Why Live Off The Grid?

 

In the forest

In the forest.

Why live off the grid? What exactly is the grid anyway? The grid I am speaking of is the utility electric power company in your area. The one you receive your electricity from and pay for. People often ask me why I would move to a house that is not connected to the grid. Some people can’t even imagine living that way. I never imagined it myself either. It just happened. I had some people tell me it was strange to want to live that way. Especially now in modern times. Other people tell me they think it is great and want to know how they can do it too. To tell you the truth I wasn’t really thinking about being without electricity when we moved here. I was thinking about the thousands of acres of forest around our new house and what might be living in there.

The Power Grid

The Power Grid

Now that I have lived off the grid for eighteen years, I can give better answers to the question, why live off the grid?  One thing I remember about living on the grid was how I felt when I saw that electric bill sitting in my mailbox. It always gave me a sick feeling in my stomach. It was always more than I expected. At times I would get behind on it and they would be calling me demanding bigger payments. I didn’t have enough for the payment I was sending, let alone the back amount. To top it off, I was on the night rate so I had to do my laundry and most other things late at night when most people were sleeping.

Lead Acid Batteries

Lead Acid Batteries

Another reason I like living off the grid is because we never lose our power. Only if our system has something that has broke or is impaired in some way. Like recently, our power was limited due to our lead acid batteries getting old and needing to be replaced. For most of the time, we do not have power outages. If our power is being limited, such as due to the batteries, we just plan for it. Now that our batteries have been replaced, we are at full power again with no need to start the generator. Summer time helps with sunny days almost daily now. My husband is able to repair most of our components and he is the one who set up our system, which helps him know each and every part of it. He can fix it better than someone who is not familiar with it.

Kerosene Lamp

Kerosene Lamp

I remember many years ago, a woman I knew told me they had a power outage and lit candles. She said, she told her husband, “This is how Larry and Kathy live.” I had to laugh at that and tell her, “Nope, that is definitely not how we live!” We have never used candles for lights the whole time we have lived here. In the beginning we used kerosene lamps, but once our system was in and producing our power, we used electric lights. Our electric lights were working well the night she was having a power outage by candlelight! Now we even have lights that come on automatically at dusk and run on DC (direct current) power so they do not need the inverter on to turn on.

Independence

Independence

Independence is another reason for living off the grid. Yes, even if you have a grid tied system (using solar or wind connected to the power grid), you are not independent unless you have a battery bank connected to your system. If you don’t, then when the power grid is down, you will be too. Another thing is that electric companies are forcing customers to hook up the “Smart Meter” which is the way they can read your meter without having a meter person coming out to read it in person. If you refuse to let them install it, then you have to pay a fine to them which is an added charge on your bill. There are cases of health issues with having one of them in your house, so you may want to check that out before you let them put it in. I just read a book recently written by a doctor who said he had to write letters for his patients to give to their electric companies to excuse them from the “smart meter” program due to their health conditions. It also keeps track of what kind of electric items you use, how often and when you are away. Sounds like a good way to spy on you.

Wind Turbine

Wind turbine even works in a storm!

Some people choose to live off the grid without any energy system or generator in place at all. You can do that. It is not that hard. In the beginning when we first moved here, we were like that for awhile. You can add a propane refrigerator for refrigeration and propane can also be used for lighting, cooking and heat. The trouble with that is that you are still dependent on a fuel company. I know, we have been using propane for cooking for years and our goal is to eliminate that need. Now with the new batteries and hopefully the addition of more, we will reach that goal. Propane can be in your control if you use portable tanks and take them to your local convenience store to fill. We had five small gas grill tanks and would take them to the store as soon as we hooked up our last one. Now we have larger tanks and it is delivered. It is cheaper and more convenient and we never run out. Of course, we now have solar refrigeration and only use the propane for cooking.

 

Through the woods

Through the woods

I am not saying this life is for everyone. We all make our own choices. Just don’t jump into something you don’t understand or that your family doesn’t want. As with all things, study and research, before you make any changes.

 

katlupe

Copyright © 2017 Kathleen G. Lupole
All Photographs Copyright © 2017 Kathleen G. Lupole

I write this blog based on my experience living an off-the-grid life as a modern homesteader. Some of the links you may click or products I recommend may or may not compensate me for including them in my post. Be sure to read my disclosure page if you are concerned about that.

