What We Need

Our gas was turned on yesterday morning, a relief after 18 days. John lit the tank so the water could heat. We made lunch on the stove and turned on the dishwasher afterward. I had a bath; he took a shower. Soon we forgot that we’d been heating water to bathe, solar-showering outside, and cooking on electric griddles, crockpots, and the community room propane stove.

In the afternoon, we drove to Boulder on Hwy 36 for the first time since the flood on September 12th. We couldn’t believe what the St. Vrain River had become. The corner of 36 and 66 is no longer a highway intersection but a crossing of riverbed three times its previous size. The two-story log home that used to sit at the corner is gone, the bank where it stood now shirred off high above the river. A mass of twisted metal lay on the side of the road, former guardrails and the debris they’d stopped as the river roared through.

At Middle Fork Road, Left Hand Creek had engulfed a house and torn away a garage. The house still stood but the porch was surrounded by river rock and tree limbs dragged through the waters. Driving to Boulder and back home again, we gawked at new vistas left behind by a river and creeks straying madly off their course.

After dinner, we walked to our neighbor’s house to tell him about the dumpster arriving this week for cleanup along our stretch of road. We crossed the highway to look at the train tracks that normally run from the cement plant to the south, now shut down and silent for the first time in decades. The ground beneath the tracks and trestle have disappeared, washing rails away like Lego pieces snatched from a toy train. But no real trains will run that way for months, maybe years, maybe never.


Exactly two weeks before, we’d stood here on the highway at the checkpoint temporarily restricting access to the town of Lyons, its residents evacuated from the flood that destroyed roads, homes, and businesses. We’d been called down to the checkpoint to vouch for friends staying with us temporarily. The barrier was intended to safeguard residents, but had become increasingly frustrating as rules changed daily.

By the time we got there, words had been exchanged and our friends had left down a side road now closed for the night. The officer confronting us wasn’t happy with the situation. He’d heard enough about who needed to get where. “Why don’t you people leave?” he yelled. “There’s nothing for you here.”

I paused to calm my voice. “But that’s not true.” I shook my head. “We have water. We have power. We have food. We have everything we need.”

He stared, surprised. Clearly, this was new information. He must have thought the rural places along the highway had been affected like the town. He didn’t know how self-sufficient we are with our generators, propane, septic systems, and gardens, not to mention our general off-grid attitudes.

Without a word, he retreated to find his superior officer. By the time they returned, the situation had eased. They took our friends’ names so they could return to our farm; we thanked the deputies for their long hours of work.

Everything we need.

I can’t speak for those who have lost their homes or businesses in this flood. I can’t even imagine that loss. But for those of us trying to hold as hard as we could to what we still had, the flood swept off the trivia of life’s worries, leaving a renewed vision of what matters most in its wake.

Now we’re rebuilding with the certainty that disaster can come when we’re not looking. What will happen next, we can’t ensure. But for now, we’re grateful  for the chance to rethink what we really need before it’s taken away .



Filed under ecobiography, memoir, sustainable agriculture

8 responses to “What We Need

  1. You’re the best. Staying close to nature, even when danger rips into your world, means those moon in a cup showers keep coming.

  2. A wonderful piece again Kayann. Thank you for it. Somehow I feel comforted by reading that you and John are there, holding the line so to speak. (Do you think that phrase came from people rescuing others from rising waters?)

  3. Your strength really comes through in your writing. Having what you need is a wonderful feeling.

  4. Your positive spirit will see you through this rough and bumpy time. You’d be surprised how much a smile can sustain you and a laugh can rebuild towns. Hang in there during this very trying time of recovery, when the little things in life offer you the greatest joy. Hot water, from my tap? That’s fantastic!

  5. Kari

    Very good and so true. I’m sure others must marvel at your self sufficiency. Not everyone would be able to survive like you two have.

    • Yet the hardest thing was worrying that if we left while the restrictions were in place, we wouldn’t get back home. Walking out to find the checkpoint gone one morning was the best feeling. I yelled “Hurray” in the middle of the highway because that meant our members could get to the farm!

  6. Lorna Yoder

    Well said. Glad you have gas again. Enjoy it. Since living in Africa, I will never again take gas and water for granted.

    • When I was heating water in the electric teapot and microwave for baths, I thought of the best shower I ever took. That was in Cuba after a long day traveling on a sooty bus. The electricity was out when we arrived at the hostel so our hosts heated a bucket of water over an outdoor fire and I stood in the moonlit shower stall pouring warm water over my head with a cup. I have never felt so clean or so grateful for a bucket of water.

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