Self Reliance in the City (Time to get Vlogging)

Under Open Skies has entered the world of vlogs!  Below is our first video featuring my husband, Kent (I stuck with filming and editing–he was much braver than I).  We would love to hear your thoughts or any self-reliance questions!  We both had a lot of fun making this video and can’t wait to produce more.


Open the Door to Self-Reliance


“Nothing can bring you peace but yourself.  Nothing can bring you peace but the triumph of principles.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self Reliance

Serenity is the peace of mind gained by living a life that is in line with your values.  For Kent and I, this meant living a more natural and self-reliant lifestyle, but we had one major hurdle to doing this–we live in the city!  Living in the city while trying to live life the way we imagined made us meticulous researchers and creative experimenters.  Bottom line, we discovered that you can choose to what extent you provide for yourself or depend on society no matter where you live.  Now we want to help you discover that–whether you find yourself in the city, suburbia, or the country–there are several actions (with tons of options) you can take to bring yourself closer to your ideal way of living.  Aren’t options a wonderful thing?

We plan to share what we learn with you, starting with our city adventures in the Northeastern United States, and are here to help answer any questions you have along your own journey.  We are all in this together!  Over the next several weeks, we will be sharing the details of our three years of city self-reliance (in varying degrees).  This includes composting, container gardening, rain water collection, and other city reliance adventures!  You won’t want to miss out, so be sure to subscribe to our blog for all the FREE tips!

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Come April 2014, we will be finishing our segment on city self reliance as we prepare for our big move out west to the desserts of New Mexico!   Once in New Mexico, you can learn with us as we share our journey for self reliance in a rural dessert climate.

And always remember…

“Its the not the Destination, It’s the journey.”Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance


This post is inspired by the theme serenity from the Weekly Photo Challenge.  If you enjoyed this, please check out other fun interpretations of this theme!

Dreaming Up an Off the Grid Paradise


In a busy world of social and industrial dependence, my husband and I have been longing to create our self reliance oasis. A home where we can break away from the norm and live more in tune with nature. We want to build a way of life that enables us to choose how we interact with society rather than being bound by our dependence on it. To us, this home embodies four areas…

Artistic and Eco-Friendly
Home is where the heart is with The Art House Project. Being an eclectic artist has it’s advantages, like turning our future home into one giant art project to promote eco-friendly living. I will be infusing our off the grid home with my original art pieces in a variety of mediums. From metal work to mosaics, I will also be striving to reuse, or up-cycle, as many “discarded” materials as possible in my pieces.

Life Cycle Management
The best way to know where your food comes from is to grow it yourself. We plan to produce a majority of our plant based food needs (including those for our animals) on site. The hope is to symbiotically grow gardens and raise animals together; joining animal, compost, and garden back into a natural cycle. This means gardens engineered specially for our chickens to roam, pastures planted with optimal nutrition for our horses, varietal orchards for our bees, and dog friendly edibles for the pups.

Natural Heating and Cooling
We plan to construct the home in a manner that takes advantage of the earth’s natural heating and cooling mechanisms. There are a few easy things we can do to accomplish this. First, we plan to construct our home with a southern facing exposure, allowing us to use the abundance of sun to heat it. We also plan to use earth berm walls for superior insulation from the cold in the winter and for cooling in the summer. Second, we will build with materials, like tiled floors and double paned windows, that enable heat or cooling when we want it without using a traditional furnace or air conditioner.

Generating Power with Clean Energy
We still desire to have some modern amenities so we want to have local electricity generation. The house is going to use as much free energy as the site allows. This may require a few different methods of production. Starting with solar, some photo voltaic cells are an easy kill for electricity generation. Depending on a wind survey, a wind turbine may also complement or completely meet our electricity demands. Finally, if there is a stream nearby with enough vertical drop we could install a water turbine. We believe that some combination will be prudent for our electricity demand. What we end up installing will be dependent on the property we can find and purchase. Our search will be with all of these methods in mind.

Interested in growing greener? Join us on our journey as we learn and explore how to make this dream a reality by following our blog, Under Open Skies. Each week we will be diving into something new and sharing what we learn with you.

This post was inspired by the prompt Oasis from The Daily Post.

Mapping out a New Direction

Sometimes in the winds of change, we find our true direction – Unknown

Thank You Mucho!
First, I would like to extend a huge thank you to our visitors and followers this past year! You have helped me to grow more confident in my writing and truly find my voice as a blogger.  Writing and creating artwork has been a childhood dream of mine, so it is unbelievably exciting to experience this coming together. Under Open Skies, has been an amazing adventure that I couldn’t have done without your encouragement!

I took a week off over the holidays to really think about the blog, how it has evolved, and where it is headed.  I wanted to refocus and incorporate the new big adventure in my life.  My husband (Kent) and I have been enthusiastically talking about living off the grid since we met in 2009.  With our big move back west coming up this year, we decided now is the time to start planning and preparing.

