Off-Grid Agrarianism

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51 articles in category Off-Grid Agrarianism / Subscribe


Last week I posted the above picture and asked if anyone could guess what it was that Stewart was putting under our new kitchen area. There were some great guesses and he was, indeed, pouring diatomaceous earth in the photo above, as one reader had guessed.


Also in the photo was a whole bunch of earth packed around a hole he had fitted.


He made a space just big enough for one of the ways in which we try to keep food without refrigeration…


A cooler! In the summer it’s quite difficult to keep anything below 90 degrees most days, including produce and ferments. We’ve used ice – both purchased in town and made in small quantities over several days in our solar freezer – to keep the cooler… um… cool.


But we’ve been kicking around ideas for super-insulated coolers for things that just need a little bit of protection from the brutal temperatures here. These items would stay at 80 or below, preferably in the 50-70 degree range. Specifically, I’d like a place to keep vegetable ferments in the summer until we have a root cellar built.


So, when Stewart was getting ready to lay the floor in what will be our kitchen area, he asked if I wanted something I could access right in the kitchen by simply opening a small trap door. Um, yes, please! He packed earth around for extra insulation, sprinkled in a bunch of diatomaceous earth to keep away the bugs, and sunk it down in. Now that the floor is down we have a mysterious trap door that will house ferments and fresh vegetables.

I’m keen to see how it holds up in the heat… and also wondering if I could crawl in there  myself on those 100 degree days. Probably not.

P.S. Thank you all for your comments and emails in regard to my previous post. I am grateful to be able to share this journey with you.

IMG_3491 All photos completely unrelated.

“Do you ever feel like quitting?” I asked as we hung up the last of the week’s laundry. The 100 new clothespins were no match for the amount of laundry I had just brought home from the laundromat. We laughed about it, how the numbers of underwear and shirts and dresses currently hanging around us looked more for a whole community than a family of six.

The question fell out of my mouth as many things do, unfiltered and still carrying the baggage of the ugliness of my heart. Here stood this man laughing with me and stepping away from his work to help me as light faded and cold crept in, and this is the question that I asked.

I didn’t actually want to quit this agrarian sojourn we are on. I can’t imagine leaving this community we so love and moved across the country to live amongst. This is our place, these are our people, this is our calling.


What I really meant was maybe we could just add a comfortable place to live or a kitchen that doesn’t exist in three parts or me having to run between them in order to make a meal. What I was really asking was “Am I the only one that’s drowning here, that wonders if we’ll ever get our heads above water again?”

That question reflected a heaviness about the past few months that I can’t quite explain. In my own head it seemed to drift right out of that hard year where Stewart was sick and I was pregnant and we had a newborn, but I’m not so sure they are connected anymore. In fact, I’m not sure it has anything to do with anyone but me.


I walked down to the gardens last night with the girls, Annabelle having requested such a walk. Everything was brown and dead except a little bit of the Swiss Chard that was making its return to the sun, bright and green and stunning. I thought about that shock of brown that surrounded it, that vision of death and how closely it relates to some of the discouragement and unhappiness I have displayed in our own home recently.

It was ugly and dark and a far cry from the welcome site of green leaves and fruitful plants that make the garden a place where we all find joy. Those green chard leaves stood out to me now, big enough to hold onto, bright enough to light up the darkness around it. A bit of light, you might say, reminding me of the fruitful place it once was.


I don’t know why you are here or what it is that brings you back to this space. Sometimes I wonder what I am doing here myself, aside from plunking out words that somehow help me make sense of this journey we are on. (Frankly, I struggled over publishing this post for most of the week before Stewart nudged me on.)Whatever our reasons for being here, I don’t ever want to sugar coat our story or fail to give as complete a picture as one can through this medium. I think that would be a disservice to you… and to us.

So many times recently we have said to each other “We’re just trying to do too much” as we work to make up for the land’s lack of resources and then build and raise and grow what we can with the little time left in the day. The dishes only pile up, the laundry is rarely done, the projects mount, and waking up earlier and earlier hasn’t really changed a thing. So many times have I looked at Stewart and laughed with him at the calamity that surrounds us while wondering if he feels like he is drowning too.

So, that question… it was rhetorical, but it was also poignant and maybe a little suggestive.

He looked at me, this man who balances me and knows the depth of my own daily struggles. I’m not sure if he even thought I was serious. I know he didn’t know exactly what it was I was asking or all that was behind it.

We quit when we die, he said.

We finished the laundry and fed our little people and did our nightly routine. We went along, he went along, as if that question never happened. Later, when he read this post, he said he just kind of jokingly answered my just kind of joking question. I thought about his answer for days.


I thought about the green chard leaves pushing upward in a sea of black and brown and dead. I thought about my own discouragement and the contemplation of contentment I’ve been walking through these past few months. I thought about the women who surround me and those in other places and at other times… all enduring much more than I… all much more graceful than I. I thought about childbirth and how there is no quitting when things get tough. There is only finishing.

So I suppose it didn’t matter what I was asking that day at the clothesline, or why, really. The question falling out of my mouth and the light of the chard leaves and seeing the bleakness of my own state was answer enough.

Things will get hard, I will be weak, where is my contentment?

There is only finishing.