Is homesteading too much work?

COUNTRYSIDE: Where are all the folks with a homesteader’s

heart that want to try to make it off the grid?

For 1-1/2 years I’ve tried to find just the right person to

take over my place in the mountains, which I have had to give up on due

to severe physical disabilities. My heart is broken because I cannot

continue, but I had dreamed of finding the perfect person who would let

me keep in touch and live vicariously through them. But so far, no luck.

People seem to be turned off because of the lack of electricity and the

unfinished condition of the house, although I lived there for four years

and was quite comfortable.

Perhaps the turn-off was the stacks of building materials in and

around the house, enough that the new buyer would not have to buy

supplies for quite some time. It would seem the folks who have come to

see the place want it all done and ready to go. That is different from

the way I felt when I lived there: I was excited to get up each morning

and having to decide whether I wanted to work on the house, the chicken

coop or the garden that day. That was part of the fun of it all.

Unfortunately, when this all began 20-some years ago, I had to work

full time away from the place and with the lack of time and knowledge on

how to build things quickly, progress has been slow. (There are lots of

exciting tales that can be told about the experiences I’ve had

here, from the old chicken with no feet who clomped around, to the

attack by the cougar on my old goat who survived the ordeal.) It has

been a fun ride and I wish to pass along what I’ve learned. Where

do I go to find that special person who isn’t afraid of a little

(or a lot) of work?–Dona Mellott, Cascade, MT


Dream vacation for this homesteader is a national tour of homesteading!

“If you were given unlimited time and money,” we asked,

“how would you spend your vacation?”

Not too surprisingly, many countrysiders told us they’d like

nothing better than to stay home from work to wallow in the delights of

their own homesteads.

However, one essay stood out above the others for its

originality… and because almost any homesteader will find it both

entertaining aura instructive. Rather than condensing it in order to be

able to include ideas from more readers, as is our custom, we’re

running this one in its entirety.

As I started listing the things I’d like to do on my dream

vacation, I soon realized that I’d probably need at least a year,

maybe more, to get them all in. But, since your instructions said I had

all the time and money I needed, and this is, after all, a “dream

vacation,” I figured I’d go for it!

First, a little about myself. My husband and I live near Golden,

Colorado, a suburb west of Denver known primarily as the home of the

Coors Brewery. We have a small (.6 acre) “farmette” where we

raise chickens, angora rabbits, and geese. We also have a geriatric dog

and cat who spend much of their day curled up on the couch, and a llama who helps out on backpacking trips and my husband’s annual

bowhunting expeditions. We both work full-time jobs off the farm, but

are hoping and planning to make the move “beyond the

sidewalks” in the near future. In the meantime, we are trying to do

as many ” homesteady” type things as we can with our small

area of land and our limited amount of time.

To begin, quit the jobs, buy an RV

So, back to the dream vacation. First, we’d both have to quit

our jobs, something I don’t think either one of us would have a

hard time doing. Next, we’d buy a small RV so we could travel in

relative comfort and not have to worry about where we were going to

sleep or eat. Finally, we’d have to arrange for someone to care for

the critters and the house. (This is probably the reason most

homesteaders only take dream vacations. It’s one thing to get a

neighbor to feed the dog and take in the mail for a few days. But who

are you going to get to haul water, chip ice out of the geese’s

swimming pool, gather eggs and groom bunnies on a regular basis?)

Assuming we have the farm in good hands, we’d set out in our

RV to do some exploring.

What’s in our own backyard?

While both of us were born and raised in Colorado, there are parts

of the state we’ve never seen, or haven’t seen since we were

kids. One of our most memorable and enjoyable vacations was a driving

tour of the state. We had no plans, no agenda, and spent the better part

of a week just exploring. If we found a place we liked, we just sat for

a while and enjoyed it. So for this dream vacation we’d probably

need about a month to revisit some favorite spots and to explore some

new ones.

I’d also want to spend time with my friend, Janet, who lives

in southern Colorado. We met on the Internet, and although we’ve

never actually talked in person, we’ve communicated online for

nearly a year now, sharing our homesteading thoughts, dreams and

frustrations. She’s a special friend and really understands our

dream of life beyond the sidewalks, unlike most of the people I work

with who think my husband and I are just a little “odd.”


While in the southern part of the state we’d probably drop

down into New Mexico and visit the earthship community near Taos. For

those of you who aren’t familiar with earthships, they are

self-sufficient homes built from recycled materials and designed to heat

and cool themselves, produce their own electricity, catch their own

water, treat their own sewage and grow their own food- perfect for life

off the grid. The bearing walls are built by pounding earth into used

automobile tires. The inner partition walls are made from aluminum cans

laid in cement mortar. All surfaces are then covered with mud or cement

plaster and the resulting structure resembles an adobe house. I realize

this sounds as if you’d be living in a glorified landfill, but the

structures are really quite attractive. I don’t know how well they

do in high rainfall areas, but for the desert southwest, they are ideal.

