Technology

Changes

Over the next few days I’m going to be doing some changes to the back-end of my blog/website. God willing, my readers won’t notice a thing. Just switching hosts, domain management and posting platform. I’m still essentially staying with WordPress, but doing some work behind the scenes to allow me to do more with the website in the coming year.

So many change afoot these days! Excitement abounds, and I can barely contain myself!

In the meantime, I hope you’re enjoying the Silent December…

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*Off* Off-Grid

I’m a hopeless researcher…

Image courtesy of Botanical Research Institute of Texas

Internet searches lead to ever-more clicks and open tabs.  Visits to the library end with arm-loads of books ranging in topics from interior decorating, to ancient texts, to gardening, to art journaling…  It doesn’t matter where I start, chances are my search will lead me in wild and unrelated directions.  Boy, we won’t even go into what happens when I walk through the doors of a bookstore.  I think I need a 12-step program for books!

I wish I could say how on earth I came upon the book Surviving Off Off-Grid, by Michael Bunker. I vaguely remember hearing or seeing his name in the past few weeks – either on a podcast, or maybe a blog – not sure exactly.  But I do know that his book has been on my Wish List on Amazon for at least a month or two.  So I ordered the book, and now find myself utterly engrossed.  Oh – and that’s not a typo – there really are two “offs.”  You’ll see what I mean in a minute.

Michael considers himself a “Biblical Agrarian.”  Hmmm…  According to Wikipedia, Agrarianism “…refers to a social or political philosophy which values rural society as superior to urban society, the independent farmer as superior to the paid worker, and sees farming as a way of life that can shape the ideal social values. It stresses the superiority of a simpler rural life as opposed to the complexity of city life, with its banks and factories.”  (Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agrarianism).

Umm.  I can definitely dig that!  🙂

You’ve probably seen me kid about being called Amish-Robin by my friends, with pictures of women in bonnets, and horse drawn buggies. Kidding, perhaps, to some – but a goal, in fact, for me.  Well – maybe not so much the bonnet:

Amish Robin in her Southern Bonnet

But definitely the ideal of living a simpler life sans much of the technological noise that pollutes everyday life.

I’m just beginning chapter four in the book (it just came in the mail a couple days ago), but already I find his writings putting into words what only my mind could express silently.

What once I could only call “off grid” has suddenly taken on a new expression:  *Off*Off-Grid.  Meaning not just simply the conversion of our typical everyday lives and conveniences to solar or wind power, but the idea of taking a serious look at all these so-called “conveniences” and deciding if they really do contribute to the desired end result, and if they really are making life easier.  Well, maybe not easier, but simper… there is a difference.  “Easier” is all a matter of marketing.  Many of these so-called time saving devices are expensive (meaning we have to work long hours to pay for them), require maintenance (again, requiring money by way of working, and the time and frustration to keep them functioning), often break because they’re cheaply made in China (there are many downsides to that one!), and more often than not, take longer to pull out of the cupboard (or cabinet, or garage, or wherever!), plug in, use, clean up and put away than if we just used the old-fashioned way of doing it from the get-go.  Not to mention that many of them (read: ALL!) use electricity – requiring an ever-increasing monthly bill that we have to work to pay for – all in the guise of convenience.

I’ve written about my disdain of electricity in the past.  Yet, here I sit on a computer, clacking away. But Michael Bunker talks about, in the beginning of the book, how technology is subjective.  It’s not a matter of eschewing every circuit board and plug-in – but choosing wisely those technologies that contribute something truly beneficial to your life.  Some may claim that televisions or microwaves or air conditioning are truly beneficial – but I’m going to agree with the author that they’re only a necessity to those who are not strong enough to do without them.  With the rare occasion of a DVD once every month or two, I don’t watch television.  I think it’s the devil’s work (kidding – but only sort of…).  I haven’t owned a microwave in about 12 years – happily.  And air conditioning – eh.  I don’t have it at home, and I do perfectly well without it.  We have it at the office, and more often than not I have my vent covered with a giant book on sport fishing to keep that fake cold air off of me.  I like being cold outside in the winter – not inside in the summer.  But those are just minor examples.

