The Country Mystique

Beautiful Fruit Orchard

For years now, I’ve been wanting to move to the country where neighbors are just out of sight, there is no traffic, and there is open space for the soul!

At this point in my travels I’ve had a revelation.  I love the idea of growing my own food, but there are things I would rather spend my time doing.  There are things I want to paint, and things I want to write.  There are online communities I want to create and foster and imbue with life and energy. there are projects uncountable I want to undertake with my kids, and travels to avail myself of with my husband.

At this moment I want a home that will be most fulfilling for childrearing and for my children themselves.  I want cozy and beautiful but not time intensive. I want busy but not hectic.  I want every one of us to be pursuing our passions.  I want us not tied up with house and yard maintenance, farming or cooking or cleaning.  All of those things are good, but when they come at the expense of what you are meant to be doing, the joy of them will rot and life becomes a drudgery.

I want to live close enough to town that we don’t have to drive to get there.  And I want it to be a town I LOVE.

I want dance classes and flute lessons for Ada.  I want lots of friends–the wonderful, forever, deep-down kind of friends, not mere acquaintances and nice neighbors.  And I want my kids to be able to walk to their friends’ houses, and the library, and beautiful parks or creeks, or woods.

I want local farms to buy from or trade with, and for my kids to spend time on.

I want stunning scenery as a backdrop to my life.

I want the kind of culture that is full of theatre troops and homeschool entrepreneurships. Surprising people with varied experiences and conclusions, and new ideas and great, glowing projects that rip across your day or your life with the tremendous energy of their ingenuity.  I want diversity and trades, and people to apprentice with.

I’m not describing country life…

I want alternative design and alternative energy. I want sustainability and self-sufficiency. I want the time, money and energy not spent on a mortgage and utilities to be available for crafting and art, for trading with or buying from local artisans, for soul food, and theatre and classes, bright ideas and daring endeavors!

Don’t let anyone say wanting is not a valuable pasttime.  It proves the world contains beautiful possibilities and it fuels the human intellect.  It is both the reason for and the result of our imaginations. Don’t forget to ask yourself what you want.

Dedicated to Amanda, who is invited to join me anytime.  Remember when we had this written on our dormroom wall?

“…the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars…”

Petrified Wood

7 year old discovering petrified wood in Arizona

In Arizona, Ada and I were thrilled to find both Kokopelli and petrified wood.  If you don’t have time for the Petrified Forest, don’t worry.  The stuff is everywhere and how cool is it that trees from the Triassic Period were preserved all this time by Nature for us to marvel at or study (depending on your inclination) today and tomorrow, too?

These trees must have been submerged in water or mud before they deteriorated.  The individual cells deteriorated anyway, leaving hollow husks that filled with mineral rich water and when the water evaporated, the minerals hardened in the tree-cells so that now we have rocks that are also trees.  I can hardly stand it, it’s so cool!

By the way, the brown color of the tree cells is replaced with whatever color is the predominant color of the mineral that took it’s place.  Iron is red, for example. Calcium is white.  Some of the trees contain veritable rainbows–shocking color revealed at the slice like a geode!

petrified tree stumps

colors in petrified wood

Bathrooms On the Road

restroom sign

When I was in India, a roadtrip involved stops at stores on the side of the highway with outdoor bathrooms: concrete stalls with a concrete floor with a drain in the middle, and a faucet (like the one you hook your hose up to on the side of your house) in one wall.  Toilet paper is strictly bring-your-own (and only bother if you’re a silly Westerner). That’s really all you need.

Life in Benny is not quite so . . . um, exotic.  Benny has a bathroom with a flushing toilet and a sink with running water.  We can stop and use it any time.  The catch is that when our black water tank nears full, we have to find a dump station and we pay to empty it.  So in the interest of budgeting, we try to use public facilities as available and save our toilet for when we have no other options (and for one year old Annabelle who uses a potty seat on Benny’s toilet, and is not inspired in public restrooms).

We grocery shop almost every day, so that’s a good place to use a bathroom. If we stay overnight in a campground, there are usually public restrooms.  And of course the Walmart overnight comes with a bathroom, too.

