Starting your off-grid journey? It’s time for some straight talk.
What does off-grid living mean?
Are you contemplating starting your off-grid journey? If so, we need to talk.
Off-grid living refers to a lifestyle where one lives in a self-sufficient manner and with limited connections to the public utilities grid. Instead of relying on traditional energy systems such as electricity and gas, those living off-grid tend to generate their own power using sources like solar, wind, or hydropower. They also source their own water and manage their own waste.
That’s pretty much inclusive of the purist’s definition. One that is neither easy nor inexpensive to achieve.
Trust me on this.
After 19 weeks now in the woods of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, I can attest to these important factors:
- Acquiring the tools needed to live off the grid is expensive, no matter how hard you try to go low budget.
- North of 45° latitude in the UP, the amount of solar sunlight is low; the plush forest canopies of maple, oak, and pine block much of the wind; and hydro resources freeze from late October to May. So you will need to fill in the gaps with a hardy woodstove, propane, and/or natural gas to make up for the other energy source deficiencies.
- Sourcing water is a challenge; even if it comes out of spring. Before you can drink it, the cool clean-looking water needs filtering and purification.
- Building even a simple shed is a complex operation, particularly when a roof up north must handle the weight of heavy, wet snow throughout the winter months–70 per square foot is a code requirement this far north.
- Black bears, coyotes, moose, and wolves live in these woods, which means having a dog that isn’t afraid to take on any of them and barks regularly to clear the area….
- Outdoor gardening sounds great as long as you can grow enough before deer, chipmunks, etc. sneak in and eat what you’re growing. Add to that, IF, the weather cooperates. Otherwise, to become self-sufficient, you will need one heck of a greenhouse, AND the time to weed/water/manage what you’re growing on top of all the other things you’re doing.
- In the UP, if you’re rural, you will need a snow plow for your road/driveway into the woods or you’re going to get stranded; for five or six months. Don’t forget about a snowmobile for winter
- Cast iron stoves are expensive and weigh a ton to move. If your home/cabin/shed is too small, plan on keeping the windows open because you will be way too hot.
- Waste management is a high hurdle to overcome even if you’re composting human waste.
- Isolation is good but also can become a dreadful thing if your mental health is not optimal.
- If you think you’re going to need X dollars to live off-grid, double the number; just for giggles. The cost likely will be more than that….
Trust me. I’m finding all of these things to be true and they do not seem to get enough emphasis to me from others promoting the benefits of off-grid living. This is not something for the weak at heart, muscle, or mind.
The benefits of off-grid living.
I don’t mean to rain on your parade if you’re starting your off-grid living adventures. And if I let all of the obstacles I mentioned deter me, I would not be writing this now from the porch of my large summer tent.
Off-grid living has numerous benefits that can save you money, bring you closer to nature, and improve your quality of life.
One of the biggest advantages is the increased levels of self-reliance. Done right, you do not remain at the mercy of utility company rate changes or power outages in your area. But as I mentioned above, here in the UP, I do not foresee anyone obtaining 100 percent self-reliance. Perhaps this is limited to the UP, but I doubt that.
Despite what your whack environmentalist might espouse, fossil fuels are a necessity for off-grid living.
That is if you plan to use chainsaws, weed-eaters, snowblowers, your car/SUV/truck(s), emergency generators, and for keeping things oiled and lubricated.
Forget about that renewable energy bull-shoot, reducing your carbon footprint, or all that climate change foolishness.
Open the box to almost any product powered by a small engine and you will find that a mixture of more than 10 percent ethanol will ruin the engine quicker than Jack Sprat. The physics and mechanics alone require fossil fuels and for the next good while, they still will.
Yes, if you have a series of sharp and assorted axes, adzes, and one- or two-person saws; can find an old-fashioned scythe, invest in snow shovels, have a horse and buggy, etc. you can get by; but those aren’t going to be easy to find nor inexpensive.
Maybe in other parts of the nation, one can get by without the small engined tools, but part of off-grid living calls for redundancy. So proceed without them at your own peril. You’ll soon find all that malarky doesn’t matter when it’s you, your dog(s), significant other(s), kids, grands, chickens, goats, and more.
Many who choose this lifestyle grow closer to nature and this can lead to personal growth and increased mindfulness about our place on this planet.
