Alaska Calling

Discussion in 'Communal Living' started by cookiecache, Jan 22, 2009.

  1. cookiecache

    cookiecache Member

    I have a homestead in the Alaska bush, and I'm thinking of inviting others to live in a "tribe." This would a place that people who have always wanted to "run away to the wilderness" could go and learn without being completely alone. Sort of an "In To The Wild"... without the tragic ending.

    The homestead is just under 40 acres with a nice cabin and large garden. A spring bubbles-up behind the cabin and a large stream forms one of the property lines. There's nice spruce and birch trees on most of the land, and enough hills to give privacy between cabins.

    The garden that is cleared is about an acre and half, but could be expanded to 10 acres. The spring would be easy to divert for irrigation. I dug test holes with my post-hole diggers, and there are no rocks in the garden area. It's all old stream sediment and glacial silt - fantastic soil. It grows potatoes almost as big as a football without any added fertilizer.

    The location is very remote. It takes a plane to reach the lake, about 1.5 miles away. In winter it might be possible to travel over the snow, but it's not easy. There is cell phone service, but it's very poor. I'm working on getting internet service. (I'm in town getting supplies right now)

    I would make two very different offers available. One for people who want to come to stay, and one for those who just want a shorter visit. All persons would be considered renting under a lease. This is for legal reasons. The lease would only be one dollar per year. It is needed because otherwise I would have to have VERY expensive insurance. Without the lease, I could not risk letting people use axes or learn log work. While every reasonable effort will be made to make living here safe, all persons enter at their own risk.

    People wanting to stay long-term would be offered a lease on 5 acres where they can build a nice cabin to call their own. The lease amount would be set at $1.00 per year, but if they do not set foot on the land for more than 2 years, the cabin would be declared "abandoned." The lease will not be transferable.

    The training would work like this: I rent you the land, you hire me to teach you how to live here. Payment would be in hours of work exchanged on projects I need done. Of course a person could leave anytime they want - weather permitting (sometimes low clouds or other weather conditions make it impossible to fly in or out).

    Short term visits would be anything less than 1 year.

    The skills needed to live in the wilderness are numerous. People could learn everything from how to build a cabin to setting-up a solar power system. I might bring in some chickens and goats too. (electric fencing to keep them safe) There's room on the land to build a nice bunkhouse and a runway.

    I think there will be a limit of about 12 people at any one time. I expect most times there will not be more than 5. However, families are welcome, and this could raise the number.

    Person would be asked to leave if they engage in illegal activity that threatens the land or other tribe members (like building a meth lab or shooting at other people's cabin's).

    I still have many details to work-out, but I would like to start the offer this summer. Anyone interested? Comments?

    Go to my albums to see some photos of the place and the host (me). I'll get more photos up when I can.
  2. cookiecache

    cookiecache Member

    It would be nice to just live 100% off the land with no need for money, but this not realistic. There's taxes and other bills that simply must be payed with cash.

    To earn money at the homestead, one must either export a product or provide a service. My vocation is film and video production. I film the wild animals around the cabin and make "How To" videos. The main advantage of this type of work is the light weight of the product I am exporting. When an aircraft must be chartered to carry your wares to town, weight is becomes a major issue. Growing produce would not be viable to earn money. There's lots of other products can be made for export, but one must keep in mind the value to weight ratio.
    [​IMG][​IMG] For example, one could make beads from porcupine quills or buttons from naturally shed moose antlers. I writer would do well here. Many Alaska homesteader families have a member that works seasonal jobs such as fishing or on the North Slope (I've worked the Slope).
    The main thing is for person seeking a long-term life in the wilderness to be able to pay the few bills that can't be avoided. Suppose you need the go to the dentist? I know a couple that does very well making hats, but they have to tour festivals to make the sales. They live on their homestead most of the year, then live in their RV for a couple of months while earning money.

