There’s a reason why I’m called The Bohemian Hobbit. My love for JRR Tolkien’s Shire lands within Middle Earth, as well as the little beings called Hobbits, brings me endless amounts of inspiration for living the simple life, being free from government control, living organically off the land, and of course, debt free living.
(Hobbit homes in New Zealand as well as Peter Vetsch’s amazing architecture in Switzerland)
Hobbits of the Shire live a lifestyle what many of us call “off the grid”. Unfortunately, where we live, it is illegal to live off grid. Since moving here last year, I have been researching ways to get around that. Well, at least learn how to live *a little * off grid. When you live in a society of convenience and greed, you really have NOT a clue how much we as a people are used to having everything at our beck and call. Here are some ideas that I am talking about:
- Flipping a switch and lights go on
- Water automatically coming from a faucet with the flip of the wrist
- Opening up a door to a cold and temperature regulated refrigerator
- Plugging in anything and automatically get a charge
These are just a FEW of the many things we take for granted. Think about this: Nothing worse than getting caught in the middle of a storm and losing power. People feel utterly helpless. Even myself, who crave white noise in order to sleep, will lose her proverbial mind when everything shuts down. So when we lose power in the middle of the night, my heart pounds and my chest tightens. I have become so modernized that I have to admit, the idea of living off grid scares the hell out of me.
Living off the grid is not easy. If anything, it’s an incredibly hard way to live. But I have learned from people I know, research I’ve done, that once you become acquainted with this way of living, 9 times out of 10, you will NEVER want to go back to a modern way of living.
(Emma Orbach from Wales – who left her life to live a more primitive way – though this is a more severe way of off-grid living, it suits her and she is happier than ever)
Why are so many people wanting to walk away from modern living? Well, money is the biggest issue I’ve learned. With poverty at an all-time high, people are searching endlessly for more sufficient ways to live, as well as finding ways to “have” things without having the almighty bill that undoubtedly comes with it.
Going back as far as the 70’s and 80’s, society labeled these types of people as nomads or new age hobos. But these people were actually pioneers. They alone inspired a current day revolution of self-sustainability.
(what society thinks people who live off-grid look like)
Now we have hobby farms, organic micro-farms, and real life community CSA’s. Homesteads and Small-Holdings are popping up all around the world, with people looking for ways to get back to the land.
(modern day off-grid living)
Walking away from the modern way is hard. I’m not saying it’s impossible, either. It’s a 24 hour 7 days a week job. It’s hard work, but its also truly inspirational work. I’ve learned that camping is a good way to start to understand, even going as far as bushcrafting, which is a severe and incredibly primitive form if camping. Either one, though, can help a person learn pretty fast what it’s like to not have those modern conveniences at the ready.
Living off the grid can also get messy for those used to living in a stark clean home. Usually with self-sustainable living, especially in a temperate climate like where we live (Southeastern Pennsylvania), the home and the land need to be constantly kept up and maintained, something that is usually unheard up in the modern world. It’s only modern normalcy to be able to get up in the morning, turn on the bathroom light, go to the bathroom, take a shower, blow your hair dry, get dressed and go down stairs to make yourself a cup a coffee, microwave a quick breakfast sandwich, jump in your car and drive to work. Come home, make dinner through either your microwave or stove, eat and watch TV or play on your computer, until it’s time for bed. This is precisely what life looks like for millions of people, myself included. People who live off grid have a different day:
They wake up and turn on their lights that are powered from the solar panels on their property. They sit and do their business on the toilet, but instead of flushing, they pick up some sawdust and throw it into the toilet bowl, because their toilet is a compost toilet, and not hooked up to the sewer. Compost toilet waste goes right into the compost, which is a widely used tool for feeding and fertilizing the soil. They go to wash themselves up, either by a water filtration system hooked up from the rain collected or from the well on their property. Some of them have gray water systems, meaning all that water doesn’t go down into pipes, but buckets or an output filtration system, that feeds back into the land on the property. They go downstairs and light the fire on their wood burning stove or they at least stoke it, since many people use their stove as a heating system and boiler for hot water. They cook their breakfast over their stove, and they are off to work.
(Simon Dale’s Welsh Earth Home…Brilliant and completely off grid!)
But here’s where it gets truly revolutionary: Their office is a mere few feet away, since their “job” is working the land.
The job can be looked upon as basic farming: Tending the livestock like the goats, ducks and/or chickens, since these three animals are the main animals used in urban farming today. Goats provide milk, which provides essentials like cheese, milk, kefir grains, while chickens and ducks provide eggs and for some farmers, meat.
(I admit, I’m obsessed with farm animals)
So here’s the thing. I have been talking to my husband and my son about the possibility of starting small. When your electric bill is over $200 in a given month, your sewer and trash bill is almost $300/quarter, $250 for cable and internet, you know you need to make changes. Our carbon footprint is rather deep and it’s important for me to stop that. Honestly, if I could get rid of my toilets and just have a compost toilet, or get rid of our big refrigerator and just get a mini fridge, I’d do it in a heartbeat, but I also need to consider my loved ones who might not be too keen. When dealing with family you live with that like the conveniences, I may have to Tai Chi the situation and approach things delicately. Going off grid, or partially off-grid (since it is illegal in my town to go 100%), is not for the faint of heart. It takes careful consideration and a hell of a lot of patience. Even as I am typing this, my heart races because the thought of walking away from conveniences terrifies me. But continuing to live in debt terrifies me more. I know when my boys are out of the house and on their own, it will be easier for my husband and I to live this way, so for now, we are taking baby steps necessary to get to our goals.
Last year when we moved, I made a promise to myself that in ten years, I will be living the life I promised myself. And that it would be happy, healthy, and all around amazing not just for me, but for my family. I want to teach them about how much we waste and how we have the power to stop it. We all have the power! Start out small.
(for me, it will be rain barrels, solar panels and a polytunnel)
Imagine this: the next time you want to throw something plastic in the trash rather than in the recycling bin, remember this: that piece of plastic could take up to 100 years to deteriorate. And there is a very high chance that piece of plastic will be eaten by an animal who will think it’s food, and that animal will die. Every time we don’t recycle, or just “throw” things away, we are setting up for the future of our children and grandchildren. This is the hard truth we as a society have to face. No more excuses. We have become so incredibly lazy that we are killing the only planet we know we live on. If we kill Mother Earth, where do you think we’re going to go?
See, this is the stuff I think about when I wake up in the middle of the night. And knowing that, know that the time is now to make the change.
(Harsh truths of the world. These are recent photos)
It starts with something small. I’ve been recycling for many years now. I turn off my lights when I am not needing them on. I turn off the TV when it’s not being used. I garden. I make some of my medicines and teas that I drink. I eat organic food. I’m TRYING to stop eating meat.
But I can do more. And now it’s time to do so. Are you ready to make the change?