Hardest place to find a toilet?  New York City, where we didn’t have Benny with us so couldn’t exercise that option at all.  “There’s a playground,” I naively piped up.  “There’s always a bathroom near a playground!”  Not in NYC.  And shops don’t let you use theirs, either.  Suddenly we understood why George Costanza got rich by designing an app to find the nearest toilet.  Where do you find a toilet in New York City.  At the Port Authority where you catch the Staten Island Ferry.

If you ever need to find a dump station, however, there are apps for that, and a couple of helpful websites:

http://www.rvdumps.com/dumpstations/

http://www.sanidumps.com/

Cincinnati with (surprise) Family

David played the Findlay Market Saturday morning which was simultaneously hopping and crawling with Cincinnatians:

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When who should approach me but family I didn’t even realize we had!  Buffy’s brother is married to David’s Aunt Holly and way back when I was new in this family, and Ada was new in this world, we had a family brunch at Buffy and Mark’s house at which time I was barely keeping aunts and uncles straight , much less aunt and uncle in-laws, and I honestly wasn’t very clear on who Buffy even was!

After a pleasant exchange of how-do-ye-do, and when David had finished his show, we said goodbye and Buffy turned to leave, then came back and offered to let us stay in their driveway while we were in town!  This was the most wonderful offer as we had not figured out where to stay in town and the prospect of a Cincinnati Walmart appealed to us even less than others.  And Buffy’s offer was rich with generous extras: we could plug Benny into their house for electricity, we could luxuriate in their gorgeous swimming pool, enjoy their huge yard, swing from their trees, draw on their driveway and help ourselves to their many amenities including toilets, showers and a 24 hour laundryroom. It was like a resort vacation.

We accepted and Buffy proceeded to make us a great summer dinner of gazpacho soup (choice of regular tomato OR watermelon) with a delicious berry and fancy yogurt desert, which we ate with Buffy, Mark, and their youngest daughter, Colleen, on the patio.  Mmmm! Oh, and beets, which Annabelle immediately learned how to say so she could request it again and again with her insatiable appetite.  Colleen was so sweet with the kids and they loved her (and so did we)!

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Planning: electricity

Solar Shower

We want solar panels, but we want to leave even more.  No more waiting for things!  So it looks like this first trip will be sans solar power.  So what will we use for power?

Occasionally we will pay to park at a campground with hookups, but mostly not.  Occasionally we may stay in the driveway of a friend or relative who lets us plug into their home, but mostly not.

Our stove and oven run on propane.  We will see how little propane usage we can get away with. We will barbecue when we can, using wood where available.  I’ll have to use propane (and the generator) to make my daily smoothies with an electric hand blender, and I’ll need propane to bake our staples like granola and bread.  I should probably invest in (or learn to make) a solar oven for such things… Cooking outside would also help us cut down on the heat in the motorhome and so cut down on our AC needs.

Speaking of heat, we will park in the shade, keep the curtains closed (or windows open), and hopefully spend more time in the more Northerly states to cut down on cooling costs. We’ll be getting some kind of fan or fans to help us through.  Fan recommendations are welcome.  We really need one for while we’re driving, too, as the dash AC doesn’t quite blow on the kids in the back.  Maybe one cigarette-lighter fan for driving, and one battery 0pperated for when we’re parked?  I wonder if we can charge AA batteries by plugging our battery charger into our little cigarette-lighter inverter while driving.  Hmmm…

That inverter will hopefully supply all of our cell phone and laptop charging needs while we drive.  We have one like this.

Water heater?  Cold showers are difficult to luxuriate in and would certainly help us keep the water usage down!  And anyway, we have my nifty solar shower that will heat 5 gallons for free on a sunny day.  The girls and I tested it out recently in our yard and it was a hit.  We started the project late in the day and it didn’t have time to get warm, but it was Florida in April, and a cold shower outside was perfect.  I’m thinking about getting an inflatable pool so the girls can use the shower outside when we’re camping and splash in the pool, too.

Laundry?  I’ve already posted about my non-electric washing machine.  The dryer is electric, but as it only takes one or two minutes, it is minimal.  Laundromats will be available if we decide we need them.

Don’t worry about how we’ll have to rough it, though.  The truth is that if it’s too rough, we can always run the generator more.  We won’t know for sure how much electricity we’ll demand until we try it!