You know that little rhyme about the girl with a curl? When she is good she is really, really good, and when she is bad she is horrid? Off the grid living is a bit like that. When everything is going well it is completely and utterly dream like… but then, a few little things go wrong, and it’s like a horrible nightmare where you are on your knees in your favourite trousers digging a Vodafone technician’s car out of the mud with your bare hands, the very Vodafone technician who just told you that you’ll never be able to get the internet wired up at home.
Oh wait! That really happened!
Winter just arrived with such a big fat wallop over the head, it’s unreal. One minute we were camping out on the beach, foraging for shell fish and digging epic sandcastles while our backs crisped in the sun, the next minute we were at home on the farm, sinking in miry clay, staring at one broken washing machine, one broken generator and one broken dream of being able to Skype my family from our lounge.
WORST WEEK EVER.
This day. This day had everything. 8 hours on the beach; Juno napping while I’m reading and writing, Grandparents playing, all of us ocean float-dancing, shellfish feasting, mindfulness practicing. 😊😊😊 (This day was also the day we all got sunburnt and the day Ramona yelled to me and Juno as she dived in and out of waves and we merely paddled in the whitewash “stop fucking around and get in here!!!” 😳
We had an idea that by the end of March we would be all set up, ready to take off the grid living from the summer version (swimming in the river, barbecues, an abundance of solar electricity) to the winter version (wood burning stove heating water for hot baths and cooking our stews, hunkering down in blankets to watch the stars appear) in blissful comfort. But instead we are (once again) a bit behind in all of this, despite (once again) busting a gut.
We still don’t have hot water. Or a deck (this is kind of important when your yurt is surrounded by mud.) Or a fire. Or any hope of being able to use the internet properly from home. (At the moment we can get a few gbs on the mobile if we place it on a certain spot on the window sill.) I don’t mean to make a fuss about the internet thing but we had really hung a lot on the idea that I’d be able to work from home (my entire livelihood is based on the internet) and we’d be able to be in proper contact with my family. I’ve literally skyped them twice since September. I do feel mega bummed out about it.
We DO have: two children that love to cover themselves in paint and food and mud and an immensely hairy dog that burrows like a bunny into enormous mountains of soil and then bowls inside and bounces around the furniture like a clay covered, fur shedding honey badger.
Some kids like to feel the squelch of mud between their toes… Ramona is the kinda kid that likes to dip her head in it 👊 days like these I am glad that I know of the health benefits of ingesting dirt 😁 #freerangekids #childhoodunplugged #naturekids #letthembelittle #littlefierceones
A photo posted by Lulastic & the Hippyshake (@lulasticblog) on
Fortunately, we also do have: friends that take our emergency washing and give it back to us all clean and dry and folded, and friends that take the batteries for our tools and charge them for us when the sun hasn’t shone for eleven days and our solar power digital display is flashing “WHAT SORT OF PLACE IS THIS WHERE IT RAINS FOR ELEVEN DAYS STRAIGHT- PLEASE GOOGLE “HYDRO ELECTRICITY””
Well, this is the sort of place where, when you look at the weather map, the whole of New Zealand has little sunshines all over it and our little valley has a big fat rain cloud. And yeah, okay, solar panels, one day we WILL rig up a little system in our stream to generate power through the winter months, see how you like that with your little left out self!
Also. We do have a local library with a great internet connection, loads of electricity and a lot of good books, which makes the winter seem a little bit more do-able.
I guess that’s one thing about off the grid living, the early days at least, it does make you quite dependant on good friends and family and good local infrastructure. Which isn’t a bad thing. I bet there are tonnes of self sufficient people out there who have done this so long and have got everything so very sorted, that they don’t need to rely on the people around them. But I guess a little bit of me thinks it is a good thing to all be able to lean on each other a bit…
And more things we have: (I realise I am applying a gratitude philosophy as I write. That’s nice hey? I am counting my blessings. My blessings shall be the rungs with which I pull myself up from the mud beneath New Zealand’s terrible rural internet service.)
We have ducklings! Fluffy baby things make everything better and even when it is raining so hard you can barely see to the end of the paddock, your eye still snags on a whole line of white ducks waddling along having an absolute freaking blast and the corners of your mouth still lift into a (ever so slightly begrudging) smile.
And, as of about half an hour ago, sorry husband, we do have a robotic vacuum cleaner. It’s not courtesy of Santa, who heard neither my plea for a robot nor a stop to my dog’s farts nor a repeat prescription for deworming pills. But from Ebay. From a guy called Roger who like only used it twice. Thanks Roger. And it may not have been a purchase discussed with all the budget holders in our family and yes, our solar panels may not get enough juice to make it work but symbolically it makes me feel better. It makes me feel absolutely freaking awesome. I think its mere presence in my life will just stop our dog shedding her fur all over the place.
(And there’s always the library, for a sneaky little charge, hey? I’m sure this kind of stealth is what good healthy communities are founded upon.)
Apart from picking our way through mud and sweeping up dog hairs (no longer!!!) our days are made up of a lot of the sort of things I always hoped they would, which is nice. The girls and I pack a picnic most days we are home and slip and slide our way along the river and up the mountain. Every morning they wake up and say “Let’s climb the mountain today!” and although we’ve never made it to the top (five hour return journey) we always give it a good bash. There is a nikau palm a third of the way up, I don’t know who started it, but it’s called the Love Palm and it gets a cuddle from all of us when we pass it. Hugging a tree starts off a little awkward folks, but then its beautiful.
The garden is growing and we even have a bunch of wild flowers brightly blooming after chucking some seed bombs about the place. I am fermenting a lot of food (on purpose) – it seems to be the only way I can deal with the millions of marrows that keep spawning in the veggie patch. They don’t care about eleven days of rain, marrows. They don’t care. I chuck them in a jar with a bunch of other veggies and some salt and three days later = more probiotic goodness than you can shake a yoghurt at.
I realised I may have been spending too much time on this fermenting thing when I had a dream that Juno and I were sauerkraut and the duvet was the brine and I had to keep us covered so we didn’t go mouldy.
Or perhaps it is a symptom. The bottom line of this sort of life. When it’s good it is sublime and when it’s bad you dream that you are a fermenting cabbage.