Are you interested in living off the grid? It seems to be all the “rage” today, as many are moving to a more simple life. Here is one family’s story and tips for how to get started living off grid.
We are 100% living off grid, using solar power.
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We started this venture in 2010 when we moved from PA to ID moving to raw untouched land we purchased site unseen and setup our canvas wall tent to which we called home for 8 1/2 months while we built our own home.
We both grew up on farms as children and were brought up in a traditional environment. It was something we initially wanted to get away from as young adults, but it had seeped into our bones and now we feel that we are living in the wrong era.
We love the simplicity of traditional living therefore we try to do as much for ourselves as we can. We raise meat rabbits, chickens mainly for eggs, milk goats and honey bees. We also hunt all our meat for the year during the hunting seasons.
We are finally able to get our garden and greenhouse in this year which will be a true blessing and savings from buying high priced organic produce, not that it is not worth it to have good produces, but one less expense for our family and one more way we are becoming more self reliant.
We can everything we can get our hands on and purchase everything else we need in bulk quantities.
Living off grid provided us with a freedom from the norm. An ability to be self contained and able to provide for ourselves. Can everyone do it? Yes!
Some may have an expensive fuel bill because they won’t alter their current everyday routine prior to going solar, where others will use the generator a little to charge their batteries when necessary and have little expense.
Then there will be people like ourselves who adjust to our solar and are frugal with our power and do most of our power consuming things on sunny days to eliminate expenses of any kind.
Right now we just have solar, but we are looking into adding a wind generation system. Another consideration for an off-grid lifestyle is to look for property that has a year round stream or creek.
A hydropower system is another great way to supplement extra power during the gray days and gray months of winter.
There are definitely things to consider when going off-grid such as what appliances will work well with the system you choose, being cautious with high power consuming appliances, knowing the amount of power your family currently consumes daily and what system is right for you.
Have You Considered Living off Grid?
Living off-grid means different things to different people. For some who live in a residential community, the idea of living off-grid is to install solar panels ditch the electricity supplier and carry on living as normal with the nine to five job supporting their lifestyle.
Unfortunately, most states will not permit houses in residential areas to disconnect electricity and water from utility companies. It is, however possible to install solar systems that feed any excess electricity into the grid.
This is a good choice that helps reduce power demand for the individual and the nation. It does, however, take some time to reap any financial benefit.
Others, however, seek the true off-grid lifestyle. No utilities at all, complete self-sufficiency and making everything from toothpaste to entertainment. Now doesn’t that sound appealing?
Is Off-Grid Living the Lifestyle for You?
Part of the appeal of living off-grid is the lure of a far simpler way of life away from the mundane 9 to 5 normal existence. The search for an easy way of life.
Many people ask “what is involved with this much sought after alternative lifestyle and will I be able to survive?
Well, what is the best way to achieve the dream of off-grid living?
Let us look down the path to off-grid living try to identify the obstacles and investigate how to jump over them or push them out of the way. Let us also try to identify who is best suited to take this path.
Deciding where to set up this alternative lifestyle is the first dilemma that needs to be tackled. The geographical location is vital. Climate, soil type, land prices are all important factors to consider.
However, once a geographical choice has been made, it is then essential to investigate the different zoning legislation in the chosen area. This, unfortunately, can make the final choice more complicated.
A compromise between affordability sustainability and legality could reduce the number of options for the location to a relatively small number of possibilities.
Most people would prefer a remote location, however it is also important to be relatively close to some form of civilization, both for supplies and also there are times when support may be required.
Personally, I believe that climate is of prime importance. Any location that is subject to constant weather extremes will make everything else more complicated and difficult.
For many, one of the most important benefits of living off-grid is being able to move away from the mass of people that live in a town or city. However depending on your location, you may still have unwanted guests.
Some areas have many wild animals, and that’s a good thing because they be hunted to provide a valuable food and fur source. However, you will have to make sure it is legal to hunt those animals.
There are many animals that are dangerous and will kill people and livestock.
Bears, wolves, snakes, cougars, bob cats and in some locations alligators are all in abundance, and stray onto land that has crops or animals that can be seen as an easy food source.
Consequently, having the ability and the means to deal with these threats is vitally important. Speaking as someone who has come face to face with bears, I cannot stress the importance of this enough.
For those that have never lived in this type of environment it is vital that steps are taken to learn about these dangers before taking the plunge.
Camping and visiting as many different rural areas as possible is an excellent way of starting the process.
Learn what snakes are poisonous and what to do in the event of being bitten.
Investigate the art of foraging, what wild growing plants can be safely eaten and which have medicinal properties.
Training in the use and care of weapons and other defense techniques is a lifesaving skill that is best not learnt by experience.
There is also the possibility of people who are not known to you accessing your land and possibly taking produce.