The new things you’ll find at Under Open Skies:

Author, Kent Reichle
My husband will be joining me in this blogging adventure, writing posts about sustainable living topics from his unique perspective.  Learn more about him on our Meet the Reichles page.

The Art House Project
Home Plans, Craft Skills Development, Design Sketches and Inspiration
Join me in the creative development of our low-impact, off the grid home.  I plan to incorporate as many of my handcrafted art pieces in various mediums as possible, turning our home into a collective work of art.

Sustainable Living (Refocused from Positive Living)
Raising Animals, Gardening, and Off the Grid Plans
Join Kent and I as we plan and embark on our journey toward self reliance and natural living.

What about Prior Topics?

Wanderlust is Here to Stay
Travel, Exploration, Adventures
Sharing some of our random adventures and travels.

The Fur Kids have grown up and moved to their own place.
PAWtrait Artwork, Classy Canines and Equines
Check out and continue to follow us at Playfully Refined, my new blog dedicated entirely to all things canine and equine.


This post is inspired by the theme new from the Weekly Photo Challenge.  If you enjoyed this, please check out other fun interpretations of this theme!

Warmth is the Adventure of a Good Book

I believe that some days the best way to travel is through the pages of a good book.

Top Reads for a Great Adventure

  • Wild by Cheryl Strayed – Hike the Pacific Crest Trail.   Walk through 1,100 miles of one woman’s journey to find herself as she braves the wilderness.  I highly recommend reading this book before seeing the film adaptation in theaters–I could not put it down!
  • The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien – Travel there and back again.  Trek alongside Bilbo Baggins and the dwarfs on their quest to kill the great dragon.  For those who love fantasy adventures, you must read the one that started them all.
  • The Lord of the Rings Series by J. R. R. Tolkien –  Journey through Middle Earth.  Join the free peoples on a quest to destroy the one ring and save their world from darkness.  Continue from the Hobbit, to read the riveting conclusion to the third age of Middle Earth.
  • The Harry Potter Series by J. K. Rowling – Soar into the Wizarding World.  Explore this amazing world alongside Harry and his friends while fighting the darkest of evils in the battle of a lifetime.  These books are hands-down my absolute favorites!
  • The Hunger Games Series by Suzanne Collins –  Revolt against the capitol.  Fight with Katniss and Peeta to survive the dystopian society of Panem and free the twelve districts from a reign of tyranny.  This is the only series thus far that has been able to provide temporary relief from my Harry Potter hangover–that is saying a lot!
  • Shadow Mountain by Renée Askins – Connect with the wild.  Fall in love with sweet wolf cub, Natasha, and join Renée on her mission to bring wolves back to Yellowstone National Park.  If you’ve read and enjoyed Wild, this is another great book to add to your list.
  • Where did you do Bernadette by Maria Semple – Voyage to Antarctica.  Laugh and wonder at the curious lives of Bee and Bernadette Fox, an agoraphobic mother and adventurous daughter who have very different ideas about their planned trip to Antarctica.  This book had me laughing out loud and daydreaming about an escape to the South Pole.
  • Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer – Experience the darker side of Mount Everest.  Climb the world’s tallest mountain with Jon Krakauer and fellow mountaineers through the disastrous storm of May 1996.  This is a very moving read about the struggle to survive against the power of mother nature.

This really has me in the mood to pick up another great adventure!  I am always on the hunt, do you have any suggestions on another good book to snuggle up with?  Let me know in the comments below!

Good Book

This post is inspired by the theme warmth from the Weekly Photo Challenge.  If you enjoyed this, please check out other fun interpretations of this theme!

Merry Christmas From The Fur Kids of Under Open Skies!

Merry ChristmasFrom our family to yours, we hope your holiday season is filled with joy!

Cheers, Jennifer Reichle and the Fur Kids

Start Living a More Positive Life: Time for Change

Positive Life3In our last post (Start Living a More Positive Life: Assessment Time), we looked at how well your current lifestyle matches up to the elements that are most important to you.  Everything from your career path to the company you keep can either add to your overall happiness or drain the life right out of you.  Perhaps your life requires a massive overhaul, or maybe it just needs a couple tweaks, either way the next step is to plan your new life and take action.   That is what we are going to work on this week.  We are going to come up with a step-by-step plan to turn all those wild dreams into your new reality!

