Off-Grid Living Means Solar-Powered Blogging, Even With a Lack of Sunshine


Prepping for off-grid, locavore living
Prior to the month of June, we had some preparations to make before we moved our home off the grid and became locavores. A hose was attached to the pond and brought downhill to the house. A small "room heater" wood stove with a precarious home-made chimney was erected near the house. A solar panel and back-up battery was ordered and on the way. The fridge was emptied; we ate the contents or gave them to friends.We had decided that in preparing for the food it did not make any sense to drive miles out of our way to purchase staples prior to June but, if we were in the locality for another reason, we would travel a bit. In middle Vermont we went to a restaurant called The Farmer's Diner recommended by Barbara Kingsolver in her book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. This restaurant is an old fashioned diner that uses only local produce and meats. On the cover of the menu was a description of the Chapelles, who provided the potatoes to the retsuarant, so we visited them and purchased 50 pounds of potatoes. We were given a tour by the gracious Bob Chapelle. Part of the fun of this project is meeting all the people who are so invested in providing better food choices.

Jack Lazor of Butterworks Farm in northern Vermont spent an entire afternoon with us. He sells wholesome yoghurt, mostly to Whole Foods, made from Jersey cow whole milk. We bought yoghurt (which Deane then used as culture to make her own with Jack's permission), cheese, a variety of dried beans and corn meal that he ground right then.

Heartnuts (a kind of walnut) were purchased from Windmill Point Farm on Ile Perrot west of Montreal. At the same time we purchased a heartnut tree and a pecan tree for improving our future self-sufficiency. In Compton, Quebec we found milled oats and soy flour at La Moisson Dore. Finally, we visited a fabulous store in Upton, Qubec called General Upton. Christian Champy who owns this store grows his own sunflowers and then grinds them into oil. This was a real find for salads to be combined with maple vinegar from our neighbours. Champy has many different local products on his shelves so we managed to purchase popcorn, buckwheat flour and flax seeds. Plus he has a charming cafe where we ate a delicious lunch.

When June 1 dawned, we had a small pantry of sorts - beans, nuts, cornmeal, oats, flax seeds, soy flour, oil and vinegar plus our own maple syrup and early produce from our vegetable garden. One of the difficulties we found in looking for local products is that many of them appear to be local but in fact are not. It is the distributer who is local, or the value-added producer, or some of the ingredients are local but not all.

The First Week
We never considered that it might rain! The first five days were cold and rainy. An advantage of this was the ability to use the wood stove in the living room. It is a Vermont Castings Encore. We upgraded our old Vigilant recently to reduce the carbon emissions and the new stove does this, as well as heating more efficiently. Little bathing occurred this first week as we were depending on the pond to warm up! Clothes washing is difficult. The pond idea was good but the water is really not clean enough.

The caffeine withdrawal from our regular drinking of black tea was brutal, headaches for three of four days. The food was limited with asparagus and rhubarb taking top billing. We ate a lot of potatoes and eggs which come from a neighbour's free-range hens. The food storage was figured out --our basement is cool enough to keep everything fresh. Being vegetarian has its advantages! At the end of the week when the sun came out we cycled to Sutton to Alban Houle's, a local distributer, and found greenhouse tomatoes and cukes.

We experienced some frustration from the late delivery of the solar panel although the rain would have prevented its use. We have had difficulty getting on line so this blogging has been delayed!

Pay Dirt at the farmers' market
On the seventh day the sun shone and we rode our tandem bicycle twelve kilometers to Knowlton where there is a Saturday market. What a treat! We guzzled local apple juice (Huck's) after drinking only water and mint tea all week. We loaded up our paniers with fresh produce from a delightful young man from St. Armand. The choices were many: sunflower spouts, baby turnips, spinach, bok choy, radishes, asparagus. Another distributer had last year's onions and apples plus green house tomatoes, red peppers and cucumbers. She promised us strawberries on the following Saturday! Our eating possibilities improved enormously, lots of new possibilities looming.

Coming up next: The Ponderings

Deane Brebner and Don Bissonnette live in Sutton, Quebec. They will be guest blogging frequently about their experiences with taking their home off the grid and eating a local diet. Read other posts in this series here.

Tags: Food Miles

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