Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Off-grid Appliances and Tools

So much of my dreams are about to become a reality, and now it's time to take a good look at the non-electric, or very low electric, tools that we have, that we need, and that might stay on the wish list for a while.


Wringer washer - while it is electric, it will run easily on our generator, and we'll buy one just before leaving the city
Washer/Spinner - Mennonites around here often keep one of these for small loads of laundry, but they can't do heavy things
Wash board - My birthday present from Mom last year
Wash tubs - We need two of these to use with the wringer or the wash board
Gas generator - NOT my idea of self-sufficiency, because we need propane gas for it, but a step closer than being on the grid, and our homestead comes with one.
Ice Box - I like the idea, but wonder if it's possible without a source of large ice blocks
Propane Refrigerator -  the homestead has a teeny little one, which should have me quickly pestering Mr D for a proper root cellar.
Food Mill/Sauce Maker - I have both a Foley mill for small amounts and a Victorio sauce maker for larger amounts
Egg beater - These are available at the Mennonite general store for $50, but I found one at an antiques shop for $15!
Passive solar water heater - need plans to make one
Water heater attached to wood stove - I assume they still exist? On my wish list
Wood stove - the homestead has a small one, but we need a proper wood cookstove
Propane cookstove - the homestead has one, but I'm not sure this is better than electric!
Manual can opener - As much as I try to stay away from commercially canned food, they still form a part of our food storage, so this is necessary to have on hand
Grain grinder - We have one of these
Meat grinder - We have two!
Hand crank blender - Definitely on my wish list
Axes, saws, hammers, screwdrivers and all of those other traditional hand tools - we have most of these
Brace and bit - I want to get one, but haven't seen any
Hand-crank flashlights - We have one that also has solar backup, and includes a radio and clock.
Mortar and pestle - I grind up a lot of bread crumbs (cracker crumbs, cookie crumbs) in mine
French Press coffee pot
Thermos vacuum bottles - we have several of various sizes
Pasta roller - This has sat in storage for a while, and being off-grid will give me the incentive to try it
Treadle sewing machine - laugh if you wish, but my home ec class had three of these and I always enjoyed using them more than the electric machines! I want!
Clothes line - I was kind of shocked to find that a clothes line kit is $50!
Wooden clothes drying rack - Every Mennonite household has one for drying clothes by the stove in the winter
Dough mixer - I'm still kicking myself for not buying that one when I saw it at the thrift store. I still want one.
Coffee grinder - Low on my wish list, but still there
Manual butter churn - I want, but they're very hard to find
King cutter - Manual food processor. I have one, a gift from a reader
Solar oven - On my wish list
Chest fridge - High on my wish list is for Mr D to make a chest fridge for us, which uses about 1/100th of the electricity that a regular fridge uses.
Solar panels - HIGH on our wish list, but low on the affordability list until we pay off our mortgage debt
Oil press - This is on the 'would be nice eventually' list.
Ice cream maker - We picked up a nice one at the Mennonite thrift store. It will be much more valued when treats are 12 km away at the general store.
Cast iron pots
Old steel baking dishes (have a few) suitable for a wood stove
Solar dehydrator - Mr D knows this is high on his "must make" list!

What am I missing? What should we start watching the auctions for?

As more details appear, I'm becoming more excited about the homestead. Yes, we will be 12 km from the General Store, and 36 km from the only Market. Another 20 km will get us to "Town" where we can access Sobeys, Superstore, Price Chopper, Giant Tiger and a Bulk Barn. Who says we're going extremely rural - it's only an HOUR to get to the nearest real grocery store!

Honestly, since the city is just 45 minutes farther, I can't imagine why, if we're going to drive an hour, we wouldn't make a day of it and go into the city.

Thanks for reading! Please leave a comment - positive or negative - and let me know your thoughts. Don't forget to subscribe to Canadian Doomer in a Reader or by email.


  1. I still have the dough mixer that you couldn't take because you couldnt find room.  I knew you'd want it eventually so I just kept it.  I'll send it over after christmas if you remind me :-)  Perhaps you could create a document of the things you need somewhere on the blog, especially anything that's hard to find and then anyone who wants to can look too. I am in thrift stores every week, sometimes they have fun things. 

  2. We found a fantastic butter churn at our local auction (it's a Blow - made in England) for cheap!  We also purchased a gorgeous cream separator on Craig's List.  I'm not sure what kind of livestock you'll be getting - but we've just started a little goat herd, so the cream separator will really come in handy! 

  3.  LOL Oh, you're such an angel. If storing it isn't a problem, wait and send it to the homestead in April. Getting mail - especially with a chatty letter - will be a delight.

