better than tv

IMG_8473Oh, my, the days have been gray around here lately. So gray. This morning, after chores and breakfast I sat down for a precious moment at my spinning wheel and I’m certain the already very gray light coming in the windows got even grayer. I mean, I am pretty aware of the fact that a visit to the eye-doctor is probably in my near future, but my eyesight isn’t that bad. I practically needed to turn on a light just to be able to see what I was doing at the wheel. It was probably ten in the morning… not typically the darkest hour of the day!

So, the days have been gray. And since we are drawing near the winter solstice, the nights have been long. If you read between the lines here, you might gather that sunshine is at a premium. Remember also that I live in a solar-powered house. When the sun doesn’t shine, there is no power. So our solar system is getting the double whammy of 1) no sunshine, and 2) more power usage because the daylight is less and we are therefore using lights for more hours each day.

Over the weekend, our solar system’s battery bank was about to crash. Knowing that precious little sunshine was expected in our forecast, Eric made the move of hauling our batteries over to our neighbor’s shop building where there is grid-tied electricity and where we happen to have a battery charger. (Let me just say that It is no small feat lugging the eight seventy-five pound batteries from their moorings in the bench on our front porch, down the steps, into the back of the mini-van, and out our very long and rough driveway, out of the mini-van and into the shop, and then to reverse these steps to get the batteries back home.) In order to get any charge on the batteries at all, they needed to stay on the charger for at least 24 hours. That left my family completely in the dark for one evening. Eric and I lived for years without any electricity at all, but now that we have it, we’ve gotten kind of used to it. We still don’t use very much power, but damn, an 8 watt light bulb is an amazing thing. And with three busy kids who all have their own agendas, an evening in the dark could easily turn nightmare-ish.IMG_8495

But the evening did not leave me cursing under my breath at the frustrating inconvenience of not having any lights. The evening was lovely. Memorably lovely. We lit candles and sat close to one another on the couches reading stories with our one functioning flashlight. We talked about things and ideas and plans and re-capped what the day held for each of us. Eric and I declared that we need to be without lights more often! Even when we do have adequate power, television is not an option for my family, as we don’t have one. Sure, sometimes we allow the kids to watch a movie on the tiny dvd player that we have, but overall our evenings are never spent in front of the tv. During this precious candlelit evening, I was reminded of why I have made the choices I have made for my family. I chose to exclude television from the scene of my household. I chose to not let the flow of my brain be determined by someone else. IMG_8498This evening, we turned our bull, Goldie, loose with five heifers. He’s an old feller. Never in any big hurry. Incredibly calm and gentle for a creature of his size. Before today, he has never even met the young ladies we put in his paddock, other than the subtle whiffs of their scent carried on the wind. We partially unrolled a round bale of hay for Goldie and his new girlfriends, and then just stood there, leaning comfortably on the bale, taking in the sights and sounds. It was fascinating to watch the body language of the cattle. The way they would lower their heads and turn their bodies slightly sideways to appear as large as possible. The smelling. The kicking up of heels as the excitement of the new situation set in. The munching sounds of hay being chewed. The loud bellowing. This was my deep breath. This was my evening entertainment.

I feel so thankful that my days hold so many of these beautiful, visually rich and stimulating, albeit very peaceful, moments. Real life in real time is way better than tv. IMG_8491

13 thoughts on “better than tv

  1. I read and enjoy all the posts here. I am an urban farmer, so I only get to relate to land in bits and pieces. In this post I can feel how the land wraps around you and speaks to your heart and mind.

    • Wow, thank you. I do feel like the farm speaks to my heart and mind, for sure. I am a part of it just as it is a part of me. Thanks for following our stories, Cher

  2. So much to say in response to this post. We, also, have never had TV and have never missed it. Our girls, now all grown, appreciate the value have having gone-without during their childhood on the farm. Good for you – keep it up. Although we do have electricity, we do without as part of our yearly celebration of the winter Solstice. Like you, we light candles and, somehow, spending an evening by the light of those candles makes us appreciate electricity but, more so, everything (including daylight) which the sun makes possible. It is the very best time of year to be appreciative of the sun. I always tell my students that without the sun … we’re done. It’s something which makes even 20-year-old college students, who haven’t thought about such things, pause. It’s good for everyone to appreciate what the sun does for us. And what green things do for us, as well. Thank you, thank you for the image of the sheep … glad to know they are doing well … if not under unrelenting gray skies! I am empathetic, for we too have been experiencing some pretty dull weather here, up North. Hang in there … the sun will shine … eventually. D

    • Ahhh, the sun is shining today, and I am so grateful! I hope my children, when they are all grown up, appreciate our decision to not have tv as it seems like your children do. That’s wonderful. We, too, usually celebrate the solstice with candlelight… and if we have enough power we will plug in the lights on the solstice tree!!! And I like that phrase, “without the sun, we’re done” … keep it up with that message! Cher

      • It always amazes me (perhaps it shouldn’t) how perturbed most folks get when the power goes down. Seems that their entire existence, after dark, is tied to the availability of grid-sourced-power. And, when that power is lost – they are at a loss for ways to cook, keep warm, take a shower, and wash the dishes. I mean, in most cases, total shutdown. We take great pride in having become ‘self-sufficient’. Without grid power we can water our animals, heat water tanks, light (a portion of) our home, cook, and all the rest. Becoming adaptable and flexible has simply been one of the skills we have practiced for all of these years. Now, dealing with a variety of what most folks would refer to as ‘real problems’ are simply second nature. I don’t want to suggest that we might view ourselves as being ‘better than other folks,’ no … we have simply made it a priority to learn the skills necessary to get along under a wide variety of less-than-optimal conditions. D

      • Isn’t self-sufficiency just grand? Your comments are awesome and thought-provoking, by the way! And, my goodness, your photography is stunning on your blog. Thank you for what you do…

    • Hi there… boy, we installed the system 8 years ago and it was around $2,000. I’m just guessing that nowadays you could start for less than that.We started with just 4 batteries and 100 watts of panel. We added four more batteries a few years ago and scored a couple of free additional panels, putting us up to 200 watts of panel. We are really hoping to add a hydro-electric component to the mix, as usually in the winter when the sunshine is so much less, the water on the farm flows abundantly. Hope that helps, Cher

      • No worries… I just thought I should mention that we can run a laptop computer, a few lights, etc. When the sun is shining, I can use a food processor, stand mixer, and used to use a very energy efficient washing machine. (before I upgraded to hand-washing…Ha!) Eric has even run a skill saw, but that was pushing our inverter to the maximum. (we have a 1500-watt inverter, and the inverter component and charge controller is where the $$$$ is in a system. The batteries are kind of pricey, too.) I’m totally happy to answer as many questions as you fire at me…

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