off grid cabin

 

Today’s hottest trend is off-grid living; unplug, disconnect, and get back to your pioneer roots.  Bookstores are full of books on every conceivable aspect from “Homesteading 101” to “Off Grid for Dummies”.  Magazine articles abound and the TV shows… well, you get the picture.  It all sounds so great.  Hard, challenging work, but ideally romantic.

off grid woods

I would like to share my off the grid adventure.  Several years back, Hubby and I purchased a lovely three-acre tract of land in the Ozark Mountains.  Secluded, beautiful trees, and a seasonal creek.  After a year of visiting our “Eden” every two to three months, we decided to put up a cabin.  Since we live twelve hours away and our schedules only allowed brief visits of about a week at a time, we thought it best to purchase a prebuilt cabin.  You know, one of those portable ones you see on every corner.  I’m in love with the tiny house movement, and I was able to convince Hubby that 192 square feet would be just fine for us.

Delivery day was exciting!  November 1st, our cabin had arrived.  Normally we would rent a motel room on our Ozark getaways, but now we had our own cozy cabin.  We didn’t have electricity, water, or sewer but it didn’t matter.  Our ultimate plan was to live off grid anyway.

off grid cabin

Night one could be compared to trying to sleep in a walk-in freezer.  It was nine degrees!  Yep, nine.  Our cabin had no insulation or heat.  It was just a shell.  Thank goodness for lots of blankets and body heat.    The projected low for the second night was zero.  We rented a motel room.  Thatoff grid cabin experience convinced us that if we were to visit anytime from late fall to early spring insulation and a heat source had to be our first- priority.

Over the next two years, we came up as often as we could.  We insulated, wired, sheetrocked, painted, put up light fixtures, and most importantly Hubby installed a woodstove.  Cooking was via an old propane RV range.  It was really becoming our cozy cabin in the woods.  During this time, we also planted fruit trees and cleared for the garden area and chicken coop.  With the purchase of a generator, we were able to have lights other than propane lanterns and watch the occasional DVD.

The area residents, for the most part, were friendly and helpful, allowing us to fill our water jugs from their wells and offering helpful advice.  After every trip to the cabin, we would immediately begin to plan a return trip.

Then in the fall of 2016, an opportunity arose that was just too good to pass up.  A job became available in a town close to our cabin that was perfect for me.  But,”What of Hubby?”, you might ask.  After thirty-five years of self- employment he decided that he would semi-retire.  His varied construction experience would enable him to do the odd job here and there.  Family and friends were incredulous.  No one could believe we would be living without electricity, running water or indoor plumbing.  However, we were confident.  It’s not like we’ve lived pampered, privileged lives. We were accustomed to hard work and a certain amount of hardship.  Life’s challenges only served to make us stronger.   We were ready!

Fall in the Ozark Mountains is breathtaking.  Crisp, cool mornings, the brilliant reds and golds of changing leaves, and cool evenings perfect for a fire in our outdoor firepit.  The job was wonderful, the weather was wonderful, and Hubby was finding plenty to do around the homestead.  Of course, we missed our family, but we weren’t so far away that we couldn’t visit.   Getting ready for work each morning was an adventure.  I’m not really what you would call a “morning person”, so getting up at four thirty to heat water on a propane stove to bathe was a bit daunting.  However, applying makeup and doing my hair by lantern light was an even bigger challenge.  I managed, and it soon became routine.

off grid cabin

Two weeks passed, and the weather started to change.  It was getting colder, but the cabin was warm and cozy.  A little too cozy at times.  This was the longest we had ever stayed in our tiny 192-square-foot home, and living full-time was a little different than visiting.  It required more stuff.  In order to solve that dilemma Hubby decided to add an extra 190 square feet.  We would have a bedroom, bathroom, and closet eventually.

The weeks passed.  The rains came, the snow came, the ice came.  We hauled water for drinking, cleaning, and bathing.  Laundry was a weekly chore at the local laundromat.  Wood had to be chopped for heating and some of the cooking.  Perishable foods were kept in an ice chest on the front porch; no need to buy ice at that time of year.  All this paled in comparison to trekking out to the outhouse in wet, freezing weather.   Progress on our homestead had come to a halt, and we were starting to get on each other’s nerves.

off grid

Christmas was just around the corner, so we decided to go home for a visit.  It was amazing!  Seeing our family was great, and the modern conveniences!  Looking back, I can see it was that trip home that was our undoing.  After two weeks of showering and indoor plumbing, we would be hard-pressed to return to our off-grid world.  Return we did, and even managed another four months but the romance had gone out of our adventure.

