Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The coming collapse....

How we start our morning-
in spite of glitches!
It has happened!  Well, at least it has happened in this "little shouse on the prairie".  When I got up this morning, I went to the kitchen and filled my electric tea kettle with fresh water so that I could brew our morning pot of tea.  I pushed the button, if fired up and then suddenly turned itself off.  As the tea kettle shut down, the refrigerator shuddered to a stop and then, from the bathroom, came the screaming of the inverter, indicating that it, too, was shutting down due to low battery voltage.  It's just another day "liven' the dream"!

Typically in the summer, we never have to worry about not having enough power.  The sun shines high overhead, the panels convert the UV into power and we have an endless stream of energy to run our little shouse.  This year has been a little different.  While the majority of United States bakes in an unrelenting hothouse, we are experiencing cooler than normal weather with numerous cloudy, blustery days.  Normally, that wouldn't be a problem, since I would take the opportunity to run the generator on cloudy days and get caught up on laundry.  But, as one quickly learns when they are off-grid, there is no such thing as normal.  As I have mentioned before, we need a new carburetor on our generator, but, like so many other things in life, it gets put on hold when it is not giving us trouble.  Our generator has been put on hold long enough that it is starting to rebel.  I am able to run the generator long enough to pump water once or twice a day, but not long enough to do laundry and subsequently charge our batteries.

Our poor generator!
Our tired battery bank
Truthfully, if the was only one breakdown in our off-grid system, we could probably absorb it with little inconvenience, but, the reality is, when you are off-grid, there is never  just one glitch - they come in batches.  Not only is our generator complaining, our battery bank is tired.  Rather than storing all of that wonderful sun when the weather is good, our battery bank is storing only enough to last about a day, which means one day of bad weather puts us at the mercy of our generator.  And so, this vicious cycle leads us to this morning's failures.  We have experienced the collapse.

Luckily, having lived off-grid for over ten years, this is nothing new.  Really, it's nothing more than a minor inconvenience.  Today, I will haul out the James Washer and my wash tubs, and get started on that laundry that is piling up (which will work out quite well, as I will take a lot of pictures and do a product review on the James!).  We will revert back to conservation mode and only use the electricity that is absolutely essential.  Out will come the kerosene lamps and the children will be thrilled with our "non-electric" adventure.

The truth of the matter is this couldn't have come at a better time.  It is easy to become complacent when everything is humming along with no complications.  This was our wake-up call.  Now is the time to get everything in good working order, while we still can.  Now is the time to get a back-up generator and a new carburetor for the generator we have.  Now is the time to recycle the thousands of pounds of batteries in our shed and buy a reliable battery bank.  We have been given a little nudge.  Now is the time to heed the call so we won't be left in the dark when we experience a true collapse.

Instead of complaining about yet another hitch in our git-along, I am going to embrace the challenge.  I am going to use this time to learn, refine and prepare.  If and when a real collapse descends upon us, I am going to meet it head-on and be grateful for all of the hitches in our git-alongs that got us here.


  1. Enola,
    Putting off the repairs and replacements is like not putting in the garden "because the place might sell". You still need to do everything as if you will be there forever because it could very well be a long, long time before your place sells and you can move. God may want you to stay where you are and be a refuge for those whom you are trying to move closer to. Then again, it could sell tomorrow. There is enough stress and trouble in life without us adding to it by our decisions and procrastinations.

  2. Anonymous;
    Thank you for pointing out what I already pointed out in my post. Interestingly, I believe I already took responsibility for where we are. We are not putting off repairs, we are taking care of the most pressing issues - there is only so much money to go around, you know. Until you have walked the walk of an off-grid life, you don't truly understand the stresses and responsibilities we live with every day.

  3. Great post Enola! Got me to looking at our most pressing priorities to make sure we have not wandered to far astray. Thank you (again) for your humble willingness to point out some of the choices of REAL life off the grid. You and your family bless us with every post.

    Thank you!!

  4. Enola,

    You bless our family with every post. This one got me to looking at our own tough-choice-priority-balancing act. Ever feel like a one armed juggler riding a uni-cycle on a tight rope? :o) Me too!

    I love that The Lord is helping prepare us in these ways. Thanks so much for your humble willingness to share.

  5. Good luck! Just replaced our battery bank too. It was about 17 yrs old and abused as it wasn't charged when away (vacation cabin) but was meticulously maintained with distilled water and specific gravity monitoring. Only held a charge for a day before the 14kw genset fired up.
    Got 18 new iinterstate GC2s set up in a 24 array and went solar hybrid also. We got a xantrex mppt controller which allowed a longer cable run (higher input voltage) putting the panels in an ideal location.
    Don't skimp on batteries as they are the foundation for your system. Used batts are only pennywise. Keep water and SG in range and don't ever let them go flat in freezing weather (sure death for the batt). Good luck and let us know what you pick. I am anticipating at least 20 years from this array as the plates are thicker.

  6. Enola,
    Last October you wrote about trying out a de-sulphater on your batteries. Did you see any further improvement after the initial increase?

  7. Two jobs ago, the backup batteries for an ancient fire alarm system were 50+year old nickel iron batteries that still held a charge! These are still availlable, but pricy-they don't have the energy density of lead-acid batteries, but they last a long time. The oldest lead-acid batteries I've seen were around 35 years old, in an older electric golf cart.
    If they had to conk out, at least they didn't when it's 10 below,when replacing them would be a much harder job. The last time I took a car battery in, the recycle value was about one-eighth the cost of a new one.
    I like your attitude-way too many people would just curse the luck(and the batteries as well).

  8. i look forward to your photos of your washing machine/tubs etc...i have been contemplating placing an order with lehmans for washtubs and wringer...for when the power goes out or the current machines go bust.i like anything that is reliable..the fix and repair daily gets old (and the nickels add up).

  9. First anonymous post, I heard the encouragement in your post. God Bless!

  10. My first Anonymous commenter;
    Please excuse my hasty reply. I did hear what you had to say, and of course, you are right. We are doing our best to keep up with things, but sometimes they get the best of us. I was a little snarky after dealing with the power issue and shouldn't have taken that moment to answer. Please excuse my shortness.

  11. Sorry for your troubles, Enola. Life is tough enough as it is without dealing with expensive repairs too.
    God Bless.

  12. Looking forward to your review of the James Washer too! We've been contemplating a non-electric washer, but can't ask around for recommendations :-)

  13. How would the off the grid setups with batteries and generators withstand an EMP attack or a Carrington event?