  4.  You're right - a cream separator! We plan to get goats, too. I absolutely love goats, especially the newborn kids.

  5. We've only had our goats since August, and I'm completely smitten!!  I've always been a "dog person", and I'm amazed to find that these lovely creatures have personalities quite similar to dogs.  We have one nubian/sanaan cross female that we hope (fingers crossed) is pregnant (she'll be 2 in May) and one pygmy/alpine/? female cross who was born in April 2012, so we'll breed her next fall.  In case you're not already aware, I should warn you that Nubian goats are LOUD, so not particularly great for stealthy homesteading :-) However, her temperment is gorgeous. We're hoping to increase our herd next year, and might even get our own billy.  I agree - the babies are absolutely precious!

  6. Lee Valley has the best hand can openers. I use it all the time and it works like a charm.

  7. Good luck with your shopping list - I hope you get it all in time for Xmas.

    I too would endorse Lee Valley Tools in Ottawa for small hand tools.  Before I heard of Lee Valley I tried to buy a simple hand drill and what a production that was.  I tried all the usual places: Canadian Tire, Home Depot, Home Hardware etc. and when I asked the (usually teenage) sales assistant for a hand drill the usual response I got was "a hand what? oh, there's no call for those any more, here have a look at our selection of electric / cordless / compressed air tools..." and they would look at me like I was some weirdo Mennonite hippy type.

    Then I bought a hand drill from Boss Tools which was a lump of c**p - the chuck was so badly machined that it wouldn't even hold a drill bit.

    Then I discovered Lee Valley Tools and the rest is history.

    I would be somewhat cautious about hand crank flashlights, especially the ones from Candian Tire.  They sound like a great idea, and I bought half a dozen of them in 2008 just after I became aware of peak oil, intending to have one for each family member in case of emergency.  The problem is that the internal battery wears out after about three years and doesn't hold its charge, and like a lot of cheap Canadian Tire stuff, it is designed so that you can't replace the battery - you just have to throw out the whole flashlight and buy a new one.  So I've gone off those hand crank flashlights now, except maybe for camping trips, and I would recommend LED flashlights with replaceable AA or AAA batteries which can be recharged with a solar panel.

  8. I just figured out that I have to click on the post title to get the comment box to appear. Good list. I'm not trying to get off grid, but I like hand appliances and tools. My dad's brace and bit is one of my treasured possessions. It was very funny when I had to teach a young man how to use it a few years ago. He was amazed that one could drill holes without batteries or electricity. 

  9. I am excited for you - it's all becoming very real!

  10. There's nothing like faxing a signed Purchase Agreement to make it very, very real! :) We need to be ready to go by the end of March!

  11.  I never saw power tools until I was a young adult, and I'm still uncomfortable with them. How do young people think anything got built in the past? LOL

  12.  I ordered our crank/solar flashlight/clock radio through and I've been quite happy with it so far. It certainly wasn't cheap - $35 or so for a tiny little thing I can hold in my hand! But it's tough and works well.

    Lee Valley Tools is definitely an amazing resource.

  13.  I'll have to get one. I'm always frustrated with the ones I buy.

  14.  Yes! When L showed me newborn goats the first time, I really thought they acted just like puppies. I think that the hardest part of raising goats will be slaughtering the excess males. :( Even her billies are gentle.

    I'm used to L's Sannens - gorgeous goats with such a wonderful temperament. I'm told that there are goats available where we're moving, but I don't know what breeds yet. Stealthy homesteading is probably not something I need to worry about - our "nearest" neighbour is several miles away.

  15.  So many things to say! So... did you grow up Amish or some other group? Not many people escape powered society these days.

    Do you know the PBS TV show The Woodwright's Shop? I just love it. He demonstrates building all kinds of things from gates to furniture to other tools all with non-powered equipment. It's fascinating how people accomplished so many complex tasks.

    How do you get water on your new place? Does the generator power the pump? Surely you won't have to pump all your water by hand for 5 people, I hope. When I was a kid we had a cistern for all but cooking and drinking. We lugged that from a hand pump in the barn. But we did have an electric pump in the basement that put pressure from the cistern to deliver it to the faucets.  Or will you have a cistern and a kitchen pump?

  16.  No - my father was just an "old-fashioned carpenter", carrying on the tradition of "men in our family have been carpenters since Adam", and we lived in a very little town. My parents weren't prone to notion of replacing something just because something new and better came along - so I expect he kept using the hand tools because they worked. I also assumed that almost all mothers stayed at home, baking and cooking from scratch. My parents ruined me for modern society. :P

    We don't have cable, so I haven't seen that show. My father built several houses and plenty of furniture with hand tools, though, as did my grandfather, so I'm not terribly surprised.

    The well on the new place is gravity fed. We were warned that it may go dry in the hot months, but there is a brook handy that has never gone dry. Until we get a pump to put in the brook, though, *that* will mean hauling water by hand in August. A cistern and hand pump sound like a wonderful future addition. Redundancy, redundancy, redundancy. :)

  17. I found where you can see these shows online, in case you ever get internet on your homestead! Two of my boys just got the use of a workshop and are slowly getting tools. They will love these videos.



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