I have lived Off Grid for 6 years. AMA Unique Experience
Hello everyone, I've been living at my off grid cabin for 6 years now in the Canadian Wilderness (Ontario). I bought 180 acres of land and started building my cabin in 2015. I started living here fulltime in 2017. I have an investment in solar power that pays me like an annuity, but otherwise my fulltime job is a youtuber: https://www.youtube.com/raspberryrockoffgridcabin/. Ask me anything!
Please note: There are generally two types of definition for "off grid". One is what I call the movie definition, which is disconnected from society, unfindable. The more common one means that you're not connected to municipal services.
About 30 minutes to get to my car by ATV. Then a little under an hour to get to a town that has a hospital. Sure I have concerns, but you can’t let that rule your life. You could get hit by a car tomorrow. Another guy who has a cabin out here fell off a tower he was working on, bounced off the roof of his cabin then fell to the ground. Emergency … I forget what service, sent out a team by Argo to get him. I imagine if it was serious enough they’d send a chopper. It’s also important to always carry your cellphone out here.
Appreciate the answer! I totally agree, can’t live your life in fear, I think what you’re doing is very cool. Just interested in how other people assess risk in this type of situation.
LOL “don’t think about it.” Is probably not the best answer.
Some friends of mine have property on a rural island on the west coast. In the end, to address this kind of thing, they and the neighbours built a helipad that was accessible. They worked with the local air ambulance to ensure it was actually usable.
That’s actually a neat idea.
Do you carry any kind of satellite SOS beacon?
Nope. Just a cellphone.
How does a YouTuber live "off the grid"?
I use Starlink for internet. It’s not a municipal service.
And solar I assume.
Yes. I used to work in the solar power industry and most of a system at home before I bought the property.
Do you get enough light in the winter considering you live up north?
No, you can spend an absurd amount of money trying to cover the winter electric needs with solar. Simpler to just get a generator and use when necessary.
Sneaker nets videos to a local data center or course.
Before Starlink, a lot of people had to do just that. I was lucky that I’m in range of an LTE tower by a rural internet provider. Not great internet, but it was internet.
Doesn't starlink use an astronomical amount of energy? Especially for winters and the snow melt functions needed?
Yeah it’s off most of the time during winter and I have a backup with Xplornet. Starting about April I leave it turned on until October.
The word xplornet makes me hiss. God I hate those clowns
I saw you said your wife lives in the city, only coming down on weekends. How does that work? Just curious as My wife and I couldn't imagine spending only weekends together.
It’s not something we planned, it just happened. But we do talk every night on the phone. We’ve also been married 28 years, if that makes a difference.
Was there any serious contemplation from your wife to go with you? Or you not going because of her? Ooooor, was it clear from the get go you're gonna start living separately? Assuming you lived together before.
I dunno why but now I'm most fascinated by this :D
As I said earlier, we didn’t plan for this to happen. But she has a government job and is eligible for early retirement pension. She can’t turn that down.
What is the scariest thing that has happened to you while being alone?
I was scouting the property north of me looking for elk sign, and using my phone as a GPS. It was heavily overcast. I got turned around 3 times trying to get back home, and my phone battery was showing 5%.... 4%.....3%.... 2%.... at 1% I came across a familiar part of my property. I was shitting a small brick. Also, it was starting to get dark.
Funny to think your property is so large you can get legitimately lost on it.
What's really weird is that you can walk through an area, totally familiarize yourself with everything you're seeing, but when you turn around and look the way you came, everything looks completely different.
When you are traveling through the wilderness, it's recommended to turn around and look backwards pretty frequently, so you familiarize yourself with what the route back looks like.
Yes, I learned that one in the mid-90's when I was spelunking in Tennessee.
It reminds me of the time where I navigated myself back to the cabin at night...while drunk
That's a good way to die out here.
It’s super easy to get lost in the woods. Don’t need more than a dozen acres, maybe less depending on how far you are from highway noise, density of shrubbery etc.
You're right. You don't need a huge property. I was looking for 100 acres, but I could have gone for less.
My grandparents have 220 acres in south GA that’s primarily used for agriculture, but it has pretty dense hardwoods along the creek/swamp that borders the property. Maybe 40 acres of it is wooded like that. I can tell you, even after living and hunting there for a long time, I’ll still get turned around in the dark when I’m tracking a deer or checking cameras. It can happen even when you’re somewhere you’re familiar, and most people take that for granted.
