What Does It Mean to Live Off-Grid?

Bear with us for a minute and this will all make sense in the end. As kids, (only a few short years ago), we were entertained by some great TV. One of the many shows we watched was the dynamic duo, Batman and Robin. The show presents a perplexing problem, one we’ve wrestled with for years with no easy answer. Were Batman and Robin living off grid? Stay tuned to this Bat Channel for the definitive answer! So, what does it mean to live off-grid?

Nova Scotia Homestead

Nova Scotia Homestead

For each of us doing so, it means slightly different things and while each of us off gridders have come up with our own solutions to the challenges life off-grid presents, the one underlying theme is this as defined by Wikipedia:

Off-the-grid homes are autonomous; they do not rely on municipal water supply, sewer, natural gas, electrical power grid, or similar utility services.

So in essence folks off-grid are disconnected from the power grid and produce their own electricity from either the sun, wind, flowing water, a generator or a combination of these. Personally we’ve relied primarily on solar power for our needs for the last 40 years, but when we lived in the bush of northern Saskatchewan we had a hybrid system of wind and solar power with generator backup.

Common Misconceptions

There are some who have the misguided notion that being off-grid equates with a life of deprivation and hardship. They think to be off-grid a person must live in a cave, a tent or a dirt floored hut made of sticks, wear animal skins and stalk the kin of those skins for food with bow and arrow. When the hunting fails, chowing down on grubs completes their scenario. No doubt for some, being off-grid is synonymous with being dirty, living in filth and having to constantly battle to survive. Their idea of off grid living seems to also preclude any form of communication be it land line phones, cell phones, sat phones, e-mail or Internet. And there are even some who think being off-grid means a person no longer needs money. Say what? Really?? We’ve heard a lot of weird stuff over the years but that was a topper. Off grid equates with no need for money. Hmmm.

No where in the definition does it say you have to toil and slave. No where does it say you can’t have any amenities or comforts. No where does it say you have to live on the brink of survival without any means to communicate and no where does it state a person no longer needs any money. Granted you don’t need as much but you still need some. Taxes for example are an unavoidable fact of life.

The Realities of Our Off-Grid Journey

When we homesteaded in Maine, we lived a spartan existence, not necessarily by choice but because we couldn’t afford a big enough solar electrical system to power more than a light and an hour of TV a few nights a week with our miniature black and white set. We had an outhouse out back, a hand pump for water, kerosene lanterns for light and had to heat all of our water in kettles set atop of our woodstoves. For a long time we had no refrigerator or freezer. For quite a few years we had no phone resorting to letter writing or driving 10 miles round trip to the nearest pay phone to talk to family. Eventually we had a phone installed in our off-grid house. Did that phone on the wall and the fact that we could communicate preclude us from being off-grid? Certainly not.

Good ol' days in Maine

Good ol’ days in Maine

The same applied to when we lived in the bush. The difference was the mode of communication. Imagine our previous homestead. One hundred miles by air on a remote lake with not a soul around for 6 months at a time. No roads, power lines or utilities other than a satellite dish yet some people accused us of not being off grid. Given our remote location, a landline phone was not possible. Neither was a cell phone. We were well beyond range of any towers. Satellite was the only game in town. Letter writing was out of the question. To be without a way to contact the outside world would have been foolhardy.

Off Grid in Saskatchewan

Off Grid in Saskatchewan

The same is true here in Nova Scotia. At our location a cell phone is useless. We’re at least a mile from the nearest telephone and electric lines so forget about a landline phone or electrical service. Satellite is the only viable option for communication. We’re off-grid here every bit as much as we were in Maine or northern Saskatchewan. If the satellite goes down, the world won’t end for us. Certainly communication will be lost, but we’ll continue to survive.

You can do as we’ve done, generate your own electricity from the sun, wind, water or have a hybrid system of more than one of these alternative energy sources which will allow you to live in a comfortable house with running cold and hot water. You can have adequate lighting, eat well, run electrically powered appliances using the energy you produce and even have time for leisure pursuits. You will be living off-grid!

Your Off-Grid Journey

For anyone considering beginning an off-grid journey, a spectrum of choices exists. Your journey can be an evolving, changing and developing one as ours has been. You can choose austerity, luxury or anything in between. Therein lies the beauty of this lifestyle, the freedom to choose your own path, to choose your own off-grid destiny so you can pursue the life of your dreams. To opt for a bare bones existence as we once had or one of comparative comfort as we do now. All of us are free to choose.

The objective should not be to point a judgmental finger and say “Hah, they’re not really off-grid. They have too many conveniences. They have the internet. They have e-mail, they have transportation.” There will always be a small segment of people who are born to be narrow minded critical thinkers. We’ll never change them. But we’ve come to realize that there is another segment of the population genuinely confused as to what off grid really means. Those are the people we’d like to reach out to and explain what off-grid really is.

Personally, we’ve come to realize there’s more to life than a daily struggle to survive. An off grid home can have all of the following: satellite internet, satellite TV, multiple chest freezers, dishwasher, refrigerator/freezer, lights throughout the home, stereo, computer/printer, water pump supporting hot/cold running water, telephone, kitchenaide mixer, various electric kitchen gizmos, washer, various power tools like drills/grinder/skil-saw and vacuum cleaner. We have all of the above. And a person could have more if they chose to. If you were to visit us, you would never know we lived off-grid other than seeing a solar panel array.

To have time for enjoyable pursuits of our choosing: reading, fishing, woodworking, sewing, quilting, spinning yarn and knitting; being able to sit in the porch swing relaxing surveying our realm is priceless. We’ve done things the hard way and are happy to pick and choose what technological advances to employ to make our off-grid life easier thereby allowing us to live in a semi remote location in relative comfort.

So there you have it. But we have one last riddle to cipher out. Can you now see the dilemma? Were Batman and Robin off grid? The answer is obvious. Only when they were crime fighting. Once they headed down to the Batcave, they became off grid which satisfies the requirement some feel is a necessary ingredient. A Cave!

Until next time, keep the dream alive! We wish you a great day!

Ron and Johanna

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