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Guest Post: Going Off Grid - Montana Style!

Tyler Durden's picture


Submitted by Brandon Smith from Alt-Market

Going Off Grid - Montana Style!

The concept of off-grid living is often encumbered by numerous false assumptions and associations.  Many think that to delve into the lifestyle you must be either a grizzled anti-social mountain man, a pompous starry-eyed hippie, or, a criminal on the lam.  The spectrum of characterizations range from “kooky” bunker building militia members to spoiled Al Gore worshipping vegan hipsters out to prove they are better than everyone else by reducing their “carbon footprint”.  The point is, for the average television-fed American, the idea of off-grid life automatically conjures visions of the extreme. 

I believe this reaction is due in large part to our society’s obsession with feeling “connected”.  Ever challenge a friend or family member to go without touching their cell phone for a day?  Ever ask them to shut off their TV and see if they can find other ways to occupy themselves?  Ever ask them to leave modern conveniences behind, if only for a weekend, to take part in some simple camping?  I can say that in my own experience, nine out of ten people will stare at you pale faced like you just kicked them square in the loins.  For them, leaving behind the buzz of our make-believe culture is the same as stepping outside of time, or abandoning one’s very identity.  The whole suggestion is alien.

Luckily, here in Montana, I’ve encountered far hardier souls than in most other places, and the pursuit of an existence disconnected from dependence on the system is not treated as quite so outlandish.  In fact, many here have taken the leap into self-sufficiency and gone 100% off-grid.  I was lucky enough to meet one of these pioneers recently, and take a tour of his farm, but what interested me most about him were his origins, which were rooted about as far away from his current environment as you can get…

Rich Scheben was once a highly respected sales associate in the world of big-pharma, who had spent much of his life in the urban landscape of New York.  He received accolades for his performance working within titanic companies like Merck and Glaxo, but his dream had always been to pursue a career in forestry.  Despite having a degree in the field as well as a long history participating in wilderness sports, he soon discovered that affirmative action quotas within state and federal institutions were stringent.  His applications were passed up time and again while others with little to no experience or training were hired immediately because of their politically designated victim-status.  The corporate world too was rife with people who climbed upwards on the efforts of more worthy employees, or who were given positions of prominence based on their willingness to schmooze with management, rather than work hard. 

Finally, when Rich noticed troubling health difficulties creeping up on him, a fateful doctor’s visit revealed severe damage in his spinal column.  The company immediately found out, and sidelined him.

These circumstances led Rich not only to question the structure and meaning of his efforts within the circus-like corporate framework, but to also question the structure and meaning of modern America.  Today, he is an avid supporter of the Liberty Movement, a devout Constitutionalist, decidedly anti-corporate oligarchy, and even anti-big pharma.  His day-to-day financial existence is built upon savings, sound money, and living below his means.  His health habits have taken a 180 degree turn, and he is now subsisting on largely organic and home grown diet.  Everything has changed.

Rich Scheben holding a bull trout caught in his backyard

In a beautiful corner of Northwest Montana, Mr. Scheben found a sizable plot of land to begin his off-grid adventure.  He recommends varied terrain, rather than flat.  The more rough the terrain, the more resources are generally available, and the more privacy you are usually afforded.  With hills, valleys, gorges, and even a river, Scheben has an incredible array of land types at his disposal.

The main cabin is a straightforward structure without a lot of the elaborate design often seen in average suburban McMansions.  Electricity is provided by a small solar array and a minimal battery bank.  I have always said that it does not take much in terms of solar power in order to adequately supply an off-grid retreat or farm, and Rich’s system is a perfect example.  With only four deep-cycle batteries charging on a minimal array, Rich is able to fulfill all his electricity needs.      

The cabin itself is heated by a single wood stove, which is fueled by cords of wood from timber growing on Scheben’s land.  Water is supplied by a well and pump, which is then hoisted to a large tank on the second floor.  The tank uses gravity to feed the faucets on the first floor below.  Bathroom cleaning is handled in a number of ways.  Hot showers can be had using a solar shower filled and placed near the wood stove to warm.  Water can be heated and poured into the bathtub.  Relieving one’s self is handled in a good old fashioned out-house.

