Imagine an old, decrepit victorian house in the middle of a forest. It is inhabited by a small family ages 8 to 25. The setting is the near future with no major differences from the real world (at least at first).

A little bit like this:

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The climate is probably best described by "English", even though the story is not set in England: reasonably warm summers which can be rainy, rainy autumns, and cold, snowy winters. A city of 100,000 is nearby, about 7 miles away.

It's "off the grid" by necessity: it is so remote that it's not connected to any utilities except an ancient overground electrical line. The inhabitants do a certain amount of gardening.

  • There are wood furnaces for warmth in the winter (a big one downstairs and small ones in the individual rooms)
  • There is a well with an automatic pump
  • Groceries and other everyday necessities can be purchased at a store in the city 7 miles away. They have access to a certain amount of money; the vegetable gardening is important to augment the budget, but not absolutely essential.

They care greatly about the forest around them and it's easy to imagine them doing some careful caretaking related to it. They love the forest's animals and interact with them frequently.

I live off the grid myself (although the closest forest is a thousand miles away) but I'm having a hard time creating a plausible daily life for these guys. What would daily chores look like around the house? What would be things that need to be done on a daily / weekly basis? What kinds of projects might be pressing? What kinds of emergencies might believably come up?

What I've come up with so far:

  • Weed the vegetable garden and rid it of snails (daily or weekly)
  • Fix leaky roofs
  • Fix leaky windows
  • Power going out due to problems with the old power line, or with the ancient wiring inside the house
  • Pick up berries/mushrooms from the forest for food
  • Harvest potatoes/carrots/other vegetables grown around the house, and store them
  • $\begingroup$ I hope this is not too open-ended! $\endgroup$ – Pekka Dec 28 '16 at 15:57
  • $\begingroup$ This is pretty open ended as it very highly depends on the climate of where this house is located and thus would affect greatly the daily chores like if it have cold, hard winters you'd need wood chopping for heat or things like snow clearing to ensure the roof doesn't cave, etc. $\endgroup$ – rangerike1363 Dec 28 '16 at 16:05
  • $\begingroup$ I like this question, but it needs a climate, as rangerike says. $\endgroup$ – kingledion Dec 28 '16 at 16:26
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    $\begingroup$ As the others say, could you describe climate? Additionally do they have a well with a bucket or a well with an automatic pump; farms and livestock or a nearby grocery store; a wood burning furnace, a pellet stove, an oil burner? Etc etc $\endgroup$ – Zxyrra Dec 28 '16 at 18:24
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    $\begingroup$ 7 miles from a city of 100000. That's what you consider "remote" ? $\endgroup$ – roetnig Dec 29 '16 at 16:10

This answer is not comprehensive and is assuming a climate of a natural, English forest. The list is arranged in no real order.

Daily tasks


  1. Sort out the garden - Weed and de-snail the garden. Lay down slug traps such as beer (or any available alcohol, I would suggest cider as it is easy to make and apples are widely available) and salt. If it hasn't rained recently or there are newly planted seeds then water the plants. Depending on season and crops there will be other jobs such as harvesting, planting and removing pests from plants. Check infrastructure such as canes, bed borders and irrigation systems for damage and repair this damage.
  2. Sort out animals - If they keep any animals these will need feeding (probably twice a day). Some animals might also need milking or eggs might need collecting. Animals like chickens will need locking in at night and letting out in the morning. Infrastructure such as coups, fences and feeding troughs should be checked and repaired. Animals should be checked for illness/injury and if any illness or injury is found this should be treated or the animal killed.
  3. Scavenge for food - If these people trap animals then there traps should be checked and any animals removed, slaughtered and brought back to the house. Traps should be reset and/or repaired or new traps should be set. Hedgerows and the forest floor should be checked for roots, berries, nuts and edible plants. Water can be checked for freshwater shellfish.
  4. Cooking - Meals should obviously be cooked and also excess meats and fish should be smoked or salted for storage. Soft fruits should be jammed or chutneyed and vegetables can be pickled. Stores should be placed in a coll cellar so that they have food for winter.

