Tag Archives: living without electricity

Generosity

stretched-mind

Since the last negative response of the community members of La Yacata, the mesa directiva (community board) has been taking a hiatus from all work projects. We continue to register owners and issue new property certificates and answer questions when folks show up at our doors, but any and all community planning has been put on hold.

It’s time to get back on that pony, though.

Those of you who have been following our little revolution in La Yacata now that our current situation is bleak. Residents and would-be residents have lost hope. La Yacata has once again been abandoned. Construction and dreams have been deferred–until such time as there is electricity. So, it’s time to figure out just how electricity can be obtained.

Recently, I have been investigating solar power options for our home. It hasn’t been easy. I know so little about the process that I’ve had to flounder about a bit in my search for information. Well, I finally found someone willing to take the time to answer my questions and analyze our particular situation. A big hooray for Frank at Frank O’Grady Solar for that!

Based on the information that I have gleaned, it is our goal to have a basic solar powered setup in our home before the end of 2016. With a functioning setup, we would be able to educate the current residents about their options with this type of electricity.

The issue that remains is the cost of a system, $5,000 USD and up, depending on the quality and capacity of the setup. As you know, nearly all of our community members are campesinos (farmers) and with the cost of living as it is, are barely making enough to survive day to day. Many of our older community members have already transferred ownership of their properties in La Yacata to their children and grandchildren, in the hopes that their investment will pay off, not in their lifetime, but in their children’s lifetimes. Really, it’s a sad commentary about the speed of progress in our area.

It is my intent, therefore, to set up a fund for the community that would enable residents to install a solar powered system and live more comfortably in La Yacata now, not at some distant future date. The fund would be available to community members already living in La Yacata first since their need is more pressing, but then would be opened to those who agree to take up residence. The recipients would be able to arrange a flexible and extended payback schedule so that other community members would be able to make use of the funds.

Oh, don’t worry about those less than savory neighbors. I’ve become quite an expert during my time as treasurer for La Yacata on the use of the pagare (promissory notes)and the Ministerio Publico just in case one of our screened and approved beneficiaries decide they don’t need to repay so that others can benefit.

Here’s where you can help. When making out your Christmas list this year, why not add La Yacata? When figuring out your charity donations for the end of the year tax credit, why not consider La Yacata?

But, you might ask yourself (or me) why should I donate?

There really isn’t any reason why you should. After all, it’s a dog eat dog world out there and it’s important to look out for your own, not some strangers thousands of miles away. However, if you do decide to donate, even a little bit, the residents of La Yacata that this program would benefit, including my family, would be ever so appreciative.

Donate–

for personal reasons–

**in memory of my mother-in-law who died before her dream of electricity was realized

**so that my son doesn’t need to light a candle to continue his studies

**to eliminate the trip to town my father-in-law makes on his bicycle to charge his phone

**to make up for those care packages you never did around to mailing

**because you know me personally and are convinced of my integrity and determination and furthermore know I would never ask if I could do it myself

Donate–

for public reasons–

**to help create an environmentally-friendly self-sustainable community

**to make a political statement

**to reduce the high incidence of night-time theft in La Yacata

**for the families that continue to pay rent, year after year, instead of investing in the future

**just because it’s a good thing to do

So now that I’ve given you a few reasons to donate, here’s how it works.

I’ve set up a fundraising account at Generosity by Indiegogo. If you haven’t heard of Generosity, it’s a fundraising community for personal and social causes. You’ll be able to see other worthy causes at this site as well, in case you feel like giving even more this holiday season.

Update:  After a year of inactivity, I have deleted the fundraiser.  

Please share this information as far and as wide as possible.  Locally we are at a standstill.  Perhaps globally we can advance.
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There is still no electricity in La Yacata

There is still no electricity in La Yacata

The electric post

This is the electric post that convinced us to buy in La Yacata instead of someplace else. It stands smack dab in front of the house and has provided not one bit of electricity to our house in the 10 years we have lived here.

I have been down and out lately about the distance we still must cross for electricity in La Yacata. I’ve pretty much given up hope of Moroleon completing the 2 kilometers of posts and wires that would illuminate our streets and our home. Yes, you read that correctly. TWO kilometers separates us from the last viable electric post. It’s just not profitable enough for Moroleon to care that residents in La Yacata have no electricity. (See The Birth of the Revolution)

With the advent of adolescence and the plethora of electronic devices available, my son has also expressed his frustration with the lack of connectivity and recharging options. It goes without saying that no electricity means no home internet either.

