Why Do This?

Reader Contribution by Jim Baker
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Why do any of this? For each one of us trying to live this ‘off the grid/self sufficient’ life, the answer will be different, yet they will all have a common thread. Independence, security, safety, better health, smaller carbon footprint, getting back to the basics, being caretakers of the earth, costs, the list can go on and on.

Yet for me it also a practical matter of living within my means, and those means are sorely limited. Having been married more than once, starting over more than once, and now reaching a point in my life where I have made the choice to fully retire, it gets down to saving money and having a more healthy life than I did just a few years ago. For me that means having a sustainable life that also offers me a small yet fairly consistent supplemental income. It also means, in my case, weeding through myriad things I would like to do to get my list manageable with those things I am able to do. And even then my list of what I can do and want to do is quite long.

Fortunately for me I do not live where snow comes in levels measured in feet instead of mere inches or fractions thereof. I grew up in that, spent the last year of my time in the military in Maine, so even as good as I was in that environment when I was 6 or even 20, I am not that young anymore and choose to not live up there. (No offense meant or intended to those who do!)

Yet there are still cold-weather issues to be addressed. How to winter over bees and chickens, heating a high tunnel if necessary, wood splitting as a constant year-around project, trimming blueberry bushes, and the never-ending list of things that need to be done.

Yet when all is said and done – as opposed to working for ‘the man’ and living paycheck to paycheck and wishing life was easier, better and had less stress – I am now living that life. Yet that life comes with compromises, its own set of costs, its own reality and its own shortcomings.

Living totally off the grid is simply not feasible for most people, so we do what we can or are comfortable doing. Yes, there are those who do that totally. I wish I had the wherewithal to do it as well. Yet from everything I have seen with those living totally off the grid, a certain amount of serious cash outlay took place at the beginning. Buying a large enough tract of land to manage things, and, in some cases, heavy equipment is purchased. Yes, it will last for several generations if cared for, yet it is a cash outlay that, 1) I don’t have and 2) for my one acre of flat, mostly cleared land, I don’t need or will ever use.

Then there is the issue of the spouse or partner. Are they as into the whole thing as you are? Will they ever be? What is a decent enough compromise that you can both live with and not be thinking of ways to do in your partner down the road? Maybe you are that spouse or partner wondering what in the world has gotten into your significant other that they want to live this lifestyle? What compromises will you make, what is a potential deal breaker, and what is an absolute, do this and I am out of here?

Like many things in life, a lot of tough questions, no easy answers, no free lunch and a lot of head scratching and second guessing.

I promise, more will follow! For now, thanks for reading, stay safe, stay the course and happy homesteading, whatever your definition may be!

Photo: Fotolia/vvoe

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