Scheben's wood stove, which adequately heats his entire cabin

Though Rich still stocks bulk foods from town, his farm is completely capable of providing enough food that he would never have to leave if he so desired.  His garden area is not immense, and can easily be worked by hand.  In fact, it does not take much space at all to grow more than enough produce for a family if needed, and Scheben’s lifestyle proves that if every landowner used a corner of his yard for a garden, centralized farming and food production would disappear.  Livestock rounds out the food necessities of Schebens farm, including chickens for meat and eggs, goats for milk and cheese, turkeys, etc.  With land surrounded by Montana wilderness, wild game is abundant, and there is little to no chance of Scheben ever going hungry.

Scheben's homemade greenhouse with bathtub for summer bathing

Wild elk roaming through Scheben's property

One issue that is constantly raised when discussing Off-Grid living is that of cost.  The problem is that so many people only consider the initial expenditures involved when diving into this new life, but never take into account the extreme SAVINGS involved after they have settled in.  Scheben’s daily costs are next to nothing.  His land provides nearly every essential imaginable, and the financial drain after setting up shop is minute in comparison to the average suburbanite.  This is what preppers in the Liberty Movement need to understand when uncertain about the Off-Grid strategy.  Ultimately, it is about providing for yourself for next to nothing what you once had to pay out the nose for!

Going off-grid also does not necessarily mean abandoning technology, and I was glad to see that Scheben felt the same way.  He uses LED’s, not hurricane lanterns.  He surfs the internet and keeps up with news events, instead of isolating himself in the backwoods from the concerns of the world.  He rides ATV’s back and forth across his land, not horses (though horses are great if you can keep them).  There is a serious misconception out there that going off-grid or living through a collapse will automatically necessitate a return to a pre-industrial 18th century type of existence.  This is simply not so.  The technological advances of today should be mixed and melded with the agricultural skills of yesterday.  Neither should be hastily cast aside if we are to find balance once again in our culture.

In light of our current chaotic economic situation, as well as the potential for social breakdown, energy crisis, hyperinflation, freight disruption, and global war, the off-grid life is not just a hobby, but a valuable form of insurance.  There may come a day when, whether we like it or not, we will all be forced to survive off-grid.  Some will be prepared with the expertise required to make it work.  Some will have at least a practical understanding of the methods and philosophies that drive decentralized and independent living.  Others will not. 

Frankly, if a former New York big-pharma salesman like Rich Scheben is able to wake up to the social catastrophe looming in our country’s future, and the extraordinary significance inherent in off-grid knowledge, then anyone can, and the dismissive excuses I hear so often from those who can’t wrap their heads around the importance of this step in the realm of survival, now tend to ring lazy and hollow…


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Tue, 02/14/2012 - 21:38 | 2160143 q99x2
q99x2's picture

Nice place. He does have Internet. Right? A Satellite connection? Tunneled through HAM radio? He must have some kind of connection.

Tue, 02/14/2012 - 21:52 | 2160174 celticgold
celticgold's picture

See that cute lil elkgirl 2nd from the left ? .......

Tue, 02/14/2012 - 22:16 | 2160228 Stuck on Zero
Stuck on Zero's picture

Resistance is futile.  You shall be assimilated.

Tue, 02/14/2012 - 22:17 | 2160232 booboo
booboo's picture

Off the grid eh? Not off the gooberment brown shirts radar, His little piece of blue heaven will be raided and his family will be force fed meat glue chicken nuggets until he shits feathers. Government types will not allow this crap, he ain't a consooomer so he must be a threat and we know what they do with threats.

Tue, 02/14/2012 - 22:52 | 2160338 bobola
bobola's picture

To be truly off the grid you have to be on a blue-water sailboat rigged with solar panels, wind generators, fishing gear, and things like canvas sun shades that convert to a rain catchment system.  Minimal need to run an engine is paramount.

To be off the grid on land you would have to be living in a yurt on federal land, able to move in short order via a bike pulling a heft cargo trailer, or in a mobile home running on waste grease from Wendy's.  

