After a disaster strikes and your local community descends into chaos, you smile, and head to the remote cabin you've setup and ride out the emergency with all the comforts, because you've prepped and created a self-sustaining homestead that doesn't rely on the grid for anything. I'm sure many of you have dreamt of this too, because it really is the ideal scenario. You get to continue thriving in your 'off-the-grid' location, making use of your own ability to live off the land. Technology lets you bring many modern amenities to your homestead, and with a few adjustments life continues on. But it's not all roses and sunshine. Especially if you've got young kids who are glued to their electronics 24/7, the transition to this form of living can be hard. Plus, it takes work. Real work. Being prepared is not just about convenience, in many different ways you are putting your life at risk, as there are many things when you're living off-the-grid can do you serious harm. Here's a few to look out for.
Lack of water Without a steady supply of water your home isn't going to be habitable for long. It's necessary for hydration, keeping yourself clean, as well as keeping any livestock or gardens thriving. Before you make the decision to live in your homestead, make at least three separate plans to attain water. Personally I recommend collecting and storing rain water in one set of tanks, drilling a well on your property to pump another, and having a natural dam (or stream) that you can tap in a worst case scenario. You also need to be able to filter and purify your water so it's drinkable, as you cannot ever be sure of the pollutants it contains. For emergencies, you also need to be able to store water as the more you have on hand, the less stingy you need to be should a drought or another crisis hit.
Poor personal hygiene I'm sure your kids are going to giggle about this one, but it's deadly serious. One of the biggest killers of the early settlers was a lack of hygiene, which lead to sickness and disease spreading like wildfire through their ranks. When your family is living off grid, that doesn't mean it's time to get dirty. Keeping clean is fundamental to staying healthy, and your homestead needs to be equipped with enough soap, shampoo, toothpaste, sanitizer and cleaning products to keep germs at bay. Especially if you're living alone, getting sick is a killer, when you've got no-one nearby to help.
Ineffective waste disposal The ideal scenario for your off-the-grid location is a working plumbing and septic system, but if you're lacking funds or just not quite there yet there's still a few options for you. At the core, is to just keep things sanitary. Even if you've got a simple pit toilet, keep sawdust and lime in the outhouse to cover up any waste after you've finished doing your business. Stock up on toilet paper and wet wipes, and always wash (or sanitize) your hands after every visit to the bathroom.
Mold and moisture For many rural properties mold is a major concern, and its particularly important if you're buying an old homestead. Mold is essentially just a fungus that thrives in damp, wet areas, but there are certain spores (which are quite common) that are toxic for us to breathe. Before buying any property, always have an inspector do a thorough check of any existing structures, and if you've built your home yourself, keep an eye out for any mold growth so you and your family aren't breathing these deadly spores every time you're inside.
All the critters Buy a wildlife guide and get to know everything that lives around the area you're in. Perhaps there are particular snakes or spiders that are poisonous, or bigger game like bears and wolves that may do your family harm. Knowing what's there is the first step, and then ensure you take adequate precautions to protect against any local species. In Australia they have to pay particular attention to wood piles as snakes and spiders love to hide in here, in North America sturdy fences around your yard may be required to keep deer out of your crops, which may even need to be electrified if bears or feral pigs present a danger. All of your garbage cans need to be wildlife-proof, and you'll quickly teach the local critters your home is not a source of food.
Inadequate supplies When you're relying on yourself, having a stockpile of supplies is very important, especially if there's a chance you're going to get cut off from civilization in any bad weather. Floods may take out your only access road, or during winter getting snowed in without enough firewood will surely spell certain death. Keep at least a year's worth of food and supplies, but don't store all of these in a single place. Spread out your caches so if your stash of beans is spoiled (perhaps water gets in), or your well gets contaminated, you're not suddenly stuck without a critical item. In addition, the same goes for your systems. Build in redundancies to every plan so you're able to survive no matter what. Solar panels get taken out? No problem, because you've got enough fuel to run both of your backup generators for months.
Accidents Not knowing how to properly use a piece of machinery, or not following proper safety measures are two of the biggest causes of accidents on a homestead. Never leave equipment like chainsaws lying around where your kids can get hold of them, and sensibly perform every task that needs doing. If you take a fall and break something it's a long drive in to the hospital, and if you do something more critical, emergency services may not even reach you in time.
People It's a sad fact, but the last major threat to your life when you're in a remote location is other people. You need a means of protecting yourself and your family against anyone who intends to do you harm, especially if you're a long way from help. Living off-the-grid is fantastic, but that also means you can't always rely on the authorities to help. You need to be responsible for your own security too. Being off the grid is a fantastic feeling, as you no longer rely on anyone but yourself to live. The flip side of this is that you're now responsible for everything, and taking this too lightly may see you making a fatal mistake.