You can get more information about earthships by calling 505/7510462 or

by sending e-mail to

The Pacific Northwest

Next, we’d head up to the Pacific Northwest by way of the

coastal highway. (Of course that drive, with various side trips along

the way, could take a whole summer in itself.) If we didn’t already

live in God’s country (Colorado, that is), the Pacific Northwest

would probably be our second choice of places to live. Coming from a

state with an average annual precipitation of only 12 inches, we’re

amazed at how green and lush it is. And besides a beautiful range of

mountains, there’s an ocean there as well. What more could you ask


On our way to Washington state, we’d visit Sisters, Oregon,

home of the Small Farmer’s Journal. Next to Countryside, it’s

one of our favorite magazines. SFJ focuses primarily on farming and

ranching with draft animals, but contains a lot of other useful

homesteader information as well. We might even be able to time our visit

to coincide with SFJ’s annual horsedrawn equipment auction and swap

that takes place every April in Redmond, Oregon. (Call 503/549-2064 or

write to SFJ, POB 1627, Sisters, OR 97759 for more information about the

auction or the magazine.)

On to Seattle, where we’d pig out on seafood, and visit the

Pike Place Market, one of the oldest continuously operating

farmers’ markets in the country. Next we hop on the ferry and

travel to Vashon Island where we’d visit Island Meadow Farm. The

owners, Bob and Betty Gregson, recently published Rebirth of the Small

Family Farm, a handbook which details their experiences starting a

subscription organic farm on two acres. The book provides much practical

advice as well as inspiration to others of us who are middle-aged and

are trying to make a similar lifestyle change. (The book is available

for $9.95 postpaid from IMF Associates, P.O. Box 2542, Vashon Island, WA

98070. Washington residents need to add 70 [cts.] per copy for sales


While in the Pacific Northwest, we’d certainly take a trip

out to the San Juan Islands. There are a number of small farms on the

islands, including several places that raise Shetland sheep. Those

little sheep with their friendly personalities and small, beautiful

fleeces fascinate me (must be my British heritage). If they weren’t

so darned expensive, I’d have a small flock of them.

Tillers International

On to Kalamazoo, Michigan. You’re probably wondering why on

earth we’d make a special point to visit Kalamazoo. It’s not

exactly a well-known tourist mecca. But it is the home of Tillers

International, a non-profit educational center that offers classes in

low-technology skills such as working with draft horses and oxen,

low-capital farming, blacksmithing, and woodworking. When we recently

received their list of courses for the coming year, my husband remarked

half seriously, “Let’s quit our jobs and go to Michigan so we

can take all the Tiller’s courses.” So on our ideal vacation,

we’d do just that. (You can contact Tillers for a copy of their

class catalog at 5239 S. 24th St., Kalamazoo, MI 49002, 616/344-3233.)

We’d then drop down into Ohio and see if we could meet Gene

Logsdon. He’s one of my favorite “contrary farmers,” and

has written a number of books on topics such as homesteading, berry

growing, fish farming, improving your soil, and raising grain on a

small-scale. As a used book dealer’s catalog recently stated,

“Buy everything he’s written.” His book, The Contrary

Farmer contains insightful essays on the follies of modern agribusiness

as well as some practical advice about making a living on the land.

Malabar Farm

A trip to Ohio wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Louis

Bromfield’s Malabar Farm in Lucas. Louis Bromfield was a Pulitzer

Prize-winning author and conservationist, and his stories about bringing

a wornout farm back to life are educational as well as entertaining.

Malabar Farm is now an Ohio state park, dedicated to perpetuating

Bromfield’s farming philosophies. A collection of some of his best

writings was recently reprinted under the title Return to Pleasant

Valley (edited by George DeVault, published by The American Botanist,

Chillicothe, IL). If you’ve never read any of his works, run,

don’t walk, down to your local bookstore or library and get a copy.

You won’t be disappointed.

Rodale Institute

While in the vicinity, we’d visit Kutztown, Pennsylvania and

nearby Emmaus, home of the Rodale Institute and Rodale Press,

respectively. The Rodale Institute is a nonprofit organization that

supports research in the link between farming practices, soil health and

human health. The Institute has an organic demonstration garden that is

open to the public. Rodale Press is probably best known for its

magazines, Organic Gardening and Prevention, as well as a variety of

books on gardening and health related issues. While in Emmaus, I might

give Rodale Press a piece of my mind about their decision to quit

publishing New Farm magazine. By the time we discovered the magazine

about a year ago, Rodale had quit publishing it. This magazine was, for

the longest time, the only voice for alternative and sustainable

agriculture. Check with your local ag college–they may have back issues

that you can read in the library. (A group called the Committee for

Sustainable Farm Publishing is planning to start publishing a similar

magazine. If you have e-mail, send them a message at

and let them know you’re interested and would like to be notified

when they begin publication.)

