Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Solar Ruminations - More Methods of Alternative Living

In the previous post in this series I addressed the subject of food preservation in an off-grid system. This post will address some other very common needs people have, and how to meet them when the infrastructure modern society has become so dependent upon either breaks down or is unavailable.

One of the most pressing needs for all humanity is a source of water, including clean water for drinking. No one could survive very long without it. When Yahweh led the Israelites out of Egypt and into the wilderness for forty years, one of their immediate needs was water. The people, lacking faith in Yahweh and giving in to the carnal impulse to murmur and complain, charged Yahweh with a lack of concern for their welfare.

Exodus 17:1-6
Then all the congregation of the sons of Israel journeyed by stages from the wilderness of Sin, according to the command of Yahweh, and camped at Rephidim, and there was no water for the people to drink. Therefore the people quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water that we may drink.” And Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test Yahweh?” But the people thirsted there for water; and they grumbled against Moses and said, “Why, now, have you brought us up from Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?” So Moses cried out to Yahweh, saying, “What shall I do to this people? A little more and they will stone me.” Then Yahweh said to Moses, “Pass before the people and take with you some of the elders of Israel; and take in your hand your staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb; and you shall strike the rock, and water will come out of it, that the people may drink.”

Yahweh caused water to flow from the rock that Moses struck. It was sufficient to supply 600,000 men, along with women and children. Our needs are certain to be much more modest, and Yahweh can be trusted today to supply the needs for His people. An amazing and true story of Yahweh’s miraculous provision of water occurred not too far from my present location in Georgia. During America’s Civil War in the 1860s, the Southern states of the Confederacy erected a prisoner of war camp in nearby Andersonville. Tens of thousands of Northern Union soldiers were crammed into a 26 acres field surrounded by stockade walls. The living conditions were deplorable and many thousands of men perished in the camp. At its peak in August of 1864, 32,000 men were held as prisoners there.

Andersonville Prisoner of War Camp

The men were not even supplied with adequate water to drink. Many were dying of thirst leading some of them to cry out to God for help. That same day a storm arose unexpectedly out of a blue sky and lightning struck a small mound within the prisoner’s enclosure. Where the lightning struck water began to pour forth. The men called this divine answer to their prayers Providence Spring. The spot where this occurred is marked within the camp today.

Providence Spring

The Bible prophesies a period of time at the end of this age when persecution of Christians will be severe. Not only this, but the entire earth will experience great tribulation. We are told that if Yahweh did not cut those days short, no flesh would survive, but for the sake of His elect, He has shortened those days (Mark 13:20). The disciples of Christ can look to Yahweh to guide them and provide for them in those days. At times Yahweh will provide through supernatural intervention as He did with the Israelites in the wilderness, or the prisoners at Andersonville. Yet, at other times He will give His people notice to prepare ahead of time and grant them the knowledge and provision to do so.

When Yahweh first directed me to convert a school bus to a motorhome, the thought that came to mind was that it was to be a type of ark. Even as Noah was given warning by Yahweh, and instruction on how to prepare, I found myself being led of the Spirit to make preparation. I have sought to divide between the thoughts arising in my own soul and thoughts arising from the leading of the Spirit. I cannot say I have been perfect in this, but I have definitely observed the Father guiding and magnificently providing as I have set myself to obey the Spirit’s guidance. I may have erred in some of the details of my preparations, but I have confidence of Yahweh’s guiding me to embrace this work and in His enabling me to complete it.

Even as Noah’s ark had to be self-sustaining, I have sought to design my bus so that it can function independent of outside utility sources of water, and electricity. The bus has a 25 gallon potable water tank mounted under the chassis. This is plumbed to a 12 volt pump that is powered either by the electric grid, or through my auxiliary power system. I can be driving down the road and someone could run water in the sink, or take a shower (that might be exciting).

