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Off the Grid (100r.co)
244 points by yunruse 5 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 118 comments

Hey these are also the folks behind the Orca visual programming language/MIDI sequencer! Its a real weird and cool tool, highly recommend checking it out if you're into experimental electrical music.



Thanks for sharing this! It's really cool

> When we have a reliable internet connection, we gather copies of all the online material we will need. We keep offline versions of entire websites, writing guides, articles and even whole sections of Wikipedia (using wget) If we find ourselves without a connection, we can still solve our problems by using our offline mirrors.

Kiwix is a good solution here. There’s also “RACHEL”, which lets has massive resources that you can save offline in case of Armageddon. The latter isn’t free, but has a good list of content worth investigating. Don’t wget wikipedia.



Kiwix is nice, I maintained the the wiki server at the South Pole last year. Very useful when internet is down. However the tools are a bit janky and difficult to customise, though they’re being updated at the moment. Odd things like you can’t sort content (if you have say 30 titles) and the built in sort order is based on a random ID string, not content title (why??). I had to write a custom single file webpage with a lot of inline JS to improve things (like sorting elements after load). I also had it pull data from the station intranet so that we could have lots of relevant info in one place, but the only way to do that was to statically generate the page and then restart the wiki server every five minutes… but in the end it's incredibly useful to have that service available and it runs on crappy hardware easily.

Wow that's a really cool gig. I've always wanted to do a summer down there but as a software engineer I doubt there's much need for me. (I have visited the continent as a tourist)

What is your official job title down there?

I was a winterover for IceCube 2020-21. Mostly sysadmin type work, and some hardware maintenance in the field.


There's something truly magical to me about a self-sufficient "world" you can understand and hold in your head and hand. Where does my water come from? It comes from the rain and these tanks. Where is the power generated? On those solar panels and these batteries. I know the limits of this world; I work with them, not in spite of them.

Having ocean sailed a tiny bit myself, I have such respect for the hundred rabbits crew. Not all of the choices they made are ones I would, but they're respectable and defensible. Moreover, they're explained plainly without judgement: these are their choices and are offered only in the hope they will be useful. And with a playful and vivid tone that is a joy to read.

I dream of a life like this and feel privileged to be able to share in theirs vicariously.

> these tanks

> those solar panels

> these batteries

The problem with these "self-sufficient" narratives is they're always tethered to industrial society. Having the limit of your understanding be a "solar panel" is no different than it being a wall socket. The "world" itself here, the boat in this case, is manufactured in a factory.

That's not to say I don't also find this stuff interesting, but don't confuse being able to hold your breath a long time for having gills. I find free diving fascinating, but there is no need in that community to claim that they have found a way of living free from the constraints of air breathing.

I find this to be a really ungenerous take.

Nobody is claiming that they live in a non-industrial society. They clearly live on a fibreglass sailing vessel and use electronic navigation aides. The "narrative", as you put it, is simply to use less, to "double your capacity by halving your consumption", to live life in a humble and sustainable way, and to do as much as you can with what you already have.

I found the entire website to have a dreamy and non-judgemental approach to everything, and I envy their lifestyle. They are just doing what they do, and documenting it so that others can learn with them, and maybe to encourage us to aspire to do a little better with our lives.

Maybe you could avoid judging them, in return?

I'm always mystified by the animosity I see toward anything resembling decentralization on HN, despite the fact that it is a forum populated by Computer Scientists who are very well aware of the benefits of decentralization when it comes to computer systems.

I think it's a bit of a paradox. If everyone lived like that, no one would be able to live like that.

"All I need is a battery, a solar panel, copper wiring encased in plastic, a mining company to dig the ore out, a chemical refinery to help refine the ore, an oil rig, a team to run it, a chemistry lab to make the plastic, a small town to create this portable computer for me..."

There's no paradox, because nobody is being directed to live "like that". It's a story of some people's life that some of us find interesting, not a manifesto, nor a demand that others like they do.

> I think it's a bit of a paradox. If everyone lived like that, no one would be able to live like that.

Is it unthinkable for someone to leave their humble dwelling, with few amenities, and head down to a factory where these amenities are built? Just because we don't use a particular technology at home doesn't mean we can't do so in a factory.

Put another way, there's very little about most people's home lifestyle which directly begets a microprocessor, and yet microprocessors are still made.

Microprocessors are made because people collectively contribute to "the grid". The ability to live off "the grid" is made possible by "the grid" itself. Unless you are building tools from raw materials. Going out and buying a bunch of modern technology made by the grid to live off of it is kind of ironic. Fine by me but I get parent's point. There's something a bit privileged about it.

I agree with you and OP. Are you really going “off grid” if, to do so, you are reliant on all these things only made on the grid? I mean, even the Amish are not “off grid” if you look at their supply chain. I’m not going to be the guy who gatekeeps the phrase, but it is definitely ironic the way people use it.

