Monday, October 21, 2019

Moved! Settling in! It’s working!


 Our new home in Henryville, Indiana was completed at the end of July, and we moved in right away. So far, we’ve experienced drought and extreme heat; torrential rain; multiple visitors including our four grandchildren; sunny fall days; nights of stargazing; planting asparagus crowns, garlic, and shallots in our newly made Hugelkultur mounds and finding volunteer acorn squash growing out of them; learning the many uses of a good tractor and several battery-powered garden tools; converting loads of building material, especially pallets and window crates, into barn and shed shelving; viewing a bobcat, coyote, two foxes, and numerous deer and turkeys on our game cam; watching hummingbirds, chickadees, woodpeckers, nuthatches, tufted titmice flock to our bird feeders; learning new species of wildflowers like nodding bur-marigolds and ageratum; transplanting multitudes of plants from our city garden; finding a new organic supplier of berry plants near Bloomington and starting our strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, cranberries, hardy kiwis, and figs; drilling holes in oak logs and hammering shiitake plugs into them; literally watching the grass grow that lay as dormant seed for six weeks until the rains came; harvesting abundant lettuce and basil; and discovering and harvesting persimmons that were growing next to the pond.

It’s hard not to get carried away with projects. What saves us now are the shift in seasons and the shorter days of fall. Now that the rains have begun, we can ease up on watering and trust that our plants are all taking root. Soon it will be time to mow fields and plan for the spring. This week I’ll begin using a fan and vent to cool down the root cellar, which this year only contains a couple baskets of farmer’s market potatoes and a few fall vegetables.

Our solar panels are working very well. Here are some drone pictures of them that our installer recently took. If you look REALLY close, we are sitting on the porch watching the drone with my brother and sister-in-law. I’ve become a true geek about our energy efficiency. My favorite app is our Tesla battery, which shows in real time how much the panels are producing, how much our house is using, how much is going back to the grid, and how much is stored in the battery. So far, we have sent more than twice as much back to the grid as we’ve taken. Since we pay four times as much for grid power than we receive in credit, plus another $37/month for the privilege of being connected, having a battery that stores our power for nights and cloudy days is a tremendous advantage. I can take the EV Bolt into Louisville to run errands while the house battery charges up, come home and charge up the car, and then refill the battery before sundown.
 
Speaking of the Bolt, we recently drove it to Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where I taught a class on scripture and creation care at Wake Forest Seminary. This would not have been possible a year ago. But VW’s settlement over their emissions cheating mandated the creation of Electrify America: the installation of hundreds of charging stations at Walmarts all over the country. In addition, many college campuses, including the two we visited, have free charging stations, and Chevy dealers likewise offer free superfast charging.

It does change the way you travel: we hopped from one station to the next, plugged in, set up beach chairs in the shade, and settled in for a half-hour read, rest, and often, conversation with a local who was curious about buying a Bolt and installing solar panels. Charging took more time, but it cost us less than driving the Prius would have, and even when the power source is coal, the fuel’s carbon footprint is lower than that of gasoline, and there is no exhaust pollution. Plus, it’s a sweet ride.


With the turning of the seasons, we’ve also turned on the geothermal in-floor radiant heat. It’s not what people expect—you can’t touch the floor and feel toasty, because it’s only 70 degrees. But along with the superb insulation and triple-pane windows, it noiselessly keeps us cozy, and hardly registers at all in our electric use.

We love our life here at Lost Beagle Lake. It’s an oasis of serenity and sustainability in the midst of national insanity, and in one of the most environmentally regressive states in the country. What our life here will grow into remains to be seen. We hope that it will become a welcoming retreat for many, and an example of what can be done with some imagination and initiative (and a good builder!).