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"Life doesn't have to be perfect to be wonderful."
- Unknown

"That which does not kill you, makes you stronger."
- Handed down through the ages.

"Life's tough. It's even tougher when you're stupid."
- John Wayne

I Guess I Have a Lot to Say

(I wrote this this morning but only now have taken the time to edit it and post.)

Good morning!  I’ve been a bit on the exhausted side lately, mentally & physically, so I really let myself sleep in this morning.  Ahhhh, bliss!  Now I’m in the sunroom, dogs licking up the last vestiges of their late breakfast, strong, hot coffee at my side, and a fire crackling in the glass-fronted stove on the other side of the coffee table.  Haven’t turned on the electricity yet as there’s no real need for that immediacy.  It’s a balmy 31 degrees outside, and the house held at 58 overnight (with no heat).

It was an emotional week (sorry, this feels like my Saturday since I’m home), the dam being broken by a dear, dear friend who stopped into work to see me.  In general, I don’t cry.  I’m not a crier.  But, in these last couple of years, 90% of my crying has been done in her presence!  Ha!  She just brings it out in me!  I think it’s because I value her so much:  her love, friendship, hard words of truth.  We’ve had two of those (latter) conversations in the years of our friendship:  the one this past week and the other near the end of my marriage when I was complaining to her over drinks, and she told me, in no uncertain terms, that she didn’t think I was being fair to my (then) husband – was being too harsh on him.  Of course, at that point, we still didn’t know about his extra-curricular activities.  Ahem.  BUT, I digress.

When she came in to shop and visit with me this week, she reiterated what another long-term friend had said a couple of months ago (about me and my current situation at Swamp River Ridge).  Asked the question, “WHY?!  Why am I [as they both perceive it] beating my head against the wall?  Why am I being so stubborn?  SO STUBBORN?!  Why can’t I let it go?  It’s just a house, after all!”

When the first friend said this, I felt like I’d been slapped in the face.  To me, it finally hit home that, in all these 30 years, she didn’t know me.  At all!  Didn’t know how important Swamp River Ridge is to me.  Now, this day or so ago, this second friend was saying it, too.  Saying, “It’s JUST A HOUSE!"

So, how do I explain?  I felt like telling her (Friend #2) to go back and read this blog from the beginning . . . maybe THEN she’d understand me?  (She’s not a big computer person – doesn’t read the blog.)  This blog is where I feel I best express, am the most honest with the struggles and joys, have been able to express through the years the Sense of Place I have here.  The wonder, the comfort, the PEACE I have here.

Yes (and no), the house IS just a house.  But, by the same token, it’s my baby:  I designed EVERY.  SINGLE.  INCH of it.  I know it inside and out.  That said, I’ve often thought about what I’d do if, God forbid, the house burned down.  Would I move?  Give up?  NO!   

Because, it’s NOT just the house, it’s this PLACE, Swamp River Ridge.  I would rebuild.  Or live in the garage (if it hadn’t burned).  Or the tiny trapper cabin.  I would still BE HERE.

I feel like the life I lead here at Swamp River Ridge, along with the house and the property, is my legacy.  I WANT TO BE “that woman who lived out in the woods all by herself”, despite the hardships.  I don’t exactly welcome them (the hardships), but it’s all part-and-parcel of this very specific way I’ve chosen to live my life.  It’s all very purposeful.  I feel like this place I’ve chosen to live, this lifestyle means something.

Maybe a lot of people see me as martyring myself?  Maybe that it’s it.  I dunno.  Maybe their point is that in this day and age, I don’t HAVE to live this way.  I DO have choices.  Choices to live an EASIER life.  But, that’s just my point that I can’t seem to express properly to them:  I have and continue to CHOOSE THIS LIFE.  Until I absolutely, either physically or financially, no longer can.

