Seven years ago, I confided some hidden and sometimes unsavory truths about the off-grid yurt life. I’m not real sure why it took so long to put more of my frustrations and failures down before now, but I’m feeling compelled to share what’s behind the smiles and reveal more of the darker side of our sunshine-filled days here on the Continental Divide. Honestly, reading my first two entries makes me both chuckle and sob. What I thought were serious problems now seem so inconsequential, like dirty feet (chuckle), and some of the very important plans we had in mind then for our mountain-side homestead are still left to be actualized, like water catchment (sob).
I stopped drinking. This has been a pretty significant lifestyle change (since March 2021) that I’m still trying to master and understand the ramifications, especially since the yurt deck was supremely built for this pastime. I still fondly reminisce about sunset cocktails al fresco at Sahalee and marvel at how much I was able to accomplish with a pretty healthy buzz for most of my adult life (I was a professional party planner and participant, after all).
On the flip side, this newfound clarity makes me think that I wasn’t as ‘good’ as I thought I was while operating under the influence. I think I was a little more sloppy than I cared to admit and definitely have some blackmail material floating around out there (enter Exhibit A).
With alcohol out of my life, it’s been an adjustment to find the new level. I now subscribe to a tea club and have been trying to come to grips with my complete lack of a social life. Ben is not on this journey with me, so it’s been a pretty significant adjustment for him, too.
That brings me to my next confession, I am alone. A lot. And it has not been easy for this gal who once organized teams, managed classrooms, and contributed to countless board meetings and community activities. I asked to live out in the middle of nowhere for a reason and I sincerely relish the solitude and peace of nature, a quiet country life. However, Ben answering his noble calling and starting a new career as a wildland firefighter and a volunteer first responder has him away more than home (like, for three weeks at a time) since that fateful day in May, so I lost my full-time friend with thumbs.
We used to work together on our laptops, tackle projects together, spend time improving our land, go to town, all as a duo. Not to say that it didn’t sometimes get a little too close for comfort at times, but this whole undertaking of living off-grid was a partnered activity in it’s very principle. It’s really impossible to live this way at this scale as a single person. Just the manual labor of hauling water, moving firewood, erecting towers for solar panels, recovering vehicles, resetting yurts, etc. requires a tremendous amount of effort.
Then, there’s the lack of human interaction. Sure, I have a few friends in town that I can invite to tea or stop in to visit every now and then, but I am still very much an outsider here in this small rural village. I work from home and might attend a village council meeting or a community cleanup day, but it’s kind of hard to make connections with people of like mind and interests (especially since I gave up booze and they closed the Visitors Center where I used to volunteer). I don’t have the real close or frequent associations that I left behind after 16 years in Florida. Plus, I just don’t have the time or interest since we entered the era of Casablanca.
Once upon a time we had no overhead expenses, or very little. Our self-employment was engineered to cover just what we needed to get by with a flexible schedule to work on developing a more self-sufficient means of survival sans grid-tied utilities and modern day distractions. Then, we bought a house in town. An investment (future Airbnb), mind you, but still. A neglected old house in town – with all of it’s needs and demands. So, we’re back on the grid with a [small] mortgage and a slew of renovation expenses making us just as upside-down as we were in Florida.
The mud brick house built in the 1940’s needed a lot more work than we originally thought – DUH – and buying just before the COVID lockdown really expanded the scope and timeline of this ‘side project’. Because we don’t have a pile of money to pay contractors and because Ben is away for work so much, all the DIY around here falls to me or it won’t get done.
Here’s the recap since March 2020:
- Gut the Casita (yes, there are TWO adobe buildings needing renovation on this property)
- Sun porch
- Office/Utility Room
- Garage/Drainage (still in process)
- Start to the Living Room and Kitchen
As much as I can take pride in learning new skills and creating something of value that will ultimately help with our long-term plans at Sahalee (like building a permanent dugout home to live in), it’s been an incredible personal challenge to take on the complete remodel of this place by myself. Looking back, I don’t think I would have agreed to this had I known what the true situation was going to be. A lot of money, a lot of time, a lot of heavy lifting, a lot of loneliness. And, I am not at home – at Sahalee.
My ‘high and heavenly ground’ hangs above me in the hills that I view from a distance while in town. While it is really only a short drive to go there, it’s quite the effort to make the trip both logistically and emotionally. Going solo, I have to haul all the water, food, and supplies by myself and be prepared to address anything that goes asunder on my way or upon arrival, such as a stuck truck or unexpected visitors. When I go there, I want to stay and never leave. I want to stay wrapped in the roundness of my soft handmade enclosure and be enveloped by the ambient forest noise. I visit every 6-8 weeks, or so. Ben hasn’t been since we hiked up in winter.
I have not been feeding the hummingbirds, or clearing trails, or making English muffins and empanadas from scratch, or playing my vinyl, or growing a garden, or cutting wood, or tracking the sun, or basking under the moon, or building fires, or trapping mice, or shooting targets, or setting up hot tubs, melting snow, or catching the rain, or hearing the turkey, or peeing outside, or turning the compost, or reading about the ancient ways, or looking for lion tracks, or learning the flowers and medicinal plants, or chasing rainbows, or knitting sweaters, or playing the banjo, or watching the stars, or any of what I intended to do when I arrived.
I am tired. I am stressed out. I am overdrawn. I am uncertain. I am grieving.
To you, our dear and devoted readers, I confess that I drew you in on false pretenses. I told you that you would be seeing and reading what it’s like to live off grid in a yurt, but that is not what I have been giving to you. Together, I’m hoping, we might shoulder this disappointment and come out better on the other side.
Thank goodness for pet therapy and New Mexico sunsets!