Amish country

Since we’re in Pennsylvania, we’d visit Lancaster County

and Amish country. I’ve been reading a lot about the Amish, their

way of life and their way of farming, and I have a great amount of

respect for these people and their self-sufficient lifestyle. I assume

our dream vacation funds would include some money for souvenirs, so

I’d definitely have to find an Amish quilt or two to purchase. As a

novice quiltmaker myself, I find the deceptively simple designs, vibrant

colors, and exquisite hand stitching of the Amish quilts to be truly

inspirational. Perhaps we could take in a draft horse or mule auction

while we are in the area as well.

Rotational grazing

While in the Great Lakes region, we’d certainly want to visit

Wisconsin and participate in some pasture walks with the folks who are

doing rotational grazing and seasonal grass dairying. Rotational or

managed intensive grazing seeks to mimic the behaviors of grazing herds

in the wild (i.e., large numbers of animals in a small area for a short

period of time) and is beginning to catch on as an economic alternative

to traditional confinement dairy and beef cattle operations. It puts the

animals back where they belong, on pasture, eating what they are

designed to eat, grass. It is more economical, as the farmer no longer

has to grow or buy huge quantities of corn or grain, and it puts the

manure out in the pasture where it’s needed, not in the confinement

shed or loafing area where it becomes a management nightmare. Seasonal

dairying, in which the animals are milked for only nine to ten months of

the year instead of year around, gives both the farmer and the animals a

much needed break.

And of course, what would a visit to Wisconsin be without a visit

to Withee to see the home of Countryside and Small Stock Journal?

The Nearing homestead

Well, it’s off to New England to visit the Helen and Scott

Nearing homestead in Maine. What can you say about the Nearings that

hasn’t already been said? They truly were the mother and father of

the back-to-the-land movement of the early 1970s, and their writings are

still cherished by homesteaders today. If you haven’t read Living

the Good Life and Continuing the Good Life, or it’s been a while

since you’ve read them, you’re in for a treat.

Common Ground Country Fair

While in Maine we’d take in the Common Ground Country Fair

that takes place in September of each year. The Country Fair sponsor,

the Maine Organic Farming and Gardening Association (P.O. Box 2176,

Augusta, ME 04338), is one of the most active small farm organizations

in the country, and has been putting on this event for over 20 years.

Activities include a number of educational workshops and seminars, as

well as entertainment such as the ever-popular manure shoveling contest.

The Association also operates a farm-apprentice program that helps hook

up farmer wannabes with farmers who are willing to teach them in

exchange for help on their farms.

Polyface Farm

Time to head south, with a stop in the Shenandoah Valley of

Virginia to visit Joel Salatin’s Polyface Farm. Joel bills himself

as a “lunatic farmer,” and certainly many of his ideas about

farming, raising livestock and direct marketing fly directly in the face

of conventional agricultural wisdom. Joel is the author of two books,

Pastured Poultry Profits and Salad Bar Beef. If you are thinking about

raising chickens or cattle to sell, read these books first. (Joel also

had an excellent article in the March/April 1997 issue of Countryside.)

As we travel south, we’d stop in Kentucky to meet Wendell

Berry, whose poetry and essays on farming and rural life are

agricultural classics. Then down to North Carolina to visit with Andy

Lee and his wife, Patricia Foreman. Andy is probably best known for his

book, Chicken Tractor. He and Pat recently moved from Vermont to North

Carolina where they have established a homestead and permaculture training facility. They also have a mail order book business called Good

Earth Publications (800/ 499-3201) from whom you can order Chicken

Tractor as well as Joel Salatin’s books.


Next a visit to the offices of Appropriate Technology Transfer for

Rural Areas (ATTRA) in Fayetteville, Arkansas. ATTRA is one of those

rare federal government agencies that actually provides a valuable

service to the taxpaying public. (That’s probably why they have to

fight so hard each year to get funded by Congress.) ATTRA is a

sustainable agriculture information service which provides production

and marketing information to farmers free of charge. They offer

information packets on a variety of agricultural topics such as pastured

poultry, berry growing and beekeeping. You can call 800/346-9140 to

request a brochure that describes the services they offer (or write to

ATTRA, P.O. Box 3657, Fayetteville, AR 72702). As an information junkie with a degree in library science, I could probably spend an entire week

in their resource library.

Small Farm Today Show

On our way back to Colorado, we’d take in the Small Farm

Today Seminar and Trade Show in Columbus, Missouri which takes place in

early November each year. The Show is sponsored by Small Farm Today

magazine and features workshops and seminars on topics such as

alternative crops, livestock, marketing, home-based businesses and rural

living. We’ve attended the show for the past two years and have

been able to meet and talk with the likes of Andy Lee and Joel Salatin.

You can call 800/633-2535 for more information about the Show.

Well, that’s about it for our “busman’s

holiday.” Of course, I’ve only scratched the surface of

farming and homestead-related places to visit in this country. For

example, there are all the “living museum” farms and ranches,

places like Old Sturbridge Village where traditional farming and

homesteading skills are cherished and preserved. I guess we’ll have

to save those for our next dream vacation.

But what about Alaska?

As I was reading what I’d written out loud to my husband for

his comments, he got a somewhat pained look on his face. When I asked

him what was wrong, he said, “But, what about Alaska?”

