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My Love-Hate Relationship With Electricity


Is electricity a necessary evil, a blessing, or a tool of the devil to destroy humanity?

At different points in my life, I have answered “yes” to all three.

Truth be told, I never thought much about it until I started getting into the whole “simple living” thing. Then I started learning about Permaculture, which led me to learn about peak oil, which led me into feeling guilty for being on the grid, which finally led me into feeling guilty for wanting to use any kind of electricity from any source.

If you think I go to extremes, get in line with my mother. And probably my husband, too – although his goal in life is to keep peace with me, so he’s never said anything outright about it.

Finally, I watched a video about a couple who lives in a tiny house in northern California, who do not use electricity in their everyday lives (notice I didn’t say they live without electricity; that’s a whole other ball of wax). I wanted to figure out a way to live the way they lived.

The challenge

But I faced a few challenges. First, we have a son who has a couple of battery-operated toys – and will surely want more things that require electricity in the future. Second, we live two and a half hours away from a decent health food store, and the Azure Standard pickup only happens once a month. Combine that with the fact that we are not even close to producing all of our own food, and we are forced to have both a freezer and a car.

(Yes, you can buy propane-powered freezers, but do you have any idea how much they cost? Not to mention that propane in our area costs more than electricity from the grid).

Third, God has called me to blog and write books.

Last time I checked, both the computer and the Internet required electricity to run – as does my NEO2 that I use to compose my writing.

My first clue that electricity might not be the evil that some people claim it to be was that God seems to have put His stamp of approval upon it. I’m not the only one He has called to do something that requires electricity.

Finally, we chose an earth-sheltered house as our permanent home. In order to prevent mold growth on the concrete, the ceiling fan has to run 24/7, and we have to run a dehumidifier to keep the humidity down to a certain level. You can install a whole-house ventilation system instead, but of course, that uses electricity, too.


Technology reduces stress

When I finally resigned myself to the fact that I will never be able to live without electricity – unless I want to leave my family and live in a cave and live on weeds and roadkill – I realized that the modern conveniences that run on electricity reduce stress.

  • Freezers allow us to buy otherwise perishable foods and store them long-term.
  • Power tools save days of time working on long-term construction projects.
  • Computers and the Internet allow us much greater flexibility in purchasing than we would otherwise have in the rural area where we live. (Even some of our groceries come from online stores.)
  • Electric lights produce a lot more light than candles or oil lamps, so you need fewer of them. And there is no fire risk.
  • An electric stove or burner greatly reduces fire risk, too, and makes heating up water and cooking easy. (Rocket stoves are NOT fun to deal with.)

I’m not sure I could get B to consume all the nutrition and calories he needs without my Vita-Mix to make him smoothies.

Electric heat is a lot less messy and requires a lot less work than wood heat. My husband did not retire super-early so he could spend his spare time (like there’s any such thing with our son around) chopping wood!

The middle ground

After reading this post, many dyed-in-the-wool homesteaders would declare me to be a heretic, not a true homesteader.

So be it. I must please God, not man – except my husband, whom I don’t want to stress out too much with my ideals.

We are not living in the nineteenth century, but the twenty-first. Life is very different, and to try to fight against something as pervasive and ubiquitous as electricity is, for some of us, more stressful than is healthy.

Being a good steward over the Earth doesn’t mean throwing out all modern technology. It means being responsible, and doing the best we can with the circumstances we are given.

As for my family, we don’t own a washing machine, clothes dryer, dishwasher, smart phone, television, or refrigerator. We live in a very small house. We combine errands, and keep our long-distance grocery trips down to once a month, at the most. Our son does not play video games all day, and we rarely use our cell phone (most of the time it is turned off). The computer is usually on for only two to three hours per day.

We do our part, both to save money and to save the Earth’s resources.

I’m done wishing we could live without electricity. It’s made our lives simpler.

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