My husband seems the only one untroubled by our lack. He uses the truck radio when he wants music and that’s pretty much all he wants. As a result, he’s been less than enthusiastic about my ideas.

the boy who harnessed the wind

My brother sent me The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope (P.S.)some time ago, as inspiration I expect. In it, a 14-year-old boy designed and built a windmill that positively changed the quality of life for his entire village. My husband and the plomero (plumber) up the hill have been promising me a windmill for nearly 10 years now. Every time I bring up other options, my husband counters with the statement that he’s going to make that windmill any day now.

Until that windmill gets built, I’ve been trying to do alternative research on my own. Every prepper website has directions for a DIY solar generator set-up. Well, I’ve come to the sad conclusion that I just can’t do it myself. One issue is my lack of electrical know-how. Of course, there is the plomero (plumber) up the hill who was also a US licensed electrician before deportation. However, he’s not all that reliable these days. His wife left him a few months ago and he’s been on a drinking binge ever since.

Solar water heaters are readily available in our area, but just won't work for us.

Solar water heaters are readily available in our area but just won’t work for us.

Even if we could catch the plomero between binges, there is the lack of materials available in our area. Solar water heaters are readily available–but nothing in the way of solar generators. We do not want a solar water heater because it’s just not feasible for our home setup. In order to have a solar water heater, we would need to elevate the tinacos (water storage containers) at least a floor. However, the local water truck refuses to fill tinacos (water storage containers) that are above the second floor. They say it’s “policy” although I suspect more laziness since the trucks are new and the water shoots out super powered and the pipes would reach…but I’m not in charge of policy. So our tinacos are on the roof of the first floor, which is technically the second floor. And even if we put the tinacos on the roof of the second floor, I would still count it as being on the second floor and not on the non-existing third floor but the water truck dudes disagree. So until such time as policy changes, we use a gas boiler to heat our shower water. Our stove is also gas, so we can cook just dandy without electricity as well.

water delivery

The truck pulls in front of our house and we run a house from the truck to the aljibe and tinacos.

Lacking local solar generator parts options, I tried my hand online. Amazon and Ebay offer kits that we could possibly afford if we sold Myrtle (the vocho) and saved another 6 months, not including shipping. Yet again, there are issues. I will not order from Ebay again and Amazon does not accept Paypal payments.

I even tried contacting a few people that might be “in the know” about such things, but I have yet to hear back from any of them.

This is what I think we need.

This is what I think we need.

What I think we’d be good with is this setup, Go Power! Solar Extreme Complete Solar and Inverter System with 480 Watts of SolarHowever, being a newbie means–well that I don’t know if this would be adequate or not.

So for the present, the dream of electricity is just that, a dream. We’ve lived nearly 10 years without it, and realistically in the grand scheme of human history, electricity has only been available to the masses for the blink of an eye, so do we really need it?

Well, yes and no I suppose.

If we had electricity we could recharge our phones, Kindle, portable DVD players and laptops at home. Right now we haul the rechargeables to the school where I work and charge there. We also have the option of plugging the devices into the lighter in the truck or Myrtle, but we have found that overuse of this option is hard on the vehicle batteries.

If we had electricity we could use the blender–but we use the blender now with the AC/DC inverter and the truck battery.

We could turn the lights on and cook now since it gets dark at such an indecent hour with daylight savings time and all. Now we use candles.

The Kindle is an older version that doesn’t have a backlight like this one Kindle–it’d be nice to not read by candlelight and just flick on the bedside lamp.

drumiI

Drumil, the foot-powered clothes washer by

If we had electricity we could use a washer for our dirty clothes. Right now we head to the arroyo (stream) and wash there. Although we may not need electricity for a washer. Yirego is advertising pre-sale for their foot-powered washing machine. Of course, at $239 USD it’s still out of our financial grasp, but perhaps the price will come down in time.

It’s doubtful that even if we had electricity we would use it for a fridge. We’ve become so accustomed to buying fresh meat and produce, in daily portion sizes, that we have very little left over at the end of the day. Anything that won’t be good for the next day, we share out with our chickens, cats, and dog.

We also aren’t much bothered by not having a television. There’s never anything good on anyway. We do like to watch movies but are just fine with our little portable (and rechargeable) DVD player. Unfortunately, our DVD player battery will not charge anymore. Finding parts (in this case a replacement battery) is a nightmare here and buying online with shipping is iffy at best. We recently purchased another DVD player and it’s fine for now, but eventually, the battery will wear out as well. The same issue crops up with my laptop. My battery doesn’t hold a charge. I use it only at my place of work. My son’s laptop is new, so charging and taking it home works just fine, although there is no internet at home. Of course, transporting it might not be an option during the rainy season.

