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Importance of off-grid living

 
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Living off grid shouldn't be a means of escaping a perceived Armageddon, it should be an exercise in understanding a person's relationship to the world we inhabit. Each person or group needs to decide what Comfort level they believe is necessary to live a happy and full life while considering their impact on the environment.
One thing that people often forget is that prior to the 20th century everyone not only lived off grid but without electricity.. it must be assumed then that people lived happy and full lives without it..
My wife and I have lived non-electric for over 30 years and have not found it wanting. We built our own 5 room Log Cabin a two-story log Barn, we heat and cook with wood, use  kerosene for light and grow the major portion of our food organically.. it's a lot of work but the satisfaction is beyond words. We have found throughout the years that we can accomplish almost anything we put our minds to.
Comments or requests welcome.
Rick and Rose Rayburn .
 
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Location: Nomadic
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Fantastic. Way to go. I thought you were going to sign it Scott and Helen lol. I’m into Walden on Wheels currently. Wildcrafting and whatnot. Maybe someplace will resonate so deeply I’ll stop again. What is your favorite harvest this season? Cheers
 
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Location: Northernmost California
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I find it interesting that the original term - 'off grid' applied to living not connected to the electrical power grid. That never (only) meant living without electricity, just not grid supplied source. If you are content to live electricity free - bravo for you. All those Amish can't be wrong either. However having lived with solar powered electricity for over 35 years, I appreciate having a freezer and other electrical niceties especially as we age and aren't as physically able as we were in our youth! Just wondering - if you don't have electrical power, how do you connect to the internet? Even a smart phone uses electrical power.
 
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I think everyone could benefit, especially the youth, from a little time living without electricity off grid. If anything I think it helps bring things into perspective and creates a baseline for prioritizing and/or minimizing your tools or technology (both electrical and non-electrical) used to live. I feel many of us have gone so far off of this baseline and it may be hard to regain that perspective. Which, of course, is where the benefits of teaching and learning permaculture enters the picture. Duh duh duh duh! ha. Seriously though, I think a lot of people might reconsider what it takes to actually live a happy and satisfying life if they experience a little off grid time. Many people like to dip their toes in the water, so to speak, by going camping for a weekend or so. So there are many that have the desire to experience it even if it's on a temporary basis. We just need to let them know about permaculture so they can realize the potential to do so everyday.....or to the extend they desire to do so.
 
pollinator
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I disconnected from the electric grid several years ago, though I do still use electricity that I generate from solar panels.  I have found that living this way brings a stronger connection to the cycles of nature and the seasons.  The winter solstice truly means something to me now!  That's the point for me when I'm at my lowest potential for generating electric power, but also when the corner is turned and the days start getting longer.

I've also discovered how interconnected all my home systems are.  For example if I used my propane furnace as my primary heat source during the cold season the solar system I have would be unable to provide enough power to run the blower motor all the time.  Likewise, I expect that if I used my regular toilet, and thus running the well pump vastly more often, the solar system again would not be enough.  Instead I utilize a Jenkins style sawdust composting toilet.  My primary heat source has also been wood, a wood burning stove for years, and now just last year I switched to a rocket mass heater.  The propane furnace is just backup for when I'm away from home for long periods.

During the very lean weeks just to either side of the winter solstice I learn just what electric uses I value most.  Perhaps the easiest to provide for, electric lights, is one of my most treasured uses.  Keeping a small, efficient fridge running is also quite valuable to me, and not to hard to provide power for.  Running water is right up there with electric lights, maybe even the greater luxury.  Hot running water is such a luxury, but the real electric hog in my household.  During the lean weeks this is not always available in the quantities I might like, and thus I learn to appreciate it all the more when I can have it.
 
pollinator
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Location: North central Ontario
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Rick I admire what you have accomplished. I believe those wanting to emulate you today though should look into solar at the very least for lighting. Cost wise, emissions wise safety wise solar lighting will outperform kerosene lamps. Are you doing any refridgeration or propane cooking?
Cheers,  David
 
pollinator
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Are you visiting a library to type this post if you are electricity free?     Do you have a cell phone?


I have been part of several off grid groups, and indeed some approach that phrase with different meanings.

Some do go with no electricity.     Others no electricity, no propane.      Others,   off the system 100%   no grocery, no mail hermits  they get all they need from their location.       Rare but they do exist.

