Jilly D.

From a quiet life of desperation

In Off-The-Grid Memoir, Uncategorized on January 4, 2014 at 9:09 pm

766018-R1-12-13AWhen New York State Electric and Gas told Sam it would cost tens of thousands of dollars to bring electricity down to the homestead from the road more than 1,400 feet, Sam decided he would make his own power instead. Our electricity is home grown.209467-R1-02-3

Sam started out with a couple of solar panels. He’s been off-the-grid since 1994. Today there are two big banks of solar panels generating enough power to run electric fence, lights, radio, a big screen TV, a DVD player, refrigerator, freezer, water pump and other appliances; although not all of them at the same time.

“Got no mortgage; no rent payment. Got no utility bills. No heat or electric payments. Got no bills for cable service, internet, high speed dialup or instant messaging. No health insurance payments or medical bills. Don’t budget for entertainment or travel. Grocery bills are next to nothing because we raise the food we eat and most of the feed for our animals. No need for a health club membership,” Sam says.

“People go to work every day all day long so they can pay for their housing and heat. They come home after dark. They spend more time at work than at home trying to pay for the cost of having a home,” says Sam. “Makes no sense to me,” he says.111111-R1-14-15_015

It took me two years after I moved in with Sam to leave my guaranteed-for-life job as a tenured college professor. Once I added up the rent, heat, electric, health insurance, meals, car loan payment, gas, insurance, travel, wardrobe, dry cleaning, haircuts, books, magazines, journals, computer software, credit card payments and business expenses involved in keeping up appearances of a modern professional I got a real shock. I looked around at my colleagues paying off student loans, saving for their children’s college tuition, paying for daycare or private school fees, caring for elderly parents, taking on second mortgages and huge credit card debt. Too many of my professional associates were in therapy, depressed, drinking too much, taking lots of antidepressants and prescription narcotics, dysfunctional as human beings and creating a toxic work environment to which I got physically sick. The job didn’t pay for itself. I could never make more money than what I needed to spend to keep up, much less stay sane.

Until I met Sam I was like millions of other Americans today. I was always strapped with debt. First it was student loan debt, but as I paid that down, the credit card debt piled on as I tried to maintain the appearances of a professional lifestyle. I couldn’t even start to save for a down payment, much less afford a mortgage on my teaching salary.

No repo men came after my car. No bill collectors harassed me. I could make the minimum payments and my credit limits kept rising. But I could never afford the credit extended to me. I faced rising fuel costs, heating costs, worked harder and longer hours. I spent more on energy going to and from work and on heating a household in which I spent less and less time. I couldn’t enjoy what I had and I couldn’t live on what I could afford. I couldn’t sleep at night owing for the rest of my life.

AFCU Class Swenson & Cooper Work 20100521GHFrom a quiet life of desperation to a life of quiet deliberation, I took my lessons from a self-educated man. What I learned from him proved more potent a remedy to my ailments than any pharmaceutical. Everything passes away but a few things endure. Sun, wind, water, fire, stone and earth have been here across all time, but love is the greatest source of power to sustain the human spirit.

  1. I look forward to reading your Off-the-Grid memoir. Thoreau would approve! best, Elizabeth

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