When I was pregnant with my first daughter I was very typical in that I thought I knew EXACTLY how it was going to be (stay with me here lads this isn’t a chick’s pregnancy post). I’d read the facts about everything. I couldn’t get enough and I knew EXACTLY what I should and shouldn’t do in regards to everything for this upcoming baby. I disagreed with others ways and definitions (after all I was in my first years of early childhood studies at the time), and could quote my very reliable sources. Surely Sheila Kitzinger wouldn’t steer me wrong. The bath temperature would be exactly x (or I was doing it wrong according to nurse A), the eating and sleeping regime would be ordered and precise (or I would damage my babies inner workings according to clinic sister B), and the list goes on and on. Problem was I’d never actually had a baby. I was pregnant and on my way but had never had to deal in the real time with my baby. I worked everyday with babies, but again, never had to live day in and day out with a baby…but I was pregnant so I was GOING to have a baby and I was getting prepared in every way I could. Then I had the baby. It soon became apparent that I knew everything and nothing. There’s way too many parameters and although knowledge is excellent, when it comes down to everyday life, in and out, you usually just wing it and do your best.
I know this may suit many other situations, however I am actually astounded at others, particularly on online forums/pages/etc, that seem the need for a militant definition of what it means to live an off grid extistence, and I very much liken it to the almost-a-parent scenario above.
To me transitioning to living the off grid lifestyle means we make our own power (Wombat Stomp uses solar and wind), we collect and store our own irrigation and drinking water (in our case the waterhole for irrigation and tanks for drinking and kitchen, shower usage), and we dispose of our own waste (we have a high quality composting toilet system and use the humanure). Besides that our OG dream may be very different than the philosophy of others who choose to live away from the utility grid.
Some may choose the OG life because they firmly believe they need to prepare for a catastrophe in the system. They store particularly water and food, learn survival skills and basic power and are very much into weaponry and how to defend yourself. They are off gridders.
Some may be into extremely simple living using bare necessities, tiny solar systems if any, cooking only using fire, building their own small cabins from scratch. Not worrying about upgrading as they go and being isolated. They are off gridders.
Some may live in communities where they work together in peace to build their own systems and infrastructure as a group and from the ground up. They are off gridders.
There are as many ways as there are people.
None of these are in the same line thinking as we are. We can store 15kw power. I have my kitchen gadgets, we have a TV (no reception but we watch DVDs etc), we play video games on a variety of consoles, I vacuum, steam mop, have a 420litre fridge/freezer and use many other power wasters, because I can. While happy to use fire for cooking and heat in winter, there’s no way I’m heating up an already extremely hot summers day with a fire going in the house. I live in Australia, dammit! I have a gas cooker that is about 50 years old. Works fine. Of course Joe Blow from Somewhere feels the need to tell me I’m not a true off gridder if I’m still using mod cons. Really Mr. Blow, tell me more as you sit behind your keyboard in Suburban Somewhere hoping to OG in the future. As far as I can tell if we can make enough power that is clean and free, why the ferk wouldn’t I use it?
We use a great composting toilet system and have a large chamber that we change about every 9 months (depending on the traffic). The reduction is remarkable and we end up with a few centimetres of what looks like worm casings in the bottom to be emptied on the grow area. However Jill Smith from Another Somewhere knows emphatically that you can’t use human waste on edibles because she’s going to go OG and has read all about it, while Mr Smirk from Placeunknown says all you need is a bucket a padded seat and some sawdust, and commercial composting toilets are not the REAL way and when he goes OG….. Yeah? Well I 100% wouldn’t be putting that anywhere near the house, let alone on edibles. To me that’s just a drop loo using sawdust so you can live with the smell, it’s not a composting loo. We need to grow food and the most sustainable method is to make our own compost with all the waste we can gather to compost. No way there’s enough heat in simple home jobs to compost to the state we need it. For others this bucket system may be fine (but I’m still unsure what happens to the poo after the bucket step, I’m assuming it just gets buried raw?).