What counts as "truly" off grid to you? Start nude with a rock? Even primitive people were born into a world with pre-existing humans who have some form of technology. It's not electricity, but there is a "grid" of some form.

An independent water source such as a well or spring. A source of food such as arable land. A shelter of some kind.

I think the modern era has complicated the issue in many people’s minds, by making high tech stuff like solar lighting and internet seem like necessities. They aren’t if you decide they aren’t. Folks just want to appear more devout or disciplined or extreme than they are for cultural cachet. I don’t really get it, but I guess if you are wealthy, then you may desire to avoid consumption for any number of reasons, and offgrid living is a kind of restrained conspicuous consumption.

Having grown up off the grid in a one room cabin without running water or even electricity at the beginning, I think it’s a lot less romantic if you’re poor, and especially so without the amenities of modern living. To me, a lot of this feels like a flex, like #vanlife vs being homeless and living out of your car, or glamping vs sleeping rough. But I digress.

And the internet is part of the grid, not that the distinction means as much these days, with reliable WISPs and Starlink being viable. I think offgrid living jives more with DIY and community projects and less with corporate turnkey monetized solutions.

That’s the distinction I think is important here. Some folks want to be offgrid because of the freedom it gives them and their community. Some folks just do it for themselves and their egos.

But you are gatekeeping the phrase, to the point of taking the term so literally that it becomes devoid of meaning.

To me, “off grid” simply means being entirely self reliant for all aspects of your well-being, for a period of time.

Bobbing around in a tiny plastic boat in the middle of the enormous Pacific Ocean with literally no possibility of connection to any other human is just about as off grid as you can get on this Earth.

Just because they reconnect to the grid occasionally to top up and download, doesn’t invalidate this. The truth remains that they are “on-grid” far less than most of us.

So these people are trying to do some good, and your criticism of them is that they're not perfect? Tell me how much good are you doing?

It's not possible to live completely off the grid. Is that a reason not to try at all?

Perfect? Perfectly what? How much good am I doing?

I don't know that you're talking about, sorry.

Is it sustainable to give everyone a boat and all of that stuff though? Is this really any different from a walk through of a big off grid estate with rain collection, batteries, solar, chickens, grains, etc?

Just because there is a nice closed loop on day to day resource usage, it doesn’t make something sustainable nor something to strive for to help with climate change.

I think this is a fair take, and I actually live off grid, on a boat.

But I will say one thing. I may be completely reliant on sealed batteries manufactured in a Korean factory and bought off the internet whose inner workings I only understand in very generic terms. But I spend a lot more time thinking about where my power comes from and how much of it I have left than the average person living in the average house. (I also use a lot less, although the climate impact of that is probably offset by inefficient generation and dirty heating in the winter)

The fallacy here though seems to be that, because we have industrial society, we also have to accept centralization as part of the deal. These technologies enable fewer dependencies on centralized systems, which is the real driver behind off the grid philosophies, IMO.

It feels less off the grid and more like, an alternative method of being on the grid. They are still reliant on the vast majority of people being on the grid and supporting their lifestyle.

That said live your life however you want. It would be dumb to live in misery trying to meet some arbitrary standard. If you can exploit the way the world is to have a nice life and you aren't hurting anybody who cares. It is kind of annoying when people who choose to "disconnect" thoroughly document it.

I agree, there are many problems to solve. Check out civboot.org

Some of the folks at 100r made uxn, which helped inspire my approach to github.com/civboot/fngi

As far as I know, "industrial society" will still last for another centuries so there's no "problem to this narrative" as you say. It's like saying "the problem with life on Earth is that it depends on the sun which will explode some time in the future"

They also get promoted as the future of fighting climate change while ignoring the fact that these solutions not only don't scale, but they can consume more resources than a fully integrated in to the system person. Setting up your own rain tanks, batteries, solar farm etc takes up a lot of resources and land space. It's debatable that they are doing anything better for the environment than someone who lives in an inner city apartment, who doesn't purchase many consumer goods, and benefits from highly efficient economies of scale like getting power from a nuclear power plant.

> land space

They’re living on a boat, so wouldn’t that be literally zero land space?

Except all the infrastructre on land they use: ports, showers, waste disposal, food provisioning...

Same thing goes. It wouldn't scale for everyone to go live on boats.

I don’t believe they claim the boat to be anything other than their desired way to live. Most people in this thread seem to be injecting that the boat is a sustainability bit, but if you read their older blog posts it doesn’t come across that way necessarily.

It gives you a mix of fear and confidence.

Your little setup is all there, unaffected by greater forces outside your front gate. The cost of energy won't change and your money isn't tied in a market or another. Like you said, it's all right there with you.

On the other hand, you're the point of failure for this machine. You are responsible for it, and you have to keep it running. You can't get sick or tired because you're not part of a system large enough to cut you some slack.