 

 

 


A Homesteader’s Insurance Policy

Peaceful Forest Homestead

Peaceful Forest Homestead

Do you have a homesteader’s insurance policy in place? Almost every time I get disgusted with this life because it is hard or so different from everyone else I know, something happens to reinforce that this lifestyle is the only way to survive. Especially in the times we are living in. News of terrorists attacking people in nightclubs, schools, movie theaters, churches, etc. What that tells me is that for some reason, something inside of me told me to live this lifestyle. To live on our homestead and work from home. To start doing most of our shopping online. I don’t even drive a car anymore, though I plan on getting one in the future. I do not go to crowded places very often. Sometimes I will go with my husband to a nearby city to do some shopping, but usually I go to stores in our area that is more country than city.

Wind Power Today

Wind Power Today


For sixteen years now, we have been building our homestead to be more technical than most homesteaders do. My husband loves new technology. He has always said, “Our homestead is not old fashioned, but the way of the future.” I like that sentiment. Using solar and wind, working online, shopping online, growing our own food, etc. it is all part of the modern technology that enables us to live the way we do. Some of the old technology that many mistakenly think is old fashioned, is just a better way. For instance, our pitcher pump. It was thought of as modern technology at one time. Still working after all this time. Now this year I added a solar oven to our modern technology list of items we use. Not only does it do the cooking, but it can be used to dehydrate food. Instead of using our system to power an electric dehydrator, I can use the sun. All of these tools or methods we use, old fashioned or high technology, are a part of our homesteader’s insurance policy.  

Canning Closet

Canning Closet in Kitchen

An interesting thought we have had is that many things that we did because of moving to an off-the-grid house, that others thought was silly, stupid or too hard to do, have turned out to be the way the general population is going now. Instead of paying an electric, fuel and water bill, we were purchasing more solar panels, more components for this system, a wind turbine to keep power coming in during storms and at night and being able to buy the most energy efficient refrigerator that is built presently. We have been gardening since 1996 and canning our harvests. Now canning has been making a comeback. I am glad to see that. When I purchased my first canning jars from an elderly woman who’s husband had died and she felt she had no need for so many jars, I was excited and looking forward to canning a lot of food. Which I did. I saw the price of the jars go up.  The huge amount of jars that I bought for thirty bucks is unheard of now. Now everyone wants to prepare. To have home canned food in their root cellars, pantries and cupboards. That IS the homesteader’s insurance policy! 

Garden

Food Supply


If you are wondering what exactly is the homesteader’s insurance policy anyway? Well, that is what I am telling you right now. It is when you no longer worry about having food and supplies in your house. It is when you do not have to run out to shop if a storm or other disaster is on the way. It is when you have ways to heat your house, cook your food, store your cold foods, take a shower, wash your clothes, etc. It is when you can be isolated at your home for days, weeks or months at a time and live comfortably and happily. It is when you can go pick up other family members and bring them to your home and it not be a hardship to feed them too. I do not have to read articles or books about prepping, because when I do, I usually know more than they do. We live it every day. If you consider yourself a prepper, start living this way every day, instead of just when there is an emergency. Start using your food supply and replenishing it as you use it. Start up that generator now, so you know how to use it. Cook on that solar oven you bought two years ago and never took out of the box, now. Learn to cook on it this summer by cooking on it daily, so that when you really do need it, you will know how to use it. Good food helps in an emergency!  

Planting a garden

Plant a garden!

Start working on your own homesteader’s insurance policy today! How? Basic needs first:

Water – Store some in food grade containers. Find a way to have a water source in case of an emergency and no power.

Heat – A wood stove will serve three purposes: heating, hot water and cooking.

Food – Plant a garden. Buy food locally in a farmer’s market or at a farm. Learn to can and get started building a pantry of food. Food in a freezer does not count as you can easily lose that in a power outage or a faulty freezer. Besides in an emergency canned food is easier to cook. Get to work on it today!

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Copyright © 2016 Kathleen G. Lupole
All Photographs Copyright © 2016 Kathleen G. Lupole


Handling A Power Outage

Peaceful Forest Homestead

Alternative energy systems are not a joke anymore!


Power outages happen all the time. If your electricity went out for a day, would it be a big deal? What about if it went out for 10 days? Now would that affect you and your family? What about at your job? That may be a big deal. Many businesses depend on the computer system nowadays. 

