days are at their shortest now. Sliding into the Winter Solstice, we
definitely notice how limited our time is under the sunlight.
The dawn stirs us from under the cocoon of covers in the morning with a soft bluish glow through the wedges of the toono, and encourages the start to the day. Seemingly just a short time later, the multicolored late afternoon skies and falling shadows indicate the pending darkness and a brief anxiousness to steel ourselves against the drop in temperature.
led me to reflect on how we’ve adjusted off-the-grid and the rewards
for the sacrifices we’ve made over the past two and a half years to live
where we love.
During our 30-day self-imposed sequestration, we were daydreaming about how we’d cut loose at the end of the month. As it happened during one of our mindless web scrolling sessions, we lucked into finding tickets to see yet another exuberant performance of the incomparable Miss Margo Price on September 7th in Austin. Not just Austin, but Austin City Limits (or ACL Live)!!
Our 17th wedding anniversary was September 5th, and this heel-kickin’ country concert to benefit the Texas Hill Country Conservancy made our celebration plans a no-brainer. When else can we break out the Lucchese‘s? Carey had watched the American all-star lineup cross the ACL stage on PBS for decades as a little girl, and Ben was chomping at the bit for another exceptional live event with one of his favorites bands, not to mention the songwriting joy of Hayes Carll as the opener. Game on!
So, what’s the best way to get to Austin and back? Well, you make a big loop through Texas to include a quick a stop in Mexico.
It was a Sunday morning around 7am. The gate rattled. A mile and a half away from the pavement on a dead end 4-wheel-drive road, we were just coming out of our nightly slumber.
It had been three months since moving into the yurt and we were sure to expect some unsuspecting visitors who were more familiar with our place than we were. I heard the intruders first and Ben lit up in action to put on pants and grab the pistol.
As he snaked his way up the path toward the gate, I put on some clothes and quickly retrieved the little .22 that I first shot with my dad in our old Colorado backyard. I watched him from behind the trees and listened in…
He questioned the visitors – two rough-looking men standing outside of the green Chevy pick-up, the driver with one hand on the gate and the other holding a can of Bud Light. The passenger, watching warily by at the hood of the truck, coddled his own beer.
“What are you doing?” Ben asked over the gate with an authoritive tone and posture that emphasized the accompaniment of his sidearm.
“Oh! We were just out 4-wheeling and got lost,” said the driver in a slowly slurred accent with his arms raised, moving closer to the truck door. “We’re out drinking beer all night and took a wrong turn,” he said in a shabby half-smile.
Both men climbed into the truck with their blue cans and the driver tried to reverse. The passenger got out to put the hubs in so they could roll out in 4-wheel drive, and they lumbered on back down the road.
Ben and I hung back for about a 30 minutes to make sure all was clear before we went to see his mom in town who was staying at the B&B that weekend. It was a great way to start the day and gave us a dramatic tale to share over breakfast!
Since then, we’ve had a few more visitors rattle the gate, but most have been friends and neighbors showing up unannounced. The others are the subject of another story yet to be written…
Do you have any stories of unexpected guests – good or bad – to share? Tell us how you answered the door in the comments below. Thanks for reading and sharing!!
No, I am not talking about the Lady Gaga variety, albeit with MAD respect. We have inadvertently coached a hoard of hummingbirds to swarm the grounds with hangry Jetson car-like chirping in demand of more sugar water. They have been so keen on the new eatery that one brazen bird actually entered the open doors of the yurt to coax me into serving more!!
The little buggers are becoming more intrepid as they get to know us better, often hovering at eye level and sharing little chirps. One silly bird even flew into the outhouse and couldn’t find its way out, so I had to sneak in and put a soft hand around it to send it back outside. I feel like I am back teaching Pre-K with all the needy little critters!
According to HummingBirdWorld.com, the Aztecs came to believe that every warrior slain in battle rose to the sky and orbited the sun for four years. Then they became hummingbirds. Some of them seem oh-so familiar.
It’s been fun watching the R2D2-sounding antics around the handful of new feeders, and we look forward to plenty of cheap entertainment on the yurtdeck for years to come.
