Off grid, offline or even off the net, call it what you will, complete self-sufficiency is difficult in today’s world. Some may even believe they are totally off grid right now but may not be. You may say you have a solar, hydro or wind turbine system in place, but these systems will require maintenance and unless you have stockpiled any replaceable parts and can service the systems yourself then you will need a qualified service technician.
There will be things you need from manufacturers that supply materials and supplies to the local store, things you cannot produce or make yourself. If the country collapsed tomorrow, you would have to barter for items you need, so this notion of never needing or trying to reach the point where you never need anyone for anything is just not realistic. Bartering has been an accepted practice for thousands of years and it requires a need by both parties involved.
When stockpiling consider items that, you may not want or need but others might such as diapers, children toys, child medications and clothing, alcohol, tobacco products and so forth. Someone may have a certain medication or tool you need and you have something that person needs or want so the deal is struck.
Alternatives to Utilities Supplied By Your Local Municipality
An off-grid solar or wind turbine system requires a battery bank to absorb the surplus electricity and the batteries do not last forever. Typically, an electrical generating system ( connected to the grid) installed requires the home to be connected to the local power grid to absorb the surplus and then the surplus is credited and used at night or on days when there is not adequate sunlight or wind.
Therefore, in many cases you will find you need a backup system for your backup system such as wind or hydropower. Windmills can pump water from deep underground and can provide energy to certain pieces of machinery. Wind turbines can produce electricity as a backup to solar power.
Solar system only generate electricity when the sun is shining and every system has to have controls in place to absorb the surplus and then you need a system in place to provide power at night and on cloudy days.
Hydropower relies on the force of water to spin an electrical generator and this can be a problem because any water source such as rivers or waterfalls can be taken over, blocked or the force of the water reduced. Just because the river runs through your land does not mean you have complete control over it. The water can be diverted miles upstream when it is on someone else’s land.
Be realistic in your goals and first move toward loosening the bonds, so to speak, and become less dependent on society in general and the local authorities more specifically. There are so many connections and services that unless you sit down and list those connections you may not even be aware of them. Curb side garbage collection, plowed streets, sewage treatment, clean drinking water from your tap, electricity, emergency services, and hospitals are just a few.
Start Slowly but Start Now
Trying to get to the point where you live like a hermit and never see another human for months or even years on end is probably not possible. To survive you have to work within a framework of how society and the world work today.
Becoming 100 percent self-sufficient is not possible for most if not all of you because regardless of the situation there will always be something that you will need that can only be obtained from others. This does not mean however, that you should not become as self-sustaining as possible. Based on recent and not so recent events in the country most of you understand that you cannot depend on the local, state or even federal government in times of need. Surviving a catastrophe without outside help for an extended period should be your goal.
You have to realize that at some point you will need a self-sustaining and renewable food and water source that you control. You can only stockpile so much food and water. Your stockpile however has to be large enough to sustain you until you can develop alternative food and water sources such as a garden and wells. This means you need at least a 12-month supply of food and water to give you the time to begin your garden and digging your well. Depending on your geographic area however, you may need more food stockpiled because of a shortened growing season.
- Start with a seed bank and make sure you know what will grow in your temperate zone raise produce with bartering in mind as well, fresh foods will be in demand during any extended crisis
- Consider a greenhouse for all year around growing and/or develop a hydroponics (vegetables grown without soil uses water only) or Aquaponics system ( marine and produce raised using the same system by recycling the water the fish live in to provide water and nutrients to the plants which in turn filter the water the marine life lives in, these both are self-sustaining systems that can be developed in any garage, basement or greenhouse
- Start a grove of fruit trees such as apples, peaches, plums and pears, berries such as strawberries, raspberries and blackberries can be grown practically anywhere and preserved, a grape arbor can erected on your back deck or patio and as they develop take cuttings to start another one and soon you will have enough grapes to eat daily and then make jams and preserves
- Make sure you have the tools and materials to sustain your garden
- Know how to preserve your produce by canning and drying
- Learn how to hunt and remember if the crisis is for an extended period everyone will be hunting and game will become scarce quickly, consider what livestock you can raise as a food source, chickens, goats and small game birds are just a few that require little land and resources to raise and consider fish ponds as well
You will have to dig your own well because you can only rely on lakes and other sources in your area for the short term. During a crisis, any body of water nearby will soon become a public gathering place. Local or state authorities may even try to block it or ration it and possibly even certain criminal elements may try claim the resource for their own financial gain. Then there is accidental or purposeful contamination.
You need a water source that you control exclusively, a private well on property you control.
Most Technology Will Be So Much Clutter Underfoot In a Crisis
You will need to know how to survive and do everyday tasks without the benefit of electricity even if you have your own source. Solar panels, wind turbines and hydro turbines can all malfunction. Start by having an off-grid weekend where you disconnect from everything for several days. You will be surprised how difficult it can be to even make toast without an electric toaster unless you have practiced. Just because the power is out does not mean you can let things go, there are many tasks that will still need to be accomplished.
- You will need to know how to prepare meals without your electric or gas cook top or oven
- Learn to do laundry without an automatic washer
- Baths will still need to be taken, learn the art of sponge baths
- Learn to accomplish your work using sunlight/daylight to conserve on lantern fuel and candles at night
- You must know how to start a fire under any circumstance even once your matches and lighters have given out
Start now developing an alternative heat source, such as a wood or pellet stove. You may have to shut down parts of the home in cold weather, which by the way was a very common practice in years past during the winter months. The kitchen with its wood cook stove was the focal point and many times the family slept in close proximity to the stoves in the home.
Propane can be stored for an emergency but it will eventually run out as will wood if you clear-cut the area because while considered a renewable energy source trees take time to grow. Learn how to make combustible fuel pellets. The pellets can be made from sawdust, wood chips and dried vegetation and can be made by a hand-operated machine.
Having the means to generate your own electricity is ideal but again do not rely on it exclusively. Learn to do things without electricity. Humans lived for thousands of years without electrical power so you can too and up until about 50 years ago, most people in rural areas of the country got along quite nicely without the benefits of electricity in their homes.
Things to Consider
- You will need an outhouse/latrine and know how to place it/construct so it does not leach into the water table/well
- Proper sanitation methods must be adhered to so you and others do not spread viruses and bacteria back and forth
- Have personal protection and know how to use it
- Medical needs, this again touches on the point where you will need others and in a crisis you will need to identify medical professionals that can trade their services for services and goods you can provide
Self-Sufficiency Can be Costly
You cannot start today and expect to have all you need in a week’s time. Build slow to reduce the economic burden and to make sure you get what you need. Rushing will cost you more in the end. Gather supplies as you do your regular shopping and you likely have many of the tools and materials needed to dig and cap your own well and take care of a garden.
As far as solar panels are concerned this has to be a financial decision because they can be costly. Windmills can be purchased as a kit and can be used to pump water to livestock and to your home using gravity and wind power. Wind turbines are expensive and cannot be erected in certain areas due to code restrictions.
To sustain life you will need shelter, a reliable water source, food source that is renewable and an energy source. You may have to make many things by hand so make sure you have hand tools such as saws for woodworking and cutting logs for the fireplace or stove. You will need sledgehammers for spitting logs and rails along with shovels, hand axes and larger axes for felling trees.