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Offline Palloy2

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The Pendulum
« on: March 05, 2018, 11:53:23 PM »
http://twoicefloes.com/the-pendulum-part-one-retreat-to-high-ground/

The Pendulum

Part One - Retreat to High Ground

By High Desert


Missing in the mix of hundreds of bug-out stories is a forthright and candid self appraisal of lessons learned containing practical experience along with deep humility and honest self examination. High Desert expressed a willingness to share his and his wife’s adventure with TwoIceFloes and we eagerly embraced the opportunity to post his story as a three part series.

 

It was the summer of 2011, and for all practical purposes it was smooth sailing. My wife and I often commented to each other how drama and stress free our lives had become. Unfortunately we were blissfully unaware of the squall line rapidly approaching from behind.

The epiphany struck us like a bolt out of the blue. But rather than providing clarity and calm, this profound revelation was a violent tempest. The following six years brought dramatic shifts to our belief systems, state of mind, living conditions and more – dramatically swinging the pendulum back and forth before finally compelling us to seek balance and peace of mind.

We were not significantly affected by the financial crash a couple years prior (2008-09) partly because we both had home-based businesses in niche markets which provided a lower middle-class income. But a more important factor was our lack of debt. Not one to “keep up with the neighbors”, we lived comfortably but always within our means.

We had previously paid off the mortgage, both of us owned older used vehicles and we never charged purchases we couldn’t afford to pay off at the end of each month. We had some meager investments, but fortunately years earlier we had moved into the right neighborhood. Meaning over the years, our neighborhood had evolved into one of the hottest residential markets in the Metro area.

Most of our disposable income (along with a lot of sweat-equity) was spent modernizing our home. Essentially we considered our primary residence to be our own private 401(k) plan. In addition, we owned a small cabin on twenty six acres of land where we planned to eventually retire. Our son was about to graduate from high school with honors and was (still is) a delight to spend time with. Our state of mind at the time was one of light, love and abundance.

Our life-changing insight came about due to boredom. Purposely not caught up in the rat-race of Western civilization and long term self-employed, we had a fair amount of free time to pursue other interests. Being introverts, we devoted most evenings to home activities. Usually my wife would conduct research for her book publishing business. And I, usually brain-dead from working on the computer all day, would zone out and watch some streaming TV.

Not one to watch just any old dung produced for the masses, it didn’t take me long to burn through every decent movie and documentary out there. By then, total boredom had me reconsidering my second and third string watch lists, desperate for quality entertainment. For some inexplicable reason I had placed a documentary in my queue which I had blown past on numerous occasions as not interesting enough to watch. But, just as inexplicably, I had never deleted it.

One overly warm summer night in 2011 I cranked up the central A/C, retreated to the family room and decided to finally watch “Collapse” by Michael Ruppert. That documentary was my red pill moment. Even after watching it twice in a row, I found it difficult to believe what I was only now beginning to understand.

On the one hand, the truths presented in the documentary were 180 degrees out of sync with my core belief systems. On the other, I knew deep down I had been living in the make believe world of the Matrix. When I convinced my wife to take a break and watch it with me, it only took one viewing for her to recognize the truth as presented. It was truly an epiphany for both of us, although not of the type one would usually classify as such.

Our life was about to change in ways we could not imagine. And change again and again as we rode the swinging pendulum back and forth, totally out of balance. We’d been through a lot during our many years of marriage, but we had no idea what lay before us. Waking up so suddenly and always one for self-directed action, all hell was about to break loose.

As we began to absorb our new understanding about how the world really works, my wife and I began to work out how to deal with the events we knew for certain were just around the corner. We devoted the next few months to exhaustively researching who, what, when, where and why.

Although I intuitively knew the new reality as presented was correct, I needed to convince myself I wasn’t just being stupid. After all, what did I really know about manipulated financial markets, mono-agriculture, fiat currency, systemic corruption and more importantly, what to do when all the complex systems began to collapse due to their inherent chaos.

The red pill had done its job in providing the initial jolt, but we were now strangers in a foreign land. Our initial reaction was to shelter in place as it were, maybe stock up on some supplies, install a wood stove (totally illegal where we lived) build a small greenhouse in our very small backyard and perhaps get some stun guns and mace for personal defense.

My wife’s primary concern was food. How would she feed our family if the grocery stores closed? My primary concern was our personal safety. Somehow I needed to defend the castle and loved ones against the “golden horde”, a new term picked up during my research. After all, we lived in a big city with neighbors literally twelve feet away on either side.

What happened next was quite odd. We woke up one morning, rolled over to face each other and simultaneously said “we have to get out of the city.” This is no little thing to accomplish. We owned our home, two businesses and our son was still in high school. Where would we go and what do we need that place to be?

Our research went into overdrive.

One thought was to make our cabin the bug-out location. We even began to stock long-term food there. However the cabin was old, the well was of poor quality and so was the soil. And unfortunately that gorgeous view of the city lights down the mountain meant those in the city could see us.

Additionally, the only usable flat land was at the end of the driveway right next to the cabin. How would we house other family members and close friends in a small cabin with no room to park an RV or several vehicles? We began to wonder if there was a better place out there, but still within driving distance of the city.

Is there a gear higher than overdrive? You know, the gear that allows you to simultaneously get a house (or two) ready for sale, research every real estate website for hours each day, close down an active publishing business and figure out what and when to tell your teenage child his world was about to be rock and rolled.

As is the case with nearly everyone else, our life was a bit complicated. My wife has a special-needs brother who requires lots of attention and supervision. At that time my father was 90 and needed more and more care. We were both in our 50’s and I was in the midst of a long recovery from a two year stretch of multiple surgeries after an accident.

Even at the age of 50, and nearly 30 years after completing my “Thank You for Your Service” gig, I still thought of myself as that 19-year-old airborne infantryman, naively fearless and invincible. I was capable of anything, including living forever. The accident I was recovering from was my first warning that life-long beliefs could quickly be shattered. It gave me a new perspective to the old saying “things can change in an instant.”

With the benefit of 20-20 hindsight, if ever there was a legitimate plea for temporary insanity we hereby stake our claim. Although our approach was in its entirety logical, we fell into a “desperate measures for desperate times” mentality, driven by fear and panic. It was not a balanced approach by any measure.

We finally decided it was impossible to deal with all of this simultaneously. We put the cabin up for sale “as is”, though we would not put much effort into selling it since it remained our Plan B. After months of fruitless searching for the ideal retreat, the cabin oscillated between being Plan B and Plan A. Our choice in that matter would soon be forcibly removed; more on that subject later.

Trying to accomplish all of the above during the day, at night I would explore new concepts such as The Long Emergency, The Fourth Turning, the sixth mass extinction event and so much more including all the right things a survival retreat should encompass. My wife dedicated her evenings to researching every potential retreat property for sale in the state. Because of the situation with her brother, my father and our son, the new place had to be within a day’s drive of our family.

She developed an efficient web search system to quickly eliminate unsuitable properties. Several ‘needs’ were non-negotiable parameters: water well, septic, acreage, somewhat remote, buildings in good condition. Even with those restrictions, there were plenty of options. It was critically important to check the oil/gas/fracking permits issued for the area of each property we had an interest in.

We knew from first-hand experience property owners in our state have ZERO rights if someone else owns the mineral rights and wants to exploit them. This issue alone eliminated entire sections of the state. My wife also researched the water well permit for each potential property to determine the age of the well, its depth, flow rate, source of water and so on. This constraint eliminated a fair number of properties. Without a good source of water, nothing else matters.

We discussed the remaining properties and applied our secondary list of wants and needs. How many people could the property support? Can we actually grow food there? Was it already off-grid? My wife would show me ten properties and I’d quickly eliminate them because of population density or other security related concerns. I would show her ten properties and she would rule them out due to altitude (hard to grow food above the timberline) distance from family or the condition of the buildings.

Our largest constraint was our refusal to take on a mortgage. We knew we could get a good price for our home in the city; the entire state was (and continues to be) in an ever-expanding housing bubble. But rural didn’t necessarily equate to inexpensive in this state.

It was all a bit overwhelming. Couldn’t we please, please, just go back to a life of blissful ignorance? Unfortunately it was too late to ask for the Blue Pill.

Compounding our difficulties (as with so many other people who suddenly wake up) we thought it was our duty to enlighten our friends and family of the coming perils. For anyone who has tried to do so, I don’t need to explain how poorly it went. Since we believed doomsday was just around the corner, we opted instead to buy/build the retreat and assume they would come.

After almost a year of searching online and physically examining properties, we were growing increasingly anxious to move forward. Our primary residence was ready to go on the market, my father had passed away, my wife’s publishing business had been sold and we’d already had that heart to heart conversation with our son.

At eighteen years of age and with his entire life ahead of him, he wanted no part of moving to a remote location to become a homesteader. We respected his decision, although during the initial conversation he accused us of abandoning him. Ultimately we all worked together to make sure he could continue on his path until things fell apart, either with his plans or the world.

In the summer of 2012 we all took a weekend off to stay in a small town and visit a top candidate for the new retreat. In so many ways the property was perfect. Nearly new structures surrounded by public lands, already set up for off-grid living, just a few full-time neighbors (but not too close) and plenty of flat land. We made a good offer.

The following week was filled with buyer’s remorse. Would we have any money left from the sale of our home? Was the retreat too remote? Were we really ready to change our entire lifestyle and take on such a large project? That Thursday we decided the best thing to do was forget the whole thing. We would move into our cabin and make the best of it.

But nature was set to intervene.

