Bill Campbell takes a break from daily chores at his Bolton homestead, which is powered by solar energy. Unlike many people who have pursued an off-the-grid lifestyle for several years then returned to metropolitan areas, Campbell has been committed to sustainable living for a quarter-century.
Photo by Thom Randall.
continued A former motorcycle mechanic and motorfreight broker, Campbell moved to rural Bolton at age 33 to delve into nature and overcome its challenges — rather than buying into materialism and enduring a dull, spirit-robbing routine, he said as he stuck heritage tomato seeds into containers of soil.
“Television tells you what you want, then people devote their lives doing something they don’t want to do — to make the money to buy stuff they don’t need, and it’s not making them happy,” he said. “Our modern culture is so different from where we evolved.”
Campbell said he’s found his alternative lifestyle over the last two decades to be deeply fulfilling.
“So many people don’t really know what makes them happy,” he said. “But I know what it is for me — I love nature and I like to build stuff.”
A tour of his home and premises offered clues to his self-sustainable existence. Campbell’s basement provides much of the evidence.
Near the cellar stairway is a panel with a charge controller and an electrical inverter, to convert direct current from the solar panels into alternating current that charges the 10 golf-cart batteries sitting on the concrete floor. The setup provides 2,400 watts, enough to fulfill the household’s routine needs.
To the left is a 1,500-gallon plastic agricultural tank holding an ample supply of water, which drains off the roof into a collection system, and runs through a sand filter.
Water from the vessel is pumped into a 275-gallon tank in the attic. From there, the water is gravity-fed to the kitchen and bathroom.
Nearby, there’s a biodiesel-powered generator which can serve as a backup and recharge the batteries to provide household power when there’s a series of overcast days in the winter. Campbell modified the generator, manufactured in India, so its liquid cooling system — along with a heat exchanger on the exhaust pipe — feeds a cast-iron radiator that provides heat for the home as well as supplemental power.