We came back from Mexico in March and we’re leaving again in November.
That means that this month – July – is our “hump month”. It’s like Wednesday is in a working week.
Hump Month just draaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaags for me, like molasses in winter.
It’s hot. It’s slow. It’s hot. I miss Mikey.
We ALL miss Mikey
It’s such a toss up, you know?
Spend all this time away from him for months – we only seem him usually for an hour or so in the morning and an hour or so at night. 7 days a week.
But then we get to be full time families for FIVE MONTHS.
Although we might be changing that too.
We love the Lost Coast so much and Mikey and Dana are doing well with the farm, so we will probably stay here year-round if the (still unfinished) yurt gets finished and we can actually live in it through a Humboldt Winter.
And we think if THAT happens, we’ll live here, year round. We’ll travel someplace that we’ll fly to, and stay for a shorter time. We’ll do more work on the farm, and start building a retreat center here too. Cuz you want to come and visit, right?!
Hell yeah! You know you do!
We have alligator lizards galore and hummingbirds that come into the house!
And by the time you get here, I’ll have hummingbirds dripping off of me, sitting on my shoulders and eating from my hand. “The Hummingbird Whisperer”, that’s what people will call me!
Moving on, The Kids.
We have happy kids.
While I might feel like July is Hump Month and drags from here on out, I sincerely doubt they do.
They are just… fun loving little light seekers that wring the hell out of every drop of joy they can find.
I feel like my kids are the most interesting, interested children in the world
I’ll bet you think that about your own kids too, don’t you? Which goes to show that we all really do get the kids that are perfect for us. Sometimes whether we realize it or not.
Micah is back to normal – thank you SO MUCH for all the support
His voice is solid, he is happy and back to his typical level of examining how the universe works. And bionicals. And Legos. And craft/cooking/making/stuff and being complicated and yet still a little boy.
It’s all going to work out.
I have too much to do. I hate all the (neverending) housework that sort of grates on my soul but if I neglect it, things are waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay worse, so better to just flow into oneness with drudgery.
It takes me 2 hours to drive from our yurt on the hill to Costco. Or a mall. Or McDonald’s (not that I’d be going there anyway though, right?!). That sounds so far and people tend to flip out a little when they hear that, like “oh, I could NEVER do that!”
But the thing is, I’m not driving in urban conditions. I’m not going bumper to bumper with some rage-filled commuter. I’m not slogging through an exit with 2 other cars necking in. I’m not being cut off by a pissed off mom in a minivan.
Driving for half an hour in the Bay Area usually left me bitter, seething, and with tension roiling in my belly.
2 hours here, driving through this? I’m a zen master, baby
The last time we saw this family was in a parking lot in San Cristobel, Chiapas. We had spent a week together in Ocosingo, waiting for their trailer brake drum to arrive. Before that, we camped in the waterfalls in Chiapas together, and even before that, Mahahual. You know where we met them? Where we camped near Cancun. We were there to meet my mom flying in and they were also there for family.
We hit it off fast – and I don’t think it’s just because there are so few families with little kids traveling in Mexico (Andrew was actually on his Canadian paternity leave – little Johnny was almost a newborn when they left). I think it’s because they are genuine people – and they do super rad things like build rafts out of twigs in odd moments with the kids. They are climbers with this enormously contagious zest for life that is thoroughly soaked in their love for humanity and their commitment to walking the talk.
As a family and as individuals, they are some of the nicest people we’ve ever met in our lives, point blank.
Here are some photos:
We love them. We are sad they left. I think we might have to plan a trip to Canada and visit these guys…
You know those close up looks at open, oozing wounds that people take and post on Facebook? The pictures of their rashes or their kid’s diseases that are virulent, raw, and jump pretty horrifically out of your feed at you? Yeah, well, I hate that crap. That’s right up there on my list of pet peeves in social media.
So I won’t be posting pictures of my poison oak, because let me tell you: this is oozing, blistering, nasty, bumpy, red and horrible looking. It would jump out of your feed something fierce and you’d likely have some nightmares over it.