But unless you’re Superman or Hercules, there are times when a power tool is going to be the only way to get out of a fix. And for now, those require a blend of fossil fuels, stabilizers, and oil in order to run.
Anyone who tells you anything else, well, follow them at your own peril.
Assess Your Current Situation
If you’re considering starting your off-grid journey, the first step is to assess your current situation. This means evaluating your current lifestyle and energy consumption to determine where you can make changes and establish your OGL goals.
Evaluate Your Current Lifestyle and Energy Consumption
Study your daily routine and energy consumption. Consider everything, from how many electronic devices you use to how often you drive your car, your SUV, or the pick-up trucks you’ll need for removing stumps, moving animals and heavy tools, to building supplies.
In my case, I figured that while living in an apartment in Dallas I was consuming close to 8,000 Watt hours of electricity per day. That included a dishwasher, iMac, printer, HVAC, stove, microwave and oven, TV(s), and more.
And aside from those three weeks in spring and three weeks in fall where the temps are just right, the rest of the time it’s either too hot to not have the AC running, or too cold to not have the heater running. Throw in the water heater, refrigerator, garage door opener, lights, ceiling fans, hair dyers, irons, gaming systems, and the like, too.
Determine Your Goals for Off-Grid Living
The next step I evaluated was why I wanted to live off the grid.
I was looking, for health reasons, to be less of a financial burden on others. A back injury in 2016 has made a permanent mess of my lower lumbar and the nerves that run down into my legs.
I’ve fallen four times now and a couple of them required surgeries—like two surgeries to repair a torn rotator cuff.
In no way am I trying to BS you into believing walking around out here in the mountainous woods is the safest place for me. But I am less of a burden to others while I am out here.
At this writing, I am in a panic because health insurance, car insurance, my storage shed bill in Dallas, car tag renewal, and inspection are all due or getting past due with each passing moment, and I have no idea how to resolve them.
But whatever your reasons for wanting to get off-grid, define them clearly so that they can guide the decisions you make throughout your process of choosing what to do.
We all have our own reasons for wanting to go off-grid if we have the desire to do so. You may want to disconnect from society while others may want to lessen their dependence on modern conveniences.
I also wanted to shut down the constant flow of negative, ever- and over-hyped “news.”
The gaslighting the news media and this administration vomit out on the public is horrendous and ruining and dividing the country until one day, a modern John Brown of Kansas will push everything over the edge.
I want to have a place ready to weather that storm and one for the family as well when the time comes. And it cannot be far off the way things seem to be headed.
My recommendation is to be realistic about what off-grid living entails.
This way of life requires a significant amount of work and dedication. Maycee, my Great Pyrenees, and I are up most days at 0530; “When the sunshine wakes up.” But we are also likely to bed before 8 pm in the evenings. And then there’s also a 2.5-hour, unavoidable nap during the day.
Sure, I’m experiencing the rewards of greater self-sufficiency, sustainability, and personal growth.
But the cost, like the cost of national freedom from tyranny, is steep.
Design Your System
If you want to start your off-grid journey, the first step is to design an energy system that fits your needs. To do this, you need to determine how much energy you use on a daily basis.
Make a list of all the appliances and devices you own and their energy requirements. This will give you an idea of where your energy consumption comes from.
When I did this, I used the online calculator hosted by Renogy.
My needs, even out here in the woods, are about 5,400 Watt hours, i.e., if I were living full-scale. For now, I’m running on far less.
I have a 3600-Rated/4650-Peak Watt Dual Fuel Gasoline/Propane Portable Generator. Depending on whether it’s running on gas or propane, it is doing a great job.
(This is an affiliate link image. If you make a purchase I may receive a small commission from Amazon.)
When considering this option before starting your off-grid journey, check out the startup numbers for appliances, the AC/heater, power tools, etc. as they require more energy to get them going than they do when they’re running. Before buying what you need, keep these numbers in mind.
The Renogy calculator provides both numbers.
Determine Your Energy Needs
Knowing your energy usage is essential for designing an off-grid system that can meet your needs. Once you have a list of all the things that consume electricity in your home, it’s time to estimate how many watt-hours they use per day.
Choose the Appropriate Renewable Energy Sources
The most popular renewable energy sources include solar, wind, and hydroelectric power.
Solar panels are relatively easy to install and maintain and are perfect for those who live in sunny areas.
