You Can Have More by Having Less

You can have more by having less when you understand the time and effort that comes with building your homestead or farm.

Getting Started: Our Goal

Our goal is to grow nutrient dense food to eat and sell. We have been "practicing" now for about three years. While we have sized our greenhouse to be manageable by just a few people once it is completed, we still want to grow at a rate that is sustainable for us.


What do I mean by practice:

  • Start small with the end goal of what you want to grow into.

  • Since our vision is to be debt free when the farm is completed, pay cash, or very few payments.

  • Take the time to test the systems you want to use on the smaller greenhouses.

  • Take note and record the weather and temperatures/humidity/winds and daylight at the greenhouse location.

  • What solar, wind and generator power systems will we use? Are they reliable?

  • How will the greenhouse be heated during the 40 to 50 below zero weather?

  • What automatic watering systems will we be using?

Test, test, test and evaluate.

Here is a photograph of our first small growing plot.

First small garden plot

As you can see, our first garden paid for itself. We are still growing at 7,000 feet while we look for land in higher country in Colorado.

We Purchased Land!

So together with our partner in this business, we were able to purchase land and pay cash. Forty acres at 9,000 feet elevation. It comes with a water well already in place and produces 7 gallons per minute of clean water! 

40 acres with a well

  • We put a small 5th wheel trailer on the property.

  • Decide where to place the greenhouse.

  • Dig a water line to that site.

  • Start digging the greenhouse based upon the research we accomplished.

Trailer and digging the water line 

We install two smaller greenhouses for the first-year crop while we finish the larger greenhouse, using the Food4Wealth system of growing a garden.

2 small prototype greenhouses

We lease the empty house next door for the winter months and grow a "kitchen garden" in the old buffalo pen.

Kitchen Garden

Greenhouse ready to plant first raised bed

Greenhouse Roof and Door in place 

Now, we have the basic structure of the greenhouse completed as well as have one raised bed in place inside. There is room for many more plants, hanging, hydroponics and aquaponics systems to be installed also. We also have the following ready to be installed:

  • Solar panels with all of the equipment to run the greenhouse and a new home (to be built later).

  • Weather station and monitor station to help us automate ventilation/heat and watering.

  • Lots of organic compost and Llama manure.

  • Seed for planting for this year.  (About two weeks away for cold crops, 1 month for heating system to be functional).

  • Testing supplies for quality control.

Time to Upsize Our Growing Plan

Now that our smaller steps have been proven successful, everything is paid for. We have also joined the local garden club as well as talked to local restaurants, stores and community centers about our Nutrient Dense Food business.

We have people ready to purchase our products as soon as they are ready!  

To Sum Up How We Have More by Having Less:

  • We have no debt on the property or materials.

  • We have two years at higher altitudes to test our growing beds and mineral content for optimum growth and quality using a simple system.

  • We have older equipment that is paid for.

  • Customers are already to purchase what we are growing.

  • We are off the grid, so no electric or water bills to pay.

We still have to build a home on the property. We will continue to lease the land next door with a house to produce enough food for ourselves. This also offsets the cost of the lease.

Living in the house also gives us more time to design and plan the home we will eventually live in. We enjoy the journey, the challenges and the friendships and community we have become a part of while we build our sustainable homestead.

If you have any questions or would like to know more about living off the grid or growing a Food4Wealth garden, contact us!

Today is a good day.
Chris Downs

Extreme Cold Weather Generator Repair and Maintenance

HISFarmLiving off grid, we rely upon our solar panels, batteries and generator to provide power and heat. As we are still building our farm, we leased the 40-acre farm next to us that has a house.

The challenge during cold weather is the house only has forced air heating. The owners' insurance does not allow for wood heat, other than a pellet stove. That would be PL, IF the pellet stove did not use more electricity than the furnace.

30 below and the generator does not want to start.

When the sun does not shine, we must use the generator to supplement our power storage to the batteries. No sun, no electricity, unless you use the generator.

We have had some extreme cold weather this last week.  We are prepared for it with our generator, or at least I thought I had taken all of the precautions I needed to:

  • Drained the fuel/water separator.

