We’ve just passed our living off the grid first year anniversary and I thought it would be a good plan to reflect on it all a bit. We had been living off the grid for around 15 months prior to last September, but it was on someone’s elses farm, sort of tucking into their sunshine powered dream, apprenticed to them in the ways of self sufficiency.
One year ago we moved on to the land we bought with another family and began to set up a small solar powered home and farm. There was nothing on the farm apart from some fencing and a shed, and the natural environment- springs, trees, the river, meadows and native forest.
We popped up one little yurt and basically camped out for the summer. We hooked up a tap and had an outdoor kitchen. And slowly added bits and bobs. Four months in we stuck up a big yurt with the help of many friends and moved into that for a more long term home. We chose a yurt house as it was inexpensive, easy and quick to put up, and beautiful too. (Heres more on choosing to live in yurt homes.)
Here are a few thoughts….
Living off the grid is WELL EXPENSIVE to set up
One of the things that has been a bit of a shock is how much money everything has cost! Ultimately living off the grid ends up less expensive as our solar electricity is free and home grown food is cheaper. But to set it all up really does cost a lot. Things that you don’t really think about as costing actually money are REALLY expensive- things like timber and nails and pipes.
Living off the grid is a time stealer
Everything takes FOREVER. Working our bums off and we have only got two thirds through our To Do list. And that’s with crossing things off with the scribble “revisit 2018″… We thought we would have an add on to our yurt built before the winter, a sort of porch/ wet room where we can keep wet coats and welly boots and store tools and things, but that hasn’t happened yet. We thought we’d have hydroelectricity set up so we could have endless electricity, but that got moved down the list. Mind you… the weather hasn’t exactly been a friend in all this. We’ve had to write off whole days, WEEKS, due to rain storms and stuff.
Hen in the yurt alert 😆 way more energy efficient than hoovering if you think about it. She’s found a feast of crumbs under that table 🙊 There’s a new post up on the blog all about motherhood, tidiness and creativity. Includes a video of our tidy half a yurt AND our shocker messy half. 😱 link in profile
Living off the grid is hard and not so hard
Some of the things that might seem hard (like having an outhouse instead of an internal bathroom and a composting toilet that doesn’t flush) are not as hard as you might think. They just make SO much sense that we quite quickly got used to the idea of treating our waste differently. It’s something that is just part of life and only ever feels like a positive thing; isn’t it awesome that we don’t throw away something that is SO good for our trees?!
Living off the grid involves an entire mind revolution when it comes to electricity. There have been times when we have just had to shut everything down this winter. That can be incredibly frustrating. Slowly, mindful use of electricity just becomes the new normal.
And then, sometimes stuff is hard, with not much positive spin to be wrung out of it. Going without hot water for so long, months and months, was pants. Having to park our car 180 metres away and hike up with the girls and all our gear in the pouring rain has been a bit of a major mission.
Living off the grid gets the weather in your face
This one is the bridge between the bad and the good sides of living off grid. Because on one hand we feel so open to the elements, and lots of our activities are weather dependant, or go ahead despite the weather and are turned from a pleasant job to a freaking AWFUL one. And living in a yurt increases this too. We’ve done a winter in our yurt (read more by clicking that link) and it was warm as we had a fire. But when it hails, or when the wind howls around us, it is LOUD and full on! And as we lie in bed on our mezzanine floor, our faces half a foot from the fabric roof on which the rain is pounding we think who does this??!
But then, there is a good side to being this close to the elements. Those sunny days when we look out at the mountain and the meadows call to us and we fling our bodies down the hill and lie in the long grass and the ducks come quacking over ‘cos they think we have their grains and then a cloud comes and it rains. Ha. But really, I’ve never been so very conscious of the weather and the seasons and it is truly marvellous.
Living off the grid in community is so nice
So a year or so into living with another family on our farm and we are SO GRATEFUL to be living in community. It is SO NICE and SO RIGHT for this way of life. We would feel immensely isolated doing this without them. And it would be way too much work. This way the load is shared and if one family is sick or needs a break, the other can step in. If one family is going to be too late home to move the cows to the next field, the other family does it. They are kinda like the greatest neighbours ever, but more than that, like neighbours-with-benefits… but not those kinda benefits… other kinda more wholesome, agricultural benefits….argh
I don’t say this flippantly at all, and don’t even really recommend living this intensely in community unless you really think super hard about it, find the most very right people who you communicate really well with, and then do some serious work and living with them before hand. Buying land with people is a big deal. But we love, LOVE, our neighbours and we feel so lucky that we found each other. They bring a lot of joy and empathy into our lives.
Plus, together, we are able to give our dreams legs. We have begun fire/moon circles where adults gather to share stories around the fire, under the moon. We have begun a forest play group for little ones and home schoolers. Both of these groups add so, so, so much to my life.
