Livin’ Off the Grid

Welcome to homesteading, west county Sonoma style. In 1997, when my wife and I bought 40 acres in the coastal hills of Sonoma county, the hinterlands to us at the time, we had nothing close to a master plan, to be honest, we had no plan at all.  What we did have was a lot of energy, enthusiasm and a passion for conservation. In our first years we learned what we could from good old fashioned books, trial and error and lots of “mistakes”!(see crisis is opportunity) . We shot from the hip and lived on a shoestring.  Our funky first cabin (measuring a colossal 10 X12 feet, just under code (link to Sonoma county code) was built from recycled lumber we gathered from demolition sites in SF, long before it was trendy.  Nowadays, the clear heart redwood that we got for the price of a sixpack goes for $10 a foot! And in all likelihood the redwood could have been timbered in our west co. neighborhood after the 1906 earthquake, everything comes full circle. We were honored to rescue this beautiful wood from the landfill!

With a book on “how to build” (link to book) in one hand and a hammer in the other we used this wood to build a leak proof cozy cabin; no small feat in Cazadero”, where of 10 feet of rain annually is the “norm”.  For the first three years we made this tiny cabin our weekend “retreat”, keeping our flat and our  jobs in S.F. until we found a way to “jump off”.   We met very few neighbors in those early days and spent our time working our humble homestead or hiking the rugged hills. While are proud to have learned so many things the “hard way” but eventually we discovered that we had landed in a community full of self reliant, creative and friendly folk and our homesteading life got a lot easier. These back-to landers had faced many of the same challenges and then some! Everyone had a story about overcoming obstacles and most were happy to share their hard earned wisdom. And, bonus, we started making solid friendships and knew that we had truly found our home with a place in this community.

And that my friend, is why this blog exists. We want to help fellow clueless homesteading hopefuls by sharing our journey and lessons and maybe a few laughs.


10 thoughts on “Livin’ Off the Grid

  1. Good introduction! I would love to hear more stories about how you got by in the early years. Also, how do you see your family “aging” in this location? I’ve met people who moved to the mountains (Tahoe area), people who were rugged in their youth but who decided to move back to cities as they aged into their 60’s. It would be great if people could figure out a way to sustain their lives in rural America through their later years. I’m approaching old-age quickly and so this has been on my mind. Nice work. I look forward to reading more about your experiences.


    1. thank you neila! you will indeed being more about page addresses some of our early years. we are hopeful to live and finish our lives in these beautiful hills. most people who do not have children have caretakers or helpful neighbors. we will most likely rely on both.


  2. Beautiful! I’d love to one day build my own house! A cozy Cabin sounds like a great learning experience. I agree very much with what you said about crisis becoming opportunity! I’m looking forward to reading more about your experiences trials, errors and victories!


  3. I was intrigued by the name of this blog. I am jealous of your success. It seems like a dream that will never occur for me. I would very much like to “live off the grid” though I am faced with personal challenges.

    I find living in Santa Rosa the entirety of my thirty years life can at times feel draining. The small town I once grew up where plentiful empty fields and roads without ever any cars. Now in turned to a larger city where all the nice fields of land, animal wildlife habitats and nature became housing developments and businesses. The roads never rode are now full of endless infinite stream of cars and traffic from the ever increasing population.

    It seems it is just a sign of getting older but to me it feels a lot more apocalyptic. I’m familiar with the term, “human farms” being a name for big cities. How there is talk of a population problem where there are so many parts of country uninhabited, it seems like humanity is just corralled into cities like cattle.

    So yes, “living of the grid” sounds like quite the dream. Congratulations!



  4. Your explorations sound like an echo of the back-to-the-land movement of the 60’s, and in the same west county region. Back then there was Stewart Brand’s Whole Earth Catalog to help guide new homesteaders. Is there a “go to” resource today? I always think of Real Goods in Hopland for off-the-grid stuff, but I suspect there are lots of options. I’m always fascinated by people who take your path; it’s such a different direction than is commonly pitched.

    Your rescuing of trashed wood and reusing/re-purposing is great on its own, but particularly sweet when you offered the possibility of the wood’s history to a distant past. Looking forward to reading more.


  5. Cary:Love reading about your experiences in Cazadero. I think it takes a lot of courage to do what you did. I would like to hear about how you built your generator and if it runs on diesel? You must be on a well. Do you grow vegetables and raise animals too? I love the area and have stopped in at the bakery and ridden Tin Barn Rd. several times on the way to Skaggs Springs Rd.It pretty special to have a community of people. I do not know most of my neighbors. There is a sense of isolation in a lot of neighborhoods on the grid.


  6. Love the blog! Great concept. I like your writing style – it’s authentic and fun to read. I think you and your wife are so brave and adventurous. The older I get the more I think about living off the grid. How do you all stay warm in the winter out there? Did you find a way to insulate the tiny house? Thank you for sharing. Courtney #cs5711


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