Sunday, May 1, 2016

Off-Grid: The Slow Life

Another weekend spent at The Shack. It is my place to relax far away from the hustle and bustle of urban and suburban life. A place to work on and prepare as my future retirement home.There are never enough hours in the weekend to do all of the things I'd like to do up there. This weekend was another wonderful weekend on the top of this little West Virginia ridge that ended far too soon.

My friend left the caution triangle there by the door. He likes it because he sees it as truck-related and he likes trucks.  

I left it right where it lay. As a gal raised in Indiana, I think it is a nice homage to Amish country. And how symbolic it is to have a "slow moving vehicle" sign on my future home - that may or may not be ready for me by the time I am ready to retire.

Living the Slow Life

I was just finishing reading a story called Little Farm in the Foothills: A Boomer Couple's Search for the Slow Life. I literally read the last couple of chapters while in a sleeping bag, in front of the wood stove, while torrents of rain fell outside (and plenty fell inside my rickety little shell of a shack). The theme of the little farm story is about how slow things go.  The type of slow that is away from the hustle and bustle of "civilization".  And equally, the type of slow when transitioning to a more remote way of life.  A remote way of life that requires a pickax for gardening, prioritizing the things that come first in order to survive, and the snail's pace of starting a dream on a limited budget.  

Yup, I can relate.

Every..... single.... thing.... I at The Shack takes much longer for me to do than any where else. I don't know if it is because the terrain takes so much energy. Or if it is just enough of an altitude change that I'm struggling for air.  Perhaps, just plain and simple, that I'm getting older each day and am out-of-shape.  Probably a bit of all of the above.  But every thing takes longer.  

That does not include the things that are slowed by budget constraints.  If only I were rich... but that is a separate story and only slightly impacted my activities this weekend.

I don't know how to explain each detail of the weekend. So I'll just try to show you.

The drive up Friday evening.  I arrived to a fog bank so thick I could barely see in front of the Jeep.  I drove slower than I walk, in order to make sure I didn't drive off the ridge.  I wish the photo showed the swirls of thick fog.  It was frighteningly beautiful and mysterious (note to self: check in to affordable fog lights for the Jeep). 

Tree Care and Pest Removal

With the first light, I immediately noticed that my trees were infested with worms in bags.  Some trees were completely covered (trunks, branches, and leaves) in these worms. It was like a horror movie - tree trunks undulating with furry living things. EW! I flashed back to the fall when a visiting neighbor told me that I should have some of my trees taken down (on my to-do list) since they were killed by some sort of bugs.  I immediately took some photos and headed off to the local farm store. They recommended a spray and sprayer.  I went back and selectively sprayed.

I plan to stay away from herbicides and pesticides as much as possible. But this infestation was out of control.  

Since arriving home, and back to an internet connection, I've found that these appear to be tent caterpillars. They aren't as horribly destructive to trees as other pests (however, the articles I read were about a few bags in each tree - rather than entire trees covered by them). There are ways to deal with them such as knocking the nests down and pruning off the branches the nests are on.  I will definitely do some of that during my next visit.  But during this visit, I did give my apple trees a good spray.

Filled and Hung the Bird Feeder

I've had this gorgeous bird feeder and nowhere to hang it since moving to my current apartment.  I am thrilled to hang in West Virginia.  I hung it on the highest branch I could throw a rope over. My attempt at bear-proofing.  We'll see. 

I saw a bird this weekend that I've never seen before. I hope to see more species with this feeder.  I also hope bluebirds move in to the box I hung during my last visit. I also plan to get a finch feeder soon. 

Relocated and Locked the Game Camera

I'm loving my little Moultrie game camera.  It is working out great.  There seems to be at least a doe and some young deer that spend considerable amounts of time in my yard.  During this trip, I moved the camera from the yard to the woods.

West Virginia Morel Mushrooms!

During the bird feeder and game camera excursions, I discovered that I have morel mushrooms!  A wonderful treat that I've not eaten since living in Indiana (I can't find them here in Maryland).  What a wonderful surprise.

Rehomed Easter Plants

I cannot afford to purchase all of the plants I would like to have. So I was thrilled when a friend brought some plants to me. Most were plants that were discarded after Easter, such as Hyacinths.  Using the pickax, I dug and chopped and chopped and dug.  I now have mint, hyacinth, and daylilies planted in the "flower garden" I started during my last visit.

In addition to those tasks, I cooked my food on the grill and tidied up afterwards (can be quite a chore when carrying water in), changed the oil in the Jeep, checked the birdhouse (it is still attached to the tree), tried to decide where to place that trellis, and fell asleep early.

Once I arrived back to my apartment, I was very happy for a hot soak in the tub - which filled with an easy turn of a knob. But oh how I miss that little Shack already.  By the way, look how different the drive out looks, when the fog has moved off the ridge. 


  1. What a pleasure to read about your weekend, Dawn Rae! I admire your courage, I truly do. Looking forward to the next installment!

    1. Thank you! I don't always feel very brave. Like the time I was trying to sleep and something was under the shack... squealing and gnawing. I wasn't at all brave that night! I'm glad you look forward to my next installment.

  2. I second your bravery and courage, Dawn Rae. I lived in the mountains of western South Carolina for a year and a half and never got used to driving those roads. To drive up your mountain in heavy fog or in the dark is more than I could face. I'd be terrified. Guess the peace & quiet of your off-grid life makes it all worthwhile. :)

  3. Wow! It seems like every hour at your shack is an adventure and an education. The bags in the trees would pretty much freak me out too. Horror flick is exactly what I would think.

  4. I love your little "Shack" there is something really inviting about it. I wish I could see myself in similar surrounds, but, with the arthritis I'm not so sure..