OK, I admit that the preceding was more a description of my dream

vacation than his. Although he shares my enthusiasm for farming and

homestead-related vacation destinations, he’s not much for what he

calls my “tour bus” approach. So, in all fairness, here’s

my dear husband’s ideal vacation: We’d drive to Alaska and

fish all summer long.

Hmm. Well, I suppose while we were there we could visit the

Matanuska Valley, where the farms are known for growing those 3 0 pound

cabbages. And there’s always a visit to the homestead of Micki and

Julie Collins, authors of the book Trapline Twins, as well as a number

of articles about their subsistence lifestyle in the Alaska bush. And

I’ve always wanted to visit with some Alaska beekeepers and find

out how they keep their hives alive through those long Alaska winters.

And then. . .

Well, gotta go–the husband is getting that pained looked again!


Living Off the Grid What Does It Mean?

When we talk about living off the grid, we are referring to using our own renewable energy sources and not needing to draw power of the electric companies’ grid. Every day you hear things like, there is a power shortage, the demand for power increases daily, non-renewable energy sources are being consumed rapidly, and environmental warnings every day about the pollution. This should be enough to tell us that the time has come to do something. So we ask, what can we do about it? Well, this is where living off the grid comes in, if everyone were to use renewable energy sources we would lower the demand on our natural resources thus making them last longer, it would help the environment because renewable energy sources do not pollute, and we could cut down or eliminate our monthly power bills.
Advantages of living off the grid are numerous, first.  We can reduce our dependability on our quickly depleting natural resource. Do you like to depend on public utilities for your power needs? If you are living of the grid you would only need to rely on your renewable energy source and would no longer need to rely on the electric companies. What’s wrong with relying on the electric company? Have you ever had a party or maybe even just watching you favorite tv show and in the middle of it the power goes off? Now you find yourself cursing the power company. This wouldn’t happen if you were using an alternative power solution.
A big advantage is the amount of money you could save every month if you didn’t have to pay a power bill. Think about how it would feel if you didn’t have to worry about paying that monthly bill. With solar and wind power solutions at home you could free yourself of the power companies. In some places the excess power you produce can be put back into the grid and the power company would have to pay you for it. Wouldn’t it be great to get a check from a power company instead of having to mail them one?

Another advantage of living off the grid would be that you would be helping the environment.
Most electricity is produced by burning our natural resources like, oil, coal, natural gas, and in some cases even wood. We already know that we are nearing depletion of our natural resource so, if everyone were to start using solar or wind power solutions at home we would greatly reduce the consumption rate making the non-renewable resources last longer. Our children would not have to worry about power shortages knowing we left them renewable energy sources that will be here for a very long time.
Many people think that renewable energy sources are expensive to implement but the fact is that with the advancements in technology the costs of solar power solutions at home as well as wind power solutions at home have become affordable as well as very cost effective. In a short time these systems would pay for themselves, they are low maintenance so, they require very little in the way of maintenance expense and they will most defiantly free you from the power company grip on your check book.
If you have never given solar power solutions at home or wind power solutions at home a thought then the time to start thinking about them is now. At our present rate of consumption of  nonrenewable energy sources will be depleted in about 30 to 35 years, leaving our children in the dark.

Original article posted at


The Urban Homesteading Phenomenon: Self-Sufficiency on a City Lot.

What It Is, How It Started

There is a movement afoot that is sweeping the United States. It's called “Urban Homesteading”. People are turning their city lots into tiny little farms. They are growing organic food, and sometimes even animals. Not since the “Victory Gardens” of WWII have so many people been so intent on feeding themselves. What they can grow all depends on what their particular city allows.

Whether an urban homestead is started to grow healthier food with organic gardening, save money and be more self-sufficient, or to reduce the carbon footprint of your family, there is not much of a downside to this way of life.

In bad economic times, people look for ways to be more self-sufficient. There is also the issue of the dangers inherent in eating commercially grown food. Chemicals, contaminants, pollution, genetic engineering — all these things make taking a bite of food something to dread. Organic gardening is growing in popularity every day.

The Internet is a smorgasbord of sites and videos by urban homesteaders all across the country. They are proving that you don't have to own acreage to be self-sufficient. The amount of your self-sufficiency is entirely up to you. Even apartment dwellers are getting into the act, growing container gardens on their patios or vegetable gardens in their courtyards.

The Basics – Food and Water

Urban homesteaders often start out by simply growing organic vegetables and fruits, and as time goes by, add more self-sufficiency resources. Water catchment systems are usually the first thing that is added after the gardens. Water catchment is especially helpful in places where there is a lot of annual rainfall. In places with wet and dry seasons, they can be tricky, because they require a way to refill the rainbarrels in the dry months.

Rainbarrels can be purchased on local sites like Craigslist for as little as $25 apiece, already fitted with all the plumbing necessary. You can also purchase the barrels and easily add the fittings yourself very easily. Plans and instructions are available at several sites online. Using a water catchment system can save hundreds of dollars a year over city water. Since the sewerage charge is usually based on your water consumption, you will be saving there as well.

