If you have ever thought - there’s no way I could go off-grid, then you may want to read on, if going off-grid is your thing, then hop along and see all that I learned (and still have to learn) on this special trip.
At the end of September, my husband and I took a weekend trip to Taos, NM. It’s the first trip that we had taken alone, since my now 2.5 year old had been born. While the trip itself ended up being pretty relaxing, we went with some very purposeful intentions. (1) To stay in an off-grid, solar passive home, better known as an Earthship. (2) To get a feel for and discuss what we wanted our off-grid home to look like. (3) To connect with each other, eat really great food and sleep in both days we were there.
If you haven’t heard about our journey, then all of this may sound foreign to you. So let me get you updated quickly. My husband is a permaculture educator and founder of School of Permaculture. Almost four years ago we bought a farm in Northeast Texas. Our goal with the farm is to have a working permaculture site and off-grid home where we will live, love and teach others how to do the same. Our journey is “sort of” just starting, we sold our suburban house last April (2019) and have barely broken ground on the farm this winter (2019). Along the journey there have been countless videos, articles, books and classes absorbed (mostly by my wonderful husband). There have also been many dreamy discussions brainstorming our personal wishlists. Not to mention the many worrisome discussions, talking about losses of modern day conveniences and changes in our day to day routine that will come with running a farm. Some have gotten heated, to say the least. I think we’d both agree that planning for the future and the sometimes unknown scenarios can be a bit stressful. So this trip was to be an experiential trip, to help illicit some more of those discussions and to help concrete some future plans for our homestead. To be honest, I was a bit worried about all of that, and yet really excited to have this new experience.
What is an Earthship?
So let’s start by discussing objective number one. What in the world is an earthship? No, we are not rocketing to the moon, nor mars. These are homes situated around the globe that have been purposefully built from trash, harvest and recycle their own water and produce their own solar powered electricity and grow their own food all while providing a habitable shelter. Say what? I would love to live inside your mind right now - to see what you might be picturing. But let me stop you and show you some amazing pictures of the earthship Picuris we stayed in.
As you can see, these amazing homes are not only sustainable but beautiful as well. In fact, right now, I would love to be transported back to the patio facing the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.
What did if feel like to stay in an Earthship?
Moving onto objective number two. What did it feel like to stay in an earthship? And what features did we like or dislike about the home? The home was cozy. Even though it does not have modern day electricity (it is powered by a solar array built into the roof) or HVAC, it averages a median temp of 75 at most times. With the weather dipping down into the 40’s and 50’s at night, we never had a chill. (There’s a lot more detail and probably more questions you have around regulating temperature, here’s a great link to how Earthships regulate temperature).
The interior was gorgeous with large wood beams, earthen walls and floors, stainless steel fixtures, tile bathrooms and flushing toilets. The hallway functions as a greenhouse facing south and was full of amazing plants, vegetables, herbs and fruit trees. The garage which could also function as a rec room had a fish pond and more plants. As far as “modern day comfort” goes, it wasn’t lacking. It even had wifi.
What you have to get used to is the way things operate. For instance, being off grid means that this home captures or harvests all of it’s own rainwater. And that water is then filtered and gravity fed into the home for showering, drinking, washing clothes, brushing teeth. Next the water collected from the showers and washing machines is then sent to the grey water beds for growing food. Allowing the plants themselves to filter the water and produce a harvest. The black water, from the toilets and kitchen sink are then sent to a solar heated septic systems that is leached out into the property. Again, plants of some sorts (usually not for eating) can be placed in this field as well. And please note, my husband is the expert here, I’m doing my best to learn and understand, but I’m probably leaving out some important steps or information so please take it easy on me. Or just check out this amazing diagram.
Another difference when being offgrid is the way that you go about cooking. In this earthship, you had to turn on the gas to the stove with a switch, then ignite the flame, cook. Once completed you have to also then (obviously) turn off the stove, but also turn off the gas coming into the stove. Just a few extra steps, I’m certain anyone could get used to. There was a fridge and a refrigerator that worked with the needs of the solar panels and a washer and dryer. Again, most of the comforts were there. Showers were a bit different as they had an on-demand (timer activated) heating component to heat up your hot water, again, nothing too inconvenient for all of the cost benefits.
My husband and I definitely got a feel for how things operated. It gave both of us a chance to envision what our future home could or would look like and how it would function for the most part.
Connecting and refreshing
We did all of this while accomplishing objective number three. Connect, eat really good food and rest. If you need recommendations, reach out - the food we had was great! Here’s just a couple of pics I snapped while indulging.
I think both of us really wished we would have taken a few more hours and days for the last objective. We were just beginning to open up, reconnect with each other and refresh, when we had to get back in the car and head back to the airport for our return home. For the most part, we were able to discuss, sometimes argue (and of course I cried), and dream about all the possibilities of our journey.
Some items that we were able to nail down or at least deem important to us:
Flush vs composting toilets
No dark wall colors/dark wood (I enjoy the light)
Size of Solar Array we need
Room Temperature Controls
And much more...
On the plane ride home, we discussed whether or not the trip met our expectations and decided that it ultimately, it got the job done. Although there are still so many things to sort out and therefore I didn’t go into too much detail on the list above. My hope is that you’ll continue to join me and follow our journey as it evolves. Praying that what we learn will help us all become A Wiser Me + You! Subscribe and share today.
Love ~ kb
PS - Be sure to check out the School of Permaculture’s YouTube page and the last 2 videos, where my husband updates everyone about our journey:
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