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Five years living off-grid without running water in a 230-square-foot tiny home taught me a lot. When I didn’t have something, I got used to improvising. In this article, I am going to share some of the creative ways I have used my car over the years to get things done.
Interestingly, even though I now live on the grid in my eco-cabin, I still use my car in these same ways sometimes. I hope that these ideas might give you a chuckle or two. However, I hope that they also get you thinking creatively about what you do have, whether it is your car or other items, and what use they might be to you in the future, if need be.
Here in Eastern Ontario, Canada, it’s late September. What I call “fridge weather” is coming. That is when our great outdoors becomes one big refrigerator (between just above freezing and 40 degrees Fahrenheit). Trust me: when your minimal off-grid solar-powered system can’t reliably run your fridge, this is a big relief. The raccoons have never been able to break into my car. Yet.
Even though I now have two fridges running now (I consider this the lap of luxury, by the way!), they are both small. I recently bought 25 pounds of Roma tomatoes on sale to can. Late summer is still pretty hot out and, without AC, still hot in my eco-cabin. As it was cooling off outdoors overnight, I moved the box of tomatoes to the car, where it would be cooler. The next day, I canned the first 12 pounds of tomatoes, kept the other half in the car overnight, and canned them the following day.
With temperatures in the eco-cabin up around 80 degrees Fahrenheit overnight, I am quite sure that doing this helped keep my half-bushel box of tomatoes at peak freshness until they were canned. I have noticed over the years that it has to be pretty darn cold out for things to freeze in the car overnight.
Now, if you live in the South, you may not have the opportunity to Ca-fridge like I do, but perhaps the next idea might come in handy!
Ticks are quite bad on the homestead, and my energies are going to the eco-cabin build and the garden. As a result, I have not quite gotten around to building a proper laundry line setup here. Even a laundry line I had attached to some trees somehow attracted ticks, and they got on the bedding. So, I gave up on drying my clothes outside for the time being. I dry everything on a drying rack inside and hang my sheets on one of my ladders inside.
However, after I come home from morning milking, my coveralls are usually wet from washing down the milking parlor. And, I have to be back for afternoon milking in a matter of hours. Without a washer and dryer in the eco-cabin, what could I do? And, to be honest, the farm gear would give off, ummm, a certain odor that I’m not sure I want to bring in here.
My solution is to dry my clothes in my car. This has worked quite well, at least for the warm season. After I come home, I change and take the clothes out to the car. I make sure that I park the car in the full sun. I lay out the coveralls, socks, etc., in the back window of the car. Since May, this has worked without fail. When I go back in the early afternoon to get them, they are always boiling hot and dry! I may need to adapt this in the winter, though. I will keep you posted.
I live in the country and park my car a fair distance back from my house in the laneway. There are a few reasons why I find this to be effective security. If anyone comes to the homestead at night, they would have to exit their vehicle a fair distance from the cabin, and I would be able to get a good look at them.
I have heard stories lately of firewood going missing from other homes. With my car parked where it is, they cannot drive to load any firewood: their access is blocked. Sure, I could save a few steps and park my car right up at the house, but with a long laneway, my car provides some basic security, even when I am home and sleeping.
So many people drive trucks out in the country. I do sort of get teased: with all the construction work I’m doing: why don’t I own a truck? Quite frankly, with gas prices the way they are, I am glad to drive my little compact car. My solution has been to creatively pack stuff into this Corolla to the point that it could almost be…a truck!
Easily carrying my kayak on the roof with a simple foam block setup. When we ran out of wood during framing, I was sent down to the nearest hardware store and brought back 10-foot lengths of wood. Yes, they were sticking out at the back, but they were well-secured and had a flag on them.
Delivery from that store is over $50 a pop, so stuffing construction materials into the car has saved me a lot of money.
Another example? Eight by 2-foot sheets of styrofoam insulation that were one inch thick were able to squeeze in my compact car too. I fit enough in the car to go around the entire perimeter of the eco-cabin in one go. Empty the trunk, put the seats down, be patient, and get creative.
With all the success I was having drying my farm clothes, I got to thinking, “Hmmmm. Harvest is here.” How could I use my car to aid my harvest efforts?
I have been using the car to dry some of my harvest, like sunflower heads, before I remove the seeds. I had been sitting them outside, but if I forgot them, the heavy dews we get in the fall meant I was back at square one. Hot afternoons in the late summer and early fall have their advantages!
Cars – Not Just for Driving Anymore!
Getting from A to B is only one way I use my car. Could you see yourself trying any of the creative tips offered here? Do you have one you can share with us? Please tell us in the comments below.
Colette is passionate about sharing her knowledge of thrifty living and self-sufficiency. She has developed her skills in self-reliance living in the suburbs, the city, and more recently, on her own Half-Acre Homestead. Colette lived five years completely off-grid and without running water in an eight by 24 foot tiny home while designing and building her own 18 by 24-foot eco-cabin. She has just launched her website, Half Acre Homestead. Colette invites you to stop by and visit this work in progress! Coming soon in 2022 is her exciting new online program. Interested in Resiliency, Preventative Health, and Self-Sufficient/Off-Grid Housing (to name a few!)? Stay tuned for more details!