Tips For Living Off Grid

on May 27, 2016
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If you’ve followed The Farmer’s Lamp, you know we were suddenly thrust into living off-grid last year (2015). We’ve learned, by necessity, how not only to survive but thrive. If you’re considering the move to off grid, I offer you these tips to help cut down your learning curve.

On our trip from west central Louisiana to the wilderness of northern Idaho, we visited parts of our country I had never seen. Being the homebody I am, I probably would never have traveled to see them. We found ourselves wondering about those who had traveled this way when there were no roads, no street signs, no markers of any kind. How did they know when they arrived somewhere? How did they find a way across these mountains? 

living-off-grid

Not What I Expected

We thought we knew what to expect from being off-grid. We had been planning and making the transition while living in Louisiana. While we were on the right path, the reality of the off-grid life is different than we thought.

There were a couple of things which were hard for me to adjust to. They were the lack of electric lights and running water. I remember telling myself, back on the farm in Louisiana, to be aware of how much water I was using. Do you ever think about how much water you use during the day?  In hindsight, I have to confess I was wasteful.

We get water from The Big House by filling 5-gallon buckets and carrying them down to the cabin. All of our water needs are met by doing this a few times a week. When you haul water for your use, you become aware of what you use it for and how much you use to accomplish each task.

Because of the weak power grid in the South, we had some off-grid supplies. We often used oil lamps during power outages, but there is a stark contrast in the light each one supplies. After a couple of weeks, I was adjusted to cooking and doing housework in dimmer light. 

Power or No Power?

Most of the U.S. population thinks of living off-grid as having a primitive existence. The truth is there are varying degrees of off-grid living. No power, solar power, solar power with generator backup, wind power, hydropower and any combination of these you want to implement. I know people across the whole spectrum and each is happy with the degree of off-grid living they choose.

Off grid living simply means you are not attached to any public utility. It’s that simple.

If you choose to live with no power source, you don’t have to consider how much electricity you will use. If you choose to have a power source, you’ll have to decide how much power you need. Did you know small appliances which generate heat have the highest wattage use? I didn’t!

If you choose solar power, gray or cloudy days will mean you’ll have to let some things wait for the sun to shine.  You can’t run the washing machine on gray days. Wearing your clothes 2 or 3 times cuts down on the amount of wash you have to do. Of course, they’re heavily soiled you’d change them. I’ve found some things come just as clean with hand washing in my grandmother’s wash pot as they do in a washing machine.

I’m new to this lifestyle and area, but I’m rapidly adjusting to the demands of each day. Refrigeration wasn’t a problem in the winter, but now the weather is warming up. We still use coolers, but have to change the ice jugs more frequently and buy ice for use in them.

living-off-grid

A wood heater is used for heat and cooking during the winter. A propane stove is used for cooking on warm days.

How do I bake my Granny’s buttermilk biscuits on a wood heater? While I mix up the biscuits, the cast-iron skillet is put on the stove to preheat. When the pan is hot, I add coconut oil and place the biscuits in the pan as usual. Once the biscuits are in, I place the lid on the skillet. When the tops aren’t doughy and the bottoms are browned, I flip them over and let the tops brown.

We’re looking for our own homestead. If it’s not set up for living off-grid, we’ll get it there fast. There are so many benefits to living off-grid. As long as I have running water, I will feel like royalty.

We’ll keep it simple. We’ll use solar with generator backup. Maybe wind power will be an option for us, depending on the location of the land. 

living-off-grid

My Tips For Living Off-Grid

Water – You can bring the water up from a well with a bucket, a solar ran pump or use a creek or river. Water, as everyone knows, is necessary to life. Snow and rain can be used to do a great many things. 

Heating/cooking source – The first power source to come to mind for living off-grid is wood. Propane is also a good option. Depending on your area, you can have a large tank or two put in and filled only once a year. I’ll have an outdoor summer kitchen and use the wood stove in winter.

Power source (if you choose) – If I didn’t need the internet to work or communicate with my children, I would be happy with no power. These are necessities for me.

Cast iron cookware – It’s easy to maintain, can be used on any heat source, including open fire, and lasts for generations. I have a few of my grandmother’s pieces. Cast iron treasures can be found at yard sales, estate sales, and flea markets. I recently found a $40 pot in a flea market for $5! A little loving care and it’s like new.

Proper Clothing – If you have a large enough solar system, you can run a washing machine on bright days without any strain on your system. A laundromat is an option. The cost of fuel and proximity to town have to be considered.  At $3 a load and another $1.50 to dry, this can get expensive fast.

