Homesteading Family Living Off-Grid in a Spectacular Earthship

>> MARIE: So we bought this house, which is a kind of earthship, 10 years ago and we renovated it while we were living in Quebec City and we now live full-time in it for 2 years. And it's an off-grid house. We live on solar panels, and rainwater, and with a composting toilet. We also have a big garden outside, about 250 square meters and we produce a lot of our food and we also have a greenhouse here in our living room where we grow food also. So yeah, in summer maybe our grocery is around $30/week. We buy yogurt sometimes, sometimes cheese as a treat but otherwise we get the eggs, the veggies, and the fruit from here. We do our own bread here. So we have a kind of self-sufficiency and the garden gives us a lot food too for the winter because we collected plenty of fruits and we freeze them or we preserve them as jams so we get a lot all year long. It's a very good feeling to be self-sufficient, to depend on yourself for your food and everything. So we wanted this, we wanted to live in nature, too. Very close to nature and the countryside. We didn't want to have a mortgage, too. The expenses that you don't have when you live off-grid is very important for us because it means that you don't need to work so much or maybe you can take more holidays. We love travelling, too, so it allows us to make a good mix between being here and travelling. >> FRANCIS: So we were looking for land and I found this house on the web. And we decided just to come check it out and it was not exactly the region we wanted to move but when we arrived here and we just fell in love with the house because it's just what we were looking for. >> MARIE: And it was very cheap, it was $15,000 CAD. It was not in this shape, I mean we renovated it a lot. We've put some money but still it's a very affordable house for all that we have, the space outside and the inside of the house. We fell in love with the owner, and he fell in love with us, somehow. He had built this house 30 years ago, so he was a pioneer in building, kind of, earthships here in Quebec. He built this house all by himself, it took him 5 years to build it with the rocks from the land here, and the beams from the forest. And so he built the house, lived in it, and then he left for 7 years and he was sad that the house was getting bad. So he was looking for some people who would take care of it. And we came and we were much younger than he was, and we were in the same way, same spirit as he was. So he was really happy to find young people. He left us all his books about homesteading and all this, and for us it was such a gift. The first 8 years we had the house, we were living in Quebec and so we were commuting. We were coming here on the weekends and working on the house but we are not really skilled in construction so we needed help and we had some help. And also we were working in the garden because when we came here, there was nothing, just apple trees. So we planted everything, and for us it was very important to have the garden from the beginning. So we worked, we had the flashlight and it was 10pm at night on Saturday and we were doing the garden because we had only two days, and then we, at the same time, we launched a social economy enterprise so we were very busy in town, and then we had our daughter so it was quite a lot job, and back and forth, doing all this but we made it, and two years ago we decided, ok, now it's time to be full-time. >> FRANCIS: So now we're able to garden when we want, and we have plenty of space to do what we want, and so yeah, we feel kind of free. >> MARIE: So the total house is around 100 square meters with 35 square meters for the greenhouse. We made it bigger because we wanted to have a living space in here. So we are now in the greenhouse, that's where we have a lot of our meals because we have a table here. We also have our bathroom in the greenhouse, too, with a toilet and a shower. And we have an extra bed for the visit, and as a sofa. And inside the house, we have...its like a loft so we have our bed, our daughter's bed, we have the kitchen, and the dining room. And in the back we have a root cellar and outside we have a shed and another toilet, a composting toilet. >> FRANCIS: the water is coming from the rain. We have different systems to collect the rainwater. We have a big tank outside to collect the water from the greenhouse, and this water is transferred to a concrete cylinder underground. So this water is coming from gravity into the house. And we have another tank in the greenhouse, it's 1,000 litres. We collect rainwater from the roof, basically, that goes inside the greenhouse, and we have another from the shed behind. This is mostly for the garden and the chickens. >> MARIE: So in total, when everything is full it can be 10,000 litres of water. So we almost never lack water. One challenge here is that we still didn't find spring water , so we need to go get our drinking water from another place, a cabin that we have access to that is not far from here. We could maybe drink the rainwater, it's filtered, we filter it. >> FRANCIS: We can use a system to filter the water and to purify but at the moment we didn't for some reason we prefer to use the well at the other cabin, it's quite simple that way. >> MARIE: We feel really connected to nature because it's all around but also because as we use the rainwater, when it rains, for us it's: "Oh Wow! It's going to water the garden and fill up the tanks" So even Emma, she is happy when it rains. You know, usually, we say: "Oh no, it's raining" and people are sad because it's not sunny, but in our case, we're happy when it rains because we know we need