Mastering Off-Grid Living: The Timberlander’s 2023 Guide

Mastering off-grid living: A complete guide.

Mastering off-grid living is no simple task.

One must have a plan to have the slightest chance of mastering off-grid living. And in my particular case, mastering off-grid living in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

The right climate and geological features make huge differences.

My Great Pyrenees, A. Maycee Grace, and I have spent the last two summers living off-the-grid for a total of 24 weeks. For now, we’re overwintering in the South. The winter months also will lead us to our home in Dallas, Texas, and down to see one of my twin daughters in the Pan Handle of Flordia.

Maycee and I have come to love our tent camping adventures on family land northwest of Marquette, Michigan. To go a step further, we’re practicing off-grid living in the mountains, as we are in the Huron Mountain Range.

Yes! I have the power of Zeus and throwing lightning bolts of rock!

Our main campsite is a stone’s throw from Lake Superior; less than 15 miles due north.

When the deciduous trees lose their leaves in the fall, there are places on our 40 acres of family land from where you can see the lake in the distance.

I’ve also sent my drone up 100-plus feet from one of the main campsites on the property and captured some breathtaking video.

From this experience, I can assure you the abundance and lack of resources also impact the success of such an off-grid living adventure.

Learning about and going off-the-grid depends on many factors we will discuss in the section to follow.

For whom did I make this guide about mastering off-grid living?

Let’s talk about the expression “mastering off-grid living.” Ask 100 people and you will likely hear 100 different definitions.

To begin breaking things down, let’s talk about the term “mastering.”

Since there’s no known method I’m aware of to grade how masterful anyone is at off-grid living, the nature of the definition, to me, is nebulous.

Living off the grid for beginners does not mean the same for someone who grew up living on an off-grid living homestead. More so, living off-grid for beginners in the UP is not the same for someone living off-grid in Alaska, a lower-tiered state, or another country.

The same principle applies to off-grid living homesteaders, off-grid living in a timber framed cabin v. living off the grid in a traditionally constructed house. Again, whether it’s in the UP or elsewhere also becomes a critical factor.

Saying one has “mastered,” something, as a novel writer, is the equivalent to me of when the hero in a story makes the claim, “I’ve got this!” and in the same scene learns they don’t.

Each day one lives off the grid is full of its share of ups and downs. How they are managed, the resources used or needed, and the length of time it takes to achieve “mastery” over the variables, are all subjective.

Knowing this information is why I constructed this post for:

  • Those who find themselves concerned about rising costs and global events.
  • Those tired of the fast-paced, technology-driven lifestyle that society dictates.
  • Those who long for a simpler, more sustainable way of living that is in harmony with nature.

The purpose and benefits of the directory.

This mastering off-grid living directory is the gateway to detailed informational posts about the subject.

From here you can find almost everything you need to know about the subject.

This page leads to the site’s main off-grid living page, different from a blog post such as this one. Over time, many other informational, transactional, and comparison posts will appear in the blog section of this site and will be linked to that main category page for OGL. 

In the meantime, here is a table to provide you with an idea about where we’re going with the concept of mastering off-grid living.

The Timberlander’s Off-Grid Living Handy Guide.

As I’ve experienced off-grid living in the UP since the summer of 2022, these are many of the issues I’ve already faced. Have I mastered them? Let’s just say they’re like life. You get older and sometimes wiser.  

Off-Grid Living Renewable Energy
Sustainable Living
Energy Independence
Sustainable Water Sources
Eco-Friendly Technology 
Sustainable Transportation
Off-Grid Homes
Emergency Preparedness 
Outdoor Living 
Off-Grid Appliances
Waste Management 
Sustainable Gardening
Off-Grid Communication
Off-Grid Finance


The High-Level Overview of Off-Grid Living

What is Off-Grid Living?

First, let’s establish a few definitions of what we’re talking about.

Off-grid living includes a self-sufficient lifestyle without or with reduced reliance on public utilities.

As I said above, mastering off-grid living is a nebulous term. But let’s say, for the sake of discussion, it means you’re good. Like “damn good,” at living off-the-grid.

This means greater self-reliance on sources of electricity, water supply, and gas.

The level of ‘Off-Griditty’ is as different as fingerprints.

One’s level of “Off-Griditty,” (my word,) depends on many factors.

But we begin with the assumption that no two situations are identical. Stretches of land may seem similar in their region. But they remain unique in qualities, space, trees, location, etc.

Living two miles north on a county road may mean having municipal water or not—the same for power lines.

One piece of property may have springs for water sources or be dry as a bone. Another, a mile away, might have a lake on it.

They most definitely are in the same region, but the differences between them are vast.

Off-Grid Power Sources

Mastering off-grid living: A solar panel on a stand the UP from the summer of 2022.

Mastering off-grid living: A solar panel on a stand the UP from the summer of 2022.

Mastering off-grid living involves at least a basic understanding of solar panels, wind turbines, or other alternatives that generate needed power.

However, some may live in zoned areas where the local authority requires a connection to water and sewer.

All energy sources have benefits and drawbacks. We explore these differences in comparison posts of the site’s blog.

Living off the grid may also mean collecting and recycling water.

Again, the situations vary. Some off-grid locations rely on rainwater harvesting and greywater systems.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Off-Grid Living

The advantages of off-grid living are as plentiful as the downsides.