Maybe these choices I’ve made beg another question:  when friends ask how I’m doing, how things are going, maybe I don’t have the “right” to roll my eyes in frustration over the batteries dying, the inverter failing, the plow falling off.  That old adage of “don’t complain about the things you can change”?  But then, those things ARE my life.  I don’t share them so people will think “oh, gosh, we have to do something to help her OUT – get her out of that situation!”  No, I’m sharing them because they asked how I am.  “I’m fine!  Good!  Just some of the usual frustrations with living the single life, off-grid, but then . . . that’s just another day in paradise, right?”

Was my life here completely side-lined, sent down another track when my (ex)husband decided to up and leave two years ago?  Absolutely.  He took the income away that Swamp River Ridge (and its debt) were built on, promised on (not to mention the marriage commitment).  Which is why I’m having such a hard time paying my bills with no nest egg stashed for the necessities of batteries wearing out, emergencies like the inverter failing.  But, if there’s ANY chance I can salvage my dream from the ashes of those broken promises, WHY wouldn’t I?

The only thing I’ve done wrong (and I don’t think it’s boastful to label it the “only thing” as I feel it’s true) was to not better budget the relatively small settlement I received from the divorce.  I don’t feel like I spent the money foolishly, but I didn’t budget for the future, this future I now find myself in.  That was my big, fat, stoopid error.  BUT, it’s also over and done now.  No going back.  I can only go forward.

I equate myself, my lifestyle with the farmers, settlers of old.  If their crops were finally bountiful come harvest time, and they were looking forward to paying off their debts with the income . . . and then a hail storm came that flattened it all overnight, both dreams and the cash crop . . . did they give up?  Did they move to town (figuratively AND literally)?  No, they tightened their belts even further, pulled up their bootstraps, and planted again in the spring.  In as much as it’s possible, that’s what I am doing.  That’s what I want to be doing!

Could I be continuing to exist here without “a little [lot] help from my friends”, i.e. loans, extensions of credit?  No.  But, wasn’t that the same for the old Norwegian farmers, settlers?  The feed lot extended their credit, the general store let them run a longer tab.
And, we (them then and myself now) look forward to the day when we can repay our debts.

Unless “Pa got pneumonia” or I break my leg, we move on.  Call it “plodding”, if you like, “shoving that boulder up the hill”, but I look at it as Life.  Life’s challenges.  NO life is easy if you’re constantly pushing for what you WANT, for what makes you most happy.

Well!  How was that for a bit of an unintended rant?!  ;)  (1,200 words later, my document’s counter tells me!)

But, back to the practical matters of the day . . .

As many of you suspected, insurance will NOT cover the inverter failure.  It only would if it had been caused by an “event”.  Fire, lightning strike, etc.  I knew it was a long-shot, anyway, but it was worth a try.  What I *am* going to try, though, is contacting the manufacturer now.  Off-Grid Guru #1, back in November when I started complaining of inverter failure, was loathe to go there simply because, “nope, it wouldn’t be the inverter”.  It had to be something else.  Off-grid Guru #2 tells me that Guru #1 was right in ASSUMING it wouldn’t be the inverter because, in all of his 18 years of this kind of work, he’s NEVER had one of these inverters die like this.  Soooo, even tho it’s another long-shot, it’s worth any potential positive outcome to contact the maker to let them know how unacceptable this failure is.

Warning:  epiphany!  It just struck me (as I was going to the bathroom – where it seems my best thinking happens – ha!) that there is an analogy that can be made between myself and Explorers.  Specifically (ugh & double ugh!!!), one like the ex’s BFF, Explorer Guy, who just “failed” his second attempt to solo summit Denali in January:  

“Why climb the mountain?  Put yourself in a life-threatening, miserable situation?”  Answer:  “because it’s there”.  Explorers have this inexplicable drive to do so.  Could they stay at home with their feet propped up in front of the fire?  Avoid frostbite and having to haul every bit of waste that exits their body back down the mountain with them?  Avoid living in 4x6 snow cave for 5 days?  Of course.  So to half of the public, the very notion of challenging oneself like this seems flat-out DUMB.  But, to the other half, it’s admirable, and they whole-heartedly support it.  Figuratively and financially.

