Off The Grid
You never know how important utilities are until you don't have them. Julie and I have spent a lot of time, and will soon spend a lot of money, on an extensive utility system which I will maintain and operate. We most likely will not be off the grid completely, but we will certainly be capable of going off of it for months, and perhaps indefinitely.
There is a right way to go about this and a wrong way. If you think you're just going to put up a few solar panels and call it a day, you are sadly mistaken, unless by a few you mean 50. That's both a pain in the ass, and the exact opposite of cost-effective.
The best way to handle this is to have two separate sources, feeding a large bank of batteries. Our plan is pretty simple really. We will shop around for land with a stream that has enough flow and head to produce a decent amount of electricity, and we will put solar panels all over the south facing roof of the barn. These two sources will be wired into a large bank of batteries which will be tended and controlled electronic. In addition I will have a backup natural gas generator, or gasoline generator depending on which is cheaper. Natural Gas would be a no brainer, but remember I'm using farm-use gasoline that has no road taxes attached, and I'm buy bulk. I am confident the Natural Gas generator will be the way to go... but I'm not 100% decided... yet.
The reason you want at least two sources is pretty simple. The stream flows even at night, and even on dark cloudy days... and in the summer, when the stream is getting low, the solar panels are kicking butt.
Duh. Put in a septic tank... a big one... Twice as big as they say you need. and don't forget where it is...
Have a well dug. Deep, Shallow, whatever is the most common where you live. The people who dig it will know what's best for your area. If you're lucky, there will be an artesian well for you to tap, and you'll get some mighty fine water. The carst topography of the Tennessee plateau is great for that... tons of underground water to be found... in fact the largest underground lake in the world is there... well... the largest one we've found any how.
Invest in a whole-house filter system, but don't put the damned outside spickets on the thing ok? There is no reason to wash your car or water the lawn with filtered water!
There is a lot of great info on the net. Backwoods Magazine is a good place to look for starters. I suspect y'all knew I had this sort of plan around... after all... you don't build a Mountain Fortress without thinking of this stuff before hand.