WWOOFing: Off-the-Grid Living Tests Our Limits

There are always two ways to look at things, either you find the positive or you find the negative. Technically, there are millions of ways of looking at things, but let's just focus on the positive vs. negative for the sake of the argument. Positive: It's cold and raining outside but we're dry, safe, and cozy in a private cabin. Negative: We have no electricity. Positive: We have a wood stove and collected plenty of drywood before the rains came. Negative: We have no indoor toilets, and it's raining outside. Positive: We just ate a delicious dinner. Negative: There was no dessert. Positive: Our laptop has enough stored energy to write this blog entry. Negative: We have no hot water. Positive: We have each other. Negative: With only one candle, it's kind of hard to read. Positive: We have a living room. Negative: It only has one chair. Positive: There's an area rug. Negative: Said area rug is a flattened piece of discarded cardboard. Positive: We have a refrigerator. Negative: We found mouse droppings inside. Positive: We haven't seen a mouse yet. Negative: There are loads of indoor insects.

Guess we both asked for all of this. It was our idea to embark on this adventure, and now we know how the majority of the world's population lives: without electricity, without running water, without internet, without cell phone service, without television or radio. But unlike countless Third World country residents, we are well-fed and happy.

The truth is, we took a hot shower tonight, but not in our cabin. Regardless, a hot shower was much needed after many days of camping. Patricia, our new WWOOF host, is quite nice. She has a lovely house in rural Mendocino County, CA, that gets its power from the sun and its water from the nearby stream. Her house is killer, a "back to the land" paradise. She lives off the grid, uses three solar panels to generate enough heat for her electricity and warms her house and water with a custom designed wood stove. A graduate of UC Berkeley and Stanford, Patricia has been consciously reducing her carbon footprint for the past three decades. Currently growing in her garden are fava beans, swiss chard, collard greens, basil, mint and comfrey. In addition there is a fruit orchard filled with plums, apricots, peaches, apples and pears on her property. Our intention this week is to help improve her homestead and learn as much about off-the-grid living as we can, and hopefully Patricia will serve as a great teacher this week.

We are staying a quarter of a mile down a dirt road from her house in our small private cabin. Our cabin is rustic and would be charming if it had electricity and hot water. There is an electrical outlet in the wall that hooks up to a generator, however there is no functioning generator here at the moment. If there were, we'd have hot water, a gas stove, access to a working refrigerator, and this place would be amazing. Without all those goodies, we're roughing it. It's good we're visiting places like this and learning how pioneers made it happen. But it also reminds us that we don't want to live our lives without electricity and gas. We often talk about reducing our carbon footprint, and this week, we will be nearly invisible. There must be a way for us to reduce our footprint and preserve the earth while still enjoying the amenities we are accustomed to. We are determined to find that way.