Wednesday, May 16, 2007

My Work: Living on Solar Power - Part 2

May 1996

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Moore,

“…While I would definitely have been interested in obtaining cheaper phone service, my future plans are now uncertain. We have put our property up for sale this spring, so committing myself to this is not practical for me now.”

Another property for sale? We wrote back and asked for details.

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Moore,

“Our property is still for sale. It is approximately 80 acres with about 15 acres cleared and the balance bush & beaver ponds. The house is situated on a man-made pond and household water comes from a never-failing spring (via a piston pump). We do not have hydro service but produce our own with solar modules charging industrial-type NiCad batteries and a 6.5 KW propane powered demand-start generator for backup power. A small inverter produces 120VAC from the 12VDC batteries and the house is wired for both voltages.

There is a good small barn (24 X 36) with 2 smaller log barns. In addition, there is a small T hanger for an ultralight airplane beside an 800 ft. runway.

I would be happy to show you around or answer any further questions you may have.”

Bingo. Susan and I agreed to look at it the next weekend. When we first arrived, we parked in the long circular driveway at the top of the hill next to the house. An overgrown backhouse was on our left. On our right, we tried to look past the 10-foot sumac thicket, then a bed of exposed rock, then two huge popular trees to the small-looking house, part log cabin and part wood frame sided with rough-sawn boards and battens.

Inside we found 2-foot thick exposed logs on the walls and ceiling, topped by the wood of the floors above. A large pine harvest table sat in the eating area next to the stairs. Wooden floors throughout and 40 NiCad batteries in the basement. Susan and I loved it but tried not to seen too interested. We asked a million questions. The kids were wonderful, spending most of the time sitting on alcove cushions while Susan and I talked to the owner. In the workshop we went through some of the intricacies of the batteries, inverter, and generator.

Hours later we left. The field across the road was covered in fireflies - darting and glowing as if a sky full of shooting stars had come down to earth. After researching the timber and mineral rights, we made an offer conditional on soil and water tests that showed the property was free of any toxic chemicals. The offer was accepted, the tests all came back to our satisfaction, and we bought our farm.

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