Why did we embrace an off-grid lifestyle? Because we wanted less and ironically we got SO much more…
When you think about homesteading and off-grid living, maybe some of you think of “Little House On The Prairie” others may think of a Mountain Man living in the wilderness. Both scenarios are something that appealed to us and fit us well. I was always awed by stories of our ancestors and the original settlers. We felt we were living in the wrong era and wanted to create our own era living off-grid in a modern world.
We wanted this dream so bad that we packed up a 24′ enclosed gooseneck trailer and a 26′ U-haul and traveled cross country from PA to ID to the raw, overgrown wilderness land that we purchased site unseen from PA. Now, just because we purchased it site unseen did not mean we did not do our homework. We did do our homework being sure that the property had legal easements and right of ways, water and mineral rights and a clean title, but we move fast and we refer to ourselves as embracers. We embrace our dreams!
This was the best thing we could have ever done for ourselves and our, at the time, 13 year old high functioning autistic son. Our lifestyle and location completely enabled him to thrive. We are very passionate about our lifestyle and it is our goal to share our knowledge and educate and our successes with autism is no different. Read more on What We Have Learned and Conquered with Autism, listen in on my radio show where I Interview Austin of Mountain Boy Journals on Autism, and learn The True Blessings of Homeschooling a Special Needs Child.
When we arrived in Idaho we set up an 8′ x 14′ canvas wall tent where we lived for 8 1/2 months while we built our home. We moved in to our 100% solar off-grid homestead with a foot of snow on the ground. Our first winter we were unable to drive out of our property for 8 weeks due to the 36″ of snow that fell at one time and continued to fall and you know it was the most amazing winter I have ever experienced as was my experience in the tent! Simple Living at it's finest, back to our roots with dirt at our feet, meals in the outdoors and the sounds and smells of the wild putting us to sleep at night and waking us in the morning! I would relive that all over again in a heart beat!
Those 8 weeks back here our first winter were a cake walk for us and actually something we will all remember fondly. My Mountain Man and I grew up on farms with traditionally minded parents. Our canning shelves were always full and the cold cellar or root cellar was as well. We hunted for our meats growing up and do the same today as a family. So one of my first priorities in September our first year here was to stock us up well on food. Our son is on a gluten free and casein free diet for over 10 years. It has been a gradual process, but we no longer eat processed foods. Our first year here I was canning food on a grill burner while still helping to build the house. We stocked up on all our raw ingredients in 25, 50 and even several 100 lb bags. We quickly switched from a grill burner to cooking on our woodstove eating some of the leanest, healthiest venison and elk meat you will find.
In the summer months we enjoy harnessing the sun, cooking our food in a Sun Oven during the forest fire season when it would be risky to have a fire. I am currently part of a Cooking Outside E-course where I am teaching how to cook in a Sun Oven.
Living off the land is what we desire. Our goal is to be as self reliant as possible and still keep God leading the way and the beauty is, he has our backs too! When we moved into our home there was a foot of snow on the ground and we were already onto our next project building a traditional log smokehouse. We were spoiled growing up with amazing smoked meats and being able to not only flavor our meats, but to be able to cure our meats was an important aspect that we wanted to be certain we were ready for.
We then added 30 laying hens, meat rabbits and later we added honey bees, milk goats and a horse. All of which play a big roll in our sustainability. We enjoy having fresh eggs, rabbit meat to supplement the elk and venison, our own fresh honey and goats milk and a horse to get us around and do some of the chores on our homestead. Just a little tidbit of information for you, if you are unable to drink cows milk, there is a good chance you can enjoy goats milk with no problem. Goats are unique and personable creatures and a joy to have around. I love milking them and we utilize their milk for ice cream, cheeses, cream cheese, yogurt, butter and the list goes on. For those of you that have had goaty tasting goats milk – add an ice pack to the bottom of the milk bucket while milking or immediately after milking place the milk in the freezer for a bit and you will remove that goaty taste you once experienced.
We forage berries, teas and our medicinal plants from the wild. We preserve our berries, teas and medicinal plants as well as our garden bounty each year in various ways. We dehydrate, dry naturally, can, make tinctures, salves and ferment filling our canning shelves and medicine cupboard. This week we processed 75 lbs of carrots which gave us 74 quarts, two gallon freezer bags and a meal. We also canned 30 quarts of our chili sauce/ salsa.
We were able to get our garden in this year. It did not produce as much as we would have liked for our harvest, but it put a lot of food on our table. There will be more to come on this, how we designed it and why and how we get by with such a short growing season. Our greenhouse is framed out, but due to other responsibilities it has not been completed as of yet. When this is finished we will be able to have garden vegetables all year round.
Something else to keep in mind with being off-grid is you wouldn't need to give up things really – you just need to learn to be more frugal and focus more on the sun. By that I mean that you wash your clothing and do things that require a lot of power on sunny days, you turn the lights out when you leave a room, you use low wattage light bulbs and efficient appliances and you enjoy the simplicity of an oil lantern because you can! 🙂 You can read more on our solar situation in my upcoming e-book and also in the Sept/Oct 2014 Issue of the Backwoodsman Magazine.
Last year, the Mountain Man was drawn for a moose tag here in Idaho so when myself, the Mountain Man, the Mountain Boy and two guest got our bucks we needed to also can the deer, putting 113 quarts of venison on our shelves too. We have filled our turkey tags each year and enjoy hunting grouse and other game birds as well. Fishing is something we thoroughly enjoy, but have no yet had the time.