Here in the UP, in the summer months, the average amount of daylight available is 6.2 hours according to the National Weather Service. From December to January, the number of good solar hours on average per day is somewhere around zero.
Wind turbines require more space than solar panels but are ideal for homes in windy locations.
Because I’m in the deep woods without any wide and clear spaces, the average wind speed here is X, on most days. Not really enough to make the investment worthy.
Hydroelectric power is generated by water flow, making it ideal for homes situated near streams or rivers.
It is a fallacy to believe that they’re free once installed, at least here in the UP. While these three types of generated power don’t rely on utility companies or fossil fuels, the levels they produce is not enough to keep the lights on without a fourth system, which in the North, tends to be propane.
Plan for Water Collection and Filtration
Water collection systems need to be designed based on how much water you expect to use each day. You may need a well or water pump if there isn’t enough surface water available in your area.
Rainwater harvesting is also an excellent option for off-grid living as it can provide ample amounts of water throughout the year if done correctly. When collecting rainwater, make sure to filter it before using it as drinking water or cooking with it.
Consider Waste Management Options
Waste management options include composting toilets, greywater systems, and septic tanks. Composting toilets are eco-friendly and easy to maintain. The greywater system filters wastewater so it can be reused for irrigation or flushing toilets.
Septic tanks are the traditional method of waste management, but they can be expensive to install. However, if you’re living in an area that requires them by law, then they’re worth the investment.
Designing your off-grid energy system is one of the most crucial steps in starting your new lifestyle. By choosing appropriate renewable sources and planning for water collection and waste management, you’ll ensure that your off-grid system lasts for years to come.
Build or retrofit your home
Choose a sustainable building method (straw bale, cob, earthship)
Building or retrofitting your home for off-grid living requires choosing a sustainable building method that suits your needs.
In other locations, this may include straw bale construction, cob construction, or Earthships. UP here, those will get you frozen colder than a Thanksgiving turkey fresh from the grocery store come winter.
Another popular option is to use recycled materials and natural resources to create self-sufficient homes.
I can see how this might work, maybe some crate wood for making some furniture or something, but come on. This is life and death stuff being out here in these UP winters.
Simply put, building a house with boards from old wooden crates will get you killed or if you’re lucky, a dreadful case of hypothermia.
To build something viable that will give you a chance of survival above 45° latitude, at least in the UP, you need something strong that has a roof and flooring able to sustain a snow load of at least 70 pounds per square foot.
Anything less and you’re making your own cryogenic chamber. The structure needs to either have a basement or be supported by a minimum of 6” x 6” posts buried at least 48” below the elevation and rising up another two, three, or four feet, to ensure the permafrost doesn’t move them and cause your structure to fall in on you.
The results of my 2022 awning build vs the 2022-23 UP winter
I did an experiment over the winter months with the awning I built last year over my supplies tent.
The posts were in diameters of about 4” to 5”, and the beams were 2” to 4” inches in diameter depending on where they were located.
I covered the structure with 5 ml tarps from Walmart.
Was it still standing when Maycee and I arrived again in early July 2023?
I’ll give you three guesses and two of them don’t count.
Of course, it wasn’t.
My point is if you’ve been watching videos on YouTube about someone using Bushcraft skills to build a tiny structure, look again at what they used. The logs are not tiny. They use either a sloped roof or one as steep as 12:12.
And they have a wood stove that’s probably making the inside of the structure hotter than a Texas black top in summer. If you’re building a 200-foot square shelter so as not to involve permits, etc. you’re going to have a very difficult time finding one that’s made to heat a space that small. Amazon typically sells one that’s okay for use indoors, but it’s designed to heat 900-sq-ft of space.
I say all of this to caution you in your choices and in where you decide to locate.
This is tricky business and some YouTubers tend to make all this look pretty darned easy.
But let me assure you, if you’re in the UP and you get snowed in with limited food, firewood, thin walls, a weak roof, and no safe source of indoor heating, you’re going to be on your own alright.
For instance, I had a flat tire last Wednesday and though they tried, my insurance company could not get any tire service to come 10 miles out Marquette County Road 510 off US 41 to help loosen the lug nuts. That’s mid-summer.
Incorporate passive solar design principles
There are passive solar design principles you can use to take advantage of the sun’s natural energy to heat and cool your off-grid structure.
