Consider the challenges
and solutions in dealing with energy needs over the years. Portable solar power or portable wind power is always a smart option. It ain't that bad to use traditional rural life staples like a kerosene lamp and tallow candles. Many
chores can take longer and be more difficult without electricity.
lighting becomes a concern..or else you can only work and live productively when you can see: when the sun's up. Starting with just steampunk gear, you have propane lamps (gas is expensive), kerosene lamps, candles, and natural light from windows during the daytime. Avoiding accidents that may burn your home down is a constant awareness and careful vigilance is advised if you have to use flammable material for lighting your lamps.
Alternative power sources are always an option: solar and wind or even microhydro if you can set up one near a good stream. LED bulb tech and lighting is becoming cheaper and is a very good choice for electricity powered lighting using solar or wind. Remember that solar is not available when the sun isn't out, wind power is slightly better, and if there is no stream you cannot use microhydro power.
Life without ice, or refrigeration might be hell for most. Keeping perishable food without a fridge requires some smart indigenous tech like Zeer Pots.
You may keep liquids cool in earthen ware containers kept in cool dry places. You can build an insulated pantry to keep things cool and store food long enough. The best thing about off-grid living is that you grow your own food and get to enjoy picking fresh ingredients from your garden or from the sea, and preserve surplus harvests or catch in jars or use canning tech.
You might want to get a solar powered refrigerator but these are expensive. There are plenty of DIY non-electric refrigeration options that you can also try.
Cooking ‘off-grid’ is the best part of living in a homestead. You always get the best
tasting meals with relatively little work.
use hand tools is your survival skill if you decide to live off-grid. Without power tools, find a good craftsman to teach you the trade. Learn woodworking skills using commons hand tools.
If fully equipped workshops are available near your place, it is still good to have your work done there than making a mess of everything. Work and repair take a lot longer without power tools so be prepared to have your off-grid home in a constant state-of-building over the course of you living there. Keep spare stuff like reclaimed wood, PVC pipes for your waterline, LED lighting replacements, glass or plexiglass for windows, galvanized iron roofing sheets, and other easy to purchase materials that can be used as quick and easy solutions for emergency repair and back-up for when things wear out and need to be replaced.
You can survive without TV or electronic media entertainment if you live off-grid. Rediscover board games! Indulge to your heart's delight with collectible card games, crafts like sewing or pottery, learn musical instruments, enjoy your books. Reading a book to young kids will be special. Playing together in the evenings with just cardboard stuff still adds up to a lot of good times.
When bored, your kids get to devise their own games and
play, using their own imagination and being on their own helps them think for themselves which helps them be responsible later in life.
If you can't live without watching TV or movies, get a media player box and stuff it with entertainment media when you're in the urban grid part of town. You can watch your favorite shows over and over. Remember to back-up your media on DVDs or thumb drives and keep these in a Faraday cage to keep them safe. A monitor for watching media entertainment might be too much of a drain on your power resources, so you may choose to augment your alternative power with extra batteries or schedule times when you use your electronic media entertainment. One more caveat is that your equipment breaks down eventually and you either choose to repair it, toss it out, or get a worthy and low cost replacement.
Living off-grid is not a throwback to a simpler or 'better' lifestyle. You actually do a lot more physical work to get through the day but that work keeps you healthy, supplied with your own food, and you don't become a cannibal or looter when the food supply grid goes out permanently elsewhere. Growing your own food, and being self sufficient in spite of the limited gear is the one constant of homestead communities.
Rely on each other more--when watching over the backyard garden or harvesting at just the right time for fresh food so it won't go to waste. With recent advances in energy efficient and compact appliances and technologies, “off-grid” living CAN STILL BE THE SAME living anywhere else. It just costs more to keep the stuff you use--appliances, TV, fridge--battery arrays for power, more wind turbines, a bigger micro-hydro setup with battery arrays too.