Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Chicken energy

It's absolutely amazing how much energy a chicken can produce. A mother hen must keep her brood warm for weeks on end. For just one week we have been brooding our nearly 50 chicks at an average 90 degrees Farenheit. The single 40 watt bulb that has done the job has been running 24/7 and has brought our electrical system to its knees. We have a small off-grid system, designed thoughtfully to use minimal energy and cost as little as possible. All winter we ran our efficient, DC refrigerator and freezer, our TVs and computer, our vacuum cleaner, power tools, microwave, and compact fluorescent lights. Nearly every day we were able to recharge our batteries fully without any noticeable sacrifices on our parts. Sure, we keep lights off when not in use and we unplug appliances to avoid phantom loads, but we were never in the dark or without TV or radio due to an energy shortage. Until tonight.

This morning we hit the lowest point so far in battery capacity, and due to cloudy weather today we only recharged a fifth of what we needed to reach 100%. So this evening the kids and I decided that we would use no electricity tonight. We made a bonfire outside and stayed out there until dark. Then we came in and used candles while getting ready for bed. Both easily fell asleep moments ago and now I'm cheating a bit just long enough to make this blog entry.

Point being, we are getting an idea of how much energy our modern society really uses. All of the "conveniences" that we take for granted, all the lights left on day and night for show, for security, for convenience, or for raising chickens amount to an unfathomable amount of energy used. It makes us, as a small family, feel insignificant in the little we are able to save. It also makes us wonder how people ever raised chickens before there was electricity. I guess they did it the old fashioned way--they let the hens do it!

The good news is we planted 10 tomato plants today--all different, some with fun names like Pink Ping Pong and Hillbilly. Eliza helped me put them in their holes and as she put each one in she told it that it was a sweet little plant and we were going to take good care of it and keep it safe and sound. Surely her words will benefit the little guys on their first night in the garden. We also put in some parsley, borage, and basil. Yesterday we seeded in some carrots and some more flowers on the west side. The kids fed the sheep about a pound of corn last night while I wasn't looking and though I cleaned up as much as I could the sheep got enough of it to have some runny stools today. I hope they are OK by tomorrow. We put the corn out of the kids' reach so it shouldn't happen again. The chicks are growing and doing well despite the best efforts of Eliza to accidentally harm one.

Signing off now to get back to the voluntary blackout. I guess I'll have to go to bed early tonight!


Danielle said...

Interesting post. Sure makes me wonder how viable solar would be in our neck o' the woods with all our cloudy days.

We're trying to get some hens to set some eggs with no luck. Damn hens!

You notice that I'm reduced to reading your archives now for some new material. :-P~~~~

Jenny said...

Yeah, my mom has my camera right now so I have no new pictures to post! I guess there were days when I wrote a blog post without a photo though......