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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?
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.
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.
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
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.