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!
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.
We recently made a big cross country move and left our home of over twenty years in Vermont. Now Washington is where I call home, renting until we locate the next ‘home front’ to make home. For the curious; here is a little peek of what we left behind 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 our 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 saw interior temperatures reaching 80ºF on sunny winter days. This meant less demand for wood during the winter heating months. Adding a good overhang to the roof helped keep the home cooler in the summer when the sun was 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 was grid-tied, meaning we still received power from the public electric company through traditional power lines connected to the home, but our PV system sent back power to the electric company’s grid when it generated more energy than our home used. On those days we could watch our electric meter spin backwards! This showed up as a credit on our electric bill.
We used 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 saw 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 paid for itself in just a few years!
A Vermont Castings ‘Resolute’ wood stove was used as the primary heat source for the home. The stove was sized just under the BTU requirement for the square footage of the house so we could run it hotter. This translated to a cleaner stove and chimney, with less risk of having a chimney fire. We typically burned 4-5 cords per season depending on the weather. The house had an open floor plan, and ceiling fans helped to circulate the warm air to cooler areas.
We burned firewood harvested from our land and locally sourced. Heating your home with wood required some planning and work if you are going to cut, split, and stack for the demands of a Vermont winter! We had a truck load of logs delivered every other year. Then we’d ‘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 was 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 provided us with all of the fresh eggs we needed. The eggs we don’t use were sold to neighbors, which helped offset the cost of chicken feed. We have also kept beehives primarily for pollinating the garden, and the honey was a great bonus!
We did not use any chemicals on the garden or on the property to control pests or weeds. The garden supplied us with a year’s worth of vegetables. We also had strawberries and blueberries that were a treat! Each year we would add a load of composted manure to the garden to help improve the rocky soil. All our vegetable matter was 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.
We loved our life in Vermont but wanted to move closer to our four grown children and grandchildren. It took two years to sell our home and we finally packed up and headed west in the fall of 2018.
Our next adventure will be to find our next home. Hopefully one where we can continue the same self reliant lifestyle. In the meantime we are continuing our self reliant lifestyle in a small rental!
Thanks for reading this far, and for your interest in my ‘home front’ blog. 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!