With the upcoming publication of Farewell, My Subaru, Doug Fine’s account of everything that can go wrong (and then right), when a regular fellow decides to get off grid, off petroleum and on local living, we spoke to Doug about what’s next at his Funky Butte Ranch.
“Well, ‘Farewell, My Subaru’ recounts my transition towards off-grid electricity and unleaded fuel, and my start with animal husbandry for local, organic food. In my first two years, I’ve reduced my grid bill 70-80%, and no longer need to stop at the gas station. Plus, I have more chicken and eggs than I know what to do with, and my goat is due to give birth this month, meaning local-as-it-gets milk, yogurt, cheese and even ice cream.
But I have a way to go. Take tropical food, for instance: I love bananas, oranges and limes. The plan is to build a solar-powered greenhouse so I can cut those carbon miles out of my diet. I’d also like to cut my last ties to the grid — that last 20-30% comes from my electric range. I don’t want to switch to propane, because that’s a fossil fuel. Solar ovens are a possibility, but I’m trying to show that anyone can get off grid, and still live with the comforts we’ve come to expect. So I’m doing research into harvesting methane from my and my livestock’s waste, and powering a stove that way. They do it on a large scale in India and I’ll see if it’s possible on an individual scale. And if I do that and build up my solar system, I’ll have to decide if I want no connection to the grid at all, or to sell energy back to the power company.
Water is another issue: my well is solar-powered, but since I live in the desert, I want to get started on harvesting my rainwater — that one’s a no-brainer. If we talk in another year or two and those improvements are dialed in, I’ll feel like I’m on a good track. But as anyone who checks out the misadventures on my blog (www.dougfine.com) will see, there’s always more to do — there’s no shortage of the ways I can screw up as I make this journey. Still, one of the points of writing about this effort is to show that if I can approach carbon-neutral, anyone can.
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