It’s true. Yes, true. Sometimes I have to repeat myself. It’s true, we do live off the grid.
I notice the oddity — the weirdness — of this mostly when I am not home, rather than when I am. When I’m home it’s just home, electric lights or not. But I’ve been traveling far from home in Georgia this week, and I’ve had a lot of conversations with people about the fact that I live off the grid.
What does that mean? What does that look like? Do I feel crazy? How is my marriage doing?
Good news: my marriage is doing great.
Nick and I were just featured among six off grid families in an article called “6 Fascinating Homesteaders Who Are Living The Dream,” originally out of Rodale’s Organic Life and then picked up by Off Grid Quest.
It’s a great round up, of different folks doing different things. All I could think, though, is it’s so funny to see us all next to each other. We’re probably all accustomed to feeling like the only one. But we’re not. In the language of my ATL friend I’m visiting this week, “That isn’t real.”
Different off grid homesteaders have different methods and different purposes. Our homesteads look as different as our personalities. But there is something we all have in common, and that is we are increasingly not alone. We are a selection of loners, independent minded people — rebels, even — whose numbers are growing. We are standing, alone together, in the path of a unified cultural trend, the objects of a widespread and increasing fascination.
The appeal of off-grid living is multi-faceted. On the one hand, it is the “new American Dream.” It is the ultimate expression of our national values of individualism and property rights. On the other, it is an opportunity to tread more lightly, live more simply, love better. Both are ways to escape, but escape from what?
There’s no question that building a life for yourself out of blank space is a triumph and accomplishment. I love talking to strangers and near-strangers about the amazing things my husband has made, through inspiration and ingenuity and sheer grit. I keep meaning to make a Pinterest board (although I am still terrible on Pinterest) that is a collection of things I always want to show people at parties.
Our bicycle powered washer, our yurt frame, the garden, the water system, the wood stoves, the world’s cutest goat barn…. It’s like saying we’ve run a marathon or climbed a mountain.
But to fuel a life, I need more than a Pinterest board and a cute goat barn. I need to know why.
I was asked this in an interview once. Why do we think so many people are turning to tiny homes, simple living, off grid homesteads? I said, because we need a way out. The pressure keeps increasing. The options become more limited. The choices are worse choices. We go into terrible debt making professional careers, or buying houses, or we are the majority who never even get those options. We are chained by economics and systems of exchange, into patterns of harm and self-harm. We don’t have enough wiggle room. We forget who we are. We need to believe we could recover our own true values.
We need to prove that we are humans and not machines.
A funny thing Nick and I have learned, though: we meet ourselves in the woods as well as anywhere. We meet our desire for comfort, willingness to overspend, love of (even artificial) feelings of security. We meet every one of our human limitations. It all comes right along behind like a shadow, even beyond the edges of the power grid, and sometimes I feel lost in it. To find my way out, I have to remember why.
This is what my off grid life depends on: one, that Nick and I can accomplish the how; and two, that we can remember the why.
I am not motivated by my fear, but by my faith.
I am not motivated by scarcity, but by the magic word, “enough.”
I do not look for domination over my three acres,
but for a relationship, with woods and water and plants and also people.
I want to be changed by the land as much as it changes under me.
I want to minimize waste and disrespect and feelings of shame and numbness.
I want to do the work.
This is the why of my off grid, homesteading life. Not the cute goat barn, and not the impressive credentials, and not even getting to be featured in “Off Grid Quest.” I want to be able to look back at my life and say, “That wasn’t an accident.” I want to be able to say, “I did the best I could, to live the way I meant to live.”