The Mountain Mouth

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“Way Off” April 30, 2010

Dear Neighbors,

Well, spring’s officially here; it turned out we weren’t found buried under a pile of chicken bones and feathers after all. This winter was really a challenge, but not like last year, when the driveway piled up so much snow we had to leave the cars at the bottom. You just have not lived until you’ve dragged fifty-pound bags of chicken feed up a half-mile, steep and slippery driveway on a toboggan. In the winter, the closest neighbor is about four miles down that road which becomes a death-slide with a thousand foot drop off….

All in all, we survived the Continuous Blizzard of 2010 fairly well, living here at 5000 feet, at the edge of the Sequoia National Forest.

The horses, mule, and chickens survived outside; the six cats and five dogs had to be bribed to come out, those entitled slackers. Butch and Little demand their little coats. Even though providing a coat for a canine is an embarrassingly American thing to do, they so appreciate it. What can I say? The dogs have me well-trained to provide for their every comfort.

I have lived off the grid almost eight years. It’s something I think everyone driving a Hummer should try. It makes you hyper-aware of your energy consumption, for sure.

Things I don’t miss: Noise. Traffic. Looking for a parking place. Being able to see in your neighbor’s windows. Being able to “run to the store”. Malls. The dubious luxury of leaving computers and lights on.

Things I sometimes miss: using plug-in appliances.

Things I do miss: Pizza, Thai and Chinese food delivery. I have resorted to delving into “Real Thai” and now can whip up a mean Moo Satay.

Once you get used to the fact that that light switch won’t do anything without the house inverter being turned on, once you train yourself to take a flashlight to bed, once you get used to buying propane instead of paying Edison, living off the grid ain’t bad.

I don’t even miss the telephone. That’s right, no land line, no cell service… not one bar. Oprah’s car is a no phone zone. My damn house is a no phone zone. I realize a modern woman should posses a home phone, a cell phone, and maybe a Blackberry. Hands free phone earpieces always makes me think we are being invaded by a new race of bionic humanoids: half man, half phone.

Picture a place where the phone never rings. I’m in control. I can check messages when I’m “in town”. I don’t worry about telemarketers interrupting dinner, or phone scammers or the devil’s spawn, bill collectors. When I’m in the mood to connect I just switch on the inverter, grab the laptop and thanks to wireless, I can sit wherever and check FB or do some writing.

So life here is very rustic but not entirely Paleolithic.

Thing is, for thousands of years, humans did without phones, four slot bagel toasters, computerized coffeemakers, microwaves, refrigerators that deliver ice cubes and defrost themselves, clock-radios, outdoor sodium lamps that banish the night sky, Blu-Ray, Guitar Hero, and, unbelievably, even computers. And it still may be possible to do so!

Without all that distraction, I can actually think… sometimes. Tucked into bed, it is so quiet the only sound is Ted the dachshund’s snores. Up here we replace watching sitcoms with starring in our own (extremely hilarious) reality show. We replace hours on the phone with actual face-to-face conversation; and homemade music. And sometimes the soundtrack is only the wind through pine needles. Other times you can hear us laughing a mile away – or so I have been told.

Yee Haw,

The Mountain Mouth