As for water storage? We have a variety of tanks and sizes doing different purposes around the property. We don’t clean them, we don’t use a whiz bang filter (we use a bit of mesh over the opening on one and an upturned bin on the other to keep possums out), we don’t put kerosene (yucky) in them and we don’t have pumps for pressure and we don’t get the water tested. What we do do is drink it, shower in it (gotta love gravity) and wash up in it. “Oh NO” says Mrs Rules from Rulesville. She tells me I’m making myself and crew sick from parasites and we will all have worms, or worse!!! The Stomp water is delicious and we have friends who take a container of it back to the city with them. I don’t have worms and our friends aren’t filling up wards in the hospital dysentery unit with gut bugs. Our dogs drink it and if you put a bowl of city filtered apparently “safe” water next to Stomp water, they will choose Stomp water every time.
There’s no off grid definition for people’s reasons and decisions and own philosophies. Why can’t we see as a group, striving to be gridless, that no one’s right or wrong in why and how, just different? Why can’t we have discussions on point instead of reverting to judgements on the why rather than discussing the how? Why don’t we want to learn from those who have gone before us and gather practical, experienced knowledge and instead throw misinformation (no, it’s true because someone has a you tube talk on it) around wildly nilly and loudly while those who are actually walking the walk get shouted down because they don’t agree with a link someone posts or something their friend’s brother’s cousin told them, who is also researching off grid living from his flat in a city.
I know nothing about the electrics of the solar systems. We have two. I’m learning through necessity. I know a lot more about how an inverter works and where the transistors and capacitors are simply because one of our inverters blew and I’ve been watching/listening to George and Michael fixing it. I also now know the other inverter can’t run the vacuum cleaner we had, and how to reset it 🙂 It’s all well and good to tell someone they have to use this inverter or they must set their solar panels a particular way or they have to have such and such cabling, because they’ve done all the research before they head off grid and know this from their electrician friend. In reality, boots on the ground, what happens at night, when you’ve just stocked your freezer with meat that you’ve harvest swapped for and its your food for the next 3 months and BOOM your power goes out? You are isolated in the middle of nowhere with no electricians anywhere within a cooee at the best of times let alone emergency electricians. Some off gridders would say, “See that’s why you don’t rely on power, even off grid,” (fair enough) while the guy who recommended, in fact insisted, that you must have a system using exactly this and that, doesn’t actually know anything about what could be wrong….he didn’t research that. But the guy up the road or your mate who is visiting knows about that stuff and can teach you practically while you fix it, and thus real knowledge and real experience is garnered.
When we started this journey there was so much I knew we had to do. So much research into how to do a thing EXACTLY. There was a particular order of priority to fix things at the house and a timeline to redo infrastructure. There was an overload of information given as definite fact from everywhere I looked, online forums, reference books and materials, anecdotal tales of woe and it wasn’t until we started learning our property, our quirky storage container home (with extension :)), the way the bush moves through the seasons, what wildlife do what, which batteries are the best and in which array, etcetcetc.., that it became apparent that unless you are doing it, living it either perm or in transition, there is no way of defining anything. It is necessity that teaches you. It is nature that teaches you and it is most definitely those who have gone before that teach you. If you ask a question about a practical piece of know how and instead get judged for how you use whatever you are fixing rather than a chat about the thing you need to know, or you get sent a barrage of must-be-done-like-this links from someone not actually with boots on the ground, or you are made to feel stupid for asking, then you are not asking the right people.
Would-be-if-could-be or definitely-going-to-be or pedantic-to-the-rules-and-regulations people, I have found, have nothing but ego to offer. Sift through information and people, you’ll soon get a feel of who to listen to.
We are transitioning off gridders. We love nature. We want to self sustain as much as we can without it become cult like ridiculousness. We want to live with our bush paradise, not against it. We don’t ever want guns and hunting on our land. We want our crew to join us in the highs and the lows and always feel welcome. We want to party. We want to grow food. We want to rescue, rehabilitate and release wildlife that we find injured or orphaned. We want to work and renovate and change and get our hands dirty. We want to relax. We want to feel freedom.
We want to share our journey and even if it doesn’t fit with others philosophies we hope to inspire others to follow their own off grid dream in whichever way that defines themselves.
We are George and Beth
We are off-gridders.
Until next time,