Jilly D.

Cold enough?

In Off-The-Grid Memoir, The Farm, Time and seasons, Uncategorized on January 26, 2014 at 1:19 pm

Mixed with milk and sugar, hand-cranked fresh-ground coffee welcomes our day. From the table we can see out the floor to ceiling windows and watch the passing of seasons. Sitting and sipping coffee, the day’s plans unfold between us.

When darkness lifts, the work begins. In winter, the chores involve bringing wood in, feeding and watering the barn animals, walking the dogs, feeding the cat and keeping the fires going, then cooking and baking and tending the coals. In between chores you can catch stretches of daylight hours to accomplish one or more items from a very long honey-do list.

Sam gets dressed in the morning to go out in the cold and he climbs up on the roof to sweep the snow off the solar panel banks. As soon as there is morning light, snow has to be cleared or the photovoltaics will not generate power. They don’t require direct sunlight to make electricity, but they do need light. The brightness of a fresh snow can boost up the power as long as the solar panels are directly exposed.On Warren Pond Farm

The bank of panels on the wood shed is on a roof facing mostly to the east catching the early daylight hours. This second bank faces south and catches the rays from mid-morning to sunset. With 25 year warranties none of the panels have gone bad. One broke in a bad windstorm when it was torn off the roof. More than one fell off, but only one broke. Not bad for 10 years.

Going green is simple but it isn’t always easy. Getting up and going out first thing in the bitter cold morning is one of the prices to pay. The snow removed from the solar panels and the wood box full with dry tinder; Sam never complains about these early morning chores despite January blues.

“Want another cup of coffee?” I ask as Sam comes in to shake off the morning snow and cold. Purely rhetorical; the real question is whether there is any home-brewed left.

For some the price of living off-the-grid is too high. Making real choices between keeping the electric fence on or running the lights late into the night or between watching television or keeping the freezer running are unnecessary inconveniences to modern folk. Can I find a hairdo that doesn’t require any care beyond a once-a-week shampoo? The curling iron, the blow dryer, the bathroom fan, the machine-dried towels, and the thousands of gallons of hot water for daily showers are things I can live without. Can’t watch TV? I can read by oil lamp and it’s more romantic. Dump the CuisinArt for a wooden spoon. For me, it seems sheer luxury.

Just before the sun rises I wake. Deciding between darkness and light exactly how my day will play out; my hopes and dreams belong to the preconscious moment.

It’s in those early moments of day when life surprises me. The blue heron who decides this morning to catch a fish and eat it within 20 feet of me. A small herd of Whitetail deer prance around the pond taking a morning sip and exercise their fawns in the drifts on the alfalfa field. On snowy mornings the critters leave their tracks for deciphering. Mink, bear, possum, pheasant, mice, fox, skunks, chipmunks, raccoons, bobcats, and coyotes leave their prints.

Weather predictions are most accurate when made early in the morning after your skin feels the temperature, wind speed and humidity levels. When your future depends more on climate than stock reports or sports scores, those first moments of morning are important to making a schedule for the day. You can foretell much from those first moments awake. If there is dew on the ground, then there will be no rain today. Plan accordingly.

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