So, like most off-the-grid newbies, we’ve spent a good part of our first week here figuring out how to best manage the solar power and cistern water systems. It all seemed easy enough when Les was explaining it on our first visit here (well, Ray seemed to think so, anyway); and we thought we’d have time to review the processes again while living here for a few days with Les and Michelle still in-country. But plans changed, as they’re known to do, and Les and Michelle had to leave before we arrived.
Fortunately Ray’s a resourceful guy and not afraid to jump in (sometimes literally, as you’ll see) and figure things out for himself. I helped where I could, but I definitely could not be living here alone.
Lesson #1: You have to pay attention to your power use, and remember to only use what you need at one time. Because when you don’t, you wake up in the middle of the night without a ceiling fan. And you kinda want that ceiling fan when the doors are shut, limiting the breeze. And to get that fan (and other things, like, oh, the refrigerator / freezer with all the food you just bought in it) running again, the sun has to shine for quite a while, or you have to start up the generator, or both.
So Ray got acquainted with the generator, and we set up our electronic stuff inside on separate power strips so we can turn specific grouped things on and off as we need them, and we’ve both learned to keep an eye on the power panel inside and/or the battery panels in the garage.
Eventually – DUH – we realized that the biggest culprit in our power loss was the refrigerator, which we’d been concerned about since it wasn’t getting very cold. We should have noticed sooner that it had been pushed against the wall, which meant the coils on the back of it couldn’t get any air, so it was just running and running. Needless to say, that’s been fixed, and lo and behold, the fridge is colder, and we’re not draining power like we were.
Lesson #2: There aren’t supposed to be frogs in your cisterns. Unfortunately there were quite a few of them in one of ours, probably because when we arrived, some parts of the PVC system had been knocked down, possibly by the wind, leaving an open entry into the cistern for who knows how long from the time Les and Michelle left. Have no fear, we’ve been drinking bottled water (and will continue to do so), but even so, ick.
Before he discovered the frogs, Ray had already cleared away a bunch of PVC and assorted other stuff that was stashed behind the tanks, in the process scaring up a snake (according to Bill next door, it was a harmless “green racer” – kind of like a grass snake) and also a scorpion, which Ray bludgeoned to death with a bamboo shoot. Note: All sides of the house, and the inside, have since been sprayed with “some good shit” 🙂
We’d made a second run into Corozal to get a pump and some hose the day before, and the plan was to try to pump some clean water from the blue house tanks down to ours, since we were a little low and probably won’t see rain for a while (and I did help with that, while Ray was addressing amphibians).
Anyhow, back to the story: Ray discovered that three of the cisterns were clean, with clear water – and then he opened the frog one. Oh. After debating whether to tell me or not, he shut off the pipes so that only the frog tank was active and told me to come have a look.
Then he put on a do-rag, fashioned a frog net from some spare parts in the garage, and returned as Super Cistern Man (pictured) to save the day. With a scoop out, most of the frogs hopped away, but a few were dead (again, ick).
So, we (okay, mostly he) learned how to drain and clean a cistern, earlier than expected. Once it was empty, it was actually pretty light, easy enough to tip over and give a good scouring. I gave some real thought to taking a photo of Ray with his head in a cistern, which was actually pretty funny, but I guessed (correctly, as it turned out) that he might not think it was as amusing as I did (though he did laugh when I told him about it later).
And while on the subject of being off the grid, for anyone wondering about what else that entails, there’s also a smaller cistern on the roof of the bathroom that’s gravity-fed water for the toilet; a satellite receiver for TV; and an Internet antenna, to round things out. So far, so good, on all of them (let’s hope that doesn’t jinx anything).