D-1: Final Preparations

I got back to Serenity Valley yesterday, after spending a little under a week in the cities celebrating my birthday with friends and soaking up human contact before entering Project 31. I was surprisingly successful on both counts, and managed to squeeze in a birthday brunch, birthday dinner, a hike to the beach, lunch with ex-coworkers and friends, a BBQ, and a party all in a few days. After having spent over 3 weeks up here mostly alone, it was good to see friends, and I feel better prepared, emotionally, for a month of isolation.

As far as logistics goes, I think I’m just about ready. I got a ton of food yesterday on the way back, though I haven’t pulled everything out of the car yet, so I haven’t itemized everything that I ended up getting. I’ll post the list once I have it, but it’ll be a long list. Rather than buying large quantities of the same stuff, I bought small quantities encompassing a wide variety. I figured diversifying would be a good idea, since I don’t know what I’d be in the mood to eat, and also because I don’t want to risk losing a ton of one thing if it turns out that it doesn’t keep as long as I think. My original list was pretty light on dry goods, but I ended up buying a lot of cans and other non-perishable goods, mostly as backup.

I also hooked up my new Xantrex inverter last night, so now I have real sine wave AC power in Hut 2.1. I still have the modified sine-wave inverter as a backup, in case the Xantrex experiences a premature death. I also ended up buying another 45 Watt solar panel kit from Harbor Freight (the same one I bought then returned a couple of weeks ago). I haven’t yet set it up because it’s been super windy today, and I didn’t want to walk around with large flat fragile objects. Once I have that up, I’ll have two sets of panels, again, for redundancy. Hopefully the addition of amorphous panels will boost output on cloudy days.

Today, I also got my DIY water filter set up. It’s just a plastic bottle with gravel, charcoal and sand, and I was somewhat disappointed when the water coming out ended up being dirtier than the water going in. The gravel was dirty, and even though I rinsed them a few times, I think it took a while for all the mud to come off. I ended up passing a gallon or so of water through the filter before the water started coming out reasonably clear. If my hypothesis is correct (that the filter needed cleaning first), I should get cleaner water the more I use it. Of course, I’ll also be passing the water through a Britta filter and boiling it too. The first pass using the sand-gravel filter is mostly to remove the big stuff, which should keep the Britta filter from clogging up too quickly.

The weather’s gotten rather nasty, but I suppose the month of nice weather we had was more of an anomaly. I woke up several times this morning, starting right around dawn, with strong gusts slamming into my cabin. The structure would noticeably shudder with each gust, which was a little disconcerting, though I was also concerned the wind might knock over the chimney. Although the winds today were about as bad as it normally gets, I might reinforce some weak-points in the structure, just to be safe. Otherwise, it was gusty but clear during the day, up until late afternoon when it started raining. It’ll be good for my water supply, but I would rather have snow, which was forecasted, but has so far failed to materialize. Perhaps the rain will turn to snow later tonight when it gets colder. It also amuses me that, while sunshine is good for my electricity supply, rain and snow are good for my water supply. In some ways, I win either way. I guess that’s one of the benefits of taking advantage of what nature can provide…

In any case, I think I’m pretty much ready to start Project 31. After all, there’s no sense in eating my Project 31 food and spending days alone if they’re not going to count. So, tomorrow (Wednesday February 16) will be Day Zero. If all goes well, I can come out on… March 19th.

Wow. That really is a month, huh. I guess it hadn’t really sunk in, even though I’ve been spending weeks preparing. I’m not too concerned about logistical issues. I’m sure I’ll find things that I wish I had, equipment will break, and things’ll just go plain wrong. But, I’m pretty good at solving problems and improvising. If it’s a problem that has a solution, I’m not worried. I predict that the biggest challenges won’t be logistical, but emotional. The longest I’ve stayed here without leaving, so far, has only been a week or so. Granted, that’s usually been because I try to go online at least once a week to update my blog, and to make sure I haven’t missed any important emails. Now that I have internet on my property, I obviously don’t have that excuse. But, over the past year or so, I can also remember times when I just got in a funky mood, and went to the city to get a change of scenery. If that were to happen over the next month, well, I’ll have to find some other way to unfunk my mood. One way or the other, it’ll be a challenging month. Let’s see how it goes…

14 thoughts on “D-1: Final Preparations

  1. Show us a photo? What does a month worth of food actually look like.

    A whole lot of us will be following your progress with great interest. I think what you are doing is awesome man!


  2. Thanks for doing this so the rest of us don’t have to. (I’m having flashbacks to this documentary I watched on solitary confinement and how it drives people nuts. Do update your blog and facebook regularly so we know you haven’t gone crazy…er.)

    And stay warm!

  3. Just found your blog. Solitude in Serenity for 31 days! Sounds perfectly marvelous. Thanks for sharing your adventure; I look forward to updates. No way to post pics w/ mifi, but I hope you brought your camera and post when you return. I’d love to see your food stash once you’re unpacked, as well as some of your meals along the way…

  4. You need to have some sort of fine mesh or screen between your different filtration materials. Window screen will under your gravel, old blue jeans under your sand and coffee filters under your activated charcoal. You can get activated charcoal pretty cheap from most pet stores and it will work much better than charcoal. If and when you can afford it, get some Berkey water filters. Not the whole contraption, just the filters. You can make your own system using much cheaper food grade buckets.


    • I put window screen under the gravel, but didn’t put anything between the other layers, so the sand seems to have mixed into the charcoal. I’ll try your suggestion for Filter Version 2 🙂

  5. I’ve been following your adventures for about a month, and I’m really enjoying them. My hubby & I just bought a little piece of paradise last summer. We’re going to put up an experimental cabin this summer and see what happens!
    I know it’s hard to get “cabin fever” with good books (and the internet!), but if you need a project, (or to take a break from the cabin), a great site I enjoy is Mother Earth News. They have alot of handy do-it-yourself, sustainablity, off-grid projects.
    I’d love to be in your shoes, but it’ll happen soon enough, I guess.
    I really hope you enjoy yourself! Have a great month!

  6. I’ve just now come across your Project 31 and am excited to read about your experiences. I was curious, if possible, next time you use your hand made water filter: could you test a sample of the water pre and post filtering (before you also Brita and boil it) to see how effective a job it did of cleaning up the water? I am fascinated on the ease of being able to clean one’s own water so simply, and I think it would be fantastic to have a number on how effective it is.
    Thank you so much for sharing what you learn with the internet community = I know I truly appreciate it!! :*D

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