For many years we have tried to come up with the definitive answer to the question, "What does living off the grid really mean to us?"
Yes, there is the energy savings from using renewable energy sources, wind generators we built ourselves and solar panels. There is the garden of course. And our off grid home too...
But, when everything is measured we have to say that encounters with the wilderness all around us is what means the most. There have been many things that we have been passionate about through the years, but none compares to the wilderness.
Granted you can live off the grid right in the middle of the city, butfrom a purely practical point of view that does not make sense. What we really were seeking was wild places and our lifestyle has developed from that.
For the past 3 weeks we have heard the wolves howling just outside our window (usually over in the garden just 100 yards away). Sometimes just as the sun is setting, sometimes early in the morning. Two of those mornings we have been privileged enough to see a particularly bold alpha male. He stares right at us before soundlessly gliding into the woods again, which is just a few steps away.
We can still remember the first time we heard the eerie howls and the yips of the pups after we first moved off the grid to our new home. It was something the kids will never forget and neither will we.
That sound, more than any other says 'wild' to us. Our canoe trips to Algonquin and beyond are always measured by the wild creatures we see, loons, moose and deer. All of these we can see right in our own back yard and even black bears too.
We consider it the price of admission. For many centuries wild creatures have been driven back, killed for no reason, out of mostly fear and a sense of protection it would seem. We have felt that fear, that same sense of needed to protect what is ours, or what we deem to be ours...
It is a very difficult thing to overcome, as it is an especially deeply rooted fear and quite prevalent in any survival situation. But the closer you put yourself to those fears and the farther you push away that disconnected feeling of 'not belonging', the sooner that we realize that we are meant to be here. We are part of this system.
It's easy to argue that Man can do what ever he chooses, master of our domain and all that, master of the animals, but the closer you get to it, the more you realize that we are only 'part' of the environment. We could no sooner control it or have our way with it than we could stop a hurricane.
We either choose to live 'with' the systems of our environment or we choose to destroy them. The only control we have ever had over the animals and the wilderness is to remove it, and all that we fear.
But eliminating the fear is not the answer. Embracing the fears, hearing the wolves howl while you stand there and watch, or watch a bear crop clover from the edge of the garden, or walk up on a bull moose during the rut in the garden ( I thought it was our neighbor's horse until I got close enough to see through the early morning fog). All the time wondering, "What the Hell is that horse doing in our garden!"
Needless to say, it scared the crap out of me when I got closer.
But, I would not trade any of that fear for the safety of the suburbs and neighbors whose noise and fenced yards preclude any involvement with the real world just outside the city.
Greet the fear in your life, embrace it. Whatever it may be. Embrace the natural world and become part of it and some day you will be granted the greatest gifts- the morning howls, the evening loons, the bear at the bird feeder or perhaps just the call of the rose breasted grosbeak in early May.
Take care, and remember Anything is possible, Living Off The Grid.