Juno feeding the ducks and chooks. It’s such a cool part of the day- we head down to their food station and call “chooookychookychookychookies” and from all over the farm come waddling, flapping, chortling feathered friends. Makes me laugh every time. 😆 They are so full of character it is ridiculous.
Living off the grid… but with wifi
So we are off grid, no services or state provided infrastructure, except the internet. I guess that is someone’s grid. And I don’t know whose grid it is, I thank them for it, as I like it. Maybe it’s Gods grid? Would she let the whole xxx thing gets so outta hand on there? Doubt it. Probably not God’s grid. I guess in a way it is sort of the world’s grid, right? And I guess it’s less of a grid, and more like a flexible, evolving, sort of interconnected structure… you know what, I’m gonna call it a WEB. The World’s Web. I feel as if it needs another syllable in there somewhere. The World Wise Web? The World Whine Web?
Anyway. We are ON THAT. We thought it would help with my work, and it kind of has, like lots of cool things have happened, I turned up in all the charts, right up there in the British top parenting one and the NZ top blog one, and I made a meme and it got a virus and TWELVE MILLION PEOPLE SAW IT ON FACEBOOK! Like actually 12 million people, not kidspeak 12 million. OMG! Which is all quite amazing considering I feel like now that I work at home rather than the library I spend most of the time standing in front of my open fridge wondering why we don’t have more snacks.
And then, I feel like the wifi and the ease of working at home has come at a bit of a cost. It’s there all the time this WWW, asking you to click all the things. And I am having to work TRIPLEY hard at staying present and doing hobbies other than surfing the internet that I love to do. Pre wifi I used to read 3 books a WEEK I tell you! And I would sing 1990’s rap on my ukulele like the South London hipster I used to be. We are still figuring out how to get all the wonders of the wifi without the weird owning of your life that it can sometimes do.
Living off the grid… a year of loving nature (and nature loving me??)
YIKES THIS POST IS TURNING RIDICULOUSLY BIG. I probably need to write about all these things separately. Okay… so for me, this year has been less all about the living off the grid thing… and more about a life lived in touch with nature. I guess we chose off grid because it is so gentle on the earth’s resources… and, this might sound strange, this year I have felt the sense of being held by Papatuanuku – in Maori, this is the land, the mother of all living things.
I feel like we have said YES to the earth, and the earth is giving a million yeses back. I write about this in my book 30 Days of Rewilding… the beautiful, mutual relationship that we can have with nature.
The mountain invited us to live close by, and offers its protection from many of the roof ripping gales for which this region is named. We do what we can to stop the greedy pillaging that mining companies would like to do. It’s a relationship. Getting arrested on the mountain was kind of like the equivalent of getting a beloved’s name tatooed across my shoulder.
And then there’s the ruru, the native owl. We have this thing going on, I swear! Ah, sheesh. This is a story for another time….
Living off the grid and children
So, one of my children, Juno, is an off gridder. She is a solar powered hippy from way back. She is three and gets involved with all the work around the place and heads off into the bush for solo adventures. Sometimes in the dark with a head torch!?! Like, for real, she did that.
The other was born and raised for her first 2.5 years in London and has taken longer to get used to it. She is far more fearless and ferocious than most in the wild. This is her catching eels in the creek.
But, you know what, she is still an urbanite in lots of ways. Just yesterday she found a matching pair of socks and went “MUM, QUICK WHERE ARE MY RUNNING SHOES?” “huh?” “MY RUNNING SHOES I NEED TO PUT THEM ON AND GO FOR A RUN!” “What, why, huh?” “LOOK I’VE GOT TWO WHITE SOCKS AND IT HAS ALWAYS BEEN MY DREAM TO WEAR TWO WHITE SOCKS AND GO FOR A RUN”
So we head in to town more often than we would to help her city slicker ways.
There is so much more to say but it is midnight and I have a book to read and a ukulele to strum. I might have to do a two parter on this whole year of living off the grid thing. In fact, if you have any questions, ask in the comments and maybe I could do a sort of Q and A thingy.
***new video*** Sometimes the reason all the important things, like getting our little yurt ready to go on Airbnb (oh there is it! Spread the word! If people want to try out an off grid farmstay, send them our Airbnb, kicking off in November!) it might be because we get distracted by doing something really fun like making earth bricks for our garden!
PS Want more nature loving stuff? My latest book is designed as 30 short readings you can do each day over your morning cup of tea to help you fall in love with nature. See more here!
PPS Here is our year of living off the grid in video form!
ONE MONTH ON OUR LAND
TWO MONTHS ON OUR LAND
FIVE MONTHS ON OUR LAND
EIGHT MONTHS ON OUR LAND
TEN MONTHS ON OUR LAND