- Is off-grid living right for me?
- What degree of off-grid living am I comfortable with?
- What are my options?
- How much money do I have to dedicate to moving off-grid?
- Can I cut down and downsize?
- Where do I want to live?
- What kind of lifestyle can I have there?
- What do I need to be careful of?
- What do I want to do on my land?
- What are my skillsets?
- What do I need to learn?
- How will I sustain myself over time?
The reason I am emphasizing the decision process so much is because it is the main bottleneck in the process.
People see the appeal of living off-grid and then hesitate because they don’t know how to proceed or even what kinds of things to worry about. My goal is to lay out all the questions and considerations ahead of time because, as a Marine, I firmly believe that the more prepared you are, the easier time you will have, and the more successful you will be.
Long live the prepared!
Read over the questions above. You don’t need to have answers for them just yet but those are ultimately things that you will need to consider over the course of this process. It is a journey, a marathon, not a sprint. It will take time and will be easier sometimes and harder at others. In the end it will be worth it.
The first question is: “Is Off-Grid living right for me”. As I stated previously, I believe everyone should live off-grid to a degree. I want to emphasize that. Some people have more know-how with tools than others. Some people may have responsibilities that keep them in the city or are allergic to sunshine. (It’s a real thing; look it up. I would be devastated.) Obviously these challenges may cause this process to be almost insurmountable. Think to yourself. What is holding you back? What keeps you from advancing? Is it flexible? Is there a way to adapt it to an off-grid lifestyle?
If you cannot adapt your circumstances to an Off-Grid life, then see question 2 above. What are you comfortable doing? Maybe you are in a wheelchair. If so, can you garden in your backyard? I found a video online of an inspiring guy who built raised beds the height of tables in a horseshoe design so he could wheel into his spot, put his chair in park, and spend the afternoon planting without leaving his chair. That’s super motivating for weirdos like me. I don’t know why but I very much enjoyed watching that. I am going to cater my advice towards full-blown off-grid living but I fully support you to do whatever it is that you are comfortable doing and to take things slowly.
Living off-grid means being independent. You no longer rely on others for food, energy, waste management, water etc. 100% off-grid living is very challenging and almost unheard of. It isn’t a competition so just do what you can.
Small scale changes
My next post will be smaller scale changes you can do in your own life now while working towards off-grid living. It is great for those who aren’t fully ready or capable of making the leap, but it is also beneficial for those who are on their way to off-grid living. The habit adjustments will teach you some basic skills, get you used to the lifestyle, and work out kinks ahead of time, while also saving you money.
The next important consideration is money. If you have bookoo bucks, obviously moving off-grid can be easier and quicker for you as you can hire out a lot more of the work. Go for it! You do you! Unfortunately, I don’t make much so my process will guide you by-hand. Feel free to invest whatever resources you have into moving off-grid (or donate it to me, and I will be more than happy to use your money to help build my dream home.)
If you are like me and lacking in the finances, I warn you, it will be a longer, slower process and you will get frustrated but the end makes it worth the sacrifice. It is not impossible; it will just be a steeper climb. Bear with me.
If you are dirt broke and looking to move off-grid, you have a couple options.
- Find one of the above mentioned generous rich people (let me know if you find one)
- Inherit land from a friend or family member (don’t kill anyone)
- Join a community that is offering free land for off-grid use (LandBuddy tab above)
- Offer work/product in exchange for land use to a property owner
Once you’ve decided to live off-grid and have mulled over all the pieces that it will entail, you are now in the market for getting started finding land. Congratulations!!
Now, where are we going to live? (You may not have realized this but I’m coming with you. This is our journey that we are doing together so I fully intend on crashing on your couch)
Where have you been that you enjoyed? Why did you enjoy it? How was the weather? The seasons? The environment? The wildlife? When you are looking for property, this will be a long term investment. You want to make sure that you are going to love living there for the rest of your life.
Things to consider include: politics and legality of land use (in some areas, off-grid living is illegal and in others there are numerous restrictions), weather, climate, crime, home owners associations, covenants, availability of resources (doctors, jobs, stores, etc), price of land, access to water, rainfall, easements, growing season, dirt quality, terrain, natural disaster risk, mineral rights, lumber rights, local hazards (power lines, sewage, uranium dumping, fracking, oil rigs, big agriculture that sprays pesticides on their crops daily etc)
I recommend looking in the local area for land for sale signs. Your plan for the land and how much cash you have will both restrict your selection but since you’ve thought about those things already, you have them in the back of your mind when you are looking at properties.
Also, take your time looking for land. Unless the land is perfect and priced at a steal, you don’t want to rush into a purchase without knowing what else is on the market. Understand that you can haggle the price down from the sticker price sometimes as much as 20-40%. Ask all the questions you can about the land and the local area. Don’t assume anything. Shop around.
The land needs to be ready for the use you want. If you are going to be building a home, you need to make sure you have space for it. If not, you will need to understand that pulling up tree roots while digging your foundation can be a very long and arduous process. Sometimes it’s easier to get a vacant field with good rainfall and terrain and then plant all your own trees where you want rather than finding the land with trees already on it. Be flexible but at the same time understand that you can adapt properties to your needs. If you pick a place with low rainfall, you have to worry about mulching, drought, and irrigation versus if you live in a place with more rain, you need to worry about over watering, weed growth and flooding.
I don’t recommend moving somewhere far from what you have experience with. If you are from a wet area with four seasons, moving to a desert can be disastrous or vice versa. Off-Grid living does not have to be extreme.
In a nut-shell:
Search for land at your local tax office, online, at auctions, at local farm sales, newspapers, and classifieds.