There are unfortunately many people who are jealous of those that live self-sufficiently, and since they don’t have the skills and aptitudes to live similarly, they might wander onto your property.
Normally, people skills will prevent any problems arising from other people, though a plan of action should be considered just in case this approach doesn’t work.
Once a legal location with the required environmental factors has been found, any building work carried out on the site will need state approval and will be subject to building regulations.
It is most unlikely that a site will be found that has an adequate building already in situ it will, therefore be necessary to build a house despite all of its complexities.
Most people want to build an energy-efficient home that is eco and environmentally friendly. Since this type of house is only now starting to become popular it can still an expensive option.
For anyone with no experience in the design and construction of a house, it can be very daunting and difficult to undertake alone.
It is always best to take plenty of time with the planning process to ensure everything is workable and adheres to legislation. Involve professionals, it is still possible to assist with the building to reduce the cost.
Why not undertake some building training before any impending move, since this is an important skill that will be beneficial in any lifestyle?
One of the most important resources required by everyone is water. Most likely any chosen site will not have a water utility service. Again State legislation often dictates what water can be used and how.
A stream flowing through the site may seem an obvious choice of supply, however, many states operate water rights systems that could prevent or restrict the use of this supply.
There is possibly water available underground, but any well that is dug ought to be done so according to any local legislative requirements.
What happens to wastewater is also tightly controlled with most states requiring waste handling systems to be installed and maintained by state-licensed engineers.
Water is a vital resource consequently the availability of water from various options should be thoroughly investigated.
Rainwater is a particularly important natural resource that should not be ignored, especially if other supplies of water are seasonally affected or are limited. It may have its own restrictions, depending on where you live.
It is easy to catch rainwater that runs off a roof and store in barrels. Some states do have legislation regarding rainwater harvesting so this is another item to add to a checklist for local legislation.
There are many states, however, that give advice to those wishing to harvest rainwater and some offer financial incentives to encourage this activity.
Care should, however, be taken when collecting water that has fallen on a roof since some roofing material contains chemicals that prevent the growth of moss.
These chemicals can leach into the water, making it poisonous to drink. Water can look perfectly clear and yet contain chemicals or bacteria that make it dangerous to drink.
Storing water can cause problems too. Care and attention should be taken to avoid contamination. Testing and filtering water should be part of a regular routine.
Another consideration when assessing the water supply issue is the location of the supply. If the water supply is at a higher level, it may be possible to move the water to another location through a pipe system with gravity alone.
Alternatively a pumping system will need to be installed to move the water to where it is required.
Plan where and how the water is going to be used and how it is going to move there, but ensure that any plans contain the option to extend the piping and to provide a larger flow. What is adequate today may not be satisfactory tomorrow.
If the location I prone to freezing care needs to be taken to ensure that the system is protected.
Power is another vital resource that is a necessity for most houses to have in some form at least. Solar Panels and wind turbines are obvious choices, but as simple as these may seem, they are both complex and can prove expensive.
Achieving an adequate supply of electricity requires an understanding of how much is required by the house and what is the best way of producing that level of electricity.
Overestimate everything as these systems are often not as efficient as they would first appear and extra demand may be added in the future.
Some states encourage alternative power sources by offering various forms of financial assistance such as grants and tax breaks.
It is not out of the question for people with limited experience to design and install a complete electrical power plant from solar panels, wind turbines or a combination of both.
Components or even complete kits are readily available. This is a much cheaper option than a professionally installed system, however, some states do insist that any DIY systems be built from standard materials and are fit for purpose.
Since energy is such an important resource for anyone contemplating off-grid living should thoroughly investigate both the relevant state’s legislation and asses both the cost viability of available power options.
Beware the self-styled gurus who will tell you that they know everything about alternative power supplies and offer to install one for you.
Whist many can and will be able to help many will recommend systems that are not adequate or efficient and will likely result in costing more money to rectify errors.
I inherited a solar system that had been installed by such a person. After taking the time to learn, I was able to disconnect yards of wire, loads of electrical relays, switches and dials to end up with a system that was far more efficient.
For many geographical locations, some form of heating will be required for at least part of the year. Consideration as to how this will be achieved at an early stage will prevent problems later.
Wood is one of the most common forms of heating a house and can also be used for cooking too. A property with a good supply of wood is indeed a bonus.
For some areas in the country, this will require quite a large supply of wood to be readily available before any cold season starts. It will be necessary to factor in the supply and work involved in preparing the wood for use.
Learn about wood, as different wood burns to produce different quantities of heat. Fire wood also needs to be seasoned since fresh cut wood burns poorly and produces less heat, and can cause problems with the flue.
Other heating sources include oil and propane, both of which in certain circumstances are excellent choices, but will not compare to a plentiful supply of free wood.
I fortunately am surrounded by Almond and olive trees that provide an excellent wood supply by chopping down any dead trees and annual trimming of others.
