Darkness, Lights, and Internet Service

November 7, 2011 · 17 comments














At 5:24 pm last night, I looked outside, and it was completely dark. For most Americans, the onset of winter and Daylight Savings Time means that it gets dark outside in the early evening. For us, it means it gets dark outside and very dim inside in the early evening.

Daylight Savings Time sneaks up on me every year. Although I’m ready for more light in the morning, these LOOOONG winter nights take some getting used to. With the extra hour of darkness last night, I…

  • read a lot of children’s books aloud
  • did some sit ups
  • listened to the radio
  • ate too much chocolate and cheese because I couldn’t figure out when a proper meal time should be
  • stoked the fire
  • put the kids to bed early
  • and caught up on some blog reading.

While this early sunset may be good for blog writing, there aren’t too many things of interest that I can photograph in the dark, so I’ll need to make a better effort to shoot when the light is good, as short a time as that may be.














Sure we have lights, but really, they’re just a small step up from candles and oil lamps. It’s also the time of year that we need to conserve our battery power (from the solar system and the time that we have to run our generator), so we can’t ever have more than two or three lights on at the same time or else we’ll run out of power completely for the night.

Several of our lights are 12v marine fixtures (i.e. photo above right) that we bought at Englund Marine in Newport, OR. (Englund Marine also has the best selection of waterproof and warm gloves, raingear, and anything boat-related. They’re really nice, too.)

The light above the kids’ bed (photo above left) came out of Henry’s stepbrother’s truck canopy. It’s fairly bright but not too classy.

The lights in the kitchen are car backup bulbs housed in jelly jars attached to ceiling beams. They’re kind of quaint, but not that bright. *sigh*

As I was working on this post last night, the battery ran out on our internet broadcasting device, so I had to quit and go to bed. I figured that was a sign to elaborate on how we get internet service out here in the boonies.

I bought our first computer in 2005, shortly after I moved out to the homestead. I knew we couldn’t get internet service through a land line or cable, but I was assuming that the local satellite internet company could hook us up. I was wrong. Apparently, the area around our house is too hilly to get satellite service. At that point, I was freaking out a little because I had bought a fancy new Macbook, and it seemed like we were going to have to drive to town and sit in a Starbucks to be able to use it. not cool.

Eventually we ended up at a Verizon store (our cell phone service), and got hooked up with functional but expensive internet broadcast through cell signals. We’ve upgraded a couple times since then, and now we have a Verizon MiFi card thingy in the house that makes our cabin into a little internet hotspot for up to five devices. For the most part, it works pretty well. It has a better battery life than the old MiFi, but I can’t charge it on my laptop and use the internet at the same time, which is pretty frustrating. During the winter, we mostly charge it up with our Honda gas generator when need extra AC power to run the water pump or the washing machine.

Getting internet through Verizon is an expensive service. (We learned the hard way that we needed the higher data limit for uploading photos and such.) I think we pay about $80 per month, but considering that our phone/internet bill is our only monthly utility bill and serves as our primary communication and entertainment outlet, we can justify it. I also get to write it off on my taxes as a legitimate business expense.

This coming winter, we will enjoy a juxtaposed combination of old fashioned activities (books, radio, crayons, baking) as well as new fangled, technological ventures (Facebook, blogging, Pandora, digital photo editing). I kinda like it that way.


{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Mo November 7, 2011 at 9:48 am

I was wondering about the internet! A while back we looked at houses in an extremely rural area in outside of Ojai and with my husband’s work 100% done on the computer, requiring internet connectivity we decided it just wouldn’t work. It was a hilly area with no cell service or satellite. Do you have cell service or does the mifi create the cell service? Do you have a mini cell? We actually have to have on for where will live right now and we are in Los Angeles…but in a rural area in the Santa Monica Mountains. Cell service was so bad and spotty and my husband needs his cell for work that we had to get a mini cell. I guess my husband should be asking these questions…not me…since I barely know what I’m talking about!


Camille November 7, 2011 at 9:55 am

We actually have pretty good cell service because the tower is just on the next hill over. The MiFi works on regular cell service, so I guess we’re lucky.


Susie Rainsberry November 7, 2011 at 10:02 am

I’m becoming less and less a fan of this daylight saving business. I do love the winter months though and the cocoon it creates for my life. That being said, I do have a robust TV package and unlimited access to a power source. I think it is good to point out that $80 for a remote broadband service does not seem expensive to me. We pay roughly $65 a month for our service. I think, like many things in life, it’s a matter of your perspective. Thanks for another great blog!!


