Just over a year ago our power source was a little 4000 watt generator (leftovers from Y2K), two 6v batteries, and a 350 watt inverter. We had no fridge except the tiny one in the camper, till we found a nearly new and very efficient 18 cu ft Energy Star refrigerator through Craigslist. We soon added a few more batteries, but the weather was beautiful as usual here in October, so we needed little electricity except for lights at night, our cell phone chargers, and laptops. We now have ten 6V batteries and a 2000 watt inverter/charger (which is as big as we plan to get), and we’re installing solar panels so we can eliminate the generator most of the time. Some day we hope to make a wind generator to help charge batteries at night or on overcast days.
We installed Thinfilm solar panels directly on our tiny house roof in August. They peel and stick to a metal roof, making them virtually theft-proof and storm proof, unless the roof is destroyed. It’s a newer technology, and we found a great bargain price from a supplier here in FL for a whole box at a big discount. We didn’t want to cut too many corners on this, since we are completely dependent on making our own power. This kind of solar panel works even if a leaf or shadow falls on part of it; the rest of the panel continues to work. It also works with indirect lighting, although not very efficiently.
We have not installed the remaining panels on the deck roof because of rain wicking between the sheets of metal with the shallow pitch. That is being remedied and we hope to have all solar panels up and be independent of generator power soon!
For over six months we lived here on our new homestead with no well. We’d hoped for one much sooner, but other more pressing deadlines and projects (like fences for the animals, working on our tiny house, remodeling the shed for the rest of our belongings, etc) always crowded time for well drilling. When we did tackle the job we had many difficulties and it took two and a half weeks to complete. What was supposedly going to take a few hours turned into a nightmare at times. It was one of the biggest challenges we’ve faced here, but the Lord saw us through and blessed. It is so wonderful to have plenty of running water.
Until the well was drilled Silver Oak would fill several 55 gallon drums with water from my parents’ well in town before coming home after work, or we filled them with the massive neighboring orange grove pump. He brought the filled drums home and used a small pump to run the water up to the tanks on our roof. We constantly monitored water usage because it was no small chore to refill the tanks.
One time Silver Oak was on his way home with a heavy load of water and he pulled off to check the wheels on his little trailer, making sure they weren’t getting too hot. When he burned his hand on the wheel he knew the bad bearing was worse than he’d thought. It was late on a Saturday night and he was totally exhausted from a long day of work in town and had a sleeping son in the truck with him, and now a burning hand. He figured he could leave the little trailer parked beside the country road and get it in the morning when he could see to replace the bearing. To his utter dismay the next morning it was gone; someone had helped themselves. That was a big disappointment and he still misses that little trailer, as well as the barrels it carried.
After we got our well we really splurged and bought an old washer to do laundry since it was no longer a big deal to use so much water. It’s a nice break from using plungers and a spinner as we did for over six months, but it also means using much more electricity than before. We’ll see how it works out when all of our solar panels are up and running.
The greenhouse is mostly built, thanks to friends who came in February and July for frolics. Everything else always seems more demanding, but when we can focus on that a few days we should be able to finish the structure and put the cover on, which is waiting in its box under a tarp.
In a few days Part Two will include more about our animals and plants and trees.