Up on a green mountain lives a tall, thoughtful man who is curious about everything and whose interests include star-gazing, tickling spiders, talking to birds and inventing things. He lives in a small green tin cabin which he built with his two capable hands. Actually, mostly he lives on the wide verandah outside the small green cabin. On one end are chairs and a bench in the sun. At the other end is the boiler and the wood, an old plunky piano and a macrame bird feeder. It is easier to talk to the birds if they are close by. Sometimes the birds and the lizards come up to the front door and peer in to see if there is someone to talk to who is willing to share his dinner.
Here is the wood-fired boiler which is the heart of the house. Even though it is actually outside. It is lovingly and carefully tended and it never goes out. Even when Paul comes into the Blueday city cottage for a night, the boiler is still quietly burning away when he gets back the next day. In fact, he starts to get a little twitchy by the afternoon and I can feel the boiler pulling him back to the mountain.. you've heard of the household deity? This is the cabin deity. It heats all the water and it also heats the big old metal radiators that keep the cabin warm in the winter. When it is cold and wet the radiators are often draped in washing or drying the tea towels. On a cold morning there is nothing better than warming up your clothes on the radiator before putting them on. So delicious.
Here is another household deity. One of the many sculptures made by Paul's father that appear unexpectedly around the property, under trees, on top of rocks, peeping around corners. I particularly like watching this rather stoic portly gentleman when it rains. The water runs down his face and drips off his chin and he just stands there and meditates thoughtfully about Life and Rain, and Why Birds Sit On My Head.
This is the current vegie garden. It is spectacularly productive and bursting with kale, spinach, red chard, and of course, tarragon. It has a little electric fence around it to deter possums and wallabies. When it is turned on at night a string of fairy lights also lights up to remind us not to go picking spinach in the dark.
The electricity for the fairy lights and various other things comes from six solar panels in the summer and a water turbine in the creek in the winter. High summer and deep, wet winter are times of plentiful electricity. Right now, when it sometimes rains for a few days and there is no sun, but at the same time the creek is not running gustily enough to leave the turbine running for very long, producing electricity can get very exciting. Tramps up and down to the dam to check the water levels in the dark with a torch. The drama of starting up the water turbine. Constantly checking the lithium battery bank to see how much electricity is magically stored there. Only vacuuming when the sun is shining or else when it is raining and the water turbine is running. I think this is a very satisfactory way to live. It keeps you very aware of how much energy you are using. There is no magic 'away' where the energy is produced. It is made right here, right now, with sunshine and water. Every light globe needs to be thoughtfully considered. It is a very thoughtful, deliberate way to live.
And it is not just energy that needs to be considered. Paul gets his water from the creek which needs to be boiled to become drinkable (one day there will be a fancy filtering system). His waste water is treated in a series of pipes and French drains and a home made septic system. There are no town services reaching his block at all. He doesn't have rubbish collection, so he has learned to produce very little rubbish. Every few weeks he takes a small bag of rubbish and recycling down to his sister's house in the village. To be honest, it is mostly wine bottles. I often help with that..
I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.
Off-grid living teaches a thoughtful, deliberate way of life. Producing energy and drinking water and dealing with your own waste takes time and effort and makes all of those things precious. There is no place for waste or excess. It requires balance, that middle path. Not just taking the path, but creating your own as you go..