NOW OR LATER - Should I START My HOMESTEAD Off Grid, Or Go Off Grid LATER?

in homesteading •  7 months ago

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Another gigantic question that goes through the minds of families as they move towards a decision to start a homestead is whether or not they should try to go off grid or maybe go on the grid and then work their way off.

Many times the reasoning behind this dilemma is because they have a preparedness mindset to their homesteading efforts. And I have to admit that a preparedness mindset is good to have when thinking about homesteading. There is no doubt that a partially sustainable homestead is going to fare far better than the average suburban household outside of a major metropolitan area.

Living off the grid is all about setting the proper mindset before hand.

The families asking these questions WANT to be able to still function when/if the grid they are connected to goes down.

When we moved off grid, we dropped off the grid cold turkey. We are still not on the grid and as of right now, we don't ever want to go back. From our experience when talking with other homesteaders and people homesteading both on grid and off, it's much easier starting off grid and then going on the grid then it is getting on grid and then going off.

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Jaimie pulling laundry water from our well because all of our normal water tank lines are frozen.

When we left the city and started off, we had no solar or electric. We charged our phones and laptop in our car. I made trips to the local coffee shop 30 minutes away so that I could upload videos and answer emails.

Before you do anything else, you and your family need to be completely honest with each other. Do you really want to live off grid in the first place? Many people have tried an experiment of turning off their breaker in their home (don't do it in winter or your pipes will freeze and crack) and just going a week without any sort of electricity.

After a week of being unplugged, did your family survive? How are the kids taking it? Did mom and dad fight over the stress? This may give you a good clue to how your family may react when flipping the switch. Good, so you made it one week. Take a breather and then try two weeks. How'd it go?

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Building infrastructure on your homestead will take time. The more this gets established, the easier life will be.

Unplugging from the matrix is stressful. You can get used to it, but jumping off the grid cold turkey might bring some challenges and you don't want to pull the trigger on an off grid homestead only to find your family miserable and staring at the large cost of bringing power on your land and hooking you up. In fact, the power company may not hook you up at all. Sometimes power companies have certain requirements before they will hook up a house and that could be added unforeseen expense. Around here they won't hook power up to your home unless you have an approved septic tank. Septic tanks are expensive! It's one of the few regulations our area has.

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WHICH IS HARDER?

Starting by going off grid is harder if you're not prepared for it mentally, emotionally and physically. However if you go on grid, getting off grid may be impossible.

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Jaimie filling our lanterns with kerosene to be used for home lighting in the evening.

In fact, in some places its illegal to disconnect from the local power grid. So lets say your family buys an on grid house on 15 acres. And you have the mindset to get settled, invest in some solar equipment and then pull the plug. It's not that easy. Some areas won't just let you turn off your smart meter. So you may have a legal issue at that point. But remember what I was talking about earlier and turning off your power for a week to "PRACTICE" going off grid. That was hard, huh?

Think how much harder it will be to be on a homestead where technology is limited to begin with and then unplugging. It will be harder mentally to WANT to unplug in that scenario.

Other Considerations

Let me give you yet another reason why going off grid may give you pause. It's really hard for a home that is off the beaten path and has in-home wood heating to get any type of fire insurance. Our home is way too far off the paved road system and we all have wood stoves. You know, those big metal fireboxes that make insurance agents cringe. So we don't have home coverage.

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Are you ready to live without that sort of parachute in your life? Many people couldn't imagine not having home insurance. For us, it's just another bill we don't have to pay and that means liberty. I AM MY OWN HOUSE INSURANCE. I make sure the smoke detectors are working, I have at least 2 fire extinguishers in the house, and we've had fire drills where we load up our toyota pickup with a 250 gallon water tank and high pressure water pump. We are our own fire department.

But see, that is the rub. Moving off grid or even homesteading in general is like removing some of life's child proofing from around you. Have you ever walked into a house and noticed that it's completely child proofed? That's how life stays for many people until they die. An off grid life means you have to do many of the things you relied on from others back in the city.

