THIS IS WAY BETTER THAN ANTI-BACTERIAL GEL. It’s very clean feeling, without the smell or slime that comes with some gel anti-bacterial solutions.
Get a readably sized spray bottle (~6-8oz, the 2 oz spray bottles need to be refilled rather frequently and anything larger can be unweilding), fill with 70% rubbing alcohol (which is usually 70% alcohol), 20% witch hazel, and 10% filtered water. You can also add essential oils for a fragrant boost. With a medium sized spray bottle, you can have on in the door of your van, or it doesn’t take up too much room on a table or in your living area.
We used this spray, exclusively, during the pandemic. We always had a spray nearby. Our hands were NEVER dry. The witch hazel keeps your hands soft and healthy. It was shocking to stay at a hotel or with some friends for a few days and realize how quickly, even soap, dries out one’s hands.
Dish and household cleaning
Also have a spray bottle of water and a spray bottle of 50% vinegar and 50% water. Both spray bottles can be used to easily clean dishes…. when finished with a meal, spray your dish and wipe it out with your napkin. The napkin will pick up any fats that are left on the plate and everything is easier to clean before it dries out and get caked on. The vinegar spray helps lift grease from any surface.
The water spray bottle also helps when it’s hot and you need a cool spray to keep you cool. A wet buff will help even further.
Amazon for the portable shower - a shower wherever and whenever you want.
DO NOT get a portable shower head with removable batteries… the batteries must be kept out of the water. (We learned this from a community shower at burning man.) Get a shower where the whole system is waterproof. When you’re craving a shower, any temperature water will do, however, you can warm water in the sun all day, and when you’re at peak sweaty in the summer heat, that sweet sweet water will rain down on you in a glorious shower.
Off grid shower wisdom: A full shower (shampooed hair and full body scrub/rinse) can be achieved with 1.5 gal, so anything more will be luxurious. You quickly learn to spray yourself off, turn off the shower, lather and scrub, then turn the shower back on to rinse.
3 gallon stackable water bottles
5 gallon water bottles weigh too much. These 3 gallon bottles are the right size to make moving them easy, and they also have a great handle and are stackable 3 high.
Electric water dispenser
A rechargeable water dispenser gives you running water in any location. We haven’t used one on the 3 gal bottles, so do some research and check it out. If you know that you’ll be using the dispenser for cooking, look for a product that allows you to hold a pot with two hands and still allows you to turn the water on and off.
Just google something like this:
Going to the bathroom
Toilet seat for 5-gallon bucket
**warning, very honest discussion on human excrement ahead**
Toilet solutions and back-ups
In rural camping, you dig a hole… camping, you have vault toilets, in other cases, an outhouse… in other circumstances, you may want to remain indoors while using the toilet, and this
Men may be used to peeing on a tree while on the go, and it can be a learning curve for women.
A female urinal funnel is great when you’re comfortable to go outside, or to pee in a bottle like a guy. Clean up is much easier. Squatting can be messy for a female. Ladies, do your research about which might suit you best. I do not recommend one that has retractable parts, because you end up touching it after you’ve used it. Ideally, you’d let it air dry and not seal in the moisture in a water tight bag, but without a watertight bag… I haven’t solved this yet, so google this yourself.
For vanlife, when you’re in an urban or populated environment, or a parking lot, and you need to use the bathroom at night, the easiest solution is a toilet lid for a five gallon bucket (under $20 total), lined with a garbage bag. You could go #1 and #2 in a bucket for a day or two, then you’d need to throw out the back because it gets very liquid-y… so it’s best to urinate into a bottle (to empty or dispose of later).
You’ll want to dispose of the bag when it gets heavy (lots of liquid) or it starts smelling. Adding hamster bedding (wood flakes), sawdust, or kitty littler will assist in odor control and will absorb any liquid.
A toilet lid on a five gallon bucket is the most easy, cost effective, and flexible solution. Another way to go is a portable toilet with a tank that you’d have to empty in a proper toilet. It mixes #1 and #2, so it makes it challenging to empty it in nature. It is also not very discreet, unlike the garbage bag that you pull from the bucket.
The deluxe solution is a composting toilet ($900+), which requires venting and an electric fan ($ and engineering). It will take more planning to make this work, but it is the most “civilized” solution for an off-grid bathroom.
Off grid and on your period
The best solution for period hygiene is the Mahina (https://www.mahinacup.com/our-story/) menstrual cup. Tampons result in non-biodegradable waste that you’ll have to dispose of in town, as will pads. Pads also mean that you’re using more toilet paper and wet wipes to clean up. The cup keeps everything orderly so you don’t even need to use wet wipes. Using the cup feels so clean compared to the alternatives. To clean the cup in an off-grid environment, I used about a gallon of water to rinse it over the full period.
