Monday, June 21, 2010

The Reality of being off the grid

Friday, January 15, 2010

The reality of being off the grid

As you know, we live off the grid. By off the grid I mean that we are not hooked up to the power lines - no power grid electricity. This was not exactly on purpose! My husband and I had talked about going solar, being off-grid for years, but never seriously. We loved the thought of the independence, but wanted to have it all. We wanted the perfect system, set up so that we would not have to change our lifestyle at all. We wanted to be the ones that everyone flocked to when the power was out, because we had it so together. Ha! That is not at all how it worked out.

10 years ago, my husband and I decided to sell our beautiful home (with the big mortgage) and buy bare land. Our romantic dream was to build a shop, live in it for a year, then build a log house. We had a budget, a plan, a dream. We bought the land. It was perfect. 1/2 hay fields, 1/2 large timber, a year around creek, backed up to a large state park, surrounded by large, empty tracts of farmland. We hired a friend to punch in a road, put in a pad to build a shop and level out an area for the future house. Then reality hit! We had a well drilled, 465 feet - only a pocket of water that was pumped out. It only produced 1 gallon of water a minute! We were sick. We had to have water, so we had another well drilled. We hit water this time - a lot of it, and only had to go 435 feet. Right off the bat, our budget was shot! Next, we paid someone from the power company to come out and give us a quote for power, which was only 750 feet away. When my husband called to tell me what the quote was, I started hysterically laughing! When I stopped laughing I said "well, I guess we live off-grid now!"

For the first year and a half, we had no power. We did have a generator so that we could pump water into our pressure tank. For the first 6 months we didn't have running water, a flushing toilet (that happened at about 1 year) or a washing machine. I did laundry in a washtub on the top of our wood cookstove. I would start with the darks in cold water and move quickly to the whites. You wouldn't believe how fast 5 gallons of water heats up over the fire box! I didn't have a wringer, so I would wring the clothes out over the bathtub with my hands. I was amazing how much water I didn't get out! I had a number of wooden clothes racks that I would put in front of and behind the wood cookstove, to dry the clothes. It took about 3 days, and we had puddles of water on the floor constantly. Finally my husband hooked up our washing machine! I am positive that is one of mans greatest inventions!!!!  My husband also came up with the cleverest clothes dryer. He built it in about 15 minutes, and hung it with a pulley from our roof, over the cookstove!!! My clothes now dry in about 6 hours!

Eldest daughter is hanging clean laundry. Our dryer holds about 2 1/2 loads. It is always tucked nicely out of our way!

Every step of the journey of our being off-grid has been a learning experience. We never did built that log house. After about 6 years of running only on generator power, we bought a wind turbine. It was small, made a lot of noise, and didn't produce much power. Its blades were made out of carbon fiber. We had an electrical storm it surged and burned, I mean with flames and everything, our inverter! Out went the turbine. Next we bought two small (75 watt) solar panels. It was cute, but did little to charge our HUGE batteries. A year and a half ago, we took the plunge, and bought 2150 watts of solar panels off of craigslist. It changed our world. We did not run our generator from May through October! My husband wired two inverters together to run our 220 well pump. I can do laundry without starting the generator!!!! We can flush the toilet any time we want!!!! (Although we still can't get the kids to flush!) We can take showers and baths without having to go out in the howling wind to start the generator.

People tell us that we are living the dream. My husband and I exchange knowing glances. Little do they realize we have been without lights, woken up in a 42 degree house, dealt with frozen or broken pipes until 3 in the afternoon, foregoing school and every other chore, worked on generators when it is -10 with a 24 mph wind, chopped two foot thick ice in the stock tanks, milked a cow in the pouring rain while up to our knees in mud, shoveled a 750 foot driveway that has been drifted in. We are living the dream, but it is not the romantic dream we originally had planned. It is the get tough dream. It is the realization that we can do anything! We can and will survive whatever this world, economy and government can throw at us. We have learned that our battles are won on our knees. We have learned that God, not us, is in control. We have learned that we are responsible for us, that things worth having are worth working and waiting for. We have learned contentment.

And yes, we do live the dream. Just look at what we see out our windows.....

1 comment:

  1. Save the Canning JarsJuly 5, 2010 at 3:59 PM

    Your family is an inspiration to those of us who are energy addicted and getting a constant fix.
    I've got a lot to learn. Thank you so much for sharing.