Extended off-grid news edition:
The off-grid reader: an occasional column on off-grid news and views
It’s been awhile since I’ve posted the latest off-grid news. So, without ado, let’s get to it. We have a lot of ground to cover.
Joshua Spodek’s 200 watt roof-top solar array at his Manhattan apartment. Photo courtesy of Joshua Spodek.
Urban off-grid living in Manhattan: Switching off the power
I love this story from Time Magazine about an executive coach and adjunct professor of leadership at New York University who one day decided to power down his Manhattan apartment. At the time he wrote his piece, he’d been six months untied from the grid in the middle of the city. I’ve previously advocated for urban off-grid living, arguing that being off-grid doesn’t necessarily mean having to live rurally - and now here’s someone proving out my thesis. What’s more: he loves it. Writes Joshua Spodek: “ But now I’m in my sixth month living off-grid in my studio apartment, and rather than the sacrifice in time, money, isolation, or convenience I expected, I’ve found joy and freedom.”
He works with a relatively small solar array and, because of that, Spodek makes a lot of adjustments; it’s not as intuitive as our lifestyle where like grid-tied folks we just flick a switch and, generally, don’t think much about it. But Spodek is so damn inspirational, which is his goal incidentally as a professor of leadership. He writes: “My off-grid experience has since taught me the challenges of intermittent power, but also about entitlement, addiction, resilience, attitude, humility, and heart. Ultimately, it has strengthened my connection to humanity and nature, and emphasized what’s at stake.”
Author, journalist Ted Conover opts for an off-grid lifestyle
In journalism and non-fiction circles, Ted Conover is a revered name. He’s best known for his immersive, anthropological approach to his subjects. For his book on prisons, New Jack: Guarding Sing Sing, he worked for a year as a corrections officer; and for Rolling Nowhere: Riding the Rails with America’s Hoboes, Conover took to jumping freight trains. So when he decided to write about off-grid living, it only made sense the journalist decided to go whole hog, and buy a place in the Colorado community about which he was writing.
Cheap Land Colorado started out as an investigation. The land he wrote about was sold in the 1970s by mail, $30 downpayment and another $30 a month for 12 years was common; the US federal government believed it was a fraud. Today, Conover owns a piece of that same land, which is occupied by an off-grid community. Fascinated with the community, of which he knew nothing and was chagrined to learn about, Conover - of course - decided in order to write about them he needed to live off-grid. “I had no idea people were really living like this in Colorado,” Conover said. “It made me feel a little bit ignorant, because I think this happens in several parts of the state,” the author told NPR in an interview.
I don’t know about you, but I’d like to get my hands on a copy of this book. Conover is a terrific writer and journalist.
Wanted: off-grid island caretakers. Must be happy in remote areas for long periods
But why should Spodek and Conover have all the fun? You can live off-grid too. Check out this opportunity: The Scottish isle of Rona wants a couple to work on the island’s estate and, among other things, help manage the island’s deer population and…er, venison program. According to the story in The Scotsman, the island is completely off-grid. Tasks for the estate worker and partner - one is full-time and the other part-time - includes managing the four cottages on the island, and keeping the solar panels, generators, boats and digger in working order.
According to the job listing, “personal attributes required: reliable, resilient, competent, enthusiastic, happy in remote areas for long periods, sense of humour, sociable with guests, visitors and colleagues.” Rona Lodge itself is described as “an island estate operating holiday cottage rentals, farm & livestock, stalking & venison production, conservation & forestry.”
Of course, it’s not just any isolated, wind-swept, God-forsaken Scottish island you’re planning to live on. Rona describes itself as a wee isle, situated between Skye and the west coast of Scotland,” just five miles long. “In places wild and rugged, Rona also hosts magical mossy and rich woodland, secret lochs and rocky hills and of course even in its hidden wooded depths, being a kilometer wide at most, always close to the sea. “
Sold on the job yet?
