By John-eriK, InternetEarthworks.com
Last winter, I began a relationship with a small cabin off the grid in the Northern Catskills. I have lived with many power blackouts in Mt. Shasta, Vermont and elsewhere and know what it’s like to lose power and live off kerosene and candles. But you could always depend on the abundance of what flows out of our electrical wall sockets to return at some point – our lives return to normal and we grow further from the poignancy of those moments of unpowered, peaceful solitude.
Here, I am learning it takes massive amounts of stored solar-battery power to charge up my Macbook Pro laptop – much more than to power a couple low watt lamps or internet hotspot device and cell phone – seemingly orders of magnitude more (actually 65 watts case closed and 85 if open and on).
If your powerbook charger is plugged in much past sundown, there can be a serious drain to the batteries. These batteries must also support an occasional running of the well pump – partly due to the small kitchen faucet drip. That drip helps assure the water pipes don’t freeze on particularly cold, blowy, long, dark winter nights, as there is crawl space underneath the cabin and not basement where the pipes enter the ground.
Keeping a good hot fire in the stove heats up its stone platform, which radiates heat into the utilities box under the cabin and attempts to keep the pipes liquid, not frozen. Water pipes have frozen a couple times and greywater drain was frozen parts of February and early March.
There were two of us in separate cabins on this lovely spot this winter. There is this fantastic, portable Honda generator I can borrow from the property owner. Her slight Swiss accent and wonderful turns of phrases add a European-Buddhist overtone to this retreat space. The generator gives backup and keeps the batteries out of the low voltage danger zone and allows a little more electrical use before needing to unplug and shut it all down for the night.
So, after a couple overcast and snowy days, I schlep the generator back here on a small plastic sled, through the snow, back to my cabin to charge up the solar batteries that enable us to get water and charge up our stuff.
The wind can get raw and intense sometimes here at “Jade Lake.” It can command your attention. Sort of mysterious and dangerous. One night I realized the stove pipe coming into the cabin was like a big straw through which the huge wind-being raging above was sucking air out of the house, through the wood stove (via differential air pressures and Venturi effect). What a roar a good fire makes. But that life-sustaining warmth and comfort comes at the price of needing to replenish and re-stack the woodshed before next winter, it’s the only serious heat source...

By John-eriK, InternetEarthworks.com Last winter, I began a relationship with a small cabin off the grid in the Northern Catskills. I have lived with many power blackouts in Mt. Shasta, Vermont and elsewhere and know what it’s like to lose power and live off kerosene and candles. But you could always depend on the abundance of what flows out of our electrical wall sockets to return at some point – our lives return to normal and we grow further from the poignancy of those moments of unpowered, peaceful solitude. Here, I am learning it takes massive amounts of stored solar-battery power to charge up my Macbook Pro laptop – much more than to power a couple low watt lamps or internet hotspot device and cell phone – seemingly orders of magnitude more (actually 65 watts case closed and 85 if open and on). If your powerbook charger is plugged in much past sundown, there can be a serious drain to the batteries. These batteries must also support an occasional running of the well pump – partly due to the small kitchen faucet drip. That drip helps assure the water pipes don’t freeze on particularly cold, blowy, long, dark winter nights, as there is crawl space underneath the cabin and not basement where the pipes enter the ground. Keeping a good hot fire in the stove heats up its stone platform, which radiates heat into the utilities box under the cabin and attempts to keep the pipes liquid, not frozen. Water pipes have frozen a couple times and greywater drain was frozen parts of February and early March. There were two of us in separate cabins on this lovely spot this winter. There is this fantastic, portable Honda generator I can borrow from the property owner. Her slight Swiss accent and wonderful turns of phrases add a European-Buddhist overtone to this retreat space. The generator gives backup and keeps the batteries out of the low voltage danger zone and allows a little more electrical use before needing to unplug and shut it all down for the night. So, after a couple overcast and snowy days, I schlep the generator back here on a small plastic sled, through the snow, back to my cabin to charge up the solar batteries that enable us to get water and charge up our stuff. The wind can get raw and intense sometimes here at “Jade Lake.” It can command your attention. Sort of mysterious and dangerous. One night I realized the stove pipe coming into the cabin was like a big straw through which the huge wind-being raging above was sucking air out of the house, through the wood stove (via differential air pressures and Venturi effect). What a roar a good fire makes. But that life-sustaining warmth and comfort comes at the price of needing to replenish and re-stack the woodshed before next winter, it’s the only serious heat source...