Getting off the grid is an intimidating idea. Open Source Ecology intends to make it a bit more accessible.
Creating a commune from scratch is no joke: despite his crunchiest intentions, man cannot live on kale alone. If an intentional community wants to make bread, they'll need a combine to harvest grain. If they want wood beams for building homes, they'll need a sawmill. These technological requirements for even the simplest modern civilizations are the inspiration behind Open Source Ecology, an agricultural commune and machinist collaborative that goes beyond the mission of getting off the grid: It seeks to rebuild society from the ground up.
The team is in the process of developing a toolkit of the "50 different Industrial Machines that it takes to build a small civilization with modern comforts," called the Global Village Construction Set. It includes everything from a tractor to a 3-D printer, pieced together with interchangeable parts, motors and power units as if it were a "life-sized lego set." They currently have eight prototypes available on their Wiki, complete with designs, how-to videos for assembly, and budgets. OSE wants the kit to lower "the barriers to entry into farming, building, and manufacturing" for the DIY community, and even extend their ideas for use in the developing world.
Of course, pulling off this kind of project takes serious expertise; founder and director Marcin Jakubowski has a Ph. D. in fusion physics and is a TED 2011 Fellow. Jakubowski and the rest of the team are putting their theories into practice on their Factor e Farm (pictured above), 30 solar-powered acres of former soybean fields in rural Missouri that they've transformed into a sustainable village using the construction set.