Living off the grid is an alluring proposition. You are not tied to rising energy prices, you do not have to worry about inflation, and you can go on living as-per-usual no matter what happens.
Being self-sufficient is incredibly rewarding, too. Raising your own animals, growing your own crops, and building your own shelter are huge accomplishments that few get to enjoy.
However, moving off the grid is no small task. A single day of living off-the-grid will test your limits and push you to breaking point if you don’t have the skills for the job.
Fortunately, you can learn most essential skills you need to live off the grid before you make the transition. These skills will serve you in years to come and will ensure that your family feels safe and supported in your new home.
Even if you live off the grid on a secluded plot of land, you will inevitably catch a common cold or fall ill with an infection at some point. If you are not prepared, a minor illness can spiral into a serious condition that undermines your ability to live a self-sufficient lifestyle.
You do not have to become a physician to gain sufficient proficiency in medicine. In fact, many of the medicines you need can be sourced naturally and without having to make a trip to the drugstore.
Learn about commonly used medicinal herbs before you go off the grid. Start simple with teas and flowers like chamomile. Chamomile can ease some of the anxiety you may experience and can reduce inflammation and swelling in the body. You can couple chamomile with St John’s wort if you’re struggling with mild depression, as both plants are shown to ease mild symptoms of mental health conditions.
Some illnesses require more than medicinal herbs can offer. Assemble your medical preparedness kit before you go off the grid and learn how to administer the medicine to common off-the-grid complaints. At minimum you should know how to:
- Clean and dress a wound;
- Administer a tourniquet;
- Check vital signs like breathing and pulse;
- How to clear airwaves and apply CPR;
- When to call for help.
It is important to recognize that some complaints and acute conditions require aid from outside sources. Relying on medical professionals isn’t a sign that your off-the-grid lifestyle has failed; it just means you need to temporarily increase your circle of trust to include highly trained medical specialists.
You do not have to get a veterinary license to raise and care for animals. However, if you choose to have chickens, pigs, cattle, or goats on your land, you should expect them to fall ill and injure themselves regularly.
Consider taking a course in animal agriculture and welfare when you go off the grid. You’ll gather plenty of hands-on skills during the course, and should learn how to:
- Care for and raise young farm animals;
- Check for illnesses among different animals;
- Assess animal psychology and behavior;
- Basic wound care.
These basic skills can help you spot abnormal behavior and common illnesses. You will need to gain hands-on experience restraining animals, too, as larger animals like horses, goats, and cows can be dangerous to handle.
Make sure you have the appropriate skills for the types of animals you plan on raising. If, for example, you raise sheep then you should know how to clip their hooves and sheer their coats. You can bring in a pro to help you for the first few years, but learning to do it yourself will save time and money.
An off-the-grid home is only as good as its garden. The food you grow at home always tastes better than the stuff you buy in the store and eating your own produce helps you live the off-the-grid lifestyle with pride.
Start simple. Buy some vegetable seeds while you still can and grow easy fruits and vegetables like tomatoes, lettuce, and strawberries. These produce items only require a little water and sunlight, meaning they are easy to grow without much attention. Starting small can help you build your confidence and will give you the motivation to sew and plant again next year.
As your confidence as a green thumb grows, you should aim to plant a produce patch that feeds your family year-round. You will need to create a few allotments, as different plants like different types of soil, feed, sunlight exposure, and water. Try to plant fruits and vegetables that can be canned, too, as you won’t have any fresh produce during the winter months.
Canning has gone out of fashion in the past 20 years. However, canning is an essential life skill for anyone that lives off the grid. Canning your food is a great way to preserve your home-grown produce and can even enhance the flavor of some fruits and vegetables.
Choose the appropriate canning method before you can your food at home. There are three ways to can food:
- Water bath canning;
- Atmospheric steam canning;
- Pressure canning.
Choosing the right canning method is important. Low-acid profile foods like fish and meat need to be canned in a pressure canning process due to the danger of botulism. You will need to set pressure canners to the appropriate setting using the dial gauge. Get the gauge tested before you start canning, as a faulty gauge can compromise the safety of the food and turn your pressure canner into an explosive device.
If you enjoy canning, you can widen your skill set by making jams and pickles. Life can feel rather spartan in the winter months when living off-the-grid and making your own jams can be the pick-me-up you need.
Living off-the-grid conjures ideas of building frames, setting foundations, and roofing barns. However, most people do not have the skill necessary to build and maintain their own homes. This is a major problem if you are planning to live off-the-grid, as your home and grounds will need hands-on maintenance at some point.
Start by learning joinery. Being able to join pieces of wood together in a safe, solid, watertight will save you plenty of headaches and make every other project that much smoother. Joinery is a great entry into woodworking and will give you the skills you need to make more ambitious carpentry projects a success.
