Our Handmade, Off-the-Grid Home

We cut our own lumber and built our off-the-grid home for only $5,000.

| February/March 2004

  • Chainsaw Mill
    Les Oke cut all the lumber for his family's house using this Granberg Alaskan Mark III chain saw mill attachment.
    Photo by Les Oke
  • Green Homes
    The Oke family (from left, Jane, Andrew, Karen and Les) show off the chain saw attachment they used to build this inexpensive home. Andre, the youngest child, waves from the roof.
    Photo by Les Oke
  • Owning A Home
    Jane Oke cans vegetables from the family garden.
    Photo by Les Oke
  • Living The Good Life
    The view from the Oke's front door.
    Photo by Les Oke
  • Off the Grid
    During the days of skyrocketing interest rates in the late 1980s, my wife, Jane, and I realized that our dream of owning a home was slipping away.
    Photo by Fotolia/Gina Sanders

  • Chainsaw Mill
  • Green Homes
  • Owning A Home
  • Living The Good Life
  • Off the Grid

Our Beautiful, $5000 Off-the-Grid Home

During the days of skyrocketing interest rates in the late 1980s, my wife, Jane, and I realized that our dream of owning a home was slipping away. For the first eight years of our marriage, we lived in a rented house in Norwich, Ontario, and we just couldn't save fast enough to buy our own place.

Then, a friend gave us a box of 80 back issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS. That box opened up a whole new world for us. Reading those magazines, we realized other people looked at the world the same way we did.

In 1992, we purchased 20 acres of bush in Northbrook, a hamlet in eastern Ontario about 150 miles from Norwich. The property had a plowed back road with school bus service, but it didn't have electric power. We were determined to live without the "monthly mortgage," as my wife calls it, to the electric company.

The same friend introduced me to Living the Good Life, the classic homesteading book by Helen and Scott Nearing, and I discovered self-sufficiency. I began corresponding with Helen (Scott had died five years earlier) about our move and our worries. In her motherly way, she patiently guided us through our fears. I still have those letters.



On May 5, 1994, we moved to our property, determined to build our house before the first snow. We had saved $5,000 for this purpose.

We lived in a tent trailer that I had bartered for when working with a local carpenter. By June, we had the land cleared and the concrete footings and block walls done. A local contractor put in the septic system and well, and cleared the land for $700.






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