  • Checked the fuel filters for being clean.

  • Fuel tank fill strainer clean.

  • Added extra anti-gel to the fuel tank.

  • Tested and ran the generator when it first got below zero.

I Was Prepared!

At least I thought I was.

The first day of temperatures below 30, I woke up and found our outside thermometer was pegged to the negative side. It goes to minus 21 degrees. Our neighbor, who lives four miles north of us is usually about 4 to 5 degrees warmer than our house due to the wind and landscape here. He had 28 degrees below zero.

We were not cold in the house yet, but my family had not gotten out of bed yet. The temperature in the house was toasty 52 degrees! Not the warmest for most people, but a lot warmer that being outside. I turned the heat up to 60 degrees.  

Starting the Generator

I waited until it was 20 below zero outside to start the generator. We have a diesel generator and we add an anti-gel additive to the fuel to keep it from freezing in severe weather. At least that was the theory. I had added two times the amount recommended for temperatures below zero degrees.

Diesel fuel additives

The generator started and for 40 minutes ran great! At the 40-minute mark, the generator started running rough. I quickly got dressed for the cold weather and shut down the generator. The temperature was already up to 15 below zero. I checked the batteries and they were charged, so we had power for the day. The guel filters had less than 10 hours of use on them, so they should be fine.

I Did Some Troubleshooting

  • I had recently placed a new exhaust pipe on the generator to keep the exhaust outside of the generator shed.

  • I removed the exhaust to make sure it was not blocked due to moisture freezing in the pipe.

  • I checked the air filter, also new about 10 hours ago. It was very dirty. Probably from the shorter exhaust pipe we had previously had for the generator.

  • I removed one fuel filter and found some gelled fuel in the canister.

Diesel Generator 

I went to town, purchased a new air filter as well as some more fuel conditioners. The 9-1-1 additive was highly recommended for these extreme cold temperature.

After getting back home about three hours later, we cleaned the fuel filters, fuel/water separator and replaced them after adding 25-percent 9-1-1 per volume in each fuel filter canister and the fuel/water separator, then poured the rest into the fuel tank. It was getting dark and the temperature was close to 15 below zero. What was left from the 9-1-1, I placed in the fuel tank.

It was now 20 below. We fired up a propane heater in the generator shed. If it had been a gas generator, I probably would not have used it, but hooray for propane space heaters!

Will it Run?

We went through the starting process:

  • Prime the fuel system.

  • Glow plugs on for 60 seconds.

  • Turn the switch to Start.

The generator started, but it was coughing and running a bit rough. Dale, our neighbor who was helping me, recommended letting it run, and within two minutes, it started running smooth and clean.

Success and the Lessons Learned 

So the generator was running great. We had succeeded in getting the power we needed to heat the house. What we discovered is that even though we had more than enough additive in the fuel, we will need to remove the tank and check it also. The goop we removed we believe came from the tank, and after so many cold days in a row it was able to break loose.

The lesson learned is that in extreme cold weather, change out the fuel filters and drain water/fuel separators more often. We will be more alert to the cold temperatures as well as removing the fuel tank yearly to check for contaminants.

We will also build a rocket stove with lots of thermal storage for our home as we build, right after the greenhouse is producing our food!

The Greenhouse Nears Completion

HISFarmHere is an update of our 60-by-60-by-15-foot deep greenhouse. There were two of us who have worked on this for a year now. It has been quite a bit of work that has been a joy and challenge at the same time.

Winter is Coming

Two weeks ago, we were able to cement the last upright post in place for the greenhouse.

Cold weather, high winds and time restraints have appeared to be winning the battle in getting the roof on and complete before the first big snow.

The last post is cemented in place

We just could not get the last two rows of the roof pulled into place due to the wind. The temperature must be at least 50 F to set these 66-foot-long panels into place. Too cold or too hot, and the tension will not be correct once it is completed.

Part of taking on a project of this size is keeping focused on the end result. We know that once the roof is completed, we can finish the sides, install the vents and get the water system and completed.

