Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Going Off-Grid: The Plan

So, this is my first post about my plan to live off-grid. This is something that I've been thinking about and researching for over 10 years. Now that I have finally purchased some land, I thought that it would be a good idea to start documenting the process.

Why Am I going off-grid?
Many people in their explanations about living off-grid talk about how they want to decrease their carbon footprints and live closer to nature while others talk about how they feel guilty about having so much while others in the world have very little.

Well, while these things matter to me, to be perfectly honest, the real reason why I want to live off-grid is because I hate bills ! At least the ones that make me feel like a prisoner to the system. I don't want a house note. I don't want utility bills every month, I don't want my neighbors telling me that my son can't play basketball in the driveway. I don't want the nosey neighbors stopping by unannounced just because its convenient (it's okay if the nice ones come around but there's always that relentless nosy one). I don't want to go to work everyday just to pay my bills while having very little time to do the things that I love like reading, writing, making music, doing crafts, making my own herbal products, doing reiki, etc.

I want to spend time with the people who are important in my life, including myself. I must admit, mostly, I am doing this for very selfish reasons. I am not ashamed. In my opinion, life is meant to be enjoyed. I have no intention of slaving the rest of my life away to live like the Joneses.

I don't expect this to be easy but I also don't expect it to be impossible. I've spent years on the net, in the library and alone with my pen and notebook thinking of ways in which I can make this a realitiy. I've tried to stay up on things and off-grid living ideas are changing everyday.

About the Purchase of the Land?

One day while surfing the net looking for land (this is something that I do often), I finally decided to place a bid on a 5 acre piece of desert land. I won and now it's mine.

Why this particular piece of land? Why desert? Well, bottom line, I could afford it. I'd tried other areas but this, I could afford with one click of the paypal button. I did as much due diligence online as possible. Also had a realtor friend do a little checking for me.

The land is dry (dessert) but there are things growing on it. There are scattered shrubs and a few succulents. It seems that I should be able to grow some pecan trees, some cantaloupe, some cotton (LOL! This isn't going to happen) and some dessert flowers at the least. We'll see. I contacted one of the locals and discussed the area a bit and they seem like friendly people although there aren't too many folks living off-grid in the area. At least there aren't many people living off-grid that they know of. I bet there are some folks hidden out there somewhere.


What's on the Land? Nuin'. Absolutely Nuin'.

5 acres of dry soil, shrubs, a few scattered succulents and not much else. I've read about there being some wild cats and scary poisonous snakes about. This concerns me but I guess I'll cross that cactus when I get there.

My Long-Term Housing Plans

I'm sooo building a Calearth superadobe ecodome. I purchased the how to video a couple of years ago and I think I've studied every version of the ecodome available on line. If I can find the time, I might even go do a semester at Calearth institute so that I can get the hands on experience. We'll see. Well the models to the left are a kind of snap together dome created by this Japanese company. It's kind of a rip off of the geodesic shockcrete blown domes created by the folks at Domebuilder's Institute.
I love these round homes but the Calearth version is the only one that I find affordable. I know that most people don't think that $40,ooo is a lot to pay for a home but I'm not spending that much and I fully intend to have a nice strong functional home. Take a look at what they're doing over at Calearth-www. calearth.org.

My Temporary Housing Plans

I've thought about many things from yurts to back yard sheds to camping tents. The building to the left is one of the backyard sheds I took a fancy to until I read the reviews about it. Many people had difficulty putting it together do to the shotty crafting and instructions. Also, it's kind of flimsy even for storage of garden tools. Too bad because it's actually kind of cute. Do to time constraints-I'll only have about 2-3 weeks to build on my trip back to the U.S. I almost settled on buying a couple of cargo containers and jazzing them up a bit until I have more time to build the ecodome. However, I recently purchased Lamar Alexander's ebook (Simple Solar Homesteading) on how to build his tiny solar home and I'm pretty much sold on it as I think it's easy and practical enough to fit my needs and my time frame. Besides, I have a few ideas how this home can be utilized once it has served it's initial purpose. If you're interested in living off-grid, you should check out Lamar's book as it has a wealth of useful and practical information.

My Home Building Experience

I'll be building my first home. However, over the years I've volunteered with Habitat for Humanity in building various homes for people in need. In Fiji, we built a house from wood, straw and metal siding.

In the Philippines, we built a house made of concrete bricks. We actually made the bricks ourselves.

In India and Thailand we built homes made of adobe and wood. There were always professionals to guide us. Overall, the experience gave me the confidence that I need to at least attempt to build my own home. I'm no pro but I'll do my best.

My Energy Plans
I'm working on this but thus far, I'm pretty settled on utilizing wind energy in conjunction with solar panels as well as a back-up propane generator. I'll talk more about the specifics when the time comes.

Heating & Cooling

Nights in west Texas can be pretty cold but during the day for most of the year- it's hot. So, I'm actually more concerned about cooling than I am heating. This is another reason why I decided to fore-go the cargo containers- yeah, they're metal and we all know what happens to a metal container in the baking sun. I will have an airconditioner. I know that this may seem like a big waste but we will have to find a way to have enough power for one because I don't like roasted me. Now, in the super adobe, there may not be a need for an actual air-conditioner due to the natural thermal advantages to this type of home but it may be awhile before I have enough time to build one.

