The first thing I did when I returned to my house in Minneapolis was start tearing up sod, with a spade shovel and my hands. Started that project June 02, finished June 16. 1800 sq ft, ten new garden beds in addition to the 300 sq ft bed I already had. My theory is, I can grow enough food on this 60 x 180 lot to last me the year. That won't happen this year, this garden but a test garden for next spring. Still, I expect to grow about three hundred pounds of potatoes, about 50 pounds of dry beans, to go with preserves from twenty tomato plants, about thirty pepper plants, corn, squash, grapes, etc, and whatever I can gather locally, including serviceberries, currants, grapes, wapato, etc. I know I can keep the house until harvest at least.
I use the water I collect from what falls from the sky, and what the neighbors allow me to gather for drinking and the occasional solar shower. I'm using four 47 gallon Rubbermaid tubs, another smaller plastic tub, an old liner for a water softener and my Royalex canoe, la Vielle. I can hold about 400 gallons total, which is pitifully inadequate, but it's the best I can do currently. I dug a 400 gallon pond, but I don't have money for a liner. I should have a 5000 gallon cistern buried in the garage (which I would like to turn into a greenhouse, using recycled windows), and another cistern in the basement. That, and a few home-made filters containing charcoal and sand, and a few low-tech passive solar water panels, to heat water and the house.
Without a steady supply of fresh water, you learn quick what a waste of water a flush toilet is.
I really miss electricity. I use candles and an LED headlamp. I'm using an old beat-up radio and d-cell batteries to occasionally listen to the radio, and a smaller cd-player with c-batteries to play the music I dance to, part of the Sacred Theatre piece I'm working on. My computer is five years old, the hard-drive has been replaced twice in the past year, and the battery holds about a ninety minute charge. I have to go to a coffee shop to work on my book, to check email, to charge the computer and my cell phone, which is also falling apart. I could pretty much take care of most of my basic electricity needs with a pedal-power set up including a 12V car battery. Without grid electric however, the refrigerator is dead space. I should be using it to hold water.
I've written a book called The Dragon: Balance, Wholeness, Healing. It is primarily a challenge to men, to look inside and find their Origins, to access the deep well of power that is inherent to every man, to live in service to one's family, friends, community and the Earth, to open one's eyes to the predicament we face as Homo sapien sapien with the end of the Age of cheap and abundant fossil fuels. I need $15,000 to publish; I have approximately $5 and change, no job, and no prospect of any job imminent.
The garden isn't producing much at this point, though early in June I had all the strawberries I could eat, the raspberries and black caps are now abundant, and the asparagus still send up an occasional shoot even though they've long since flowered. Otherwise, I'm subsisting on serviceberries, dandelion greens, lamb's quarter, carrots, eggs, peanut butter, bread given away by a local church, and a bag of commercial food-product I gathered at another church food line. I can subsist quite well this way through the summer, but if I don't find income to start paying on the house again come September, I'll have the harvest but not the house. If it goes into foreclosure I can probably continue to squat in it until 2011, though I'm not looking joyward to a winter without heat, water or electricity. I'd rather just publish a book and start selling it, and continue writing the second one.
Don't think I'm complaining. Living off-the-grid in the summer ain't anything but campin' in the house. I spend the days writing, working in the garden, biking, gathering berries, sitting in coffee shops. Quite idyllic, really. Living in accord with the rhythms of the Earth is remarkably healthy. My life may look in a shambles from the outside, but I'm stronger than I have ever been. Money is only energy, and that energy isn't flowing my way right now. But the energy is shifting; the book is nearly complete and the Sacred Theatre is coalescing. I keep saying, I'm going to sell a million copies. No one believes me, yet.