We have placed the top soil, compost and llama manure in the greenhouse already. We just got a "new to us" Troy Built horse rototiller to level the floor of the greenhouse also.

Rototiller inside of greenhouse

Soil mix in back of greenhouse

A Two-day "Heat Wave" Makes It Possible to Finish the Roof!

Just this last Sunday and Monday, we were blessed to have warm enough weather to pull the last two panels! Finally, the roof is on and the weather was up to the low 50s. We have had a couple of small snowstorms, but the snow is all gone.

Here are a couple of photographs of the completed roof for the greenhouse!

Greenhouse roof and tensioned properly

Side view of the completed greenhouse roof

Last Items to Finish the Greenhouse

Now we can get the floor level and finish the side windows and vents.

Here is what we have left to do:

  • Build and install the eight vents in the side walls.

  • Close the other sections of the walls to keep the greenhouse warm and growing.

  • Change the well pump from 240vac to a solar-powered well pump.

  • Finish the cover for the water reservoir tank.

  • Install the drain gutter on the south end of the greenhouse to get water to flow away from the greenhouse as rain falls or snow melts.

  • Install the roll up garage door in the driveway ramp.

This may sound like a lot of work, but compared to where we started, it is a short list.

We were hoping to get this completed before the first big snow, however, it came. The great news is that the roof is on and there is lots to do inside under the roof!

First snow arrived too early

So what have we completed so far?

  • The foundation has been dug 12 feet deep.

  • Railroad bags filled with decomposed granite are filled and in place to raise the north wall to 15 feet high.

  • All of the posts and structure has been built, leveled and aligned for the Greenhouse roof panels to be installed.

  • All posts have been cemented in place.

  • The roof panels, which are 2 meters wide and 66 feet long, are now anchored in place and tensioned properly.

There are probably easier and less expensive ways to build a greenhouse, but for us at nearly 9,000 feet in elevation with severe cold weather, this system is the best option.

Yes, living a life and making income has lengthened our time frame. But it has been and continues to be our vision to build a farm that provides nutrient dense food year round.

Nutrition is the main ingredient in a healthy life: physically, mentally and financially.

Whether you are nurturing your family, your business or your mindset or your land, it is all part of a healthy life.

What do you do to fund your dream? We do train others how to fund their farm or professional garden without going into debt. Is it easy? Not always, but if you are ready to get some help, you can contact me: chrisdowns@hisfarmorg. Are you a fit to work with us? Leave us a message and we will interview you to see if it is a fit for you and us.

Build your dream, keep your vision in focus and keep moving forward. Have the grit to "Get R Done"! Remember to keep reading GRIT magazine for tips and reviews, invest in your skills and knowledge and train others to do the same.

Together, we can make the world a better place, one great meal, homestead and farm at a time.

Chris Downs
The Caretaker

Turn Your Job Into a Business

HISFarmThe dream of owning your own business brings to mind time and financial freedom. Built properly, your business fulfills that dream. But your business could also become a nightmare of being “owned” by a self-purchased job. I know the nightmare. I have created a Just Over Broke (JOB) when I purchased an existing business. The results were not healthy for me or pretty for my finances. Working too many hours, getting into debt and living a stress-filled life.

Farm Field

I will be sharing some of the major mistakes that I and others have made and how to avoid them. Now that I have learned over time what is important.

Building a business can be stressful. With planning and knowing that what you are about to build is your passion. You dream about farming, gardening and creating the life you want. You wake up in the middle of the night with Great Solutions for the business you want to build.

Reading, researching and talking to everyone who will listen about your business goals. Meeting others who desire to, or are living the lifestyle you are working towards. As an avid “organic food aficionado,” you reject the chemicals, poisons and shortcuts that can damage the land and your family's health. Knowing that you will continue to work toward the sustainable life until you have reached your goal.

You have the “grit” to continue your plan until your dream is fulfilled. Are you passionate about living the homesteading, farming or sustainable estate lifestyle? Let me share about the mistakes and solutions that I have discovered on my journey so far.

