Tag Archives: living off-grid

Energy Adaptation

Now that we have upped our overall power potential, we’ve been trying to figure out how to use it most appropriately. Each of us has different thoughts on appropriate use so we’ve had a few arguments along the way.

My priority is having enough energy to teach classes, sometimes up to 6 hours a day. Since I start in the afternoon and work until several hours after dark, I want to make sure that there is enough charge in the batteries that I can complete my shifts. We now have 5 batteries, with the plan of purchasing yet another one with my next paycheck, so mostly this hasn’t been an issue.

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Music to my ears!

Of secondary importance to me is power for the washer.  We’ve established a routine whereby wash is done only on days when I don’t have classes because classes are of course of higher importance than clean chonies. Besides, if worse comes to worst, we can still handwash using the lavadero (washboard).

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“Doing classwork Mom!”

My son has different priorities. He is working on completing prepa (high school) online, so theoretically classwork comes first. However, he’s having trouble motivating himself to complete the current algebra course, so playing video games absorbs most of his time. Of course, since we are sharing his computer so that I can teach classes, he’s somewhat frustrated with his gaming time allotment. Furthermore, his desktop computer uses more energy than any other item we use. And since I’m already using it 6 hours a day, he is even further limited.

My husband has gone through a strange transformation since the purchase of the most recent battery. He’s become Defender of the Power. Any unauthorized energy use by either my son or me is up for debate. This includes a light left off by accident when a room is empty and charging my kindle. He monitors the voltage as obsessively as my son checks the internet ping, which fluctuates wildly throughout the day.

He’s even gone back to using a flashlight after dark, although for months we’ve been able to turn on a light in the bathroom or kitchen to illuminate our lives. He’s also begun setting up booby traps using our motion activated solar lights. So any nighttime potty trips are apt to become blinded, fumbling experiences, all in the name of saving power.

We have learned that 2 solid days of rain, unseasonable for this time of year, sends us all into panic mode. Not only does the internet give us fits, but the batteries are not able to fully charge for obvious reasons. Therefore, we’ll have to learn to budget our energy use better before the rainy season.

Otherwise, we are enjoying our solar setup immensely.

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Sewing and sewing

So now that I had a little more time with my new, improved non-school dependant schedule, I thought I’d finally get around to doing something with all those scraps I made from cutting up our school uniforms in July.  (See Transition Year)

I decided on a pattern for the latest patchwork pillow creation, sat down to sew at my treadle sewing machine (See Seamstress) and BING…BONG.  The teeth that move the fabric no longer moved the fabric.  Well, this was something beyond my abilities to repair, so I asked my husband to look at it.  He did, after a few weeks of nagging.  It took him 20 minutes to fix.

So then I sit back down ready to roll, and CRUNCH.  The wheel that turns the band that makes the whole rigmarole go was bent. Frustrated, I piled up my patchwork pieces and started in about getting a new sewing machine base.

My husband knew a guy whose mother had an old machine.  But the mom didn’t want to sell. She had another older base she’d be willing to part with but it was crooked.  One of the legs had been damaged over the years.  And she wanted $500 pesos for it.  

Then I remembered when we went to get a piano in Morelia (See Piano shopping) we had stopped at a roadside flea market and they had the most beautiful Singer sewing machine and base I had ever seen. After having bought our lovely piano earlier that day, I didn’t have any money on me for the sewing machine besides which it was a bit pricey. The guy wanted $2,000 pesos for the set (machine and base). Now that my own sewing machine was kaput, maybe we could see if he’d lower the price any. Consequently, my husband and I spent 3 weeks trying different random days and times to see if the place was open.  No luck.

On the way back from one of these fruitless trips, we drove past another junk shop in Moroleon.  The owner was just setting out a wrought iron sewing machine base.  We immediately stopped and asked the price.  $250 pesos and he’d throw in the curvy part that covered the wheel so that the ladies skirts didn’t get tangled in it.  I whipped out my wallet.

It was quite a trip home with this HEAVY iron between us on the motorcycle, but I was determined and hung on off the back of the motorcycle rack hoping that I wouldn’t fall off at every tope (speed bump). Me, the iron, the motorcycle and my husband arrived home safely.  My husband spent the afternoon fiddling with it.  The bolts were stripped and needed to be replaced. $20 pesos for a bag of bolts.  Then it was rather rusty, so we picked up a can of paint ($50 pesos). It ended up that my husband didn’t put that wheel guard on.  I mean I typically don’t sew with a full skirt on, so no worries about getting tangled.  All in all, I’m delighted with the new improved sewing machine.  It runs as smooth as a baby’s bottom (whatever that’s supposed to mean).

