Project 31


I am planning on spending an entire month (31 days) on my property this winter without leaving for any reason. During that time, I will subsist solely off of what I have at hand or can gather from my land. The entire project, including preparation leading up to the month, will be documented through this blog, photos, and videos.

Project 31 started on February 16th. Blog posts written about this project are filed in the Project 31 category.


(Roughly in order of importance.)

  • Spend 31 days on my property without leaving (and come out alive)
  • Don’t burn a single drop of gasoline
  • Only use renewable (solar, wind) electricity generated on my property
  • Minimize propane usage to 2lb for entire month
  • Use only water gathered on my property
  • Only burn locally gathered wood for heating
  • Cook at least 1 warm meal a day
  • Limit non-recyclable and non-compostable trash to what will fit in a 1 gallon bag
  • Produce at least 3 videos and 10 blog posts during the month
  • Be happy and comfortable
  • Write a book

The Plan

  • Water – The goal is to only consume water gathered on my property. Since there’s plenty of precipitation during the winter, this should not be difficult. Gathered water will be filtered for drinking and cooking. I will have clean bottled water and jugs of city water purely as backup.
  • Food – Since there is no legally obtainable food on my property this time of year, I will be brining in a month’s worth of food before my stay begins. As one of my goals is to cook at least 1 warm meal a day, my provisions will include fresh vegetables and meats, in addition to non-perishable goods. Temperatures should be low enough that refrigeration shouldn’t be a problem.
  • Shelter – Hut 2.1 should be mostly completed by the start date.
  • Warmth – Temperatures can drop to around 0F (-18C) in the winter, though average temperatures are right around freezing, with highs above freezing on most days. If I need heating, the current plan is to burn locally gathered wood in a cast iron stove. However, said stove isn’t yet operational as of the time of writing. If particularly cold weathers are encountered, alternatives may be employed to prevent hypothermia.
  • Cooking – I will likely use the wood stove for some cooking, though I will also have a propane stove for the kind of cooking that needs finer temperature control.
  • Electricity – I have a 100W solar (PV) panel, which I may augment with another 100-200W of solar panels if I can afford it. I also may buy a wind generator (again, if I could afford it), since effectiveness of photovoltaics is severely compromised by cloud cover and the short daylight hours. I will have a battery array with a capacity in excess of 4000Wh in three 115Ah 12V deep cycle batteries. Expected daily power usage should be under 200Wh, though may reach 500Wh if artificial refrigeration is required.
  • Communications – I will have a cell phone, and most likely, also internet access over Verizon’s network. The intention is to only use the internet for posting blog entires, photos and videos.


Some things I need to do before I start my month-long stay:

  • Finish Hut 2.1 (insulation + chimney)
  • Electrical (add more solar/wind, batteries)
  • Water (more cisterns)
  • Comms (internet)

30 thoughts on “Project 31

  1. Pingback: Heading Back to Serenity Valley « Laptop and a Rifle

  2. Watch out for those wind generators, in my own investigations I concluded that solar was much cheaper fo rmy area because they overrate the turbines. i.e. if it says it is 400 watts, it is 400 watts at 25 or 28 MPH, which is a very high wind. Then power output is proportional to the cube of the wind speed, so it drops very rapidly under less windy conditions. You can get the climate data for you area to help you decide, some is available at the NAtional climate data center, run by NOAA, and can be put in a spreadsheet to get an idea of the wind speeds in the area and compute average expected power output. Another one is the SUNY typical meteorologica year data, which I think includes wind speed bu I’m not sure, but it is free unlike the NOAA data (which is still cheap , $20 or so just an administrative fee)

  3. Laying in a good stock of caned and dried food packs should do the trick.

    Getting the wood stove operational will be key to not using propane for cooking. We keep a pot of water on our woodstove during the night at our cabin to have coffee water at the ready first thing…toss in a few more logs and its ready to cook breakfast.

    last year we used the same 6 pound bag of ice, in our cooler, for thankgiving, new years and spring break. storing the cooler outside in the shade.

  4. I envy you!!!! A brave adventure or at least some great stories should come of this!

    As to wind power, my research (again for my area) showed it to be a good occasional backup to solar, but to really get a lot of power, you needed strong wind and an overlarge generator… Usually requiring a large tower to get the wind turbine into the sweet spot above tree height.. Smaller turbines operated better at lower heights, but generated very very little power…. Jst my research, not being a doomsayer…

    My only advice is to get a few extra candles, extra propane and non perishable supplies, more than you need. Better to be over packed and end up using a little more propane than planned than to spend 29 of your 31 days huddled in blankets by the stove!

