Controlling the controllables

I have two guiding philosophies regards staying safe in life. The first is to ‘control the controllables’. For me, this is highlighted by living remotely on my own though, in the past, it was was also a key component of my preparation in sport, rowing at international level early on in life and, more recently, competing to a reasonably level in the equestrian sports of eventing and endurance. But you can’t account for everything in one sitting when you write a list. So the other guiding philosophy is being closely tuned into my instinct, so that I notice when it nudges me here or there, or prompts me to take an action, as it’s the best guidance mechanism we have, as I have explained a number of times in my podcasts.

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So ‘preparing for winter’ has been the predominant theme in the last few months. This is partly a result of the experience of surviving the winter from hell last year, when I was snowed for over a week to 10 days on at least three occasions with massive snow drifts all around but also because, instinctively, I have been prompted to do various repairs around the place and make a few improvements. Consequently, the list of jobs and actions I ended up with was very long indeed. For a brief moment, I wondered if I was obsessing, then I smiled at the comparison to my last property which was purpose-built with all mod cons including underfloor heating, a sound system throughout and an adjoining spa. How things have changed! I made a short video (bottom of page) as testimony to my efforts to survive this coming winter a little more ‘easily’ (that’s a relative term). Of course, there won’t be any snow now!

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Something else which had been on my mind for some time, was looking into photovoltaic solar panels to provide the majority of my electricity needs. I do have power cuts living out in the sticks when the weather is bad, so I already have a fairly large generator as a back up. But if the winters continue to be more extreme with longer periods of sub-zero temperatures and bigger snow (which I feel will happen), then it’s likely the grid will fail more often and not just for the country folk!

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So I have now had discussions with a few specialist solar firms and found a local source of interest-free funding designed for this type of project, and it looks likely I will proceed. The cost of installing solar has come down dramatically over the last few years and there has also been a big improvement in the efficiency of the panels, so the timing is good (other than the fact the Government tariff for encourage solar take-up is now almost non-existent). The one fly in the ointment is the cost of batteries. These will come down in time, no doubt but they are too expensive at the moment, so they will have to be phase 2. This means I will have my own source of power during daylight hours and use the grid at night for the time being.

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I have to admit I like the idea of being as self-sufficient (and green) as possible regards power and utilities and not dependent on the big corporations. Photovoltaic panels will complete the picture for me as I already have a borehole for water, private drainage, an oil-fired Rayburn for cooking and hot water and a biomass boiler (which runs on wood pellets) for heating, plus two wood burning stoves. Naturally, I have a few backups which not only include the generator but more basic solar panels for hot water, if required and the biomass boiler can double as a cooker too. If all else fails, there is always the camping stove!

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As I have been focused on this subject, I was interested to spot on Netflix a series called ‘America Unplugged’. It follows eight people in their quest to be off-grid and self-sufficient. They live in various parts of the US in different climatic regions and on different terrains and have a variety of motives, from avoiding what some believe is a pending man-made apocalypse, cataclysmic weather (or an electro-magnetic event) that might close the grid down completely, to just wanting to live a simpler life, connected to nature, in control of what they eat and living lightly on the land.

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While I don’t subscribe to the ‘apocalypse’ theory, I do feel we have lost connection with nature and therefore, with ourselves, also with food and how it’s produced and we are vulnerable to a rapidly changing world that will inevitably experience hiccups as we metamorphose into an era of greater sustainability.

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While the people in the series have taken self-sufficiency to an extreme and make my efforts pale into insignificance, I was staggered at how they have invented solutions to all manner of things that are not available in the mainstream. It also makes you marvel at what was achieved in times gone by, before the advent of electricity. Personally, I am inspired by their actions and while I don’t wish to go down exactly the same route, there are many ideas I have picked up which I will endeavour to use either in this property or my next. The series is a showcase in thinking outside the box and human ingenuity. This much we can all take to improve our own lives and for the greater good.

New video: Bring on the Snow

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Pics: Me filming ‘Bring on the snow’ video; the drive during one of the snowy episodes last year and eventually being cleared by a neighbour; Talisman surveying the snowy wonderland and snowed in his stable; the walker during a snow storm; the barn sporting icicles.

Videos & podcasts: Videos can be found in the Vlog section of this site and on Youtube. Podcasts can be found here too and in the iTunes store (search ‘Fiona Price practical spirituality for everyday living’). 

NB. If you enjoy my content, please spread the word. Thank you.

 


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