Oh yeah, I've been no more than 50m from the cabin at night and got lost. Just off my ATV trail, in fact. Everything looks different at night!
Maybe it'd be smart to pack a battery bank with you when you're out. I take one with me when I go to my friend's farm as I know I won't find a close place to charge my phone. I can get 4 full charges out of it.
I tend to walk out of my cabin the same way you’d walk out of your house. I never think to bring a compass, fire starter, medical bag, water bottle, snacks, etc. But I will if I remember.
Maybe a fanny pack with some essentials would be a good idea as a daily carry.
I do now, yeah.
Who did you buy the 180 acres of land from and how did you learn it was up for sale?
I don't know who it was. But if my memory is correct, he lives in Sarnia, Ontario. It's a heck of a long drive to there. Also, he bought it from someone unseen, having been told he could build his dream cottage here one day. Which you can't. No legal access.
I sat on realtor dot ca and kijiji for months just watching properties pop up. It's a real patience game.
Why couldn't he build a cottage but you could build a cabin?
I could only prove I had water access to the property. Under the guidelines, I could only build a 'hunt camp'. The rules are pretty lax on what a hunt camp is, but it has to be under 800sq ft.
wizard tower could work then
Can you build two of them?
Going through the municipal regs, it says I can’t.
What about just sticking wheels on the side and calling it a camper/trailer. ... And really, on 180 acres do people actually check or care?
My plan B was to put a boat on the pond and live in that. No regs on that sort of thing. But practically speaking, no one cares.
Could you split it up into two properties and build one on each?
I suppose I could. Hadn’t thought of that. I wonder how much it costs to do that.
If the property is that inaccessible then who is gonna stop you? I don’t think you have to worry about a surprise building inspector.
If they thought I was doing something wrong, oh then they’d find me alright.
I was able to demonstrate water access for the building permit. But I use my neighbour’s property to get here. I don’t have legal access or an easement there, but he’s fine with my crossing it, as long as I don’t disturb things.
It seems that you still have to pay some expenses such as taxes and starlink. How are you able to pay this? Is youtube revenue sufficient?
Yes, while living like this is cheap by today's standards, there are still things I have to pay for. Someone asked about youtube revenue and I put it like this: There are a lot of potential revenue streams, but if you just look at ads that play around my videos, then I made about $43k CAD in 2022.
Related Q: did you pre-plan for YouTube to be a source of income for you, or did it just kind of happen once you made the move?
It was in the back of my mind while building the cabin. That’s why my first 12 videos are just me walking around with my cellphone camera at the end of the day. Those videos were mainly for my wife so I could prove I wasn’t just sitting at some bar drinking. When I did start really working on my youtube it was for 2 reasons: 1) build up another income for when my wife retires and 2) I just couldn’t not share the beauty of this area.
Do you also grow/hunt/catch your own food? If so what type of animals and vegetables are available to you?
I do hunt. There are deer, elk, bear in the area. Also, lots of grouse around. Though I never seem to have my gun when I see one. The soil around here is really really bad for growing vegetables. Last year I brought in pots and bags of soil from town, did much better with those. Always looking to improve.
You can build a nice vegetable/ fruit garden by building one with wood! Lay down the foundation of thick plywood and the black bag kinda thing that you put down before putting soil on top... and then using large boards, frame it out, with sections for whatever you want to plant in that row (for example: carrots, celery and tomatoes). Make it deep and wide though, probably 3 to 4 feet deep.
Do you make your own compost? If not, it's easy to do and will help you grow the tastiest fruits and veggies and the biggest/healthiest ones too!
I loved horticulture in college and I love to garden, so these are just a couple tips from an old country gal
Sure, there are lots of ways to do it. It’s just work is all. We do compost.
Seems like mushroom growing should be something to give a shot with
You’re right, but there’s a ton of mushrooms already out here, just need to identify them.
Why do you hunt bear?
I haven’t hunted bears yet, but only because I haven’t tried it yet.
What does 61k in subscribers pay?
Well first, # of subscribers doesn't mean much.
