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Off Grid Living: A Woman’s Perspective

bootsThese are my hiking boots.  I’ve worn them most every day for almost two years.  They were brand new when we moved off grid and now they are pretty worn.  Previously I had only worn hiking boots a few times in my life and I’ve certainly never worn any out.  My boots aren’t pretty, but I’m so proud of them because they have seen many many miles of walking and a lot of hard work.  I’ve come a long way from being a stay at home mom wearing lounge pants and slippers most of the day.  Living off grid has given me so much satisfaction in knowing what I can accomplish!

My life has changed so much in the past two years.  It has been an incredible journey.  I’m thinking about this journey because my husband and I have recently been watching the “Frontier House” show from PBS on youtube.  I resonate with so many of these people’s experiences, especially the women.  I don’t live in 1883, but I’m also not a modern housewife.  I keep my home without electricity and running water.  I’m also old-fashioned in the sense that I don’t “share” keeping our home with my husband.  I do all of the household chores necessary for our off grid life.  He has other work to do!

Living off grid can be a challenge for a modern woman.  I wasn’t raised in the 1800’s.  I was raised with electricity and running water.  I do have the advantage of being raised in a third world country where we did things like collect rain water for all of our water needs, hang clothes on the line and build a fire for hot water every day.  I’m thankful for these experiences because I grew up appreciating what we had.  But as a modern American adult, I had gotten very used to being a consumer and not a producer.  I think my old self would have trouble keeping up with me now!

My husband and I get a lot of email from people asking about how to live off grid.  A lot of times it is from men.  They would love to live an off grid lifestyle with their families.  My first question is always: “How does your wife feel about it?”  I ask this because I know something now that I didn’t know before living this lifestyle.  The wife is the one who makes off grid living possible.  Without her complete commitment, an off grid life will fail.

A woman’s home is her domain.  She is in charge of managing it and the children.  That is her job.  It has always been her job since the beginning of time.  Please don’t send me comments about women’s equality with men.  I know that I am my husband’s equal.  I simply have a different role than he does.  He is our provider, working out in the fields and raising the animals.  I take care of the needs of our home and children, so that he can focus on other things.  I have a college education.  I have held full-time jobs supporting myself.  I am fully capable, but everyone in a family unit needs to have different roles and responsibilities in order for that family to function.  I believe that men’s and women’s roles are different.

well-pumpSo if a woman’s role is to keep the home, what does that mean for an off grid home?  It means that she keeps her home off grid.  This is why my first question is always “How does your wife feel?”  The husband may be out in the field working with the animals, building, cutting firewood, etc.  But her tasks (for the most part) remain the same every day.  I know that modern wives and mothers feel the mundane of everyday household chores.  I have been there too and I’ve heard so many women complain about doing laundry, folding it and putting it away!  An off grid wife and mother also feels those things, but she works a million times harder to get things done.  It takes a lot of energy and worn out boots!  I’ve learned not to procrastinate with my chores.  I don’t leave laundry until tomorrow because there will be more and it will take me twice as long because I do it all with a washtub and wringer.  If I don’t pump water for the day or empty our humanure/potty bucket, we will not have basic things we need for that day.  A quote in the “Frontier House” caught my attention last night as I watched.  One of the wives said that in her most busy hard working day in her “normal” life she never worked as hard as she does every day on her homestead.  She falls into bed at night dead tired and wakes up the next morning to do it all again.  She paints kind of a bleak picture, doesn’t she?  But that’s how hard the original homestead women worked!

woman-firewoodWhat makes us think that we can’t work that hard?  I love this picture of a woman in the 1800’s.  She wasn’t worried about how much weight she would put on during the winter.  She was focused on how to stay warm.  She was concerned with the important things in life.  When I moved off grid, I was nursing a new born baby and up multiple times a night until he was 10 months old.  I worked hard all day and got very little sleep at night.  There was too much to do for naps.  All the while, I was learning and desperately trying to get the “but I deserve” mentality out of my head.  I was committed to learning to be self-sufficient, to being a producer instead of a consumer, to building a better life for my kids away from the constant influx of electronic media, to teaching them the value of hard work and the beauty and excitement of God’s creation around us.

I had both victories and struggles along the way.  Some days I was really proud of myself and some I felt like a failure.  But in everything, I felt myself getting stronger.  Pumping water was a challenge after a recent c-section and getting it to my travel trailer was even harder.  I used a wheelbarrow in the beginning.  Now I can carry two full 5 gallon buckets of water (weighing more than 80 pounds) to my house and up the steps.  With all the hard work, I lost 70 pounds!

Our first winter was a struggle for many reasons.  I will always remember knocking ice out of my washtub, wringing clothes with numb hands, and having clothes freeze in my basket before I even got them on the line.  I was often so thankful for my ability to nurse because a bottle would have frozen and I had no quick way to warm one.  Any mother will understand the commitment I had when I say that my baby never had a bottle.  I was always there when he needed to be fed.

icy-road
Joshua sledding down our road.

We have a very steep mountain road leading to our home.  Before we had it graded and loads of gravel brought in, it was often unpassable for a vehicle.  In the winter, an ice storm would keep us from using our road for two weeks at a time.  There were many times that I walked up and down carrying my baby on my back with my arms loaded with as much as I could carry.  I would have never done any of these things in my previous life.  Yes I had struggles, but I’m so proud of myself that I have accomplished all these things.

Fast forward to today and things have gotten a lot easier.  I have time to blog now!  That in itself says a lot!  I have learned how to get work done faster and more efficiently.  My baby has grown into a potty trained toddler, so I have a lot less diapers to wash by hand!  My oldest has become a good reader and I no longer need to sit with him through every workbook question because he can do so much on his own.  I now have a beautiful kitchen and the knowledge I need to prepare and store all of our food without electricity.  I have my washtub and wringer in the bathroom so that I can do laundry out of the elements while homeschooling and keeping my toddler entertained.  We have made rock paths around our homes, so I’m not constantly wading through mud and washing muddy clothes after falling.  We have guinea hens so I don’t have to pick a million ticks off my kids every night!  There are so many things that have gotten better.

We have worked hard and learned so much!  Life has gotten easier.  Or maybe we have just gotten so used to working hard!  We had to start somewhere and that can be difficult for us women who are used to keeping our homes with all the modern conveniences.  It takes time to get un-used to those things.  I’m thankful that my commitment to this life kept me going through the struggles.  I’m thankful for all I have learned and the little victories along the way that helped me try the next more difficult task.  There is so much satisfaction in doing a hard day’s work to accomplish the important and necessary things in life.

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About JaimieB

Jaimie lives with her husband on their off-grid homestead known online as An American Homestead. They live with their two sons and her parents Tim and Joann on 50 acres located deep in the American Ozark Mountains.

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38 comments

  1. Loved your story!! Please keep writing.

  2. Jaime,
    What a coincidence! My family just watched Frontier House (all 6 episodes) last night while sitting in the comfort of our modern home.
    It has been on our hearts for a very long time to find another place to live and be more self-sufficient. We enjoy watching your videos and always look forward to the next one. It is helping us prepare mentally of what might lay ahead for us.
    My husband had previously emailed you all about how did you go from city life to off grid life. Then, episode 7 came out and he felt like it was talking directly to him. I feel God has placed it on my heart to live simpler and more self-sufficient. I like what you said about being a producer and not a consumer.
    We are trying to learn more skills now and often at night use our oil lamps. We have a solar generator, chickens, horse and garden along with a few other things we keep adding. I have been collecting rain water whenever we can and being so thankful for it. I’m just now learning to knit socks. I have a new appreciation for that too!
    After watching Frontier House, it kind of scared me that what if this will be too hard for me? I’m going to be 50 next month and I also have Fibromyalgia. I hurt most of the time and have to take breaks between chores. I’m wondering if I will be able to do it. I really want to live this way but wonder if I will be able to keep up the house. I even learned how to make bread in our solar oven that my husband built!
    Anyway, all this to say that it must have been a God thing for you to post this blog since we just watched Frontier House last night and all these thoughts and worries have come up. I pray that by healthier living and eating that maybe my Fibromyalgia and strength will get better over time.
    Thank you so much for what you and your family are doing and then sharing with us. Please keep it coming.
    God bless you!

    • Don’t be fearful of trying anything. I am 67, female, alone, with knee/feet difficulties. I do “baby steps” each day to work on my little 21 acres. Although there is a LOT to do, I set a goal of one thing, maybe up to 2 hours of work, and do that. If I’m able to do more, then it happens. If not, I’m just grateful for what has been accomplished on that particular day. I do not live “off grid” although have been investigating a hand pump for my well. I heat with wood, have a pile 20 feet long by 4 feet high…all done with “baby steps”. Perhaps someone else could have piled all that wood in a day, but just doing what I’m capable of doing gives a great sense of satisfaction. Perhaps I’ll never be off grid or totally self-sufficient, but contentment and peace are valuable to me, and those I have in abundance.
      Lori

      • Thank you for that Lori! My mom is your age. She does a lot less physical work than I do, but she still pumps and carries all of her water and does her laundry by hand.

        • Hi. I am Charlotte, Do you have a PO box to receive things? I have somethi ngs for JAMIE. And would like to know if her mother would share her crochet hat pattern? Thanks

      • Wow, I am 47, overweight and have knee problems. I have wondered how I am going to start a tree farm and grow my own food. I would like to heat with wood but still be on grid. Since I am single I seriously didn’t know how I would make it work. You give me much hope. Until I am ready I will continue to improve my fitness and skill set. I look forward to the day. I really do.

  3. Jaimie,
    Ooops! I said Episode 7, but I think it was Episode 6 that your video talked about how you left the city for off grid living. Would you edit my previous comment to change that?
    Thank you,
    Tracy

  4. You make me smile! I have watched y’all’s progression, with my eye on you and I’m almost there. I know we cannot succeed without my full commitment and desire to make us successful! Thanks for confirmation! We have been looking for property in southeast OK and almost there! Hugs and Blessings and keep blogging!!!

  5. What an excellent post. I especially loved when you said, “What makes us think that we can’t work that hard?” For some reason folks think that easy = better; that the highest goal in life is leisure and entertainment. What a boring way to live. There is nothing more satisfying than physical work, and the sense of purpose it gives.

  6. You are young now and in very good health but please take very good care of yourself and try not to overload your body. My wife is 38 years old and suffers from 4 bulging disks awa arthritis of a 60 yo. If you feel it is too much of a load make 2 trips or ask for help! If no help is available ask yourself if you really need to do it alone. I don’t want to come off as being bossy or a know it all but It hurts me to see her dealing with chronic pain at such an early age and I don’t like the idea of anyone else going through it due to PURE stubbornness or pride.

    • Thank you for your concern. I realize that the work I do is strenuous and can be dangerous if not done properly. I have worked up to carrying 80 pounds of water. I’m 37 years old and stronger than I have ever been in my life. I believe that if I had stayed in my sedentary life, I was headed for more health problems! I do ask for help when I need it. My goal in writing this article was to show women that we can be strong and accomplish so much! I realize some women’s health problems keep them from doing the work that I do, but in working hard and staying fit, I believe that I can avoid most of those. I want to tell women (especially stay at home moms because I’ve been there) that we can get up, get dressed, make the bed, and put in a full day’s work without complaining that we have so much laundry to do.

  7. I agree with Leigh. The US would be so much healthier if we struggled a bit more. Hard-work used to be considered a “Character-builder” now it’s all about “working-smarter, not harder” (Ok so smarter has it’s place but let’s not be lazy about it, right?).

    I’m glad you did a post on your struggle though because it helps me to know it’s not just me. I have choices still – I don’t have to wash my clothes with a washboard, bucket, and mangle but I do to save money which I can spend on a Burkey filter or perhaps a grinder or start a canning project to put some food away for harder times.

    I’m so grateful to God that he’s preparing you so well for harder times because as you blog, you’re preparing and encouraging many others with your experiences. He’s preparing His people by taking a couple with the gift of teaching and putting them through the paces so they’ll pass it on. 🙂

    Stacy

    • Thank you for those words Stacy. I try to be real when I write. And I only write about things I have experienced. It encourages me so much to know that my words are helpful and encouraging to others. My prayer is always that I will be a blessing.

      • You have no idea how helpful and encouraging you really are. I have spent the last two days binge watching everything you have on Youtube. I have learned so much. You brought to light things I hadn’t even considered. I have so many questions for you. And I am grateful that you have chosen to share your experience.

        My husband and I are in the initial phases of planning to go off grid (my idea). If you wouldn’t mind, I’d love to correspond.

        • Actually, I have been asked about feminine products a lot! I don’t want to turn off our male readers, but I will consider doing an article. If you are on facebook, like our An American Homestead page. It is often easier for me to answer individual questions on there when people message me.

  8. Beautifully written and very inspiring! Pinning to my Homesteading board. Glad I got the opportunity to read more of your story 🙂

    • Thanks Rebecca! You have some good stuff on your boards. Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm was one of my favorite movies when I was growing up. 🙂 I watched it many many times.

  9. Thank you for writing this! Yep, women can work hard. Men can work hard. Kids can work hard. Hard. Work. Good stuff. Happily pinning and sharing!

  10. Just found you…….you should be so proud of yourself and your family. My husband and I are retired and looking to getting out of the city. Because of our age and my husband’s health problems we can’t go off grid. However, I can still can, learn new skills, attempt to have a garden and such. I am hoping to find a home with enough land to plant fruit trees and start another small garden. Keep up the good work.

  11. I also just found you. What a great post, thank you!

  12. Loved this post. A lot of times you only hear the men’s side of homesteading. Glad you layed it right out straight, so that women know it is hard work, but with time and knowledge things due get better. My family and I live in a modern home (trailer) but each day we try to do something that brings us closer to a self sufficient life.

  13. I hope this isn’t considered indelicate, but as this is a woman’s perspective, I wondered if you might address some other feminine issues. With the composting toilet, low waste, and lack of running water, how do you handle menses? I’ve been researching cloth pads, and there is a lot of variety. If you use them, do you recommend one type or fabric over another?

    Please feel free to delete this if it is inappropriate.

    • My hubby and I are working towards a self-sufficient life. I just stumbled upon this article tonight and LOVED it! As to your question, I’m planning on switching to a diva cup. I’ve heard nothing but good about them and it wouldn’t add to my laundry load! (I admit, I haven’t got mine yet, but it’s on it’s way!) Hope that helps. 🙂

  14. Jaimie,
    I’m so glad I stumbled upon this. We moved to our homestead in September. We are currently in a 10×20 cabin without electricity or running water. I thonestly has been the hardest thing I have ever done, and I have laid awake several nights crying silent tears and begging God for the strength to get up the next morning and do it all over again. We came from me doing everything I could to make our “modern” home very homey.. we are in the process of building a kitchen, and I have only prepared a few meals for us, as it’s just been easier to eat out. I have really really struggled in finding my role in our new lifestyle, and have found myself sitting on the front porch sort of wondering what to do, while my husband goes off on the tractor. I hope that doesn’t make me sound lazy.. it’s an overwhelmed feeling.
    All that being said.. I feel a sense of pride every evening when we come in from working our 9-5’s, tha tI have never felt before. We installed a wood stove a few weeks ago (not a cook stove), and I think I just might try my hand at making dinner on top of it tonight.
    May you and your family continue to be blessed.

    • My heart goes out to you Jenifer! Keep praying! Our Father will give you the strength you need. If you are on facebook, like our An American Homestead page or my personal page, and message me. I would love to hear from you and encourage you if I can. Blessings!

      • Thanks Jaimie! I like the American Homestead page. I didn’t see your personal page, but I think I can message you through Americna Homestead.

        Have a wonderful day and enjoy your holidays if I do not talk to you sooner.

  15. I just found your website and love it. Living this way can be challenging but so worth it. I live in the city with 3 girls, single. One of the reasons I loved your website was because I can relate to it. If not by doing all the work but wanting to live this way in my heart. I have no friends that I can talk to about canning foods. Living without a T.V, or using lanterns to save on the electricity.I have a full time job out of my home. I get up between 3;30-4;00am to start the laundry or start cooking. I cook everything from scratch. I know we would love to move to the country, that is where I grew up and miss it so much.

    Sometimes the loneliness gets to me. I gave up trying to date about 3 years ago. I laughed when the question was How does your wife feel about living this way—I would be okay but cannot find the other half that wants the same as I do.People comment on how great or in shape I look for my age, and I tell them from hard work. You do not need to go to the gym to work out. Living this way keeps you fit and moveable. It is rewarding to know I can take care of us in an emergency, keep a roof over our head and eat healthy. Hard work pays off .Thank you for your website. You keep me inspired and I look forward to more wonderful topics.

  16. Do to job loss and no one wanting to hire me anymore, I have come down to living off the land myself. With the last bit of money I have, I am buying all the things that I ‘perceive” will need to live off the land and will make the move in March 2015. Have all ready bought the land, a cargo trailer that I am converting, a small solar system ( not big enough to run anything really but it does give me lights, a source to re-charge my battery operated flashlights, lanterns, etc. and when the sun is up during the day, I can turn the TV on to get the news & weather from the local TV stations. Will continue and finish up the conversion of the trailer in March 2015 after this Winter has passed by. My biggest challenge will be to pay for the property tax each year. I am kinda isolated here on this mountain top with few neighbors who are pretty much in same boat I am in so growing a garden for surplus food to sell is not likely – no one to buy it. I will survive some how : ) I do have a question, more for your Husband really . . . Where on Earth ( or did he goto Heaven ) did he find a woman to be his wife, bear him children and raise a Family like our fore fathers did in this day and age !??? One lucky man !!! He ‘does’ know how lucky he is right ? Living off the land ‘is’ the best way to go. So much healthier for Family and Tera. Live “with” your fellow man and the creatures of this world.

    • You can always raise small animals to sell like rabbits, an excellent meat source for yourself excellent fur to make clothes and they (if properly cared for) will breed often enough to have a surplus of babies to sell as pets (the cheapest bed I’ve found sells for $25 each but they can cost all the way up to $50-$70 depending on the breed) goats also, depending on the breed, have an excellent breeding rate are good for meat and milk and fur and usually the cheapest are sold at $100 dollars. It might be a bit expensive to start up but if your neighbors are already seeking surplus garden veggies and there’s not enought market for you the breeding animals that are useful to yourself and can be sold or traded might help you.

  17. My husband and I both were fans of Frontier House as well and I know that is something I will definitely have to get use to once we move off-grid. One thing that I keep telling myself is always remember how difficult the work will be and how tired I will be but how much more rewarding this lifestyle will be. You are such an inspiration and I think that is really what helps others who desire to live life intentionally is being of encouragement to one another. A sense of community is what always helps to drive the spirit on even if you live far apart. Watching your videos and reading your articles has been such an encouragement to me and I would like to say thank you! I pray God blesses you and your beautiful family abundantly!

  18. JaimieB-really have enjoyed stumbling upon you and your family. I am working on a small 5 acre homestead which is off grid. I find myself watching your episodes and saying “I knew that would work!” So much out there tells you no about off-grid living. But I know it can be done. Especially enjoyed your canning outside as that is exactly what I plan to do! Thank you for the motivation and inspiration:)

  19. Loved your story,You have accomplished alot,proud for you,keepwriting your story and experiences it is inspring I know it has inspried me!!!

  20. Hi Jamie! I love reading what you write and we all love to watch your family via Roku/Homesteading Channel! We are on a mission to live more self sufficiently and sustainably and your videos have helped. My husband modelled my outdoor laundry station after yours. Thank you for all of the great episodes!
    Our family is SO much better off since we started doing things in a more hands on manner. We now grow a lot of our own food via raised beds…we plan to raise meat birds soon…my husband and son built a water barrel station to collect rain water and we plan to install a gray water system soon, too….we compost…we plan to build a brick oven similar to yours….and so much more! Life is good!
    I can’t wait to check out ‘Frontier House’ …..please keep us informed on great shows/videos you enjoy as they give us a good form of info and entertainment, too!
    In our home we don’t ‘keep up with the Kardashians’….we ‘long to keep up with the Homesteaders’! 😉
    Many blessings!

  21. Your comments on the roles of men and women are refreshing. Men and women are equal, but have clear and distinct roles. God bless your commitment.

  22. I found your website and videos this week . I am very grateful for the videos on how to fill and clean lanterns and cooking on a wood stove safely – I did not know food could be cooked in the stove! I also have never used kerosene or preserved anything but jam. I am a newbie to sustainable living and I am slowly (very slowly) incorporating some of the skills into my home life on the grid and making more things myself. Thank you so much for sharing your beautiful life

  23. Your amazing family has been such an encoouraging inspiration. Thank you for sharing your life with all of us. God bless.

  24. I am so glad I found your videos a couple of days ago. I have been binge watching the 2 season episodes for 2 days now. I’m starting to watch the other ones and reading your blog site. I will be looking at your Facebook page next. We are getting close to making the Big move ourselves this next fall/winter to our big 2 acres. We will be next to our adopted family so we wont be out in the boonies so much. That’s Florida redneck talk. lol We will have well water and the electric is already out there thanks to the family, but we have to put in our own septic tank before we build any structures to live in. So we will be starting out in a 5th wheel trailer. We got the idea from another homesteader we follow. Now I see it is the norm instead of the opposite that everyone we tell thinks it is. We have to live in the travel trailer in town for a few months until we get all the debt paid and get rid of the not so important stuff and get the more important stuff needed for the Homestead.
    I am so glad we found your videos and blog. You have taught me so much the past couple of days and given us some good information to use on our homestead. We had been thinking of using fish in our animal plan but wasn’t sure of how to exactly do that so when we seen how you guys used them we said this is something we would love to try. I want to thank your husband so much for giving us the websites that you used to get your information on this so we to can use it and see how we could do the same. We do have a lot to learn and this is all I do now in my spare time. It was so funny to see you ask the question ” How does your wife feel about moving out in country on a homestead”? It was the wifey (me) that came up with the idea. The cost of living in a tourist town and the fact that the money making season is only half the year and you have to figure out how to make it the rest of the year on what you could save in the summer. Which isn’t much because your bills are so high and rent alone is crazy. As a couple that works in the Food industry, we could never afford to buy a home on the beach and even if we could, we would have to work all the time and never get to enjoy the life we were blessed to live. It was just the most sensible thing to do. We always dreamed of living the farm life again. I am so excited and all our friends think we are crazy. Everyone wants to live on the beach but not us. It’s nice to visit but to live there is so expensive and to pay for it you have to work all the time for someone who doesn’t care about you, and then you never get the time to enjoy the beach you so badly wanted to live on. It just didn’t add up for us. It is so nice to find couples our age doing the same and having so much in common with so many. It’s going to be hard work but working for yourself and your family is going to be so much more rewarding than killing yourself to work your fingers to the bone for someone else. I do believe it is Our Loving Father showing His children what they need to be doing to prepare them to live the best life possible. We are all so blessed and I’m glad that we all are so very thankful for His provision. God bless you and your family and your beautiful homestead in the mountains. I hope we get to talk one on one when I get to the facebook page. Thank you again for opening your lives to help the rest of us and to show us the good, the bad, and the dirty truth of homestead life. Keep up the great job all of you and also Congrats on the ribbons from the fair. We all think you all are Blue Ribbon First Prize to us.

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