With the upcoming publication of Farewell, My Subaru, Doug Fine’s account of everything that can go wrong (and then right), when a regular fellow decides to get off-grid, off petroleum and on local living, we spoke to Doug about what’s next at his Funky Butte Ranch.
“Well, ‘Farewell, My Subaru’ recounts my transition towards off-grid electricity and unleaded fuel, and my start with animal husbandry for local, organic food. In my first two years, I’ve reduced my grid bill 70-80%, and no longer need to stop at the gas station. Plus, I have more chicken and eggs than I know what to do with, and my goat is due to give birth this month, meaning local-as-it-gets milk, yogurt, cheese and even ice cream.
But I have a way to go. Take tropical food, for instance: I love bananas, oranges and limes. The plan is to build a solar-powered greenhouse so I can cut those carbon miles out of my diet. I’d also like to cut my last ties to the grid — that last 20-30% comes from my electric range. I don’t want to switch to propane, because that’s a fossil fuel. Solar ovens are a possibility, but I’m trying to show that anyone can get off-grid, and still live with the comforts we’ve come to expect. So I’m doing research into harvesting methane from my and my livestock’s waste, and powering a stove that way. They do it on a large scale in India and I’ll see if it’s possible on an individual scale. And if I do that and build up my solar system, I’ll have to decide if I want no connection to the grid at all, or to sell energy back to the power company.
Water is another issue: my well is solar-powered, but since I live in the desert, I want to get started on harvesting my rainwater — that one’s a no-brainer. If we talk in another year or two and those improvements are dialed in, I’ll feel like I’m on a good track. But as anyone who checks out the misadventures on my blog (www.dougfine.com) will see, there’s always more to do — there’s no shortage of the ways I can screw up as I make this journey. Still, one of the points of writing about this effort is to show that if I can approach carbon-neutral, anyone can.