Apples and oranges

Living off the grid has a romantic ring to it, don’t you think?  It implies adventure, challenge and an element of survival.  Right?

Well, part of that is definitely true.  There really is some of that.  But much of the time, like sailing or being a soldier, the bulk of your time is taken up with the tasks of everyday living.  Chores.  And everyday living tasks take longer than they would if in the city.  In other words: our life, fun as it is, is outdoors, simple and mostly just task-oriented.

We are basically engaged in survival but not because we are fighting for it, repulsing enemies or prevailing during hurricanes or tsunamis but simply because we have to work harder to do the simple things that make up the bare necessities of life (sung to a Disney tune).  And there is no one else to do it but us.  If civilization means anything in the aggregate, it primarily means easing up on the personal time and efforts required for the providing of the basics in life.

One of the contradictions I have marveled at out here is the universal desire to get back to basics and then everyone manifesting that desire by building systems to make the basics easier and easier.  In effect, we try to build the mod cons of the city in the forest.  Kinda weird.  But human, I guess.

I am certainly guilty of that.

But that is not my point – well, not directly anyway.  Here’s the point…….Sal’s motor needed some maintenance.  All motors do.  This one was slightly overdue.  Sal is capable and she scheduled it in for herself yesterday.  ‘Should take an hour or so.’  That chore was set amongst all her other chores.  She was doing the washing, cleaning some equipment, re-filling feeders, stocking some shelves, doing some paperwork and we were also going to put in an hour or so of wood-getting. Plus cooking dinner.

Not a big day for her but a busy one.   And I had my list (shorter, I admit)

The motor needed an oil change, a lower-leg lube, a zinc anode replacement and a few tiddly-up things that were optional.  Had we taken it in to a mechanic, we would likely look at $100-$150 for what is one hours work by someone set up for it and a few minor parts.  Very few.  But taking it in is a huge chore and no one ever does anything right away and, in the marine industry, no one ever does it right the first time, either.  So, we do it.

Back to basics.

Sal started at 10:30 am, just after starting the genset and putting on the washing. By 11:30, she was still at it and had returned from the dock for more and more tools.  Even tho I had been warned off helping her, I went down anyway.  Some things were on too tight for her to loosen.  Some things were a bit confusing.  So, we worked on the little outboard together.  And Sal went back to the house a few more times to swap washer loads, hang up laundry and get more tools.  As it turned out, we both struggled quite a bit on that little chore.  What should have been an easy task, took us the day.  This was partly due to reluctant bolts, newly revealed chores and the fact that we now had half the tools we owned down at the dock.  May as well do a few other things since the tools were present.

We returned home (1/8 of a mile away) in just enough time to feed the dogs.  It was 5:00 pm.

Sal was tired.  I was tired.  We had done one basic chore that a ‘shop’ could have done in an hour.  Plus she had done a few other little things like laundry and ‘tidy-ups’.  It had taken us 6 hours.

To a large extent, that is living off the grid.  Simple, basic, living chores take more time and more effort than they do in the city.  In fact, some of lifes basics in the city are invisibly provided.  They are delivered by the grid.  The romantic part of doing it our way is doing the chores while lying on your back on a dock in the sun while the sea laps at your feet and wildlife fly and swim by.  Your dogs sit nearby.  There is no pressure. The work takes longer but is much more pleasant in the doing.

The alternative?  I could have driven through heavy traffic from my cul-de-sac home to the mechanic, paid $150.00 and picked up the motor a week later.  (An exercise likely to be repeated within a month because it is the marine industry)  Total elapsed time for the urban process: optimally, three hours and $150.00.  Here in the wilds: on a difficult day, including a few extra chores, 6 hours and $10.00 in parts.

Apples and oranges.

3 thoughts on “Apples and oranges

  1. It’s not about the time it’s about self-efficacy. Sure you can hire someone to tend to your every need but that’s not living off-the-grid. We improve by doing but we must do to improve. Keep on doing it yourself.

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