A common theme in stories about self sufficiency is something breaking and the hardships that ensue from not having anyone to help.

When I was younger it was still fashionable to promote Slacktivism. I remember being a teenager buying a book of 101 things you can do to be More Green. But now I think it's become more and more implied.

Between this and the first half I've read of Braiding Sweetgrass, I'm getting seriously irked by this massive focus on individual, very isolated choices as proxies for the world at large. It's fine for people to promote "old ways" of living but to cast it as exactly what we need for "the ecological society we’re trying to build" feels so wrong to me. We need organizers, movement leaders, direct actions, we need to shake the Democratic Party out of corruption and uselessness.

It's great to have a lifestyle--I agree with most of the values described in this post--but merely living it yourself does nothing for the human world or "ecology." A single animal rights activist stealing a chicken and getting flamboyantly arrested probably does more for climate change than this crew's work for their entire lives, because she moves the world a tiny bit closer toward giving up factory farming.

I could not disagree more. I am inspired by people who live their principles and can smell a virtue signaling attention magnet from a mile away. I don’t think anyone has any responsibility to change the world, if people would actually stop trying so hard we might actually get somewhere. A couple who built a knowledge compendium on how they live and some fun games and software they wanted to share with the world is fine by me.

the people behind this project are Canadian.

The two that run this site are fantastic graphical artists and designers as well. Ran into them at merveilles.town and checked out this site years ago. I'm not sure if they're still active there.

They are still active there.

> urine, which is sterile

NO. IT IS NOT. Urine is not sterile and it's such an annoying, pervasive myth. It contains bacteria and under no definition is it sterile.

Urine is not sterile. Neither is blood, tears, ocean water, well water, or anything that isn't 5% bleach or similar.

Still no need to get angry about peeing in the ocean off of a boat.

It’s already corrected in the article:

> urine, which is somewhat sterile

Could you share some references for your claim. I have always heard, read and understood that urine is sterile.

This is probably one of the worst "urban" legends that exist.


Its literaly a 5 second google search.

Someone discovered that there are extremophiles in the urinary tract. They... aren't actually a threat because extremophiles.

If it where sterile then we wouldn't test it in medical tests.

Whether or not it's sterile seems to me a completely independent variable from whether or not it's useful to test. Seeing as how it's not completely water, but rather water with various things dissolved in it, the relative levels of those dissolved compounds would something that could be worth knowing.

I highly recommend the log of 100R's relatively recent passage across the Pacific where they put these ideas to practice, Busy Doing Nothing: https://100r.co/site/busy_doing_nothing.html

On the one hand, I really like their principles and their commitment to art for art's sake, in their games.

On the other hand, I owned one of their games (Donsol), which used to work just fine. Then they removed it and basically reimplemented it in their new unique format, which I couldn't get to work.

So it was frustrating to have a game I was looking forward to playing, having it at one time (it worked fine), and now not having it anymore, when my old computer died and I tried to download the thing I'd bought before once more.

I built a web version of Donsol for the same reason. It's a PWA so you can also install it on your device and play offline.


Need a hand getting Donsol running?

Famicom(NES) or Uxn version?

Can’t picture myself living like this. Imagine range anxiety of a car except with water…no thanks. To each their own I guess

I could do living in a remote location though. Little bit more predictable

Many would argue that this mentality of scarcity is necessary to ensure that our ecological footprint is negligible.

I agree with your take. I felt the same way while reading this.

I live off grid. We started with a stone hut in a deep valley without cell signal, and no infrastructure, and now we’ve all the power we can use, all the water we can use, and 140Mb/s internet.

The whole “oh, we only need 3L of water per day and 500Wh is enough” lifestyle is unsustainable. I know, I’ve tried it, and I’ve seen many others go through it - you go gently mad spending your days managing your limited resources, and eventually give up.

Power: we’ve 4.8kW of solar panels, a hydro generator that makes a continuous 280W through the winter months, and three small 150W nominal wind turbines, which also help in the winter. Storage is 84kWh of OPzS lead acid cells. 2x 5kW Victron multiplus for triple phase output, and their MPPTs for the various inputs. I also laid 500m of 18mm2 SWA cable from our powerhouse to the cabin we built, so we can have power here too. Stuck a 1:2 transformer at each end to get more carrying capacity.

Water: there are a number of muddy, sulphurous seeps in the side of the valley. In the winter there’s water, in the summer, mud. Laid tubing with simple pre filters on the intakes down to a chain of IBCs 70m above the valley floor - 50 micron, 10 micron, 1 micron, carbon, then store in the IBCs. At each house (there’s both the mill and the cabin) I then re filter through a 1 micron sediment filter and a carbon block, as algae tend to grow in the tanks. For drinking, we have a simple reverse osmosis setup along with a UV block under each kitchen sink. As our fallback, basically for august when the river runs dry and the mud turns to dust, we’ve a submersible pump next to the hydro intake, which is a low spot in the bedrock and holds a pool of increasingly stagnant water in the summer. Still, our water treatment system makes it perfectly good for everything.