The Dream to Build a Business

Over the years, many of us want to build a business rather than work a job or buy a “job.” Don’t get me wrong, some jobs have been amazing learning and earning experiences. Many skills and talents have been learned from them. However, there is no real time freedom in a job.

I have started businesses that turned out that I just “owned a job” to take care of that business. Overtime, I searched many “opportunities” that I thought could be the perfect business to give me time freedom. You know what I am talking about, lots of us have experimented. But I had a huge challenge ahead of me. That challenge was discovering for myself how to separate business or work from family life.

When I had a job, they could easily be separated. I had time that I worked and time that I spent with my life! But a business, how does that work? They seem to be intertwined to such a point, that life, the business and work was one big blur. Yikes! No time for myself.

My First Large Business

Old Store with Car

Growing up, I started lawn mowing businesses, irrigation pipe changing, bucking bales in fields, cleaning up construction sites and then cleaning stalls, feeding horses, buying-training and selling horses. I learned many of my skills from the people I worked for.

As farmers, we knew many people who had their own businesses, and I thought that would be the best way to do well in life. So when I got out of the military, I had the opportunity to purchase a business with my family. A grocery store mini-complex was for sale 10 miles from the Canadian border in Washington State. It needed a lot of work, but it was a small town and we would be the closest business near the border. Being a hard worker, we tend to look at work as an opportunity.

Hunters, fishermen, travelers and local residents would “flock” to our business! The dream was alive and well! We were on our way to business success!

The Reality of 'Owning a Job'

Once we purchased the business, the reality of the workload hit hard and fast. Yes, we had customers from day one, well-wishers and those who wanted to know if we would give credit like the old owner did. We said “no” to almost everyone, except for special circumstances.

Here is a list of the major challenges we had with this business:

  • Clean and organize the store.

  • Clean up and remodel the “coffee shop” into a restaurant.

  • Provide firewood for the building for winter.

  • Set up and purchase products that sell for a fair profit.

  • Maintaining the building, gas pumps, restaurant equipment and trailer park that came with the store.

  • Communicate with family members and do our best to stay on task for doing all of the:

    • work

    • taxes

    • banking

    • ordering of products

    • cleaning

    • marketing

    • customer service

    • special orders

      • picking up supplies not delivered

    • etc………

As a hard worker, those tasks were not that daunting. However, as a business owner there were concerns.

  • We had gone into debt to purchase the property and buildings. The local, state and federal taxes had just been increased, which was not in our original calculations.

  • The income for the first month was a bit more than what we expected, but so were the cost of repair parts.

  • The hours of work had increased to an unsustainable 17-hour day. This included the “day of rest” that we had planned for.

  • Health became an issue working this many hours, so we did finally allow quite a few of the smaller items to “just be” as they were. We placed those items on a “to-do” list.

  • Mental health also had taken a back seat for the first six months, another health concern, so once the major projects were completed, we each got one day off per month.

Even though we felt we were on the right track for success, it had become a “job” where even our time off was filled with business related tasks. With a physical store there are specific hours we needed to be open. Due to the local customers “habits and time schedule,” we would open at 6 a.m. and close at 9 p.m. We also served the local sheriff and fire department who would need fuel or help sometimes in the middle of the night.

All in all, the people of the community were supportive, but just like any community, there are also certain customers who were a bit troublesome.

In conclusion as to why this business was a job.

  • Our time was dictated by our customers we served.

  • We did not research the business and expenses properly.

  • Our debt load was too high for the price we paid for the property.

  • Our fuel pumps required replacement and continual maintenance.

  • Credit for customers.

  • Major repairs and renovation were needed to improve the restaurant.

  • Our location limited our income potential.

I wanted to learn from the “mistakes” that I made from this “paid job” business, so I got some help.

Revisiting Past Successes

One of the business owners I worked for as a teenager was in his late 20s. He and his wife were living in a small mobile home on the ranch. It was a quarter horse training center built on an old quarter horse race track facility.