As far as drinking water is concerned, there are some urban homesteaders who utilize distillation of rainwater to provide their drinking water. Plans can be found online for building your own water distillation system, although a small used commercial distiller can be bought for under $100.

Moving Off the Grid

Most of the more advanced urban homesteads have some sort of alternative energy system. Whether it's solar or wind power, they have found a way to generate their own electricity and at least supplement what they buy off the grid. Some use manually powered electrical generating systems, such as a bicycle that charges a battery, which can then be used to run the computer. There are a myriad of alternative energy possibilities available, and whatever amount you generate yourself saves you that much money on your grid power usage.

Some urban homesteaders just grow their own food, but some actually make a living off of their homesteading. They sell organic produce to local restaurants, grow and sell ornamental or edible plants, or sell the very systems they build, such as homemade windmills and solar panels. Some make a living off of writing about their homesteading efforts, and selling affiliated products.

Whichever path you choose, you too can become more self-sufficient and reduce your carbon footprint with urban homesteading.


Rainbarrel Instructions

Leda's Urban Homestead (apartment gardening)


What constitutes homesteading?

Homesteading has been used to describe different lifestyles for a number of years. Today homesteading is used to describe those people living off the land or living green.

Historic Homesteading

Pioneers in the Appalachians were the first homesteaders. They lived within the valleys and hills of the mountain range, surviving off the land.

First Homesteads

A swath from Southern New York through Mississippi and the Southern states bordered the first homesteads of farms, spring houses and root cellars.

Current Homesteading

Homesteaders have houses, running water and indoor plumbing. They produce off-grid power with solar or wind. Gardens and farms provide the needed food.


Peaceful open space lends to a healthier lifestyle, and many prefer no pesticides nor additives are in their food. There also is more control over one’s life in general.

Sample Homestead

A homestead is simple and small, made with natural materials such as straw, clay and rocks. A pump for water and solar or wind power provide the utilities for the homestead.

Source: The Homesteader’s Free Library

Homesteading Today

Modern Homesteading

More Information:

Homesteading With Ozarkguy

Self Sufficieny and Homesteading


Off The Grid News Uncovers the Power of Vinegar in a New Complimentary Report

Thomson, IL (PRWEB) January 15, 2013

According to Jeramy Jennings, spokesman for Off The Grid News, the many uses of vinegar is a very big topic in the survivalist and self-reliance community. The healing powers of vinegar have made online media channels such as and as well as books being sold on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Off The Grid News offers tips to their followers for living a self-reliant lifestyle, so this topic was a natural fit in their lineup of products.

Jennings said, “One thing that survivalists are looking for is herbal and natural remedies. A lot of people don’t take the time to think about what they will do when they can’t get to a doctor or hospital. Survivalists are looking to cover their bases for every foreseeable situation. Vinegar has some very serious benefits and we want our followers to be able to read about these benefits without having to pay an arm and a leg for them.”

Influenza is spreading across the nation right now. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), “Forty-seven states reported widespread geographic influenza activity for the week between December 30, 2012 and January 5, 2013.” One of the many possible benefits of vinegar outlined in the “Vinegar Solutions” report is that “a daily dose of vinegar could help ward off the flu.”

The many benefits of vinegar are not just something survivalists are talking about. If you type “vinegar” in the search bar on you will get more than 550 search results. Dr. Oz published an article on his website about how studies show that vinegar can inhibit rising blood sugar.

Off The Grid News offers their followers reports such as “Vinegar Solutions” to help their readers become more self-sufficient and to be prepared. “Vinegar Solutions” is just one of the twenty-two reports that Off The Grid News has made available to their followers.

“Being self-reliant is a big part of my life. I grew up in a time when we reaped the benefits of the land. I feel that we as a nation have drifted away from that way of thinking and we have come to rely too heavily on various entities,” said Bill Heid, founder of Off The Grid News. “People need to wake up and think about what they will do if someone isn’t there to take care of them. My friend Brian Brawdy always asks, ‘When you can’t call on anybody, can you call on yourself?’”

To learn the vast and unique benefits of vinegar go to… or you can sign up to get the Off The Grid Newsletter at


Opower to Save One Terawatt Hour of Energy by 2012 | Business Wire


the home energy management software company, today announced that its

software platform will help US consumers save one terawatt hour of

energy by the end of 2012 – the equivalent of taking 100,000 average US

homes “off the grid” for a full year. Moreover, the company’s energy

savings rate—which has been increasing exponentially since its first

energy management program launched in 2007—will be high enough at end of

2012 to keep those homes off the grid permanently. Upon the achievement

of its goal, Opower’s energy savings rate will surpass the rate at which

power is generated by the entire US solar industry.

Opower announced its Terawatt Hour savings goal with the launch of a new

company website ().