I would have two bowls, each with a cup or two of water. I would take the cup out and rise and wipe the cup in the water for the first stage of clean. Then, I would use an alcohol spray (rubbing alcohol + witch hazel in a spray bottle, fill the bottle with 70% alcohol, 20% witch hazel and 10% distilled/filtered water) then finish rinsing/cleansing the cup in the other bowl.
Even if you use pads now, being off grid means being exposed to greater temperature swings than living mostly indoors in a city. Heat makes pads very uncomfortable.
Living off grid requires a reconsideration of food habits. How you think about it depends on whether you have a fridge (like this 12v fridge that can plug into the cigarette lighter of your vehicle) or a cooler. A cooler will lose its cool by day 3, even if it is a Yeti.
If you are doing vanlife as a road trip, through cities, food acquisition is much easier.
If you’re going truly off-grid, or off-road, more planning is required.
When most people think about living out of a pantry, on dry goods, without power, they think rice and beans. However, dry rice and beans take A LOT of propane/fuel to cook. If it’s hot outside, you do not want to be cooking something for an hour. Consider canned beans instead. Try different brands for each bean or veggie.
Cabbage, potatoes, garlic, and onions keep well without refrigeration. Making a kimchi out of green cabbage or a bag of kale keeps greens around longer, and keeps meals interesting.
If you’re stocking food for more than two months, store food in air-tight containers, like the clean vacuum seal containers from Oxo. If you have big bulk bags, like 5lbs of rice, use a quart ball jar as your “ready to use” container so you don’t have to keep going into a big bag that could be inconveniently stored. Also, add at least one food-grade desiccant packet, like these:
EcoFlow has a great all-in-one battery system with all plug types, and you can use mobile or fixed solar panels to charge it. We are able to charge all of our devices (two iPad Pro, 2 iPhones, a MacBook Pro, iWatches, mobile battery lights.
We have 3 folding solar panels that are daisy chained together to charge the battery.
We use this system on our boat to supplement the 2011 fixed solar/battery system that came on the boat.
Having a few small battery packs gives you flexibility on where to charge your devices, otherwise, they need to be plugged into the big battery.
A combo battery and light is great to illuminate any space you’re in, and we love the SCL10 from Nitecore.
Currently in progress
Premise and philosophy:
We, Rus and I, are on our 46’ sailing catamaran, and we’ve invited two friends to join us as we wail from Gulfport, FL to marathon key. We expect it to take 7 days, +/- 2 days.
I stocked up at an Asian grocery store and Aldi. My philosophy was to cook a pot of gluten-free grains each day, along with a vegan side dish, like grilled or sautéed veggies. I varied the spices of the side dishes each day, from black bean and garlic (Chinese) to simple olive oil and lemon, to warm Moroccan spices, to Thai.
Our friends are vegan, and they brought snacks and food, like hummus and almond Bitcoin’ sauce, along with bunches of apples and clementines. Breakfast and lunch were largely self directed. I would start making some sort of shared food in the afternoon, somewhere between 3 and 5 depending on how the sailing for the day was going and our hunger.
Dinner leftovers carried into lunch the following day.
I brought 3 dozen eggs on board, so we could have a hearty breakfast if we were heading out later in the day. Generally, we pulled anchor between 8 and 9 am and set anchor between 4 and 7pm. Sunrise was at 6:45am and sunset was at 6:45pm. The winds were light so our sails would generate up to 3 knots of speed, but we kept the engines idling (our starter wasn’t 100% so it was troublesome to restart the engine underway.)
Chrysanthemum green salad with chick peas
Black bean veggies: Snow peas, baby corn, and lotus root
Lunch: Grilled chicken, black bean, and avocado, mixed together and put in a naan or pita
Steam a whole bag of kale, all leftover become kimchi for later in the voyage.
Steamed kale + two large cloves of garlic, shredded, 1tbs soy sauce, 1 teaspoon Korean chili flake, 2 teaspoons sugar, three chopped green onions (this is vegan kimchi, for more umami, add 1/2 tbs fish sauce and reduce soy sauce by 1/2 tbs.
Grilled skirt steak
Grilled Italian chicken sausages
Lemony warm potato salad: Toss just-cooked potato pieces with a green (Chrysanthemum greens/ fresh spinach/ arugula) and dressing: lemon, olive oil, sesame seeds, teaspoon of sugar, salt to taste.
