Since we are creating our off-grid homestead from scratch and camping/living very rustically as we build, I frequently get asked the question, “How do you live without _____?”
Blank, of course, being lights or electricity or running water or a flush toilet. The funny thing is, that this way of living is so much my reality right now that I hardly even remember that it is unique. Of course, I also live on a road with two Amish farms, an electricity-free intentional community, and several other off the grid homesteads, so in my neck of the woods, this way of life is somewhat normal.
So, today, I am going to try to explain exactly how to manage living without electricity or running water, or a flush toilet. You might be surprised!
Living without Electricity
Our long-range plan is to install a photovoltaic system and get our electricity from the sun. But, too many other projects are ahead of this one in line, so for now we are electricity-free.
This has been both delightful and challenging. Primarily for me, as a blogger and administrator who uses her computer as a tool, it is challenging to not have my desktop computer at our house. I currently have my computer at a friend’s house a few miles away, and she generously lets us charge drill batteries and store a few of our ice jugs in her freezer as well.
Candles and Solar Lights
Living without electric lights has probably been the most pleasant surprise for me. I have really enjoyed lighting with beeswax candles, using candles that we make ourselves (to learn how, see Making Beeswax Candles). When we need more focused light, we use a headlamp or a small, rechargeable solar lamp like this one.
We do have a small marine solar panel (similar to this one) that we have connected to a car battery. With this, we are able to keep our cell phones charged, and with the addition of a Bluetooth keyboard, I can keep up with comments on the blog, take care of my homeschooling co-op administrative duties, or search for recipes.
Keeping Food Cool
We also have a chest freezer that is stored at another friend’s house, about 5 miles away. For this, we pay electricity each month and make weekly stops to get meat or fruit for meals.
Keeping food fresh in the winter is really not a challenge at all. We set covered pots of leftovers outside in our outdoor kitchen, and have coolers outside as well. We also keep a few items indoors, close to the front door, low on the ground, where the temperature is cool. Our plan is to build a homestead root cellar in the coming years and use that for cool food storage.
Finally, we have a portable generator that we use for power tools and the occasional batch of hummus or a smoothie.
The Off Grid Kitchen
Last summer we used an outdoor kitchen, cooking on a Rocket Stove and a two-burner propane stove. This winter, we moved the propane stove inside to the kitchen, and cook on it and on our wood stove, a wonderful Jotul that we brought with us from Oregon.
Honestly, if there is any one comfort or luxury that I really miss, living this lifestyle, it is an oven. However, I have mastered how to bake in a solar oven, and also several unique ways of baking without an oven.
Living Without Running Water
When we bring water indoors, it sits in 5-gallon buckets or big metal pots, and we use measuring cups as scoops for whatever use. Below you can see our unfinished kitchen counter, complete with a sink. The water simply drains into another plastic bucket and is emptied outdoors.
Baths are taken in front of the woodstove in a big galvanized steel tub. It’s so very Little House on the Prairie! We plan to build an outdoor shower soon.
Living Without a Flush Toilet
No rustic off-the-grid homestead would be complete without a composting toilet. It’s such a pleasant experience to take a stroll to the outhouse this morning and admire the wonderful hillside view.
So there you have it! Radically simple living explained. If you’re interested in learning more about how we created our off-the-grid homestead from scratch, please check out my eBook, Creating Your Off-Grid Homestead.
How do you think you would do living without electricity, running water, or flush toilets?