On Friday, a massive wildfire started near our cabin. By Saturday, our time to commit to the realty contract would expire; we had to make a final decision. While sitting in a hotel room to avoid an open house weekend at our primary residence, we watched updates on the expanding fire and realized there was very little chance our cabin would survive. It would turn out to be one of the most destructive wildfires our state ever experienced. It was also the second property we’ve lost to wildfire.

It seemed some unseen force was guiding us to the new retreat. It must be fate. It must be our destiny.

The following five years proved to be the biggest challenge we ever faced. We were on a mission to save ourselves, family and friends. How could so many things go so terribly wrong?

All this and more will be covered in part two of this three part series.




Part Two – Hard Work, Bad Luck and Murphy’s Law

By High Desert

In Part One of The Pendulum I described our red pill experience which transformed our life of blissful ignorance to one initially of fear and anxiety and later of drive and determination. Our awakening was sudden and shocking, and not something that developed slowly over the course of many years.

It was a rapid and deep immersion, a brutally cold realization what we had always believed in, of why and how the world works as it does, was in fact an externally induced false reality. We will always remember that initial sick-to-the-stomach feeling when we realized we’d been had, followed soon after by a spine tingling fear.

What we had stumbled upon was a coordinated and manipulated illusion intentionally perpetrated by those who do not have our best interest at heart and who benefit from our ignorance. Conditioned from birth to believe untruths, half truths and at times everything but the truth, the impulse to flee immediately was nearly overwhelming.

But we did not.

During the following 12-16 months we carefully and methodically worked through the issues involved with reorganizing our lives in order to leave the big city and embark on a mission to save ourselves from what we were certain at that time was just around the corner. We were on a mission. The truth of imminent economic and social collapse was, from our perspective, glaringly self evident.

In retrospect we had no idea the powers that be would, or even could, utilize extreme measures to keep the illusion going for so long. Nor did we expect nearly everyone else to remain ignorant of their own precarious situation. My hunch is the powers that be intend to extend and pretend for as long as they can, or at least until there is nothing left to steal or profitably control.

Like Beverly Hillbillies in reverse, we packed up the truck and left all the comforts and conveniences of the big city to become off-grid homesteaders. After a year of extensive searching, we bought what we believed was the best survival retreat considering the self imposed limitations we placed upon our search. We wanted to remain relatively close to our teenage son, who did not follow us to the retreat because he was about to graduate from high school, and my wife’s special needs brother.

Our homestead was located nearly three hours from the nearest big city, with acreage bordered on two sides by extensive public lands. The home and outbuildings were modern and well constructed, the five year old drilled well productive and the electrical system completely off-grid utilizing a very expensive full-blown solar (photoelectric) power system.

The downside was the high altitude (7,500 ft) with the homestead and surrounding area situated on a high desert plateau…hence my pen name. These particular conditions are not something you’d normally expect to find in the Rocky Mountains. Our new retreat came complete with rattlesnakes, scorpions, tarantulas, cacti, tumbleweeds and a never ending supply of micro-fine dust.

For a couple of near senior citizens, we managed to accomplish a great deal during our time there. I focused on the mechanical components of self sufficient living, including the projects and supplies needed to make the place as self contained as possible. My wife concentrated on doing what everyone else said was impossible, growing food in the high desert. We were both very successful considering we had very little assistance and the learning curve was steep.

In addition to the daily and weekly tasks required of those who live off grid, our first big project was to deer-fence in about half an acre where we built raised planting beds and planted apple trees. Within a few years we had created well-established beds of strawberries, raspberries, asparagus and more. The apple trees would take a few years longer to produce.

As part of our all season self sufficiency plan, we built an 18’ x 40’ commercial grade passive solar greenhouse. Our intention was to make it large enough so neighbors could also utilize the three season growing space. However, with a grocery store an hour away and nearly all still immersed in factory food thinking, our neighbors didn’t wish to be bothered with walking or driving the quarter mile to our place to grow their own food.

Our high desert greenhouse with the sun shade partially deployed.

In addition to the outlying gardens and greenhouse, we built numerous water trough gardens and placed many growing bags on the expansive north and south decks of the house. We soon harvested an abundance of tomatoes, chard, carrots, potatoes, and herbs. You name it and my wife grew it, although it was impossible to do so according to everyone in the area. They had all tried once, failed and given up.

For my part, in addition to the greenhouse I converted a large metal building into a fully insulated and heated work shop. We installed a wood fired boiler in the house along with a large on-demand water heater as a backup to the propane furnace and water heater. I added independent solar electric systems to the shop and the greenhouse, adding a small amount of redundancy to the overall electrical system.

Anyone who has lived the homesteading life knows the to-do lists are endless and ever changing. There was never a dull moment and our lives were full and productive. At the end of each day, along with the physical exhaustion, we both felt a sense of pride and accomplishment. However, along with all the labor intensive successes came more than our fair share of difficulties.

In my experience, unexpected difficulties and disasters usually stem from acts of nature, our own actions or in-actions, the actions or in-actions of others and plain old bad luck along with Murphy’s Law. Sometimes s**t just happens. Our time at the homestead would offer up a multitude of challenges from the above list of causes.

As a prelude, our stay at the homestead included periods without water, without power, broken equipment (again and again) and fighting off a constant onslaught of rodents. From the neighbors we encountered a suicide, a sexual predator, psychosis bordering on clinical insanity and a lawsuit over easements.

Although we made one good friend on the mountain and another in the small town nearby, for the most part the people here were as backwards as they come. Many were openly bigoted, simple-minded and definitely not open to new ideas since their truth was the only truth. Several were ‘preppers’ of one genre or another. If their ideas of how the world should be rebuilt are the only options available after a systemic collapse, I would rather be among the first casualties.

This article would turn into a book if I went into any degree of detail regarding the good, the bad and the ugly we experienced during our four plus years at the homestead. With this in mind I shall only touch on the highlights, since my intention is not to dissuade anyone from following the same path.

This article is not a warning of “don’t try this at home kids.” There may be, and probably are, many who made a similar move and now live a happy and productive life. We were not among them because after moving from one altered state of consciousness to its polar opposite, we found ourselves terribly out of balance with the world and each other. Ultimately this three-part article is not about off-grid homesteading, but about finding balance in a chaotic and at times frightening world.

So let the chaos begin!

Some resident ravens letting us know who's the boss.

The preface of things to come began with an introduction to an adjoining neighbor. He showed up at our place around ten in the morning already thoroughly drunk. Apparently he and his wife drank throughout the day until they fought and passed out at night.

While you can research a physical location pretty thoroughly, discovering the quality and character of the neighbors is darn near impossible without someone already on the ground feeding you this information. The previous owner and realtor certainly won’t inform you there’s a drunk living next door. And while knocking on doors in a town or city might elicit some useful information, doing so in such a remote location might produce only a gun in the face.

At that point you’re not a neighbor, just a nosy and unwanted outsider. At the risk of painting with too broad a brush, some ‘preppers’ and other remote (off-grid) homesteaders tend to be somewhat suspicious and socially disaffected and do not take kindly to (city) strangers showing up on their doorstep asking all kinds of questions.

While it is strongly advised you make some type of effort to learn the lay of the land, ultimately you take what you get and learn to live with it. Neighbors are like in-laws, they come with the territory. Trust me; they feel the same way about you.

Six months later (and in the dead of winter) our drunken neighbor decided to commit suicide, leaving us and the surrounding neighbors with his widowed wife along with their four horses and four dogs to tend to. The wife went into total breakdown mode. It was basically a full-time job for my wife and I until some of the widow’s household responsibilities could be delegated to others several weeks later. This was a disaster caused by the actions of someone else.

While some might think it wasn’t our responsibility to help the widow out, when disaster of any type hits a (very) small community, everyone steps up and pitches in. It is particularly important for the new kids on the block to participate since this is when your measure is taken by the community. Your absence will be noticed much more than your participation will be acknowledged.

Regardless of whether or not this was true in our situation, the horses and dogs were essentially innocent bystanders and did not deserve to suffer because their owner killed himself in a drunken stupor.

Next up was the well. Humans can only survive a few days without water. As outlined in Part One, my wife created an efficient system for researching potential retreat locations. This included investigating the water well permit, not only for the property in question, but also for the surrounding properties.

Although the new retreat was at high altitude and on the desert side of a valley, it had an awesome well by any measure. Only five years old, it wasn’t terribly deep by mountain standards but still produced twelve gallons a minute. Some of the neighbor’s wells were even better.

What we didn’t take into consideration was the fact our state was on the tail-end of an extended drought. What held true five years ago when the well was drilled was no longer relevant. We should have had the well refresh rate tested before purchasing. But based on the initial well permit, the neighbor’s wells, the remote location and the short time period between our offer and actual purchase, we did not. My bad! A major difficulty was about to manifest due to my own inaction and Mother Nature.

It was mid-summer, only a year after moving to the retreat, when the well went dry. In the now six years since it was drilled, the static water level had dropped from 75 feet down to 180 feet, the level of the submersible pump itself. Fortunately we had already installed a 500 gallon water tank as a backup, but we still had to make several trips into town with another large tank to transport water back home until the well was repaired.

From town to truck to bucket to tank. When there's no well, where there's a will there's a way.

Having the well re-drilled to a depth of over 500 feet, then extending the submersible pump down to that depth, took a week and cost over $11,000. The take away lesson from all this is not to make assumptions with something as important as your source of water, regardless of the documentation presented by the seller or researched by you. Assume it is a life and death situation and act accordingly.

