I had a question asked yesterday by a lovely lady who reads my blog; how did we come to start our off-grid adventure? This is the long, convoluted and wordy answer to that question (with some gratuitous photos, of course).
I was raised off-grid; when I was born my parents lived in an old bus and a tiny cabin in the Sydney area. They had electricity for a short time when I was a baby, but always collected their own rain water. We moved to the Bellingen area when I was three, to a house with no electricity. Although we did eventually get grid electricity connected there, we moved again when I was 12…you guessed it…to a house with only self generated electricity. We had a generator for many years before eventually adding a solar system.
One of my more exciting memories is of my father allowing me to rewire part of the generator from a wiring diagram and then making sure that all personnel had exited the building before trying it out for the first time (I really thought the monster machine would explode if I had wired it wrong).
When I first moved in with my partner (Wow…35 years ago!!) we had a flat with electricity, which seemed the very height of luxury to me at the time. We had light switches which could be flicked on without first checking the battery charge percentage. We had hot water from a tap that didn’t involve the lighting of a fire or the gathering of dry wood. We even had a wood burning heater which was allowed to burn with no pots cooking on top of it (such wasteful decadence). The thrill wore off though; after years of living with electricity bills and the constant, low-grade environmental guilt all that decadence caused, all I really wanted was to return to responsible living and the different, but valid luxuries of living in the bush.
My partner, myself and two small (but annoying) girls moved back to the bush about 20 years ago. We lived in an old farm house with no electricity, outside water supply or garbage pick up. We were share farming Biodynamic avocados and the house was part of the contract. For me, it was a return to my comfort zone, but my poor partner struggled with being away from electricity and the responsibility of providing our own water for the first time in his life. He loved the sheer gadgetry (for want of a better descriptive term) of the solar set up and the generator, but he struggled with the restrictions they bought with them. He did eventually get the hang of it though, after a lot of flat batteries, bans on electronics and fixing broken generators (which died from over use). By the time we moved to our current block and built the humpy he was an accomplished bush dweller, who knows the value of a litre of water or a kilowatt of electricity.
My partner will still opt for comfort over economy every time, while I will go for economy over comfort. This balancing act makes sure we get some of each (and sometimes both) in our projects. Our overall goal is to build our home world with as little reliance on the increasingly unstable outside world as possible. For us to understand the mechanics of our support systems (so we can fix them if they break) and to make as small an impact on our surroundings as we can (at least of a negative nature).
We also view the animal world as no different to the human world (We are, after all hairless apes) and try to treat our family members of various species accordingly. I like to think this isn’t an ‘air headed, hippie’ notion as we realise that every animal (humans included) have differing needs and need to be treated accordingly. It means that when we consider the needs and wants of our family, we weigh them equally; for example, our sheep; Freida has a need for company, as sheep are social animals, it was inconvenient to have her with us every hour of the day, but we considered it a worthwhile sacrifice for us to always leave someone home or take her with us in order to nurture her sense of security.
This means that we have a house full of animals most of the time. Animals come and go as they need help, some stay for their lifetimes, some grow up and move on. I love this lifestyle, it allows me to get to know a lot of species very well. It also means we live in an environment that is often messy and really encourages our immune system to be as strong as possible. Life in our humpy is never boring.