Off-Grid Agrarianism

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49 articles in category Off-Grid Agrarianism / Subscribe

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When the footers for the kitchen area were put in, the clothesline had to go. We’ve had this steel pipe clothesline since my eight-year-old was a baby. It turns out hanging clothesline between trees does the same thing, plus it looks like a giant game of cat’s cradle.

A couple of cold snaps came through and it reminds me of just how ill prepared we really are for the extremes of cold and heat here. Also, laundry. When it is cold staying on top of the laundry is a must. So there is laundry on the line, laundry on the floor, laundry in the hampers, and laundry on beds.

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At least some of it’s clean.

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Firewood is another one of those things we don’t think about until it gets cold and then it’s a huge part of our every day. Collect, cut, stack, haul, and heat. This year we bartered for a few loads of the stuff and that has me thinking about the future. We don’t exactly have a woodlot and so just how sustainable is wood heat for us really?

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We’ve still got last year’s wood ashes to sift and mix into the gardens.

We moved the wood stove over to the new cabin about a month ago. The chimney had literally fallen into a crumbling heap one day and it seemed significant, this moving of the hearth so to speak. That also means that the old cabin, where much of my kitchen and our office are, is now unheated. And so we continue to work within the confines of the elements.

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This little lady has gotten better at being on egg duty. The hens continue to lay in various places and the boys are excellent nest-locators. A couple of years ago we had a flock in the dozens but most of that became dinner for a hawk or two. And so now we put more chickens on the list of to-dos.

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The garden is mostly put to bed at this point. I haven’t been out since the freezing temperatures but I’m guessing that chard may be the only thing still kicking, if that. With the ongoing construction and all around busyness, we’ve decided to wait until spring to start anew. Maybe some manure and other amendments will get added but for now we’re growing these babies and spaces under our care.

Abram’s garden, on the other hand, is looking quite nice. He put up the fence, made the gate, and planted garlic and fava beans, both of which are doing fine despite the cold.

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I have a feeling there will be more gardening responsibilities in this little man’s future. We’ve traveled to big cities with bright lights and billboards and smack dab in the middle of it all he had to say was “That’s a nice looking tree.”

IMG_3562I’m pretty sure that made me smile harder than I had in a while.

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Last week it rained a pleasant, easy rain for nearly two days. Our living spaces and the walkways between were transformed thereafter into various shades of mud, dirt, and slippery. We waited several days before being able to drive on the dirt roads. But we didn’t really mind; rain is always welcome here.

One of the greatest joys and biggest struggles we’ve encountered since moving to the land is the exposure to the elements, especially as shelter is still in progress. We live both indoors and out most days and that makes the weather a constant companion. I’ve heard the term indoor-outdoor living framed in such a way as to make it seem glamorous. Maybe it is in the magazines, where mulch is plentiful, grass abounds, and there is central heating and cooling to escape into.

But this isn’t Better Homes and Gardens, y’all and I’m pretty sure their editors won’t be calling anytime soon, what with the composting toilets, rain-induced mud slicks, and calf fries I found in our cooler one morning last week. (There usually aren’t calf fries in our cooler. We got some organ meats when our neighbors butchered a cow and they made their way into our meat box as a little pre-coffee surprise.)

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I think the most interesting part of this exposure to the elements is realizing how disconnected I’d always been to it. I grew up somewhat in the country, but never with this sort of raw connection to the surroundings. It is now intimately woven into our days, these shifts in weather and consequences of temperatures.

I wonder now what it would be like to live in Minnesota again without the buffers of electricity and central heating. I find Texas harsh and unpredictable with sweat-inducing heat one week and the blowing in of winter the next. The wind-shaken walls around us and the chill at our feet urge us on in the hauling and stacking of firewood here in Texas. We fill buckets with water to mitigate against frozen hoses and solar water pumps. Having a shelter with insulation this year is almost a shock of comfort and ease I’m not quite yet acclimated to.

So I wonder if I’d really find my home state as inhabitable in its raw form as it is in this memory of mine that so often betrays me. And would I long for the cedar and dynamics of this new home as I do the pine and familiarity of the old?

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While we’re still long from truly living off the land, we are connected to it and made vulnerable along with it. The wind-swept soil and eroded roadways surround us as we again build shelter in the face of a coming winter which seems to have already blown in. Months of firewood and bundling little ones and keeping warm await us but we know that not long after the last fire will come the brutal heat of summer, which is almost unfathomable as I watch my breath and type with numbing fingers.

Maybe it is that vulnerability to the elements here that makes this place at once an antagonist and an ally in this back-to-the-land story of ours.