Eight years of solar panels

One of the most significant environmental steps we took when we moved to the farm was adding solar panels to the barn. Last week marked eight years since the solar panels started to feed their power back into the grid.

Solar panels on the barn roof

Here is this year’s solar report.

If you need to get caught up, here are all of the previous updates and other details:

This year the panels generated $4,196.79. (We’re hooked into the grid, and the province pays us $0.396 per kWh). This is a lower total than previous years. The decrease is due to an accounting change, not a panel change. Our previous payments had included HST (a tax that we then remitted to the government). I cancelled our HST number for the solar panels, as it was below the threshold that required us to file, and it seemed simpler to not have to deal with it.

We still came out ahead in terms of what we spent on electricity, as we do every year. This year, we spent a total of $2,713.70, which translates to $1,483.09 in profit.

In my original estimates, I had predicted that year 8 would be the year that we paid off the panels. We may get there. We’ve earned almost 90% of what it cost to install the panels–just $4,366.60 left. (To be clear, we paid for the panels in full 8 years ago.)

I’m proud that we made the decision to install the panels. While my analysis is all financial, the environmental angle is extremely important to me. I would love someday to be truly off-grid and self-sufficient. Panel and battery technology have come a long way in the past 8 years, and I feel like that will give us the opportunity to do more in the future.

Does anyone else track their utility bills and compare each year? How are you “going green” at your house?

Odds & sods

Doesn’t this photo illustrate what we need more of in the world? More nature, more compassion, more gentleness, more help. More children learning to be compassionate, gentle and helpful to nature.

As April comes to an end, I am hanging onto Earth Day. This month’s round-up is made up of things that have taught me, inspired me and helped me to think about the Earth and my place in it. I hope that some of them help you to do the same.

April’s links:

Pastoral Song by James Rebanks was a major focus of my last blog post, but I have to share it again and encourage you to read it for yourself.

May we raise children who love the unloved things

A creative sewing up cycle

Books are one of the ways I’m trying to help Ellie understand the world. Here are a few about climate change, environmentalism and the Earth that we’ve liked: We Are Water Protectors, I Am The Storm, A Rock Is Lively (this whole series is a great way to introduce science to little kids).

How did you mark Earth Day?

Listening to the land

In the future when I talk to Ellie about feeling the onset of climate change, I think I will start with the winds. The winds are so strong and fierce. More than anything I remember from when I was growing up. I feel like the winds are harbingers of more harshness to come.

I am not optimistic about climate change. I feel like we have passed the point of no return. I don’t see people changing their habits. I don’t see any desire to change our habits. I think that Ellie is going to face many struggles.

Last week I read Pastoral Song by James Rebanks. I read it in a couple of days, set it down for a day, and then picked it up to read it again. This time with a pencil and notepad beside me.

So much of what he wrote connected with me. But this passage hit hard, and I want to share it as I look ahead to Earth Day this week.

What will our descendants say of us, years from now? How will we be judged? Will they stand in the dust of a scorched and hostile world, surrounded by the ruins of all that exists today, and think that we, who could have saved the earth, were thoughtless vandals, too selfish or too stupid to turn back?

Will the future know us as the generation that pushed everything too far, on whose watch the world began to fall apart, who had so little courage and wisdom that we turned away from our responsibilities?

Or will our descendants lie in the cool green light of the oak trees we planted and be proud of us, the generation that pulled things back from the abyss, the generation that was brave enough to face up to our own flaws, big enough to overlook our differences and work together, and wise enough to see that life was about more than shop-bought things, a generation that rose above itself to build a better and more just world?

This is our choice.

I’ve been reading a lot recently. Thinking about farming and food and our world. Trying to learn about our land and figure out what is best for it.

A consolation for me when I think about Ellie’s future and climate change is this farm. She will be able to grow her own food if she needs to. The farm will hopefully be a safe place if she needs one. We will protect this small section of the world as best we can.

I often think of the farm as a refuge from the rest of the world, but Pastoral Song reminded me that we are part of the world, especially ecologically. Climate change doesn’t stop at the farm’s border. What happens in the fields across the road affects us, as does what happens in the Arctic, the Amazon and the English fells.

I am learning. I am trying to change. I am trying to do my best on this piece of earth that I am responsible for–and realizing I have a responsibility to the rest of the earth as well. I am trying not to despair.

The winds roared through the farm on Friday. Their sound fills my ears and blocks out everything else. I can’t hear Ellie. I can’t hear my thoughts. All I feel are the winds. They consume me.

