Monday, November 18, 2013

Remote Cabins: Cost of a Water Supply

Perhaps the most effective way to organize the daunting task of developing a remote homestead is to prioritize tasks and expenses based on Maslow's hierarchy of needs: water, food, warmth, shelter, and safety. This article describes how we developed a reliable water supply. Subsequent articles focus on food, warmth, shelter, and safety. Each piece outlines our experiences, good and bad, in developing such resources as a water and food supply, including some price points.  If you are considering alternate remote properties, one consideration might be the sources of fresh water, the depths of wells in the vicinity, and the cost of digging a wells (part of which is per foot down). 

Obviously clean, potable water is the first necessity for survival, but even non-potable water is important for fire suppression, hygiene, and gardening. For somebody like me, used to simply turning a tap for hot water or cold, without thinking about how the liquid GOT there and where it disappeared to afterward, “making” water was more complicated and expensive than I expected. I tried the most frugal solutions first, but inevitably ramped up to the expensive solution my husband had recommended all along. 

(I welcome your questions, and personal experiences developing a water supply).

Saturday, November 16, 2013

High Conflict People and the Toxic Damage They Cause

Do the following statements sound like anyone who makes you cringe, at work, in your neighborhood, in your extended family?  If so, you are by no means alone.  Fortunately, there are resources available to address the damage such people do to those around them.  
  • "This is all your fault. None of it was my fault.”
  • "I disown you (again). You have been a terrible spouse/son/daughter/etc. How dare you contradict me.”
  • "Don't talk to those neighbors; they'll screw you like they screwed me."
  • "You never loaned me that money. It was a gift. Prove it.”
  • "Of course, my way is right.  You can't possibly succeed doing that. How stupid.” (No, I never thought of it ).

A recognized category of extremely difficult personalities, identified as "High Conflict People," is easily recognized by a combination of unattractive traits that include:
  • “My way or the highway” thinking
  • Emotional over-reactions (that can include yelling, throwing things, hitting, or over-the-top messages on emails, letters, answering machines, back stabbing, starting rumors)
  • Blaming others, particularly for their own problems, either defensively (“he's out to get me”) or offensively (“it is your fault now and always”)

If your business or home life has been ripped asunder by unpleasant people with such personality traits, you will be glad to learn that a number of books and articles outline how to deal with them, and in various contexts, such as business negotiations, employees/supervisors, divorce, and parenting. There is even a HighConflict Institute! The founder of that organization, Bill Eddy, was previously a therapist at a psychiatric hospital, and later a lawyer and mediator. What a great background for the topic! He has written books with such provocative titles as Its All Your Fault!12 Tips for Managing People Who Blame Others for Everything  and High Conflict People in Legal Disputes.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Want to Buy a Remote Property? Think Again or Think Ahead

        (note:  this has been a very popular article.  For more detail on the topics below, scroll           through the articles at, particularly the FAQ article of March,             2015 and others about power, water, heat, storage, etc.  I welcome your comments               and questions - Laura) 

We routinely hear from friends or colleagues who say that “one of these days... I too will move out to the boonies.” Are you sure that is what you want to do? Developing a remote property is challenging and perhaps that is good, because living there is, too and it is not for everyone. In fact, it may appeal to one family member immensely and to another not at all. Below are seven suggestions based on our experience buying and clearing woodsy land for a cabin and various outbuildings in the middle of Alaska, 42 miles from the nearest road.  However, several of the points are also valid even for people who decide to move across the country to a condo in Boca Raton.

In general, the suggestions are to take stock of what you do and don't know about yourself (and your spouse), the land, and the people in the targeted area before you commit to move long distance to an isolated property.

16x24x2 + porches

      a) Do not buy the property before your spouse sees it. He/She will never let you forget it.
      b) If you make the mistake of #1, make sure that the property looks REALLY GOOD when you take your spouse to see it. Do not, as in our case, take your Texan wife up to Alaska in her little Land's End jacket when it is 30 below zero and windy and act all enthused about walking around the property in snow shoes. (When my father-in-law showed his wife his proud, rural purchase, the appealing log cabin was obscured by several rusted cars up on blocks and empty barrels of diesel). I promise you, your spouse will never let you forget that first impression, either.

2.  LEARN ABOUT THE LAND AND WEATHER before you build, garden or buy virtually anything.

    a) If circumstances allow, visit the property in different seasons before committing AND TALK TO LOCALS. Ideally, rent a property in the vicinity first. This information absolutely will save you money, time, and regrets. Before even considering the obvious importance of seasonal variations for future buildings, gardens, landscaping, clothes, and activities  is the relevance of allergies!  If you have never lived in the region you are now contemplating, you need to find out first if you are allergic to anything there or if you will be miserable at certain times of year!  In Alaska, for example, the trees bud out so quickly (in Fairbanks, literally overnight) that the pollen count is astronomical during that period, but it is brief.  My sister's dogs are on allergy medications in Phoenix, AZ (!!!) 

    Relative to more mundane building placement possibilities, are assessments of where does the sun rise and set at various times of year?   From which directions are the prevailing winds (and rain and snow)? (See websites such as   Such data will impact your desired activities,  your placement and sizes of porches and windows, the angle of your roofs, positions of gardens, trees to keep, and many other decisions. Our location is protected by the ridge behind us, but the hunting cabin at the end of this lake had to have the roof tied down with pulleys to the ground because hurricane force winds tunneled up between the ridge and the mountains!  

    Some places that are particularly beautiful have tortuous rainy seasons.  If that was the time of year you most wanted to be there, think again or ask early about adding on huge porches that can function as outdoor rooms.  Add grow lights for plants, etc. Long rainy or dark seasons can be depressing for people.  Research precipitation by month. Plan ahead.    

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

How to Afford Three Months of Travel Per Year

(note: this includes updates)

I agreed to move to the middle of the woods in Alaska, outhouse and everything, as long as we could travel for several months in the winter. It doesn't have to be ALL winter – mind you, winter is l-o-n-g in Alaska – but I wanted time enough to escape some of the darkest and coldest months from what I fear could become a claustrophobic cabin.

And who would determine the travel itinerary? Naturally, me. After Bryan's history of travel decisions, which had landed me 42 miles from the nearest road at 61 degree latitude, and after several years of him-to-her gift giving such as a 9 mm pistol, a scope, and a propane powered flame thrower; after years of smiling numbly upon receipt of matching Husqvarna 455 chainsaws, I usurped travel arrangements. Bryan complied.

The idea of traveling for several months each winter initially seemed extravagant, but eventually seemed cost effective after several knock-on-the–head realizations that helped us reconfigure both our living expenses and our ways of conducting business.  

Below, I describe our logic, several useful websites, and some price points and hints).  Perhaps this will help armchair travel readers take a leap elsewhere themselves.