Living Off the Grid: Dream or Nightmare?

Reader Contribution by Manuela And Frank Mueller
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Our log home on Bagpipe Lake, Nova Scotia – photo by Manuela Mueller

Well, as there are so many different opinions and definitions, let me keep it simple and go with an example I can relate to and therefore explain best what I mean.

We moved back to Nova Scotia after living up far North in Sweden with one of those things on our bucket list “to build our own log home in the middle of the woods on a lake”.

The 50-acre lot on a little lake with the closest neighbour about 5 km away and only a rugged, winding path through the woods and a little bridge that hardly held the weight of our truck was found and deemed suitable for our new challenge, and I’m sure up to this point it really sounds like a dream come true.

And now, five years later, sitting in my recliner writing this post, things are really not bad at all. But, yes, of course, there’s always a “but”, this life comes at a price and it’ll never be an easy way of living out here. Oh, and I’m not writing this to complain or whine … it’s just that although we really were aware upfront and very honest to ourselves what to expect and how much we could “deliver” to this project, physically, mentally and financially, it was a lot tougher, in ways we hadn’t imagined, than we’d expected.

First of all, we were always in good physical shape, even being age 53 when we started this project, but if you think about cutting a path through the woods, clearing land, cutting, pealing and scribing the trees for your house yourself, figuring out how to build, setup and connect a solar system and do all kind of other construction by yourself, while having to work a job to be able to pay for everything, because even if you’re capable of DIYing a lot of things, there will be a lot of bills to be paid!

Setting the first row of logs – photo by Manuela Mueller

You really have to make sure that you take a good hard look at yourself and if your body is able to hold up to all of those tasks in the long run.

Of course, you can take it easy and set the pace and timeline the way that suits you best, but for us, it was getting back to a 7-day workweek from dusk till dawn … and it was hard not only on the body but also mentally.

Setting corner logs – photo by Manuela Mueller 

We lived in a trailer for two years during the build and even though we’d insulated everything, the Canadian winter storms were more challenging than I can say and we had a couple of close calls that also reminded us that out there, you really have to be aware of the risks you take as nobody is around or will be able to help if you run into trouble.

Not only because of the distance, but we have no cell service in our area and even now with having satellite internet, this only works in good weather. Bad weather means no sat service. So you are on your own.

The next thing that is a no-brainer, but people underestimate it completely … you have to be a “Jack of all Trades”! So, knowing your way around machines and tools, and I don’t mean power tools, as you might not always have power or a generator. Plan on at least having an old tractor or backhoe (this will make your life so much easier, but is an additional expense), but also should know how to maintain them. You need to know your way around electrical issues, not only in the house but also your machines. Of course, you can hire people, but we have only a very limited budget and it’s hard to get people out here in the middle of winter if we run into problems.

House wiring – photo by Manuela Mueller

Make sure you’re accustomed to your surroundings, because you are on your own and as beautiful as Mother Nature can be, she can throw some nasty things at you and you better be prepared!

I have basic medical training which has come in really handy out here and I signed up for survival courses which were worth every penny. I can only suggest that you prepare yourself accordingly if you’re thinking of getting into this way of life. And I’m not talking about encountering bears or anything you might know from TV, but just learning how to use a compass and a map … because believe me, you can’t imagine how easy it is to get lost in the woods, even if you think you know the area!

I could go on and on about this, and I’m not telling this to discourage anybody. It’s just that I’ve seen enough people start out on their “off-grid” dream with high hopes and the attitude that “oh, somehow it’ll work out,” and many were lucky to only have to have lived through a nightmare, some we know unfortunately had to pay a higher price.

We were prepared, we have a lot of knowledge of everything I’ve talked about above and still landed on our butts more than once learning that we still have so much to learn and be very humble living so close to Mother Nature!

Our neighbour – photo by Manuela Mueller

So, if you want to start out on this adventure and live your dream … go for it, but be honest to yourself, be prepared as good as possible, do your due diligence and if your gut tells you something doesn’t feel right … well, it probably isn’t, so trust yourself!

It definitely is worth the effort, because never forget: “Life’s too short to waste a minute.”

Manuela and Frank Muellerlive off the grid in Nova Scotia, where they built their own log home and furniture. Now, they’re ready to teach you in their webinar, “Find Your Perfect Piece of Land in Nova Scotia & Live Your Dream. Connect with Manuela and Frank on their website,Restless Roots, and onFacebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Pinterest. Read all of their MOTHER EARTH NEWSposts here.


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