So I’m curious how your current life matched up.  If you wouldn’t mind taking a second to answer the simple poll on the right, to share what you found with us.  For those who need a massive overhaul, just know you are not alone–that is where I found myself!  I broke free of my previous job and started my own art business.  My artwork is inspired by nature and animals around the world, plus I donate pieces to further charitable causes.  (Nature, animals, travel, creative expression, friendship, cutesy things, standing my ground, and humanitarianism…check!)  Sigh, much better.  I finally have the time to travel, ride my horse, train my dogs, explore the outdoors, and enjoy all the other great things life has to offer.  When it came to the people in my life, I decided to invest in the friends and family who were there for me and embrace the positive things in life.  As for those who overload me with negativity, it was time for them to go.  Then there is the townhome, we will soon be moving to a house with land where our horse can be with us and we can start homesteading–so excited!  I am sharing all this with you in case the changes you want to make seem too big.  This doesn’t happen overnight, but you can do it and you are not alone!

So lets start with those who need a career change.  For whatever reason, this tends to be a difficult switch to believe you can make.  Lets look a few of the reasons that might be holding you back and methods to get past them.

  • A guy/gal has to pay the bills and my dream job doesn’t earn enough money!  With how society is setup, earning money seems to be a necessary evil, however, there is no “one-size fits all” way to make a living.  Ditch the stereotype about rich doctors and lawyers, you can get rich doing anything.  Here is a reality check for you: According to Celebrity Networth, Cesar Millan (The Dog Trainer) is valued at $25 million and Martha Stewart (The Crafting Entrepreneur) has a net worth of $300 million.  Also remember that money, is not the same thing as wealth–true riches don’t come with a president’s face on the front.  Choose a method that makes you happy and don’t let false ideas get in your way.  Here are some ways to work past this reason…
    • How much money do you really need in order to live your dream?  Build a budget with a “have to pay” column and an “extras” column.  Look at where you can cut expenses to live within your means.
    • What different ways are there for you to bring in money doing what you love?  Sometimes your ideal life includes a combination of money making means.  You’d be surprised how you can turn the things you already own or do into revenue earning facets of your empire.
  • My (insert unsupportive member here) will disown me if I become a(n) (insert dream career here).  Repeat after me, “This is my life, not (insert unsupportive member here)’s, and I am going to live my life the way I was meant to live it.”  Sometimes people mean well, but their intentions are misguided.  You need to realize that no one knows yourself better than you do and only you can mold your life into the one you have always imagined.  Anyone who gets in the way of your dreams will have to learn to accept things.  This is not your problem to deal with, unless the unsupportive member is your spouse.  As a spouse, your lives are shared and you are going to have work this out together.  Just keep in mind that you will never be happy so long as you choose to live your life pleasing others.

Digital Rendition of the Patronus Visualization

Looking deeper into unsupportive members, we need to do something about the negative people in your life.  Life is too short to be around people who consistently make you feel bad–period, end of story.  It doesn’t matter if they are random acquaintances or family members, the effects these life suckers have on you needs to go.  Ditch this idea of blood and water, surround yourself with people who inspire you!  Now, I understand that some people are easier to “get rid of” than others, so there are different methods of damage control.  If you can’t get away from the people who make you miserable, you are going to have to shield yourself from them.  Sometimes you need to keep the door open, keep things pleasant, but not reach out to that person or initiate interactions.   You also need to have a weapon to combat the negativity this person attempts to inject into your life.  Being a huge Harry Potter fan, my method is to imagine casting a Patronus Charm that protects me from the joy sucking dementor–yes, I am a book nerd.  You need to find a method that works for you and stick with it so your energy goes into your awesome new life, not the dementor!

Now that you have all your energy ready, it is time to put it to use by taking up those hobbies you put on the back burner.  There has to be at least one crazy thing you have always wanted to do or maybe you are like me and the list is more than you can get through in one lifetime.  In this case, you need to make a prioritized hobby list–start at the top and work you way down.  Either way, build time into your schedule to make your hobby a habit that will fuel your life with joy and inspiration.  Make sure you are wisely using your free-time.  Life is made of moments that you have a hand in creating, make the most of the precious time you are given and don’t let anything get in your way.

Finally, we come to your living space.  Life becomes a lot easier when you set yourself up with a home that enables your ideal life rather than making it more difficult.  There are ways to make where you live better reflect the life you are putting together, but sometimes your home just isn’t a good fit.  This is time to put some thought into why.  Is it the house?  The amount or land?  The activities, or lack there of, nearby?  No matter your dream life, there is a home and community out there that will help you to embrace this.  Maybe the answer is moving–sometimes this means moving to a new place nearby and in other cases to an entirely new country.  If you aren’t sure what you are looking for, it might be time to travel and get the vibe of different areas.  Remember you can always rent  until you are certain enough to purchase a home.  Also remember, even purchasing a home doesn’t mean you are stuck there if you change your mind.

I hope you found this to be helpful motivation to make the changes you would like to make.  I’d love to hear your stories or thoughts on the direction you are taking your life, feel free to share insights by leaving a comment!

Did you enjoy this post and want to walk through the series?

Start with Step 1: Changes You Can Make Today

Then go with Step 2: Assessment Time

You are on Step 3: Time for Change