Camille November 7, 2011 at 12:23 pm

I kinda wish I could hibernate and wake up mid-March.


Myr November 7, 2011 at 11:53 am

In our off the grid home we have been struggling to stay awake past 8 since daylight savings time. My partner is used to this, as he grew up off the grid, but this is my first winter living out of town, and I must say daylight savings time is far more discombobulating when you depend so much on natural light. Lots of reading in bed, listening to the radio, snuggling with the doggie, bread fresh from the oven laced with roasted garlic and chanterelles, and hot spiced cider have been the best remedies we have discovered.


Camille November 7, 2011 at 12:23 pm

Whatever works. Not sure whether you booze up the cider, but that would put me out in a matter of minutes. Good luck to you!


Lael Braddock November 7, 2011 at 12:45 pm

Your blog is always fascinating. Thanks for a good read.


abby November 7, 2011 at 1:32 pm

We lived in our camper van off and on for a couple years and I really got to where I appreciated the early to bed early to rise rhythm of following the sun. I remember in the coldest months it was REALLY early to bed! Winter nights were indeed super long sometimes, and there were things I sometimes wished I could be accomplishing with some additional light and longer power runs, but when I came back to the fully powered household way of living, my body sort of missed that natural rhythm.

Your reverse lights in the jelly jars are so clever.


Kim November 7, 2011 at 7:27 pm

Hi Camille,

I’ve been meaning to post a comment since I introduced myself at the Farmer’s Market– I was the somewhat distracted mama of two little girls who told you I had found your blog through a mutual friend’s blog. My husband laughed when he heard how I had introduced myself and confirmed that I probably came across as some kind of stalker. That was not my intention!! ;) I’m really just a fan of your blog– and of your mom’s pumpkin bread recipe! Seriously the best recipe for pumpkin bread I’ve come across, and I do a lot of baking! Thanks for sharing.

And again, nice to meet you. :)


Camille November 7, 2011 at 9:12 pm

Sorry if I came across as awkward and/or embarrassed. I’m not very good at taking compliments, and I’m not very used to getting “recognized” in public. I guess I need to work on that if I’m going to take this blog seriously.

You, on the other hand, didn’t seem stalkerish at all, so nothing to worry about there. I’m sure we’ll cross paths again.

It’s good to have you following along.


Julia (Schnake) Larsen November 10, 2011 at 10:11 am

I’m so sure you’re on top of this, or else you might not be interested, but just in case, we’ve been hearing lately that the new LED bulbs are way more energy efficient than anything else, and very bright. We frequently run on solar, so this matters for us. When our current energy-saving bulbs die (which will probably be soon, because we bought them here and they’re not quality, to say the least…), we’ll probably replace them with the LED ones. I like to use lots of candles too…. We have “mobile internet” as well (that is, through the cell phone network here). It’s amazing how good the coverage is in almost all of rural Tanzania. It isn’t exactly fast, but we can actually do video skype with my parents sometimes, which I think is pretty impressive.


Camille November 10, 2011 at 8:55 pm

My brother in law who has plans to move off grid sometime soonish bought up a couple hundred dollars of LED Christmas lights before and after Christmas last year. Supposedly Christmas lights are the cheapest way to buy a bunch of LED bulbs, but they all use AC power and the solar and batteries are DC. We looked into adapting them, and there must be some way to do it, but for whatever reason, we haven’t gotten to it yet.

Does it seem a little strange to you that we are leading parallel (but not really) lives, but you’re in Tanzania, and I’m here at home? weird.


Julia (Schnake) Larsen November 12, 2011 at 8:49 am

Yep. It’s funny. But fun for me. I like that there is less of a gap between our lifestyles than between mine and the “average American lifestyle.” Normally I just feel like nobody back home can relate to how things are here.


Marta November 11, 2011 at 7:00 am

Living off-grid ourselves, I can relate to your blog! How is the Verizon service? A lot of reviews complain of spotty service, etc. – not sure if it’s worth switching from Hughes, but I am sick of their “fair access policy threshold” scam!

I’ll be also buying loads of LED Xmas lights – thanks, Julia!


Julia (Schnake) Larsen November 12, 2011 at 8:53 am

Hey Marta – btw, they do make actual regular LED bulbs that go in regular sockets; I think it’s a pretty new thing. That’s what I was referring to, but it may be that the Christmas lights are a better deal.


Camille November 12, 2011 at 8:58 am

Julia, do you have a good inverter to run regular AC appliances?


Julia (Schnake) Larsen November 13, 2011 at 9:41 am

Just asked Viggo, and he says yes. Apparently it came with the previously-owned system we bought.


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