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Living Without Lights (or water, or electricity…)

I frequently get asked the question, “How do you live without _____)?”  Blank, of course being lights or electricity or running water or a flush toilet.  The funny thing is, that this way of living is so much my reality right now that I hardly even remember that it is unique.  Of course, I also live on a road with two Amish farms, an electricity-free intentional community, and another off-grid homestead, so in my neck of the woods, this way of life is somewhat normal.
So, today, I am going to try to explain exactly how we live without ___.  You might be surprised!
Electricity – Our long-range plan is to install a photovoltaic system and get our electricity from the sun.  But, too many other projects are ahead of this one in line, so for now we are electricity-free.  This has been both delightful and challenging.  Primarily for me, as a blogger and administrator who uses her computer as a tool, it is challenging to not have my desktop computer at our house.  I currently have my computer at a friend’s house a few miles away, and she generously lets us charge drill batteries and store a few ice jugs in her freezer as well.
Living without lights has probably been the most pleasant surprise for me.  I have really enjoyed using beeswax candles as our primary source of lighting.  When we need more focused light, we use a headlamp, or these amazing solar lamps that we bought at Ikea for $20.
We also have a chest freezer that is stored at another friend’s house, about 5 miles away.  For this, we pay electricity each month, and make weekly stops to get meat or fruit for meals.  Keeping food fresh in the winter is really not a challenge at all.  We set covered pots of leftovers outside in our outdoor kitchen, have coolers outside as well, and keep a few items close to the front door, low on the ground, where the temperature is cool.
Finally, we have a portable generator that we use for power tools and the occasional batch of hummus or a smoothie.
Technology – This summer, we succumbed to the allure of the smartphone, and purchased the cheapest plan we could find.  But having the smartphone at our house (with a solar charger) has been amazingly useful.  With the addition of a bluetooth keyboard, I can keep up with comments on the blog, take care of my homeschooling co-op administrative duties, or search for recipes.
Food Preparation – This summer we used an outdoor kitchen, cooking on a Rocket Stove and a two burner propane stove.  This winter, we moved the propane stove inside to the kitchen, and cook on it, and on our wood stove, a wonderful Jotul that we brought with us from Oregon.
Honestly, if there is any one comfort or luxury that I really miss, living this lifestyle, it is an oven. I LOVE to bake, and while occasionally I can use our Sun Oven to warm something outdoors on a very sunny day, it just does not get hot enough to bake on cold winter days.
Water – I’ve talked a bit about our water catchment system, in this post and this one.  When we bring water indoors, it sits in 5 gallon buckets or big metal pots, and we use measuring cups as scoops for whatever use.  Below you can see our (very messy!) kitchen counter, complete with sink.  The water simply drains into another plastic bucket, and is emptied outdoors.  Baths are taken in front of the wood stove in a big galvanized steel tub.  It’s so very Little House on the Prairie!
Toilet – And of course, there is the matter of the toilet, which I have talked about in detail here.  It’s such a pleasant experience to take a stroll to the outhouse this morning and admire the wonderful hillside view.
So there you have it!  Radically simple living, explained.  I’d love to field any other questions you have, so please leave a comment here or on my Facebook page!

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