This December will be 4 years for us living 100% off grid, I can tell you it’s been quite the adventure, my only regret is that we didn’t do this earlier. Let me recap what we have been doing these 4 years…
Our pre-off-grid life was pretty much like most anyone else, we lived in a regular house, a mobile home actually, in a regular neighborhood in north central Texas. PB owned his own business, taking care of restaurant equipment for several big name companies and a smattering of smaller ones, he was a one-man-band, no employees. I worked 2 jobs, the first as a merchandiser and pricing coordinator for a big box electronics company and the other job was as a trainer in a semi-well known gym for women. We weren’t what you would call well off financially, but we were happy.
We were both empty nesters from previous marriages, in the beginning neither one of us knew the other had a secret desire to live off grid, when we began to explore the idea of actually doing this, it didn’t take us long to find our perfect plot of land in far west Texas, it was just under 6 acres of unimproved, rough, almost inaccessible land on the side of a mountain in the high desert.
I cashed in my stock from my job and had enough to buy the land and had a little left over to buy some building material for the start of the cabin (soon to be renamed the sky castle). In less than 2 weeks, PB had a minimal structure built, it was enough for us to move in. We were able to get some solar panels, a charge controller, a few deep cycle batteries and a few other things we needed to get started. We began to disassemble our current city lives, PB shut down his business, I quit both of my jobs, and on December 22, 2007 we moved all of our remaining belongings to our new life in west Texas.
The first few months were pretty rough, we lived in a most primitive manner, some might even say our first few years were pretty primitive, I suspect some might even say we still live very primitively, that’s OK, it’s quite wonderful to me. We met a great neighbor who gave us some help, it made life a bit easier, things like access to his water well instead of having to go to the community well, access to his washer and dryer instead of washing by hand and hanging to dry, access to his shower instead of taking spit baths… all things we were prepared to do on our own, but having such a great neighbor we were able to do many things a little easier, in return we do most of the maintenance on his house, we do other things for him too, so it’s a fair trade.
We quickly learned about the barter system and before long we had enough connections with the community that when anyone had some used, scrap or excess building materials, they would contact us first to see if we could use it. Most of the rest of the sky castle was built using this scrap material that would have otherwise gone to the landfill. PB would go and tear down a building at a friend’s property and we would get to take the material home. Please understand, we aren’t tree huggers, we aren’t doing any of this because it’s “green”, for us it was cheap and expedient, the fact that we were in fact being green was merely a bonus.
Little by little we built up our little place into a home, with running water, eventually installing on demand propane powered water heaters, water tanks for more water storage, we built another room, the first one was 16×16, the addition was 12×12, we built on decks and eventually, my favorite addition, the shower. We also began to work on other things, like the garden, putting up out buildings, sheds and such.
All of this has taken time and lots of sweat, we have spent very little money, mainly because we do everything ourselves, and a lot of experimentation, some of which worked great, some which failed miserably. We have been blessed by good health and only minor accidents, mostly scrapes and splinters. We have grown to really love our little community, I’d say that has been as important as anything we have done. No matter how perfect your place might be, if you aren’t happy with or welcome into your community, that will not end up in a good way.
Now we are living like kings, at least that is my opinion, of course by most people’s standards including the government, we live well under the poverty level, but I wouldn’t have it any other way, I love my life, I love living with the freedom I have, I love working hard for what we have, it really does make me appreciate each and every little thing we have. When we first started out, I was hauling 3 one gallon containers of water up the hill from my neighbor’s house every day, sometimes twice a day, I guarantee you that makes me appreciate my 1550 gallon poly plastic water container with all the plumbing involved, doing dishes and laundry by hand inside my sky castle, getting to shower with hot running water…
I look forward to many more years with PB, improving our lives and the sky castle. The last couple of days has been quite fun for PB, one of our friends and neighbors came by, he had been eyeballing the gravel in our creek bed, he offered a trade for a few trailer loads of gravel, he let us use his Bobcat tractor to do some dirt work, PB achieved in a few hours of work what would have taken him weeks if not months of hard manual work, it cost zero dollars, but was priceless for us. I have to say that life is good.
A big part of my happiness is because of my faith, I found a little church in the neighborhood (we are blessed with 2 of them close by), I joined and quickly became active in the church, now I’m on the board of trustees, working to make things better and better. I have been a Christian for many years, most of my life, but living out here and being part of this church and community has helped me grow in my faith and get closer to God. I’m not saying that is necessary for you, (though for me it is), it’s a choice you have to make, I am saying that going to church is a good way to get closer to your community, and hopefully to God too, I am blessed everyday and in every way, even in the bad times, there is always a lesson to learn, a period of growth, a strengthening. Getting to live in and near nature allows me to personally witness Divinity on a daily basis.
I have many people contact me to ask for my advice on how they should go about moving off grid, how to do it cheaply, how they should do it… it’s difficult to answer because everyone is different, everyone has different standards of how they want to live, everyone has different ideas and circumstances. My biggest advice is to have a dream and set goals, let nothing come between you and your goals, I have found that people will do what they really want to do, and unfortunately there are many who wish but don’t take the action necessary to make their wish a reality. I’m not judging, just stating the facts about what I see.
If you truly want to live off grid, then do it, you don’t have to do it all at once, but start taking the steps necessary to get you to the place where you want to be. Each step you take is a step closer to your dream, don’t let life get in the way, don’t let family, friends, a job, or anything else get in the way, do what is necessary to make yourself happy and the rest of everything will fall into place. I’m not advocating doing anything illegal, I’m assuming that most of my readers are reasonable, law abiding people. I am advocating living your life to the fullest extent, and if that includes living off grid, then do it.
If you want to learn more about our lives living off grid, you can read more of my stories here
you can also read about us in the book Off the Grid: Inside the Movement for More Space, Less Government, and True Independence in Modern America by Nick Rosen, we are chapter 9 in the book.
Buy our book - OFF THE GRID - a tour of American off-grid places and people written by Nick Rosen, editor of the off-grid.net web site
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