Life off-grid may mean greater self-sufficiency and living a simpler lifestyle. One that promotes sustainability.

This also provides greater autonomy over resource allocation. More options exist for those not connected to public utilities.

Additionally, it can help people save money in the long term by reducing utility bills. The fine print here is on the words “long term.”

Be aware that significant disadvantages come with off-grid living.

Generating your own power often demands staggering upfront costs for technology.

Solar panels or wind turbines are expensive.

This is an instance where mastering off-grid living requires having a solid revenue stream, getting a loan, growing a money tree, or spending your life’s savings.

Some also take out hefty loans to invest in solar equipment, etc, as these systems often are pricy, to say the least.

For example, I’ve been looking at items on sale from Renogy, and they’ve knocked the prices down a large amount.

Their systems, and aspects of them, have as much as a 25-year warranty.

But when I add up the cost of a kit that I believe is in my range, even on sale, it’s north of $2,500. Maybe that’s a drop in the bucket for most, but in my situation, that’s a lot of money to disperse at one time.

Still, though, I highly recommend checking out the products at Renogy. I do not get affiliate sales at the time of writing this if you buy something.

Do you know the difference between Watt-hours per day and a volt?

Can you run a plug-and-play solar panel and wind turbine system the same way?

Studies from Michigan’s UP suggest that 99.9 percent of trees fail to grow electrical sockets.

These systems also are not plug-in and forget. They demand regular maintenance.

Tips for finding suitable land for off-grid living.

Finding the right piece of land to live off-grid can be a daunting task.

But with some careful planning and research, the search can be a rewarding experience.

Factors to consider when choosing land for off-grid living.

When looking for off-grid properties, you should keep in mind several factors.

Take into account the location’s climate and whether it’s suitable for year-round living.

Consider which terrain best suits your needs and preferences. Research local regulations as zoning laws can vary between states and counties.

Understand local regulations about self-sustainability, like composting toilets or rainwater harvesting systems.

Finding suitable property requires thoroughness and care.

Once found they will provide endless fulfillment from self-sustainability practices.

Not to mention finding life away from towns and cities and their distractions and stress.

Building an Off-Grid Home

Overview of different types of off-grid homes.

When it comes to building an off-grid home, there are a variety of options to choose from.

Timber frame shelters and supporting units.

My personal interest is in timber frame shelters and facilities.

A 12′ x 16′ structure does not require a permit to be placed in my neck of the woods.

So as 2023 progresses, together we’ll build a number of timber-framed units.


Mastering off-grid living: An AI generated image of an A-Frame building in the UP of Michigan.

Mastering off-grid living: An AI-generated image of an A-Frame building in the UP of Michigan.

A-frame structures are beneficial if one lives up north where 200-plus inches of snowfall during the fall, winter, spring, and sometimes even summer months.

Given the long hypotenuse on the shelter’s long sides, snow doesn’t have a place to add to the snow load.

One popular option is a tiny home.

Another option is a yurt.


Earthships are another type of off-grid home constructed from recycled materials.

Tips for building an off-grid home.

Never lose sight of the concept function dictates form.

Building an off-grid home requires designs for sustainability and energy efficiency.

This is another situation where the options are as wide as fingerprint variations.

Generating Power and Water Off the Grid.

The case for generating off-grid power.

Generating power off the grid is essential to mastering off-grid living.

So, one must identify the best method that suits your lifestyle.

Wind turbines serve as options in open windy areas. Solar panels come in handy when there’s ample sunshine.

But what if neither comes in great supply, like a woodsy area where it snows 200 inches per year?

Some use hydroelectric power from nearby water sources to generate power. But as we all know, water freezes. 

What other options exist?

Water Collection Strategies



Mastering off-grid living: An AI-generated and exaggerated rainwater collection system off a structure in the woods of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

Mastering off-grid living: An AI-generated and exaggerated rainwater collection system of a structure in the woods of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.


When you’re living off the grid, access to clean water is vital.

One of the most popular methods involves the collection of rainwater.

Another off-grid system includes using water twice.

Greywater systems conserve water by reusing wastewater from sinks, showers, and washing machines.

These systems filter out impurities and use the water for toilets or watering plants.

Growing your own food.

Benefits of Growing Your Own Food Off the Grid

One of the major advantages of off-grid living is having control over your food supply.

Growing your own food ensures that you know exactly what you are putting into your body.

This is another situation where you can save money in the long run.

Often with off-grid living, grocery stores, and food delivery services are unavailable. This makes growing your own food a necessity.

Techniques for growing food in an off-grid environment.

Two popular methods of growing your own food include permaculture and aquaponics.

In permaculture, plants and animals work together to create a self-sufficient environment.

Crop rotation and companion planting, create diverse ranges of crops while reducing waste.

Aquaponics involves using fish waste to fertilize plants in a closed-loop system.

The fish provide nutrients for the plants while the plants filter the water for the fish.

Raised bed gardening uses natural materials like straw or hay bales. 

Vertical gardening uses hanging planters or trellises.

Hydroponics involves growing plants in nutrient-rich water instead of soil.

Growing your own food off-grid requires careful planning and elbow grease. But each form mentioned has financial and personal rewards.

Conclusion about mastering off-grid living.

The thought of moving off the grid may seem daunting at first.

But this lifestyle works and with patience and experience, the odds of mastering off-grid living are good.

Statistics around the world show that in these nutty times, more people are opting for a simpler life.