Then, on Saturday morning, the air calmed. Ellie and I walked down the driveway to open the gate–the gate that connects us to the rest of the world. We heard a crow call as it flew over and Ellie cawed back. The sun beamed into the pines, beckoning the bloodroot that is rising from the forest floor. We stepped carefully as we discovered worms crawling all along the lane.

Nature was waking and our girl was listening. I’m trying to hear too.

Odds & sods

March felt tough. We marked Matt’s 43rd birthday–the third birthday without him here. Ralph died. Spring tiptoed in and out, and I’m really ready for it to come and stay. I’m tired, and the juggle has been feeling tough some days.

But there were ups in the month. There always are. We saw some more family members for the first time in a while and actually ate dinner together. Those connections are special. Cigo has very much settled into the farm and our family and we’re having a great time together. The snow has melted (though it returned yesterday). Ellie is learning to ride her bike. My mind is going to outdoor projects, though I will wait for the ground to dry and temperature to rise.

Here are some things that are motivating me today and as I look ahead.

Even if your life is 80% sunshine and 20% storm, it is so easy to let that 20% be the weather. Do your best to keep it in perspective.

Source

A magical moment with the maple moon

Maybe I’ll try this planting technique in the garden this year

It’s time to get rid of spongy moth eggs

What if we treated our home as our most important organization?

How to build a business as a mom with small children

As March ends, I’m trying to regroup. Refocus with work. Recharge with sleep. Refresh my attitude. Remember my quest to be content.

How was March for you? What are you focusing on as the month comes to an end?

Maple moon

I love being outside at the farm during a full moon. Being able to see my shadow at night feels like a bit of magic. Last week we had a maple moon–a full moon that coincided with the sap running in the maple trees.

Once again, we have tapped our trees. The annual sap run and syrup making has become a fun tradition.

Ellie loves sample the sap as it drips from the trees and then monitor the sap as it boils on the stove. (We scorched our first batch, so she keeps an extra close eye now.)

Enjoying our sweet homemade syrup is a sweet treat for the rest of the year (as long as it lasts) and a continual reminder of the magic of the farm.

Odds & sods

Sun rising over snow covered farm

I am ending February in gratitude. Gratitude for what we have. The world still feels full of turmoil and conflict. There is still illness, but I am grateful for the security and peace that we have at the farm and within our family.

Cigo is settling in and we are feeling comfortable in our new family. Being able to share our love and joy is very special.

We celebrated Valentine’s Day, Family Day and three birthdays, including Ellie’s. We didn’t see as many family members as we would have liked, but we celebrated.

We had snow, rain, wind and days where we could see glimpses of spring.

Life keeps going. We keep doing our best.

Here are some things I enjoyed this month:

A conversation and a prayer. “In a world that is struggling, a world that is swirling, a world that is tumbling, may we not lose hope… May we each trust that our acts of love and our acts of kindness no matter how small help the dawn of a new reality break upon this world.”

Putting a price on how nature protects us

We’re doing 1000 Hours Outside again this year (we made it to 841.5 hours last year)

A thoughtful, sensitive renovation of a historic lakehouse

We are never getting an emu… though this is hilarious (the whole account is hilarious)

A thoughtful perspective on renovation, the life of a house, and how we are just a moment in time

I hope that you are safe and are able to find peace in your day. I am grateful to you for reading and connecting in this way. Take good care.

Preparing for the worst

One of my home goals for 2022 is “plan for the worst.”

Matt’s death showed me how important it is to be prepared for your worst case scenario. There are absolutely critical things like a will to protect your family. Or everyday things like making sure someone knows where you bank, how you pay your bills, or even what your important passwords are.

Beyond illness or death, severe weather and natural disasters are other factors that have a tragic impact on people every year. And with climate change, these incidents are happening more frequently.

I want to ensure that I do everything possible to protect Ellie, myself and the farm. My plan is to focus on one “prep” task a month.

Here are some of the things on my list so far:

Insurance

Last month we received our renewal notice for our home insurance, so I called our agent to make sure we have the coverage we need. Our conversation was a lot of “If we have a wildfire/electrical fire/flood/tree fall on the house/ice storm/power outage/tornado am I covered?”

Ice storm 2013

Our insurance policy is very, very challenging to understand–I’ve tried to read it. Our agent was able to answer my questions and explain details of the coverage that gave me peace of mind. I also made sure the new garage and mudroom are included in our policy and that my freelance communications business doesn’t need any special coverage.

In addition to home insurance, life insurance is an important consideration for many families.

