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.

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– 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.

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

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– 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.

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– 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.

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– 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:
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– The names and tracks of many mammal neighbors.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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– 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.

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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.

24 thoughts on “One Year In

  1. This is amazing, Jacki! We think of you often (well, like every time we drive past your old home) and am so happy to be able to follow your adventures. You are amazing.

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    1. Thanks, Wendy. Sure do miss having you and the lovely Belle Monti neighbors a few steps away. Clearly you guys were the best thing about living there. Tell everyone we said hello. Thanks for keeping in touch.

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  2. That was one heck of a year! Congratulations on your new educational opportunities! (Never met anyone else whose dog was eaten by the locals. Ours was in Taiwan in 1962. Sorry about your dog.)

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      1. We will take you up on that! Also, I have a request — can you do a post about driving and your natural gas car and how you fill it up and all that? I am very curious!

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  3. Sure. Great idea. We’ve cut our fuel budget in half and Mauricio gets to drive in the carpool lane. Without charging options over here, it was the only other option for that.

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  4. Thank you for the recap of your year. You and your family are such an inspiration!
    While I realize your choice is not all roses, the way in which you describe your family’s goings on in your “post-consumer life”,& how much it seems to have drawn your family closer, you make me feel this is a wonderful way for a family, for people to be. You have so much freedom, releasing yourself from what is most commonly considered the “grown-up” way to be. Your children seem to be thriving,&so much more healthier, on all kinds of levels, than a lot of the children I see around me.

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  5. Jacki, I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this! I love the family culture that you guys have created. You’re gifting your kids such great life-long skills: problem-solving to overcome the many challenges, working hard and working together, taking time to have fun because it is that important, and appreciating the ups and downs of the journey along the way. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Hi Wally, I think we spent about $2k to have the panels installed by the used RV dealer. Then we installed the battery bank and inverter, and I can’t remember how much that came to. In retrospect we should have done it ourselves for a lot less. We’re about to upgrade our panel system when we move to the dome. We’ll be working with Apex Solar, which specializes in off-grid systems, and who also happens to be an awesome neighbor. He has a simple, used system that we’ll probably get installed for about $2k, but I’m pretty sure that’s on the low side because he’s our neighbor, because it’s used, and because Mauricio is an electrician and can do most of the work himself. Definitely check out apxsolar.com or give Farrel a call there and pick his brain: 888.782.0706. He’s not only the most knowledgeable guy around when it comes to off-grid, but he’s also the nicest. Tell him Jacki gave you his name.

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    1. Hi Benjamin,
      I’ve been there. My advice is to live below your already low means and never have any debt. Make it a blazing priority to pay it off if you do. Work your butt off before you have kids (if you don’t have any). Don’t fall into the trap of believing that “necessary” things are necessary. TV, cell phones, Netflix, eating out–those are all wants, not needs. And think big. I believe you can make anything happen if you want it badly enough. Best of luck!

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  6. So happy to have found your blog and love it! Quick question for you, where do you source your water?
    Also, do you need permits to live on your land?
    Thanks!
    Holly

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    1. Hi Holly,
      Thanks for leaving a comment. We have 10,000 gallons of above-ground storage tanks that collect creek and rainwater. They were left there by the previous owners. We ran out toward the end of last year, with California being in a drought, so we had a truck bring in potable water and pump it into the tanks. Of course, it rained the week after!
      Legally, we are required to have permits to build, but because the dome we put up is considered a temporary structure, we should be in the clear.

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      1. Thanks for the info Jacki, was wondering and hope to do something similar to y’all! 😀 thank you!

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