Sounds easy enough, living off grid. Have a house with its own water and power supply along with a way to deal with waste. However, when living on limited income with very little collateral and nothing to work with, things can be difficult and complicated. It’s going to take getting things in order ahead of time, being prepared, and planning for the long term.
Our first major obstacle is of course money. Like so many people, we live paycheck to paycheck. We have some backup sources of income, but that means borrowing from family and something we are looking to not do unless absolutely necessary. We have had to in the past and so we are paying those debts off. We have about 1 year left to one side of the family and two years or so to the other side. When that is done, we will have an additional source of funds, but we don’t want to wait that long.
We already live on limited income. We feed ourselves, we are able to fix things and we are slowly paying off debt, but it is taking time. I’m not sure of any way to increase our income that we can handle with our illnesses, but we are trying to find something. We don’t spend money on anything we don’t need and we’ve been steadily adjusting our lives to living even cheaper so we can at least have more variety in our diet and have a little extra each month for things like repairing our home or replacing things like worn out clothing.
We do not eat out though, we don’t drink alcohol, we don’t buy random things that we don’t really need. We order from the local Dominos once or twice a month and that is it for food we didn’t cook ourselves.
We do not have a vehicle other than our RV. That has led to issues when we need to get somewhere. If we could afford a vehicle payment and insurance, we’d get one. Having the money for that though seems to be out of reach at the moment. If we can increase our income just a little bit, we could probably get a cheap vehicle. I don’t want to get anything too old though that will break down every month and cost us more, so it is important to be able to afford something just a few years old that needs less maintenance. Gasoline and insurance also add to the costs of ownership, so we have to be prepared for that.
Somewhere to Live
While we are building our off grid cabin, we need somewhere to stay. I had emailed a campground in the area where we are looking at land and they do need help, but they need it pretty much now. Since we do not have land, I don’t want to go somewhere new, work with new people at a new campground, and hope everything works out in the end. I feel like I jumped the gun with the RV and want to do something a little more practical and planned out this time, so I want the land and everything in place before we go there.
If we can set up the RV to operate off grid on its own ahead of time, then we can stay in it on our land. We would still need a source of water though, which means either going and getting water, having a tank on site and having water delivered, or drilling a well. If we can find a source of potable water in the area, then we can take a pickup with one large tank (or several smaller tanks) and fill them up with water, come back and fill our fresh water tank in the RV. I am not sure how long our fresh water tank would last though, so I have no idea how much nor how frequently we would need water.
My preferred option is to move into a travel trailer and set it up for boondocking. If we could somehow afford a new trailer, we could set it up to work off grid and move into it, then take it to where we’ll be living while we build our cabin. Some of the parts could even be reclaimed to use in the cabin, depending on the build quality and what is inside it. The water heater could work, as well as the appliances inside. I would need to put in a composting toilet though to reduce that waste. A composting toilet would be easy to remove and put in the house.
If the trailer is also set up with solar then we would not need to worry about setting up a pedestal for 30amp or 50 amp outside. I’d still like a concrete pad to park it on, but maybe we can add that as part of the cabin’s foundation and turn it in the garage or carport when the house is done.
Depending on the area, I will have to look into grey water waste as well. I doubt we’d be emptying it straight on to the ground, but we could instead have it go into a catchment area and use that for water plants. If we can switch over to composting toilet, composting food waste, and removing as much mass produced waste as possible, then there would really be little waste entering the ground water anyway. I’d like any naturally occurring products for cleaning as well so that any soapy water from dishes or laundry is not damaging the environment afterwards.
That, however, requires a new trailer ideally. And that, of course, costs money. If we have to, we will drive our RV up there and park it in place. I’m scared to drive it again though since the last few times we have driven have not gone well. It is possible it can make it to the land and to its final resting spot without incident, but I’m not counting on it. If we do end up having to drive it there, you can bet I’m taking it in for a good check, oil change, check the tires and anything that might go wrong. It only has to get there once after all.
Land and Supplies
Once we find some land somewhere we can build what we want and have the proper facing slope for lots of solar power, we still have to get all of our belongings up there. For our vehicle here, I’d prefer something that gives us the ability to have some towing capacity. That way, we can get an enclosed trailer and fill it with some supplies and have one of us drive the RV and the other drive the truck with trailer and get everything to the final site. We may have to have some help getting there though since I don’t think Tiffany would be comfortable driving a truck and trailer. It also depends on how much stuff we have to take up there and how much we have that we can get up there.
Having a truck would give us the ability to get large amounts of supplies like water and lumber and hopefully be able to handle the terrain a bit better. While getting water ourselves may work, I do not want to do it long term.
Water is going to be our biggest obstacle after power. The areas we are looking are not desert, but we need to set something up anyway for long term water use. We might be able to start off with a combination of rain catchment and purchasing water, but that will not work forever. Instead we need either a very large cistern or a well. Drilling a well can be expensive, depending on how deep they need to go, but we can hopefully get a DC-powered well pump with a solar panel that pumps to fill a cistern and keeps us well stocked with water. We will have to adjust how we use water though and make do as much as possible with what we can provide ourselves until we can set up a well.
I would like to be able to go to the land well before we move up there and do some work. Clear some land, figure out where things are going to be placed, get the pad for the RV poured, and plant some fruit trees and berry bushes that will grow on their own and take over. That will give is a nice area to have established when we get up there finally. I’m not sure if it will be all set up nice like a grove or if we will just plants some plants and give them a year or two to fully take root and spread. If we can go up twice a year and work on things, but let them grow wild, then we can come up later and have plants with well grown root systems. Of course, I’d also plant some rhubarb and just let it grow on its own and hope it spreads all over the place.
We need more income and a vehicle, followed by getting the actual land. Then we can go up there, work on it for a few days, come back and work here some more. Do that a few times a year and eventually we will have a homestead ready to go. Building the house will be the easy part, depending on what method I end up using.