I hope you will use this guide in decision-making as you go about mastering off-grid living. 

Increasing one’s self-sufficiency requires careful planning, research, and preparation.

Ignore almost everyone who says living a self-sufficient life means sacrificing modern comforts.

You need not sell all you own and put what didn’t sell into storage. My situation is no doubt different from yours.

But I will tell you this, I do not regret anything I’ve done one iota.

No, not a single one.


Essential Safety Tips for Hungry Black Bears 2023

The essential safety tips for hungry bears I ignored before one attacked my tents.

Introduction to Bear Country

Definition of bear country and its geographical distribution.

I ignored the essentials when it comes to bear safety, particularly as winter is fast approaching in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan in late summer of 2023.

My dog and I are camping long-term on our family’s 40 acres in the woods northwest of Marquette, Michigan.

Am I a black bear expert?

Let’s just say I’ve had an awakening when it comes to flirting with the rules pertaining to food storage in the wild, and so far, Maycee and I are alive to talk about it.

Welcome back to my blog, this post centers on the enchanting realm of Black Bear Country. The UP is where forests intertwine with the Huron Mountain landscapes, creating a haven for our fuzzy companions – black bears.

Bear Country refers to regions across North America that provide suitable habitats for these magnificent creatures.

From the lush forests of the Pacific Northwest to the rugged terrains of the Rocky Mountains, you’ll find black bears thriving. However, it’s important to note that Bear Country isn’t limited to remote wilderness areas alone.

These omnivores have adapted well to human presence and can be found near residential communities or even urban parks. So whether you’re an avid hiker exploring national parks or simply living in an area surrounded by dense woodlands, understanding how to coexist with black bears is vital.

Fascinating facts about black bears and their behavior

Before delving deeper into the essential safety tips for surviving bear encounters, let’s take a moment to appreciate the awe-inspiring characteristics and behaviors of black bears.

Despite their name, these remarkable creatures come in various shades – from jet black to cinnamon brown and even a rare bluish hue. They possess a distinctive shoulder hump, which serves as a muscle mass reservoir aiding them during hibernation.

Black bears are known for their opportunistic feeding habits – they embrace an omnivorous lifestyle that ranges from devouring berries and nuts to feasting on insects and carrion. Interestingly, they are also skilled climbers and swimmers, exhibiting exceptional agility in navigating through trees or diving into water bodies in pursuit of food or safety.

Moreover, it’s worth mentioning that although they are powerful creatures capable of inflicting harm if provoked or threatened, black bears generally exhibit shy and non-confrontational behavior toward humans. Understanding their nature provides us with valuable insights on how to coexist harmoniously and ensure our safety when venturing into their domain.

Understanding Black Bears

Physical characteristics of black bears

Black bears exhibit a variety of physical features. While they are generally smaller than their grizzly counterparts, black bears can still reach an impressive size.

Adult males can weigh anywhere between 200 to 600 pounds, while females tend to be slightly smaller, ranging from 100 to 400 pounds.

Ensuring their survival in the wild, black bears possess remarkable adaptations. Their most notable features include sharp claws and formidable teeth.

With claws that can grow up to several inches long, they are highly effective tools for climbing trees and excavating food sources such as anthills or logs. Additionally, their teeth are perfect for an omnivorous diet which allows them to consume plants and meat.

Behavioral traits of black bears

To understand how best to coexist with these majestic creatures in bear country, it is essential to gain insight into their behavioral traits.

Black bears have a diverse diet and are opportunistic foragers; they will eat anything from berries and nuts to insects, small mammals, or even carrion (something decaying) if necessary.

Their incredible sense of smell enables them to detect food sources from long distances.

According to the National Park Service, black bears can smell food up to 20 miles away. This is because they have a large number of scent receptors in their noses, which allows them to pick up even faint smells.

Black bears are also very good at tracking food smells. They can follow a scent trail for miles, and they can even pick up the scent of food that has been buried underground. This makes them very efficient hunters, and it allows them to find food even when it is scarce.

Furthermore, hibernation is a significant part of the black bear’s life cycle.

As winter approaches and food becomes scarce, these resourceful animals adopt a state of dormancy known as hibernation. During this period lasting around five months (depending on geographical location), black bears conserve energy by slowing down their heart rate and respiration while living off stored body fat.

Mating rituals among black bears also play a fascinating role in understanding their behavior patterns.

Males compete fiercely for the attention of females during mating season, which occurs in late spring or early summer.

Dominant males establish their territory and guard it against potential rivals. The mating process often involves vocalizations, scent marking, and physical interactions between males seeking to impress receptive females.

Understanding the physical characteristics and behavioral traits of black bears is crucial for anyone venturing into bear country. By grasping their size variations, coloration, claws, teeth, diet preferences, foraging habits, hibernation patterns, and mating rituals, one can better appreciate the complexity of these incredible creatures and take appropriate precautions to ensure a safe coexistence with them in their natural habitat.

Identifying Bear Signs in the Wilderness

Recognizing bear tracks, scat, and claw marks on trees

When venturing into bear country, it’s crucial to be able to identify signs of bears in the wild.

One of the most common indications is bear tracks. Black bear footprints are distinguished by their round shape with five toes that often leave imprints in a staggered pattern due to the way they walk.

Black bear on the run in our woods in the UP of Michigan.

Black bear on the run in our woods in the UP of Michigan.

