It’s been said that our lives are the sum total of the choices we have made. Your off grid experience will be too. You will have to choose between what you need, what you want, what you absolutely HAVE to have and most importantly, what you can live without. It’s different for all of us who are off grid. One person might think something is completely unnecessary while another thinks it’s vitally important and absolutely essential (like a microwave for example). As my husband often says, “You can have anything you want off grid. YOU just have to make it work.” This is true but there is some sacrifice involved. Unless you have pocketfuls of money, then you can’t have everything you have in town, where “the livin’ is easy and the power is high” (it’s really “the cotton is high” but thought that worked pretty well. hee hee…. Porgy and Bess. George Gershwin. Nothing? Never mind.)
There is quite a bit to think about before diving into the decision to go off grid. Even though it may seem overwhelming at first, take courage! It gets easier. Once you do some research, slogging through the vast Mire of Information, wading through the Morass of False Claims, paddling through the Swamp of 1000 Decisions and clambering out of the Bog of Personal Priorities, you’ll be all set and ready to go! (If not a little soggy.) If you are seriously considering the possibility of going off grid, then let’s talk, shall we? There are a few important things that need to be thought about before you go plunging ahead into the Quicksand of … (ok, I’ll stop.). Your most important considerations are:
We won’t go into all of them now but here are a few quick thoughts:
— Land and water. Land is the first thing. You don’t need much to go off grid. Some people live off grid on less than an acre of land. Look around for deals – they are out there. When you find some land, and I can’t say this emphatically enough, MAKE SURE THERE IS WATER ON IT. Somewhere! You can live without power but you cannot live without water. And lest you think you can go to town for all your water needs…. well, you can, but it’s a colossal pain in the butt and will be a huge burden. We humans use a lot more water than we think we do. (And NO, you can’t melt snow for your water needs. A 5 gallon bucket filled with snow reduces to a disappointing, measly cup of water. I am not kidding.) You can dig a well (expensive!), go to a spring (like we do), have a cistern, or use a nearby creek. We go get our water each week from our beautiful mountain spring that comes bubbling straight out of the mountain! So cool! And so brown! Yes there is dirt in it but we had it tested, it’s potable (look it up) and serves our water needs all year round, thank God. I mean, I don’t drink it myself of course. I ain’t drinkin’ no brown water.
— Wood. Obviously if you are using a wood stove for your heat source, then you will need actual wood, LOTS of it. We go through about ten cords of wood each winter, sometimes less, oftentimes more. The good thing about this is that you don’t necessarily have to spend your entire summer cutting down trees off your OWN property (that’s important by the way), like we used to do. We now order a load of wood each summer. It’s not that expensive and we figure it comes out to about the same if you count the cost of gas, oil, time, sweat, blood, tears and splinters. In fact we think we’re coming out ahead actually.
–(Last but not least) Power, shelter and priorities. We’ll go into all the choices for power and shelter later but for now, decide which power-users you have to have in your life. For instance, I use an electric fridge. Most of the people up here off grid use a propane refrigerator. Which uses propane. Which you have to buy. And they are TEENY TINY. No thanks. I’ll stick with my ‘lectric one. It’s a power HOG but totally worth it to me. I don’t however have a microwave or a coffee maker. I have a stove for those things. I don’t have the power to have the T.V. on all the time (or ever really) but I do have Internet access because that’s more important to me. So see? Give and take. Yin and yang. Need and wants. Your choices. They are what make your off grid experience unique, livable and perfectly suited to you. I mean, you’re still (probably) not going to have everything you want but at least you’re out of the stinky, smelly Quagmire of …. (sorry, couldn’t resist).
(Photos and article by Penny Dinwiddie)