Hybrid Home Energy Systems Offer Both Off-Grid and Grid-Tied Benefits

For residential electricity users who want to control and master their electrical consumption, as well as business owners and agricultural users, a hybrid approach offers the best of both worlds: reduced or even eliminated utility charges and backup during critical times, without the need to stay totally off the grid with a system that can draw from the grid when necessary to make up the difference.

From the Ravages of Fire Come Berries

'Tis the season for harvesting. Specifically, for me at least, the abundant blueberries and cranberries that are in quantity and free for the taking. How we take advantage of prior devastation from forest fires to pick our yearly supply of blueberries and cranberries.

Better Wood Heat: Rocket Mass Heater FAQs Answered

Wood is one of the oldest forms of heat, and throughout the millennia, has been used to keep mankind toasty and defrosted. However, now that we’re an older and (presumably) wiser race, we’re seeing how inefficient and unsustainable this form of heat can be. Rocket mass heaters and rocket stove technology offers the solution, and puts affordable, efficient heat within reach of us all.

Transforming Precambrian-Shield Soil into Rich Garden Loam

Being above the 56th parallel, we are in Zone 0, the harshest zone per Ag Canada. We're faced with a short, fickle growing season where frost can occur at any time during the summer months. We were faced with the daunting task of improving the poor boreal forest soil. Here is how we transformed the shallow, poor soils of the Precambrian Shield of our wilderness homestead into a rich garden loam.

Gardening at High Elevation

Growing vegetables at a high elevation can be very challenging. Over the years we have had to be flexible and creative in order to manage a small garden. We grow enough for our needs but not enough to put any vegetables up for future use. This blog post outlines some of the challenges we have faced and how we overcame them.

Remembering Renewable Energy Pioneer Dan Alway

Dan Alway, longtime renewable energy advocate and pioneer, was honored by more than 600 of his friends and colleagues at an award presentation at The Energy Fair in Custer, Wisconsin.

Can Seniors Really Homestead Remotely?

Homesteading is an exciting life choice regardless of age, and one of the benefits is the remoteness. Seniors can be homesteaders, but just be prepared for hard physical work and be open to adjustment and change.

A Woman's Perspective on Off-Grid Living (with Video)

What's it like to be a woman off the grid? Dirty? Chore-filled? Sacrificial? Modern day off-grid homesteading is a wonderful, empowering lifestyle for those women who choose to take this path. Yet, finding practical, reality-based feedback is getting harder! Media and networks are often misleading in their depiction of off-grid life, because they need to feed a audience who is thirsting for excitement. Here is on woman's reality check.

Homesteading as a Senior Citizen

Seniors like myself are coping today on many levels of homesteading and life is good for us even if a little more difficult. Learn how homesteading and self-sufficiency have become more difficult as we grow older but is far from being over.

Fossil-Fuel-Free Cooking

Gas range or induction cooking? The speed and efficiency revealed. Because I’m off-grid, induction will be my go-to cooking method when sunshine is ample, offering an option for fossil-free cooking!

Entertaining Yourself When Living Off-Grid

How do you currently fill your spare time? Is it with things that are time wasters or things that are productive? How do you entertain yourself when Living Off Grid, Really?!?!

Off-Grid Water Preparedness

Water is the liquid-gold standard for off-grid sustainability. However, how does a new off-grid homesteader prepare for their water needs? Here are some simple tips from seasoned veterans on how to successfully have a backup plan for water.

Solar vs Wind Energy: Which is Right for Your Home?

If you’re a homeowner weighing your renewable energy options, you already know that thorough research is the best way to find the right system for your home. Here’s everything you need to know about the benefits of residential wind vs. solar power so that you can make your decision with confidence.

Off-Grid and Free: Living With Wolves and Remote Communications

They're back. The wolves. During breakfast one morning this past week, we heard a chorus of howling. Racing down to the shoreline, we saw 3 wolves in the center of the lake about a mile away. The wolves are a symbol of our wilderness location. Learn how we live with them and stay in touch with civilization.