So the bottom line is this: Examine your motives closely. Are you wanting to start an off grid homestead because you think it's cool or because someone else is doing it? Or do you really want to live that way. Living off grid is going to be very hard at first but it will get easier with time. You have to endure through the beginning hard times and your family along with you.

There is nothing wrong with ON-GRID homesteading. Off grid homesteaders don't earn an extra merit badge for their lifestyle. It's just a lifestyle and it's ok not to live it. If you want to go off grid for your homestead, make sure the family who is with you are fully on board and then go for it.

Just remember this, life is an adventure. Whether you enjoy it or not is up to you!

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I could do it cold turkey, but not all family members would agree... and one of them holds the key to my heart (and pocketbook) :)

I could do off grid until the summer. I couldn’t do 90*F and 90% humidity all the time.

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Yeah, I agree! Grew up in the South, spending summers on my grandmother's farm in an old farmhouse with no AC. I was A-OK and sweat free within a week of arrival, even in summer's heat.

Fans and good house design...

Homesteading is a difficult proposition, on grid or off grid.

My wife is an insurance agent, so I'm always hearing about the nasty litttle details of families trying to go off grid.

Getting the whole family to understand the problematic aspects of off-grid living seems to be the key to successful implementation.

Even without going off-grid, homesteading can be a fulfilling lifestyle.

Great post!

A wonderful coverage of the harsh realities of looking after your own needs. Hadn't even thought of the insurance issue and how it can be viewed as yet anothet liberation. Taking hold of one's own fate is so advantageous but not for the weak of heart. Keep up the brilliant work @mericanhomestead!

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Thanks for stopping by and the comment!

I was just thinking this morning as I was working on kneading sourdough rolls for dinner about how over the last few years TV has almost glamorized off-grid living, self-sufficiency, etc by televising all those Alaskan shows, etc. Yes, I admit, I watch them. I think WOW! Could I do that? Do I know enough to be self-reliant?
The answer is simply... NO.

While the TV shows edit out lot of what happens to the people we see gracing our TV screens, you and Jamie are living it- unedited. Thanks for sharing this- no matter which way people choose to live their lives, as long as they are happy, not going without bare necessities for survival- I applaud their personal decisions.

Some day I'd like to be able to say, I am more self-sufficient and self-reliant but until that day comes, I continue learning new skills, honing in on what I am able to contribute to my lifestyle and inching closer to what I envision I want my life and home to be.

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The shows are full of fake drama anyway. We almost got picked up by Discovery for our own show but they backed out because made it clear that we wanted the show to be about education and not drama. Oh that and they wanted me to shave my beard. DEAL KILLER.

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HOW dare they!!! Shave your beard! But.. but.. but.. doesn't that feed into their stereotyping of people living off-grid? lol

Great topic and yes I have done 1 week and then 2 and hubby hated it.

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Well now at least you know! :)

I really enjoyed this article. Having a family that is all-aboard the goal train is so important (I don't care how cheesy that sounds!).

We've planned to be off-grid at the onset, but we're still working to get all the systems in place. Our homestead came with a trailer (we have yet to build our house) and we've been amazed at how fragile the included machines have been. The water pump, washing machine, and stove have all broken down (planned obsolescence?) to some degree, and so our off-grid journey has truly begun in earnest. Nothing drives that home more than seeing how easily the on-grid conveniences can "disappear!" I hate depending on a junky machine for what I could do with my own hands.

These are really good things to think about before making the decision. I know that for my family, we would not fair well going off grid. As 'romantic' as the off-grid life sounds, if move away from the city, we would still have some reliance on utilities. @ironshield

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I think for me the issue with going off-grid is that I'm not sure how I would jump into doing all the duties I need to while keeping up with the kids. If it had been our life before children and I was used to it, then I could see being able to add them in - but jumping in right at this point is a terrifying thought because of the amount I'd have to reorient.

Generally I think our best bet is to focus on increasing our self-reliance right where we are and learning, learning, learning; we can then be teaching our kids while we learn and there will be a point where we are a little army and will have much greater capability to take on this kind of challenge.

