Maple syrup may be the top event going on here at Pot Hole Farm, but its not the only one. We still have daily chores to attend to that include gathering firewood, taking care of the guineas, chickens,  turkeys and cats and dogs. Because we have had few days of sunshine the generator needs to be fed as well and that means going down to the Country Store to fill up gas cans. Gray cloudy days do not make enough energy for the solar panels to charge the batteries.

January is also the month we start to plan for spring projects and one of those projects is the garden. Today we took a trip over to John and Carols where a nice pile of composting donkey manure was waiting behind the barn. John used the bucket of his dependable 1970’s Ford tractor to dump four large scoops of manure into the bed of our old farm truck.

We were almost home when it began to snow. Large fluffy flakes floated on the wind and landed on the frozen ground. We used pitch forks to spread the manure over about a third of the garden while snow flakes swirled around us creating a scene fit for a snow globe.  The manure was black and rich with pink earthworms playing hide and seek in the clumps. It will lay atop the garden for the rest of winter where it will continue to decompose and feed the soil. We still need to get three or four more loads to finish covering the garden.

Spreading Manure

Spreading Manure

The snow is continuing to come down and the temperature is dropping. Time to curl up with a cup of coffee and a seed catalog.



  1. Holly says:

    Depending on how long I live in my current home I would like to have solar panels someday. Just curious, do you keep track of how many gallons of gasoline your homestead requires each year to run the generator? I assume your home is heated by wood? How many kW are your panels?

    • Sonny says:

      Holly, we currently have a total of 18 220w panels. That equals about 3.7kw. We have not kept track of the gasoline cost but there are several factors that can impact that cost. We purchased a LED television due to being very energy efficient. We are TV watchers although if you were a big reader you would reduce your generator requirements. The largest thing is being to change your lifestyle on things that normal people would think are silly.

      We have a low flow toilet, yet we still do not flush after each #1 (pee). We don’t have a toaster or hair dryer (both would be ok in the summer but a giant power user in the winter).

      Yes our primary heat is from wood, but we have wall mounted propane heaters as a backup. We try hard not to use them. We have one CFL lamp and use LED for most low level lighting. The gas stove and water heater are a must also. Our solar hot water takes care of all our needs except in the winter (then the propane takes over automatically).

      Naturally in the winter the sun comes up at a very low angle, comes up late and goes down early. We run the 8 kw generator about an hour in the evening. Our battery bank is efficient but in 10 more years I will upgrade to a better system (this will also reduct the generator use). If we conserved we could go about two and a half days just on batteries. Cold temps will also impact how long the batteries last.

  2. lkjobe says:

    I’m not sure where you live, but how much sun you get a day will also impact how much you have to use your backup generator in winter. We live in what’s called a soup bowl with hills all around us. In winter it takes longer for the sun to rise up above these hills and it slips behind them earlier in evening. If you live in flat ground like Parts of Texas or Arizona it stands to reason that your panels will have more sun and the generator use will be less if at all. Hope this helps you. For us this is as normal as anyone who has regular electric.
    Are you hooked up to the grid now? It would have been more expensive for us to get regular electric out here. The solar was costly too but we also like the freedom.

    • Holly says:

      We live in Culloden, WV; only a few hours from the Off Grid folks. Our home is 18 years old and is connected to the grid. The disadvantage for us is the size of our home and having 2 separate heat pumps. We’ll continue to think about the possibilities and perhaps someday it will be more economical to go solar.

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