Chrysanthemum green salad with beets, shredded carrots, and goat cheese
Vegan Black bean and Szechwan peppercorn broccoli
Cooked separately: Grilled ribeye steak, marinated for 4 hours in Worcester sauce, garlic. 4
Steak omelette for breakfast, French press coffee
Leftover salad/rice from dinner the night before
Mushroom Quinoa - Dried mushrooms, garlic, onion, quinoa mix
Veggie Moroccan stew - Sautéd onion and cauliflower, 1/2 bag shredded carrots, can of garbanzo beams, 2/3 jar of roasted garlic tomato sauce. Smoked paprika, cumin, and a dash of cinnamon to taste.
Shredded cabbage with lime juice and salt to go on top
Ground turkey on the side, with the remaining 1/3 of the jar of tomato sauce… to be added to the stew for the carnivores.
Brunch: Oatmeal with nuts and apples
Dinner: Leftover Moroccan stew, leftover ribeye steak from Thursday
Fresh black rice
While it was wonderful to restart the newsletter least week, I have to admit that I still want to hide. I feel embarrassed. My life isn’t exactly perfect. (Spoiler alert: I’m a perfectionist to some degree.)
I feel embarrassed because I haven’t just picked something and stuck with it. I feel embarrassed because things keep changing, and when I share that we’re going to do this and then we do that, it feels like I didn’t follow through.
I also feel like hiding because I don’t feel like I’m a good person to be around. I’m not cheery all the time. Or rather, I’m not cheery very much at all. I put on a good face for a conversation, but it can be exhausting.
I don’t feel productive. I’m depressed. I don’t even go outside much.
My partner is also experiencing a lot of personal growth, but it’s been challenging. The lows were lows.
I’m sharing all this to acknowledge mental health. Undoubtedly, we all will feel some strange emotions as the world opens back up. It’s ok to have feelings. Feel them. COVID is a trauma that we all will carry with us through our entire life, like the Great Depression did for everyone who was alive during it. We know the kids are going to be different. We have to acknowledge that we are different.
All of this is to say that I am trepidatious about “catching up” with people. People I care about. I’m embarrassed. I go silent.
Talking about it publically, to the whole world, via this post is much easier for me than an individual conversation. Maybe it’s because I think that the other person might pick up on the fact that things aren’t perfect, and I’d have to explain myself. Or maybe I feel that the last year I haven’t accomplished anything. Stepping away from things as a form of self care is an accomplishment, but my heart doesn’t believe it yet. I’m beginning to acknowledge that this time is valid, as in, a valid use of my time.
Everything is on purpose. Or, I am exactly where I’m supposed to be. I don’t know what’s coming up, I can’t think much beyond next week.
What I DO know is that I’d like to start working part time, whether advising, or helping people build their personal websites, or consulting, or coaching startup founders. I look forward to speaking engagements again.
Thank you for listening.
BTW - I’m in St. Petersburg, Florida. If you find yourself around here, let me know.
I really like making websites. I also really like helping people discover and tell their stories, from the professional to the personal.
This website, that you are viewing right now, has served me for years. Having a website and being “discoverable” is crucial for professional and personal growth. Make it easy for the people who could want to work with you. List out your skills and experiences. Have links to what you’ve done. Put it all in one place, and link to it from all your other profiles.
What this package includes
What you’ll need to do:
Email me at emfoukes at gmail dot com.
It's been three years since I sent an email to my newsletter list.
When I started at Tesla, I stopped sending my weekly email of climate and tech events in the bay area.
Now that I've left Tesla, I thought it was fine time to restart.
What will this newsletter be now? I’m going back to my roots, where this weekly email was some news about energy and tech, then a list of events. Going forward, I start with energy and tech news and resources, then include something more ‘lifestyle’. For example, I have an off grid property in OR and I’m a foodie.
Please forward this email to anyone who could find it interesting and share whatever you like on social media.
To get started:
3 things from cleantech
To give a broader update: Much has changed.
Let's see... the past 3 yrs...
Priorities changed, so I...
With the new year:
I'm figuring out what's next, but my goal is relaxation and focusing on what matters. With all the change in the world, I’m sharing my story in case it can help anyone.
What the email used to be:
When I moved to the Bay Area, I didn't know many people so I went to interesting events to meet interesting people. I've been sending out an aggregated list of events in the Bay Area related to clean energy and technology for three years now. It's something I do in my "free time" so sometimes the formatting and notes are quite casual. Hope you enjoy it!
Below is my last post from April 12th, 2018:
"I joined Tesla's Leadership Development Program this week. It's a two year rotational program where I'll work on 6-month projects, eventually landing in a role where I can make the most impact to accelerate the world's transition to sustainable energy.
