Sustainable Energy on a Homestead

I know we are taking too much.  You know we are taking too much.  We know its a finite resource.  We all know the damage we are doing.  Part of the heart of homesteading is caring for the earth.  Knowing that it provides for us and we give back to it.  It is being in the natural world with the birds singing and less sound pollution.  It is the earth between our fingers and perennials that feed the bees.  It is a respect for natural order and weather patterns.  It is about using less (but getting back more!) and making sure our grandchildren have a place to run through fields of wildflowers and drink fresh water.

It is so much easier to not think about it.  But homesteaders don’t shield their eyes to reality.  We know where the red dyed meat in the styrofoam packing comes from.  We know that the oil fields and their destruction are fueling our cars.  We know how much petroleum is used to truck in nectarines from Peru in January.

20190621_065050

I love my wood stove.  It is a requirement for me on a homestead.  Wood is carbon neutral.  It quickly heats the house, makes the air smell amazing, and creates a beautiful cozy glow.  We have many downed branches and friends with downed branches so we haven’t had to buy wood.  (I was also a smidgen lazy this last winter.)  When our only heat source was wood in a homestead long ago, we used three cords and still had some in spring.  A cord is 4 ft x 8 ft x 4 ft wide.  Beware paying too much and only getting a face cord, which is 4 ft x 8 ft x 16 inches.

20190621_065203

We take Grandpa’s newspapers and get them from places that are about to throw them out.  Junk mail can be used as starter.  My go-to is small, dry pine pieces and pine cones to start a fire.  I am not as good as Doug at starting a fire and have the patience of a squirrel so I really pile up the kindling to make sure it starts.  The pine cones with the cinnamon scent that you can get over the holidays are the best.

Blessed summer has finally arrived, cool and slow, but warm indeed and I no longer need to make a fire.  But I do need to manipulate the cool nights and hot days to keep from running the air conditioning.  Open windows wide at night to let the cool air in.  Grow more trees around the house.  I despise curtains, so I don’t use those but they will keep it cooler/warmer.

When purchasing a new item, see if you can get one that is manual.  There are manual grain grinders, blenders, food processors, graters, and more.  You get a workout and save some electricity.  Purchase well made appliances that use less energy.  Unplug anything with an LED light.  Those buggers just keep sucking energy.  I didn’t like the television anyway.

20190621_065246

We invested in solar panels.  I cannot even say it was an investment because there was no money down and we pay the same amount we paid our electric company.  It is a no brainer.  We are providing one hundred percent of our own electricity here on our urban homestead.

Well, that wraps up day 14 of “So You Want to Be a Homesteader.”  Happy Solstice and enjoy the longest day of the year!

 

Our Farmstead Goes Solar

1002040_787090387984418_1270360703_n

Our farm began in an old house on two-thirds of an acre backing to the fairgrounds in a small, country town that will remain beloved to us for all time.  There on our rented mini-farm we watched goats, chickens, alpacas, and ducks play in the back yard, grew so many pumpkins in the front yard that people speeding down the street slammed on their brakes to take a better look, and we farmed the rest of the driveway.  We fell in love with oil lamps in that house.  The sweet glow of old fashioned light as we read in the evenings.  The gentle tick-tocking from the cuckoo clock on the wall letting us know the time as the stars came out and the moon rose.

img_0505

The landlords were losing the house but we found an amazing farm on ten acres where we would live in a late eighteen-hundred’s homestead on the property near the owner’s own house.  We had a wood cook stove to heat the house and cook on.  For a few months in the warm autumn of that year the world looked enchanted indeed.  We plotted a large garden, and gathered three cords of wood.  The chickens and goats were far from the house and we missed seeing them.  That winter we mastered the art of starting a fire while the house was thirty-seven degrees.  We quickly realized that the small firebox was not going to help and put in a large wood stove with our own money.  Of course, many of you know the ending of that dreadful tale.  We were forced to leave after putting every penny into that farm.

Jpeg

So from friend’s house to friend’s house we went until we had enough saved to get into a beautiful, decidedly on-grid apartment.  That year was fun using a switch to turn on the fireplace, turning the heat up, basking in a large tub.  But the cement gets to a Farmgirl and it was time to see what was next.  Agricultural land was out of the question with the loan we qualified for.

20180719_074802

We found our homestead on the south side of a big-small town.  It’s big, but everywhere you go you see folks you know and I have never met friendlier people than here in Pueblo.  One third of an acre, an adobe shed with seven foot fencing made a fine chicken yard, wood floors for easy cleanup on what we knew would be our urban farm, and a wood stove held prominent position in the main room.  A root cellar holds hundreds of jars and the climate here allows for prolific gardening.  And dreaming.