    “be prepared”

  5. Be sure to keep your dry goods in mouse proof containers! Sounds exciting, look forward to seeing how it comes out.
    Please share your mistakes with us too (we all make them) so that we can learn from them too.
    I will be curious to see how the isolation effects you, I am sure you will go through different levels of discomfort with it at first.

  6. About dehydration, It will adversely effect your mood and all of your systems. Not to be gross, but your pee should be nearly clear and orderless. Most of us are not that well hydrated even at home, but that would be ideal.

  7. You “catch and released” one ouf your mice?!?

    Oh no sir…. They know their way back to your yummy treats! Better to snap their necks cleanly in a good old fashioned trap (not one of these new plastic things). Remeber, they have the area all scoped out already, they want to live in your nice new cabin, and there is never EVER just one or 2 mice….

    • We had a few mice infest our house last year, my two young daughters did not want me to kill them so I picked up some live traps…baited with peanut butte they did a great job on the first dozen or so.

      We were releasing them in a natural area about a mile away. Far enough to not come back. Near the end of the eradication effort some of the traps were getting cleaned but not sprung…my guess was a couple of the smarter mice had figured out the live traps. I replaced those with old fashion spring traps, After those two were killed. We have not had a single mouse in 9 months.

      As part of the process I filled some holes under the kitchen sink and by the duct work in the mechanical room with spray foam. It takes a concentrated effort to keep those buggers at bay.

      • You can also stuff holes with steel wool, it’s something i usually have on hand for woodworking, so i use it for that too! The little buggers can and WILL eat through anything short of plate steel, but they don’t like chewing on steel wool apparently.

  8. Pingback: Update on Project 31 Preparations « Laptop and a Rifle

  9. Best of luck with Project 31.

    Probably best to avoid wind generators, looking at the pictures of your property – unless you can afford and put up a really big tower. You need to get a wind genny way up above the tree line, or the vortex’s generated by the wind passing through the tree branches saps the available power from the wind – and the ratings on these are for really strong winds in clear air, so YMMV – a lot!

    I have found that amorphous solar panels (the harbour freight style) are much better producing power from ambient light rather than direct sun light when compared with the monocrystaline type (like your 100w panel).

    I have a mixture of both types, and whilst the amorphous panels are larger for an equivalent power output, they produce around 30 – 50% of their rated output in ambient (non direct sun) light, where monocrystaline types only produce around 10% of their rated output.

    If you are going to buy any additional solar panels for project 31, I would opt for the amorphous type for their winter output benefits. Your 100w monocrystaline panel will crank out way in excess of what you can use or store during long summer days, its winter that amorphous scores for me.

    Have you thought about how you are going to keep your car battery from going flat over the month? Even the tiny trickle of power used to maintain your car radio’s memory becomes significant over that long a period, and if you REALLY need to get out in a hurry any issues with your car not starting would be a problem.

    Even if you disconect it (remove the -ve terminal at the battery) the “cold soak” losses over that length of time can be an issue too. Hopefully you won’t need your car until you finish, but you will ned it then, and even just running it occasionally to keep the battery charged would defeat your aim to use no gas?

    I am really enjoying your Blog, and looking forward to your experiences with this project.

    Stay safe!

    • Good to know about the amorphous panels. It makes sense to have a mix of different types.

      As for the car battery, I have a battery charger that runs off AC, that I can run off my solar-charged battery array + inverter. It’s not terribly efficient, but I suspect I’ll only need to use it once or twice to keep the battery topped off.

  10. Looking forward to following along on your adventure.

    In your one video you mentioned your comforter. It’s best to get a nice feather bed. The air trapped between the feathers will keep you nice and warm. As a child I spent some time sleeping in a very cold, unheated room in a tiny home in Tennessee. I mean it was COLD….. the feather bed kept us nice and warm. It was very hard to climb out from under that thing.

    – Suzanne, the Farmer’s Wife

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  14. As a long time winter wilderness camper (northern Minnesota) I’d recommend as a convenience and comfort to put a pot of water (snow) etc on the wood stove in the evening.

    Then, when its boiling you can pour it in a water bottle and put the bottle in the bottom of you bed sleeping bag and make it nice and warm for your feet before you crawl in.

    In the morning the water is still near body temperature.

    Pour it out in a pan for your morning coffee/tea/oatmeal/whatever and it only takes half as long and half as much fuel to heat up as cold water would.

    And you didn’t have to filter it because it boiled. Voila!

    I hope your retreat is a happy one and not too lonely. Good luck.

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