Hot water, I took inspiration from someone on here, and built a pair of big damn heat exchangers - excess heat from stoves in winter, or from power in summer, gets dumped into 4000L of water in a heavily insulated bunker. I aim to keep it at 85C, as above that I risk melting things. There’s then 200m of coiled tubing in each bunker, through which flows the high pressure cold water (7bar), which comes out somewhere around 40-60C, depending on the season

Sewerage, we are using above ground vermi composting tanks built from IBCs (IBCs are dead handy, very cheap used) - works a charm, no smells or anything. Grey water just goes to a soakaway.

Internet: I’ve talked about this here before. Solar powered mast atop the valley with an atheros w/ openwrt, LTE with an LPDA antenna as our nearest cell mast is line of sight from there but 20km away, Wi-Fi relay using yagis to each point of consumption, and then APs dotted around so we have coverage over our few sq km.

Heat in both houses is from a log stove. We’ve 11ha of forest, which we are clearing the dead but still standing trees (ash, oak) from, both for the sake of the forest and for the sake of us not freezing in the winter. We’re insulated up to the gunwales in the cabin, and the mill has a huge thermal mass.

We have a dishwasher, a washing machine, home theatre with surround (and oh boy you can crank it when your nearest neighbour is 20km away), all the modern conveniences. Sure, it all had to be carried in by hand or on the aerial cableway, as the one thing we don’t have is road access, but I’m one who’s strongly in favour of “effort now, easy later”.

What else… I use an rpi running openhab to monitor and control everything, from power production and consumption to water levels and quality, to the weather. I can’t control the weather, to be clear.

Other things… our chainsaws are battery powered (makita’s 36V stuff packs an amazing punch, and no two-stroke screaming in your ear), as are our brushcutters, polesaws, everything. Only thing that uses fossils is the truck, and that will change.

This year I’m planning on more infrastructure - probably a small monorail, as I’ve got bored of injuring myself carrying stuff up 45 degree inclines, and a large pond up the hill, for water storage, and possibly hydro, possibly pumped. I’m also thinking about building myself a proper workshop, as at the moment I just drag equipment around the forest and cover it with tarps for the weather, which is also getting boring! Oh, and I’ve grand plans to turn our ‘88 hilux into a strange beast - remove the elderly million mile diesel, add hub motors and as many batteries as I can cram into the engine bay and under the flatbed. That’s the main thing making me want a workshop.

So, anyway - my point is sustainability. I’ve invested significant time and resources here over the last two years so that our life here is a sustainable one - ecologically, sure, but also for us - it’s enough work just being here - I don’t want to have to always be worrying about resource management too, and I want to be able to still live here when I’m a feeble old dodger.

Thanks for sharing, great story! I like that you touch on living there when you get old, a lot of the younger off-griders don't seem to have a clear plan for that, or are not talking about it.

I'm curious if you have thoughts on how you can deal with the inevitable medical issues as you get older:

   - medical emergency, needing an ambulance right away

   - a serious medical issue that needs frequent hospital appointments, say kidney dialysis or chemo

   - more common stuff like needing a cane to walk, or no longer being able to climb a mast to fix your internet

In short? Children, and making stuff as resilient as possible.

Re: medical emergency, we’ve already had a few of those - it’s a 30 minute drive to the nearest emergency room/hospital, and we keep a well-stocked first aid cabinet that can cater for most trauma, and have stuff like a defibrillator, tourniquets, epinephrine in it, as you never know when I’m going to stick a pitchfork through a power line or fall off a roof, or stick an axe through my hand (that was the first emergency) or when my wife is going to get swarmed by hornets again (we discovered last year that she has a severe allergy).

I’m also putting some stead in the idea of EVTOL being a normal and affordable thing by the time I’m in my dotage, which will make our current inaccessibility moot.

Oh man, this is a great writeup! I really like your practical approach instead of a proof of concept that most off grid endeavors try to be. Do you maybe have a blog or pictures of your setup?

Nope - I’ve been in full time gulag mode since we got here in 2019, and while I’ve been intending to document this stuff, mostly so my wife can also run it if I fall off a roof or get crushed by a tree, it’s not my top priority - as and when I do, though, I’ll be sure to share it on HN - it’ll likely be a wiki rather than an episodic thing, part how-to, part instruction manual, part madcap adventure.

I’ve always had the attitude of go big or go home - half measures usually result in pain and expense down the road, and I’m not shy about buying good gear rather than inventing it myself. All of this, from land to the cabin to the infrastructure, has cost just shy of €100k, which in my view is pretty affordable for “never pay a utility bill again”. The cabin and the hydro turbine were the two big ticket items, at €25k and €15k respectively. Sure, I have expenses like filter cartridges, spares for repairs, but it doesn’t amount to all that much.

