Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Power Outage

But no, that’s not my reason for the lack of blogging lately. Been busy. Also time-traveling again. Fun times, not easily translated to a computer venue.

So. When you make your own power with the help of a few high-tech panels and sensitive little generator, coming home to a dark house has a very different meaning. It’s not about “Oh, call the power company!” or “Hmmm, let’s get out the candles and wait and see…” It’s more like “Oh, sh*t, what’s happening? And how can we fix it?” It’s nice to be independent of the Big Power and their polluting ways, but it also means we’re literally on our own… with limited technical skills and luckily a friend with great skills and willingness to come out at odd times to help. This is the first time we’ve come home to NO power since I’ve been at this house, and it was a bit disconcerting.

The batteries can normally keep the house going for a while, even when the sun’s not been out. But now that the big melt is here, our silly septic system is filling with water. The pump runs constantly, draining the batteries completely. The system shut itself down to prevent damage to the batteries when the draw got too bad. This is good. My less-favorite piece is that the solution is to shut off the septic pump and not send any water down the drain for a week or so. No showers, laundry, etc, unless we can catch the water in a basin (which we can do with fairly little trouble, but still). The toilet question is actually no problem, since we do mostly humanure anyway.

People sometimes look at me like I’m crazy when I say “Yes, but…” when they tell me how lucky we are to live off the grid. It IS nice to be independent, but see above. There’s no big support system behind you when something breaks. When your house is built to “normal” power-hungry grid standards instead of simple off-grid standards, that can be a bit stinky. Literally, no-shower-laundry-dishwashing stinky.

I also know it’s a matter of expectations and outside-world “requirements”; who says I need to shower most days? I’ve lived with no plumbing before and survived, but maybe I’m getting too old and wimpy for this. Hmmm...


Manerva said...

Sorry for your problems, but I guess they make us all content with what we have when they are 'working'.

Please tell us more humanure. What kind of set up do you have? I would like to learn more and implement it on our farm.

BTW- this is my new site- 12happychickens.com since blogger won't let me use my blog Naturally Natural. For some reason I can't figure it out and finally gave up.

Deb said...

manerva- was wondering why no new posts there!

GTR- I can relate, really relate, especially to the point of wondering if I'm too old to put up with no showers, drains, etc. I'm really looking forward to those luxuries! But I am glad to hear someone else is not afraid to use composting toilets. :)

GTR said...

Manerva- Hey! I saw the 12happychickens on my stats, but didn't realize it was you. Blogger won't let you in?! Wierd. Hope that doesn't happen over here!

Deb- I think you actually have a much more basic set-up than we do regarding showers, etc; part of my issue is that this is a very "normal" house but yet we can't/don't live in it like a normal house most of the time. Expectations! And your new house will have some nice amenities, eh?

Both, regarding Humanure: We use a very simple system based on the Humanure Handbook: 5 gallon buckets and sawdust, basically. WF had it going before I got here, as many other things. But I really have no problem with it (as long as he deals with the material, heh). It doesn't smell, and I really don't think about it much; it seems really normal to us now.

Can't always say the same of guests and relatives, though... still trying to figure out why it freaks some people out so much.

WF said...


"The Humanure Handbook", 2nd edit.,1999 - there's a free online version here:

Humanure Handbook, 3rd edition, 2005 is only slightly updated version and is out there for list price of $25,
and can also be downloaded for free , one chapter at a time(each chapter is a .PDF). it's available at website below

Humanure website,
this is Joseph Jenkin's website, he's the author of the book and runs an online messageboard, etc. about the book and the topic

Manerva said...

Thank You!