Clothing gets worn at least twice, unless they’re heavily soiled. Having plenty of clothing makes life a little easier. Underwear is easily washed out by hand.

Know your climate. Being from the deep south, my “coat” is like a sweater here. My daughter-in-law gave me one of her ski jackets and it’s been a blessing! Layering is new to me, but I’ve learned the importance and necessity of it.

Proper footwear – Coming from the South, we didn’t have warm boots or socks. Your climate will dictate what type of clothing you need. I suggest talking to locals to help you determine exactly what works best in your climate.

Lights – I don’t think you can ever have too many oil lamps. Not only are they attractive, they’re functional. We’ve come to appreciate a headlamp, a simple $11 battery operated head lamp. It’s invaluable for cooking, washing dishes, and especially for reading and sewing.

Pets – Providing for your pets during the adjustment is important too. Roxie and Bowser are our Pack. She’s a blue pit bull and he’s a brindle pit bull/black mouth cur mix. He is her baby. Roxie’s teeth and coat didn’t properly develop as she suffered from starvation when she was young so she needed a coat. Bowser’s coat is healthy and even thicker now so he doesn’t need one. 

Batteries – Unless you have a way of recharging batteries, like a small generator, the “old” kind will do.  We suggest stocking up on the sizes you need, whether rechargeable or not. It’s necessary to have extra since you never know when they’ll run out of juice. 

Often times I lie awake in the pre-dawn hours and wonder at how blessed I am to be living off-grid. Soft shadows fall across the room from the oil lamp and I listen to the waking sounds of  The Pack. They are ready for snuggling and “good morning” love.

Do you have tips for living off-grid? Please share them with us.

Safe and Happy Journey,

Rhonda and The Pack

UPDATE 12/2016

We moved into a rental house to be closer to my husband’s job for the winter. This house is on the grid so we are enjoying electricity and running water. There’s an unwritten rule out here to not purchase a home in the winter because the snow can hide so many things. Besides this, it’s almost impossible to move in some areas. We will begin our search for our homestead again in March, 2017.

Pack in Montana1

self-sufficiency
bake-without-power

16 Comments

  • Mickie Davis

    Love it! Check out our off-grid cabin adventure! http://www.brandywine-farm.com

    June 1, 2016 at 11:10 am Reply
  • Ann

    Just a tip on the water buckets – don’t use buckets!! Get the 5 gallon water jugs that you would use in a water cooler. WAY less chance of spilling and it’s easy to cover and store the water in the jugs for use. 🙂

    June 2, 2016 at 6:00 am Reply
    • Rhonda Crank

      Great tip Ann! Thanks for taking the time to share. 🙂

      June 2, 2016 at 9:31 am Reply
    • M Green

      yes, I have several of these, too.. maybe just me but green algae was growing in some of them so I had to dump them.. hard to clean the inside and didn’t see much choice but to use bleach.. and *shake* really hard.. 🙁

      June 16, 2016 at 12:16 pm Reply
      • Rhonda Crank

        I’ve read the green algae is not harmful for external use or to animals. It’s something I’m not personally versed on. Maybe some other member of our community will have a better suggestion than me. We use food grade hydrogen peroxide to replace bleach. It actually kills more and better, but doesn’t harm us. Thanks so much for stopping in to share with us.

        June 17, 2016 at 10:05 am Reply
      • Larry De

        Yes. I always use bleach. I have several 5 gal jugs. Two table spoons will keep the water for a year. Just make sure that the cover is tight or rhe bleach will evaporate. Then before you use the water leave it uncaped for a day and it will be fine to use. Or you can filter the water like i do. I dont like to carry water in the winter so i stock up while the supply is available. Good Luck all…

        June 20, 2016 at 1:51 pm Reply
  • M Green

    you didn’t mention la toilette.. you have an outhouse?.. any tips on digging one?.. I’m a yellow/mellow girl and we’ve had several water interruptions in my town.. I keep several recycled milk jugs full of water under my bathroom sink jic I need to flush during such times

    June 16, 2016 at 12:10 pm Reply
    • Rhonda Crank

      We do have an outhouse. I use a chamber pot during the night because of the night creatures and cooler temps. 🙂 We practice the “If it’s yellow let it mellow…” method ourselves when we live where we have plumbing that is! Thanks for stopping in to share!

      June 17, 2016 at 10:08 am Reply
  • Nancy@LittleHomesteadinBoise

    How do you deal with water? Rain barrels, a cistern or? Thanks!