While adult black bear tracks measure around 4 to 7 inches long and wide, cubs’ prints can be significantly smaller. Another telltale sign of bears is their scat or droppings.

On many occasions, I have found bear scat on our land. This summer I have found it multiple times in our own campsite, as if it were using the scat as a calling card.  The consistency of their scat varies depending on their diet, but it generally consists of vegetation matter like berries, leaves, and grass. The color and texture might change depending on what they’ve been munching on recently.

Fresh scat appears moist and has a distinct odor that can help differentiate it from other animal droppings. In addition to tracks and scat, black bears leave behind claw marks on trees as part of their territorial marking behavior.

These scratches serve as visual indicators for other bears that this area is already claimed by a specific individual or group. If you stumble upon fresh claw marks while hiking or camping, it’s wise to exercise caution and stay alert for any potential encounters.

Understanding territorial marking behaviors of black bears

Black bears are highly territorial animals that mark their territory in several ways.

One prominent method is through scent marking which involves urinating or rubbing their bodies against trees or rocks to leave behind pheromones that signal ownership.

Territorial marking serves as a communication tool between black bears; it helps them establish boundaries and avoid unnecessary conflicts over resources such as food sources or mating opportunities.

By recognizing these markings during your outdoor adventures, you can gain insight into areas frequented by black bears and adjust your activities accordingly.

In addition to scent markings, black bears also use physical markers like claw marks on trees.

These scratches can be found at various heights, indicating the bear’s size and climbing abilities. It’s fascinating to observe these signs as they provide a glimpse into the natural behaviors of these majestic creatures that call bear country home.

Being able to identify bear tracks, scat, and territorial markings is exciting and essential for your safety. These signs act as valuable indicators of recent bear activity in the area you’re exploring.

By understanding them, you can make informed decisions about how to proceed cautiously or choose alternative routes to avoid potential encounters with hungry black bears. Remember, in bear country, knowledge is power – so keep your eyes peeled for these signs during your outdoor adventures!

Essential Safety Tips for Bear Encounters

Prevention is Key: Making Noise and Traveling in Groups

When venturing into bear country, it’s crucial to remember that prevention is the first line of defense. This is something I did not heed.

Bears are generally shy creatures, and they tend to avoid human encounters whenever possible.

One effective way to minimize the chance of surprising a bear is by making noise as you hike. I do, however, regularly set off the panic alarm on the car and let it honk several times throughout the day just as a reminder that we are present.

But this can be as simple as talking or clapping your hands at regular intervals. By doing so, you alert bears to your presence, giving them ample time to retreat peacefully.

Additionally, hiking in groups provides an added layer of safety. Bears are less likely to approach larger groups since they perceive them as potential threats.

So gather your friends or join a guided tour if possible. You will have someone to share the adventure with and have greater peace of mind knowing that you’re reducing the risk of bear encounters.

BLACK BEAR RAMPAGE: Attacks Tents in Upper Michigan Looking for Food!

Proper Food Storage Techniques to Avoid Attracting Bears to Campsites

One factor that can attract bears to campsites is the scent of food. To mitigate this risk, it’s essential to follow proper food storage techniques while camping in bear country.

Hanging food bags from trees or using bear-resistant containers are two effective methods.

When hanging food bags, ensure they are suspended at least 10 feet above the ground and five feet away from any tree trunk or branch.

This makes it harder for bears to reach and discourages them from attempting thievery.

Alternatively, investing in bear-resistant containers offers an added layer of security by keeping your food inaccessible.

Cleaning up Cooking Areas Thoroughly

After preparing a delicious meal around the campfire, ensuring a clean cooking area is paramount for avoiding unwanted visits from curious bears. Properly disposing of grease is crucial since its strong odor can attract hungry bears from afar.

Cleanup is still an area where I need to improve as a camper.

Rather than pouring it onto the ground or into the fire, collect grease in a sealable container and pack it out with your other garbage. This way, you eliminate any lingering scent that might entice nearby bears.

Moreover, storing all food-related items securely is imperative. Remember to keep all food, drinks, and even scented toiletries locked away in airtight containers or bear-resistant coolers when not in use.

Never the food items unattended or lying around near your campsite.

By applying these safety tips to your outdoor adventures, you can reduce the chances of bear encounters while enjoying the beauty of Bear Country to its fullest potential.

Reacting Calmly During a Bear Encounter

Identifying different types of bear behavior: defensive vs. predatory

When it comes to encountering a black bear in the wilderness, it is important to understand the distinction between defensive and predatory behavior.

Defensive behavior usually occurs when a bear feels threatened or cornered.

The bear may exhibit signs of stress and agitation in such situations, such as huffing, jaw popping, or swatting the ground with its paws. These behaviors indicate that the bear wants to assert dominance and warn you to back off.

On the other hand, predatory behavior is rare but more dangerous.

A bear displaying predatory behavior may approach silently or slowly stalk you with focused intent.

It will show little fear or signs of stress. This type of behavior is extremely uncommon for black bears and is more commonly associated with grizzly bears.

Follow these steps if you encounter a black bear:

1. Stand your ground without approaching or running away. The first rule when encountering a black bear is to stay calm and resist the urge to flee. Running away could trigger an instinctive chase response from the bear.

Instead, maintain your position while speaking calmly and firmly. Stand upright to appear larger and make yourself look non-threatening by keeping your arms at your sides.