This guy has to pay property tax - he's 'on the grid'.... 

Wed, 02/15/2012 - 00:26 | 2160623 honestann
honestann's picture

Sadly, at this point, we need to be off the planet.  The predators-that-be even claim jurisdiction over the oceans and even floating above the oceans in dwellings kept aloft by hydrogen/helium filled balloons.

Yes, "property tax" might well be the most egregious "tax", precisely because it renders impossible the goal of living a self-sufficient life.  The need to pay property taxes forces property owners into the fiat, fake, fraud, fiction, fantasy, debt toilet-paper system... and they've got you.  Amazingly, it is still possible to get "allodial title" to land in Nevada, which is just the name for "real, actual ownership".  With an allodial title to land, you are not subject to property tax (or even confiscation of property for public purposes like roads).  Of course, if lots of people paid the 5% to 10% extra to purchase full allodial titles on rural land in Nevada, they'd surely pass a new law to stop that practice in the future.

Nonetheless, probably the most practical and effective way to escape the clutches of the predators-that-be and predator-class is to set up a self-sufficient floating settlement somewhere in the south pacific.  Another option I've found.  There are quite a few places in the pacific where a submerged mountaintop comes within a few meters of the surface.  So it is also possible to create a brand new island nation or "non-nation" that doesn't need to float.  Still, personally I'd prefer a mobile solution.  Best of all, a mobile solution that is waterproof and can pull itself entirely below the surface if and when that becomes desirable.

Tue, 02/14/2012 - 22:54 | 2160342 Cabreado
Cabreado's picture

Someone please remember to pass this article on to the destitute and soon-to-be-destitute and the angry and the hopeless and the disillusioned and the entitled and the sick and the tired and even those few who have a clue that The We can't all be dental floss tycoons in Montana,

and the fallout of the lies will come, regardless.

Thank you.

Tue, 02/14/2012 - 22:56 | 2160352 Osmium
Osmium's picture

Nice ramp on the ES.  Must be yet another greek bailout.

Tue, 02/14/2012 - 23:23 | 2160444 bankruptcylawyer
bankruptcylawyer's picture



get this shit off zerohedge. everyone knows what zh represents. ok fine. you wanna call for outright civil dissobedience or cognitive reallignment , fine. but what is this? mother nature news or the automatic earth? or backwoods home ? or survivalist?

i mean, if i wanted that stuff, i'd go to those websites NOT zerohedge.  blech.

Wed, 02/15/2012 - 00:30 | 2160630 Clowns on Acid
Clowns on Acid's picture

Obviously pos....

Wed, 02/15/2012 - 13:06 | 2162316 CoolBeans
CoolBeans's picture

CLowns -'re probably right.

That poster is the one that would be at your door crying like a baby when the SHTF.  While we would help those truly in need (elderly, children, etc.) I simply have little patience for these types who are too good to prep (even just a little).  These are the types that go nuts when the power goes out for 8 hours.  Grow a pair and be ready.  If you're not interested - don't click on the story.  It's not all about "him/her" - needs to realize that part of ZH's talent is the ability to post interesting stories that appeal to various folks. 

Tue, 02/14/2012 - 23:27 | 2160455 bankonzhongguo
bankonzhongguo's picture

I love Big Sky Country, but ...

Rule number 1:  Don't bugin/bugout to a place where the climate can kill you.



Tue, 02/14/2012 - 23:28 | 2160462 Bansters-in-my-...
Bansters-in-my- feces's picture

This Rick character sounds like a terorist.

Does he not know his anti-patriotic side is showing ?...

Benny says he should spend,spend.spend.... to be a patriot.

Tue, 02/14/2012 - 23:31 | 2160470 SumSUN
SumSUN's picture

Camping Bithez!

Tue, 02/14/2012 - 23:32 | 2160476 Archon7
Archon7's picture

Looks like one of those gold-bug terrorists to me.  Besides, if we was off the grid before, he just popped up on someone's radar screen big time now that this article's been published... 

