September 30, 2015

living without......... cable

Ahhhh.... this is one of the easy ones! =)  Don't get me wrong it's difficult to do but in the last 10-15 years living without cable has become much easier. Also I know there are many guides or experiences written out here on the internet -- I know I'm not new with this idea! So because of that I will share a few well written links and then share my experiences =)

links -
http://www.techspot.com/article/981-cord-cutter-experience/
http://www.forbes.com/sites/amadoudiallo/2013/10/16/how-to-cut-the-cord-cable-tv/

a great guide & info with a nice chart to help out =)
http://www.tomsguide.com/us/cord-cutting-guide,news-17928.html



Here at our house we use alot of different options all at once. First of all we have 2 traditional put on a pole outside antennas. We put one facing one direction and the other facing perpendicular. This means we have to have converters on any tv that we want to make use of this but most new tvs have it built in so it's not too difficult. (we also have a dvd player that we use on older tvs because it has a built in converter) Worst case scenario we'll get 0 channels but usually 2 -- best case scenario we can get 15! It really depends on your area, a good antenna does wonders though. Here's a website to check out whats available in your area http://antennaweb.org/Address.aspx  If you've checked this site in the past and it didn't seem like there was much available, try again. I've checked just last year and there was only 1 channel available in my area and I just checked today and now there are 3 available! I think various stations are starting to add boosters to their antennas (?) and slowly are making them accessible at further distances.

We also have in the past made use of the local library and it's selection of dvds (or vhs back in the day!). Currently we make use more of free movie websites, youtube, and network tv websites. I don't want to share the sites we visit for fear of bad traffic to my blog here.

One of the biggest things we do for entertainment is watch one of the 1000+ dvds we own lol Seriously! If you'd like to browse through our dvd collection then look here -- http://www.invelos.com/DVDCollection.aspx/kingdarkside 

We also own 2 ps3's and a roku (1st ed since then I can hook it up to older tvs). With both of these devices we are able to make use of our Netflix and Amazon Prime accounts. Also with shows or movies we have ripped into our computer or downloaded we can use PS3 Media Server to play them on with the ps3. It works really well for all our needs and it's free. (PS3 Media Server can be found here - http://www.ps3mediaserver.org/)

As for Netflix and Amazon Prime. Netflix is cheaper to get started but Amazon Prime is a better buy IMO. Since Amazon Prime is a one time a year fee once you have that taken care of it seems like nothing to pay out the monthly fee for the Netflix.

When it comes to living without cable it really is a personal preference of what direction you want to go in. With the internet and an internet capable device your costs can be $0 a month and it's possible to spend out untold amounts depending on how much or kinds of devices and options available today. The main thing to remember is you don't have to do without entertainment in today's world.

later...

September 23, 2015

living without...... electricity

Let me start out with saying -- NO I don't know of any way to get or hook up illegal electricity! I wouldn't use any ideas on how to do this anyway because of two reasons -- 1. I'm an honest person! and 2. I am scared of electricity! I usually have someone else plug things in for me - even if it's my kids! lol yes I'm THAT scared!

Also I don't understand electricity that well either. I've tried and tried but it just boggles my mind. Oh I know how to run it and basically how it works just not in detail. In fact when I start to TRY to dig into it my brain just starts jumbling up things -- volts, watts, amps, amp-hours, etc., etc.

But what to do when you have no power -- that I can help with! Plus some simple ideas to make use of alternative power in small amounts. These are things in my bag of tricks! :D

1. follow the advice that you can from my living without gas post (here). Alot of these ideas and suggestions work for when your without electricity.

2. if this is going to be longer than a couple days then you should think about changing your living schedule to one that is more in line with what people in the 1800's lived with - go to sleep when it's dark and be awake and do stuff you need to during the day. You'll use less resources this way.

3. while thinking of the 1800's try to educate yourself (or remind yourself of what you've read!) on the way things were accomplished during that time in history when there was no electricity and try to think of what your going to need to implement in your life now. cooking, washing clothes, and entertainment are three areas that come to mind.

4. although this is fourth down on this list, honestly it will probably be the first on your mind -- LIGHT! In fact lets start the detail portion of this post with this topic.

