Maybe I am not being clear…?

“Oh, you’re the guy who lives off the grid!”

“Yes.  Yes, I am.  Have we met?”

“No, I am new here but the other staff told me that you were coming in today and they told me that you have solar panels and all that and my husband wants to do that very badly.  He is reading and researching all the time.  I, however, am not so sure.”

“Well, here’s my number.  Give it to him.  I will happily discuss it.”

“Well, we want to buy some land do some farming and live free.  But land is so expensive.”

“The land is actually cheap right now and, compared to farming for a living, that is the least of your expenses.  Farming on the coast is very difficult.  Not a lot of good farmland.  We just seem to grow more rock!  But, if you are looking for a kitchen garden with a few fruit trees maybe and some chickens that is very possible.  Cultivating a half a section is almost impossible.”

“Oh.  I will definitely have him call you.”

He didn’t call.  I don’t blame him.  The dream is almost as good as the doing.  And we all need the dream.  This guy was just turning 50 and his wife, late forties.  So, they may get there.  They may make the leap.  Hard to say.  We’ll see.  But one thing is for sure – the term ‘off-the-grid’ has joined the popular lexicon.  People know the phrase, know what it means and seem to regard the idea favourably.  They aren’t leaving the city in droves but they are dreaming and reading and thinking about it.

I have had to have a lot of meetings at the local restaurant this week (I do not have an office anymore) and so I have come to know their staff as well as the one in a different office mentioned above.  Every time I go in, they ask me about living off the grid but really they want to tell me how hard it is living in the city.  One waitress in her mid sixties drives for an hour and a half to get to her job and then the same amount of time and distance to get home.  That’s eleven to twelve hours of working and slogging time!  In her sixties!  I pointed out the cost of operating the car (at least $1000 per month) and the condo fees ($500/month plus an ‘assessment’ every year of an extra $2000) and asked her why she would work just to drive and pay maintenance?

“What can I do?  I need to pay for my dental work.  I need to save…although we have not saved a penny in ten years.  Actually, we are going into debt!  My husband is working but he is getting fewer hours.  I just don’t know…”

“Move to a small town.  Whatever your condo is worth in the city, it will likely get you a better place in a small town.  You may even be able to walk to work.  The salary is likely a bit less but you will keep more of it.  Spend less time in traffic at the very least.”

“I don’t know.  We have always been city people.”

“Go to the opera a lot?  The hockey games?  Live theater?  You a restaurant freak?”

“No.  We don’t go out anymore.  Can’t afford it.  Too tired.  We watch TV.”

“Spusm has TV.”

“Where’s Spusm?”

“Never mind.  If you can muster the energy and the ferry fare some weekend, go look at Ladysmith or Chemainus or Crofton or even Comox.  Nice places.  Not expensive, ‘cept for Comox.  It is getting pretty popular.”

“Gee.  I don’t know.  My daughter is here.  So is my granddaughter.”

“How old is your daughter?”

“Early 40’s.”

“Old enough, I think, to travel to you to visit you.  No?”

“Oh….I dunno….gee….I just don’t know….I better get back to work….”

“OK.  See ya.”

12 thoughts on “Maybe I am not being clear…?

  1. Well, I am a bit more generous……..I know that it took me a few years of readin’ and thinkin’ before I decided. No one leaves abruptly. Unless the authorities are after them and then they go pretty quick. But you are mostly right because most people won’t do it. But they can still ‘armchair’ it and be a Monday-morning critic. I have no problem with that. What I don’t quite understand is why more people aren’t ACTUALLY doing it since I am getting so much attention when people ask simply, “So, where do you live?” “Unh, I live on a remote island.” And then the fun begins…….


