Life below zero – Surving the winter off the grid

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Life below zero

When the cold wave came in, our daily life changed tremendously.

Even though we have some winter camping experience, there was and is still much to learn. Some of these lessons were teached the hard way. More than once we have found out that a small mistake can have serious consequences.

If we want to survive, there is no time to linger. We need to recover quickly from any mistake we make, think fast and adapt smart.

Where we live – the homestead

We live on a little homestead in the middle of an immense forest filled with game like the fox, moose, bear and even lynx. More than once we heard the wolfs howl to the full moon.

The nearest neighbour lives about four kilometres away. That is where the bumpy dead end forestroad begins, winding through the hills to our homestead. During winter there is a serious risk that the road could be impassable due to snow and ice for days or even weeks.

Our tiny forestcabine has only one space of 28 square meters. We live, cook, eat, sleap and clean ourselves in it.

Besides a 12 volt system with two small 18 volt solar panels, there is no water, sewer or electricity connection. Even the mobile phone reception hoovers somewhere between one and zero bars. So you can literally say we live off-the-grid.

The cabin has some very thin insulation in the walls, floor and roof. There is a open fireplace to cook on and a small woodstove to keep the place warm. Even though the name of our province Värmland suggests differently, I wonder if it will be enough to survive the ice cold winters of Sweden, time will tell.

Originally the place was not meant to live year round in it. But I have seen houses in much worse conditions. I believe that with some small changes we can make a huge difference. So let’s get to work…

Improving the windows and doors

The first thing we start with, is to sew some curtains for the windows. These will work as an extra shield against the cold during the night. We also use them to create a heat lock between the front door and the living area.

We literally have double windows, so not double glass. Even though this old way of insulating works, it is far from efficient.

Because the system is easy to split, we decide to do a little upgrade. We use draft strips to create a seal between the two windows. This will help to reduce air circulation and with that the loss of heat. In the end still air is the best insulator.

Also we use strips on the window and door frames. A brush on the bottom of the door does another great job to reduce cold comming in.

The fireplace

Before the winter sets in, I need to do some necessary work on the traditionally built fireplace.

First I clean the chimney, like how they did it long time ago. I use branches to brush the chimney clean by pulling it up and down with a rope. After a quality check of the bricks and joints, I decide to replace the fireresistant tiles.

To be honest, it is not the safest place for a big hot fire, but a small one for cooking will do.

Now it is the stovepipes turn to get cleaned. For this job I cut a broom brush to size and screw it on a long bar. I can’t use a regular chimney brush, because the outlet is square???

“Why the above question marks,” you wonder? Because they were in my head when I studied this square pipe the first time. Something tells me that you amd I will soon enough find the anwser of that question.

The last owner had problems with smoke coming into the cabin when lighting a fire in the stove. The first reason that came to mind is that there must be a lack of suction or even a backdraft.

We have learned that the suction of the fireplace chimney is stronger than the one of the stove. This results in smoke of the stove getting sucked back into the house when the pipe is still cold.

The solution is to close the fireplace chimney when heating up the stove. I also widened the openings of the stoves chimneycap to create more wind suction and reduce the chance of clogging.

Preparing the firewood

When we bought the place it came with a lot of firewood. The only problem is that it has been sitting there for a bery long time.

Because we were already unsure about the quality of the stoves square pipe, we decided to sort out all the wood. It took us many days to take out all the rotten pieces.

But even after the selection the best of the rest is still not so great. That worries me a lot and as we will find out soon, not without a reason.

But no more time for changes. An unsuspected coldfront came in. Winter has arrived to early.

Winter has come

At the beginning of November an extreme cold bubble covers the most of Scandinavia. New low temperature records were broken. Even where we live, the temperature hoovers around -15⁰C for weeks. And that was only at day time. Some nights the meter even dropped below -20°C

At our homestead it gets this time of the year a couple of degrees colder than forecasted. It has to do with the fact that the forest behind our land has been cut. This gives the cold air chance to stream freely into the wintershadow covered valley. Exactly where we live.

Now you probably wonder, is it possible to live self-sufficient and off-the-grid in these kind of conditions? Can you even call this living or is the word survival more suited? And what does it feel like?

We can already tell you: “It is not as bad as you would think, we even love this life. And yes sometimes it can be really bad.”

Welcome to #lifebelowzero

The #lifebelowzero is about how to survive the deepfreeze of Swedish winter on a off-the-grid homestead while living minimalistic and being as self-sufficient as possible.

You will learn together with us how to keep an off the grid house warm and to handle with temperatures that even indoors can sometimes drop below zero.

Ever wondered what it is like to go for a poop on a outdoor toilet at -20°C? How do you wash your hands?

Have you also thought about the animals? What will you do when water freezes within minutes? How do you collect water if temperatures drop below zero when you don’t have a tap or well?

What does it feel like to work on the farm with temperatures going double digits into the minus? What do you wear to protect yourself? Can you really get stuck to metal or even get freeze burns?

And many many more questions we are going to awnser in this #lifebelowzero. So become a member of our facebookgroup and stay tuned of the newest blogposts.

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