25 gallons is not a lot of water, however. It will last me perhaps a week if I am frugal, but eventually I will have to resupply. If I am near a body of water that is not a problem, but I have not yet found myself camping very often near water. Another source of water is rain, and since I am not living in a desert region, it is a pretty reliable source. I could easily have used only rain water for the past year if I had chosen to do so as it has been abundant.

To capture rain water, some basic things must be considered. There must be a way to catch the water and channel it to the proper location, and containers to store it in. Because my space is limited, and I relocate from time to time, carrying large barrels around with me is not practical. A better solution for my needs are collapsible water storage containers. I can stow several of them in the space one barrel would fit, and have many times the storage capacity. Following is a model of collapsible water barrel I am considering purchasing.

Pictured is an 86 gallon model. A 110 gallon model is also available. The 86 gallon container is available on Amazon for $55.90 (shipping included).

I have not purchased these yet, but I plan to do so soon. I would like to purchase three of them as I think that would be adequate for my water needs, being sufficient to carry me through any dry spells. I have had a ready connection to a water supply everywhere I have parked my bus so far, but this may not always be the case. The collapsible container above comes with a screen filter on the top to keep out debris and insects.

Most people who purchase these do so to catch rain water coming from the roof of their home. Roofs with gutters are ideal as they provide a channel to direct the water to the top of the barrel where the water enters. My plan is to use tarps stretched out above the barrels to catch the rain water and channel it into the barrel. I already use this method to fill Champ’s large water dish. I have a tarp over his kennel with a hole cut in the tarp above his water dish. When it rains several gallons of water fills his dish, and overflows once it is full.

Dogs are well adapted for drinking rain water. Most dogs will drink out of any mud puddle they come across and it does them no harm. People can drink rain water falling through unpolluted skies with no harm as long as the channel it flows through is clean. Some people’s roofs and gutters are far from sanitary, so drinking water captured in this manner would not be advisable unless it is filtered and sterilized first. I already have on hand what I need to filter and sterilize the water I will use for cooking and drinking.

Water Purification Kit

Buckets to be Used to Purify Water

The kit above includes a fine particle ceramic filter, a coarse sediment filter that goes over it, and a spigot. It can be purchased on Amazon for $40. Buckets must be purchased separately.

You put the unfiltered water in the top bucket. The ceramic filter is mounted in the bottom of the top bucket. The water flows through the filter into the bottom bucket and is ready for usage. If the water is to be used for drinking, it is also advisable to pasteurize it by heating it up to a temperature of 140 degrees Fahrenheit. I can do this using the solar oven I have purchased. The filter removes any chemical and environmental contaminants while the pasteurizing destroys any bacteria in the water, such as e-coli.

SOS Solar Sport Oven

The Solar Oven above comes with a Water Pasteurization Indicator (WAPI). This simple device uses wax that has a melting temperature of 140 degrees Fahrenheit inside a small cylinder to indicate when the water has reached the proper temperature to kill all bacteria.


I can take the filtered water I have collected from any source, put it into a pot and place it in the solar oven. The WAPI goes into the water. When the wax melts and falls to the bottom of the cylinder the water is pasteurized. This method is used widely in many third world countries. The solar oven I purchased can be obtained at the following link, but there are many other models and sources for solar ovens.

For washing clothes, showering, or a host of other uses, it is not necessary to filter or pasteurize the rain water. Since washing clothes also involves the use of water, I will address it here. Americans and Europeans have become dependent upon large, energy hungry appliances to accomplish this task. More than half the world’s population does not have access to these labor saving appliances. To discover how to launder one’s clothes without electricity a person can learn much from less industrialized nations as well as from earlier generations of Americans and Europeans.

In many nations of the world, vast numbers of people haul their clothes down to the nearest river or stream to wash them. If a person uses this method they should avoid harsh detergents and chemicals that could pollute the water and harm fish or plant life. You will hardly find a major city anywhere in the world that is not located on a sizeable river or body of water. This is because water is a basic need of humanity. However, in days of distress where civil unrest and government oppression is rampant, it will be necessary to avoid cities. This may cause a person to locate somewhere that a river or stream is not available. This necessitates other methods for washing clothes.

