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The Year in Books

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Country Living, Simple Living, The Year in Books

The Year in Books: Off On Our Own (Ted Carns)

Two words to describe this book: inspiring and entertaining.

Since I met husband, his passion for simple living has easily infected me. Probably because I’ve become slightly knowledgeable about tiny houses since meeting him, folks that live off the grid capture my attention a lot these days. I recently read Off the Grid: Inside the Movement for More Space, Less Government, and True Independence in Modern America, by Nick Rosen. And will soon be starting The Good Life: Helen and Scott Nearing’s Sixty Years of Self-Sufficient Living. I supposed its safe to say I’m nearing obsession.

But I really just like the stories that are found in all of these books. And this one by Ted Carns was no different.

Towards the end of it, I found myself writing lists of things that I want to work on either learning or creating to make our lives more sustainable. And I really want to make this someday…

Ted Carns appears to be slightly brilliant, although (like many folks who live off the grid) – slightly odd. This makes him endearing to me, and possibly just cooky to others who are less inclined to enjoy crazy people.

I say brilliant, because of all the various systems he’s concocted in his compound over the years. To start out, he has around 15 or so buildings on his property – all with very specific purposes.



He goes into LOTS of details (although not nearly enough to recreate it) with his various systems.  Like their water filtration system (which passes through somewhere around 10 different filters before their grey water is deposited into the garden. They have MANY power sources at the “Stone Camp”: wind, solar, ethanol, thermoelectricity, methane, wood gasification, human power (bike with 12 volt alternator), hydrogen cell, steam generation, hydropower, and biodeisel. They make their own wine and maple syrup by the gallons. They are aspiring to make buildings made out of their trash from the past year.


Other impressive features to “Stone Camp”:
– a homemade, 40 ft windmill tower (which he CLIMBS in the middle of a blizzard)
– a “sugar shack” where he and he wife Kathy collect sap and create syrup
– His library which is described like a hobbit hole that I want to go snuggle in.
– I can’t remember what right now, but he makes something useful from hunter’s cigarette butts he finds while hiking. #nastyyetresourceful

I found myself wishing there were more pictures in the book. THANK GOODNESS I decided to visit their website, although I was quite surprised after reading their book to discover that they had a website.

Like most off-the-gridders, Ted Carns has really strong opinions about most things, and is also a deep thinker, and communicates his life philosophies in an overall inspiring way. He is super passionate about preserving nature, and mentions a little bit from lots of religions that support his deep roots with all things green, organic, and untouched by humans evil desire to conquer the world.

Overall, its a great and entertaining read that will have you wanting to go start digging a hole in your front yard with a backhoe and calling it a greenhouse…. that might have happened in this book…

Here’s a quote to either throw you off the scent of this book or get you completely hooked (I don’t see there being much middle ground):

“You can buy out a company and increase your net worth 20-fold, but that kind of shit pales besides getting up at 5am, firing up a the tractor and going out in the woods to gather sap.”


Also: this documentary-style video, made by some Buddhists missionaries, really paints a good picture of Stone Camp with Ted and Kathy Carns. In fact, if you watch this video, you might not even need to read the book.


 (All pictures, unless otherwise noted, are from Ted and Kathy’s website)
Circle of Pine Treeswhat im into



mountains of spices
The Year in Books

#theyearinbooks No. 1: Mountains of Spices by Hannah Hurnard

The Plan

So I started a Goodreads account a few months ago to keep track of the books I’ve been reading (mostly on lunch breaks and weekends at home when husband is working), and recently had the idea to post book reviews here!  Also, I’ll be linking up with Laura over at Circle of Pine Trees with her #theyearinbooks (also on Instagram and Twitter. If you enjoy reading, please join!

Circle of Pine Trees


You know when you go into thrift stores, garage sales, book stores, or library sales and you buy BOXES of books?


restoring simple



Well, that’s happened to me several times, so I am going to attempt to read my own books this year. I set a goal for myself of 25 books for 2015. That’s not a huge amount at all. In fact, the average goal on the Goodreads website was in the 50s. BUT I’m all about being realistic (most days), and if I can read 2 books each month – I think I’ll be pretty happy with myself :)

I’m hoping to read a good variety of books this year: fiction, non-fiction, fantasy, spiritual growth, practical how-to, biographies..etc.

