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You might think that because I write a blog dedicated to my failures as a housekeeper, I would have no angst about the unexpected guest. I thought so myself until Thing2 came home from school with a friend.
I knew the parents would come to pick up our tiny guest very soon. However the work day was still in full gear. I realized that when these mystery parents came to get their offspring, our unkept house would play center stage.
Our guest’s father arrived and wanted a tour of our energy system (we’re off the grid),and I instantly began preparing him for what he was about to see. He held up a hand and assured me he had seen worse, and I suddenly decided it didn’t matter if he had or hadn’t.
The house will get clean sometime – not today, but someday. In the meantime, I’ve decided to enjoy our house – clean or not – with no worries and, most of all, no shame.
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 love 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.
About five years ago, we went off-grid and said goodbye to our charming, but mouse-infested, wallet-draining, blackout-prone 200 year old farmhouse.
That farmhouse had actually inspired our move – not because of its inconveniences, but because it represented a time when its inhabitants had not only survived, but thrived without electricity or a fat bank account. And, while we had no intention of turning our lives into a historical re-enactment, we knew we’d have to make some choices if we were going to live with only the power we made. So, after five years of washing my dishes by hand, I got a super-efficient dishwasher (it actually saves water and electricity) and said good bye to my dryer.
We had line-dried our clothes most of the year before we made the move, but going from line-drying with an electric-dryer backup to depending completely on mother nature’s good mood was a bigger change than we’d thought. It meant setting up a space for drying indoors in snowy weather and, in summer, timing our wash loads with dry weather.
And, if there’s anything that has taught me to look at life from a basket half-folded point of view, it was the adoption of line-only drying. I groaned, for example, the first time a sudden summer storm drenched a line full of laundry. But when the sun came out a day later, the clothes were softer and smelled better than if I’d used a luxury-hotel fabric softener. When winter settled in, I thought drying inside would be slow because of the lack of wind, but because we use the wood stove 24/7 in winter, clothes actually dried faster. And there was another bonus I’d never thought of – the evaporating moisture of the drying laundry was a perfect counter balance to the over-dry air created by the wood stove.
I haven’t found any miracles in the mountains of clothes that I end up having to fold in late-night marathons (when sleeping children won’t rearrange my sorted piles on the couch). But when I’m meditating as I work my way through the pile, free of distractions and requests, it’s more than just laundry.