Cleanliness/personal appearance

  1. Personal cleaning - People should bathe downstream from any drinking water once a day/once every two days. Any wounds should be washed in boiled water. Anyone who worked with animals should wash carefully as soon as they have finished with the animals.
  2. Clothing - Once a week all clothing should be washed, preferably with some form of soap. Any damaged clothes should also be patched/darned.


  1. Tools - Any damaged tools should be repaired weekly. Any knives, saws, and axes should be sharpened before and after use and checked at the end of each week. Rusty tools should be cleaned and oiled each week.
  2. Buildings - Any damage to outer buildings/light damage to the house should be repaired at the end of the week or month depending on seriousness of the damage and importance of the building. Serious damage to the house should be repaired as soon as possible.

Projects/long term tasks

  1. Wood - Wood should be gathered and seasoned in a log shed. This makes it burn better. Seasoning wood also makes it better for certain types of building as it is less bendy.
  2. Fats/oils - The people may work on trying to press/extract animal or vegetable fat to make lamps and to give them cooking oil and a way of easily starting fires. As part of this they will need to build a press of some kind as well as build ways of storing the oils and a place to dry out the seeds or nuts for pressing.
  3. Brewing - A set of vats could be set up to brew homemade cider from apples (either windfall or grown apples). This will require the building of large barrels for production along with away to store the barrels.
  4. Repairs - Any longer term repairs will be carried out over time. This includes non-essential repairs such as purely aesthetic changes like repainting or replacing wooden blocking of gaps with windows.
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Here are some topics to consider,

Water: Where are they getting water for drinking, cooking, washing, etc.? Are they on a well? Piped-in water? Rain cisterns only?
Possible activities: Hand pumping or drawing water; transporting buckets to house, gardens or to animals.

Energy: Apart from that (presumably marginals) power line, what energy sources are they using, for cooking, lighting, keeping warm? Posible activities: Chopping down trees, splitting firewood

Food calories: Are they growing all of their own food? What tools and materials do they need? How are they getting that stuff? How are they storing food for the winter? Possible activities: Plowing, sowing, reaping, drying/storing fodder

Sanitation and medical: How are they keeping clean and disposing of bodily wastes? Do they have access to outside medical care, or are they on their own for that?
Possible activities: Washing clothing, heating water for bathing, growing medicinal herbs.

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    $\begingroup$ As for projects, look to automate solved problems. I'd start working on that acueduct ASAP. Once I have water flowing near my home I'll save a lot of time going to the well/river. Time I can use to create my primitive plumbing, for showers, washing and disposing body waste. Once I have some plumbing, it's time to get started on that water heater, I love me a hot shower, and it also doubles as "central heating"! Oh, and don't forget a small windmill! I'm not making flour hitting two rocks, here... (and so on, and so on) $\endgroup$ – xDaizu Dec 28 '16 at 17:33

I lived off the grid in a forest monastery for a time. We had a pretty typical farm, a garden, washed our clothes by hand regularly prepared wood for various reasons by cutting down trees (pretty traditional dark ages monk thing to do). Creating and maintaining pathways through the dense forest with machetes was also a bit fun and a good exercise. Part of the fun of living in a forrest is exploring it. These emergencies tend to happen: Getting stung by insects could be fatal if a person is allergic or they swarm enough; attacked by an animal; injury if there is difficult terrain to navigate; poison ivy sucks; poisoning by food or water, maybe the water gets infected. maybe a child or dumb person eats or drinks something they shouldn't have; natural disasters.
I also grew up in a house from the late 1800's and bug / rodent infestation was one of the biggest battles.

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Cooking, gathering, canning, preparing food for long storage, cleaning, sewing, making fabric, collection of materials for making fabric, knitting, sewing, chopping wood, collecting kindling, water purification, animal care, making cheese, butter, collecting eggs, protection from outsiders, fire prevention, teaching, learning, making furniture, making tools, collecting metal, creating, repairing or maintaining fences and property. You'd have to make glass to replace broken windows or sell goods for money to replace items you need and cannot make. So crafting or farming outside the home, or selling items you've canned or prepared. Free time would be unusual in any quantity. You also have to make sure there is cooking/bathing and drinking water as well as sewage removal. You can just look to the ways people survived in the 1800's.

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