Nancy cooked in the open fireplace

The wood cook stove in old ranch kitchen

Snaking out logs for firewood

Lesson #2 – Less can sometimes give you more – Entry 150

Moving back on the ranch after several months of living in the back country of the Sierra Nevada Mountains felt like luxury. (Read entry #149) Sleeping in a real bed, taking a shower without having to heat the water over a campfire, cooking on a real stove and storing food in a refrigerator that produced normal ice cubes is something that most of us take for granted. It felt good to be home with our pack gear cleaned and stored away ready for the next time.  While we lived in the back country we had not only been making money, but we were stuck in a place where we couldn’t spend it.  We had a small nest egg that could sustain us for another month or two and the relief it gave felt comforting.  The only problem was that living a normal life does cost money without even thinking about it.  Gas for the vehicles, propane for hot water and cooking (and because we lived off the grid it also powered the refrigerator and lights).  Food is always an expense no matter where you live, and of course there are clothes to buy, household goods and things like books for the kids schooling and so on.  It didn’t take me long to realize that I had to keep looking for work.

Thinking about our next move Nancy and I made a decision.  We realized how much we had enjoyed being together as a family over the past several months and decided to figure out a way for me not to go to town in search of a real job.  We knew that in order for that to happen we had to do two things; first, we needed to down size our life and live on a fraction of what we were used to, and second, to find just enough work on ranches in the area to meet our financial needs.  We felt challenged by the idea.

Several years before I had built an addition on our small home and in order to make the plumbing work I had added a second forty gallon hot water heater to supply the master bedroom.  The first thing we did was to turn the new water heater off and share our kid’s bathroom shower. Nancy’s kitchen had two stoves in it, one ran on propane gas and the other was a wood burning cook stove.  She decided to do most of her cooking on the wood stove and sometimes in the open fireplace.  The third thing was to cut down on our driving and other gasoline consumptions.   Living and working at home cut our need for vehicles down to nearly nothing.  Previously I had been driving an hour to town six days a week which gouged a huge chunk out of our monthly budget.  I had shot a really nice buck during the reminder of the deer season which supplied us with our meat needs, and our root cellar was still fairly well stalked with canning.  It was amazing how little it took us to live on just by being deliberate in our lifestyle. Not only that, but it was rewarding to feel like you could beat the system of status quo living.

Over the course of the next few months I got work from three different neighbors who needed things built.  I built two hay sheds for ranchers and a small addition on an older ladies home.  I never had to travel more than five miles to reach the jobs I was hired to do and the work was honestly refreshing and enjoyable. When I found myself in between the small jobs I had been hired to do I used the time to cut firewood.  I harnessed our horse Sunday and spent days on the mountain snaking out pine logs to a place where I could reach them with the old ranch truck.  I cut and split wood not only for our own use, but to sell in town.

That fall, both in the Sierras and on the old ranch was one of the most memorable times of my adult life.  Since those days I have had remarkable experiences ministering in cities and remote villages all over the world, but looking back on that season of unemployment now I realize God used it to prepare me for a radical life of faith he had predestined me to live.  He taught us that living with less in the form of material things would actually enable us to do more with our lives together.