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Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Feelin' Rich

“We’re celebrating tonight!”  I texted Linda. 

“Great!”  she replied from Minneapolis.  “Why?”

“Because…” I hinted, “…we’re rich!!!”

She knew better than to pry.  She’d never get it out of me before I was ready.  Even when she opened the car door, and I hugged her, and led her inside, and showed her the two glasses of fine Pinot Noir, still she knew to wait, at least until fire time. 
“Did you get a big consulting gig?”  she asked as we clinked our glasses.  I smiled, shook my head no.  We were seated in our ceremonial fire chairs, the ones with the big butterflies.  There’s no better place to share what really matters than before a fire.  And now, all light came from the masonryheater blazing before us. 

“Did you get a big advance on your novel?”  Silliness.  Complete silliness.  That’s how happy she was.  I was.  The moment had come.

“It’s the batteries,” I said.  “We got our wish.”  She sat there, open mouthed, knowing what I meant but needing to hear me spell it out.  “You know how disappointed we are that the batteries only store enough juice to last two days without sun?”  She nodded, held her breath.  “You know how that ties us down.  How hard it is to leave the home for a winter weekend, fearful that the batteries will drain out?”  Though her blink, blink said go on, I struggled, barely believing it myself.    I spit it out. 

“We now have 4 days of battery storage and its all free.”


I wonder what it takes to move from hearing something to believing something.    One thing for sure is it needs a story.  A really, really good story told over and over.  So I told her how Solar Connection Curt called.  How he’d talked to an off-grid expert.  How he’d made a mistake when he initially programmed the battery monitor, the program that determines how much juice remains.  How he’d told the program that our batteries held 400 amp hours when the correct number should be 1000 amp hours.  How he encouraged me to reprogram the battery monitor.  How I pretty much dropped the phone, ran down the cellar, and made fumbled my way through the changes.  And then…then I waited.
The only way to know if it worked, if it really would make the expected difference, was to see how much juice drained out of the battery overnight.  A typical night drains 10%.  The Mate3’s battery monitor displayed 100% at sunset.  I could hardly sleep that night.   Not wanting to dash her hopes, I hadn’t told Linda a thing.  Up and out of bed by 5:30AM, I nervously descended into the cellar.  If it hadn’t worked, the Mate3 would read 90%, meaning we still only had 2 days worth of juice.  I blinked at the fuzzy display.  Does that say 96%?  Having forgotten my glasses, I blinked again.  96%.  Ninety-freakin’-six-percent!!!  We have 4 days of juice!!!

“We’re rich!!!” Linda said, firelight glowing on her face.  And we laughed as we took turns naming what this meant.

“Every day is waffle day!” Nothing sucks more juice than the 1000 watt waffle maker.

“Long hot showers!” The hot water is mostly solar but sucks 700 watts to pump it. 

“A winter week in Jamaica!”  We could get away.  Four days of juice should buy us nearly a week in practice, since we’ve never gone 4 days without the solar panels grabbing some sunlight.  Two days of the dreaded fog? Yes, but not four. 

“With a tiny wind turbine we could get rid of the backup generator.”  I’ve started the generator 4 times this winter, whenever they neared the potentially damaging 50% capacity level.    With wind, we’d be beyond rich.  We’d be as free as the trees.
A week later, the reality of our wealth is still sinking in.  Every morning we rush to check the Mate3.  Every morning we’re amazed.  Suddenly off-grid electric seems so easy.  Not too easy I hope.  Such a tragedy if I forever lost my slight anxiety, that Indian grass-like connection to sunlight, or the lack thereof.   But I don’t see that happening. 

Day follows night.  Light follows darkness.  Rising percents follow falling percents.  I’ve always been rich, rich with the abundance of light and life.  I just didn’t always feel it.   Going off-grid---or should I say becoming community-tied---merely opened my eyes.    


  1. So happy to have found your blog. Wonder if you ever entertain visitors who are interested in doing what you've done? I have some many questions!

  2. Hi Brianna
    Yes! We're all about welcoming visitors, especially "leapers" like you ( I just read and appreciated your blog). Bring your like-minded friends as well. Any time really; eaxh season brings its own beauty.