The same applies to complex mechanical systems you have little working knowledge of. As previously mentioned, the retreat was originally designed and built to be entirely off-grid. It utilized top-of-the-line solar panels, charge controllers, inverters and specialized storage batteries. When initially inspected during our first walkabout, it all appeared in good shape and functioning well.

While I had a basic understanding of how it all worked, I most certainly was not well-versed in the particulars. I was about to get an expensive education. The more complex a system, the more things can go wrong, especially if such the system is not properly maintained.

In order for a photoelectric system to work, all the components (and more) must be properly operating. If one element fails, the entire system goes down. Naturally, our introductory lesson to this stark reality came in the middle of a Friday night. While only four years old, therefore newer than the entire system, one of the power inverters fried, shutting down the entire household’s electrical system.

Because it was now the weekend, whatever parts we needed to order would not ship out until the following Monday…assuming I could properly diagnose the problem. A new inverter was insanely expensive, but the manufacturer sold rebuild-kits for significantly less. With years of experience building dozens of computers from component parts, I opted to go this route.

The inverter parts arrived later that week. I rebuilt the inverter and we were back online after almost a week of down time. Thankfully we had the whole-house backup generator running as needed during the week, so no perishables were lost. I’m glad I took the time to learn how to rebuild the inverter because before our time at the retreat was over, the inverter would fry again.

Since I mentioned the whole-house backup generator, I might as well bring up the fact we needed to replace it…twice. The original generator was only five years old. But as with all newer generators, it contained an electronic control board and a dozen sensors and safety regulators.

One day the generator started, but then immediately shut down. Repeated efforts to get it to run continuously failed. After replacing the motherboard and several other components to no avail, I gave up and replaced it with an expensive Cummins-Onan generator. At least our back up power source was working again.

About a week after the gutted off-grid use warranty expired, so did the new generator. Most whole house generators have severely reduced warranties when installed in an off grid location, even if it is only used as a backup power source. The new generator sucked a valve and the engine needed to be replaced.

Between the freight and rebuild costs, it was cheaper just to buy a new generator of a different brand. Is it just me, or does it seem like most things today are intentionally designed and manufactured to break down shortly after the warranty period? Since I can’t really blame the generator breakdowns on anyone else directly, I’ll chalk this one up to bad luck and Murphy’s Law.

Among all the challenges we faced (and I’m only covering a few of the more severe events in this article) there were two in particular that could be considered the straws that broke the camel’s back. Both were caused by the actions of others, but in two very different ways.

An off-grid solar electric system is only as good as its solar batteries. The battery storage sub-system provides electrical power at night and on cloudy days. Apparently the previous owner had not only abused the batteries by using an electric clothes dryer and sauna, but the batteries were not properly configured or maintained and began to fail.

My wife and I still assumed things would begin to collapse at any time, so replacing the batteries became a priority. Like re-drilling the well, this wound up being an $11,000 expense. A quality high capacity battery bank is quite expensive. Rebuilding the inverters, replacing the generators and now the batteries; this had turned into a never-ending and very expensive battle to maintain our off grid electrical power system.

Dead soldiers. Such a waste.

To explain the next situation I needed my wife’s permission to write about it since it directly concerned her. The short version is that upon our move to the retreat, one of our new neighbors had befriended us and would often visit. He was a man of impressive stature; former law enforcement, retired and married, he and his wife had no qualms proclaiming their devotion to Christianity.

About a year or so before we decided to leave the retreat, my wife informed me our neighbor had begun spending a lot of time grooming her to have an affair. He was very good at it and in light of what we came to know about his history, it became clear he was probably a life-long sexual predator.

The only reason I bring this up is because recent headlines and scandals prove this is not an isolated occurrence. Obviously his behavior put a permanent wedge between me and this friend. Worse, it terrified my wife. She no longer felt safe, and I knew I could never count on this individual if things did hit the fan.

Unlike all the other problems we encountered, this was not a fix or repair situation other than to banish him from the house and property. In a town or city, breaking from one neighbor is not as big a deal as when it is done within a small community of neighbors.

They say all politics are local. And this is a perfect example how personal relationships in a small community are often political in nature. Rarely is there ever a win-win situation with these delicate circumstances, especially when there is very little normal about any of the neighbors.

Speaking of rodents and other such pests, the wild rabbits were never much of a problem. We rather enjoyed getting to know the various bunny families. But I most definitely cannot say the same for the mice, chipmunks and packrats. They were everywhere, into everything, and seemed to be unstoppable. I had built the greenhouse to be rodent proof and finally got it right after the third major modification.

After repairing the chewed wires in our vehicles a couple of times and constantly setting traps in the interiors, the thrill was completely gone. At the end, I even started to lose my love for the rabbits after they began to build huge tunnel networks underneath the concrete slab of the shop. I fully expected to see additional cracks develop each time I pulled a vehicle in for maintenance.

The lawsuit never had my love either. It was a rude awakening into how insane the legal system has become. In essence, one of the non-resident property owners had purchased her property without a clearly defined legal ingress and egress. She was ‘told’ what her easements were, but such was not defined in her deed or any of the adjoining neighbor’s deeds. There simply was not any legally defined access to her property.

She should have filed suit against the Realtor and title company. Instead she sued us and two other neighbors whose property allegedly contained her claimed historical easement. Incredibly, she demanded the right to put a thirty foot wide road through all our properties which would run smack dab in front of an existing home.

You would think the fact such an easement did not exist in county records or in anyone’s deed would be the end of it. Not in today’s world. As insane as her claims and demands were, we had no choice but to hire a specialized attorney. The lawsuit dragged on for over a year. It was the last significant and unexpected expense we were willing to deal with.

While we proved our resilience and determination throughout our time at the retreat, it had taken a huge toll on us individually and as a couple. We paid the price physically, emotionally and spiritually. The red pill moment had changed us. The nearly five years of turmoil transformed us into people we no longer recognized.

For us, the pendulum had swung from one side all the way to the opposite. The situation was not sustainable and we were on the verge of collapse long before the world began its own spiraling descent.

Part three of this article describes how our experiences at the homestead once again changed our state of mind, our belief system and threatened our very sanity. Had we not long ago developed the ability to recognize when our emotions, beliefs and mind had become so off balance our very survival as a couple (and as individuals) was at stake, this story would have had a very different ending.

As it always does, Mother Nature demands balance. And ultimately she has the last word on the subject. The only question is, were we willing to listen?



Part 3 - Seeking Balance

By High Desert

 

Missing in the mix of hundreds of bug-out stories is a forthright and candid self appraisal of lessons learned containing practical experience along with deep humility and honest self examination. High Desert expressed a willingness to share his and his wife’s adventure with TwoIceFloes and we eagerly embraced the opportunity to post his story as a three part series. Below is presented Part Three. – Cognitive Dissonance

Click here for Part One and Part Two

 

We are the only person living within our world. We may share the same moment and space with billions of others, but our reality is uniquely ours and it is carefully constructed to fit our own worldview and belief system. Ultimately we are alone, even when surrounded by family and friends. While others may share the benefits and blow-back from our decisions, we alone bear the full burden of our beliefs.

I could no more understand the belief system, thought processes and daily lives of a movie star, neurosurgeon, or nuclear physicist than I could a drug kingpin, human trafficker or serial killer. No two people share the same exact world, not even identical twins.

I point this out solely to emphasize this article is not a recommendation or endorsement of any particular course of action. Nor is it a warning a similar course of action will produce the same results for you. My only goal when writing this article was to share our experiences, how we were affected and what we did to cope.

If you missed Part One and Part Two of this article, both installments laid out the groundwork for this final chapter. For those who did not read them, I’ll summarize the first two chapters in a single sentence. We woke up, bugged out and almost caved in after we were turned upside down when nearly everything went sideways.

During this six year journey we took a wild ride on the pendulum of life, eventually becoming totally out of balance with the world and each other. Part One described our initial awakening to how the world really works and everything leading up to our move to an isolated off-grid homestead. Part Two contained a summary of some of the larger challenges, successes, disasters, surprises and strange events we faced once we settled into our new home.

In this final chapter I detail how my wife and I progressed from a stress and drama free life of peace and harmony (aka blissful ignorance) to finding ourselves in constant conflict. This dissonance created such a high level of stress and disharmony we were constantly at each other’s throat.

Things eventually degenerated to the point where I found myself wondering who this angry, emotionally unstable, ranting, raving mad woman was and how she got a wedding ring that matched mine. And my wife couldn’t understand how she came to live with a non-communicative, fanatically driven, ill-tempered man who sat directly across from her at the kitchen table.

How in the name of all that is good, just and righteous did we end up so out of balance with life and each other? And what, if anything, could we do to fix the situation? If something major did not change, this was not going to end well.

What started out as a “on the same page” team effort to build a sustainable safe haven for family and friends was about to end in tears and dissolution. Twenty plus years of a loving and mutually supportive marriage was teetering on the precipice. Most of our life savings were gone, depleted in an attempt to cope with our red-pill awakening. After all we had physically and mentally accomplished, our very sanity was rapidly fading away with each day’s passing.

Trying to build-out and maintain an off-grid working homestead is hard work, plain and simple. To make matters immeasurably more difficult, we possessed the naïve belief we could build a community of like minded neighbors and local townsfolk to weather the coming socioeconomic storm.

What we discovered while attempting to do so was most of our scattered neighbors, plus many others who lived in the nearby small town, would be more at home in a creepy Stephen King novel than in Mayberry, U.S.A.