    It takes some careful planning, but there are ways to earn money here.
  3. bluesafire

    bluesafire Senior Member

    This sounds really cool, cookie. How will you go about meeting & getting to know people who may be interested in this? Do you come to the mainland sometimes?
  4. cookiecache

    cookiecache Member

    Alaska is quite distant from where most of the tribe members will come. They will be people with which I have only exchanged messages and talked on the phone. I have a great amount of respect for persons making such a leap of faith. Persons living in Alaska are welcome, and I would love to be able to meet them to discuss life at the homestead, but I think this will be the exception rather than usual method of contact.

    There is a certain mind-set common to all of the people I know that live in the bush. People that do not have this outlook, will decide to leave because the wilderness simply will not suit them. Oh sure, there will be those that make trouble during their stay, but they will want to leave at the first chance because they will not like the lifestyle. When I interview prospective tribe members, I will get a pretty good idea of their temperament. I have always have had very good intuition. In most cases, the cost of traveling to Alaska will prevent those who would come just to cause problems from arriving. They would much rather spend their money causing problem in their own backyard. Coming to the homestead is a big investment, and as such, people that arrive will make an effort to get a good return whether they are just wanting to make a short stay, or have decided to make this a lifestyle. I expect the biggest problem to be when a couple arrives and one loves it and the other hates it. I'll stay out of this type of situation and respect what ever they decide to do.

    Lets say there is a person that arrives with the intention of sitting around drunk for 30 days, then stealing everything that is not nailed down when they leave. First, there's no place to buy booze so they would have to bring it with them. The lake where the plane will bring them is 1.5 miles from the homestead. Everything they bring will need to be carried by backpack to the cabin. Such a person would quickly notice that no is offering to carry their stuff for them. Even a 30 day visit requires quite a load of gear because they need a sleeping bag, tent, food, personal items, and of course, all that booze. Okay, they think, I'll just take enough booze to last until tomorrow, then I'll come back and get the rest. With a full pack, it takes me about 1.5~2 hours to walk up the hill to the homestead (about 40 minute to walk down to the lake). That means they will be spending about 3 hours just getting the booze home. But of course they will want a nice place to live during they visit, so even if they just decide to stay in their tent, it will still take several hours to get everything set-up. After 6 hours of work they decide it time to drink. The next day they wake up very hungry, but since they didn't do enough work getting a nice camp built, they just eat pop tarts. Being lazy will make them miserable because they will not have any comforts, so they will drink even more. It only takes a few days - maybe a week for them to run out of booze. Then they have nothing. When I visit and offer chances to learn, they will decline and just sit in their tent. Waiting. Waiting until they can go home. Stealing a bunch of stuff would mean packing a heavy load down to the lake with everyone watching them. Perhaps they will take a few items, but even then, they will have to carry them down to the lake with the entire group watching them. Because they are not friendly to the tribe members (as happens with most people in drug or alcohol withdraws) they would not be trusted with tribe members valuable items. This should reduce the damage they can cause.

    I'm sure there will be problems from time to time and once in a while, and some people will steal things when they leave. But for the most part, the interview process, followed by the person investment, and testing by Mother Nature will eliminate persons that do not belong in the tribe.

    Once the project is up and running, a tribal council will be formed to resolve internal conflicts. When one arrives at a location surrounded by millions of acres of wilderness, it becomes very obvious that it is important to get along with the other people around you.

    Here's a photo of about 3000 pounds of gear waiting to be back-packed up the hill. Fall supplies [​IMG]
  5. bluesafire

    bluesafire Senior Member

    Well the setup you have seems to pose less risk for you as far as what issues others will bring, but I think it requires quite a lot more risk on the part of someone else who would consider joining you. I for one would never take such a step without meeting someone in person first, and I feel I have good intuition too. But I guess this is something that can't be helped very much considering your situation. I'd be interested to know how it works out for you. I guess my feeling about it is, if it's meant to be it'll happen. So... no worries. :) Good luck.
  6. cookiecache

    cookiecache Member

    The risks are a big part of my reasoning for having a lease agreement. I think people will feel much better knowing they can't be kicked out on a whim. It's just too much of a personal and financial investment to expect people to come without some kind guarantee they will have a place here.
  7. cookiecache

    cookiecache Member

    The things a person needs to bring to the homestead depends on how long they want to stay. There are a few things that everyone needs. This is not everything needed, but it should provide a place to start.

