Think You Have it Rough? Try Homesteading Off the Grid

homesteading off the gridOur first inklings of life away from the city didn't originally include homesteading off the grid. Nearing semi-retirement, we were looking for a warmer climate, a relatively good internet connection and land on either a farmstead or a lake. From there, we bounced back and forth on different properties, each just a little lacking in our eyes. One property might be four acres, but it ran as a narrow strip through a wooded marsh. Another might be near a lake but was being condemned as a back-woods meth lab. We sure had a time coming to our homesteading off the grid conclusion.

After all of it, the long drives that resulted in places that you wouldn't house a dog in and the late nights going over our budget to see if a place that kind of met our needs could work, we found our forever home. The wait was certainly worth it. Just over an acre with deep woods and nearly 100 feet of lakefront. I suppose it says something about fate, or maybe karma, that it ended up being a conversation Wendie had with our mailman that brought us here. It was a private sale, no commissioned agents in the mix on either side. With a handshake and a title agent, our homesteading off the grid adventure could begin. 

Homesteading Off the Grid

homesteading off the grid
Homesteading off the grid isn't all that easy, and it isn't all that hard at the same time. On the same note, it definitely isn't for everyone. We've found our groove by taking things one step at a time. For example, this winter we have really been looking at our solar system and working to better understand it. Neither of us have a degree anywhere close to electrical engineering, and if something should happen it will take a little more to correct than simply flicking a circuit breaker. We are making headway, and are coming to the conclusion that we've an incredibly efficient set up. Long, dark nights and overcast days need to be pretty repetitive for us to drain the batteries. Let's hope that won't happen.

Off grid living also means supplying our own water, and a 650 footwell sunk below the frost line brings us all we could ever need. Sunk in 2013, the well might be the one thing we never have to worry about. Wendie is a self-admitted water snob after living on city taps for all these years, and for her the well water is like ambrosia. Perfection in itself.

Since we have power and water situated the way we want it, we can shift our focus to the garden this spring. The deer fence is up and the chickens are using the pot as their winter run. But with mud season comes their potential move back down to the summer coop, which is wrapped on all six sides with a 1/4 livestock fence layered with chicken wire. That includes the top and ground as well. With our flock having grown from six to thirteen at last count, I am thinking of expanding the summer digs to give them a little more space. They will free range once the weather turns, but for the days where they can't I think the extra room will be nice for them.

Establishing a Homestead

establishing a homesteadFor us, establishing a homestead meant a combination of preparing our skills to run such an operation and introducing the kids to a new way of living. For others, it means pouring over land usage contracts and tax records trying to find a piece of their own in the midst of somewhere off the grid. 

It means deciding on a plan and seeing it through, especially in the early stages of establishing a homestead. Halfway through a well drilling operation it doesn't make sense to up and try somewhere else without doing your surveying and research. It means knowing how your power and heat will be delivered, either from a mix like us with solar, propane, pellets and cord wood to something more exotic like geothermal. It's taking a budget into consideration and planning out how long it will take to pay for this new lifestyle.

If you are building a home, how will it be designed? Nothing is more pretty than a log cabin lying between a pasture and the forest, but maybe something a little more modern is up your alley. We went with modern, not only because it was already there, but also because we enjoy the look and the design elements that support a family of six. Multiple levels let the kids spread out into their own spaces, and our large windows allow us to view the surrounding nature as well as acting as a heating element in the winter. We still need the wood stove for comfort, but even on the coldest of days we won't freeze.

Homestead Essentials

If we had to make a short list of homestead essentials, at the top it would say something about being mindful of your life. There is a great many things you can do right now, but focusing on just one and completing it with satisfaction is the greatest feeling in the world. Other, more concrete elements might include:

  • Family comes first in all things.
  • Frugality. Living cheap and paying off debts to live on a cash-only basis.
  • Eat leftovers with zeal. Budget for four extra meals from every dinner.
  • Purchase quality tools and equipment. Cheap is more expensive in the long run.
  • Decide on a garden design early and be prepared to change it.
  • Treat livestock well and they will do the same for you.
  • Ensure you have a truck with four-wheel-drive. Trust us.
  • Invest in a cellphone booster. Off grid doesn't mean incommunicado.
There are plenty of other things you might imagine are essential like a full barn or a tractor, but these are additions that just make life a little easier. A barn can be replaced with a reliable shed with enough room to work, and a tractor can be rented on a daily or weekly basis until you are sure it's critical to your daily life. Don't be in a rush to buy into fads or new technology that crop up at the hardware store. For example, do you really need sound-deadening earmuffs that pipe in am/fm radio? Use your money wisely.

How to Build a Homestead Farm

how to build a homestead farm

Knowing how to build a homestead farm is just as much a part of knowing yourself and your family. You have limitations, and that's OK. We all do. It is the desire to learn and extend our boundaries that define who we are. Take it from us that it is all worth it. Everything from the early morning chores to snowplowing the driveway in the middle of a blizzard. Life is lived on the terms laid out by the homesteader, and it's a life we wouldn't trade fo anything.

We love sharing our lives homesteading off the grid with you and would love even more to hear your perspectives. Share your stories and advice on how to build a homestead farm life, or your must-have list of homestead essentials. Please join the conversation below!