Our Philosophy

Festina lente
-make haste...slowly

Thursday, April 27, 2017

All or Nothing?

They say there are two kinds of people in the world when it comes to solar - those who think solar will save the world, and those who have used it...

I officially hate the house-selling business.  The only good I get from it is that the house is generally cleaner, more often, than usual.  I'm also checking off lots of little nit-picky tasks that I wish I had done last year - threshholds, window trim, rainwater filtration...that one I should have done the day we installed the downspout.  I think it's fair to say that I'm spending a fair amount of time these days kicking my own ass for not getting to some of these things sooner.

Not that there wasn't a whole bunch of other stuff to do first, before I could get to most of this!  You get to it when you get to it.  There is an order to all things, especially building a house.  But psychologically, this whole full court press I've been running these days, knocking jobs out left and right, is like a vice grip on my peace of mind.  On the one side is the fact that my place looks better every week, making me love it more and not want to leave it.  And on the other side I'm beating myself up for not getting to some of these tasks sooner, and not having longer to enjoy the results.  Double whammy.

Aaaand a deep breath...Inhale...Exhale.  As my friend Stimpi says, "don't forget to breathe."  Good advice, Stimpi.  I have not been myself lately.

Trying to sell a property as off-grid and unique as this place has proven to be more difficult than I expected.  I know there are lots of people who would love to try something like this.  I hear from them all the time.  For that reason I think it would make a top-shelf AirBNB-type rental.  If I were in that hunt I would live in town where I could walk to necessary services, buy it (in my case keep it) as a 2nd home, enjoy the (literal) fruits of 5 years of my labor, practice living life more simply, in and out of town, all that, and then rent it out to vacation rental clients as fast as I could, every open date in between.

As it is I'm stuck living in a house that's on sale, that I'm not altogether sure I want to be on sale, that used to be a really private place to live when the summer started closing in, but which is now not very private at all, with all these strangers traipsing in and out of here.  And it's not as if some of the alt tech around here isn't fairly challenging to the average American to begin with!

So you have a composting toilet...like an Incinolet?

No, it's a simple sawdust toilet.

But you have a septic field, right?

No, we live on rainwater and mass compost all of our waste.  But if that doesn't work for you, there are other, more hands-free types of composting toilets that you could exchange it for.

What about a normal toilet?

Not without a well and septic, and the water is about 300' deep here. Solar power would be pretty tough to use for pulling water up from that depth.  It's not the right tech for that purpose.  There are other options, like using a generator to pump up a tankful, use, then repeat, which would pretty much take care of any algae problems as well, cycling through it like that regularly.  Our off-grid friends on the other side of the county do it that way, and never have any trouble.

Can we not connect to the grid?

Not without jumping through all the regulatory hoops required for a full building permit and C.O.

You don't have a C.O.?

No, see the county's stance on off-grid properties is to just stay out of it.  They don't issue permits for off-grid structures, and we don't ask for them.  (Me thinking this will be good news for potential off-griddies, but usually met with consternation, if not disapproval.)

This isn't a normal house, folks! Didn't you notice?  We went to some length to point out the rainwater catchment, the composting toilet facilities, the solar power equipment, the graywater distribution, the gardens, etc, etc.

You're here because you're interested in something like this, right?  Well this is it!  This is most of what you need to survive.  And it doesn't depend on much outside support either.

Isn't that a good thing??  Why are you looking for a well and septic? A grid connection?  A water-flushing toilet, for heaven's sake?  I thought you wanted to live off-grid.  Have you even heard of all these alternative technologies we listed in our ad?  Do you see all the established perennial food everywhere around you?  The shiitakes over there, and the 6 colors of plums over here, the grapes, the herbs, the apples, the berries, and the tea out front?  As far as I know that's the only established tea camellia patch in the county, maybe the region.  Not to mention most of the medicinals you'll ever need.

I'm not trying to sell you a water-flushing toilet.  Good grief.  That's the opposite of what I'm trying to sell you.  Water-flushing toilets are our culture's favorite magic trick - take something dirty, flush, wow, it's gone! Just like magic! - and they are one of the most irresponsible technologies we've ever deployed en mass. Up there with cars probably.  There is nothing technically questionable about composting human waste, only the social taboo.  Just the kindergarten gut reaction you get from people who haven't had enough time to think it through.  Especially Boomers!  Man, those poor Boomers.  They have been alive during such a very odd period of human history.  And of course they think that's just how life is.  Actually, good for the Boomers! They were around to enjoy the wealthiest period in human history. Between 1950 and 2025, half - the good half - of the Earth's fossil fuel reserves will have been burned up forever.  And that drove a boom time that will never be duplicated.

But please don't make the mistake of thinking that's normal.  Please share this one-time windfall with the future and stop selfishly believing that there will always be plenty more.

And speaking of people taking inappropriate positions, another thing I have not enjoyed about this house selling business is when people who haven't spent any more time off-grid than a few fond family camping adventures when they were 10, come in here and question why we bother with this or that technology.

Why a vacuum?  Can't you just sweep?  (As if to say, why are you cheating?  Why can't you be a better steward of precious resources?  Why is it so hard to go all or nothing?)

