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

Posts Tagged ‘off-grid’

Conveniently Off-Grid – a Summer Adventure

Wednesday, March 18th, 2009

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

It’s beginning to look like I just might make it happen – an off-grid Summer. Since last year, I’ve been planning and hoping and dreaming about a low-carbon adventure in Vermont for the Summer. I’ve found a spot near Brattleboro – it has a small 100-year-old building on it which used to be a blacksmith shop. No frills, that’s certain, but a hopefully non-leaky roof over my head. The rest? Minimize and create is my mantra. Here are some of my ideas so far:

I’m ready to use a composting toilet, and solar shower, filled in a nearby pond. Bonfire and a candle lantern at night will be enough to get me through the limited hours of darkness during these warm months. I’m used to eating mostly raw food during this time of year so I won’t worry much about cooking, though some kind of makeshift root cellar would be nice for vegetables – I’m still working on that one, so if you have ideas, pass them on. Although I’ll be next to 100 acres of preservation and near a State Park, I will also be within a 6mile bicycle ride to town, so I can feed myself healthily without refrigeration by making the trip every few days.

Everything but the kitchen sink, right? Well, actually, I found a couple versions of that, too! If you’ve been to music or other festivals, you’ve probably seen the “Use Yer Foot” washing station, made here in NC. One soapy jug and one fresh water container is perfect for washing up on demand. I can also collect the grey water in the tub below to wash dishes. For the more portable “sink”, you can also try the collapsable nylon and cable versions holding between 5 – 20 liters by Sea to Summit. Fill at your nearest water source, then carry back to camp.

This one I’ve been waiting for – grid or no-grid. The collapsible Solo Pack, by Fozzils – a bowl, plate, cup and spoon, made from bisphenol-A-free plastic that fold perfectly flat and weighs only a few ounces. The cup is what I’ve really been after – something more convenient than a water bottle that I can have with me everywhere.

What will I be doing up there in the North East, you ask? Getting back to the basics, doing some outdoor yoga on used plywood, hiking with the dogs, and writing and dreaming about a simply sustainable life for everyone. After that, I’ll let you know!

Rawganique…and Inspiration – a crooked path

Wednesday, October 15th, 2008

There really are no coincidences. No mistakes, no accidents. This is how the journey happens, I promise. Just remember to keep your eyes, mind open.

There I was, in the woods with the dogs (again). We somehow disturbed a nest of yellowjackets – the dogs got the worst of it – those buggers burrow right into their fur. We got into a creek fairly quickly and I was pulling the stubborn bees off the dogs as fast as I could. I felt a few stings on my hands, but kept going until a bee found it’s way down the back of my jeans  – eek – sorry, girls, you’re on your own now! We finally outran the swarm and collapsed on the grass near the house.

BEE STING REMEDY: Within about 15 minutes, I was able to give the homeopathic remedy, Apis Mellifica, and a dose of baking soda dissolved in milk to all of us. (It works great if you can act fast!). Ayla’s eye swelled but went down again within 30 minutes of dosage and, as for me, I barely knew I was stung after an hour (I normally react to all bee stings with long-lasting pain and swelling). Moral of the story? Keep these remedies on hand, especially in the Fall, when some bees become more aggressive. But, the story has really only begun…

At this point, I realized I had thrown the leashes somewhere in the woods. I bravely returned to the scene of the crime that evening, but since the leashes were leather and the color of the ground, I couldn’t locate them. This is when the unfolding began. Need leashes…but I don’t want more toxic nylon or leather…time to search for more sustainable options. Of course, Hemp! I knew they were available, but I didn’t know how much I would learn and be inspired by the company which offered me the most simple, undyed version.

Rawganique made my day. Not just with the discovery of their many good for people and the planet products, but with their inspiring, hopeful and unambitious story of life and work. The founders of Rawganique, Touch Jamikorn and Klaus Wallner, former accomplished academics, set out to share information on sustainable living for humanity and the environment – and a way to live lightly and work mindfully. Living completely off-grid on Denman Island, BC, they co-founded a “human-scale” family business in 2000, replacing bad goods in the marketplace by offering products and clothing made of naturally organic and sustainable cotton, hemp and linen.

Their About Us page reads like a good book – one that leaves you hopeful and encouraged to find your own way to peace and balance in your life and in your work. They don’t take all the credit for finding their way to success, health and wholeness, but share the names and ideas of those who have guided and inspired them along the way. After all, this is how it works.

Watching. Listening. Sharing. Growing. Healing. All from a few bee stings~

Grid-Free and Off The Beaten Path – a journey

Monday, August 11th, 2008

by Jeannie Newell, Crested Butte, CO

With my 20/20 hindsight, I have seen a few things I would do differently for ‘off-grid’ living if I had to do it all over again.  I would definitely consider buying a second solar panel ($150 a piece) so I could plug in the fridge – we have a cooler / fridge that can be plugged in or not.  It would be easier than carting frozen water in milk jugs back and forth to the camper every other day.  This worked well in May, but July proved to be much more of a pain 😉

Also, I would have known that our handmade tarp based awning would be no match for the Colorado winds, and would have bought something more durable, because moving our wooden chairs and dog beds in and out of the camper during the daily rains is also a pain.  I might find a little something extra for storing things – the truck occasionally gets filled with crap that we don’t have room for in the camper, and so is annoyingly full when we are driving ourselves / our dogs / our recycling around.  Bigger waste water tank — we use a pretty small one, and dish water fills up the tank so fast, emptying it is a weekly job.  Bi-weekly would be nicer.  Its funny experiencing all of the reasons people sought to live more comfortably and conveniently in the first place.  Let’s see, I would buy  travel size bottles of shampoo & other toiletries, because I need to keep them in my backpack at all times and they can be re-filled by the bigger bottles as needed.  They can be kept for future travels, too!
I would have a back up toothbrush and deodorant.

