Farming and Living Off-the-Grid

(Handsome) son Henry with his array
(Handsome) son Henry with his array

I’m 64 years old. A few years back–I don’t even remember what the “new” thing was…something about my Ipad perhaps?–I recall saying to my son Henry, “I don’t like learning new things.” Somehow, when you get a little older, you seem to want things easy, smooth, predictable, and with little chance of triggering anxiety. Any of you “older” folks able to relate to that? Or, maybe, it’s just an extension of my temperament, that desire to have everything under control at all times.

So, this said, why the heck did we go solar? And, beyond grid-tied solar, why did we go “cut the ties with the power company” battery-stored solar? On sunny days–I call them “wash lots of clothes, vacuum, and run the food dehydrator” days–I don’t ask myself this question. The state of charge of the batteries gets up to 100% before noon, and I shift into a get-er-done/use that sun mode and wash, vacuum, bake, dehydrate to my heart’s content.

But, today was cloudy and rainy and the weather forecast says we’re going to have more days of the same. The state of charge was only somewhere in the 60% range when I was last down to check and every once in awhile I open the door to hear if the generator is kicking in, as programmed, when we get down to 50%. Yes, it’s a bit stressful yet. We are still new to the off-the-grid life, haven’t gotten the well guy to come and install the new “soft-start” pump I bought, and we’re watchful that the system doesn’t throw a fault because the generator (impacted by the high demand of the well when it goes on to meet the needs of drinking livestock) provides excess power.

We had a “situation” last weekend. We had a contingent of delightful Islamic Indian folks here on the farm celebrating a festival–which meant using more lights than usual and a meat saw in the garage–and suddenly the place went black. We had overdrawn the power and the power center shut off to protect the batteries, since the generator didn’t kick in as it should have. The good learning experience for me was that the power center is ready to protect the batteries. Everything was worked out.

I’m confident that we’ll work out the kinks. But, still, the question remains…..why did I do this? Subject myself to learning a new way of thinking about power usage (friend Roger Bertsch said, “You have to realize that you’re your own power company now, Bonnie”) when I’m at a time in my ife when I just want everything to be mellow?

Because it’s just so gratifying to be producing our own power almost all of the time. To think that we are pumping the water for the animals and humans, electrifying the fences, cooking the food, dehydrating the food, keeping food frozen or refridgerated, running this computer, on the power of the sun! I’m willing to adapt on cloudy days, to worry a bit as we get the last kinks worked out in the system. I’m willing….yes, I’m willing….to learn new things!

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