The large grandfather clock keeps time, ticking regally and alerting us to each quarter hour and moon cycle.  The wood stove heats the house well, save for the back bedrooms.  We are constantly looking for ways to increase our sustainability.  How can we use less?  How can we spend less?  How can we show the beautiful earth that we are grateful?  And in return for our simplicity we find a peaceful existence of health and quiet joy.

20190117_095643

In the city, it is nearly impossible to be off the grid.  One can easily find one’s home condemned if attempted.  Composting toilets are against code.  City water is a given.  But there are still things we can do.  For us, the next step was solar power.  On that first farm, it would have been impossibly expensive (particularly for a rented home), but here on our very own home and in this time, it is absolutely practical and affordable. In fact, it cost us nothing.

20190117_094009

The solar company comes out and surveys your property, sees about light hitting the roof, and local zoning.  With a credit score of 650+ you get a loan for the amount of the solar panels, which was about $10,000.  $3000 is rebated back to you on your taxes.  We put nothing down.  The loan amount is the very same that we pay for electric every month so there is no change for us.  My neighbor’s electric bill is three times higher than ours, so she would save much, much more.  We pay a slight $8 charge to our utility company to “manage” our electricity.  Once the panels are paid off, we only pay the $8.  Our home value goes up as well.  The solar panels are flat against the roof and hardly noticeable at all.

20190117_102221

I have written many times how all of us really need to use less.  Wind energy is so destructive.  Obviously the power we have been creating with fracking and coal is detrimental.  Solar panels never decompose.  We can’t keep going on about the government and big oil.  We cannot stand around with our “Save the Earth” signs and not do something ourselves.  Solar was a great way for us to use considerably less resources, save thousands of trees, the equivalent of taking thousands of cars off the road, and using Father Sun for our power “needs.”  (I guess refrigeration and internet are fun.)  And it is completely accessible.

20190117_112006

If you are in Colorado, call Peak View Solar.  Everyone was so friendly and easy to work with.  Elisa Harrelson, 719-387-7232.  They have a referral program so mention us when you call!  It will help me get my greenhouse going!

Other things you can do to help save resources:

Eliminate animal products from your diet.

Grow a huge garden, community garden, or support local farmers.

Buy organic.

Drive less- get a bicycle!

Don’t buy crap. You know you don’t need that.  Put it back and save the money for seeds!

A wood stove is carbon neutral.

Preserve your own food.

Go for a walk.  The more you are in nature, the more inclined you will be to not hurt her.

Be grateful for life.  Indeed we are lucky to be alive this day.  Happy farming!

Electric Items We Could Live Without (but don’t…yet)

oil well

A few days ago I mentioned what electric devices we do not use and don’t miss.  Electricity is tricky.  See, it seemed like a blessing upon its discovery and I am sure in many ways it was, but not without a hefty price.  Electricity and oil, resources that cannot be replaced, have become such a huge part of our world that no one wants to give them up.  We have billions of car parts that will never decompose.  They use tons of oil and gas and have the ability to maim and kill.  Of course, I don’t particularly want to walk to the next town over (seven miles on a highway) but I seem to be without a horse and carriage as well.  Electricity becomes such a constant factor that we only become aware of it the few times it goes out and we then realize (horrified) that we cannot make coffee!  Pollution, fracking, it is all a bit much so that we can turn on a light at 1 am.

wind turbineThe larger electric companies, like the one that serves Denver, is creating huge grids of solar panels and they have a large wind turbine farm an hour east of here.  I used to cheer and carry on with joy about it.  Except those are not perfect forms either.  Disposable solar panels, batteries that never decompose, and wind turbines that take out thousands of bats and migratory birds every year.  They would have to use so many of these forms because none of us want to give up an ounce of our electricity.  We should be educating people of another option.  Gasp.  Use less.  Ok, someone help me down off of this pulpit.

solar

I could go completely off grid.  Prairie style all the way.  Doug would be searching for a cellphone signal around the tiny cabin and probably catch a taxi.  We have to make compromises.  If we did get a little solar power, a small one we could keep the few things that we enjoy.  It would certainly be a smaller footprint than how the large companies are doing it and we could be more self sufficient.  Here’s a few things that we could give up, may give up, but haven’t yet.

tv

1. The Television.  We watch precisely three television shows a year.  Sometimes less if we get bored.  This does not include Bronco football games.  We watch American Idol, The Voice, and So You Think You Can Dance.  We both missed our chance at Divadom and though we can sing at Rodney’s house on his karaoke system and sing to the chickens (they rather enjoy that), we like to see what others out there are doing with their voices and dance skills.  It also keeps us from getting terribly bored and wandering out to eat.  Perhaps when all the kids move out completely we can think of other things to do.  Ahem…

grinder

2. The Coffee Grinder. I can indeed sit there for a half hour contemplating the universe while grinding coffee by the early morning light of dawn.  But the quick buzzing thing does it in twenty seconds!  I’ll work on it.

keyboard

3. The Computer. Not bloody likely, my husband would say.  He needs wifi like he needs morning coffee.  I could be happy writing this at the library.