    June 16, 2016 at 5:31 pm Reply
    • Rhonda Crank

      For now, we carry water to the cabin in 5 gallon buckets. We do this every few days. Rain water is collected for washing and cleaning. We collect snow in the winter for washing and cleaning, but we don’t use rain or snow for human consumption. There are just too many toxins in the air for us to feel comfortable using it for drinking or cooking. Thanks so much for taking the time to stop in and ask.

      June 17, 2016 at 10:00 am Reply
  • jessica

    we just began living off grid in a cabin in arkansas. We rely solely on water catchement and propane for our stove. I love not having lights (other than solar christmas lights and a reading light). our biggest struggle right now is the heat. This week the heat index was 115. Which means it is crazy humid. Opening windows doesnt help. We ended up having to buy a small window ac unit and run it on our generator just to make the house tolerable. While this worked for the week, its not a long term solution. The generator costs about $20 a day in propane to run the ac unit non stop. I would love advice on cooling an off grid cabin. Thanks for a good article!

    June 19, 2016 at 1:36 pm Reply
    • Rhonda Crank

      Jessica, Thanks so much for stopping in and sharing. As you know, we’ve just moved from the deep south so I totally know what the humidity is like for you. We were told by locals how terrible the humidity is here. We laughed. It’s so hard for people who haven’t experienced the humidity in the south to relate. It hasn’t been hot here except for five days it was in the upper 90’s. Today, June 20th we awoke to 41 degrees F and it’s supposed to reach 85.

      On those really hot days the humidity didn’t even play a role for us. I purchased a rechargeable table top fan to run at night. It helped some as it gets pretty cool here in the mountains at night. We decided if we were still in the cabin and not on our new homestead this summer, we would run the generator at night to run a full size fan.

      We leave the door (we installed a screen door) and window open for cross breeze, but it doesn’t really help when it’s 98 outside. I cooked outside and put dark blankets over the windows from 11 A.M. until the sun moved off the cabin. There are many trees around the cabin so that really helps. I also washed dishes outside so the warm moist air was kept out.

      We eat a lot of raw or cool supper dishes in the summer. Not eating heavily before you lay down cuts down on the heat your body generates while performing its nightly processes. I also spent a great deal of time outdoors in the shade, like we did when I was growing up.

      Maybe only running the generator at night to sleep cool would be a way to cut back on the cost of the air con? Sorry, I’m new at this and haven’t experienced many ways to keep cool off grid. Maybe someone in TFL Community will have better suggestions? I’ll post the question on TFL Facebook Page. Check there to see if anyone in our community can have more or better suggestions for you.

      Good luck. Be sure to check back in and let us know how y’all are doing.

      June 20, 2016 at 11:22 am Reply
  • Margy

    We live off the grid in a cabin that floats on a lake. This is a great advantage because we have a constant supply of water 4′ under our floor. We boil the water for drinking and cooking, but is fine as it is for bathing and washing. Wood for our stove floats in ready to be cut up and stored. Having enough dry wood to make it through the winter is always a worry for me. Without heat in our area it would be impossible to live here. We get our wood early in the summer and cut and store it a little at a time so the sun can dry it out before the next row goes into the floating woodshed. Having these two critical sources taken care of life is much easier and there’s a lot less hauling. One factor we find very important is that both of us love this lifestyle. Unless both partners agree, it would be a lot harder. – Margy

    July 31, 2016 at 10:22 am Reply
    • Rhonda Crank

      Margy, Thank you so much for sharing your fascinating lifestyle with us! I would never have thought about a floating woodshed How ingenious! It sounds like a great life and you’re right, unless both partners agree, any lifestyle choice would be harder. I shared your comment with my husband and he enjoyed hearing about your way of life. Please stop in and share with us any time!

      July 31, 2016 at 4:43 pm Reply
  • Mistletoeacres

    For those trying to keep cooler in the summer. Go to the thrift stores and try to find old wool army blankets. Soak in water. Hang a sturdy dowl over the windows that the breeze is coming through. Hang the soaked blanket over those windows only. It acts like a swamp cooler. Try to have some sort of catchment under the windows to collect the excess water. This can be reused. Also big clay pots that are kept wet near a breezy window in the summer do a good job keeping perishables cool. Keep a wet towel over the top to keep the inside clear of dust and debris.

    November 24, 2016 at 5:27 am Reply
    • Rhonda Crank

      What tremendously helpful tips you shared with us. Thank you for taking the time to stop in and share.

      November 24, 2016 at 9:22 am Reply

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