Friday, September 10, 2010

Vacationing Off the Grid

Sunrise on Lake Champlain — photo taken from the lean-to at our campsite

I just returned from a 9-day camping trip. This was our fifth year going to the same campground — Knight Island on Lake Champlain in Vermont. This campground is very rustic; there is no running water and no electricity. Each campsite has a moldering privy (an eco-friendly type of outhouse), and almost all sites have a lean-to — that is the extent of the facilities. Campers are required to pack out everything they bring with them. The island is approximately 1 mile wide by 1 1/2 miles long. A very small section of the island is private land. On the land owned by Vermont State Parks, there are seven campsites (all waterfront), a day-use area, and the ranger's station.

The ranger's station is quite impressive. It is an excellent example of living off the grid — the ranger is able to live there for 4 to 5 months a year. Many of the station’s self-sufficient features can be replicated using information found in Storey's books. I'd like to point out some of these features.

The ranger's station is set up to collect rainwater. The water is used for bathing, dishwashing, watering the garden, and more. You can find information on purifying collected water for drinking and cooking in Just In Case, along with many other tips on being self-sufficient without electricity or running water.

The ranger’s outdoor hot tub is pictured here. He fills it with collected rainwater and heats it with hot coals from a fire pit underneath the tub. Storey's book The Outdoor Shower shows how you can build your own outdoor bathing unit. Some showers in the book use natural sources of water, while others require running water.

The ranger grows his own vegetables. This is one of four garden plots surrounding the ranger's station; he encourages campers to pick the herbs and vegetables. This year he was growing new potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, Swiss chard, lettuce of mixed varieties,

yellow squash (pictured), acorn squash, other squash varieties,

cherry tomatoes (pictured), full-size tomatoes,


bell peppers (pictured), jalapeรฑo peppers,

and even grapes!

Storey has the information you need for vegetable gardening, growing grapes, and producing food from your yard (no matter the size) in The Backyard Homestead and The Vegetable Gardener's Bible.

The ranger's cabin does have a refrigerator and lights, but he powers these amenities with solar energy. There are a few small panels on the roof of the cabin. Two propane tanks outside are used for cooking fuel.

If you are interesting in learning more about energy-independent cabins, you definitely need to check out Storey's Compact Cabins. This book has plans for building all types of cabins, information on collecting and using gray water; solar powering your structure and other energy options; information on toilets, outhouses, and spa tubs; and so much more.

My husband and I dream every year about owning our own property on the neighboring island, Butler Island. If that dream ever comes true, I can find all the information I need to live off the grid in Storey's books.

— Kristy L. Rustay, Marketing Manager

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