We co-own 10 acres of property with 5 friends outside of Austin, TX that will someday become a sustainable farm slash "artist retreat". This is what homesteading in slow motion looks like.
There’s a moment when the dirt gets to you, grinds into your pores till your skin is one giant, swollen blackhead zit - or you feel it is - and you’re hit with a tiresome itch like you need to wash your hair, scrub your body raw with a pumice stone, put on a pair of clean pajamas and burrow into an overstuffed couch for an indefinite amount of time - and immediately, by god - or your body will be taken over by alien worm monsters.
At least, that’s my experience. I’m being dramatic, of course.
If the Zombie apocalypse ever crawls out of the grave and scrapes it‘s wormy fingers over our dear planet Earth, I think the breaking point for most of us happy first-world dwellers won’t come out of a constant fear of turning into an undead monster with bloody stump-arms. Nothing so sinister and big. No, I think we’ll all go bat-shit after a week of missing the simple act of cleaning our bodies and crashing in front of a television set.
Sure, we can camp like mighty lumberjacks, all ‘rub some dirt in it‘ and ‘what kills us makes us stronger‘. We can rough and tough it, man. But there’s a thing that happens when you realize the air conditioned car ride home - followed by a shower and a hot meal - will never come. When you can’t put warm, clean socks over your calloused feet, wash the campfire stink from your clothes, watch twelve episodes of something on Netflix or Hulu, and fall asleep in the sanctuary of your personal technological bubble. There’s this squeally little pig-you that pops up like a wart, crying, “It’s not fair. It’s not fair that I don’t have all the things I want right now.”
It happens when you realize there’s just… more… camping.
Trust me, you’ll go a little bat-shit.
We’ve made ourselves comfortable in our little homestead, have a few luxuries that make the day-to-day routine kinder on our bodies and brains, and we’re happy. But when our friends go home after a weekend of tents and eating outdoors, fires and long nights of talking, when they say, “can’t wait to get out of these clothes and take a hot shower,” we have to acknowledge that we’re already home and there’s no shower, no fluffy couch, no Netflix. Damn.
Dirty socks on dirty feet, that’s how it feel sometimes.
This may explain why we occasionally throw ourselves into opportunities that are contrary to what we’re trying to do with our lives (which is, if you don’t know already, to live off-grid). If we ever house-sit for friends, we do it all. We’re like alcoholics drowning in a barrel of whiskey, but instead of the sweet forbidden liquor, we sit on the couch and watch episodes of who-cares-what-reality-show and crank the central air/heat up to high. We eat fast food and run the dishwasher half-full. We become the thing we are trying to get away from.
We don’t live off-grid because we’re afraid of monsters, we do it because we know how easily distracted we can get by comfort and entertainment. We do it because of writing, dance, music, art. We do it so we know what living feels like, even if it isn’t always warm and soft, bright and flashy.
Sometimes the squeally pig-you comes out and you just want to say, ‘screw it, let’s get an apartment.’ But it’s in these moments that something better can happen. The better-you can make bacon. You can go home again, find comfort in the quiet. You can write something great. You can hum a song. You can paint. You can create. And you can feel comfortable because of it.
I haven’t updated, mostly because it’s been hot and miserable and I get lazy when it’s like that. If I feel gloomy over one aspect of my life - even if it’s just that I’m physically uncomfortable 1/2 of the day - it gobbles up all the rest of the good. I fall into bad habits and suddenly find myself drinking boxed wine and eating Fritos with cheese melted over them (two things that aren’t terrible on occasion, but could become a problem if done habitually).
And then I don’t update and that’s sad because I like letting people know what we’re up to.
We (mostly my husband) have:
- added a front and back platform to the outhouse, the front for comfort, the back to hold a rotating compost bin for the lovely loo
- repaired the propane generator after the manual and electric starters broke
- prepped for the stair addition to the porch
- drilled a hole into one of the cabin doors and ran pipe and an interior box for the electrical cables (running from the generator to inside the cabin)
- added a surge protector/power strip indoors
- bought and installed a window fan
- bought and installed a tower fan
- bought and installed a solar generator
- finished the generator housing
- went on two road trips, one to West Texas, the other to the Gulf
So that was August, up to September. We celebrated our wedding anniversary at the beach this year, but now we’re home and I’m going to stop eating terrible food and start feeling better. And update regularly. And lay off the boxed wine. And finish my novel (damn you, novel!).
Goals for Fall (because you need a list so you can check things off and feel good about yourself, which is something I learned from our new neighbor, JRut):
- finish the electrical piping on the porch
- install our small solar panel system on the roof (which will eventually power a freezer)
- build a bottle wall around the courtyard/fire pit (we’ve been saving bottles for at least 2 years) and gravel out the courtyard (we also have some pretty paving stones for this project)
- build raised beds (utilizing the bottles again)
- close in the bottom of the porch so critters and snakes and monsters can’t hide under there and potentially bite at our ankles
October is a crazy month for us. I love October and I love Halloween and I love costumes and I love spooky decorations and, just, all of it. We spend a lot of time socializing, going to haunted houses (specifically, www.scareforacure.org), and parties. We also have ICOZAcon happening (our weekend-long drinking slash RPGing campout at the land) in a few weeks and an out-of-town wedding to attend. So while we have a list of things to get done, it will be slow-going once September ends. But I’ll keep you updated, because I get things done (and, I swear, no more boxed wine…or not as much, anyway).