I recently spotted an article in a magazine about ‘going off the grid’. I must say this thought has always intrigued me. As a child I read many books about early settlers. Living off the land sounded so interesting, at least on the written page. It could be also that I have a little rebellion in me – an attitude that I don’t need anybody else. So, I thought I’d explore some of the suggestions on ways to survive outside of using mainstream society and a self-analysis of how I’d do. In the following post, I’ll take a look at four of the basic needs for human life – food, drink, shelter, and safety.
Food – Right off the bat you can spot what I place as priority in my life. Awhile back I subscribed to Outdoor Life (for free). I anticipated reading wonderful articles on hiking, bicycling, golfing, and maybe even geocaching. What I got was a hunting magazine. Every month I receive an issue that extols the virtues of new ways to tie my own fishing flies , how to make a turkey call, and what breeds make the best hunting dogs. I take one look at the dead turkey on the front cover and the magazine goes into the trash. Let’s face it, I cringe when I have to kill a spider and I still curl up my toes when I think of the time in Florida when there was a mass transit of crabs on the road we were traveling on. I am not a vegetarian, but if my life depended on food I could provide for myself, I’d probably become one quickly.
So now that produce is sustaining my life, how would that work out? When I was still living with my parents, I loved the grape jelly my mother made from wild grapes. To gather the amount of grapes needed, she enlisted the help of me and my sister. We’d walk along the country road and try to spot the clusters. It started out fun, kind of like an Easter egg hunt, but after awhile I’d be tired and hot and just want to go home. One time we found a large quantity of grapes that looked much nicer than most of what we had been picking. Being tired of the process, we weren’t as detailed about removing each grape and actually removed some of the vine they were growing on. Good thing. When we got home, my mother (who was a little suspicious that these looked different from the rest) looked it up and found that it was actually Virginia Creeper. The berries of this vine can cause kidney damage and death to humans who ingest them. I keep this in mind anytime I think of mushroom picking. At least 50 varieties in Michigan are poisonous.
Occasionally I will entertain my self-sustaining dreams by trying to grow some vegetables. I take the easy route and always start with a small plant, instead of growing from seeds. I’m sure the nursery stock send up a silent prayer of “not me!” when they see me coming. Although I have triumphantly been able to show off a few tomatoes that have been hardy enough to make it to our table, they never get high marks in the flavor department. Maybe I could live off tomatoes for a short time, but I’d be a lot thinner!
Drink – So much for food, but we really only need water to survive, right? I’m afraid I’ve seen way too many episodes of television shows that portray with graphic detail what can happen when bacteria or parasites are ingested through water drinking. Usually it turns out that the person that is sporting some unimaginably gross sore or deranged thought process had at some previous point nonchalantly taken a drink out of a pretty stream that they happened upon. Not too long ago I bought a simple device that filters out a lot of the hidden travelers, but is this really living off the grid?
Shelter – One of my deep childhood longings was to have a fort or a treehouse. With a total lack of carpentry skills, my sister and I had to settle for ‘rooms’ made out of the wild shrubbery that grew in the fields near our house. It wouldn’t take long before some bug, usually suspected to be a bee, invaded my improvised dwelling place and I’d be forced inside my real house. Hope my life never depends on my building skills. Even tents still present the bug problem – the mosquitoes love to cohabit my space.
Safety – Don’t think I’d do well defending myself from the wild animals. Thankfully I’ve never had an encounter with a bear or a mountain lion, but I once was bitten by a chipmunk. I was quite sure my life would end in a rabid mania. My diary revealed the drama that played through my mind as I compared every supposed symptom to the ones in “Old Yeller”. I was pretty sure I had the “hydrophobe”!
I’m afraid I couldn’t even trap an animal to save myself. Once I set a trap for a mouse that had somehow found a way into our house. Since I had set a live trap (my decision was aided by my daughter’s tears), I then had to figure out what to do when I discovered that I had succeeded in my endeavor. The timid rodent wouldn’t leave the trap voluntarily and I was afraid that shaking the contraption would result in the creature landing on my leg. I finally just left the open trap, mouse still inside, in a park far enough away from our house that I hoped it would find a new home.
I’m afraid I’ll always be a grid person. Our occasional power outages help to confirm the point. Ever so often I read through my “Little House on the Prairie” books and get lost in the dream of self-sufficiency. Maybe this summer I’ll try another tomato plant, but we won’t be throwing out our grocery club card anytime soon.
How about you? Have you ever lived off your own resources for any length of time? Do you think you could survive very long if you had to rely on your own without modern conveniences? Which of these four areas do you think you’d have “in the bag”? Have you had any mishaps when you tried to “rough it”?