Having grown up in the southern Adirondacks, Justin has always been at home in the mountains of New York. After graduating from Paul Smiths College, he began his career in the environmental field working for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. After a brief five year detour to Florida, Justin returned to the Adirondacks to live off the grid in a small cabin with no running water or electricity.
Justin continues to work and play in the outdoors, and maintains a blog about living off grid, hiking, and being outside in the Adirondacks called Middle of the Trail.
Well, no one can ever say that I have never had my finger inside of a live chicken. While there’s not a ton going on at the homestead this time of year, the chickens have been keeping me pretty busy. But tonight takes the cake.
Whitey was acting strange all day. She’s usually the sketchiest one of the girls, so her allowing me to pet her was definitely out of the ordinary. With her being so lethargic, I decided that it would be best to bring her inside for the night. She can be warm and get plenty of rest, plus if she had something contagious this will hopefully keep the other birds from getting it. » Continue Reading.
The snow has come and gone, and then come and gone again. It’s been a wet fall, but with the transitions from rain to snow and back again, we still don’t have a lot of the white stuff on the ground.
The chickens are happily pecking away in their new coop and run, and I do feel better having them in a fully insulated coop, now that the night temperatures are getting into the single digits. They’re all huddled on the perch, snuggling to stay warm. At least now I can flip a switch and they have heat. Last winter it was warming a piece of granite on top of the woodstove and then running it out there to try and keep them warm. I like that they won’t be in my living room this year. At all. » Continue Reading.
The sound of the furnace startles me a little every time it fires up. It sounds like a car pulling in the driveway or something like that, and I am still not quite used to the sound and commotion. Not that it’s not welcome. We’ve got about six inches of snow on the ground, not terrible, but it did seem kind of sudden.
Last week it was warm and nice out, and even though we know it’s inevitable, the snow just sort of seemed to come out of nowhere. After moving an old set of tires into the garage and digging out and picking up a few other things that were out in the yard, I feel like our outside stuff is all set. Except for the huge new chicken coop that is sitting in the middle of the driveway. Audrey’s not all that happy about the current location of our new coop, and with the temperatures dropping, it would be nice to move the girls into the new coop. » Continue Reading.
Hot showers. Man, I could literally write an entire column about how much I love hot showers. It is such a pleasure to take a shower each morning. I used to get up and throw wood in the stove and then stand there and let the heat wash over me for a while before I got my day going, but now I can let the heat of a hot shower actually wash over me. It’s one of the main reasons I get out of bed every day. Well, that and work and animals to take care of and my soon-to-be wife and stepson. But really, the shower is the best part of my morning. » Continue Reading.
Rainy and in the forties. This is the worst type of weather I face all year. I know, the snow is just gone, and I had to have my chickens live in a tent in my kitchen for a few nights, but hiking in and saving the chickens from the bitter cold were easy decisions. This weather presents a much tougher decision: whether to burn the precious little dry wood I have left.
Even with a few weeks off from the cabin this winter, my wood supply is quite low now. The wood I found over the winter isn’t quite dry enough to burn, and it’s a tough call to use up wood when it’s still above freezing. If the temperature doesn’t dip too low, I’ll bundle up with a sleeping bag and run the little propane heater for a little while in the morning before it warms up outside. But this cold damp calls for a fire. » Continue Reading.
Experience the excitement of living off the grid, while enjoying the beautiful sights and sounds of Mother Nature right outside your door!
I’m looking for a roommate who isn’t afraid of roughing it and having some adventure! You will get back to nature by having to venture outside to use the bathroom, regardless of the temperature. Oh, and forgetting the warm toilet seat hanging over the stove when you go to the outhouse in the middle of winter should be the definition of adventure in the dictionary! You will make faces and sounds you never knew were possible, but don’t worry, there won’t be anyone to see or hear you except the birds! (I won’t be able to hear you because the outhouse is quite a walk from the cabin. Privacy at its best right there!) » Continue Reading.
There’s a steady stream of water pouring off the roof in front of the big window. There are no more icicles, and the shingles are showing for the first time in months. It finally feels like spring.
I sat outside most of the afternoon, relaxing in a lawn chair enjoying a good book. As I sat there soaking up the sun, the snow melted around me. The chicken coop roof is clear after being baked in the sun all day, and the snow fossils of old footprints are melting away.
The chickens have been enjoying the warmer weather and are basking in the sunlight. For a couple of months, I hadn’t gotten more than an egg per day from the three girls, and sometimes not even that. But in the last week, I’ve gotten more than a dozen. » Continue Reading.
The sun is shining later and later each day, and some of the snow is melting and dripping off of the roof in front of the big window. It’s officially been spring for almost a week now, but don’t bother telling Mother Nature that. The forecast of thirteen degrees below zero tonight isn’t as bad as the negative twenty-three we got a couple of nights ago, so I guess, in a way we are getting more spring-like temperatures. But again, temperatures in the negative teens aren’t that spring-like to me.
