Living "Off the Grid" - Anybody here done that?

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Ken C's picture
Ken C
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Living "Off the Grid" - Anybody here done that?

I thought that it might be interesting to hear about people
that are living off the grid since some on this board contemplate that it may
be in the future of many of us. These might include remote farms or cabins in
the woods.

By "off the grid" I mean that the usual public
services that we have grown accustomed to are not available.  You might want to include comments on what
they had as well as what they did not have and how did they go about the usual
day.

I will start off with the only one that I know about even
though it is a little old. About 1955 (or so) my parents took us on vacation to
visit my aunt and uncle and cousins on their farm in the middle of nowhere
South Dakota (is that redundant?).  We
spent a couple weeks there but it was  a
great experience for an 8-9 year old boy.

My aunt and uncle had a nice farm house in the middle of
100-200 acres that they farmed mostly wheat and corn. They were almost self
sufficient. Besides the crops they had a few cows, lots of chickens. What they
did not have was electricity or running water.  You had to run down to the hand pump to get
a  pail of water from the well  for the house when you ran out.  They also had a windmill that pumped water but
as I remember that water went into a big tank for the cows.

No indoor plumbing but they had a couple of outhouses about
40-50 yards from the main house. That is a long run at night in the dark. No
showers so when you needed a bath it was heat the water to put in the tub. As
for lights they did not have electric lights but they used oil lamps. These
were the hurricane type with the small wick that could be adjusted for more or
less light.

Everyday everyone had chores. These were the before
breakfast chores and the regular chores. 
Milk the cows, feed the chickens, tend the garden, gather eggs etc. It
was kind of fun helping out my cousins do their chores.

The only real communication with the outside world was mail.
Their mail box was on the paved road which was a good way from the house down a
dirt road. They were a long way from town and the local grocery store but they
were only a short distance from my aunts pantry. I never seen so much canned
goods in my life. Mason jars on every shelf. Canning was a big part of the
routine.  They also made their own
butter. I am sure that there is a lot more but it has been a long time.

Ken C's picture
Ken C
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Re: Living "Off the Grid" - Anybody here done that?

My appologies, I should have previewed this to edit out all of the word processor garbage at beginning of the text.

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Re: Living "Off the Grid" - Anybody here done that?

Yah, kenc, we live off the grid. You mentioned you do gold mining in northern California, right? We're in gold country, outside of Downieville, if that means anything to you.

We live 2 miles from town at 4,000 ft elevation. No services. We have hydropower for electricity. When the creek goes down in the summer, we charge up the batteries with a gasoline generator. We have lived without a phone for 9 years, and just last fall got wireless internet so we use Skype. Skype is sometimes OK, sometimes not, but much better than nothing at all. We have a woodstove for heat. Our cabin is very tiny, with no storage, so it looks like a tornado went through. The cabin is 16' x 30' with a loft upstairs for sleeping. We are not self-sufficient, in that we use propane gas for cooking and hot water, and gasoline for the generator, and to get up and down the mountain. Every year I try to garden, and every year I have some adventure with vicious deer and curious bears.

It's an adventure, and I have always been prone to trying unusual things, so here I am. I have a job at the county courthouse.

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Re: Living "Off the Grid" - Anybody here done that?

Been weening ourselves slowly but surely off the grid. The only things left are the washer, dishwasher and a well pump and everything else should be managed by wind and solar power. We're always adding insulation and we heat with wood/solar - here in Minnesota - we'll take heat from wherever we can get it!

We started our "experiment"  a few years ago and last year we lived totally on what we grew (and got really tired of zucchine!!), but we felt soooo healthy! With over 30 tomato plants - that wasn't enough to put food away for all winter and till next crops. So this year we are expanding by a factor of 10. We found a low maintenance gardening on MyBackAchers.com so we should be able to manage it without much work.

And, this year we are growing our own food - hay and grains for the chickens, rabbits, goats and equines. We found we needed to design a lot of our own equipment for harvesting since we will not be using a gas powered tractor to cut acres of hay and collect grains . . and we do not want to do it all by hand.

Getting really excited for spring! 

 EGP

PS - having a large dog can help keep preditors away from gardens . . . or maybe several dogs? We keep ours in nights but just the presence and their scent helps.

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Re: Living "Off the Grid" - Anybody here done that?

     We have lived off the grid in Northeast Colorado for 10 years. The climate here provides plentiful power from a hybrid solar/wind electrical system. The Sun also provides plentiful hot water and hydronic floor heat. We heat our 1200 sqft home on less than a cord of firewood per winter. It is well insulated with lots of thermal mass and passive solar design principles. We have excellent water from a 76' hand dug well that is pumped with a solar panel to an insulated storage tank on the hill behind the house.

