Saturday, April 25, 2009

Free Stuff and Alternative Energy

They say that the best things in life are free. Apparently, there are a few fair-to-middlin’ items out there for grabs too, like this towel rack I discovered by the sidewalk while out walking the other evening. This is a very welcome addition to our home since we're short on towel rails, but furniture placed outside with “FREE” or “Take it if you want it” signs is very other-worldish to us!

Snow’s free too, but I expect few people here had it on their “best things in life” list this past week, since summer is supposed to be just around the corner. It started snowing the day we left for the mountains for a few days with our kids.

But when you can’t read the road signs, it’s a bit tricky finding that secondary road to the mountains that skirts Calgary.

You can easily miss your exit and end up in heavy rush hour Calgary traffic--in the snow (like we did). Shoot! What’s the name of that street anyway? Yeah, the one up there by the light. Caked with snow.

Thankfully, it didn’t snow much during our 2-day break so we went on a few good walks and took in some sightseeing. It’s low tourist season right now because winter sports are done for the year and it’s not warm enough yet for summer activities to start, so we sort of had this neck of the woods to ourselves. We had a great time with our kids!

Some of the trails were a bit snowy and slippery, but Russ helped keep us (me, anyway) from falling on our noggins.

There was a “Beware of bears” sign that was a bit alarming (personally, I prefer the “free” furniture signs). Thankfully, we didn’t see Grizzlies.

Russell and Dwight did try out for the part though.

We also thoroughly enjoyed the modern, fully electrified place we stayed in, complete with dishwasher and a fridge with an ice dispenser. It’s quite the contrast to our bush home.

In Mozambique, we generate our own electricity with a diesel engine that has a generator unit. This supplies us with 8-12 hours of power per day. Generators are great, but like cars, they need fuel, oil and regular maintenance/repairs/replacements. And it can really throw a monkey wrench into things when they have a hiccup or suddenly stop working. (Scrambles for candles, does laundry by hand, etc.)

This is our diesel generator (“Genny” for short. It could also be considered a term of endearment too because it is our main source of energy). Looks like Dwight was installing an electrical cable here.

The genny goes off at 9 pm, so if we need power for a bit longer, like say if we want to use a fan on a stiflingly hot night, we use an inverter. An inverter changes 12 volt DC power to 220 volt AC.
This is our inverter (+ batteries) at home.

1. You need some 12 volt deep-cycle batteries (black boxes in picture).
2. Hook the batteries up to your inverter (grey box under fan).
3. Switch the inverter “on” and you have power for as long as your batteries last.
4. Make sure you recharge batteries when genny comes on again. (Or use a solar panel—see Hint #3)

Hint #1: The more appliances you plug in (or the longer you run them) the less running time you have, so you really want to prioritize use.
Hint #2: Deep cycle batteries generally don’t last much more than a few years.
Hint #3: It takes A LOT of solar panel to generate enough power for even just one appliance. And they’re expensive.

Fun huh?

This is our fridge, and yes, it’s as small as it looks. It uses either
1. gas (propane) or
2. electricity (in our case, that generated by the diesel genny).

This is not very “green”, of course, but it is one of the few systems that is practical and affordable out where we are. 

The fridge has a short chimney for exhaust, and sometimes when the mixture (or something) is not right, the chimney gets “carboned-up” and the house smells like a car maintenance garage. That’s when the whole kit and caboodle gets moved outside onto the veranda until someone has a chance to look at it.

I've come to rather enjoy bush life, but it does definitely have its challenges. We’ll be back there soon enough, but in the meantime, we’ll be enjoying 24/7 electricity, modern appliances, and the odd other-worldish free-bee that comes our way unexpectedly!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You guys looked so happy in your 'family vacation' pictures. So happy you could get in some special family time albeit short & sweet eh?!

Love you
Your big sis xxoo