With ingenuity and determination, Paul Hausman has lived off the grid for 50 years. Rose Lincoln/Bethel Citizen

ALBANY — Paul Hausman, born in New York City and raised in Connecticut, said he didn’t know what a Phillips-head screwdriver was in 1973 when he bought 54 acres on a rural hillside in Albany Township.

Paul Hausman’s wet sauna doubles as the summer shower. Rose Lincoln/Bethel Citizen

“I always wanted to own land,” he said.

With ingenuity and determination, Hausman has worked hard to make his own way. He has never relied on public utilities in his 50 years off the grid.

Early years

Albany had no electricity. “It didn’t matter to me in 1973,” says Hausman, who lived alone in a tent while he built his first house. But he smiles retelling a story he heard — the phone company’s new poles didn’t accommodate the electric company’s wires because the poles were built 3 feet too short.

Hausman started out using a wood stove and kerosene lamps as his electricity. To take advantage of the high winds on the top of his hill, he bought a wind generator.


“I used that for eight or nine years. Then I was hit by lightning. I had 55 storage batteries with hydrogen gas in my basement and boom, it blew up my house. Thankfully nobody was home,” he said.

His children were 9 and 6 at the time. “We lost everything. We went to Kmart and bought tents and sleeping bags and a Coleman stove.”

Hausman said he had a big truck parked in the yard, when they returned from shopping, the truck was filled, “with stuff people donated. Bikes for the kids, dolls for the kids, toys, Tupperware filled with food. We had nothing.” He said the Albany Township Church had a benefit supper for them.

“You ask why I don’t go back to New York … this is my home. That (generosity) would never happen in New York.”

“My neighbors, after the fire, looked at me and said, ‘this kid is from away, is he going to make it?’ But I’m not quitting,” said Hausman.

With his cats leading the way, Paul Hausman, passes his solar panels that provide electricity at his Albany Township home. Rose Lincoln/Bethel Citizen



Standing in Hausman’s basement, you notice the enormity of digging a stone foundation. He dug it by hand using field stone from his property. It is 14 feet deep on one side. The dip to the 12-foot side is because he hit ledge.

He was young, working odd jobs, and strapped for cash, so remembers the cost of things. He paid $90 each for two 20-foot steel I-beams that he rolled into place himself. He chose steel because the wood ones were $100 apiece.

Before he built the foundation, he hired someone to dig his 340-foot well for $1,500.

“Ok, I’m done. A gallon a minute,” said the man who explained he would need to buy a pump. Hausman was unsure of what he was doing but bought a deep-well hand pump, “just like at the rest areas (have),” he says. His children pumped five gallons at a time. “We’d haul it up to the bathroom and heat it up, that’s how we got our water.”

At one point he needed to install a submersible pump that now runs off of his solar system and generator.

“I was changing the leathers on the pump down 200 feet in the well and the chain fell and dropped the inch and quarter pipe south into the abyss. I finally found a rig at Longley’s hardware that allowed me to fish and grab the head of the pipe and haul it up and out of my basement. It took three hours of blind fishing before I finally felt resistance.”


Paul Hausman’s saltwater ion batteries are in the basement he dug himself. Rose Lincoln/Bethel Citizen


For many years, Hausman’s solar power came from used telephone batteries he found at a discount. One year he drove to New Jersey to get batteries from a hospital. Currently he has saltwater ion batteries.

He said people ask him what he’ll do if there is no sun for a stretch. He runs the generator when that happens.

He notes that the solar hot water heat collectors are out of use for this year, so for the next six winter months their hot water will be generated from the wood stove.

These days

Behind Hausman’s house is a huge swath of land that he cleared. He built a 38-by-70 foot barn and planted 30 apple trees.


He earns a living from the three other houses he built on his property that are rentals. He cuts and sells 20 cords of firewood a year. A couple of times a year he advises people who are installing solar power.

He salvages wood, and other building materials. In the back of the barn are a cement mixer, a Bush Hog and a tugboat ladder.

Part of living off the grid is thinking deliberately. For instance, you can’t take a hot shower until 45 minutes after you stoke up the wood stove.

Yet, Hausman’s partner, Pam Chodosh has cappuccino every morning, they play bocce in the summer, and have a wood-fired, cedar-lined sauna that reaches 120 degrees.

On a tour of Hausman’s house, he shows off their two wood stoves. The Papa Bear Fisher heats their house, and a 1908 Royal Herald is the cook stove. It works by way of a brass coil that circulates the hot water through the firebox and into the copper tank behind the stove. The dial on the oven has three settings, ‘hot, very hot, extra hot.’

He admits this “do-it-yourself,” sometimes hardscrabble, life is not for everyone. He says it became too much for his wife who moved back to Massachusetts and his children who as teenagers thought they were deprived because they didn’t have a television.

Hausman said he has come around to an understanding of why Mainers resent outsiders. He said when you’re from here you rely on your family. If someone is from away they think you’ll return to where you came from when life gets hard.

He said, “I don’t have a great-grandfather buried out on Route 5 — I’ll never be, ‘from here.’

“But, it’s been 50 years. It’s my home.”

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