One Year In

Well, this week, it’s been a year since we sold Someone Else’s American Dream and moved to the sticks. Been quite a year. Among the hardest of my life, in fact, in spite of what the idyllic pictures may lead you to believe. Right up there with the year I went into the Peace Corps in the Marshall Islands where someone ate my dog, and the year I became a mother to the world’s most amazing baby. With colic.

So I thought I’d take a moment to recap the year, kinda as a way to remind myself how much we’ve accomplished. Because I sure didn’t plan to be still in this RV at this point.

Things we’ve managed to do in a year:

– Sell our million dollar plus home and unload thirty years of debt.

– Buy nine plus acres of gorgeous chapparal land without taking out a mortgage.
– Acquire a fifth-wheel RV, plop it on the land, and called it home.
– Figure out how to get mail delivered to a non-existent address.
– Buy a shipping container and get it over a dinky bridge so we could store our overload of stuff.

– Set up solar panels, a battery bank, and power our lives off-grid.
– Hack wifi and cell phone service off-grid.

– Put up a geodesic dome together as a family.
– Design-build a kickass outdoor shower.
– Create the most awesome shower/outhouse, using rainwater as our source.
– Build a composting toilet, humanure compost bin, and close the loop on our septic waste.
– Build garden boxes and start growing our own food.
– Set up a worm bin, cold compost and manage our own garbage.
– Sell the minivan and buy a natural gas vehicle and pickup truck with cash.
– Build a clothesline system.

– Put up a play set and giant rope swing and built three sets of stilts.
– Grade the dirt roads.
– Put in pipes and a waterfall to connect our ponds.
– Host a nature class with our friends.

Things we’ve learned the hard way:

– Don’t put up a home in the direct sun, or you’ll spend way more time and money figuring out insulation, venting and shading.
– RV toilets are disgusting.

IMG_3081– Stella is violently allergic to poison oak.
– July is hot.

IMG_6110– Wind is windy and mud is muddy.
– You have to water a garden for things to grow.
– You have to put a fence around a garden for critters not to eat it before you do.
– Building anything takes way more time than you thought.

– That you really, really took for granted having a dishwasher and wash machine.
– That humane mouse traps are humane because they don’t actually catch anything.
– That no matter how much you love wildlife, you’d better deal with the mice before they squat in your RV and refuse to leave.
– Ditto ants.

Things we’ve loved learning in a year:
– The names and tracks of many mammal neighbors.

– To identify almost all the wildflowers that burst forth in April.

– The trajectory of the sun from day to day, and throughout the year.

– That bass, mosquito fish, turtles, newts, frogs and toads call our pond home.


– That frogs miraculously appear after a good rain, that tadpoles miraculously appear after that, and that tadpoles miraculously turn into frogs.


– That Ohlone used to call our land home, and left behind bedrock mortar evidence.

– That a mountain lion, bobcat, gray fox, skunk, jackrabbit, and turkeys are our neighbors.

– That our human neighbors (closest one, about a mile) are some of the best people you’ll ever meet.


– That leverage is probably the answer to your building challenge.

– When you limit your spending, you find resources you wouldn’t have otherwise considered.

– Taking time to put down the tools and go to the creek is crucial to your sanity.

– That a rope swing over the pond is, in fact, more of a priority than a toilet.
– That we’re pretty darned creative and resilient. Even more so than we ever imagined.
– That going through something this hard brings out the worst in you.
– That going through something this hard brings out the best in you.

Wonder what the next year will bring. I sure hope it includes moving into the dome, counter space, chickens, a dog, less mouse poop, food from our garden, dates with Mauricio where I actually put on makeup and something other than work boots, more time reading with the kids on the hammock.

And writing about it. That makes me happy.