Hehehe.  Funny.  Of course we can sweep, and we mostly do.  But vacuums aren't just for clean floors.  And after 5 years of living basically without electricity, we thought it was important enough to purchase one in our first round of electric tech, right after installing the main solar power system.  It should be good enough that we have lived completely off-grid for most of 5 years, and you have not, without going into the specific charms of a vacuum cleaner...

But hey, not to be too dour, most visitors have loved it, been all ears, if not awe-struck.  (With my wife anyway;).  So we'll just hang in there, keep caulking and oiling, keep showing it to people until we find a match.  Or we don't.

Man I wish I was better at this faith thing...

Tripp out.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Spring Equinox 2017 - Back At It!

Alright.  I give.  I can't stay away from this.  It's too fun.  And I've got some great pictures for you to get things started again here in this new year.  Let's just jump in, shall we?

The overview - We've worked some on a driveway below the house, and will probably be wrapping that project up soon. But this winter's big project was electricity!  And that's our whole solar panel setup, bottom right of the photo, all 400 Watts.   

Looking up from the driveway through the outdoor living and kitchen areas. 

Quick route to the garden!  And the new freezer... 

The other end of the escape hatch, looking up from the garden. And the tell-tale sign of off-grid greenhorns - the extension cord running under the door.  One tip on setting up solar power - use the heaviest gauge wiring you can.  This 50' extension cord cost $65! But it's thick and heavy, and doesn't add much ghost load to the power draw, like a lighter, longer cord would. 

Established peaches, established plums.  Apples, pears, and others elsewhere.  I've tried to plant for climate weirding - e.g. 6 plums total (so far), 3 low chill hour, early-blooming Asian varieties, and 3 higher chill hour, late-blooming European varieties.  As if to drive the reasoning home, we will probably lose the 3 Asian varieties this season due to back-to-back killing freezes this week.  The Euros haven't even bothered waking up yet.

Its youth is evident in its lack of polish, but this area is our sunniest spot available, so where else would we stick the clothes line and the solar panels??  I have a solar oven planned for this area as well.  If I get to it. (Foreshadowing)

Part of this year's power addition was building a "power shed" onto the back of the bath house. There's the chest freezer I mentioned earlier - a 10.6 c.f. GE Energy Star unit, that is super quiet and a real boon to our lives.  The right side houses the solar equipment, fertilizer, coolers, disc golf bags, and lots of new tool storage.  More weather protection in the works.

View back up toward the casa through the spring garden. 

Cozy outdoor spot, brilliant cool, sunny day. 

Outdoor kitchen, firepit, cob oven area.  

This is one of my favorite spots on the property - the clawfoot tub in the private bath house.  Steam it up, lock the door, pour up a home brew, and grab the latest copy of deindustrial sci-fi rag Into the Ruins, that just arrived in the mail.

From sort of inside in the bath house to sort of outside in the southeast corner passive solar dining room. This is a helluva place for a hot cup of coffee on a cold winter morning with the sun pouring in on your back.

Turn to the left...this hoosier cupboard has been our mainstay kitchen cabinet through it all.

More to the left (north) and you look through the living area/library to the family heirloom 1880 wood cook stove.  My great-great-great grandmother cooked on this stove every day of her life until she died in 1954, then it sat unused in her cabin until we installed it in late 2014, the year we built the house.  It provides almost all of our heat and a whole lot of our cooking. 

Lookie what I inherited (early) at Thanksgiving - this really beautiful old pie safe that has been in my family for longer than I know.  My first memories of any piece of furniture are of this cabinet.  Curiously, I built the space for it well before I knew I was getting this from Mom, and was already installing something like a built-in pie safe!  Punched tin doors...looking to create something like this.  Thrilled to have the real McCoy instead, and blown away by how well it fits in my spot.

To the left of there and down a step is the kitchen, but I won't show it yet.  It's the next project on the list, the last vestige of our camp days still hanging on. It doesn't match the rest.  Not yet, but it will.  But that project will also give us hot and cold pressurized water in an actual sink!  For the first time in five years.  Ah, dishes in a sink instead of a canning kettle on the stove...the simple things...and could be reproduced very easily in the bath house for showers and baths.

But here's the biggest news of all.  It's for sale.  Our beautiful little off-grid property is for sale.  It's on the market with a friend of ours who works with Coldwell Banker.

And here's the back-story - my dad just bought a 260-acre farm in the Missouri Ozarks near where we go every October for the annual trail ride.  My brother is likely going to move there too.  The real estate market is pretty hot here, and interest in off-grid, self-reliant living is on the rise.  The real estate market we're moving into is much less expensive.  We can finally have what we're looking for - sunny pasture, fencing, cross-fencing, a pond, small creek, barn, more living space.  As much as we love this place, and want to fit, we openly admit that we just don't.  We have lots of great furniture (you've seen our stuff!) in a storage unit, waiting for future additions of space.  But even then we still won't really fit.  

So we've made the decision to be who we are, and buy the property we want, instead of trying to be who we think we ought to be.  We fully intend to keep living this way.  I doubt we'll ever plug back into the grid again.  Life like this is just more interesting!  So deliberate, so quiet, so DIY, so empowering, so present in the moment.  But this isn't our place.  It's someone else's.  Although it tears my heart out to say that.

But if you're interested, let me know.  I want to sell it to good people.  And you're reading my blog, so it naturally follows that you're a good person! Ha.

Cheers, everyone.  Glad to be back...
Tripp out.