Since april I live off grid. Hereby a little update about how that has been so far.
Hoh, wait! First, an important correction. I don’t live off grid. I dwell or reside off grid. Living off grid would mean to me that I wouldn’t use the grid also for everything outside my habitat. The English language makes it easy to exeggerate here as it commonly translates both the Dutch ‘wonen’ and ‘leven’ as ‘living’. “I live in that house over there.” vs “I live an interesting life.”
I use the supermarket for groceries, the office for charging my devices and my powered tools, ánd filling my jerry can and showering with on-grid-water now, the internet for information on how to use permaculture for my garden, and I order stuff, which is delivered to on grid houses.
I don’t live off grid. I don’t think that is possible for somebody participating in modern life. And if you read someone on the internet stating the opposite, ask how he/she/they got that message there without using the grid… The truly off grid people are the unknown hermits, the pure tribes in Africa and Asia and the poor people unable to live on grid because they are criminally outsmarted and robbed by us to make our consumer life possible.
There is no running water or electricity where I’ve been dwelling for the past 4 weeks. That sounds somewhat romantic and it is. Candles light our evenings and the wood stove keeps us warm in the crispy April mornings. Food is cooked on the stove and a small camping gas stove. We eagerly make use of thermos flasks to save the hot water and we use unfiltered rainwater for a lot of cleaning.
Was this the plan?
We have a water pump, which we had expected to give potable water. And we have three solar panels. Both system are not (yet) working properly. The water from the pump is not potable as it is full with iron and dirt and the battery of the solar panels needs to be kickstarted by a car which we don’t have.
Technically if these this would be working we would still dwell off grid. But now we partly experience the life of our ancestors a 150 years ago. A story I would like to be able to tell, but also keep as short as possible. Electricity brings in technology which, although has many down sides, does offer couple of efficient solutions that will make life/dwelling a lot more productive, hygienic and suitable for people that parttake in modern society. Technology will probably even help to decrease our ecological footstep. For all the energy that now goes into warming the place and getting fresh water is hardly efficient.
We have custody over about an acre of land. More than half of it is forest. A part is used by the house, sheds and chill zones. Which leaves about a quarter of an acre for growing food.
“So, are you going to be self-sufficient now?” is what a lot of people ask me. I’m surprised at this. I think that that is a serious undertaking that takes a lot of planning, time and resources. I haven’t fully dived into it, but I think the diversity needed to be self-sufficient is hard to meet with our plot of land.
Also, I don’t share this focus on independency, which is both in the off grid movement as the self-sufficient movement. I am for interdependency. Together-sufficiency. A system where I participate together with other indivuals, cooperations and on grid companies. In dependency one can harvest things that one cannot as easily find in independency: trust, vulnerability, cooperation, flexibility, play, recognition and friendship.
Our new way of living has begon and has already brought fruits through unexpected meetings and events. This new lifestyle is not a radical change from what we have been doing. Together we have been preparing this for at least three years, probably more. By living in communities, living off grid in warm countries, experimenting with gardening, reading books and watching documentaries on this lifestyle and gathering people around us that live and dwell in a like minded way.
It is not there overnight. It has taken some serious planning, work, letting go and ingenuity. And it will in the future. The food garden will take at least two hours of work a day for the coming months to establish and care for it. This is no time wasted and helps one lift oneself out of daydreaming about it.
In the first week I hurt my knee, probably from exhausting my legs from all the work on the land and moving stuff. It has forced me to do less physical work than what I’ve had in mind. A rewarding way to reroute my energy has been to take up reading in the domain of bio dynamic gardening and food forestry. I’ve stumbled on a book by Madelon Oostwoud, which places these bio-philosophies in the Dutch practice.
Notwithstanding my injured knee, I worked for three full days on a ‘herb spiral’ which made me very proud. I had taken the ridiculous idea of using bamboo sticks as a ‘wall’ for it, breaking and placing each stick by hand. The result was the loss of winter belly fat, an aesthetic beautiful ornament to the garden and replacing my ‘office hands’ with cuts and calluses covered lumberjack hands.
After finishing I had only one herb to put into it. And I read in the book of Madelon Oostwoud that herb spirals often don’t work that well in practice, beauty aside. Doh….
Project #1 was making a compost toilet. We like the idea of a circular ‘economy’ at home and there was an urgency too. Namely, the other toilet (with a septic tank) was plugged. I made the compost toilet by putting two old cupboards together, using a drawer as a step for the feet. Combining that with the ordered urine divider, we had our first DIY toilet. We put it in the old goat shed and used the leftover hay as a topper for our ‘fertilizer’. You can’t believe the delight of shitting on it for the first time! What a sense of sober self-esteem and connectivity with nature, due to all the recycling that went into it!
One of the great joys of all this is that I get to work together with good friend Ruben. He likes to help us out and has a part of our land for himself. In the past we’ve also did some restoring jobs together and joked about our company ‘Baardapen BV’.
One day last weeks, we went to some DIY stores to get stuff. We discovered that we had almost exactly the same outfit. So our ‘joke’ got an outer dimension: Our company should have professional work gear. So I bought him the same work pants that I recently bought for myself. And propably it won’t be long before Baardapen BV will have a plaid shirt and a hat with our logo on it!