is a quick look at some of our cat buddies over the years.
Seasons Weve collected
some of our photographs to show the changing seasons on our farm.
Off the Grid
have lived in our home in the woods for the past twelve years without
electricity, running water or telephone. It has been an exciting
experience. It has taught us a lot about what is important for a
life and given us a better understanding about the sources and nature
off the grid requires juggling a number of overlapping, interlocking
infrastructures. It requires some adaptation. These infrastructures
do not really have a hierarchy; some seem more important at a given
moment, but all are necessary.
Access is an often unconsidered infrastructure. Most people in this
country go out their front door and there is a good, paved road
close by. We only have access to our place all times of the year
by foot. When the road back to our place (3/4 of a mile from the
hard road and mailbox) is dry, we are able to drive back in a vehicle
with good ground clearance like a four-wheel-drive truck. Last year
we were able to purchase an ATV (all terrain vehicle) which makes
getting in and out possible when the road is muddy, especially important
when we have groceries or metal stock for Mollys shop. Access
is still tenuous; a heavy snow still means getting in and out by
foot. The road is dry enough for truck access only part of the year,
so we have to plan ahead for moving materials like lumber for building
or coal for Mollys shop. Problems with access are rife in
third world countries.
next three infrastructures have to do with human survival: housing
and heat, water, and waste. For heat, we use a wood stove. We have
a passive solar system with a large number of windows in our house
facing south. When the leaves fall off the trees, we have a 5-10
degree solar gain during the day. There is a period from about mid-December
through mid-January when, because of pine trees to the south of
us, the low winter sun gives us no solar gain. The trees that shade
our buildings in the summer provide cooling. The temperatures back
in the woods are always much, much cooler than out in the open,
or in town. This is important for us since we work using coal-fired
forges in Mollys shop. It can be 10 degrees or so warmer in
the forge area than outside.
collect water off our roofs. We have recently put in a cistern and
have a pipe running from it to a hand pump in the kitchen. Before
that, we collected the rainwater in barrels. We are able to get
a lot of water from a moderate rain using a building roof as a catchement.
We do not purify the water, instead we work hard to keep the roof
area, gutters and barrel or cistern clean. We have not had a problem
with parasites since this is a closed system without contact with
the ground (as with a spring fed system). We use very little water.
Normal use in periods of drought is about 2 gallons a day for both
of us. Normal use is still less than about five gallons a day.
takes two forms in our household. There is our garbage that we collect
each week and take out to the road for pick up. That, for us, is
usually a bag or so a week. We compost organic matter. When we carried
our trash out by hand (before the ATV), it seemed like a lot, until
we compared our amount of trash to our neighbors. Human waste is
dealt with simply. We have a privy where urine and fecal matter
are kept separate. There is almost no odor near the privy except
in the hottest time of the year. Urine is dumped periodically onto
large leaf piles where it helps accelerate decomposition. Fecal
matter is buried under smaller leaf piles. It decomposes more slowly,
taking two years or so. We then use the compost in the garden for
non-food crops. In the privy, wood ashes from our wood stove are
dumped in the bucket after use. The ashes help diminish odor and
when mixed with our heavy clay soil help give it better texture.
Other necessities, for us, are lighting at night and a cook stove
for food preparation. We have kerosene lamps which we find adequate
for reading. The lamps do not cast a large or bright light so chores
that require much light are done during the day. It is nice, after
a busy day in the blacksmith shop, to be able to come in at night,
have a nice meal and relax with a book. While we have a wood stove
for heat, we use a propane gas stove for cooking and heating water
for our cups of tea and hot chocolate. We love our gas stove. In
the winter, we are able to take advantage of cooler temperatures
to refrigerate food. In the summer, we do not have that option.
Since we are both vegetarians, a refrigerator is not necessary.
five years ago we purchased a small generator to run the grinder
in Mollys shop. It is very economical with gas, which is important
when one has to haul anything back to our place. Recently, we also
started using it to power a vacuum cleaner for the house. Weekly
usage is still only about one to 1.5 hours total.
relative, Georges mother, Mary, lives about 1.5 miles away from
us. We use Marys freezer to store bread and other foods. In addition,
we use Marys electricity and telephone to run the computer that
we use for internet access and creating this web site. The computer
was originally purchased because we could see several uses for it.
Mary wanted to finish her BA and found a computer useful (she did
finish her BA doing her coursework online). A computer makes some
of the bookkeeping and other paperwork tasks that are done for Mollys
shop easier. Georges Caxton Project required special software and
a computer. We believe that shared resources like this make sense.
we live off the grid, we are not independent of it. We still use
fossil fuels, propane and gasoline, for cooking and transportation.
We still depend on electricity. Our use and dependence is considered,
not taken as a matter of fact.
What has our way of living taught us about poverty? We have learned
that poverty often comes from a lack of infrastructure or an inability
to manage or maintain infrastructure. A communitys lack of infrastructure,
roads for example, is a problem beyond solving by a single or a
small number of individuals. Managing or maintaining infrastructure,
such as housing, is not beyond the capabilities of an individual
or small group unless there are systemic barriers. Barriers range
from lack of education (for example: in a family group this may
mean no background in how to use and maintain tools; in a community
this can result from class, cultural or racial bias) to legal hurdles
(zoning in some areas in this country requires a minimum house size).