This blog post is a tribute to my Finnish Grandad: Alvi Juppi (AKA Ukki) who died last month just short of his 91st birthday in Jormua, somewhere close to the Arctic Circle in Northern Finland.
What on earth has it got to do with Solar Power?
Glad you asked!
From my analysis 75% of the visitors to this site want to get solar power to insure themselves against an ever-rising cost of living. The other 25% are the greenies: keen on solar because they want to try and get to a “zero impact” life and solar is a step on that path.
I reckon Ukki achieved both of those goals (low cost, comfortable home & almost zero ecological impact) his entire life without even trying (and without solar). And if you are thinking that all of the following sounds too time consuming for us 21st Century dwellers, bear in mind that he created all this whilst being a full time electrician and running a farm.
(He was also one of the few people ever to survive a serious electrocution at the top of a 60kV electricity pylon, but that is another story)
Almost Zero Bills
Ukki didn’t have solar power. But he didn’t really need it. He used bugger all electricity compared to a typical Aussie house. And this is despite living in a viciously cold part of the world. It would not be unusual to reach -40degC in his garden in winter.
He designed and built the main part of this house about 40 years ago. It has no fancy technology and it is made of ultra locally sourced wood. It is super insulated, triple glazed, with small windows (but has plenty of light), and 2 front doors to create an airlock when anyone enters or leaves the house. It has great thermal mass and is airtight. It is an incredibly comfortable home in one of the world’s most hostile winter climates that costs almost nothing to heat.
It is centrally heated with a wood fired burner. Ukki sustainably gathered all the wood locally himself. He never paid a single Euro for fuel for the house.
Until recently he got all the water from a well in the front garden (until the water table dried up).
What about sewage? He installed a WC for my Gran about 20 years ago, but he preferred the “plank with a hole above the shed” which he used in summer and got free fertilizer to boot!
He grew almost all his own veg. (He ate a lot of potatoes!).
He didn’t have a bin collection. He produced zero waste. After my gran got too old to keep/milk the cows, he was sure to only buy his milk in cardboard cartons, so they could be burned in the boiler. Anything that could burn, burnt. All organic scraps went in the slops bucket and fertilized the veggies.
Any plastic bottle got reused as either buoys for the fishing nets in the lake, or storage for 100’s of kg of blueberries (hand picked from the local forest).
Zero Wrinkles (almost!)
Wanna look as good as he did at 90? Try those blueberries every day combined with chopping your own wood. (Zero alcohol may have had something to do with it too I suppose!).
So RIP Ukki, thanks for ingraining in me the principle that energy efficiency is the norm, not an added extra. I hope that the house I am currently building will be as sustainable as the one you built.
I admire immensely how, after the Russians forced you out of your birthplace in Karjala, you staked your flag in Jormua, and, starting from scratch, sustainably shaped your local environment to provide for your family for the next 60+ years. And I hope that when I leave this life, my grandkids can be half as proud of the path I chose to take.