Have you ever watched those TV shows about people who choose to build their homes in remote locations that have no access to utilities, Wi-Fi or Whole Foods? Without even a Starbucks in sight? Alaska, the deep woods of Maine or Washington and the windy mountain valleys of the American West are popular places for this, apparently. The typical episode follows the intrepid homebuilders (often a couple who are constructing their off-grid dream home themselves, with the aid of a host of their handy friends) through material shortages, scary weather events and roofing near-disasters, until their new home, a marvel of innovative engineering and fabulous rainwater collection systems, is complete. And the interiors of these homes are always stunning. Because we all know that everyone who builds off-grid in America has a keen sense of proportion and impeccable taste.
Sure they do.
One of the networks has a promotional spot for its own such show that, in about 15 seconds, informs viewers how to build an off-grid hot tub. “First, locate a spring!” the announcer chirps. After that, we’re told it’s just a simple matter of installing your gravity-fed PVC plumbing into the rock face of the sheer cliff that you’re building your vast, cantilevered deck from.
Right. Because it’s that easy. (And while you’re at it, don’t forget to locate a hot spring.)
Peeved as I am with the formulaic presentation of these shows, the way they alternate between over-simplifying the building process and then threatening catastrophe right before each commercial break, I have to admit I’m also fascinated with them. Especially now. After all, we live in interesting times. Then there’s the fact that Glen is preparing to move his workshop out here to the forever homestead. It’s the last step necessary to complete our transition from city living to country living, and it will make us more self-sufficient. Bearing all this in mind, it’s only sensible to be prepared to follow in the Timberland bootprints of those off-grid pioneers on TV. And I’m confident that if the zombies, the antichrist, the Illuminati and Tony Orlando and Dawn unite their dark powers to bring the apocalypse down on our heads, we could manage off-grid too. Yes, through no talent or foresight of my own, I somehow managed to marry the most capable, self-sufficient man I’ve ever met. How capable and self-sufficient? Well . . .
He can construct or remodel a house, erect the steel fencing around it and repair whatever needs fixing around the place.
(I can cook!)
He can weld anything weldable, and his welding truck is equipped with every tool, fitting, clamp, fastener, pipe, lubricant and spare part you’d need to build a rat trap or a small, functional cannon.
(I can cook.)
He can catch fish and shoot game, process it for the table, smoke it or grill it in/on the pit he designed and built, and plant and tend a garden.
(I can catch fish too! And, um . . . I can cook . . .)
He can grow and harvest hay to feed the livestock, do vet work in a pinch, run water lines and install cattle troughs, and breed/train champion show horses for the arena or working horses for ranching.
(I can . . . Oh, who cares?)
Though it might not be useful for apocalyptic purposes, he can also do graceful and intricate hand engraving, and he knows his way around a telephoto lens. As if all that weren’t enough, animals and small children love him. And none of the above talents are his day job, which is to work the heck out of a real estate contract. (That probably wouldn’t be good for much either in the scenarios I’m envisioning.)
Since it seems that handy men tend to have handy friends, we too are blessed to know a host of handy folks who might like to build things shoulder-to-shoulder with Glen and ride out the apocalypse with us. Among the handiest is The Daughter’s husband, Wesley. Wesley is an actual engineer; he doesn’t play one on TV. (Good job, Katie!) We’ve invited them to live on the homestead with us in the event of end times, not just to entertain ourselves playing poker and Cards Against Humanity, but also because Wesley will need to design us a fabulous rainwater collection system, a couple of water wells and at least one oil well to keep the tractor going. (And a natural gas well, maybe? I don’t know, Wesley, what do you think?) I feel sure Glen will have everything he’ll need in his welding truck and workshop for the two of them to build all of that and drill the wells. In the meantime, Katie can make the cocktails. I’ll cook. It’ll be fun.
Glen got home from work as I was typing that last paragraph. When I went to greet him, he told me, “If you’re going in to town tomorrow you’ll need to go a different way. The bridge over Brushy Creek is shut down.”
My pulse took a jump. What now? “It is? Why?” I asked.
“Looks like somebody’s making a movie. A film crew has it blocked off.”
Ah. Well, Dear Reader, you’ll never guess. Turns out it’s not a movie. The bridge is closed because Fear the Walking Dead, the hugely popular post-apocalyptic AMC television drama, is filming an episode there. A mile from our house. (Isn’t synchronicity grand?)
So fortunately, this is only a drill. For now. All the same, though, you might want to get to work on those schematics, Wesley.