By clicking on “technology” in the sidebar under “what I’m writing about,” you’ll find some of my past diatribes on living without modern conveniences.  Much of what I could say here would simply be a repeat of those earlier writings.  The gist of it is:  I can certainly do without a lot of it.  Not all of it, however.  I certainly wouldn’t want to get rid of my rototiller if I didn’t have to.  I live in the Rocky Mountains – stress on the “Rocky.”  That little tiller is worth its weight in gold to me come spring and fall.   And I do enjoy my little black box of clickity-click (aka: my laptop) – it helps me learn, keep in touch with family and friends, and occasionally empty my brain via blog post.

But back to the point: the book and the author.  If you’ve ever thought about ditching more than just the grid, but ditching the chaos of this crazy modern lifestyle for a truly more simple existence, I really do recommend this book.  For those who just can’t drop the Kindle or the Nook yet, it’s even available in e-book format (how’s that for a contradiction?!)  I almost wish it was quitting time at the grind, just so I could head home, pull up my chair under the apple tree, and continue reading more.  A word of “warning” (although, I’m not sure warning is really the right word)…  Michael Bunker is definitely a devout Christian man, and often backs up his philosophy with Biblical verses and notations.  Personally, I’m perfectly fine with this.  Some might not be.  But just so you know it’s there before you buy.  Oh, and he also has a podcast on Blog Talk Radio.  It’s pretty much a question and answer type show and he covers everything from living off off-grid to bible study, and darn near everything in between.  It’s really an interesting program. I just found out about it when I got the book.  I’ve been downloading the episodes on iTunes (ummm, maybe another one of those necessary evils???)

I can’t tell you how delighted I was to find a book that expressed what I was after:  not so much a complete and total avoidance or shunning of all technology, but a judgement-based use of technology.  Not simply accepting all technology just because it’s technology – racing out to the store for the latest iThis or SmartThat – but really considering what it is that you decide to use in your everyday life.  And in the decision to leave the grid, not just transferring your current consumptive lifestyle to a solar panel, but taking a look at all those gadgets and appliances, and asking: “Do I really need all of this stuff???”  A true acceptance of the spirit of Voluntary Simplicity.

And of course, there’s that Agrarian part. 🙂  Have I mentioned lately how much I love my garden???

Categories: Skills & Info, Technology | 2 Comments

Random Musings on gardens, groceries & the grid

I knew it was too good to be true…  I stopped at a different market today, and winced at nearly every item I put in my cart.  Luckily I didn’t have to get much.  I picked up another 10 pounds of sugar for the pantry – yikes!  I think those price increases are starting to take effect.  I don’t often go to Albertson’s.  Personally, I hate the store.  But I was nowhere near Safeway, so I had no choice.  I won’t be making that mistake again. So I guess the aggregate of my shopping this week puts me back at the average per bag.  Oh well.

Took a little nap on the couch this afternoon – woke up about an hour ago to the sound of a tractor.  The guy across the road was using a giant tractor to till his garden plot.  A tiny little garden plot – maybe 15 x 20 (?).  Using what equated to a full on plow.  Nice.  The landlord hasn’t been up to skim my plot yet.  Which is fine by me.  It’s not really gardening weather out there this weekend.  Brrrrr.   Father Winter’s still trying to keep his grasp on western Montana.  There was fresh snow up in the hills behind the house this morning.  Looks like there’s another squall blowing in from the drainage.  I keep tellin’ folks – just wait…  in another month or so we’ll be praying for these cold and cloudy days!  So enjoy ’em while you can.  Speaking of a squall – the rain just started pouring down out there.  At least it’s not snow.

Pretty soon these will be a common occurrence once again:

When I was in town this morning, after the sticker shock at Albertson’s, I decided to drowned my sorrows at Barnes & Noble.  Much to my dismay, nothing new or interesting in the Home & Garden section of the books.  So I wandered over to the magazine rack to pick up two of my favorite magazines: Mary Janes Farm and Back Home, when a magazine I hadn’t seen before caught my eye.  The issue number on the masthead tells me it’s not a new publication – but apparently not one my local bookstore thought to carry in the past (I pretty much know exactly what farm and rural life titles they carry).  The magazine is called The New Pioneer: The Complete Guide to Self-Reliant Living.  Apparently it’s a quarterly, because this is the “Summer” edition.  Not feeling terribly summery outside…  Looks like some really good articles in there – on solar ovens, the modern back to the land movement, garden critter control.  Heck, if I can’t be gardening, I might as well read about it!  Although, I should probably get some seeds started.  I’m only about 5 weeks out til planting.  Many things will need to be sewed directly into the earth at planting time, but a couple things will need a head start…  tomatoes, hot peppers, etc.