This can be achieved by orienting your home toward the sun, using large windows on the south-facing side of the house, and using thermal mass materials like concrete or stone to absorb heat during the day and release it at night. By incorporating these principles into your off-grid home design, you can reduce energy consumption while staying comfortable year-round.
For the painters reading this, you’ll want to have a nice window facing north as well because north-light is always best for doing work with oils, acrylics, and watercolors. But that window will need to be double-paned, and likely one you can also have storm windows on, not to mention thick curtains, etc. for when you’re not using the space in the winter months.
If you go with a less than highly-efficient window facing north in the winter, well, you might as well just leave a hole there in the wall. Northern winds, especially the ones blowing in off Lake Superior, which is only 13 miles away, have a fetch from the Canadian side of the lake and by the time that air gets here, well, it’s cold.
Install energy-efficient appliances and fixtures
To further reduce energy consumption in your off-grid home, it’s important to install energy-efficient appliances and fixtures. Look for appliances with high Energy Star ratings to ensure that they use less electricity or gas than their less-efficient counterparts.
Consider installing low-flow shower heads and faucets to conserve water as well as LED lighting throughout your home – all these small steps add up!
It is also important to make sure any energy-guzzling devices such as air conditioning units are replaced with eco-friendly alternatives like ceiling fans or evaporative coolers that use far less electricity while still being highly effective.
Overall, building or retrofitting a sustainable off-grid home requires careful planning. Following these tips will go a long way toward providing a comfortable and self-sufficient living space.
But I will emphasize again, doing these things, while they may save you money in the long-term, are not in any way going to do so in the short term.
You know how you want to eat healthily and order the salad bar while you’re out and it winds up costing more than if you’d ordered the country-fried steak, three veggies, a ton of bread, and drinks?
That salad bar is going to cost more every time, and you may eat healthier, but then again, most people order more calories from the salad bar than they would have to go with the country-fried steak.
Buying all this energy-efficient stuff for your rural abode is going to eat more out of your wallet than you might suspect.
Another observation I have from many who remain in the process of building their off-grid home continues to have theirs in a state of viability, but not completion.
I’m sitting here looking at the shed my youngest brother built back in the early 1990s. It has Tyvec building wrap sheathing the ply underneath it in one area, Hardy boards in what was likely the original 12’ x 16’, and then another add-on that’s ply is covered on the outside with roofing felt.
Greg and Katie from “This Off-Grid Life,” in British Columbia recently finished building a small barn. But in the background sits their house, and its outside looks much like my brother’s.
A friend’s house a few miles up the road looks the same. It’s beautiful on the inside. But nothing, it appears has been done to the outside since last summer, and like Greg, building things is what the man who owns it does.
I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with this. Building takes time, and always more time than you initially planned. Remember this. Budget can also play a role here, and being as drastically short in funds as I am as I write this, I completely understand.
If I could go back in time one month, I’d likely have ordered all the materials in the specs for my own 12’ x 16’ shed build. Instead, I bought the flooring and I still need to cut and use Yakasuki on them so they’ll be sealed and won’t rot once in the ground.
Right now, it still being the first full week of August 2023, I’m faced with a dilemma. Do I go ahead on and get the flooring done when I don’t have the structure materials for the rest of it, or put the materials toward something else for now?
The rain in July wreaked havoc on my construction planning. Building the foundation and laying the flooring, without being able to close it in this summer, means the OSB tongue and grove board stands a good chance of warping over the 2023-24 winter. So then where will I be?
Mick Whipple, the son of fellow YouTubers Dave (Bushradical) and Brooke (Girl in the Woods) is a stout young man who began building his cabin about three weeks before my arrival in the UP this summer. His mom made a bet with him to get his structure of similar size built before Aug. 1, 2023.
Mick bought all his materials and had them delivered and went to work, he says even working as late as midnight in Alaska, where at this time of the year the sun never sets. Here in the UP, we have working daylight until around 10 pm.
My point is, my budget wasn’t large enough to include the cost of building materials and the living expenses from not being able to get going.
But I also spent funds on amenities we didn’t have last year and things I need to be able to do the work ahead.
For instance, inside our 13’ x 17’ Ozark Trail tent, I now have a rock-solid bed frame for the air mattress I sleep on. And to my back’s delight, I’m not sleeping on the ground. I don’t get as cold at night, I don’t get “wet” from the condensation still gathering on the floor, and I sleep better.