Homesteading on the Internet

Lets say for instance, you got up in the morning to get ready for work and the electric coffeemaker does not start. Now what do you do? You have to take a shower, get breakfast and get to work. And what about families? Yes, CHILDREN! What do you do now? Get some cereal out and feed them cold cereal since you may have to use up the milk in the refrigerator anyway. 

Winter

Winter


If you do not have young children and do not have to go to a job, it may be easier to handle. It would depend on the weather too. Cold winter weather means you need some type of heat that does not use electric. It can be a good sign if you have a means to heat your home that does not use electricity, since cold winter weather can be a means of keeping your food cold. Make ice during the night. I have done that many times during the winter. Put plastic jugs outside with water inside to freeze and then stick it in your refrigerator or freezer to hold the cold temperatures as long as possible.

Kerosene Lamp

Lights

Hot summer weather is a whole other story. At least if it is hot you don’t have to worry about heating! Water pumping, refrigeration, cooking food, etc. All things to think and plan for. People down south, would be very uncomfortable without their air conditioners, though there are methods to keep cool that are pretty easy to set up. 

Pitcher Pump

Do you think you could live like people did before electric existed? No? Even though I have an alternative electric system, I could live that way. In fact, when we first moved into our house, we did live that way. We had no generator and no solar electric system at that time. Basically, we still live that way somewhat, but not all the time. Some of the items we use are not electric but run on batteries or solar that is separate from the solar electric system.

secluded road

Our road

The only advice I can offer you is to right now make a plan. Plan for what you would do in case of a major blackout. Plan what you would do for:

  • Fuel – Heating and cooking
  • Water – For cooking, drinking, bathing, cleaning and pets or livestock, 
  • Refrigeration of your food that is presently in your refrigerator and freezer, 
  • Cooling – depending on the weather and where you live, plan for cooling to replace electric air conditioning 
  • Food – Make sure you have enough food stocked that does not have to be cooked. 

jurasis_squash.jpg
Think about this today. Get started as soon as possible if you have not been taking “Doomsday Preppers” serious. Now is the time think about it. A power outage can happen at any day or hour. It doesn’t have to be caused by a storm. Just be prepared and you can sit back and not be so stressed over it. And if it doesn’t happen? Just keep preparing for the day when it really does happen. You never know. 

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Copyright © 2013 Kathleen G. Lupole
All Photographs Copyright © 2013 Kathleen G. Lupole


I Love My New SunDanzer Refrigerator!

SunDanzer

Our New Refrigerator!

Having lived for over six years without a refrigerator, having one now has changed my life. My husband thought it was time to buy one. We bought the SunDanzer 8.0 cubic foot one. It is built like a chest freezer and is a way better than an energy star appliance. I think the SunDanzer is laughing at those energy hogs!

SunDanzer

In The Pantry! It fits!

It took up a good bit of room in my pantry, but hey, I had an ice chest in here before. The ice chest would sweat and get the floor all wet. This little gem, is as quiet as can be and keeps our food so cold. My husband loves his ice cold milk now. It does not have a freezer. When we decide to add a freezer, we will buy another SunDanzer, but the freezer model. So no ice cream for now!

SunDanzer light

Light On!

The food is put on the floor of the appliance and in the shelves. They move from side to side. It is the perfect size for the two of us. What a difference to be able to stock up on some meat and dairy items. I used to lose quite a bit of food in the summer. Not to mention buying 2-3 bags of ice every day. Grocery shopping was taking a toll on us. Neither one of us wanted to go to the store. Sometimes I’d hold out, knowing my husband’s hunger would get him in the truck and on the way! LOL

SunDanzer Inside

Side shelf is over the motor.

 The little shelf on the side is built over the motor. It comes in handy as a shelf and I have been keeping all the dairy products there. Since I eat low carbs, dairy is a very important part of my food plan and I had a hard time keeping it in an ice chest. When the ice would melt it would get everything slimy. Yuck!

SunDanzer

Movable shelves on top.

It really was not that expensive compared to brand new refrigerators. Of course, I know they have a freezer. They automatically defrost and this does not. I will have to do it. Keeping it clean and at the right temperature will help in that chore. But the SunDanzer refrigerator uses less electric than my laptop does! It is hooked up directly to our batteries and does not need the inverter to be turned on to run. It stays running, because it is DC instead of AC. That is why it is called a solar refrigerator. Excuse me, while I go get a cold drink! 

katlupe
 

Copyright © 2013 Kathleen G. Lupole
All Photographs Copyright © 2013 Kathleen G. Lupole


A Small Affordable Solar System

Solar Panels on Barn Roof

If you would like to live “off-the-grid” there are many ways to get started. Moving to a home that does not have the power companies’ electric lines coming to it makes it much easier. It is already done for you. All you have to do is to move in. That is when the fun starts. At first you can live with no power, but nobody wants to live that way for very long. Everyone eventually, grows older, gets tired of the work involved with doing all those chores using their physical energy. So what to do next?

