Hello and welcome all readers, friends, those I have met and those I know through the internet. This is a first for me, blogging, I have resisted blogging ever since I first heard of it, for reasons I can’t explain, most likely because it was the “in” thing to do, and I tend to be anti-trendy. But now, I find that I have a need to write down my new adventures for those who want to keep up with what I am doing, so I am now part of the blogger family.
As to my adventure, well, I am finally doing something that most people only dream about, it was certainly something I have dreamed about for many years… I am moving from the “big city” to a bit of acreage on a mountain side in west Texas (yes, Texas does have mountains). I will be living off-grid, that means I will not be hooked up to any utilities. No electric, no water, no gas, no phone… To some, that sounds scary, to others, it sounds like heaven, I am of the latter group. That doesn’t mean I will be living without electricity, water, gas or phone service, I will just have to make my own electricity, bring in my own water and gas, the phone will be my trusty cell phone. Heat will be generated with a wood stove, I will cook with wood, propane and solar.
The beginning of this started last summer (2007), my husband and I had been talking about moving away from the city (Irving Texas) and becoming more self sufficient. My husband had been to west Texas as a younger man, he spent a summer in west Texas in his early 20’s and fell in love with the area, the climate and the people. He always wanted to go back there, and now, some 20 something years later, he is getting to do it. He suggested the area to me, we researched it on line, and headed out for west Texas. This was in June, hot as hades here near Dallas, we packed our little truck, loaded up the dog and started out. It is a 500 mile trip (on way), it took us the better part of a day to get there. It was late in the afternoon when my husband pointed out the mountains in the distance, at first they looked so faint, they could have been easily mistaken for low lying clouds. That was when I started becoming a little nervous, was I really doing this? By the time we began to hit the foothills, it was pretty dark, and getting late. I couldn’t see much, I could tell that we were snaking in and around taller and taller hills, there were a few night animals on the road from time to time. I remember seeing a very large owl in the road, we also saw a few jackrabbits and possibly a few wild pigs.
By the time we pulled into town, it was well after midnight and the town was buttoned up. We had called ahead the day before and talked to the owner of a RV park/campground, he told us just to pull in and if his office was closed, just to set up our tent and see him in the morning. When we pulled into town, we turned in to the first place that looked like the right place, but it just seemed wrong, we couldn’t see a good place to set up our tent, the place looked more like a hotel/motel. We decided to drive further into town and see what else was available. It was the right thing to do, we had pulled into the wrong place. We found the right RV park/campground, and sure enough, the owner was still awake, it seems that he is a bit of a night owl. We got set up in a space to pitch our tent. It was so quiet there, we tried to make as little noise as possible, there were several campers and RVs set up nearby, and we assumed there must be people sleeping in them. It turned out that they were empty, but being quiet seemed like the right thing to do none the less.
That night got pretty cool, even in the middle of summer, nights in the high desert are often chilly to downright cold. We slept the rest of the night in our little tent and kept each other warm. The following morning, I climbed out of the tent to greet the morning, it was so beautiful, with the sun bouncing off the surrounding mountains! And it was still fairly quiet, I was somewhat surprised to find we were nearly in downtown, the main road in town was just a few feet away from where we slept all night. It’s a very small and quiet town.
We got up, ate a quick breakfast, used the available showers & bathroom, packed up our stuff and drove on through town. We found the real estate office in town and dropped in. We had already picked out a couple of properties nearby (though outside of the main town), I will remain a bit vague about exactly where this property is located to maintain our privacy and safety, close friends and family know where it is, but that’s as much as I feel comfortable divulging in such a public place. Anyhoo, the real estate lady helped us to find the locations of the properties we were looking at. We spent one more night at the RV park/campground in town, and got permission to spend one night on the property we were considering purchasing. We went back into town and made an offer on the land, it was perfect for us, it was just private and isolated enough, but not too isolated, there are other people nearby, but not so close as to be a bother. It turned out that the owner of the land was out of the country, he was a contractor for the government and was located in the middle east, so negations took a bit more time that I expected. We could only stay less that a week because we both had to get back to work. We left now knowing for sure if we had the land or not.
Suffice it to say that our offer was accepted and we began the process of completing all of the paperwork. This was about a month later. Since that time, we have been out there several times to check out the property, meet the neighbors & other locals, decide where to build. I took my dad on one of the trips, I would like for him to move out there too, he really likes it out there and is seriously considering it, he has even designed the house he wants to build, we are waiting for another property to come available so he can purchase it and start building.
