Why Off-Grid?

Posted · 9 Comments

We turn the handle, water flows from the faucet.  We flip a switch and a light goes on or off. We flush a toilet, crank the thermostat, open the fridge…and voila, magic happens.

And then we all get three days off and we spend it sitting around a campfire, looking up at the stars, listening to nothing…and ahhhh…it’s perfect.

And we wonder why we ever have to go home.

And yet, when I tell people we plan to live off the power grid on a semi-remote piece of land, we’ve often been asked, “Why on earth would you want to do that?”

 And I reply, “Why would I NOT?”

For those of you wondering what we are up to…here’s the plan…without getting into the details of the work, which I’ll save for another post…or six.

This summer we found the piece of land we’ve been searching twenty years for.  We sold our recreational cabin in the mountains to obtain the cash and signed on the line.  Forty acres of wooded property, on the road system, with a view and useable trees…a dream come true.

We bought a band sawmill, fueled up the chain saw, bought work gloves for all the kids, and went to work.  Again, no details here on what we’ve been doing…just a breakdown of the plan.

Our goal for the past five years or so has been to become debt free.  Four years ago we paid off all credit cards and tore them up. Yes, tore them up.  We didn’t “keep one for emergencies”.  We tore them up and canceled the accounts. We didn’t “Keep one for credit building”.  We don’t worry about building our credit rating because we never plan to use credit again…so who cares what our rating is? No credit for us.  Ever.  Period.

Our one remaining bank debt is our mortgage.  And with a family of nine, you can bet we have a big house with a sizeable mortgage.  And utility bills that nearly match the house payment.  All in all, about $2,500 per month goes out just to live in our big comfy home.  Just to stay dry and warm.

But I figure I can stay dry and warm for a whole lot less money if I’m willing to push up the shirt sleeves once in a while and the kids are willing to pitch a tent in the yard for the summer.  Just kidding.  Sorta.

So back to the plan.

We are building a cabin.  Not a big cabin.  A 20 x 24 with bunks along the wall, loft above for mom and dad, cabin.  (Did I mention we have seven children?)We’re milling our own lumber from the logs from our own land.  We cut, limb, drag (thanks to dad for the use of his dozer), cut to length, lift onto the sawmill, create useable pieces of wood, and stack them for building our new home.

We will have a generator for power connected to a large battery pack and eventually to solar and wind.  We will have a well for water and septic for…well, for flushing…and our home will run much like everyone else’s, except we will create our own energy and be completely self-sufficient.  Eventually.  In the end we hope to use the generator only as back up and have no fuel bill, no electric bill, no utility bill of any kind and no house payment.

Let me repeat.  No mortgage. No utility bills.  No debt.  Sound good?  I think so too.

We have about six weeks until the snow falls and doesn’t stop until May.  We hope to have our cabin dried in…that means framed and out of the weather but not finished inside…in time for the snow.  We’ve milled about half our lumber at this point.  And on Friday, Dan leaves for his two week shift at work.  Can you say panic? When he comes home we’ll have just about three weeks before our world freezes until spring.

Our hope is that in the spring we’ll be ready to put our current home for sale and move into the small cabin for the summer while we start building the actual house.  And by “actual house”, I mean one where we can’t hear each other snore from the next bunk over and have more than one bathroom.  We have the spot picked out on the peak of the sloping hill where we’ll build an efficient, beautiful home…and someday hope to look down on our little cabin and say, “Remember that summer we lived in the cabin?  Wasn’t that fun?”

But in reality, we’ll probably live in that tiny cabin with all these kids for so long that the kids will grow up and we no longer need a big house…and that’s okay too.  Because we’ll be doing it on our own, as a family, and ours will be a debt free home build of pure determination and grit from the land on which it sits.  It will be a legacy to hand to our children.  An example of the fruits of hard work and a testament to what a family can accomplish with a little sacrifice and hands that aren’t afraid to get dirty.

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9 Responses to "Why Off-Grid?"
  1. Retta Rizzo says:

    I am so excited to have been given a link to your site! We are living completely off grid right now, almost the exact same way you mention here. We have power by solar (and by that I mean we hang lanterns outside in the morning & bring them in as night falls). We use a generator only to charge cell phones & laptop batteries. We don’t have a septic either. We use a sawdust toilet. We are a family of 8 (only 6 of our children at living at home now) and currently we have a 12 x 32 cabin. We will expand as soon as Spring comes back. I look forward to reading through your site!

  2. nuts4knits says:

    My husband decided we’d live debt free 15 years ago when we first married.  While I haven’t always been supportive, I know it’s wise.  We’ve never had a mortgage, and he’s had the freedom to run his own business from home, help homeschool the kids and spend a lot of time with us.  He keeps the wood stove going all winter, and we can pay our bills and we never borrow money.  As we watch our friends sweat it out between paychecks, I know he made the right decision (Confession: I still dream of a nicer house.  Maybe one day…)

  3. Mary Simmons says:

    We have been living off grid for ten years now.  Outhouse and all.  24×30 cabin in the woods.  There are just the two of us, so it’s easy enough.  There is nothing like the peace and quiet, no neighbors in sight except for the wildlife…

  4. careyann groves says:

    Awsome!!  If ya’ll didn’t have so much cold, snow, ice and winter I would come live with you!  LOOOOVE IT!

  5. Sarah W. says:

    Anxiously awaiting pictures and stories about the progress! Hearing about MEA’s “planned” power outages for the last year, makes me wish we were doing the same thing.

  6. Non-Stop Mom says:

    I think it’s a wonderful idea, and would love to do the same thing at some point in my life! Of course, it might have to wait until the kids are grown and gone, but it would still be nice…..

    Can’t wait to see your progress!


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