As I mentioned in one of my earlier entries we are living off the grid here in Leitrim, supplying all of our own electricity. We had a very basic system to start with, which we did by ourselves and now we have a more sophisticated system with help from some local people.

We used to have a wind turbine but we took it down late last year to make a larger one so we are relying on our solar pv system for power.

The PV system has brought us though the winter with flying colours, it was installed by a local Leitrim company Eirbyte who do systems design and installation. We were really happy with their work and they are nice people too who also live off-grid.

We do have a back-up diesel generator as do most off-grid people and luckily we have not have to use it often. The pv panels are on a tracker so they get the most out of the sun available on any given day.

Red Squirrel

What joy! This morning as we drove down the hill what crossed the road in front of us but a beautiful red squirrel! What a lovely sight.

For a moment we could not make out exactly what we were looking at as this strange little creature ran across the road, he didn’t seem to be aware of us at all. As he scampered away from us all we could see was his blonde tail perched up over his back so that we could not see his little body at all until he turned into the far hedge and revealed his beautiful self to us.

There are not very many hazel trees around us and the hazel is one tree that I have lately been thinking I want to concentrate on planting more of this year so now I certainly have the motivation. I do know some lovely hazel woodlands and have often found nut stashes but over the years that I have walked in those woodlands I had never seen a squirrel, red or grey.

The only time I saw a red squirrel was years ago in Co. Clare so I was thrilled to see one this morning so close to home. The last time I saw one was when I was out for a drive one day in the early eighties. I was heading toward the Ailliwee Caves, driving along a very quiet and small back road, as I slowed almost to a stop to take a turn to the left I glanced to the right to look into a field that I knew contained a fairy ring and a lovely red squirrel hoped over the wall – perhaps a fairy in disguise…

Solstice Wolf

We were watching an episode of “Northern Exposure” the other night on dvd (great entertainment courtesy of eBay). Do you remember Northern Exposure? It’s a 90’s drama set in Alaska, great story lines and fantastic scenery, it certainly beats most tv these days, in fact we watch dvds of favourite tv shows more than current tv.

The main story-line was about two of the characters, Maurice and Hawling,  taking a tough trip on horseback through the snowy wilderness to fulfil a promise and bury an old friend in a very remote place. Needless to say the journey was not an easy one, the trials and tribulations were due as much to the interactions with people met along the way as to the harsh weather and environment. The parallel story featured “Chris in the morning” doing his radio show where he read aloud each day from some old Jack London stories.

It reminded me that when I was young I loved reading those sort of stories, Buck, White Fang, Jock etc. I loved all adventure stories – sailing, mountains etc but the wilderness stories were my favourites.

It is so cool that I now live in a hilly quiet rural area where it snows a little in winter even when snow doesn’t stay on the ground elsewhere. There is very little traffic up our way, no-one wanders up here unless they work in forestry or have animals grazing on the hill. Last month we have even had a wolf wandering around, we saw her a few times as she wandered around our property, beautiful creature.

I feel very lucky to live in such a lovely place. I used to have to get into a car and travel some distance to walk in beautiful quiet countryside, now I just have to put on my boots and pull the door closed behind me. Still I don’t do that as often as I feel that I should but when I do — I really appreciate it — the peace, lovely birdsong, crickets and grasshoppers chirping, I have lost count of the different grasses, all looking their best now with their beautiful seed heads blowing in the wind.

I never get tired of looking at the views from up here and everyday there is something different to notice. Some days the clouds are low in the sky and the valleys below us disappear in a sea of grey, the tops of the tallest trees standing up like islands.