No–I Don’t Live Off-Grid

No–I Don’t Live Off-Grid

It’s always enjoyable, amusing even, when I hear people tell me that I live off-grid whenever I mention that I live in a dry cabin. I suppose their ignorance is forgivable, if someone has never lived in a dry cabin, it’s difficult to imagine all of the utilities they might have at their disposal. It is true that some people may live in a dry cabin without electricity from the city, trash collection services, or a viable data connection to access the internet–there are quite a few of us who prefer to live as far away from the city as possible. To be truly off-grid, a person would have to be completely off of the city electric, water, gas, trash collection, and have no access to data in which to get on the internet. These people typically have some other form of communication though, satellite phone or CB radio are their best bets–it still gives them the ability to have some human contact even when they are way out in the bush of Alaska.

The style of dry cabin that I live in, is simply a dry cabin, we still have electricity from the city and we still have access to the internet through an unlimited cellular data plan. We just haul our own water in five gallon jugs, which allows us to keep track of our water usage. During a week we probably only use around sixty gallons of water for drinking, washing dishes, and hygiene. Compare that to the average of 80-100 gallons of water per day per person when they have plumbing and water on tap and it’s not just efficient use of water, it’s downright economical. Our sink drains into a bucket instead through a pipe into a sewage system, so we don’t dump anything environmentally toxic down our drain, because once the water goes down the drain it’s considered “grey water”. The grey water gets dumped out in a untraversed corner of our wooded yard that you may end up marking off just so you can keep the dogs from eating the stray decaying noodle that may have slipped through your drain undetected.

You may be wondering what we do with toxic chemicals, trash, or how we do our business (we have an outhouse, by the way)–are we animals? Do we accumulate this filth around our cabins? How do we get rid of all the trash that humans produce daily? Well, to be perfectly honest, we haul our own chemicals, and trash to the transfer site. There are transfer sites at each major corner of the city, so if you’re traveling into town, you just drop it off on the way to work. This is also where you might take lightly used items, or old furniture and set it under a constructed canopy for anyone who might want to reuse the item. I know I’ve gotten a fair amount of furniture from there myself, my computer chair, desk, and deck table just to mention a few. It’s like shopping at a thrift store, but for free–let me tell you, the people in my town have a fairly decent selection of books they no longer want as well.

So, the next time you think of us Alaskans, the ones who live on the outskirts of town, with no access to running water, don’t think of us as living in the dark ages–we just prefer a simpler, cheaper existence, away from other people and the disruptions of city life. This is why we live in the Last Frontier.

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Comments ( 2 )

  • Pete

    Amen, thanks for a ‘real’ explanation of off-grid living.
    After 20+ years living in Alaska and 14 of those semi off-grid (I say semi because though no electricity, water, cell phone or internet and 130 mile round trip to Fairbanks) my cabin was only 1/4 mile from that road to town.
    Now out of state due to health I do miss my cabin of solitude
    where when I walked out the door
    I could experience
    the handiwork of God that surrounded me.

    • Mary Farnstrom

      No problem! It’s frustrating when people make assumptions, but have no idea what really being off-grid means. I consider a dry cabin five miles outside of town to pretty much being a more quiet version of living in the city.


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