Sunday, February 28, 2010

Non-Electric - One Year Later

It doesn't seem possible, but we have been living the non-electric
lifestyle for a full year now. What a year it has been! While I felt
prepared for it, there were surprises in store.

Our adventure began in August, 2008, when we cut the electric usage down
to only the major appliances. We had a refrigerator, stove, water
heater and our computer still being powered by electricity. We gave
away or sold our lamps, TV, and all other electric items that we would
no longer have use for. It was a huge step to take. We enjoyed
watching TV and DVDs in the evenings especially. Our first move was to
start using oil lamps, jar candles, and at one point a lantern to light
our home. Not long into the adventure, we realized that candles were
not cost effective nor did they provide enough lighting.

When we began to remove the electric-powered items from our home, we had
to decide if there was a non-electric option. One item in particular
for me was my sewing machine. I enjoy sewing when I have the time to do
so. I had to find an old treadle sewing machine. We found one that
needed to be thoroughly cleaned, oiled, and cabinet refinished. While I
don't sew as much as I would like to, it is nice to not have to sew by
hand. Joe has had to replace his power tools with the good old hand
tools like our Grandfathers would have used back in the day. He has
found that work is slower, but I am inspired by him as I watch him
become more proficient and quicker with them.

We were prepared for the increased workload, but the reality was
sometimes different than what we thought. I had begun to hand wash
laundry in August, 2008, but always knew that we still had the ability
to use the washer & dryer if I chose to do so. When we had the power
company shut off the electricity and remove the cables from the house, I
lost the safety net of the machines. I now had no options available if
I got behind in doing laundry. One major obstacle was the weather. We
had a very wet winter that prevented laundry from drying in a 24 hour
period. Laundry washed and hung on the indoor racks near the woodstove
sometimes took 2 days to dry. This was frustrating at times. The only
place we could hang laundry indoors was at the large woodstove in the
living room.

During the past year, I have learned to pressure can meat to make it
safe to store unrefrigerated in our pantry. This has been a great
blessing. I am able to take advantage of meat sales at the store or of
times when we are blessed with venison or other game. I precook the
meat until it is about 3/4 of the way done, drain and then place it in
jars before processing. It is processed in the pressure canner for at
least an hour (depending on the meat) and is fully cooked once the
processing is completed.

We have now reached a point where we are feeling comfortable in our
non-electric lifestyle. It is strange, but I find is hard to remember
what it was like to have electricity. I am so used to the way we live
now that I find electricity to be an oddity. My days are becoming a
comfortable routine. Each day, I do up a batch of laundry to stay ahead
of it. This allows me the peace of knowing that if something comes up,
the laundry won't back up to an overwhelming amount.

We have replaced the electric stove and refrigerator with propane ones.
We have a couple of 100 lb. propane tanks that hold 26 gallons of LP
each. These provide a month's supply of propane for the refrigerator
and stove. If we are cooking on the wood cookstove the propane lasts
longer, of course.

Our most recent addition has been a second-hand laptop computer. Joe
bought a small portable power inverter that plugs into the 12 volt
cigarette lighter outlet in our vehicles. It is a small inverter made
for laptops. He found this one at a truck stop. With it, we are able
to charge up the laptop's battery. We are currently looking into
getting a small solar power supply for charging up a car battery. With
a power inverter hard wired to the battery, we will be able to use the
laptop in the house as it's battery is being charged. It is basically a
scaled down version of what people do when they set up their homes for
solar power. We only need the solar power to use a laptop and to charge
up our cell phones, so the scaled down version will work well for us.

This lifestyle is so peaceful and has blessed us in other ways. Our
son, Micah, was diagnosed with Autism last September. At this time it
appears to be high functioning. He does get over stimulated easily at
times so the quieter lifestyle seems to suit him very well. Abbie has
the blessings of being able to play and use her imagination in ways that
many children today miss out on. Most kids are sitting in front of TV
or playing video/computer games. They miss out on the creative play and
learning that we had as children. Abbie spends a lot of her time
playing, coloring/drawing, or looking at books. She has been eager to
homeschool, so we went to a Christian book store and bought a Pre-K
curriculum workbook for her. She asked to have a workbook that teaches
about God and Jesus, so we found one for her. It is so exciting to see
her eager to learn. She comes up to me daily and asks to do
homeschool. So, starting March 1st, she will be homeschooling at a
Pre-K level.

I work with Micah daily to help him in his speech and physical
development. He is delayed in those areas, but is making progress.
While we don't always see the progress on a weekly basis, we do see it
when we look at his abilities from one month to the next. He is now
using gestures to help communicate his needs and wants. This has been a
huge improvement. He is learning to say words, but still needs to learn
to connect their meaning and use them properly. Overall, he has made a
lot of progress since September.

The homestead has been going through some changes. The winter storms
caused many of our large trees to be damaged enough that they will have
to be cut down. On the other hand, we have enough trees down that we
will have more than enough firewood for next year. Joe has been going
into town and cleaning up downed trees at some of the homes. People are
more than happy to have the wood cleaned up and carried off for free.
They get their yards cleaned up and we get to keep the wood to add to
our firewood supply. Our ewe should be having a new lamb sometime in
March. Last year she delivered in mid-March. I am hoping that we get
another ewe this time. The 2 rams we have seem to enjoy head-butting me
too much. They had got out last October and the larger ram attacked
me. I had a lot of bruising and felt as though I had been in a car
accident. In January, the younger ram had gotten out of their grazing
pen without my knowing. As I was hanging laundry, he came up from
behind and head-butted me in the lower back. Seems he learned the game
from his papa. The ewe, while she can get ornery when in heat,
typically will behave herself. When we are able to do so we will be
butchering the rams.

Joe brought home an outdoor privy in February. I have wanted him to
build one so that it is available when we start remodeling the
bathroom. He plans to build an outdoor shower area also. This will
make it easier once the bathroom remodeling takes place. We already
have been getting questions about whether we will have indoor plumbing.
Yes, we will have it. I just tell people that we have a 2-bath
homestead and one happens to be outdoors.

Now that we have the laptop, I will be able to post more often. Joe
plans to take the computer to town on Monday & Friday each week so that
he can stop at the library after work to send/receive emails. On
Wednesdays, I will take the laptop with me to the library when I am in

May the Lord's blessings be with thee,


Cori said...

thank you for your up-date. I hope to see more up-dates :)

Linda said...

Paula thank you so much for the update! I have wondered how you were doing so many times.

Mrs. Dewey Smith said...

I am so behind in writing you! What an adventure and blessing your past year has been. You have inspired me, and others I'm sure, to simplify our lives and have the Faith that it can be done more easily and readily than we think.


Hudson Homestead said...

I am so glad to have found your blog! We also live without electricity here in North Idaho. It is amazing that we have had similar issues during our first year without electricity. We absolutely love living this more simple way of life. Keep up the good work!