High on a ridge, with a view of the Pacific transcending and the Santa Lucia Mountains ascending from the horizon, my other half and I settle. We have called Big Sur, California home for the past few years and, during that time, have learned a lot about what it takes to live in this majestic beauty and to live off the grid. With the silence and inspiration and lack of pollution comes a lot of hard word, active efforts toward sustainability, and some good ol’ human adaptation.
As if living in drought-stricken California isn’t enough, when you’re not using municipal water supply and have a water tank fed by wells and aquifers, every gallon counts. We collect gray water in a bucket to reuse for watering plants around the property, using biodegradable soap and being careful what we dump down our sink. Sure, we’ve had the occasional mindless overflow of the bucket resulting in our own personal water feature on the kitchen floor, but it only reminds us to be more conscious and in the moment.
Energy and Communication
California’s bountiful shine makes solar-powered electricity an obvious choice. Panels absorb the sun’s energy and charge the battery bank, while a backup generator functions for rare cloudy days, giving a whole new meaning to ancient sun worshiping rituals. Also, being far from mainstream civilization, modes of communication become slightly altered. A lack of cell service revives the landline from the dead, and satellite Internet makes basic streaming and downloading a privileged luxury. Without the speed and simplicity of more common systems, these things generally amount to more focused and motivated communications.
About an hour from the closest grocery store, we limit our town trips. When available, we harvest Meyer lemons, grapefruit, and various herbs from the property, as well as avocados, figs, peaches, and oranges from our friends down the coast. We also have a steady backstock of non-perishable foods since bad winters here tend to mean rock slides and road closures. This year, with the predicted “Godzilla El Niño”, we’ve morphed into full-on squirrel mode by caching into our cabinets pounds of dried beans, rice, flours, tins of sardines, nuts, dried fruits, and, of course, wine. Bring it on!
Living off the grid means for us something totally different than it did for, say, Charles Manson (who actually lived in a shack in a Big Sur canyon), but one thing can be shared by all people, living in the city, country, or on the lam, and that’s a grid-less mindset. Self-sufficiency, sustainability, and a simpler lifestyle don’t have to be reduced to the moments when you’re able to abscond into the mountains or the woods—it starts in your mind. Eliminating clutter and focusing on what’s important will illuminate a healthier, more mindful life.
Dream of living off the grid? Tell us about it in the comments below
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This post was written by Virginia Craft; Photos by David Halterman