Sweet Serenity, 
that enticing bliss.
Leap before looking
to get your wish.
The meadows of Serenity are great for bird watching and flower-collecting.

I often wonder (based on the many times I have asked myself) how many people really want to know (but are too polite to ask) what in the hell were we thinking?

It’s a fair question to be sure. I mean, it’s not everyday a family of four moves off-grid into a camper in the middle of the woods, putting their access-ability at the mercy of a mile long dirt road, the weather and some savvy #maverickmoves.

The Original Plan

Having a ‘stripper’ party with one of my besties back when we thought we were building a log cabin.

Let me just be clear – the original plan was not to move to Serenity with just the trees and the breeze to call home.

The original plan was to build a house (a lovely, stout, rustic log cabin built from our own trees, in fact) and perhaps get some infrastructure going first (gravel the road, dig a water well, pipe the natural gas well and have refrigeration, for example) before we made the leap to move to Serenity fulltime. Sure, we wanted to do it in a timely fashion and all, but we thought we at least had this thing called time to do it.

A Turn Of Events

Alas, as happens in life, a turn of events put us into a bit of a different direction. Our original land partners (and roommates at the time) decided they did not want to build a house on Serenity after all. Since they were the main investors in the deal (with Maverick being the builder and brains of the operation and me just showing up for the adventure), we were put into a bit of a quandary on what to do.

If we could find a new partner, we could get a reasonable down payment together and take over the land mortgage. If not, we would have to kiss our beautiful woods goodbye and use our (much smaller with no partner) down payment to go in a new direction. Either way, our roomateship had sailed it’s course and we were going to have to find a new place to call home.

A lazy afternoon doing school by the creek. We would sure miss these days!

The Search Begins

We discussed what to do as a family and the girls (seven and eleven at the time) were totally #teamserenity. I was saddened at the thought of giving up our living-sustainably-in-the-woods dream but was trying to stay open to all possibilities.

We started searching for a partner who would want to buy into Serenity while also searching for cheap land a bit less spacious and more properly housed, rolling the dice to see what would pop up first.

But Wait! There’s More…

To make matters more interesting (something I seem to be particularly good at), I had just quit my job in the restaurant industry after grappling with a vegetarian moral delimma (something about not wanting to serve death and destruction on tasty hot plates anymore). One day, I will share the fascinating story in it’s entirety, but the point that basically matters is I suddenly had no J-O-B.

With Mav’s business only in it’s second year (also known as the broke AF stage) and my meager (but helpful) financial contributions largely reduced, we didn’t have much money to put towards moving – off-grid or otherwise. Just a $10,000 dollar down payment and a huge cache of hopes and dreams.

So there we were, checking out run-down farm houses waay out in the hicks (nothing against the hicks, my friends) while simultaneously fishing Serenity to anyone who didn’t immediately run away screaming, when, lo and behold, one of Mav’s very good friends, (who was already under Serenity’s spell and owned some large equipment), agreed to go in on the land with us.

Our #OhShit Moment

That was definitely our #ohshit moment. Were we really going to throw caution and sanity to the wind and move to Serenity, completely off-grid, ill-prepared and basically broke? Actually, truly, really?

The answer, my friends, is yes. Yes, we were.

So What In The Hell Were We Thinking?

1. We could actually afford her.

I can only speak for myself right now because I’m too lazy to go find Mav and ask him (but I’m pretty sure he’d agreed) the biggest draw to Serenity is that we could actually afford her and were able to purchase her on a land contract. Remember, we weren’t exactly in a financial position to be overly lofty. If we didn’t buy Serenity, we would likely end up with a lot less land (and less bragging rights) and where is the fun in that?

We bought Serenity for a really good deal. In the area we live, large tracts of land with similar qualities can go for three or even four times what we paid (and if they include an actual house and some infrastructure, the sky’s the limit).

Basically Serenity was a lot of land for a low price in a location we really wanted. We believe her resale value will be many more times what we paid for her and are actually kind of twistedly looking forward to the day an investor offers us a million dollars to sell (which will spark some interesting debates around the bonfire, I’m sure).

Phoenix is thrilled to be discussing the meaning of life while roasting marshmallows with the fam. (Pro tip: Extra big fires require extra long sticks)

2. All That Acreage

Seventy acres is a pretty decent amount of land to have the privalege of homesteading on. Of course, we technically only ‘own’ only half that amount, when you factor in the landmates.

Thankfully, our landmates are also our friends (even becoming family after getting through a couple of, um, interesting, winters together).

Celebrating Christmas and surviving our first off-grid winter

Like family, we don’t always see eye-to-eye, but we have a love and respect that transcends property lines. (Unless morel mushrooms are involved, in which case we play dirty.)

Look a morel mushroom! During their short spring fruiting season, Serenity is loaded with these tasted treats and we go head to head with the landmates to see who can find the most!

Even reduced to 35 acres, we only have about a quarter of an acre cleared for a vegetable garden and so far we plant in about half that space. I have lots of #gardengoals and every year it get’s easier and less time-consuming, but I still don’t think I would ever want to garden more than a quarter of an acre by myself (forced child labor not-with-standing).

After all, a girls got to save time to collect moss and talk to fairies, you know?

My very first stab at the collecting moss for the gardens.

Anyway, the point is we don’t want all that acreage to farm it. Actually, it’s the woods we are after.

3. Radical Resources

Serenity is teeming with resources which make our off-grid extreme homesteading journey possible. There is maple syrup, ramps, fiddleheads and morel mushrooms in the spring, wild blackberries and oyster mushrooms in the summer and various wild greens, healing herbs, root, barks and mushrooms available all year round.

This what I call a successful hunt!
Boiling maple syrup. The steam evaporating from the vats smells ahhmazing!

With her many stones, boulders, trees, and clay, she is also an amazing resource for beautiful natural and eco-friendly building materials. With her flowing waters, she is a resource for cooling off and washing up (if need be). She also has two natural gas wells (dug many moons ago) which means free heating, cooling, and electricity (just as soon as we get that house built).

The swimming hole, our escape on summer afternoons.

Truly, the woods of Serenity are abundant with gifts both discovered and as yet undiscovered. I am coming to believe (based on the ridiculous amount of hours I spend roaming the woods) that rediscovering the secrets of nature is my life’s purpose. So stick around as I share what I have learned so far and we can discover the rest together πŸ™‚

4. Privacy Baby

Living deep in the woods surrounded by trees, completely out-of-range of nosy neighbors, noisy traffic and deadly wi-fi signals is the fulfillment of every introverted, earth-loving, conspiracy-touting Taurus’s fantasy.

All that privacy means I can wear whatever wildly patterned skirt I want to without fear of being seen.

Aside from my dream come true, being undercover and away from prying eyes does give us some, ahem, liberties we might not have otherwise. Such as living in a camper, pooping in a bucket and gardening naked (try getting away with that on a cute little cul de sac, my friends).

The thing is, we don’t really do things by the book around here and we like it that way. For, as greek philosopher, Epictectus once said,

β€œIs freedom anything else than the right to live as we wish? Nothing else.”

Epictectus

And so Serenity gives us the freedom to live as we wish. And that my friends, makes it all worth while