Hummingbirds are native species of the New World and are not found outside of the Western Hemisphere except in a few zoos or aviaries. There are no hummingbirds found in Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia or Antarctica.
Many hummingbird species, including Anna’s, black-chinned, Allen’s, Costa’s, rufous, calliope and broad-tailed hummingbirds, can breed together to create hybrid species. This is one factor that makes identifying hummingbirds very challenging.
Despite their small size, hummingbirds are one of the most aggressive bird species. They will regularly attack jays, crows and hawks that infringe on their territory. Backyard birders often have one dominant hummingbird that guards all the feeders, chasing intruders away.
The rufous hummingbird has the longest migration of any hummingbird species. These hummers fly more than 3,000 miles from their nesting grounds in Alaska and Canada to their winter habitat in Mexico.
A hummingbird must consume approximately 1/2 of its weight in sugar daily, and the average hummingbird feeds 5-8 times per hour. In addition to nectar, these birds also eat many small insects and spiders, and may also sip tree sap or juice from broken fruits.
A hummingbird’s maximum forward flight speed is 30 miles per hour. These birds can reach up to 60 miles per hour in a dive, and hummingbirds have many adaptations for unique flight.
A hummingbird’s brilliant throat color is not caused by feather pigmentation, but rather by iridescence in the arrangement of the feathers. Light level, moisture, angle of viewing, wear and tear and other factors all influence just how bright and colorful the throat may appear.
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The big deck came a year after the yurt, but the “yurtdeck” was always part of the master plan. We didn’t have time to build before we moved in last June, so we got cracking just as soon as we could earlier this spring.
Whether you’ve sold cookies and earned merit badges or not, there is no denying the impact of the Boy and Girl Scouts on the American Way. Enterprising girls clad in green, and boys with bright smiles, open doors all over the nation and leave an indelible mark on the people of the United States, and have done so for over a century. As a measure of their influence, notable American Scouts include household names such as Sandra Day O’Connor, Neil Armstrong, Lucille Ball, Bruce Jenner, Sally Ride, and the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
As a common rite of passage in the early grades, Ben and I recited the Scout’s oath with two fingers- he as a Cub Scout and Webelo, and I as a little Brownie. There is something special and sacred about donning the gold emblems and making a promise out loud to do your best, help others, and be a true patriot. While we didn’t follow the full course of the programs (probably a little too regimented for us as boundary-pushers), there’s no doubt we can be proud to have participated in those formative years.
Beyond those basic activities as school children, we both had a more personal connection to the internationally-recognized youth leadership associations. For Ben, he lived next door to the Girl Scout’s Camp Elliott Barker where he helped tend the grounds as his first summer job. He passed by the esteemed and picturesque Philmont Camp everyday on his way to school where Scouts from all over the country go to push their limits and achieve personal bests in the great outdoors.
Turns out that northern New Mexico hosts several Scout camps to include a property just down the road from Sahalee, Rancho del Chapparal. A little more far removed, the family lore on my mother’s side claims that my great grandfather, Lewis Hay from Baltimore, had a hand in operating a Boy Scout camp in Eagle Pass, TX in the early 1900’s. He is buried there, and we are hoping to research more and make a visit at some point to connect with the outpost.
These indirect touches with the Scouts have colored our lives in ways we hadn’t really thought of until recently. When you think of Eagle Scouts, specifically, you think of capable and trustworthy men groomed for excellence and public service. There is no better example than the young man I am privileged to know who is now a high-achieving cadet leader in his third year at West Point. I marvel at BJL’s new undertakings since I spent many days with him and his three sisters (also Scouts) as their nanny while he was an energetic and curious boy in the primary grades. I’d like to think the times we spent day-camping and bushwhacking at Wickham Park in Florida influenced him to purse outdoor adventures as a proud member of our United States military. It was truly humbling to join his family at the Eagle Court of Honor, and I’m looking forward to seeing what the future holds for this bright young man and his siblings.
While Eagle Scouts are turned out into the world prepared to endure life’s toughest challenges with grace and determination, there are events for which one can never fully prepare. This happened to be the case for Eagle Scout, and member of the Order of the Arrow, Jackson Leslie Beam.