I also made a very sturdy workbench because I needed one for the tool work, woodworking projects I do, and for the new catalog of wooden custom crosses I will make to sell from this website and Etsy.
Once the car got stuck in mid-July, I learned that the Traverse can’t come down here by the tent on the site any longer. And so I also made a 2’ x 4’ cart with 10” wheels to pull around logs, rocks, dirt, and garbage left by my brother’s friends.
I also put sturdy legs on the desk I made last year. The ones from last year I purposely left close to the awning to see how stable they’d become this year. And, as you may have assumed, they didn’t hold up at all. This year, I made the legs out of 4” x 4” PTL posts.
So while those things were not initially in the budget, I built them regardless and have no misgivings for having done so. I am a writer at heart, so I need a place to do that. If you do not sleep well, you have no energy/less energy during the daytime, if you can’t put something in a vise and hold it still while you attempt to drill into it, you stand a darned good chance of ruining the work and cutting yourself. And if you have the back I do, carrying anything more than 10 pounds to any length is not easy.
Again, no misgivings. Those builds were critical toward any kind of a future out here.
Establish Food Production
Plan for a Garden or Greenhouse
Growing your food is an essential aspect of off-grid living. You will need to plan for a garden or greenhouse to grow fruits and vegetables all year round.
Again, north of the 45th parallel, you’re going to find this is not easy. The current Don of Off-Grid-Living on YouTube hands down seems to be Shawn James. He runs two channels. One where he talks (Shawn James) and the second where he mostly works and you watch him for an hour or two at a time (My Self-Reliance.)
Before building the 20’ x 24’ cabin he’s now living in, he put a geodesic greenhouse on his Ontario, Canada wilderness plat.
This last summer, he tore it down.
It got too much for him to manage. So his answer was to expand his outdoor garden and grow more volume instead of year-round.
It will be interesting to see how this works.
I’ve seen another guy, I forget who, and he built a UP greenhouse with commercial grade piping and clear panels and says it’s the only thing he’s found to work in this part of the United States. It didn’t collapse and even in November and December, summer crops were still readying for harvest while there was three feet of snow on the ground outside.
So, the first step in planning your garden is to choose which method to go with. Outside or in a greenhouse.
Then you need to consider the right location on your property, taking into account factors such as sunlight exposure, soil quality, and accessibility to water.
If you’re starting out with a small garden plot, make sure you take the time to prepare the soil correctly.
And don’t forget an 8-foot high fence that deer can’t leap over or chipmunks et. al. can’t crawl through and eat all you’re growing before you can harvest and can it for when you’re in the thick of winter and otherwise starving.
Any experienced gardener will tell you that soil preparation is critical for healthy plant growth. Invest time in composting, tilling your land, and adding nutrients to ensure excellent soil health.
A greenhouse can be an excellent way to extend your growing season in colder climates or areas with shorter growing seasons. Consider building one from recycled material or purchase a prefabricated model depending on budget.
That guy in the UP, I’ll do my best to include a link to his video if I can find it before posting, said to hell with all the recycled and self-made stuff. If you don’t want it to collapse, it’s going to take a strong building, heating sources, a way to keep water for the plants from freezing, and a ton of work.
Shawn James took a week off from his geodesic greenhouse at one point and the pump and tub for his water system, if I recall correctly, froze up and things went south from there.
Consider Livestock Options (Chickens, Goats)
Keeping livestock can be another way of adding food production to your off-grid property. Chickens are an excellent option for beginners because they’re easy to care for and produce eggs consistently.
They also provide meat if you decide to raise them for this purpose.
On the other hand, goats are an excellent option if you enjoy fresh milk every day since goats produce more milk than cows per pound of body weight.
They also require less space than cows making them ideal for smaller homesteads. Raising animals requires dedication and effort but can be rewarding when done correctly.
It’s essential to learn how to care properly for each animal before bringing them onto your property and ensure they have plenty of space and nutrients they need to live healthily.
By incorporating livestock into your off-grid lifestyle, it’s possible not only to produce more food but also to reduce feed bills by utilizing otherwise unusable land such as rocky hillsides or overgrown fields.
Greg and Katie (This Off-Grid Life), again, seem to have mastered this area of off-grid living. To me, they’re the authorities I’d follow/will follow when I can get to this point.
