We’re Not Alone: “Roughing It” Within a Community

By , November 30, 2009

Because it’s our blog, we get to focus a lot on ourselves in the posts. My work on Self-Reliance Works deals with our experiences on our homestead as well, and plays up the rugged individuality of our situation. However, we need to stress periodically that we’re not out here alone. We’re a part of an off-the-grid neighborhood. If we’re different at all, it’s just that we’re a bit farther separated from the majority of homes over on the bay. Our nearest full time neighbors are as close as a quarter mile away.

We allude to the neighbors periodically. I don’t say a lot about them most of the time, simply because it’s none of our business to tell the wider world about them, or what they’re doing. We’re brave (perhaps naive, even foolish) enough to broadcast our thoughts and activities to the world. That doesn’t mean we have any right to expose our neighborhood in the same way.

Having said that, it’s important to note that most of what we’re doing, if not all of it, has been done longer and better by our neighbors. They have patiently taught us, through explicit lessons, and by example, much of what we’ve learned here. Some of it we doggedly learn in our own way. Doubtless those tasks, methods, or practices could be improved on by our more experienced neighbors. In addition, we owe an unrepayable debt to the original owners, who built the compound and set the homestead in place. All of our success rests squarely on their shoulders.

We ourselves seem to have very little of value to offer this community. That’s long been a concern of ours, something we’re seeking to overcome. We do what we can, and hope that it’s enough, and taken in the right spirit.

It’s also important to remember that in a wider sense, what we’re doing here isn’t unique. Other neighborhoods in our area are far more remote. There are thousands of Alaskans whose lives make us look like pampered city-slickers. We appreciate your willingness to read our blog, but if you want to learn how it’s really done, I strongly recommend Seth Kantner’s Shopping for Porcupine: A Life in Arctic Alaska (check your local independent bookstore). After that, you’ll laugh at us for being so proud of our pathetic efforts a few miles from a town of any size. If you’d prefer something a little less extreme, there are other books and films out there that show truly off-the-grid, wilderness experiences.

What’s my point? I don’t want anyone to think that we’re too full of ourselves. This is a humble effort, one that challenges our resourcefulness and capability, but it isn’t anything earthshaking. We never undertook the blog to give that impression. Rather, it started as an easy way to let friends and family know what we’re up to, and it’s grown from there.

If at any time we seem to be taking ourselves too seriously, please use the comments section to bring us back down a notch or two. We’ll certainly be better for it.

You will find a version of the essay above, as well as writing on similar and related topics in Sacred Coffee: A “Homesteader’s” Paradigm by Mark A. Zeiger, available in print, eBook, and audiobook editions. The published version will likely be expanded, clarified, or updated from what you have just read.

11 Responses to “We’re Not Alone: “Roughing It” Within a Community”

  1. jim says:

    I commend you. Do you have an income? What taxes do you pay? How much land do you have to live off of?

  2. Mark Zeiger says:

    Jim, we don’t have a steady income. We have a number of “micro incomes” that help sustain us financially. I just released a book of short stories, Shy Ghosts Dancing: Dark Tales from Southeast Alaska. I started a small publishing company to help others publish, and to further my freelance Web design work. We earn some from the ads you see around the Web site, and my articles posted on Helium.com. I handle orders for my brother’s boat plans. Michelle has done some childcare work in town as well. Our income taxes are light, but we do pay property taxes on our 10.5+ acres.

    Thanks for visiting the site!


  3. robert & Carol Platt says:

    We are employed right now but when we move to our little homestead we will both be on SS. We decided a long time ago to pay off our place where we live now and already have it sold so that also will help. We have been been able to live quite comfortable on less than our SS and have figured out we will save 700 a month when we move.

  4. Doug says:

    No soup for you until you tie Dave to a chair and make him finish his book! income is pointless if you can’t have any soup!! 🙂

  5. Mark Zeiger says:

    Ha ha! To tie him down, I’d have to catch him first!

  6. michelle says:

    Just want to commend you for picking such a beautiful spot. I grew up in Haines in the 70’s and lived on small tract rd just as you come up to the top of the hill across the street from the Adkins. Spent many days at the beach at Mud Bay!

  7. Mark Zeiger says:

    Thanks, Michelle. We spend a lot of time congratulating ourselves on our choice, too!

  8. Dianna says:

    My husband and I would like to move to Alaska within the next 1-2 years. I would like to find 5-10 acres and build our own home. We already have all the knowlege and skills for an off the grid homesteading lifestyle, but location and community are two major problems. We want to be as self sustainable and remote as possible in a area already near a small off grid community or at least have a few freindly neighbors., but I’m unsure where to look and how we are going to get all the intial materials and supplies we need to get started to our property and how much it will cost. Can you offer any advice?

  9. Mark Zeiger says:

    Dianna, I think Fairbanks would be a good jumping off point. It’s probably closest to the bush communities that might offer that much land. You may not find off grid as we do it, but most of these communities offer the right conditions for off grid living.

    Acquiring materiel and shipping it is a major problem here, but those who live in the bush know the sources and methods, as they’ve been doing it for generations.

    The biggest obstacle is likely finding acceptance in a fairly (or extremely) closed community. Many of these places are Native villages. I would advise visiting, being very humble, LISTENING to the people, helping hem in their daily tasks when you can–all the things that make one a good neighbor.

    Best of luck! I hope it works for you!

  10. Greetings, new to your sight while searching for Alaskan clothing. My two young men want to move to the last frontier. So, we agreed to try it out. I’d like to start with a Himalayn snow suit, myself, though I will settle, now, for good or better ideas . PreExploring for the day of the venture is rewarding…we meet others even on this journey that are out there ahead of us. We are off grid here in Virgina foot hills, but I think Alaska puts us in primary education experience in living self sufficient. We feel way behind your level. Thanks for being there for US young pioneers.

  11. Mark Zeiger says:

    Good luck to you all! Remember that layering works better than relying on one garment.

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