So I suppose I should be more lackadaisical like my husband. Living without electricity is entirely possible, we’ve been doing it for quite some time now. And why should I expect the luxury of electricity and all that it entails when 1 in 7 worldwide lives without access to electricity? For now, it remains a wish, hope, a goal or something along those lines.

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Some days are definitely better than others–Ni modo

life better

Yesterday was one of those days that a series of annoying happenstances made a typical day (one with only two or three annoying happenstances) seem like paradise.

We woke up at 5 am. My son’s new school schedule demands it. We are not pleased about getting up before the sun, but we remind ourselves that it is only temporary. Secondary school is 2 more years, so a long temporary, but temporary. Ni modo. (This expression can be translated as It’s no big deal, That’s just the way things are, That’s just how it is, There’s nothing we could have done about it, There’s nothing we can do or Whatever.)

Of course, the day started out on the wrong foot when we realized there wasn’t any water to shower with. Ni modo. My husband generously went outside and filled a bucket from the ajibe (dry well) for my son and me to wash with. The water was cold. It is the middle of October after all. We could only bear to wash our heads, but even that was unpleasant, although it was enough to wake us up completely. The rest of the parts would have to wait until we could get a truckload of water delivered. (See Water Woes) After all, there was deodorant…oh but hold on, both my son and I were out, and my husband refuses to buy his own (he just uses ours). Well, a-stinky we shall go. Ni modo.

During the day, my son lost 2 pesos and therefore, didn’t have enough money for a torta (sandwich) at lunch. As food is life for a growing pre-teen, that made his school day less than optimal, and by mid-afternoon he was irritable. Ni modo.

My day was also annoying. Although I had enough money for lunch, I spent the morning working on the grades for report cards, which is not my favorite task. I dislike assigning a number value to learning, so I had gone out of my way to make the job more difficult for myself by grading everything from attendance and school supplies to the “exams.” All in all, it ended up to be 15 separate evaluations for each student. Ni modo.

I also had a slightly heated discussion with the school director over some proposed changes I wanted to make in classroom management. When my emotions are high, my Spanish is low, so it made the whole process even more frustrating. Ni modo.

In the early afternoon, my hungry and cranky son arrived, and we headed to the store to buy some deodorant. I bought 3 and each cost more than 50 pesos. Fifty pesos is what I earn for one hour of teaching. So I had worked more than 3 hours to buy that particular hygiene product for my family. Ni modo.

From there we went home. The house was a wreck–dirty dishes piled sky high. My husband had an unexpected morning job, so didn’t have time to tidy up. Ni modo, I would do the dishes. So I stacked and sorted and was ready to begin—only to be reminded when I went to turn on the water, that there was no water. Duh! Ni modo. The dishes would have to wait.

OK, time for dinner. We looked high and low, and there wasn’t anything prepared, although there were fresh tortillas. As my husband typically prepares something for his lunch and then leaves enough for us to eat when we get home—this seemed odd and aggravating. Ni modo. Back to town for something quick and easy, ham and cheese for quesadillas.

I returned home and lit the stove–blue flames swooshed out! It appeared that we were dangerously low on gas. Just great! Fortunately, there was just enough to heat the tortillas and melt the cheese–so dinner was saved.

After we had eaten, I continued straightening the kitchen. I went to throw a bit of leftover rice to the chickens but didn’t, realizing that I would be walking into a den of iniquity! What to my wondering eyes did I see but there in the new addition to the goat corral that my husband is working on–was Tinkerbell humping Stinky Chivo while one of the James brothers was humping her. Something was very wrong with the picture. Why was Stinky Chivo not doing his husbandly duties when it was apparent that Tinkerbell was in heat? (See Goat Genetics)

Upon closer examination, I found that Stinky Chivo’s head and leg are stuck in the food trough. Great! As his horns were wedged under the wire and he has some big horns, it took some maneuvering to release him.

The bondage and sexual scandal were not the only evidence of debauchery. The goats had taken the liberty of stripping the peach and pomegranate trees of leaves and bark. Not bad for a morning’s work. It’s their nature I suppose–Ni modo.

