The beauty of living off grid

March 10 2015

Six years ago I made a life changing decision to move to theHighlands. Not being a native of the Highlands I was unfamiliar withits unique beauty countless lakes overwhelming wildlife or the people that I was fortunate enough to meet and in the end call neighbours andfriends.
Coming from a small town I always thought that I was countryenough to live amongst the residents of Haliburton and fit in quitewell. Fit in I did but not without the help of the people around me.And that thing about being country enough well you’re not countryuntil you live in Haliburton and endure all four seasons and come outsmiling.
I moved here in the spring and was welcomed into WrenBillings’s home. I stayed with Wren for six weeks. During my time therewith Wren and Sonya I was treated as one of the family. The kindnessthat was given is something I will never forget. To imagine a perfectstranger extending that kindness is hard to picture in today’s world.
Imoved into a house like no other I had ever been in. It sits nestledamongst the trees on top of the mountain surrounded by nature.
Thereare no power lines to invade its beauty or phone lines to drown out the sounds of the birds chirping their songs. There is no cable. Satelliterange is mediocre at  best. For the first time in my life I feltcompletely at peace.
No longer afraid of who or what might bother me atnight. The tranquillity of nature at its finest. Never in the city had I felt that level of comfort. Something about being out on the mountaintold me it was a safe place to be. This didn’t come about all of asudden it took a good year before I got there but I did get there and to anyone who fears the dark this is huge. Even listening to thewolves and coyotes didn’t unnerve me as much as it should have. I oftenwaited for the sound of the birds flapping their wings calling theirmates before drifting off to sleep.
Winter came and with it cameprobably the worst winter I’ve ever had to deal with as an adult. My son would often come home from school and spend hours plowing the driveway in an effort to keep it clear so that I would be able to get up thehilly driveway that seemed to go on forever. Sometimes we weresuccessful in keeping it clear and Mother Nature would cooperate.Sometimes she just didn’t want to work with us. The nights were coldand it was an endless routine of splitting and cutting and piling andcarrying wood in order to keep warm. The work involved was overwhelming. Through word of mouth I found Lyle Bacon and Harry Hutchings andbetween those two  we were able to keep a somewhat comfortabletemperature in the house even on the coldest days.
Our generator wastemperamental and we would go weeks and weeks on end without it running. Making trips to the gas bar to run the little gas generator was aneveryday task. Again through word of mouth I heard about Tony Salvatorifrom Emmerson’s. Well sure enough I called him up and within an hour he had our big genie running. This also became a common task as it seemed I was calling him on a daily basis.
We bought a new genie and the fearof losing power or not being able to maintain power diminished. I wasstill uncertain and for a long time waited for the house to go blackbut it didn’t not for a long time. Then it happened but it wasn’t thegenerator. It was the batteries. They weren’t keeping a charge. Could be the cold of the season diminishing them or just that they weren’t good batteries. We had an off-grid system that when I moved there no oneknew how to operate.
By the second year of living on the mountain we had become experts on off-grid living but not without the help of SeanFlannagan from Flannagan and Sun. He is an expert at off-grid systemsand spent a lot of time educating us on the perils of how it worked. Hehad supplied us previously with the now defunk batteries and true tohis word warrantied them and supplied us with new ones. We also workedout a plan for newer panels and repositioning of the panels to ensurethe batteries were only necessary during our colder months.
The thoughtof being able to have power full time seemed a life-time away. Howwonderful it was to have Sean assist us in making this dream come true.We were informed as to where the sonotubes were to be positioned and how deep they needed to be in order for them to hold our new array ofpanels. My sister came up from Hamilton and in what proved to be thevery coldest November in history she and I and my son dug deep and hand filled all eight tubes with concrete that was hand mixed as we couldn’t figure out how to get the electric mixer to work. We almost froze todeath but we did it. The panels arrived shortly after and wereinstalled.
Due to the extreme winter we had that year the panelsweren’t able to provide the level of power needed. The snow blanketed us way beyond anything that we could work with. Thank God for neighbours.Keith Cowen and Jim Hutchings to the rescue. Without fail one of themwould show up and plow for us and give us encouragement that betterdays lay ahead. Finally spring arrived and the power we needed to liveby came in an abundance.
It was one of those wow moments when yourealize that you could actually sit back and relax knowing that yourbatteries are full and you can use a luxury or two and have no fear ofpower loss. Very few people will ever get to experience that feeling.Such appreciation for the things that people use every day and don’tthink about.
Living off-grid is not for the weak at heart. It takes alot of determination time and in the case of having to replace unitsmoney. Personally I couldn’t have done it without the help of myneighbours and friends. I no longer live there but my heart is there.
I left it on the mountain and each time I get a scent of lilac I thinkof my lilac bush gracing the driveway with it fragrance as you enterthis paradise of land that allows you to be free of the elements oftechnology the rudeness of society and the congestion of vehicles that invade this beautiful town called Haliburton.
Thank you my friendseach and every one of you that made my time on the mountain anexperience that I will hold dear in my heart to share with mygrandchildren and their children in hopes some day they too might want to venture down that path and rediscover Mother Nature and all herglory.

Cindy Storie