Buffalo Neighbors: Another Joy of Living Off-Grid
“Go play with the towns you have built of blocks,
The towns where you would have bound me!
I sleep in my earth like a tired fox,
And my buffalo have found me.”
The imagery and values in these poetic preferences of Stephen Vincent Benet deeply resonate with me.
Perhaps because I choose to live in a place which is rugged and somewhat remote, I am especially drawn to his words.
Benet's is a life clearly outside the settled and civilized, beyond the bounds, past the periphery; chosen for its wildness and comprised of a kind of romantic hardship.
Additionally, I have long been drawn to the power and scruffy majesty of buffalo, and recently some have found me.
As one who lives on property atop a mesa, never before inhabited except by Indians, I love the idea of sleeping close to, if not actually in, the earth. This land is harsh and undeveloped. We live totally off the grid.
A friend of mine who recently moved near here, with her husband and son, made an interesting comment to me. She said she feels that living off grid is like living in a constant state of emergency. At the time I thought her comment a bit extreme, although I understand exactly what she means. There are no services, other than the ones we develop or put in place for ourselves.
We lived in our camper for 12 weeks, with our three dogs, as our small house was being built. We had a well drilled, and it has its own solar system; got a septic system put in, bought a Honda generator, and had a solar system built. The generator is now used as back-up for the household solar. I love that we get our electricity from the sun. We also have a very efficient wood stove for heat, and a propane tank for our hot water heater and gas stove.
Because we live atop a beautiful mesa and the only way to get here is up a rugged dirt trail, our only “traffic” comes from our very few, distant neighbors. The USPS may travel through all kinds of weather, but they don’t travel up here. UPS and FedEx don’t traverse this kind of terrain, nor do they cross tribal lands.
Some people think the idea of living off grid is appealing, but could never make the necessary sacrifices; others just think we’re nuts. Every day necessities take more thought and effort, and as is often the case, having them also engenders deep gratitude. I never take fresh, running water, electricity or warmth in cold weather for granted.
I don’t like forced air for heat. I’ve had radiant heat, which is wonderful. Now, our sole source of heat is an efficient wood stove, and the heat from it is absolutely delicious. I love the scent of pinion and cedar. But a wood stove is not an easily regulated heat source, nor does it easily maintain a constant temperature.
On very cold days there are brief periods of time when it is too smoky or too cold or too hot in the house. Mostly though, through practice and with some effort, we are very comfortable even when the snow stays on the ground and the wind is brutal.
Even though we don't have "no burn nights" in New Mexico, I feel good because this stove has a catalytic converter and it is so efficient it's rated to be used even on "no burn nights." It is a great, environmentally friendly alternative.
This area is rich with history, and we enjoy expansive vistas, clear, spectacular night skies and remarkable wildlife. To this has been added a herd of buffalo, on the tribal lands which our property borders. What an absolute delight to have these majestic creatures as neighbors.
It has long been a dream of mine to be able to photograph buffalo. In the Native traditions buffalo represent prayer and abundance. According to Medicine Cards, by Jamie Sams and David Carson, “The medicine of Buffalo is prayer, gratitude and praise for that which has been received. Buffalo medicine is also knowing that abundance is present when all relations are honored as sacred, and when gratitude is expressed to every part of creation.”
Living where the buffalo roam, where Red-tailed hawks circle overhead backlit by the sun, where owls call and coyotes cry at night is my dream come true. I don’t believe any town could ever again hold me.
More by this Author
The power of the understanding and meaning we bring to something, largely determines the way we will experience it. The wonder of this, is that grief holds within itself the possibility of happiness.
Is building your business and living your dream easy? Certainly not. Nothing of real value ever is. Can you do it? Most assuredly so. Is it expensive? No, it is priceless.
Before finally honoring my entrepreneurial spirit, well into mid-life, I spent most of my career in non-profit leadership. The non-profit world can only exist because of government grants or the philanthropic generosity...