The demanding physical work, part and parcel of self sufficient off-grid living, was slowing wearing us down. Plus the non-stop disasters, miscues and mistakes compounded the physical and mental toll. While I was fine with the physical and social isolation, after a couple of years it became really distressing for my wife. Above all else, she deeply missed spending time with family and old friends.

Admittedly my personality is more like Doc Martin than Dr. Phil. The fact is I would never be mistaken for a people person. When forced into a social gathering, my eyes begin to glaze over after ten minutes of small talk, a social grace I sometimes refer to as ego-generated mind-babble.

Not that I’m free of ego or mind-babble; quite the opposite in fact. It’s just that after being embarrassingly exposed far too many times as the fool I am, I finally realized even the greatest of fools can remain undetected unless they open their mouth or type on a keyboard. The advent of social media provides irrefutable proof of this fact.

 

The greater fools on display.

 

My wife became very unhappy; deeply depressed for the first time in the more than two decades we’d been together. It’s not as if she overtly expressed a desire to move. But with her Irish descent, red hair and matching determination and temper, she made it very clear she could no longer live as we were. Therefore she WAS moving.

I offered to set her up on Skype and social media so she could stay in touch with her friends. We found a new home for the chickens, relieving her of that daily burden, and cancelled all new projects. We even started a new gardening related business to help her stay mentally engaged and occupied.

I did everything I could to ease her responsibilities in an attempt to bring some joy back into her life. Nothing worked. In fact, all my efforts just seemed to make the situation worse. She was leaving, I was staying. A line had been drawn in the sand and now the fighting began in earnest.

It was a very rough year. Physically and emotionally exhausted, we were both suffering from a variation of PTSD I’ve termed NSTSD – Non-Stop Traumatic Stress Disorder. It was not a pretty picture and things were getting uglier by the day. Neither of us could see the other’s point of view, therefore the differences could not be reconciled. It took me a long time to realize why I was so angry, rigid and void of empathy or understanding.

Modern psychology acknowledges by a very early age, a child has formed core belief systems in order to cope with and understand their world. Is it a safe or dangerous place? How emotionally and physically supportive is it? Is their universe a loving and nurturing environment in which to grow or an indifferent, even hostile, place where they simply exist?

Unless there are dramatic changes in living conditions along the way, these fundamental beliefs are continually reinforced as we grow and develop. During our late teens and/or early twenties, additional conditioning takes place as we transition from child to adult. The experiences and conditioning encountered during our youth tend to stick with us, even if they slowly fade away into our sub-conscious.

I was born into a dangerous, non-supportive and indifferent world and was living on the streets by the time I hit sixteen. When I turned eighteen I joined the military. Even though it was now several years after Vietnam, the Army had not fully transitioned to a peacetime force. There was still an ‘under fire’ mentality infused in the troops.

Truth be told, our country has always been at war, either overtly, covertly, by proxy, via regime change or setting up and/or provoking the next one. This is not necessarily a condemnation, but rather just standard operating procedure for all empires past and present.

After basic training came jump school, then advanced infantry training and jungle operations training in Panama followed by a return to Ft. Bragg, NC for six more months of specialized training. I then returned once again to the Canal Zone. The training was non-stop and intense.

In the latter stages of my enlistment, two memes were drilled into us over and over again: The Mission Always Comes First and Failure Is Not an Option. Losing focus in the field could easily ruin your day. Therefore, even on training exercises, we never took any reminders of family or friends with us because such things could be distracting. Wallets, wedding rings, photos and personal jewelry never left the base.

 

The Warrior

 

All of that was forty years ago and I seldom think about those days anymore. Yet, it was that very state of mind which resurfaced from my sub-conscience, causing a significant lapse in my critical thinking skills and normally logical mind when dealing with this stressful situation.

What I had not realized until my wife and I were about to activate the nuclear option was now clear. After our red pill awakening and joint decision to uproot our lives, I had taken on a new mission and failure was not an option.

The objectives were monumental, the physical work exhausting. If you read Part Two, you can understand how I felt we were basically operating behind enemy lines. So when my wife started to express a desire to move, to go back to the city (at least that’s what my mind was hearing) I saw her as a team member who had laid down arms and was mumbling something about retreat and surrender. As the tension mounted and the arguments intensified, I began to view her as an enemy combatant.

The mission had to come first, even if that meant our twenty plus year mutually supportive, built on trust and friendship relationship would become collateral damage. There was no room for negotiation, compromise or surrender.

Had I totally lost my mind or was I suffering from a severe case of Collapse Fatigue? Since I never want to be exposed as a fool, I’m certainly not going to admit to the former…at last not yet anyway.

After I came to understand what the driving force was behind our conflict, beyond the obvious fact we were both totally off-balance, I began a sincere attempt to listen to what my wife was actually trying to say instead of taking a defensive combat stance every time she said “we need to talk.”

In my ‘failure is not an option’ narrowed state of mind, all I had heard was my wife’s proclamation she wanted to be reinserted back into the Matrix along with a full memory-wipe of the last 5 years. What she was really saying was perhaps, just perhaps, there is a place (physically, emotionally and spiritually) with a little more balance, somewhere between blissful ignorance and the current NSTSD preparation for the end of the world mindset.

Despite that growing understanding, it still took a while for the little voices in my head to subside. Initially the constant “I will not fail”, “I will not surrender”, “I will complete the mission even if I have to do it alone” monologue was replaced with all the reasons we couldn’t move.

Even if we could sell the retreat, it most likely would be at a significant loss, leaving us in a precarious financial situation. And we’ll never find a new place that’s an acceptable compromise. On top of all that I simply do not have the energy or fortitude to move lock, stock and barrel again.

Anyone who has been there knows, the excuses are endless when we’re looking for reasons not to do something.

After a few more months it slowly sunk in. All I was doing was finding excuses to avoid something I still had reservations about. In reality I could no longer avoid the fact life is too short and it no longer made sense to live what few years we had left in misery and disagreement.

Economic and social collapse, World War III, a poisoned ecosystem that can no longer support billions of people; all these and more will probably come to pass at some point in the future. But to live life as if disaster is scheduled for later in the day is no way to live. My wife had been the first to ask a fundamental question. How could continuing to live on the edge contribute to our quality of life while honoring our marriage?

For us, at least, the answer was it could not. A house divided will fall.

 

A house divided will fall.

 

I finally yielded to the irrefutable fact our effort to create a safe redoubt and a self-sustainable life was itself ultimately unsustainable. The critical component in any ecosystem, regardless of how simple or complex it may be, are the individuals involved. If we aren’t in sync with each other and the rest of the system, nothing will work as expected or planned.

As Yogi Berra once said, it’s déjà vu all over again. My wife returned to researching new properties each evening and I started working out the logistics of a future move. We had found common ground once again, sharing a few core beliefs that were a solid compromise between our original “light, love and abundance” and the terribly out of balance “the only point of life is to prepare for the end of the world” state of mind.

 

Epilogue

It was nearly a four hour drive from our off-grid homestead to the city where family and friends lived. One of the search parameters I insisted upon when looking for a new home was a specific county line. I wanted to live no closer to the city than that border. My goal was to live in a location unlikely to be consumed by the ever-expanding Metro area (at least during our remaining lifetimes) but not at such an altitude nothing edible would grow without significant intervention by us.

We both agreed we wanted at least a few acres to live on, more for privacy and safety than for an attempt to grow everything we needed to eat. And the house had to be large enough to accommodate our son on the off chance conditions got bad enough he had no choice but to boomerang home.

After a determined search we eventually found just such a place.

Almost a year ago we moved into our new home. We managed to sell the homestead to some folks who wanted it for exactly the same reason we had, therefore they appreciated all we had (re)built and accomplished during our stay there. We certainly didn’t make a profit on it, but fortunately we broke even enough to buy the new place and replicate (on a much smaller scale) the essential backup systems we desired, along with a smaller greenhouse.

The new location allows us to visit our son and friends and be back home by the afternoon. It’s no longer a full day’s ordeal for me to make a run for hardware or supplies. Plus we actually managed to cram all the accumulated food and medical supplies into the new place. And although my new shop is considerably smaller, it is fully functional and I don’t have to start a fire an hour before starting a new project.

We now know, having learned from firsthand experience, we can’t ‘save’ the world or even ourselves, for no one lives forever. We realized the best we can do is live the rest of our lives with honesty, integrity and compassion. I’m not talking about the kind of honesty and integrity practiced in corporate boardrooms or by politicians, but honest to goodness Golden Rule stuff. No one can take that away from us and it doesn’t cost us a dime to practice our beliefs.

That is our new mission, one we intend to live to the fullest along with lots of self-reflection, contemplation and critical thinking. And most of all, to live in balance with Mother Nature and each other.
"The State is a body of armed men."

Offline Surly1

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Re: The Pendulum
« Reply #1 on: March 06, 2018, 03:54:33 AM »
http://twoicefloes.com/the-pendulum-part-one-retreat-to-high-ground/

The Pendulum

Part One - Retreat to High Ground

By High Desert

This was a great find and a great read.

The greatest danger in the prospect of bugging out is local idiocy. That and entropy.
"It is difficult to write a paradiso when all the superficial indications are that you ought to write an apocalypse." -Ezra Pound

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Re: The Pendulum
« Reply #2 on: March 06, 2018, 04:18:50 AM »
http://twoicefloes.com/the-pendulum-part-one-retreat-to-high-ground/

The Pendulum

Part One - Retreat to High Ground

By High Desert

This was a great find and a great read.

The greatest danger in the prospect of bugging out is local idiocy. That and entropy.