That sounds like a reasonable amount of money. Hell, you can't even buy a modest flat for that kind of money in most of EU major cities. Do you have reading recommendations for anyone that is interested in building such a robust off grid system? Oh, you talked mostly about energy and water, but what about food?

Oh, yeah, I forgot about the garden :)

We had an abandoned olive grove as part of the land - it's superb soil, as the river floods it every second winter or so, so we've interplanted with various fruit trees (it'll be a good 5+ years before they start to give a reasonable yield), and have set up half a dozen hugelkultur beds, which we irrigate with buried drip hose. Using some very simple little soil humidity monitors (arduino, LoRa, dinky battery) to trigger the valves for the irrigation. Same architecture as I'm using for all the remote sensing - tank level monitors, river level monitors, insolation monitors. Last year was our first attempt, and it didn't go too badly, but learned plenty, about what crops do well where. Hopefully this year will give us a better yield and more than one harvest - we started late last year, and the summer heat here is way too intense for much of what we planted up.

So, we're nowhere near self-sufficient for food, but we did manage about 100kg of dried beans, and made a mountain of marmalade from the quinces that grow wild all over. I guess food is one where it's more about being able to be self sufficient if we had to be, but it's not so critical - we've a big chest freezer, which is currently mostly full of boar (we let the hunt association hunt on our land, in exchange for a cut of their proceeds - and we've no shortage of boar - we had huge sounders working their way up the riverbed every night last year) and I go out to provision every few weeks.

Reading recommendations... not really - I've spend hundreds of hours watching other off-gridders on youtube, taking note of what works and what doesn't, and then for each element I've just researched and researched until I've reached what seems like a sensible solution. Batteries, for instance, I put together a spreadsheet to figure out what gave the best TCO over a 20 year period - and unsurprisingly ended up with the same solution as grid scale solar operators use - OPzS cells. Power kit, Victron is king, unquestionably - their stuff is great, hackable, reliable, easy to install and use. The battery sheet is at https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1w8vPBHkMyY5jvkxtK1Qh... - you'll note it's purely lead acid, as other chemistries compared so unfavourably on TCO that I just ejected them from the equation. People talk about lifepo and Lithium and nimh and what have you, and if you go for a really small capacity then the equation can be favourable, but for any capacity over about 40kWh lead becomes much more economical.

This, for instance, is what we followed for our vermi composting systems - http://www.vermicompostingtoilets.net/design-construction/ - but I haven't found any site or resource that is reliably useful across all aspects - someone will know what they're talking about with power, but will be dead wrong about water, and someone else will know water, but will have a laughable power setup... so swings and roundabouts.

Mostly, the solutions have been led by problems, and then a search for a way to solve that problem. We've ended up with a few less-than-optimal waystations (year one we used butane for hot water, had to run a generator in the winter, froze our asses off in the mill, flooded up to the roofline and had to run for our lives), but bit by bit we've optimised and optimised. I'm sure I've got gotchas I've yet to consider or encounter, but that makes it interesting, and I can't help but love the process of continuous improvement.

I'd also be fascinated to read some of your wiki once you publish it.

In the interim, I'm very curious on two specific things.

The LoRa / arduino controlled irrigation valves - it sounds like you're doing exclusively gravity fed, and this has been a stumbling block for me. Mechanical ball valves are not too expensive, but appear to fail way too often, and in non-safe ways, to rely on. Both non-latching and latching solenoids seem to want more pressure than I can muster (perhaps 10 metres static head).

What are you doing, and would you recommend it?

Second - fruit fly control for quinces and other orchard plants?

Ball valves for us - I’ve used off-the-shelf agricultural valves and a little wooden mount (for now - want to replace them with something more robust) with a solenoid and rod to open and shut them. Means I can also just do it manually if I want to. So far, so good, and if something fails open, I’ve an alarm set in openhab if there’s an unexpected delta in tank levels. Hasn’t happened yet, and losing all of our water isn’t too big a deal in winter - that’s happened a few times due to burst pipes, as it’s brutally cold here at the moment, and I haven’t buried everything yet - hundreds of meters over inhospitable terrain. We’re at 7 bar - 70 meters - so when something goes, oh boy does it go.

Fruit fly control - nothing. We’ve enough that we can share with the bugs and the birds, although fruit flies don’t seem to be a problem for us, as I think they’re getting parasitised by native ophid wasps. We also don’t have too many of the same type of tree near each other, which likely also helps inhibit pest spread.

Thanks for that. I need to brush up on how to get solar + battery units attached to a nylon ball valve, with lora,to do something like this. We get to -5 periodically through winter, so not as problematic as you have to design for.

We're 250km north west of Sydney, AU - so otherwise probably comparable climate.

Guess the cold keeps your medfly in check too.

> abandoned olive grove... quinces...