     We live 17 miles from Babylon and go their as little as possible. We have two greenhouses (one attached to the south side of the house and one low profile hoop house in the garden). We raise a large organic/biodynamic garden. We have three dairy cows, horses, goats, rabbits and chickens. It is a lot of work but the dirt is clean and we sleep well at night ( no debt, regular jobs, television, or alarm clock). Our utility bill is 50 gallons of propane per year for summer cooking and canning. We would like to get rid of that with a small methane digester. We make bio-diesel from waste fryer oil for the tractor, car and truck.

     I am not deluded into believing the fall of Babylon will not affect us, but I am beginning to believe it will actually become a much more sane, equitable world for all. The off grid lifestyle will provide some insulation for the transition period, and hopefully we will be able to help others through it as well.

Spencer

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Re: Living "Off the Grid" - Anybody here done that?

I did that for about 4 years when I was younger and really enjoyed the lifestyle.

My wife and I literally moved to a tent in the woods and built a log cabin from the resources on the property.

Our electricity came from PV panels feeding into a bank of marine batteries, then into an inverter although we used 12 volt in the house where we could. We cooked and refrigerated with propane--heated with wood and had a wood cookstove in the kitchen although it was a pain to use.

The water came from the roof of the house through the guttering system, through a gravel/sand filtering system into a 1000 gal tank burried in the ground. We pumped it back up with a hand pump in the kitchen sink.

We built a composting toilet passively powered by a solar heater I constructed from a piece of insulated plywood, filled with beer cans painted flat black, covered with plastic with intake at the bottom, outlet on the top.

Loved living like that.

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Ken C
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Re: Living "Off the Grid" - Anybody here done that?

Cecilia,

It sounds like you are on your way to becoming self sufficient, a lot closer than me.

I do go mine for gold in summer time. Actually, I take my dredge up to the Klamath/Salmon River area near the Oregon border. I am planning my next trip now. Probably be up there for 4-6 weeks this summer. You never know gold dust/nuggets just might be the next currency.

thanks for your response

Ken

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Re: Living "Off the Grid" - Anybody here done that?

Spencer:

That is way cool. I'm in Longmont.

Does Babylon=Denver? 

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ceci1ia
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Re: Living "Off the Grid" - Anybody here done that?

Oh ken, that area is just beautiful. We half-heartedly looked for
land up around Yreka and Mt. Shasta, but nothing really struck us. The
Marble Mountains are so eerie and wild.

I wouldn't mind getting a
dog, but the thing with animals is they own you, you don't own them. We
go travelling every now and then, and finding someone to take care of
the pet is really a pain up here. After my cat passed away, I have been
wary of making another commitment.  

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Re: Living "Off the Grid" - Anybody here done that?

markf57 wrote:

Spencer:

 

That is way cool. I'm in Longmont.

 

Does Babylon=Denver? 

Actually, Mark I live about 80 miles due east of you. Much more wind and a lot less people. I call the sagebrush and cactus a "bliss barrier" as most people would rather go to the mountains. As for the comment about Babylon , that's just the term I use for the civilization we live in today ,what with all the similarities.

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I have an off-grid home in

I have an off-grid home in Pennsylvania.  It is a passive-solar, earth-sheltered design with solar thermal, photovoltaics, and a wind turbine.  I have an 1100 Ah 24V set of redundant battery banks and a backup propane generator.  Well and septic are also on-site.  I use 120VAC, 24VDC, and 12VDC for various loads.  I use propane for convenience, but do not depend on it -- e.g. for cooking, clothes drying, backup heating, etc.  I receive approximately 20 digital HD channels of television for free over-the-air from Scranton/Wilkesbarre.  I use the cellular network (Verizon) for telephone and internet, which is my only utility bill.  Being high on a hill, I have line-of-sight to 3-4 separate towers -- I'm looking forward to the 4G rollout for truly broadband internet bandwidth.  I'm also planning to create a mesh network with my neighbors which will be kind of like a private internet without the need for ISPs.  I have 32 acres of land, about half of it planted in switchgrass and half woodland.  I'm in the process of acquiring the equipment to harvest and pelletize the switchgrass for fuel.  I could utilize this in several ways -- directly for heat in a pellet stove, in a wood gas generator to produce electricity or power a vehicle, or for sale or barter.  The school district has a biomass heating system and will be a customer for the switchgrass.  This year I made several gallons of maple syrup from my woods.  Last year I had a semi-successful garden, but hope to do better this year.  Last year I rented a tiller to prepare about an eighth acre for my garden, but I may pay my Amish neighbor to plow a larger plot this year, and maybe in the future learn how to do it with horses myself.  There are quite a few Amish families in the area, so it wouldn't be unreasonable to have a horse and buggy to drive around and do errands either -- only mine would have air conditioning and a nice sound system ;-)  It's only about a mile to town and five or six to the big mall area with a Walmart, Home Depot, etc. Right now I don't have the infrastructure or expertise to keep horses, but definitely would like them to be a part of my self-sufficiency plans in the future.  I would also like to produce my own ethanol to power my vehicles.

