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Even living in rural Appalachia, we get comments about choosing to live where we have. Some folks seem impressed, some think we are weird or crazy, others worry about us. But, we have found home. It is here off-grid, in solitude. It is near to perfect.
My mother’s and step-father’s preacher worries about us up here. He wonders if I will be happy, or stay happy. My mother worries about the boogey man. I do sometimes half expect to look out my picture window and see Bigfoot, but it wouldn’t shock me at all. That would be great. I am more likely to see a deer or some other wild animal roaming in our yard than another human. Animals don’t scare me.
John’s parents don’t like the road. We don’t either really, but it is what it is. It is not a permanent situation us driving in the creek. Hopefully, by next winter we’ll have a better way. If not, we’ll survive it. My Dad says we’ve got the best place in the world for Armageddon, or when our country falls to anarchy, socialism, or whatever else he might equate with chaos. He says we can sit up in here and”pick ’em off” as they come up the holler. Leave it too a dad to find good his daughter’s decisions when no one else does. He’s right. It is a pretty cool place to be and I feel very safe. I feel safer in God’s creation than in man’s.
A man from the gas company came to check on a gas leak a few days ago. He said, “I don’t reckon many girls would live up in here.” I said, “I really like it.” “It’s nice here, peaceful,” he said. I’ve never been like many other girls. John played a show last night here in Knott County. A man asked where he lived, said he was glad someone who could play the banjo like he could lived in the old homeplace. That made John proud.
Our cabin was built in 1900 by a man named Uncle Ed Thomas. I believe you can find mention of him in the Foxfire books and there may be a picture of him. He was a dulcimer maker. He put some fancy into this little place, as you can see in the work over the front porch. I love a house with history. There are several other older cabins on the property, but only 2 are finished enough to live in.
We don’t own this property, but I hope we are here a good long time. Moving off-grid is something I feel good about. Being in my mountains is like nothing else.
I couldn’t post about what we eat and exercise without addressing the need to change the stereotypical American diet. Americans are suffering from diseases expounded upon by unhealthy food choices at wild rates. Our children are being affected by diseases that were usually common in adults. In eastern Kentucky, we are seeing large increases in diabetes and heart disease. The food and diet industry want us to believe that it is from consuming too much fat. Fat period. Blanketing the word. Not distinguishing between types of fats. Then, there is the amount of refined sugar we consume, and high fructose corn syrup. You gotta love those new commercials. It’s okay in moderation. 😉
In December, I found myself very ill. When I came out on the other side of that sickness a month later, I was twenty pounds lighter and feeling weak. I wanted to regain my health and strength. I wanted to use this opportunity to explore the food I was eating and what I was feeding my family. I wanted to be a healthy mother and example for my girls. I have been thinking about food all my life. I’ve come from finishing whole bags of Oreos with my Dad on our weekends together, to being a self starving athlete passing out on the hardwood, to an overweight and depressed college student, to again a food controller, then motherhood, and now real health. The first thing I did when I needed to regenerate myself was to grab my Nourishing Traditions cookbook, by Sally Fallon.
I had attempted a Traditional Foods way of life right when I discovered I was pregnant with Ivy. Unfortunately, all day morning sickness took over and I just couldn’t stomach a change. This time I was ready. It always intrigued me when I thought of what my ancestors ate. My mountain ancestors ate what they could grow or raise before the introduction of processed and shipped in foods. They cooked with lard, used whole milk and butter that was not pasteurized and was fresh. They ate meat with every meal when it was available either through livestock or hunting. They sweetened with molasses, sorghum, and honey (until refined white sugar was introduced). Our people ate three full meals when times were good, consisting of a meat or two, several vegetables, and cornbread or biscuits. Of course, there was the desert on the occasions of special times and company. They ate until satisfied, and most did not become overweight.
I wondered how they managed this, and always thought it was because they worked all day. That they did, but it was in intervals of hard work and easier day to day type chores. It wasn’t like the quick intense workouts we do today. What they did do is eat their portion of real whole foods that they worked to raise and prepare without the ease of ready-made things. They weren’t putting ingredients into their body that they didn’t recognize. So, after reading Nourishing Traditions, thinking of how my people did things, and what my body told me I needed, I decided to go with my family toward real, natural, and when available organic foods. No pre-boxed, half-cooked, freeze dried, corn syruped, bleached flour, vegetable oil, soy laden dinners. Whole food, scratch made, all the time.
Now, we are not a family with money by any means. We pinch pennies and do without what many families consider musts. We are creative folks and both of us have chosen to make our creative endeavors our life’s work. I decided to give up teaching middle school to stay home with my girls, and it has meant we have had to cut many corners. Moving off-grid was our first step to cutting high expense. Also, off-grid/country living is home to us. In moving off-grid, you also make some sacrifices. Good roads, television(okay not a sacrifice), luxury living, and natural food markets. As I have mentioned before, organic foods are few and far between here.
