I Did Not Approve This

I love the lush greens that come out when the world is wet. The little white flowers appearing on my basil make the greens pop even more, but they’re also a warning that the basil’s getting ready to bolt. It’s not alone.

I went to the country store to get caffeinated before trying to work or even play outside with the camera Sunday morning. The store was quite, and the proprietress, a good friend, had a moment to visit before stocking the drinks cooler for the day. My family is visiting for a belated graduation celebration for T1, and she asked if we were enjoying it.  I mentioned that, Saturday night, as the Big Guy chaperoned T1, T2 and their recently-graduated cousin at a nearby carnival, my sister, my parents and I found our original foursome in the same place for the first time in ten years.

“Do you want us to start fighting for old times’ sake?” I had asked my mom as I gestured to my sister. I mentioned to my friend that it seemed so odd that my sister and I both had kids who were suddenly at the stage of life when they are starting to go their own ways. My nephew is headed to Germany to work for a year, and, if his hair-trigger colon cooperates, T1 is headed to college in the fall. My sister’s daughter was already missing this family celebration because she’s forging her summer path as a camp counselor.

My friend has been through this with her kids and now grandkids. She told me about a grandson who’s embarking on a summer internship in a strange city. We both remarked how odd it was for these people whom we once watched toddling around this same country store bolting out the doors to their futures.

“I don’t remember approving this,” I laughed as my friend headed back into the cooler to get it stocked for a busy summer Sunday. As I paid for my drinks and got in my car, I smiled, thinking this is exactly what you want for your kids when they’re born. You want them to be independent and ready for a life of adventure. You want them to be confident and filled with hopes and dreams. But realizing that it may be a long time before the ‘original’ foursome of T1, T2 and my sister’s twins are at the same table felt a little like a band-aid ripping off.

Funny Little Things

Sunday morning a blinking alarm clock signaled that we’d lost power overnight.

Our house is earth-sheltered on three sides, so we’ve slept through hurricanes. Up until this summer, so has the house. Last winter we connected to ‘the grid’ after ten years of making our own electricity. The irony is that for the better part of those ten years we never lost power, especially not due to a storm. 

Saturday night I had stayed up to try to paint. I had painted through one episode of Downton Abbey when a gust of wind whipped across the deck, rattling a few chairs and causing our ancient but beloved tag-sale awning to flap furiously. I checked the weather app and, noting that rain was due sooner than originally predicted, took a break to roll up the awning and move outdoor items into ‘storm position.’

I completely forgot my Saturday night storm preparations until I stepped outside for a morning caffeine run to the country store. The deck was wet, but the storm precautions had paid off, and there was no damage, only a few fallen branches in the driveway. A year ago, actually seeing Mother Nature’s redecorating would have been the first indicator that we had had ‘weather’. Now, as we get more connected to all the possibilities offered by seemingly limitless electricity, it seems like a funny thing that a blinking light is our first indicator that she’s been ranting all night.


Dirty Hands

10 o’clock at night always seems to be a good time to try something new. I’ve been wanting to play with oils bit more, so as soon as everyone was in bed, I went digging into my art supplies. This little experiment will be reworked a bit until I’m satisfied, but, so far, it feels good. And the bonus is that I get my hands on a little bit dirty too.

Still Slacking After All These Years

I’m having dinner with T1 and T2. T1 is feeling human for the first time in a long time. The Big Guy is home recuperating after a trip on the lawnmower around our yard in the 90 degree heat. We’re looking out the diner window at the pouring rain, and the boys are trying to debate what kind of weather it is — swimming or Avengers movie watching. as the voice of wisdom, for some reason, I feel it is my duty to remind them that their father settled this question several years ago when we first moved into our Earth sheltered house, so I’m reposting this bit of silliness :

We found each other because we’re both a bit goofy, and that goofiness has led us all over the world. Sometimes it has led us off the deep end, or so some of our friends and family thought when we decided to build an off-grid, earth-sheltered house. In reality, it was one of the best decisions we ever made, and it has rewarded us in many unexpected ways.

When we moved to Vermont, we bought the quintessential antique farmhouse, but, after five years of paying the quintessential gargantuan wood, oil and electric bills that go along with any drafty, mouse-infested home, we decided to make a change. The stint in Germany that preceded our migration to the mountains had exposed us to new and old ideas about building with heating and electric savings in mind. We sifted through folders of clippings and evaluated any conventional and offbeat idea that popped up in the search engines.

Finally, we settled on the idea of an underground house. At the time we didn’t plan to go off-grid – it was still just a fantasy. But our site made bringing in the power more expensive than making it ourselves, and suddenly we had a new research project. Ultimately, we ended up with solar power and hot water and a backup generator. We bought the queen of wood cookstoves (my non-negotiable demand) to heat our house, food, and (in winter) our water.

We moved into the house in the fall, and, aside from having to quickly buy a much more efficient refrigerator, we noticed very few changes in our life. Like most Vermonters – we already used a clothesline 90% of the time, we already had a garden, and we already worshipped our woodstove – but we still patted ourselves on the back for being so green. The reality was we were (and are) slackers, and that was what drove most of our design and energy decisions. It still does now.

So as the Big Guy walked into the house yesterday soaking wet, wrapped in his towel and carrying a bar of soap, I was amused but hardly surprised. It was pouring out and after an afternoon fixing fences, washing off in the rain obviously seemed like a great idea to him(especially since we’re surrounded by trees and mountains and more trees), but I still couldn’t figure out exactly what had motivated it today.

“Saving water,” he announced as he sauntered across the living room, leaving sasquatch-sized puddles on the concrete floor.

Later, as we were both not volunteering to mop up the water, I tried to decide what I loved most about this house – the way it fosters zany outlets for our green and/or lazy impulses or the fact that it’s in the middle of nowhere so that no one calls the cops when we indulge in them.