2. Speak calmly to the bear while slowly backing away

As you stand your ground, try speaking in a soothing tone without making sudden movements.

You can use phrases like “Hey there, Mr. Bear” or “Easy now, big guy” in order to let the bear know you are human and not a threat.

3. Maintain eye contact but avoid staring aggressively as the bear may interpret this as confrontational behavior on your part. While talking calmly, start slowly backing away from the area without turning your back on the bear.

The goal here is not to provoke any reaction from the bear but to give it space and an opportunity to retreat as well. Remember, the aim is to de-escalate the situation and allow the bear to peacefully move on.

Remember, every bear encounter is unique and unpredictable, so it is crucial to assess the situation and adapt your response accordingly.

By understanding different types of bear behavior and following these steps, you can significantly reduce the risk of escalating a potentially dangerous situation into a full-blown conflict.

Effective Use of Bear Deterrents

Bear Spray: How It Works, Proper Usage, and Recommended Brands

When it comes to deterring black bears, bear spray can be a game-changer. This non-lethal option is designed specifically for bear encounters and contains a concentrated formula of capsaicin derived from hot peppers. The burning sensation caused by bear spray can temporarily incapacitate the bear, allowing you to safely retreat.

However, it’s important to understand how to use it correctly.

To effectively use bear spray, remember the acronym S.T.O.P:

  • Stand tall
  • Target precisely
  • Open your eyes wide
  • Point accurately.

When you encounter a black bear up close and personal (within 30 feet), hold your ground and maintain eye contact. Remove the safety clip from the spray canister while keeping your thumb on the nozzle’s guard.

Now comes the critical moment: aim slightly downward at an angle in front of the charging or approaching bear’s nose. Spray in 2-3 second bursts while continuously moving the spray side to side for complete coverage.

Of course, you need to know the direction the wind is blowing as it may affect effectiveness.

Uh, let’s rephrase that. If you point it into the wind it’s going to blow back on you and since you’ve been taught to have your eyes wide open, well, this is how you end up a bear-rito.

I have a bottle with me at all times. It cost me almost $50 dollars at the Marquette Walmart. And to find it, they normally keep it back in the hunting/surplus clearance-like area. When I tried to find it last month on the Walmart App for the local store here, it said they didn’t even have it in stock.

Thankfully, I knew better and knew that section of the store fairly well.

When selecting a brand of bear spray, opt for trusted ones like Counter Assault or Sabre Frontiersman Bear Spray.

These brands are known for their reliability and potency in deterring bears. Remember that expiration dates are crucial; regularly check and replace expired cans to ensure optimal performance when needed most.

Noise-Making Devices like Air Horns or Whistles

Sometimes prevention is better than confrontation when it comes to avoiding black bears or keeping them at bay from your campsite or hiking trail.

Noise-making devices such as air horns or whistles can be handy tools that can alert bears to your presence long before you cross paths with them.

Since I carry my car fob on a lanyard around my neck and keep it under the covers with me, I use the panic alarm on the car throughout the day just to keep the area on notice.

But experts say air horns, with their loud blasts, can startle bears, causing them to retreat. These devices are portable and all it takes to set one off is pressing a button or lever.

Check the decibel level of the air horn before purchasing, as louder blasts tend to be more effective.

Whistles are another useful tool for bear deterrence.

They produce high-pitched sounds that carry over long distances, warning bears of your presence and giving them an opportunity to avoid you. Choose a whistle with a design suitable for outdoor use; some even come with clips for easy attachment to backpacks or clothing.

This is another item I keep attached to my neck lanyard.

Remember, whether you’re using bear spray or noise-making devices, it’s crucial to familiarize yourself with their usage before heading into bear country. Practice using these deterrents so that if an encounter occurs, you can react at a moment’s notice.

By using bear spray and noise-making devices appropriately, you add an extra layer of protection against potential encounters with black bears in their natural habitat.

However, it’s important to remember that these tools should always be used as a last resort after taking preventive measures like making noise while hiking and storing food securely.

Camping: Essential Safety Tips for Black Bears

Choosing the Right Campsite

When camping in bear country, your choice of campsite can significantly impact your safety. Look for established campsites, as bears are less likely to visit areas with human scents.

Avoid setting up camp near berry patches, here in the UP, there’s the thistle berry and it is akin to the raspberry. They are catnip for bears.

On our property in the UP, thistle berry grows wild on old logging roads throughout the woods.

Locals also love to pick berries because the jam tends to sell for $12 in a not-so-big jar.

To avoid a problem with bears, the first thing I did with my weed eater upon arriving in the woods this summer was use it to cut down as much of it around the campsite as I possibly could.   

You also shouldn’t set up camp near carcasses, and I don’t know why anyone would, but these are natural food sources for bears and could attract them to your location. Additionally, choose a site that has good visibility so you can spot any approaching wildlife from a distance.

This is another aspect I’ve been working on all summer. I’ve cut back a lot of flora near and far so that Maycee and I have a good idea of what’s coming from all directions. We’re still working on this phase of our off-grid living site.

Leave No Trace

An important principle when camping in any environment is to Leave No Trace behind.

In Bear Country, this becomes even more crucial since attracting bears can endanger yourself and others, including “da bears.”

Make sure to dispose of all trash properly by packing it out with you and leaving nothing behind that could be an attractant for wildlife.

