by Sandy Philpott
At Red Tail Springs Ranch, with the holidays approaching and family gatherings, we enjoy living off-grid and are constantly discovering new ways to experience the comforts and joys of the season.
One of our favorite traditions is to decorate a small pine or cedar tree outside with strings of popcorn, cranberries and handmade bird seed suet decorations. This is a natural winter bird and animal feeding option. We use solar lighting to decorate the tree and treasure watching the birds come and go on this new, cheerful outdoor feeding station.
When we built our home, we purchased a new wood stove, knowing that this would be a core heat source. Our stove keeps our home warm and cozy with t
he help of fans. We have found that this stove is so clean that my husband, AKA the chimney sweep, showed me this tiny amount of soot that came out of the stove pipe. We have a fire every night and it keeps the house toasty warm. There are some stoves that even have cooking surfaces and baking ovens as part of their design.
Frankly, winter off grid life can have its moments, but the impact is lessened with solid planning. Last winter our backup generator broke after years of reliable service and we were without it for about a week until parts arrived. We knew that by keeping our batteries full throughout the generator outage was optimal, but in the midst of a winter storm with dark cloudy days, this wasn’t going to be completely possible. We calculated that our electric refrigerator was the main energy draw on the batteries, so we chose to turn the refrigerator off and move to ‘Plan B’ with our most perishable food being stored in coolers. Amazingly, this power draw reduction worked and the solar system never once asked to be charged, getting all the power needed from our stored battery power. This learning experience left me with the realization that an off grid natural gas refrigerator would be a very smart option and is one I plan for in the future.
As a kid, living out in the woods, we had an outdoor old claw foot tub. We’d heat up a large pot of boiling water, mix in the cold water from the hose until it was just the right temperature and I’d sit in the tub enjoying the stars. Now that I’m older I like a little more luxury and someday look forward to installing a wood-burning hot tub for these late night outdoor stargazing sessions.
I love to find natural ways to decorate our home and dining table for the holidays with pine cones, holly, pine branches, berries and stones. This year I wrapped and decorated gifts with newspaper, twine, extra scraps of fabric and added a touch of fresh herbs from the garden instead of bows.
Living off-grid does not mean giving up luxuries and comforts, it’s simply adjusting your power usage. I feel much more in tune with my environment and connected in a special way to my home and garden knowing that I am a key to making things work through observation and sensible habits. On cold winter sunny days, an off-grid system is incredibly efficient, so you can plan to do those heavier household chores that require power, like laundry. The best part about living off grid is that even in the worst winter storm, the power never goes out and you’re not reliant on the utility company. You’re producing clean energy, ultra efficiently, generated on site without dangerous transmission lines or energy loss through distribution.
I sincerely hope this this winter that you bring a little more nature into your life and find a few creative ways to save a little energy. Happy Holidays from Red Tail Springs Ranch!
About the Author
Sandy Philpott lives off-grid on an organic farm with her husband Jeffrey. During the day, find Sandy at Byers Solar, where she is a solar project administrator.
“It’s really great to help people move to solar energy and know that they are saving money while doing something good for the environment. We can be independent and get all of our energy from the sun. We do not have to be so reliant on utility companies. Energy rates are skyrocketing every day and causing people hardship. It’s great to part of a solution that lightens the load on peoples’ budgets and our planet.”