Monthly Archives: September 2013

How to Live Without TV

I won’t lie. I like television.

When I was young, my mom had a fairly strict “only one tv show a night” policy, and I’d seriously just watch the first thing that was on when I’d get home from school. Then, my brothers would watch something else, and I’d realize that THAT was the show that I really wanted to watch. But, I’d usually circumvent the rule by sitting by my dad when he watched TV later that evening. (But mom… I’m just hanging out with Daddy!)

I also played a lot of nintendo. There was another rule: we could only play nintendo on Saturdays before noon. UGH! Such a difficult, broken childhood.

As I grew up, both rules were loosened, and I could watch more than one show, and play nintendo when my parents weren’t home (the perfect babysitter!).  Incidentally, I got in trouble once when my mom went out the door, and I immediately went to the basement to play nintendo, only to find my mom yelling at me 3 minutes later. (She only went out to get the mail)

When I got to college, I was surprised at how little I cared about watching TV. There was too much to DO!

Then after college, eventually the old routine came back… You get home from a hard day’s work, and all you want to do is plop down on the couch and turn on the ol’ boob tube and zone out. Problem is, we’d start with just watching the news over dinner, and then we’d look up and we’re watching the news again at 10:30. And the evening is completely gone.

Three months ago, when we moved into our new house, we decided to move very little inside, knowing that as soon as renovations started we’d have to move it all back out.  We didn’t think it would take long to get started (we’re still waiting on permits), so my wife agreed that it’d be ok to sleep on a mattress on the floor and have only a card table and chairs as the furniture.  We also didn’t sign up for internet, since we’d probably be living somewhere else temporarily.

The internet thing is a little hard, mind you…  I’m a web developer, so I happen to need that.  Luckily I have my phone as a hot spot – but unluckily AT&T throttles me after 5GB even though my plan is unlimited.  But that’s an unrelated rant.

So – no tv, no internet (besides coffeeshops, etc).  You know what we’ve found?

We talk a lot more.

We sit outside with our three cats (that she convinced me we needed for purposes of getting rid of mice I don’t think we actually had).  We make a camp fire a couple of times a week.  We grab coffee with people.

Time actually slows down.  There have been very few days where I’ve felt like I’ve got a bazillion things to do and no time to do it…  Not because I usually waste time in front of the TV when I have a bunch of stuff to do, but because without TV I get a lot of those things done early.  We feel like it’s midnight when it’s 8:37pm.

Maybe I’m just getting really old, but I often get to bed around 10pm these days.  There’s no “one more episode of…” that I can watch, or another billion random links I need to follow.  (I do spend a lot of time playing games on my phone when I can’t sleep at 10, but I convince myself that that’s different)

We have no idea what’s going on in the entertainment world right now.  We rented a movie last night to watch on my laptop, and we didn’t know what hardly any of the Redbox titles were.  We ended up getting one that was seriously an utter waste of $1.20, and it kind of shows us that we don’t need more of it.  I don’t know who’s getting off the island, or dancing with celebrities, or getting roses, or whatever else is going on on tv.

And it’s wonderful.

We’ve decided that instead of putting the TV in the living room when we’re done with renovations, we’re going to to put it in an upstairs room.  That way, we can still watch it when we want to, but we’ll have to decide to watch it rather than let it be the default.

I think the funny thing about technology is that its original intent (whether it be a phone, tv, microwave, washing machine, etc) was to save our time.  If it takes 2 hours to prepare a good meal, and now we can do it 6 minutes, then the thought is that we have an extra 1 hour 54 minutes freed up to do something more meaningful.  But the problem is, we usually just fill that extra 1 hour 54 minutes with something that isn’t meaningful.  We keep finding ourselves new ways to be busy.  We say things like “There aren’t enough hours in the day,” but the truth is – there are!

I’m not swearing off technology – nor do I feel like we should.  But I do want to use things for their original intent: to free up time for meaningful things.

So, maybe the title suggests a 12 step program for not watching tv (step 1: don’t watch tv.  step 2: uh….), but I guess it’s really more about how to spend your life rather than just wasting it.

But I need to get back to work…  I’m only at the coffee shop for another 20 minutes…

Pay no attention to the pale computer programmer skin...

What Country Living Looks Like

Those are my legs right there.

I know… Pretty hot, right?

