Off-grid… off-the-grid are terms heard and read frequently these days. What is a grid? What does living off-grid mean? And why do it in the first place?
Being off-grid is by no means a new concept, although it is fairly new in the consciousness of most in these days of mass media. Think about the settlers who came to this land, the Native tribes, and other civilizations around the globe; none of them were tied into utilities.
Living off-grid is not out of the ordinary anymore- Home Power Magazine reported in 2006 that the number of families living off-grid has jumped 33% each year for a decade. Importantly, the phrase does not refer to ‘being off one’s rocker’, although there are those who feel folks actually choosing this manner of living are just that! Nor is it to be confused with being ‘off the map’, ‘under the radar’, nor any other extreme notion referring to a desire to completely disappear from the company of society.
The grid does refer to any one of several public utilities- electric, water, sewer, gas. Being off-grid, then, is living without reliance on any one or more of said utilities. An off-off-grid home is able to operate independently of all traditional utility services. This is our personal goal (more on that below).
The answers as to ‘why’ are as varied as the folks you could ask. Many reasons are similar, some unique, a few honestly strange. Too each his/her own! The top two reasons are saving money and reducing carbon footprint. Others include unavailability of utilities to rural land, financial hardship to connect, survivalist philosophy, spiritual connectedness.
“All very interesting, but what are your reasons, Tom and Krystal?” Alright already, hold your horses! Our main reasons are: financial freedom, environmental responsibility, togetherness, and health. However, many of the above mentioned reasons play a part also.
Financial freedom: We retired from the city work-a-day world to live simply and inexpensively, raise what we eat-eat what we raise, be mortgage-free and have no utility bills. Being off-grid allows for these. Such living is a wealthy life, even if one may be cash poor. This concept, unfortunately, was mostly lost with our (great)grandparent’s generation.
Environmental responsibility: Traditional utilities are wasteful, incredibly destructive to the environment, and pose a danger to health. We feel a personal responsibility to live in harmony with nature as much as possible, within reason, not “ruining the earth.” For each person this is different based on ability, practicality and willingness. We were willing and able to choose a rural life and being off-grid. Before making the move, we started making small changes while still living in an urban environment and encourage you to, also. It’s fun to utilize low-tech ways to be self-sufficient, especially for children!
Togetherness: Trying to make a living in the city is so busy and stressful! It eats up tons of time and energy and makes us feel isolated from one another. We love spending time together caring for the animals, working on projects, serving our God, being with friends, gardening, cooking, to just be. Tom retiring to our very own ranch was a dream come true for us both!
Health: Clean air, fresh water, natural home-grown food, various aspects of animal husbandry, much lower exposure to EMF air pollution, gathering wood for heat and cooking, exercise engaging in such outdoor activities, less stress, pure enjoyment of life as we were created- what could be more healthy, both physically and mentally!!!
As briefly mentioned earlier, our goal is to be 100% off-grid. Here is a list of our alternative systems now and in future: earth-insulated; passive solar; small photovoltaic solar system for generating our own electricity; solar and wood heated water; rainwater harvesting; composting for renewable/sustainable fertilizer needs; using less electricity in general; well and spring water.
In closing, does an off-grid life mean more work? Not always, but one like ours sure does! We like to say we do things the slow way, with a nod to the 19th century while utilizing appropriate modern technologies. It’s a work in progress, each year coming closer to our end goal.