Going Off-Grid – Jump, Run or Walk

By Dovely from cherrylovefarmm.com

Dovely with her favorite goat

Figuring out how to get from where you are to that sustainable garden of Eden can be daunting. We would all like to have the money to jump. Most of us don’t. When blocked, many run into a situation and find themselves ill equipped to cope.
I’m walking.
There’s an old saying in sales. Plan your work and work your plan. Be open to the fact that the picture of your end goal may change as you move forward. We all want to find 300 acres for $50.00 an acre. I hope that you do. I didn’t. What I thought I needed and what I now have are very different. Yet, my tiny half acre has and has the potential for all of the elements I want to live a sustainable life off-grid.

As I read the Landbuddy post I see many of you are searching for others to create a community. I have found that you can have a community and they don’t have to live in your back yard. Networking and bartering with others in my rural town has given me access to things I can’t produce on my tiny urban farm. I help a friend with his fences and then we harvest dead trees from his woods for my stove. My two dairy goats need about 40 bales of hay a year. I help a farmer get his hay up in exchange for the bales I need. If I had those ten acres, I would have had to plow, plant, cut and bale an acre by myself. And I’d have to have the equipment or do it all by hand.

I came to North Carolina with the intention of using my $25,000.00 to buy more land and less house in the country. I did my reserach and had my lists. You can’t fight Mother Nature. I wanted enough winter cold to help kill bugs and chill the apple trees but not the New England snow drifts I grew up with. I wanted to be at least 150 miles from the ocean and away from river flood zones. I have seen first hand the damage from earth quakes, hurricanes and tornadoes I wanted a place where they don’t often happen. Because of the danger posed by natural disasters and human error and my aversion to nuculear power I did not want to live near or in the path of prevailing winds of a nuclear power plant. I KNEW what I was looking for…..Then I saw what is now my house… no basement or attic. No out buildings. No 10 acres and it was in town. What was I thinking even looking at this place? Well ….she is an Italian brick beauty built in 1888. All that is left of the old farm is the heart beat more than the half acre she sits on. My picture changed.

For the first six months I thought I’d fix this lovely up and flip her for a place with more land. That was five years ago. I now know this is where I should be. I am baby stepping my way to being free from the grid. Yes, that Yeti solar generator big enough to run a fridge and my solar set up are still out of reach. However when the heat pump died last spring I said no to replacing it. It took several months but I found an amazing Dogwood wood stove from the 70’s and a wonderful fan that is powered by the heat from the stove. One step closer.

One of the things that inspired me to rethink my plan is the surge in tiny houses. My house is in no way tiny but my land is. I simply applied the tiny living concept to my land. I had shelter and land now I needed to transform the land to full my needs. My land has about five inches of top soil then it’s solid dense red clay. I opted for raised beds that I make out of any wood or stone I can recycle. My beds produce way more than a $1.00 per square foot of food. I gave away at least a hundred pounds of tomatoes last year. I still had enough to put up 50 quarts of sauce and feed the ducks and chickens all they could eat. All of that out of four 20′ x 2′ rows.

How you ask? Organic compost. Four free pallets make a perfect compost bin. I have three and I don’t have time to turn them. The one in the chicken yard gives the girls plenty to do and it keeps the feed bill down. I throw stuff on top they work it through. In the winter they enjoy the heat and the wind break the pallets offer. In the spring and fall I spread the compost on a tarp for a few days. The ducks go through it and eat all the bugs. When they are through it’s ready to add to the beds.

While you are treading water waiting for the funds for your dream location, start working a mini version of your plan. Work with what you have. Even if it’s just an apartment balcony. Tomatoes and squash will grow in a five gallon bucket. You can compost in one too. Think outside the box. Look for a grocery bag of dried leaves. Make friends with a lawn person for some grass cuttings. Once you start putting your food waste in the bucket like coffee and grounds, egg shells, produce scraps, fruit juice or pasta, you will begin understand how large of a carbon foot print your trash has. Your tomatoes will be happy for a days worth of grounds worked into their top dressing once a month. One of my tricks is I grow up. My pumpkins grow on a welded wire fence. I make slings for the pumpkins out of the net bags onions come in. It’s also easier to pick off the squash bugs which the chickens and ducks love, or add them to your compost bucket. Once your compost starts cooking you can make a tea to spray your plants. It feeds the plants and kills bugs. If you know someone with a bunny, beg them to let you clean out the cage. Add that to your compost. Bunny poo is crazy high in nitrogen. Or find a pet store that has bunnies. Lettus and spinach grow well in a plastic window box. Rainbow Swiss Chard is really pretty in a flower pot.

Dreaming of your flock of kicken chickens with all those lovely free range eggs, but …. your back yard is tiny? Design a compost bin slash chicken coop. Get two leghorn pullets who lay an egg a day. You don’t need a rooster unless you want to hatch the eggs. You’ll gain hands on experince, amazing eggs and reduce your carbon foot print.

If you can, get out and explore the area you want to live. I have found that many places in rural towns change hands buy word of mouth and for very little money. Just last week a farmer I know told me about a small farm house and 7 acres that sold for $10,000.00. Meet people and let them know what your’re looking for. I have found that people how work the land are very nice human beings. Talk to the vendors at your farmers market. Along the way you may find that your vision changes too.

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