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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Off-Grid Culture

As I took yet another soul-reviving off-grid step, I realized that not only is off-grid more journey than destination, but there are a lot of grids to get off.   “Too many,” said  a colleague as he shook his head in his apparent despair.   In addition to the quintessential electric grid, we’re weaning ourselves off the waste grid, the home-heating gas grid, and the water grid.   
But it was Michael Pollan-inspired Linda who led us away from our first grid:  food.  It was she who walked away from the grid-tied organic produce at Kowalski’s and Whole Food  Market.  It was she who bravely founded a neighborhood CSA with our grower neighbor’s the Dietz’s.  It was she who creaked open the bulk-room door, slipped inside and tapped our first---dare I say it---raw milk, oh no!. 
But this week I’m Sandor Katz-inspired and I took the food lead.  I couldn’t help myself.  He made me feel so invited to take the next natural off-grid step.  But you know what the very hardest thing is about all this (and every previous off-grid step)?    I don’t know how to explain why I’m doing this.  
In fact, if you want to get my blood boiling---and that’s not always easy---do what the 2012 Minnesota Solar Tour enrollment form did:  Ask me how long it will take before our off-grid electric pays off.  So I typed into the little box, “How long until your children pay for themselves?”  OK I didn’t.  But I wanted to.  I really really wanted to.  Do they think I’d leave my wonderful neighbors and co-workers and church community just to move down here and save a few pennies on electricity?  So I typed in their little box, “We didn't buy the system to save money.  We bought the system to enable us to live a life that is connected to the Land.  Since no standard grid-provided electricity can't do this, payback was immediate.”  And that didn’t begin to say why. 
Perhaps I’m stepping off-grid to restore my grid-depleted mind, body and spirit.    
But maybe there are too many too grids to get off.  The food grid.  The power grid. The money-enmeshed trade grid.  Education.  Transportation.  Communication.  My whole life was on a impossibly complex, corporate run, government regulated, quantity over quality, soul-sucking grid.  Well not quite actually.  The absolute best things in life were not:  Linda, my friends, neighbors and church community.  And the Land.  Who knows where my heart and soul would be without them, without my off-grid island of connection, love and support?  Now all I’m doing is adding to that off-grid community.  And the most recent addition came from the inviting work of Sandor Katz.
I started my first-ever batch of mead.  Just raw honey, rainwater and wild black raspberries.  That’s all.  I let nature add the yeast and whatever else makes those blue bubbles on top of the raspberry mass.  And in a few days, promises off-grid-minded Sandor Katz, I’ll take my first sip of slightly sweet, slightly alcoholic, raspberry brightened mead.  What engaging magic!  What an off-grid culture!  The grid exercises control to gain consistent availability for me, me, me.  Off-grid relies on wild collaboration (bees and flowers, honey yeast and me) and ruthless competition (yeast and me over mold and vinegar-producing bacteria) to gain…hmmm…what is it I’m gaining?
I guess I shouldn’t be too hard on those Solar Tour folks since even I struggle to well-answer their question.  At least an answer delivered in words.  Right now it’s more an energizing feeling, an uplifting song, blue bubbles rising in the mead.   I think I’m going to start another batch.


  1. This post speaks deeply to my soul and discernment process right now- I am constantly hoping and looking for ways to be off grid and out of the system. Living in the city makes many aspects of this difficult, however.

    1. Lauren - If I can bring you this hope: perhaps the city offers even greater off-grid possibilities than the Land. Images are gushing at me, with such overwhelming volume that now I NEED to write yet another book. "Off-Grid. How to Save the World and Your Soul." Dang! I haven't even published my first book.

  2. I'm making sauerkraut. I've made beer, wine, and cider but not with "wild" fermentation. Please let us know how the mead turns out. I'm thinking of giving it a try.

    1. I just started my third batch, so something must be working. :)