it. And it's the same with the sun, we need the sun to get our power so it's a very close connection. >> FRANCIS: We have two little systems, solar systems, and two packs of batteries, two solar panels and it's very simple but it works really well, everything is fine. The most consumption that we have is using internet. Eventually we want to make it bigger. We try to use only 12 volt when it's possible. All the lights, and the pump, and eventually I want to make the internet as well 12 volt. >> MARIE: For most of the time it's enough, but a little more would be even better. >> FRANCIS: So most of the heat is coming from the sun, because we are passive solar but we live in Canada, so we have a wood stove. We have an Amish cookstove in the middle of the house, and we use it to cook, we use it for the hot water, and we use it to heat the house. This house, because it's underground, and because we have a greenhouse in the house it's kind of a challenge for humidity because the house can be cold and the greenhouse can be really hot so it creates humidity, and that's a challenge to create more ventilation, natural ventilation. >> MARIE: It's especially when we are not here for awhile, when we come back from travel or in the spring, for example, so the lower part of the walls can get humid but we deal with it, and we warm up the oven and it works really well. >> FRANCIS: After two days it's alright. >> MARIE: We have two dry composting toilets. So one is inside, it's more for night, and for our daughter, and in winter when it's freezing cold outside the other one is outside and it's the main one. >> FRANCIS: And we have a pond for grey water. So we have plants that filter the grey water in the pond. It's only the water from the shower and the sink that goes there and that's it, it's that simple. >> MARIE: The house itself works very well in winter, and even without heat it will stay above zero degrees. And the former owner, he loved winter here. So someone who wants to live very relaxed and read books all winter long, it's a perfect place for this. And even in February for example, you can be here with little clothes and it can be warm on a sunny day but most of the time because we are travellers and we like discovering other places, and it's part of our lifestyle, most of the time we go away for winter. And usually we go for two, three, four months for travel. So we went to Europe, I come from France originally, so usually we go to Spain or France, but the last two years, we went to Florida for a road trip, and last year it was Mexico, for four months. So our off-grid situation, and the fact that we don't have a mortgage that needs to be paid every month, and we have very little expenses, allows us to travel. We kind of found a balance between our homesteading will, we want to have a garden, and we want to grow our food, and also, our wish to travel because it's the two parts of our life. Two things that we really love, and we manage to do it this way. Emma is in first grade now, and we decided to send her to school here in the village because we love the school, it's a very small one, with like 50-something kids. For us, it's important that she meets friends, she is an only child, and so it's good that she spends some time in a community of people her age. And also, this gives us time for work, either here, or our job, and she comes back from school at three, usually, so we have plenty of time. But when we travel, like last year, for four months, we did home school, or "travel school" ...RV school, and we loved it. We did around one hour each day, and she didn't lose anything. She can read now already, and she liked it, and we liked it, too. And we learned so much while travelling so it's a good way to learn. >> FRANCIS: We created Les Urbainsculteurs, urban gardening, in Quebec City in 2009. It's a non-profit organization that we created together, and we were doing rooftop garden, many projects in the city, it worked really well and we changed kind of the mentality of horticulture in Quebec. So to plant more food in the city. So with this mission accomplished, we decided just to move away and to become homesteaders. And now we have a new project, we are Hempbassadors, we want to promote industrial hemp, the different uses of it, and all the opportunity that it can create for the Canadian economy. So yeah, we started the project four months ago and we're really happy about it. >> MARIE: Industrial hemp is allowed in Canada for 20 years now, but it's still emerging, re-emerging. When we started to read more about hemp, we realized how great of a solution it is, because it provides food, it provides clothing, it provides construction material, shelter, so many things. It can make plastic, paper...and it's a very ecological plant. It doesn't require pesticides, fungicides, and all this, so it grows very easily. The idea is to go meet people who work with hemp and interview them, and show their work, and promote the plant in general. We want to be part of this and we want to...just as we did with urban agriculture when it was not known, our goal with hemp is to make it go mainstream. >> MAT: I hope you enjoyed checking out this video and learning about Francis and Marie's story. We find their lifestyle and the projects they're working on really inspiring. If you want to learn more about the work they're doing to promote hemp as the amazing plant that it is, you can check them out on Facebook and Instagram @hempbassadors Also, if you want to see more stories of people living off-grid or in earthships, you can check out our playlists, they're also going to be linked in the description of this video.

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