Any chance you are located in Spain? If so, do you have any advice or recommended resource related to finding and buying rural property in Spain? And even if you are not in Spain, it would be interesting to read something about how you ended up in a place like this, if you are willing to share.

Portugal, right up in the northeastern corner. We ended up here after doing a few laps of the globe considering different low cost of living countries in which to reside, and with regards Portugal specifically, after looking at Centro and the south and deciding it was already heaving with off-gridders and had commensurately rising prices, we went to the part of the map where there’s supposedly nothing, and no property for sale, and drove around asking people what was available. We found here through a chat with a guy in a café, and as we paid cash (€30k for 15ha, the mill (which has a habitation license), and a ruined outbuilding) we completed within 48 hours of shaking on it. We are “The Foreigners”, as this is an area that seems to have been completely overlooked - our member of Parliament came to visit us a few weeks after we moved here, and has proven a handy ally - “It’s your land, you build whatever you want”, she happily put in writing. There are advantages in moving to an area that everyone else is abandoning.

There are sites (idealista, olx, pureportugal) which can give you a good idea of what’s available, but really the best way is to go pound the ground, and look for hand-painted for sale signs, and to talk to village people.

Yeah please do some kind of write-up!

Thanks for the write up.

> The whole “oh, we only need 3L of water per day and 500Wh is enough” lifestyle is unsustainable. I know, I’ve tried it, and I’ve seen many others go through it - you go gently mad spending your days managing your limited resources, and eventually give up.

So very true. I lived in a bus for almost 5 years. I've met tons of people in the vanlife/RV/off grid community. Both from my personal experience and observing others the biggest problems are limited resources and places to park. For a home on wheels you always need external resources. Fresh water needs replenishment, waste water needs dumping, trash disposal, etc. Having the largest resource capacity possible doesn't solve the issue but it makes it much less stressful.

It's highly romanticized by people who haven't experienced it. They think simple = easy but it's the opposite.

Very interesting! Thanks for sharing. How do you receive government documents or other things which are often delivered via snail mail?

I made friends with the owner of a business in the nearest town - he’s perfectly happy to receive everything from documents to 300kg cast iron stoves in exchange for us using them for all of our insurance, and the occasional gift, and we also have a PO box.

I swiftly learned that trying to get anything delivered here was a fool’s errand.

Do you have a blog or a website about your lifestyle? I would love to follow along!

Hypothetically, could you grow weed off-grid?

For each 100 people telling us to "just install more solar panels", only 1 person will consider ways to reduce power usage. Instead of scaling our battery banks to our needs, we chose to adapt our needs to the available space for batteries and surface for panels.

The world could stand to learn to apply such habits and mental models more generally.

This article is about boats but if you are suggesting this thinking for the home, its just kind of pointless. Almost all home power usage comes down to heating and cooling. Calculating the power usage of a macbook is a drop in the ocean for power usage.

And people talking about efficient heating, cooling, and insulation is a very common topic that has been thoroughly discussed. No one talks about switching your tv off at the plug because it's a lot of work to save virtually no power.

> Almost all home power usage comes down to heating and cooling.

What is it about a house which makes these things more of a requirement than on a boat? People have lived and do live without these things in their home as well.

Because a boat doesn't have an enclosed space to heat. Well not usually anyway. And yes of course many people can live without heating and cooling in their homes, but that comes at a significant comfort cost. If you come to me with the suggestion of "Don't use any air conditioning to reduce power usage" its a non starter because air conditioning significantly improves my enjoyment of life. If you came to me with the suggestion of "Lets allocate more government funding to renewable and nuclear investments" I am much more interested in the proposal.

It might sound selfish but this is how everyone feels. No one wants to give up their most important comforts if they don't have to. And they don't have to.

> Because a boat doesn't have an enclosed space to heat.

All ocean capable boats do. Nobody lives in canoes or row boats.

And yes of course many people can live without heating and cooling in their homes, but that comes at a significant comfort cost.

It doesn't have to be that way. You might try looking up passive solar design..

That usually only applies to the tiny fraction of people who can build new.

It used to be kind of the norm. We just called it vernacular architecture back then and chalked it up to "local style" rather than fully grasping that it such regional styles were the product of using locally sourced materials and then designing to the best of our ability for human comfort given the local weather and climate.

That’s basically making the best with what shitty technology there was back then. It’s not nearly as good as air conditioning or else people would just build houses the same way.

Essentially the entire Phoenix valley is unlivable in the summer without energy assisted cooling either with A/C or evap. The native Americans didn’t even live down low during the summer. You can’t beat physics with some well placed windows.

The “deep south” you referred to is about as easy of a climate you can get to live in the continental US without energy assistance apart from maybe Southern California. The air conditioning energy spent to cool down a home 15 degrees in the summer in Mississippi is a drop in the bucket compared to what it takes to heat New York or Minneapolis homes in the dead of winter.

