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March 10, 2013: The Smell of Burning Toast

I usually write in glowing terms about off-the-grid life because if it’s not the good life, it ought to be. But every so often reality raises its head out of the gopher hole, looks around, and of course then pulls its head back down into the hole. I tend to ignore those few moments in which it looks around.

Some would say that off-the-grid life is challenging. This is not so. Challenging implies that one is working to overcome some insurmountable obstacle. I say that off-the-grid life is “just plain difficult.” Add to this animals (of which we have several), and the words that describe life at times become sometimes “unnecessarily difficult.”

The last thirteen hours a case in point. Last night I hyperflexed my knee as I was going into the goat pen. I slid down the incline leading into the pen and my knee buckled backwards. I fell backwards, onto the hardpack.

I stood up, and felt pain under the kneecap when I put weight on the leg. Both goats, who I believe sensed the urgency of the situation, went into the pen. I latched the gate, and using the shovel as a cane, limped back into the cabin. I then sat down on the bench next to the inside door. I knew this was bad. In answer to the question, how bad? I decided that it was not very bad, just bad. I propped my knee on a chair and put some ice on it. This numbed the knee for a bit.

It was now 8:30 p.m. I had no choice – I had stuff to do that had to get done, so I set to doing it. I fed the dogs, then hobbled outside and started the generator. I then filled the horses’ water jugs (a dozen or so in total), did the dishes, and took a shower. I next re-iced my knew. After, I attempted to get a fire going in the woodstove. I say attempted because this took close to an hour. The remaining wood isn’t dry, so this task is more onerous than usual. The trick is to get coals going, and then add a log. This requires the use of board and batten as well as kindling. We didn’t have any of the latter inside, so I had to go back outside and bring more in.

Once the fire was going, I cleared off the dehydrator trays, and then put fresh stuff on them. Then I made my dinner, ate it, and did the dishes. When finally, I glanced up at the clock, I noticed that it was 10 p.m. – time to tend to the horses. This also involved pulling the manure sled over to the pile. I dealt with my knee pain by pretending that I was in Antarctica, on an expedition, and just miles from my destination. This made the sled feel lighter.

I was done with the evening chores by 11 p.m. I crawled into bed and went to sleep. This morning, the first thing I did was extend and flex my knee. Knees, I thought, are indispensable. Without them, one’s legs are like damp fire logs – that is absolutely useless. The swelling made it look as though there was no knee. Oh well. The rallying cry around here is Larry the Cable Guy’s “Get ‘er done,” and so this is what I set out to do. I let the dogs and goats out, and we all headed down to the enclosure.

The inch or snow of freshly fallen snow made for slow going, because it was slippery. Plus, the rubber mats in the horse enclosure were double-slippery. This was confirmed when Hrimmi, skittering past and fell down. I thought at first that she might have a broken leg because her front leg was out in front of her at an odd angle. Raudi came over to investigate, and this motivated Hrimmi (with my help) to get up. I then assisted her into the snow free inner-shelter.

I got the grain shovel (which necessitated another trip up to cabin) and then scraped and sanded the matts. Hrimmi stood looking out of the shelter until Signy came and got her. She followed her dam out because she then knew it was safe.

Done, I limped back up to the cabin, shovel in hand, dogs and goats following. Once inside, I made breakfast. Toast into the broiler, toast out of broiler, burnt. My nose was out of joint, but I was glad I had it. Otherwise, my breakfast toast would have been black rather than brown. Thank dog for small favors.

My knee is now up. I have a cold washcloth on it. All the above has got me thinking. Our place is a two-person operation. Undoubtedly, Pete will again go on vacation, and without me because one of us needs to be here in the winter. So what I’m going to need to do the next time is come up with a back-up plan. This will involve having a person on hand who will, when I need help, come and give me an assist. The problem is that most people I know are either too busy themselves to lend a hand, or live too far away. What to do? For now, I’m icing the knee and hoping for the best.

Next: 70. 3/11/13: Expatriates