I recently visited a land cooperative of 4 families owning 60 acres in a northern state. These families came together with a common dream of owning land in the country over 15 years ago, but that is where most of the commonality ended. Each family has a home site, but also cooperatively makes decisions about land use.
One couple started building their home themselves in 1995. It is completely off grid, not even having solar energy and completely without electricity–by choice!
The thing that I find so unique about this off grid home, and the family that owns it, is the total absence of electricity. Most off-grid homes have an alternative source of energy that provides electricity—solar, wind, hydro…
What does no electricity mean? No cell phone, no radio unless battery powered, no TV, no lights, no running water… So many of the things that we are prepping to maintain, this family has chosen to either do without or found a non-electric alternative.
The pay-off to this homeowner built homestead? The only bill they have is ¼ of the property taxes on 60 acres of land! Think about it, what would you be willing to give up for the freedom of having only one bill a year?
So, What is Life With No Electricity Like?
As I walked up the hill along the stone path to this homeowner built homestead, it felt like I was coming home. In the crisp fall air, the scent of herbs and flowers from the planters in front of the home drifted on the breezes to welcome me.
The ever present stump and axes heralded the sustainably harvested wood for heat and cooking I was to encounter inside.
I entered the front door to be greeted by the masonry heater and wood cook stove. The antique oil lamp hanging above the wood box would be lit in the evenings to greet the residents’ home.
To the left was the living room with an antique—working–player piano that would fill the long winter evenings with music.
The Off Grid Kitchen
As I turned right into the kitchen I remember my great-grandparents’ kitchen, with the hand pump connected to the rainwater-filled cistern (the ram pump had long quit working by then), the aroma of baking bread coming from the wood cook stove, the careful tending of the fire, and the cheery glow from the mantels of the oil lamps flickering in the evening as grandpa would tell us stories of times past.
The wife had just finished baking squash bread and the aroma was heavenly.
The interior of this rustic home has the patina of recycled barn boards. The windows too are recycled and conformed to allow the breezes to flow through the home and cool it in the summer.
Note the owner-built kitchen island with locking wheels, drawers on the side and curtained storage beneath, the blue hand pitcher pump next to the sink, antique hutch to hold glassware, and the ever present cast iron cookware hanging from the wall near the stove.
The wood cook stove is a true antique, refurbished by a professional restorer. All the food preparation and preservation on this homestead takes place on this stove.
This picture shows the tiled counter tops, pitcher pump and the ever present oil lamp. After a sip of hot apple cider and a bit of that delicious squash bread, I entered the combination prep room, bathing and storage area off the kitchen.
The gleam of blue hued Mason canning jars filled with pantry items and spices was only rivaled by the wheat grinder firmly attached to the wood countertop.
I was invited down to the unheated basement. The conversation had gone to how the warm winter had provided no ice for the ice house and a propane refrigerator had been purchased to off-set this inconvenience. More Mason jars filled with the gardens’ produce lined the chill storage area.
It was obvious that this home had been carefully planned to be not only a sustainable retreat, but also of comfort to the family it housed. For me, it was a link to memories long forgotten.
Sharing The Land With Others in An Off Grid Community
As mentioned earlier, they are one of four families sharing 60 acres together, with each family choosing to live slightly differently. Some families choose to have solar panels or other means of electricity on their property.
One family that started a few years later and have a full solar array next to their home. Two of the families visit on weekends and help when they can on communal buildings. Someday they may decide to build, but not in the near future.
There is a communal house on the property that is shared by families, visitors, and interns when they visit, and there is even a teepee.
This is part of an off grid series, where I take you on a tour of the off-grid home without solar assist and a walk around the farm.
My hope is that you will enjoy the experience as much as I did and perhaps learn, or remember, a bit of an older/newer lifestyle.