Homesteading and living off grid are concepts that have been growing increasingly popular in the last few years. Rising costs of utilities, rent, and food have made people look for different ways to supplement the lifestyle that they’ve grown accustomed to, and for some, that looks like learning skills that were necessary for life before the Industrial Revolution. 

Heather and Her Family

Heather Graesser is one woman who has taken living off-grid to the next level. She lives in a cob house in North Carolina, with her husband and her two children, who are 11 and 13. The family lives entirely off grid, relying on solar power and rainwater collection for their utilities.

Source: Business Insider/Heather Graesser

Their story goes back ten years. They lived a standard suburban life on the outskirts of Denver, and Heather and her husband were both teachers. They lived in a standard four-bedroom house, with a yard where their kids could play.

A Journey Going Back Ten Years

Heather didn’t set off to live off grid in the beginning, and their journey started in an unlikely place. When her kids were younger, Heather started to learn from Netflix documentaries the impact of chemicals and plastics on the planet and our everyday lives.

Source: Pexels/Karolina Grabowska

She decided that she wanted to make some changes that would make their lives more sustainable. It started out small, with things like removing plastics and cleaning the house with homemade solutions that didn’t involve any harsh or unnatural chemicals.

Looking for the Perfect Spot

These were admirable notions, but it wasn’t long before Heather realized that there was only so much that could be done in an urban setting. She discussed it with her husband, and they decided that the best way to live the values that they were holding increasingly dear would be to buy a plot of land and build their own house.

Source: Wikimedia Commons/Smithfl

They started researching different places where they could ultimately build their homestead. Over the course of some months, they traveled through 38 states and Costa Rica to find somewhere that would be perfect for them to live, as well as somewhere that aligned with their values. They settled in North Carolina, on 16 acres of land.

Building Their Ideal Homestead

Heather and her husband, Casey, set off to build their home, which consists of two 12 foot by 12 foot structures. Their home is made out of straw bales and cob, which is a natural building material made from soil, water, and other organic matter.

Source: Flickr/Gerry Thomasen

Heather and her family live entirely off grid, having set up their home so that their phones, outlets, and appliances all run on solar energy. They gather rainwater from the roof, and use a manual pump to crank it for use in their home.

They Still Have Netflix

Now, that’s not to say that Heather and her family have sacrificed all the creature comforts that come with the twenty-first century. As mentioned, they still have electricity in their home to power their phones, lights, e-readers, and other devices, and they still have accounts with Netflix and Disney+ to download from at the local library.

Source: Pexels/cottonbro

Their lives are simply much slower than they used to be, when they lived in a suburban city neighborhood. Heather teaches adult education part time, while her husband picks up occasional substitution jobs with local schools. Their children are homeschooled, and they spend much of their days doing the work of simply living.

Their Days Are Slow

Some days, this looks like the majority of their days spent cooking and meal prepping for the week, or working their garden boxes to gather whatever food is prepared. Heather hopes one day to be entirely self-sufficient for their family food, but they’re nowhere near that goal yet.

Source: Pexels/Livier Garcia

It also means having close relationships with their neighbors. One neighbor allows Heather and her family to store some food in a freezer that they can’t accommodate on their own property, and in exchange they do yard work for her.

But Busy, At The Same Time

The kids are also socialized well, despite the fact that they’re homeschooled. They participate in extracurricular activities like music lessons and horseback riding just like other kids, and enjoy the rural lifestyle that their parents have built just as much as the adults.

Source: Pexels/Yan Krukau

Heather, as a naturally anxious person, worries that her kids aren’t getting enough social time or activities for their age group. After all, preteens and teenagers can require a lot of stimulation that might not be found on a rural homestead. She’s assured them that if they want to join public school they’re more than welcome to, but it isn’t something that either of them have expressed interest in at this point.

Looking to Expand

The beauty of a lifestyle like this, according to Heather, is that there is always room to grow. There’s always a new project that they can seek to achieve, or a new way of being more self-sufficient for themselves.

Source: Pexels/Markus Spiske

The family is currently in the midst of building a new, larger building for themselves on their property. They’ve been living in approximately 300 square feet of space since starting on this rural, homesteading journey, and the new property that they’re building is going to be a whopping 800 square feet of space.

An Unusual Lifestyle, But a Peaceful One

It might not be the lifestyle that everybody would choose, but for Heather, her husband, and her children, it’s turned out to be the perfect lifestyle for them. The kids have thrived in a slower pace of life, and often tell their mom that they don’t know how everyday people make it work when their lives are so fast.

Source: Pexels/Karolina Grabowska

For the rest of us, even if we don’t want to pick up and move to the backwoods, we can look at Heather and her family with admiration for what they’ve achieved. Seeking greater self sufficiency in a world that’s increasingly expensive and fast-paced is something that most people might like, and Heather has proven that all it takes is a little bit of determination.