Presently our fledgling homestead has no utilities. No water, no electricity, no septic. We have our Potty House sawdust toilet and some basic shelter, but that’s it.

Come January, the homestead is making a rather definite leap into modernity. I am presently assembling a small off-grid solar electric setup. It will provide enough electricity to recharge my cordless tools and power some lights (useful for more productive time after dark).

Putting together this simple system has been incredibly fun and addictive. I’ve also learned a lot about renewable energy. Until a couple years ago the extent of my understanding of electricity was that you plugged things into wall sockets and they just worked, and that it is most unwise to put a paperclip into a wall socket. I was very proud of myself when I learned how to successfully wire a 3-way light switch in my house without killing myself. Now I am playing with deep-cycle batteries, inverters, charge controllers, and really heavy welding cable.

I’ve found instructions on how to build your own wind generator out of junk and scrap plumbing parts. And then there’s the breadbox solar water heater out of a discarded electric water heater tank. And the solar space heater made from beer cans. The homebrew windmill might be my next renewable energy project (I married a Kansas girl and wind power is pretty big in Kansas these days, so living in a wheat straw house with wind power is doubly cool).

I feel kinda like one of those people who build space shuttles out of parts ordered off the back of cereal boxes. Only I hope to get my parts off of Freecycle or out of dumpsters and roll-offs. These are the sorts of projects one might describe using McGyver as a verb, and those have their own special form of cool.

I want to post some pictures and a story about the solar installation once all the parts come in and I start putting everything together. So stay tuned! (Meantime, check out our wish list for recycled items… go ahead, feed my addiction!)