I'm not only scared of electricity, but also scared of the dark. Honest! I can't sleep without a night light - sometimes I even have to have the ceiling light on. So when the power flickers here, the first thing I do is light a candle. I have candles in my room by my bed, in the bathroom with a lighter even - near the toilet, on my desk, in the kitchen.... it goes on and on. Light is the most important thing to me when I think about electricity.

Having candles around are a great idea, but you should always use caution when you are not going to be in the room and if you have pets or kids. Candles should always be on something heat safe, wicks trimmed to a safe height, and placed in a safe area (check above!). Never try walking with a candle - trust me it's not worth it lol Wax gets all over the place when it drips or if you trip and drop the candle. Plus they tend to flicker or go out when walking with them making the whole reason your walking with them pointless.

A tip for using candles - placement depending on the type of candle will help spread the illumination to a larger area, or make it brighter. Sometimes placing a candle on a coffee table in a central location will really light up a room. Using mirrors really helps spread the light, so don't using aluminum foil to direct the light.

For temporary use you can use outdoor solar lights, glow sticks or flash lights. But unless you have rechargeable batteries with either a solar panel battery charger or a battery charger that will work in a car (& a car!) these are not long term options. Plus they aren't good options for a whole room. I can say without a doubt these are probably your safest options and are good to have for kids to make use of. Outdoor solar lights are high inadequate for providing significant light for routine use.

Your best long term item for light is a oil lamp. A good sturdy camping oil lamp with a hanger is your best long term source of light. The lamp should cost less than $10 and the oil less than $5 - both can be bought at Walmart. (lamp in camping section, oil near the candles) One jug of oil should last a week at least - I've not timed it. You can walk with an oil lamp without worries as long as you pay attention! but no flickering - not even outside! I've had my oil lamp for over 8 years and the only maintenance I've had to do is trim the wick from time to time and clean the glass. Cleaning the glass is quick and easy with some rubbing alcohol and toilet paper. The only other thing you need for an oil lamp is a funnel -- makes filling it much easier. While using a oil lamp if you put a plant hanger bracket or shelf bracket on the wall then you can easily hang the lamp to light up a whole room without worrying that it's going to fall over. Shelf brackets that look like this are best -

One last idea that is really cheap for light -- vegetable oil lamp/candles. Now I don't know how else you can do this without buying some items online first but this is THE cheapest way to have light. I've tried 2 types that look like those pictured below -
     
I've just used basic, generic corn and vegetable oil and they both work just fine. I've practiced "knocking it over" and every time it put itself out within a minute. When I used mine I put it into half pint mason jars - just filled up with oil (no water) and waited a few mins then lit. These work forever but still have a normal candles limitations in regards to walking with it.


Now that we've covered light now to the easy parts =) Unless you get a generator, everything else in your house that needs electricity is out of commission, sadly. You can try putting into use solar panels & a battery system - don't get me wrong you'll be able to run some things - mostly though your going to find it's inadequate for most things you need to power in your house beyond some entertainment items (computer, laptop, tv, ps3, etc).

If you want to try thinking of some things to use with a solar panel system or even just to power within your car then think of just that - items you can charge in your car lighter plugs or with a lighter to usb plug. If you keep that in mind you'll see there IS potential but it IS limited. But for about $400 you can create a simple solar panel system with a panel, charge controller, marine battery, and some car lighter plugs. We created a simple system like this minus the marine battery - we use a big car battery - and plus a 8 foot string of led party lights (like you can install in a car) and are able to power the lights for at least 5 hours every night and it's not set up to really maximize the power the way it should be. I'm positive there is more we can do with our system but we've just not messed with it. One thing I do have set aside if we ever have to depend on this system is some usb powered fans because I sure don't want to be sweaty if the power is out during the summer!

You'll have to figure out an alternative to cooking which I covered quite a few in my living without gas post. Beyond that the biggest problem will be trying to live without a refrigerator. Your best bet is to buy or borrow a really good cooler and then buy some ice if it's in the warmer seasons.

later...

September 16, 2015

living without.....hot water

Sometimes in life your left in a predicament where you don't have hot water available to you. Hopefully this post will help you or someone you know if this is something that your living without.