I also received my latest Lehman’s catalog in the mail when I stopped at the post office the other day.  That delivery always gets my mind rolling. In my terribly humble opinion, electricity is a necessary evil.  But one I hope to make unnecessary as soon as humanly possible.  The other night I watched a video clip that was up over at Joel the K’s site The Patriot Cave.  Although, he seems to have replaced it with a different video by Michio Kaku.  ???  But the gist of the video was a brief history of Chernobyl.  I was relatively young when that went down, and really never made it my business to find out exactly what went wrong.  I didn’t realize it was a controlled experiment that went terribly wrong, causing what, up until this Japanese crisis, had been the worst nuclear accident in the world’s short atomic history.  I was outraged.  Furious!  Which, then, led me to wonder why on earth we find the most dangerous, dirty and destructive ways to provide power to our world.  The sun, daily, provides more power than our earth could use in a year.  Cleanly, free of charge, with no danger, and with no potential environmental side effects.  I went further to look at how many nuclear plants were in this area of the country.  There are three in Washington state – two of which are in various states of being decommissioned.  I feel confident, because of the not-so-close proximity of the plants that none of my power is generated by nuclear means.  I took a look at my local electric cooperative – apparently their energy is produced by a combination of wind, solar, hydro and coal.  Meaning 75% (in theory) of their energy is clean.  Now, I’m not sure what percentage of the actual grid is made up by each of those means.  I will have to find out.

But this doesn’t make me any less weary of electric.  Power in general.  Last month’s power bill came in the other day (on the same day as the Lehman’s catalog) and my usage last month was 154 kwh.  I’ve been looking at my own usage, and there are few ways to cut down even more on what I use.  Unfortunately my stove is electric, but soon it will be summer, and I’m looking forward to trying the solar oven experiment.  Have yet to figure out what to do about the refrigerator/freezer.  (although, LLM uses a typical picnic cooler and a propane freezer – that’s it.) I’ve cut down my light usage to one lamp each evening, only turning on other lights in the house on an as-needed basis.  I may take a look at oil lamps.  We’re getting to that point in the year where the sun is up later and later.  As it is, my lights don’t come on until around 8 o’clock.

But I think I’ll start taking a very critical look at each power-generated device in my life, and see if there’s a way to do without it.  Let’s see just now un-necessary I can make this electric power grid in my life.  I’ve decided I don’t need to live 100 miles out in the bush to ditch the grid.  Twenty miles is good enough to start with!

Categories: Food Storage, Gardening, Technology, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

1 step forward, 3 steps back…

It’s the Half-Step

Mississippi Uptown

Toodaloo

Okay, so maybe I’m not half-steppin’.  Or even two-steppin’.  But I am taking three steps back for every step I take forward.  Let me explain some recent challenges to my journey to Ditch the Grid…

For the better part of the past ten years I’ve lived TV-free.  I own some DVDs and such, and would watch them from time to time on my laptop.  Heck, I’d even go so far as to move the computer into the living room, haul the speakers with, and considered it the voluntary simplicity answer to a home theater.  Who needs one of those big get-ups with surround sound and all the hoopla?

So my Dad was in town to see me for my birthday in September, and I casually mentioned that it might be nice to have a TV with a built in DVD player to make watching movies a little easier.  Yeah – I bet you see this coming a mile away, don’cha?  I now have a TV.   Luckily it’s not big and obtrusive.  In fact, it’s about the smallest version they make.  I forget how many inches it is…  And he bought me a good old-fashioned set of rabbit ears to go with it.  Who knew they still made those things?  (You can bet your bottom dollar I’m not paying for TV stations!)   So after hauling the booty home and setting it up, my one saving grace was that a small smattering of PBS stations is all I get.  I must be too far from town.  Did you know they have five different PBS channels now?  Well, you probably did.  But I didn’t.  So I guess if I have to have a television, at least the only thing I can watch will contribute to brainpower a little bit.

