Homestead Advantage

By , July 21, 2016

Our recent sojourn in town proved eye opening in certain ways. As usual, we found many small confirmations of our off-grid lifestyle.

We started on Independence Day with house sitting for friends in town (see Townside) followed directly, even overlapped, by a visit from my sisters. Through their 9-day visit, I went to town almost every day to help them empty their storage units.

During that time, the family’s work experienced delays and challenges from organized infrastructure that we do not experience at home.

I heard rumors of power failures in parts of Haines and Juneau for reasons I never learned, but they didn’t reach the house we kept. The storage units didn’t have any power, so outages wouldn’t have affected us there. An outage somewhere down south, however, considerably extended the time it took to sign out the rental van.

Last weekend, something went wrong with Haines’s municipal water. I won’t go into details, other than to note the emergency order, which restricted water consumption to essential use, followed by boil orders for sections of the community as the supply reservoirs began to bottom out. We heard reports of sludge and grit in the lines. Luckily for us, we’d hauled jugs full of spring water to use at the storage unit. We left one in town with Michelle and Aly at the vacation rental they used on the last night. We don’t like to drink city tap water at the best of times, being so used to our own water here at the homestead.

Not that we’re completely immune to difficulty. Search “wind generator” on this blog, and you’ll read plenty of sad stories about equipment breakdown. That’s why I’ve been so thankful for the new, improved solar array we installed last year (see Power Shift: The Plan in Place). Even as I felt smug that our water system freed us from the town crisis, I realized that our summer reservoir’s capacity had strained under the increased usage during the visit, and badly needs replenishing.

The difference here is that we have the responsibility (and freedom) to take care of such problems ourselves rather than waiting passively—even helplessly—for someone else to fix it. We can’t make it rain, of course, but we can switch to the winter water tank early and continue as we had before. Southeast Asia’s monsoon season around August usually sends us plenty of rain to fill up again, so we’re not worried yet.

Ironically, some advantages we expected from being in town fell short. I’ll rant about—or rather, discuss one of those next time.

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