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How long can you survive .. off the Grid?

 
                    
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This question certainly does raise the old question of what is "sufficient."  We are as well set up for off the grid living as you could want - large root cellar (we know how to live without fridges and freezers - it's not hard), gravity fed spring water, well insulated and small living spaces that need minimal (wood supplied) heat and no air conditioning, some solar panels with fairly new batteries, a small flock of chickens, a couple pigs about to have babies, two dairy cows, lots of good timber in the forest we own, all in a fairly inaccessible and out of the way location (with lots of bridges that could easily be removed if need be). 

But most of those things (except the cellar and the spring water) will die or wear out or burn/fall down eventually.  So I'm left with these problems to solve.....

How will I get my cow pregnant when I can't order a vial of semen or afford to drive her to the nearest bull? 

How will I increase/maintain the genetic diversity in our pig herd, our chicken flock? 

How will I feed our animals when we can't buy hay/feed? (we are working on this now, hopefully LONG before we can't buy feed)

What happens when the solar panels and the batteries wear out?  (I'm actually least concerned about that, living without electricity isn't difficult, just inconvenient at times) 

But, as Feral said, it's an attitude.  You make due with what you have.  And, you foster a stronger and more organized local community so that the responsibilities are delegated, needs are met, and wants become a lot less important. 
 
                                
Posts: 15
Location: Inland North Atlantic
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We already live pretty close to the edge right now. Just the other day my wife and I were talking about what we'd do if the lights went out. We heat with wood render our own small animals, and raise chickens for eggs living in an isolated part of the North Atlantic coast line. I can work a bow, fish the river, and I guess I would lay out a snare line although I've always hated that. We plant a couple of gardens every spring and save seeds. This spring I'm getting ready to plant barley and wheat on a couple of little patches and I've got some hop seeds to start my own hopyard. We forage the wild larder too, heck we've still got twenty pounds of blue berries. I own a scythe and a shotgun, enjoy reading and wood working and I've done without for a lot of my life. We study home canning, fermentation, and bushcraft together. I don't think it'd be a huge adjustment.
 
pollinator
Posts: 454
Location: South West France
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goat forest garden fungi chicken food preservation fiber arts solar sheep rocket stoves homestead
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We're a bit like that too Jay, we don't buy much.

Solar panels and wind power for  two computers and internet, loads of lights and power in the summer for doing almost anything we want. When it all wears out and we can't buy others, well we'll just talk more by the fire, make more music and sometimes just go to bed early.  

We've loads of jars of sterilised food and salted meat plus chickens, pig, sheep goats and a lot of game. Tons of veg. In the winter we keep food outside or in an uninsulated cupboard on a north wall. We've stores of food for the animals which we grow and gather with neighbours. Almost all our food is from our farm and a lot of our clothing and furnishings from our own wool. The  materials for all our animal shelters and a lot of our house were found on site.

Fortunately, we have our own wood and use it to heat water, cook and heat the house and we'll solar water heating for the summer and a pocket rocket for cooking plus a couple of bottles of gas. When we can't get that we'll use wood and we can have longer tea breaks. 

Our neighbours are great and we work together to get things for each other that we need - that really is a blessing for survival and it's something a lot of people forget when they think about planning their independence.
 
                                
Posts: 15
Location: Inland North Atlantic
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Irene Kightley wrote:
We're a bit like that too Jay, we don't buy much.

Solar panels and wind power for  two computers and internet, loads of lights and power in the summer for doing almost anything we want. When it all wears out and we can't buy others, well we'll just talk more by the fire, make more music and sometimes just go to bed early.  

We've loads of jars of sterilised food and salted meat plus chickens, pig, sheep goats and a lot of game. Tons of veg. In the winter we keep food outside or in an uninsulated cupboard on a north wall. We've stores of food for the animals which we grow and gather with neighbours. Almost all our food is from our farm and a lot of our clothing and furnishings from our own wool. The  materials for all our animal shelters and a lot of our house were found on site.

Fortunately, we have our own wood and use it to heat water, cook and heat the house and we'll solar water heating for the summer and a pocket rocket for cooking plus a couple of bottles of gas. When we can't get that we'll use wood and we can have longer tea breaks. 