The TV now resides in the back bedroom because I refuse to contaminate my blissful, serene living room with a flashing black box.  Plus it makes me work “hard” if I feel the need to lazily gaze into the box.  It did come in handy a couple weeks back when I was super sick.  I got to lay on the bed in the back bedroom and watch Audrey Hepburn and John Wayne movies for two days straight.  So it actually did do what I hoped it would do:  make watching movies easier.

Three steps back: getting a TV; for one step forward: living nearly a decade without one.

When I moved back to Montana in 2007, the purpose was to live simply.  To indulge in the quality of life, rather than the quantity of life I saw in the Big City.  After about a year and a half I moved out of town and into a little house on a ranch about 17 miles west of Missoula.  Ahhhh, the pastoral life.

Since this move, I’ve become more reliant on a vehicle.  And that original vehicle, which came with no car payment, liability-only insurance, and no cares in the world, died on me this past summer.  About three months after taking on the new job of Executive Director of the organization I work for. Enter a car payment to go with my new high-stress, high-profile job.  *sigh*

My search for the simple life in Montana has slowly gained quantity and lost some of the quality.

I’ve been building my pantry for the past few years.  Storing food for that “just in case” situation that’s bound to hit everyone one day or another.   I’m pretty proud of my pantry.  I could go a good 9 months without stepping foot in a grocery store if I had to.  Staples, dried beans, canned food, grain mills, dried grains…  Ahhhh, dried grains.   Many, many pounds of dried grains.  Wheat, barley, etc.  Many pounds.

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve started developing hives after I eat.  I’ve been keeping a little food journal to try to figure out what the problem is.  I have a long and rather odd list of foods that I’m allergic to: peaches, tomatillos, pork and beef to name a few…  And every few years I seem to develop a new allergy – it’s been a few years since the peach allergy reared its head, so I’m due.  The food journal has yielded a little bit of information – I’m either allergic to nuts… or to wheat.

I have an appointment with a naturopath tomorrow to take a look and see if we can figure out what the newest allergy is.  If it’s wheat, lord have mercy.  What am I going to do with all this wheat???

One hope:  Donna, over at Miller’s Grain House, was diagnosed with a gluten sensitivity several years ago.  When she began grinding her own grains and making her own bread, she found that she was able to eat the wheat.  So, for her anyway, there was something in the processing of the grains that made her sensitive to the flour.  I don’t bake my own bread in summertime because I don’t have a summer kitchen, and the oven heats up the house something fierce.  So step No. 1 is to see the naturopath tomorrow, and step No. 2 is to get back to grinding my own grains and see if I have any less of a reaction.

Let’s hope it’s nuts…

So these are a couple recent struggles – not defeats, just struggles.  But what that means is that I have to do some brainstorming for the new year to figure out how to turn these struggles into advantages.  Or figure out how to overcome the struggles and readjust my lifestyle to regain those backward steps.

I’m bound and determined to regain the QUALITY of life, ditch the quantity, and in the end…

Do the two-step, as I continue on my Journey to Ditch the Grid.

Categories: Food Storage, Technology, The Journey | 1 Comment

How much do you use???

A quick Google search tells me that the average American household uses 1,500 KWH for a home that averages 1,600-2,000 square feet.

And a very unscientific, half-assed measurement of my little Montana home tells me that it’s about 1,040 square feet.  It’s got two bedrooms, two baths, kitchen, dining area, living room and a utility room (previously seen as my “Pantry” and laundry room – slash – back entry).  My heat is propane, as is my hot water.  But unfortunately, my cook stove is electric.  I’m no fan of the electric cook stove, but I work with what I have.

I just paid my electric bill the other day.  I’ll be honest – I’m one of those people that just doesn’t really look all that closely at the bills.  The come in the mailbox, and on the 15th of the month I look at the total and pay it.  No closer inspection warranted.