  1. make sure your truly without hot water! most important thing! check the pilot light - turn off the breaker then turn back on - do all possible maintenance/troubleshooting on the hot water heater
  2. when that don't work then break out the pans. boiling water on the stove then using it for baths, dishes, etc is the first thing that usually will help you with your lack of hot water.
  3. don't have access to a stove? 
    1. try using a plug in burner/hot plate
    2. electric skillet
    3. use a coffee pot
    4. electric tea kettle
    5. microwave
    6. propane grill (especially if it has a side burner)
    7. the sun
    8. drop in water tank heater (farm supply store)
  4. last but not least look into buying a new hot water heater

1. If your not sure on how to troubleshoot your hot water heater to make sure it's really dead then do some Google searches (electric hot water heater troubleshooting, natural gas hot water heater not heating up, etc.) You can call someone to give you an estimate on repairs or call your landlord if you rent. Make sure you ask for a FREE estimate, even if you have money to pay for the estimate! Most companies/repair people will offer a free estimate. No estimate should be you need a new hot water heater and I can do it for $xxxx.xx -- there should be options of fixing and/or replacing. Always beware of crooks!

2. Boiling water on the stove can be a tedious process even when there are no problems - worse if there are spills! Make sure to use the biggest pans you have available but DO NOT use canners! The amount of time and energy it takes to make a canner boil water is wasted when compared to using even a small sauce pan. Make sure to wash your pans every 10 times or everyday which ever comes first. Use vinegar and salt to help remove mineral build up on the pans. If you don't it will form a concrete like thickness on your pans that will not come off, learn from my mistakes! Use extreme caution when walking with pans of boiling water - especially watch out for little kids and animals.

#### Always add boiling water to water that is already in the tub/sink/etc so that you get the maximum from each pan. Boiling water can always be transported in a bucket rather than the pan used to boil it.####

3. There are always alternatives to using a stove to heat up water. The major thing to know is that any device you use will be inferior to a stove. In some instances though an alternative is a better choice. If you don't have a working stove then that's one reason it's better. Another reason it may be better is if your stove is on a different level than your tub. Safety of transporting boiling water should always be number one. The best and easiest alternative to using a stove is to fill up the receptacle or a container with water and leaving it sit. Even at room temperatures in the winter time the water will end up warmer than coming straight out of the pipes. If its in a container and sitting in direct sunlight it will warm up considerably more.
         
*** when using the microwave to heat water I would use plastic butter bowls and I would heat up the water then put bowl and all into the water you have waiting and start another bowl in the microwave switching out before you pour the new batch of hot water in. this way the heat that the plastic bowl has retained can be used to your benefit. you could use glass bowls but I would be very careful at the beginning because quick temp changes to glass can make it shatter!***


4. And last but not least look into buying a new hot water heater. If you don't have enough money to buy a new hot water heater then you should try looking locally for a used one. Try asking local plumbers or people who sell hot water heaters if they have any working used ones for sell. Try checking the local paper, Craigslist, or Facebook swap groups. Used furniture type shops are also options - they get options to buy all types of things. It also might be a good idea to look into getting a tank-less hot water heater - try searching on eBay or Amazon. The cheapest ones start at about $125. We stressed for years over whether or not to go tank-less and finally just took the plunge (pun not intended!). We bought one of Amazon for about $189 (3.5 gallon flow rate?) and for a family of 5 (at that time) it worked great. We don't even have problems with super cold water that comes into our house in the winter time. We take showers for how ever long we want! And if your really not sure if you want to convert your whole house over then just try it out on your kitchen sink. At least then you can have hot water to wash dishes & your hair and when you want a bath fill up buckets and carry them to the tub! This is what we did in the beginning as a trial.

There are many options if you currently don't have hot water. You don't have to just do without that's for sure! Hope these options give you a starting point to find the solution that works for you and your family! =)




later...

September 9, 2015

living without...... water

Okay. Living without water is one of the hardest things to do - seriously! Only living without food is equal. Most of the other things on my original post (here) can be forgotten about for at least awhile during the day but food & water are needed throughout the day, every day.

That being said it IS possible to live when your have no running water in your home but it is hard and a lot of work. Lets get to it.

1. Make absolute sure you don't have water or can't get it turned on. It is so worth it to pay a plumber $100 - even if it's your last $100 - to have running water in your home. You'll spend more than that having to go get water and hauling it home.