How to budget for your tiny off-grid home
Luxury Travel Magazine has a great…uh, tiny guide to putting together a budget for an off-grid tiny home. It includes everything from setting your budget to finding the right piece of land. Short but sweet, this mini-primer points you in the right direction if you decide to go that route.
Source secondhand materials is a great piece of advice, especially coming from a luxury magazine. It’s sensible, sustainable advice: “Did you know you can have a home built with secondhand materials? This can save you a bit of money and it’s great for the environment. It’s a more sustainable way to build.” Not everyone thinks this way as they start out, so as simplistic as it may seem, it’s welcome common-sense. We could all use a bit more of that.
What’s holding you back? Start planning your new home now.
Local Love: Rebecca’s takeover
Dinner at Rebecca’s, last year.
Rebecca’s, a much-loved Mahone Bay restaurant and institution, sold to the owners of the local Bayport Pub recently, and is now reopening under their auspices. The original Rebecca’s was a dining out destination, an attraction not just for locals but for Haligonians as well. The food was so good that outside of Blue on Water in St. John’s, Rebecca’s cooked the second-best serving of haddock I’ve ever had.
Interior of Rebecca’s.
For its part, the Bayport Pub is a bit more casual, and now it’s trying to charge Rebecca’s with some of the same atmosphere, introducing a trivia night and “Tuesday tunes.”. I worry that they are fundamentally misunderstanding the Rebecca’s brand. People who came for the exquisite cooking at Rebecca’s are not likely the same individuals who are going to stop in for trivia night. It’s not a pub, although maybe that’s it’s new direction at this point. Also, the new owners let the domain for the Rebecca’s website expire, which didn’t seem like the most auspicious beginning.
At the same time, the new owners have kept much of the old menu while adding a few new things. It will be interesting to see how it all plays out; certainly, I wish everyone the best of luck keeping the restaurant running.
What I’m reading
Seamlessly mixing the Gothic romance of the Brontes with the phantasmagorical horror of H.P. Lovecraft, Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s mind-altering Mexican Gothic extends the modern Lovecraft mythos. Lovecraft, the 1920s American writer, created a pantheon of ancient, terrible Gods whom his contemporaries such as August Derleth extended upon in stories and novels. The tradition continues today, not only with with Moreno-Garcia, but through Canada’s Nick Cutter in his novels such as The Deep.
Moreno-Garcia, however, begins her book in a Gothic vein, sending her heroine Noemi Taboada to an isolated mountain estate shrouded in mist. There, her cousin is ailing, seemingly held captive by her brutal husband and his strange family. But that is only the beginning. The longer Taboada stays, the stranger things become until unutterable horrors begin to reveal themselves.
One of this year’s Canada Reads contenders, Mexican Gothic makes a strong argument for the win since the theme is shifting perspective. By the end of this book, a reader’s perspective will have been moved far beyond anything expected. Beyond that, brace yourself for the kind of read where you might like to keep the lights to help mitigate the scares even while giggling because everything is just so far over the top.
What I’m listening to
Oh hell, I get it. It’s the end of winter. The last thing you want to see is some damn thing titled Snowbird. Especially after the massive dumps of snow that covered the east coast this past week. But Prince Edward Island native Gene MacLellan remains one of Canada’s great songwriters, a featured performer on CBC’s Singalong Jubilee, where he met fellow cast member Anne Murray. She recorded a little ditty of his titled Snowbird. Ocean sealed his fame when they covered his song, Put Your Hand in the Hand, resulting in both Juno and Grammy awards for MacLellan. This recording pays tribute to the legendary Canadian songwriter with Catherine MacLellan, Lenny Gallant and Ron Hynes, among others, covering his songbook. March is here; time for the snowbirds to return home; here’s some apt music for their return flights.
I’ve just finished my third round of chemo in Halifax, and it kicked my butt with a rough couple of days of side effects. But I’m bouncing back now. Thank you to everyone who keeps checking in on me. I appreciate it, and it makes me realize how rich and blessed with friends I am. Spring is coming.
I'll leave a written emoji of an egg on a different platform right here. Thanks for the read, Charles!
ooooooh....luv the tunes !