Here’s What It’s Like to Live in the Woods, Off the Grid

In 2007, a man and a woman walked into the woods of North Carolina to a small camp. The camp turned into their home, and the home into a community.

So goes the story of the early days of Wild Roots, a forest commune in western North Carolina, built on a few founding principles—living freely, not wasting, and constantly learning. On roughly 30 acres, a group of people use what they call earth skills to eat, bathe, and survive. They build what they know how and let the forest teach them what they don’t.

Wild Roots’ longest-standing member, a man named Tod, who declines to be identified with a last name, doesn’t have an anti-establishment creed or fear of developed society, just an aversion to it. “We are living off the fat of a ridiculous surplus society,” Tod told photographer Mike Belleme, to explain why the community’s members occasionally “dumpster dive” for supermarket leftovers. Around the camp they also harvest acorns and chestnuts, which they turn into a porridge.

Many years, living off the grid was associated with a certain segment of population. In this extensive article by National Geographic, some important issues are raised. Everyone has lots to learn from the Wild Roots, a forest commune located in the woods of North Carolina. The small camp has 30 acres and a permanent living experience of over a decade. People get involved in foraging, cooking activities, blacksmithing and woodworking.

There aren’t any rules in place and people like that they aren’t put in boxes; the thing they all have in common is the inclination to learn. And with no hierarchy in place that means anyone can learn something or teach something. But it’s not all roses and peaches! The off-grid-ers occasionally forage for leftovers from supermarkets. Only harvesting acorns and chestnuts doesn’t work if you want to live off the land. Even hunting might prove difficult because of the disappearance of native flora over the years. Several people from the community even visit butchers to ask for scraps. Also, some members get a lift to the nearest town in order to use the internet for reaching their family or reading the news. Like in the popular TV show, Game of Thrones, when winter comes unfortunately lots of members leave the community and return to civilization. Only one remains, Tod, which is also the longest member living there. Find out more about his experience…



Tod built this house for himself and his girlfriend, Talia. The wattle and daub technique uses small live saplings woven between larger vertical logs to create the structure. A mixture of red clay, sand, water, and straw is then packed into the saplings for the walls and a roof of tulip poplar bark is added. This house was abandoned shortly after because the site was too damp. October 2011

The ducks are a fairly recent addition to Wild Roots and are the first animals to be kept there. The property is not ideal for agriculture of any kind, so farming is limited and food supplies come mostly from dumpsters, road kill, animal donations from hunters, and some wild food harvesting. October 2015



Lindsey, center, and other members of the Wild Roots community prepare dinner over a fire. Fires for breakfast and dinner are started using friction. The diet has been described by members of the community as “opportunitarian” meaning that they eat just about anything that they can find for free. October 2015


Tod dries herbs and acorns on the roof of the main workshop at Wild Roots. The main food supply at Wild Roots comes from weekly outings to dumpsters in nearby towns, but they supplement with wild foods, gardening, and eggs from their ducks. October 2015




You can see more of Mike Belleme’s work on his website.

5 Responses to “Here’s What It’s Like to Live in the Woods, Off the Grid”

  1. Bert Givan says:

    This looks very interesting!

  2. Jon A Hartz Sr says:

    This has very little to do with good home design, it’s about some flaky naturists.


    It would have been better for this community to have stayed off the radar! Just let the locals know because they are interacting with them anyway! Too late now!

  4. JANE WOODLEY says:

    This title is totally misleadin. The article is about a commune, not a person/people living of the grid.

  5. Silas Lomartire says:

    I like examining and I think this website got some truly useful stuff on it! .

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