using mostly grey water for our flushing.
- For brushing our teeth I have started getting a small container full of water to rinse with which is making us more mindful of how much we use. It’s the equivalent of a cup of water most days now. Which I think would be continued, but in the future we would look at using rain or collected water for this.
- Plants are no longer using tap water, they are using grey water, washed vegetable water or rain water now which will be continued
- The animals are drinking a bit more rain water that I have collected now. I am introducing this gradually to make sure they don’t get unwell with it, but hopefully they will be drinking rain or collected water in the future.
- Generally I use two or three bucket loads of water to wash my car, I haven’t washed it recently but I aim to use rain water to wash my car in the not too distant future. I will let you know how I get on!
- As for the goldfish, eventually I will be looking to get a pond for him as I think he would be happier there and it would be better for the diversity of my land too (when I get it). For now though he is using tap water, but I am going to see about rain water next time he gets cleaned out.
The main things I’ve learned is that I’m going to need an awful lot of water containers, big and small to make this more accessible and possible. Also, a great way to conserve water is to imagine carrying it for the purpose you are using it for. If carrying 10 buckets (guessing here) to heat and fill a bath with sounds like hard work, you will find a way to reduce it!
You can get details on your home water use here: STWater
So, I’ve decided to make my dream of creating the FreEco Bus Small Holding a reality… but where on earth do I start???
Honestly… I have no idea!
At the moment I have a rush of questions filling my head… How on earth do I convert an old double decker bus into a family home? Do I need planning permission to site the FreEco Bus on land? What about power, water, warmth, budget? What do I need to be self-sufficient?
But the most burning question of all is… Where do I start?
There is so much to sort out, so much planning, learning and preparation involved. I really just don’t know where to begin with it.
I’ve opened up a Twitter account in the hope that someone may have some useful suggestions on there and I sent an email to a bloke who played a large part in inspiring me to consider the FreEco Bus a legitimate possibility… I’ll post more on that later… If any of you have any tips then please let me know!
For now though… here is a list of questions that I am considering:
- FreEco Bus Requirements – What do I want? Already converted/blank canvas/partly converted? How old? Driveable or not? Size? Design? Can I get one free? If not, can I get one for less than £2000?
- FreEco Bus Design – What living space do I need? How much storage do I need? Floor plan design? Retro/boho style (I know so practical right)?
- FreEco Bus Conversion – How do I convert a bus into a home? Electricals? Plumbing? Insulation? Walls? How will I install a bathroom and kitchen? How much time will it take? Can I learn the required skills to do most of this work myself? Do I know anyone who can help? How much would it cost if I need to hire laborers?
- Sourcing Materials – What do I need? How likely is it to source the required materials for free? Can I get the majority of things needed second hand? Where will I get them from?
- Land – Planning permission? How much land do I need? Where does it need to be? What facilities does it need on site or nearby? Type of land such as woodland / field? Should I buy or rent? How much will it cost? Can I make an arrangement with a local farmer/land owner?
- Budget / Time – How much is it all likely to cost in the worst case scenario? Can I afford to start this project? Have I got enough time to offer?
- Self-Sufficiency – What do I need to be self-sufficient? What level of sufficiency can I realistically manage? Fully self-sufficient / mostly / partly? What skills will I need? What equipment will I need? What can I grow? Planning a yearly crop? What about the food gap? Do I have the time to maintain the crops? What about livestock? Would I get more chickens? Would I get goats? What about their upkeep and requirements?
- Power, energy and water – What will my source of water, energy and power be? Can I get land with a nearby stream? Can I make good use of grey water and rain water? Would I want to be plugged in or collect water? Source of power and energy? What are the limits of solar panels? Storage of power? How much will they cost? What fuel source will I use for cooking and warmth? What are the environmental impacts of all of this and what can I do to improve this?
- Skills – Can I do this? How can I learn? Who can help?
- Downsizing and impact on family – What will the impact of downsizing our living space have on the children? Would we get on each others nerves? What about rainy and cold days? Will my children benefit and be happy with these changes?
There are probably much more than this scrabbling around my brain right now. But having a list like the above written down has made me feel like I’ve got a bit of a to do list going and I can gradually work my way through each question at a time.
I guess to begin with, the main priority with this project is to create a low cost eco home for my family… so I guess figuring out the land and the bus requirements would be a logical place to start… What do you think?
I don’t feel like this project should be rushed as I want to enjoy the journey and I think that if I take it slowly my family will adapt to this new way of life gradually rather than being thrown in at the deep end. I think it will also help us to learn and develop the skills needed to maintain this new way of life for us.
So here’s to taking one question at a time!