Once established in an off-grid environment you are free to do exactly as you like. Well, unfortunately, that is not exactly true. There are some activities that the state will want some form of compliance.
Taking into account your plans for any activities and local legislation regarding these activities is essential at the early stage.
For example, if you want to grow produce to sell, either directly to the consumer or through retail stores, various states will insist on inspections to see that food and hygiene regulations are being adhered to, at least and there may the chance of having to adhere to farming regulations.
The opportunity of growing produce is one of the factors that encourage many to consider this change in lifestyle.
Whilst financial aspects are important, just look at the difference between the cost of a pack of seeds and the crop that can be produced from them compared to shop bought produce.
This alone should be sufficient motivation, it is, however it is the taste that is the huge difference. So much of today’s food is grown unnaturally to meet the demand of quantity and extending natural seasons that taste has suffered.
Growing produce, although rewarding can also be exceedingly time consuming. Especially if growing from seed as there are many processes that require undertaking correctly for plants to grow successfully.
Initially the growing area will need a great deal of thought and planning. What is going to be grown where and when are the key areas to plan.
This is also a beneficial time to think about irrigation.
The correct supply of water is vital in growing healthy plants. A drip irrigation system is often the best idea and this system is best installed before anything is planted.
Consider a poly tunnel, greenhouse or cold frames as these all help to protect young plants and help to extend the growing season. An extended growing season means more food.
Growing all of this fabulous food does mean that it is important to be able to can, freeze, dry and pickle as much as possible. These processes help to allow seasonal food to be enjoyed out of season.
A well-stocked and organized pantry is an essential requirement to ensure maximum benefit is achieved from the hard work of the growing process.
It is important to realize that not everything planted will grow and produce a crop, also storage process do not always work correctly, but this helps to make any produce even more enjoyable.
The majority of people who chose to live off-grid will, for various reasons choose to keep some animals.
Horses are common since they are an excellent way of getting around a large plot and provide a great workforce for tilling the land and moving heavy items such as trees that have been felled.
Of course, not everyone wants to go back to that basic an existence and no one says that to live off-grid it is essential, there is no problem in using quad bikes and tractors.
Other animals can prove particularly useful. Goats are a fantastic way of achieving a supply of milk and cheese and of course meat.
Goat’s milk and cheese are far healthier than cow’s milk and cheese since it has lower levels of saturated fats and cholesterol. It also has lower levels of sodium whilst still being rich in essential vitamins and trace elements.
Goats are also a great natural machine for keeping brush and rough and overgrown areas under control. Most are normally friendly, especially towards children.
These animals are also valuable for earning money. The Tennessee meat goat, Kiko and Beetal are all excellent goats for producing meat.
More than 60% of the red meat eaten worldwide is goat meat and that figure is increasing as the health benefits of eating goat become more widely known.
Great milk-producing goats are LaManchas, Oberhasli and Saanen, although there are often more local breeds available.
Some goat breeds such as the Angora, Pygora and Cashmere also produce hair that is sought after for producing fiber. The hair from these goats can provide a worthwhile income.
Chickens are another valuable asset for those living off-grid. However, chicken is a general term for this versatile animal there are many breeds of chickens that are beneficial for different requirements.
It is essential that before deciding on what breed of chicken to buy it is best to think about what why you want them for. Do you want them for their eggs, for their meat, or is the priority of producing more chickens?
Most egg-laying breeds tend to be small whilst meat breeds are larger, seems obvious surely, but is it essential to have two different breeds?
Selective breeding over the years has produced breeds that are useful for both egg and meat production.
An important consideration for chickens is geographical location since not all chickens will fare well in all climates.
Some of the best dual-purpose breeds are:
The Plymouth Rock
This bird has been around for many years and has proved popular as they can grow up to about 8Ibs and will lay approximately 300 large brown eggs every year. They also happy running free or in a pen.
This chicken is popular as they are available in many varieties and colors with some being quite pretty. They are also calm and friendly, making them popular with children.
Being happy to forage wild and produce 200 large brown eggs per year they will even produce in winter months and being broody will set and hatch eggs, even those from other chickens.
The Rhode Island Red
This breed again is an established breed that is also multipurpose by producing around 300 large brown eggs in a year and grow to a weight in excess of 8Ibs. This heritage breed is cold-hardy is friendly, although the males can at times display some aggression.
Again this is an established hen that is named after the tribe of Native Americans that introduced them.
This is another useful hen for colder areas since they will continue laying all year and will produce in excess of 200 large brown eggs whilst growing to a superior size to adorn the table.
For those aiming to achieve full self-sufficiency, it is import to remember that you will need to do everything. This is the time for a close inspection of individual practical skills.
An off-grid living will demand all personal and practical skills to be put into action whilst learning hundreds more.
