Are you interested in off grid homesteading? When we first moved off the grid eight years ago, we didn’t have any specific plans to homestead. However, as we began to get interested in becoming more self-reliant, we realized the challenges of an off the grid homestead were a bit unique in today’s world.
Here are some of the issues we’ve run into plus the solutions we’ve found (or are trying) at our off grid homestead in Canada’s Northwest Territories.
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Off Grid Homesteading and Limited Power
We recently upgraded our off grid solar panels and generator along with getting a new Tesla Powerwall 2, so we finally have a reliable power source. However, our power was limited until a few months ago.
And given how cold our winters are here, off grid homesteading with a large chicken flock was a challenge. Our DIY coop is well insulated, but -50C days mean we had to run a generator and an extension cord to the coop to warm it up to about -14C.
If you’re serious about trying to homestead off grid, think carefully about your options when it comes to powering your barn, coop, or other outbuildings.
Do you need to run a heater? What about fans? Think about the electric homesteading tools you rely on. Can you get a gasoline alternative? Better yet, look for options that don’t need power at all.
You might find these through online sites such as Lehman’s. Originally catering to the Amish/Mennonite/Plain People, nowadays their huge online catalog is popular with off grid homesteading folks all over.
And by the way, have you had a chance to check out Lehman's Hardware Store (affiliate link)? This is one of our favorite sites for quality, Amish-made homestead tools and supplies at great prices
Over the years our solutions have included
- Running outdoor extension cords
- Using a portable gasoline generator to whatever tool, heater or fan we need
- Constructing new outbuildings with extra insulation
- Banking snow/straw bales on external walls of our coop in winter
- Using headlamps for outdoor chores in the dark (we only get 4 hours of daylight in winter)
- Hatching our chicks in our warm boiler room in the house instead of the coop!
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Whether you’re homesteading off the grid or on it, you’re going to need a reliable water supply. Your vegetable garden and your livestock depend on it.
This means you need to figure out an irrigation system that requires little to no power. One of my off grid homesteading friends up the trail uses a pump from her lake to a custom-designed gravity-fed system.
In our case, we pump our water year round from the lake behind our house. And we then store it in a huge water tank. Our off grid water supply easily covers all we need and then some.
However, in the winter, we can't use the outside faucet to get water for our chickens. So we carry empty pails of water out to them a couple of times a day.
Getting Feed & Supplies to Remote Location
If you’re homesteading off grid, most times this means you’re far from civilization. Getting homestead supplies to a remote location comes with challenges. And often a big shipping bill.
This is where making friends comes in handy. Try to connect with an individual at the closest homestead/farming/hardware supply store to you.
Depending where you’re located, this could be some distance away. However, a good relationship could mean they’re willing to combine your shipped homestead supplies and tools with a family trip to your area. Or at least to combine shipping with another order.
You could also try to connect with someone local. Post a notice in your closest town, or online. Anyone else trying their hand at off grid homesteading in your general area? If so, try to coordinate feed orders, farm supply orders to save on shipping.
In our case, we have a good friend with a thriving homestead and market garden just about ten minutes up the trail. In the past we’ve coordinate with her to get chicks and turkeys from a hatchery down in Edmonton, Alberta (an 18-hour drive south.)
We’ve also connected with a farmer down in Hay River, NWT, about five hours south of us. A few times a year, Mark drives an 18-wheeler up to this area to deliver chicken and turkey feed plus straw bales, etc. to the folks around who have chickens. (Note: over the past year many more people are interested in keeping chickens - even in town in Yellowknife. )
Time Management When Homesteading
While time management challenges homesteaders both on the grid and off the grid, it can seem a bit overwhelming when you add those chores to the daily routine of off grid living. This is especially true if you’re a family like ours. Our days overflow with homesteading, homeschooling, homemaking, and working from home.
In the summer, we’re scrambling to get our gardens in, safe from predators, fattening up our meat chickens, collecting and selling eggs, and completing our never-ending list of homestead projects.
Every off grid homesteading family will have a slightly different situation. I’ve found the key to dealing with the time management challenge of homesteading off the grid is to create a daily morning, afternoon, and evening routine. I also block out 6-week time periods and set a couple of priorities for each block.
I slightly alter our routines to meet the homesteading, homeschooling, homemaking or work goals taking priority during that time.
For example, our priorities during our current six week block are our construction/reno projects plus our garden. Other times of the year, such as during winter, homeschooling might take priority, or working on this site.
Sometimes I just focus on creating more off grid, homeschooling and homesteading resources in our digital shop, or teaching the girls life skills through our homeschooling and homesteading days.
Each day, however, I identify three Must-Do goals. Doing this helps me focus and manage my time better. And they’re the three things that I must get finished, no matter what.
These are often activities that will make money, or RGAs (revenue-generating-activities.) And they’re the three things that I must get finished, no matter what. However, sometimes they’re food supply activities. Over the past year we’ve been working hard to secure our family’s food supply and build our long-term food stores.
Homesteaders know the to-do lists never end. Getting a time management system in place is a huge help.
Getting Advice and Help
Another challenge of trying to homestead off the grid is getting help. When you’re homesteading down south (which basically means anywhere in North America because we’re up at the 62nd parallel) you’re closer to friends/families/neighbours to help. If you homestead off grid in a remote area, help isn’t so easily available.
Yet one of the most valuable resources when you’re preparing to live off the grid and homestead is the advice and help from others. THis is where finding other like-minded individuals can help. Look for social media groups and pages such asFacebook local groups.
If you have good internet, look for helpful online homesteading resources and/or digital printables to help make your off grid homesteading adventures a success.
In particular, I found Melissa K. Norris’s resources at Pioneering Today helpful when it comes to canning and preserving, as well as gardening. Marjorie Wildcraft at The Grow Network also has useful gardening resources, plus several off grid specific tools to use.
Off grid homesteading isn’t for the fainthearted. Yet with some planning, preparation, determination, and good problem-solving skills, the rewards are immeasurable.