Jeff and Cindy Weiss - Living Off the Grid in Style
By Paul Boerger
Doing Watt's RightJuly 2015
Story and Photos by Paul Boerger
Living off the grid is a possible dream come true for some and a nightmare for those who envision a small, dark, unheated cabin deep in the woods. In northern Siskiyou County, Jeff and Cindy Weiss live the dream without the nightmare.
The home sits on 300 acres in the rolling hills near Montague. Jeff and Cindy enjoy a television, have a computer, electric lights and the home feels and looks like any neighborhood house. Under the hood, however, there are huge differences. Solar panels and a windmill bring electricity to the house batteries. An outside passive solar shower, with
the gray water going to a potato patch, keeps them clean and a woodstove heats the house. Double walls keep the home warm in winter and cool in summer.
It is not, however, the energy production that Jeff and Cindy point to when they talk about living off the grid. It is conservation with a capital “C” that the Weisses live by and promote whenever possible. The average American home uses an average of 10,656 kilowatt hours
per year. The Weisses use just 1440. In fact, it is not the technology they have, but what they don’t have that makes the difference.
“We look constantly at what we really need,” Jeff says. “We reduce our energy usage every way possible.”
There is no heating system that would require a circulating fan, clothes are dried on a line, dishes are washed by hand, the solar shower does not require a heater and a small low-energy refrigerator has no freezer. “We don’t have leftovers that need a refrigerator and we don’t have foods that need a freezer,” Cindy says.
The Weisses produce most of their food. Homemade bread, vegetables from indoor and outdoor gardens, almonds from an orchard, potatoes, jellies, special non-dairy butters and a variety of foods stored in canning jars come to the table.
“We eliminated most foods that need refrigeration. We could be totally self-sufficient with some adjustments,” Cindy says. “It’s a lot of work, though. I can spend hours in the kitchen.”
Jeff says he didn’t have an epiphany that told him to save the planet when he bought the land.
“I just wanted to get away from the barking dogs in town,” Jeff says with a laugh. “I didn’t know a thing. I was completely ignorant. We made of lot of mistakes.”
As he came to understand and love the land, his need to preserve and conserve grew.
“We are very conscious about not fouling the nest,” Jeff says. “We think about generations coming in the future.”
Jeff says putting in solar and wind is appropriate, but not without conservation.
“That’s fine, but unplug your dryer first,” Jeff says.
Jeff and Cindy are well aware of climate change issues, and their lifestyle reflects that concern.
“It’s the right thing to do,” Jeff says. “The bucket is only so big. How many scoops do you really need?”