We've been living off the grid - entirely solar powered - in my parents' cabin for the past year. We have found this lifestyle to have many merits and a few inconveniences. We've mostly loved it and I think it has only encouraged the mountain men in my midst to find their inner selves (including "Mountain George"). It has given us each a new understanding of what it means to conserve and value resources that we took excessively for granted in our previous life.
Bucket baths have become quite popular (and necessary). We haul all the water that we are not able to collect from the rain. The cabin is equipped with a water collection system (metal slanted roof > gutters > drainage pipes > filters that then feed the water into the 2000 gallon water tank below the house). In dry months (except monsoon season - late summer), we haul frequently, but in the winter the snow melt keeps the tanks almost perpetually full. We haul water using 300 gallon tanks sitting on the flatbed trailer and fill up at a local well at the entrance of our neighborhood. Water has become a precious commodity to us and we use it sparingly.
Laundry is a constant challenge, but I think any parent can attest to that. The particular challenge with off the grid laundry care is that washers and dryers eat up a lot of energy. We only wash on sunny days, and we line dry our clothes (more challenging when there's snow on the ground as everything has to be dried inside the house). Clothes dry fairly quickly in this dry climate. My kids frequently re-wear their clothes, which means you are likely to be greeted by grungier boys than might have greeted you a year ago.
Cell service is non-existent at the cabin and that has been challenging. We can use the landline, but everyone has to call us via their cell phones as every call we make out of the landline would be pricey and would be billed to my parents.
Internet is pitiful. We sometimes have it and we sometimes don't. That's an uncomfortable adjustment.
We no longer watch TV because we decided when we moved to Flagstaff that we (and our boys) needed a fresh start in more ways than one. Now, instead of watching movies, they play outside, hike, ride their bikes, ride their pedal cars, ride their horses, feed their horses, play with building blocks, listen to audio books, read books with Mommy, work on schoolwork, play with their trains, play endless hours of make-believe with one another, pretend they're good guys vs bad guys, build forts, etc.
We use minimal lighting, so we have adopted a much earlier schedule in daily living. We tend to go to bed at sunset or not long thereafter and we rise shortly after the sun rises. We sleep with our windows open, except during winter, because the house does not have air conditioning and the cool evenings do much to keep the house pleasant during the daytime.
We use the wood stove to heat the house on cold nights. George became quite a genius at building up the fire and adjusting the damper to keep it smoldering into the wee hours of the morning, tempering the brutal cold of frigid mornings. We're hopeful that this winter our boys will be able to keep themselves underneath their covers, as that was a persistent issue this past winter. Freezing boys = awake boys.
All of us have greatly enjoyed off the grid living and we would highly recommend it for at least a season. It has taught us to appreciate our resources and use them more efficiently, absorb the splendor of our surroundings, and it has even trained (forced) us to use our time more productively.
We have been so monumentally grateful to have this cabin to reside in during this season of our lives... it has paved the way for more than we could have imagined. We are also incredibly excited that a new season in our lives is around a very short bend in the road (a couple weeks)! But, more on that next time... :-)