There is no doubt that off-grid living demands a high level of organizational ability it also demands skills such as understanding weather, first aid, mechanic, farmer, cook, and many more.
When it is cold a heating source is required, when something breaks it has to be fixed or a replacement found, when you feel tired and want a break the jobs are still there.
Ready for a vacation, well that might not be possible for those with extensive levels of crops growing or animals to look after.
Whilst in the planning process look for any local skills training courses that are available. Many skills can be learned from the experience of undertaking the tasks and of course from mistakes.
However, there are some skills such as motor mechanics, carpentry and cooking for which a professional course would be of great benefit.
Going back to a more simple way of life does not necessarily mean that all technology should be thrown out of the window.
Although modern society is over-reliant on high tech equipment and gadgets there are many items that can prove beneficial and particularly useful to those living off-grid.
Remote locations do not exclude anyone from having internet connectivity even if a cell phone will not function. Satellite internet allows connectivity in virtually any location providing it is within sight of a satellite.
Both Google and YouTube are fantastic resources for finding information and Skype is an effective way of keeping in touch with people.
For those with solar power, there are times when a little extra power helps. Many power tools require high levels of electricity. After a few gray days, the batteries will start to become low reducing the power available.
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A generator is an ideal source for backup or an additional power source. These come in a variety of sizes with different power outputs running on different fuel types.
Diesel generators are popular as they will run efficiently for a long time with minimal maintenance and are a cost-effective solution for extra power.
Gasoline generators are also an effective solution for backup or reserve power. They are cheaper to buy, but more expensive to operate.
Mixed fuel generators will run on gasoline or propane are another option that provides the flexibility of using which fuel is more convenient or cheaper depending on priorities.
The Off-grid living, lifestyle normally requires many items to be made or repaired rather than constantly buying new or replacement items. A comprehensive tool chest is a necessity alongside an arsenal of power tools.
Consider that there will be many mechanical items involved with off-grid living that will require maintaining and possibly repairing.
For example, a chainsaw is an essential piece of equipment to maintain the quantity of wood required to keep a house warm in the winter. It is, therefore essential that the chainsaw is maintained in fine working order, and that includes keeping the chain sharp.
A sharp chain ensures that the chainsaw cuts the wood efficiently and also makes this dangerous piece of equipment safer to use.
These are just the first few hurdles that need to be overcome to be able to establish a successful off-grid lifestyle.
Personal attitudes such as being self-reliance, and problem-solving amongst many others will also be necessary to make it work. There is no doubt that a certain mind-set is required to successfully craft the transition to off-grid living
Once established it will soon become obvious if this an appropriate lifestyle choice. As I have said, this is not an easy existence, since a great deal of work physical, mental and emotional is required if it is to become successful.
Whilst many will thrive in this style of living many find that it is not what they thought it would be like and should rapidly decide if it is for them.
Which Path to Take
Many people take the path blindly with no understanding or appreciation as to what is involved in both establishing and living in an off-grid environment.
It is by far a better option to investigate what is involved and talk to others who have trod the path to try to achieve more of an understanding of just how vast a change this lifestyle will be.
Planning ahead by anticipating problems and undertaking skills training will help to ensure that the process is more achievable and realistic.
Contact others who have made the transition as they will have a wealth of knowledge and will normally be happy to offer advice.
Whilst much of this does seem negative, it is always the negatives that cause problems and create the potential for giving up early. If the negatives are eradicated at the start by education and information what is left is the worthy and positive aspects of any process.
The path can at times be long with many hurdles that need to be surmounted to achieve the goal, however by carefully seeking and investigating the hurdles they will often disappear before reaching them.
The enjoyable aspects of off the grid living are the ability to take control of life. To be the decision-maker, control and create personal destiny.
There is something exceedingly satisfying about growing food, raising animals, making and repairing things. It will not always go as planned or work as required, but that is part of the fun and the learning process that makes us stronger as people.
This is also a fabulous environment and experience for children who, whilst participating in this lifestyle will learn many life skills that create an important foundation for their future life.
Tammy Trayer is a Christian, wife, homeschool mom, web designer, contributing writer for American Frontiersman Magazine, Self Reliance Illustrated and Prepare Magazine, soon-to-be author, radio show host at the SurvivalMomRadio.com, pioneer, homesteader, wilderness survivalist, austism advocate for her son, share her knowledge on gluten free and casein free diet, cooking and baking everything from scratch, raising animals, gardening and so much more over at http://trayerwilderness.com. You can also find her on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and her writing website at http://tammytrayer.com.
**this article has been updated by Gordon Atkins on march 5th 2020
Heather’s homesteading journey started in 2006, with baby steps: first, she got a few raised beds, some chickens, and rabbits. Over the years, she amassed a wealth of homesteading knowledge, knowledge that you can find in the articles of this blog.