So later my husband explained that he didn’t leave dinner because it had been stolen. He had arrived home for lunch with meat and tortillas and heard some commotion in the goat corral. He went to investigate, leaving the goods hanging from his motorcycle handlebars. When he came back out front, only the tortillas remained. He had bought 60 pesos of meat, so that means more than an hour of work for someone or something to enjoy the meal. I suspect it was Chokis. Ni modo.

That evening, after the goats were rounded up again and the horses stabled, we realized we still had no gas to cook supper or anything to cook for that matter. Ni modo. There was nothing to be done but head out for some tacos. Our high-stress day was made all the better with a few tacos de tripa, bistek or chorizo (depending on the family member) and some nopales (cactus) and onions sauteed in grease. Our meal cost $150 pesos, which is a day and a half of work for my husband, so we were appreciative of this particular treat.

Ni modo. Nothing to be done but hit the sack and hope that tomorrow will be better.

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Life in Mexico–from the perspective of my 13 year old son

Have you ever wondered what life is like for your children?  As an adult, I’ve come to accept the hardships and limitations of our life here in Mexico, although sometimes not as gracefully as I should.  When I read my son’s guest blog post, I had the opportunity to look at our life through his eyes.  I hope you enjoy his little contribution.

My life

by guest blogger WPFT.

La Yacata

I live in a small neighborhood called La Yacata. It’s called La Yacata because it has a small mountain of stones in the middle of it. There are like 7 families that live there, and we are pretty many neighbors even though we live a mile away from each other. My grandpa and my uncle live up the hill from where we do.  It’s mostly trees and rocks and stuff. The roads are very badly paved. Most of my classmates and most of the people I meet think I live in a cave because we have no electricity. They don’t know how to survive that way. However, our living conditions are ok compared to some people because we are comfortable with the money we have, but we could still get more.

finished front

I’m in the second grade of middle school. I get up very early, at 5:30 am and go to school until 1:40 pm. My grades are pretty good. I like math. I don’t like physics and art. There are 45 kids in my class. I would like if the school had grass on the fields so that it’s more comfortable and easier to play there. (See Why we chose to send our child to public school in Mexico)

wpid-cam03865.jpg

After school is over, I walk to the school where my mom works and play on the computer awhile. I like to play Minecraft, Halo, and Fable. I like to come to the school to play because we don’t have electricity at our house.

At 4:30 pm I go to soccer practice until 6:30 pm. During training, we run and jog. I train as a goalkeeper. The other kids make shots, and I stop them. I play goalkeeper on two teams. The difference between the two teams is that one team is made up of 12- and 13-year-olds and the other team are 15+-year-olds. I play with them even though I’m only 13. The little team is pretty good. We’re in third place on the ranking board.

wpid-cam00051-3.jpg

After that, I go home to tend to the horses, goats, chickens and cats for about 2 hours. And let’s not forget about our dog Chokis. I give them water and feed them. I take the goats and horses out awhile so they can eat. The horses eat grass. The goats enjoy eating short grass and tree branches. With the goats, sometimes it’s very difficult to take care of them because they run around. There’s not a day that goes by that Chokis doesn’t go with me and the animals. Most of the time I listen to music while I’m out with the animals. I also like to read a book. When I bring them in, first I bring in the goats because if I bring in the horses first, the goats will run away. And then I go back and get the horses. After that, I give them water and feed them for the night. (See Our Family Hobby)

reading

Enjoying a book on Kindle!

Then I read and go to bed, preparing myself for another day. Sometimes I play on my laptop when I take it home. I read with the flashlight in the night. I like to read adventure books. Sometimes I watch a movie on the portable DVD player. I like to watch comedy movies. I used to play on my phone, but now it has a tumor, and I can only see one corner of the screen.  I have no idea when my mom is going to buy me a new one.  I wash my face a lot, and then I go to bed.

movie watching

Watching a movie on my DVD player.

On Saturdays, I go to the school where my mom works and use the computer and listen to music. I do a Portuguese course on DuoLingo and play Minecraft or watch YouTube videos. After that, I do my homework and take out the animals….again.

goalie

On Sundays, I go to wash clothes and then to my soccer game in the mornings. In the afternoons, I read a book and help my mom clean the house.

everybody helps out

A picture of a younger me doing laundry!

Sometimes my life is very boring because I have nothing to do or brothers or sisters to play with. Sometimes my mom is very annoying because she wants me to do boring stuff like write this blog post. My dad is very annoying because he makes me do stuff when I’m doing something else.

My life would be better if we had electricity and a fair amount of money and less animals because sometimes they are just too much for me to handle. Overall, life is medium-good, but it could be better.

See it in video format!

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