Tue, 02/14/2012 - 23:46 | 2160517 LouisDega
LouisDega's picture

Nice post.  Oh yes,  The futures are up. Time to maximize Bloomberg sitting down below on your taskbar.

Tue, 02/14/2012 - 23:49 | 2160518 LouisDega
LouisDega's picture

DUPLICATE. Where  is that confounded delete post button?

Tue, 02/14/2012 - 23:48 | 2160525 minus dog
minus dog's picture

"Scheben’s lifestyle proves that if every landowner used a corner of his yard for a garden, centralized farming and food production would disappear.  "

I'm farther along this path than most of you, but this statement is just ridiculous.  Rolling on the floor, laughing my ass off, ridiculous.

I'm sure this guy can provide for himself with what he has, but there is no way in hell some suburbanite cubicle-dweller is going to put a serious dent in their food requirements like that, even if all the plants lived.  More likely than not animals would eat most of the plants down to ground level and disease would kill off the rest.

Wed, 02/15/2012 - 00:03 | 2160575 Archon7
Archon7's picture

I once read about a place called "Kowloon Walled City", which used to be in Kowloon, Hong Kong until the government shut it down.   Kowloon Walled City was a 5-acre piece of Hong Kong real estate that fell through the cracks of a Brit - HK administrative treaty, and hence, had no government, no law, no administrative authority, and hence no taxes or regulations, etc.  People flocked to live there, and over the decades it became a Borg-cube-like slum that just kept geting built up higher and higher because the demand to live there was so high, and there were only five acres to build on.  You could literally walk from one end of KWC to the other through a maze of passageways several stories above street level without ever putting your feet on the ground level, and as slummy as it was, people still flocked to live there.  You could get anything there.  Shopkeepers opened up shop there because they could do it without paying taxes or being "governed" by the authorities, doctors and dentists went there for the same reasons, and ordinary people went there to "fall off the grid", or have a place where they could actually own their own apartment or flat.   Despite being a slum, the crime rate in KWC was surprisingly low...  the authorities attributed that to the lack of reporting, but the people who lived there claim that it actually was low because the people imposed their own system of self-governance and justice that kept the criminals "honest", at least with regard to the peace of KWC.  The authorities eventually had enough, and found a way to reclaim jurisdiction, shut it down, evict everyone, and finally raze KWC to the ground.  There's so much more I could tell you about KWC, but the one thing I never forget is how people actually wanted to live there, despite its dark, slummy condition, just to get away from being governed...


Wed, 02/15/2012 - 00:14 | 2160594 honestann
honestann's picture

Yes, some people really do value liberty.

Wed, 02/15/2012 - 02:50 | 2160803 toxic8
toxic8's picture

thanks. informative tidbits like this are why I love ZH. lots of good info in this thread.

Wed, 02/15/2012 - 02:03 | 2160754 ruffles
ruffles's picture

How many average people could live by their own means? Not as hunters, but even somewhat self-sufficiently? Even to plant a garden? Hell, how many even know where or how to acquire milk or eggs? "Grocery store" is an incomplete answer!


Wed, 02/15/2012 - 02:33 | 2160789 drunkenlout
drunkenlout's picture

I'm rural too, and don't understand why anyone would want to be on-grid more than necessary.  The town-stuff we need is expensive, and comes with restrictions.  As long as the electric grid is up, I don't need the wicked town.  



Wed, 02/15/2012 - 02:45 | 2160799 @Watcher
@Watcher's picture

Good job being "off the grid".

I have quite a few "off the grid" contacts in MT.

Just make sure you got enough "guys" to make sure you and your family don't have to defend the homestead on your own. Would be a waste to have the gangs / looters have their way with your stuff and family.

Like minded community works best IMHO.

All the best.

Wed, 02/15/2012 - 02:52 | 2160805 whateverwhatever
whateverwhatever's picture

I'm surprised ham radio hasn't come up yet. Maybe I've done a crap job skimming the responses.

I've been a ham for almost 20 years. About 99.3478% of the time it's a hobby for (often) adipose challenged people who like to play with radio tech.

However, only a minority of the ranks show an enduring interest in communication. A good number of licensees get licenses because they are survivalists or off-grid. Some view a ham license and some basic ham gear as insurance for natural disasters or SHTF apocalypse scenarios.

