Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Off-grid ingenuity

The iron on the stove
When you rely on the sun and a generator for your power, you have to think outside of the box when doing things other people take for granted.  Take ironing for instance.  I used to plug the iron in, complain that it was ironing day again, and commence ironing our piles of clothes.  Now, without grid power, ironing in no simple task.  Any appliance that uses resistive heating is a huge power user and we forgo their use on any but the sunniest of days.  The task of ironing, which I used to view as drudgery, is now done over the wood cookstove.  What's old is new again!

Getting wax out of a shirt
After trying to plug in my iron a number of times, only to hear the inverters whine loudly in complaint, I coiled the electrical cord around my iron and put it over the fire box on the wood cookstove.  It worked perfectly!  The iron goes over the wood box when I need a hot iron and is positioned closer to the water reservoir when I need a cooler iron.  Of course, this system only works in the winter when we are not making a ton of power from our solar panels.  In the summer, I can plug the iron into the wall and not blink an eye - we have plenty of power.

Little tricks make all of the difference.  It just takes a dab off-grid ingenuity.


  1. I have a "decoration" in my kitchen that's a cast iron ~ iron. I think it was my grandmothers or great grandmothers...that thing is sooo heavy. The pioneer women were much stronger than we are today, to be able to work that hard every day just for survival. I love the "thinking outside the box" you came up with.

  2. Brilliant! It never occurred to me to heat up an electric iron on the wood stove. Thank you!

  3. Very clever. I love reading how you have found alternative ways to do things, yet often the alternative ways are the ways of our grandmothers.

    I, too, have an old castiron iron that was given to me by my mother which her mother gave her. It sits on my coffee table and daily it reminds me of my ancestors and how hard they worked. As I sit in my recliner and type comments on this wonderful device known as a laptop computer, I often wonder what my grandmother would think of me and my lazy life. Would she be thrilled that I have it so easy, or would she be appalled that I am so pampered? Perhaps someday I'll know!??

    I admire you so much, Enola. I think my grandmother would, too.

    NoCal Gal

  4. sometimes we just gotta do what we gotta do no matter what...kudos enola! i don't live "off" the grid but i try my hardest to live with the grid turned off most of the time... i don't believe that women were stronger in the old days-they just had a lotta time on their hands to do the things that needed doing without the distractions we have today. and because they worked so hard and did without they died at early ages. i really admire women who think "outside of the norm" and many of our women ancestors can be included in that thought. just imagine the things we would not have today had it not been for those who came before us!

  5. I've often wondered if that would work since modern irons are so much lighter than the old cast irons. OTOH, if I was living off-grid, I think I would reduce the number of items ironed.

  6. Enola, what a great idea! I have been trying to get my ducks in a row in case I ever have to do laundry w/o electricity. I have wash tubs and scrub boards. I kept thinking that I needed to buy some of the cast iron irons like they advertise in Lehmans, but they are so expensive that I've balked at the prices. Now, I will just start looking for some older, heavy irons at yard sales and just cut the elec cords off. I already have an electric iron to use with a grid up situation, so cutting the cords off the others would make them more convienent to use. Now, I just have to see if I can find someone who could turn the wringer on an old elec wringer washer into a hand turned wringer...

  7. I have begun trying to figure out how to do our normal everyday routine as if we are off grid. I don't have everything figured out but it is making me come up with solutions as well as see areas that will be very difficult for us if the stuff hits the fan. The one thing I worry about a lot is water. We are in a severe drought as it is but not having enough water to drink will be dangerous. If the water keeps running through the pipes I think everything else will take care of itself. Won't be easy but we will learn to make do.

    Enola, perhaps you - or even Patrice- could do a blog post about people who rent. We have rules in our lease but I wonder if people are starving to death will they allow us to have chickens. At what point is it ok to not follow the rules? It is something I think about often.

    A loyal reader -

  8. Dear Enola,
    I had a home for many years in a very large Amish community. Just about every Amish woman I knew, had an older GE iron with the electrical cord cut off and was heated by sitting on a flat cast iron plate on their gas stove at a low flame. I learned much from these people on how to make things work, albeit another way. I hope the readers, though, will not use this method with the irons of today and their plastic upper casings. Thanks for the sweet memory and making another entry on my list of lists. Next trip to town and thrift stores, I am looking for this metal iron now.

    Another Loyal Reader