The Congressman who went off the grid


A great article on former congressman Roscoe Bartlett who at 87 has built (by himself) a farm 4000 feet up in the West Virginia Alleghenies.

As a child of suburbia I have always been fascinated by the prospect of living “off the grid.” The idea of being truly self-sufficient (or close to it)  is very appealing.  50 acres up in the mountains, a nice little cabin. A bunch of books. A decent kitchen. There are worse ways to live.

Of course a less than high speed Internet connection is of some concern.

I think I could raise a few chickens at this point and probably maintain a nice raised bed garden but I need to learn how to install solar panels before the zombie apocalypse. (Or EMP apocalypse, which is of more concern to Bartlett.)

I actually am not terribly concerned about any apocalypse. But I sure would love to make apple cider from my own orchard.


Bartlett bought the 153-acre property in the early 1980s for $80,000 and built the five cabins himself, wiring the solar panels and running pipes from a freshwater spring to the cabins, work that consumed him on and off for the last couple decades. When he was a congressman, he would take his recesses and “working holidays” here, working on the cabins during the day and reading legislation at night. Now he’s midway through putting up a sixth house, a log cabin that will have a spacious kitchen, bathrooms with composting toilets, Internet access via satellite and a root cellar to store cabbage and potatoes through the winter. (Besides being more comfortable than his existing cabin, he needs the space to house his 10 adult children and their families, should his doomsday scenario come true.) The property also has a sawmill, a one-acre manmade lake with two pet swans, a gatehouse that arches over the long driveway and several gardens. It’s surrounded by mountains and wild apple trees and bears and tiny plants called club moss that look like pine trees if you get close. He’s got a mill for grinding flour, and on the day I visit his wife has whipped up potato onion soup made from produce grown in the garden and apple turnovers with apples that grow nearby.

Click here for the article.