Words and photos by Adrian Marcoux.
This is an inside look at living off grid in Squamish, British Columbia. First and foremost, prepare for your perseverance to be tested and realize that no one will be there to pat you on your back. Getting through each day off the grid will simply mean you might be able to get all the dishes done and have enough warm water to wash your face and underarms.￼
Your tools are your livelihood; smart designs and durability are king. Anything to make processes easier and more efficient is a welcome addition. Over the years, I’ve found a few key tools that I use daily – I keep them in one place for a quick grab.
Wood fuels are an absolute necessity for heat. Many people find a certain nostalgia in gathering firewood. Let me be the first to invite you to tackle a year’s supply for me. I find it when and where I can and stack it when and where I can. Processes make every system of the property work together and finding that balance has required a few cold nights. Firewood is a chore: plain and simple.
Our power source can be described as initially underwhelming in its simplicity. So many variables come into play when mother nature is your provider. At the end of 1200 feet of 2” ID pipe, lies a 12v truck alternator, attached to its base or where your vehicle belt would be is a pelton wheel or turbine. The graces from the creek are then stored within a bank of recycled Hydro station batteries, which is then inverted into a pure sine wave 110v electricity for normal consumption. Simple to the eye, yes, but I can attest to its complexity and intricate needs. Freezing temperatures can wreak havoc on a quiet Saturday morning and lead to a weekend of less-than leisurely exercise.
The heart of the system is very dependent on seasons and nature in its purest form. This is our micro hydro intake: 1200 feet of line dragged 600 meters up to a sourced location through trial and error. The creek is ever-changing in flow and can rise a few feet in a matter of a couple of hours. Its important to protect our system from those elements, barefooted battles to recover sections of pipe and barrels have pin-pointed this location as safe and relatively consistent. Maintenance is still required to clear debris interrupting full flow potential.
Auxiliary power supply is the thorn in my side, it is out of our control and the chink in most “off gridder’s” armor. Freezing temperatures and failures in a system are typically backed up by fossil fuels. It can be expensive and make one feel inadequate from a self-sustaining standpoint.
Propane is used for instant hot water and cooking. If you are partial to using an electric toaster, then living off grid might not be in your cards; believe it or not, your toaster has a massive appetite. But where there is a will, there is a tool.
It has taken us almost 5 years to figure out a lasting relationship with our surroundings. We have learned lot of hard lessons, but those lessons have turned into valuable knowledge. I truly enjoy the process, the adaptation and the triumphs over adversity. We are fortunate enough to live with normal amenities but are forced to remain conscious of usages and all things from our symbiotic relationship with the elements.