In my bus I have a small portable clothes washer that runs on 110 volt AC power. It hooks to my sink to draw water, and also discharges the dirty water into the sink. It has worked very well. I can usually get by on two loads of clothes a week, even during the summer when I am working up a sweat out in the yard. For a large family many more loads would be required.

Haier HLP21N

I purchased this about two years ago through Amazon and I have been very happy with it. For years I had used the laundry facilities at the RV parks I stayed at. The past couple years I have been located in a rural area. The nearest laundry facility is fifteen miles away and I do not own a car. It became expedient to be able to wash my clothes at home.

The washer has a variable water level selector, as well as the ability to choose a number of wash cycles. This makes it pretty efficient in its use of water. I can also run the washer from the power stored in my battery bank that is charged up with my solar panels. I have not yet tested the washer to see how much power it consumes. If it consumes too much electric power I may need to resort to a manual method of washing clothes. Drying my clothes using electric power is not a consideration. Electric clothes dryers use prodigious amounts of power. For this reason, I have always hung my clothes out on the line to dry. This is easy to do, and consumes no electricity. I have a portable triple-arm clothes dryer that I hang my clothes out on.

Most RV parks I have stayed in do not permit campers to hang clothes out on a line. This is either due to the danger of people running through a campsite and injuring themselves, or because the RV park considers clothes lines to be unsightly. Being located in the country, I have no issues with hanging out my clothes.

I am prepared to wash clothes without my electric washing machine if that should prove to be necessary. I have a 7 gallon bucket with a lid, and a plunger type agitator that is used to wash clothes.

All of the materials above can be purchased through Amazon. Some readers may question why I seem to be plugging for Amazon so much. I don’t receive any remuneration from them. I use them because most products mentioned can be purchased at a low cost through Amazon, and they offer free delivery on many products if a person has signed up for the Amazon Prime service. Since I don’t have an automobile, having things delivered is a major benefit.

The way the set-up above works is as follows. Fill the bucket about half to two thirds full with water. Add some detergent  - I use a combination of Borax, Washing Soda, and Oxiclean. Place clothes in the bucket. Screw the lid on with the plunger inserted through the hole in the lid. Plunge the clothes until clean. Remove clothes and wring out dirty water. Place clothes in bucket of clean rinse water and plunge them. Repeat if needed. Wring the clothes out and hang them on the line to dry.

When I first tried this method I was using a mop bucket with a wringer attachment to squeeze the water out of the clothes. I found that this didn’t remove enough water from the clothes. Consequently, they took a long time to dry on the line and would often be stiff due to not having wrung out enough of the detergent. I found that I needed a better method to wring out clothes, towels, and other items. To accomplish this I purchased an old fashioned (but new) clothes wringer through Amazon and attached it to a square plastic sink.

Wash Day

You can see the sink with the wringer attached in this photo. There is a significant amount of labor involved in washing clothes this way. It is much easier to throw my laundry in the washing machine and then hang them on the line, but I wanted to be sure I had a way to wash clothes if electricity were not available. This was before I began to upgrade my solar auxiliary power system. At that time I knew there was no possibility of running a washing machine when I was not connected to the power grid.

Well, that is enough for this blog post. There is more to come.

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Mailing Address:
Joseph Herrin
P.O. Box 804
Montezuma, GA 31063


Darlene said...

I love your articles. They are so informative. Quick question...where did you get the wringer that is on the wash tub? I can find the tubs on line but not the wringer. Thanks so much!

Joseph Herrin said...

Hello Darlene,

I apologize for neglecting to post the link for the wringer. You can find them on Ebay as well as Amazon. Here is a link to one on Amazon, and I will add the link in the article as well.

May you be blessed with peace and understanding in these days,