I heard Bernie Sanders say, “How can you be free when you don’t even have a home?” Well, I can go to the park or the library, except after hours. A friend fell asleep in the library reading a magazine. She woke up to two cops leaning over her, politely interrogating. There is a kind of freedom in not being tied down anywhere, but who needs it, when you don’t even have a place to sleep? It’s rough being out on the streets. You have a bicycle loaded with bedding and a few belongings, or a shopping basket, that you purchased at a hardware store or thrift shop. Maybe you have a car packed with your things. You might be alone or with a partner. Maybe you have a child or two. Maybe you are a child. There are a lot of us out here.
For most of us, it’s not our fault. The disparity between our pension or what we are able to earn and the cost of housing is just too great. We can’t both sleep and eat, it’s that simple.
I do have a home. We built it ourselves from PVC pipe and mud. I just can’t get to it because of a creek that is not crossable right now. It’s nice to have the rain. Spring is a few weeks away; maybe by about the middle of spring we can get up there again. When we do make the trek we can only carry enough food in our backpacks to stay for about a week.
I’d like to see a reversal in the flow of wealth, see it flow back this direction. Back in the fifties my grandparents were on pensions, yet both couples had tract homes, nice cars and enough wealth to get all their grandchildren something nice at Christmas and birthdays. I haven’t been able to afford even birthday gifts for my grandchildren since I retired. My granddaughter is bringing her fiance for a visit and I don’t have a place to invite them to.
I drove past homeless people in the rain, suffering in the cold. We really need the Green New Deal. We can build the condominiums that will house ourselves. We just need the land and materials. Maybe this is a long term project. First we plant the trees and raise the lumber. Wait, this is supposed to be a Green New Deal. We don’t need to kill trees for condos! Why don’t we make PVC domes like this one?
(The plans are at http://wickerjungle.com/)
Covered with webbing and earth plaster, it looks like a large boulder:
Whether a democracy can vote to bring about a more egalitarian distribution of wealth or not, some downsizing will be in order. I like to sleep in a private bedroom with my husband. Last night we slept in a dormitory with 48 other people, him in the men’s section of the large room, and me in the women’s section. We have bunked there now for three weeks. I had a lot of trouble sleeping at first, but have made my adjustment, apparently, because last night I slept great!
A lot of of our friends at the shelter don’t have cars. I’d like to jettison the car just for the greenness of going carless, but then we would need a storage unit. We’re musicians. We keep some of our instruments in the car and some of them in a utility trailer parked near our earthen dome an hour’s hike from the nearest thru road. We call the area our retreat. We used to drive up there but it’s been gated off for almost 2 years by the state California who has a preserve next to our property.
Lately, I find that many of the things I grew up taking for granted, I can live without, and live happily without. Take plumbing for instance. Plumbing is a large overhead item. It requires a hookup of some sort, either to a sewage service or to a septic system. Then you need a water meter also, unless you have your own source of water such as a well. The overhead of all of this is very expensive. Yet for millions of years human beings lived on Earth without any of this: no toilet, no sink, no shower.
During my teens I learned how to dig a small trench with a stick or a rock, while backpacking in the Sierras, because even a little trowel would be extra weight in the pack, and every little thing adds up. Bushes and rocks provided privacy. Burying bodily waste in the ground in a shallow hole away from rivers or streams is a safe way to dispose of it. I wondered why we needed the silly toilet and all the water it uses when not on camp-outs. There really is no reason, I discovered, even when living continuously in the same place. A square yard of unlandscaped dirt is more than enough to recycle one person’s waste. At the retreat I have a trench about a foot wide, two feet deep and three feet long. I have a pile of loose dirt on each side of the trench. Every time I use the trench I place a little dirt from one of the piles over the waste. I keep the shovel in the pile I am using the dirt from, leaving the other pile alone for awhile. When the trench is full and the first pile is used up, I dig out the trench and pile the dirt mixed with manure next to the trench, where the used pile was, leaving space for one of my feet between the edge of the trench and the pile. Then I use the dirt from the other side of the trench to cover the waste so the pile I just made can age for a little while before reusing it. This system disposes of bodily waste and provides fertilizer. If the fertilizer produced is to be used on food crops human waste should ideally be aged for a year. Think of the saving not using a toilet can mean!