When you’ve graduated from boxes and chopping boards, you can tackle more useful projects. Don’t try to leap straight into framing and construction — you still have a lot to learn before you can build habitable living spaces. Instead, try to design and build a few larger projects like dressers, drawers, greenhouses, or sheds. These projects will help build your confidence and give you the skills you need to raise barns and buildings in the future.
Electrics and Plumbing
Woodworking is a relatively safe activity — provided you follow basic health and safety procedures and use common sense. However, many of the problems that you face while living off-the-grid will involve some amount of electricity or plumbing.
Unfortunately, this isn’t always a teach-yourself concept. You could accidentally expose yourself to high-voltage currents and risk your health and home. Instead, enroll in electrician courses that focus on off-the-grid energy supply. These courses should teach you how to:
- Maintain and repair your generator;
- Assess and repair your renewable energy source (solar panels, wind turbines, etc);
- Install new hardware in your home;
- Assess electrical systems to ensure that you can work on them safely.
Never assume that you know how to complete a project related to the electric systems in your home. Do not overestimate your skills and bring in a professional when you need some oversight.
Plumbing usually does not pose a risk to your health. However, burst pipes and leaks can be costly or spell ruin for your home. You should know how to complete basic tasks like:
- Finding and filtering water;
- Purifying and testing clean water;
- Replacing burst pipes and fixing faulty seals.
You can get by with these basic off-the-grid plumbing skills for the first year of your journey. If you want to expand your home, you will need to learn how to lay plumbing, drain your system, and install fixtures.
Even though you live off the grid, you may need to call in a professional to help with the core of your home. You’re still beholden to the laws of the land and need to ensure that any plumbing or electrical work meets your state standards for homeowners.
Living off the grid usually requires a hefty amount of elbow grease and heavy lifting. However, if you have some land to maintain, you will likely need a fleet of tractors, mowers, and UTVs.
Machinery makes your life easier until it goes wrong. Fortunately, most engine-powered machines can be fixed with a little experimentation and an aptitude for tinkering. If you don’t have any repair-related skills, start simple and look out for mechanic courses that teach you how to:
- Change the oil of multiple vehicles;
- Assess engines for common faults;
- Disassemble and refurbish rust-affected machinery.
These skills can be learned with technical oversight and experience. You may even find that working on passion projects like bikes and UTVs helps you better understand the inner workings of essential machinery like washing machines and water pumps.
Hard skills like woodworking and canning will only be effective if you’re a master organizer. Failing to organize your home and land will undermine your productivity and turn the simplest of tasks into the biggest of chores.
Fortunately, organization is a skill that can be learned. You just need to plan ahead and practice frequently to improve your aptitude for organizing. Start with small organization projects like:
- Box and store your coats and sweaters during the summer;
- Organize your cleaning supplies and equipment;
- Restock your pantry and use storage options that suit your space;
- Clean and reorganize your bedroom to improve your efficiency in the mornings.
These small organization projects help you build effective organizational habits. You’ll also notice improvements that you need to make to your space when storing items like pantry foods and perishable items.
Make time to tackle bigger projects and follow the best damage-prevention practices. Fill the cracks in your basement, label fragile items, and regularly clean your workspaces. You should also get into the habit of proactively deterring pests by:
- Cleaning with a vinegar-based solution;
- Use borax to wipe down surfaces;
- Put rodent traps and poisons out.
Organization and pest control are just as important as woodworking and animal care. You can’t waste time digging through old containers and should never expose your family’s food to pests.
Each day of living off the grid will bring you new challenges and trials. You have to expect the unexpected and need to improve your adaptability if you want to make it in the long run.
Adaptability is a soft skill that can be improved over time. Embrace the reality that most days won’t be perfect. You’ll spend most of your days responding to new problems and should try a few decision-making models if you feel overwhelmed.
It’s much easier to be adaptable if you’ve already established a suitable foundation for your off-the-grid home. Make contingency plans and review your living situation every quarter to evaluate whether you should upgrade your home based on your needs.
For example, as you age, you should preemptively install accessibility features to help you navigate the land you love. If you notice that your mobility is becoming limited you may want to consider installing wheelchair ramps before it’s too late. The right wheelchair ramp for your land will help you maintain your independence and will ensure that you can adapt and overcome the challenges you face in the future.
Living off the grid isn’t easy. You have to sharpen your skill set and embrace a learner’s mindset if you want to survive without the aid of modern society. Start with the basics — learn how to utilize natural medicines, tend wounds, and farm your own land. When you’ve settled in, try to widen your skill set by learning carpentry, machine maintenance, and basic plumbing tasks. This can save you a few dollars along the way and bolster your sense of self-reliance.
[Note: This was a guest post.]
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