Monthly Archives:June 2005

Home Exchange Holidays

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House swaps offer a cost-effective holiday choice, and you can use this site to advertise your off-grid home or even your normal old on-grid home and seek a swap.

While you’re making the most of someone’s beachfront apartment in Sydney, Australia, they could be enjoying your home in La Jolla, thanks to the increasing popularity of this type of break. Just go to our Classifieds section and place a free ad. The link is at the top of this page.

The idea is simple: you swap your home with someone who lives in a part of the world you want to go to. You fill out an exchange agreement, they come; you go; you water each others’ plants; and you get a holiday for next to nothing. It’s simple – for some so simple it’s scary. If you’re a worrier, house swapping probably isn’t for you – spending the holiday wondering whether the nice couple’s six-year-old twins have set fire to your antique rug is not going to be very relaxing. But if you’re willing to go with flow, you could get a lot out of it.

Morgan Spurlock’s off-grid TV show

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A new TV series by Morgan Spurlock features a couple living “off the grid” for 30 days.

Spurlock, star of Super-Size Me, met with the Editor of Off-Grid while he was reseaching the series, about people who change their lives for a month. The run concludes July 13 with a couple who spend a month without cars, cell phones, computers, television and other technologies.

The couple who are wedded to electronics and clueless about the energy crisis are, “a family of mass consumers who go to an experimental eco-village where they live, essentially, off the grid for 30 days.” says Spurlock.

International Space Station

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The ultimate off-grid home environments are ones that allow humans to live in space or underwater – places that may be centuries away but which still offer insight into the way we might live in the future, albeit disappointing, at least for now.

At 356ft in length, the International Space Station (ISS) is four times larger than its predecessor, Russia’s Mir space station. But the living and working quarters are still cramped and challenging for its inhabitants. Two beds serve three people. There are no lavatory facilities. And the sun rises every 90 minutes.

“In zero gravity body fluids accumulate in your head area, which can give you both a headache and a chipmunk-face appearance,” says astronaut Pam Melroy, a pilot on two missions to the ISS. “But, generally, your body adjusts after a few days and the sensation eases.” Weightlessness is also a problems for human muscles, bones, kidneys and other vital organs.

The Green Dream

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The Arboratory, is a proposed architectural, engineering community. It is the brainchild of Alex Shirley-Smith from London, who will update us regularly as he designs and prototypes new methods of Arboreal Construction or treehouse technology. The completed space will accommodate up to twenty full time staff and students with fields of expertise ranging from agricultural geneticists to carpenters and construction engineers.

The site lies at the heart of Thetford Forest in East Anglia, a cultivated landscape of recreation and farming. Trees are grown here under a 50 year crop rotation cycle.

Electric bikes, cars, buggies

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One day, all garages will sell electricity like they do petrol.
Electric vehicles, especially electric single-person vehicles, are the wave of the future whether you are on-grid or off. Money-saving and clean burning, they can be charged from solar or wind-powered batteries, from a friend’s house when you are visiting, or even a pub or cafe, in return for a small payment.

On the next page is another electric buggy for sale (in the US only). For now, here are 136, carefully-researched links to sites specialising in electric cars, buggies and bikes for you to buy, rent or to discuss your electric powered vehicular options:

Electro Automotive
SolarSailor Benelux
EVT Mobil
e-Traction Europe
Open Source Velomobiles
Green Speed
Electric Bikes Northwest
Dahon Folding Electric Bikes
BionX Intelligent Bike
Solar Mobility

Ollie, row the boat ashore

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With three sets of oars, two months’ worth of provisions and one seriously tricked-out rowboat, a 23-year-old British adventurer is behind schedule in his solo crossing of the Atlantic Ocean.

Ollie Hicks pushed off from a marina dock about 20 miles south of Manhattan May 27th in a 24-foot open rowboat, hoping to become the youngest rower ever to make the 3,000-mile trip alone. His destination: Falmouth, England, an estimated 400,000 strokes away.

Hicks’ red boat is no fishermen’s dinghy. Equipped with a satellite telephone and a computer, it is a self-righting vessel with watertight cabins at the bow and the stern.

And he has packed its cargo holds with creature comforts, including a desalinator that makes seawater drinkable, an iPod music player, a small gas stove, a cache of dehydrated food and a six-pack of Yuengling beer. And of course, he figures he’ll have a chance to fish, so he brought along a pole.

Sites to help eat cheap

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Eat cheaper – grow your own

Here are some links to groups that can help you grow food off-grid:


Green Thumb Community Gardens

Am. Community Garden Assc.

Neem Foundation

Trees for Life

Living Nutrition

Cheap laundry – eco-balls

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Eco-balls reduce laundry cost by 75%Eco-balls are a way of doing the washing without using detergent. If you live off-grid that means you can reuse the water more easily, and if you live on the grid, it means you are adding less to the world’s pollution, while saving a bit of money.

And yes, they do really work. We were sent a free sample by Insight EcoStore in Brighton, and so far have used them in 30 washes with no ill effects on the clothes or the machine. The clothes come out softer than with fabric softeners and there’s none of that yucky sludge to clear out of our washing machine. They are less sparklingly white, but we are not worried about that. No more hassle and expense of carting bulky powders and liquids home from the market!

The Woodland House

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Ben Law is a phenomenon of nature. He lives in a house he built himself in a wood he manages, coppices, and loves. He is almost unique in being a first-rate woodsman- a child of the forest who lives in a near-natural state, and also quite a good writer, able to communicate his thoughts and feelings as well as the details of how to build a house from willow in the middle of a wood.

We have written about him before because his book the Woodland Way has been an inspiration to tens of thousands of off-gridders.

After he wrote it Ben became famous as the star of an episode of Grand Designs, an architecture series on UK TV. Now he has written another book, “The Woodland House” cashing in on his new found fame, and good for him. The Woodland House – Buy it from Amazon UK now. Read the review below