Sometimes no matter what you do, having running water is just NOT a possibility. Maybe you've just bought the home and there are extensive repairs needed. Maybe your water pipes froze solid due to the weather and a faulty pipe tape. Or maybe you threw a fit and made your husband fix the leak in the basement and while the water was shutoff for the repair it you both thought it was frozen solid because the outside temps were -10F with a feel like temp of -25F --- 3 months later you both realize it was just a faulty shut off valve! OOOPS! lol

2. Start collecting up containers that you want to use for carrying water in. Ideally these should be empty water jugs but can also be any food grade plastic, glass, or metal containers. Some safe ideas are: empty soda bottles, empty fruit drink jugs, glass jars, glass jugs, pans, etc. You shouldn't use milk or real fruit juice jugs because it's been shown that there can be bacteria left in the plastic of the containers. But honestly anything that is plastic or non breakable with a lid and big enough you can still carry easily when filled will work.

3. Now for the thinking part! Start thinking of where you can either bum, steal, or borrow some water. An easy idea - if you have money available - is to go to the local grocery store and buy water there. You can buy it "pre-bottled" or in a machine where you fill your own container and then pay a refill price. (this is a place to buy big jugs that you could re-use in other places that are compatible with human use) Besides buying water think of all the places you can get water.
           A. family
           B. friends
           C. neighbors (a nice one may give you permission to use the hose without having to ask each time!)
           D. your job
           E. gas stations (sometimes they have outside spigots or bathrooms so you can get more than a jug!)
           F. local parks
          G. camp grounds

Remember you will need water for drinking & cooking but also water for sanitary needs as well. Your sanitary water can be hauled in things like - laundry & fabric softener jugs, litter containers, or bleach jugs. This will also help keep the sanitary water separated - which is good if your reusing water (like from washing hands or washing dishes).

Reduce, re-use, recycle! Remember this cause hauling water is a pain in the butt! Try to use a composting toilet, if possible (more on that below). If not then when flushing the toilet only use water that's been used once before and pour it directly into the bowl to flush. Try to limit flushes to 2 per person, per day. There's an old saying -- if it's yellow let it mellow (don't flush!), if it's brown flush it down! Regardless of what method you use - no toilet paper should be put in with your waste and all methods should be "refreshed" every 24 hours. One last note on removing wastes from your home - be sanitary about it! DO NOT single bag waste from a composting toilet. DO NOT pour waste from a bucket onto the ground.

One way to deal with elimination waste is to use a stand alone toilet. To make a stand alone toilet all you need is basically a bucket - but honestly you should put more work into it for your own comfort. You can re-purpose chair or end table by cutting a hole in the top of the table or in the seat or even remove the seat or top and replace it with a piece of plywood with a hole cut out - then stick a bucket under it.

If you plan to do a "composting" toilet then you may want to research that further but when I say composting toilet I mean a toilet in which you add another item to solidify the wastes then dispose of them (double bagged!) in the trash. We've tried a number of things but I would recommend clumping kitty litter, if you can afford it, or some kind of wood shaving animal bedding, like for indoor rabbits. Wood shavings is by far cheaper. You could do a mixture of both also.

If you do use a liquid bucket system as a toilet then there are some ideas I can pass on. The chemicals you can buy in the camping section to help deodorize do little to help the smell, sadly. The best thing to do to help with smell is dump often, clean with good dish soap and bleach, rinse well, and then as a last resort you can put bleach right into the bucket with some water. Now I know that this may not be the best thing chemically but I can tell you it does work for the smell. Also you should fashion something as a lid for the hole or top of the bucket because this is helpful for the smell and possibility of cross contamination of the inevitable flies that will be present.

For other sanitary uses that concern water use, here are more tips. Get & use baby wipes and antibacterial gel - they really help! Implement a strict sponge bathing daily schedule - it will only use about a half a gallon per person but will help fight off any skin irritations. For hair washing get a hand pump bug sprayer that is new that looks like this --

with this sprayer and someone to help you can wash hair really easy. If your conservative you can wash really thick and long hair with only a half a gallon! Just think of this little sprayer as your personally shower head =)  You can even use it in that manner if you want. They do sell larger sprayers than 1 gallon and they probably even have ones that are electrically pressurized, though I have no clue on them.

