When we first started planning this adventure, I think we both had this picture in our head of a remote cottage with very little interaction with the outside world (apart from family and friends of course), making or growing as much as we could. We always accepted that there would be things we would have to buy – it was never part of the plan to weave loo roll! We thought if we could become 40-50% self sufficient within 3 years that would be a good goal.
So we’re 4 months in and here’s the reality – we’re 1 km from a very small village – and we like that. We’ve got to know some of the locals and drop into the cafe a couple of times a week for a natter. So we have the peace and quiet of the countryside but can drive 5 mins to a doctor, little shop and a decent cup of coffee!
We have a water supply – true it’s only river water, but we’ve managed to turn it into safe drinking water for the house – so we haven’t got to worry about wells. We don’t have any drainage or sewerage, so all the water we use in the house goes out to water the trees, and the new composting toilet means everything gets recycled and used on the land. Because all our grey water goes outside, we don’t use anything with any chemicals. I make all the shampoo, shower gel, kitchen and bathroom cleaner etc from natural ingredients.
Electricity is truly off grid – solar only. Solar is limited unless you’re going to install 20 panels and a massive inverter, but we are happy with what we’ve got. Some things we don’t run on solar and use gas bottles instead – hot water, cooking and the fridge. The additional investment we would’ve needed to make with the solar system was massive – we calculated it would take over 10 years before we broke even, and by that time parts of the solar system would need replacing. At some point we will add a chest freezer and we think this will be fine on the solar system. We use 2-3 gas bottles a month.
Washing clothes is all off grid – I bought a crank handle washer and spin dryer, so a big tick there (although some off gridders would say we should’ve made these ourselves!).
We have a computer, and on Monday we are having WiMAX installed. This is a compromise but we had to get realistic! We will need to work at some point, and this will give us the ability to work from home. There’s also lots to learn, and the internet is a useful resource to help us. We will have dark cold winter nights, and the ability to watch a film now and again will be great. We don’t have a TV, we don’t read papers and we don’t listen to the news – I would challenge anyone to try this for a few weeks – it’s wonderful!
Food – as we have 90 fruit trees so I buy very little fruit! We haven’t planted much veg yet as we need to get what we’ve already got under control – we decided to hold off until the autumn to start the veg. So at the moment I am buying our food, but the big difference is everything is homemade with simple fresh ingredients – no convenience foods, and now I have a gas oven I can start making bread etc myself, which we haven’t been able to do until now.
Rubbish and use of plastic – reduced dramatically – two small bags of rubbish a week – putting that into context it would take us over two months to fill a UK wheelie bin! Happy with that! Not a scrap of food is thrown away – all goes to compost.
So we haven’t compromised on everything, and I think our goal to be 50% self sufficient is going to be possible. I’m comfortable on the compromises we have made – coming from a life in the UK where I had all the gizmos and modern trappings to where we are now has been a huge jump, and I’m not sure I’ll ever want to be washing clothes on a rock by a river!