The place was in great need of repair, but was able to bring in income year round as a boarding facility and renting the indoor arena for horse training. They hired me to take care of the horses, clean the stalls, as well as clean up after the shows and training events.

They continued to grow toward their goals.

As their reputation for quality care and facilities grew, so did their business. They were able to travel more, they hired a horse trainer to live on site also. The business grew to pay for a new house, new equipment and they were enjoying their lives. Time to spend with family and friends.

Even though they had to take on some debt with the property, the payments were low due to the original condition of the facility.

Why it is a business, and not a job/being self-employed?

When I left that business to go into the military, my younger brother took over the job. The business continued to grow and provide for the family and their customers. It became a profitable lifestyle.

What lifestyle do you want to live? You can incorporate what you love to do into your business. Your entire life becomes ONE BIG LIFE! You are doing what you enjoy as you continue to learn and grow your business and your family.

Solutions to Success

Take time to research what you love to do, as well as assess your skills and stay healthy. Building a business takes stamina and persistence. Here is a list of items that have helped me to once again build a business that is in alignment with my passion.

Solutions discovered:

  • Research the potential of the business.

  • Keep your debt as small as possible.

  • Learn about marketing your product or service.

  • Become creative with time, projects and repairs.

  • Keep learning and growing.

  • Work on your positive mindset.

  • Be grateful for the abundance in your life.

  • Take time off to enjoy life and family.

  • Hire people who are enthusiastic about your passion.

  • Do your best each day.

  • Keep learning and adding more benefits for your customers and employees.

  • Nurture your business to make a profit.

  • Build relationships with other successful business owners.

  • Hire a mentor or coach.

Today, we are building a large greenhouse and farm. It is the lifestyle that we enjoy passionately. We have the time freedom to spend time with family and friends when they come to visit. Our personal life and the business are intertwined to make a sustainable and enjoyable lifestyle.

The great thing about farming and gardening and turning it into a business is this:

  • The business grows even when you are not there, when properly managed.

  • You build life-long relationships with customers and employees alike.

  • You get to nurture others who desire to do what you are doing and train them as your business grows.

If you want to learn more about our business and our resources, contact us for a free farm consultation.

Today is a great day to start living the sustainable life of your dreams.

CSU Extension Agent Cover Crop Tour

HISFarmWe recently went on a two-day tour with Bruce Bosley from Colorado State University. Bruce has been a scientist and professor with CSU for more than 25 years! The purpose of the farm and facility tour was to lean about cover crops at high altitudes.


CSU Research Farm Lysimeter station

Part of growing healthy crops is having healthy soil. To help grow the soil, understanding the cycle of life of the entire growing process is critical for the farmer. Without healthy soil, water management and overall attention to the actions taken to produce a product that is needed and wanted by consumers, the farm will go out of business.

The people we met on the tour are incredible. We were blessed by meeting scientists, extension agents as well as farmers who love the land and farming. They are all very passionate about what they do. Some have different ideas and philosophies about how we feed the world. Some believe in growing local organic food, others believe in the science of chemistry, as long as it can be proved that there are no harmful effects from that chemistry Some of the scientists and extension agents focused solely on large scale farms. Thousands of acres encompass their area of expertise. Farming on such a scale has its’ own set of challenges, one of the biggest is managing such a large ecosystem, making a profit, while at the same time being a good steward of the land.

Lunch and training at Rocky Ford Reaserch Facility

It is a common goal for all on the people we met to work together and allow our differences in how we believe to best manage our land and our farms. It was two full days of exchanging ideas, practices and results. There is no way to convey in this article all of what I learned or was shared. I will have so many notes and pictures that it would be a book all on its own.

So this article is an overall view of the people I met as well as how homesteading, hobby farms and large scale farms interact with Colorado State University (CSU) and the extension agents. As a system of research and developing best practices, this is a good system for the farmers and the university to help us understand more about modern day farming.

Since our farm is focused on small scale farming, I will start by introducing you to Jennifer. She is the small acreage management coordinator for CSU. She explained to me the definitions of Hobby and Homesteading farms as the university categorizes them.

