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Home Forums General Discussion No idea what I’m doing, Help me please

This topic contains 3 replies, has 4 voices, and was last updated by  Riverrat 5 years, 8 months ago.

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    Essentially I have just considered living an off the grid life style for the first time, I haven’t really done that much homework about the lifestyle but it appears to me recently that I am not cut out for suburbia. This leaves me with an enumerable amount of questions. How do I begin? How much money does one typically need to acquire to begin an off the grid lifestyle? Where are the best places to look for cheap land(a few acres) that can be used for farming/livestock? How cheap/legal is it to erect a small building to live in if i can acquire land? I have many more questions but these seem to be the most pressing at the moment.

    Thinking about how to start this new life style has been overwhelming, so any tips or advice would be greatly appreciated. I apologize if I missed a thread for newcomers and these questions have been answered elsewhere.



    Let me offer some articles

    I don’t really talk about how much things cost in reality. I do some though. Its not cheap, usually only doing without is cheap. I recommend some books that can help with some cost estimating especially “Solar Living Source book”.

    Cheaper land is not always better. If you are too far from a city that can be a big disadvantage. I find shopping for land to be difficult and you will need anywhere from $2000 to $5000 or more cash in hand if possible. This is just for expenses in getting the deal done and down payment money. You may need Title search, Survey and other expenses that crop up just before you go to buy that the seller is unwilling to pay. I priced title work not long ago at $500 and a survey at $400. Then will you need money for putting in a culvert and drive way? or anything else? For clearing the path for a drive and the place to erect the structure? Will your structure need to have a good pad built up?

    As my friend Dave Ramsey suggest, buy a $3000 mobile home (don’t forget additional setup cost) and live in that while you build something else. If you can’t even afford that, then maybe a $1000 camper? or a $2000 well used school bus? The school bus plan is a good one and it can be moved from shade to sun and sun to shade if needed.

    If you intend to start cheap and live in what you are building then be prepared to live poor for a long while. I talk on my blog about earth ship houses, other earthen houses such as earth bag, I talk about using metal sea containers(those are not cheap either).

    One thing is for sure, being debt free to begin with will be the biggest

    accelerant on this project. If you have debt you will feel like sand bags are attached to you ankles in a swimming event. Having said that, some have used credit cards to get their earth ship built because bank’s won’t loan for such a project. Though I guess what I’m saying is don’t go into it with maxed or any credit card debt and other debt. Debt is a crazy thing that I can’t recommend to anyone right now though.



    I think if you can poo in a bucket and deal with that you are on your way to living off grid. My poo buckets which are two months old are filled with bugs eating away at it and it like 50% lighter. Bugs can really compost human manure real fast in an enclosed bucket. In the winter time i burn mine in the woodstove. I use newspaper to poo on in my portapotty and then toss it right into the fire. My portapotty is just a small camper toilet with a elder chair riser with handles. The riser lets me clean it and the portapotty lets me line it with a plastic bag with some holes punched thru for the pee to go into. I then use the pee with woodash and sawdust or woodscraps to compost my food scraps to be used for later to fertilize around fruit trees. I guess one doesn’t have to add the food scraps but i do since it sometimes has bones etc etc. The urine is a great nitrogen and the decomposting wood and ash with it makes for a great total fertilizer.

    Yes dealing with this basic human element is the best way to start to learn to live off grid because if your putting in a expensive septic system well your taxes will go up and if you even have a composting toilet and bathroom your taxes will go up but if your living in a no indoor plumbing building your taxes will stay low. Then you want to be sure you are dealing with this element properly. Master your poo and pee and you have taken the first step to going off grid.



    Are you single, married, kids? How big of a home do you feel you (or your family) will be willing to live in? How off-grid do you plan to live? Tons of information needed. I see small, but is that the long term goal or only short term?

    Housing: (caverdude has good info) I’ll expand on it just a bit. There are 4 person families that live in conversion vans and are perfectly happy. It doesn’t have to be big, if your family is willing to make the adjustments needed to do so, it’s actually proven that living in a much smaller dwelling promotes family togetherness and ability to work together to solve problems. If you don’t have family, you can choose to do anything from building a small cabin, container home, small earthship, camper, etc. None of these options are expensive if you are patient. With a couple thousand dollars you could have shelter, an older camper that needs some work can be bought as little as $500 to $600. A small solar cabin can run you as little as a couple thousand dollars, a small earthship could be built collecting up unwanted tires, pallets, etc, and can be VERY cheap to build if you do most work yourself. Earth bag dwellings can be exceptionally inexpensive to build. Just have an open mind and don’t be afraid to ask questions and do some good research. There are people living down the road from me that have been living in a 30′ camper for about the last 15 years, they’ve actually tied it down now to a block foundation and built a real roof over it with nice sized porches.

    As to land, there are too many dependencies to even think about state by state, county by county, city by city, Where is a good place? Well that depends on the climate you desire, how far you are willing to move from your current location, etc. I like Alabama, the Alabama Government is VERY pro property rights, and most Alabama counties have absolutely 0 codes for building dwellings on your properties if you are outside the reach of city governments who are influenced by the wealthy people worried about their property values. In other words as long as you aren’t in a self governed (associated) community with their own requirements, or within a city limits you can pretty much build and do as you please. Septic and well requirements are the only things they will be concerned with. Otherwise they could care less if you live in your car. As to the amount, a well cared for, planned and managed 2 acres can be enough to sustain a small family. But it’s not remotely as easy as building on a 5+ acre plot.

    There are people living in communities with as little as a half acre land that converted their pool into an aquaponics system and raise very nice and productive gardens, fish, have a chicken coop with a couple laying hens and some breeder rabbits to provide their food, a methane digester taking care of their organic waste and producing gas to use for cooking and heating the greenhouse at night during the winter months. The up front costs were a little pricey (really not that bad when it’s all said and done and the work is done by the owner. They work well and are very productive. There is a gentleman about an hour away from my home that does this and outwardly it just looks like he has a covered pool in the backyard, his neighbors are none the wiser, and his food production is pretty impressive year round. Now he’s working toward a grid tied solar system. He’s highly unlikely to be able to break free from grid water, but saves quite a chunk by diverting his rainwater from his roofs to cisterns for storage. The land requirement is all about your desires. I like big open spaces around my home, that’s why I have 24 acres. If you don’t mind smaller spaces, there really isn’t much limit as long as you are creative with it.

    The ability to have access to life sustaining water is one of the most important elements possible, there are only a few options here. Wells, collection and transport, or grid water. If you want to be off grid, wells or collection/transport is all you have. If you have to have a 300′ well dug, that’s a huge up front cost. you can collect rain water, etc, but with a small dwelling and such, you are VERY unlikely to be able to keep enough water. That brings us to transport, you can buy a couple of hundred+ gallon cisterns that’ll fit in the back of your vehicle, stop by a reservoir of some type with at least decently clean water, fill the one in the vehicle up, drive home and empty it out into the one connected to your dwelling and do what you do. This is not a convenient option at all, it will need filtering, purifying, etc. But when I was a kid there were many years that in drout teims we’d go down to the creek and fill up barrels and buckets to bring back to the house. It is an option.

    That’s what I can give you for now, lemme know if there is anything else you’d like to know.

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