Michelle Nijhuis and Jack Perrin's off the grid, straw bale house -- powered by the sun.
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Michelle Nijhuis, Jack Perrin and daughter Sylvia on their land in Paonia, Colorado.
Jack does some repair to the mud plaster on the straw bale office he built for Michelle.
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Jack (right) built this solar-powered house with long-time friend Dev Carey. It took them four months and cost $700.
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The first of two houses Jack Perrin built off the grid here in Paonia. This was constructed with all found materials.
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Michelle and Jack in the living room of their home.
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A 'truth window' in Michelle's office shows the walls are actually made from straw bales.
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4 year-old daughter Sylvia.
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These off-the-grid neighbors gather at Michelle and Jack's house for a weekly potluck. It's a close-knit community.
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Michelle and Sylvia at bedtime.
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Photos:  JT Thomas

Mary Beth Kirchner, BURN Managing Producer

Michelle Nijhuis has lived off the electrical grid with her husband Jack Perrin in the tiny town of Paonia, Colorado – population 1,500 – for fifteen years in a house built with straw bales, plastered with mud and powered by the sun. These two are in the minority in Paonia, with only a couple dozen others who are also off the grid there.

Nijhuis has what some might consider the absolute dream job. She’s an award-winning science journalist who travels the world and has her pick of projects for National Geographic or Smithsonian magazines. But while on the road, she keeps her lifestyle back in rural Colorado rather private. It’s a way of life, she says, many consider “somewhere between bizarre and unimaginable.”