Jilly D.

January in the calendar according to Sam Warren

In Off-The-Grid Memoir on December 29, 2013 at 2:50 am
Sam's babies

Sam’s babies

Where the paved road ends, so do the vestiges of “modern” life. There is no cellular phone reception here. No internet connection. No wires or poles visible to the human eye. No email, text messaging, satellite or cable TV. No high speed connection to the digital universe. Twittering is something birds do. Time slows down. The quiet calms the inner chaos. Here is where I make my home with Sam Warren.

I listen to the rain fall on the tin roof, hear the gentle whir of the windmill, let birds waken me before the sun rises, eat an entire meal made from food grown on this land, get to be my own boss, decide how to spend my time and energy, walk my dogs in the woods, discover rare wildflowers and identify animal tracks. These are the luxuries of living off the land. The greatest luxury of all is time.

When it’s high noon, I know it. Same time as yesterday. I don’t need a watch to tell me. The whistle blowing from the Fire Station confirms lunch time. In the morning I wake up without an alarm. When I’m tired I go to sleep.

956725-R1-19-20ABefore I met Sam I used to feel so pushed and rushed in my everyday work life. The meetings, the reports, the email, voice-mail, committee work, service commitments just overwhelmed me. I would arrive at the office in the morning and have to turn on lights to see. I would leave late after running a computer, printer, television, clock radio and heater or air conditioner for more than 12 hours constant. I’d work at home after dark with all the lights and heat on, stereo or television on and my computer and printer plugged in to the grid. I collapsed into sleep with the alarm set so I could do it all over again the next day. My to-do list was days longer than I’d ever live.

You can always make more money. You can’t make more time. I used to dream about doing what I wanted when I retired. Then I faced facts:  I would have less money, not more, and even less time.

100_0931Living off the land allows me the luxury of time. My time is my own. No one can take it from me unless I give it willingly. No one can waste my time either. The relentless urgency of modern life drops away on Warren Pond.

I appreciate these luxuries and am grateful for them regularly because there are plenty of folks who are offended by some of the privileges homesteading grants me. People don’t like it if you don’t read your email every day. Phone calls after sunset aren’t answered and folks can’t figure out why not, if we are home. Some are stunned we refuse to make it to evening meetings or public events scheduled after dark. Others are curious why we don’t just hop in the car and drive. There are plenty who are offended we do not bathe or change clothes every day.

Never having been a fashionista, I love the luxury of dressing comfortably, forgoing makeup and hairdos and wearing shoes suitable for the task at hand. Reminds me of the bad advice I got early in my academic career that I would never get anywhere unless I started to wear lipstick and heels. I got there and neither heels nor lipstick would have made it a place worth staying. I’d rather put on my swimsuit and cotton jumpers in warm weather and denim coveralls most the rest of the year. The biggest joy is having one pair of functional — not fashionable — shoes. You can’t wear more than one pair at a time, so who needs more?

Instead of spending an hour getting ready for work, an hour commuting to and from, 10 hours at work and a few more hours working at home, I quit wasting time. I took the time for living, loving and enjoying each moment in the moment. It used to be that I lived in order to work for somebody who would pay me so I could live. Now I live.

What I learned from Sam Warren about sustainable living is that I could have a higher quality of life with less money and more time. I gave up shopping and worked to pay off my credit cards and car loan. When I moved down to the farm with Sam, I paid down more debt and had no bills. Eventually I could afford to break free of those golden handcuffs called “tenure” and quit my full-time job.

Today, there is no mortgage or rent. The land is now ours free and clear.

We have no heating bills. Sam cuts down the timber, logs it out, saws it up, seasons it, stacks it, and then hauls it inside to make fire for heat and cooking. I have heat today because Sam planned and worked for more than a year to make it possible.Morning chores on the farm

The luxury of being debt free is incredible. For too long wealth was measured by how much credit others were willing to extend to you. The old mentality was that the more debt you had the richer you must be. But the price to pay is one’s conscience.

Everybody knows you can’t buy your way out of debt. It is so much easier to sleep at night knowing other people owe you more than what you owe others. It’s more important to wake up each morning without debt burden on your shoulders. The only way to do that is to produce more than you consume.

Sam figured out how to do that. Living off the land and off-the-grid is hard work but it provides everything we need.

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