 

Meter and Charge Controller


Set up your own solar system of course! Everyone has some sun sometime. Free power from the sun is nice. But there are somethings you need to know first. A solar system does not have to cost a lot of money. At least not to get started. In the beginning, when we first moved here we started with one 50 watt solar panel, a tiny charge controller, two fork-lift truck batteries and an automotive inverter bought from a truck stop. When the batteries needed to be charged and there was no sun, (after all, we live in NY state which is the state with the least amount of sun!), we pulled our vehicle up to the house and charged the batteries that way. It is not the most efficient way to do it, but it works.

Cleaning Snow Off Panels

 

Over the years our system has grown. It still is not a big system like you see on all the fancy houses, but it keeps us happy. Truthfully, as long as I can use my computer that is all I care about powering. Our system now has five solar panels and they are on the barn roof. My husband studied our sunlight over the years as to where the best place to move the panels to would be. On the barn roof, they get the most sun for the longest periods of the day. During all seasons. There are periods that the sun moves and there are periods where they get the sun longer in the afternoon than real early in the morning.

 

Xantrex inverter

 

Our inverter is where the DC power is converted to AC for use. A charge controller controls how much power comes into the batteries. Overcharging the batteries ruins them. The meter is another important component of our system It tells where our power is at and whether we need to charge the batteries, or how much power the sun is bringing in. The meter is also used to check how much power electric gadgets or appliances use.

 

Solar Panels

 

You do not have to be “off-the-grid” to use an alternative energy system though. One way you can learn to use one is to set up the small system and power just your lights, televisons and computers. Then add to the system as you can afford it. It is a good way to learn how to use one as well as keeping your house powered during power outages in your area. My blog, Solar Baby is full of information on how to do this.

 

katlupe

Copyright © 2012 Kathleen G. Lupole
All Photographs Copyright © 2012 Kathleen G. Lupole

 


An Off The Grid Homestead

Peaceful Forest Homestead

Peaceful Forest Homestead

An off the grid homestead is something many people wonder about. I have been asked many times over the years, what it is like to live “off-the-grid.” In the beginning, to be honest, it was like being on vacation. I remember our first morning waking up in the forest, hearing the birds singing, it was all so new to us. The house had a gas stove, so we made our coffee and walked around outside.

House in forest

Surrounded!


A
t that time the house was surrounded by thick brush, mostly blackberry bushes and other such things. Then the thick forest surrounded that. Our driveway had woods right up to it. There was no cleared land where the barn and paddock stand now. The side yard also was thick, thick berry bushes and small trees. At first, we were a little nervous about  what kind of wild animals were out there. Hearing the coyotes howling as they run along the creek at night, didn’t help! I figured to make this our off the grid homestead, I had to overcome all those fears. 

Lamp Light

Lamp Light

We ate a lot of meals cooked on our charcoal grill or campfire, as well as the little propane gas stove. We used our kerosene lamps for light in the evenings and loved them. Our food was stored in the propane refrigerator that came with the house. Pumping the water from our pitcher pump seemed like fun. Our house has an outhouse, still does, but my stepdaughter, Hollie, and I didn’t relish going out to it in the middle of the night. We had bought a SunMar composting toilet before we moved here, and my husband hurried to get it installed for us.

Front Yard 1999

 That first year I planted a pitiful garden in the front yard since there was no area cleared. The year before at our other house, we had an awesome garden that produced a lot of food. I can’t even tell you how many jars of food I had to carry downstairs to our root cellar. It was all food produced from our garden. I picked blackberries like crazy! Making desserts and muffins almost daily. I canned jars of blackberry juice, jelly and jam. That is not even counting the ones we ate fresh in cream. Back then, there was not as many birds here as now, probably because it was not opened up. Now we have many, many birds. Changes have taken place since then. Our off the grid homestead was a good choice for us and we are happy here.

katlupe

 

Copyright © 2012 Kathleen G. Lupole
All Photographs Copyright © 2012 Kathleen G. Lupole
Updated 2015