In early spring we packed up and moved back to the world of flush toilets and lights that come on with a flick of a switch.  Do I feel like we failed?  No, we learned a great deal about ourselves and each other.  We also learned not to believe everything you see on television.  We’re keeping our little homestead and will go back for the occasional visit for now.  That’s right, Hubby and I are regrouping and planning our next campaign.  We’ll try again only next time we will be armed with knowledge and realistic expectations.

 

Comments

  1. My off grid dream always includes a composting indoor toilet. I grew up with wood heat and limited electricity so that wouldn’t be so hard, but I hated the outhouse!

    I hope you get to get back to off grid living and find ways to be more comfortable.

  2. I lived off grid for 6 years in the 70s. But then, we had never heard of off grid. We just didn’t have electricity, or phone or neighbors. I got so use to it that when I went to visit family, I would forget about using light switches and electric conveniences. Even now, I don’t use many electric things in the kitchen, can openers, mixers, etc. I just keep thinking what if we didn’t have power, so I’m not so dependent on them. When our power goes off now for any length of time I do just fine. I do want to put a hand pump on our well though.

  3. Our experience living off-grid for the last two years is vastly different than yours. We have 4 people (husband, wife, 2 kids) living in 280 square feet. The huge difference is that we DO have electricity (via solar panels), and at least running water indoors (via a gravity feed system). But we moved to our homsetead in the spring and thus had all summer to work on getting some good systems in place. The outhouse in the winter can be a pain, but I actually enjoy seeing the stars when I trek out to the outhouse. We also learned that we don’t need to “bathe” every day, and I found a hair style that is super low maintenance. Seriously, we shower once a week unless we are working outdoors and get super dirty. The rest of the time, we wash up with a wash cloth and a bit of water heated on the stove or baby wipes if the need arrises. Our shower water pump is also powered by solar (or often in winter, the generator) and the instant water heater is propane. We do have to haul water for drinking/cooking, showering, and washing clothes, but we do that with 50 gallon barrels from a family member’s house or we fill up when we dump our portable sewer totes (not allowed to do a pit outhouse where we live). Living off grid is hard work, for sure, but modern technology (like solar panels, etc) can make it a whole heck of a lot easier. And, btw, the systems we now have are after several years of development. When we first moved onto our homestead, our toilet was literally a bucket set out on the hillside for several months till we got the outhouse built. And we didn’t have a shower on site – except for a couple months that first summer – for a year and a half. And that first shower was supplied with a 5 gallon bucket! Laundry was taken to the laundromat for a year or so, and our weekly showers were taken at a family member’s house. Our systems are pretty much in place now that we feel like things are soooo much easier than they were in the beginning. It’s still a lot of hard work, but that’s part of living off-grid. You just gotta work on your systems till you find what works for you.

  4. as a soon to be 70 year old, want to be homesteader, I plan on doing things one step at a time. I grew up hauling water at my aunt’s house and using her outhouse, both summer and winter. Neither of which was a “NICE” experience to be sure. As i have grown older i slowly learned that my spirit has always been willing but my body say’s “WHAT?”…So i do a little bit at a time. When i get tired i sit down for a quick 10.. then up and try some more. As a diabetic, and a heart patient i have slowed down, But I’m not dead yet, so keep plugging away, thanks be to god and a stubborn nature. I have 2.5 acres in the lower part of Missouri and pray i make it down there this year and start to clear a spot for my tiny 10′ X 20 home. It’s just the dog ( Cockapoo-Daisy and my 2 boy cats Mickey N’ Max’) I know lots of things plumbing, building, shoveling and planting, pouring concrete etc. It’s more a pace yourself kind of thing. I’m hoping to find like minded neighbors that would be willing to give the old lady a hand from time to time. And besides if i don’t at least try I’d never forgive my self fro being a coward to give it a shot….know what i mean? So with 27 heart stents, two fake knees that don’t allowing kneeling, bony spurs on joints, barbaric stomach surgery, and all in all 42 surgeries i will try the best i can. And with god’s help and lots of praying i know i can do it…just takes time and determination…

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