My dad, oldest brother, and nephew spent some time helping me clean up my woods a few days ago, and this is the aftermath. I texted my brother that I found a handful of ticks on me, and just wanted them to make sure they checked, too. He texted back that he already found over 100 on my nephew.

Wha???

Upon closer look on myself, I found a whole bunch more. They were the smallest ticks I’d ever seen, and I just assumed they were freckles. I’d never had this sort of reaction from ticks before, but I’d also never seen the same kind of reaction from chiggers. Kind of a cross between chiggers, ticks, and poison ivy – and man, does it itch.

This is actually not the worst my skin has ever looked in the bug bite department. I’ve still got pictures of that, but if I posted it, this site would no longer be family friendly.

I also got into a fight with a tree, and the tree won. It hit square in the face, leaving a good scrape/cut on my forehead and my nose is still sore. We had the last laugh, though. It ended up being thrown in a burn pile (which was my intention when it attacked me).

Preparation

We were incredibly lucky to get our house and property.

(Actually, that’s not true… I don’t believe in luck – I believe whole-heartedly in the sovereignty of God. More on that later, I’m sure)

The House

Beautiful on the outside, the inside of the house is what we describe as wonky.

won·ky (wäNGkē) – adjective, informal
weird, whacked out, messed up, not working for no definable reason
(Urban Dictionary)

It was originally built without any bedrooms. Years after it was built, the previous owners’ health prevented them from going up the stairs to their loft where they slept, so they converted a garage into a bedroom. And it feels like a garage converted into a bedroom.

We obviously knew this going in, so we were totally prepared to renovate by adding bedrooms and fixing bathrooms, etc. What we were not prepared for is the process of getting the county government to approve permits for adding bedrooms.

We’ve been in the house for close to three months, and we’re still waiting on getting permits for changing our septic system to handle more bedrooms. Mind you – not the actual work, but permission from them to possibly do work. We have to have our soil tested, have duplicated soil sites the same size as the proposed septic system.

We had soil testing done well over a month ago, and the results were sent to the county, but their response was basically “meh.” They said the duplicate sites weren’t big enough. So – even though we have enough room for the septic system itself, the duplicated areas didn’t seem big enough. Then the guy said “you have seven acres, I’m sure you’ve got it.”

Then just give me the freaking permits.

I don’t get the requirements here… If I were to have an inadequate septic system, it would not affect them in any way. You and I both know that if there was an issue with my tank overflowing, I’d just dig a hole in the backyard while we fixed the problem. But I guess they’re just trying to save absolutely everyone from themselves, because it’s not fair to me to let me make my own decisions. But I digress.

After a month, the soil guys are back out today, and hopefully we’ll get that part squared away soon.

The Property

The house is nice (or – will be nice), and that’s what excited my wife when we first found it. But what gets me pumped up is the Land. (Yes – land is different than Land) I envision animals, gardens, orchards, etc, all over the place, and that means I’m happy to put up with a stressful time of renovating the house.

One unfortunate thing about our land is that it’s incredibly rocky. I don’t mean when you dig a hole, you find a handful of gravel; rather, there is a rock quarry about a mile away, and we have a natural rock patio behind the house. (As such, I realize that the soil guys have their work cut out for them)

Another unfortunate thing about our land is that the previous owners (or whoever “maintained” it for them) dumped garbage literally everywhere. There are a number of rock openings that someone deemed as landfill areas, I guess to avoid the two mile drive to the local dump. It amazes me that someone would live in such a beautiful area and treat it so poorly. I’ve got a truckload of junk that I need to haul off, and I’ve barely scratched the surface.

My dad let me borrow Big Bertha – his name for a mower/bushhog/beast that will tear through underbrush like it’s cotton candy. I’ve been on it for probably at least an hour a day for the past month, and the overgrown forest now looks like a state park. (Disregarding the landfills, of course)

You might say to yourself “Hey – I thought this guy wanted to go off grid! Why is he using machinery and gasoline to devour wonderful trees?” This is Geek Off Grid, mind you.

I love technology.

My plan for getting off the grid includes solar panels (which I already have – more on that later), Arduino projects, homemade generators and general nerdiness. More than survivalism, I want to be self-sufficient and self-sustaining. My homestead will be similar to one that you could have seen 200 years ago, but upgraded.

Homesteading 2.0

We’ve got a long way to go on both the house and property, but I’m enjoying the process. (Well – the process outside; not so much the process of getting permits)