The site offers a rich visual environment where utilities, regulators,

and consumers can track the impact of Opower’s energy savings driven to

date. One terawatt hour of energy is equivalent to:




Enough energy to power 100,000 average US homes for a year;



Abating the carbon dioxide produced by 100,000 cars in a year, 11,000

cross-country flights;



Abating enough carbon dioxide to approximate the creation of 6,500

acres of rainforest;



Saving US consumers more than $100 million on energy bills.




Currently, Opower is more than a third of the way toward its goal,

having saved more than 380 million kilowatt hours of energy through more

than 30 live utility deployments.



In addition, the company announced the release of a new report by The

Brattle Group outlining best practices in measuring the impact of

informational-based energy management (IBEM) programs (such as Opower).

Recognizing the potential for information-based programs to drive

large-scale gains in energy efficiency, The Brattle Group report

outlines statistically rigorous measurement and verification guidelines

for utilities and regulatory agencies to use in determining the actual

impact of information-based programs.



Opower’s measurement methodology and program results have been

independently measured and verified by leading industry analysts and

non-profit organizations, including the American Council for an

Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), The Brattle Group, Navigant

Consulting, Power Systems Engineering, KEMA, the Environmental Defense

Fund (EDF), and established academics from several leading institutions.

The company’s measurement protocols follow the guidelines specified by

Public Utility Commissions across the country, including the California

PUC’s Measurement & Verification Guidelines and EPA’s National Action

Plan for Energy Efficiency (NAPEE) guidelines.






To see the latest energy savings driven by the Opower platform, please


To download a copy of The Brattle Group’s “Measurement and Verification

Principles for Behavior-Based Efficiency Programs,” please visit:



To download a copy of the Environmental Defense Fund’s “Behavior and

Energy Savings,” please visit:


“Home energy management is one of the most exciting sectors within the

clean-tech industry, because households use more than a third of the

energy consumed in the United States. Utilities across the country are

deploying information-based energy management programs like Opower’s as

a first step toward realizing large scale energy efficiency benefits.

For years, economics has been concerned with the effect of price on

consumer behavior. While price effects are important, Opower

demonstrates the importance of using information to shift the demand

curve inward, resulting in less use even without changing prices. The

energy savings from informational programs are real and measurable and

every bit as important as those from other programs. We expect to see

more and more of these programs implemented by utilities across the

country, perhaps as part of a broader smart grid strategy.”
– Ahmad

Faruqui PhD, Principal, The Brattle Group

“Energy efficiency is a great resource to reduce pollution and our

dependence on foreign energy resources. Our research has shown that

giving people information allows them to take control and save energy

and money.”
– Fred Krupp, president of the Environmental

Defense Fund

“The future of home energy management hinges on our industry’s ability

to deliver measurable energy savings to all consumers, not just those

with access to high-tech devices or funds to make substantial changes to

their homes. Information-based energy management programs are designed

to engage all customers and help them make the level of investment in

energy efficiency that makes sense for them. This customer-centric

approach is the key behind the large-scale savings we’ve achieved to

date, and gives us the opportunity to continue the conversation with

millions of consumers, helping them manage their energy consumption on

an ongoing basis.”
– Alex Laskey, President and Founder, Opower

About Opower

Opower is a leader in home energy management software, providing the

industry’s only multi-channel customer engagement platform proven to

deliver of energy efficiency gains and other strategic benefits to its

utility partners on a sustainable basis. Using cutting-edge behavioral

science and patent-pending data analytics, the Opower platform enables

utilities to connect with customers in a highly targeted manner,

motivating reductions in energy use, increasing energy efficiency

program participation, and improving overall customer satisfaction. More

than 50 utilities—including 8 of the US’s 10 largest—have partnered with

Opower to improve the effectiveness of their energy-efficiency

portfolios significantly while providing an enriched customer experience

that leads to higher customer satisfaction rates. For utilities with

Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI), the Opower platform represents a

cost-effective way to convert hourly data into measurable energy

savings, delivering the value of the Smart Grid directly to customers.

Founded in 2007 and privately held, Opower is headquartered in

Arlington, Virginia, as well as a second office in San Francisco,

California. For more information, please visit .


The Current Status of World Hunger

Where does starvation exist in the world today? What are some of the causes of world hunger? Are citizens of developed countries donating monetarily to the ongoing relief efforts? In this article I will address these questions with the hope that by creating an understanding of the current world hunger situation, morally conscious individuals will do their part in contributing to the eradication of this unseen suffering.

It is a well known fact that there is enough food in the world to feed every human being on earth. Sadly, malnutrition and hunger still afflict one out of every seven people in the world today. Or, from a slightly different statistical perspective, the current world population is 4,712,200,000. The number of malnourished is 797,900,000. Therefore 17% of the world population is currently malnourished or starving. No matter how you examine the issue, a current crisis is at hand. Why is this so?

The causes of starvation are complex, but there are some common threads that seem to be associated with this problem. First and foremost, starvation is caused by poverty. To address the problem of world hunger then the problem of global poverty must be addressed. Therefore, the question that we should examine is what are the causes of poverty. A thorough discussion on the causes of global poverty is outside the purview of this article. Entire textbooks have been written on the subject. For our discussion, it is suffice to say that one of the major causes of poverty is governments pursuing policies that inhibit self sufficiency.

