Unplugged: From City Life to Off-Grid Homestead

| 6/26/2013 2:34:00 PM

My husband, David, and I both grew up in the Seattle area. My family lived for many years right in theSnowy Homestead In Winter heart of the city, while David lived in a suburb south of town. So how did we end up living on an off-grid homestead in the foothills of Washington State's Olympic mountains?

I have to admit that before I knew David, I didn't even know what "off the grid" meant. Grid? What grid? I lived in Seattle. 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, and even then the electricity usually came back on within hours. So when I met David, and he casually told me about his "country place," and that it was "off the grid," I had no idea what he meant. I was embarrassed to admit that at the time.

David explained that his grandparents had bought the property back in 1936. From 1948-49, his grandfather built the wonderful house we live in. David and his sisters used to spend part of their summer vacations there, and that's when his dreams of living there one day took root.

Simply put, being off the grid means that we are not connected to the local electrical service. Although we are close to finishing the installation of our solar-electric system, we do not have full-time electricity. We do have a generator, which we turn on a couple of times a month, when we run the washing machine. Otherwise, the house runs on propane: We have gas hot water heating, refrigerator/freezer, stove and oven, and gas lamps on the walls. Two wood stoves provide all the heating we need.

We moved here in 2006, after David retired from his job as a city bus driver. Although we had come up to the farm about one weekend a month in the years before his retirement, I was still anticipating a major transition, going from full-time electricity to off the grid just like that. Actually, the only thing I remember about it was trying to get out of the habit of reaching for a light switch every time I walked into a room.

When people come to visit for the first time, it's common to have to reassure them that we do, in fact, have running water in the house. In light of my own previous ignorance, I can easily understand their not knowing what to expect. Some have referred to our house as our "cabin in the woods." This always makes us smile, especially since it's actually larger than the house we were living in in Seattle. It's a roomy, solid, comfortable house.

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