It was a huge moment for us – a major landmark on a journey that began on the evening of September 17, 2017, when we pulled onto the road at Snoqualmie Pass, rain pouring down, on our way to a new life.
On the fifth of November, 2021, at precisely 3:05pm, I flipped the switch.
We are no longer off the grid.
Actually, I didn’t flip a switch; we plugged in a power cord. It took three tries. I stood at the “console” recording video while my husband and son both unplugged their respective cords from the generator and brought them over to the shrine – uh – new power pedestal that stood at the end of our driveway.
Our son was to do the honors. He plugged in his trailer as we watched the meter. He checked to see if he had power. Nothing. My husband then cracked open the breaker panel and sure enough; the switches were in the “off” position.
He flipped them all over for a second try. This time he plugged in our own extension cord. His slow walk back from the RV said it all; nothing. I was getting nervous at this point. Had the power company done something wrong or forgotten to turn a dial?
One more thing, my husband thought. He reset the mini-breaker in the middle of the outlet. A light! I started recording again. He plugged in and…four years of generators and not enough solar panels later…
WE HAD POWER!
That morning, I heard heavy equipment starting up in the driveway after waiting for two weeks since the pedestal was installed. I peeked at the security camera monitor and spied a backhoe and a gigantic roll of power cable attached to a digging machine.
It sure wasn’t UPS.
I woke my husband up and sprinted out to greet the workers, my husband struggling behind me. We watched a backhoe dig a trench from the location where the transformer was to be located toward the pedestal with the meter and plugs.
The powerful bucket easily broke up the ground, neatly depositing ton upon ton of earth and rock in piles next to the road. My husband and I eagerly eyeballed the debris for boulders. Gold, maybe?
We snuck up on the mounds of fresh smelling dirt when the crew went to lunch and picked through it. I found a rock that looked like a huge stone foot and set it aside. My husband grabbed a couple of samples before we retreated.
No gold. Not visible, anyway.
The work commenced but the sound of bucket grating on stone reminded me we’re sitting on top of bedrock. Fifteen feet from the pedestal and we were looking at another couple of grand should the guys have to use a hammer attachment to break up the rock.
About the same time, a hydraulic hose broke so the driver took the machine back to exchange it for another. Upon returning, he was able to scrape enough rock away to make the trench deep enough.
In the meantime, the funny spool with the machine attached dug it’s way down the easement and to its destination at the power pole down the hill. The crew installed the transformer box, laid the cable and brought the meter in- all while we stood around gaping. They couldn’t have understood.
Finally, trench filled, driveway scraped flat, jaws still hanging open, we watched as the backhoe operator disappeared down the driveway to join the rest of the magical electricity elves.
Then we did the official plug in.
We are now slaves to a big corporation and we don’t care. I never said we chose this way of life as a matter of principle. We almost had electricity early on but the neighbors wouldn’t let us run a couple of hundred feet of cord across a remote portion of their property – so we waited.
A few months ago, the opportunity presented itself again. We debated whether or not to go ahead as we still might move but after factoring in some dynamics, we decided to do it. At the very least, our property value just increased.
No more waking up at five in the morning to refill the generator. No more daily trips to fill up the gas cans. No more oil changes, spark plug replacements or broken pull cords.
I love solar. I love being self sufficient. We’ve learned so much from having to go it alone. I wouldn’t trade our experiences and lessons of the past few years for the world but would I do it again? I don’t know.
Besides, we have some really big equipment on the way that will require too much electricity at once for a solar setup. That, however, is a story for another time.
Our first evening with public utilities closed to the sound of silence – except I swear I could hear the meter counting up the watts and kilowatts.
We’ll have a different bill to pay next month.