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. ;)