    Clothes: Several heavy-duty pairs of pants, long sleeve shirts that have a collar, Head-net for bug protection, Rubber boots, Work gloves, Socks - as many as you can squeeze into your gear - at least 6 pair, Hat, Rain jacket and pants, sweaters, warm jacket - summer temps can drop from a warm 75 to 45 in one day, light shoes or boots. If cabin building or working with logs - steel-toed boots and hearing protection.

    Food: Bring treats for yourself - chocolate etc. Food to share should include fresh fruit and veggies. Drink mixes - Tang - Kool Aid - Tea - Coffee - Hot cocoa, Canned goods, Any special spices or seasoning you really enjoy. If you plan to stay long term bring staples -rice, beans, Trio potato mix, etc.


    Tools: Short term - Knife, Compass. Long term - we'll have to talk about it.

    Personal tent, sleeping, bag, Bear Spray/firearm, DEET, if you smoke - tobacco.

    Here's an old Alaska joke: Two mosquitoes are in a tent talking. One says, "Should we carry him outside?" The other replies, "No, then the big guys will get him!" - Never go anywhere in Alaska without bugdope (100% DEET). And that's no joke.
  8. cookiecache

    cookiecache Member

    Travel to to homestead is quite the adventure in itself. Let's say this summer two people arrive in Alaska ready to come to the homestead. One is coming for two months and the other wants to build a cabin and make this their new home.

    While one can fly directly from Anchorage, it's much cheaper to fly out from Talkeetna or Willow. Also, it's much cheaper to share a plane, so these two people decide to meet in Talkeetna, and fly out from there. Travel to Talkeetna is provided by both train and bus service. This small town is the launch point for climbing expeditions bound for Mount Mckinley. During the summer, the population swells with both climbers and tourist. Expect prices here to reflect "if you want it, pay a high price or travel 100 mile to the cheap store." This is not to say that the stores there are trying to rip you off, just that it cost a lot to do business there. For overnight stays, there are expensive hotels and a couple of roadhouses that offer more affordable overnight stays.

    Once in Talkeekna, taxi service can transport people and supplies to the floatplane service. When arriving at the floatplane base, the people there will weigh you and all of your gear. Small planes must be loaded very carefully. It's much better if your gear is in smaller sized bags. A few large bags are okay, but small bags make it easier to distribute the load properly. (by small I mean about 1' x 2', or about the size of a milk crate.) One thing that is very different about flying in the Alaska bush is transporting firearms. Pilots have no problem at all with you bringing a gun on the plane. In fact, many pilots will not take an unarmed person alone into the wilderness. Just make sure the gun is unloaded putting it (the pilot might check) in the plane. Pepper spray MUST be carried in the plane's floats outside the plane. Imagine if it sprayed while in flight. The plane would crash because the pilot would not be able to see.

    With everything loaded in the plane, they're ready to fly. The flight takes about 50 minutes. Providing that the weather is clear, the views are spectacular. The homestead is only about 40 miles south of Denali National Park. It only take a few minutes in the air for the signs of civilization to disappear from view. The only an occasional cabin might be seen. Finally, the small lake where they will land comes into view. The plane circles the lake before making the approach. There I am standing on the shore. The plane touches down on the lake, and taxis to the dock.

    The plane is quickly unloaded, I give the pilot any out-going mail, and he takes off again. For the new arrivals, it will be a very strange feeling to watch the plane disappear. It is almost like being transported to another planet. As the plane flies out of sight, all connection to civilization is gone. Yes, they have cell phones, and radio brings news, but this is not like being able to drive to the store or leave at will. The reality of being in a remote area is a strong emotional experience.

