We are John & Merlene, from Port Charlotte, FL, married with 2 grown daughters.  Kimberly (24), who is married to Ryan and lives in Seattle, WA and Samantha (23), who lives in Arundel, Maine.  We began our quest with a lot of random thoughts dictated by necessity.  Reality hit hard when gas went to $5.00 a gallon and it was costing us $30 a day just to get back and forth to work.  The bills started piling up and for the first time we could not make the mortgage payment.  Then we thought we got “lucky” and got a modification, however they tripled our escrow which made our payment $300 more than it had been before the modification.  Our homeowners insurance more than doubled and our electric bill went up 20%.  Everything was going up except our income.  We felt lucky to have jobs as many of our friends were out of work.  We started talking about our alternatives and decided to buy some land out in the boonies and talked about living a simpler life, one that was off the grid.

On March 31, 2009, we closed on a five acre piece of property in Punta Gorda.  The property is a mile off the main road with little more than a tractor path for a road to the property and the closest electrical pole is over 3/4 of a mile away.  Florida Power and Light wants to charge over $20,000 to bring electric to our property to give us the “opportunity” to pay them for electricity.  TO HELL WITH THAT!  Thus began our quest to unplug from the status quo and to find a way to live comfortably without paying for the priveledge of doing so.

We planned to do all the work or at least as much as we could ourselves and use a pay as we go plan.  We still had our jobs and it looked like gas was going back down and we might even be able to keep our house until our plan was well underway and perhaps sell it when the market stablized.  That was a great plan, until on April 5, 2009, we both got laid off.  (Did I mention we worked for the same company?)  So, keeping the house was never going to happen now and we were now collecting unemployment for the first time in either of our lives and had to cut expenses everywhere.  We cancelled the cable, the phone, cut our electric by unplugging the water heater, etc.

We also started buying food from angelfoodministries.com, which is a wonderful way to get great food at half the cost you pay at the grocery store.  It is NOT charity and it is AWESOME food.  Check out their website for the story and for a location near you.  Also, if you belong to a local church that does not participate, this is a great way for your church to help the community and to help build the churches benevolent fund.  I cannot say enough good things about this organization.  You do not have to be a church member, nor will they do anything to try to solicit you to become one.  There is no denominational guidelines, check out their website for information about becoming a provider.

Check out our blog posts and other pages for progress on our project and photos and instructions on our projects.  Our goal is for me to have my creature comforts (dishwasher, microwave, computer) and for him to have his man cave (which will be the pole barn) to play with his tools and create neat projects.  I’m hoping to have his and hers pages so he can detail his alternative energy projects and I can detail the progress on my garden and home projects.  I am also going to add a recipe blog in my “spare time.”  I’ve been told I’m a pretty great cook!

We would love to hear from anyone who has ideas or projects we can try or adapt to our needs!  Thanks for checking us out!  Please come again and  subscribe to our blogs!

10/03/11 UPDATE

Well, we are still in our house.  Our foreclosure case was dropped by the plaintiff in June 2010.  We were advised by attorney to stay in the house as until we have legally been removed from the house, we are responsible for it.  The case has not been refiled as yet and we are in a holding pattern on that front.  We both remained unemployed until August when I took a job at Circle K for minimum wage because after sending out over 300 resumes I have given up on any job that will utilize my skills.  John is still looking and has sent out over 500 resumes.

We now have a Redneck Ghetto at the property.  The pond is about half done.  John’s backhoe hydraulics are broken so we are on hold with that until we can get enough cash to fix it.  You can see info and pictures by clicking here Redneck Ghetto.

Our family has grown since this page was created.  Kimberly, (now almost 27) and Ryan had a son, Jackson, in March and Samantha (now almost 26) and Bobby had a son, Matthew, in July.  I have created new pages for Kimberly and Samantha and also for our new grandsons Jackson and Matthew.  Click on their names to go to those pages.

I also have started growing vegetables.  Since we are not at the property yet, I have a container garden going and call it My Li’l Garden.  Click on it to watch slide shows of all my veggies growing.

Samantha, Bobby and Matthew are moving to Florida  in just a few short weeks!  I can’t wait to get my hands on my little man!  It will be so good to have my daughter close to me again.  Once they get here and get settled, Kimberly, Ryan, and Jackson are coming for a visit, so I’ll get to have all my babies together!

Despite the economic woes of the times, I feel very rich and very blessed.  I have a wonderful husband, beautiful daughters, son-in-laws that make our girls happy, and healthy, beautiful grandsons!  I am thankful for all the wonderful blessings in my life.

We actually do not buy food from Angelfood ministries anymore, as we found we were wasting things that we didn’t like.  I now focus on buying food in bulk whenever possible, watching weekly sales flyers and using coupons.  We have a large freezer, which allows us to buy a month’s worth of meat and other food and store it safely.  By properly planning, we actually save a lot of money and still eat very well.  I seldom buy processed foods anymore.  First, they are extremely expensive and second they are unhealthy.  I make a homemade hamburger helper that beats Betty Crocker any day of the week, for less money and I control what goes into it.  The Au Grautin Potatoes in that box, well mine are better and again, I control what goes into them.  There is nothing better than fresh meat, vegetables, and spices.  There is nothing worse than preservatives and chemicals.  Read the labels on your processed foods.  If you cannot pronounce and ingredient or do not know what it is DON’T EAT IT!  It really doesn’t take much more time, if any, to make it from scratch.  I use sea salt instead of regular salt for cooking.  It is better for you and being a salt-a-holic, I love it.  Discover the Betty Crocker and Julia Child in yourself.  You would be amazed how easy it is to create a wonderful side dish or meal from scratch.  Experiment with different spices.  I have posted a bunch of recipes that I have created or discovered and changed.  There is a misconception that cooking from scratch takes too much time.  It is the prep work that can be time consuming, but not if you plan right and arm yourself with the right tools.  Cooking is one of my guilty pleasures.  I love putting different ingredients together and creating a dish that make you feel special, when you eat them you make funny yummy noises.  I am a comfort food junkie.  I am also blessed to have a husband that appreciates my cooking.  He is my biggest culinary fan!  He was a chef, but he doesn’t cook anymore.  He says he is “afraid” of my kitchen and that I do such a good job, he doesn’t feel the need to step in.  Shorthand…I feed him well and he likes it!  LOL  Check out some of my recipes by clicking here RECIPES.


One Response to “ABOUT US”

  1. Tammy Woods Says:

    WOW!!! is all I can say. I can’t wait to read more.

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