Recently I took a formal poll (ok, it was just my friends and family but that still counts) on what they think people would like to discover about the Wonderful World of Off Grid Living. The responses were an interesting assortment of ideas, most of which I couldn’t use because they just wanted to read about all the funny disaster stories (mine), some of which have nothing to do with living off grid. (I seem to have plenty of those kinds of stories no matter where I live, off grid or not. Tsk.) These helpful people helpfully remarked, “We don’t want to hear any technical, boring details of how to do off grid. We want to read about your hilarious wrecks!” Well, harrumph. I can’t help it if I am disaster prone. So much so that my husband has had to redo some things around here to make them “Penny Proof”. Har, har, har. Anyway, just to show those smart alecs (who I was hoping would give me some GOOD ideas) that I am interested in keeping everybody happy, I’m going to do A Day in the Life Off Grid. With no wrecks. So there. Nyah.
This is a day in the life off grid, in our particular situation, on top of a mountain, in Montana, where it’s cold and we have lots and lots of lovely, beautiful snow (gack). My winter ‘day in the life’ is WAY different than my summer ‘day in the life’. In the summer I am deliriously happy. In the winter I’m a little crabby. Just sayin’.
- 4:15 – Drag butt out of warm bed. Trip over excited dogs. Start fire (in wood stove). Make coffee, breakfast and husband’s lunch. Send him on his way with a kiss and a pat on the hindquarters.
- 5:15 – Flush toilet, power goes off. Stumble down garage stairs in the dark to generator. Try to start generator. Discover that it has no gas. Fill with gas. Spill everywhere. Start generator. Let run for 30 minutes while changing gas-soaked jammies. Get on computer, checking messages on Facebook, putting electricity to good use. Check weather. Curse imminent snow.
- 5:45 – Put wood on fire, stick burning log that has rolled out of stove onto wood floor back IN stove, put salve on blisters.
- 6:00 – Eat breakfast, clean kitchen. Realize you have no water left. Realize you have to go get water today. Go back to bed.
- 7:30 – See that it is snowing, a LOT. Wonder who in the HELL is praying for more snow. Vow to find them and beat them senseless. Put more wood in stove. Bring wood into house from garage wood bin. Pick out evil, mitochondria-sized splinters. Scream and do freaked out spider dance when discovering granddaddy long leg on shoulder.
- 8:00 – Feed dogs, let them all out, pray there isn’t a hungry mountain lion in vicinity.
- 8:15 – Get dressed for going outside. Decide that putting coveralls on over warm jammies is totally understandable. Who’s gonna know?
- 8:30 – Realize you have to go pee. Sigh….
- 9:00 – Now that you’re all dressed, AGAIN, put more wood in stove, shut down wood stove so house won’t burn down. Shovel off 3 porches, solar panels and truck. Feed and water frozen chickens. Fight off mean rooster. Give frozen solid eggs to dogs to play with. Feel sorry for them (the chickens, not the dogs).
- 9:30 – Get gun. Fill back of truck with water-getting paraphernalia complete with shovel and ice-breaking tools. Start to drive down to spring. Realize that snow is too deep to get through. Realize with sickening thud you have to plow first. Drive back to house. Mutter a lot. Rain curses down on the person who made up the “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!” song.
- 10:00 – Walk down to barn, get tractor, plow out of barn, drive to house, fill tractor with gas. Oops! I mean diesel! Phew! That was close! Rest for few minutes after contemplating what husband would have done to you if you’d put gas in the tractor. Laugh nervously.
- 10:30 – Wonder if you remembered to shut down wood stove. Go back in house and check. Have a quick snack.
- 10:45 – Plow 1/4th mile to spring. Since it’s windy and snowing, stop a thousand times to wipe blowing snow off windshields. Sweat and grumble profusely. Tear off hat and scarf and throw into snow. Watch dogs run off with them.
- 11:00 – Look at pretty view while plowing. Almost run off road. Wonder how many people have had heart attacks while plowing.
- 1:00 – Drive back to house, proud of job well done. See that fire is dead. Start over. Eat lunch. Feel sleepy. Resist urge to take nap.
- 2:00 – Drive truck to spring, shovel into spring house, pray water pump works. Look for bears. Look for dogs. Watch as lovely brown water fills up tank. Feel glee. Drive back home up scary, icy hill, hyperventilating whole way. Quickly put water into house tank before all hoses freeze. Fish ice chunks out of tank with bare hands. Wonder why hands don’t work. Put everything away per husband’s (anal) explicit instructions.
- 3:00 – More wood in stove. Realize wood bin in garage is low. Remember that snow and really cold temperatures are coming. Decide that mature, responsible person would go get more wood NOW. Realize there is no rest for the weary. Decide to thaw out first.
- 3:30 – Get RE-dressed. Shut down stove. Drive good ol’, hard working truck to wood bin in yard. Shovel out covered-in-three-feet-of-snow wood pile.
- 4:00 – Fill back of truck with wood while fighting dogs away from pack rat homes built in wood pile. Drive to house, unload wood into garage wood bin. Wonder if you can tell when you’re getting frostbite.
- 5:00 – MORE wood in stove. Realize you have no power since sun has decided not to make an appearance today. Turn on generator. Make dinner. Feed dogs. Notice that road you just plowed is already filled back up with snow. Remember that you are Baptist and don’t cuss.
- 5:30 – Husband home safely. Thank God! Someone to talk to! Watch as husband shovels food quickly into gullet, gets dressed, heads out to plow road until midnight so he can get to work the next day. Feel proud of husband who isn’t complaining one bit.
- 6:00 – More wood in stove. Realize you don’t have enough power to watch a DVD. Decide to spend evening alone with good book by the fire, feeling sorry for husband who is out in dark and cold and snow.
- 7:00 – Dogs barking furiously. Heavy footsteps on porch. Door opens. Husband standing there looking pooped and breathing hard. Flat tire on tractor. Needs help. Get RE-DRESSED, go out in cold, dark, snowy night. Help husband with tractor. Dream of lovely hot, humid, mosquito-filled days in Texas.
- 8:30 – Walk back to house alone. Sing loudly to scare away any Sasquatches who might be around. Try to take cold, frozen coveralls off. Realize zipper is frozen shut. Thaw by fire. More wood on fire. Sit down on couch to read. Fall asleep immediately. Snore cartoon-worthy snores.
- 12:00 – Husband back from plowing, frozen to death. Get fire going again. Fix coffee and sit with him while he warms up by stove.
- 12:30 – Off to bed to much-deserved rest and warm snuggles.
- 4:15 – Alarm goes off. Sigh…..
Another day in paradise, just livin’ the dream. I mean, clearly.
by Penny Dinwiddie
Penny gives us a real perspective on the why's off grid technology is such a good thing to bring modern convenience to struggling lives. It is harder to live some places than others. Alaska is among the hardest places to live without localized power sources, yet there are more people doing it per capita than the Continental 48 States.