Me outside Tesla's Fremont factory on my second day at Tesla, in 2018.
It’s a custom 46’ Watercats sailing catamaran. It is 62’ tall and 24.5’ wide.
We picked it up in Freeport Florida, 3 hours inland from the gulf. It’s already been an adventure. This post is about all the pretty pictures. I’ll write more about the challenges later.
Yes, we’ve seen dolphins. They were swimming all around us.
We bought 150 acres in southern Oregon, on top of a mountain (technically a butte). We have views in every direction, including Mt. Shasta.
Our home perfectly frames Mt. Shasta.
A life bio/status update
As of May 2021, I am in St. Petersburg, Florida as our boat is being fixed up. We have a 46 foot sailing catamaran.
I am originally from Metro Detroit. Growing up, my dad was unemployed on and off from the time I was in 3rd grade. I know what financial insecurity feels like.
I funded undergraduate and graduate school for myself. I still have $100k of debt from it.
I worked at PG&E, a fortune 200 utility company in California, then briefly at a utility scale wind company. I was laid off and then I co-founded a startup, UtilityAPI. We built the product, grew the team, and funded the company. We raised private and public funding.
I was named a Forbes 30 under 30, I spoke at two White House events, and guest lectured at Stanford and Berkeley.
After 3 years it was time for something new and I consulted for a year, then joined Tesla's Leadership Development program. I had 6 bosses in the first 6 months. I ran a war room for Model 3 deliveries, tracked down vehicles and documented processes (or lack there of).
During end-of-quarter pressure, my husband sexually assaulted me. It was a tough time.
The leadership program was rotational, so I secured a new role in material flow engineering for the Shanghai Factory. The first week in the new job my boss for that role changed. After material flow, I joined inventory control. I am thankful to my bosses during that time.
I filed for divorce in June 2019. It was finalized later that year. I sold our condo.
In July 2019 I met Rus at Fly Ranch. We have been together ever since. We house sat for a few months and then settled into an apartment in Jack London Square in Oakland. I continued to work at Tesla.
I bought a Mazda Miata Convertible around Thanksgiving. He bought a van in February and worked on his tiny house on his property in Joshua Tree.
March: with the lockdown in sight, we decided to live #vanlife on this property and build tiny houses. I worked remotely. It was much better to be in a beautiful desert than in the anxiety-filled bay area. one month in, he dug a trench to run power and water to the property from the neighbor's house.
We were there for 2 months, then it became too hot. He also needed surgery in Los Angeles. He had sliced his left hand when cutting a bottle into a water bowl for some puppies we rescued in the desert.
After the surgery, we went back to Oakland, and social unrest started. Restaurants and businesses were boarded up, the Target was looted. The city I loved was unrecognizable. It didn't exist anymore. Covid fears and social unrest on top of it. It was too much. Why were we staying there? We stayed in the van around Sonoma for a few weeks, then returned to Oakland to pack our things up. Life was stressful to the point where I went on leave from Tesla. We dropped off most of our stuff in Joshua Tree, then headed to his parent's house in Phoenix.
My grandma died in May and we attended the memorial service in metro Detroit over the 4th of July weekend. My mom moved back in with my dad and brother.
We were there for 2 months, waiting for supplies to come in so we could really build out the van. It was over 115 degrees 90% of the days.
We found a property we liked in Oregon and bought it: 150 acres on a mountain top, with an off-grid home. Views in every direction. It had a metal exterior and reclaimed wood beams from a mill. We bought it sight unseen for $260k, less than anything in the bay area or even northern California.
When we arrived, visibility was under 200ft because of wildfires. We immediately had to go get the UTV we purchased because we couldn't get up our "driveway" with the van. We drove through just burned forests to get to bend for the UTV.
We settled into our place in Klamath Falls and I officially left Tesla in early December.
Rus and I married in December 2020.
The January 6 insurrection accelerated our plan to get a boat. We found the catamaran in February and closed on it in March. We hired a captain and flew to Pensacola, Florida to get it.
The captain sailed us into two storms. The main sail ripped and we lost an engine. Now, we're getting things repaired.
Professionally, I made my first angel investment and also spoke at an entrepreneurship event for the US State department.
The past year has been more challenging than what I can put into words right now. The world is suffering, and we feel that on the individual level in a myriad of ways. Depression is real. Mourning is real. I mourn the loss of the city I loved and the lifestyle I worked for. There are many more struggles that I have been through during this time, and I'm not ready to share them all. There were many dark days.
My husband sexually assaulted me on March 16th, 2019. Today marks the one year anniversary of my telling him that we were getting a divorce. It took me six weeks to convince myself and gather the courage to pursue divorce.