So, maybe that’s me.  “Why live that sort of lifestyle?”  Answer:  “because it’s worth it, because the rewards make all the hardship melt away.”  And, maybe it’s time for me to realize that half of the people out there, even half of my closest loved ones, will understand / appreciate / envy it . . . and the other half will simply NOT UNDERSTAND IT and, what, think I’m dumb?  Stubborn?  Banging my head against the wall for no gain?  Whereas *I* see it as banging my head against the wall so I can eventually break through.  ;)  Yep, that’s it!!!  Brings a smile to my face to figure out a way to explain it!!!

Back to the inverter and electrical system.  (Is anyone still reading?  I’m at 1,655 words now!)  So, I will contact the manufacturer but not hold my breath for a replacement/reimbursement.  Guru #2 has a used inverter that is the same exact model as my dead one.  Installing it would not involve making any changes to the existing wiring, etc.  He can sell me that one for $1,500.  Not free, but better than $3,500!  And, who knows, maybe – since these do not normally fail – it would work for another 20 years!  (Which is about how long I expected the first one to last!)  So, I will contact him today to inquire about the option of a payment plan.  If that works, I’ll have him ship it so it can be installed by Guru #1.

STILL, I’m left with the difficulty of a system that cannot ever be “left” due to the in-floor heat tubes (and their potential for freezing).  This is not, nor has it ever been, a good situation.  When the system was chosen, bought, installed, how I WISH my ex had said, “Uhhh, maybe we shouldn’t go with a system that needs constant supervision - electricity - because what if our power system fails or, you know, I unexpectedly leave you and you have limited money to maintain it all?!”  HA!  Of course, everything in hindsight!  ;)

Anyway, I have an e-mail in to the installer, asking how I can drain the system when necessary.  Because, as I’ve said before, I can live here with no or little electricity absolutely comfortably . . . were it not for that.

Even better, as I lay in bed last night, I realized that there are several drain taps and “off levers” on the various pipes and tubing.  I think I might have the potential to drain the line(s) that come from the Central Boiler (and which would freeze at that point) and run just the house’s heat (vs. the garage’s which I don’t even use yet) from the hot water heater (which is how many people heat their in-floor tubes, anyway).  AND that (getting heat from the hot water heater) is something I could do that “at will”.  I.e., it wouldn’t have to be “on” all the time.  So, there are more options to explore there.

Another money-saving option that I’d thought about implementing with the new, full-time job in town . . . but which could now become a reality due to necessity . . . is that I've been offered access to a friend’s little cabin just outside of town.  There's no electricity or running water, but, even if it were to only cut down on gasoline consumption from my little car, I could stay there on the nights between my in-town work days.  Not only would I save money on gas, but I would gain over two hours (of sleep!!!) by not making the 72-mile / 2-hour trip each day.  Of course, that would also be dependent on getting the in-floor heat situation changed.  And, while the cats would have to fend for themselves for those days (as would the chickens and geese – and, fortunately, they’re all pretty good at that, left with enough fresh food and water), the dogs are welcome at this little cabin.  And, it’s close to my folks – and I’d have to welch some electricity off them for my computer work – but that proximity would probably take a few years of worry off of them . . . waiting for my phone calls each night to say I’d make it home, safe and sound; wondering which of my systems was next going to challenge me, etc., etc.  AND, I’d get more (relaxing!) time with them in comparison to the rush-rush of each morning when I drop off the dogs and race to work and then the evenings when I rush-rush pick up the dogs and head home.

Ho-lee sh*t!  I just did the figuring, and it’s so worth it in miles / gas and hours alone (to take advantage of this offered cabin near town) that it make me smile!  If I stayed there only 3 nights a week, I would save (are you ready?!):
  • 201 Miles (5.74 gallons or $20.56*) and 6 Hours per Week
  • 804 Miles (22.97 gallons or $82.24*) and 24 Hours per Month
  • Or 10,452 Miles (298.63 gallons or $1,069.09*) and 312 Hours (that’s 13 DAYS!!!!) a Year
*Averaging gas at $3.58/gallon and if I’m only getting 35 mpg.  It’s $3.33 right now but was around $3.83 this past summer.
Hahahaha!  Yes, MUST get the in-floor heating thing rearranged so I can start doing this!!!