I used to follow Cog.  He published for quite a while on Zero Hedge before he started Two Ice Floes.  However, he is very stuffy and unpleasant overall if you chat with him in email, much like Dmitry  or JHK.

This article is a guest article I believe, and it does show the mistake of putting all your eggs in one basket.  That's why I prefer and promote the mobile plan, either with Stealth Vans on land or Sailboats on water.

RE
SAVE AS MANY AS YOU CAN

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Re: The Pendulum
« Reply #3 on: March 06, 2018, 05:38:37 AM »
http://twoicefloes.com/the-pendulum-part-one-retreat-to-high-ground/

The Pendulum

Part One - Retreat to High Ground

By High Desert


Missing in the mix of hundreds of bug-out stories is a forthright and candid self appraisal of lessons learned containing practical experience along with deep humility and honest self examination. High Desert expressed a willingness to share his and his wife’s adventure with TwoIceFloes and we eagerly embraced the opportunity to post his story as a three part series.

 

It was the summer of 2011, and for all practical purposes it was smooth sailing. My wife and I often commented to each other how drama and stress free our lives had become. Unfortunately we were blissfully unaware of the squall line rapidly approaching from behind.

The epiphany struck us like a bolt out of the blue. But rather than providing clarity and calm, this profound revelation was a violent tempest. The following six years brought dramatic shifts to our belief systems, state of mind, living conditions and more – dramatically swinging the pendulum back and forth before finally compelling us to seek balance and peace of mind.

We were not significantly affected by the financial crash a couple years prior (2008-09) partly because we both had home-based businesses in niche markets which provided a lower middle-class income. But a more important factor was our lack of debt. Not one to “keep up with the neighbors”, we lived comfortably but always within our means.

We had previously paid off the mortgage, both of us owned older used vehicles and we never charged purchases we couldn’t afford to pay off at the end of each month. We had some meager investments, but fortunately years earlier we had moved into the right neighborhood. Meaning over the years, our neighborhood had evolved into one of the hottest residential markets in the Metro area.

Most of our disposable income (along with a lot of sweat-equity) was spent modernizing our home. Essentially we considered our primary residence to be our own private 401(k) plan. In addition, we owned a small cabin on twenty six acres of land where we planned to eventually retire. Our son was about to graduate from high school with honors and was (still is) a delight to spend time with. Our state of mind at the time was one of light, love and abundance.

Our life-changing insight came about due to boredom. Purposely not caught up in the rat-race of Western civilization and long term self-employed, we had a fair amount of free time to pursue other interests. Being introverts, we devoted most evenings to home activities. Usually my wife would conduct research for her book publishing business. And I, usually brain-dead from working on the computer all day, would zone out and watch some streaming TV.

Not one to watch just any old dung produced for the masses, it didn’t take me long to burn through every decent movie and documentary out there. By then, total boredom had me reconsidering my second and third string watch lists, desperate for quality entertainment. For some inexplicable reason I had placed a documentary in my queue which I had blown past on numerous occasions as not interesting enough to watch. But, just as inexplicably, I had never deleted it.

One overly warm summer night in 2011 I cranked up the central A/C, retreated to the family room and decided to finally watch “Collapse” by Michael Ruppert. That documentary was my red pill moment. Even after watching it twice in a row, I found it difficult to believe what I was only now beginning to understand.

On the one hand, the truths presented in the documentary were 180 degrees out of sync with my core belief systems. On the other, I knew deep down I had been living in the make believe world of the Matrix. When I convinced my wife to take a break and watch it with me, it only took one viewing for her to recognize the truth as presented. It was truly an epiphany for both of us, although not of the type one would usually classify as such.

Our life was about to change in ways we could not imagine. And change again and again as we rode the swinging pendulum back and forth, totally out of balance. We’d been through a lot during our many years of marriage, but we had no idea what lay before us. Waking up so suddenly and always one for self-directed action, all hell was about to break loose.

As we began to absorb our new understanding about how the world really works, my wife and I began to work out how to deal with the events we knew for certain were just around the corner. We devoted the next few months to exhaustively researching who, what, when, where and why.

Although I intuitively knew the new reality as presented was correct, I needed to convince myself I wasn’t just being stupid. After all, what did I really know about manipulated financial markets, mono-agriculture, fiat currency, systemic corruption and more importantly, what to do when all the complex systems began to collapse due to their inherent chaos.

The red pill had done its job in providing the initial jolt, but we were now strangers in a foreign land. Our initial reaction was to shelter in place as it were, maybe stock up on some supplies, install a wood stove (totally illegal where we lived) build a small greenhouse in our very small backyard and perhaps get some stun guns and mace for personal defense.

My wife’s primary concern was food. How would she feed our family if the grocery stores closed? My primary concern was our personal safety. Somehow I needed to defend the castle and loved ones against the “golden horde”, a new term picked up during my research. After all, we lived in a big city with neighbors literally twelve feet away on either side.

What happened next was quite odd. We woke up one morning, rolled over to face each other and simultaneously said “we have to get out of the city.” This is no little thing to accomplish. We owned our home, two businesses and our son was still in high school. Where would we go and what do we need that place to be?

Our research went into overdrive.

One thought was to make our cabin the bug-out location. We even began to stock long-term food there. However the cabin was old, the well was of poor quality and so was the soil. And unfortunately that gorgeous view of the city lights down the mountain meant those in the city could see us.

Additionally, the only usable flat land was at the end of the driveway right next to the cabin. How would we house other family members and close friends in a small cabin with no room to park an RV or several vehicles? We began to wonder if there was a better place out there, but still within driving distance of the city.

Is there a gear higher than overdrive? You know, the gear that allows you to simultaneously get a house (or two) ready for sale, research every real estate website for hours each day, close down an active publishing business and figure out what and when to tell your teenage child his world was about to be rock and rolled.

As is the case with nearly everyone else, our life was a bit complicated. My wife has a special-needs brother who requires lots of attention and supervision. At that time my father was 90 and needed more and more care. We were both in our 50’s and I was in the midst of a long recovery from a two year stretch of multiple surgeries after an accident.

Even at the age of 50, and nearly 30 years after completing my “Thank You for Your Service” gig, I still thought of myself as that 19-year-old airborne infantryman, naively fearless and invincible. I was capable of anything, including living forever. The accident I was recovering from was my first warning that life-long beliefs could quickly be shattered. It gave me a new perspective to the old saying “things can change in an instant.”

With the benefit of 20-20 hindsight, if ever there was a legitimate plea for temporary insanity we hereby stake our claim. Although our approach was in its entirety logical, we fell into a “desperate measures for desperate times” mentality, driven by fear and panic. It was not a balanced approach by any measure.

We finally decided it was impossible to deal with all of this simultaneously. We put the cabin up for sale “as is”, though we would not put much effort into selling it since it remained our Plan B. After months of fruitless searching for the ideal retreat, the cabin oscillated between being Plan B and Plan A. Our choice in that matter would soon be forcibly removed; more on that subject later.

Trying to accomplish all of the above during the day, at night I would explore new concepts such as The Long Emergency, The Fourth Turning, the sixth mass extinction event and so much more including all the right things a survival retreat should encompass. My wife dedicated her evenings to researching every potential retreat property for sale in the state. Because of the situation with her brother, my father and our son, the new place had to be within a day’s drive of our family.

She developed an efficient web search system to quickly eliminate unsuitable properties. Several ‘needs’ were non-negotiable parameters: water well, septic, acreage, somewhat remote, buildings in good condition. Even with those restrictions, there were plenty of options. It was critically important to check the oil/gas/fracking permits issued for the area of each property we had an interest in.

We knew from first-hand experience property owners in our state have ZERO rights if someone else owns the mineral rights and wants to exploit them. This issue alone eliminated entire sections of the state. My wife also researched the water well permit for each potential property to determine the age of the well, its depth, flow rate, source of water and so on. This constraint eliminated a fair number of properties. Without a good source of water, nothing else matters.

We discussed the remaining properties and applied our secondary list of wants and needs. How many people could the property support? Can we actually grow food there? Was it already off-grid? My wife would show me ten properties and I’d quickly eliminate them because of population density or other security related concerns. I would show her ten properties and she would rule them out due to altitude (hard to grow food above the timberline) distance from family or the condition of the buildings.

Our largest constraint was our refusal to take on a mortgage. We knew we could get a good price for our home in the city; the entire state was (and continues to be) in an ever-expanding housing bubble. But rural didn’t necessarily equate to inexpensive in this state.

It was all a bit overwhelming. Couldn’t we please, please, just go back to a life of blissful ignorance? Unfortunately it was too late to ask for the Blue Pill.

Compounding our difficulties (as with so many other people who suddenly wake up) we thought it was our duty to enlighten our friends and family of the coming perils. For anyone who has tried to do so, I don’t need to explain how poorly it went. Since we believed doomsday was just around the corner, we opted instead to buy/build the retreat and assume they would come.

After almost a year of searching online and physically examining properties, we were growing increasingly anxious to move forward. Our primary residence was ready to go on the market, my father had passed away, my wife’s publishing business had been sold and we’d already had that heart to heart conversation with our son.

At eighteen years of age and with his entire life ahead of him, he wanted no part of moving to a remote location to become a homesteader. We respected his decision, although during the initial conversation he accused us of abandoning him. Ultimately we all worked together to make sure he could continue on his path until things fell apart, either with his plans or the world.

