Our winter lifestyle here is different from where we came from so we thought we should share what a typical day is like. When I say winter, I really mean sometime in October to sometime in April — that’s how long we have snow.
We typically have snow here that averages about 3 feet deep once it builds up to that. We don’t usually get more than a few inches at a time. It settles and then snows a little more but it stays around 3 feet deep.
Like summer time, Laurie and I work from 7AM to 5PM seven days a week.
Animals: Laurie does most of the animal work. She takes care of the dog, cats, chickens, and horses. The horses graze on our acreage in the summer but need hay in the winter. We have some beautiful and affordable river bottom hay from a friend of ours. Plus the water needs to have the ice broken twice a day so they can drink.
Laurie goes the extra mile for the chickens. You won’t believe what I’ve seen going out the door to feed them in their nice warm chicken coop. They get hot meals. I kid you not. Our chickens get rice dishes, heated leftovers, and the occasional hot cereal. Me, I just throw the door open and they can come out and eat mash or not on the frozen ground I have shoveled clean for them. Laurie takes care of them all twice a day no matter what the weather.
I get up in the morning and get the coffee and tea going. It’s also my job to fire up the masonry heater. We burn it twice a day, so bringing wood in from the woodshed is also one of the things I do daily.
We both work on the computer an average of four hours per day. Laurie handles most of the packaging and shipping, invoicing, book keeping, and deals with a few of our vendors. I get the rest of the vendors and handle all of the website operation which includes uploading and updating all of the products. I also do the product blogs on the website and blogging for MOTHER EARTH NEWS and therefore Off Grid Works as well. I handle all of the maintenance, advertising and SEO for the websites. We go to the Post Office/UPS shipping place three times a week. In the winter that can be a real challenge on our road.
As most of you know we grow fresh food in the winter. We started experimenting with our insulated cold frames last year. They are going full bore this winter. Inside the house Laurie has started on a new hydroponic system we are trying out. If it works we will add it to our “growing list of food-growing products” in our online store, Good Ideas For Life. We like to use the products we sell so we can answer any questions from customers. Because of that some of our time goes to experimentation.
Laurie handles most dinners and most housework. I love to cook breakfast and eat all the things we aren’t supposed to. We both clean up. I take care of the garbage. It has to go 3 miles down the icy road every other week. I also take care of all of the generators, solar equipment, and battery charging and maintenance.
You might get the idea we are the Cleavers with traditional roles but the truth is that I’m pretty good with an apron on whether it be cooking or cleaning, and when I get stuck mechanically or need some extra muscle with a shovel or wood cutting, I call my best mechanic, logger and laborer — Laurie (this man's best friend).
Laurie does craftwork. She makes things for other people and for us. So far this winter she finished a quilt for her niece’s new baby and a wool rug for our living room. She also sews shopping bags for people to use that don’t prefer plastic.
I shovel most of the snow from around the house and barn and plow our property roads and the 3-mile-long access road we use to get to the highway.
We both do odd jobs for other people to bring in extra money and stay busy.
We don’t leave much except to go to town for fresh supplies. We do manage to have some fun in the winters. We visit friends and even go ice fishing when it’s nice. We also go for walks from our house. We live next to National Forest land. When the snow gets too deep we switch to snowshoes. It’s almost magical walking through a snow-covered winter forest.
We like our winters but I’m sure we would both say they could be a little shorter.
Ed and Laurie Essex live off grid in the Okanogan Highlands of Washington State where they operate their website goodideasforlife.com and offgridworks.com.