You should also know that there are spots in most communities to take a bath without renting a motel room. Some ideas are going to a local pool or YMCA, gym, or beach. Camp grounds are a real treasure when you don't have water and it's the right season. But the real treasure and secret is truck stops. Most truck stops and even small gas stations that cater to truck drivers will have shower room that is for "rent" for only a couple bucks a shower -- it is sooo worth it! Some tips for any publicly used shower rooms are: always wear something on your feet (sandals, etc), bring your own soap, towels, shampoo, try to bring someone with you to help "guard" you and your things, and triple check to make sure you don't leave anything behind!! Now about a "guard" - honestly in a truck stop your probably in just about the safest spot for a public shower BUT I believe in being safe. You should bring a "guard" if your single or alone in ANY spot your going to shower publicly - it's just being safe.

If something happens and your not able to the leave the house but are in need of water then here are some starter spots to look for water - the tank on your toilet, your hot water heater tank, or even the pipes (as a last resort).



As a last comment I will say that living without water is something that your only going to want to do for a short time. Other things you can work around but water -- you have to have water, running water because our current homes are not setup to be without it. Work hard to get water restored or in place as soon as you can - it's worth it!


later...

September 2, 2015

living without........ gas (natural or propane)

Sometimes your stuck living without. Regardless of whether it's your choice or a decision thrust upon you by a utility company - living without gas can be difficult.

Honestly living without gas can be a difficult thing if your house needs it for cooking or heating water and almost impossible if it's your only source of heat and it's winter time where you live. But I can tell you that it's not a lost cause - you can do it!

First as with any utility, you should make sure that your gas is truly unavailable. Call the gas company and check to see if your shut off. While you have them on the phone ask (beg if necessary!) if you can in anyway be turned back on or what do you need to do to get turned back on -- maybe if you enter in a payment plan or pay a portion of your bill they will reinstate services. You can also ask if there are any agencies that will help with payment of disconnected customers accounts.
       *** I do not believe in lying to anyone about anything BUT in some cases it may be necessary to expand upon some of your less desirable circumstances that may force others to feel pity upon you. Sometimes it helps so people know your just struggling but trying to do the right things. Struggling but staying silent isn't always the best for your well being.***

Most utility companies have a program where they help people who are on hard times. Sometimes they solicit money from current customers on the bills they send out and call it something like Neighbors helping Neighbors, etc. Other places to look for help are: community service centers (sometimes they are for the whole county), look on the internet for where to file a LIHEAP application (this is a federal utility grant issued to each state), your local Salvation Army, and also you may be able to find help at your church. About church help - some people when desperate or without scruples will go around and ask all the churches in the phone book for any assistance they can provide. I'm not saying that it's wrong, just that it may not be what you want to do. The church you belong to or regularly visit will be more apt to help as they know you personally. You may want to stress that you'd rather not the whole congregation know if you want to keep this private.

But beyond all the advice above - cause maybe you have tried all those options or just refuse to try them - here's some other tips.

1. check out my page on living without hot water
2. if it's winter time where you live then your first priority should be finding an alternative heat source.
3. if gas is the energy mode for your stove then next you need to brainstorm some alternative ideas for cooking.

Alternatives for gas heat:
     the first option is the quickest and easiest -- electric space heaters. make sure you put them in an area that is not a well trafficked area and out of the way of little fingers. Putting them on a surge strip is always helpful in case of surges and possible electrical fires -- only one heater to a strip! believe it or not electrical space heaters are probably MORE likely to cause a house fire than a wood stove! be very careful when using them.  I have heated more houses than I should have with only electric space heaters. (about 8 houses) Your electric bill will go up into the crazy high $$ amounts.

Conserve every possible way you can - put plastic and blankets on windows & doors, reduce your living space to only the absolute needed areas like bathroom, kitchen and one other room, and use fans to help move the heat from the ceiling down.

