Living Off Grid

A fierce, and unusual storm blew through the mountain town where I do business.
I moved from there out to the country, 45 miles away, a couple years ago when I was evicted from the last affordable apartment. Actually, I refuse to afford what is in the offing anymore, especially when the land and cabin I own are bought and paid for thanks to money my mother left me.
I keep in touch with friends and local happenings through social media sites such as facebook.
After the storm, with its hurricane force winds of 74 mph many large trees were left toppled and so were power lines. Much of the grid went down in a town of 70,000+. This, of course was the main clamor of the morning’s posts.
It took three days for clean up crews to restore everyone’s power, and of course by then most everyone had grown weary of lighting candles rather than walking into a room and flicking a switch for light. We Americans are ever so spoiled.
A major power sub-station was hit by lightning in the country a few nights later, and everyone’s power was out here too.
Having lived this way a couple years, off grid just part of my routine, I realize how unaffected I am by power outages. “Is your power out across the valley?” One friends texts. “No, my power doesn’t go out but with the sunset and only then after having drained my two deep cell storage batteries. I’m so conservative anymore, that’s never happened .”
Outages of all kinds may be a wave of the future in an overpopulated world with already taxed grid, water, and ecosystems.
I never pictured myself living this off grid life. It was a matter of necessity, but it’s become mighty convenient and sustainable. It goads me to be responsible and resourceful.
A series of blog posts will show you how I do it, and how you can too.

Electrify Me
This is my power box. I have a very basic and simple system, but then I’m living in a one room shack that measures 77 square feet. This system can be adapted to any size house by adding more solar panels and more batteries to your block of storage.

The silver box on bottom brings (dc/direct current) power direct from the solar panel. It is wired to the two batteries outside which allow some residual storage of sun power. You see, I can charge my electronic devices: tablet, phone, etc. with a cigarette lighter plug in.

The box on top is also wired to the storage batteries. This is a transformer which takes the solar energy stored in the batteries and switches the current from dc/direct current to ac/alternating current) and allows me to plug in a number of things: computer, Ipod stereo, small battery chargers for power tools, and motorcycle. I have limited power use of a printer and even a sewing machine. The dust buster blows the fuse.

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This is the battery block. Sun power can be stored in here so the cabin can be electrified past sunset. I keep them off the ground so they don’t drain. And in winter when it gets dark at 4:30 p.m. and I need just that many more hours of light to read and write by, I attach the tractor battery which feeds it a charge as well.

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This is the small set of three solar panels. They can be found for sale on line but these were purchased at Harbor Freight along with the two power boxes. With a coupon it’s a pretty good deal. I’ve begun installing a kit on each of my out buildings. This simple system makes a great backup for your grid systems in emergency situations. And I gotta thank this guy for his assistance with my installation. 

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I don’t even notice when the power goes out. My lights don’t go off, I don’t lose copius amounts of food in the thawing freezer, I can still cook dinner, listen to my radio, grind coffee beans, get hot water, and the only light for the toilet comes from the moon and the stars anyway.
Next week: Making a Good Cup of Off Grid Coffee

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Gratitude

me and dames rocket

My friend Amy Martin has a website; amymartin.org. On it the other day she responded to a long time admirer who was commending her for her success on raising funds thru crowdsourcing etc. Staright Talk About Funding was the name of the post.

Tho I can’t agree on some of the ways Amy gets some of her funding – flat out asking for it, hell, I never know where I’m gonna be tomorrow, and I could ask you to fund a certain thing, you might, and then life would throw me another curve ball and I’d be off and running in some other direction after some other pretty shiny object…artists…meh!

I do have a consistent source of income; my intimate 60 or so subscribers to a Garden/Farming/Off Grid Living newsletter Earth Nurture $15. per year, 4 quarterly issues,  I have self published for 18 years now. Even this last issue, it was finished, sitting in the laptop, ready, and I could not afford to print and mail it to those who had subscribed and finally figured how to email it as a pdf file to half of them…hand delivered to another handful. Their subscription monies already spent on gasoline or Verizon…

This is primarily the method I use to fund my bare bones operations – whining about it. BLESS the supporters who throw in $5 or $10 extra to espouse the brand of what I’m layin’ down; whatever it be: Lavender, gardening, the written word. Without them, I would be nothing.

Anyway, Amy goes on to say how she’s always living on the edge but constantly re-inventing herself, and always giving what she’s got, because its her life mission, it’s just what you do, man. And it got me to thinking about my own edge, my own reinvention…

You’ll have to read her post to get the nuances, but this was my reply to how she answered this admirer. She wrote me back, saying that my answer was a beautiful poem. But it just is what it is. Being as how April is National Poetry Month, I’ll put it for you here.

I, too, am always grateful;

For buskers (one of the favorite places I see Amy, busking with Caroline and Shell on Higgins Ave sultry summer nights)

For the extra dollars folded back up in my hand by the customer when I try to give them change,

For an up-cycled topper on my truck that on more than one occasion has provided sleeping quarters,

Grateful I didn’t ever quite need to throw out a bedroll on the banks of the Clark fork under a bridge,

For a generous and supportive community,

And a selfless and encouraging new man,

And for the opportunity to give of myself.