Desert Sojourn

Reader Contribution by Steven Gregersen
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We made it down to our wintering spot in southern Nevada. For those who aren’t familiar with our blogs or lifestyle, we are snowbirds. Our income from writing frees us up to travel virtually anywhere while still being able to make a living. We never replaced our small flock of chickens after the last one died so other than the dog we have no other critters to take care of (we used to have our daughter take our chickens for the winters).

We still try to attain some semblance of self-sufficiency and frugality in our lives even while here. In fact, we’re slowly working our way to self-sufficiency in the motor home we live in.

Each winter we make a few more changes toward self-sufficiency. This year I built a wood burning stove out of a couple of old propane bottles and installed it in the motor home. We now have wood heat. The firewood is free for the picking all over the BLM and Parks service lands surrounding us. We scrounged enough wood to keep us going the first month we were here then stumbled across someone cleaning out their wood pile who sold us the leftovers for $60. It was a little over a half-cord made up of mostly pine. It will keep us going the rest of the winter here with some left for next year. It was also cheaper than the gasoline needed to scrounge for wood.

It also works for cooking. We make many meals using the wood stove in our motor home. The majority of those meals are from food grown, foraged, or hunted in Montana.

We’ve been using both solar panels and a wind-powered generator to provide our electricity. On those cloudy, windy days that we often get here, the wind generator keeps the batteries fully charged while the solar panels do the job on sunny days.

Many times when the wind was blowing, it’s also cold. In order to soak up the extra power when the wind generator is furiously spinning, we’ve been running extra lights. We finally decided to put that power to better use and purchased a 3,000-watt inverter. Now when the wind blows strong, we can turn some of that extra power into heat by using an electric blanket or lap robe or even running a small electric space heater. (Our earlier 1,000-watt inverter couldn’t handle the load of electric blankets or space heaters.)

On some frosty days, our grandson likes to bring out a down sleeping bag to wrap up in while he “reads” his books or watches a movie on his portable DVD player.

We also use bicycles for transportation whenever possible. We’ve made many trips into Overton for supplies by bicycle. Last year, they were completed with our grandson in either the child seat (my wife’s bicycle) or the trailer pulled by me. It’s 38 miles round trip with one large hill to climb on the way back so we make a day of it. We got caught in an “unscheduled” wind storm one day and it took us about four hours of hard pedaling to get back to the motor home.

This is our fifth winter here on Lake Mead. We began with a short, month-long foray using a backpack tent. We next moved up with a 14-foot U-Haul truck that we’d converted to a camper. It worked quite well until we got our grandson Scott. One winter with an active 2-year-old was all it took to persuade us to get something larger. We now have an older 32-foot motor home that we’ve done some extensive modifications to.

We’ll spend a few weeks here then as winter turns into spring the urge to go home will take control and once again we’ll head for the north country. Next winter by the end of harvest and hunting seasons, and once the deep snow and sub-zero temperatures arrive, the draw of the desert will bring us back again.

One of the “locals” came to visit. It was almost in the “yard” when our dog chased it off. The coyote was about 200 yards away in this photo and still heading west!

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