When we first moved here to the great state of Minnesota, it was to 80 acres of land out in the boonies which had originally been homesteaded in the early 1900s, but then deserted since the early 1920s. There was no house on the property (it had long ago burned down), and what had once been hay fields and garden area were overgrown with trees that were over 50 years old. The only building left on the property was the hand-hewn square log barn. The roof had caved in, but the four walls were still standing.
In order to have shelter, we had an 8' x 50', 15 year old house trailer moved up here from Illinois. It had very little insulation and was truly like living in a tin can.
There was the original hand-dug well on the property that, we were told, had been boarded over to keep animals from falling into it. We had a terrible time locating the well because it was well hidden by a mass of brambles grown over it. But once we found it, my husband pumped it out, went down into it (it was lined with rock) and cleaned it up the best he could. We built a new platform over the top and put a hand pump on it. The water came into the house by the bucket full and that was our water system for the first few years.
The old well served us well (no pun intended) but it faithfully went dry twice a year . . . in August when the ground water seepage dried up and in March when the ground water froze so that it didn't flow into the well. In August we took jugs down to the shore of Lake Superior and got our water there. In March I melted snow (a slow, laborious project) for all of our water.
Our bathroom facilities were located at the end of a meandering path through the woods. There was a large window in our outhouse with a scenic view. I kept our biffy clean and odor-free which, contrary to what some people think, is not hard to do.
We either took sponge baths or filled the old aluminum wash tub on the kitchen floor. Primitive though our water situation may sound, we had a system that worked well for us.
Our second year on the homestead, a Montessori School opened in town. Because our daughter was an only child, we thought it would be beneficial for her to get some socialization with other children her age. The school encouraged parents to be involved so we had a good number of meetings and committees involved with the curriculum.
One of the mothers I met and was involved with was . . . how shall I say this? More than a little on the up-tight side and basically, I think, unhappy. Her family had come to northern Minnesota because her husband, who worked for the Department of Natural Resources, was transferred here. She hated being 130 miles from a shopping mall, she hated the lack of cultural events, she hated the weather, basically she didn't want to be here.
At one of the school functions, someone asked me where we lived. I told them and they commented that we didn't have electricity that far out, did we? The discussion continued about our lifestyle and when the up-tight mother heard me explain that we didn't have running water or plumbing in the house, she got a look on her face like she had just eaten a bad piece of fish and said, "Oh, my God! But . . . but you always LOOK so clean."
Yep. I was clean. We were all clean. I kept a clean house and we ate off clean dishes. Our level of hygiene was right up there and none of us ever got sick. Each year we refined our own alternative electrical and water systems a little more. We ended up with quite adequate systems and many people coming to our home didn't realize we weren't hooked up to grid power.
Then came the year when public utility power came down our little back road, and we brought it in to the house. We actually became quite "modranized" (as one old, salt of the earth, backwoods gal in the area used to say). Why, we even had (ta-dah!) running water and indoor plumbing.