Living off the grid has been somewhat romanticized throughout American history. While many enter into this lifestyle change in the efforts of becoming more sustainable, self-sufficient, or for greater personal satisfaction, our story is a bit different than most.
I was a single mother of four residing in the southeast part of Alabama in Houston County. At the time, I was renting a tiny trailer for $100 a month on a half-acre of land.
After losing my job and due to a lack of public assistance, my savings and checkings were quickly drained. I was stuck yet I had to provide for my family. So I got creative.
After hearing that I had been foraging for food in the back of my then trailer’s woods, a friend came by to be of assistance. He took it upon himself to teach me about different plants and catching wildlife, and with time, everything sort of fell into place as things seem to do in life.
Many years have passed, we fell in love combining our separate households of four and two to eight, and we now live semi off the grid with a small hobby farm.
The state of Alabama doesn’t fully allow you to go completely off the grid. While it is legal to live this lifestyle, Alabama Power may charge per kilowatt even when using solar power.
So we’re semi off the grid! It can be a bit tricky depending on your state. That said, there are things to put into consideration before making the leap into this lifestyle.
Nonetheless, whether you are interested in pursuing this change or purely flirting with the idea, whatever the reasons may be, your life will change for the better. These are five ways our life has become better since living off the grid.
#1. Newfound Quality of Life
Our quality of life has changed drastically, yet wonderfully. We don’t have the distraction of television or video games drawing our attention. Instead, we sit outside around a cooking fire and simply talk, rediscovering our love and affection for one another.
We would laugh and play with the kids when they were young and still lived at home, watching them explore the world without all the digital distractions.
#2. Strengthened Our Family Unit
My grandparents used to say it takes a village to raise a child. Maintaining a self-sufficient off the grid lifestyle for the sake of your children’s prosperity definitely does take a village!
We all naturally found ourselves working together as a family unit. Distribution of labor became a second thought as we each assumed roles and responsibilities just like our foregoing generations, creating our own little village on our property in the process.
#3. Invaluable New Set of Knowledge and Skills
Going off the grid means learning how to become self-sufficient and sustainable. This is a learning process but in time you will have developed an invaluable set of skills and knowledge that can be passed onto future generations.
Self Sufficient, Sustainable Living
Back then, I would spend my off days at the library researching information on wild plants, maintaining livestock, and gardening. I would ask my mother a lot of questions about canning and preserving foods like how they did in the 1950s and ’60s.
I also asked my grandmother how she managed a household, her kids’ needs, and preserved food to get a better understanding of how they lived prior to the industrialization of America.
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We started with a few small chicken pens for the necessities, always have fresh eggs and chicken. Over time, we’ve substantially increased our livestock as we became familiar with maintaining farm animals.
Eventually, we began to visit animal auctions; we now have a diverse flock of birds, from different kinds of chickens to ducks, quail, and turkeys. We also brought in a Billy Goat, a couple of Nannies and later five hogs for our small hobby farm.
Creating and Preserving Energy
After deciding to officially go semi off the grid, we had to decide how we were to create and preserve power.
We kept the well on our land and learned how to effectively supply power to the rest of our household through the usage of solar panels.
The setup is simple: solar panels, a charge controller, battery and power inverter. The cells within the panel create electricity when exposed to sunlight, the charge controller serves as a power outlet while the battery is for storage and the inverter, well inverts! (specifically the solar cells from direct power to alternative power).
#4. No More Worries about Tomorrow
We eventually managed to cut down our spending. We had prioritized our children’s necessities and medical expenses for the entire family.
Without the stresses of paying for a variety of bills and the small successes from our hobby farm, we have enough money to properly invest in our retirement. Now that the kids are all grown and have moved away, we take delight in discussing our plans for this coming chapter.
#5. A Life Lived Deliberately
Going off the grid takes patience and a desire to learn. By no means does this lifestyle entail a stress-free life, stressors are a part of the human experience.
However, it does entail a journey of discovery, learning, quality close moments, quiet times and joy. It brings you back to the basics and unveils the forgotten pleasures of simplicity.
Henry David Thoreau makes note of this in the celebrated 1854 book “Walden”. He went out to the woods because he wished to live deliberately, “to front only the essential facts of life” in an effort to learn what nature could teach him. What living off the grid has taught us is to live deliberately.
This journey started as a desire to make ends meet. To ensure that my family wouldn’t go without food. To provide my children with at the very least life’s necessity and essentials.
While we didn’t initially intentionally set out for this change, everything came into fruition for the better. Life has more value. Waking up in the morning to tend to livestock or week’s harvest has a sort of bliss to it; its indescribable until you too experience it.
There’s a unique beauty in simplicity. We’re happier as individuals as well as a family. We have knowledge and skills that can be passed down for generations.
We’ve become self-sufficient, saving money in the process to invest in our future. And most importantly, we live deliberately. Nature has taught us life’s necessities transforming our lives in the most wonderful ways.
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