We’ve been off-grid for about 16 years and we did wash dishes in a stream and cook on an open fire in our little cabin for a few years. That was my way of getting down to basics and changing my lifestyle which I felt I needed to do to determine what my priorities were.
Little by little we started adding more and more comfort to our lives by building a well-insulated solar heated house, having solar and wood heated hot water, panels to provide us with good lighting so we can now read, work and not trip over the dogs at night time. We can listen to music, have a ‘fridge in the summer, charge electrical equipment and power tools and all this extra energy mean that we have more time too – because really living at a basic level – carrying a load of dishes to a freezing stream, cutting wood by hand etc. takes an enormous amount of time and is physically exhausting – believe me.
We go shopping for things we can’t grow, raise or make ourselves or get from the neighbours. We buy things which we could do without if we had to but it’s nice to have treats sometimes!
We need to pay 10,000$ a year in taxes and social security contributions so we have to cover those costs and the internet is a great tool to help us to do that. It’s one of the greenest ways I know of of keeping in touch with friends, sharing photos and ideas and getting information on what’s happening outside our little world which helps to keep us interesting and sociable to outsiders.
I don’t think being completely self-sufficient means cutting yourself off or being a martyr and it’s not a competition either. It’s a question of getting the balance right for your and your family’s real “needs” and perhaps realising that many of the most wonderful things in life are free and on your doorstep.
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