Off The Grid

Living off the Grid on a west coast island

After all heathens

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This is my fifth winter here living full-time and our 34th year as a visitor. I am going to describe a little about basics of our life, living off grid as I see it. Some of what I will tell you may seem self-evident but you would be surprised at some of the questions we get.

First of all we are not here because we have issues “with the man”. Most of us don’t wear Tarzan loin cloths and none of us skin rabbits on our porch. By and large we are here for the privacy. With the property at a very reasonable cost in a part of Canada with the most unreasonable of land costs we own 2.5 acres of land with 180 feet of waterfront. By growing a lot of our own food, relying on the sun for power and a well for our water E and I live a rewarding life on a small pension.

We don’t need any more things. When we added the “nice to have” pond and greenhouse to the property, it was with scrounged left overs from others’ projects.  Kathryn’s living room window is in my greenhouse, Mary’s solar panels power my pond. Cheryl’s pond liner lines it and  Jan’s toilet is in my bathroom!

You learn quickly that repurposing something already on the island is infinitely better than carrying something new over. No one brings something onto this island that isn’t necessary.. Cause it is a lot of work.

While the land is comparatively cheap here, it is a lot of work to keep up the lifestyle with which we have been accustomed. We have most of the comforts of city living with slight modifications and careful management.  It’s a choice.

We have television with satellite. We had to exchange our TV from a 46″ plasma 140 watt power hog to a 42″ LED which uses 28 watts. Choosing any appliance or tool requires research into the power draw. I blew my Cuisinart electrical panel twice. After spending  $100.00 each time to fix it, I broke down and bought a new low-wattage Kitchen  Aide. I read a lot of data to find the one with the least power demand. Our freezer is very tiny so in the winter we fill it with meat. We augment our meals with the canned fruits and veggies for our garden and make our own bread. I need the Kitchen Aide to do that as my wrists would not be able. Most of our other appliances went to the kids.

We have a basic propane stove. There are no power draining clocks or doodads on it. Small is better as you don’t need to heat a space larger than the food you are cooking..In the winter we do the majority of our cooking on the wood stove. Soups, chilies and sauces simmer for hours for free.  We think twice before we decide on a menu in the summer when the wood stove isn’t going. Slow baking ribs for hours on a summer BBQ using propane might be a second choice to five-minute steaks. Every time you carry the propane tanks over you think of new ways to go without.

On demand hot water is awesome, but again requires propane. While I run the water in the sink to get it hot, I fill the kettle and put it on the stove. The next time I will already have hot water on the stove and won’t need to use the propane to wash the dishes. In the summer I use that jug of water for the dog dish or plants. We have friends who only shower together  (They are married) to save water. My vigilance has been eased about water consumption as we now have storage for 5000 gallons but I am mindful of the propane it takes to heat it.

Blow drying of hair and flat irons are beauty aides best left off the island. Unless it’s 2 pm on a hot day and solar power is limitless their usage is risky. I find guests don’t often understand the subtleties so it is easiest just to say no. We have a friend whose guest blew their inverter with a curling iron…. Bill to fix … $3000.00.

All of us have tricks that we use to ease the work load and areas that we don’t mind spending extra time or money. I for one have no problem drinking my wine from a box and my beer from a can. My hands look like a sharecroppers and my wardrobe options are stained, torn or covered in holes from battery acid. But, most days we are usually clothed. We aren’t,

after all, heathens

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Author: Off Grid Islanders

We are a retired couple living on an off grid island on the West Coast

4 thoughts on “After all heathens

  1. We aren’t heathens either…….but only just. Kinda ‘hillbilly’ in old faded Gortex and jeans with rips. Boots designed by Al Capp (L’il Abner). All clothes have holes except for a few Sal won’t let me wear. I have a few outfits with the tags still on them. “You can have them when we go out somewhere nice that needs it!” Some of them have been there for a decade. I don’t think I will ever NEED ’em for dressing up. Wouldn’t do it for the Queen so why wait on anyone else?
    Your ‘style’ is our style, too. We know the electrical consumption of everything and we conserve. Our greenhouse is 90% recycled materials. I have already lifted everything at least five (mostly ten) times and I do NOT need more lifting in my life. AND I have enough ‘salvage’ under buildings to probably make another one. No question, ‘nearby’ is way better than ‘tailor-made’.
    Our guests have blown us off the internet, our own electrical grid and have even challenged the plumbing due to lack of ‘knowing’ and their city habits. We’ve adjusted. We’ve fixed. But it does mean that we can’t leave the place to others now and then when we are away like we used to. We’d come back to rubble. You do not need to have a degree in engineering to ‘run’ our place but a BA from the Rube Goldberg College for the DIY’er wouldn’t hurt. If you can’t rebuild your own stove, washing machine and at least trouble shoot your own outboard motor, OTG is not for you.

    • Yup…. We actually have written into the rules of the shared family property that it can’t be loaned out or rented… Too easy to make a simple mistake that costs a ton to fix.. And just cause you know one house system, the next door house is likely completely different with its own Idiosyncrasies.

      It’s a good like though if you are willing to make the choices.. Not sacrifices….

  2. I love that line that “it’s a good life….” Definitely. There are so many benefits to life in the Nature Channel, not the least of which is all the wonderful compatriots on DI whom I miss SO much. I’m so happy that The Good Life on the island is Your Life! Every day is a new beginning and definitely an adventure. Love the stories….

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