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Living on the Grid

Happily forgoing the pioneer spirit



 



Across our state this month, school children will reenact the Land Run of 1889, which opened the territory to homesteaders prior to statehood. In addition to being problematic from a Native perspective, I’m opposed on a more selfish personal level: Let’s just say that, whatever gave my ancestors their rugged, pioneering spirit has been thoroughly flushed from the gene pool that hatched me. I wouldn’t make it one day as a pioneer. After half an hour of complaining about the flies, the heat, the boredom and the bumpy ride in the back of a covered wagon, I’d snap like a campfire twig at the prospect of one more primitive inconvenience.
 

Knowing so little about the trials the early homesteaders faced (to say nothing of those who were unceremoniously displaced), I Googled “homesteaders” and found an entirely different generation of pioneers who have chosen to live very Kaczynski-esque lifestyles off the grid today.

As someone who is plagued by the quotidian hurdles of the modern day – such as the possible reasons the Netflix connection has to be restarted every time we switch back from Hulu, or why the rinse agent in the dishwasher isn’t getting the job done – I can barely wrap my mind around the notion that people in 2018 are electing to live without electricity and indoor plumbing.

Nick and Esther Fouch, two otherwise reasonable adults, refer to themselves as homesteaders who live with their three children off the grid in the woods of Idaho. With no connection to a power grid, the couple has set out to create a “sustainable lifestyle” for their family “in a post-capitalist economy.” To the uninitiated, it might sound like code for “someone in this equation can’t hold down a job,” but a closer look into the Fouch family reveals a strong work ethic, peppered with some off-the-grid delirium.

Powered by a few solar panels, propane tanks and generators, the Fouches have spent the better part of the past five or six years inside a 314-square-foot yurt (a hybrid of a tent and a house) mulling the weight of their lifestyle, which is alarmingly rustic. Amid its rusticity, however, are a couple of post-capitalist exceptions to the simple life: they do have jerry-rigged Wi-Fi and cell phones, which they’ve used to chronicle their progress (or regress, depending on your perspective) through a fascinating series of “homesteader/off-the-grid” videos.

Early in the video series, as the cheerful Esther offered the viewer a virtual tour of the yurt and the rest of the property, she explained that the American lifestyle is unsustainable. Sustainability is a concept lost on me at the same moment my attention turned toward not one, but three, fly swatters and a respectable inventory of Deep Woods OFF! in the background.

Esther went on to explain – as she batted away a flying insect – that living off the grid was her husband’s dream and it’s been great for their family. (I’ll just insert here that if the Beau ever volunteered a “dream” that involves no electricity, I’d tell him to go back to bed and come up with a new dream.)

“I’ve learned how much I’m capable of doing,” she crows. “For example, before this experience, I’d never split wood before.” (Of course she’d never split wood before – she probably had central heat and air, a gas oven and stove, and manicured nails. Grrrrr.)

Later in the series, Esther took the viewer along for laundry day. First, she told us that all of her clothes – meaning all of her clothes for all seasons – fit in one drawer. At this point in the video series, it’s apparent that Esther has either become sympathetic to her captor, the Middle Ages, or the thrill is simply gone for laundry day; after filling a washing machine with water from an uphill spring, Esther hopped onto a stationary bike and pedaled for 20 minutes to power the washer.

To power the rinse and spin cycles, she pedaled even faster to the beat of “Dueling Banjos” for an additional 15 minutes.

Before she lost daylight, Esther would carry a five-gallon bucket of water to an outdoor fire pit, where she’d boil the water she needed to do the dishes for the next hour. Next, she’d homeschool her three kids about the unsustainability of the post-capitalist economy that drives the what-me-worry American lifestyle – a lifestyle my pioneer ancestors could only have dreamt about in the back of a rickety, hot covered wagon. 

 

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March 2019

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Cost: Free

Where:
Campbell Art Park
NW 11th and Broadway
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View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma Contemporary
Telephone: 405.951.0000
Contact Name: Lori Brooks
Website »

More information

From March 18-22, we are having a BLAST and celebrating the ultimate Spring Break! Buy an Ultimate Fun Wristband for anyone aged 8 and under and they can enjoy our additional attractions, the...

Cost: $28.95

Where:
Andy Alligator's Fun Park
3300 Market Place Dr
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View map »


Sponsor: Andy Alligator's Fun Park
Telephone: 405.321.7275
Contact Name: Andy Alligator's MLK weekend fun!
Website »

More information

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Cost: $12.50

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 Northeast 63rd Street
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View map »


Telephone: 405.478.2250
Contact Name: Jenni
Website »

More information

Show More...
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Through March 2019, Oklahoma Contemporary is partnering with Madison Square Park Conservancy to bring Erwin Redl’s installation Whiteout to Campbell Art Park. Whiteout is comprised of...

Cost: Free

Where:
Campbell Art Park
NW 11th and Broadway
Oklahoma City, OK  73103
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma Contemporary
Telephone: 405.951.0000
Contact Name: Lori Brooks
Website »

More information

Men and women from across the American West played critical roles - both “over there” and on the home front - in helping the Allies win World War I. The National Cowboy & Western...

Cost: $12.50

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 Northeast 63rd Street
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View map »


Telephone: 405.478.2250
Contact Name: Jenni
Website »

More information

From March 18-22, we are having a BLAST and celebrating the ultimate Spring Break! Buy an Ultimate Fun Wristband for anyone aged 8 and under and they can enjoy our additional attractions, the...

Cost: $28.95

Where:
Andy Alligator's Fun Park
3300 Market Place Dr
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Sponsor: Andy Alligator's Fun Park
Telephone: 405.321.7275
Contact Name: Andy Alligator's MLK weekend fun!
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More information

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Cost: Free

Where:
Campbell Art Park
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View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma Contemporary
Telephone: 405.951.0000
Contact Name: Lori Brooks
Website »

More information

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Cost: $12.50

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
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View map »


Telephone: 405.478.2250
Contact Name: Jenni
Website »

More information

From March 18-22, we are having a BLAST and celebrating the ultimate Spring Break! Buy an Ultimate Fun Wristband for anyone aged 8 and under and they can enjoy our additional attractions, the...

Cost: $28.95

Where:
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3300 Market Place Dr
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View map »


Sponsor: Andy Alligator's Fun Park
Telephone: 405.321.7275
Contact Name: Andy Alligator's MLK weekend fun!
Website »

More information

Show More...
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Cost: Free

Where:
Campbell Art Park
NW 11th and Broadway
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View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma Contemporary
Telephone: 405.951.0000
Contact Name: Lori Brooks
Website »

More information

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Cost: $28.95

Where:
Andy Alligator's Fun Park
3300 Market Place Dr
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View map »


Sponsor: Andy Alligator's Fun Park
Telephone: 405.321.7275
Contact Name: Andy Alligator's MLK weekend fun!
Website »

More information

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Cost: $12.50

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
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Contact Name: Jenni
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