IMG_0454

4. The Music ChannelAlong the lines of getting rid of the television (or could we keep it just for movies?), there would also go my music stations.  I could pick up the piano again, or the fiddle, or listen to Doug play the mandolin.  We could start a band, or just sit on the porch with cold beers and entertain the neighbors.  We could make mountain music.  We could hum to ourselves.  We could make our own music.

wood stove

5. The Stove I want a wood cook stove so bad I could cry.  I would love to be able to heat the house and cook up some biscuits and eggs all in the same place.  I know that after cooking on a gas stove for many years I would miss the quick kettle heat up, the fast soup heat up.  I would need a summer kitchen in order to stand cooking indoors.  Oh wait, I need that anyway!

freezer

6.The RefrigeratorAnd the last thing that requires electricity is the refrigerator and freezer.  I would need a darn good root cellar and a cold creek to get away with that one.  Let me think that one over.

There are many ways that we can lessen our use of electricity.  A potato masher instead of an immersion blender, turn off the lights when not in use, give up the curling iron (you look great), unplug chargers and turn off power strips when not in use.  All those invisible currents are still pulsing out.  These things not only save us money (that we can spend on seeds) but helps out the planet.  Even if it doesn’t feel like a lot now, in a few generations it will, because everything we do has a trickle down effect.

The Hundred Acre Farm

k1485477

The front door faces east and the heavy, double wood doors, carved and old, look out and greet the sunshine as it rises over the horizon and starts the day.  To get to the front door, walk through the adobe courtyard filled with spring flowers and the occasional sleeping cat with seating to enjoy a cup of coffee as the sun comes up.

Inside the house is a mere five hundred square feet, a sentiment of a home, but filled with warmth and color, antiques, and memories and cats.  When one walks through the front doors they are facing the large wood cookstove on the far wall.  It has a Dutch oven of beans simmering, a ladle offering visitors or hungry farmers a bite.  The large room is not separated so the heat in the winter can keep the whole house cozy and warm.  The shelves surrounding the wood stove hold plates and cups, bowls, a vase filled with silverware, and glass jars of pantry staples and spices, a few well used cast iron pots sit on the stove.  A tall farm table with a butcher’s block on top stands by the stove to hold a mixing bowl of something, or to offer its surface for rolling out dough.  The deep farm sink sits on the other side of the stove.  A door by the sink leads to a pantry behind the wood stove that enters onto the back porch.  It has shelves laden with glittering jars of put up produce, sacks of grain, and stairs to get under the house where a root cellar awaits.

The chairs are deep and comfortable and one may put their feet up and read a book or relax or have a spot of tea while they visit.  The seating huddles around the fireplace.  Bright Americana paintings cheer the walls and warm crocheted blankets and home-sewn quilts grace the chairs. In the corner you will find an armoire with a hidden television used only for sporting events or movies and a laptop for computer work and online business.  It is kept out of sight as its ugly screens do take away from the sweetness of the house.  The chairs face south, looking out the large picture windows.

On the right side of the house (the north side), close to the kitchen, is a door to the screened porch where little beds are lined up for visiting grandbabies or for those nights that one desires a cool breeze and a screen shot of stars that sing you to sleep.  Another door on the north wall leads to a composting toilet of amazing skill that leaves you a place for a moment of peace.  I cannot recall where the bathtub was, but it is likely near a fireplace.

A small staircase leads you above the kitchen to the loft.  The staircase is necessary so the cats can get to bed.  A bed is kept ever so snug above the fireplace and can look out the window above the front door to catch the first glimpses of dawn.

k5511046

The rooster is crowing and ladies want out of their coop to run about the farm.  The goats are figuring ways to escape the barn, the sheep are looking after their young, the alpacas are looking for attention and a bit of roaming.  The woods around the lake are dancing with activity as ducks and geese watch their reflections in the pond, squirrels jump to and fro, and birds sing their songs of joy and busy-ness.  Bees from the hive are ducking into each new spring flower and the gardens are ready to be planted.

You can look out over the whole 100 acres.  “Hundred Acre Farm” is the nickname for this place after the “Hundred Acre Wood” where Pooh lives under the name of Sanders; which is of course, our last name.  So, fitting.  Really it will be called “Cuddlewell Mission”.  And though it only exists in my mind at the moment, I know that if I write out my dreams, then the universe has a better idea of how to put it together!  I tried to be as detailed as possible!  But of course, there are many variations that would be perfect.  Doug and I will have to agree on many things and I am sure that when we see the homestead, we will know.

Now dear friends out there, your input please: Where is the best place to homestead in your opinion and why?