Also, anyone doing what I do has many revenue streams. Stuff like merch, maybe podcasts, etc. If you want to just look at revenue from ads playing on videos + youtube premium, then about $43k CAD in 2022.
That seems pretty decent, I imagine you have high watch through rates.
Winter time videos do extra well. People love snow and the adversity it causes.
whoa thanks for that transparency!
I’m pretty open about stuff like that.
I just checked out your most popular video and was impressed with the drone footage in the winter storm.
What drone do you fly? And were there any problems with the internal components of the drone from flying in such poor conditions?
I believe that was my old drone, a DJI Mavic Pro. I definitely fly it in conditions you’re not supposed to. It was fine after that flight, although I almost didn’t it back, it was very windy. I’ve crashed it 6 or 7 times, so it’s got some … ‘character’ to its flight,.
Tell me some stuff you are not so open about.
Whether I wipe front to back or back to front.
I bet I could find a good number of dead channels with 1M+ subs getting fewer viewers than you, and putting out fewer videos than you. It's really one of the least important or most misleading stats.
I know a channel that has 150k subs and gets about 1k views on his videos. It really is misleading.
What's the hardest part about enduring winters off grid?
Not much. I like winters here. I suppose getting enough firewood prepared.
How big is your solar setup? Types of heat? Use a backup generator as well?
You can see more about it here: https://youtu.be/b2gOy1162vE. I have since added 2 x 10kWh LiFePo4 battery systems. I use wood for heat. I have a generator to help through the winter months.
Do you cut your own firewood, at your property? Will your 180 acres supply you with firewood indefinitely? (I.e., trees grow back as fast as you harvest them)
Yes definitely an infinite supply of firewood out here. The last few years I’ve been taking the trees that the beavers take down.
What is your investment in solar power that pays an annuity all about? Is this how you get electricity or are you connected to a power plant? How about water and gas?
In Ontario for a while they had a program where you could install solar panels at your residence or on a commercial building and sell the electricity back to the grid. In the beginning the rates they were paying were very good. My business partner got it on one big one.
Unreal so you are connected the the electrical grid but as a producer
I guess, but it’s not my property. Heh. I rent a barn roof at a chicken farm.
Fucking Doug Ford set us back a decade or more in renewable energies… And who needs a green belt, am I right?
I sure wouldn’t want them bulldozing my cabin to make way for an interstellar bypass.
How much did the 180 acres of land cost you? Where about in Ontario is it or rather how far is it from any populated area?
I got it for $35k. It would be worth a lot more now, because of the covid thing, people moving away from the cities. The previous owner didn't think he could get a building permit, and it was just junk land to him. I'm in Eastern Ontario, not far from Madoc.
Interestingly, if you have 180 acres of land, and it's somewhat in the wilderness of Eastern Ontario, and you don't actually want to connect to utilities, the permit thing kinda goes away ;)
Yeah I hear you. But if they find out, they can order the cabin demolished, they can even take your land away from you.
I’ve had an eye out for land in that area. Problem is I’m a plumber, I need to be somewhat close to a population centre. And I’ve got a wife and kids, we need a lot that can be legally built on. Was thinking Norwood area, tho I’ve also been looking around Perth and up by pembroke. I’ve had several tabs on realtor open for the past 3 years lol.
I’d like to build an off grid earth bermed house. Off grid expect for internet. It’s gorgeous country out that way. I can’t imagine getting 180 acres for 35k. It’s unheard of now.
I would look about 5 mins north of Norwood, Marmora, Havelock. Some really nice area. Don’t bother with earth bearmed house, yurt, earth ship, shipping container, or any other weird house. Just build a normal house. The novelty of all that other crap wears off fast.
At the very least I want to build with icf. My mother lives in one built in the 90’s. It’s a big house on the shore of Lake Huron. Crazy windy, nasty winters (normally). You can throw a couple logs on the wood stove and it stays warm most of the day. It’s often too hot, she has to open windows. My point being that traditionally built homes can’t achieve that kind of efficiency. My current house is cold, even with the wood stove roaring everyday. It a poorly built cottage, but still.
I’ve seen some properties come and go a few minutes outside of Norwood/havelock. I was hoping to find something under 200k but that ship may have sailed. I think there’s one there right now for 250 or 300.