It used to be people just didn't live where it was too hot to live without AC. Now they do.

I grew up in the Deep South. Rest assured, people lived there before AC was a thing.

Houses were designed for cross ventilation with open windows.

Some houses had wrap around porches on three sides so windows could be left open even when it was raining.

Historically, they made a second outdoor kitchen so you could cook in summer without heating the whole house. To this day, grilling out in summer weather is a common practice.


The population of the south basically doubled after air conditioning came in. So yes people lived there, about half as many.

The world currently has nearly 8 billion people. I imagine an awful lot of places have much higher populations than they used to have, regardless of climate, available tech or quality of life.

So unless you can cite sources that can show this was due entirely to AC per se and not at least partly due to population growth generally, that little factoid may well fall under the heading how to lie with statistics.

Basically doubled would be what some folks would call a statistic.

Crap you found via Google -- so likely crap I could find if I cared enough to bother to look. And you didn't bother to do pull quotes to support your position.

Color me unimpressed and unswayed. In my experience, good passive solar design makes for more human comfort, not less, than our modern tendency to build crappy cardboard boxes and tack on HVAC.

Source: I have been living without AC in the US for some years now. I've spent more than four years now living in old buildings and it's such a shame we just don't build them like we used to. Life is better if you can achieve a comfortable temperature most of the time without AC.

If you spent as much effort investigating as writing that comment you'd know the truth!

They're more or less of a requirement depending on where you live (or where your boat is). People have frozen to death both in houses and on boats.

I can't plot a course for my house that keeps me from freezing. Boats can, if course planning and timing allows, be kept within a habitable climate range more easily than a house (unless your house happens to already be built within a region that doesn't freeze solid five months a year - mine is not).

And refrigeration. That's a big power draw in my home.

I tied that in to heating/cooling. Basically all energy in the home is spent making things hot or cold. Lighting, TVs, laptops, etc may as well be free for the power they consume.

> Almost all home power usage comes down to heating and cooling

This is only true in some places in the world. I live in the tropics, and don't need to spend any power on heating or cooling my residence.

You mean the western world? The rest of the planet live with/on very little.

Much of the world lives in poverty and then lusts after what wealthier nations have and usually tries to emulate their methods.

This is about living well without living wastefully. Too much of the world believes we can either live in poverty or ruin the biosphere for future generations.

If you make no effort to both live well and live within a reasonable footprint, it shouldn't be surprising when you fail to achieve both goals.

Maybe he should've said the developed world.

the west is definitely wrong however, as there are wealthy nations all over the world

I said exactly what I meant. I would like to see a trend towards passive solar design and similar principles for humans generally.

All humans, even those for whom that would be a huge step up, not just those who might currently think of it as some kind of virtuous personal sacrifice.

I would like to see a world where The Haves are not obscenely wasteful, The Have Nots are not screwed by a system that makes it impossible to find some means to get your needs met on a budget and the middle class is not being exterminated by our social practices, policies, etc.

I'm too old to believe in faerie tale endings, so I'm not holding my breath here and waiting for anyone else to agree with me. But I'm also old enough to speak my mind anyway and say exactly what I mean rather than what I think other people will find palatable or expect based on their current mental models and world view.

My father does this: he tried to decrease energy use years before he started generating his own energy. By using timers on most hallway light switches, by installing energy saving light sources, adding thermal insulation, thinking a lot about when the heating ia on for how long etc. Which devices are running etc.

> a Macbook Pro draws 30 W when in use. If in use for 6 consecutive hours, it would draw roughly 160W per day

While I do find their lifestyle fascinating, there's a nit I feel compelled to pick here. Watt is a unit of power, while watt per time is a unit of energy. If the Macbook draws 30 W and used for 6 hours, it would have consumed 180 Wh exactly. If it draws 30 W for 6 hours every day, then it would be 180 Wh per day. I have no idea how authors ended up at 160 W per day, which doesn't make sense.

And quite apart from the unit error (W should be Wh) and calculation error (30 × 6 ≠ 160), the figure of 30W is probably wildly off target. The wording implies that figure was looked up somewhere rather than found experimentally (despite the context), and 30W is vastly more than any even vaguely recent and sensibly configured laptop will use for most tasks: the true typical figure is probably a quarter to a half of that, and could be even less for some hardware: e.g. https://www.apple.com/au/macbook-pro-14-and-16/specs/ says of their current latest hardware that it has a 70Wh battery and “Up to 11 hours wireless web” and “Up to 17 hours Apple TV app movie playback”, implying that the entire system consumes about 6.4W and 4.1W (probably a bit more) for those two tasks; a 30W load would be draining the battery in 2h20m—by no means impossible, but not the typical case. In fact, for things with batteries of their own, this kind of power consumption calculation based on battery life is very convenient, generally more so than measuring at the wall (though if you’re cutting things fine, you’ll want to consider that too because of losses in the charging infrastructure).