  • Hobby Farm: A farm that is not necessarily for profit. It is usually managed and owned by someone who is retired or still working. The purpose is to produce the lifestyle that they desire. Grow their own food, raise horses, cattle, or other crops or animals for enjoyment and some profit. Profit is helpful, but their livelihood is not on the line. The owners are financially able to absorb extra costs that come with their farm.

  • Homestead Farm: This is the farm that needs to pay for itself, the owners have committed their time effort and finances in an “All IN” journey. Their life is 100-percent committed to success of their labor of love. The farm MUST make a profit to pay for the entire business of living this lifestyle.

As we are building a Homesteading farm, my perspective is that everything we do must bring us success in the long run. All of our decisions must take into account not only the immediate future, but also 10, 20, 50 years into the future and beyond. I worked on both types of farms growing up at the Washington and Idaho border. Some of those farms are still going, but many are not. Housing developments have replaced the fields of alfalfa, grass seed and grazing dairy cows, horses and beef cattle. The wolves, coyotes, deer, porcupines as well as myriad other wild animals have moved to other less populated areas.

Bruce Bosley was the leader for this Cover Crop tour. Most everyone we met grew their own garden when away from work. Bruce brought some wine that he made. He grows his own grapes and has been at CSU for 25 years. He is passionate about learning about, teaching about and growing healthy food. He shared he always learns as much from farmers that he helps as they learn from him.

Rachel, who is working on her PhD, is an entomologist who has a strong passion for insects. She shared that the United States is one of the few countries where people do not eat insects as part of their diet. She talked about the protein and nutrition available in a diet that includes insects. You may even hear about the store that she wants to open up! Maybe even in a neighborhood coming to you!

We met and were able to talk to more than 16 scientists and researchers from CSU and the USDA in those two days. Each one has a passion for science, growing great healthy food, and helping farmers like you and me to become successful.

We met one farming couple, David and Mary Miller from Triple M Bar ranch in Manzanola, Colorado. They raise naturally grown lambs using organic methods. They also raise and sell livestock guard dogs.

David takes care of the herd, Mary does the office work, marketing and making sure all of the paperwork for the state, dounty, transportation department and the USDA is kept up to date. David shared that switching to a direct sales retail farm has helped their profitability tremendously. They started selling directly to a specific niche market consisting of specific cuts of lamb to high end restaurants. The cuts that the restaurants do not pay a premium price for, they sell directly to their email list that Mary manages.

To keep this post short and to the point, I have decided to write a series of posts about the CSU Cover Crop Tour. I want to thank each and everyone we met and traveled with for their hospitality and generous sharing of their time and talent. Like I said, we met a lot more than 16 people so I will write more about them and their passion for life.

I highly recommend that you talk to your local extension agent to see what resources they may have available for you. It could be that there is even a list of customers who will purchase your products as soon as they are ready, maybe even before! That would boost you up to a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farm!

Click here to contact us for more information or a complimentary 20 minute consultation.

Today is a Great Day!

Chris Downs


Nutrition Nurturing Our Lives

HISFarmWhat is my understanding of nutrition?

When most of us read or talk about nutrition, we just talk about our food diet. But nurturing, according to the online Merrium-Webster dictionary shares this definition of nurture:

– Training, upbringing

– Something that nourishes

– The sum of the environmental factors influencing the behavior and traits expressed by an organism

– Help (something or someone) to grow, develop, or succeed

– To take care of (someone or something that is growing or developing) by providing food, protection, a place to live, etc.

– To hold (something, such as an idea or a strong feeling) in your mind for a long time

– To supply with nourishment

– Educate

– Foster to further the development

Life is sustainable

Our education is nutrition for our mind as well as our spirit. Understanding how the world works and how to nurture it is critical to a happy, healthy life. What part of our world and everyone, everything that is not part of our life? I wrote a poem many years ago, and it has driven me to want to understand “What is our world”?

“The Earth is not just a piece of ground

It is all we see, all around

The air we breathe, the soil we till

Water of Life, Bugs and more

Living, breathing, Earth is our world

So complex, but simple too

We must understand that health is all up to you

We live and we tread and live our lives, not really knowing the mysteries

Of what is inside. Our neighbors who love far away and close by, we are all connected underneath the same sky.