I’m heading up to Ottawa in a few days, maybe I’ll check it out. Sorry for rambling, it’s how I think
My buddy has built a few homes with ICF. I think current codes call for 24” of insulation in outer walls. That’s pretty good.
Are your family members okay with this idea of you living off-grid? Do they support you or you've had a hard time explaining them?
My kids are fine with it (they’re all adults now). My wife is fine with it. One day she’ll live here full time too.
Neurmancer, Ringworld series, Wheel of Time series
Ringworld! Hell yeah! I'll never forget reading the ending to Engineers for the first time :)
Fantastic series. “The Ringworld is unstable! The Ringworld is unstable! Did the best that he was able and that’s good enough for us!
Damn! Neuromancer! Didn't think i would see this book thrown here around, great book.
My all time favourite. I was going through the “Top 100 List of Science Books you should read” or something like that, and I got my hands on an audio book of Neurmancer. I listened through it, was so completely blown away I listened to it again 5 times in a row. I still pull it out for long car trips.
If you like the wheel of time series you also might like Brandon Sanderson's work, especially mistborn and the stormlight archive series.
Interesting story on how he had to finish WoT series.
1) biggest challenges? 2) how self-sufficient in food are you? 3) do you live with someone /people or alone 4) do you know about permaculture?
- My own mental state. I suffer bad from lack of motivation.
- Not very. I certainly could be, the resources are here, but like, for ex: it’s hard to grow smoked salmon
- Two dogs. I’m also married, but my wife lives and works in the city. She comes out on weekends.
- I do.
Silly you. You catch salmon you don't grow them.
I’m going to send back this salmon tree I got from Amazon.
I really like what you are doing and hope you’re living a good life of your own construction!
What’s your medical situation? Are you medically trained if something goes sideways?
Thanks! My medical situation is not great. I have issues with Atrial Fibrillation. It’s not debilitating, if I go into A-fib I can drive to the nearest hospital. But I can do most of what needs to be done around here.
how frequently you have to visit a nearby city or town to get your Beta Blockers?
All the little towns around have pharmacies, they’re pretty easy to get. But I had the ablation procedure back in September and now I’m off them. Nice.
you don't take prophylactic doses? how is your AF currently? or if you have any other new cardiovascular diseases
After the ablation, I haven’t had a single Afib episode.
Where did you live before going off grid? Do you ever feel isolated/bored/lonely?
I used to live in Richmond Hill, Ontario. I never feel bored or isolated here. I love it.
Do you miss Markham Chinese food?
I do miss Chinese food. Don’t remember the last time I had it.
How much work is living there for you? You probably don’t need to work all day every day since you also have a youtube channel. How many days a week do you spend on upkeep and maintenance?
Very little needed on upkeep and maintenance, but the cabin is fairly new. There isn't really that much work.
What is the toilet situation?
Composting. You wouldn’t like it, nobody does at first. But you get used to it.
Incinerator toilets seem to be a thing too.
I’ve actually never heard of that, other than that movie with Jake Gyllenhal. I’ll look up how it works.
They take a lot of electricity so not great if you’re fully off grid and don’t have a big battery pack, apparently.
That’s what I was thinking. It would have to be propane or similar. During the summer months I have lots of electricity and can run whatever I feel like. But winter months are the problem.
Why no septic system?
My cabin sits on bedrock.
Like, sawdust and giant a giant compost heap out back?
Woodstove ash in the winter
I saw on another comment you used to live in the city. Did you have a typical job back then? Would you say it helped prepare you for building your own cabin in the wilderness, or was it unrelated and you just followed your dreams learning as you went?
I worked in the IT industry for 20 years. More recently I co-owned a solar power company with a buddy. Certainly that has helped. But no building experience.
Have you had the need/desire for government services again? Like water and trash services or sewage issues?
Heck yeah. I’d love running water and flush toilets. In fact, a lot of places you can dig a well, put in a septic system, and still be technically off grid. I’d do it in a heart beat if I could. But I’m right on bedrock. It’s the great Canadian Shield.
I suppose you’d need an excavator with a hammer to do anything substantial. I’ll check out your channel!
Or some explody things. Thanks!
See any ufos up there at night?
Nope. But it’s freaking great for star watching. Zero light pollution here.