    • I hear ya, Im sure a lot of people dont like living in the rat race. Unfortunately Canada has moved from being a nation of “hewers of wood and drawers of water” to “pushers of paper and leavers of voicemail”. I am shocked at friends and coworkers that dont know how to use a simple power tool….. I had to show a 30 year old guy how to put a drill bit in a drill the other day. My father and grandfather used to let us play with tools in their shop when they were working. Today? The repercussions of single family homes without fathers is beginning to show. Frightening if it wasnt so sad..
      Anywho……..Ive been researching house plans, buillding techniques(stone vs wood), power sources(solar vs wind), heating sources( forced air vs radiant), water sources(gray and potable), acreage, (eastern maritime provinces) treed vs cleared or a combination.
      I dont have a company pension plan waiting, just my investments so when I pull the pin, I’ll have to be financially self sufficient for a few years while I build or reno an old farm house/and barn. (I saw a 30 acre farm (800ft of ocean beach) with no structures other than a brand new 6000 sq ft heated work shop that was interesting but they wanted too much and I dont want an ugly old modern workshop on my property so eventually , after everything was done I’d have to tear it down.. Made a lowball offer that they laughed at…..I’ll wait a year and call them again 🙂 A few more years and I should be there. When i’m in my late 50’s to 60 max. (construction and gardening should keep me busy for a few years 🙂 Then. canning veggies and smoking fish and meat will be my pathetic version of nirvana. That and a library full of unread books.


      • Well, e-mail me with your basic ‘wants’ and budget and I’ll keep my eyes open on the west coast. Only about half of the stuff for sale is ever listed.
        You sound better skilled than I was. So, Maybe starting as late as 60 is OK if you are in good shape. But building is a tough job. I started at 56 and feel as if I would not have made it if I started at 57 – it was that close for me. My advice: find the property now, put a container on it (instant storage and small shop) and work from there. My wife’s advice: “Don’t listen to that old fool.” We are both right.


        • Didnt ya know 50 is the new 40! lol .
          I exercise fairly regularly (biking and walking)and my job is quite physical as well. So my health is good.
          Im looking for at least 25 acres because, as I get older, I find my tolerance for stupid people and nosey neighbors is on a rapidly rising statistical curve. (kinda like a hockey stick) where the top of the chart is my “lack of tolerance” and the bottom right of the chart is my advancing age. I think its the diminishing testosterone levels after the age of 40 but it just might be that Im a miserable SOB. But either way. Im ok with that. 🙂
          I dont want to spend more than 200k for the property. (Hence the several more years of work). Since I’ll have to either build or reno after that.
          A farm wouldnt be bad because I could lease the fields out to pay the taxes and then when Im ready. I’ll farm some of it. There’s a ton of them in the east selling cheap, and , if Im retired. Who cares? Let it snow. snow snow. I’ll just toss another log on the fire and crack a good book. :).
          Your wifes’ advice is excellent but since I’m a young fool, there’s no hope!


  2. Excellent advice David! In fact I gave a similar version to my sister just yesterday. She is struggling; living in Vancouver, post-divorce and though relatively well employed, struggles financially and is terribly worried about her future. In an effort to reframe her perspective a little I wrote to her ‘there was waaay worse things than moving back to a small town on Vancouver Island (Sidney), sharing a home with me and then walking to work, strolling a short distance to the beach and riding her bike to endless greenspace.’ I hope it helped. Maybe see you guys while you’re in the city. PS: yes I bought a place in Sidney, possession this month and I think you’d approve. Cheers, s xo


  3. I think you are being very clear. Your utopian homestead vision is very challenging for most people who seem unable to do basic maintenance let alone living off the grid. Most folks do not have the capacity or the inclination to leave the safe zone. You must have got the right genes. Others got timorous ones. They can not be you.


    • There are droves and hordes who don’t wanna be me. I am not so sure myself sometimes. But I am sure about where I am living. And with whom. In that way, it does not get any better. But no one has to be off the grid to get the bulk of the benefit. The benefit is getting out of the rat race – however you might choose to do that. Sidney sounds nice. So does Ladysmith or Crofton. It’s a compromise, I know. But one I would respect.


    • Actually, I forgot that. For years I called it Spasm just for fun and so when it came to write it in the blog, I just went Spusm. Thanks for the correction. I think I have actually been to Spuzzum (in the back seat of my parents car 50+ years ago) and that it was so small, we all called it Spasm.


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