I told you a few months ago that I was going to do a series answering the questions that I ALWAYS get about my off-grid lifestyle. But then I was like “Just kidding, I’m going to go live in an apartment for two months.” Now I have done that and survived it, and now I am back at the yurt, picking up the series again because I still get all the same questions. Here’s another installment.
Do you have indoor plumbing?
No. We are not connected to a municipal water source or a waste water system or pipes of any kind.
Where do you get your water?
We have a natural spring. A great deal of effort was made (not by us, this was before we lived here) to build concrete underground storage tanks, which contain the spring water and keep it clean. In the non-frozen months, we can use gravity to move the water to a sink outside our yurt and to a hose for the garden. In the frozen months I have to carry it down in 5 gallon containers, about 400 feet, but all downhill.
Is your water safe to drink?
Yes. We have had it tested multiple times. When we first arrived there was a small amount of coliform bacteria in the water. We used a very fancy filter to make it safe for drinking. But after several months of letting the water flow it tested clean. We still use a sediment filter for our drinking water. But that isn’t a safety issue.
Where do you go to the bathroom?
We have an outhouse that is about twenty feet away from the yurt.
Does your outhouse smell bad?
No. Actually, it doesn’t. There are a couple of design features and a couple of best practices that make our outhouse as pleasant as any indoor bathroom (but for the air temperature, which is another issue for another day.) One design feature is that there is an air tight seal between the pit and the room, if the lid is closed. The other is that the pit is vented with a black pipe, which heats up in sunlight and creates an air current, basically a naturally powered fan that keeps air moving in the pit. Our best practices are that there is no paper or trash of any kind in the pit, and that we constantly add carbon to balance the nitrogen, in this case in the form of sawdust.
Do we use the outhouse at night?
We do go outside at night, yes. But usually we take the dog with us. And it isn’t a part of our routine. We send the kids to the bathroom before dark (sometimes this is linked to the chickens going up to roost). By luck or strategy, or some combination of these, I rarely have to carry a kid outside during the night. It does happen, but not very often.
Do you have a shower?
Yes. Our outdoor shower is epic and gorgeous. Y’all don’t know what you’re missing.
Do you use the outdoor shower even in the winter?
Yes. I learned that I am comfortable showering outside (with water heated on a propane burner plus a wonderful warm towel) down to about 20 degrees. Some days it is colder than 20 degrees. On those days I don’t shower. It isn’t worth it. Also, I did cut my hair short so my outdoor showers aren’t very long. But in retrospect I don’t think that made very much difference.
How do you keep the kids clean?
I boil water twice a day. In the morning a pot of hot water does the coffee and the oatmeal and the hot water for everybody’s faces and hands. In the evening a pot of hot water does the dishes (sometimes more coffee or tea) and everybody’s face and hands again. In the summer we have cold (warm-ish in the daytime) water flowing freely in the sink. I use wet wipes and hand sanitizer when appropriate. In summer we go swimming a lot and play with water from a tub or from the sink. In the winter we don’t get as dirty and don’t bathe as often. But it is also true that my kids are often very dirty. Honestly, of all the things they could be into, I think mountain dirt is not so bad.
Are you going to install plumbing eventually?
Mmm…never say never, but certainly not soon. We have other things to do. Children to raise. Lumber to mill. Food to grow.
So…that’s not so crazy, is it? Right? Feel free to ask other questions. The installment on communication and internet use is here. Thanks for reading!