I remember ten or so years ago when my husband and I began talking about buying land and building a house, we had such a romantic notion of what it would all be like.  We schemed and planned and stayed up late talking about all the things that we would do.  When we rolled onto the property and set up camp, we still had a fairly skewed view of what it would actually take to make this dream happen.  We had lived in all sorts of crazy situations in Alaska- one room cabins, no running water, no road access.  We never did it with kids, though.  We lived in an old house in Nome that had no running water, and we had to ride in and out on a snowmobile, hauling water, fuel oil, groceries, etc.

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When we left Alaska, we camped in a modified horse trailer for three months while we looked for property or a house.  It was a pretty basic existence, but it wasn’t so bad.  We actually kind of missed it once we moved into a house.

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When we moved to Minnesota, it was a much different scenario.  Setting up our 10×20 Walmart tent in a field didn’t seem so crazy, but having a three year old and six month old while we did it seemed kind of nuts.  It has been a year and a half since then.  We camped in the field for four months, had a brief respite in a rented house for the winter, then into a 30 foot travel trailer for six months.

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We have now been in the house for two months and it has been anything but simple!  For the last two months, we were pumping water into 7-gallon jugs to use for dishes, drinking, etc.  We had a rather glorious composting toilet (aka bucket with peat moss).  For lights we used a propane lantern or oil lamps combined with various flashlights and headlamps.  We have cooked on a two-burner Coleman camp stove for longer than I would like to think about.  Let’s not even talk about showers (lots of baby wipes, visiting family, and other creative means).  For food preservation, we had to resort to using a cooler with frozen water jugs, and occasionally running to the fridge in the camper for meat or dairy.  Every part of my day was consumed by doing something to have either water, lights,  or sewer.  If I got up to make coffee, I would first need to do dishes.  To do dishes, I would need to empty the gray water, then fill up the water jug that ran out the night before.  Then, the propane would be empty for the cook stove.  On and on, my day would go, making me feel more and more crazy with every passing moment and every chore that piled on to the chore before.

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Our first upgrade took place on Christmas Eve, when my husband worked all day to hook up the water to the bathroom.  We still had to run a generator to use the water, but it was a start!  The bathroom buckets went outside with much happiness.  I would be fine to never look at those buckets ever again!  A few days later, the bucket for gray water went out to sit with the other buckets.  My husband was able to get the utility sink hooked into the plumbing and septic.  The next big project came  on New Years Eve when he stayed up to work on the solar system and switched the power on at midnight!  For the last week, we have had power upstairs, in the bathroom, and to the well pump.  The downstairs still needs to be wired but it feels absolutely amazing to have power to even part of the house.  Today the refrigerator came and we should be able to get it powered up by tonight.  Then the cooler will join the growing pile of things outside that we no longer need.  The propane lantern and oil lamps will go into storage.  Little by little, I keep adding things to the pile of stuff that needs to go to storage.  There goes the water pump, the hose, the 7-gallon water jug.  There goes the cooler, the lamps, the buckets.  With each upgrade that we do, life gets that much more simple.  The trick now will be finding the balance between simple and cluttered.  Turning a light switch on or running water out of a faucet is simple.  These are basic necessities that makes life so much easier.  It will be so easy, though, to jump right from simple back to cluttered.  Cluttered with Internet, television, and all of the busyness that we came here to get away from.

The issue that we are struggling with now is how we use our ‘free’ time that is no longer tied up in just existing.  When we sit down in the evening to finally have some rest, do we give in to the temptation and watch a movie on our newly hooked up Internet service, or do we play cards and interact together as a family, or read a book, journal, or have some Bible study time?  This is the struggle for us.  We wanted a ‘simple’ life.  We came here to start a homestead, grow our own food, raise livestock, and be more self-sufficient.  In simplifying, we are still doing more hands-on work to sustain ourselves than most, but by adding more of the modern conveniences, we are allowing more time for other activities.  Where do we find a balance between activities to sustain our bodies, activities to sustain our mental health, and activities to sustain our spirits?  This will be the challenge moving forward.  Up to this point, all of our time and energy has been spent on activities to sustain our bodies, and there was no time or energy left for anything else.  As we begin to free up more time by upgrading, we must discover how to ‘simplify’ and upgrade the other areas of our lives as well.

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