By practicing Leave No Trace principles, you help preserve the natural habitat and ensure the safety of humans and bears.


While being in bear country may seem intimidating at first, with proper knowledge and preparedness, you can enjoy the wilderness while reducing risks.

Prevention is key: making noise while hiking and camping, storing food properly, and being aware of your surroundings can greatly reduce the chances of a bear encounter.

By following these essential safety tips, you can coexist peacefully with bears while appreciating the beauty of their natural habitat.

Respect for wildlife and responsible camping practices will keep you safe and contribute to the preservation of these majestic creatures for future generations to enjoy.

Starting Your Off-Grid Journey 2023? Some Essential Advice

Starting your off-grid journey? It’s time for some straight talk. 

What does off-grid living mean?

Are you contemplating starting your off-grid journey? If so, we need to talk.

Off-grid living refers to a lifestyle where one lives in a self-sufficient manner and with limited connections to the public utilities grid. Instead of relying on traditional energy systems such as electricity and gas, those living off-grid tend to generate their own power using sources like solar, wind, or hydropower. They also source their own water and manage their own waste.

That’s pretty much inclusive of the purist’s definition. One that is neither easy nor inexpensive to achieve.

Trust me on this.

After 19 weeks now in the woods of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, I can attest to these important factors:

  1. Acquiring the tools needed to live off the grid is expensive, no matter how hard you try to go low budget.
  2. North of 45° latitude in the UP, the amount of solar sunlight is low; the plush forest canopies of maple, oak, and pine block much of the wind; and hydro resources freeze from late October to May. So you will need to fill in the gaps with a hardy woodstove, propane, and/or natural gas to make up for the other energy source deficiencies.
  3. Sourcing water is a challenge; even if it comes out of spring. Before you can drink it, the cool clean-looking water needs filtering and purification.
  4. Building even a simple shed is a complex operation, particularly when a roof up north must handle the weight of heavy, wet snow throughout the winter months–70 per square foot is a code requirement this far north. 
  5. Black bears, coyotes, moose, and wolves live in these woods, which means having a dog that isn’t afraid to take on any of them and barks regularly to clear the area….
  6. Outdoor gardening sounds great as long as you can grow enough before deer, chipmunks, etc. sneak in and eat what you’re growing. Add to that, IF, the weather cooperates. Otherwise, to become self-sufficient, you will need one heck of a greenhouse, AND the time to weed/water/manage what you’re growing on top of all the other things you’re doing.
  7. In the UP, if you’re rural, you will need a snow plow for your road/driveway into the woods or you’re going to get stranded; for five or six months. Don’t forget about a snowmobile for winter
  8. Cast iron stoves are expensive and weigh a ton to move. If your home/cabin/shed is too small, plan on keeping the windows open because you will be way too hot.
  9. Waste management is a high hurdle to overcome even if you’re composting human waste.
  10. Isolation is good but also can become a dreadful thing if your mental health is not optimal. 
  11. If you think you’re going to need X dollars to live off-grid, double the number; just for giggles. The cost likely will be more than that…. 

Trust me. I’m finding all of these things to be true and they do not seem to get enough emphasis to me from others promoting the benefits of off-grid living. This is not something for the weak at heart, muscle, or mind.

The benefits of off-grid living.

I don’t mean to rain on your parade if you’re starting your off-grid living adventures. And if I let all of the obstacles I mentioned deter me, I would not be writing this now from the porch of my large summer tent.

Off-grid living has numerous benefits that can save you money, bring you closer to nature, and improve your quality of life.

One of the biggest advantages is the increased levels of self-reliance. Done right, you do not remain at the mercy of utility company rate changes or power outages in your area. But as I mentioned above, here in the UP, I do not foresee anyone obtaining 100 percent self-reliance. Perhaps this is limited to the UP, but I doubt that. 

Despite what your whack environmentalist might espouse, fossil fuels are a necessity for off-grid living.

That is if you plan to use chainsaws, weed-eaters, snowblowers, your car/SUV/truck(s), emergency generators, and for keeping things oiled and lubricated.

Forget about that renewable energy bull-shoot, reducing your carbon footprint, or all that climate change foolishness.

Open the box to almost any product powered by a small engine and you will find that a mixture of more than 10 percent ethanol will ruin the engine quicker than Jack Sprat. The physics and mechanics alone require fossil fuels and for the next good while, they still will.

Yes, if you have a series of sharp and assorted axes, adzes, and one- or two-person saws; can find an old-fashioned scythe, invest in snow shovels, have a horse and buggy, etc. you can get by; but those aren’t going to be easy to find nor inexpensive.

Maybe in other parts of the nation, one can get by without the small engined tools, but part of off-grid living calls for redundancy. So proceed without them at your own peril. You’ll soon find all that malarky doesn’t matter when it’s you, your dog(s), significant other(s), kids, grands, chickens, goats, and more.      

Many who choose this lifestyle grow closer to nature and this can lead to personal growth and increased mindfulness about our place on this planet.

But unless you’re Superman or Hercules, there are times when a power tool is going to be the only way to get out of a fix. And for now, those require a blend of fossil fuels, stabilizers, and oil in order to run.

Anyone who tells you anything else, well, follow them at your own peril. 

Assess Your Current Situation

If you’re considering starting your off-grid journey, the first step is to assess your current situation. This means evaluating your current lifestyle and energy consumption to determine where you can make changes and establish your OGL goals.