Just some random thoughts about this so-far adventure that I hope will continue through September.

The summer is coming to an end here in Crested Butte. ‘The monsoons’ roll in this time of year, cooling things off.  The camper and truck have been getting nice ‘n dirty from muddy dog paws and just from mud in general!  I now have cows on my street.  Apparently ‘the cows come home’ – seriously – around this time of year.  They drive them here in trucks and drop them off!  sometimes we drive too fast around a bend in the road and get startled by a big mama cow standing in the middle of the road, hanging out.  I am bummed that I still ride my bike less, but at least I carpool with Michael, and I vow to live somewhere (even if it’s here, just in town) where I can bike everywhere.  I would still bike with toiletries and stuff, I think, just because.

Right now I really need some rest.  I’ve been working sooo much lately.  My sister and her friend, Patti, were up from Boulder this weekend and I was busy working a lot of that time.  Also, our little dog Django has been very sick this past week, and we are waiting to hear what the vet thinks about his condition.  Please send prayers and thoughts if you can…

Love and peace,


Grid-Free and Off the Beaten Path – a journey

Monday, July 28th, 2008

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,


Grid-Free and Off the Beaten Path

Monday, June 23rd, 2008

by Jeannie Newell, Crested Butte, CO

Sooooo sorry I missed posting on Sunday — I guess part of ‘off the grid adventuring’ is that you really have to plan for things, because internet access is not as easy to come by when you live in the woods. Here’s what happened yesterday in my new town:

Sunday was the 4th annual Bridges of the Butte tour.  It’s a 24 hour all ages non-stop bike ride that people take in teams & in shifts.  Some people do the whole 24 hours by themselves to win pretty sweet prizes like ski passes, but others just do it for the fun.  Also people wear their everyday garb or outrageous costumes!  This town is very into playing hard and wearing costumes whenever possible.  Michael and I took a couple of shifts for the fire department’s team, so I threw on a weird looking outfit, feather boa and went riding!  I realized 5 minutes into it, that it was just good for the soul.  The loop is an easy 2.5 miles and you take it as many times in your hour as you can, my legs were burning by the end of it!  And that was just one of the several races that have been going on here this week – Ride the Rockies, Fat Tire Bike Week and The Wildflower Rush are all going on….

This is a place all it’s own.  It’s a place where a person can be as normal as they want to be, or really nurture their inner weirdo.  All transitional moments aside, I think I might like it here.

Grid-Free and Off The Beaten Path – a journey

Sunday, June 8th, 2008

Off-grid living is part of our future evolution. There are as many reasons to do it as their are ways to do it. Most involve a desire to live more simply, more authentically and more sustainably. My friends, Jeannie and Michael, have recently embarked upon their own off-grid journey in a camper. Jeannie is going to share some of her experience here, on Tao of Change – posted each Sunday for the Summer. Tune in and share the adventure each week. Jeannie’s introductory entry below:

From Jeannie:

Michael and I decided to camp for the summer outside of Crested Butte, CO (~9000 ft elevation) in a 14.5 foot ’57 camper that we purchased, that’s right, on Craigslist. Michael knows a lot about remodeling, so he was able to perform all kinds of electrical and interior maintenance on our little summer home. We painted & fixed her up and now it’s time to live the dream.  We decided on this course of action for several reasons including, but not limited to:

we are tree huggers and we love to run around in the woods
mountains impress us
we are experimenting with reducing our impact
we are attempting to be mindful about what we use / waste
we are re-defining materialism & consumption for ourselves
we want to save $$ for skiing this winter

Our disclaimer is that we are not self-proclaimed environmentalists and we apologize for faux-pas we may commit.  Suggestions are welcome!

Entry 1:
Michael and I finally found a camping spot – Cement Creek, just south of Crested Butte (right out of CB South) and have been out in the camper the last couple of days.  It is super cozy, but it snowed all day today so we came in to town because we had a little bit of cabin fever (camper fever.)  Really, we wanted to hit up Thomas’ hot tub!  It’s warm and comfortable living in the camper, though, and we really like it.  We’ve been hiking and biking around a lot, and making food in the original 1957 camper oven / stove.  Michael is killing me with some of the hikes we’ve done!  Everything around is beautiful though, hiking or not.  When more of the snow around town melts, we will camp closer in, and we’ll be a 20-minute bike ride from town, which means we can keep our dirty little wheels off the road and those gas dollars in our pockets.

Crested Butte is a really cool town where people are ALWAYS outside – biking, hiking, paddling, etc.  It has a very young, but rustic and old-timey feel.  Many of the people here are very friendly and will talk to strangers, which is always cool.

And so the adventure begins..

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