a boots-on-the-ground view of the change that's a-foot

Grid-Free and Off the Beaten Path – a journey

by Jeannie Newell, Crested Butte, CO

This just in:

Less is more!
Also, more is less!

I’m feeling really inspired right now.  I’m sure I sound like a raging idealist on this blog, but really I’m still somewhat pessimistic and cranky.  I am happier, though, I must admit.  These less & more’s are making me that way:

More work
Less pay
Less meat
More butter
Less car
More aspen trees
More eco-daydreams

I have taken on another job and now I work almost 60 hours a week.  No, I am not trying to make partner at anything.  I now have a gig as housekeeping assistant (heh) at a fantasticly cute little bed and breakfast in town, called the Cristiana Guesthaus.  The assistant job is more fun than being a housekeeper, which I don’t know if I could do.  This is actually a widely varied and super busy job.  I don’t stop moving from the time I get here to the time I leave.  Part of the point of off grid rent-free living is money savings that I really want to maximize at this point. I want to keep living the hiking / biking / camping life of leisure, but I have some credit card debt I really want to knock down.  This second job will help me do this quickly because my low-paying 30 hour a week job has been easily covering my no-rent lifestyle (student loan and cell phone / credit card payments included.)  My job at Mountain Earth pays almost $10 / hour less than I was making at my last real full time job.  So I’m working 7 days a week, but I am not working from 9am to late in the day.  I have big breaks during the day and two days that I don’t start until 2pm – which means plenty of sunshine.  At my last well-paying, full time job I would longingly stare out the window from my desk at the beautiful Durham days and wish for a tire swing I could lounge on in bare feet.
I have not resigned myself to working menial jobs for the rest of my life, and at 34 I get a little twitchy about my current lack of professional work, which I’m told is really the societal mirror talking – that is, my perception of what society thinks I should be doing.  Which, theoretically, is where people go wrong – because they choose their work to define / esteem themselves instead of really listening to themselves.  For me, for the time being, more jobs and less pay = more motion, more action, less sitting at a desk, less screwing around aimlessly online and a general feeling of purpose and happiness.  I have been reunited with the high school side of me that learned to perform even the smallest tasks with pride.
I eat meat.  I am not entirely convinced that humans should live without meat, even though I do agree that perpetuating the need for killing animals is sort of an act of violence.  My sister Anne (and one of my favorite people) gave me a book to read on the move out to Colorado, and the chapter on slaughterhouse practices – current slaughterhouse practices, not those from the days of Upton Sinclair – had me crying through half the state of Kansas.  Why would I want to be part of the gluttonous machine that drives that need for horrible suffering?  Eating less meat means I can afford to buy meat that is truly raised and slaughtered humanely and not a lot of it.  The kind of meat that is raised in such a way as to not destroy the environment.  Nancy told me three Colorado winters living in a yurt showed her very quickly that she needed meat to stay warm.  (Notably, after living in the yurt she designed the coolest and most beautiful hexagonal straw bale home for herself that she has lived in for the last 12 years.) Thanks to Steph and Nancy who made me some wonderful veggie based meals this past week, I have really rekindled my passion for making healthy food.  Armed with a little chicken broth and tamari, I’ve done some pretty good work.  When I use meat and cheese, I’ve been using them to season meals, while using salt, butter, and oils a little more liberally.  On vegetables, not on a piece of meat with cheese slapped on top.  I don’t guess the really fatty traditional butter is bad is if you’re having a little on a big old bowl of sauteed kale.  For me right now, more veggies, more fruits and less meat, more butter, more salt, less bread, less pasta = really great food that feels good to my soul.
I’m working on ‘less car.’  I’ve slacked this week because I’ve been working so much.  I’m renewing my commitment to riding back and forth now that I think I’ve adjusted.  I still have time to go on 3 or 4 hikes a week, taking in the aspens and  wildflowers that abound here.  I have to be careful, because sometimes too much biking and hiking in one day and I’m exhausted at work.  I can report that I am addicted to the biking now, because it’s like a big old happiness fix everytime I do it. (biking’s got to be the new prozac)
I’m having some trouble with the solar panel, that I’m keeping an eye on.  I’m not at the camper as much so I haven’t been minding the frozen water bottles in the fridge and if I’m not careful about what I buy, the food will go bad (I hate that!) I have less time to find for laundry and showers and I’m trying to stay on top of those things.  I take more baths in sinks these days and wear my bandanas more!  People tell me I smell fine, whenever I ask, I hope they’re not just being nice.  I still nurture my eco-daydreams, and wonder what life would be like if everyone composted, recycled paper, plastic, cans, or even better – thought about whether they really needed that drink in the plastic bottle, and only bought one when they really wanted it.  They’re something to be said for having the regular things in your life become treats. *sigh.  Someday people will realize that conservation is a happiness fix, too.  Caring for things beyond yourself has been proven time and again to improve a person’s self worth.
There’s also something hugely satisfying about falling out of your shoes at the end of the day, having the energy for nothing but a glass of wine, reading before bed while snuggling with your dog – then passing out at 9:30 for the rest of the night.  it’s been a long week!

Also, I think all this talking about myself in one fell swoop is making me a better listener.  Maybe a possible side-effect of blogging.  Peace and love,


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