Homesteading With Code Requirements

When we built our current home in 1992, there were very few rules and codes that could damage or destroy our dream of doing most of the work in building our cabin ourselves. Times like that are rapidly disappearing and those who build now must endure permits, inspections, delays and forced compliance. The dream of building your own home could be more complicated than just knowing construction techniques nowadays. Read our story.

Off-Grid and Free: The Dangers of a Slush-Covered Lake

Living remotely is wonderful but it does force us to evaluate our actions knowing that we are ultimately responsible for our own safety. Taking the precautions outlined here is just one example of how we try to cover all the bases. Safety is paramount and slush on a lake can become a safety concern.

Alternative Health When Living Off-Grid, Really!?

When was the last time you thought of the food you ate as medicine to feed both your body but also your well being? Modern medicine has recently started to focus on preventative care but historically has only been a way of last resort or once things have already gone bad. There needs to be a balance.

DIY Off-Grid Chicken-Watering System

For the same cost as one more indoor waterer, we built an outdoor system with 10 times the capacity that won’t require much extra work from us to keep up.

6 Things More Difficult than Building Yourself a Green Home

People think building is difficult. It’s not. And in the hope of encouraging a few more wannabe natural builders, I’ve compiled the following list. Because in my experience, there are far harder things in life than building a house.

The First MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR in Texas

The first year fair in Belton, Texas was a huge event and by all accounts, a success. I was super busy at the DIY Showcase the entire fair and had over 300 people attend my presentation on the GRIT Stage.

Solemn Confession of a Rookie Off-Grid Homesteader

When we started our off grid homesteading adventure, we had all sorts of elaborate plans as to what we would accomplish our first year. Six months into our journey, it seems that we underestimated our workload, by a long shot!

Living Off-Grid, Really?!

Aur Beck, who has lived off-grid with solar electricity as his main power source for 18 years, shares some of his personal experiences with renewable resources throughout his life.

Taking Care of Turkeys in Winter

Winter weather presents challenges for anyone raising poultry in northern climates. Here are a few tips for getting your turkeys through the winter.

Technological Challenges of Off-Grid Homestead Living, Part 5: Heat

This is the final article in a series on how I made the transition to off grid homestead living by combining appropriate modern technology and reliable techniques practiced for thousands of years of human history. Currently I’m entering the first winter of full-time off grid living at my mountain homestead after completing the construction of my small house.

Technological Challenges of Off-Grid Homestead Living, Part 4: Food

This is part four in a series of articles on how I made the transition to off grid homestead living by combining appropriate modern technology and reliable techniques practiced for thousands of years. Currently I’m entering the first winter of full-time off grid living at my mountain homestead after completing the construction of my small house.

Technological Challenges of Off-Grid Homestead Living, Part 3: Water

This is part three in a series of articles on how I made the transition to off grid homestead living by combining appropriate modern technology and reliable techniques practiced for thousands of years. Currently I’m entering the first winter of full-time off grid living at my mountain homestead after completing the construction of my small house.

Technological Challenges of Off-Grid Homestead Living, Part 2: Electricity

This is Part 2 in a series of articles on how I made the transition to off-grid homestead living by combining appropriate modern technology and reliable techniques practiced for thousands of years of human history. The author is currently entering the first winter of full-time off-grid living at his mountain homestead after completing the construction of a small house.

Technological Challenges of Off-Grid Homestead Living, Part 1: Resources

This is the first of a series of articles on how I made the transition to off-grid homestead living by combining appropriate modern technology and reliable old-school techniques practiced for thousands of years of human history. Currently I’m entering the first winter of full-time off-grid living at my mountain homestead after completing the construction of my small home.

Things Get Easier One Step at a Time

Dream big, build a small house or make home improvements, and enjoy the benefit of every task when you tap into your Zen of Building.

Can I Go Off the Grid with Solar Batteries?