Our neighbours are great and we work together to get things for each other that we need - that really is a blessing for survival and it's something a lot of people forget when they think about planning their independence.

Truly community is the greatest asset anyone can have whether they live an urban lifestyle or are more rustically inclined. That is a major thing I don't understand about when I watch certain "prepper" & "survivalist"videos. This concept of being able to outlive calamity by engaging in brute force or superior fire power, it's ridiculous to my way of thinking. Why in the name of the Gods would anyone want to fantasize about such crazy premises. I've read about this distopian existence in fiction and I think it reflects the attitude. Perhaps if they made children study peace instead of war when they review history then the collective society would produce more individuals inclined to work in cooperation instead of competition. My hope is the advent of these web based social mediums will encourage that sort of thinking. Hope for the future!
 
Posts: 10
Location: Ouachita Mts. - Ar.
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I lived way off grid for over a year before and Liked it. We didn't have anything electrical except a little battery radio and a small flashlight. There's lots of ways to handle it for shorter or longer times.
We used a fire pit, then bought a wood stove to cook and heat with.
Dressed for the weather and used extra blankets in the winter.
The house was on a wooded hill, so it got good air flow in the summer.
We made a slit trench first, then dug an outhouse.
We used an oil lamp or candles for a few hours at night, then went to bed.

So living without electric wouldn't be that big a deal to me. This apartment building isn't set up that well for it though. All the appliances are electric. I should get some more blankets, and a few little solar garden lights, just in case.
I could stick the solar lights on the balcony to charge then use them inside at night.
A Sterno or propane stove would work on the balcony.
We have a solar shower bag, and I could hang it from the shower curtain bar when it was time for the shower. Always make sure the shower bar goes into a stud for this!
This building has lost power a couple times from ice storms, so I thought it out before.
I have a little garden and some food put aside, but should get more pantry stuff.

In extreme disaster- I'd harvest what I could, replant it, bring the food plants inside in pots, and grow them by the back window. That part of the building would not be climb-able for thieves. This building is strong, so it would be safer than leaving, for most situations. Some of the neighbors could help each other here.  Others wouldn't survive long if they couldn't get their medicines.
 
                            
Posts: 158
Location: Abilene, KS
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Uh, I'd last about a day or two.. longer if there was snow on the ground.  We're on well water, so no power = no water.

My bad....guess we better check into hand pumps for the well, for a start.

Got a good store of food canned.  But without water, I couldn't grow enough calories to sustain us in the long run.
 
                            
Posts: 158
Location: Abilene, KS
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My husband and I have talked in the past about who we would want with us in a crisis situation.  Luckily, all our kids and their respective 'others' would bring something valuable to the table.  Since we have land, wells, and the biggest house, they all know that they better start walking to our place if S*** happens.

Now then, added thoughts - and I have been printing off directions, instructions, etc.  Looking for information on the internet when you don't have power is going to be problematic.  So, I'm starting on fuel resources now, biodeisel, cow poo power, anything that can help create fuel that's in my immediate area.  That's the key thought - in my immediate area.

I already have a good, basic list of what herbs, etc , that I need for pain, antiseptic properties, blood pressure, etc.  I have my list of what I can graze on here, too.
I have the Rocket Mass Heater book now, and all the necessary pieces to put one together.
I have two wood burners, one that I can cook on, and can survive on small downed wood until we got the rocket stove built.
I buy almost NO convenience foods or products at all, even made the transition to no TP (it's better than you think!).  I know how to make every convenience food I used to buy, so no problem there.  Know how to make nasty lye soap, and have a recipe for moonshine (use for disenfecting... or to get loopy?)
Got a pistol and a shotgun, and a small store of ammo.  Got a bow hunter in the family, so he better make it here.  Got a trapper in the area, too.  Got two lonely chickens, cats and dogs.  I'd hate to think what BBQ cat would be like, but...

Things to do/obtain are hand pump for well, bigger store of dry milk, grains and other basics.  I ordered  non gmo seed yesterday, so I'll save seed this year.  Need to get a short wave radio, small solar panel.  Projects for this year are to build underground room for cold storage or shelter if needed and some passive solar units.

