Surrender…or I don’t poop in clean water anymore.

“Life is like riding a bicycle,” said the man who always looks in our mind’s eye as if he just rode in on one, Albert Einstein, “in order to keep your balance, you must keep moving!” This has been a wild year. New town, moving far from friends and, oh yeah, the whole boat thing. Some days I am a colorful mess. Some days I am more together and content than I have ever been.

We wanted to live small, to have time to explore and show our children the world, to consume less, to create more, to have less expenses and more experiences. And in attempting such a swing outside the norm, we have asked extraordinary emotional support from our friends and family. Who will see only windmills and who will fight the giants by our side?

Moving aboard was a huge change…but there have been so many small changes to our life, since moving aboard. Small changes yes, but overall examples of our choice to live differently. Some are celebrations, some are frustrations, but all are part of the growing process.

I’ll start with the grossest one, but one that has come to fascinate me. And I think it’s a lovely example of how choosing to go against the norm can be so simple, and so (be honest with your own reaction here)…bizarre?

Before moving onboard and installing our composting (desiccating) head, we used to pee and poop — like most people in the western world — in CLEAN (like ready-for-drinking-clean) water. I never even considered it before, but it seems like such an odd practice to me now. Whenever I use a toilet on land now, I am once again astounded at the waste we are all engaged in on a daily basis. With this head, which separates liquid and solid waste, we turn our pee (which science has shown is basically sterile) back to the waters around us, and our poop into…well, dirt. And it doesn’t stink. No moisture, no bacteria, no smell. After a bit of a stir with peat moss and time, it’s ready for a garden bed. I only wish we had one!

Which brings me to change number two. We used to have a small garden and a small flock of quirky chickens. I miss them terribly. I can’t wait for Spring and to help out wherever dirt is in need of turning, planting, or fertilizing (I’ll bring the humanuer!)  I miss our little plot of earth, but now the community around us has become our garden. The islands of Puget Sound boast many permaculture-focused farms, with which we hope to visit and volunteer soon. Can’t wait for dirt under my fingernails again!

Speaking of dirt…

I used to do 4 or so loads of laundry a week. With our incredible shrinking wardrobes, and a more relaxed definition of “clean” to be perfectly honest, I now do one or two. And that’s including towels and the plethora of washcloths we seem to use with these two little messy humans aboard. We’re still using the local suds-o-mat, but soon a 5 gallon bucket will be taking its place. More elbow grease, less quarters. A good trade, as far as I’m concerned.

Which brings me to the change in our water usage. I have no idea exactly how much water we used daily before — the utility bill was always around 3000 gallons a month…so that’s roughly about 25 gallons per person, per day. That’s with the aforementioned flushing and garden watering in arid Colorado, of course. But we recently did the math here (where it’s much easier to determine how much you’ve used, because…well…your tanks are dry) and we are using about 2 gallons per person, per day. Our water tank is the size of some people’s bathtub!

This brings me to yet another change that has been a bit surprising: bathing. We don’t do it nearly as often as we used to. We’ve become such dirty hippies! Ok, not really. Which is a situation to ponder. We shower in the marina or at a friend’s house or at the YMCA about once a week now. And, with rare aromatic moments of exception, it’s not uncomfortable. I pass folks in the aisle at Trader Joe’s who might look more prestinely quaffed, and I might have an unwavering devotion to my hat some days, but overall the world could do with a bit less “product”.  Sooo much waste in spray cans, shampoo bottles, and micro-beads filling our oceans and eventually, through the often overlooked food web, our stomachs. (steps off soapbox)

Speaking of stomachs, we are living without refrigeration. I thought I would sorely miss this, but with the coolness of the winters here, I haven’t…yet anyway. Not one bit. No bugs. No food poisoning. (knock on wood) We eat a lot less meat now, so we can indulge in grass-fed, humanly-raised yumminess when we do. We waste less food than we used to (when we would shove leftovers or veggies to the back of the fridge and forget about them until they were a soupy, sticky, mess of rot). Ask Gene to tell you about the “carnivorous stew” sometime. The stew that ate the teflon off the pot. Really.

Summer may be another story and we might have to rethink a few tactics. Many folks use a bucket, sunk alongside the boat when anchored, to cool the vege stores. Low tech solution. We will most likely have to make do with less dairy, harder cheese (oh darn), and learn to can meat and seafood. Again, oh darn.

We also used to cook on 2…3…sometimes 4 burners at once! We have 1 and, as soon as we figure out our new cooking situation, we will have TWO glorious burners. We have had to learn the fine (although not always satisfying) art of one pot meals. It’s been a challenge for sure. And to attempt to have variety (without filling the boat with wild and disparate ingredients) is the largest piece of that challenge pie.

Mmmmmmm….pie.

I used to bake! (see what i did there) Oh, I miss our oven. And cookies. I miss baking cookies. And bread! We have (when we eventually get out there and begin to use it) a wood burning stove that has an oven about the size of a loaf pan. Ok, two loaf pans. If they are small loaves. So, if anyone is itching to bake, I’ll send you our address.

A few other slight changes:

Exercise has evolved from yoga classes to walking to the market and carrying a toddler on my back during hours of exploring the neighborhood while Gene works on the boat.
My wardrobe has shrunk to about 20 items — only one pair of jeans (as denim just feels damp all the time on a boat).
Soon, our energy will be only that which our solar panels can create and our batteries can store. A few interior and exterior (nav) lights, the ability to charge a cell phone and computer.

So, let’s recap…I’m cooking, gardening, dressing, laundring, bathing, exercising, shaving, and even pooping differently than I was a year ago.

It’s been a wild year. A lot of change and exploration. A lot of learning about this life and myself in the process. The kids have been amazingly flexible and resilient. I’ve had my moments. I hope to have more.

I’ve chosen a word to focus on for this next season, as we get underway. Surrender.

Not giving in, not letting go of yourself or your desires or needs. But letting life happen, rather than trying to make it happen. This life aboard seems to require that. You can’t WILL the wind or the weather to cooperate with your needs. You can’t WILL the boat be still, so you can cook dinner more easily. You have to roll with it. Keep moving. You have to adapt. You have to surrender to the natural world and your own limitations in the moment. It’s a lesson I think I needed. And continue to need.

Here’s to rolling with it and surrendering to the moment, whatever it may bring.

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3 thoughts on “Surrender…or I don’t poop in clean water anymore.

  1. When we had no fridge we kept our cheddar cheese in a big jar of olive oil. We cut it into cubes big enough for a two sandwiches and it tasted fine for months.
    Cheers

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