The land I live on is bordered by National Forest. The original road into these eighty acres was cut by hand with chain saws and cleared without the use of any heavy equipment. Initially, we thought electricity might be brought in to the Southeast corner of the property which was closest to the highway, less than a mile away. However, as we watched electric line lanes in our area being cleared yearly, and saw the huge swath of trees cut, it pained us to think of cutting so many trees in order to have electricity. Part of our purpose here was to keep a small parcel of land as pristine as possible, where wildlife might find refuge. The privacy afforded by the dense forest was also something we considered. Our final decision to not have electricity brought in to this property was easy.
For two years I lived here using kerosene lamps for light at night. When my mother transitioned out of this life in 1996, she left me an inheritance that allowed me to build. I purchased a generator in order to use power tools and began to build. After at least six months, the cabin was close to completion. I contacted the only person I knew of in the area who sets up off-grid systems and asked him to come put in a small system for me. I did not require much. I wanted to be able to have lighting in the cabin with which to read at night, as well as enough energy to handle the use of a radio and possibly a television. Jimis Damet, the owner of the Rocky Grove Sun Company, ordered all the solar panels, four of them, an inverter, and all the materials required for the system. He put in the entire system alone. He even pulled all the wire in the cabin, saying that this was a job he ordinarily did not do. When it was all finished, it was huge relief to know that I would never have to pay an electricity bill, and that I would still have privacy.
As Jimis predicted, after ten years I had to replace the battery bank. This time I bought new deep-cell batteries of high quality, based on input from Jimis. The original batteries were used telephone batteries, which held up amazingly well, but since I replaced these, I have had no problems.
I have had a couple of other major expenses since the original set-up of my system. During a storm several years back, lightening hit and surged through the system and damaged the inverter. I used kerosene lamps during that winter while I waited for the inverter to be repaired. I also paid an electrician to place a nine-foot lightening rod into the ground so that hopefully, I would not have to deal with a lightening strike taking out my system again. When everything was back in place, I felt truly blessed to have a man like Jimis helping me.
I know Jimis gave me all the information about the size of my system. For sure, I know it is a 24-volt system, with an inverter. Also in place is a digital read-out monitor which gives me information concerning the battery bank. I use a 7500 watt generator as back-up for recharging the battery bank, particularly when it is overcast and we have had no sun for a few days. As gasoline prices soar, I am more conservative about using the generator. I watch the weather, give thanks whenever it rains, and read during the day or work outdoors. Once the sun comes out, the solar panels do their job and I am free to get on this computer or listen to NPR.
Each winter, as a snow or ice storm comes in and inevitably takes out the county electricity, I am gratified to not have to worry about losing any power in my little home. Also, I am forever grateful to my mother whose generosity afforded my getting set up to live as I do. Here in the backwoods of Arkansas, life is simple and peaceful. As the sun shines brightly outside, the sounds of the breezes in the tall forest trees soothe my soul.