But before I can move in this direction, I need to build some fencing.
The day Maycee and I arrived in the woods, I had to clear the two-track of fallen timbers.
Right down the middle of one of the tracks were the unmistakable tracks of a wolf. A sizable one at that.
A few days later, a black bear came into our site and took $70 worth of Eukanuba dog food for Maycee. The whole plastic tub.
Getting 50 meat chickens and 50 egg chickens sounds like a good venture. I could even sell or trade away the eggs.
But between the Big Bad Wolf and Goldilocks’ bears, (My “neighbor” says a momma bear just ran off her three young ones so she could go in-heat and have some more.) I have much to do to make our campsite/compound ready for such advances.
Learn necessary skills
Living off the grid requires a certain level of self-sufficiency. To make the most of your off-grid lifestyle, it’s essential to learn some basic construction and repair skills. These will come in handy when building or retrofitting your home or maintaining your equipment.
I have invested hundreds of hours in watching YouTubers from around the world use Bushcraft skills, log cabins, modular cabins, timber frames, and modern construction techniques to build shelters and facilities on their properties.
I have restocked many of the tools I once had that were stolen/sold after divorcing more than a decade ago.
Rex Kruger on YouTube, has taught me how to make a good many tools, and also taught me ways to find vintage hand tools that can be used without electricity on the cheaper side of things. So I now have chisels and a 1-1/2” slick for timber framing, all kinds of older Stanley planes, a wooden 20” plane, an assortment of axes and hatchets, brace and bits, augers, and more. I also paid a penance to buy his plans for a shave horse and two workbenches.
My son-in-law gave me a couple of his DeWalt tools and batteries during visits to Florida over the winter and those have been godsends.
A Walmart weed eater has done wonders to help “strim” or weed wack the brush and tree saplings along the ground on the compound.
This last weekend, I also used the weed eater to attack the thick thistle berry/ raspberry plants that line the property and the road on the way out to CR 510. People are out on 510 picking the berries every day as a bottle of the jam goes for as much as $12 or more, I’m told.
But they are a threat to me and Maycee for a couple of reasons. 1) they grow four or five feet tall in places, which makes them a good place for wild animals to lie in wait, and 2) black bears love ‘em.
So you can imagine how I feel about there almost being an outer ring of these plants ground around our expanding campsite.
They also have grown over the last 11-plus years to make the width of our easement road ever thinner.
I was fortunate to have one lumber house deliver that initial flooring wood out here to the woods. If the road isn’t wider the next time I place an order, I fear they may say, “Eh, that was a little too tight out there the last time we delivered and we’re not going to come back if the road is in the same shape.”
So, I have begun working on the end of the road closest to our campsite and will progress outward. Having the road wider will reduce the number of scratches I get on the Traverse while coming and going from here. So that’s good.
What I don’t like about having the road cleaned up and wider is that it will increase the number of those who like to go out two-tracking coming out here. Not all those who are riding around out in the woods on two tracks are up to good deeds. I’ll leave it at that.
Develop skills in basic construction and repair
Learning how to build and repair things is crucial for off-gridders. Unless you have lots of money to spend on professional services, you’ll need to do much of the work yourself.
You can build everything from fences and chicken coops to homes and barns with basic construction skills.
Keep in mind that natural building materials such as straw bale, cob, and rammed earth require different techniques than traditional building methods. And in the case of life out here in the woods of the UP, are pretty much useless.
While I have been learning much about modern construction techniques, I’ve also been learning about timber framing and intend to do a considerable amount of that going forward.
I’ve also studied Bushcraft skills and am employing some of them out here as I move forward.
Venture into gardening or farming practices
Off-grid living often goes hand-in-hand with growing food on your own land. Gardening is an easy way to start producing food for your family sustainably without spending money at the grocery store. It’s also an excellent way to keep busy in nature while connecting with the land around you.
Start small with a few raised garden beds and gradually expand your operation as you gain more experience. If you have more space, consider raising animals such as chickens, goats, or sheep.
Animals can provide food and also help keep your land healthy by fertilizing it with their manure. However, raising animals requires additional knowledge and skills to ensure that they remain healthy and happy in their environment.
Learning new skills can be daunting at first, but with the right attitude and commitment, anyone can learn how to live off-grid sustainably. With these foundational skills under your belt, you’ll be well on your way to achieving true self-sufficiency.
