Off the Grid

Before buying our new house in Almost Iowa, I had two important questions.  Would our old place sell and was there internet access at the new place?

Our real estate agent assured us on both accounts.

It’s not like we didn’t trust him but let’s just say real estate agents tend to be optimistic.  So we pressed him on the issues.

“There are plenty of buyers for rural homes,” he told us.

“What about the internet for the new place?” I asked, “It took an act of God to get DSL at our old house.”

Actually God had nothing to do with it but complaining to the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) did.  I used them to motivate the phone company and some say the PUC has more power than God.

“Don’t worry about it,” he said. “It’s not like it used to be.  Rural areas now have digital cell networks, satellites and micro-wave links – and it all works great!”

Again, real estate agents tend toward optimism – so I checked it out. I spoke to my prospective neighbors and they all raved about the micro-wave links they use to access the internet.

So in early March, we bought our new house.  It has a two-car garage, a big metal shed, a pond, a grove of oaks, a sauna (no kidding) and four acres of pasture for horses.

Amid the chaos of moving, I called the micro-wave guy to link us up, but the best he could do was schedule an appointment for six weeks in the future.

So in late April, he rumbled down our road dragging a long contrail of dust behind his boom truck.

Turning into our driveway, he rolled down his window and muttered, “I dunno.”

“What don’t you know?” I asked.

“Your place looks great on a contour map,” he said, “but micro-waves travel by line of sight.  I can make out the transmitter on Peterson’s grain bin but I’m worried about these trees. When they fill out, they’ll block the signal. Is there any way you can cut them down?”

“I don’t own them,” I told him, “The DNR (Department of Natural Resource)  does.”

Then you’re screwed,” he said as he rolled up his window.

Oh yeah, remember the other thing our real estate agent assured us about?  Selling the old house?

That was optimistic.

It’s been months and nary a nibble.  Now, I have two yards to maintain.  On Friday, I was out at the old place stumbling behind the mower when a guy pulled into our driveway.

“Notice the locate flags?” he asked.

I did.

I had been dodging red and orange marker flags all morning.

The guy was a sales rep for the local cable company. “We are wiring your [old] neighborhood for fiber-optic,” he beamed. “It’ll bring you high-speed internet, phone and cable TV. Can I sign you up for our triple-play package?”

“I don’t live here,” I told him. “I just work here.”

Then pointing to the FOR SALE sign, I said, “but I’ll tell you what.  When and if the new owners arrive, I will tell them all about it.”

Author: Almost Iowa

18 thoughts on “Off the Grid”

  1. Others here have commented on the humour. Myself, I’m a tiny bit horrified by it all. I guess I’m more slavishly attached to the internet than I realized. If I had to live through this? I’d be beside myself. The fact that the unsold home now gets highspeed? Cruel irony! Cruel!

    1. Gosh, I was just commenting on your clothesline post when my comment indicator flashed orange with you note.

      It’s pretty rough not having internet but I work in the Twin Cities during the week, so I am not cut off from the grid all together.

      It’s also a good way to rediscover the public library.

      1. That’s not so bad, then. I suppose, now that you mention it, I’d spend a great deal more time at my public library, too if I were in your shoes. I wish you best of outcomes as far as selling your home AND internet connection is concerned.

            1. Relax, it is only six acres of grass. 🙂

              The guy who had the place before the people we bought it from built a nine-hole golf course. Personally, I do not need that much grass but I will keep enough for a ball-field.

              With the rest, I will expand the pond, expand the pasture and return some to native prairie.

  2. Well, that explains a lot, and you have me laughing while explaining. Yet, your new property is beautiful. Hope you get that new tower up soon.

  3. Groan…what rotten luck. I thought I was the only one who ran into these problems. When I lived in the city I moved several times. Each time I moved they brought in back hoes and jackhammers and proceeded to tear up the street.
    When I moved back to the country I bought a small house-trailer. It took months to get the power hooked up. After I went to the office and threw a mini-tantrum, they told me they were waiting for an inspection certificate, something I’d never heard of until that point. The clerk then said, “everybody knows you need a certificate to have the power connectet.” Fortunately there was a high counter between us.

    1. Years ago, a woman in western Minnesota told me how her mother sat on the front steps and cried after spotting utility crews in the distance stringing wires toward her farm. It is difficult to appreciate life on the prairie without power, telephone and reliable roads.

      Make me feel guilty for grumbling about not being able to stream netflix.

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