That's not what ham radio is for. Ham radio is used for emergency communications, but only in conjunction with government agencies. Ham radio is not your nuclear winter cell phone. In fact, it is illegal to conduct "business" on ham radio, and the FCC rules that surround pecuniary interest are complex.

If you're American and interested in preparing for disasters, look into GMRS (General Mobile Radio Service) instead. It's a private radio service which allows for any type of communcation. It can be used as a post-Armageddon alt-cellphone. $80/decade gets you a license that covers all the radios in a family. GMRS radios are available through radio mail order stores, camping stores etc.

Wed, 02/15/2012 - 08:22 | 2161057 Green Leader
Green Leader's picture

These people are NOT thinking of comms as #2 in the list after food & water, not at all. A properly 'upgraded' Ranger 2995 base and a SIRIO 827 antenna will suffice, IMO.

Also, the 'featured article' greenhouse setup leaves much to be desired, too. I would have spent less money on the house and more on Rimol Greenhouses.


Montana will be one of the WORST places to be when Civil War II starts:

"I have personally discovered this to be true regarding MONTANA. Throughout my 14 years of personally investigating the NEW WORLD ORDER AGENDA FOR AMERICA, I have spent several months each of those years traveling throughout Montana, investigating the groundwork being laid out for what appears to be complete military subduing of civilian Patriot resistance in this state and region."

"You must understand, that the NWO martial law agenda for this nation is a MILITARY AGENDA. It must be understood therefore from a military perspective. After all, MARTIAL LAW means MILITARY RULE."






Wed, 02/15/2012 - 13:22 | 2162400 CoolBeans
CoolBeans's picture

Yep - I'd just read something about the Montana area that reference military ops out of that area.

Wed, 02/15/2012 - 13:20 | 2162389 CoolBeans
CoolBeans's picture

Good info.  Thanks!

I had just read an article about GMRS last week.  Good backup for communication - and this will be an imortant thing if the SHTF.

Wed, 02/15/2012 - 04:11 | 2160863 laosuwan
laosuwan's picture

Here he is on video, hanging out in Montana




Wed, 02/15/2012 - 05:39 | 2160944 ebear
ebear's picture

>>>He uses LED’s, not hurricane lanterns.  He surfs the internet and keeps up with news events, instead of isolating himself in the backwoods from the concerns of the world.<<<

Feh.  This isn't going off the grid, just removing to a far corner of it.

Wed, 02/15/2012 - 08:19 | 2161065 Watauga
Watauga's picture

1.      "These here is God's finest scupturings! And there ain't no laws for the brave ones! And there ain't no asylums for the crazy ones! And there ain't no churches, except for this right here! And there ain't no priests excepting the birds. By God, I are a mountain man, and I'll live 'til an arrow or a bullet finds me. And then I'll leave my bones on this great map of the magnificent..."  Del Gue (JEREMIAH JOHNSON)

Wed, 02/15/2012 - 13:16 | 2162367 CoolBeans
CoolBeans's picture

"Off the Grid" - means you can't have a mortgage, either.  Not wise--one less way to lose the place.  Although that hasn't stopped some banks from trying to foreclose (on paid off properties).

Enjoyed the story - a nice sideline to read while hitting the other stories.  Please keep stories like these coming.

Anyone who hasn't "prepped" just a little (be it for a week, a month or ?) is, in my humble opinion living a touch dangerously - especially if you have children depending on you.  I was reminded of this during a serious main break and we had no water for 8+ hours out here in a quiet, rural area.  Thereafter we had to boil water for 3 days.  But, we prepare for these things -- and had a comfortable amount of stored water, etc. 

Call me crazy - but something just might happen and I will not go to any FEMA camp willingly.


Sun, 02/19/2012 - 21:07 | 2176348 q5251355
q5251355's picture

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Mon, 02/20/2012 - 10:44 | 2177350 steelrules
steelrules's picture

There is no such thing as getting beyond the reach of government or off the grid anymore, remember Ruby Ridge?

Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!