Favorite Memories of Living Off-Grid

When I’m asked to share something about myself that is unique, I will usually answer with “I’ve lived off-grid three times – and I’d do it again!”

Yes, living off-grid does have its challenges, but overall, some of my very favorite memories both of my childhood and my kids’ time growing up are when we lived without electricity.

The first time I lived off the power grid, I was in the second grade. My dad inherited some family land that was way out the Siuslaw River – our closest neighbor was 13 miles away! I think that must have been my dad’s dream because when I think back on those days, I think that was when my dad was his happiest.

He designed and built us a house, he built a shop and barn that both had false western fronts, and the shop even had a hitchin’ post out front. Before dad built the house and dug the well, we lived in a travel trailer and we bathed in the Siuslaw River. (Thankfully, it was summer!)

Our house had so many features that were unique and special. Our back door had glass panels (the old wavy glass with bubbles in it) and it came from an old homestead – it was complete with a glass doorknob as well.

Mom and Dad split all of the cedar shakes for the roof and they had extra, so they used them to decorate the wall going up the stairs. That house smelled SOOO GOOD! The scent of cedar still takes me back to that old place.

I have so many memories from living off-grid at Trail Creek Ranch. My dad worked in the woods so he was always finding critters that needed help and bringing them home. We raised baby raccoons whose mom had died. Laverne & Shirley. They were so fun! We bottle fed them until they were big enough for regular food. They lived on dog food and grapes – they’d share the food dish with our St. Bernard Bubber, but Bubber wasn’t near as eager to share with them.Feeding raccoons grapes while living off-grid

Dad also brought home five baby silver-gray squirrels. They also had to be bottle fed but they grew quick and got awfully rascally fast. We named them Enie, Menie, Miney, Mo, and Mutt. We released them to the woods earlier than I wanted but it sure wasn’t soon enough for my sweet mom who had to constantly clean up after them. 

I also lived in that house when Mount St. Helens blew, and I remember thinking the woodpile must have fallen because it made a big BOOM and shook the house. (The Harry Truman song always made me cry.)

However, family stuff happened, and we ended up having to leave Trail Creek Ranch. But our off-grid days weren’t yet over!

When I was in middle school, we headed out to Saragosa (before it was known as Saragosa Ranch). While we lived there, I learned so much more about the realities of living off-grid. For instance, since my dad worked in the woods, he usually got up super early so if I still needed the lights for homework, he’d leave the generator on for me and I’d have to turn it off before I went to bed.

Do you know how many ((ahem – imaginary)) cougars chased me back to the house in the dark? I have no idea why that was my fear of choice, but it sure did seem real in my mind! I would run like the wind all the way back to the house!

One day, my dad picked me up at school in a new (old) car. I asked him why he was driving it and he said, “It’s our new generator. It’ll run the vacuum AND lights at the same time!” I didn’t have a clue what he was talking about, but I soon learned how to convert a car engine to a generator. My dad was a genius.

The third time I lived off-grid was completely different because this time I was the mom! Whew, boy did I have a lot to learn! When my husband and I moved to Alaska, we found some property that was just too good of a deal to pass up. Everyone around us had power, but we couldn’t quite afford to get it to our place so we built our house and lived with a generator as our power for several years. The one difference is that we didn’t have a well here, so we had to haul all of our water. That wasn’t my favorite. If I’m ever given the opportunity to live without being connected to the grid again, we will have a water source on the place.

Living off-grid was very different in Alaska than it was in Oregon – it was so much harder. However, the memories are every bit as sweet. Winters are pretty dark here in our corner of the world. I remember telling my kids that they’d just have to sit on the couch in the dark because I refused to turn the generator on before 4 pm. So we’d spend about 30 minutes in the mostly dark house telling stories and playing games while we’d wait to turn on the lights.

Have you ever eaten dinner cooked entirely on the wood stove? I used to use my wood stove more for cooking than I do now but I think soup, biscuits, and even pancakes are way better cooked right on that old stove.

Since we didn’t have water (or much money), we had to use an outhouse instead of having a toilet in the house – we couldn’t afford a composting toilet at the time. Might I ask – do you KNOW how cold a seat can get in Alaska in the winter? That was NOT fun – especially when we all got the flu and had to take turns in that outhouse when it was sub zero outside. But we look back and laugh – I mean, seriously! We endured it and now it makes a great story!

The best part of that lifestyle was that we had very few distractions and our family life was rich with stories, conversations, and memory making. Our life was not easy but it was good. We laughed a lot, we worked hard for what we had, and we all have wonderful stories to tell.

Have you ever lived off-grid? What are your favorite memories? I would love to hear!

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Gene Saville
Gene Saville
6 months ago

Thanks for including a bit of information about the author, and what they are doing today!

Thomas Daniel
Thomas Daniel
6 months ago

Those cold toilet seats remind me of tooth aches and sore throats. No fun and just a bad memory. Otherwise, it sounds like a great way to both grow up and to live.