So then the question was what to do with the old base.  As the wheel was bent, it really wasn’t going to be good to anyone as a serviceable item.  Well, waste not, want not.  My son varnished a piece of scrap wood and my husband mounted it to the base and voila, a new, vintage table.  Everybody around here has at least one of these sewing machine base tables. And now I do too.

So now that the pillows are piling up, it’s time to head to the tianguis (flea market) and see if we can convert those old uniforms into a few pesos.  My next project will be curtains for the upstairs windows.  Stay tuned for details on that remodeling project.

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Puzzled

Today I’d like to share a secret with you.  It’s nothing too dramatic, like where I buried the bodies or anything.  Yet it’s a surreptitious activity just the same.

My secret is I like doing jigsaw puzzles….something that I imagined only old ladies did. I like the piecing together of random bits.  I like the knowledge that every piece has its place, I just need to find it.  I like to watch the picture all come together.  It’s soul-satisfying.

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There have been some studies on the whole jigsaw puzzle phenomenon.  According to researchers at the University of Bath, there are two main types of puzzlers, the hoarders, and the opportunists.  Fortunately for me, I’m more of an opportunist, searching for a variety of ways to complete the puzzle.  It also helps to not be a hoarder when my husband and son sit down for an hour or so and try to “help” me.  Their plan of attack is often not the same as mine.  All those blue sky pieces I had piled to one side are scattered over the table before you can say Jack Robinson. When that happens, I consider it yet another opportunity to work on my zen.  Eventually, the men in the house become bored and move along.  Then I am free to pile the sky pieces in the corner once again.

Apparently doing jigsaw puzzles are good for you.  Most specifically, puzzles have been shown to be good for the development of problem-solving strategies, project management skills, self-management skills, visual skills, cognitive skills, character development skills, tactile skills, social skills and collaborative skills. (See 42 Thinking Skills You Can Learn From Doing Jigsaw Puzzles)  Additionally, because jigsaw puzzle completion requires the use of both sides of your brain, there is some evidence that this little hobby can lead to a longer and better quality of life, and reduce the chance of developing memory loss, dementia and Alzheimer’s in later years. (See Health Benefits Of Jigsaw Puzzles)

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Puzzling is a sort of meditation for me.  It reminds me that it takes time to see the big picture and that sometimes pieces I believe should fit, don’t.  It fosters patience and perseverance.  It also teaches me that I have limitations.  While I can do a 500 piece puzzle in short order, a 1500 piece puzzle takes some doing.  I recently saw a puzzle of the Sistine Chapel–5000 pieces.  I know enough to leave that one to the masters!

I suppose I should be proud of my hobby.  I mean, it has a long and noble past.  Invented in the 1760s as an educational device, puzzling for adults came into its own around 1900 gaining peak popularity during the Great Depression as an inexpensive alternative entertainment. (See History of Puzzles)  It remains an incredible off-grid pastime in our household at least.

I recently watched a lovely Argentinean movie called Rompecabezas (Puzzle). A 40-year-old housewife discovers her passion in assembling jigsaw puzzles.  After receiving negative feedback from her family, she decides to keep her hobby and subsequent puzzle championship a secret.  

Unlike the woman in the movie, my husband and son know when I am working on a puzzle.  I literally take over the back table.  My husband has been supportive in that he frames the completed puzzle for me. His thought was something that took so much time should be displayed, not dismantled again. My son also enjoys our new wall art.

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So how do I feed my vice?  Zulily and Amazon Mexico of course!  Zulily ships to Mexico for $120 pesos per order and Amazon Mexico, provided it comes from the Amazon warehouse, often has free shipping.  Now with my own shipping address (See A room of her own) obtaining puzzles is not so challenging as it once was. Life is good.

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A Day in the Life in La Yacata

Welcome to the March 2015 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Day in the Life This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have given us a special glimpse into their everyday. ***

Our life has a regular rhythm that often depends on the seasons or current employment status. In the rainy season, our life revolved around planting, while in the dry season it centers around the harvest. The employment status of my husband, myself and 12-year-old son, also varies. When there is work available, we work, when there isn’t, well, we make do.

