Living the Vision

Darrington, WashingtonLast June my world was transformed by a seemingly simple event.  I woke-up to an e-mail from Dear Friend Amy passing along a Craigslist ad advertising eight traditional Mongolian Yurts at the insane price of $500 a piece.  I was certain they’d be gone or there’d be some crazy catch, but I immediately grabbed for the phone.  A day later I was sitting beside my husband in the front of a large U-Haul truck, making the eight-hour round trip to Darrington to pick-up our new yurts.  It felt like winning our own private lottery.  We thought we’d be lucky to find one traditional yurt for under $10,000 – but we’d just bought three for under $3000, the entire cost of the trip to retrieve them, included. 

A few months before this moment we’d arrived at the conclusion that a traditional Mongolian Yurt – the type with horsehair ties and no proliferation of metal parts – was the answer to an equation that would get us onto land and closer to our sustainable, intentional community dreams more quickly.  From that conversation we’d both agreed to add a traditional yurt to our individual vision boards.  We didn’t realize until a few days after we’d actually brought the yurts home that both of us had drawn a semi-circle of 3 yurts on our board – not because either of us had anticipated being able to purchase three of them, but to depict the community spirit underlying the vision!  To us this seemed to be a strong confirmation from the Universe to dive into our dream.  Strengthened by a new faith, we sped-up the timeline of our plan and made some bold decisions.

Yurt DoorWe left the great job, the house we loved, the region we loved, the son in college, the dear friends;and dove in.  It took six-weeks to pull off what we’d been dreaming of for eight years.  Without any significant savings.  Without any clear idea of how it was all going to congeal.  We only knew the general location of where we were heading (we’d narrowed it down to a county, 3 1/2 hours to the east); and that we had three yurts to make it happen.

We started out looking for raw, off-grid land on owner contract, with the side agreement that we would explore any option that presented itself.  We ran ads in the region’s papers, posted to Craigslist and perused land auctions.  We made day trips on days off to explore our findings, the clock now ticking toward a deadline.  Though there was a ton of great off-grid, raw land for homesteading selling on contract, the responses we kept receiving were mostly from other homesteaders heading back to the city and eager to sell.  All of our best options were turning out to be developed properties with amenities we hadn’t anticipated starting out with.  So we changed gears.  A simple shift of focus and we were no longer in the position of just needing to find a place and trust that it would be right; we were now searching for the right place for us.IMG_1656 (1024x768)

We finally decided on a rustic A-frame cabin, on 20 wooded acres with a year-around creek.  The payments were really low and the cute factor was high.  Yet our excitement seemed overshadowed by a sense of reluctance we couldn’t put a finger on.  It wasn’t perfect, but two weeks before we’d been eager to live on land with only the most primitive amenities so “issues” seemed more like “resources to work with” to our eyes.  That wasn’t the problem.  For my part of it, I didn’t want to admit that either of us were feeling a “bad vibe” when we’d been riding so high on following our Hearts and feelings of faith and gratitude; I just wanted to stay thankful and receptive for what was coming our way.  But of course the listening was a necessary part of the following (our Hearts)!

We made one last trip.  We looked at the A-frame, several other properties and then the A-frame again.  It still looked like the best option and we still couldn’t put our finger on the source of our reluctance.  As we drove out of town it seemed clear we’d be signing the final papers for the A-frame in the morning.

Although we were running late, it was still light enough out that we decided to try a new, supposedly more scenic route back home.  It was because of this that we stopped to get gas at a new place; a small junction about 15 miles further into the mountains than where we’d previously ventured.  And it was at this gas station that my husband found the ad.  When he read it to me, the proposition seemed insane.  I protested vigorously.  It appeared to be off in some other county.  We were already further out and the wrong direction from where we wanted to be.  We were already running behind schedule.  The property was still another 17 miles away.  For the price it had to have some horrible quality about it.  I guess I wasn’t being as receptive to exploring options as I thought!  Thankfully he persisted and this is how we found our dream property.

The place had sat empty in the mountain woods for several years, but 30 years ago it had been the flourishing homestead of a bona fide Master Gardener.  Better still, it had been shaped by back-to-the-land intentions and born from community dreams.  It came with producing fruits, nuts, grapes and herbs and amenities like a greenhouse with a seed starting room.  This is where our three yurts have ultimately led us:

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We pulled out of Wenatchee in the early morning hours of August 1st, 2011 – and the adventure has yet to stop.  In fact it’s only just beginning.  We’re enjoying the love affair with the ever-changing beauty that surrounds us.  We’ve seen animals we never imagined seeing (think – a sky full of eagles, an elk taller than our truck, a jet black wolf slinking across the snow).  Filled up pantry shelves with the products of our own land that were simply here, ready for harvest in the weeks following our arrival.  Learned what it’s like to “take a trip”  just to get to the store.  I wouldn’t change any of it.

