Life off the grid changes you. One becomes, over time, somehow in some way, ‘rural-minded’. Countryfied. And, in the process, city thinking will come to seem silly – at least when applied to the country.
It is NOT something that is forced on you, it is not something you can easily define, it is not required and it is not essential or even that important. City-thinkers do OK out here. In the summer, anyway. Instead, gaining a rural mindset is simply a more logical way of coping with things that didn’t exist in the city. It is a way of thinking that requires much more outside the ‘urban-mindset’ box that I had no idea I, myself, was working within even five years ago. It has taken me awhile.
When you think about it, how could it be any different? Different cultures and societies require different approaches. This is a different life from that of the city.
I now think differently. I act differently. I am different.
I won’t bore you with Dave’s Excellent Adventure at the Rural University (DEAR U) any more than I have already in this blog and the book and I will also spare you all the changes I have noticed in myself and, even more dramatically, in Sally. But a few are kind of interesting to anyone planning such a relocation. Get this:
When we bought our land in our intelligent, sophisticated, educated and accomplished group, we looked at the map of the property and drew lines as to who gets what. Why not? That is the ‘way it is done’, is it not?
Answer: that is the way it is done in the city (where we did it).
First nations didn’t do it that way. Even early farmers and ranchers used natural topographical boundaries more than lines. Prospector’s long ago were entitled to use a portion of someone else’s land that was defined as the ‘pe’en’ distance of a dog (the assumption was a prospector had a dog and a dog naturally marked his territory when they made camp – thus the ‘defined campsite’). There are 50 ways to leave your lover according to Paul Simon and there must be at least fifty ways to define your living space as well.
It’s been that way historically forever. Countries are defined by mountain ranges, oceans, rivers and deserts, too. And look at the fine mess we are now embroiled in when the Brits decided to divide the Middle east by arbitrary lines. And Pakistan and India, for another example.
But lines on paper work when land is relatively flat as in most cities. Lines work when land gets valuable and people want their square inch. Lines also serve governments and registers and lawyers and taxes and, especially, fence building. Lines serve a lot of people not necessarily those who live on the land.
Lines are a relatively recent idea, when you think about it…….
And so it is on our property. The lines we first drew don’t quite work. It will not be a problem. Our group is logical and fair. We’ll revise our ‘defining area mechanisms‘ but, in the meantime, our current lines don’t work. That is causing some ‘cognitive dissonance’ “How the hell can we fix it without lines?”
“Well, there’s the ‘pe’en’ dog mechanism to consider….?”
All of which is fine…….. it is just an example of thinking like a city person rather than a country person.
Here’s a few more: when we first obtained the land, we made rules for everyone to follow. I initially imagined employing a shipping container in my design (ahead of the time when designers had made such an idea more appealing) and it was strictly forbidden. We made a rule. Chopping trees was forbidden. Aluminum siding was forbidden. Obstructing the shoreline was forbidden. Building on the shoreline was forbidden. Lots of politically correct, idealistic, urban-based values were adopted. We had rules!
The land has been here a million years and it will likely be here a million more but we employed rules for the nano-second we live on it. Hubris in the extreme.
Rules don’t work. Just putting a ramp and dock in place so that you can access your site ‘obstructs’ the shoreline. Breaks every rule in the book. And, anyway, that original rule was made so that one could walk the shoreline. Walking our shoreline is physically impossible for about 75% of it. It was an idea that was just not practical.
Not to mention that we made the rule when no one was even here to try walking it.
And so it goes. I mentioned to a local couple that hunting on our property would be severely frowned upon by our partners. To be fair, I added that I would likely frown as well given my own squeamishness with the idea. “Oh! City people!” they said, derisively.
Again, to be fair, I do not KNOW that hunting would be frowned upon but I am extrapolating from our collective rule-making history that forbade tree cutting and beach obstructions. Shooting a deer, by comparison, seems like it would be a hanging offense.
But we are adjusting. Slowly. We’ll get there. Or get here. Whatever. We have been cooperative co-owners, after all, for over forty years.
The point: living in the country is different than city people can imagine without having done it. If you are thinking of going ‘off-grid’ or even living rural on the grid, expect to change your perspective. Life out here is different.
You have walked the walk and you know of what you speak. As to what I understand about living OTG, I know little. You are different and you have been changed by your experiences in ways beyond the realization of many people. I was taken aside recently by an ernest person who felt the need to explain recycling to me. I guess I just looked clueless about today’s burning issues. I also heard about a thing called ‘climate change.’ I guess the older we get the less we know.
Now, hold on there….. there’s the pulling of the leg and there’s a little teasing. Sarcasm could even ensue. Tch, tch. And maybe I even deserve that if I sounded patronizing. But, for me, it was a revelation. NOT so much the fact that it was different out here – as I said, how could it NOT be – but rather how those differences would show up. Lines on paper vs pe’en distance of dog, for instance. Design conformities being applied for no reason. Rules imposed from a distance. That kind of thing.
Now, what’s this crap about climate change?
You and Sal were mentioned in this article David. Cheers, Susann
Thanks, SDH…isn’t it amazing how off the grid seems to mean to journalists, chaos, deprivation, isolation and poverty? They never show a guy drinking wine on his deck while steaks are sizzling on the Barbie and all is clean and put away. You’d think we were living the lives of Neanderthals! I contacted Doug Quan. Told him he missed the point entirely. But that he was not alone….all writers seemed to do so (except Margy and me, of course).
Ahhh. But if you perpetuate the misconception that all you OTG’ers are crazy survivalists with a closet full of bullets
, beans and bullion……….The city folk will stay away .
You’ll still maintain your blessed, serene, enviable lifestyle…..that only a curmudgeon can truly appreciate.
You make a good point. And the crazy, the bullets and the beans are all true. Hmmmm…..? Maybe change the tone of this blog to the daily hell I endure instead?
Good for you contacting Doug Quan! Also, the report of a guy living OTG who’s apparent ‘life purpose’ is clearing the waterway for, now I’m assuming, a power-generating dam is exceedingly ironic. Don’t you think? Cheers, s
In the beginning (no this isn’t going to be biblical), float cabin were built on Powell Lake by locals for hunting, fishing and cheap places to get away from work at the mill. The land provided the materials and the people knew how to build. Then about a hundred years later, the government decided it was time to make everything “legal” and of course collect taxes along with that. In came airplanes taking pictures of the float cabins and their log boom boundaries. This became your leased area and no more moving around to find a better spot, or to get away from a pesky neighbour. It’s still a wonderful place to be, but those early days of freedom sure sounded good to me.
I am sure there’s a trade-off….some things better……but, honestly, I think more things are not but I do NOT know for sure. I DO KNOW for sure that whatever it is the dickheads say from an office hundreds of miles away, it is wrong. ALWAYS. Further away they are, the more wrong they are. Everytime!
I know that those who don’t live OTG don’t seem to have a clue. Mind you, I am missing a few clues myself, still, after all these years. I still have city-think sometimes. But the point is: the reality of it is NOT what is depicted by the media – any media. Except thee and me, of course.