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You've heard about people living 'off-grid' and wondered what it involves. Well part of the experience of staying at Good Life Farm is to help you experience and understand it, what is and isn't possible, and hopefully change the way you think about it. If you think it involves going out into the forest with a trowel and digging yourself a toilet each morning, and cooking nettle soup over a solitary candle, you're in for a pleasant surprise. If we didn't tell you, I doubt many of you would know we were off-grid.
The finca has a state of the art solar electric system, providing electicity almost like you have in your home. The 20 solar panels track the sun throughout the day, producing as much free electricity as possible to use, and any surplus is stored in a large array of batteries which the system then uses to continue to provide electricity at night. This is also supplemented with a 2kw wind turbine, which can keep the batteries topped up on windy nights. Its not fool-proof, and if you use too many electical items at once, you will hear the backup generator start to prevent the batteries from being drained too low. You simply can't use everything at the same time, and you certainly can't use energy-hungry appliances at night. As the farm uses electical water pumps to provide water pressure, we avoid showering and washing dishes after sunset and ask that you try to do the same.
Every roof on the finca is piped into large underground water tanks, which we use to harvest rainwater. The water is stored, filtered and pumped back into the houses for everyday use. The water is safe to use for showers and brushing teeth, but we would recommend people buy bottled water for drinking. With careful use, there is plenty of water for people to live day to day, but if you stand in the shower for 20mins each, every day, and leave the tap running whilst brushing your teeth, you're simply wasting water and it won't last through the dry season. We can shower with less than 4 litres of water simply by turning the shower off when washing and back on to rinse.
We have 2 solar water heaters, one for our chalet and one for the casa. These will provide each house with plenty of hot water, but you have to understand how they work. It takes time for the sun to heat the water, and there is only a limited amount that each one holds. So it's simply not possible for 4 adults to each take 20 minute showers one after another. Not only does that waste water, the solar heater can't supply that much hot water in one go. And whilst there will be hot water at night, once you have used it all, you will have to wait until the sun has been up for a while before having more hot water in the morning. The hot water systems do have seperate gas boilers, but we find with careful use, these only need to be used during the winter months.
All the waste from the toilets, sinks and showers goes into biological underground soak-away septic tanks. The bacteria in the tanks break down the waste into a liquid fertiliser which then soaks away into the soil. No smell, no mess, and provided you don't flush baby wipes or sanitary towels down the toilet, there won't be any problems. These septic tanks have been performing faultlessly for 17 years now, but all its needs is a baby wipe or some bleach (bleach will kill the bacteria needed for the process), and the system will stop working and we will have to start digging up the septic tank to clean it and start the biological process again.
So all we ask is that you consider all of the above when staying here.
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