Mother Earth Living

The Good Life

All things Mother Earth Living

Living Off the Grid: Food Tastes Better, Sleep is Sweeter, Mind is Calmer

4/25/2011 12:00:00 AM

Tags: off grid living, New Mexico, straw bale homes, solar power, solar panels, solar homes

Robyn Griggs Lawrence thumbnailKate had lived in cities all her life and never in a million years imagined she’d live off the grid. But about a year ago—on April Fool’s Day 2010—she and her partner, Jeff, packed all their belongings into a 1974 Argosy and left Portland, Oregon, for a piece of property near Taos, New Mexico, that Kate’s father had acquired in a business trade but never inhabited.

Kate, Jeff, their four dogs and two cats are living in their trailer, powered by a 400-watt solar system, while they build a small straw bale house. Their system allows them about 60 kilowatt hours per month; Jeff says the average electric utility consumer uses about 900 kilowattt hours per month. “Our battery arrangement is under capacity for the solar panels we have and the weak link in the system, which we will upgrade after a lifecycle in 4 years,” Jeff explains. Kate and Jeff cook using propane or a mud woodstove that Kate built, use a composting toilet and haul water from a community well as they develop water catchments. They’re fortunate enough to have a nearby community garden and goat co-op, so Kate can make yogurt and cheese. The couple looks forward to establishing their own garden and flock of chickens this year.

“I'd say the best thing about living off-grid is independence,” Kate says. “This was really driven home to us this winter when much of northern New Mexico experienced a natural gas outage for a full week as the weather outside dropped to -25 degrees. The situation was chaotic and in many cases costly and dangerous for people who were dependent on natural gas, but we were unaffected.” Kate writes in her blog, Juniper Journeys, that pipes froze and broke in many homes, businesses and schools were closed, and stores ran out of electric heaters during the power outage.

Off-the-grid living has also helped Kate realize how little she needs to be comfortable and happy. “I don't miss having a microwave, regular internet access, or a washing machine in my house,” she says. The couple has found many secondhand items for their home once it’s finished, including an oven on Craigslist, a 100-pound propane tank on “Trash and Treasures” (a local call-in radio “swap meet”) and a galvanized metal ceiling fan from Habitat for Humanity.

“The hardest thing for me about living off-grid so far is the lack of an indoor shower,” Kate says. Outdoor showering is lovely in the summer when water can be heated by the sun, but Kate often uses friends’ indoor facilities in winter. Jeff occasionally builds a small fire under a cast iron tub in the yard for a hot bath. “Luckily, this is a temporary situation as we are putting hot water and a shower in our house,” Kate says. “It will probably be a year or two before we get to this part, and I know I'll really appreciate it when it’s completed.”

Cold showers are a small price to pay for the satisfaction and serenity of living off the grid and being physically engaged in her life, Kate is quick to add. “Food tastes better, sleep is sweeter, and my mind is calm,” she says. “A relative asked why in the world I choose to live like this, and I replied that it just makes sense.”

mann portrait 

Kate and Jeff have been living happily off the grid for more than a year. 

mann panels 

Solar panels provide their power. 

mann solar system guts 

The solar system's guts. 

mann batteries 

Jeff says the batteries aren't quite adequate, and the couple will replace them in four years. 

mann wood oven 

Kate built this wood-fired cob oven for cooking. 



Related Content

Living Off the Grid: “A Process, Not a Microwave Dinner”

Deb and Tommy have spent just $7,500 to set up their off-the-grid homestead in Oklahoma's Kiamichi M...

Off the Grid and Constantly Aware

When Paula and Matt learned that running a utility line to their rural Vermont home would cost the s...

Living Off the Grid: Rebuilding Their Own Reality After a Wildfire

After a wildfire destroyed their off-the-grid compound in Colorado, Betty and Rolland rebuilt—better...

Off-the-Grid Living: “We Would Never Go Back to Energy Dependence”

These seasoned off-the-grid veterans have found that hefty batteries make for a happy home.

Content Tools
RSS




Post a comment below.

 



Subscribe today and save 50%

First Name: *
Last Name: *
Address: *
City: *
State/Province: *
Zip/Postal Code:*
Country:
Email:*
(* indicates a required item)
Canadian subs: 1 year, (includes postage & GST). Foreign subs: 1 year, . U.S. funds.
Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
Non US and Canadian Subscribers - Click Here

Subscribe to Mother Earth Living!

Welcome to Mother Earth Living, the authority on green lifestyle and design. Each issue of Mother Earth Living features advice to create naturally healthy and nontoxic homes for yourself and your loved ones. With Mother Earth Living by your side, you’ll discover all the best and latest information you want on choosing natural remedies and practicing preventive medicine; cooking with a nutritious and whole-food focus; creating a nontoxic home; and gardening for food, wellness and enjoyment. Subscribe to Mother Earth Living today to get inspired on the art of living wisely and living well.

Save Money & a Few Trees!

Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. You’ll save an additional $5 and get six issues of Mother Earth Living for just $14.95! (Offer valid only in the U.S.)

Or, choose Bill Me and pay just $19.95.