In 2015, we were suddenly thrust into living off-grid. We learned, by necessity, how not only to survive but thrive. If you’re considering the move to off-grid living, I offer you these tips to help ease your learning curve.
On our trip from west-central Louisiana to the wilderness of the Idaho Panhandle, 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 living 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 was different than we thought.
There were a couple of things that were hard for me to adjust to.
- The lack of electric lights
- Indoor 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 got water from our neighbors 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 adjusted to cooking and doing housework in dimmer light.
What does it mean to be off-grid?
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
- Indoor plumbing with water pump on well
- No indoor plumbing
- Partial indoor plumbing
- 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.
Decisions to Make
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 washing you have to do. Of course, if 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.
We use a wood heater for heat and cooking during the winter. On warm days, we use a propane camping stove for cooking.
My husband asked on the first morning, “How will you bake 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 let it melt. Then I 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 and hopefully hydropower. 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, 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.
- Clothing – If you have a large enough solar power system, you can run a washing machine on bright days without any strain on it.
- A laundromat is an option. The cost of fuel and proximity to town has to be considered. At $4 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, but they’re also functional.
- We’ve come to appreciate a headlamp, a simple $11 battery-operated headlamp. It’s invaluable for cooking, washing dishes, and especially for reading and sewing.
- Pets – Providing for your pets during the adjustment is important too. If you’ve been with us long, you know all about our beautiful Blue Princess, Roxie, and her amazing story. Because of the hardships she endured before we rescued her, her fur never recovered so she needed a coat.
- 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 sounds of the world awakening all around us. It’s a wonderful life.
Do you have tips for living off-grid?
With all the changes in the world, we have relocated to be near family. We value all the lessons we learned in living off-grid. We live a simple life and are prepared to live off-grid again if we get the opportunity.
As always, we’re here to help.