We spent the first 114 days without internet (yes, I counted each one) and only started watching a spot of TV again last week.  Cell phones don’t even work out here.  But I guarantee you that my from-scratch baking and crafting adventures have gone through the roof (a slice of fresh bread or a soy candle, anyone?).  And every single day since August I’ve had something new or interesting to report to my journal.  (Example:  “Day 15 – A clear sky full of the brightest stars I’ve seen since Arizona lured me out the front door.  Found myself in the midst of a yard-full of skunks digging for ground hornets.  Can’t get over their size!  They all immediately raised their tails but thankfully fled the scene without a smell.”)

In the next few months we will have the yurts set up on their floors and others will join us here.  I’ve turned the page from living and envisioning to living the vision.  And because these changes accord with the original intents and purposes underlying this blog, I now hope to turn the same page here as well; documenting and sharing this new lifestyle with you.  Follow your dreams!  Namaste.

An Off-Grid Future

Once upon a time I had the pleasure of living  in the beautiful nowhere of Arizona beneath an old, creaking windmill that rhythmically drew water up from the Earth for our pleasure. I have also lived without power and with a percentage of my power generated by the Wind and Sun.  These are all conditions I would return to.  In fact, I am planning on an off-grid future.

Over the past few weeks I’ve been researching innovations in the off-grid arena and thought I’d share just a smidge:

WIND

According to the Global Wind Energy Council the wind power industry grew 31% last year despite the economy, making wind power a 63 billion dollar a year industry.  Investors are not hesitating to throw their money into the wind.  Grin.

One of the most promising products for home wind energy production is Honeywell’s new gearless turbine, engineered to serve the mainstream.  It was named one of Popular Mechanics 10 Most Brilliant Products of 2009 and solves many of the issues commonly associated with personal wind turbines.  The gearless turbine requires only a quarter of the wind speed to generate power, compared to geared turbines of the same diameter!

SUN

Another promising product from Popular Mechanics 10 Most Brilliant Products list that I’d already taken notice of in the Blogosphere is the Andalay AC Solar PV Panel.  Because it’s an AC system, there’s no need for an inverter and a tricky wiring job.  All the mounts, racking and wiring are built right in.  Essentially the closest thing there is to plug-and-play power for the home user!

WATER

Unlike Sun and Wind, which can be more or less accessed by everyone to some degree, using hydro-power relies on being lucky enough to have access to a source of running water from the property.  Yet when there is a spring, creek, or river (or if you happen to live on a boat), a micro-hydro power system is the most constant and reliable source of renewable energy available.   The most recent advances in micro-hydro turbines seem to reflect a similar trends in the wind power industry toward permanent magnet motors with fewer parts.  This improves performance in every way – creating turbines with more responsivity and less parts to wear out.

BIO-DIESEL

As I don’t drive and don’t feel particularly inclined toward fuel-burning engines, bio-diesel is admittedly not my forte.   However, I am savvy enough of off-grid circles to have second-hand knowledge of the glory of the Listeroid, a heavy-duty diesel generator that can be run off of filtered waste vegetable oils.  The Lister diesel generator isn’t anything new.  In fact, it originally came onto the market in 1929 and is today a standard of the Amish.  It is also known for bringing a reliable power source to scores of remote locales around the globe.    It can specifically,  directly power older tools & equipment having belt drives, or newer devices like water pumps, as it works to generate power for your battery bank.  Good for an off-grid homestead!  Put one in your workshop and use it to power the tools, pump some water, and back-up the batteries of your primary system on calm, cloudy days!

FUEL CELL

Is this the future? The Bloom Box has been called technologies’ newest darling, perhaps in part to early high-profile customers like Google and e-bayThis fuel cell device is small enough to fit in the palm of your hand, and it takes only two of these small boxes to power the traditional American household.  The suggestion is that for an initial investment of roughly $6k the standard American home will be able to become their own power center; just order on-line and set it up without having to worry about wiring.   Also, because the boxes can generate both energy and hydrogen the company describes a future where Bloom Boxes are paired with solar and wind systems to enable 24-hour power AND are used distribute hydrogen to “hydrogen fueling infrastructures”, potentially providing fuel for your hydrogen-powered car.  While you still have to feed the Bloom Box fuel after your initial investment, they are capable of using renewable bio-fuels, converting the fuel into electricity and hydrogen at over twice the standard rates.  It is this factor – that fossil fuels aren’t requisite – that is the Boxes’ saving grace and sets this technology apart from other similar (and failed) attempts at the same idea.

There are so many other amazing ideas  in development out there aimed at an off-grid future, from city-powering wave generators to kite-sails designed to harvest electricity for villages of clustered homes…the list goes on.  What I included here I kept on the home-powered, reasonably affordable scale.