Off The Grid And Back Again... I'll Plan This Better Next Time
Categories: Life Stories
In spite of what we went through in Depew, the rest of the story is amazing. The chain of events that took us to Depew for us was very hard. We had lost our dream house through the course of economic decline in our business and our marriage was going to pot. My wife and I split for six months time, during which we began divorce proceedings and lost so much. The kids went through heartache too.
The moment this page was started, we had just come back together and were living in a tiny apartment and moved back from Kansas where I had gone to when we split. Amy was working and I was home for that first several months selling things on Craigslist to help us get by. During those first three months the Facebook page: Living off the Grid... went viral, and the Discovery Channel contract came along looking for an Off Grid Program, and we began communicating with the production company.
From the highs of negotiating terms and the signing of contracts to the lows of them backing out... we ended up with my Snap-on truck, and a bunch of junk in storage. We broke the lease on the apartment because the production company had said they'd take care of it. Before, as a busy business man I had to hire everything to be done... the house was too big to keep up with. We had five workers in the shop below, and the businesses problems had infiltrated the home. We had a housekeeper to clean once or twice a week and nannies to keep the kids when Amy worked for a time while I worked at home. But there was something missing by the fact we had grown to that point. My time was too valuable to the business to spend enough time doing the things my wife thought were sexy for a man to do.
Group Meeting - That's Amy and I on the left
Being in Depew, I discovered those things were building beds for my family in the Snap-on truck, making breakfast, and helping in the construction. When I built the picnic table and benches that everyone used every day, that sense of hands-on accomplishment brought Amy and I closer together. To know that her husband had made everything by hand was a start of mending the torn relationship, though every day was a fight just to get through the needs. Marty and I had incredible drive to "build this place no matter what, even after the production company had broken contract and left us without a dollar to our names. But in spite of that, we planned to be ready for a documentary to come as we started the straw-bale homes.
Photo of Jared and Brandon's tent upon arrival in Depew
Our weakness was that the money wasn't there. The pride-swallowing moments where each of the team realized that the ones who went on food stamps were the only ones going to survive this mess was horrible. The 115 degree Summer... the big tent flattened by storms several times.... getting kicked out of camp for events and having to go live up top without utilities or amenities for periods of time. The family with five children were still living in tents, and when those storms came up... the tents all blew to the wind.
Some set up house in trucks
We felt poor as campers without a home but did not lose hope. The production company had kept us on the hook saying, "wait it out, the History Channel wants it!" ....then silence for a while. When we finally heard the last from the production company saying it wasn't going to happen, we kept on as long as we could, but the dream was dying.
I went in and got the surgery I had been putting off, and had a horrible internal bleeding episode after coming home where I thought I was a goner. During recovery I was useless. Our wives hated that we had brought them there, and we battled every other day about it, but living in that little truck... the kids loved that we were nested so close. We became closer and tighter as a family unit. I became determined that what my family needed was a leader in spite of my Fiery Latinas strong will... I had to be the one making the decisions and in charge, and she would love me for my strength.
It was then that things got ugly. For the rest of them that were left, this was all they had. We had my sister close by. We spent all we had helping fund everybody there, but at any time we could leave. When it got ugly, and I was useless after surgery, I was a burden to the group, they really didn't want us there, and we left. We moved into my sisters garage. I knew I wouldn't have anywhere to park my Snap-on truck, so I traded it for a cool Yamaha motorcycle, and that day had to move because we lost our house in that truck.
I built beds for all the kids in the garage, and hangers on the wall from tree branches. I used Andy's lumber scraps to build shoe racks and shelves. We got a tv and did a little garage saling. $25 went a long ways! That little garage was the most comfortable step up from where whe had been. Who would have thought we could feel we were living in luxury now again. We felt like we came from the third world and now were priveleged to have a bathroom and a kitchen in the same building with running water. The things we take for granted.... I appreciate every day now.
Amy told me... no more crazy business ideas. "I want you to work for a company." I had worked for myself since I was in college. Changing that would be hard. But she picked out an ad in the paper, and said .... go help them grow. Like a Mexican fresh from Mexico to the land of opportunity, I went to work in the roofing business, and sold more roofs than everybody in two months time, and got the big Christmas bonus. Today I'm a partner in that business.
We rent for now... a home that would otherwise be empty since it is an investment property, and they know I'll take good care of it. It's a little smaller, but sweeter than our old dreamhouse. We found a town that we don't have to worry about "bad cops," or "wierdos." It's balanced and beautiful. We live on 2.5 acres of country land, but we are within 1/4 mile walking distance from Sams, Walmart, and any restaurant you could imagine. Our children are grounded in the schools, our church is around the corner, and we absolutely love it here.
When things got good, we helped others from the group to find their way back here close by, and gave them work. We stepped up from the Garage to a little 3bedroom 1ba house... and it felt huge compared to the apartment, the snapon truck, and the garage. It wasn't long that the storages full of stuff I had carted around a few times were begging me to find a house with a shop. Through all those transitions, we had lost everything we held dear... many of our pictures from our youth, pictures of our babies when they were small... as many things stored had been lost to complicated storage arrangements. I pulled in to one place where I stored all my precious things. They had a 30 foot dumpster out front... filled with all of it. .... had been rained on.... I had to dumpster dive for my college diploma, baby pictures, my music compositions and orchestra scores of 20 years work... I found a few of them...but I lost a lot of it. I know what people who go through a tornado feel like. My wife lost the paintings her mother gave her before she died. It's been three years, and she tries not to bring it up during emotional times of her life.
But with losing the baggage, we got a home back, and we have our family intact and we know what matters now. Doesn't matter how or where we live, we know we can get by just fine. We are a team, a core group, a military brigade. There's nothing we couldn't accomplish together. During the whole ordeal in Depew, the Facebook page was taken from me. When we left, they bumped my admin from the page. The page followed the others to Colorado, and that was okay. My wife was jealous of my time with the page then, and was glad it was gone. There came a time when it came back to me, and I've been here ever since.
I seek to merge the roofing business with solar shingles as they are coming out soon... this is a long process of waiting on a few companies to allow Oklahoma into the mix. But as we sell more roofs than most roofing companies in the nation here in Oklahoma, it only makes sense. I have a vision of building a 50 home community that's sustainable, self powered, completely disconnected from the power, water, and sewage grids... yet working with local code enforcement to make it something great. We can build the examples for the future right here. It will be top notch and tornado proof. The pieces of that pie are coming together piece by piece.
Thank you all for following along. I continue to enjoy my time writing and compiling articles. I won't stop. I'm here to stay. That's just a little piece of my story. Share around; invite your friends; message me any time. I try to keep up. And have a beautiful beautiful day!