Saturday, December 26, 2009

Living life off the grid... little inconveniences

Living off the grid!! We talked about it, planned for it, built it, and are living it. As so many of the people we know in our neck of the woods, we have embraced living off the grid. There are LOTS of perks to this lifestyle: no utility bills being one of the biggest, the satisfaction of being somewhat self-sufficient, the beauty of nature & wildlife, not having neighbors so close we can hear their toilet flush.

Some folks we know have a romanticized idea of what living off the grid means. Communing with nature, beautiful sunrises & sunsets, growing a garden, etc. What they don't realize is how much work goes into living off the grid!!

We don't have a well nor do we have a cistern. Neither do we have any kind of indoor plumbing! We have 55 gallon barrels that we haul our water in along with a couple 5 gallon water cans & gallon jugs. Water is subject to freezing in these temperatures. In a previous post I mentioned chopping ice in one water barrel to get to the water! Water is heated on the propane stove or woodstove. Either of these options depends upon whether or not we have an abundance of propane or wood!

After doing dishes the water is drained into a 5 gallon bucket which is then recycled by using it to water flowers & garden plants. During winter months the grey water goes into a 55 gallon barrel to be used at a later date.

We don't have a water heater - except for the stoves. Our kitchen stove is propane - but we cannot yet afford to have a big tank delivered let alone filled, so we use a small propane tank like the ones one would use on a BBQ grill. Once we get a larger propane tank we plan to get an on-demand water heater. A "bread box" water heater is also an option.

We are currently using a "camp" toilet. A composting toilet is on the list of things to buy in the coming year. We had a couple large pits dug - one for a septic system - but again, the cost was pretty prohibitive. Luckily we have other alternatives for disposing of black water.

We don't have a shower... we go to the community center to tend to our personal hygiene. Once we get the propane & indoor plumbing situation remedied a shower will be high on the list of things to do!

We have a 2 acre lot that is heavily treed with dead-standing aspen & pine... but it's about 25 miles away. The exercise & fresh air we get when we go out to cut wood is certainly good for us... but it takes nearly an entire day to go out, cut the wood into 5 foot pieces, load it on the trailer, haul it back to the cabin, then cut & stack it. Again - great exercise - but certainly not as easy as flipping a switch for heat!

We have a generator for back up power - if, for instance, the sun doesn't shine enough to charge our batteries.

Our lot is very rocky and very sandy. Our only attempts at gardening has been in large pots. We have a sneaking suspicion that the ground is hard enough that it would probably destroy a roto-tiller. As mentioned in another post, we'd like to build onto the cabin a garden room with raised beds, rain barrels & maybe a small garden pond (Jerry likes fish!).

Wildlife is always a concern - especially if one has pets or small livestock. We've been visited by bear and mountain lion (or bobcat - not sure which). Porcupine & badgers live nearby. Deer and elk are garden hazards. Guns are optional, but sometimes can be a very necessary part of wilderness living.

The things I've listed are just a few of what call "little inconveniences" of living off the grid. But lots of hard work, blood, sweat, and tears also go into an off the grid lifestyle. Any other folks out there who live off the grid or would like to? I'd love to hear about your experiences!!


  1. I couldn't do this! I know you have to be a pretty special person to enjoy this kind of life. I know you though, thats YOU!!!!! Special, one of Gods selected

  2. Oh! You just bless me so much Denise! Love you girlfriend!

  3. Welcome to the off grid lifestyle, we are going into our 3rd winter living 100% off grid, I think you are aware of my blog, if not, check it out, we have documented our lives off grid since day one.

    I can appreciate the "inconveniences" you are going though now, when we first started, we had a one room, 16x16 space, it was December, about 14 degrees F outside. It was blowing a gale, our woodstove was still on the trailer, not in the cabin. We had no running water at first, everyday I walked down to my neighbor's house with 3 one gallon water containers, that's what we used each day for drinking, cooking and cleaning.

    We also use propane for cooking and heating water, you don't need to wait to get a big propane tank to get an on demand water heater, we use those BBQ sized tanks, we have a total of 4 of them, one for the on demand water heater, one for the stove, the other 2 are backups. We use a 12 volt RV water pump to pump the water from a small (300 gallon) tank outside to the sink inside, the hot water side goes through the on demand water heater.

    We still live pretty primitively compared to most people, BUT every little step we took/take to improve our lives, makes us appreciate each and everything we do have. Up to and including the little inconveniences. :)


  4. Oh and I almost forgot, welcome to FREEDOM!

  5. Wreatha... I have read your blog - I just don't get to be online everyday so my "reading" gets put on the back burner until we're back in "civilization"! :o) It's nice to know there are others out there who are living without the encumberances of what society thinks we have to have! I should post more about that too... We really should talk! Thanks for reading!

  6. Marcy, something to think about, I added a feature to my blog so that you can download my posts as MP3s, that way you can listen to my blog as your leisure. I listen to podcasts of radio shows, internet podcasts and such while I'm doing things around the house.


  7. I had a long comment written out, but I lost it... so annoying!!
    I just wanted to tell you that I think it is awesome that you choose to live this way. The little "inconveniences" just take some getting used to before they become like second nature.

    Lori Howerter