But I *will* show you the plant that caused it:
So pretty. So innocuous looking. So much pain held within those tender green leaves.
It has spread ALL OVER my left arm – I’m talking, from my armpit (of all places) down to my wrist, in splotches. And the left bottom of my back. And my right is itchy too. Bumps on my belly. There are bumps that I can resist scratching all through the day that I apparently scratch in my sleep and make this show go on. And on. And on.
This helps a lot.
If I had washed myself in this soap immediately after exposure to poison oak (- which, living where we do, means just using it daily), I would have caught it in it’s tracks. As it was, I didn’t know, it grew. It’s just misery.
What helps the most strangely enough, is taking hot showers. Our shower water comes straight from the springs on our property and the water is heated by our little propane heater. The water gets HELLA hot, but it’s outside and it’s cool outside, so the contrast is really wonderful. Now, with poision oak, the hot water evidently heats up the resins in my skin – I can actually feel them bubbling around – then they get stimulated so it’s almost unbearable. It’s like that feeling that you have when you want to sneeze – know what I’m talking about? – and you can’t. By tenfold. And under your skin. It’s total agony, then it goes away, and the itching goes away with it, for a few hours.
I’m waiting for the calamine lotion and aloe vera gel. They are supposed to help. The baking soda didn’t. It felt nice and cool and I wanted to scratch it. I didn’t try the vinegar/water.
On the bright side of my body, my broken foot is SO MUCH BETTER. I can walk with hardly a limp and only twinges of pain. Yesterday I actually noticed that it had been a few hours since I had felt my foot at all! This is exciting. Cue dreams of marathon running.
Other stuff from our corner of the world:
Super Hero Training Camp.
Uh huh, really! The Best School Ever hits another home run
Other news: the roses are doing great, the chickens are getting lots of worms, Mack is happy with life in general and with accessories in particular, and cows are just too frickin’ cool.
You know what annoys the crap out of me? Posts like that one from Off The Grid News that was was going viral recently about the family in Kentucky who were living off the grid. They had their kids taken away, etc, etc and everyone was freaking out about it, like OH MY GOD! The government is going to come and take everyone’s kids away! They are unschooling! This is about the government’s quest to control homeschooling! ACK! This is about a crackdown on religion or having lots of kids!
To be clear: we have a highly imperfect government. Amen.
But there was a hell of lot more to that story than Off the Grid News – and facebook groups full of supporters – were talking about. Like the family was basically living in a tent – with SNOW, it’s Kentucky and barely out of winter – without water. I mean, that’s a pretty big deal.
What pisses me off about this kind of thing is that everyone starts thinking that “off the grid” is synonymous with some piss-poor parenting. And it’s not. It’s synonymous with independent living.
The deal with living off the grid is, you are self-sufficient. You get your own power going, you deal with your own basic needs like water, sewage, garbage and so forth. You are not tethered to companies and as such, you don’t have bills like people who live on the grid do. Or rather, you have a different set of bills.
Rather than pay for your electricity every month, you invest in a solar system and let that carry you forward. Rather than pay for your garbage to be taken out weekly by the city, you pay yourself when you haul it to the dump. And you deal with your own compost.
And you deal with your own shit. Literally. You let your waste matter decompose and you haul it out of your outhouse when the time is right.
Living off the grid isn’t an excuse to not live responsibly or to not allow your children to grow up comfortably. Living off the grid is teaching your kids how to actually do these things for themselves.
Unschooling follows similar lines. I mean, you want to let your kids just run loose and without guidance? That’s one way – and it sounds a lot like that family in Kentucky was following that path. Or there is another way, which is to really work with and nurture each child. Sans curriculum but definitely with guidance. You can raise your kids responsibly and unschool them as a way to prepare them for their future – for sure! – but stories like this give the whole lot a really bad name.
Living off the grid isn’t something that most people should or or even could do. That’s just a fact – it’s not easy getting set up, and frankly, most people in developed countries now simply lack those types of skills – people don’t know how to wash their clothes by hand anymore, or how to run water pipes from their springs to their kitchen. How to compost or how to deal with their waste. These are forgotten skills in most areas of the United States.