When we hunt each season we utilize everything we can from the animals. We butcher, process and smoke our own meats. We eat the heart and liver, all the meat, cook the bones down for bone broth, use the sinew for cordage, use the bones and antlers for tools and varying projects and brain tan the hides for clothing, bags, sheaths, shoes, etc. We not only hunt, but enjoy our trapping season as well. Beaver back straps are added to our menu every season.
Our lifestyle to most would be too much work, but to us the work is rewarding and a dream come true. We live very frugally by choice and make most of what we need. The Mountain Boy made wooden eggs for the laying boxes to help entice the chickens to lay better. The Mountain Man is a blacksmith and a MacGyver if you will! I always say he can make a pistol with a paperclip. He makes all our tools, hinges, decorative metal items, many survival and traditional hunting tools and even spikes and nails. Pretty much you name it he will make it. He has an amazing mind and has also invented and fabricated several survival tools as well.
This leads me to share with you 1st how we make a living on our homestead. We are resourceful people and haven't put all our eggs in one basket. I am a web designer and programmer by trade for the last 24 years so this what has afforded us the opportunity to live such a lifestyle. We started out with satellite internet which was an internet connection, but it was horrible and expensive because of all the uploading and downloading required for my job so when a young entrepreneur leased some land on a mountain side which was adjacent our eves we didn't hesitate on switching. We have faster internet here than we did in PA and it is cheaper so we are blessed in a BIG way. Now, since we arrived here I embraced yet another dream and I have taken up my dream to write. I currently write for The New Pioneer Magazine, American Frontiersman, Self Reliance Illustrated, Prepare Magazine, Cabin Life Magazine and Backwoodsman Magazine. I am also in the process of writing several e-books that will be released before the end of the year, I offer my Mountain Woman Radio every Wednesday with the SurvivalMomRadio.com, I educate on essential oils and sell essential oils and I am a soap and candle maker too! We utilize our talents to help us provide an income.
We were blessed to featured on the cover with our cabin in Issue #161 of The New Pioneer Magazine along with my debut article.
The Mountain Man as I mentioned is a blacksmith so he supplements our income with his amazing craftsmanship as well as his survival tools and he has also taken his hand at building traditional cabins. He was a professional bull rider for 11 years so he is in good shape, he welds, does electrical, plumbing and construction so he is truly a jack of all trades and I feel a master of all. He is very mechanically inclined and God has greatly blessed him. All of the items we make are available at TrayerWilderness.com
The Mountain Boy has built himself a nice business for himself as well which can be found at MountainBoyJournals.com. He makes traditional style elk hide moccasins and paracord survival gear.
In addition to working, we also enjoy playing! Our version of play is not always what other people would consider playing, but we thoroughly LIVE for being in the wilderness. Every chance we get we are out exploring new area of the wilderness and take our survival packs with us and practice our skills regularly. We not only practice our skills regularly, but we also educate on the importance of knowing not just modern forms of survival, but incorporate traditional and primitive skills into our skill sets. We practice such things a solar ignition, bow and drill fires, primitive methods of hunting and trapping, building shelters and most importantly being sure that we have the right equipment in our packs. We live among mountain lions, wolves, bear, coyote and protective moose with young so we feel it is very important to be protected in our environment and know how to survive on our own if something were to happen. We each carry the necessary items while in the wilds in the event that we are separated and we all know the same skill sets so that we know each of us could endure the wilds in the event of an emergency of any kind. I feel that women should make every effort to protect themselves and we feel that all members of the family needs to be well versed in the outdoors and survival skills.
We feel very strongly that knowing traditional and primitive skills in every aspect of our lifestyle is important. Our country is not in a good way and if the modern day conveniences were to completely disappear we would still be able to thrive and that my friends is our goal.
We utilize traditional tools all over our homestead from my kitchen with all hand tools, to the smithy utilizing tools from our grand fathers and great grandfathers to felling trees. Not only is it important to have these tools, but to know how to use them.
Living such a life requires you to roll with the punches and take each days adventures as they come. Things break, the unexpected happens and as in the picture above – the snow melts bringing mud up to our eyeballs so this day required a 10 mile trip into the post office on foot to pick up our mail.
Our son is no longer 13, but soon to be 18. I am a proud mother of a young man, who at age 7 could not communicate well and form full sentences to sharing my days with a young entrepreneur, a young man with an Idaho Driver's Permit in his back pocket and also the proud owner of a 1951 Willy Jeep that he plans to restore! We have been greatly blessed!
We are learning new things daily by choice – I feel that when you stop learning you stop living.
I have found that the more you live the Simple Life as we do and the more you get comfortable with your home, surroundings and lifestyle the more you yearn for even more simplicity and the deeper into the wild you wish to go…. Back to your roots… 🙂
Remember that ANYONE can embrace such a lifestyle… It just takes heart, determination, and the willingness to learn new things!
So if I can leave you with something today, embrace your dreams and look to a more traditional lifestyle to move your family into the future.
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We will also be offering webinars in the new year on blacksmithing, brain tanning, canning, survival skills, etc. Our schedule will be posted soon and you can subscribe here to receive the upcoming schedule.
Off-grid Living, Homesteading, Preparedness, Survival – It's Our Lifestyle! Are you ready to embrace such a lifestyle? If you have questions for us be sure to leave a comment below, we would LOVE to hear from you….
Glen, Tammy and Austin Trayer
Live Free or Die follows five individuals who are living off the grid. The series airs weekly at 10/9c on the National Geographic Channel in the US, and will be picked up internationally later in the year.