Energy storage technology is moving closer to mass-market adoption. As solar batteries become cheaper and more accessible for homeowners, more people are wondering, “Can I use solar batteries to go off the grid with my solar panel system?”

The Wise Grid Series, Part 2: The Hudson Valley ‘Energy Highway’ Transmission Project — An Idea Whose Time Has Passed?

A 150-mile transmission line project proposed in 2012 costing up to $1.3 billon is a “dinosaur” that is still haunting the Hudson Valley. But rooftop solar energy, battery storage, and community microgrids can replace the ancient, costly, and vulnerable centralized generation and transmission electricity system that has dominated New York and the entire nation — and advanced little technologically — for over a century.

Why Off-Gridders Love Home Wind Turbines

The advantages of combining wind and solar go beyond system performance and floating batteries – it’s an enhancement to the off-grid lifestyle as a whole.

The Wise Grid Series, Part 1: Smart Meters Are Not Smart

Transformation of the electricity sector may be able to be delayed by wasting billions of federal tax dollars on unnecessary meters, and large long-distance transmission lines, but it cannot be stopped. It may be a politically rocky transition for the foreseeable future, but I am confident America will certainly achieve energy independence and clean energy abundance.

'Life Off Grid'

In this blog post we describe the choices we made in producing and editing our film, "Life Off Grid."

Life. Off the Grid.

This initial blog post tells the story of how Phillip Vannini became interested in off-grid living and how he began — together with Jonathan Taggart — to do research on the off-grid lifestyle in Canada.

Natural Conditions Beyond Our Control

Being a homesteader and living off the land often means being subjected to natural conditions beyond our control, sometimes predictable changes of seasons and temperatures, other times curve balls such as unseen pest pressure, hard frosts in late May or heavy snow in early November. A lifestyle where these natural circumstances is the main determining factor for what gets done when is getting increasingly rarer – humans have gained what some consider an advantage by manipulating the world into a state where we, in many ways, can remain unaffected from the forces of nature.

A Tale of Two Green Homes

There are multiple philosophies that describe what characterizes a green home, but all have low energy loads in common.

How to Make Biogas in 5 Easy Steps

This article does not get into home biogas gas yields or what biogas can be used for, but it is a basic introduction to the five necessary conditions for how to make biogas at home to get you started.

Going, Going, Gone...Off-Grid

How to go from buying everything at Wally World to growing organic vegetables, raising livestock, building an efficient home, and a Do-It-Yourself, self-sufficient lifestyle.

Lessons from the Mother Earth News Fair

At the Mother Earth News Fair in Puyallup, Wash, I listened to lecturers cover topics from re-newable energy, small-scale farming, green building, organic gardening, simple living, and citizen solidarity building. While I listened, I pondered ways to weave these powerful themes into our children's lives.

Homemade Wind Generator

Build your own wind generator for use with 12-Volt systems. Charge up batteries for lighting, fans, tools and more.

Darning Socks

Darning socks is a simple thing to do - and a statement for self-sufficiency!

Creating a Homestead: Where to Start

Tips to help you get started planning your very own homestead. With proper planning you don't have to be experienced to do it right.

Winter Chores for Off-Grid Living

Outside of a few rare equipment failures, we’ve never had a power outage in the past 20 years that wasn’t our own fault — usually caused by not paying attention to power use or proper battery charging. Weather failures, on the other hand, are starting to become noticeable.

What We Gave Up To Go Off-Grid

Providing your own sewer, water and power can be more expensive and is certainly less convenient but that's not all there is to consider. This article takes a look at some of the other differences between public and private services.

Breaking Trail

Using snowshoes to keep our paths and trails open as the snow piles up.

A Report on Warmth

With winter beginning, these homesteaders are starting winter off cozy in their cabin.

Off the Grid With Solar Power

Renewable energy is often seen as a way to have it all and still feel “green” and it is indeed at a glance more environment friendly than conventional power, but no power has as low footprint as the power not used.

Living Off Grid: Lessons Learned

Each year we learn more and more about living off grid and homesteading. These are just a few of the third-year experiences we wanted to share.

