“Have you been living in a cave?”
That’s a question we normally ask of people who seem particularly clueless about a current event. But Grant Johnson really does live in a cave, and he’s anything but clueless. In fact, his off-the-grid desert abode is over 5000 square feet of hugely impressive craftsmanship, complete with a music studio and modern decor!
Into the desert
Johnson moved to Utah in his 20s and bought a large piece of land. Eventually, the area would become a national monument, but his parcel is an inholding, which keeps it private and allowed him to develop it as he saw fit.
And while the massive cave house he spent 20 years building is off-the-grid, he found a way to give it running water and electricity for all of the modern creature comforts. You can even rent a private room inside the compound on Airbnb!
One renter gushed about their experience:
“There is nowhere on Earth quite like the Boulder house. It is one of the wonders of the modern world – a fully functional, modernized house carved into a giant Boulder. The drove across the stream to get to it was harmless, but thrilling. The horses and cows surrounding the place were charming, and the views in every direction magnificent. Don’t miss your chance to stay here!”
Making a home
At 17, Johnson moved to Moab for school. While getting his education, he also got into hiking and worked in the town’s mines when he wasn’t in school. But it didn’t take long for him to appreciate nature to town life.
“I got involved in stabilizing, Indian ruins, and I got more and more into the wilderness. And then I didn’t see any news. Didn’t read anything. I completely got away from it,” he told Tiny House Giant Journey.
He decided to try an off-the-grid lifestyle and find a spot in the canyons to irrigate and grow his own food. The result was his sprawling cave home – one that he no doubt would not have pictured decades ago.
He didn’t just need minor equipment to make this happen, he needed dynamite. And at first, he doubted his ability to pull together the materials and make the space livable. Nevertheless, he went for it. But the process wasn’t a quick one.
“I started blasting in 95, blasted a little tunnel here first. From the first blast I was committed, and then it was like eight winters probably of blasting.”
When he was done blasting, the property sat largely unused for a few years while he decided what he wanted to make of it (and pull together the funds).
“I didn’t know what I wanted. You know, how I wanted to finish it.”
Putting it together
For a cave, there certainly is a lot of light in this dwelling. And that’s because Johnson managed to blast holes for windows, reinforce them with steel, and then add glass to create windows with an epic view.
Of course, if one is going to live truly off the grid, power, food, and water are pretty big factors, but Johnson found a way to make it work in the desert.
“I planted the orchard right away. And we had a water wheel, big 22 foot in diameter water wheel that ran the pump. We put in about 6,500 feet of pipeline from the pond that ran the water wheel because I always knew if we could afford to do it, we’d have gravity flow because we’re a mile below the pond…So I just plugged into it and put a turbine.”
Of course, if you want meat as well as vegetables in your diet, you have to set up a mini-ecosystem rather than a simple garden.
“The biggest crop is tomatoes and peppers and corn potatoes, lots of garlic, but then, you know, all sorts of little stuff, greens and carrots and beets. I love bacon, sausage, and that pork. So to raise pigs, we have to have a cow that’s milking because the pigs eat the milk. Otherwise, it’s not worth it. You know, it costs so much to feed them. So we’d feed them milk. You know, you have to get the milk cow bread and then you have to milk it. And then you have to have a way to feed the milk cows. And so that’s what all these fields are for is feeding the animals, the horses, and the cows,” he explained.
Making a home
Twenty years later, the land is beautiful and sustainable and Johnson loves his home and his lifestyle.
The only problem is that the house is so big. That’s why he rents it out to guests – and it’s a great way to meet new people.
“People get inspired by it. I didn’t expect that so much. And it really is the case.”
We’re certainly inspired by this amazing alternative home!
Be sure to watch the video below for more of the tour and an interview with Johnson!
Please SHARE this with your friends and family.