But the fact that some people tried it and didn’t do it responsibly while caring for their 10 dependents shouldn’t give the rest of us – who ARE doing it responsibly and doing it well – a bad name.
It was Micah’s birthday first – then Moxie’s. Mack thought it was his, too! Mikey and I trailed along, so did the chickens. And May Day. And these flowers blooming all over the Lost Coast. And perfect life in a flannel-laced paradise with hummingbirds!
It’s kind of surreal to me that I was sick from the anxiety of coming back only a short while ago – did that really happen??!! Was I really so stressed out? But, yeah and yeah. Now that the bulk of the basic work has been done – I cleaned up the house and the garden area immediately by the house, cleaned the outhouse and laundry areas – it’s pretty wonderful to be here.
Mack and I have this thing. We sit outside, me on my rocking chair and him on his little Ikea relaxer, and we just sit there when Moxie and Micah are at school and we want to take a break. We look out across our meadow and mountains and trees all around. We don’t talk much, we just sit there and watch the hawks, hummingbirds, butterflies, lizards. Always something going on out there. It’s like Nature’s TV.
And our chickens!
We love these girls
Our old fig tree is still here and growing splendidly. A neighbor told us that there used to be an old homestead right next to the fig tree, and they raised sheep. The sheep used to hang out by the tree, and that’s why the tree grew to what it is now – this MASSIVE tree of unbelievably proportions.
The chickens dig it.
Micah’s gone through some bumps in transitions back to school; Moxie hasn’t. There you go.
You know why? Cuz it’s never, EVER dull. We are way the way out there in our Californian version of the Canadian hinterlands (is “hinterlands” even a word? I just stuck that in there because I liked the sound of it, but I’m not honestly sure). And the thing is, people always have this totally misbegotten idea that the only life that’s exciting is the urban one. WRONG, that’s SO COMPETELY wrong, it makes my head ache, yo! WRONG. It’s out here that the going gets juicy!
I never found a snake in my place in the Bay Area, for starters.
can we just dig into that for a minute?!! SNAKE IN THE HOUSE!!!
SNAKE IN THE HOUSE!!!!
BIG SLITHERING LIVE SNAKE IN THE HOUSE!!!
– OH MY GOD! I needed to get that out there, thanks. I might need to say it again- SNAKE IN THE HOUSE!!! – because, you know, SNAKE IN THE HOUSE!!!
moving on – SNAKE IN THE HOUSE!! – I never had to rely on satellite like we do out here.
This is probably a bucket of “excitement” I could do without, because it meant that we sort of had internet access every other day between 8:30-9:30am for 4 days ( -which actually equaled two days – “every other day”, uh huh), then none at all for 10 (very very, verrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrry long) days.
Apparently the dish was blown out of alignment in a winter storm. The guy who fixes it – he’s Samoan by the way, SAMOAN! – gets lost when he drives out here and it takes him anywhere from 2 weeks to a month to get the roads found. Yeah, that’s how far out we are, that’s how hard to find we are, and that’s why it’s not a good idea to think you’ll be able to pop by for a visit without GPS coordinates if you are not a local (not that GPS will help that much without satellite access).
Meanwhile, the kids are having a blast. (SNAKE IN THE HOUSE!!)
Micah went back first. He had been waiting for this day for the past 5 months – and we’ve been using it to get him to do stuff (“Micah, if you don’t clean up, we won’t let you go back to school!”). We were all kind of holding our breath – him, because he was hoping it would be as good as he remembered (- it was – then it wasn’t, then it was again and…it’s a little complicated) and us, because we didn’t want to lose our bait (- we didn’t!!!).
Moxie went back the next day, and she walked out like a boss with floss.
Her teachers are absolutely first rate. They had arranged for the speech therapist to be there on her first day back (- and he has to drive 2 hours each way to see her). I hope she can get back to horse therapy soon – that part is conditional on my (still broken) foot being able to handle the driving on the roads.
