Do preparedness and self sufficiency go hand in hand?

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With recent events in America, you can’t help but reflect on your own life.

I’m pretty sure we all take things for granted and have ‘it will never happen to me’ attitude, whether it’s about our health, our relationships or freak weather.

But with Hurricane Sandy top of the news headlines it’s certainly made me think a bit more about the things I take for granted – running water, electricity and access to food for starters.

I read an excellent ‘preparedness’ style article last week and I figured I’d use it as an opportunity to look around our state of ‘preparedness’ here at Chez Green.

Long before freak weather was happening across the globe I’d had this hazy idea of living off grid, of being self-sufficient and living a bit of the ‘Good Life’ but life tends to get in the way of best laid plans. And when I started to really explore it I realised just how many things you needed to take into consideration – it made me realise we are nowhere near that dream and we still have a long way to go!

However, as I tend to focus on the solutions rather than dwell on the problems, here’s what we HAVE achieved!

Food

Although this year’s garden harvest wasn’t spectacular I do have three vegetable beds and some pots on the patio I can grow food in. I know enough about our climate, soil type and from experience to know what works and what doesn’t. We planted two more apple trees last autumn and have two established apple trees. By using a dehydrator and vacuum sealer we can make the most of garden gluts.

Solar panels

We have three PV solar panels which run all the lighting for the downstairs. Mr Green has converted everything to LED and even built his own lightbulbs – what a guy! We also have three portable solar panels which we use to charge things like mobile phones. Contrary to popular belief, PV solar panels work pretty well even on cloudy days as they require light, not heat, to charge.

Portable battery pack

One of our best ‘off grid’ gadgets is a portable battery pack. It’s charged from a solar panel and has controlled outputs at different voltages for supplying different gadgets from 5 volt USB up to 24 volt appliances. This means we can charge most small gadgets from MP3 players to notebooks.

Heating

We’re fortunate to have a wood burner to heat seven radiators and hot water here at Chez Green; which offers us a sustainable heating source. We spend the summer gathering, chopping and storing wood; all of which is locally sourced. This year we’ve been clearing a farmer’s fields, last year we burned, would you believe, an old demolished hotel! I choose a wood burner with a hotplate on top so I can cook on it.

Water

Water is a challenging one for anyone trying to go off grid. We have a stream at the bottom of the garden but it’s not clean enough to drink from as we’re surrounded by agricultural land. There is a spring the other end of the village which isn’t tested for potability. I was reading a fantastic post by Leigh over at Green4U where she states “Hurricane prep is not always eco-friendly” and mentioned that stocking up on bottled water was one of her ‘eco conscience’ sticking points. But you know what? When it comes to preparedness, compromise is absolutely ok in my book.

What about you – are any aspects of your life ‘off grid’?

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