As I was driving across the San Luis Valley the other day on my way to Colorado Springs, looking around me at the emptiness and the beauty and the farms I thought, “Every other place is bullshit.” Of course, that isn’t really true and if it were, I wouldn’t have been leaving. 🙂 I just love where I live. I love the mountains, the rabbit brush flats, all of it.
I looked around at some of the “off grid” homes that dot the valley floor in Costilla County (east of here), and I thought of my February visit to the doctor in Salida and how his nurse had asked me if, at home, I had indoor plumbing and so on. That’s not because we’re primitive down here, but there are a lot of people who’ve chosen the “off grid” life”style” and their sanitation is, well, “retro.”
“I have to ask,” the nurse said. “We’ve had so many patients living off grid and that’s how infections happen. They have no sanitation.”
Some of the off grid people live in motorhomes. Some live in cabins they’ve built or sheds. One family lives in two boxcars out there with no windows. I don’t see outhouses which worries me a little bit. I don’t have a lot of faith in the long term potential of a porta-potty. Some of them have erected solar panels. Others are using car batteries or generators. I don’t see crops or stock or anything, so maybe they go to jobs, but the jobs would be miles and miles away. It’s something that the counties around me have had to figure out.
There are all kinds of philosophies represented. Some have been labeled “domestic terrorists.”
Others are what I guess we might have called “hippy communes” back in the day or a “back to nature” movement.
To combat this, some counties have changed their laws. There are signs on the highways that inform people that the county (Alamosa County, Rio Grande County) are zoned, meaning people can’t just buy some land and plop a tiny home, shack, cabin, shed or RV on it without permits and having minimum utilities.
I thought about it. My mom lived in a cabin — sod and logs — in the early years of her life. They had no electricity. They used kerosene lamps. They cooked on a wood stove that also served as heat. They had an outhouse. Sometimes the water in the well was depleted (it was the dust bowl), but there was water some miles away and my grandma had to hitch the Percheron to a sledge with a huge cistern on it, fill the cistern with a bucket, and haul the whole thing home again. This was not an unusual life for people living in rural areas of America in the early 20th century. They knew how to do it. They weren’t “going back in time” to a “simpler” (which wasn’t all that simple) age. She talked a lot about how hard it was, about pasting newspapers on the walls of the cabin to keep the wind out. She didn’t find it idyllic in the least and her stories did not sound at all like Little House on the Prairie.
I would like to be a fly on the wall when the children of “off gridders” grow up and tell stories of their childhoods to their kids.