Mart




 
Rick Rayburn
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Mart, our cabin is electricity free, we do have cars so most of the time we plug into them to charge the cell phone I'm using to write this post.
We do have a small Honda 1000 generator if need arises. We also have older jonsered chainsaws for cutting wood and building and older John Deere tractors for field work and wood hauling. The older equipment is by far the most reliable and durable as evident by the fact that the tractors are from the 1950s and the chainsaws from the 1980s.
We try to keep it as simple as possible, but also practical.
Rick.
 
pollinator
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Location: Victoria BC
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David Baillie wrote:Rick I admire what you have accomplished. I believe those wanting to emulate you today though should look into solar at the very least for lighting. Cost wise, emissions wise safety wise solar lighting will outperform kerosene lamps. Are you doing any refridgeration or propane cooking?
Cheers,  David



Exactly this. For everything else there are plenty of competing choices, but solar for lighting can be so simple and affordable... seems pretty impossible to beat IMO.
 
Rick Rayburn
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Jeremy, it's interesting you should mention Helen and Scott I still have my 1970s copy of their living the good life. We used their slip form method when we built our underground Root Cellar, we've also use much of their information for gardening and Maple syruping in the spring. They were quite the couple.
As for a favorite crop? My wife says potatoes, with me it's a toss-up between the drying beans and carrots. The carrots probably winning by a nose because we managed to put straw over the carrot Patch and dig them up all the way through the winter into the spring , and in Minnesota the winters can get to 35 below zero. For me there's nothing much more incredible then pulling up fresh carrots on Christmas Day when the rest of the world is frozen solid.
Rick..
 
Rick Rayburn
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Jain, I think the solar electricity is a great way to go, we just balanced the initial cost and the maintenance along with the aesthetics and decided to just keep it simple. Our cabin is nestled in the middle of 100 acres of deep Forest on a Creek.
The original idea was to have a secluded cabin that Blended as authentically as possible with the surroundings and discover. just what the land could provide for us, while we attempted to impact the environment as little as possible.
Rick
 
Rick Rayburn
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David, I agree solar lighting is a great way to go, we just wanted to keep it simple, low maintenance and rustic here.
During the warmer months we don't need much Refrigeration and if we do we use an ice chest.
The balance of the year in Minnesota you don't need a refrigerator it's just that cold, as Mark Twain once said Duluth Minnesota has 11 months of winter and 30 days of darn cold weather, "nuff said" . As for cooking we have a wood cook stove that works just as well has any other type and the fuel is just lying around on the forest floor.
Rick.

 
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Location: South of Winona, Minnesota
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We've been "off-grid" for nearly 40 years. Started out with lanterns but quickly moved to PV for better lung health, then gradually expanded to power many things such as our GE electric tractor, irrigation pump and assorted houshold loads. You can see what we've been up to on our website: http://geopathfinder.com/Solar-Electricity.html

We often advise people who are thinking of adding renewables, whether on or off grid, to try an energy vacation - turn off the power to your entire house to see what is really essential and what isn't. For instance, you may think that something like a refrigerator is necessary but maybe a much smaller and more effecient model is a better starting point than trying to power the existing energy-gobbling box. Lighting during the dark days of winter can be a challenge but it's easier to identify where and how much light when starting from a darkened room. If this process is continued for at least a day or over a weekend, or longer, you can eventually feel free to make decisions based on more than preconceived notions about how things "must be done."
 
Mart Hale
pollinator
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I have been part of many off grid groups on yahoo over the years and I have been slowly moving to more and more off grid.

I have set a goal to grow 1/3 of my food,    this I have worked toward by planting fruit trees, and several different types of root crops for calories.


I have over 3000 watts of solar, and I have been researching all kinds of different types of carbon batteries that have much better life than lead acid batteries.




I have been running off a Tesla Model S battery for over a year running my aquaponics  /  well pump for various needs.

For Hurricane Irma I had ice cream ( most important for life support ) ;-)    when our power was off for 2 weeks

But It has been a slow process of me testing golf cart batteries and trying to fix the sulfation on them an attempting to be my own power company.

One of the hardest things I had to deal with here in Florida was mold in the home,  I have to keep de-humidifiers going to stop the advance of mold,  so I am factoring that into my solar requirements.

It seems that when one unplugs from the wall,   we then plug into something else  either propane or solar or gasoline for generators / cars.    

So it is a choice of doing without or finding another way to get the job done, or doing without.


 
s wesley
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Good stuff everyone! I too am off grid with solar and sometimes minimal propane for now. A lot of it comes down to living with others and their willingness, limitations and comfort levels or perceived needs. Otherwise I go pretty minimal naturally.

Hey Mart you might wanna think about NiFe batteries. They have very long lifetimes and have many aspects that are very resilient and forgiving. https://permies.com/t/36069/permaculture-projects/Nickel-Iron-Edison-Batteries
 
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