Living On Will Power

Living on will power

By Charlotte Wilson Langley

Although Ashe County is nestled deep into the mountains and tucked away in the most north-western corner of North Carolina, the majority of the population live pretty modern lives.

Just about everyone has cell phones, computers with high-speed Internet connections, and sophisticated heating and cooling appliances that leave homes taking care of their owners rather than the other way around.
But what if people here could no longer have top-notch appliances in their homes, if they had to provide their own food, wood for heat, and went to bed when the sunset? Even in the winter. Could present-day citizens of Ashe County live old-fashioned, "simple" lives like those in years past? Well many do, and by choice.
One of those people is Ann Rose. Rose is a resident of Ashe County and lives "off-grid." Ann explains that living off-grid means being self-sustaining and free from outside power sources.

"It means being responsible for all of the energy you consume by producing all that you consume," she said. "Whichever form you use - micro hydro, wind, solar, etcetera."

Rose said she has very low energy consumption, but for what she does use, she has a battery pack of 12 volts that she keeps charged with jumper cables and her truck.

Ann Rose is in a very small minority of people using alternative energies, but living off-grid is actually a growing movement. According to USA Today, 180,000 families live off-grid and that number has been climbing at 33% a year for ten years.

Rose's livelihood comes from farming, but she admits that she worries about the environment consciously, and because of this, she runs her farm without a tractor.

Making a living from farming and crafts, it may seem unfeasible to run a farm sans tractor, but Rose does just that. Using a mule, and spring water, Rose produces products like pasture-based pork and organic vegetables she cans herself. She sells what she produces at the local farmer's market. Although it may not seem like it, Rose's lifestyle is a relatively new one of only two years. Prior to living off-grid, Rose was working as a nurse, using electricity, and working 12-hour shifts. It was during that time that something happened that changed her forever.

"Two years ago, while on shift at the hospital, I looked out the window. It was snowing lightly, and I realized that I hadn't felt the seasons change in 12 years because I was always doing 12-hour shifts. I knew at that point, my life had to change," Rose said.

Since then, she has completely cut her ties with nursing and survives solely from her work, and completely provides for herself.

"My grandmother raised eight children with gravity water and no electricity. I felt that if she could do it with eight kids, I could do it for me," added Rose.

So how does she do it all? She lives in a small cabin that she and her father built of reclaimed lumber from a barn that was going to be torn down. For drinking water, she carries spring water. For laundry and dishes she uses rainwater. For food, Rose says she lives on the "50 mile diet."

"All of my food is raised or grown within 50 miles of where I live, with the exception of coffee, sugar, and flour," Rose says. She has no refrigerator, so she cans all of her meat and vegetables. Rose doesn't use much power in the winter, because she goes to bed at sunset and rises by 5 or 6 a.m.

For heat, she uses wood. Rose does own a generator, but admits she only uses it to power a light for raising baby chicks in early spring.

But why does she do it? Rose is very conscious of the environment and energy usage and says she lives primitively by choice.

"I chose to live off-grid to save money to install a solar system and to educate my daughters on will power. Well there's a will, there's a way." Rose added that the benefits of living off-grid, are a much better lifestyle, physical exertion, and being active outdoors instead of being sedentary.

"I left a career in nursing to pursue a primitive lifestyle. Since leaving public employment; I have gained my sense of humor, my health and my life," she said. "This life is hard work, but it feels good to be physically tired at the end of the day, as opposed to being mentally tired."

Ann Rose has been living off-grid for two years and works at the West Jefferson farmer's market selling goods from her very own, Rose Mountain Farm.

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