Building a log cabin and living off-grid isn’t new or foreign to the Open Sky family. Back in early 1999 we had been married a little over a year and were living our dream of living off-grid, only that time it was in rural Idaho. We were way off on the side of a mountain, with five acres and hopes and dreams and the time to fulfill them. We lived in a 6×10 tent trailer while we cut down and milled our own logs to build a 16×16 one room log cabin. We had a little shed for storage and an outhouse. We did laundry and took baths in a nearby river once a week (don’t worry, we used biodegradable soaps or none at all). In the winter we usually couldn’t make it up to the land and we parked up to a mile away, depending on road conditions, and hauled our water by sled.
We slept head to toe, in our own sleeping bags and we had a small wood cookstove two feet away that the dog slept next to which we used for both heating and cooking on. It was….cozy. One night the cookstove caught the tent on fire. Fortunately, it woke us up immediately and nothing was destroyed. We lived on less than $500 a month with no bills except food, gas, and building supplies.
Mr. Open Sky had a chainsaw and a chainsaw mill which he used to put two flat edges on the logs, as we were building using 2-sided logs. We used 10″ spikes. Without power or a generator, we used hand-tools only, which included hand-drilling each hole and then spiking with a hand-sledge. Between the logs we lay seal-sealer. When the cabin was done we used caulking and our fingers to spread it smooth and even. All research – and there was a lot of it – was done in *gasp* a library, not using the Internet. We had no running water, no sewer, no phone (not even a pager!) Friends and family contacted us through the good ole mail system.
Moving in to that cabin when it was finished was like heaven: so much room! But we had a hankering in our hearts to move back north to Alaska. In a matter of days we discussed and decided to sell and move. That’s how we did things back then. There was nothing tying us down and we owned everything outright. We sold the property a couple days later to a local real estate agent who had cash to invest. Lord, there are days we miss that property and that way of living. So simple. So easy. So free. When we wanted to go for a drive or go swimming or just work the land, we did. No planning. We’d just get in the truck and go.
Somehow, through the years we started acquiring things. More clothing. More shoes. A computer. A vacuum cleaner. A phone. Small things, right? Another set of dishes. A second guitar. A little here, a little there. More. More. It slowly crept in. How did we not see it for what it was? Stuff. Things. Tying us down. Owning us. When we’d lock the door to go on that road trip there was now that little voice in the back of the mind that said, I hope no one breaks in and steals my stuff. I hope my stuff is safe. Now I need to have insurance to protect my stuff. I know it’s not just me. Do you recognize it yourself? Suddenly having one towel isn’t enough. I need two or three. Different colors. Extras…just in case something happens to the first one. Now I need accessories. And more. And more. Oooohh, look what he has! It’s new! It’s shiny! I need that too. I can’t afford it but I’ll put it on credit. It’s on sale. It’s being discontinued. Maybe I’ll find a use for it later. On and on and on.
Before we knew it, we were swimming in debt. Car payment, mortgage for a house in the city, insurances, motorcycles, bicycles, laptop and PC, the best camping gear. By the nations standards, we weren’t even that much in debt. We were still “frugal” by most definitions. We tried to “buy smart” choosing quality over quantity or price. But for us, it was still too much. The weight of all our possessions bore down on us. We paid more towards credit card debt than all our living expenses combined. The memories of days of old kept cropping up in conversations. We were at a crucial crossroads. Continue on this path of self-destruction or toss it all away and start over again and free ourselves. Well, you’re reading this blog, so I think you know what we decided was best for our family: the simple life beckoned and we answered, YES!