    Now, it is time to load-up the packs and start the hike to the cabin. Why not use ATVs? Costs. The price of an ATV is about the same as the living expenses at the cabin for two years! The lake is only about 1700ft long, so a float plane can bring an ATV in strapped to the outside of the plane, but it can not take-off this way. Once the ATV is there, it's there to stay. Also, no passingers could ride on the plane while the ATV is being transported. So, backpacks are the way I have moved thousands of pounds of gear up the hill to the homestead. I can say there is nothing worse that packing full sheets of plywood. There are steel barrels with locking lids at the lake to store what will not be carried today.

    It might surprise some people to hike for 15 minute up-hill, then find a swamp to cross. The trail wanders through this wetland, and along sides wild blueberry's grow. A nice treat when they are ripe. Then more up-hill to the homestead.

    All of this only gets the two people to the start of their adventure.
  9. hippiehillbilly

    hippiehillbilly the old asshole

    whats winter like there?
  10. greengirl90

    greengirl90 Member

    how long have you been there for?
  11. cookiecache

    cookiecache Member

    Happyhillbilly, winter is the best time of year in Alaska! While the cabin is built on land that is high and dry, most of Alaska is wetlands. During winter, trails can take one almost anywhere. The rivers become a highways that can be traveled by snowmachine or dog team to almost anywhere. I lived full-time at the homestead a few years ago, and had a nice trail that would allow me to go 20 miles to Skwentna (small community population about 50) to use the Post Office there. Such a journey would be almost impossible during summer. Quite the opposite from life in the city where winter means bad roads, and trouble getting around. Also, in winter there are no bugs or bears to worry about.

    Greengirl90, I staked my homestead in 1996. I lived there full-time for about 4 years - part time 5 years.
  12. hippiehillbilly

    hippiehillbilly the old asshole

    no,i wasnt asking for the story book answer, i mean average temps month by month highs and lows,average date of first and last frost..

    i know that the temperature varies greatly from the coast inland there and that is the reason i am asking..i would think that to anyone seriously considering this ,that this would be important information.

    ya see,with a dollar a year lease, some folks may be quite content to never leave there again (we would be that way),i mean seriously,50 bucks would pay the lease till we are dead and gone. seems to me someone with experience homesteading and the proper initial supplies(like us) would never have to leave as money would be a non issue.
  13. cookiecache

    cookiecache Member

    The Alaska COOP Extension is a great source of information related to farming. Weather at the homestead is about the same as Palmer Alaska. In my years of being here, I would say last frost is usually around May 20, and first frost is around September 20. The coldest day of winter is around -20 and the hottest day of summer - about 80.

    Someone coming to the homestead, and staying would be a very good thing. Most of the things I would like to see developed are in the interest of everyone that lives there. A person or family living there full time for the next 50 years would get a tremendous amount of things done that I could never do alone. I have to pay the same amount of taxes and such living there alone as when there are several families on site, so why not help others?

    To be realistic, I don't think people will fly out to the homestead and never return to civilization again. It could happen, but it's not very likely because they have families to visit, perhaps a trip to the dentist, and there's always farming tools to buy.

    Having people at the homestead is a benefit to me because my business requires that I come to town while dealing with clients. It would be great to know that someone is at the homestead keeping an eye on things. I win, they win.

    However, I would not allow someone to fly out to the homestead if they do not have enough money to get back to town. This is one of the points in my selection process. I don't want anyone to be trapped at the homestead. Suppose they had a medical emergency, and needed to fly out when I'm not there? I don't require anyone to leave, but they must have the ability.

    I do know one Alaska homesteader that has not gone further than walking distance from his remote cabin since 1998. But he is quite the exception, all the others make trips to town from time to time.
  14. Funkateer

    Funkateer To swing on the spiral

    Man this seems like a complete dream come true.
    Except the cold however there are tools for that :D
  15. Sprout420

    Sprout420 Member

    I am very interested in this adventure and I have a friend who may also be very interested. If i was truly intent on staying a few months over the summer, what kinds of things should I consider. I've been hiking and camping with my family since I could walk and carry a backpack so I've got no issue with hard manual labor or the outdoors. My dad and I went on a large hike in oregon last summer from Opal lake to opal pool which crosses through brush so thick that we decided it would be better just to wade through the river. We ended up making very good time considering we had to propel down a waterfall that was a couple hundred feet (without harnesses, not too smart) and traverse through about 10-13 miles of complete oregon wilderness with no trails or markers. It was a little intense, but Its safe to say that I could handle something much more intense. So just hit me up with anything you think I should consider before making a pretty serious commitment (considering that i live on the east coast in Virginia)
  16. cookiecache

    cookiecache Member

    The first thing I would have to ask you is "When will you turn 18?" I can not allow a person under 18 without parent or legal guardian to travel to the homestead. This is one of my few strict rules.

