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.