Walk the land ahead of time.
Understand the pros and cons of each land before deciding.
Be ready to haggle.
Be willing to adapt your plan to your land.
Stay within your comfort zone.
That’s all I have for you today. Your homework: consider all the questions I have mentioned up to this point and then go out and find your dream property! Next I will introduce you to off-grid habits you can apply in your still-linked-in life to prepare you for that next step. Thanks for reading and as always, leave any questions and I will do my best to address them. Happy living!
that sounds amazing, as you said it makes you feel scared , but what a great thing to do !
There are a lot of positive things you mentioned in your blog, keep them in mind, as it wont be easy or
Total respect to you, worst thing to look back in time to come and regret not even having the courage to go for it !
Wishing you every success ! Best wishes
Meg, I wish you all the luck in the world! You sound like an amazing woman. Olliep you are awsome! This site is great! One day my dream to live off-grid will become reality too!
I am in the UK
I have just found my land with tidal river frontage, getting ready to haggle! My intention is to moor a houseboat and use the four and a half acre plot.I have to find out of I have mooring rights first, , I know I am not allowed to install a mobile home, may go for a yurt on the land. There is fresh water connected. I am 64 and am scared but really feel I want to do this.
Things to consider: power supply, Solar panels, windmill and generator. Sewage disposal, self-composting or cesspit. or mixture of both?
I am fit and well at 64 but for how long as I will be living alone?
how to use land, bees, goats, chickens etc:
So many things to consider my head is buzzing.
Am I mad ?
Thank you for your comment, Meg. I am very glad you are so far on your journey to self-reliance already. That is motivation to many, I am sure. I would absolutely figure out any and all restrictions before signing the paperwork. If you have any hesitations then heed those cations and wait until you have done all your legwork. It is much safer to wait and get all the homework done first than to have anything bite you in the backside after you’ve invested time, sweat, and money into your dream.
Regarding power, if you have moving water, I would look into a simple water turbine system. If you live in the UK, I don’t know how consistent the solar power will be but water seems to be pretty regular there. I live in New Mexico so I have more than enough sunlight and water is seasonal. I would recommend adapting your needs to your own environment as much as possible. Sewage disposal: If you are looking to grow your food (which you should), then I would suggest composting toilets. Cesspits are just breeding grounds for disease and smell without the gain of compost. You don’t need to break the bank for any kind of special high end composting toilet either. You can make a pretty simple one out of a 5gal bucket, pallet wood, and a toilet seat. You would have to take it out yourself to the compost pile every week but the saved water and nutrients make it worth the effort in my opinion. Be sure to do some research before starting such a project however. Some locations are picky about sewage disposal practices. Humanure Handbook can be found online and as a real book that holds a lot of invaluable details about the world of composting sewage. If you are worried about things becoming more challenging down the road, then I highly recommend getting started as soon as possible. If you plant all your trees and shrubs, your perennials and set up a chicken coop now, then they will take very little maintenance down the road. Annual crops will only cause more work as they degrade the soil and need to be replanted each year, while nut trees and perennial crops will grow together in less space and produce for years to come. There are trees in Italy that are over 500 years old that still produce nuts every year for harvest. Nuts are high in oils and protein making them a great staple crop as well as a good value for sale/trade with neighbors. If you are just getting started then I would suggest:
Ensuring the land is everything you want it to be and won’t have any issues doing what you want to do.
Building a small home that is comfortable and convenient with your future in mind as you design it. I would keep it one-story and with a nice open floorplan.
Plant your trees (as they take a few years before they begin producing yields)
set up the rest of your homestead with attention to design. Put the site-plan to paper and using a pencil, draw your daily schedule on the paper. I wake up, go to kitchen, go to chicken coop to get eggs, I go to goats to milk, I pull weeds and pick up fruits/nuts to drop in chicken coop etc. When you do this, see how often you are walking back and forth the same routes. Try to simplify this from the beginning. Put things close to each other to minimize extra walking. Your future self will thank you. The things that don’t need the daily check-up can go farther from the house since that walk will be less frequent. You are not mad at all. There is a lot to think about in this process. Like anything else, take it one day at and one step at a time. You needn’t over extend yourself worrying about goats until you have somewhere to rest your head. Even the world wasn’t made in a day. Enjoy the process. Thank you again for your comment and I hope you continue to read my blog and let me know how your own development flourishes.
I want to live off the grid and am wondering if I can adapt my home which is a coastal cabin.
Thanks For your comment, Kate. Of course you can adapt your home to suit your needs in a more off-grid way. Depending on your desires and available resources, you could turn the whole thing off-grid within a few months. Assuming that you don’t have millions of pounds at your disposal, the best course of action is small incremental changes to your own life. I don’t want to give away all the details of my next blog post but start by downsizing your consumption, provide what you can for yourself (food, energy, water) and create a sense of self-reliance in your day to day life. When you make the bigger changes to your home, they will be easier because you have already adjusted your own mindset. You don’t see the loss of cable as such a burden. Other steps to consider: rainwater collection, growing your own food (especially trees and perennials since you don’t have to plant them every year) and waste management. Why waste perfectly good nutrient in the loo when you could put it to work for you (after sufficient composting) back into the soil to help your trees grow? If you are not quite to this point yet, start by reading everything you can from “backyard gardening” to “restoration agriculture” to “humanure” and “rainwater harvesting” Knowledge is power and will go a long ways in helping you feel comfortable with the next steps you will be taking. Thank you again for your comment and I encourage you to read my next post as well for other pointers regarding transition to off-grid life.