And, with that (we’re now at 2,388 words – Z-z-zzzzzzz), I’ve exhausted my mental energy AND finally emptied my mind of these immediate stresses and queries.  I’ll go out and fire up the generator, get online and post this.  And get on with my day . . . a bit more light-headed!  Get it:  lighter, mentally?  Yuk, yuk.  ;)


  1. I read almost every single one of your posts though I rarely comment. Sorry- that sounds a bit stalkerish. Anyhow- I wanted to tell you that I admire you and I totally can get why you work at staying at Swamp River Ridge so hard. I can also tell by your posts that any little positive thing can make your entire day or week- and goodness couldn't we all benefit by returning to that kind of a life? Where we were happy that we had sunlight to charge a battery instead of cranky because we can't afford an Ipad the minute we decide we want it?? I think your friends just care about you and hurt to see you struggle so hard. I, for one, hope to be able to keep reading about your life there and I hope things get easier as the years pass. Just wanted to say an unsolicited "hang in there" and tell you how much I love your blog and Swamp River Ridge ♥

  2. Oh. My. Gosh, Kim. THANK YOU for coming out of stalker, I mean "quiet reader", -dom to tell me this! It REALLY helps! And, what you said is absolutely right, and I need to tattoo it on my forehead: my friends just care about me and hurt to see me struggle so hard . . . even IF it is a "struggle" I CHOOSE! Thank you, thank you!!! And thank you for loving Swamp River Ridge right along with me!!!! Here's a heart right back atcha . . . if I know how to do it! <3 (Is that it??)

  3. I completely understand Chicken Mama! Your mom said on my blog this morning, that you had chosen part of Elinor Pruitt Stewart's book "Letters of a Lady Homesteader" for one of your family reads. She sums it beautifully, just as you did here.

    As for the inverter....too bad you couldn't get the manufacturer to let you do a "review" on the blog of a new inverter...in exchange ya' know :) Good luck on the one you have in your sights though!

  4. Loved this post! You keep your dream alive and you don't have to explain to anyone why you do it.

    Have you thought about getting a room mate/lodger? Even a short term one could make a financial difference.

    They should replace that inverter free! If it shouldn't fail and it did it doesn't seem right that you have to pay to replace a defective one.

  5. I think you already know it, but your dad and I stand in awe of you.

    P.S. Regarding the title of this post, you've ALWAYS had a lot to say, ever since you articulated your first word.

  6. I hope you stay and persevere though this. Hang on and I understand what being independent and maintaining your home is all about. I view my situation as if I give up they or HE wins. I'm too stubborn to allow that. From what I've read so are you!

  7. I am standing with you. My partner and I have faced the incredulity and ridicule of many men and a few other women as we struggled and sweated and wept and railed and fought like uffern to save this place. Now, we're aye in debt, but our house is snug, we have enough firewood, we have enough meat from our own animals to get through the winter, we have lots of seeds ready for the spring, we have land growing healthier and more productive by the season, AND both our names are on the title at last.
    People tried to get us to sell, to subdivide, and make all manner of compromises that would have gone against our ethics and our deep love for this place. Still, we're here, and we're in it for the long haul. Now we have WWOOF volunteers flocking here to be a part of this adventure. Every time one of those young people enthuses about this place, it helps remind is just how far we've come and how deeply we're bound to this one precious "bit of earth."

  8. You just keep being your stubborn self! I know the word stubborn is usually given a negative conotation (as I've been called stubborn a lot) but I'm using it as a compliment. Dig your heals in and keep on moving forward, even if it's only a half inch at a time.

    You inspire me dear lady. Anytime things are rough, I will just say to myself, if Chicken Mama can do it, I can too!

    Have a peaceful night!

  9. Just a thought ... to assist you with the math about staying in town several days a week. In addition to time and gas you would save is tire wear as well as other wear and tear on you vehicle. Even if you only did it during winter months I think you would be ahead. Then with the extra hours in the day you could build up web site clients to help you with additional income. But don't give up on your dreams.