Have you walked or labeled your property line? I assume it’s pretty remote so no chance of tress-passers or wandering parties, but I was always curious how someone in your situation protected your land rights. Are there portions of the property you haven’t visited in some time?
I’m surrounded by similar properties that no one ever goes to. There’s no need to protect it. I’ve been meaning to mark it, just haven’t gotten around to it. It’s a lot of property to walk. There are portions of the property I haven’t even seen yet. 180 acres is huge.
Have you heard about the housing development outside Scottsdale, Arizona that was slyly built off the water grid to avoid municipal taxes, yet they just buy trucks of water from the city to fill up personal tanks, and now that the city decided not to sell their tap water to anyone the development is shit out of luck?
Is there anything you can think of think of that you are off the grid for, yet nonetheless dependent on a grid somewhere for?
That’s odd. Here it wouldn’t matter where you get your water from, the taxes you pay are assessed from whatever they think your property is valued at.
What inspired you to take up this lifestyle? Do you ever feel lonely and how often do you visit family (other than your wife) / friends?
I really wanted to get away from city life. I don’t get lonely, lots of people to interact with over the internet. I don’t have any family aside from my mom that I want to see.
May I ask how old you are? Also, what about vegetables and fruits, since you mentioned they're hard to grow? Cheers for the answers! I wish you well. 🫂
I turn 54 this year. I go to the grocery store as often as everyone else.
Not … your kids?
Yup you got me there. I love seeing my kids and grandkids.
I've not had the chance to look it your material yet, but what's the minimum viable landholding you think would support a family of 5?
Can you be more specific on what you want to do? Like, do you want to homestead? How old are your kids?
I'd be interested in Off-Grid + Permaculture, with acknowledgements given to naivety and impossibility!
Happy to grow food and tend livestock, but know that I'll likely need to supplement our diets with grocery shopping in places. The kids are teens; to be honest, it's less likely I'll commit to Off-Grid until they can consciously choose to go / not go for themselves.
With the complications of teenage kids, you might want to make a midway step before you get your final off grid place.
Got the tech specs on the off-grid power system? System size, panels, inverters, batteries. I'm in the industry and I love building custom spec stuff.
Most of it is in this video: https://youtu.be/b2gOy1162vE But I have upgrade my batteries to 2 x 10kWh liFePo4.
What have you learned about inverters (solar)? Any suggestions on types/brands to consider?
I don’t know enough about the various brands to give you a good answer. I don’t like the one I currently have and I’m upgrading soon, but I forget the brand LOL
How did you learn to build your off the grid cabin? Did you create the concept by yourself or bring in experts to help with certain aspects?
I had a little experience making sawdust in my basement, but I learned a lot from watching youtube videos. I also have a close friend that I bugged a lot because he knows stuff. Oh, when I went to buy I-beams for my 2nd floor, the local hardware shop called on their engineer to validate my design. I think that’s the only time a pro looked over my plans.
They called their engineer as a favour to you or because they were concerned?
Probably a little of both. I think he was on retainer.
You seem to be living with all the conveniences of modern life, other that reducing reliance on the state what is the purpose of this venture?
Getting away from city life. After living in and near Toronto most of my life, I grew to hate a lot about city life. Noise, rude people, lineups, traffic noise, sirens, rude people, smog, garbage, icy sidewalks, etc. And I tend to be extreme about things. So I went from city life to very not city life. I still like amenities though.
Do you pay property tax and how much is it?
It was a little under $200/year when I first bought the property. But now since I’m building a luxurious 10,000 sq ft villa that the King may visit, it’s jumped to almost $900.
It jumped that much just for building a cabin there?
Yes. They get you because of the building permit.
How did you transport the materials for building the cabin, and the other supplies you need for daily living? Seems like it would take a lot of trips with an ATV
Hauled everything by ATV. Can I put a picture here? https://i.imgur.com/TGtS9oG.jpeg
What’s your doggos name? :)
Willow and Junebug. Willow is the German shepherd.
Is it lonely?
The internet connects me with a lot of people.
(Context: I’ve been debating a similar lifestyle choice) Any advice for off-the-grid wannabes?