Little sister was tired the next morning. But when she heard “school”, she revved up, got herself dressed and out faster than Micah could roll over.
Which left Mack at home with me. Just the two of us. I suspect that’s just the way he likes it.
SNAKE IN THE HOUSE! SNAKE IN THE HOUSE! SNAKE IN THE HOUSE!!!!!
I was right to have been nervous about coming back. I mean, I found a mouse nest in my printer last year, remember? And alligator lizards in the sink and outhouse. I knew what we were coming home to.
But what I didn’t count on – at all – was Moxie’s reaction.
When we turned the truck into 4×4 gear and started up the winding, rough road uphill towards home, Moxie started to become very excited, bouncing in her car seat, saying, “Me! House!”
Me! House! Me! House! Me! House! Me House!
My heart got all warm and glowy-like, that busta-move feeling of joy so thick you could slice it with a butter knife.
I mean, Micah? I expected his excitement. Moxie? I hadn’t thought at all about how excited she might be, would be. And it was the coolest thing, seeing her rise to her own personal Cloud Nine at being back.
While everything has to be done, nothing is horrific, thanks to Mikey’s week of cleaning. It’s just bad. Like, there are no actual dead mouse bodies all over the place; it’s just mounds of mouse poop.
But there is a ton of stuff to sort out, put away. Cleaning is monumental, I’m talking HOLY COW, Mon-U-ment-AL.
The washing machine is on the fritz and the fridge that we used to use runs off a different solar power system that is a different voltage than our new system (which is AMAZING, by the way). The new fridge has arrived already – but it needs to be unpacked, hooked up and put away.
It’s a lot of work but THANKFULLY, my boots are doing a great job of holding my broken foot in place so I can limp around pretty well. High 5 to Lowa – they might be ugly boots, but I’ll be damned if they aren’t the best around.
And meanwhile, it’s exactly as I thought it might be: the beauty is enough to take my breath away and does a fine job of distracting me from anything that’s not completely pleasant.
I’ve learned something about myself in the past month. I’ve learned that while I used to deal with BIG STRESS by falling asleep (by dint of narcolepsy), I now puke. And eat. Not eat-then-puke (that would be bulimia and I’m not bulimic), not puke-then-eat (I don’t know what that’s called). It just puke. And eat. Two entirely different things.
I first puked for a week over our stuff getting stolen. I mean, I couldn’t stop, I’d think about it, my stomach would start roiling and there. I’d puke. You guys started chipping and the financial piece of it didn’t look as bad and my stress went down and I started eating. And eating. I was like a machine that was stuck at ‘on’.
At my mom’s house in the Bay Area, more stress! More eating! The stress cranked up a notch by all the talk about how much work there was to do at home on the Lost Coast, how the place smelled like mouse pee, was chock full of dead mice (“at least they are dead!”) and then there was no solar power so I couldn’t even call Mikey to touch base (our phone is run off of satellite/solar).
I started worrying about how on earth I was going to get all the supplies purchased and what supplies?! Is there a fridge? Does it work?! The guestimated list would need to last for a couple of weeks, with/without a fridge. And then I’d drive for 7 hours on the road pass that was supposedly icy from the recent rains and cold – with a BROKEN FOOT?! Have I mentioned that my foot is STILL BROKEN?! (- in fact, it was kind of funny how almost everyone I saw in the Bay Area was like, “OH! Man, I didn’t know your foot was STILL BROKEN!”)
Supplies. Hard manual work…with a broken foot. Thoughts of being lonely again. Bleh. And there – sick again.
Mikey connected with us when we stayed overnight in Cloverdale (- that’s also where the car battery died) and arranged to meet us in Blue Lake so that I wouldn’t drive the steepest part of the trip on my broken foot (you know, the part where it’s all cliff overlooking the ocean and a slight mis-step will land you to your very own watery grave! That part).
