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November 14, 2010 at 8:04 am #36756
The concept of “Off the Grid” living seems to conjure up a lot of strange ideas in people. I am humored as I read posts by people who want to go off grid, or debates about which is greener, urban or country living. I enjoy reading them, but frankly just don’t get it.
Who really cares which is greener. I don’t. I live where I choose to live because I choose to, period. I don’t castigate someone else because they choose to live in the city and I prefer living in a rural area.
Living off grid isn’t exactly a novel idea. A hundred years ago almost everyone who didn’t live in a city, lived off grid. I grew up in the mountains of southern Vermont and as recently as the mid 1960’s there were many areas that the power company just didn’t service. Bringing power a couple miles down a dirt road for one family was/is expensive. There are still many places where this is true.
I remember visiting my grandmother as a boy at her farm. She didn’t have a telephone or electric service on her road until about the last three years of her life. Indoor plumbing was a hand pump that drew water from the well. Toilet facilities were a two seater outhouse and almost everyone in that area heated with wood and or kerosene. She died in 1971 in her 90’s. To her and most country people of her generation it was just life. They didn’t think of themselves as off the grid. Hell. she wouldn’t have understood what that meant.
I only say this because I think often people make this lifestyle choice into a big mystery, as if it is somehow a big deal. I suppose it is largely a function of your life experiences, influcened largely by when and where you were born and raised. Those of us in our 50’s or older can remember when the idea that people might actually own their own computer was pure science fiction. Lap tops, cell phones etc. are things we couldn’t even imagine and now we have kids who can’t imagine life without them.
In rural areas all over north america (and everwhere for that matter) off grid living was the norm, not the exception in our not too distant past. I think keeping that in mind helps put the concept in perspective.
In the county of upsdtate NY where I now live, we have about 300 Amish families. They live completely off the grid and never skip a beat. I guess it seems like culture shock to someone who has grown up in the city, suburbs or even the country but always had electric service at the flip of a switch.
Today we benefit from technolgies such as advancements in solar, wind, geo thermal etc. which allow us to live off grid in a “greener” way than our ancestors, but we still need to keep things real. It’s not nearly as big a deal as a lot of people make out.
I hope this provokes some thought and discussion. I’d love to hear some comments.November 15, 2010 at 2:54 pm #41125
Cabinman. You are absolutely right on target! I am currently reading a book which is a biography of local pioneers. These pioneers never had electrified homes or electric motors to ease the workload around the farm or ranch. I was pleasantly surprised to find the book illustrated with photographs which among other things showed my neighbors and good friends at various ages from infancy to adulthood when they graduated from University. These children of the pioneers are my own age. No wonder they get a good laugh out of my talks about designing power systems for people wanting to go off grid. These people were born and grew up off-grid. So did my wife but at first I figured it was an exception rather than the rule. The family homestead is still not electrifiied and on the grid to this day.
The people who talk about wanting to form a off grid community makes me wonder what it is that they do not like about the existing off grid communities and herabouts there are plenty of those. Exactly what is it they envision an off grid community as having that is unique.
When my wife was 20 she bought a log cabin on a remote lake. No power and no roads. She would get basic supplies by visiting a store some 30 miles away once every few months but usually had fresh meat because her hunting cat always brought home a grouse or rabbit every couple of days.
AS an engineer I view the grid as a community benefit by making use of the economies of scale. Same goes for things like sewer systems. Stupid me. Evidently going off-grid is a political protest statement against big government and big business. I view being off grid as being able to live in places where you want to without being dependent on having everything that society offers like drug wars, crime waves, being caught in cross fires during drive by shootings and worrying that everything left outside might be stolen.
Although I know how to design and build things like septic systems, potable water wells and distribution piping, not to mention generation of electric power by wind, water or solar; I also know the costs involved for material and the labor required. I appreciate the benefit of such things. I can remember living in a small community when they finally installed a municipal water supply and sewers. What an improvement!
I am old enough to remember the great black out of 1965 and I spent many years working in the electrical industry that helped create the present grid system of the North East. When a solar storm knocked out Hydro Quebec in 1989 I was working for a company that designed and built the monitoring and control system that was supposed to prevent such an occurence. We had a regularly scheduled project meeting with some HQ engineers soon after and the black out was a hot topic of discussion. I am well acquainted with both the good and the bad aspects of the grid. The trick is not to throw the baby out with the bath water. Would I go back to the technology level of the 1920’s NO! But I see room for improvemnt. The technology is not responsible for the greed of businessmen and politicians. If we could get rid of the greedy buggers the technology would be fine.November 16, 2010 at 1:57 pm #41129
I appreciate your comments. Seems we are much in agreement on many things.
I take it you are in Canada? Thought seriously about buying property in Nova Scotia a few years back. The exchange rate was in our favor, land was cheap and we just love the Canadian Maritimes. Decided to remain tourists/visitors for a variety of reasons and of course any advantage in the exchange rate is no longer.
Anyway enjoyed hearing your comments.December 6, 2010 at 2:39 pm #41157
My father was Mcmac Indian & Scottish from Canadas east coast, while my mother’s side was from the Apalachan’s in the USA. Both grew up without the “benifits” of the grid & during a time when power lines were still being installed to those “less fortunate” areas.
Together, my folks raised 11 kids on an orchard property in Caledonia, Ontario, Canada, where I was born in 1960, and none of us grew up knowing a life ‘without’ electricity. But we were in a different era then, which seen us “outside” for almost all of our activities & rarely would any of us be in the home watching TV or the like. If we kids were inside, for whatever reasons, boardgames, books & one another were our only alternative options of entertainment. It wasn’t until we kids aged & became educated, that our addictions to this drug called “the grid” became an concern.
Speaking for a lot of “my generation” here, we were “schooled” (fooled) to beleive in conformation & acceptance towards these addictions. That they were “the norm” & to do without them would deny us our very basic neccesities, as well as cause us to be “lesser than” those with them.
I grew up seeing this with my own eyes, in a public school system which promoted segragation & predudice towards the native children in it, through it’s teaching all of us to beleive this way of life wasn’t “good” or “acceptable” in this day & age.
Several of my native friends back then not only lived without electricity & indoor plumbing, but were quite content & happy “not knowing” about it’s benifits! I remember my thinking from back then, that they were the “poorer people” of my time, which I heard so much about in school. How wrong I was!
It’s taken me “a long while” to re-educate myself, but I don’t have that same amount of time left in front of me, to work on it & put it into practice.
I still have a lot of issues with predudices as well as reliance on the grid drug, but I’m still working towards correcting them.
By teaching the next generation through our actions now of making these attempts, cleaning up the air, recycling, etc… we might be able to re-educate them too, from the same bullshit taught to us, and slowly set this place straight. Back on track.
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