Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.
Imagine, if you can, living 100 miles deep in the wilderness and not seeing another human being for 6 months at a time. No mail, no toddling off to a 9-to-5 job, no supermarkets or shopping centers, and none of civilization's noise. Nothing but the silence of the forest surrounds you.
My wife, Johanna, and I have lived on a remote northern Saskatchewan lake for the last 16 years. We are alone here. Access to us is only by float plane. Prior to this, we homesteaded in northern Maine for 20 years — a total of 36 wonderful years living an off-grid self-sufficient lifestyle.
I've written a book titled Off Grid and Free: My Path to the Wilderness
Excerpt from ‘Off-Grid and Free: My Path to the Wilderness’
“A fortuitous series of events brought us to this place, a remote lake, far out in the Canadian wilderness, 100 miles from the nearest supply point. And, by wilderness, I mean the real thing.
As far as your eye can see, from the vantage point of a float plane high above the ground, you can gaze upon an aerial tapestry of multi-hued green forest intermingled with jutting rock formations, lowland bogs, and glistening lakes. Exposed rocky hill tops, sparsely vegetated with stunted trees that have managed to gain a tenuous foothold, along with low shrubbery and lichen, are sure signs you are flying over Precambrian shield, a dominant surface feature in the north. Serpentine rivers and streams cut through the landscape, the rivers occasionally flashing a churning white, where rapids lie in wait for the unwary canoeist. All of this is the perfect habitat for wildlife and outdoor adventurer alike.
We are surrounded by pure virgin forest, where the only human tracks are our own and the only neighbors are animals. There are no roads or trails to get here. We are well beyond any population centers, and a flight on a float plane is the only way you will reach us. The electrical grid, which the majority of the world's population relies on to power industry and appliances, was left behind the moment we took off from the float plane base. We severed the electrical tether by vanquishing the utility company long ago.
We know we live here, at this particular location, and yet we have no street address. Our address is a set of coordinates, a latitude and longitude, given in degrees, minutes, and seconds. With the area so vast, any plane seeking to find us best be accurate down to the second, lest the plane fly by and miss us completely. There are no traffic signs, no mileage indicators, no flashing neon lights telling a guest they are closing in on our off-grid homestead. Our location is a mere pinprick on the Earth’s surface, blending in with mile after mile of picturesque landscape. Generally, twice a year we fly out for resupply and appointments. These biannual trips out are the only times we pick up our mail, buy food, and interact with other humans.”
Stories from Ultra-Remote Living
The 1970s was the time when the back-to-the-land movement was in full swing, and I became part of that movement by the end of that decade. I still remember receiving my copies of MOTHER EARTH NEWS back then, and I am so pleased that I am now able to team up with the magazine as a blogging contributor. I've come full circle!
I realize that there is a tremendous pool of knowledge and resources available to the typical person living on or contemplating an off-grid homestead. Therefore, I will write more from the perspective of someone living far removed from society, thriving in an unforgiving, cold climate.
I've been fortunate to have winter thru hiked the Appalachian trail, bicycled across the United States, and survived forest fires and bear encounters. I'll mix in some stories of those exploits with my posting.
A Year of Food Self-Sufficiency Begins
We've already made a start on this year's garden. We have a super-insulated home with walls 10 inches thick. As a result, windowsills are wide and are a great place to put trays of started seedlings. The little plants look out at a cold, white world. Last week, we hit -22 degrees Fahrenheit, and they were not happy watching the snowflakes drifting lazily by the window.
Today, a week later, the tiny plants have more vim and vigor, but not surprisingly, they still are not pleased to see the light snow falling from their windowsill perch. There will come a day when we will set them out for good, but that time is about 8 weeks away.
The 20 inches of snow still on the garden is always discouraging this time of year. Spring seems so far off and yet the day length is increasing by about 4 minutes per day. But it's only a matter of time before warmer weather starts winning the battle. For now, we wait!
I lugged my power ice auger out to the lake to bore a hole a few weeks ago to assess ice depth. There are 22 inches of ice. As it turns out, boring that hole created a problem for us. Because we had additional snow afterwards, our bay flooded. The weight of the extra snow depressed the ice enough so that water flowed out of the hole and onto the lake surface creating a large area of slush. Now, when I venture onto the lake, instead of walking in boot-deep snow with every step, I sink into 6 inches of water and slush which is under the blanket of snow. In my next post, I'll explain how problematic that can be for us.
I will do my best to touch base with you every 7 to 14 days. I'll update you on conditions, what we've been up to and any noteworthy occurrences. This will be fun. Thanks for reading and I'll be back again shortly.