Thursday, 26 September 2013

Back to the Future

Its one thing to plan to live off the grid, its quite another to be thrown into the situation.

When it happened to me, I wasn't ready at all! One day I had power, the next day I didn't. I had no way of knowing that it would be two years and two months before it would get turned on again. That's three summers and two winters. That's 26 months. That's 790 days! Without power!

 I won't lie, electricity makes things so much easier. Want to see what your doing.. flick a switch, feeling chilled... bump up the thermostat, feeling a little parched... let me pour you a cold drink over ice... all things I could not do for the last few years. That and a million other things that most people these days take for granted.  Luckily I don't give up easy, this house was my dream and I was going to make my dream come true no matter what.

But a funny thing happened along the way. While I was waiting for the power to come back on, my life slowly started to change. At first it was little things, like eating dinner by candlelight. Then it was the zen of washing clothes by hand and taking the time to hang them to dry. Finding the joy in being self reliant, feeling proud ( and amazed) that I survived not one, but two winters with no central heating. Finding out I could totally entertain myself without TV, feed myself without a fridge, and build a house by flashlight with mostly hand tools was a very freeing challenge. I grew as a person, I became more confident and mostly I resonated much more with my environment.

You become inventive when faced with the elements. Its zero degrees outside and minus five inside, no furnace, no woodstove, just a couple of propane heaters to keep the bedrooms warm ( and then only while we were awake, they had to be shut off while sleeping). To the water bottles to bring to bed, warm down comforters piled high with quilts, cats tucked in on either side to contribute body heat. We buried ourselves in our cocoons and hibernated the winters away.

Summers brought different challenges. Trying to keep food from spoiling, trying to keep rooms cool with no fans or air conditioners and dealing with stinky garbage ( we don't have garbage pickup here, just recycling, so we had to do dump runs, expensive, time consuming and a nasty pile of garbage waiting to be shipped out) We decided to deal with the garbage issue by trying to not make any more. That was the biggest lifestyle change of all. Its an on-going progress, but we are definitely making a lot of headway and I am loving the changes it has brought to our lives.

For every hardship we faced, I reminded myself that this was the norm for my grandparents and those that had gone before them. Yes life was different in those days, and hard, but they managed is the point and it was a wonderful way to reconnect with the past as we strove to find ways to live our life without "modern conveniences". It has motivated me to learn other homesteading skills such as sewing, wine making, canning and gardening. I have learned to make candles, paper, and soap. I have started baking and making my own candy. I have discovered my inner Martha Stewart and I like it!

Instead of fearing my environment. I have slowed down and remembered how to be a part of it in a symbiotic way instead of a parasitic way. And now, tomorrow, they are turning the power back on.

Half of me is excited at all the advantages of having unlimited power at my fingertips, the other half is feeling a little wistful of losing my quiet, peaceful rhythm with nature. Electricity brings: humming appliances, noisy stereos, bright harsh lights to eat by instead of candlelight, over-heated rooms(especially if Dave gets his hands on the thermostat!) and creates an unnatural barrier between us and nature.

So truth be known, as exciting as tomorrow will be for us, a part of me will miss my homesteading experience. I still plan to be "off the grid".  We will take hydro's power for now, but we have a solar power system and a windmill on its way and should hopefully have it here and installed before the end of the year. If nothing else, it should lower our bills and give us some security for when the grid does goes down as it usually does at least a few times a year during storms. At least now we know how to cope and have many more skills and tools in place to live without power should the shit ever really hit the fan.

This unassuming picture is the miracle of electricity on our property for the first time tonight. We came home to find this huge light shining in our yard, lighting up the driveway and the ramp and a sign that the power had finally been turned on. Tomorrow our fuse gets installed and the house finally gets lit up after all this time and we step back into the 20th century! Hello ice cubes, I've been waiting a long time for you!

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Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Mother Natures Art Gallery

Mother Nature is the most exquisite artist of them all. Every day I look out the window to a different view, here is a few of my favorite moments, enjoy!

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Tuesday, 3 September 2013

The Multi Purpose Room Reveal

We have a room beside the kitchen that finally got (mostly) finished. I lucked out and found a Murphy bed on craigslist that I could afford so the room can be used as a bedroom. I have been sleeping down here in the summer as my room upstairs turns onto a sauna on sunny days. When its not a bedroom it does double duty as my sewing room, my massage room, my exercise studio and my office.

I had almost forgot that I didn't really ever have any pictures of this room, so took a few quick "before" shots after we had started the reno.

The leaded glass door was a craigslist free find. It was a pair of sliding doors that I had refurbished into proper doors. Here is Dave using the brad nailer to put up wall paneling

The open doorway on the right is a sliding door to the bathroom that I had a friend install last year. I wanted the option to use the room for massage and spa treatments and wanted easy access to the shower for rinsing off mud and clay wraps.

 I covered the walls with bead board paneling and did a shit job of putting up the trim. Some cold day in hell, I will get around to sanding off the caulking that oozed out of the seams and painting all my mistakes. I have a couple of nice stain glass light fixtures that still need to be installed and a bit more trim to put up but for now it is quite serviceable and I am really enjoying this space in the house.

And here is the "after".......

Eventually I would like to make this corner into a closet with glass sliding doors. We will be removing the chimney soon to compensate for the weight of our new solar panels which should be arriving in a few weeks.




I also would like to build two cabinets, one on each side of the desk and the same height to give me a large workspace to cut fabric on. They would be for storage on one side for massage/spa supplies and sewing stuff on the other.

I have never sewn before, but recently bought a sewing machine to learn how to quilt. The quilt isn't finished yet but I have made a few other things in the meantime. First up was some curtains for this room. I cut up a nice suede like shower curtain and made some heavy curtains for the front window and the glass door.

Some lighter curtains for the kitchen window

The rest of the shower curtain for the front door window. We realized that the window in the door let in a ton of heat in the late afternoon with the sun beaming through it and found that the dark curtain and keeping the door closed kept the temperature in the kitchen down by about 15-20 degrees.

and last but not least, I sewed myself a new nightgown. I have to say, I am a very lazy and no idea what I am doing, kind of sewer. I didn't spend much time measuring anything except to eyeball it and didn't use any pins, just held edges together as I sewed. No patterns used, just made stuff up, but I am happy that I am getting over my fear of the sewing machine and finally learning my way around it.

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