In the summer of 2012 we all took a weekend off to stay in a small town and visit a top candidate for the new retreat. In so many ways the property was perfect. Nearly new structures surrounded by public lands, already set up for off-grid living, just a few full-time neighbors (but not too close) and plenty of flat land. We made a good offer.

The following week was filled with buyer’s remorse. Would we have any money left from the sale of our home? Was the retreat too remote? Were we really ready to change our entire lifestyle and take on such a large project? That Thursday we decided the best thing to do was forget the whole thing. We would move into our cabin and make the best of it.

But nature was set to intervene.

On Friday, a massive wildfire started near our cabin. By Saturday, our time to commit to the realty contract would expire; we had to make a final decision. While sitting in a hotel room to avoid an open house weekend at our primary residence, we watched updates on the expanding fire and realized there was very little chance our cabin would survive. It would turn out to be one of the most destructive wildfires our state ever experienced. It was also the second property we’ve lost to wildfire.

It seemed some unseen force was guiding us to the new retreat. It must be fate. It must be our destiny.

The following five years proved to be the biggest challenge we ever faced. We were on a mission to save ourselves, family and friends. How could so many things go so terribly wrong?

All this and more will be covered in part two of this three part series.




Part Two – Hard Work, Bad Luck and Murphy’s Law

By High Desert

In Part One of The Pendulum I described our red pill experience which transformed our life of blissful ignorance to one initially of fear and anxiety and later of drive and determination. Our awakening was sudden and shocking, and not something that developed slowly over the course of many years.

It was a rapid and deep immersion, a brutally cold realization what we had always believed in, of why and how the world works as it does, was in fact an externally induced false reality. We will always remember that initial sick-to-the-stomach feeling when we realized we’d been had, followed soon after by a spine tingling fear.

What we had stumbled upon was a coordinated and manipulated illusion intentionally perpetrated by those who do not have our best interest at heart and who benefit from our ignorance. Conditioned from birth to believe untruths, half truths and at times everything but the truth, the impulse to flee immediately was nearly overwhelming.

But we did not.

During the following 12-16 months we carefully and methodically worked through the issues involved with reorganizing our lives in order to leave the big city and embark on a mission to save ourselves from what we were certain at that time was just around the corner. We were on a mission. The truth of imminent economic and social collapse was, from our perspective, glaringly self evident.

In retrospect we had no idea the powers that be would, or even could, utilize extreme measures to keep the illusion going for so long. Nor did we expect nearly everyone else to remain ignorant of their own precarious situation. My hunch is the powers that be intend to extend and pretend for as long as they can, or at least until there is nothing left to steal or profitably control.

Like Beverly Hillbillies in reverse, we packed up the truck and left all the comforts and conveniences of the big city to become off-grid homesteaders. After a year of extensive searching, we bought what we believed was the best survival retreat considering the self imposed limitations we placed upon our search. We wanted to remain relatively close to our teenage son, who did not follow us to the retreat because he was about to graduate from high school, and my wife’s special needs brother.

Our homestead was located nearly three hours from the nearest big city, with acreage bordered on two sides by extensive public lands. The home and outbuildings were modern and well constructed, the five year old drilled well productive and the electrical system completely off-grid utilizing a very expensive full-blown solar (photoelectric) power system.

The downside was the high altitude (7,500 ft) with the homestead and surrounding area situated on a high desert plateau…hence my pen name. These particular conditions are not something you’d normally expect to find in the Rocky Mountains. Our new retreat came complete with rattlesnakes, scorpions, tarantulas, cacti, tumbleweeds and a never ending supply of micro-fine dust.

For a couple of near senior citizens, we managed to accomplish a great deal during our time there. I focused on the mechanical components of self sufficient living, including the projects and supplies needed to make the place as self contained as possible. My wife concentrated on doing what everyone else said was impossible, growing food in the high desert. We were both very successful considering we had very little assistance and the learning curve was steep.

In addition to the daily and weekly tasks required of those who live off grid, our first big project was to deer-fence in about half an acre where we built raised planting beds and planted apple trees. Within a few years we had created well-established beds of strawberries, raspberries, asparagus and more. The apple trees would take a few years longer to produce.

As part of our all season self sufficiency plan, we built an 18’ x 40’ commercial grade passive solar greenhouse. Our intention was to make it large enough so neighbors could also utilize the three season growing space. However, with a grocery store an hour away and nearly all still immersed in factory food thinking, our neighbors didn’t wish to be bothered with walking or driving the quarter mile to our place to grow their own food.

Our high desert greenhouse with the sun shade partially deployed.

In addition to the outlying gardens and greenhouse, we built numerous water trough gardens and placed many growing bags on the expansive north and south decks of the house. We soon harvested an abundance of tomatoes, chard, carrots, potatoes, and herbs. You name it and my wife grew it, although it was impossible to do so according to everyone in the area. They had all tried once, failed and given up.

For my part, in addition to the greenhouse I converted a large metal building into a fully insulated and heated work shop. We installed a wood fired boiler in the house along with a large on-demand water heater as a backup to the propane furnace and water heater. I added independent solar electric systems to the shop and the greenhouse, adding a small amount of redundancy to the overall electrical system.

Anyone who has lived the homesteading life knows the to-do lists are endless and ever changing. There was never a dull moment and our lives were full and productive. At the end of each day, along with the physical exhaustion, we both felt a sense of pride and accomplishment. However, along with all the labor intensive successes came more than our fair share of difficulties.

In my experience, unexpected difficulties and disasters usually stem from acts of nature, our own actions or in-actions, the actions or in-actions of others and plain old bad luck along with Murphy’s Law. Sometimes s**t just happens. Our time at the homestead would offer up a multitude of challenges from the above list of causes.

As a prelude, our stay at the homestead included periods without water, without power, broken equipment (again and again) and fighting off a constant onslaught of rodents. From the neighbors we encountered a suicide, a sexual predator, psychosis bordering on clinical insanity and a lawsuit over easements.

Although we made one good friend on the mountain and another in the small town nearby, for the most part the people here were as backwards as they come. Many were openly bigoted, simple-minded and definitely not open to new ideas since their truth was the only truth. Several were ‘preppers’ of one genre or another. If their ideas of how the world should be rebuilt are the only options available after a systemic collapse, I would rather be among the first casualties.

This article would turn into a book if I went into any degree of detail regarding the good, the bad and the ugly we experienced during our four plus years at the homestead. With this in mind I shall only touch on the highlights, since my intention is not to dissuade anyone from following the same path.

This article is not a warning of “don’t try this at home kids.” There may be, and probably are, many who made a similar move and now live a happy and productive life. We were not among them because after moving from one altered state of consciousness to its polar opposite, we found ourselves terribly out of balance with the world and each other. Ultimately this three-part article is not about off-grid homesteading, but about finding balance in a chaotic and at times frightening world.

So let the chaos begin!

Some resident ravens letting us know who's the boss.

The preface of things to come began with an introduction to an adjoining neighbor. He showed up at our place around ten in the morning already thoroughly drunk. Apparently he and his wife drank throughout the day until they fought and passed out at night.

While you can research a physical location pretty thoroughly, discovering the quality and character of the neighbors is darn near impossible without someone already on the ground feeding you this information. The previous owner and realtor certainly won’t inform you there’s a drunk living next door. And while knocking on doors in a town or city might elicit some useful information, doing so in such a remote location might produce only a gun in the face.

At that point you’re not a neighbor, just a nosy and unwanted outsider. At the risk of painting with too broad a brush, some ‘preppers’ and other remote (off-grid) homesteaders tend to be somewhat suspicious and socially disaffected and do not take kindly to (city) strangers showing up on their doorstep asking all kinds of questions.

While it is strongly advised you make some type of effort to learn the lay of the land, ultimately you take what you get and learn to live with it. Neighbors are like in-laws, they come with the territory. Trust me; they feel the same way about you.

Six months later (and in the dead of winter) our drunken neighbor decided to commit suicide, leaving us and the surrounding neighbors with his widowed wife along with their four horses and four dogs to tend to. The wife went into total breakdown mode. It was basically a full-time job for my wife and I until some of the widow’s household responsibilities could be delegated to others several weeks later. This was a disaster caused by the actions of someone else.

While some might think it wasn’t our responsibility to help the widow out, when disaster of any type hits a (very) small community, everyone steps up and pitches in. It is particularly important for the new kids on the block to participate since this is when your measure is taken by the community. Your absence will be noticed much more than your participation will be acknowledged.

Regardless of whether or not this was true in our situation, the horses and dogs were essentially innocent bystanders and did not deserve to suffer because their owner killed himself in a drunken stupor.

Next up was the well. Humans can only survive a few days without water. As outlined in Part One, my wife created an efficient system for researching potential retreat locations. This included investigating the water well permit, not only for the property in question, but also for the surrounding properties.

Although the new retreat was at high altitude and on the desert side of a valley, it had an awesome well by any measure. Only five years old, it wasn’t terribly deep by mountain standards but still produced twelve gallons a minute. Some of the neighbor’s wells were even better.

What we didn’t take into consideration was the fact our state was on the tail-end of an extended drought. What held true five years ago when the well was drilled was no longer relevant. We should have had the well refresh rate tested before purchasing. But based on the initial well permit, the neighbor’s wells, the remote location and the short time period between our offer and actual purchase, we did not. My bad! A major difficulty was about to manifest due to my own inaction and Mother Nature.

It was mid-summer, only a year after moving to the retreat, when the well went dry. In the now six years since it was drilled, the static water level had dropped from 75 feet down to 180 feet, the level of the submersible pump itself. Fortunately we had already installed a 500 gallon water tank as a backup, but we still had to make several trips into town with another large tank to transport water back home until the well was repaired.