All this time, while going out to west Texas, I had not told anyone where I worked about this, not that I wanted to keep secrets, I just didn’t know if it was really going to work out so I didn’t want to worry my employers. I worked for Best Buy, in the merchandising department, I got to “play” with everything, touch everything before it went out on the sales floor. I displayed items, stocked, priced, just about anything you could see, I probably touched in some way or another. I had been there for over 10 years, I really enjoyed working there, I had a great bunch of people to work with. I also worked for Curves, a gym for women, I had done that for a couple of years, and had a large number of friends there, it was like I had a dozen sisters, aunts, mothers and grandmothers, basically a large extended family. I hated to tell both jobs that I would be leaving, but I knew I couldn’t stay either. Neither place wanted to let me go, and it was difficult to leave, but now I know it was the right thing to do. If you want to start a new life, that usually means giving up your old life, not always an easy thing to do, but for me, a very rewarding thing, especially in the longrun.
My husband has taken many more trips out there than I have, he began to build our house, actually more of a cabin. It’s 16×16, one room, it’s build up off the ground about 6 feet, on piers. It’s not finished, but it’s complete enough to move in and we can work on it as we live there. For electricity, we have several solar panels, several golf cart batteries, a couple of controllers (these keep the batteries from overcharging) and a couple of inverters. We also have a small gasoline powered generator for backup purposes. We don’t require much in the way of electricity, we will not be watching TV, we don’t need a big refrigerator or lots of lights. If we get bored, all we have to do is look outside, or better yet, GO outside and visit the “nature channel” just outside our front door.
The nature channel is right, there are white tail deer and mule deer in abundance, they pass through the property each morning and each evening. There is also a small herd of feral donkeys that travel around, you don’t always see them, but you certainly see what they leave behind, big piles of donkey poo :) There are also lots of other animals, so far we have seen dozens of different birds, from the smallest humming birds to great large hawks flying on thermals (will have to get a book to identify all of them), grey foxes (fed them grapes), several varieties of snakes (a baby rock rattle snake and others), a pink colored horned toad, bats, lots of different insects, there is a grasshopper that is abundant there, it’s black but when it flies, it displays red, I suspect it’s the wings, and it makes a loud buzzing sound as it flies by. There are also many species of ants, fortunately it seems that fire ants haven’t made it out there, I hope the desert is a enough of a blockade for them. When I was a kid living in the Fort Worth area, I used to play with grey/green horned toads, they were abundant, along with their favorite food, large red ants. Within a few years of the fire ants taking over, the large red ants vanished, and the horned toads vanished too. I hope that never happens in west Texas.
The sky near out there is amazing! It’s so clear, you can see the milky way, and you don’t have to wait long to see a passing satellite or a shooting star. In fact, that area is well known for star gazing, there is a well know observatory out there, and the surrounding towns take great care not to create light pollution. All the public lighting in town is very subdued, and you will not see street lights on the highways. Where my property is located, it’s very dark at night, unless the moon is out. I love to lay outside and watch the sky slide past, I am still awed at the number of stars I can see, I hope I never get used to it.
Right now, we are back in Irving, we had to tie up a few loose ends, our house for one, my husband’s son is taking over the house, he has moved in and we are working on getting the last few things moved out. We had hoped to be out of here long before now, but the best laid plans of mice and men… anyhoo, we hoped to be gone by last weekend, again the plans were scrapped, and now with the rain on us, we are waiting for a clear day to travel. We have a full sized Chevy pickup (older model), made for hauling big things, we have a 28 foot trailer, used to be a travel trailer, but was stripped down to its frame, that is how we purchased it, just a frame on wheels. It’s packed up with our remaining belongings. We have my husband’s work van, an older model minivan. I had a Ford Ranger pickup, but traded it for a 69 VW Beetle, looks like crap, but runs great, we plan on baja’ing it, that may sound like a lopsided trade, but where our property is located, there are miles of dirt roads, and most vehicles are pretty well trashed out within 6 months to a year after driving on them on a regular basis. The older model Bugs were designed to go forever and on pretty rough roads, it will be cheap to drive and cheap to maintain, a win-win situation. I will use the minivan to tow the Bug, I will drive behind my husband who will be using the Chevy to pull the trailer. It takes about 12 hours to drive out there when you are towing heavy things and have to drive slower. If you are just driving a regular car or truck, not towing anything, you can make it in about 9 hours. We hope to be able to leave on Wednesday or Thursday of this week, the first nice day, we are outta here!
Interesting. My wife and I bought a couple hundred acres in that harsh West Texas country. You’re right…the mountains, wildlife and night sky are magnificent. We’re planning on leaving this large, luxury house in Fort Worth to live off-grid with plenty of hard work in the near future, too. We can’t wait to get out of this “soft” city environment to a safer, healthier one that will require good old fashioned hard work for self sufficiency.