Family of Seven's Off Grid Living Adventure: 'Our Story... Starting from Scratch'

Categories: Life Stories
Very encouraging to read, if a young family of 7 can do this, I am sure that a lot of us can do it too.

It was perfect… the soil was moist and loamy; the large pines stood like gates into an ancient city. Our family used the small and narrow rabbit trails as our routes of travel in exploring our newly purchased, 5 acres.  

My wife and I had finally stepped out; we sold all of our belongings that would not fit into our 34 foot motor home and a borrowed 4x8 trailer. For the first week we couldn’t even drive into our newfound dream, but parked just outside of the property lines. 

We took countless walks, painting pictures in the air with our hands.  In our minds’ eye we saw fruitful gardens and orchards. We knew that living the homestead lifestyle and starting from almost nothing was going to take time, but who cares? It’s going to be time spent together. 

A dream remains a dream until a foundation is built underneath it. Our foundation took the shape of reading and gleaning as much “how to” as possible from the public library, the internet, and our favorite books and magazines. 

Some of the immediate challenges that we faced were providing water, sanitation, shelter, and food preparation. You must establish the homesteading necessities first, to keep the sanity of your other half and your children! The building of your dream will run more smoothly when you have a dry place to sleep, an outhouse, clean clothes, and a full stomach. Production will continue at a steady pace, guaranteed.

Our first months of camping on our property were spent setting up these four basic systems and learning what we really needed to keep daily life running smooth:  

#1 Water 

We were really fortunate that we were able to have a drilled well on our property when we bought it. The only catch-- there was no pump. That still meant no water, and for three months we hauled water from a neighbor. We used two 15 gallon water barrels in the back of our station wagon. We found a wonderful siphon online that hooked up to a garden hose, which we used to siphon water to smaller water containers, and to water the garden. We ended up watering our garden all summer by hauling water in and mulching extensively.  

We found five gallon water jugs at the grocery store to be very handy, because they were so much easier to move than large barrels. This worked great for drinking water, hand & face washing, brushing our teeth, filling the tea kettle, etc.  We fitted the top with a siphon hand pump, and with four or five quick strokes the pump gave a steady stream that would run long enough to fill a glass or wash hands. We placed a basin under the pump to catch the grey water from hand washing, and to keep our outdoor kitchen from getting muddy. 

When hauling water it’s very important to make sure that everyone is getting their personal water needs met. Water bottles are an excellent way to monitor this, especially with children. This was our first experience with rationing the basics of life. We learned very quickly what a wasteful mindset we had brought with us, and how we needed to change that mindset. The whole family realized what a precious resource water really is. In three months’ time we had our well going with a new pump, a holding tank, and a generator for all our off-grid water needs. 

#2 Sanitation 

It’s priority to set up your outhouse, composting toilet, or whatever you choose to use. We had to set up a temporary camping toilet until we could get a proper outhouse built. It’s great to have sanitizer and wipes when using a toilet outdoors. 

Bathing comes next; keeping clean is important for sanitary reasons, not to mention your morale. A good old-fashioned sponge bath works wonders, and is very refreshing. Simply warm up a kettle of water, pour into a large pan and sponge away. A large plastic tote works as a great mini-bath, especially for children, and solar showers work too. Another idea is to go big, and if you can get hold of a claw foot tub or a stock tank, build a simple privacy screen around your new outdoor bathing area. Then fit a length of galvanized pipe with a valve to a 55 gallon drum. Set the drum on bricks, fill it with water, and build a fire underneath to warm your homesteader’s spa. 

  Last, but not least, you must have a plan for laundry. This can be tricky if you have a lack of water when you are setting up camp. We started by using a wringer washer, plugged into our small generator. It worked well, but we did have to haul a fair amount of water. 

If water is lacking, a hand plunger washer and a five gallon bucket can wash clothes in no time, with very little water. We still use our hand plunger washer for socks & underclothes on a daily basis in the bathtub. We wouldn’t be without our clothesline during the summer months, and large drying racks for the winter months.
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