Homesteadin’ Ain’t Easy

Part 1 of 2 – Dave discusses Jason’s hypothetical of Homesteading in Alaska, and what guns to take.

Before discussing the arsenal, I’ll give you some background that affects my thinking on this question. Or just jump to “Surviving the Venture” (Part 2) for my thoughts on Alaska weaponry:

Deciding to Go

It was once my dream, like Jason’s hypothetical scenario, to move to the wilderness – somewhere like Alaska. So I gave it quite a lot of thought. But as time passed my more practical senses kicked-in and I was content to live and work in the modern world we knew. Having a wife and children has a great influence on thoughts like moving to Alaska. Now, at my age and physical condition, a move like that would be akin to living out “Death Wish 13 – The Final Episode.”

But at one point in my life, in my mid-thirties, I left my job in Birmingham and moved to a rural community to work for a fledgling log home manufacturing company. My job was going sour for me and Birmingham had, at that time, evolved into a high-crime, gangs and drugs area that we felt was not a good place for our children to grow up. Besides, my wife had grown up in the country and I was a country boy at heart. I never liked cities, which I view as the human version of anthills.

Property Off-the-Grid

Finding remote, homestead-size acreage to buy is difficult. Our best leads came from personal

Dave's place, nestled in the middle of timberland. This is where Jeremy learned how to not die in the woods.
Dave’s place, nestled in the middle of timberland.
This is where Jeremy learned how to not die in the woods.

networking with the locals, including realtors. Large paper and lumber companies own most of it – and they never sell small parcels. And family-owned timberland parcels bring in extra income with no effort. But sometimes folks just need extra money for something. So we eventually found 80-acres of land for sale that was located at the edge of a National Forest. It was totally surrounded by more timberland. To make it fit our budgets, we divided it, 40/40, with my wife’s cousin, Tommy, who also had just moved there to work. Having two compatible families involved offered something our wives especially wanted: To not be totally alone in a remote location.

Our land was a place remote enough that it might allow us all to “homestead,” if necessary. And it offered a chance to survive, long-term, after a nuclear attack and the chaos that would surly follow; a potential hanging over us since we were kids. And there were other advantages: It was inhabited with deer, turkey, and all sorts of game animals and birds, and had a small, year-round flowing creek along one side.

Tommy was first to learn of the property. Consequently, by prior agreement, he had first choice to select his half. Since it was so difficult to access and evaluate by walking, he got someone to fly him over it in a small airplane so he could look it over. I was out of town at the time. He chose the East-40, which I later learned from him was because, during the plane ride, he saw what he thought was a fair-sized lake. Unfortunately for him, as we were able to get into the property better, we discovered that his “lake” was part of a very large swamp which would rise and fall, depending upon the rainfall – sometimes a marsh, sometimes a grassy area with trees.

Our place had been a family farm back in the early 1900’s and continued into the 1950’s. An old chimney base of rock, now grown over with weeds and vines, marked the original home place. I later learned that it was damaged by a tornado during the mid-1930’ and finally destroyed by another tornado during the 1950’s. A hand-dug well was near the old home site. It was covered with gray boards that were rotten to the core. Nearby there were terrace rows among the trees and evidence of old fencing here and there, probably used for pasturing the family cow. The once often-used dirt road through the property and beyond had morphed into a dead-end logging road that was only doctored every 12-15 years, solely to accommodate logging trucks. A timber bridge across the small creek at our property line had fallen-in, making the road impassable from there.

Much of the property was so dense in undergrowth that it was virtually impossible to determine where the boundaries were before having it surveyed – which we did after purchasing it. A tornado, just 4-years earlier, had crossed the land, laying down many trees and allowing the undergrowth to flourish into a jungle in several places. We knew the county was sometimes called “tornado alley” but we didn’t want that to influence our dream, so we ignored it and moved forward with our plans.

Our chosen building spot was 1-1/2 miles away from pavement and power lines. The power company advised us that since it was not a public road, our cost to run power there was going to be nearly half the amount that we had paid for the land, but could be put on a payment plan. Plus, we would likely have to pay other property owners to sign for allowing a power right-of-way across their land. That payment amounted to the loss of income from timber not grown in that right-of-way for, say, the next 100 years. Oh, crap! And, by the way, there was a year’s wait for a 9-party line telephone, and cell phones didn’t exist back then.

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