Welcome back to Campfire Chat with Alaska Chick! (Yes, that would be me!)
Tonight, our Campfire Chat will include Master Guide Terry Overly and we will be chatting about what it really takes to live “off the grid” and in a place like Chisana.
The question of Living Off the Grid comes from a discussion at another campfire in the not so distance past.
(Deep breath!) Ok, let’s chat!
Living Off the Grid
It is a phrase that can be misunderstood. The term “off the grid” is mainly used in terms of not being connected to the main or national electrical grid. Or a home that can operate completely independent of all traditional public utility services.
To say you are living off the grid, you have to find a way to generate your own power, water, heat, and even things like your cable TV and Internet.
Living Off the Grid
In a world of over 7 billion people the current estimates including many Third World Countries that have never had the chance to be on the grid, an estimated 1.7 billion people live off the grid, worldwide. In 2013, 180,000 families in the United States live off the grid. That total in 2013 had grown and continues to grow annually at a rate of 33%.
The definition of remote is distant or far off, out-of-the-way, secluded or isolated. Remote describes Chisana very well.
The hardest part of our lifestyle isn’t the distance from people or convenient stores or health care that is truly hard, living the way we do. It isn’t the physical work or the remoteness.
The hardest part of living in a place such as Chisana, located in a fly-in area in the Wrangell Mountains and living an off the grid lifestyle is learning to deal with yourself.
What does it mean to “deal with”? Surprisingly, I found it as well on The FreeDictionary.com. The definition is “to take action on”, “to punish”, “to be concerned with” “to conduct oneself (towards others), especially with regard to fairness”.
For myself, it is learning to KNOW yourself, intimately, all the ugly and weak pieces of yourself buried and hidden, possibly even from yourself. It is learning to look at who you really are and admit out loud mistakes that may shame you. What it means is that there could be some rough road ahead and it is going to strip you down and lay your personal wounds open.
There is no dealing with who you are until you accept that who you are may not be who you have spent decades creating, becoming or pretending to be, accepting all of the parts you despise and instead of creating a new disguise for them, you set to the sometimes hard task of fixing them.
There is absolutely no avoiding this.
Most people give up, quit and go back to their easy lives of make believe. I am not suggesting that everyone is living a fairytale. What I am saying is that moving to a remote location and committing to a move such as that takes a whole lot more effort than one may conceive of. It isn’t an easy move and it is rarely done quickly. It is even more rarely done without a lot of research and investment.
To quit, and return to what was left because it was not making one happy or even worse, destroying one’s soul, is nothing more than running away from yourself because it is too hard to look at closely.
Living Off the Grid
Let’s back up a little bit. There are 5 must-haves to living off the grid.
- The right place. (A place where building codes do not apply)
- Power generation
- Water collection system
- Waster disposal system
- The right mindset
To give us all some sort of standard base line, I did a bit of research.
The average American household uses:
- 8,900 kilowatt hours of electricity per year.
- 144,000 gallons of water per year.
We here at Pioneer Outfitters, using 6 wood stoves in various cabins and the Lodge burn approximately 1 cord (4’x4’x8’ equaling 85 cubic feet) of wood per day during the winter months. (Usually the end of September through the end of April.)
A few more totals I do have for us here in Chisana, at Pioneer Outfitters.
We use in one year:
- 3,650 gallons of diesel
- 750 gallons of gasoline
- 700 pounds of propane
- 40 gallons oil
As I was digging and following various links as I was putting together Living Off the Grid I found things that also disturbed me in some very basic ways.
One site had gathered through polls the sickening belief of those who answered believed:
- 50% of the people polled believed that they would not survive 2 weeks in the National Electrical Grid failed.
- 75% of those people polled believed that they would not survive 2 months.
The technical advisors, scientists and other experts that were engaged in the EMP Commission by the U.S. government to study the effect of a ‘Grid-Down’ scenario in the U.S. found that about 90% of all Americans would be dead within the first 12-18 months after such an event (related to House Bill 5026). (Other links with more official info. YouTube video.)
These tallied figures are incredibly frightening. To actually accept that so many people, Americans strong and proud, are willing to simply give up. To simply accept that without power they will perish.
It isn’t air! Live! Ye-gads. As Master Guide Terry Overly mentioned during the video, power is a luxury. You cannot die simply by being denied a luxury!
Living Off the Grid
Ok! So it was very cold as we were filming and trying to stay on track was an effort in frustration. Here are a few of the questions we did not get to on this video.
How do we keep our water from freezing at -40* F? First of all, we are lucky to have a creek that doesn’t freeze all winter long, even at -60*F! Next, we keep our water in storage tanks in the cabins ranging from 80-gallon tanks to 110-gallon tanks and they are set about a foot and a half off of the floor. For easy use, we also have many 5-gallon water jugs and these are kept away from door drafts and inside the cabins that are kept warm for living in.
How do we know what and how much of the supplies we get, to get? The short answer (and not meant to be sarcastic) is experience. Trial and error. For example we may as a group really like and enjoy canned fruit, but you and your group on the other hand may not touch it! So three cases of canned fruit in your pantry may simply be a waste of space that could have been used for more useful and desired food stuffs.
Do things spoil? Only if you are not attentive. The fact is that allowing food to spoil is shameful and incredibly wasteful. When we get new supplies in, fresh fruits and vegetables come too. Instead of thoughtlessly opening a can or thawing out a bag of frozen corn, it is a pleasure to husk, boil or grill and enjoy the fresh corn when the opportunity arises.
What if you run out? Bummer. Live and learn and if you can’t wait for the next supply run, sometimes the opportunity to add a couple items to a neighbor’s supply run is an option as are bush orders to be delivered on our weekly mail flights.
How often do you add logs to the fire in your wood stove at night? Well, that depends on the wood and the individual wood stoves, as it also depends upon how cold it is outside. We burn Spruce, which is a very soft wood and as it has been on an average of -30*F for the last ten days, I can say that stoking the stove full and tight when we head upstairs to bed at night between 10-11pm, it is almost completely out (with maybe a couple of coals left) by 3:30am.
Do chicken eggs ever freeze? Lol, yes! Especially after -30* F! (The dogs think it is great fun to chase and toss frozen eggs!)
So I truly hope that you enjoyed this Campfire Chat and if it sparked a question or three about who we are, what or why we do what we do, or anything else you think I might be able to answer please leave your questions in the comment section below!
If this Campfire Chat inspired you to want to know more of us, please feel welcome to dig around here on this website or visit and connect with us on Google+, FaceBook (and my own Amber-Lee Dibble), Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, LinkedIn or for more videos on YouTube!
All of the previous Campfire Chats can be found here!