A friend and I had recently talked about surviving in a crisis situation, and she kept insisting that she and her husband would be just fine with no outside help. So the other day, I asked her if she wanted a copy of the list I had for basic medicinal herbs.  She was surprised as she hadn't thought about that, but said that she'd just make a copy of her prescription for BP medicine.  I asked what she would do if she couldn't get the medication.  She responded that she'd just go to another pharmacy, and another, until she found one that had the medicine.  I guess she's got a gasoline pump at her place that's well hidden.   
 
Posts: 16
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I would have little problem surviving for several years off grid. I did several years traveling with the Renn Faires and lived in a time warp while doing it. I learned to do most things, including carry water, without electricity. My favorite story about the newbies to the fair campgrounds was someone fussing about who may have had the music turned up to loud... and having to explain Live Music to them.
 
Posts: 258
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I can see myself being one to utter such a remark ... 

Things that are so practical and common sense seem to be missing in this day and age where people think polluting is offset by buying carbon credits and the like. 

At least I am striving in many positive directions, just far from where I need to be yet.
 
                            
Posts: 16
Location: New Zealand
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To be honest, in the event that something happened to make all  the local utilities go offline and stayoffline, I could proberbly survive all of ... oh, 30 minutes.
That is my estimate of how long the local 'Golden hoarde" would take to start showing up

other than that, we have a good week of survival time, before needing to move on to find water.

living in a city, is like living in a half closed trap, or atleast that is how it feels to me
 
Posts: 96
Location: Kansas
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interesting thought, I believe that I could live off grid indefinitely, and I also believe that more people can or could? if they are in that situation.
just my thoughts.

 
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There are probably a billion people in this world who have never seen an electrical grid, and they manage.

For the rest of us, survival really comes down to population density in your area. It's a simple matter of supply and demand... competition for existing resources. In certain areas, having a generator and stocks of food is a great way to paint a giant bullseye on your back.

I would imagine less populated agricultural areas would pull together as communities and survive, but the cities and packed suburbs wouldn't fare so well. You would need roughly an acre per person to survive long term.

I run what I call a "living seed bank," which is a small garden with a dozen or so heirloom veggies. The garden provides some food for the table now, but provides me with enough seeds that I could expand the garden to meet my needs. In extremes, I would plant enough for my family, then distribute the extra seeds to my neighbors so they wouldn't come over and eat me. (I'm probably quite tasty)

I do have guns and ammo stashed, but that's a last resort I would rather not have to employ. (unless we are invaded by zombies ) I would love to feed everyone, but obviously can't. I am mentally prepared to defend what's mine if it comes down to that. Let's hope it never does.

Water isn't really an issue. There are several springs in the area, and I could easily make dew traps if I had to.

Shelter isn't much of an issue either. If it comes down to it, we would live in one room and heat that room as little as possible. Probably wear a lot of clothes and sleep in sleeping bags.

I have a small solar recharger that will charge up my laptop, and also have a 1 TB "Passport" drive with many thousands of ebooks. If the grid fails and the net goes down, I have enough information to make it. My library contains a nice collection of medical texts, engineering texts, alternative energy texts, textbooks on mathematics and the basic sciences, books on all types of gardening and food storage methods, herbal and traditional remedies, and just about anything else you can imagine, plus tens of thousands of the greatest novels, works of philosophy, religious texts, and so on.

So how long could I survive? As long as it takes.



 
Posts: 587
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Indefinitely. We homesteaded and lived off grid while I was growing up but did have a gas fridge on propane tank after the first year. I enjoyed that kind of life and could go back to it in a snap. We are close to it now and have no difficulties when the power goes down for 2 wks. We've stuck to a minimalist lifestyle even after moving from the homestead and are never without an outhouse, stored water, wood heat and ways of living off the land. We still have no TV and could care less. The computer's nice but it doesn't have a feel of necessity about it...could go completely without it with no problem.

Once you've done it for years, you know you can do it again and with grace. It's a very basic and honest life to go to bed when it gets dark and awaken when it's getting light, eating what you grow or kill in the woods and making clothes last. It's no big deal.
 
pollinator
Posts: 356
Location: Portugal (zone 9) and Iceland (zone 5)
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Dusty Trails wrote:How many power sources do you have .. is your fuel and food stored for the winter .. could you lend a hand to several other families if you had to? What is your water situation if the power goes off?

