Tuesday, May 28, 2013
The "Normals" Guide to Shouse Living
It has been brought to my attention that our lifestyle is rather shocking to a large portion of "normal", grid-dependant, house-living, regular folk. More than once, guests have mentioned that a passport should be required just to drive up our driveway. Having lived our rather unconventional lifestyle for so long, I often forget what a shock it can be for the uninitiated. In that vein, I have written The "Normals" Guide to Shouse Living, a primer designed to help "normals" navigate the lesser-known pitfalls of off-grid/shouse living.
1. Toilet Etiquette: The toilet is flushed, on a very precise schedule, which has nothing to do with bodily functions, and everything to do with the amount of water currently residing in the pressure tank. Always ask your host before you flush.
2. Bathroom Etiquette: When the bathroom is in use, the curtains are drawn. However, one must always announce oneself before entering the bathroom, just in case.
3. Hatchets, Axes & Splitting Malls: These tools, commonly relegated to outdoor use, are perfectly at home in the kitchen of an off-grid shouse. When the lady of the shouse shoulders an ax, it is most likely to cut small wood or kindling for the cookstove, thus ensuring a timely and well cooked dinner. Please, don't automatically assume that the ax-wielding lady of the house intends you any ill-will. She will most likely continue a lively conversation while splitting firewood on the kitchen floor.
4. Shoe & Boot Etiquette: A shouse is meant to be lived in, therefore, removing ones shoes or boots at the door is not required. To be perfectly honest, removing ones footwear could be a monumental mistake, as a shouse floor, regardless of the season, is not known for its cleanliness. The lack of baseboards and walls, in combination with an 8' x 16' door opening and an outdoor lifestyle, contribute to the layers upon layers of built up grime and dirt.
5. Heating, Ventilation & Air Conditioning: In a shouse, the heating system consists solely of a wood cookstove. If the air has a chill to it, simply add a log to the fire. Remember, although the cookstove is wonderful to nestle up to on a cold winters night, it does contain real fire and will, therefore, not hesitate to burn you. Ventilation and Air Conditioning are very closely related. They both consist of opening windows or doors, depending on the situation. In extreme conditions, it may be advisable to open windows and doors, including the roll-up garage door. During the height of summer, when nighttime temperatures are uncomfortably warm, all doors and windows are opened during the cool of the evening (and even overnight) and closed during the heat of the day, rendering the shouse moderately comfortable.
6. Laundry: Laundry is washed on sunny days only (to ensure full utilization of the solar system). During warm, seasonable weather, the clean laundry is hung to dry on the clothes line in the front yard. Although your skivvies are on display for the world to see, they return to your drawer unquestionably soft and sweet smelling. During the colder winter months, the laundry is hung on the clothes horse in the kitchen. It is essential that no strong smelling foods (such as onions) are cooked on the wood cookstove while the clothes are drying on the horse, or your clothes will retain a pungent, unpleasant scent until they are again laundered.
7. Spring/Mud Season Etiquette: During the long mud season (known in some locales as spring), make sure to wear only Wellington style boots. Before entering the shouse, vigorously wipe your boots in clean patches of snow or swish them in puddles of water to remove as much dirt and mud as possible. And for heaven's sake, don't take your boots off at the door! The floors can be easily cleaned, however, your socks are another matter altogether.
8. Bathroom Etiquette Revisited: Although in a "normal" home, the bathroom is reserved solely for the purposes of personal hygiene and other, shall we say, more personal matters, the shouse bathroom serves multiple purposes. Not only does a shouse bathroom house a bathtub and a toilet, it also contains lead acid forklift batteries, power inverters and charge controllers. It is of utmost importance, when using the facilities in a shouse, that you maintain a calm and unflappable demeanor at all times. Although rather unsettling at first, the sudden whirring of the charge controller or the cooling fan of the inverters is perfectly normal. Dropping trow and running, screaming from the bathroom is truly frowned upon.
9. Insects: Because shouse living is a very earthy, back-to-the-land experience, you can expect a great variety of insects to share your living quarters. Spiders are regarded as friendly helpers, as they greatly reduce the fly population and mosquito hawks are welcomed. In an effort to reduce the ill-effects of the most bothersome pests, fly strips are hung at regular intervals (especially in the kitchen) and mosquito nets shroud every bed. Remember, the nets are not just romantic, decorative additions, but necessary requirements.
10. Pest Control: When living in a shouse, you will be host to many little prairie creatures. Do your best not to make them welcome. Keeping a simple trap line (fueled with peanut butter), seems to be the most effective method of rodent control. When visiting a shouse, it is not the least bit unusual to see a snippet of a rodent body peaking out from under one piece of furniture or another. Don't panic. The shouse owner will soon discard the body and re-energize the trap.
As you can see, there are many matters of etiquette that need to be attended while living in or visiting a shouse. If you find yourself welcomed into a shouse or an off-grid home, you may want to consult this simple primer. Remember, although no passports are required to visit a shouse, they are highly recommended.