Making the Move, Part 1

I’ve had many people ask me why we live like this and what was the deciding factor for us.  In this post, we’ll discuss this and our transition from 9-5 rat racers to modern-day homesteaders.

Both my husband and I worked in the oil fields of North Dakota.  We moved there from Oklahoma and lived in a 25-foot 5th wheel for the first 4 months.  It was the norm to live in an RV as there was such high demand for people and very little housing.  It took time for the housing to catch up, but I was blessed to work for a company who offered family housing to its employees.

We enjoyed our jobs very much, and it afforded us opportunities that we had never had before.  But it also meant less time with each other and less time with the kids.  Eventually, when the O&G market crashed, we were both laid off from our jobs.

North to Alaska it was.  We knew we wanted to live in a state that was welcoming to off-gridders, homeschoolers, and those seeking a self-sustaining way of life.  We first landed in Anchorage and stayed in a hotel there for about 45 days.  Because it was still winter, we were able to get a fantastic deal of a 1-bedroom suite with a kitchenette!  We used the groups feature from hotels.com and it worked out perfectly for us.  We stayed at the Puffin Inn in the annex building. This 45-day stay allowed us to get our bearings so to speak.  We explored the Mat-Su Valley because we knew we didn’t want to be in the city.  I already knew I wanted to settle in Talkeetna, though I had never been there and didn’t know anything about it, I felt drawn to it in an unexplainable way.

We first bought an old RV and fixed it up.  It was great for us, a class-c with bunks, it allowed us to each have our own sleeping quarters, with the luxuries of running water, heat, and showers.  We lived in this RV for just over 6 months.

With summer approaching, we called around to some RV parks to get monthly rates and stayed at one in Palmer for 15 days.  We had intended to stay there the entire summer, but while there we met another couple who lived in their RV full-time. They told us about a place in Willow that offered a discounted summer rate if you paid upfront.  We did the math and this was a significant savings so we went to Willow Creek Resort.

While in Palmer, we also met a family who was local and became great friends with them.  We did many things together, and we learned a lot about the area from them.

With each move, we were working our way further and further away from the city, just as we wanted.  This is the part where lots of people ask, why didn’t you just buy land as soon as you got there?  It’s a simple answer really, in a state this big and with a plan to be off-grid we didn’t know where we wanted to be.  There are a lot of factors to consider such as distance to a gas station, grocery store, wildlife concerns, firewood, soil conditions, and more.  We didn’t want to dive right into land that wouldn’t be best for us.  So, we decided to be patient and let God lead us to where He wanted us to be.

Our summer in Willow was invaluable! We were able to explore and play in a way most native Alaskans don’t get the chance to do. We acquired a few ATV’s and found trails all around us.  We rafted the Willow Creek River on multiple occasions, went fishing, hiking, tent camping, and searching for land.

We found many places we thought we would like, but none of them “did it” for us. We were looking for something we could pay cash for because we knew we didn’t want to finance our off-grid lifestyle. That was our number one criteria!

With our new friends, we would look at properties all over the valley.  We would discuss all the options with them, glean from their experience, and teach them what could be done on each piece of land to live a self-subsistence lifestyle. She would ask me questions that got me to thinking about solutions, and I the same for her.

As the summer came to a close and we were still without property, we had to find a new place for the RV, and one that was open in the winter.  That was a challenge as most are only seasonal.  We found a place in Wasilla and set up camp there, expecting to stay the entire winter.  Kirk built an 8×12 shed onto the motorhome that gave us more space to spread out comfortably.

One day in early October, we were asked by our friends to join them in helping an elderly couple in the Talkeetna mountains gather firewood for the season as they had almost none left.  We went along with them and met the Merrills.  An elderly couple still very active living on over 700 acres of agricultural land.  It was amazing to us to see all they were doing and all the potential for what could be done there.  Our two families gathered firewood in a hurry that day, stocking them up for at least half of winter.

As we were preparing to leave that day, the Merrill’s pulled my husband aside and talked to him at great length and then invited us to come back again soon. We visited them several times that week and found out they were looking for a carpenter and wanted to know if we would consider moving onto their land.

It was a whirlwind and happened so fast, I can’t even remember all the details, but we moved into Sanctuary Ranch by the end of October.

By Mid-November, we were moved into a cabin they had built on the property and my husband was working for them daily.  Eventually, the Merrill’s left Alaska for a few of the harshest months of winter and we stayed to caretake the property in their absence.

Friends, I describe this season as nothing short of a God thing.  The winter was harsh, not as harsh as our first winter in North Dakota while living in the RV there, but it was a winter for sure.  Lots of snow, wind and well below freezing temperatures, and all the while we were living in a nice, small, cozy warm cabin!

We learned so much from the Merrill’s that we knew we would be able to survive and thrive in this lifestyle on our own.  It was exactly what we needed, individually, as a couple, and as a family to know we would be comfortable living this way.

So, in May of this year, we made an agreement with the Merrill’s to trade labor for the cabin we were living in, materials to build an addition, and a beautiful wood burning cooking/heating stove.  We moved the cabin onto a piece of property all on our own and Kirk continued to work with them until his agreement was completed.

Tomorrow, we’ll discuss what that cabin looked like, how we arranged it inside to make it work for a family of 3, and share with you the “hacks” of showering, laundry, restrooms, and dishes in a tiny, dry cabin.

Please leave us your comments and questions below, we love to hear from you!

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