Off The Grid
Home in Chesterfield utilizes nature's power
Sarah J. Prince doesn't get an electric bill like the
rest of us each month.
Her home, buried in the earth of a hillside on all
but two sides, gets almost all its electricity from 24 solar panels
on the roof. Her hot water also comes from solar power.
Her heat, with the help of Mother Nature, is provided
by two wood stoves. She has a gasoline-powered generator to charge her
home's batteries is she runs short and a propane tank to heat water
if needed. Prince, who has lived there since March, rarely needs them.
A retired school librarian and former military wife,
Prince runs Inn Nature Bed and Breakfast, as well as a yoga studio in
her home located on more than 12 acres off South Street.
She made the decision several years ago that she wanted
to build a home that was entirely independent. Inspired by books written
in the 1970s about "earth-sheltered" houses, Prince worked
with an architect and builder to create a house made out of concrete
with four feet of soil on the clover-covered roof.
The house takes advantage of the fact that the earth's
natural temperature -- around 50 degrees below the frostline -- helps
regulate the temperature inside.
After her husband, Burton Prince, died of cancer in
2000 when they lived in Maryland, Prince returned to Chesterfield where
she grew up on a farm.
"I always knew I wanted to come back, and I liked
the trees and rocks and hills here. This place feels right to me,"
Prince said, sitting in her spacious great room filled with light from
her huge bay windows.
The country's political situation and its connection
to petroleum products motivated her.
"I didn't want to contribute to the consumption
of oil and to what it's doing to our country and the world," Prince
Prince has a commitment to being "easy on
the environment." She used recycled products as much as possible
in construction of the house. Piles of squash from her garden are stored
in one room, and jars of fruits and vegetables she canned are in another.
She hangs her clothes out to dry and she composts all her food waste.
The mother of four grown women and grandmother
of six girls, Prince now keeps busy teaching yoga at the Davenport Child
Care Center and at the town's Senior Center. She is also on the town's
"Living here feels great. It feels peaceful,"
Nancy Gonter can be
reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.