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Back to the Land in Alaska

Patience, persistence and planning helped this couple turn a dream into reality.

| May/June 1984

  • Back to the Land Boat
    Building a 23-foot dory.
  • Back to the Land Interior Exterior
    The Potters constructed a homestead on 10 acres near a tiny fishing village in Alaska.

  • Back to the Land Boat
  • Back to the Land Interior Exterior

Last spring, I danced with two sandhill cranes right in the middle of our very own meadow as my husband Ron stared goggle-eyed—and camera-less—out the bay window. We had followed the birds' antics all morning as they edged closer to the house. Finally, unable to resist, I sneaked outside and presented myself to them with a loud "Awk!"

To my astonishment, the one closer to me started to dip and dive while prancing in a circle. The other followed suit, picking up clods of dirt in its beak with each dip, then flinging them overhead, all the time eyeing me with obvious curiosity. Impulsively, I mimicked their strange ritual and was allowed to participate until, uttering their watery-sounding, trilled cries, they rose to glide out of sight over the trees.

And to think, not long ago we were stuck in Anchorage!

Back to the Land

Many of our friends thought that no one in his (or her!) right mind would trade double-incomed, big-city security (full medical and dental coverage, six weeks of paid vacation per year, plus retirement benefits) for a log house on ten acres surrounded by miles of the rawest wilderness in the country! But just a year ago—feeling perfectly sane—Ron and I did just that, and we both agree that it's been a most successful swap!

A Dream Discovered

Actually, the decision to change our lifestyle was made back in the spring of '78, when we skied into a large, isolated meadow and spotted a "For Sale" sign. Behind it, a crumbling log shed and a leaning outhouse—relics of bygone homesteading days—stood within weathered log fences near a thick forest that crowded the field. No houses spoiled the view, and there was no traffic. Five miles of snow-choked trail led to the tiny fishing village of Ninilchik with its much-photographed Russian Orthodox church, and the nearest town was an hour's drive away. Best of all, Anchorage was 200 miles distant! As we soaked in the silence and seclusion, Mt. Illiamna, 35 miles across Cook Inlet, caught the rosy glow of sunset, and two golden eagles circled overhead. We felt we had "come home".

In fact, looking back on it, there's no doubt that those few, short moments in that clearing changed us. Almost immediately, what little enthusiasm we had entertained for city life dwindled and was soon replaced by a dream . . . and a plan that went like this:

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