When car camping away from facilities I use an approximate gallon plastic jar that bungee cords had come in. Doing my personal toilet hygiene on my knees with the mouth of the jar pressed against my crotch seems to be even a better position for the body mechanics of pushing the refuse out then either squatting or sitting. I like to rinse myself with a squeeze bottle, a plastic water bottle (I prefer a glass container for drinking water), then dry with a wash cloth. Not using toilet paper improves the appearance of the compost. This works well squatting over the trench at our retreat, and pretty well while using the jar in the camper, although in the later case I like to put a towel down first because sometimes a little water spills. I dig a little trench to dispose of the contents of the jar this time of year and fill it in, packing firmly. During the summer when the ground is hard, I dispose of the jar contents in a pile of cut grass and brush. I rinse the jar with the squirt bottle, then put a handful or two of grass and leaves in the bottom of the clean jar.
While on the toilet at the shelter and the public places I frequent while in town, the squirt bottle is not very good to use in the sitting position, but fortunately I have the opportunity here to take regular showers.
We use a new insecticide sprayer (that was never used for insecticide) to squirt water on our dishes when washing them at our retreat. A spray bottle works well for this also. I heat water in a solar oven for a sponge bath in the afternoon. On cloudy days I build a fire to cook and heat water for washing. We catch rain water and save it for the dry season. If we run out of water we can get it from a lake about a 40 minute hike from the retreat. We filter water for drinking and cooking with a ceramic filter. We filter water for drinking and cooking with a ceramic filter. We save washing water and reuse it for mud plastering.
I miss the retreat. We bought a small, vacant lot near the place we leave the road when we hike across wilderness to the retreat. The county is giving us a hard time about leaving a vehicle parked on our lot, so when the opportunity presented to stay at the shelter we took it.
It is almost a year since we acquired the lot. Before that we stayed in campgrounds when we were away from the retreat. That got expensive. We thought the lot would give us a place to park and sleep in the camper pickup when we were in town. It does, but the county may site is if we park there for longer than three days in a row. A kind neighbor is allowing us to park on his property for which we are very grateful.
When we bought the lot it came with a 10×12 foot shed, but after six months the county made us tear down the shed. We bought a second pickup, (making three vehicles between the two of us) and Mike reassembled the sheet metal from the shed into a camper on the second truck, a Chevy Cheyenne, larger and roomier than the tiny camper shell on our Ford Ranger.
Doing away with plumbing is a huge downsize, but it requires about a square yard of unlandscaped dirt per person and a trowel or small shovel than can probably be shared between several people. A tent for privacy will also be required, or some combination of a bucket, jar or other wide-mouthed container, a private space somewhere near the unlandscaped dirt area, and water and grass for rinsing and deodorizing the container. A lot of people may need some training or retraining in basic hygiene so this tremendous downsize doesn’t result in the spread of disease. Using plastic bags for human waste, then throwing the bags in trash dumpsters is obviously bad with hungry people dumpster diving for food.
The flush toilet contributes to water pollution. It is time a better system is found in a world with a rapidly shrinking supply of fresh water.
We are definitely happy on our retreat without the power grid. We have simple solar systems, consisting of a few panels, a battery, and a voltage regulator. They keep our phones charged. We also have an inverter that allows use of a blender once in awhile or even a sewing machine. We also enjoy an amplifier out there where no one is disturbed by our “cranking” up the volume on our music. Mike wails on the sax while I chord on an amplified guitar, and shriek out the lyrics to my protest song, “Got to Stop This Train to Venus, Now!” I’ll try to get it up on YouTube soon.
The electric grid is everywhere, but it is costly to hook up to it and use it. We don’t have a refrigerator. Our produce seems to keep for a week in an ice chest without ice. We don’t have a washer. We wash clothes in a pond sometimes, but usually at the laundromat. Since arriving at the shelter we use the machines here when needed. I only have a few changes of clothes with me. I don’t need to display a different fashion statement daily anymore. My fashion statement of wearing the same garments frequently says, “Let’s go green to save ourselves and the planet!”
While at the retreat we cook rice, squash, beans or millet etc. in a solar oven. If it is too cloudy we make and tend a small fire. Sometimes we just have nuts.
While at the lot between backpacking trips we use a solar oven or get something in town. We eat lots of fruit for breakfast. Here at the shelter we are served breakfast and dinner. I refuse any meat, eggs, cheese, milk, wheat, or anything that has, or might have, those ingredients. I have had to relax my standards about salt, sugar, oils and other unknown ingredients. I enjoy their oatmeal at breakfast when it is served, and especially enjoy the fresh fruit that often is served.
Normally, Mike and I eat a late lunch, and that does it for meals for the day. We like lots of vegetables, as raw as possible.
One way I could improve my life is to grow more of my own food. Theoretically, everything I eat could be grown locally except for certain fruits and nuts that typically grow in other climates, but that leaves a lot that I can research about what the food plants and trees that I eat from need to thrive, and plan how to accommodate them on land I have access to.