Evaluate Your Current Lifestyle and Energy Consumption

Study your daily routine and energy consumption. Consider everything, from how many electronic devices you use to how often you drive your car, your SUV, or the pick-up trucks you’ll need for removing stumps, moving animals and heavy tools, to building supplies.

In my case, I figured that while living in an apartment in Dallas I was consuming close to 8,000 Watt hours of electricity per day. That included a dishwasher, iMac, printer, HVAC, stove, microwave and oven, TV(s), and more.

And aside from those three weeks in spring and three weeks in fall where the temps are just right, the rest of the time it’s either too hot to not have the AC running, or too cold to not have the heater running. Throw in the water heater, refrigerator, garage door opener, lights, ceiling fans, hair dyers, irons, gaming systems, and the like, too.

Determine Your Goals for Off-Grid Living

The next step I evaluated was why I wanted to live off the grid.

I was looking, for health reasons, to be less of a financial burden on others. A back injury in 2016 has made a permanent mess of my lower lumbar and the nerves that run down into my legs.

I’ve fallen four times now and a couple of them required surgeries—like two surgeries to repair a torn rotator cuff.

In no way am I trying to BS you into believing walking around out here in the mountainous woods is the safest place for me. But I am less of a burden to others while I am out here.

At this writing, I am in a panic because health insurance, car insurance, my storage shed bill in Dallas, car tag renewal, and inspection are all due or getting past due with each passing moment, and I have no idea how to resolve them.

But whatever your reasons for wanting to get off-grid, define them clearly so that they can guide the decisions you make throughout your process of choosing what to do.

We all have our own reasons for wanting to go off-grid if we have the desire to do so. You may want to disconnect from society while others may want to lessen their dependence on modern conveniences.

I also wanted to shut down the constant flow of negative, ever- and over-hyped “news.”

The gaslighting the news media and this administration vomit out on the public is horrendous and ruining and dividing the country until one day, a modern John Brown of Kansas will push everything over the edge.

I want to have a place ready to weather that storm and one for the family as well when the time comes. And it cannot be far off the way things seem to be headed.

My recommendation is to be realistic about what off-grid living entails.

This way of life requires a significant amount of work and dedication. Maycee, my Great Pyrenees, and I are up most days at 0530; “When the sunshine wakes up.” But we are also likely to bed before 8 pm in the evenings. And then there’s also a 2.5-hour, unavoidable nap during the day.

Sure, I’m experiencing the rewards of greater self-sufficiency, sustainability, and personal growth.

But the cost, like the cost of national freedom from tyranny, is steep.

Design Your System

If you want to start your off-grid journey, the first step is to design an energy system that fits your needs. To do this, you need to determine how much energy you use on a daily basis.

Make a list of all the appliances and devices you own and their energy requirements. This will give you an idea of where your energy consumption comes from.

When I did this, I used the online calculator hosted by Renogy.

My needs, even out here in the woods, are about 5,400 Watt hours, i.e., if I were living full-scale. For now, I’m running on far less.

I have a 3600-Rated/4650-Peak Watt Dual Fuel Gasoline/Propane Portable Generator. Depending on whether it’s running on gas or propane, it is doing a great job. 

(This is an affiliate link image. If you make a purchase I may receive a small commission from Amazon.)

When considering this option before starting your off-grid journey, check out the startup numbers for appliances, the AC/heater, power tools, etc. as they require more energy to get them going than they do when they’re running. Before buying what you need, keep these numbers in mind.

The Renogy calculator provides both numbers.   

Determine Your Energy Needs

Knowing your energy usage is essential for designing an off-grid system that can meet your needs. Once you have a list of all the things that consume electricity in your home, it’s time to estimate how many watt-hours they use per day.

Choose the Appropriate Renewable Energy Sources

The most popular renewable energy sources include solar, wind, and hydroelectric power.

Solar panels are relatively easy to install and maintain and are perfect for those who live in sunny areas.

Here in the UP, in the summer months, the average amount of daylight available is 6.2 hours according to the National Weather Service. From December to January, the number of good solar hours on average per day is somewhere around zero.

Wind turbines require more space than solar panels but are ideal for homes in windy locations.

Because I’m in the deep woods without any wide and clear spaces, the average wind speed here is X, on most days. Not really enough to make the investment worthy.

Hydroelectric power is generated by water flow, making it ideal for homes situated near streams or rivers.

It is a fallacy to believe that they’re free once installed, at least here in the UP. While these three types of generated power don’t rely on utility companies or fossil fuels, the levels they produce is not enough to keep the lights on without a fourth system, which in the North, tends to be propane.

Plan for Water Collection and Filtration

Water collection systems need to be designed based on how much water you expect to use each day. You may need a well or water pump if there isn’t enough surface water available in your area.

Rainwater harvesting is also an excellent option for off-grid living as it can provide ample amounts of water throughout the year if done correctly. When collecting rainwater, make sure to filter it before using it as drinking water or cooking with it.

Consider Waste Management Options

Waste management options include composting toilets, greywater systems, and septic tanks. Composting toilets are eco-friendly and easy to maintain. The greywater system filters wastewater so it can be reused for irrigation or flushing toilets.

Septic tanks are the traditional method of waste management, but they can be expensive to install. However, if you’re living in an area that requires them by law, then they’re worth the investment.