I described what happened to me to a therapist and she said it was physical and sexual assault. He attempted to force himself in me and he hit me when I resisted. After, he explained to me why it was my fault. I made him feel that he “was not a man”. A week later he hit Pepper, our dog. It’s sad that it took him hitting our dog for me to truly take action. The week in between, I tried to figure things out. One should never have to google “should I stay with my husband if he hit me?”.
With therapy, I can now say that he sexually assaulted me prior to March - he would push inside when I told him to wait, and it hurt. Because being intimate with him hurt. I’m sharing this because this is a type of sexual assault that is not often shared.
We were married for 5 years, 8 months and were together for 8. The previous 2-3 years were emotionally abusive.
For previous years, he diminished me in so many ways, including my femininity. He convinced me that his love was dependent on my weight, and that broke my mind. I could not process it. That’s not love. It’s not the kind of love I wanted. He even diminished my business decisions. He couldn't understand why my startup didn't have a successful exit in 2 years. Meanwile, he was making just above minimum wage as a journalist.
We went to couples counseling and he ignored the therapist’s feedback. We stopped going. We would talk about it again and again, and I felt carved out and in agony. He would stare at skinny young women and would deny it when I noticed. He took my confidence. I’ve reclaimed it now. I’m finally happy for the first time in years.
He decided to go to AA and to get a psych evaluation. He hoped for a bi-polar diagnosis, but the psychiatrist said he wasn’t, and in not so many words, said that he was just an asshole. That’s how Scott described it. I didn’t think it was the alcohol, but other things, such as self loathing and anger that surfaced when his inhibitions were lowered.
I told him I was going to file for divorce on May 5th and paperwork was filed on June 2nd. We agreed to our asset split in August, sold our condo in September, and the divorce was finalized on December 2nd. Scott Lucas is a journalist and editor at Buzzfeed.
All of this occurred while I worked at Tesla full time, supporting the Shanghai factory, inventory control, and pilot builds for Model Y. It was not easy. I'm thankful to the teams I was a part of for their understanding. Early on in the divorce process, I would stare at my screen and want nothing more than to crawl under my desk.
We've been living in Wonder Valley for 17 days now. I'm continuing to work at my day job, while helping build during breaks and in the evenings.
We've made tremendous progress, with Rus doing most of the heavy lifting.
We finished most of the exterior of the tiny house, and started sealing the untreated wood. We installed the doors and re-leveled them. We figured out how to rekey the locks in a very simple way. Very exciting.
The tiny house is 120 square feet, which allows it to be unpermitted. The footprint is 120 square feet and we've added 200 square feet of deck. The queen bed loft will also count as additional square footage for living space. The livable space is now larger than my first place I lived in San Francisco.
A week into staying here, we had our first shower at a campground in Joshua Tree. For us to stay here more than a week, I asked for running water and our own place to plug electronics in. Up to this point, we were going to our neighbor's house to fill up water jugs and charge what we needed. With this request, we asked our neighbor if we could run a hose and an extension cord, and they agreed to it. It'll be minimal use, but if there is a noticeable different in their electricity bill, we'll chip in. They have a well and can draw unlimited water.
We stay away from the news, though I scroll through Twitter frequently. My Twitter feed is informative, and also uplifting. It keeps me updated on what is happening in the Bay Area, Tech, and Clean Energy. My Twitter is also diverse.
I've been becoming more relaxed out here. It's an hour-by-hour experience. I'm finding a new role in my day job which will use more of my skillset. The journey has been up and down because the business is cutting operational costs where they can to extend the cash runway.
Six months ago, I wanted to check out of work and society. In March 2019 my then husband sexually assaulted me. A week later he hit our dog. It's sad that it took him hitting our dog for me to make the final decision on divorce. Once should never have to google "should I stay with my husband even though he sexually assaulted and hit me?"
I told him I was going to file for divorce on May 5th and paperwork was filed on June 2nd. We agreed to our asset split in August, sold our condo in September, and the divorce was finalized on December 2nd.
We were married for 5 years, 8 months and were together for 8. The previous 2-3 years were emotionally abusive. He couldn't understand why my startup didn't have a successful starting in 2 years. His love was dependent on my weight.
All that being said, a break would be nice. Now here we are sheltering in place with Covid-19. I'm staying on pretty undeveloped land in Wonder Valley, 5min from the Eastern entrance to Joshua Tree National Park. It's beautiful here. The weather is sunny to puffy clouds, with highs around 70 and lows around 45.
The desert is quiet and healing. We've been busy working on building this place out and there will be more healing as we settle in here.
Until next time,
These posts compliment my weekly newsletter: