These 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.
So 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!
What 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.
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.