|September 1: Celebration of harvest food with some of the friends and family who helped along the way.|
September 1. Lights (on the grid) on. Or are they?
When I woke up on September 1st I knew that my off-the-grid project was over. No more constraints. It felt liberating because the choices now are mine. I can choose to waste energy or not. I can use my newly-found tools and skills to enrich my life and contribute a bit to the effort to reduce climate change or I can go back to my old ways.
I remembered when I lived off-the-grid in the desert in Botswana, and hiked to remote villages in Nepal when I worked there for the Carter Center. It was always a treat to go to the city - Gaborone, Nepalgunj, Kathmandu - and enjoy all the luxuries that cities offered, especially the hot baths and variety of food. September 1st feels a bit like that. A bit of a treat at the end of a fast. I was always glad to go to the city but I was always glad to go back - back to the serenity and richness of experiences that I could only have away from mainstream city life.
Lying in bed, I turned on the solar-powered light and radio on my bedside table and opened the curtains wide, just as I have been doing these last two months. I poured myself an infused coffee, something I have come to enjoy for the rich flavour.
I didn't rush downstairs to turn the switches on on my electric panel. Other than cooking - or not cooking with seemingly endless clouds - life has been pretty comfortable but there were a few things that I was looking forward to: a hot bath; laundry; and a cooked meal.
I also look forward to being able to tap into the grid to charge my electronics - laptop, phone and ipad which is also now my radio - when I need to. I will continue to use the free power I'm getting from solar as much as I can, though, and I will turn off my appliances when I am not using them and unplug them if they are not charging.
Yesterday I had to quit working on the computer and on an important project because there was not enough charge. I will be glad to be able to relax while writing and not have to think of running out of juice.
Last night before I went to sleep I turned on the hot water (this is not cheating, as I turned off the fuses before I slept on June 30th). I put my oatmeal on to cook and ran the bath - you guessed it. I burned the oatmeal. Solar cooked foods never burns so it's perfect for someone like me who can get distracted.
The bath was lovely, the laundry was lovely - air dried as I don't have or want a drier - but I didn't rush to bring up the appliances. Some will come up, like my toaster, microwave and coffee grinder, but others can just stay in the basement for a while. I don't think I'll have a radio in every room any more. I'll have my solar radio in the bedroom, a small stereo in my kitchen/living room and the ipad will do for anything else.
On September 1st I was glad to get back in my car. I had heavy things to haul and pick up. I know that on cold, rainy days, when I have a heavy load to carry, or when I have a long trip in the dark, I will probably be tempted to take my car but I hope that I will see that as a second choice and will keep using my bike and my legs as my primary transportation. I certainly don't want to get back into the habit of using my car because I'm in a rush. After a summer of biking I learned that any time savings are minimal and I feel a lot better after biking.
Coincidentally, after so many cloudy days, my little fridge ran out of power on September 1, just as my project ended. I had to rush to put everything in the big fridge, which was now on, and managed to save them, though frozen items will have to be eaten up quickly as they thawed. What timing! I could tell yesterday that I was running short of power because my electronics would not charge. That's a big constraint with solar power - a secondary power source is needed but there are off-the-grid options.
|I will keep experimenting with my portable solar cooker, even in the winter.|
And I will continue to cook with my portable solar cooker. I will cook on sunny days, even through the winter, and will blog occasionally about that. I also have plans to take it to Sierra Leone and experiment with it with my dear friend Manty, a specialist in home economics, while I'm there. Stay tuned.
|Home-made solar cooker works well but is less portable. It reaches 250|
degrees F and more when the weather is sunny and hot.
|Thank you friends and family.|
I also want to acknowledge the many wonderful readers of this blog and those who came up to me on the street, asking questions or offering suggestions. (For those of you following the 'Where are my savings going?' post about fossil fuel divesting, I did meet with Chris from Edward Jones this week and will add that information to that post). Thanks also to the Sustainable Living Committee of the North Columbia Environmental Society which offered me opportunities to share my experiences during workshops on solar cooking and green homes.
What's next? I don't know. I'm going to continue experimenting and learning about electricity and energy. I may take on another challenge next summer but it will probably revolve around water. I will use this blog from time to time.
Thanks for sharing this journey with me.