Living off-grid on our homestead

Well, we sort of live off grid. Some folks would say we live off grid, but others would say we do not. Our solar system is grid tied. We have lived completely without the grid meaning that we flipped the switch next to our inverter and blocked the electricity from the power company from coming into our house. We have batteries, however, that keep the water from our well pumping.


How hard is it to live off-grid?


How hard is it to live off-grid? Some days it is really easy, but others….well…it is really hard. When it is cloudy for five days, there is no hot water. There was a reason folks had a wood cook stove. We keep large pots of hot water on the wood stove for washing dishes and to add moisture to the air.


Timing electricity use with the sun when off-grid


Even when it is sunny, you have to time things correctly. Our dishwasher takes FOREVER to run. This means we need to start the dishwasher by noon in order for the hot water to recover in case we want hot showers. Living off-grid requires a rhythm that matches the weather and the sun. Your entire thinking must change. Whereas you are accustomed to flipping a switch for a light every time you enter a room, we open blinds and curtains and let the natural light shine in. There are some rooms where we have tape over the light switch to remind us not to turn the light on.


Refrigeration and freezers off-grid


Then, there is the refrigeration and freezer. Older units seem to eat electricity. Some would say that you cannot really be off-grid if you have a refrigerator or freezer. I would say that we live in a time when we can take advantage for the wonderful developments of the past 50 years and do a blend of both off-grid and using the grid when necessary. During the times we have been disconnected from the grid, we budget our electrical usage to be certain that we have enough power to keep the refrigerator and freezers going. We have lot of bottles frozen to use as ice in the new coolers of today. Whereas, we went camping and kept things cool for several hours, now with ice bottles we can actually keep food cold for several days. It is amazing what society has learned over the past 100 years and even more recently.


Cooking and heating on a wood stove


Cooking can be a challenge. The wood stove requires moving and sliding pots back and forth. There is some control with a knob on the side, but it does require more finesse. I am not sure why food tastes so much better from the wood stove. It might be our imagination, but I really don’t think so. The saying “a watched pot never boils” is certainly applicable to a wood stove, but might be better to say that once it boils you had better be ready to stir and slide to a cooler part of the stove. My favorite thing to cook on the wood stove is soup in almost any form. It is so simple! We enjoy cooking our bone broth down on the wood stove. We can bank the stove at night and it keeps the broth at a low simmer all night long.

When we arise in the morning before daylight, we add wood to the stove and crank it to high in order to take the morning chill out of the air. When the grandkids get up, they move to the stove and get toasty warm. This brings back memories of my grandmother and her fireplace in the house they rented. Our house is not nearly as cold because of the insulation and fans that blow the heat throughout the house, but I suppose it is similar in some ways. The weather forces us to think seasonally as well.

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