Monday, September 5, 2016

Satellite internet and update

After years of being online with Windstream, which is probably about the worst internet service provider I know of, I am getting Exede satellite internet at the off grid cabin.

Before, I had home phone with Windstream, which is handy. However, I could barely hear anyone on the phone on the rare occasion someone called, or I called someone, because of so much noise on the line. Even with a filter, it always sounded scratchy and noisy. On top of that, the internet was painfully slow. I’d occasionally run a speed test at an online site and it always came up with less than half what I was paying for download speeds, and even worse upload speeds.

Trying to upload videos to YouTube, well, let’s just say that a 3 minute video was likely to take 2 hours or more to upload. That’s ridiculous! And forget about watching a movie on Netflix or a video on YouTube. So much time was spent buffering that I finally cancelled my Netflix account and only watched YouTube videos at off-peak hours, just so that the bandwidth wasn’t being bogarted by everyone around me who also had terrible internet speeds.

I even complained to the FCC, which prompted a phone call (remember the noisy phone?) from Windstream. I was told they didn’t have faster broadband where I live, and yet my bill reflected the same price point as those who live in town with much faster internet. For years they have promised to improve their lines in our area, but never manage to actually do it. I reminded them that even though they have made these false promises, they increased my bill by over $20 a month anyway when I was supposed to be on a guaranteed lifetime price. They then denied I was ever on such a plan (it’s one of the things that caused me to choose Windstream in the first place!) and that my plan would be periodically increased in price even without any improvement in service.

At the end of the conversation, I told them I was moving and not taking them with me. I also told them I would be discouraging others from signing on with them, if it was at all possible for friends to go another direction.

So, yesterday (September 1, 2016) I gave Exede a call. They have, so far, the best plans and prices around. They were very nice over the phone (of course, trying to sell me on it, I know) and I contracted for 24 months at a price for the kind of service and speed I can afford right now. It will be autodrafted from my bank account monthly. I will need to buy a wireless router, but those are pretty inexpensive. Renting theirs at $5 a month would prove more costly over time. Even the guy I was talking to said he bought his own router instead of renting from Exede.

I realize that sometimes weather can cause problems with satellite internet. I’m prepared for that. I’m also prepared to not be online as much as before. I’ll budget my online time. As I’m writing this post, I’m doing so from my living room without internet. Things like this can be uploaded at a later time, as can YouTube videos.

Because two people will be using the internet here, we will both have to watch our data usage closely. The way Exede works now, you get the full speed for a certain amount of usage. If you go over, they throttle it back to a much slower speed the rest of the month. The cost will be $10 higher than Windstream, but it will be worth it to be free of them and maybe get better service!


It’s installed! The installer called Saturday (September 3, 2016) to see if he could come Sunday to install our satellite dish. He was here several hours in the heat, but he got it done and it’s working great. We have 10 gigabytes per month and if we use that, they will throttle it back to slower speeds for the rest of the month instead of turning it off. I can live with that. We bought a wireless router in town for about $30 and we’re up and running!

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Hens are laying again!

Woohoo! The hens are laying eggs again!

They just came out of molt and have started laying once again. I really thought two of them would never lay again, due to their age. But today (September 2, 2016) I got three eggs from 4 hens.

I know. I get way too excited about things like this, but I was wondering if I was going to need to stew a couple of the old girls. I guess not.

I still plan to get 2 or 3 more young laying hens soon, but at least we are back in the egg business (not literally) again and I won’t have to buy anymore of those weak, watery store-bought eggs for awhile.

My next purchase, besides laying hens, will be a solar shed light for the coop. That way I can check on them easily at night if I hear any unusual noises out that way. The shed lights are very low wattage with just a few LED bulbs in them, so they don’t cast a lot of light. But they do give enough to see by if I go out there at night.

Not fun–sewer line install

Finally, it’s done. We got the sewer line fully installed at our off grid cabin.

The land we bought came with a well and septic tank on it. Getting water out of the well is as simple as hooking up a 12 volt, solar powered water pump. The sewer was a little more complicated.

The sewer line had been badly damaged by bulldozer work in the recent past. Much of it was practically shredded. This meant replacing a lot of the sewer line and patching together whatever was still intact.

We got by for about a month with a bucket-system composting toilet. However, in the state where we live, if there is a septic tank on the premises, you are required to hook up to it. Even if there’s not, then you are required to only use an approved composting toilet. Getting new sewer line, elbows, vent pipe, and couplers was far less expensive than a new approved composting toilet, so we went the less expensive route.

It took some time to gather the right materials, and some expense. This meant I had to buy the parts in two go-rounds. No matter – it always takes at least three visits to the hardware store to get everything you need for any project anyway.

We got out early this morning (September 2, 2016) and started working on it. First, was digging up a length of existing sewer line that didn’t go all the way to the septic tank OR to the cabin. Next was cleaning the ends of all the lines and using pipe glue to join them, the couplers, and the elbows together. (This was done after we dry fitted it all and saw that it would, indeed, flow.)

Of course, nothing ever goes as planned, does it? Just about the time we thought we were done, one of the reducers used to join a larger line to a smaller one split right down the side. Ugh! Fortunately, one of the parts we  bought that we thought we’d never use (a rubber coupler with two screw clamps) came in very handy to join the pipes together, along with some pricey plumbing tape that is sticky when you stretch it. (I’d bought the tape when we installed the well pump, since it is waterproof and it was used on the wiring along with waterproof wire nuts.) Then, it was time to wait at least 2 hours to make sure the glue on all the joins was completely dry and cured.

Next came back filling the ditch where the sewer line is buried. We had to get enough dirt under the lines to support them in a slight slope to the septic tank, and enough over them to help prevent them being crushed by walking out that way or freezing this winter. In some places old bricks were used to support the joined pipes until the dirt could settle in around them.

At last, though, we have a real flushing toilet. We will be using gray water from bathing, doing laundry and washing dishes to flush it, instead of using fresh water from the well. That way, the gray water is properly disposed of anyway (another legal issue here) and we can use the fresh water for bathing, washing dishes, doing laundry, and cooking.

Truthfully, you never know how many things you take for granted until you choose to live off grid. I don’t regret it at all. It’s a learning experience, an adventure, and satisfying. As we go along, we’ll gain more in skill and knowledge living this way than we ever would have any other way.