another option that is a possibility is kerosene space heaters. DO NOT get the ones meant for in garages! A kerosene heater is a costly choice but at least you wont have a bill coming in the mail later that you cant pay, since you have to buy the kerosene up front. You can buy the K-1 that is sold in the farm and home supply stores. K-1 burns the cleanest of all the options, although it costs about $5 a gallon. It still stinks like kerosene but it will not leave such a build up in your lungs or on your walls, clothes, furniture, or curtains like K-2. K-2 is some pretty nasty stuff, but it sells for about $3 a gallon and can be bought at a gas station pump. Sometimes you don't have enough money or the farm store may already be closed so your left with buying K-2, it happens. The most important thing is to always light the heater outside wait till it stops smoking then bring it inside carefully. If you cant take it outside then at least take it close to the door or a window and open it so the smoke isn't trapped inside with you to breathe. Most of the ignition systems do not work and you will need to learn how to light it manually. Also knowing how to trim a wick is something you'll want to learn.

and the last option is to use wood heat. This I admit is probably out of the realm of possibility for most people but it's worth mentioning. There are so many things you need to do before you can make use of a wood stove but when done correctly things couldn't be smoother! The first 2 years we ever had a wood stove were the best ever. In fact although we had no prior experience and was only going on what we had read online - we had more luck than ever. Having an adequate supply of seasoned wood is not difficult to do and you can heat with unseasoned wood if you have to. We always did error on the side of caution when placing our wood stove in our house. We always placed it at least 18" away from all walls and had a heat shielding backer board tray thing we put under the stove that spread out at least 18" on all sides (this was something we bought at the farm store with the wood stove). Never use commercial fire logs like Duraflame!! We did one night and let me tell you it's the only time I've ever seen metal glow like that in my life! I though for sure our house was gonna burn down. We scooped it out and took it outside - not a good idea to walk a flaming log outside on the end of a fireplace scooper. Another item you may want when using a wood stove is fireplace scooper and an old metal cake pan or soup pan. Use the pan to scoop ashes into and also to store your scooper and the stick you use as a poker =)

Some other things to consider - boiling water will help add humidity to the air which will make the air feel warmer, running your dryer does help add heat to the air, turning on your oven and cracking the door will also add heat to your home.


on to cooking when your normal source of cooking energy is gas.

honestly your best bet with this dilemma is to cooking using electric stand alone appliances such as:

  1. microwave
  2. electric burner
  3. electric skillet
  4. electric griddle
  5. electric toaster oven
  6. rice cooker
  7. steamer
  8. crock pot

1. almost anything can be cooked in the microwave -- google is your friend here! ($30-$80)
2. electric burner is basically just one burner off your stove but powered from an electric plug rather than gas ($15-$80)
3. electric skillet is about the same as an electric burner other than using your own pans, you use the one provided. honestly get the biggest one you can afford. ($12-$40)
4. same as the electric skillet except it's flat. great for making pancakes, bacon, hot sandwiches, etc. any size is ok but at least big enough to do one sandwich/pancake ($12-$40)
5. electric toaster oven are ok but should not be seen as something that is going to last you forever. they are quite disposable especially if you cook bacon in them! this is good to make cakes, meat loaf, or partial pizzas in. no matter what any of them say you'll probably have to cut a pizza in halves or quarters to cook them inside a toaster oven -- does it matter as long as you get pizza?! lol  look around in stores or at used shops for small pans that will fit inside your little oven and your good to go.
6. rice cookers can be used to heat up or cook a lot of different items. check online for the users guide or recipe book and you'd be surprised to see what the manufacture's ideas are let alone just some average people come up with!
7. steamers are as versatile as a rice cooker but they can steam veggies and cook rice, usually. worth a shot to think about
8. and last but not least the crock pot. there are very, very few things you CANT do with a crock pot -- it may be more versatile than the microwave! only downside is crock pots take some time but if you plan ahead your good to go!


Only problem is if you have no gas or electricity - then your options are more limited. A grill (charcoal or propane) is your best, quickest bet to cook food. After that you have the option of making or buying a solar cooker, which is a good idea if it's not in the dead of winter with cold temps outside. (still may work even then!) you can also make use of your dashboard in your vehicle as a temporary solar cooker. one other idea is an idea I've seen online and used historically -- the one pot method (I think?). It's where you add all your ingredients bring it to a boil and then remove from the heat and then if you want you can wrap it up in a towel or blanket to hold in the heat. Here's a video on a simple way to put this in action https://youtu.be/DuMkW35BwK8

And last but not least is to eat any foods you can without heating. Pre-cooked foods are the best possibility like canned soups, veggies, etc.


Hope all of this helps getting the ideas flowing :D

later...