Yes, start planning. Start putting away a little money every month. Even if you're not in a position to buy a property, go look at some that are for sale in your area. You'll get an idea of what you like and don't like. Grab a piece of paper and design your cabin. You don't need to be an architect to dream.
What do you use for water? Do you have a plumbing system and how do you dispose greywater?
Rain water into a 1000L tote. I filter it for drinking. It’s a very manual system right now. Grey water goes into the ground beneath the cabin.
Are the bugs the worst part?
How do you play chess?
I'm not very good at it, but go to chess.com, pick a computer player like Mae, put her on Friendly mode, and she walks you through common openings and stuff. It's a great way to learn.
Have you thought of growing food with Hydroponics? I saw in a comment that your soil is not great.
I haven’t, but I’d like to build a floating garden for the beaver pond.
Can that isolated life give us psychological boost?
Maybe? Depends on the person, I would think.
Do you not get scared at night? I live in nyc and I'd be terrified to live alone in the woods alone. I know you have dogs but damn I'd still be scared. Paranormal or wild animals
No. When I first started coming here and building my cabin, I was essentially living out of a tent. That was a bit spooky. I was unfamiliar with the land and the night sounds. But you quickly realize it’s just me and nature out here. And most animals (all animals here) are timid by nature. Every one I’ve ever come across, whether a coyote or a herd (20+) of elk, they’ve all turned and run away. (I swear I could hear them saying, “oh shit!”) Paranormal or axe-wielding maniacs are things you see in movies.
How do you protect your home from ursine intrusion?
They’re timid by nature. They don’t like dogs and they don’t like humans. They stay away
Do you feel any irony about living "off grid" and yet still being so deeply connected to the technology and finance industries? Or do you feel like it's worth striving for a deeper connection to both natural surroundings and the potential benefits of committing fully to certain aspects of the modern technological age?
To put it simply, I don’t think you have to go medieval to connect to nature or live a more simple life. I really just wanted to get away from city life. It was driving me nuts. But I also don’t feel you have to give up modern conveniences. I like watching movies while my wings are crisping in the air fryer.
How's the cell service? Do you need Satellite service?
Luckily I have access to a nearby cell tower and LTE (internet) tower. Lucky, because it’s not something I thought about before buying the property.
Bruh can I live with u?
I'm building an addition just for you.
Are you on your own? Do you get lonely? What does your typical day look like?
I am married, but my wife still lives and works in the city. She comes out on weekends and holidays. I also have two dogs to keep me company. My typical day: wake up, wonder if I have a hangover or not. Roll out of bed at whatever o’time. Dig up some breakfast. Wonder what I’m going to do with my day. There’s tons of stuff to do, but I try not to worry about it. Maybe I’ll grab my camera and film something for a video…
How long have you been living apart like this?
6 years now
how many times a day do you jerk off?
Not as many as you might think. Only when your mom is available for video chat.
"investment in solar power that pays me like an annuity" - do you mean bonds?
Copying from another reply:
In Ontario for a while they had a program where you could install solar
panels at your residence or on a commercial building and sell the
electricity back to the grid. In the beginning the rates they were
paying were very good. My business partner got it on one big one.
What is your MBTI type ?
Not sure exactly, but I’m an introvert.
I know “off-grid” doesn’t technically mean entirely independent, but you’re as off grid as battleships
You make a living on the internet, receive money from investments in a public company, purchase food, drive a car on municipal roads, and your wife works in the city? So basically, anyone who shits in the woods is now off grid?
Off grid is what you make it. If you want to head to the hills and live off the land and call it ‘off grid’, then go for it. Honestly I get challenged on this a lot, but every time I do, the person has a different interpretation of what off grid means in their own head than everyone else. I’ve had people tell me, “YOU’RE NOT LIVING ALONE YOU HAVE DOGZ”
How do you define off grid yourself? I’m confused mostly because of the fact that you still frequently engage with municipal facilities; specifically regarding transport, food, and finances. Do you consider off grid to mean just “not hooked up to major electricity providers”?
Not connected to municipal services. So water, sewage, electric, nat gas. People think I’m calling myself something I’m not, but honestly it’s just a good way for like-minded people to find my videos.
What about emergency medical care/general emergency services? I guess what I’m asking is— how far are you from a city/town? Do you have any concerns for your safety, should there be an accident or medical emergency?
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