Areas of starvation are also characterized by persistent problems in cultivating food from lack of seed, arable land, and tools. Those that can grow food, must deal with insects, drought, floods, and war, which can result in complete destruction of crops. Historically, areas of Africa have experienced periodic locusts infestations, which can completely destroy crops.

Other causes of world hunger are related to the globalize system of food production. The globalize system of food production and trade favors a reliance on export crops while discriminating against small-scale farmers and subsistence crops. Many third world countries export out to much food while concomitantly not keeping enough food to sustain their own people.

AIDS is a significant cause of hunger. In societies affected by AIDS, famine is more deadly and difficult to combat. Why is this so? AIDS attacks the most productive individuals within society. Fewer productive people within society means fewer individuals to work the jobs that involve food production. This is one contributor to the starvation currently taking place in Africa.

Weather plays a major role in terms of the prevalence of starvation. Areas of drought leads to non-useable land with subsequent famine. This is well known. But less well known is that floods can also lead to starvation. Crops can be flooded and therefore destroyed, which in essence produces the same result as drought. In both cases, weather can produce a complete lack of self sufficiency.

Military conflicts, both internal and between neighboring countries, can lead to starvation. These conflicts can result in destruction of crops. Government money is directed at funding the conflict at the expense of the starving people. Funds are diverted from social and economic development. Military conflicts can also result in the displacement of large groups of people, removing them from their farms and their way of life. People can end up in refugee camps, completely dependent on relief aid.

The causative factors of world hunger are numerous, and certain factors change from year to year, therefore at any given time, some areas may be more prone then others. The extent of drought, flood, internal conflicts, and war with neighboring countries can vary over time. Therefore, these factors incorporate a variable affect on the degree to which inhabitants of susceptible countries suffer from starvation.

A combination of these causative factors in a particular region is a formula for disaster. When this occurs, large scale starvation can take place. A case in point. The Horn of Africa has seen severe drought coupled with internal conflicts. This is leading to the development of a tragedy. In this region currently 11 million people are on the brink of starvation.

Historically, certain areas of the world have had a high prevalence of hunger and starvation. These areas are the central region of South America, large areas of East, Central, and Southern Africa, and regions of South Asia. As of 2006, the current hot spots, those areas which are suffering the greatest degree of starvation, are as follows:


This area in central Africa has been struggling to cope with the devastating impact of drought and locusts infestations.


In this region extreme poverty has been further exacerbated by a political crisis, floods, tropical storms, and hurricanes.

Horn of Africa:

An estimated 11 million people in the Horn of Africa “are on the brink of starvation” because of severe drought and war. Somalia, Kenya, Djibouti and Ethiopia need food aid, water, new livestock and seeds. This is a major hunger crisis in development.


Poverty in Afghanistan, made worse by drought, has contributed greatly to their hunger problem.


The recent earthquake coupled with a severe winter have produced starvation conditions. Recently, mud slides have hampered relief efforts.

North Korea:

Food insecurity caused by the countries economic problems, is compounded by unpredictable and severe weather conditions. To date, the North Korean government has failed in its duty to provide for it


Powerless Against the Electric Company

A couple weeks ago I was driving down the road and saw a hand-written sign on a post prompting passers-by to protest the rising cost of service from the local electric company. The sign didn’t surprise me. Our own electric bills in March and April last year were astronomical due to our need to use electric space heaters when the cost of buying firewood for our wood-burning stove or getting oil deliveries for our radiant floor heating became too expensive. The high cost of electricity is pervasive, but especially during the colder months and in colder climates. If nothing else, you can always break the ice in a business meeting by talking about the weather, the latest local football game or the ridiculously high cost of electricity.

Electricity is not the only example of rising utility costs, but it is the one people tend to complain about the most. Why? Because even though electric bills are not consistently expensive throughout the year like mobile phone bills, electric bills during the winter for people who have electric heat can be as costly as a rent or mortgage payment, easily surpassing that mobile phone bill or car payment. Even though electric bills are comparatively low during the spring and autumn months, the electric bill is the first choice I would make if given the opportunity to do away with one of my utility bills.

The cost of electricity has long been a source of frustration in society. Ever since humans began treating it as a necessity rather than a luxury, we feel it is our right to be able to receive it as inexpensively as possible. We complain that electric bills are high because we cannot afford to pay them and still buy luxuries, or to pay them and still buy a sufficient amount of healthy food. To be fair, the cost of electricity per kWh is indeed high and arguably inappropriate. Electric companies have a stronghold on society because we feel that we need electricity. We have lived our whole lives with it. It is a part of our daily fabric like food, water, getting dressed and using the restroom. We don’t know how to live without electricity. Most people cannot fathom going off the grid or figuring out how to purchase and set up a solar power system. It is just easier to accept the status quo. Electric companies know this and capitalize on it.

