Welcome to Nancy On The Home Front – learning to live a healthier life, one step at a time. Each week I will share posts on clean eating, adding fitness into your life, gardening and preserving what you harvest and of course good healthy and delicious recipes, at least most of the time!
For now Vermont is where I call home. During my 30 years of gardening, I have completed both the Master Gardener and the Master Composter programs offered through the state extension bureaus. I am interested in providing delicious, nutritious, chemical-free food for my family. My garden is 100% organic, and what food is not consumed immediately will be preserved to enjoy in the future. I love walking into my pantry and seeing the shelves filled with the garden’s bounty! Another love is hearing great ideas and receiving thoughtful feedback from my readers.
For the curious; here is a little peek inside our home located in the Green Mountains of Vermont. Hopefully this will give you some insight on the many ways we have incorporated available alternative energy solutions here on the home front.
We designed our home to function at a passive-solar level by positioning the majority of windows to face the sun. This meant our home would be placed on the site almost on the compass points with the least amount of glass facing north, and the maximum glass facing south. Our intention was to let the sun freely warm the house during the winter months when it is low in the sky. We typically see interior temperatures reaching 80ºF on sunny winter days. This means less demand for wood during the winter heating months. Adding a good overhang to the roof helps keep the home cooler in the summer when the sun is directly overhead by creating shade on the windows.
Solar Photo-Voltaic (PV) panels were added to offset the electric demands. The 18 panel system was designed to generate a maximum of 3 kilowatts of electricity. This system is grid-tied, meaning we still receive power from the public electric company through traditional power lines connected to the home, but our PV system sends back power to the electric company’s grid when it generates more energy than our home uses. On these days we can watch our electric meter spin backwards! This shows up as a credit on our electric bill.
We use LP (liquid propane) to heat our water, as a backup fuel for the furnace, to dry clothes, and to cook with. Heating our water is by far the biggest demand on our propane budget. By adding the solar hot water panels to the home we have seen the propane usage drop from a high of close to 1000 gals a year to a low of just under 600 gals per year. Do the math on the cost per gallon of propane, and this system has paid for itself in just a few years!
A Vermont Castings ‘Resolute’ wood stove is used as the primary heat source for the home. The stove is sized just under the BTU requirement for the square footage of the house so we can run it hotter. This translates to a cleaner stove and chimney, with less risk of having a chimney fire. We typically burn 4-5 cords per season depending on the weather. The house has an open floor plan, and ceiling fans help to circulate the warm air to cooler areas.
We burn firewood harvested from our land and locally sourced. Heating your home with wood requires some planning and work if you are going to cut, split, and stack for the demands of a Vermont winter! We have a truck load of logs delivered every other year. Then we’ll ‘chunk up’ the logs with chainsaws, split with a gas-powered hydraulic splitter, and stack on pallets with a tarp cover to dry. The working plan for us is to have at least 2 years of wood stacked – one year’s worth to burn and one year’s worth set aside drying.
Our small flock of chickens provides us with all of the fresh eggs we need. The eggs we don’t use are sold to neighbors, which helps offset the cost of chicken feed. We have also kept beehives primarily for pollinating the garden, and the honey was a great bonus!
We do not use any chemicals on the garden or on the property to control pests or weeds. The garden supplies us with a year’s worth of vegetables. We also have strawberries and blueberries that are a treat! Each year we add a load of composted manure to the garden to help improve the rocky soil. All our vegetable matter is recycled back into the garden by utilizing composting bins. It’s amazing what rich, black composted soil can be created from your kitchen scraps, lawn clippings, and leaves.
Thanks for reading this far, and for your interest in my ‘home front’ blog. And if you have any questions or comments please contact me. You can also subscribe using the simple form in the side bar, so you won’t ever miss a post.
All my best, Nancy
*PS – I also share even more tips, tricks and related goodies on my social media!