Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Thinking Off-the-Grid


Thinking is the key word here. I am so very far from being off-the-grid. For one, I am much more comfortable with traffic than with ticks. Probably my only "off-grid" action is that we don't have cable. But it is intriguing, isn't it, to imagine a completely self-sustaining lifestyle? To imagine this pinnacle of "natural family living" and "do-it-yourself homemaking?" It's fascinating to imagine a life, or at least a part of one's life, that is slower, quieter, simpler. What would it be like to procure our own water, produce our own home energy, compost our own waste, and live in a way that is more connected to the Earth and less connected to the Internet? Fascinating.

My recent interest in off-the-grid living, or homes that do not connect to primary utility grids, has been piqued by the bedside book I am reading: Off the Grid: Inside the Movement for More Space, Less Government, and True Independence in Modern America, by Nick Rosen. A breezy look at a diverse group of individuals and families that have gone "off-grid," either for a primary or secondary residence, the book exposes the highlights and challenges of living in a more deliberate, self-sustaining way.

I would never want to give up entirely the vibrancy, diversity, compactness and car-free convenience of urban living, but I also find the idea of back-to-the-land living so inviting. I find it striking that in really only one century, we have somehow managed to become almost entirely ignorant of the fundamental skills that our ancestors relied on for survival. I have only recently realized how completely clueless I really am. I am taking baby steps to reclaim the knowledge and skills of earlier generations, but learning how to knit and sew and bake my own bread are really just the tips of the iceberg. There is so much more I don't know, so many ways that I am completely disconnected from the food I eat, the clothes I wear, the water I consume, the energy that runs my home.

Imagining a life in which I am much more connected to these things, a life in which I am more enmeshed in the nitty-gritty of food and waste and energy, is a worthwhile thought exercise even if it doesn't become a reality. According to Rosen's research, however, at least half of the off-the-grid residences in the country today are used by part-time "off-gridders," those using an off-the-grid parcel as a second home or respite. These off-gridders "are downshifting city dwellers who want a refuge in a tranquil spot," says Rosen. Maybe that describes me. Or maybe that describes me thinking about that tranquil spot where "natural family living" and "do-it-yourself homemaking" are all there is. Fascinating.

8 comments:

  1. I completely agree with you that the concept is fascinating in principle, though impossible to imagine instituting in practice. The "Off-Grid" book has been recommended to me several times, but I've never had it prefaced before with the notion of "I could never do this, but I like the idea." You acknowledged what I was feeling and the reason I never added it to my library hold list. I think I will now, so thanks for the inspiration! I also love the idea of having a second home that's off-grid. If we ever have a 2nd home..

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    1. Thanks for introducing me to this book. I definitely think I'll pick it up! I, too, am drawn to off-the-grid life, but can't imagine we'd ever actually do it. In addition to the closer connection to the things we need to survive, I think I'd enjoy the simplicity, and the absence of "stuff." I write this as I am surrounded by toys, catalogs, electronics -- things we need to occupy our time. As an interior decorator, I think, "what if we had to spend time on creating comfort in our homes, rather than buying it?" You've inspired me to write a post about off-the-grid decorating!

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    2. Justine, yes, I think as romantic as the idea of off-grid living is, the reality is that most of us won't make the plunge. But I found the book intriguing for inspiring ideas about this self-sustaining lifestyle and it has me pondering ideas for how to think like an off-gridder, even if I never become one...

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    3. Cheryl, thanks so much for visiting and sharing your lovely blog. Your blog post idea sounds fascinating! If you write it, please share the link here and/or on the blog's Facebook page!

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  2. Our family left the city almost two years ago. Needing a car to go anywhere is definitely the downside...but there are so many upsides to take its place. We live life at a slower pace, so we don't feel the need to fill our days with endless play dates, trips to the museum and the swimming pool. We focus on family, spend more time playing with siblings, take "trips" hiking and exploring the surrounding woods, make our own backyard pools and splash pads. We grow fruits and vegetables in our garden, can and dehydrate food, and have plans to get chickens and a goat! We heat our home (mostly) with firewood. We try to take more steps every year to live off the grid, knowing full well that we'll never be completely off the grid. Because we still like electricity and hot running water...and our iPhones. :)

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    1. Oh yes, those iPhones.... :)

      It is so great that you have been able to become more connected to nature, food, family by becoming less connected to "the grid." I am continuing to think of ways that I can think more "off-grid" while still on it...

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  3. I'm an either-or kinda gal too: Love the country, love the city. So what am I, indeed, doing in the suburbs?

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    1. Ha ha! I'm sure this is true for a lot of people!

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