By Craig Middleton
Living off the grid in a mountain cabin is becoming quite popular these days. Besides just the health-related reasons for living the country life, many people enjoy just having a part-time escape from the madding hustle of urban life. There’s nothing simple about the simple life though, and it’s easy to get in over your head by forgetting the effort it takes to keep things running in even a simple cabin. Here are three things to remember when making long-term plans for your home away from home.
Choose Sustainable Power Systems
A vital concern about living away from civilization involves how to bring energy to your dwelling. Unless your cabin is in an area that’s connected to commercial power providers, you’re on your own when it comes to generating power. The good news is that there are multiple options available, including wind turbines, geothermal energy and solar power. The last of these options is becoming incredibly popular as the price of photovoltaic cells continues to drop and the technology becomes more robust. Remember not to skimp on power storage! A good solar panel battery is necessary in order to ensure the continuous availability of power if solar is your choice.
Make sure to do your homework regarding your own rate of energy consumption. Last year the average annual energy use per person was 10,649 kilowatt-hours. Learn how much power your energy system produces in the summer versus the winter as well and be aware of your peak usage times. Look for weak spots in your cabin’s insulation which might be wasting your energy. Learning to crunch those numbers is the key to DIY success.
Remember to Winterize
A lot of cabins are built in parts of the country where winter hits hard. Winterization is especially important for people who live in their cabins on a seasonal basis. Arguably the most important concern in regards to winterizing is water. When water freezes it expands, and this expansion can burst pipes if the water isn’t removed before the first major freeze. If you’re not already an expert, consult with a plumber or homesteader to learn exactly what to do and what not to do when preparing your cabin’s hot and cold water systems for those cold winter months. Even if you keep your cabin’s thermostat set above freezing over the winter, that’s no guarantee that pipes in the walls won’t freeze or that the heating system itself won’t fail due to lack of maintenance. Also remember to take actions to winterize the outside of your cabin, such as bringing in the dock if you have a cabin on a lake and the dock isn’t strong enough to resist the pressure of ice, and make sure to drain outdoor faucets and remove the hoses so they don’t rupture.
Grow Your Own Food to Reduce Grocery Bills
A perennial concern involved in living in the wilds is getting food and storing it. Many cabins are located in at least semi-developed areas so hauling loads of groceries to your cabin is certainly doable in most cases. However, acquiring food takes gas and storing it takes energy (unless you plan to live on freeze-dried meals). You can at least blunt these costs by growing some of your own food in areas where the climate cooperates. So-called “Victory Gardens” were actually encouraged by the government during the Second World War when food supplies were in danger of being interrupted. Check out the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone map and use that to help optimize both the types of crops you can sow as well as planting times for them based on long-term climatology data. A garden won’t completely satisfy your food needs unless you operate a full-fledged farm, but every extra meal it provides will make you more sustainable.
Living in splendid isolation inside your dream cabin is all about learning the mindset. You have to be prepared to consider necessities that you might not have thought about before in order to be self-sufficient. Do your research and learn the tricks of the trade, and your off the grid dream can become a reality.
Craig has worked in health, real estate, and HR businesses for most of his professional career. He graduated from the University of California – Berkeley with a bachelor’s degree in Marketing. When he’s not creating content or advising clients, he enjoys hiking and traveling with his wife.