Fishbones
6 months ago

God can be heard clearly when we have silent times. Spending time with him is important to me. Living unconnected helps provide the classroom. God bless, Thank you for the article Tandy.

Kathleen
Kathleen
6 months ago

Thank you so much for sharing your memories.
Yes, I’ve lived off grid as a child and later for a decade without indoor plumbing raising my children. It wasn’t called off grid back then.
:)
We had wood stoves for heating and cooking for over 20 years.

Jacqueline
Jacqueline
6 months ago

Love this article! Thank you for sharing a glimpse into your childhood with all of us and the beautiful memories you created as an adult with your own tiny humans. I long to do this with my kids and our family and can often get discouraged about how to make it happen. This lifts me up that you don’t need much but tenacity, courage and discipline to live close to the land in a traditional way. My heart is warmed to hear the struggle because it’s in the struggle that we experience the depth and richness of being alive. Sending you love and gratefulness!

Daphney
Daphney
6 months ago

I love this article…actually thinking about living off grid, trying to get as much information as I can to help me succeed living off grid. I do believe in the near future soon…everyone will live off grid. I love your article it has encourage me too just g for it!
Would like t o know what water source did you have?…thank you

Helen
Helen
6 months ago

Lived off-grid for 16 years, best years of my life. Indoor toilet, septic system, water pumped from the creek and at the end we had electricity. We lived in a large metal shed converted into a home. Had rooms, kitchen, large windows, it was a home that we built ourselves. Water was stored in a tank. No one around for miles, quiet, peaceful. Could swim in the creek in summer. We had a small farm, calves and fruit trees. We planted 500 trees by ourselves, and hauled irrigation pipe by hand until we could afford to lay pipe for irrigation.Had to listen to the radio in the car, not that we did much. We could pretty much build – do as we wanted no rules, hence the septic system. No stores around, no pizza, nothing, an hours drive to get milk and bread. Glad we did it when we could, we went back and people found the area, not the same. We left as we got older and the work was getting harder. But oh the great memories and stories we have.

Lisa Bell
Lisa Bell
6 months ago

Awww this brought back sweet memories. My parents were missionaries in the mountains of Veracruz ,Mexico, at the time there was no access to their remote location except by drop off by local bush pilot. They had no running water and no electricity. Eventually my dad got his own pilots license and God provided a plane , over the years he built a home block by block, little buddy little with materials carried up the mountain by mule back. But even then , no running water, we used petroleum lamps and a generator . The sweetest memories and special family bonds were made. Seems to me when you have less you indeed have more of the good stuff.

Imdoodah
Imdoodah
6 months ago

Thanks for sharing your wonderful memories! My husband and I lived off grid for 4 years. Well, mostly I lived off grid, because my husband was still working his full-time job 14-16 hours per day, 5-6 days per week. We purchased 50 acres of land that connected to his father’s 200 acres on one side, and his brother’s 80 acres on another side. We built our off grid, (but wired for electricity) board and batten cabin almost exclusively from lumber we cut, milled, and planed. We never connected to the grid because at the time, the estimated cost with us literally doing all the labor, purchasing wire, etc. was quoted at $22 thousand dollars. The electric company would connect the wire to the pole on one end, and the cabin on the other and that’s it. So, 22k for the privilege of then paying a monthly bill? Thanks, but no thanks. The first year we lived in our roughed out cabin, we had only a wood burning stove to use for heat and cooking, and a 5 day cooler to keep foods that needed it cold. In the months when it was too warm to use the woodstove for cooking, I had an outdoor cooking fire pit and a charcoal grill. We hauled water from his father’s farm, and used an outhouse. The second year, we purchased (2) one hundred pound propane tanks. One to have supplemental heat in winter, and one to operate a propane cookstove and refrigerator. We also bought a second gas powered generator to use to run my husband’s C-pap machine, and a small air conditioner for the hottest of hot days. We bought solar powered lights, originally just to have outside lighting at night, but then also discovered we could run the wiring from the panels inside, and hook those little lights up inside above my cookstove and sink area. Prior to that, I only used oil lamps and had the light cast by the fire in the woodstove. That year I read 270 books I got from the library, and learned how to garden, preserve food, sew by hand, crochet, and raise chickens (along with the teaching his parents provided). When coyotes discovered my little flock and killed 4 chickens in one day, I also learned how to shoot a gun. The chickens were companionship, entertainment, and a food source so I had to protect them. We currently only part-time homestead due to my husband’s health, but I would otherwise want to continue full-time the rest of my days.

Bre
Bre
6 months ago

A sweet story! Thank you for sharing.

Lehman's
Lehman's
Admin
Reply to  Imdoodah
6 months ago

Wow! Great story and thank you for sharing!

WENDY JAHNS
WENDY JAHNS
4 months ago

Beautiful!

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