Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Crazy

Let's get one thing straight here. I AM crazy. And not just because I went outside this morning to wield a pick axe wearing flip flops. No, it's true, I really am crazy. But you have to be to stray from what is the norm in society. Homesteaders and pioneers are crazy. Have you read Little House on the Prairie? How many people pack their wife and small children into a wagon and leave all that is familiar, cross raging rivers and then try to live off of flat grassland full of pissed off natives? Crazy people. The Donner party? Crazy people. To be a homesteader or pioneer, you have to believe that you can do something that everyone is telling you will be too difficult. You have to believe in yourself enough to keep the kids going when they are sure you have lost your mind.

But I love living off the grid. I don't have to worry about gas pipes exploding like the recent incident in San Bruno. If my gas line explodes, it will do damage but on a much smaller scale. I will most likely still have a house afterward. And when my power goes out, I don't have to sit in the dark wondering what happened and when it will be back on. I don't have my own solar panels yet but it is pretty hard for me to overuse the solar power I get from the guest house's system. But if I do, I know I just have to wait till the sun comes out the next day. And my fridge and stove run off a propane tank. When that runs out, I feel stupid. I am totally responsible for it and know I should have more than one tank. Thankfully, though, I can borrow some. In the evening we use candles, lanterns and headlamps. We are extremely self-sufficient here and have absolutely no PG&E bill. I also own my home (though not the land it sits on) and have no water or garbage bill. I do have to haul my own recycling and garbage into town, but we make so little that dumping the garbage usually means dropping a plastic shopping bag full into the trash can at a gas station.

So, yeah, I am crazy. But I am also very wise. Here I can take care of myself and my children. My children have plenty of space to play and be children a little bit longer. I can start a real savings and plan a real future. I'm building the skills I will need and laying the path towards owning my own land someday soon. I am taking care of myself and creating a future that does not have me running around in circles playing society's games and getting nowhere. And that keeps me getting up each day to wield shovels, pick axes, power drills and whatever else ends up becoming necessary.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Defeat of the Kitties

The screen door to my trailer is a bit inefficient. It latches by sliding a bolt over that catches on the door frame. It is an obvious homemade job following some sort of failure of the original latch. It necessitates a hole in the screen material in order to reach the latch from the outside. I really want to get a new screen door but in the meantime, this is what I have. It only took the big cats a few days to realize that the hole in the screen (which is about 6" x 6" roughly and has a piece of screen draped over it as if that will help) was the right size for them to just leap through. Yes, they are very graceful for their flabby size. Soon after, my kitten Stevia figured out he could climb the screen to jump out through the hole. So, sick of this escape madness one evening, I got a few small boards and screwed them together around the screen material, leaving a hole in the screen just big enough for small hands to reach in to get the latch. It looks like crap, seriously, but I was going for function out of desperate frustration. I have a roll of screen material. I wonder if I have enough wood to make a door...

So, anyways, Thursday morning I get up and start getting ready to head to town. Then I realize that the cats are STILL escaping the trailer. I am now quite sick of this game, as you can imagine. No amount of reasoning with the little fur balls conveys the idea that I am merely trying to prevent them becoming a snack for a coyote or mountain lion while I'm gone. So I grab a few boards and the screwdriver again. All the while I am thinking about how much I hate hobbling my house together like this. I'd rather take the time to make things nice AND functional. I don't want to live in a scrap wood shack.

Hopefully when I return home this weekend, all 4 cats will still be INSIDE the trailer and I will be able to take down the scrap boards and actually fix the problem in a more aesthetically pleasing manner.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Lil Blue Coop

Yesterday I woke up feeling sick and stayed in bed to drink my coffee. Maia decided to make breakfast for Terran and I so that I could rest. I tried to just stay inside and rest all day but the amount of work to be done finally got to me after a lunch picnic with the kids under the star dome. I put another coat of paint on the roof to the chicken coop, changing the color from pale blue to a slightly darker gray-blue. I think the paint was originally Jamie's "Creeps Blue" but it works great for this. Today I spent the day painting the rest of the coop bright blue, the same color as the kids' room. Maia and Terran helped for a little while before deciding to dive into the brush to build forts behind the trailer. I'm hoping to have the coop in it's new place and all set up by the end of the weekend. I need to also build a run but I'm not sure how much more materials I will have to buy for this yet.

Today I also built a small deck out of scrap redwood that I got from Craigslist. It's pretty simple and is a good place for the kids to play. I'm slowly filling in the trench from the water line too, because I am impatient waiting for the backhoe crew to come back and I want my front yard back. I've filled in enough now that the backhoe won't have to come too close to the trailer.

Tomorrow I will take the kids into Livermore for errands, a park play day with other homeschoolers and then to San Jose for Maia's orthodontist appointment. We'll stay the night there and I will be with them Friday until Chris gets home from work and then I will head back home without them for the weekend. This new life is full of little rituals that I am still getting used to.

How I Got Here & Why I'm Blogging About It...

Last Spring, after my husband and I broke up, I knew that soon I would have to set out on my own. I knew that the school district would be cutting their budget tighter and that it was going to get much harder to find a job that would allow me to pay the high rent for a Silicon Valley apartment. And I also knew that apartment life would mean giving up most of my animals and garden. To me this looked like doom. Barely able to pay rent and bills, barely time to see my kids, everything I loved would barely have a place in my life. My determination set in and I set out for an alternative plan. I got the wild idea to try to buy the 60 acres for sale next to my friends' land in the Mt Hamilton range south of Livermore. It was only $150,00 and came with a 3 bedroom mobile home and a barn. Unfortunately, an offer was put in and accepted before I could act. My friends who owned the nearby 103 acres spoke up and said I could live on their land and help them care for their non-profit spiritual retreat center for Bay Area Pagans. All I needed to do was find something to live in.

Here was my long-standing dream before my very eyes. I could live in their off-the-grid experiment in alternative/sustainable living and learn hands-on about everything I dreamt of doing in my life: permaculture, solar power, compost toilets, natural living! I was excited! And on the same land as two of my most trusted friends! I could homeschool my kids again, keep my chickens, and build myself a home that I could love. And I would be immersed in a spiritual community that was bending over backwards to take care of me in probably the most difficult time of my adult life. I could give back to them by being here, taking care of Stone City, and helping Shannon and Morpheus keep this place going and improving.

The short version of what happened next is that I bought a 5th wheel travel trailer that had seen better days for very cheap, and a propane fridge from an old hippie lady in Santa Cruz. I got a lot of help from Shannon and Jamie making the place livable. I left San Jose and am now getting settled in my new home. Some days my kids think I'm crazy and some days they are having the time of their lives. We swim in the pond, picnic under a geodesic dome climbing structure, make dinner by candlelight, and get very very dirty.

Now, why am I blogging about this? Because I know my family is questioning my decisions. Because I know that I have friends who either think I am crazy or wonder what I do all day up here. Because someone is worried about my kids. Because someone wants to live vicariously through me. Because I am a Pagan single mama with wild dreams and a great love of adventure that very few people can keep up with. Because a few people have told me that they like to read what I write.

So, welcome to my blog about this crazy life. Ask questions if you have them. Show support if you are able. Be respectful because it's the right way to be.