So nurture your neighbor, whether four-legged or two. Crawlers, swimmers, fliers and those living inside of you too.

There is so much unseen that makes us complete, we live in abundance, no need to compete. More than enough for all to enjoy, Love one another and nurture each one. That is what life is, as taught by the Son and all of my mentors on this Journey as One. “  

Chris Downs 2014©

The Park County Farm April 6 2014

How do we nurture ourselves and each other?

There is a story about busy Minnesota honeybees. These busy bees were moved to a warmer climate. The bees were accustomed to the challenging Minnesota winter and their internal body clocks operated in harmony for a peaceful life. The bees were bought by a man who transported them to a tropical island. WOW, what a change. Their internal body clocks were set to four distinct seasons and all of a sudden the bees were sunning themselves in a non-stop tropical environment. The bees did not know how to act. They produced honey for a winter that never came. They became upset, agitated and downright unhappy. Eventually they became lazy in their duties and their production reduced until it was next to nothing. Void of their inherent drives, the bees, in their frustration and irritation, spent their time attacking the neighborhood and became a great nuisance.

What does this have to do with nutrition? Great question, we all have our own passion and purpose. We have talents that we are very good at and that nurture us.

But sometimes, we are told by others what we should do or become. But does this really nurture us or the world we live in?

Just as those bees had lived very productive lives where they were born and lived for generations, they did not adapt well to their new environment. They knew how to live where they were born, but struggled to live where life was too easy for them.

Native people share permaculture principles that show us how to live with nature as it has been created and evolved to live abundantly. Eating food grown locally allows us to adapt and live with the environment where we live.  

The aboriginal people on every continent have the knowledge of what plants are good for food and which ones are for medicine. Generations of that understanding comes from observing the animals and seasons. Taking the time to understand and learn about your local environment nurtures you also.

Homesteading successfully also comes from observing, learning from neighbors, mentors and nature in your area. Whenever I move to a new area, I always do my best to discover who can tell me the history of the area. Seasons, plants, animals, natural growing food and herbs are an abundant resource in nurturing a life that will bring our families optimum health and happiness.

What is your understanding of nutrition?

Now that I have shared my understanding of nutrition, I would like to hear what it is that nurtures you. How do you feed your mind, body and soul? What foods do you eat? What do you create? Who do you mentor and share your passion with?

What do you do with your “extra time”? Are you learning new skills, playing music, teaching others what you have learned about growing a garden, working on equipment, and what wonders exist where you live?

Click on this link to find out more about Homesteading and Permaculture.

Battery Maintenance: The Heart of Sustainable Power For Your Home

HISFarmBatteries are the heart of sustainable power for your home. Without proper battery maintenance, you will have system failures. When you live off-grid, you are the power company, water company and communications provider. The great news is that if there is a power outage in the nearby city, we would never know it. The bad news is that if we have a power outage, it is our responsibility to fix it.

The Battery Storage Bank for Your Power System

That is a small price to pay to have electricity from the sun, wind or fueled generator. Once you learn the system, maintain it properly, it becomes second nature and you can have your own reliable mini power company on your small scale farm and home.

As a U.S. Navy submariner, I have had great experience with electrical power generation and maintenance. Since we were completely reliant upon our own power systems, we became very focused on maintenance and operation.

Our most recent experience

We have moved into a house that had been “shut down” over six months. The wind and solar power system was in need of maintenance. The diesel and gas powered generators did not work. There is no electrical power lines or phone lines available where we now live.

As the modular home has no wood stove or fireplace, we are reliant upon electricity and propane for heat.

My first step was to learn this system and make it work for us.

Solar Panel for Your Power System

The system consists of:

– 2 solar arrays with eight panels on each array.