From town to truck to bucket to tank. When there's no well, where there's a will there's a way.

Having the well re-drilled to a depth of over 500 feet, then extending the submersible pump down to that depth, took a week and cost over $11,000. The take away lesson from all this is not to make assumptions with something as important as your source of water, regardless of the documentation presented by the seller or researched by you. Assume it is a life and death situation and act accordingly.

The same applies to complex mechanical systems you have little working knowledge of. As previously mentioned, the retreat was originally designed and built to be entirely off-grid. It utilized top-of-the-line solar panels, charge controllers, inverters and specialized storage batteries. When initially inspected during our first walkabout, it all appeared in good shape and functioning well.

While I had a basic understanding of how it all worked, I most certainly was not well-versed in the particulars. I was about to get an expensive education. The more complex a system, the more things can go wrong, especially if such the system is not properly maintained.

In order for a photoelectric system to work, all the components (and more) must be properly operating. If one element fails, the entire system goes down. Naturally, our introductory lesson to this stark reality came in the middle of a Friday night. While only four years old, therefore newer than the entire system, one of the power inverters fried, shutting down the entire household’s electrical system.

Because it was now the weekend, whatever parts we needed to order would not ship out until the following Monday…assuming I could properly diagnose the problem. A new inverter was insanely expensive, but the manufacturer sold rebuild-kits for significantly less. With years of experience building dozens of computers from component parts, I opted to go this route.

The inverter parts arrived later that week. I rebuilt the inverter and we were back online after almost a week of down time. Thankfully we had the whole-house backup generator running as needed during the week, so no perishables were lost. I’m glad I took the time to learn how to rebuild the inverter because before our time at the retreat was over, the inverter would fry again.

Since I mentioned the whole-house backup generator, I might as well bring up the fact we needed to replace it…twice. The original generator was only five years old. But as with all newer generators, it contained an electronic control board and a dozen sensors and safety regulators.

One day the generator started, but then immediately shut down. Repeated efforts to get it to run continuously failed. After replacing the motherboard and several other components to no avail, I gave up and replaced it with an expensive Cummins-Onan generator. At least our back up power source was working again.

About a week after the gutted off-grid use warranty expired, so did the new generator. Most whole house generators have severely reduced warranties when installed in an off grid location, even if it is only used as a backup power source. The new generator sucked a valve and the engine needed to be replaced.

Between the freight and rebuild costs, it was cheaper just to buy a new generator of a different brand. Is it just me, or does it seem like most things today are intentionally designed and manufactured to break down shortly after the warranty period? Since I can’t really blame the generator breakdowns on anyone else directly, I’ll chalk this one up to bad luck and Murphy’s Law.

Among all the challenges we faced (and I’m only covering a few of the more severe events in this article) there were two in particular that could be considered the straws that broke the camel’s back. Both were caused by the actions of others, but in two very different ways.

An off-grid solar electric system is only as good as its solar batteries. The battery storage sub-system provides electrical power at night and on cloudy days. Apparently the previous owner had not only abused the batteries by using an electric clothes dryer and sauna, but the batteries were not properly configured or maintained and began to fail.

My wife and I still assumed things would begin to collapse at any time, so replacing the batteries became a priority. Like re-drilling the well, this wound up being an $11,000 expense. A quality high capacity battery bank is quite expensive. Rebuilding the inverters, replacing the generators and now the batteries; this had turned into a never-ending and very expensive battle to maintain our off grid electrical power system.

Dead soldiers. Such a waste.

To explain the next situation I needed my wife’s permission to write about it since it directly concerned her. The short version is that upon our move to the retreat, one of our new neighbors had befriended us and would often visit. He was a man of impressive stature; former law enforcement, retired and married, he and his wife had no qualms proclaiming their devotion to Christianity.

About a year or so before we decided to leave the retreat, my wife informed me our neighbor had begun spending a lot of time grooming her to have an affair. He was very good at it and in light of what we came to know about his history, it became clear he was probably a life-long sexual predator.

The only reason I bring this up is because recent headlines and scandals prove this is not an isolated occurrence. Obviously his behavior put a permanent wedge between me and this friend. Worse, it terrified my wife. She no longer felt safe, and I knew I could never count on this individual if things did hit the fan.

Unlike all the other problems we encountered, this was not a fix or repair situation other than to banish him from the house and property. In a town or city, breaking from one neighbor is not as big a deal as when it is done within a small community of neighbors.

They say all politics are local. And this is a perfect example how personal relationships in a small community are often political in nature. Rarely is there ever a win-win situation with these delicate circumstances, especially when there is very little normal about any of the neighbors.

Speaking of rodents and other such pests, the wild rabbits were never much of a problem. We rather enjoyed getting to know the various bunny families. But I most definitely cannot say the same for the mice, chipmunks and packrats. They were everywhere, into everything, and seemed to be unstoppable. I had built the greenhouse to be rodent proof and finally got it right after the third major modification.

After repairing the chewed wires in our vehicles a couple of times and constantly setting traps in the interiors, the thrill was completely gone. At the end, I even started to lose my love for the rabbits after they began to build huge tunnel networks underneath the concrete slab of the shop. I fully expected to see additional cracks develop each time I pulled a vehicle in for maintenance.

The lawsuit never had my love either. It was a rude awakening into how insane the legal system has become. In essence, one of the non-resident property owners had purchased her property without a clearly defined legal ingress and egress. She was ‘told’ what her easements were, but such was not defined in her deed or any of the adjoining neighbor’s deeds. There simply was not any legally defined access to her property.

She should have filed suit against the Realtor and title company. Instead she sued us and two other neighbors whose property allegedly contained her claimed historical easement. Incredibly, she demanded the right to put a thirty foot wide road through all our properties which would run smack dab in front of an existing home.

You would think the fact such an easement did not exist in county records or in anyone’s deed would be the end of it. Not in today’s world. As insane as her claims and demands were, we had no choice but to hire a specialized attorney. The lawsuit dragged on for over a year. It was the last significant and unexpected expense we were willing to deal with.

While we proved our resilience and determination throughout our time at the retreat, it had taken a huge toll on us individually and as a couple. We paid the price physically, emotionally and spiritually. The red pill moment had changed us. The nearly five years of turmoil transformed us into people we no longer recognized.

For us, the pendulum had swung from one side all the way to the opposite. The situation was not sustainable and we were on the verge of collapse long before the world began its own spiraling descent.

Part three of this article describes how our experiences at the homestead once again changed our state of mind, our belief system and threatened our very sanity. Had we not long ago developed the ability to recognize when our emotions, beliefs and mind had become so off balance our very survival as a couple (and as individuals) was at stake, this story would have had a very different ending.

As it always does, Mother Nature demands balance. And ultimately she has the last word on the subject. The only question is, were we willing to listen?



Part 3 - Seeking Balance

By High Desert

 

Missing in the mix of hundreds of bug-out stories is a forthright and candid self appraisal of lessons learned containing practical experience along with deep humility and honest self examination. High Desert expressed a willingness to share his and his wife’s adventure with TwoIceFloes and we eagerly embraced the opportunity to post his story as a three part series. Below is presented Part Three. – Cognitive Dissonance

Click here for Part One and Part Two

 

We are the only person living within our world. We may share the same moment and space with billions of others, but our reality is uniquely ours and it is carefully constructed to fit our own worldview and belief system. Ultimately we are alone, even when surrounded by family and friends. While others may share the benefits and blow-back from our decisions, we alone bear the full burden of our beliefs.

I could no more understand the belief system, thought processes and daily lives of a movie star, neurosurgeon, or nuclear physicist than I could a drug kingpin, human trafficker or serial killer. No two people share the same exact world, not even identical twins.

I point this out solely to emphasize this article is not a recommendation or endorsement of any particular course of action. Nor is it a warning a similar course of action will produce the same results for you. My only goal when writing this article was to share our experiences, how we were affected and what we did to cope.

If you missed Part One and Part Two of this article, both installments laid out the groundwork for this final chapter. For those who did not read them, I’ll summarize the first two chapters in a single sentence. We woke up, bugged out and almost caved in after we were turned upside down when nearly everything went sideways.

During this six year journey we took a wild ride on the pendulum of life, eventually becoming totally out of balance with the world and each other. Part One described our initial awakening to how the world really works and everything leading up to our move to an isolated off-grid homestead. Part Two contained a summary of some of the larger challenges, successes, disasters, surprises and strange events we faced once we settled into our new home.

In this final chapter I detail how my wife and I progressed from a stress and drama free life of peace and harmony (aka blissful ignorance) to finding ourselves in constant conflict. This dissonance created such a high level of stress and disharmony we were constantly at each other’s throat.

Things eventually degenerated to the point where I found myself wondering who this angry, emotionally unstable, ranting, raving mad woman was and how she got a wedding ring that matched mine. And my wife couldn’t understand how she came to live with a non-communicative, fanatically driven, ill-tempered man who sat directly across from her at the kitchen table.

How in the name of all that is good, just and righteous did we end up so out of balance with life and each other? And what, if anything, could we do to fix the situation? If something major did not change, this was not going to end well.

What started out as a “on the same page” team effort to build a sustainable safe haven for family and friends was about to end in tears and dissolution. Twenty plus years of a loving and mutually supportive marriage was teetering on the precipice. Most of our life savings were gone, depleted in an attempt to cope with our red-pill awakening. After all we had physically and mentally accomplished, our very sanity was rapidly fading away with each day’s passing.