With my ever increasing, and probably unhealthy obsession with seeing how much of my life is possible without the use of electricity, I decided to pull out the bill I paid last week to see how much power I’m sucking up.

119 kwh for May.  To be fair, back in the dark of winter, my December bill used 273 kwh.

Montana days in the summer are notoriously long.  The sun starts to light the eastern sky about 4am, and there’s still an inkling of twilight left about 11pm.  So our days are long.  And they’re just as short in the winter.  The sun clears the mountains a bit after 9am, and starts setting around 3:30’ish.  As it stands, I use electric for my stove, my laptop, occasional lamps if I’m up late enough, and my washer/dryer.  Upon closer inspection of this month’s electric bill – I see that my actual electric usage cost me $3.08.  The rest is delivery charges one of ilk or another.  The base charge alone is $24.87.  Yikes!

So I’m curious – how much electricity to you use? Is 1,500 kwh really the norm for the average American household?

Categories: Technology | 6 Comments

Excitement

It’s like Christmas here in the northern Rockies.  Well, really more alike Advent because I have to wait and wait, and I don’t want to.  🙂

I’ve mentioned that I’ve been toying around with the idea of different grain mills.  I have a little one – a Back to Basics model that was super cheap.  I got it so it would give me an idea of what it’s like to grind my own grains.  I like it well enough, but the capacity is low, and you have to put the ground grains through a couple times to make flour fine enough for bread making.  I think it’s better geared toward grinding small amounts of grains, beans, seeds, etc.

So I went about the process of researching different high-capacity, hand-crank mills… well, because ya know, why use electricity if you don’t have to.  😉  I thought I was pretty set on forking out the cash for a Country Living grain mill.  It’s super heavy duty. But there are a lot of parts to it, and some of the essential ones you have to buy separately. Adding to the already expensive price tag.  Plus, no store in town carries them – which means I’d have to pay to have a 15-pound grain mill mailed to me.  Ooof.  I could get an electric WonderMill at the local kitchen goods store, but I don’t want an electric one.

Pretty, isn’t it?

A few weeks back I was paging through the latest issue of Mary Jane’s Farm magazine when I came across a pretty, shiny red grain mill – hand crank – from a company I had never heard of…  GrainMaker.  Hmmm – interesting.  Upon closer inspection of the ad, I noticed a little emblem that we see all around town – the Made in Montana logo.  Made in Montana?!?!  A hand crank grain mill made right here in the state?  Well, it gets better.  Not only is it made in Montana (Montana’s a pretty big state), but it’s made just south of here in the Bitterroot Valley – in a town called Stevensville!!!  Holy Cow!  I can drive there in 45 minutes from Frenchtown!

Now I was excited.

I did a little more research, and came across some comparisons and reviews of the mill.  Some people liked it well enough, but a one review site used the term “Herculean Strength” in describing using the mill.  But still – it comes with all those extra pieces that the Country Living grain mill charges extra for – and has fewer overall parts.  As it turns out – there’s a heavy duty auger for use in grinding larger grains – like dry beans and corn – and they admit that it does take some strength when using it.  However, if you take out that heavy duty auger and replace it with a smaller coil auger, it becomes much easier to use.

So I emailed the company, wondering if there was someplace I could try one out – to make sure I could crank the thing and use it happily.  The price tag of this one isn’t anything to sneeze at either, so I want to make sure I’ll like it before forking out that kind of money.  The wife, and co-owner of the company, emailed me back today to say I was welcome to come down to the shop any time and they would have one set up for me to try out!  She sounds like a lovely lady…  I told her I was super busy until June 15th, but once work calms down that she could expect a visit.

The entire contraption is forged and machined right in their shop.  No foreign pieces and parts.  Made and assembled right here in Montana, by Montanans.  Who can argue with supporting a small, local business?  I’m really excited about heading down there.  I’ll be back in town from our conference on June 14th.  I have about a half-day’s work in the office on the 15th, then I plan to take a ride down the “Root” and check it out.

