You decided to move off the grid. Yeay! Whether it's to become more self-sufficient, to hide away from the world, to get closer to nature or one of the many other reasons you could have to make the leap - it's a decision that is going to change your life. So you'd better get into it well-prepared!
Last year, I wrote a general article about things you can do before you move off the grid. This time, I'm going over all the different things you can do... one by one. You can also get the printable checklist - click here!
Prepare to build an off-grid home
- Learn to set up your off-grid solar system: we've got an e-book coming out about this pretty soon!
- Learn solar system maintenance. They sometimes have courses on it at Sunseed Desert Technology.
- Research rainwater catchment possibilities
- Design your house's water system (or get help doing that)
- Figure out how you're going to heat and cool your off-grid house
- Design your future home! Of course you'll get an architect involved (at least, in most places it's something you can't get around), but you need to know exactly what you want in that house, and not. I'm planning to talk more about this in the future... so you can avoid make the same mistakes we did.
- Research the steps to get a permit to do what you want on your property. Do note that it's not allowed to put up a caravan on your property year-round, to circumvent building and safety regulations.
- Research composting toilets: they're not hard to build, recycle all your waste (also called humanure), and if you have an outdoors one - nothing beats a loo with a view!
Managing an off-grid property
- Learn about permaculture design. We might have something fun for you about this in the next few weeks, but for now you could start with watching Geoff Lawton's free videos.
- Make a list of herbs and berries growing on your property, as well as any productive trees or gardens already in place (even if they need work / pruning / cleaning up).
- Are there signs of animal life?
- Where do things grow, and are there any "dead spots"?
- If you have terrace walls, do any of them need repairs?
- Explore your property after a good rain. How does the water flow? Where could you do some groundworks in order to catch rainwater?
- Look into the tools and machinery you'll need on your property. In some cases, it might be cheaper (or you might end up with better quality stuff, or you don't have to drive 3 hours for a shop) to buy machinery before making the move.
- Find temporary housing, if you're moving away from home and your house is not built yet. A caravan could do the trick (make sure you've got permits!), but you could also rent something further up - or do as we did, and renovate an old stable or shed that's already on your property.
Moving to a different place
- Learn the language
- Learn the culture & customs
- Research procedures: do you need a visa, residence permit or any other paperwork?
If you're moving to Spain, you will need an NIE (Numero de Identidad de Estranjero). It's usually easiest to apply in your current country of residence, at the Spanish consulate; alternatively, you can get them at the Policia Nacional in Spain.
- As long as you don't speak the language (well), you might want somebody by your side who's really on your side. Don't let yourself be tricked into letting the seller of the property or a real estate agent translating contracts for you!
- Get rid of stuff! You won't need many office clothes if you spend the years to come on an off-grid farm - and will you really have a use for all those pretty decorations in your brand new but possibly very dusty home?
- Organise your paperwork. Scan everything there is to scan, so you can get rid of non-essential papers; it travels so much lighter.
- Research the animals you'd want to keep. Read this post about how we went through lots of species and ended up with alpacas!
- Learn to milk a goat. You never know when that might come in handy!
- Learn how to build a fence - if you're generally a handy person, you can learn this on the spot
- Learn all about keeping chickens - these are the number one animal to keep if you're aiming for self-sufficiency. Although some people swear by ducks...
- Research local regulations if you want to keep animals. Where we are, it's advisable to have a permit for a smallholding (just a few animals, for private use or recreation); this way, hunters
Networking, off-grid edition!
- Get to know the people at the local town hall. Being on friendly terms with locals will get you far!
- Get to know your future neighbours. Do they live on site, or do they sleep in the village and work on their finca during the day? What can they tell you about the land, about the crops they grow, about what's happening around the property?
- Get to know fellow off-grid adventurers. Look up others who have made the leap in the same area - or find fellow crazies online. If you're moving to Spain, join the group "Living off the grid in Spain" on Facebook. In any case, the Permies forum is a great place to meet people and exchange information.
- Find house sitters. An off-grid property with all its systems (and maybe animals) is not easy to just leave if you need to go away on an emergency, or if you want a vacation... good house sitters are worth their weight in gold.
- Visit other off-grid projects - maybe you can even find a few to stay and volunteer at. We host volunteers all the time here at Mas del Encanto - people who write to us directly, or through Workaway.
Money - spending it and making it
- Learn money management - it's quite different when you live such a different lifestyle...
- Research the budget you'll need to make the move to your off-grid property
- Research how much money you think you'll be spending when you live off the grid
- Decide how you're going to make money when you live off the grid. If you need to start a new career for it (maybe working a virtual job, or becoming an innkeeper?), it's never too early to start learning about that. I'm doing a video about having a virtual job, being a location independent entrepreneur, digital nomadism and the "laptop lifestyle" in a few weeks!
- If you decide to start a blog, do it the right way. Don't just write a diary so your friends and family can read what you're doing every week (they could see that on Facebook as well...) - start a blog that could make you some extra money in the long run.
- The dream, of course, is to live a completely debt-free life. First step to doing that, is to get rid of the debts in your current life... This article might help.
Grow your own food
- Learn how to grow a garden to feed yourself and your family
- Learn how to use a scythe
- Start saving seeds - save seeds from (organic) food you eat, exchange seeds with others, maybe you could even get some plants going. If you're moving to this area, you might want to get in touch with the Red de Semillas de Aragon - if you're elsewhere, check out the Seed Savers Exchange.
- Find out where you can get good quality seeds, seedlings, plants and trees in your area - so they're adapted to the climate already.
- If you want specific trees or plants that are not easy to find in your area, find out where you can buy them - and how to ship them to where they need to be.
- Make a list of vegetables that you like to eat and that grow easily where you are - and learn all about growing them. Zucchini (courgette) and tomato would be good ones to start with if you're moving to this area!
Cook, bake and preserve your food (from scratch) - and drinks!
- Learn how to do water bath canning
- Learn how to bake bread
- Learn how to make olive oil
- Learn how to harvest olives
- Learn how to make marzipan
- Learn how to harvest almonds
- Learn how to cure olives for eating
- Follow homesteading blogs for more ideas on how to become more self-sufficient, growing your own food, and cooking it from scratch.
Don't forget the drinks...
- Find out how to make beer
- Learn how to make wine
- Brew the local specialty - like 'aguardiente' around here
One more thing...
- Travel. Travel as much as you can, now you still can. See the world, meet people, be inspired. Once you've got a property of your own to worry about, you might not find the time - or the money.
Nope, I'm not at 101 things to do quite yet. The aim is to get there though. Know anything I could or should add to this list? What did you do or are you doing to prepare for your life off the grid? Or what do you wish you had done?