But let’s not forget that the greed of electric companies is only one-third of the problem. Another one-third of the problem is the products that require the electricity. These days, we power more things in our homes than we ever powered in history: lights, heaters, washer, dryer, water heater, refrigerator, range, microwave, coffee pot, blender, toaster, waffle iron, bread machine, flat-screen TVs, cable boxes, DVD players, gaming systems, computers, printers, wireless routers, tablets, phones, smart phones, iPods, rechargeable batteries, power tools, hair dryers, electric garage doors. The list is endless. While efficiencies are constantly being researched and introduced to reduce the amount of electricity used by many household devices, these efficiencies are relative to the product itself. We must not forget that the devices themselves are bigger and more powerful than predecessors from bygone decades. Refrigerators are bigger and now come with built-in lights, ice makers and dispensers, and water purifiers and dispensers. Many ranges now come with built-in convection ovens. Light bulbs come in brightness variations. Washers are bigger since people now prefer to wash clothes after every use, whereas people used to wear clothes several times in between washes. Microwaves are now industrial-sized. Coffee pots have built-in timers and temperature settings. We have become a society that cannot see the forest for the trees. So, for example, while a new refrigerator may be 30% more efficient than a 1970s refrigerator, the fact of the matter is that it is still bigger, more complex and with more bells and whistles, and ends up utilizing more electricity than a 1970s refrigerator, thus making it more expensive every month. Appliance manufacturers like to dodge that fact.

If one-third of the problem is the products that require electricity and one-third of the problem is the companies that supply the electricity, the final one-third of the problem is us. Yes, us. We are who we are. We like electricity. We like the dependability of it. We like to know that an alarm clock will wake us up in time for work. We like to know that the coffee pot will fuel us to get through the day. We like refrigerating food for longer food lifespan and storage of leftovers. We like cold drinks. We like hot drinks. We like to get lost in Facebook or the latest episode of the popular police procedural television show of the moment. We like to wear clean clothes each day. We like to be warm in the numbingly cold months. I like to watch reality television shows like “Risking It All” and the many Alaska-themed shows. I fantasize about how cool it would be to sell most of our possessions, move into the sticks and go off the grid entirely. At the same time, though, I understand that it is just a fantasy, and that the reality would probably be horrific. I suspect that other people who entertain such thoughts balk for the same reason. We like what we like. We justify it as being necessary. And we begrudgingly pay the price every month.

So if we want to save money on the cost of electricity, where do we begin? Who has to budge first? Do electric companies need to stop being so greedy? Do electronic device manufacturers need to come up with devices that use even less electricity than these companies are already trying to make the devices use? Do consumers need to learn how to live with less or go off the grid entirely? Do solar power systems manufacturers need to do better about marketing solar energy to consumers? Do federal, state and local governments need to expand consumer awareness on tax incentives to set up personal solar power systems? Do those tax incentives need to be better than they may already be? Do device manufacturers need to align with solar panel manufacturers in cross-promotional campaigns? If you take away supply, it may reduce demand. If you take away demand, it will certainly reduce if not eliminate supply.

There is not a single solution. If there was, it would have happened decades ago. If the progress made with electricity efficiency, sustainable energy and rechargeable batteries is evidence, we will soon arrive at a day when the electric company will no longer be the evil we currently pay it to be. You are not powerless against the electric company. Continue to fight for sustainable energy progress.


Living in an Off the Grid Home

The recent economic downturn combined with natural disasters occurring around the world is making many people look at how they could live with more autonomy and self-reliance. More often in recent years are people looking to live off the grid. Living “off-the-grid” (or OTG) is basically living without public utilities; this can be done in varying degrees of self-sufficiency from not being connected to the local electrical grid to the more extreme having no connection to public utilities at all.

There are many reasons why home owners might choose to live off-grid but the most common reasons are to live in a more eco-friendly way or because they want to live in a rural area where there is no access to electricity or sewer hook-ups for the home. For home owners who live in areas that see more frequent incidences of natural disasters, living OTG can help home owners return more easily to regular life because they're not reliant on public utilities that can take days or weeks to recover, depending on the disaster.

Most home owners who are looking to live off-grid build a home with that goal specifically in mind before they start planning. A lot of planning has to go into an off-grid home before it is built if you're looking to put together an optimal system; many home owners have successfully renovated pre-existing homes to be off-grid as well, however you will likely have less options in design if you go off-grid in an existing home.

Off-grid homes often combine a combination of systems into their homes to independently deal with the amenities that public utilities usually give you like: electricity, water, and sewage. Off-grid homes commonly use solar or wind energy generation to fulfill their electrical needs. Many OTG home owners use well water or streams to supply their water; though rain water is also a viable source as well. Some common types of OTG sewage systems are septic fields, septic tanks, or composting toilets. Not all options will work for all home owners or all areas, be sure to research what options are available to you in your area.

Not all home owners will find it doable to live completely off-grid for a variety of reasons. Living completely off-grid can be expensive to set up and due to restrictions in your preferred area, it just might not be feasible for your lifestyle or your area of the country due to weather, terrain, or land use restrictions.