    Who can come to the homestead? I'll post the strict rules here:

    1. Must be able to live at the homestead legally (not hiding from law enforcement etc.).
    2. Must be able to hike from the lake to the homestead carrying a back-pack (exception - young children).
    3. Must be of legal age or accompanied by parent or legal guardian.

    There are many other things that would make good guidelines, but I would prefer to consider each individual's circumstances.
  17. Sprout420

    Sprout420 Member

    the age isnt a problem, ill be turning 18 soon this year. I definitely match the requirements with ease. Has this project of yours already started or is it still in he making
  18. cookiecache

    cookiecache Member

    I have lived at the homestead for quite some time, but the tribe is just beginning to form. I don't expect any of the new members to arrive until this summer.

    In the past I thought about building a "backwoods living" school, but the insurance is just too expensive. I would have to charge a BIG price for people to come here. I just want to share my wilderness experience, and give others the chance to live truly free (or as close as one can get to truly free). I think through this effort, I am helping to preserve the backwoods lifestyle.
  19. Sprout420

    Sprout420 Member

    Sounds very interesting. Yeah im sure a school is alot of work. But does the tribe involve some type of education on cabin building or farming or something of that matter that would help one to live in the backwoods :peace:
  20. cookiecache

    cookiecache Member

    Let's say Sprout420 decides to come to the homestead for 60 days with the intention of learning cabin building and food production.

    I would have him bring a small chainsaw and protective gear in addition to camping supplies. The training is provided on a labor exchange system. For his stay, a small chordwood cabin is much better than living in a tent, So that would be his first building project. A chordwood cabin is built from firewood size pieces of wood, so I would teach him to cut firewood the first few days. By the end of the first week, he would have enough wood to build the cabin, and I would have a nice addition to my winter supply. It could be done faster, but if one just runs a saw all day it gets very boring and would start to feel like slave labor. For this reason, the day would have diversions learning things like fishing. Remember, the lake is 1.5 miles away and he has gear to pack to the homestead. He could haul 40 lbs of his gear per day, and might as well catch a few fish when at the lake! It makes the packing worth it. Once the wood is cut, I explain how to prep the ground and build the framework. By the middle of the second week, he is moving from his tent into a cabin.

    Now, a person does not learn everything there is to know about sawing wood in a week. But to prevent burnout, the rest of his chainsaw training is spread over his stay. There is a garden to work on, food to preserve, water supply systems to work on, and perhaps a little gold panning. I will be building a bunkhouse, so he would get to learn regular log cabin building on this project.

    How do I get Sprout420 to work and learn? It is in his best interests. Living in a tent is not NEAR as nice as having a cabin, so he will build the cabin. Having fresh food from the garden is MUCH better than Cup O' Soup. Fresh fish is better to eat than Spam.

    People are thirsty for knowledge. My teaching method is like offering people in the desert cool water that they need only carry. Once it has been offered they will reach for it. When they have it in their grasp, it would be a wrestling match to take it away. When people are achieving something they want, it will be a challenge to keep them from overworking themselves. Learning to pace themselves will be one of the lessons I won't have teach, but they will learn.

    After 60 days, Sprout420 should be able to run a saw (and keep it sharp), build shelter, camp in bear country, understand cabin building, know the basics of gardening, learn how to pack gear in an orderly fashion, and most importantly, the basics of living in the wilderness - not just surviving. To master these skills takes years, but he will have a great foundation on which to build should he decide to live long-term in the wilderness.

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