To begin looking into this for yourself, you might want to visit the website of the Weston A. Price Foundation (www.westonaprice.org). Keep in mind these are recommendations based in part on science and in part on traditional folkways. I have adapted these recommendations to what is available financially, culturally, and geographically to my family.
Here is how I buy food with around $250 monthly to feed 3:
- I purchase as much Full Circle brand foods and produce I can from the local chain of grocery Food City. Full Circle is the brand of organics that they carry. In produce, I try to keep in mind what most Appalachians kept in their garden. We did this while choosing seeds for our garden too.
- Raw dairy products are something I have yet to find, so I make due with organic dairy.
- There are no organic meats to be found. We eat wild game that my family hunts. I look for meats that are free-ranged, antibiotic/hormone free, and generally as well kept as possible. I buy Gerber chicken, Laura’s Lean Beef, and Full Circle Salmon brands. For breakfast meats I buy Swaggerty’s Natural MSG free sausage and Oscar Meyer Natural Bacon free of nitrates and MSG.
- I try to stay away from too many grains. I am able to find organic corn meal, wheat flour, and spelt flour in Bob’s Red Mill brand. The rest of my grains I buy from Yoder’s Bulk Foods in Hindman, Kentucky. The store is ran by a local group of Mennonites. Oatmeal and Cornmeal are our favorite grains or grain-like products.
- I sweeten only with the following: sorghum, molasses, organic/local honey, raw honey, organic agave nectar.
- I cook with only the following: lard, extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, sesame oil, bacon drippings, whole butter unsalted.
That is the basics of what I do. Everything in my kitchen is hand-made unless there is another more Traditional Food type option available to me. I cook two meals a day and lunch is often left-overs. We eat a lot of nuts as well.
Now, you may think that this costs more than your typical American shopping expenses. However, even I was surprised by a recent shopping trip I made with my sister. She bought mostly pre-packaged, ready made, and non-organic food stuffs. I bought all organic or natural. We both spent $125 for our carts of groceries! I stayed away from the middle aisles and stuck to whole foods. You can eat this way on a tight budget.
Some other things we are doing to cut costs is grow our own garden and hopefully we will be getting our own laying hens. Another plus to living off-grid. I’ll leave you today with our most recent gardening delights.
We are home now with two healthy little girls. I could talk about how nothing in the world could have prepared for seeing my child come to after anesthesia. I could talk about all the second guessing I’ve done, but it’s old news. Deladis will be fine. Her procedures went well, and now we are just going to watch her grow.
Coming home from a few days away always makes me feel an overwhelming sense of relief. This time it made me think of all the roads we travel. How all of us are trying to find home. That place where things are comfortable. John and I have found our home. This little piece of a mountain holler is home for this season. I hope it’s a long one. The mountains will be home until we leave this earth.
To get to our little off-grid hideout, you have to be adventurous. Not afraid to harm your vehicle on our unforgiving road. The first thing you do is drop into the creek.
No, the bridge does not belong to us. Yes, the creek is the road. You are on the right path. Keep following the creek. The great thing about living off-grid is you literally can’t find our address on a computer, and so many maps. We don’t exist to companies like AT&T or UPS. It’s funny. We’d have to pay the local cable company around $1,ooo to allow us to have cable television. We aren’t going to do that. But, back to the road. You need to be serious to pay us a visit. If you have one of those “oh, crap” handles in your automobile, grab it now.
Very soon you will come out of the creek and onto our little gravel road. There is a little incline here, and in case you didn’t call to announce your visit, we have clearly posted for you three times that there will be no trespassing on this property. Unless you are on very familiar terms with George, John, or myself (the latter of whom still would appreciate a call), you should have made prior arrangements for your visit. Oh, unless you work for the natural gas company. We do have protection here in the form of the dog in the photo, and my personal weapon of choice – a 12 inch cast iron skillet. Yes, I mean business.
The road has been eaten out by the winter weather a bit and gets rough from here. Stay on course and you will be fine. We have had friends from the big city end up in the field sitting fearful that a mountain man with a shot gun would come out and give them a lesson about property, but that was after dark.
Again, you will enter the creek and will remain there until you come to our cabin. This is a rough spot and unless you hit it just right, you will drag. But, we all drag sometimes, so you don’t have to be embarrassed by it. We chose this road, you didn’t.
Then, you come to our cabin. I’ll invite you in and smile. Not many people risk vehicle damage to pay us a visit. I’ll welcome you with coffee or spring water and a peanut butter cookie or a full supper on a good day.
You can workout with me hiking the cemetary hill. We’ll workout in short pants for the first time in months. We can enjoy the warm breeze as it plays in the hairs left on our legs from jeans weather. 🙂