Sunday afternoon

Sunday afternoon

Sunday activities are the most consistent year-round and little affected by our work schedules. I often get asked about what we do living off-grid in the middle of nowhere in central Mexico. I have to say, there is never a dull moment around here! We get up with the sun on Sunday morning and have our coffee. Right now, we have a plethora of little chivitos (kids) that are enjoying our organic raw goat’s milk, so we take the coffee black more often than not. (See Birth and Death).

Helping Princess stay still so that littler Princess can chow down.

Helping Princess stay still so that littler Princess can chow down.

After breakfast, the animals are attended to. (See Old MacDonald’s Farm) Our current collection of horses, chickens, rabbits, cats, goats, turkeys, sheep, donkey, cow and dog are fed and watered, and any issues that need to be addressed are done so at this time. For example, this Saturday our youngest goat, Princess, had her first baby. She has been having a bit of a problem adjusting to her new role as a mother when just on Friday she was a carefree youngster. So we have been assisting with her learning curve a bit. Princess gets a little extra corn to increase milk production and a little help in remembering to stay put so her littler princess can have some breakfast. We expect to only have to assist a day or so more.

Doing the wash at the community laundry mat.

Doing the wash at the community laundry mat.

After that, we gather the laundry together and head to Quirahoyo to do the wash. (See After Ecstasy the Laundry) Many hands make the work light, so we each set up at our own washboard. This Sunday, a local elderly woman was there with her broom and rake, clearing up the place. She was complaining about the amount of trash, which was considerable. As we leave no trash, our consciences were clean in that regard. My husband gave her a hand with the raking. In gratitude, she lit the pile of trash with her cigarette before we had finished washing, and we finished up with smoke in our eyes and a cough in our throats.

No electricity = no dryer

No electricity = no dryer

We headed home to hang the clothes for drying. About this time, we start to get a little hungry. Sometimes we go for a plate of birriria ( goat broth) or head to Cerano for some carnitas de res (fried beef) (See Failing at your own business–Tianguis) but this last Sunday we stayed home and had leftovers.  Remember, no refrigeration means food is eaten promptly.  Of course, with a pre-teen in the house, leftovers are not much of a problem.

Attending to the needs of property owners in La Yacata.

Attending to the needs of property owners in La Yacata.

Just as we finished, we had visitors. A couple that owned lots in La Yacata came to see if we could help them locate the lots and if we knew anyone who would be interested in buying them. My husband went with them to mark the lots with cal (chalk). Even though we tried to pass our positions in the mesa directiva (community group) last November (See Trying to Bow Out of the Yacata Revolution) colonos (residents) still come to us when there is an issue with their lot.

Goalie boy!

Goalie boy!

Then it’s time for our son’s soccer game. He has become quite the enthusiast, even playing goalie on two teams right now with a third school team in the works. Today’s game was close, 6 to 5, but they came out victorious which puts this team in the semi-finals.

Enchilada ingredients

Enchilada ingredients

We stopped for an ice cream treat and picked up tortillas, vegetables, and cheese for enchiladas. While my husband prepared them, he is, after all, the authentic Mexican around here, my son and I did some general straightening up around the house. During the week, we often are pressed for time, and things can get disordered if we don’t stay on top of things.

Enchiladas!

Enchiladas!

After we had eaten, it was time to take the goats and horses out for their daily romp. There isn’t much in the way of food during the dry season for the animals, but they enjoy their time out and about anyway. We are only taking the adults out right now, at least until this mob of babies is just a little bit older. The kids don’t mind the unsupervised recess time either and frolic about like, well, kids in the enclosed space set aside for them.

Everybody enjoys grazing time!

Everybody enjoys grazing time!

This afternoon, since there was a wee bit of rain last night, my husband harnessed Fiona up to test the soil.  It turned out to be still too dry, so she and the horses spent the afternoon grazing in the field instead.

Taking a turn at the plow.

Taking a turn at the plow.

After everybody is back in, it’s siesta time. My son and I often use this time to read. My husband likes to use this time to dream with or about the animals. He builds his stables in the air so to speak while listening to the radio outside. It’s a quiet time of day.

Feeding time

Feeding time

Once the heat of the day has passed, we start with the evening chores. The animals need to be fed and watered. The clothes need to be brought in and put away. Things need to be readied up for Monday morning and the work week. We eat dinner or have snacks if we like. Once it is dark, we plug our DVD player into the AC/DC adapter in the truck and watch a movie, a nice reward for our long day. Morning comes early after all!

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Visit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

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