***** I just remembered something. Einstein invented a type of refigerator that doesn't need electricity. I heard that this guy, Malcolm McCollum from Oxford University was working on l prototype that would be marketed sometime in the near future. http://www.physorg.com/news141581384.html . Now, I'm no egg- head but I'm wondering if anyone as come up with an idea based on these same principles in which maybe a small home might be cooled. Hey, just wondering. According to the article about McCollum and his team, they are supposedly working on many appliances that might be used in areas without electricity. Anyone have any updates on this?

What About Water?

You can't live without it. Well, depending on whether or not I'll be able to do any outside gardening (probably not) I'll collect rainwater and use grey water for my garden. Since I have 5 acres, I can legally build a well. Now, although I've heard that having a well dug is expensive, I've also read about folks who either rented the tools needed and did it themselves (see Lamar's Off-grid Solar book) or they've purchase reasonably priced tools and did it themselves. I've saved some info on this and I'll post it when I dig it out of my didital archives.

What about Communication and Entertainment?

Hey, I don't mind being off-grid but I have a problem with being off-net. In Wreatha's blog she talks about going without internet for awhile before getting hooked-up to a wireless service. Something inside me got a little nauseous when I read that. I've been so spoiled living overseas with my lightening speed free internet and rent- free life that it will be hard for me to cope with no net at all. No offense Wretha but I hope and pray that I can find a reasonable solution so that I don't have to suffer that fate. :)

As for TV, I don't really care about that as long as I have the internet. I intend to do business via internet so without it, there goes my bread and butter and I like bread and butter a lot.
So for now, I'm looking into the satellite and other resources available. Hopefully, by the time I make the full move, everything will be copacetic.

Ring Ring! Got a couple of cups and some twine?

Over the years I read about the long-distance remote phones. They've developed a model in Korea that some people are using in the U.S. I hear that some folks have had some problems with the government with these phones while others haven't. This is how they work- if you have local telephone service, you hook the base of this phone into your telephone line, then you and your family members could carry the hand sets with you. When your home phone rings, the call is automatically forwarded from your base station to your hand sets according to the cycle you've determined. For instance, if the phone forwards to handset A and no one answers, it would then forward to handset B and so on. I hear that this type of phone works better outside busy cities than inside due to the lower level of interference. These are the type of phones used by miners. This phone kind of goes against the living off-grid plan though. However, they are much cheaper than mobile phones and you don't have to have a cell phone plan to use one.

I however, use my skype internet phone. It's great because I have both a Texas skype-in number and another U.S. city number that allows my friends and family to dial a local number and ring me overseas without paying long-distance fees. When I am not online, the call simply forwards to my foreign mobile phone. I pay a cheap yearly rate (less than $100) for my two local U.S. numbers and unlimited calling to anywhere in the U.S. (land line or mobile). This is another reason why off-grid cannot mean off-net to me. www.skype.com

There is another service (can't remember the name now) that you can download to your mobile phone and if your friends and family also download this software, you can talk to eachother, free of charge. It's kind of like skype (you can talk skype to skype to anywhere in the world for free) except you are talking mobile to mobile to anywhere in the world free as long as the other person has downloaded the software as well. When I find the name of the software, I'll post it. One thing though, I tried to download it overseas and it didn't work on my mobile because I have a cheap one. Don't get me wrong, the phones over hear are way more advanced than the ones back home but, this one is not 3G and on my particular plan, I would need a 3G phone or a phone with MS windows mobile in order for the software to work. I took the free phone with my plan so, I missed out on this deal. I intend to purchase an inexpensive 3G online soon as its fairly easy to transfer service from phone to phone over here.

How About Security and Emergencies?

My home will be equipped with a traditional first aid kit and an herbal first aid kit. We'll have to renew our certifications but I think we can remember what to do if needed. There is a hospital with-in reasonable driving distance.

I decided to install a simple but effective security system in my house. Years ago, before my son was born, I helped my husband install such systems when he was moonlighting at radio shack. I think I'll upgrade a bit though with a system that I can monitor via internet from wherever I am. Not that different from the kinds used in many kindergartens. Yep, another reason why I'll need internet even while I'm away. Also folks, this is Texas. One word- packin'.

Who Said You Can't Grow Food in the Desert?

You know, eating is kind of important. If I'm unable to get anything growing on the land, I'll look into a raised bed green house. I recently purchased an ebook on raised bed gardening. As long as I can get some descent fruits and or veggies growing, I'll do what canning, drying and roasting needed to stock my cupboards. I'm not a vegetarian but meat isn't that big of a part of my diet and I can do without having too much of it. I've been learning from the professionals in Asia how to ferment soy beans to make my own high protien/high calcium soy spreads and soup stocks. It's such a drawn out process but well worth the nutritional value. I'll post more on this when I actually find time to document the step by step process.

No comments:

Post a Comment