Back to my Roots

Amber and her first pair of Moccasins
……In Amber Wood’s latest blog, she moves closer to going off the grid:

Ask a farmer if he enjoys his work and he will probably tell you he’s tired. If you press him, you’ll learn he takes great pride in what he does, and that of course he’s tired — he’s actually working.
Many people today have never even been given the opportunity to enjoy eating things they planted. Nor enjoyed the warmth of a fire they lit themselves, nor taught their children how to stack firewood.
There are lessons to be learned in basic living and rewards to be earned, if we can just get back to it.

Does that mean I want dirt floors like my great grandmother? No. Not really.
But I do know that heating marble floors is a bitch.
So what’s the answer?

Admittedly, I’ve been unsure about the idea of living off the grid or homesteading as an option for myself.
I’m a woman with thick hair that grows to the middle of my back, and I like to blow dry it in the mornings. I enjoy hot showers and at one point in my life, I even owned a dishwasher.
You could say that I’ve been spoiled by the frills of modern society.
That said, I come from a Native American family, so the idea of off the grid living isn’t completely foreign to me.
Native Americans are off the grid by design, and I’ve always felt really connected to that — its where I come from.
My great grandmother lived in what can only be described as a hut, with dirt floors and a coal “stove” in which she cooked. Rainwater bathing was commonplace. I remember visiting her as a child and my father explained we wore our moccasins as to not disturb her floor. I was young and confused, since the floors he was speaking of were completely made of dirt anyway.
But what I understand now that I didn’t then, is that dirt can be disturbed. And sometimes shouldn’t be. For instance, if it’s part of your home.
And so I wore my moccasins.
My childhood aside, and forgoing the fact that some of my close friends are into sustainable living and even off the grid living, I think it would be amazing if I could take the entire city I live (OK, it’s not that many people) in Havre de Grace, Md off the grid, or perhaps we go “homesteading.”
Since the economy has tanked and everyone is putting their McMansions up for sale, many families are downsizing into a third (or less) of the space they had grown accustomed to living.
So the question is, could most people go even farther? Live with even less space? Less energy? Less frills?
Hell yes they could.
I realize this is hypothetical, but wouldn’t it be interesting to see how people held up?
We’re talking about something that most of you are already used to (or at least you’re toying with the idea, since you’re on this website. And if not, then perhaps you’re fascinated by us freaks who are) so wouldn’t growing and canning your own foods, dealing with your own wastewater management systems, creating homemade power and practicing frugality really bring back the “survival of the fittest” mentality?
You know it.
Anyway, since a dear friend of mine is looking forward to constructing an off the grid community (or if that doesn’t take off the ground, a homestead experience for he and his family) the idea has been rolling around in my head without avail.
It’s fascinating to me.
It could be because I’m revolting against Baltimore Gas and Electric (BG&E) or maybe because Nick Rosen reached out to me at the height of my frustration with the cost of modern “conveniences” or maybe just because I’ve been doing a lot of research about options, or maybe it’s that my ancestors are subliminally calling to me from the reservation.
Either way, I’ve been thinking of ways to propose the idea of off-grid living to others, since I will likely be helping my friend “pitch” his communal idea.
Sure, at first it sounds off-the-wall, and it is undoubtedly different from the way many are used to living now, but like introducing people to all “new” things, we must teach them to crawl before we teach them to run.
If you’ve ever taken a non-sushi-eating friend to dinner at a great japanese place, then you’ve probably helped introduce them to the world of raw saline by ordering something cooked and wrapped in rice that sort of looks like sushi. And then when they’re really into it, you sneak in the good stuff.
I think that’s just how we have to approach a lot of unconventional things in life (not that sushi is all that unconventional.)
When it comes to introducing your friends and family to off the grid living or homesteading or even just sustainable or renewable options for their homes, I think it’s important to give them the cooked sushi first.
Talk to them about recycling, and see how they feel. Unless they’ve been living in a closet for the past 20 years or they’re from another planet, chances are, they’re on the recycling bandwagon by now. Ask them about organic foods and if they shop at farmers markets, given the chance. Ask them lots of questions.
I say this because I think it’s important we go backward in order to go forward.
The basics of life are food, shelter, water, sleep and sex.
I think if we consider our ancestors and where we came from, the answers to the future have already been given to us.
It’s not a magical formula written amongst the stars.
There is no mathematical equation to figure this out.
We still have the same basic needs, we have just fluffed them up into something that is nearly impossible to obtain or maintain.
And for those who are maintaining such lifestyles, they are working their asses off with little personal reward for themselves and their family.
What’s the way of life for those of us who are survivors? And for our future generations?
We have to look at what we came from.
The caves, the huts, the cabins, the farm.
And then we have to dust off our moccasins and get to work.

3 Responses

  1. Hey- I live just across the bridge in Charlestown! I’m really interested in hearing about your journey to sustainable living in a semi-urban environment. Send me an email if you’d like to chat. :)

  2. My husband I just bought 40 acres in N. Nevada. The electric company stops six miles from the property.
    I can’t wait to not have an electric bill, water bill, sewer bill.
    We’re not tiptoeing off the grid. We’re diving head first. We’ve told friends that we’ll draw them a map, there will always be food and shelter, and if they ever need us – haul buggy and come.

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