Backyard Homestead

There are a lot of things you can do right now to experience the homestead lifestyle right in your backyard.

Unplugged: From City Life to Off-Grid Homestead

How did Victoria Redhed Miller and husband David end up living on an off-grid homestead in the foothills of Washington State's Olympic mountains? Grid? What grid? Electricity was something one took for granted; it came from those outlets on the walls. I was hardly aware of it except during one of the infrequent power outages.

Film Strives to Promote Simple Living Off-Grid

An upcoming inspirational documentary, “Beyond Off-Grid,” that strives to motivate people to return to the old paths, includes self-sufficiency experts from around the country. A MOTHER EARTH NEWS blog prompted the producer to contact us.

Taking the Leap to Off-Grid

A few thoughts on why so many people are hesitant to make the transition to produce their own power.

Off-Grid vs. Grid-Tied

A look at the advantages and disadvantages of “off-grid” and "grid-tied” solar electric systems.

Reusable Canning Lids

Our experiences in learning to pressure can and use reusable canning lids.

Free Range Winter Chickens

How both we and the chickens have gotten better at surviving the cold winters where we live.

Walking Home

Making the most of a winter walk to home.

Walking Water

We haul our water from the river - walking water!

Our Little House

The thrill continues living in our handmade house.

Ode to a Hand Saw

Ode to our hand saw...why we choose to live without power, and what we've accomplished by hand.

Putting in Windows

again, rushing to beat the weather as we close in our finishing our hand-built cabin

Living Off Grid - Backup Systems

If you want to live independently, it's always good to have backup because no one else is coming to the rescue. This is how we did it.

Living Off-Grid: Water Cisterns

This post is about our water cisterns and what we use them for. It also contains a caution that many local governments would like to tell you what you can and can't do with rainwater.

Living Off Grid - Home and Energy Options Part 3

This is the last of a series in home and energy options available to us. It is a short summary of all of the choices we have when designing a new home on or off grid that will benefit your energy use.

Living Off Grid - Home and Energy Options Part 2

This part of the series deals with window size and location, ceiling heights, eave length, and other design and passive design choices you can make for your new home. These choices apply whether you are on or off the grid.

Living Off Grid - Home and Energy Options Part 1

This blog is about all of the choices we have for the type of home we want for off grid living and some of the construction materials involved. It turns out there are a multitude of options we have to choose from.

Living Off Grid - Step 1 Research and Planning

These are the first steps we took to make the change from city living to off grid living. It describes the questions you should ask before you buy property and the research required to make sure you can do want you want with your property.

Living Off Grid - What Does It Mean?

This blog is an introduction to how we went from a condominium lifestyle to off grid modern homesteading in the mountains. It also includes an explanation of the meaning of "off grid".

Living Offgrid Affordably: Before Getting Started

Jeff and wife Kathy have lived off-grid since 2002. They strive to inform the public about ways to live inexpensively, and to further the principle of sustainability. Visit their website to learn more: www.naturalpower.weebly.com

Sustainability, One Step At a Time

Once our bodies and our imaginations are engaged, the incremental change begins. Then it gets easier and easier to envision humanity occupying this planet–this beautiful, abundant planet–far into the future.

The Smart Grid

We have the technology, today, to make our power grid more sustainable, cleaner, more robust and more reliable just by replacing old-fashioned metering with “smart-metering”[1] and agreeing to pay homeowners who generate electricity.

Would You Rather Be On the Grid, or Off the Grid?

Tell us what you think. If you installed a wind turbine or solar-electric panels, would you want to be tied to the electric grid, or would you rather have a grid-independent system?

Thinking About the Grid

There's lots of good information on renewable energy in this new NPR series on electricity in America.

More Wind, More Wires

If we want more electricity from renewable sources, we need to think about upgrades to our electric grid.

What Does Living “Off the Grid” Mean?

The term "living off the grid" can be used in different ways, but it means something very specific when you start looking at producing electricity from renewable sources.