The coldest winter in a thousand years is predicted for Europe and New Zealand just had a spring blizzard kill lambs by the hundred thousands and all sheep are iced out of their grass lands. The Gulf Stream is a dribble and will not warm Europe because of the US oil spill. What will our Kuroshio Current do?

I have a pallet of pintos sitting in my garage plus my regular routine. Ever feel like your living in a "Mad Magazine?"



Well, it was not really "the coldest winter in 1000 years" but its still interesting to consider the fuel/ energy/ food off-grid self-sufficiency.
My situation is not that great. No off-grid except water. But I hope to improve much more my situation in the future. I aim towards 95% food self-sufficiency in my home country Portugal. Regarding climate, the next decades might be colder and drier than the previous decades, because not only of decreasing solar activity and also due to changing oceanic current cycles. Probably no mini ice age yet, but probably there are going to be harsh cold winters in the years ahead similar to those of the fourties, fifties and early sixties.



 
Posts: 56
Location: Off grid in the central Rockies of Montana (at 6300') zone 3-4ish
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I am hopeful that we could live for a long while as we have been off grid for a decade and a half, we also store most of our protein on the hoof.. Our biggest problem is the looong winters here. I hope to solve that problem this up coming spring by building a pit greenhouse that is connected to my house. this will also be used to help heat my house. I will be able to grow my greens year round then. I need to get an abundance of fire wood and have future plans to build a rocket mass heater after seeing them work at a tour during the Inland Northwest Permaculture Gathering. I will continue my journey of education to get as self reliant as we can get. Primitive skills camps are an another excellent source of learning and as they say "the more you know the less you need to carry"
 
pollinator
Posts: 4437
Location: North Central Michigan
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I think this question has two variables or more..one is your depth of knowledge and another is your location.

If you live in a city it is going to be a LOT harder than if you live in a rural area as your resources will be less and more people will be after them

Your depth of knowledge is a huge deal..do you know what wild things are edible and what will kill you?..I on purppose have things growing on my land that LOOK like food, but if you eat them you will die or get very very ill...if someone was to come onto our property and attempt to STEAL all of our food or enslave or kill us during a food shortage..guess I might make them up a deadly nightshade meal or some poison mushrooms..while I graze on my edible forages..

I think I would survive quite well, we have flowing water, heat available anytime, wild food even under the snow that can be dug out and eaten, ammo and guns for hunting..etc..but I am glad I have the education and am in the right location
 
Posts: 95
Location: Central Texas, it is dry here.
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What a great topic! After reading through everybody's posts, I learned a great deal. I listen to The Preparedness Podcast regularly as I don't think you can every be fully prepared for something like that...my main concern has been finding seeds for the herbal remedies that I am concocting, etc.

We are urban in a bitty little apartment, so we cannot be as fully prepared as the rest of you, but we do what we can (which in comparison to the rest of you really is not much). I know where our water supplies are if there is not water in the faucet, we have been throwing seeds out into the woods every spring so that we know where we have some food supplies if our Community Garden plots get hijacked, foraging, dehydrating and oven canning, etc.

Anna Hess, if you are reading this, do you have any insight that you could add to surviving off grid for any length of time with small space Urban Homesteading without land?
 
pollinator
Posts: 8302
Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
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I have lived in various vehicles at jobsites for most of the last 12 years. I do this in relative comfort during all seasons. We get lots of winter rain and some snow. I have never heated any of these homes. I have plenty of blankets and have learned to deal with moisture well. A total interuption of the electric grid or other calamity would affect me far less than it would affect your average building dweller.

When the heat thing comes up in conversation, I generally say, "Not a sissy". It's really about good ventilation and parking in sunny locations during the winter with the windows slightly open so that the vehicle and contents can dry out on sunny days.

I get some odd looks from people who learn this and they are often quite surprised by it. Nothing about my personal appearance suggests an alternative lifestyle. No poncho, no facial hair or backpack. The van is my bedroom. The world is my livingroom and urinal.
 
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