Connect with like-minded individuals
Join online forums or local groups to connect with others living off-grid.
One of the best ways to learn about off-grid living is by connecting with others already living this way.
Online forums and local groups are great resources that can provide invaluable advice and support.
There are online groups like HomesteadingToday.com, but I’ve found the most effective tool to get questions answered in a timely manner is to write a short email to any one of the people whom I’ve mentioned above from their YouTube channels. The questions and comments can probably answer a question before you need to email and ask.
And keep in mind, the YouTubers who are advanced in off-grid living or cabin building or whatever are most likely busy doing just that. They will not have time to read a novel-length email. Make your questions direct and to the point.
Over the weekend, I asked Dave Whipple about the reasons Mick, when clearing his trails, was cutting timbers so close to the ground, making it difficult to use a block and pulley system to remove them. I’ve mostly seen stumps left about three- to four feet high, giving a person plenty of meat to wrap in a chain or pull strap attached to ropes and pulleys and a pickup truck or come along. I asked Dave which made more sense to do.
His answer: “I would look at it like this…. If you plan to pull the stump leave a stump, but if you intend to not pull it, cut it as flush as you can without ruining your tools. Good luck. DW”
I guess I was overthinking it, but I still wasn’t sure if the flush-cut stump was one that can be pulled out, so I’m glad I asked. I’m also thankful Dave answered.
Additionally, be respectful of other’s opinions even if they don’t align with yours. In local groups, it’s important to attend meetings regularly to establish relationships with other members.
Learn from their experiences.
Off-grid living requires a unique set of skills and knowledge that isn’t always easy to acquire on your own.
By connecting with and studying the work and writings of experienced off-gridders, you can learn from their successes and failures.
This is part of the reason this post is so long. Because it has real, fresh red meat in it, not something generated by AI.
It’s helpful to ask specific questions when seeking advice from others.
Keep in mind that every situation is unique–what works for you may not work for someone else–so it’s important to keep an open mind and be willing to try new things.
In addition to learning practical skills from experienced off-gridders, connecting with like-minded individuals can provide emotional support as well. Off-grid living can be challenging at times, so having a support network can help you through difficult times and celebrate successes along the way.
Starting an off-grid lifestyle is a daunting task. You do not just show up in the woods and viola, you’re up and running. This takes the right mindset, a budget, learning new skills, and considerable planning before jumping into the deep end of the pool.
I promise every new day in the woods feels rewarding and fulfilling. If you can get away from the noise of cities, the drama of suburbia, and small-town thinking, you will find yourself asking why you didn’t do this long ago.
For me, this is a way to take care of myself without needing as much financial support as I’ve needed for the last eight years. Am I outta the woods in this regard yet? Not even close.
But I’m thankful for the new life God is giving me and Maycee. I’m learning, I’m more physically active (though limited), and while the weather is 105° with a higher heat index in Dallas or the South, the high today is supposedly 75°.
The night temperature was in the 50s, so I didn’t need to run the AC all night long to make it comfy enough to get a good night’s rest.
I do not regret the decision to go off-grid. But I do wish the up-front costs, like going on a diet, were not nearly as steep.
Then there is inflation, the constant barrage of bad news on the TV, and the negativity and ridiculousness of the woke that you find on the Internet and in corporate work environments. All that takes a toll on one’s spirit, mind, and outlook, and to me, it eats away and my soul like cancer.
How will we manage this coming winter? I have no idea right now. Staying here doesn’t seem like much of a possibility given the current status of multiple factors, many of them mentioned above.
In no way am I being negative about off-grid living. What I’m providing here is straight from my own experiences of 17 weeks now of trying to reach a point of greater self-sufficiency. Before Maycee and I arrived out here on July 7, 2022, I had no idea there was so much to know about what I didn’t know. With each new day here, I find out there still remain years of ideas, concepts, and techniques that I’ve not even begun to discover I do not know about.
That keeps this fun and interesting as I like to be learning something new every day.
But I’d be lying to you if I said there aren’t days like yesterday, where I woke up tired, kept falling back to sleep and taking naps, and was still so tired. On days like those, when you amble up the hill to your Traverse to put something in the cooler or pull out something you forgot on the last trip, you will find yourself asking yourself, “Is this any fun?”
And you will answer your own question in the same breath.
Check out my post about mastering off-grid living.