Friday was a down day. I have those every now and then up here. Maybe it was the weather (partly cloudy, and humid). Maybe it was the isolation (absolutely no human contact for a few days). Maybe it was both. Either way, I spent half the day reading and dozing, and eventually got restless and decided to go into town without any clear idea what for. I tried to get online at the usual place in town, but the internet connection wasn’t working. I then went to the hardware store, where the garden section lady recognized me, which was nice. Not wanting to walk out empty handed, I bought a water sprayer (for watering carrot seeds) and some more seeds (okra, which does well in heat, and beets, which are good companions for corn). Still wanting to get online, I headed to the next town over, another 20 minutes’ drive away (so over 45 minutes’ drive from my property). The only reliable internet I could find was at a McDonalds, so McDonalds it was. I couldn’t remember the last time I stepped foot in a McDonalds, but, well, that’s where the internet was, so that’s where I went.
“Loneliness is the poverty of self; solitude is the richness of self.”
Solitude and loneliness seem like flip sides of the same coin. I enjoy solitude, but sometimes I can’t escape loneliness. Ideally, I’d like solitude, without the loneliness. Can the two be separated? This is a process I am still struggling with, and probably will for some time. I know I can’t go for long completely disconnected from the world, but I also know I’m happier being mostly disconnected. I don’t want internet on my property. I’m happier when I’m not distracted by Facebook and Twitter and Google Reader and email and everything on the internet that demands my attention. But I’m thinking of getting a cheap Verizon phone, which should work on my property, so that I can text and call people if I get lonely. We’ll see how that goes.
I spent the better part of Saturday clearing brush around my camp. I do this partially for aesthetics (less brown and more green looks nicer), but mostly I do it for fire prevention. Or rather, I should say, to improve the odds that my stuff can survive a forest fire. There hasn’t been a fire in the woods around my property in a long while, and it’s ripe for one; there’s plenty of fuel waiting for a spark. In my admittedly amateur assessment, though, the area around my hut seems relatively safe. There’s a nice wide dirt road to the immediate North and West of my camp, and it’ll be difficult for a fire to jump that, especially considering that there’s only low brush to the North, and that prevailing winds are from the South. To the West of my property is well cleared BLM or NFS land, so it’s relatively unlikely a fire will come from that direction. Unfortunately, the South and East sides of my camp aren’t as well protected, so I’ve been clearing that area as much as possible. I’m pulling or cutting dead branches off the trees and pulling out dead brush, so that even if the ground litter burns, there won’t be much fuel to ignite bigger stuff. My garden is also to the South-East of my hut, and that clearing will hopefully act as a firebreak, if need be. Ultimately, I’m comforted in the knowledge that a forest fire is good for the forest, and the worst that can happen is that I lose some stuff, most of which can be replaced. Unlike a house, when a forest burns, it actually heals itself over time, and usually ends up healthier than it was.
On Sunday, I finished planting the last few plants, and sowed more bean seeds since the bag of seeds I’d left out got wet in unexpected rain during the night. I also busted out my power tools to build a couple of things. I first built a planter box for my anti-social tomato plants, using mostly scrap wood I had lying around. Then I made a target frame for my 100yd shooting range, using some two-by-twos and one-by-threes that I’d brought up a while ago, then faced it with tar paper I’d bought for roofing.
I had this moment of great satisfaction, when I realized that I had everything I needed. I had lumber. I had screws. I had power tools, and solar panels to charge their batteries. I craved fruit, so I rummaged through my bins and found some canned fruit. For a moment, I could pretend like the world had ended and that I was living off of my stockpile, and that I was all self-sufficient. Of course, that’s just an illusion. I have trees, but I can’t mill my own lumber. I can’t make my own nails or tools. I don’t grow nearly enough food to be self-sufficient, and my stockpile would only last me a few of months, at most. But it felt like a step in the right direction, and it felt good.
The place looks great man. The loneliness thing is not uncommon, I get a bit spooked now and then and I’m not as remote as you are. It’s important to make connections with locals to keep sane and in case you ever need help. I’ve managed to meet a few cool people close enough to my age that share my interests. They all live within about 40 miles of my mountain and even though I only see them now and again, it’s nice to have standing invites with new friends (and to be invited to the occasional BBQ).
My one buddy and his wife have hooked me up with some sweet resources too, (an affordable power pole guy and the local water tank salvage guy) and there’s one couple in town that have invited me to join their standing Saturday night card game whenever I get too stir-crazy.
A cell phone with Internet access or a modem card for the laptop would be a great idea (in my humble opinion). Don’t fear the Internet up there, just use that self-discipline that got you where you are today!
Hey, keep up the good work. I am almost done with the same thing you are doing..started with a 24×24 camp and now only have the floors to put in ( softwood wide-plank) and window trim work. We started with a well and a hand pump and now we have almost everything we need for our off-grid life..Its not easy and there are times when you want to give up but don’t..small is OK..as long as its OK with you…I enjoy your posts but I must say video is not the way to go…I have limited internet connection and pay by the MB at a certain point so I avoid it…sorry…it is also worth noting that sometimes less is more ( as anybody with a small house would tell you!) so don’t feel like you need to write ‘War and Peace’ when you post…and that way you can ‘accomplish’ more…Once again, keep up the good work.
I agree with urbanRancher too ( and urbanRancher the video tip goes out to you and your RSS too 😉 ) getting to know local people has been invaluable to me..great resources for local knowlegdge on how to do things ( like drain/season a well), local wildlife, known thieves, plants, plows..etc..I have always been a city dweller, am a programmer and the only thing I had ever built before were applications..now I cut down my trees for firewood, am finishing off a chicken coop, have basically built a 24×24 house/camp by hand and live off-grid..its amazing what you can do in 2 years…but I have my days too where I just want to sit down and play Fallout 3..which I bought but never played..I do miss my 360…
OH, I use an internet stick and 3G give me great power..fairly fast surfing and 1 km from the closest road…invaluable in times where defending your fantasy baseball crown is up there with heat and sunlight..hehe.
Ryo, enjoy the blog, keep it goin’. As far as the occasional loneliness, you might want to consider developing your property into a small simple living community of a few like minded folks. Your property is large enough that you would still be able to maintain the solitude while at the same time having a sense of community with people who share the exact same interests as you. You would also be able to share the workload, expenses and even get some rental income if you built a few small cabins. You have probably already check it out but, if not, Simple Solar Homesteading has a great ebook for $5 on building a cabin plus lots more.
Ryo, a trip to town is a good way to reset your perspective. You’ll know you’re on your way to being a proper hermit when you go back to familiar places and you start noticing the noise, pace, intensity and smells and find it repulsive. It gives you a renewed sense of freedom and empowerment upon your return to your own kingdom -where there is peace, the pace is your own and the scent of the air is pleasant.
Disagree with the recommendation to rent. Usually ends up bad. I’ve got a bunch of hippie types around me. Most are escapees from communal type establishments that ended up being a tyrannical form of what they were trying to escape. Once the idealistic fantasy wore off the bought their own piece dirt and found the heaven they sought. Great neighbors, largely because they have enough elbow room now without the politics of community – they can just be who they are.
The “like minded” folk, they will be landowners like you. Befriend them and I doubt loneliness will be much of an issue.
Among my most treasured days each year are are the days I spend in solitude. It took me a while to learn to appreciate the lack of chaos. Now I crave the silence and the time to be alone with my thoughts.
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