Family, Faith and Off-Grid Living in Rural Maine

Nowadays it seems like everyone is trying to live more simply. I believe its a sign of our advanced and often chaotic modern times that people are looking back toward a less complicated way of life. Many are taking living simply to another level by living off the grid! An estimated 180,000 U.S. families are living off-grid according to a study by Home Power Magazine. Whether your goal is to watch less television or adopt a whole new way of life we can all take a page of inspiration from writer and homesteading Mama Masha Goepel from Yisforhome.com as she gives us a glimpse into Yurt life!

1. Tell us a little about yourself:

I’m a 35 year old wife and mama of two! We live in the woods of western Maine now, but I grew up in metro-Detroit. Seth and I have been married for 10 years and off-grid homesteaders for 8.

But we do have internet access via our cell-plan (all data). We charge up our phones in the car or at the somewhat-local cafe in town; which is why we’re sometimes online a bunch and then disappear for awhile.

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2. What made you want to live “off-grid”?

Honestly, we moved off-grid just because we found land, fell in love with it, and couldn’t afford to bring in electricity or plumbing! Haha. It was supposed to be a temporary step towards building an on-grid homestead, but we ended up loving the peace and quiet of off-grid life! Now I can’t imagine giving it up!

3. I recently posted about multi-generational living and the house I grew up in, lots of people lots of rooms. When I read you post: Bohemian Mama: One Room Living  I thought that was such an interesting contrast. What are some pros and cons of one room living?

Pros: we’re so cozy with each other! And we get to know one another really well! And my kids get used to making alone time for themselves while surrounded by family! Which is a great skill to have!

Cons: private conversations can be a challenge. And in the winter, we do get a little stir-crazy. Sometimes a lot..

But multi-generational living is so beautiful!!! When you don’t all share a room! We did invite my parents to build a cabin on our land to try to encourage at least some of the blessings of extended family-shared space in our lives as well!

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4.Tell me more about Catholic Rural Life Maine:

Well, first of all – did you know there is a national Catholic Rural Life organization? I didn’t until last year, when one of our local priests began hosting a Catholic Rural Life festival! Now we have a Maine chapter and the festival is becoming an annual event!

Maine is so spread out! We have so many young, rural families trying to rebuild a faithful, land-based lifestyle and we have some fantastic priests guiding us in all this! It still surprises me when I meet another homesteading family at Mass or find out a local Catholic is going off grid too!

Maine has always been pretty funky: plenty of small, organic farms and fermented foods..but our Catholic population is pretty small. Now it seems like more and more of the devout Catholics are finding their way back to the land! It’s really exciting!

5.Your husband is an artist tell me a little about that.

Yes he is! He actually has just officially made his art into a small business too! Which feels like a huge commitment, it’s a little intimidating! He’s amazing, check out his work on Instagram: @sethgoepelfolkart . Most of what he paints are ‘folk icons’ – folk art based on iconographic aesthetics! I love seeing the paintings come to life all around me! But it can make the house crowded sometimes!

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6. What advice would you give to someone who desires to live more simply:

I love William Morris’ words “keep only what you know to be useful or believe to be beautiful” …and really, usefulness is over-rated! Haha.

In all honestly, though. Get rid of your T.V.! Few ads, fewer distractions, more quiet! It makes for a more contented life. And content people waste less because they want less.

7. Why do you prefer home-schooling? What do you love about it?

I love homeschooling because I love learning! And because I really like keeping our home and faith central in our family life! And also because I do disapprove of so much in contemporary education.

I love getting to spend my days with my kids! We keep to a cozy little schedule, we read a lot, we play and spend time with our saints, and most importantly for me, all of this: faith, beauty, books, nature, and art all feel entirely normal to my kids! No one is making them feel weird for loving to read or for knowing which flowers are edible. No one is expecting them to have seen all the new kids’ shows. They’re just learning to learn, not learning to fit in to the social standards of a broken society.

My husband was home-schooled, and I always admire his self-confidence and social honesty. I’m already seeing that in my kids! It’s such a blessing!

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8. You recently spoke about herbal healing at the Catholic Rural Life Maine Festival, tell me a little about that. Perhaps a commonly used or family favorite remedy.

We heal almost exclusively with herbs in our house! I will sometimes use homeopathic remedies or essential oils, but primarily I use the plants I have around me to make my own remedies. We don’t actually need remedies often, but we do a lot of immunity-boosting, and in the winter some cough and cold remedies.

We have elder-bushes in our yard, and I love making elderberry oxymel! An oxymel is a vinegar and honey herbal preparation – kind of like a syrup, but a bit more intense! I steep the berries in raw, apple cider vinegar for about a week, strain them out and then mix the vinegar with raw honey at about a 1:1 ratio. If I’m really going for something strong, I’ll add bee balm to the vinegar and steep thyme and lemon balm in the honey before mixing the two! It’s an all-purpose wintertime super-remedy! (Thyme is not safe during pregnancy – at least not in medicinal doses)!

9. Tell me about your faith journey.

I’m a cradle Catholic! But we were cultural Catholics, not actively practicing Catholics. Lots of old world traditions and superstitions, not a lot of faith. After looking for ritual in all the wrong places, I ended up coming into a more intentional practice of my faith by the time I graduated from high school. I attended Franciscan University of Steubenville, when I met my husband.