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ao
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good stuff

passantgardant wrote:

I have an off-grid home in Pennsylvania.  It is a passive-solar, earth-sheltered design with solar thermal, photovoltaics, and a wind turbine.  I have an 1100 Ah 24V set of redundant battery banks and a backup propane generator.  Well and septic are also on-site.  I use 120VAC, 24VDC, and 12VDC for various loads.  I use propane for convenience, but do not depend on it -- e.g. for cooking, clothes drying, backup heating, etc.  I receive approximately 20 digital HD channels of television for free over-the-air from Scranton/Wilkesbarre.  I use the cellular network (Verizon) for telephone and internet, which is my only utility bill.  Being high on a hill, I have line-of-sight to 3-4 separate towers -- I'm looking forward to the 4G rollout for truly broadband internet bandwidth.  I'm also planning to create a mesh network with my neighbors which will be kind of like a private internet without the need for ISPs.  I have 32 acres of land, about half of it planted in switchgrass and half woodland.  I'm in the process of acquiring the equipment to harvest and pelletize the switchgrass for fuel.  I could utilize this in several ways -- directly for heat in a pellet stove, in a wood gas generator to produce electricity or power a vehicle, or for sale or barter.  The school district has a biomass heating system and will be a customer for the switchgrass.  This year I made several gallons of maple syrup from my woods.  Last year I had a semi-successful garden, but hope to do better this year.  Last year I rented a tiller to prepare about an eighth acre for my garden, but I may pay my Amish neighbor to plow a larger plot this year, and maybe in the future learn how to do it with horses myself.  There are quite a few Amish families in the area, so it wouldn't be unreasonable to have a horse and buggy to drive around and do errands either -- only mine would have air conditioning and a nice sound system ;-)  It's only about a mile to town and five or six to the big mall area with a Walmart, Home Depot, etc. Right now I don't have the infrastructure or expertise to keep horses, but definitely would like them to be a part of my self-sufficiency plans in the future.  I would also like to produce my own ethanol to power my vehicles.

Wow, I'm impressed!  Sounds like you have a great set-up there.  Any other information you have about your home would be of great interest to me.  I'm planning on going down the same path but I haven't been able to find the right property yet.

And your website is excellent.  Great information!

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For property searching, the

For property searching, the old real estate adage is very true -- location, location, location.  It's preferable to be in a jurisdiction with a long history of property rights and valuing individual liberty.  Rural preferred over suburban or urban, but not necessarily so far from civilization that help and supplies are too far even as a last resort.  The geology and weather should be relatively stable and predictable.  Not too close to sea level or flood plains.  An arable/fertile area is ideal unless you plan to depend on composting and have a source of water for irrigation.  Anywhere that experiences frequent and extended droughts is a bad idea.  Property values should be low enough that you can afford sufficient acreage -- at least 10+ to grow food, raise animals, and prevent a high population density.  A local tradition and infrastructure of small farming (as well as hunting) is preferred, especially a self-sufficiency culture such as the Amish.  A local counter-economical industry (e.g. gas drilling, university, hospital, seat of government, etc.) would be icing on the cake.  You don't want to be directly on a main roadway or too near a town center so as to be an easy target, but not so far as to be a burden to go for supplies.  In addition to a good southern exposure for solar, there should be either a reliable wind or hydro resource on the property (up on a hill or having a stream that doesn't run dry and is legal to tap).  At least some woodland is desireable, but not all or you'll have to clear some.  It should not be down-wind of any nearby industry or power plants.  It would be best if the soil percs so as not to need a sand mound.  The water should be relatively near the surface and of high quality (not needing any filtering or softening would be best).  Lax building and property codes and permitting preferred... you don't need the local building code or zoning enforcement officer poking around every shed, fence, and stone wall you erect.  There are probably some more considerations, but that's most of what I thought about.  And I think I met all of them sufficiently with my location in central PA.

Once you find the perfect (or as near perfect as you can) property, then the most important consideration is homestead siting and orientation, followed by design and materials and any suspected deadlines imposed by the state of the economy/currency.  I have a friend who just bought a property and had a manufactured house delivered and erected in just a few months.  My home has taken 6 years to build and I'm not quite done yet because I did everything very custom and did all the work myself.  I'm at the point now where I can live there comfortably, but still have some unfinished portions.  I would not recommend this for most people at all, and certainly not right now.  I don't think we have more than 18 months before hyperinflation, so a manufactured home would be a great idea.  They are now made to excellent standards with high levels of insulation and many cutting edge features.  Choosing a design suited to passive solar, insisting on maximum insulation levels (spray foam preferred), selecting hydronic radiant floor heating if available, and orienting it correctly on your property would provide very good results.

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Travlin
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Passantgardant Welcome to

Passantgardant

Welcome to the forums.  I think you have set a record for the number and content of posts on your first day.  I hope we see more of you over time.  I'll be checking out your web site too.

Travlin 

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Thanks Travlin, when I

Thanks Travlin, when I discover a new niche of the internet talking about these kinds of topics, I can't help but jumping in with both feet.

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