Trying to build-out and maintain an off-grid working homestead is hard work, plain and simple. To make matters immeasurably more difficult, we possessed the naïve belief we could build a community of like minded neighbors and local townsfolk to weather the coming socioeconomic storm.

What we discovered while attempting to do so was most of our scattered neighbors, plus many others who lived in the nearby small town, would be more at home in a creepy Stephen King novel than in Mayberry, U.S.A.

The demanding physical work, part and parcel of self sufficient off-grid living, was slowing wearing us down. Plus the non-stop disasters, miscues and mistakes compounded the physical and mental toll. While I was fine with the physical and social isolation, after a couple of years it became really distressing for my wife. Above all else, she deeply missed spending time with family and old friends.

Admittedly my personality is more like Doc Martin than Dr. Phil. The fact is I would never be mistaken for a people person. When forced into a social gathering, my eyes begin to glaze over after ten minutes of small talk, a social grace I sometimes refer to as ego-generated mind-babble.

Not that I’m free of ego or mind-babble; quite the opposite in fact. It’s just that after being embarrassingly exposed far too many times as the fool I am, I finally realized even the greatest of fools can remain undetected unless they open their mouth or type on a keyboard. The advent of social media provides irrefutable proof of this fact.

 

The greater fools on display.

 

My wife became very unhappy; deeply depressed for the first time in the more than two decades we’d been together. It’s not as if she overtly expressed a desire to move. But with her Irish descent, red hair and matching determination and temper, she made it very clear she could no longer live as we were. Therefore she WAS moving.

I offered to set her up on Skype and social media so she could stay in touch with her friends. We found a new home for the chickens, relieving her of that daily burden, and cancelled all new projects. We even started a new gardening related business to help her stay mentally engaged and occupied.

I did everything I could to ease her responsibilities in an attempt to bring some joy back into her life. Nothing worked. In fact, all my efforts just seemed to make the situation worse. She was leaving, I was staying. A line had been drawn in the sand and now the fighting began in earnest.

It was a very rough year. Physically and emotionally exhausted, we were both suffering from a variation of PTSD I’ve termed NSTSD – Non-Stop Traumatic Stress Disorder. It was not a pretty picture and things were getting uglier by the day. Neither of us could see the other’s point of view, therefore the differences could not be reconciled. It took me a long time to realize why I was so angry, rigid and void of empathy or understanding.

Modern psychology acknowledges by a very early age, a child has formed core belief systems in order to cope with and understand their world. Is it a safe or dangerous place? How emotionally and physically supportive is it? Is their universe a loving and nurturing environment in which to grow or an indifferent, even hostile, place where they simply exist?

Unless there are dramatic changes in living conditions along the way, these fundamental beliefs are continually reinforced as we grow and develop. During our late teens and/or early twenties, additional conditioning takes place as we transition from child to adult. The experiences and conditioning encountered during our youth tend to stick with us, even if they slowly fade away into our sub-conscious.

I was born into a dangerous, non-supportive and indifferent world and was living on the streets by the time I hit sixteen. When I turned eighteen I joined the military. Even though it was now several years after Vietnam, the Army had not fully transitioned to a peacetime force. There was still an ‘under fire’ mentality infused in the troops.

Truth be told, our country has always been at war, either overtly, covertly, by proxy, via regime change or setting up and/or provoking the next one. This is not necessarily a condemnation, but rather just standard operating procedure for all empires past and present.

After basic training came jump school, then advanced infantry training and jungle operations training in Panama followed by a return to Ft. Bragg, NC for six more months of specialized training. I then returned once again to the Canal Zone. The training was non-stop and intense.

In the latter stages of my enlistment, two memes were drilled into us over and over again: The Mission Always Comes First and Failure Is Not an Option. Losing focus in the field could easily ruin your day. Therefore, even on training exercises, we never took any reminders of family or friends with us because such things could be distracting. Wallets, wedding rings, photos and personal jewelry never left the base.

 

The Warrior

 

All of that was forty years ago and I seldom think about those days anymore. Yet, it was that very state of mind which resurfaced from my sub-conscience, causing a significant lapse in my critical thinking skills and normally logical mind when dealing with this stressful situation.

What I had not realized until my wife and I were about to activate the nuclear option was now clear. After our red pill awakening and joint decision to uproot our lives, I had taken on a new mission and failure was not an option.

The objectives were monumental, the physical work exhausting. If you read Part Two, you can understand how I felt we were basically operating behind enemy lines. So when my wife started to express a desire to move, to go back to the city (at least that’s what my mind was hearing) I saw her as a team member who had laid down arms and was mumbling something about retreat and surrender. As the tension mounted and the arguments intensified, I began to view her as an enemy combatant.

The mission had to come first, even if that meant our twenty plus year mutually supportive, built on trust and friendship relationship would become collateral damage. There was no room for negotiation, compromise or surrender.

Had I totally lost my mind or was I suffering from a severe case of Collapse Fatigue? Since I never want to be exposed as a fool, I’m certainly not going to admit to the former…at last not yet anyway.

After I came to understand what the driving force was behind our conflict, beyond the obvious fact we were both totally off-balance, I began a sincere attempt to listen to what my wife was actually trying to say instead of taking a defensive combat stance every time she said “we need to talk.”

In my ‘failure is not an option’ narrowed state of mind, all I had heard was my wife’s proclamation she wanted to be reinserted back into the Matrix along with a full memory-wipe of the last 5 years. What she was really saying was perhaps, just perhaps, there is a place (physically, emotionally and spiritually) with a little more balance, somewhere between blissful ignorance and the current NSTSD preparation for the end of the world mindset.

Despite that growing understanding, it still took a while for the little voices in my head to subside. Initially the constant “I will not fail”, “I will not surrender”, “I will complete the mission even if I have to do it alone” monologue was replaced with all the reasons we couldn’t move.

Even if we could sell the retreat, it most likely would be at a significant loss, leaving us in a precarious financial situation. And we’ll never find a new place that’s an acceptable compromise. On top of all that I simply do not have the energy or fortitude to move lock, stock and barrel again.

Anyone who has been there knows, the excuses are endless when we’re looking for reasons not to do something.

After a few more months it slowly sunk in. All I was doing was finding excuses to avoid something I still had reservations about. In reality I could no longer avoid the fact life is too short and it no longer made sense to live what few years we had left in misery and disagreement.

Economic and social collapse, World War III, a poisoned ecosystem that can no longer support billions of people; all these and more will probably come to pass at some point in the future. But to live life as if disaster is scheduled for later in the day is no way to live. My wife had been the first to ask a fundamental question. How could continuing to live on the edge contribute to our quality of life while honoring our marriage?

For us, at least, the answer was it could not. A house divided will fall.

 

A house divided will fall.

 

I finally yielded to the irrefutable fact our effort to create a safe redoubt and a self-sustainable life was itself ultimately unsustainable. The critical component in any ecosystem, regardless of how simple or complex it may be, are the individuals involved. If we aren’t in sync with each other and the rest of the system, nothing will work as expected or planned.

As Yogi Berra once said, it’s déjà vu all over again. My wife returned to researching new properties each evening and I started working out the logistics of a future move. We had found common ground once again, sharing a few core beliefs that were a solid compromise between our original “light, love and abundance” and the terribly out of balance “the only point of life is to prepare for the end of the world” state of mind.

 

Epilogue

It was nearly a four hour drive from our off-grid homestead to the city where family and friends lived. One of the search parameters I insisted upon when looking for a new home was a specific county line. I wanted to live no closer to the city than that border. My goal was to live in a location unlikely to be consumed by the ever-expanding Metro area (at least during our remaining lifetimes) but not at such an altitude nothing edible would grow without significant intervention by us.

We both agreed we wanted at least a few acres to live on, more for privacy and safety than for an attempt to grow everything we needed to eat. And the house had to be large enough to accommodate our son on the off chance conditions got bad enough he had no choice but to boomerang home.

After a determined search we eventually found just such a place.

Almost a year ago we moved into our new home. We managed to sell the homestead to some folks who wanted it for exactly the same reason we had, therefore they appreciated all we had (re)built and accomplished during our stay there. We certainly didn’t make a profit on it, but fortunately we broke even enough to buy the new place and replicate (on a much smaller scale) the essential backup systems we desired, along with a smaller greenhouse.

The new location allows us to visit our son and friends and be back home by the afternoon. It’s no longer a full day’s ordeal for me to make a run for hardware or supplies. Plus we actually managed to cram all the accumulated food and medical supplies into the new place. And although my new shop is considerably smaller, it is fully functional and I don’t have to start a fire an hour before starting a new project.

We now know, having learned from firsthand experience, we can’t ‘save’ the world or even ourselves, for no one lives forever. We realized the best we can do is live the rest of our lives with honesty, integrity and compassion. I’m not talking about the kind of honesty and integrity practiced in corporate boardrooms or by politicians, but honest to goodness Golden Rule stuff. No one can take that away from us and it doesn’t cost us a dime to practice our beliefs.

That is our new mission, one we intend to live to the fullest along with lots of self-reflection, contemplation and critical thinking. And most of all, to live in balance with Mother Nature and each other.

This is the guy who was trying to get ZH people to congregate last year (or was it the year before) down in Marfa for some kind of conclave. I've read him sporadically for years. I think this story is pretty good. The sorts of things that brought them back to Texas (I think they live here) are the same sorts of things that have kept me from spending as much time and energy as I might have working on my own place, even though it's more like where they are now than their off-grid place.
What makes the desert beautiful is that somewhere it hides a well.