The Best and The Worst of Off Grid Living (thus far)

A friend recently had an opportunity to rent an off grid cabin out west, and asked if we could give them some advice; a list of our three favorite things about living off grid, along with our three biggest challenges.  Since we're only living on our homestead a few days every other weekend right now, I didn't know how much perspective I could give, but I thought you might be interested in the list as well.

Our favorites:
1. The stars.  You can't see stars in town.  It's like living in your very own Imax movie!

2. Fireflies.  I haven't seen fireflies since I lived in Iowa!  I turn into this 10 year old little girl, every time I catch one glowing in the grass!

2.5.  Running through tall grass, with arms outstretched, as fast as you can!

3. Compost toilet.  Weird, I know.  More on this soon, I promise.

Our biggest challenges:
1. Water.  We don't have a well yet, so each week we have to carry along enough water for drinking (humans and dog), cooking, and cleaning.  I'm amazed at how little water you actually need to use in a day, compared to what we use at home.  So far we've been "bathing" in the lake, but are going to use a solar shower when it gets too cold to swim.   We also haven't been able to plant any new trees yet, which was part of our plan for this year.  With the severe drought we've had, though, it was probably for the best.

2.  Keeping food cold for extended periods of time.  I know they have insanely good coolers now, but I'm not spending $100 on one of them.

3.  A farm truck and trailer.  Right now we have one vehicle, a Honda Accord.  I giggle when I think we must look like the tiny little clown car at the circus whenever we stop for restroom breaks.  Last week we managed all 5 of us, plus our 90 lb English Setter (who really thinks he's a lap dog!), a lawn mower and all of our gear into the compact car.  Good times, indeed!  A truck and trailer would also be really useful for picking up free building materials we find routinely on Craigslist.  We've had to pass up a few really great items because we had no way to transport them up to the land.

3.5.  Only naming three was definitely a challenge.  Mostly, we just love everything about spending time out there right now, and knowing that all of the challenges will be solved in due time... with a little patience and a lot of resourcefulness.

If you live off grid or on a homestead, what does your best and worst list look like?


  1. Arrived here via twitter, somehow. When I spent time off-grid in Africa, my roommate kept food cool (not cold) by floating it in water in a large, unfinished clay pot. I'm not sure how it worked, but it did. The hardest part of that was finding truly waterproof containers to put the food in...

    I was reminded of it recently when I went to a reenactment and found people using canvas water buckets to keep their drinking water cool.

    Google them both, and see what ideas come out of what you find.

  2. Hi Liz,
    When we lived off grid in our mobile home with all seven and then eight of us - it really was wonderful - yes, many challenges - but so much good - especially not having so many options. Once darkness came we all gathered together by the lanterns and talked, read, played games.
    We had to conserve water.
    We kept our food cold by using the freezer top of an old refrigerator. You know how many refrigerators have the regular part on the bottom and then a smaller freezer over the top. Well, we took a plastic tub that fit an ice cube block perfectly and that is how we kept our food cold for all of us! We had to buy an new ice cube block every other day - so it was $1.60 every other day - which wasn't cheap - but we didn't have the money to invest in a propane refrig at the time.
    I bet you can find a small refrigerator for next to nothing. My thoughts were that they are surely well insulated.

    I am enjoying reading about this and we are actually working toward getting back to a more off grid life in the coming years.
    Warm wishes,

  3. Hey Liz. How about having your crew dig a hole just big enough to insert a metal or plastic garbage bin into? If you leave the lid just above ground level and in the shade, it should stay fairly cool, especially if you add a few drain holes and some ice.

  4. Hi, out blog hopping and found your blog. We do live on an off grid homestead and I would say the best points are
    1. Knowing we never need to leave the property to get food, power, heat, water, or any other basic living needs. We can provide it all for ourselves. It is so satisfying.
    2. The absolute quiet in the house without all those loud electrical appliances buzzing 24 hrs a day. You dont realize how much you block out until it is gone.You really feel much closer to nature.
    3. Knowing that we are in control of our lives.
    Actually there are many good points but those are the top three.
    The downside.
    1. This was one hot and dry summer and since our solar system is rather small, some days did not even allow a fan to run since we need power for more important things like pumps for water and hot water, etc. Being this hot for 3 months can wear you down. I was jealous of those with A/C. But only for a minute ;)
    2. Since there are so few people who live this way, if you have a problem with some aspect of your system there is normally no one to ask for help. Everything we have was built by us, but a little issue can sometimes be a stumper and there is no where to turn. So you have to have the knowledge and just try to work through it to find the answer.
    And that is about it for the downside. We really love this life and would never live another way. Best of luck to you in achieving your off grid goals :)

  5. Thank you all for taking the time to share your ideas and experiences! Lona and Jane, I can't wait to read more about your farms. I'm adding them to my side links so I can stop back often:)

  6. I love the fireflies too! And the stars, and the quiet. I think for me the biggest challenge is not to look at how much there is to do and just run away!