We’ve gone through some extended power outages and while we survived, quite frankly it’s not something I’m volunteering for full time. Our compromise is to have a bug-out plan for if the grid goes down; we’ve discussed how we would handle things, and we’ve looked at ways to reduce our dependence on the grid (like rainwater collection) as part of said bug-out plan. I like that you made the point that there’s nothing wrong with on-grid homesteading :)

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This is a very timely post for us. We are building from scratch and need to decide if we are going to be on or off grid from the start. Connecting to the grid is also going to be costly.

It is reassuring that you think it is easier to start out off grid then switch later.

Great post and insight on this topic. Thanks for getting real about it. So many like to idealize going off grid and it can be misleading. My husband and I are beginning to build our homestead right now and considering starting off grid for many different reasons. Your post is good food for thought. Our home will be an Earthbag structure which stays pretty cool in a passive solar setting, even in Alabama so that's a plus.
I love the idea of shutting down the breaker for a week or two to practice! Done that camping many times but it's different when you're not on vacation.

nice picture buddy

I think many people may want to form or join intentional communities that are homestead and sustainable oriented. There is a lot of work involved and especially senior citizens would benefit from this. Gardening and cooking are contributions they could make. Telling stories too - as long as they don't keep telling the same ones over and over.

Upvoted ☝ Have a great day!

I don't think I could make it on my own going off grid and i really think my son and DIL would need a belt to their butts about a hundred times before they would be any help (don't worry, they are 40ish, its not child abuse, lol)

If I wasn't 3/4 blind and my legs worked better, I have the knowledge to get by and would probably actually like it. But I've lived in houses with dirt floors and the only heat was a wood burning stove in the middle of the living room. Kids these days could not imagine having to stick newspaper between the wall slats to help keep the cold out.

The photo that showed the curtains over the cabinets in the background, brought back some good memories from younger days. Made me think I was back in Grandma's house, except she didn't have a water pump. Had to go outside to get it.

The best way I found to find out if you got the stomach for it is .Get a tent head for the hills. You can stay in one spot for 14 days at a time anywhere in US forest, BLM. That's about as off-grid as you can get. Good post

Sometimes power companies have certain requirements before they will hook up a house and that could be added unforeseen expense. Around here they won't hook power up to your home unless you have an approved septic tank. Septic tanks are expensive!

Why do power grids require an approved septic tank? That sounds a bit strange. Not sure what they would say about our system. We have a bio-system and composting. No tank per se...

We also are our own insurance company. No paved road, fire station more than 30 miles away, and even if we could get insurance it would be prohibitively expensive.

When we first arrived in Nicaragua, we had power outages for 18 hours a day, every day. Cell coverage was really hit and miss. Municipal water was almost non-existent, delivery by truck once every 6 or 7 days.

So we had practice before we bought our land. We want to be fully off grid but the problem here is getting the solar panels and wind generators into the country. Customs like to charge an arm, a leg and your first born too.

We are looking for plans to build our own. We are up for the adventure!

Many people have tried an experiment of turning off their breaker in their home (don't do it in winter or your pipes will freeze and crack) and just going a week without any sort of electricity.

After a week of being unplugged, did your family survive? How are the kids taking it? Did mom and dad fight over the stress? This may give you a good clue to how your family may react when flipping the switch. Good, so you made it one week. Take a breather and then try two weeks. How'd it go?

That in itself is very good advice. Test before you make the leap!

If you do so, watch your blood pressure. Even if you think you're calm, your blood pressure will tell the real story. So long as you test-try in the city, you should be able to find those free blood-pressure machines. At least one chain drugstore will have a public machine.

I will start by saying this is one of the most objective post I seen from you in a while!🤩 we have considered most of what you brought up. Started my onbthen moving off but you brought some very valid points we had never considered! Self doubt seems to be a big enemy lately! Even with all that we have managed to muscle through, moving to land and starting over seems daunting to me! However the drive to get the heck away from the noise of the city keeps me grounded in my dream! It helps that my wife is totally on board!!

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That last year has made your family strong. Pain is only weakness leaving the body. :)

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Thanks! I agree! It’s all part of a plan I’m sure!! Excited for what the future holds!

Excellent post! You outlined a lot of good things to consider. We are not off grid, but have built in several backups should the grid go down.