I’ve been back at the cabin full time, and having a few weeks off from living out here was definitely nice. After three winters having to haul in water and use an outhouse no matter what the temperature, the shine of living off grid has worn off. I still enjoy many, many aspects of it, but this winter has definitely been a mood killer for me. I was able to tap a few of the maple trees the other day and start collecting sap, but it’s been slow going with the cold returning. And the hike up the driveway isn’t any easier than it was in February. » Continue Reading.
I’d like to tell you that it’s been a long couple of weeks out at the cabin. That, however, would not be the truth. The truth is, it’s been a couple of very lazy weeks lounging around in the comfort of an actual house.
The weather has been terrible. I was having to hike into the cabin, my firewood is running low, and I was sick of dragging a forty pound jug of water a quarter mile uphill twice a week. So I’ve been staying at my girlfriend’s with Pico and Herbie. And the Levine men have officially taken over the couch. » Continue Reading.
The wild winter weather is continuing. Friday it was so warm that even several hours after the sun went down, there was still a steady drip-drip-drip coming off the roof. In the forties Saturday, the season just can’t seem to make up its mind.
That’s not to say that it has been an easy winter. And to me, there has been a recurring theme out here at that cabin that demonstrates this better than anything else. I have had a steady supply of small rodents around the house looking for food. » Continue Reading.
Winter is really upon us now, finally with some snow to go along with the bone and soul crushing cold. It’s a mixed bag for me, us getting a bunch of snow. With snow comes a lot of hardship, and also some benefits too.
One of the immediate benefits of the eight or so inches of snow is that my cabin is much better insulated. The old pink fiberglass insulation in the attic is more for show at this point than actual insulating value, but the snow on the roof just bottles up the heat from the stove and makes the cabin much more comfortable.
However, I may think the cabin is more comfortable simply because I now have a third of a mile to hike up to it. Not being able to drive right to the cabin raises a whole host of issues. I can’t use the car as a generator to watch TV and keep the chickens warm. I can’t warm up the car before I leave when it’s thirty below outside. If I forget something in the car, it’s getting frozen and staying there overnight most likely. » Continue Reading.
It’s been a couple of weeks packed with transition for all of us out here at the cabin. The chickens are out of the tent, Ed is buried and Herbie is acting like he never has before. We’re all making adjustments and getting on with life, even though the bone-chilling temperatures haven’t always made it that easy. The chickens are getting better about laying eggs again after their days in the tent. It took a few days but Whitey finally started laying again and Blondie has dropped a couple of eggs too. Brownie never really stopped.
Two days after Ed died, I decided that I needed to bury him. It had been a long weekend, with Ed passing, then me being occupied in a weekend long task. But that Sunday night I made the effort to bury Ed. » Continue Reading.
I can freely admit that I am not an expert in basically anything, but let me give you some advice: Don’t share your four-hundred square foot anything with a dog, a cat, three hens, and a rooster. Now, nothing against the chickens, but they are noisy. And stinky. And no matter what, the rooster will crow whenever he feels like it, regardless of your sleep schedule.
With temperatures predicted to be about thirty below zero without the wind chill, I decided that the time had come to let the chickens have a nice warm night inside. Now, keep in mind that the chickens had not ever been inside my cabin. Nor had Pico ever been separated from them by nothing more than a blanket. Needless to say, I did not get much sleep last night. » Continue Reading.
I’m sitting at my table writing because right now, this is the only thing that will keep me from curling up in the fetal position on my bed and sobbing uncontrollably. Ed, my little gray cat, the first pet I ever had, just died in my arms. And I am not handling it well.
This is actually the second article I’ve written today, and even though it’s late and I have to be up early, I know that lying in bed will be worse for me psychologically than staying up and doing something productive. I’m upset for the obvious reason that my cat and one of my best friends of eleven years just passed away, but that’s not the end of it. » Continue Reading.
Well, the low temperature last night was still above zero for the first time in a week. It’s not much, but it’s something to look forward to. And then tomorrow they’re saying that the highs will be above freezing. It has been a wild winter so far, weather-wise.
While the rest of the nation was experiencing record cold last week, we were watching the snow melt and the ruts in the driveway disappear. Then we had bone chilling cold with nasty wind. So much so that if I didn’t check the chicken coop every hour or so for eggs, the eggs I did find would be frozen and cracked.
One nice development out here at the cabin is that Brownie the chicken has started laying eggs too. Nice light brown ones that make the egg carton look so pleasant. With Whitey and Brownie laying now pretty much every day, I’m getting more eggs than I can eat. At least when I find them unfrozen. » Continue Reading.
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