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Living with the Earth

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Back of house with solar stuff - cropped

Note: This house is on the 2012 Solar & Green Building Tour. See Tour Details...


Ron and I were lucky enough back in 1996 to find our 32 acre parcel that would become our homestead.  We were even married in the rough roadway that had to be put in through a shale  embankment. You need to travel along a 1,200 foot lane leading to the hayfield where we have our pole barn and house.  We are fortunate to have such a private location, as, when you arrive we are surrounded by high hedgerows and hundreds of acres of forest.  We have used the services of the State Forest Management to have a comprehensive and ecologically sound method of caring for our woods.  We got by with a variety of generators for some time, knowing we wanted to go with alternative energy(power from underground service would have be over $10,000.00 then) but not knowing how to really go about it. Enter by chance, fate, circumstances, whatever, we met Dave and Sara who had just moved into their solar home right nearby! Yeah!  One visit and we sent a check off to New England Solar and Electric of Mass. to get a starter kit.  One Southwest Air 403  micro-turbine (now updated) producing 400 watts, and two SX 120 solar panels, 8 Trojan T 105 batteries, a DR 3624(watt) inverter and all the various electrical components for a grand total of $5,000.00.  With  the help of a couple of creative friends we were up and running June 2003. "Fred", our inverter is a computer, so he keeps things running smoothly and carefree.  Since that time we have added 4 more batteries, and 4 more panels and another windmill.  We have a home office, flat screen TVs and a Maytag EconServe bottom freezer/refrig. and a Peerless-Premier propane kitchen stove (no 1,500 watt oven glow bar!). Until people step outside and see the solar panels and windmills they find it hard to believe that we are off grid. This is considered a very small system, but it meets our needs. Total price $8,000.00. Now with so many advancements, you could probably get more power for much less than this. Don't forget, we did all the work ourselves. Adding professional labor will double the price. Remember, we had NO experience, just commons sense.  We heat the kitchen with a small Huntsman woodstove and a Thermo-Control woodstove  that has a heating coil for hot water. A FreeBreeze sterling engine fan helps circulate the hot air(hand made in Canada)  We have an open concept design with large windows on the south and an a large roof to fend off the hot summer sun, but allows Solar maple syurp - croppedthe low winter sun to still heat up the house. We have a floating Alaskan slab with recycled Styrofoam underneath for thermal mass.  We chose log siding and the interior is all various woods milled on site from our forest. We are a big experiment and still not finished, might not ever be.  We are just stewards of the land , no one can really "own" the Earth. Hopefully,  others will follow and continue what we have begun. Stop by and see what can be accomplished for a very small investment and be free of the grid and at the mercy of the power companies. Sample our maple syrup  have some fresh cider and visit with our beautiful animals grazing in the high pasture. Yes our sap house is all solar powered too!    

See YouTube video from last year's tour here.


Jan Bever

Highland Hills Farm
Certified Naturally Grown©  100% Pure Maple Syrup
Charleston, NY

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