Later in the article they mention they’re dealing with a 2010 MacBook Pro running Elementary, and yeah, that’ll definitely consume quite a bit more power than a new MacBook Pro running macOS, but I’d still be surprised if it was as much as 30W.

I’ve a 2013 MBP, and I can confirm that 30W is about right for trundling use. About 65W when I make the fans go whee.

It’s nothing compared to my desktop running an intensive game - that’ll chew up 600W no problem.

Huh, my memory is evidently the thing that’s wildly off target. Thinking things through more carefully, I suppose 2–3 hours of battery life was pretty common back then, and none of their batteries would have been over 100Wh. I’d have thought 2013 would be well past the worst of that, but perhaps not.

I admit that I wrote the first paragraph of that comment before realising it was that ancient a MacBook Pro that was being mentioned, but I erroneously thought my comment was still probably close enough. Not so.

> yeah, that’ll definitely consume quite a bit more power than a new MacBook Pro running macOS Considering they're targeting (or at least ought to target) efficiency, I feel they should probably get the newer macs with the efficient M1 chips. That way they would probably be able to get more done using a given amount of power.

But then again (from what I understand) they're on a tight budget. And I read somewhere else that they're trying to reduce electronic waste. Hence they're on the old Macbook.

Here's their situation:

1. Keep using older Macbook, thereby contributing less to electronic waste. However, this consumes a lot of power.

2. Switch to the more efficient newer Macbook. However, then their older Macbook would be wasted.

This puts them in a bit of dilemma, doesn't it?

Its power consumption is not static, and they got the numbers by measuring it.

You still can't meaningfully use "Watts per day" in that context (for that matter, I struggle to imagine a scenario in which it was a meaningful unit).

Given the number involved was 160, I suspect the likely unit they meant was "Watt-hours per day".

>I struggle to imagine a scenario in which it was a meaningful unit

"The solar power plant is increasing its generation capacity at a rate of 2kW/day."


Are they increasing it 2kW every day or are they increasing the their production once by 2kW/day? That's also unclear.

Either way, I think it gets more clear if you say 0.083kVAh increase to the production.

If the plant only increased its capacity once, then the calculation would be power/time * (length of time), so it wouldn't make sense to express it as a rate.

When you live in a boate who have limited energy storages

Storage is watt-hours.

Watts per day would be used to describe the rate at which your power consumption increases (eg “as winter comes on, power used heating the boat will increase 100 watts per day”).

Watts per day could be used to describe the rate of decay of strength of a team of horses on expedition. But probably for that application you'd better use horsepower instead.

So where did 30W come from? They should have got that from taking the power consumption over a long time and dividing by the time so both stats match.

Pretty sweet setup there. I'd personally always opt for more power. Could replace LPG with induction cooktops in theory; but I am not in a boat. Salt water is very hard on almost everything so it sounds like they have a system figured out.

Living off grid, on land is something I've been looking into. Power is everything. The more you have, the better your comfort is. Ideal build: ICF foundation/house, exterior insulation. DIY friendly horizontal geothermal for hvac and water heating, rocket mass fireplace as backup heat. Ground water well, dehumidifier backup water generation, large in ground water tanks. Solar panels everywhere, Lifepo4 batteries, in ground propane tank for backup power, extra solar power can be used for heating water; everything would be electric including cars. Greenhouse with ground to air heat exchanger pipes about 10 feet underground so the power of keeping it above freezing is just a fan. Septic drain field, if water is very scarce then grey water recycling.

Anything I missed on the ultimate off grid house?

>> Keeping an eye on the weather, studying charts carefully, picking good anchorages, and having a good rode and anchor was our best possible insurance, but there are dangers that are beyond anyone's control, dangers that even the most skilled sailor cannot avoid, e.g., a shipping container adrift, dead heads at night, whales, etc.

dead heads at night. What is that?

> A deadhead is a log or large tree in a waterway submerged just below the surface and difficult to see. If a fiberglass boat strikes a deadhead, the boat could be damaged and even sunk. The lower unit could be ripped off causing a hole in the transom and/or render the boat inoperable. A diligent forward watch will help prevent this potential danger.

How difficult would using sonar be to protect against that?

In their "basic medicine kit": Oxycodone/acetaminophen (severe, short term pain)

Paracetamol isn't normally an alternative for oxycodone. Also, if travelling internationally, I'm pretty sure there are countries that will consider oxycodone as equivalent to heroin even if you have a prescription.

Gopher and Gemini would be better than a site with huge png images.

Also, I don't like some non commercial licenses for sw.

Tildes/SDF got it better in this case.

I like the Ergo Proxy references.

My humble opinion,

To everyone who has commented here and even the OP.

You aren't really off the grid, imo.

Because you are still connected to the internet and writing comments here or blogs.

Go read Walden.

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