Hopefully by mid-Summer, I’ll have myself a fancy-schmancy, shiny, red grain mill set up on my log bench to happily grind my own wheat into flour.  My bread will have never tasted so good.  🙂

Categories: Skills & Info, Technology | 3 Comments

Old World Skills, or… How Grandma used to do it.

electrical wiring in street - delhi (india)Electrical wiring in India

When it comes to the use of electricity, technology and modern conveiences in general, often the response is “I can’t do without…” this or that thing.  I often wonder – is it that people *can’t * do without these things, or they won’t?  More often than not, I think the answer is “won’t.”  For eons man has lived happily without the need for things like microwaves, iPods, cars, televisions (my personal “most-hated” of technological gadgets), dishwashers, etc.  Thousands – tens of thousands – hell, hundreds of thousands of years – no need.  Yet, in the past couple of generations we’ve succumb to the feigned need for all the creature comforts of modern life.

We’ve become soft.  We’ve lost our skills.  We’re setting ourselves up for epic failure as a race of humans.  We’ve disrespected our ancestors that perfected life skills over the millennia.

Every day there’s some new kitchen gadget designed to make our lives easier…  but really, all it does is add to the destruction of age-old skills and gives us one more thing to wash. Last weekend when I was up at LLM’s place, we were sucked into the flashing box for a little while, and on came a commercial for this new contraption to crack eggs.  Seriously.  They now have an “As Seen on TV” device to help you crack your stinking eggs.  We both sat there, slack-jawed, in shock and dismay that someone wasted precious brain power to come up with that.  And what’s worse, is that someone will actually buy it…  And marketing at it’s best – they made it appear that cracking and scrambling eggs was the most difficult and messy thing a person could possible spend their time doing.  I forget how much this contraption cost – but a hard-earned penny would be too much.

I could go on and on with examples just like the can’t-live-without-it egg cracker.  But you get the idea.  So much stuff in this world to make up for what we could do with two able hands and a couple of basic kitchen essentials like a pan or a bowl.

There’s so much to be learned by looking at the current old order communities.  Or by reading the histories of the western migration.  Embracing the old world skills and giving them a modern life could be the salvation of our sanity, our bank accounts, and in the worst case scenario, civilization as we know it.

Voluntary simplicity is a philosophy I do my best to embrace.  Simplicity is really a misnomer, since the lifestyle is often more time consuming – but it embraces ideals that are finally coming back into vogue in some circles.  Movements like the Slow Food community; back yard chickens; organic gardening; food preservation by canning and drying, making bread from scratch.  The skills our grandparents, and the generations before them, took for granted.  They were the pioneers of voluntarily simplicity – whether they knew it or not.  Whether it was voluntary or not…

It’s my goal to learn more of the old skills this year.  Last year I perfected bread making, re-introduced myself to canning and drying, learned to tan a deer hide, and gardened until I had dirt permanently embedded in my fingerprints and feet.  This year it’s chickens, and toying with sprouting grains.  I hope to get my heavy duty grain grinder and stop purchasing flour.  I also want to try my hand at cheese and yogurt making, and finally try making tortillas and pita bread.  Another thing I’d really like to reincorporate into my life is not buying convenience foods.  I don’t buy many of them, but today I came out of the market with two boxes of cereal (frosted shredded wheat – I’m addicted), and a box of macaroni and cheese.  I know I can make mac and cheese from scratch, and I ought to be doing that.  But I have no clue how they make shredded wheat in those awesome, milk holding little pillows of happiness.  😉

So whether or not you have an unhealthy fascination with making your life more difficult on purpose, like me, I encourage you to try at least one old world skill this summer.  Channel your great grandmother and do something you think would have been part of her every day life.  It will honor her memory.  🙂

Categories: Skills & Info, Technology | 5 Comments

Ditching the grid

Photo by Steve Wynn

Living “off the grid” means different things to different people.  For some it means having all the creature comforts of a full-scale, grid-dependent home using alternative fuel sources.  For others it means being conservative on your power use to get by with a couple solar panels.  For still others, it’s some marriage of the two.  For me, it means something completely different.

Enter the alter ego of “Amish Robin.”

By no means do I live my ideal life at this point.  I’m sitting at my laptop, plugged into the wall, connected to the power grid.  My radio is on.  There’s a lamp illuminated in the corner.  The refrigerator hums in the kitchen.  My dishwasher is yet to be unloaded from being run the other evening.  But I can dream, can’t I?