We always fell on the more Traditional end of the Catholic Spectrum though: we were married in the Extraordinary Form and have attended the Traditional Latin Mass primarily throughout our married life.

I love all the old rituals and traditions of the Church! I feel so at home among them, so close to Christ and the Saints! I also love the Eastern Rites – and especially the Ukrainian Catholic Church, which I attended for a while after college!

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10. How does your faith influence your life choices or way of life.

That’s one of those questions I never quite know how to answer, haha! My faith is my way of life! Everything I do and think and desire is colored by my faith – not in the sense that I’m some sort of ultimate Catholic (I’m definitely not!), but in the sense that my whole self is formed and infused with a ‘Sacramental Imagination’. I don’t know how to not be Catholic, or to not be primarily directed by my Catholicism.

But I do know that my way of life makes it seem easier for me to see and reject the creeping distractions and compromises that are offered by the world. I’m able to say no more often to unnecessary consumerism – especially from problematic corporations! And that is such a blessing. I get challenge myself a lot!

11. Tell me a little about how you make faith life a part of your home life.

We refer to our home as a ‘domestic monastery’ and try to keep to a gentle, homey sort of rule in our life. We say morning prayers together at our little altar; end the day with prayers at the altar, and fill the time in between with intentionality.

Which sometimes means I try desperately to get some writing done while the kids run wild and roast acorns out in the yard, haha!  Intentionality in daily life relates much more to how we relate to each other than to the things we accomplish.

We try to teach our kids and ourselves to seek out the face of Christ in every person.

We’ve also recently picked up a family rosary! It’s been such a fantastic, and very natural, addition to our family faith-life! I expected it to feel forced, but it doesn’t at all!

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12. Tell me how living off grid has changed you/ your relationships

This is such a good question!

It has changed me and how I’m able to relate to people! I’m an INFJ (if you’re into the Meyer’s- Briggs); sometimes I cross over into INFP territory..and being off grid has taught me so much about being comfortable and confident being my whole self in public. It’s also taught me how to set healthy boundaries with well-meaning but oppressive people; and to not feel bad if I need to just cut off a toxic friendship.

I feel like living so close to nature is grounding. I reminds me again and again of the value of solitude with God. My favorite poet, Rainer Maria Rilke has a line “I want to be with those who know secret things, or else alone.” I’ve always known that line to be true; but my time off-grid has taught me to feel it truth in a deeper way!

It’s also given me a deeper intimacy with my husband and children! Seth and I have always had a sort of ideal relationship, but offgrid life intensifies relationships: and doing this together, loving it together has brought our marriage so much joy!

13. What is it like to live in harmony with God’s creation.

I don’t think I’m there yet! But the pursuit is so joyful! There are so many ways I see myself falling short, but being out among our trees and getting to know them has really taught me to trust in the Lord!

As Rilke writes: “being an artist [and being a Christian, I would add! The two are so akin]: means not reckoning and counting, but ripening like a tree, which doesn’t force its sap, and stands confidently through the storms of spring, unafraid that afterwards no summer may come. It does come. But it comes only to those..who are there as if eternity lay before them, so unconcernedly silent and vast.”

14. How do you prepare for the often harsh Maine winters?

For us preparation is more mental than anything else. We start thinking in terms of winter’s limitations and opportunities. In the winter, we don’t spend as much time outside, and we can’t leave the house all day because the house gets too cold for our houseplants when the stove is banked (closed down) all day.

We definitely stock firewood (we burn through about 5-6 cords a winter between heating, cooking, and sap boiling), and almost all our firewood we process ourselves from our own land.

We also stock food, because we often get snowed in, and because wintertime is such an easy time to store food for us! We have an electric freezer at my parent’s vacation home down the road, and winter temps allow us to have an abundance of at-home cold storage as well! We also can a lot of produce and my big fall-cleaning time focuses on finding space for all the jams and relishes of the summer garden.

15. What are some of your favorite family traditions?

Name days are huge for us! We celebrate the kids’ name days as much or more as their birthdays. On their namedays (the feastday of the saint they’re named for), we bake cakes -one for our family to share and a smaller one for the saints to share , move the saint’s Icon to a place of prominence, bring in flowers or greenery, and usually have a little bonfire.

The kids love their namedays and for the feast days of other saints, we tend to have similar little celebrations – although some saints have additional celebratory traditions: we bring our herbs to Mass on the Assumption (the feast of Our Lady of Herbs) to be blessed; we do something special for the animals on St. Bridgid’s Day; we make candles before Candlemas. I think it helps a lot to be living close to nature because so many of the traditions in the liturgical year grew out of the agrarian life.

Where can we find out more about you?

 

I have two blogs, because I struggle with limitation, haha! Y is for Home! is where I write most often about our homestead and homeschooling journey; Beautiful Crows is where I write rambly thoughts on Saints, prayers, and intentional living.

I am not on Facebook anymore – too much drama! – but I love Instagram, where you can find me as @beautifulcrows and peek into my daily life a bit!

I would like to thank Masha for her participation in this interview and I invite my readers to follow the blog for more upcoming interviews with interesting and inspiring people!

 

Would you ever consider living off-grid? Let me know in the comments below!
❤ Cait

 

 

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