My eldest nephew, a 3rd degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do, disciplined banjo picker, and missionary for his church, was snatched away from this earth on June 24th after suffering an unforeseen and tragic health complication.
He just graduated with his high school diploma the weekend before, and celebrated his 18th birthday on May 5th with his twin sister in Fort Wayne, IN. Jack grew from a sweetly enchanting little boy to be a model citizen with the guidance of his mother as Den Leader of his troop. At Scouting events and within his wider community alongside his father (a graduate of the US Air Force Academy), soft-spoken blue-eyed Jack proved himself to be a leader among his peers, and was compelled to attend to the needs of others to include his adopted little sister. All who knew him expected great things from his pending two-year mission to Taiwan and future studies in computer science at Purdue University where he was recently accepted.
An Eagle Scout in the truest sense, going above and very much beyond the rigorous requirements, this young man gave us hope that the future would be in the best of hands long after the older generations are gone. Now, Jack serves as a reminder of what can be accomplished in just a few short years- to live a life of purpose that is full of genuine love. Jack’s legacy lives on in the hearts and memories of others, and there is no doubt he will be remembered in the Scouting community for a very, very long time. Claiming the legendary ‘Battle Hymn of the Republic‘ as his favorite song, I don’t believe anyone would fuss at adding Jack’s name to the list above of notable Scouts for their positive impact on the world as a true American.
In this year’s celebration of American Independence, we honor those here and gone who have made their own pledges to follow their faith, honor their county, and help others for the good of all.
During a White House visit by Scouts and Explorers in 1961, President John F. Kennedy shared how Scouts “learn the qualities of perseverance … you come to understand something about nature and something about our country.”
“After years of observation,” he continued, “I really believe that the experience you have … is the best possible training you can have to equip you for later life.”
“What you are doing now will prepare you to play a significant and responsible role in maintaining the freedom of the United States.”
On a bright and sunny June 4th last year, we pulled our happily weary caravan covered in Florida salt spray into Cuba, NM with the rest of our lives ahead of us. We had no idea what lay ahead, but we were eager to jump in with eight feet to realize our long-time dream of living off-grid in the New Mexico mountains.
No one could say if we would make it through the first year, let alone the first monsoon season, first snowy winter, first encounter with wildlife, first yurt-raising, among other character-building firsts. Well, we did (despite the bets against us), and we are so much better for it!!
This year, we celebrate all that we accomplished at Sahalee in our inaugural year with you cheering us along the whole way. The occasion was marked by a two-night camping trip on the ‘Back Five,’ where we explored the property we usually only gaze upon from a distance. We climbed chalk hills and rocky ravines to spy the yurts between the trees and name all the towering Ponderosa Pines we live underneath. We saw the sun rise and set from a different vantage, and were able to behold new blossoms and leaves, trails and markers, and feelings that we hadn’t experienced before. It was like our first day all over again!
As we sit on our new deck above the ground where we once camped out in the tent, and plan to move the yurt to the main stage, it’s still quite surreal. We haven’t stopped pinching ourselves, believing that it is still really too good to be true. Now, we look ahead to years two to twenty and are thrilled to bring you along with us as we continue to learn and define the ‘Sahalee Way.’
With that being said, please do save the date for our First Annual Sahalee Off Grid Open House on Labor Day Weekend. We’re hoping to make this a standing event where all are welcome to stop in for an hour – or a week – to enjoy all that we love about this place. Feel free to revisit our Guide to the Land of Enchantment for more information about the area, and let us know if we can help you plan your trip for September.
Finally, since you are reading this from our newly upgraded site, please do take a second to hit the Follow button and ensure you are on the list to be first to know about any new updates via email. We expect to be giving all our loyal followers some bonus material and special little extras in the near future.
From the very bottom of our hearts, thank you, and Happy Sahaliversary!!
Today marks the end of an era and the start of a new chapter. Three years ago, we were formally introduced to “Ol’ Skraggly” as the ancient Ponderosa Pine greeted us on our first visit to Sahalee. Such an impressive feature, the woody elder is an immediate attention-grabber and landmark, and was a delightful surprise to us upon learning we’d be sharing the same space during some very precious moments.