So my dream… the ideal life for Amish Robin, is truly one of minimalism.  I’m not talking Japanese style modernism.  In fact, quite the opposite.  Quite frankly, I would much prefer to live with significantly less technology than I currently have.  Truth be told, I do live with fewer of these creature comforts than the average American household.  But where as the typical suburban yuppie might scream “I NEED MORE” – I’m more inclined to quietly say: “I need less.  Much, much less.”  There’s too much in my life.

The funny thing is, when I lived in the big city, before coming back to Montana, I did with far less technology.  For a while I didn’t own a car.  I haven’t owned a TV in years, nor a microwave.  I didn’t have a dishwasher, and didn’t own a washer and dryer.  Since coming back to the northern Rockies to pursue my simple life, I seem to have acquired a washer and dryer, and each house I’ve rented has included a dishwasher.  Honestly, much like the TV I shunned years ago, I feel these “conveniences” have made me lazy.  There was a calm rhythm to washing my dishes in an old farm sink (ironically, in an apartment in the city of Chicago).  There was a quiet joy to being at the laundromat early on a Sunday morning with the old cowboy and the university coach. The next house I look for, I’ll purposely find one that doesn’t have a dishwasher.  I wish it was so easy to get rid of my washer and dryer, but my Dad bought them for me for my birthday.  So I can’t get rid of them… it would hurt his feelings.  I didn’t really want them, but he felt that I should have them – so I didn’t really have a choice in the matter.  He meant well, and I love him for it.

Another one of those things that I’d love to swap out for a more  Amish counterpart is the kitchen stove.  Right now I have an electric stove.  I always remember my Mom cursing the gas stove when we were growing, and I never understood why.  She claimed she could smell the gas and it drove her crazy.  She loved the electric stove.  After having a few apartments with gas stoves, I long for them.  They’re easier to use and easier to control than the electric model.  But more than that, what I’m longing for – what I really, really want is a wood-burning cook stove.  I saw one in the paper the other day for $150.  A far cry from the $5,000 they cost brand new from Lehman’s.  But alas, that old fear of debt has me renting.  I’m sure my landlords would be none too happy with me if I tossed the pretty, shiny, white electric stove and put a wood burning model in the kitchen.  Our jovial relationship would probably sour over that one.

I’m in the market for a heavy duty grain mill.  Hand-crank, of course.  I was pretty much set on the Country Living Grain Mill, but I happened to find a similar model that’s made right here in the Bitterroot Valley.  And it’s red.  🙂  I’ve read some differing reviews on it – some say you have to have Herculean strength to use it, others say it’s better than the Country Living mill.  I’m thinking of giving them a call to see if there’s a place I can “test drive” one before forking out the $425.  The tiny grain mill I have won’t do for permanent, high-volume milling.  It’ll grind a cup to two here and there, but I want to mill more of my own flour for bread making, and no ordinary grain mill will do.

A few weeks back I wandered into an abandon cabin in the Chimney Creek area east of here.  I was looking at some land, and the old cabin was unlocked.  The lights were propane, and I immediately fell in love.  Propane lamps built into the cabin.  The only other place I’ve seen that was at the North Fork Hostel in Polebridge, Montana.  How utterly perfect!  No harsh, curly cue bulbs filled with mercury needed.  Just a warm, inviting, yellow glow to light your evening reading.

Another thing I want is to replace my alarm clock.  It drives some people insane, but I love the tick of a real clock.  I have two in my living room, and when the house is quiet, I love to meditate on their methodical ticking.  The only thing that worries me about an old fashioned alarm clock is the harsh ringing of the bells when it goes off in the morning.  Maybe a little too jarring.  We’ll see.

Anyway – the point being, that for me, going “off the grid” is not so much of trying to continue life as usual using alternative power sources.  It means ditching technology altogether.  For some that may seem extreme, but that’s okay.  Far be it from me to force my way of life on anyone.  What’s right for me, is right for me – not for everyone else (save for a few Amish folks back east!)


Categories: Technology, The Journey | 4 Comments

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