Monday, January 1, 2024

Off the Grid or Within the Grid?

For those of you who have been keeping track--probably no one has since even I haven't--it's been a year since I last posted, December 20, 2022, to be exact. I wish I could say that I've been off the grid, way out in the boondocks, and haven't had access to the internet. Yes, that's why I haven't posted! The reality, however, is that I've been within the grid, so to say, since I've been teaching school again, last school year as a substitute teacher for the spring of 2023, and this year since the fall as a full-time 4th Grade teacher. 

A little substitute teaching morphed into a one-time, one-year offer to teach in my old school district, Van Buren County Community School District, where I've been teaching in the little town of Douds until the end of the year when my position will be filled by a permanent teacher, one of several who are in the building completing their student teacher training. How do I feel about going back to full-time teaching after retiring for ten years? My answer is the same as it always has been: I'm always happy and excited on the first day of school, and I'm always happy and excited on the last day of school. 

My camping experience last year consisted of a weekend at the local county park four miles from our house. I've immersed myself completely in teaching, not trying to live two lifestyles at once, knowing that my commitment of one teaching year will end and then I can get back to a more relaxed, outdoor life. This situation is easy to accept because I am teaching a wonderful 4th Grade class this year--exceptionally kind, polite, and curious students. It's a wonderful encore for my teaching career.

Not all has been teaching, though. About eighteen months ago, my wife and I bought thirty-five rural acres in Van Buren County, around forty miles from our home, mostly wooded acreage that we've developed with some gravel, electricity and water, and a sewage storage tank for our trailer. We were considering how to add a small cabin to the land when we decided to do something we swore we'd never do--buy an "apartment on wheels." Yes, we bought a twenty-five foot Dutchment travel trailer that we had towed to the land and which now completes our small, self-contained space out in the country. On reflection, what I had always said about larger RVs is that I'd never tow one; I never said that I'd never own one. For a reasonable price we now have a small living space on our land that just happens to have wheels. 

Owning this land is fulfilling a lifelong desire for my wife, and I've enjoyed sharing the experience with her. So far we've only had a chance to spend one night this last fall in our new camper on our land, but setting up the land and the camping area has been a real learning experience for us. We've fixed fences, cleared brush, mowed grass, and generally opened up a private camping space for ourselves. The land has some beautiful features, but mostly the appeal is the privacy, the chance to truly be out and about without rubbing elbows with many strangers, their animals, and their chugging generators, unrequested playlists of music, and the social issues they're working out with friends and family. This doesn't mean we don't like to socialize; it just means that it's nice to have the option of solitude. 

We are looking forward to when school is out and we can turn our lifestyle more toward camping on our land. We want to try a "one-eighty" and live on the land Monday through Friday and then come back to our house on the weekends to shop, do laundry, and see the grandkids. Since we have Starlink, we will be able to set up a strong internet system on the land so that Sandy can work there with her consulting business. It will provide us with a good experience of living on the land and just having some private time for ourselves, and it's six months away.

December 19 photo of the river from the bridge by a fellow teacher
This next spring, perhaps in April, I have a camping project that should be fun. My school is on the Des Moines River. It's an eighteen-mile commute to work, and every day I cross the river to get to school. There is a small two-spot county campground down by the river, just before the bridge, and I hope to camp there next spring so that I can just walk across the river to get to work. The campsites have 30 amp electricity; however, there is no water, nor are there restrooms. With my little self-sufficient Airstream Basecamp 16, though, I'll be perfectly comfortable. Looking forward to that!

For long-term camping plans for the next season, we have hopes to travel to Michigan and/or Washington state this upcoming year since we have family in both areas. We even are considering on spending a winter in South Carolina sometime, enjoying cold (but not as cold as Iowa) winter walks on the beaches. 

For now, though, I am focusing on doing the best job I can teaching my wonderful students. At halfway through the school year, I have a good sense of the routine, the technology, and the curriculum. First years always have their challenges of so many new specifics, but my 35+ years of teaching experience provide a stabilizing influence on the day-to-day requirements. I love the people I work with--over a dozen people are former colleagues or students. Yes, many of the school's teachers and paraprofessionals are my former students!

I look forward to continuing my Green Goddess Glamping blog as time allows. Don't be surprised, though, if the posts are infrequent until the end of the school year. I'm still here, and look forward to the new year with all its variety of experiences. Happy New Year!

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  1. I know my Emmett sure enjoys the small amount of time he gets with you! I also enjoy having the opportunity to work with you this year! Thank you for sharing your kindness and insight with the 4th graders this year! Looking forward to following your blog in the future future! Happy New Year!

    1. This year is in many ways a reaffirmation of all the reasons I chose a career in education.

  2. I was so HAPPY to see an Email from Green Goddess Glamping. I have always looked forward to your posts with my morning coffee. I know you are extremely busy but know I appreciate the time you donate to us.
    Happy New Year, chrissy b

    1. Thank you! My focus is on providing quality instruction daily for my students, but I hope to write a few more GGG blog posts during this school year.

  3. great blog! You and Sandy are quite the adventurers. RW, NCV

  4. Dan with the MeerkatJanuary 1, 2024 at 6:26 PM

    I was starting to wonder why I wasn’t seeing your blog anymore…enjoy your new adventures and post an occasional blog entry, too.

  5. Tom, glad to hear from you as I was wondering about you just a few weeks ago. Congrats on the progress you've made on the land and your venture back into teaching. That was a very unselfish thing to do and just goes to show your commitment to your community and the kids.
    Best to you on your future adventures, Mike

    1. I'm enjoying myself. This week marks the halfway point of the year.

  6. Great to hear from you!