Off the grid in winter

Published 6:25 pm Tuesday, March 22, 2022

By Jo Weaver

Master Naturalist

Snows followed by frigid temperatures present a challenge to my living off the grid. Recently, there were two. Both storms resulted in our solar panels being covered with snow for one and a half to two and a half days, negating the usefulness of the system for a few days. Additionally, it’s my job to make sure the water keeps flowing to the house, and that there is enough wood in the house to keep us warm for several days. So, preparation begins days before an anticipated event. 

In the week before the first storm, I made sure I had propane and working heaters to keep the pump house well above freezing. I start tested the heater and moved on to my next chore. In extremely gray weather, or when the solar panels are covered with snow, I need to make sure I can get the generator started and have enough fuel for four or five days. Of particular concern is getting snow or rain on the machine before I need to start it. So, tarp all-around, and making sure “cool down” time is factored into all my calculations with regards to running and re-covering it. (I am happy to report that, since those storms, a “permanent fix” has done away with the necessity of “tarping the generator.”)

The “in house” supply of wood is the easiest of the basic comforts to address. I fill a plastic bin with wood that at least allows me to skip one, maybe two days of trips to the wood pile. I always have at least a two week supply of food in the house, a remnant from my childhood, and containers of water if needed. Once all the preparations are made, I sat back to see how my relationship with Mother Nature is working. (I loved that old TV commercial with the line, “It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature.”)

After the storm, there’s tending to the pump house heater, running the generator to keep the batteries charged, and just generally keeping an eye on all the systems. The good news about the first storm is that it meant I was ready for the second with only a few tweaks needed. I used up my indoor wood stash and made sure I kept enough fuel to keep “The Weaver Light and Water Works” up and running.