Wednesday, December 5, 2012

This is a Test....

"This is a test, for the next 21 day you will find yourself back on-grid. Your mission, should you accept, is to determine what you have missed most while pursuing your off-grid lifestyle..." 

 A Bit of History
Thanksgiving has always been our family's favorite holiday. I think one of the reasons is because it culminates our favorite time of year - that 'dead time', as fall is winding down and winter is nearing. Another reason is that we have striven to make Thanksgiving the holiday that is very personal to our immediate family. While Christmas always required trips to extended family, Alan and I designated Thanksgiving as 'our holiday' for building family memories and traditions.  And, as it is with the rest of our life, most of these traditions are not 'normal'.

As our family has grown over the years, so have the quirky traditions. Many years we have rented a vacation home for our Thanksgiving celebration. When the kids were growing up, we could get by with a three bedroom rental - parent's room, our daughter's room, and our son's room. The longest standing tradition is a quirky little movie Alan insists we all watch after Thanksgiving dinner.

Some of the artwork in this year's rental home.
I wonder how I could make it fit the rule that
everything has to have a use in our off-grid house.
Then, several years ago, we had to start modifying our rental requirements. Our youngest daughter's boyfriend,  would be joining us, so our rental needed four bedrooms that year. The new tradition we added that year was 'Cheese Races'. The following year they were married, but wait, our oldest daughter's boyfriend would be coming that year as well. With the need for 5 bedrooms, we could no longer rent at our usual place, so we searched and found a rental that used to be a Bed & Breakfast. I ran with the bed and breakfast theme and had 'welcome baskets' in each bedroom when the kids arrived. They enjoyed these so much (like Christmas stockings) that we decided to add another tradition, I provide the baskets and everyone adds little gifts to them anonymously as they arrive for the week, and yes, many of the gifts are very 'unusual'. The kitchen in that year's vacation home was amazing and we decided to add yet another tradition - a cooking contest. This was also the year our annual event was dubbed 'Turkey Palooza'.

I won't go into detail on how Turkey Palooza has expanded over the past few years, but I wanted to give this background to explain why it is an integral part of our 'test' this year. Because, you see, as the size of our vacation homes increased each year, so did their amenities. Large homes with professional kitchens, opulent bathrooms and even running water and unlimited power!

Jumping Back on The Grid
We have been off grid since mid August, our longest stint yet. And as we were preparing for the trip back up North, I found myself wondering if I would find myself realizing that there were many things that I was missing from the 'old life' once I was again immersed into the on-grid lifestyle.Would it be hard to give up the 'easy life' after three weeks and return to our off-grid chores?

The very first thing I need to share about our Turkey Palooza trip is very sad. As you may recall, our dog Maycee came down to the property in August. We originally planned to board her down here when we went back up North, but as we would be gone for three weeks, we decided to take her back up with us and then board her at her favorite kennel for the actual Thanksgiving week. Maycee has loved being down at the property. Although 14 years old, she enjoyed helping with chores outside and exploring the property with us. Just a couple weeks before we left we had the survey of the property completed and she walked the property lines with us, running ahead and around us exploring amongst all the trees and rocks.

Over the past few weeks we had noticed she had been drinking more and more water and we had to let her out several times each night. The night before we headed north, we realized she had suddenly gone completely blind, on the trip we had to pick her up to put her in and out of the back of Rodney (the Kia Sportage) and we had to talk to her constantly at each rest stop to keep her oriented. She was very distraught over her blindness, tripping over curbs and running into objects.  The place we were going to board her is also her vet, so we made an appointment as soon as we arrived to get her evaluated. We were pretty sure we would be needing to make 'that dreaded decision'. Our fears were confirmed as the vet agreed she was suffering and probably had both diabetes and cancer, she had lost 50% of her body weight! The vet felt she probably had only a couple weeks left and they would not be pleasant, so we said good-bye to her... We are so happy that she did get to spend time in the mountains with us, she had a wonderful 2 month adventure down here, but she would not be returning off-grid with us...

What Amazing Things We Saw
The shower in our master bedroom suite had
4 control knobs  - one for the shower head,
one for the side jets, one for the overhead rain
and one for temperature control. It should have come
with an instruction manual.
We arrived up North a week before the start of Palooza and we stayed with very dear friends. The first day there, I must have used the equivalent of 10 bottles of water for just one shower. (At the property, I limit myself to one of our storage bottles per shower which is about 3 gallons.) That first week Alan and I had fun exclaiming over the many 'wonders' we found at our friends house - like the pipe on the wall in their bathroom that provided a supply of unlimited hot water and the magical box in their kitchen where you put dirty dishes in and an hour later they came back out clean.