I will also be doing periodical book giveaways. Starting with today! See instructions below.

I’ll start with a book in the spiritual growth category that I recently finished called Mountains of Spices, by Hannah Hurnard (I think I technically finished in 2014, but I’m going to count it for this year).

mountains of spices


Ok. First off: I gave this book  3 stars, mainly because I feel the need to reserve 4 stars for an “absolutely excellent read”, and 5 stars for only a few books that exist, and I’m not quite sure if I’ve read them yet or not…


mountains of spices



I enjoyed this book (and the prequel: Hind Feet on High Places) because, honestly, I haven’t read the bible in awhile. And I am a person of faith, in the God of the bible. And yet, I haven’t been able to read that specific book in awhile for a lot of reasons, I’m sure I’ll get into them eventually here (maybe not), but for now just know that’s not happening a whole lot these days.

But because my soul is conditioned (pretty willingly, honestly) to crave intimacy with the God of the bible, I have found that so much of this can be depicted through fiction. My husband wholeheartedly disagrees with this (the fiction part), only because his brain has this intense need to see things EXACTLY as they are. No fluff. No fiction. No big deal (most days), I’ll just read my Harry Potter and watch my LOTR on my own time honey. ;)

These books by Hannah Hurnard have that allegorical story line that I crave these days.

The story starts in the book Hind Feet in High Places with Much-Afraid living in the midst of a depressing situation with little hope about life at all. The Shepherd (bet you can’t guess who that’s supposed to depict?) comes and asks if she wants to go to the High Places with him, but that it’s a super hard journey. She accepts and off they go (after some delays). Along the way up to the “high places” she encounters all kinds of realistic (in an allegorical sense) troubles that you encounter if you choose a life of faith (or honestly, even if you don’t).

She makes it to the top, he heals her (oh she’s also got a deformed mouth and lame feet) and everything seems to go pretty well for this chick after that. Which is where I tend to start squinting my eyes a bit and frowning internally. Really? No troubles? You never doubt that Shepherd again? #unrealisticexpectations

In the sequel, Mountains of Spices, she is back down in the Valley living with her community experiencing life change after life change of her sad relatives. And in between each encounter with the relatives, the shepherd takes her back up to 9 mountains (representing the fruits of the spirit) and teaches her about life. I found myself skipping ahead to the chapters that focused on her messed up relatives: because I related so much with them! With names like Gloomy, Spiteful, Bitterness, Self-Pity, Umbrage, Resentment, and Moody I definitely felt like I fit in more with those folks some days.

Not that I want to, I sometimes just do.

But back to the book review…

I actually, believe it or not, enjoyed these books. Here’s a quote that touched me:

Do not fear the cutting knife, Do not shrink in pain, Let the red drops of thy life Fall like bleeding rain. That which thou to death dost give is the seed which shall live.

Do not fear the winter’s breath, Let the seed drop to the earth, Everything laid down to death Waits a resurrection birth. Let the flower drop, on the thorn Fairer glories shall be born.

Do not try to hold life’s joys, Or the past’s years golden store, Love it is Who thus destroys, To make room for so much more.Love it is, with radiant Face, Leading to a wealthier place.

Do not let self-pit bleed Bitterness, nor fierce regret. These are worms which kill the seed, And sad misery beget. With a willing heart let go, God will richer gifts bestow.

Learn the lesson fast or slow, This is Heaven’s Law, We must let the old things go, To make room for more. We shall reap in some glad way, Fairer joys than lost today.


Maybe I’ll just stop there and let you read it for yourself. Let me know if you do and what your thoughts are about Hannah Hurnard’s books.

If you are interested in winning a copy of Mountains of Spices – please leave a comment below sharing a couple of things that you are looking forward to in this next year! I’ll pick a random winner in the next few days :)  (This giveaway is open to US residents only)

Edit: this giveaway is now closed.

Thanks for reading!