The whole entire way, my stomach wouldn’t stop. I can’t even explain it. The cumulative everything just kind of reached in and started messing around with my innards. The ride back should have been enjoyable. Lord knows it was heart-stoppingly beautiful. My head was just screwed on wrong by all the nausea.
Now, I have to admit that if I were you, if I was the one reading this and not writing it, I would be wondering why, if you (- meaning me, because I’d be you and you’d be me, right?) are so stressed out about going home, why do it? I mean, why choose that kind of life? And were you for real about all those rainbow farts anyway? Why are you all puking over stuff that you said ends up like the colours of a rainbow, the good and the bad?
I suspect the answer to those questions lie in the clouds that come right before the rainbow. It’s dark, uncertain and unclear. It takes time for the rainbow to shine through.
Living off the grid isn’t easy. Coming back to a world on a hill after 5 months of traveling around Mexico as a family isn’t easy. Building friendships in an area that is extremely private takes time and in the wait for that, there is loneliness. Trying to accomplish physical tasks with a non-functional foot is difficult. These are the non-easy parts, and the stress of these non-easy parts makes me puke.
That stress is the dark, uncertain part that, like a cloud, exists before the light of the rainbow can shine through, and maybe exists to serve as a catalyst for the rainbow to come at all.
I know what we are doing now is the right thing. But the right thing is not always the easy thing. You know what I mean? It’s like that for you, too, isn’t it? Sometimes you just KNOW that what you want is good for you, you can feel in your heart that it is the right thing to be doing, but it scares you so bad you feel sick, right?
“Coming home” for us doesn’t mean driving up to an abode, opening the door, flipping on the light and unpacking our stuff before stepping into the shower to wash the travel off. It doesn’t mean peeking in the fridge before we make a list and head off to Safeway to get the ingredients for some spaghetti.
Nope. Because for starters, Safeway is 2 hours away.
Rather than more typical questions about what needs to be done around the house or last-minute details with work or school, the questions we ask are more like, “so are the solar panels hooked up and the wiring finished?” “What type of power is it?”, “Do we need to get a fridge that runs on propane?” “Is the satellite service for the phone happening?” “How bad are the mice? Are the beds wrecked?”
It’s just so different.
It’s life on the raw, life off the grid
Mikey’s been busy on the farm for the past week, helping my brother get the solar panels installed and running. I’m sure they also have gotten some farming started, but for the most part, I am hoping that Mikey’s been able to unpack some of our stuff that he brought back with him and have the power set up.
I have no idea at all as to the state of the outdoor shower or outhouse.
Or the washing machine, and how that will work with this new power system.
Or the lights.
Or the fridge, which ran off of another solar grid which isn’t going to be used anymore.
I’m so nervous you guys. Scared, is more like it. Or just total chicken shit. I’m facing the hill and solo parenting again for the next 6 or 7 months. The bears (and snakes and mountain lions) on the property seem pretty feasible compared to how hard those endless summer days were for me last year. Washing clothes by hand. The searing loneliness I felt and how crazy-making that can get. The half hour drive to school, each way, 4 times a day.
I’m trying to take those deep breaths and remember that the hard parts this time will NOT be like last year.
I know what I’m doing this time (sorta), I know what to stock up on from Costco (kinda). I know where the laundry mat in Eureka is and I can get there if our own machine won’t work because of the new power system. Right?
I can do this!
Yes, yes, yes. I can. I can bring the kids up the hill and we’ll settle in and make the yurt comfortable. The kids will go to school next week – SCHOOL! They’ll be so happy!!
I’ll have the outdoor shower cleaned out and the whole meadow cleaned and in great shape in a couple of weeks. The fact that my foot is still broken won’t matter AT ALL. In fact! The gorgeousness of the hill will take my mind off of the pain and help me strengthen it and it will be the absolute best thing that could happen.
When the hard parts hit, I’ll take the kids and travel, just the 4 of us. We are happy on the road.
It’s a plan I can love. I just need to remember to take lots of deep breaths now and remember that it’s all going to work out. I can do this. It’s going to be more than just ‘okay’; it’s going to be ‘awesome’.