Our Palooza house was larger this year because my parents were coming out from Pennsylvania to join us, as well as our dear friends mentioned above. So, we were 'spoiled' with a lakefront vacation home for a week and then returned to our friends' lovely home for another week before returning to the reality of off-grid life.

What We Brought Back With Us
Our youngest daughter, along with her husband and son, and possibly our son, will all be coming down to the property in the next month or so and plan on staying for a month. With that in mind, Alan and I have been looking for a vehicle that would hold us all and be durable enough to take us to all the places we want to show them (like driving up and down our road to our driveway!) We decided a four door pick-up truck would be a good solution, one with a full size bench seat in the back. While up north, we found 'Hoss', pictured here. We can fit five people plus a car seat, and Hoss is a diesel, which was also on our list of criteria. We left Rodney, our Kia Sportage, up North for the time being so we did not have to drive two vehicles back home this time.

Cache and KayKay resting up after exploring.
We also had some special cargo with us on the return trip, our two cats -Cache and Ceilidgh
 (aka KayKay- our daughter named her Ceilidgh, which is pronounced kay-lee and is a type of Irish folk dancing). While the cats did not exactly enjoy the 12 hour trip riding in their cat carriers on Hoss's back seat, the 'kitty downers' we got from our vet made the trip much easier on us then it might have been. The medication was actually homeopathic drops that calm pets down during thunderstorms, fireworks, etc. These drops take a half hour to start working, during which time the cats demonstrated how noisy the trip would have been had we not stopped at the vet and picked up the medication.

We had decided we would keep the cats inside for their first few days at their new home, but since they are cats, that plan lasted for about half an hour. The cats love exploring their new home, both inside and out. I did sit down with them and explain the rules for their wild game safaris:
1. Mice and spiders are open season at all times in all locations.
2. Skinks, which they can identify by their shiny blue tails are never in season.
3. Birds may only be hunted in the wood behind the house and are limited to any birds I do not deem as 'cute'. The three bird feeders we just added at the front of the house are a bird sanctuary and no hunting is allowed there.

In regards to #1 above, we are not particularly happy with mice right now. While we were gone, they found a large bag of rice. We discovered this when I went to put a large rug back onto the living room floor which I had finished painting right before we left. I picked up the rolled carpet and grains of rice fell out of it. I carefully unrolled the carpet and found several cups of rice had been moved into the rolled up carpet. We remembered we had taken the bag of rice out of a bucket it had been sitting in and placed it on the floor, we checked and sure enough, there was a hole in the corner of the bag. The mice must have been extremely busy relocating the rice, besides the large amount in the rug, we have also found a cup or so inside a shirt that was lying on a box in our bedroom closet (the rug was in the guest room) as well as another cup or so inside a package of toilet paper in the bathroom cupboard under the sink. My thought was that they kept hearing me refer to the house as the 'honeymoon hotel' for insects and they decided to add some ambiance by throwing rice everywhere.

So, What Did We Miss?
While I was expecting to come up with a list of things I missed from the old life once we were living it again, the only list we came up with were the things we were missing from the property while we were up North! Yes, we miss friends and family when we are down here, but so much of our contact has always been by phone, text and email, it really hasn't been too difficult when we don't see them face to face as often. Skype also helps, and I bribe my children to send pictures of the grandchildren to my phone.

Instead of looking at each other while enjoying the on-grid-life amenities and saying "Boy, I really miss this", Alan and I would look at each other and say things like "Ahh, we would be pulling water at this time back home", or "I miss not bringing in wood every morning."

So now I am pondering - Did we fail the test because we did not have anything on our list that we miss from our old life? Or did we pass with flying colors because we have embraced our choice to increase our self-reliance and simplify our lives? I admit that our Turkey Palooza has become quite a financial extravagance over the years, one that we are very grateful for and will continue to share with our children as the Lord provides. But one of the best feeling I had as we prepared to once again hop off the grid was the realization that we were looking more forward to going back to what most people would consider a much 'poorer' lifestyle than what we could be living, and yet it makes us much happier and it is the life we choose!

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