One of the very nice ladies who reads my blog, asked me several very good questions, I thought I would copy the message here and answer them, I think they are the sorts of questions that other people might ask, they are certainly the kind of questions I would ask if I didn’t live like this and had the opportunity to ask…
Hi Wretha, this is Marty.
I enjoy reading your b-log but I don’t know where the guestbook is to sign it. You had asked if we would sign it so that you would know others are reading.
I wanted to ask you some questions about going off grid.
1. How do you get water? We have a well and though there’s an electric pump on it I heard that we could get a solar well but the whole well has to be redone. I would also like to add a hand pump.
We do not have a well, it’s way too expensive for us to even consider right now, so I get my water from my neighbor, he has a well and is extremely generous to us, we do things for him as well. We have a 300 gallon container, it used to hold fruit punch concentrate so it is food/water safe. We also have a 55 gallon drum inside the cabin, next to the sink, we have a 12 volt pump attached to it and the water faucet, when I turn on the faucet the pump comes on and I have running water, it lasts me about a week, maybe a week and a half if I’m careful. I use that water (inside the cabin) for washing dishes, hands and such, not for drinking. I go to my neighbor’s house pretty much every day for drinking water, I carry it back in one gallon containers.
If we have to, we can get water from the community well, it’s free to the residence out here, we can get as much as we want, but we have to get it back to our property, that was the original plan to get water from there, but since our neighbor turned out to be such a great guy, we get it from him for now.
2. How do you keep cool in the heat? I think I could go without a lot of things but not being able to keep cool I just can’t. (also going through menopause!)
That’s easy, it does get hot here, but the humidity is low, it’s high desert on a mountain range, it is hot during the day, especially in the sun, but if you have any shade, it’s comfortable, there is almost always a breeze too. The nights are cool year round, even in the hottest part of summer, as soon as the sun goes down, you start looking for something to cover your arms with.
3. Do you solar cook all the time or use a gas grill or bbq’r?
I do some solar cooking, but not as much as I’d like, making a better solar oven and other solar cookers is on the list of things we will do this summer. When it was cold enough to use the wood stove, I cooked on it, I made a makeshift oven on top and got pretty good at making biscuits, tortillas and such. Now we mainly use a 2 burner propane stove top. We got a stove and oven (propane) oven from a friend, it came out of an old travel trailer, we have to clean it up and make sure it works ok before I can use it though. No BBQ though, there is a burn ban on open fires until we get some rain, it is very dry out here and not worth the risk just to grill a few burgers.
4. How do you keep your food cold?
During the winter, we didn’t have to worry about it much, we kept our cold foods in a 5 gallon bucket with a lid. Now we use a small cube refrigerator (dorm size), it doesn’t hold much, but we can keep milk, cheese, and a few other things cold in it. It doesn’t take much juice so it works with our little power system just fine.
5. How do you light your home?
We have regular compact florescent lights, we have some extra low voltage ones that we use most of the time, and the regular ones the rest of the time. Since we are in a small space, we don’t require much lighting. We have 3 lights in the main area where we stay, one extra low wattage and one regular that is over the sink. We have another regular one over the mirror in the bathroom area, we have 2 lights outside, but only use them as necessary. These are all hooked up to the batteries through the inverter.
6. I see that you got internet connection. Congratulations. How did you plug your computer in?
I have a device that hooks up through a network cable, it’s like super wifi, it works off an antenna that is across the valley from me on the other mountain top, it’s a radio signal that is picked up on a small box attached to my cabin, there is a network cable that runs from that to a small box inside the cabin, then it goes into my computer, I have internet access as long as I have the box powered up (plugged in), I turn it off when I’m not using it to save power even though it doesn’t use much power.
7. If you’d like you can post my questions in your b-log and then others who are wanting to know can read your replies also.
8. What do you do about washing clothes?
Again, I use my neighbor’s facilities, but if I didn’t have that available to me, I can use the RV park’s facilities that is not too far from me, they have showers too, but again, I have been very lucky to have such a good neighbor. We originally planned on (and still may do this in the future) hooking up our washer to use and hanging the clothes to dry.
9. How do you feel now about being off grid? Is it harder than you thought?
Is it a good feeling?
I love it, I wouldn’t want to go back. It is hard, but not harder than I though it would be, in many ways it’s easy, I have electricity just like you, the only difference is I generate it right here, I do have to be conscious of using power, I can’t go off and leave things running, I can’t run everything at once, if we use power tools during the day, then we have to be aware that we probably will not be able to watch videos on the internet all night, if the night is cold and we don’t have wood cut for the wood stove, we can use our small electric blanket, but if that happens, I know that I can’t use the computer all night, we have learned from trial and error what we can and can’t do, and so far, we have done very well and are very happy with the setup.
We did give things up to live like we live, things like microwaves, big appliances, these are all energy wasters. We gave up convenience stores, gave up close by stores, we can’t go to Walmart in the middle of the night, we can’t eat fast food any time we want. Just going to the mailbox is a 12+ mile round trip, on up and down, in and out, dirt roads. But the things we gained far outweighs the things we gave up, we gave up the noise, pollution, stress and danger of living in the city. We gained safety, security, quiet, clean air, healthy living… we don’t hear cars honking, car alarms, slamming doors, our neighbors, our neighbor’s kids… we gained some really good friends, though we did leave some really good friends (and family) behind, we hope to get some or them (all of them!) to move out here where we live, I know that is not realistic, but the invitation is open, if nothing else, we have a great place for them to come vacation. :)
Thanks for any help/tips you can give.
My biggest tip is to not wait too long, often times we want to do something, but we put it off, we wait until we have more money, time, energy, whatever it is, or we are afraid to take the big step, whatever the problem is, don’t wait, start NOW, you aren’t getting any younger, and you probably aren’t getting any richer living where you are now, just DO IT, live your dream, you will not regret it, when you are on your death bed, are you going to regret not taking the plunge or are you going to be happy with your life as you lived it? No one ever wishes they have worked more hours (at a regular job) or wishes they had made more money. Go for it, do it, don’t wait, it’s OK to be scared, it’s not OK to let that fear stop you, in baseball, you will miss 100% of the balls if you never take a swing.
Thanks Marty for your great questions, if you have any more, or want more clarification of what I posted above, please don’t hesitate to contact me again and ask, ask all you want, I am more than happy to answer your questions.
For more stories from off-grid.net search here
Our Our fastest solar ovenBake, roast or steam a meal for two people in minutes, reaching up to 550°F (290°C). GoSun Sport sets the bar for portable solar stoves.
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