Friday, August 17, 2012

Sky Bus Upgrades

First, I should tell you that I've been filling my foundation trench with rubble and should have a post with photos of the completed trench soon.  In the meantime, I just wanted to share a couple of small but significant changes to my living situation this summer.

Upgrade #1

Last summer, I lived out of an ice chest, which was the one thing about living off-grid that could really become a drag at times.  Having a bulky ice chest in the kitchen, slogging around in it to find the desired item, and having things get waterlogged is just no fun.  Not to mention having to drag the thing to the bus steps every other day or so (at least it has wheels!) in order to drain the melted ice into a bucket.

The bus actually has a fridge, but of course, without electricity, it's not functional.  Or so I just automatically assumed last summer.  It smelled bad too, so I just kind of ignored it.  After I moved back out to the land this year, for some reason I opened the fridge one day and discovered that the glass shelf in it was cold to the touch, and I thought, "Hey, maybe I could use this as a cooler."  Duh, right?  I mean, why did this never occur to me before? 

Anyway, I cleaned it out, bought a dishpan to put bags of ice in, took out one of the rack shelves to accommodate the dishpan, and voila!  I now have a much better way to store my cold food.  For one thing, all my condiments can go in the door and no longer sink to the bottom of the ice chest where their labels disintegrate.  For another, the ice lasts longer.  And I no longer have a monstrous ice chest in the way (which is good, because now that I have an oven, there's a propane tank there instead.  At least it doesn't take up as much space.)

Upgrade #2 

The bus bedroom consists of three benches in a horseshoe shape; last summer I put a twin size futon mattress on one of the benches to sleep on.  I had to fold it up a bit so it would fit.  It was fairly comfy but narrow, of course, and it would annoyingly slip down from its half-folded position and I'd have to prop it up again. 

When I was getting ready to move back out to the land in the spring, I started putting some thought into how I could improve this system and realized that if I could place some kind of board the size of a full-size mattress over the benches, I'd be able to have a real bed.  And then, just around that time, a friend of mine was getting rid of a full-size bunkie board (this is one of those boards that goes on a bunk bed, in case you didn't know).  Perfect timing.

So now, I have a very comfy place to sleep, which makes all the difference in the world. 

Friday, August 3, 2012

A Perfect Circle: Rubble Trench Foundation Progress

"Dreams pass into the reality of action. From the actions stems the dream again; and this interdependence produces the highest form of living." 
~ Anais Nin

Everyone says that building a house always takes longer than you think it will, but in my case, it's taking waaaayyyyy longer than I initially imagined.  Last summer, I came to a point of acceptance about that and decided to just take my time, not stress about it, and enjoy the process.  But it seems like the way life often works is that as soon as you come to acceptance at one level, you get thrown to a more challenging level.  Such, at least, has been the case with my housebuilding project.

Over the winter, I made plans to organize my life a little differently this summer.  I would work less and stay out at the land more, thereby making it possible to not only have more time for building, but live on the reduced income.  However, because of a variety of unforeseen factors, it did not work out this way.  I've found myself in town most of the time, and even out of town altogether.

I don't want to get into too much personal stuff on this blog, but I feel the need to give some context here.  This has been so far the most intense year of my life.  It has included the death of my younger brother; a dear friend going missing in the woods for nine days, returning, finding out he has a brain tumor and starting chemo, going missing and returning again; and a daughter who fell into a self-destructive lifestyle and has needed lots of help to get out of it.  All of this has been beyond challenging to deal with, especially while also living off-grid and trying to build a house, plus just the "usual" stuff of working and raising four children, the youngest of which has been in a "me-first-or-I'll-throw-a-tantrum" stage. 

I've had moments of discouragement and near-despair, when I've questioned what the hell I'm doing and if I should just give up and find a decent rental in town.  It all came to a head a couple of weeks ago.  I was just back from Denver after bringing my daughter to the airport to go live with her dad in Louisiana and get her life back on track, and I just felt defeated and exhausted.  Like I just don't care anymore and don't have the energy.  There was only ten feet or so left to dig on the first trench, but it just seemed pointless and beyond me.

But then, I just got up and started digging again, and once I started, I was determined to finish it.  That day.  In the Earthbag Building book, the authors say, "Action dispels doubt," and they are totally right.  That day, everything began to turn around for me.  I dug longer and harder than I ever have.  I spent that whole day digging, taking little breaks, digging some more.  And then it was done; the two ends connected, and they connected level.

To be able to then stand back and gaze upon the fruit of my labor, this perfect circle, was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life, even if there's still a lot more digging to do.  I can only imagine what it will feel like when the whole structure is completed.

But the really significant moment was actually not when the trench was completed, but at the point during the day when I stopped for a break and realized there was only about four feet left, the length of my beloved orange level.  That's when I knew that I really would finish it that day, and I felt an immediate lightening, the proverbial burden off the shoulders.  I sat there on the edge of the trench with my feet on its floor, and just looked and listened, received the beauty and grace of this piece of land that I now know I belong to.  I felt a surrendered gratitude and intimacy with it like never before, this land that has claimed me, this place I am constructing and being constructed by.  Being here, doing this, is both sanctuary and pilgrimage.