Les Stroud, Survivorman
“It’s going to be how much?”

Off The Grid with Stroud is a 90 minute special airing on the Outdoor Life Network Channel in Canada on November 28th at 8:00pm ET. Its the story of one family’s move to 170 acres in central Ontario, where they live without mains power or water and walk 2 kilometers to get to their car in the winter. Les Stroud, his wife, Sue and their two small kids Raylan and Logan, jump into the world of solar power, rain catches, root cellars, outdoor ovens, and building with logs.

Les Stroud is a Canadian Bushcraft expert and musician. I spoke to him about what he learned. The first thing was the worrying state of the renewable energy industry. It seems so idealistic doesn’t it  then you start to look at it and reality smacks you in the face, like its going to be how much?. That’s what I have been hearing and feeling for the last 3-5 years and think OK, save it for later,” says Les.
But watching what is happening worldwide energy wise, seeing what’s going on with solar and wind and micro hydro, the rain catchment system and composting toilets, what we found to get to the crux of the whole matter financially is, in Canada if you want to go offgrid you want to go solar you get a few magazines, you go to the yearly trade show, you think this is going to be so exiting, then you go and you start asking questions, and hear answers that are so frustrating, . There seems to be this veil between the people jumping into this business and the consumer. Like computers, they want to baffle you.

So many people who are doing this are doing it because they recognise that this is the business to be, not because they are passionate about greening the world. A lot of it is pure business, and the up selling is rampant, every where I went I could just hear and see up selling. I was hearing $45000 Canadian to power the house. Thats a payback period of 39 years. Then I realised you don’t have to spend that much, you don’t need a $10,000 diesel backup system. They try to strike the fear of god into you in terms of what is going to happen if your power goes down.

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You take what are your needs as a family. We are little more frugal than most, but there is still the blender; the DVD TV VCRs clothes dryers electric stove all of that. We started to look at what our power consumption was, and even though I tried to work some deals because I was making a TV show, I worked the numbers through, it doesn’t have to be that expensive.

You need to find someone who sells it and also installs, that is key. They probably know what you truly need for your house. The ones who do not install are just in it for the profit.

My greatest revelation in this whole thing is that the average person can be set up properly, probably baby steps to begin with, without breaking the bank. A Medium package to get a household going will run you $15,000.

The next thing Les learned was that he wanted to live this way, really wanted to. In the city, so-called privacy is a state of hiding inside your house and turning up the TV so as not to hear the roar of the airport and din of the city. Your dog can’t run without a leash and you have to pick up his excrement with a plastic bag. Nature is squared off, cleaned up, sterilized and stuck on the corner eight blocks away.

It is the genuine desire to own a piece of land, however small, to breath fresh air, listen to wolves howl and loons call, to feel the body’s muscles move and work and to enjoy the smell and texture of real wood while listening to the wind in the trees and the fire crackle?

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But there is great conflict; Les is an accomplished filmmaker and musician and must live a life jumping between two very different worlds. His office/studio is in towntwenty-five kilometers away from his new home in the woods. On the way home he must abandon his vehicle, strap on the snowshoes and pull a sled with his tapes and brief strapped in, into his bush paradise.

Back in the reclaimed farm buildings and small log cabins, a wood stove provides warmth and lights are powered by the sun. The kids must get to dance classes, hockey, kids clubs, gymnastics, music classes and the like. They are home schooled but that is where the only difference lies between this life and a normal family.

Ever since I was younger and being an outdoors guide I find that in the end we all essentially lead lives of conflict they are difficult to escape. We just need to be travelling in the right direction, Les concludes.

This study of modern pioneer living features available brand new technologies, many of juxtaposed against the original pioneer methods. Stroud Off The Grid begins where it should the bush is still thick, nothing is built, they are still comfortable in their modern house, Raylan is looking forward to the move Logan is not, and neither Les nor Sue have any experience at all in building. They have a long way to go and only two more months without snow to get there. The task is daunting and the challenges overwhelming.
A home in the wilderness with the same comforts that everyone desires while in command of their own power and water is the goal. Building, finding supplies and knowledge, inner family conflicts, time and most importantly, weather, are the challenges.

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