Documents

Our important documents are stored in a fireproof safe. They’re protected, but they may not be accessible in a disaster. I am going to make extra copies–both paper and digital–so that we have multiple options in case we ever need them.

Household inventory

A household inventory seems daunting. How do I list absolutely everything in my home? Chris Love Julia shared their experience after a fire at their cabin, and their advice is to take a yearly, personal inventory video. This is doable. I’m going to go one room at a time, open every drawer and every cupboard.

Wedgewood Oberon china

Go bag

Having a bag packed and ready to go in case we ever need to evacuate seemed like something I didn’t need to worry about. We’re not in an area that is prone to floods or fires. But then I thought about the big pines beside our house. What if one of them fell on the house? Could I get what we needed quickly and easily? A few things in a bag in the hall closet seems like a helpful idea.

Will

Matt and I made our wills when Ellie was born. When he died, our lawyer advised that I didn’t need to update my will, as everything was already set up to go to Ellie if I die. However, things feel a little different now that it’s just me–not as hypothetical. Most of what Matt and I decided together for Ellie still stands (her guardians, for example). But I want to make some adjustments to ensure that Ellie is as protected as possible.

Finances

I’ve made some changes to our finances over the last year. As a result I have some old accounts that need to be closed. Leaving them feels like clutter and could be confusing for my executor. I am also going to make a list of what accounts I have and give that to my executor.

Executor

My family is pretty open with each other, so we have talked about estate plans, end of life care and finances. I want to have this conversation again with my sister, who is my executor, to ensure that she knows what’s in place and what my wishes are. I’ll also be providing her with a copy of important documents and other critical information, just in case she ever needs it.

Queen Anne's Lace

These are not fun tasks, but I know they will give me peace of mind. And, if worst comes to worst, hopefully they will help to protect Ellie, our home, the farm and me.

How have you prepared for the worst? Have you gone through a disaster or tragedy? What helped the most?

Odds & sods

Saturday was a beautiful, sunny, cold day. We spent most of it at the pond. We shoveled, skated, slid, sledded, tromped, ran, played Frozen (I am Elsa, always), climbed the beaver tree, tried to light a fire, ate lunch on the ice and immersed ourselves in the magic of the farm.

I started the year motivated, inspired, optimistic and content. But as January went on, I felt more and more that the world is filled with cruelty, conflict, intolerance, tragedy and lack of care.

The farm is always a refuge, and I’m glad to be able to retreat here. But hiding out at the farm is not a solution. We also live in the world, and I want it to be a good, kind, safe and healthy place for Ellie.

I don’t have a solution.

One thing I can do is speak up. Honestly, I’m fearful to speak too loudly. The intolerance I see in the world is not disagreement. It’s cruel, personal attacks. Fear keeps me quiet, within the shelter and safety of the farm.

But, I can share others who are speaking up.

Usually at the end of the month, I share links to things that are funny, inspiring, thought-provoking, motivating, positive. This month, I’m sharing two posts about the protest that happened this weekend in Ottawa.

I say often that I choose a life of love and joy. Part of that is trying to be tolerant, caring, kind, helpful. I am not seeing that in the world right now.

Word of the year: Content

At the start of each new year, I think of a word that I want to guide me for the next year. As I looked back over the last four years, I can see how the words have built on each other and stayed with me.

BalanceSlowResolveFocus

This year, I wasn’t sure what word I wanted to use.

Then I thought of content. (Pronunciation note: Being content. Not creating content.)

I have tremendous joy in my life and celebrate each day. However, sometimes my thoughts are ones of impatience, envy, worry, criticism or doubt.

My brain feels very full. I don’t have room for negativity. I want to be more content.

As I was writing this post, I found that one of the definitions of content is “a state of peaceful happiness.” That is exactly what I’m looking to achieve.

For me, content builds on my quest for a slow, balanced life focused on what’s most important to me. I feel like I know myself and have made the choices that are right for Ellie and me and the farm. But sometimes I second guess myself or wish things were different. Being truly content will take effort. But it will help me to quiet my brain a bit and appreciate each day even more.

What are you feeling as we begin 2022? What are you hoping to accomplish this year?

Merry Christmas

Yesterday, Ellie and I went for a hike at the back of the property. It was a nice way to enjoy the farm on a sunny snowy day. Together in this special place.

Due to the pandemic, Christmas may once again not happen the way we want. Life sometimes does not happen the way we want.

But like a sunny snowy day in a special place with a special person, there is love and there is joy.

Whatever form your Christmas takes, I hope that you find peace, togetherness (in some fashion), health, love and joy.

Thank you for reading over the past year.

I wish you and your family well this holiday season.