  10. Hey, gal. We'll always have people that don't understand our choices. Oh, well! Your house is totally your baby and your lifestyle is YOU. And, we love you!
    As for the floor...any way you could swap out that water with glycol or something that could be heated but wouldn't freeze if the heat were off? I bet that would only run you about a million dollars, but it's a thought....
    Hang in there and good thinking on the cabin closer to town offer. Then, you could have the best of both worlds....shorter commute/more time + keeping your solace at SRR.

  11. I bet your first word WAS articulate--lol,and is that little shake for rent,I might need a place to stay. In all reality CM,another blogger most of us love,shared something today about raising children,your mom and dad did a great job. This person mentioned not spoiling kids ,how some are today.WHO is going to be the critical thinkers of the world.I think your one of them. don't give up the ship.I'm not a professional but what CLAIRE SAID IS ON THE RIGHT WAY TO GO,ISN'T IT CLOSE TO WHAT LAKE HOME OWNERS DO WHEN THEY GO HOME FOR THE WINTER AND IN TAILOR PARKS TOO.[DON'T SCOLD ME,THAT WAS THE GHOST OF THE HOUSE LEFT THE CAPS LOCK ON,I SWEAR.

  12. Like Kim I'm a reader and not much of a poster & can't begin to tell you how much I admire your (what we call) "Stick-to-it'veness". No one can truly understand anothers dream & I do think friends that don't get it are simply worried....because they care about you. And that they don't have your dream... they never will really understand. But, that's ok. It's YOURS! They can't understand the sence of pride and completeness you feel pulling in the driveway, the fullness of joy you have in your home. You've pulled on the big girl panties quite a few times & I see you've pulled them out of the drawer again 8-). The borroweed cabin sounds like a great idea for a short period of time, give you a chance to save and catch your breath. Think of all the ploting and planning you could do in your "spare time" Hang in there Hon!

  13. I know I am just singing with the choir here, but you have worked hard to achieve your dream, damn it. And you should be able to choose whatever life you want. Of course, I am behind this lifestyle 200 percent. I also can related so well to the frustration of voicing frustrations to friends - it doesn't mean you are giving up, hate it - no, it means that you are sharing your frustrations with your friends. Sigh. From what I've seen and heard, both you and Swamp River Ridge are very special and one in the same - wild, mysterious, connected to the Earth. You just hang in there. Drain those pipes and enjoy that cabin. "We" are here for you. (My goodness, I'm getting wordy...)

  14. In times like these, family and authentic, loving community are everything. With all of the unconditional support you are receiving, you are one wealthy woman! Bask in that life giving warmth!-"M"

  15. ahhhhhhhh..... I totally get why you are there! I think possibly your friends may be worried that you are attaching your success at SRR with your marriage? Or hanging on because of that? I'm sure they are just worried for you and because you live in such solitude. There is so much more quiet to think or dwell on things. That being said, "giving up" is the problem with much of society today. They just "don't get it", and many are all too willing to throw in the towel and move on to the next thing, or take the easy way out. I respect you so much for what you are trying to hang on to, I know it is something we are striving for to, more solitude, and to be in a place we love and can just "be" ... I'm a huge fan of living in the middle of nowhere though, it's not for everyone! I really hope you are able to keep things going and you are able to look back someday and remember this time, we learn the most from hard times I think. We love you and are pulling for you! :)

  16. Chicken Mama, I gave you the Liebster Award:) Check my blog for info on how to pass on.

  17. I haven't checked in for awhile. Sorry to hear about your recent struggles with the electrical system etc.

    Have you ever thought about renting out your trappers shack or part of your house to vacationers for short stays? I would bet folks would love a chance to stay up there for a bit and use it as a home base for exploring the area. Good luck!!


If you are familiar with me and where I live, please respect my right to retain some anonymity by not referring to me by anything other than Chicken Mama nor mentioning city/town/villages by place names. Thanks!