– 16 deep cycle Interstate workaholic batteries

– Trace Engineering PC250 Circuit panel

– Trace Engineering Power Conversion Center

– Tri Star Solar Controller TS-45

– 500 watt wind generator

Then we added our own back-up generators

The solar panels only work when there is sun. The wind generator needs wind to produce power. On cloudy, windless days we need to supplement the charging of the batteries with a generator. We added two generators for backup. In living a sustainable life, redundancy and backup systems are essential to live abundantly.

We added these two generators:

– 5,500-watt gas-powered generator

– surplus military hospital diesel generator

As for the batteries and the inverter/charger system, they are located in an outdoor building about 30 yards from the house. It was in need of some repairs also. The door to the battery and inverter building had been tore off its hinges by the wild donkeys. It is cold, so there is a chance for the batteries to freeze. Freezing batteries is not a good thing.

We cleaned up the inside of the building and filled the batteries with distilled water. Three of the batteries had no water over the lead plate. One battery had a frozen cell.

Attempt to revive the dead batteries

After adding distilled water to the batteries, we charged the batteries for a few days with the solar panels, as well as used the generators while running the well pump. The attempt at reviving the dead batteries failed, and we had to add three new batteries.

This is the process we used to restore the battery banks to operating efficiency:

Hydrometer showing a Dead Cell in a Battery

– Tested all of the batteries using a hydrometer.

– Made a diagram of all of the batteries, cells and the wiring in the battery box.

– Wrote the hydrometer reading for each battery cell on the diagram.

– We discovered that we had to replace a minimum of three batteries.

– Called Interstate Battery tech department to verify our plan for battery replacement.

– We verified that we should place the three new batteries in one bank of 24 volts (four batteries at 6 volts each in series).

– We removed the three “bad” batteries from the system.

– We then placed the best battery left in series with the three new batteries.

– After cleaning the battery box and the batteries, the other three rows of four batteries were all of equal charge and were placed back together.

– We cleaned all the wire connections using a wire wheel (brush) on a battery-operated drill.

– Now that the batteries, terminals and wires were clean and shiny, we connected all four banks of batteries back together in parallel.

– We then double checked our wiring (it is in the manual we have, as well as the diagram we created) to ensure we had it together correctly.

– We closed the circuit breaker on each solar panel, turned the inverter panel on, and everything worked great! We now had a full charge showing on the panel.

– We started our backup generator to ensure that it would work properly. The generator only supplies 15 amps of charge. The inverter has to be set to that rating. If not set properly, the inverter will overload the generator, shutting it down.

– Then we did the final clean up and placed the insulation over the battery box, ensuring that the vents for the battery box were still clear of obstructions.

Lessons learned

After studying this solar power system, I discovered a few items that would make maintenance and operations more efficient. Which makes it easier.

Some of the changes that I recommend for a system are as follows:

– Place the inverter controls in the house rather than in a remote building. It is no fun to go outside to discover why you no longer have electricity and what to do to fix it. Especially at 30 degrees below zero.

– The battery banks should also be in the house in a special room constructed to protect the batteries and the home.

– Ventilation of the batteries and protection from freezing is important. Build the battery bank room to proper specifications for longevity of your investment.

– When you purchase your solar panels, spend the extra money for panels that automatically adjust to the angle and movement of the sun. (The panels follow the sun similar to how a sunflower follows the sun.)

We now have more than enough power for the night. Thanks to Dale, our friend and neighbor, we were done in less than three hours.

Now that the battery bank is working properly again, our attention can turn to managing our power.

Managing power usage

We made a list of how many amps the different appliances and equipment use during operation. Believe me, when it is cold outside you want to have power for your heater.

These are our top two energy drains:

– Well pump, 19 amps at start up

– Forced air propane furnace, 8 amps

These are just two items, the rest of the items are usually just 1 amp or less.

Having a complete system can be costly. However, it can cost you more by not building a system to meet all of your needs.

http://www.ehow.com/how-does_5877552_solar-panel-systems-work.html is a link to help you understand the very basics of how a solar panel system works.

You can research and find solutions in your local area as well as online. We offer consulting and perform research for those of you who do not have the time or may just want a bit of help.


Today is a great day,

Chris Downs