We are not pretenders. We are real. Real off-the-gridders. Real tough guys. We got our solar panels, our gore-tex, our big batteries. We even got chainsaws and winches. We have our ‘rural cred’, our bona fides. Look out, you city wimps!
Well, you don’t have to look out too much. Even though we are definitely in the feral zone, we are just. We aren’t newbies so much anymore but we are still definitely sophomores. Which means more-than-soft in Latin. Plenty to learn.
Our rank? One out of ten. Maybe 1.25.
But good ol’ Sal is keeping up the quest. Yesterday – between helping me frame a new deck extension – she started making her own bread. From scratch. No Mr. Kitchen Aid bread-maker for her! This was the yeast and the kneading, the rising and baking kind of bread. Took awhile. So did the deck. Man, it was good! (The bread. The deck still has some way to go)
What a treat it was to come in at the end of the day. The whole house smelled of bread baking. It was like stepping back in time.
Don’t get me wrong. Sal has baked bread before. There was the five-minute instant bread that came in a Betty Crocker-type box and tasted exactly like the packaging. Once we had a bunch o’loaves from some biscuit recipe that tasted like a giant biscuit (go figure). And there were the already-semi-baked ‘just-warm and-serve’ types that, all in all, were OK but are not quite right for the true forest dweller.
But she did once do a make-from-scratch loaf, too. Sadly, the flour-to-bread ratio was not good. We had much more flour all over the house than we had in any one loaf and, with the Molly Maid service expense, all the cleaning and extra laundry and the massive flour waste, her cost benefit analysis suggested continued shopping at Safeway. We probably could have flown to Paris for baguettes, actually.
But not this time. This time was good. Very good. One small step up the learning curve for Sal. One giant leap for David’s breakfast.
Living off the grid is more than actually leaving grids. It is a much larger lifestyle change than simply getting your electricity and water from a different source. The activities differences are huge. And diversified. Most of the local people have been doing it for years and they are constantly surprising me with logical but unusual activities designed to make life better.
Home-baked bread is just one of the steps. Every year several people collect apples from various orchards and press them into juice and such. A lot of folks make jams and jellies. A neighbour down the way makes wine from blackberries that is far superior to most wines we buy. People go into our bay in the spring to collect the tops from nettle plants (fresh spinach-like greens early in the season). Many, it seems, have extensive gardens and they work them.
There’s prawn gathering, clams, oysters. And fishing, of course. More and more I am hearing of someone ‘putting a deer away’. And chickens are common and ubiquitous, though layers are preferred over roasters. And, while there is a cost saving, this is motivated as much by the health of it. And the taste of things! These folks (us, too, to some extent) have made it a lifestyle choice to hunt and gather, grow and do their own processing. The most productive amongst us could likely survive off the land for a considerable time.
Us? Not so much. We still shop. It used to be once a week then every two weeks and now we are averaging once every three weeks and, without any hardship except a few minor shortages (dairy and some fresh veggies, mostly) we could go for as long as two months without shopping and maybe four or five on a subsistence level.
Still, I do not think we will ever be really ‘up-there’ (in status) off-the-gridders. There simply is not enough time. The good ones just know too much. They can do too much. They are just so much better at all this (even if they don’t choose to exercise all the skills they have all the time) that we will never catch up to that level of expertise.
Which is good news, actually. Living off the grid is to prefer the journey over the destination and we are enjoying ourselves no end. The bread and homemade jam? A magnificent bonus!