Designing your off-grid energy system is one of the most crucial steps in starting your new lifestyle. By choosing appropriate renewable sources and planning for water collection and waste management, you’ll ensure that your off-grid system lasts for years to come.

Build or retrofit your home

Choose a sustainable building method (straw bale, cob, earthship)

Building or retrofitting your home for off-grid living requires choosing a sustainable building method that suits your needs.

In other locations, this may include straw bale construction, cob construction, or Earthships. UP here, those will get you frozen colder than a Thanksgiving turkey fresh from the grocery store come winter.

Another popular option is to use recycled materials and natural resources to create self-sufficient homes.

I can see how this might work, maybe some crate wood for making some furniture or something, but come on. This is life and death stuff being out here in these UP winters.

Simply put, building a house with boards from old wooden crates will get you killed or if you’re lucky, a dreadful case of hypothermia.

To build something viable that will give you a chance of survival above 45° latitude, at least in the UP, you need something strong that has a roof and flooring able to sustain a snow load of at least 70 pounds per square foot.

Anything less and you’re making your own cryogenic chamber. The structure needs to either have a basement or be supported by a minimum of 6” x 6” posts buried at least 48” below the elevation and rising up another two, three, or four feet, to ensure the permafrost doesn’t move them and cause your structure to fall in on you.

The results of my 2022 awning build vs the 2022-23 UP winter

I did an experiment over the winter months with the awning I built last year over my supplies tent.

The posts were in diameters of about 4” to 5”, and the beams were 2” to 4” inches in diameter depending on where they were located.

I covered the structure with 5 ml tarps from Walmart.

Was it still standing when Maycee and I arrived again in early July 2023?

I’ll give you three guesses and two of them don’t count.

Of course, it wasn’t.

My point is if you’ve been watching videos on YouTube about someone using Bushcraft skills to build a tiny structure, look again at what they used. The logs are not tiny. They use either a sloped roof or one as steep as 12:12.

And they have a wood stove that’s probably making the inside of the structure hotter than a Texas black top in summer. If you’re building a 200-foot square shelter so as not to involve permits, etc. you’re going to have a very difficult time finding one that’s made to heat a space that small. Amazon typically sells one that’s okay for use indoors, but it’s designed to heat 900-sq-ft of space. 

I say all of this to caution you in your choices and in where you decide to locate.

This is tricky business and some YouTubers tend to make all this look pretty darned easy.

But let me assure you, if you’re in the UP and you get snowed in with limited food, firewood, thin walls, a weak roof, and no safe source of indoor heating, you’re going to be on your own alright.

For instance, I had a flat tire last Wednesday and though they tried, my insurance company could not get any tire service to come 10 miles out Marquette County Road 510 off US 41 to help loosen the lug nuts. That’s mid-summer. 

Incorporate passive solar design principles

There are passive solar design principles you can use to take advantage of the sun’s natural energy to heat and cool your off-grid structure.

This can be achieved by orienting your home toward the sun, using large windows on the south-facing side of the house, and using thermal mass materials like concrete or stone to absorb heat during the day and release it at night. By incorporating these principles into your off-grid home design, you can reduce energy consumption while staying comfortable year-round.

For the painters reading this, you’ll want to have a nice window facing north as well because north-light is always best for doing work with oils, acrylics, and watercolors. But that window will need to be double-paned, and likely one you can also have storm windows on, not to mention thick curtains, etc. for when you’re not using the space in the winter months.

If you go with a less than highly-efficient window facing north in the winter, well, you might as well just leave a hole there in the wall. Northern winds, especially the ones blowing in off Lake Superior, which is only 13 miles away, have a fetch from the Canadian side of the lake and by the time that air gets here, well, it’s cold.

Install energy-efficient appliances and fixtures

To further reduce energy consumption in your off-grid home, it’s important to install energy-efficient appliances and fixtures. Look for appliances with high Energy Star ratings to ensure that they use less electricity or gas than their less-efficient counterparts.

Consider installing low-flow shower heads and faucets to conserve water as well as LED lighting throughout your home – all these small steps add up!

It is also important to make sure any energy-guzzling devices such as air conditioning units are replaced with eco-friendly alternatives like ceiling fans or evaporative coolers that use far less electricity while still being highly effective.

Overall, building or retrofitting a sustainable off-grid home requires careful planning. Following these tips will go a long way toward providing a comfortable and self-sufficient living space.

But I will emphasize again, doing these things, while they may save you money in the long-term, are not in any way going to do so in the short term.

You know how you want to eat healthily and order the salad bar while you’re out and it winds up costing more than if you’d ordered the country-fried steak, three veggies, a ton of bread, and drinks?

That salad bar is going to cost more every time, and you may eat healthier, but then again, most people order more calories from the salad bar than they would have to go with the country-fried steak.

Buying all this energy-efficient stuff for your rural abode is going to eat more out of your wallet than you might suspect.

Another observation I have from many who remain in the process of building their off-grid home continues to have theirs in a state of viability, but not completion.

I’m sitting here looking at the shed my youngest brother built back in the early 1990s. It has Tyvec building wrap sheathing the ply underneath it in one area, Hardy boards in what was likely the original 12’ x 16’, and then another add-on that’s ply is covered on the outside with roofing felt.

Greg and Katie from “This Off-Grid Life,” in British Columbia recently finished building a small barn. But in the background sits their house, and its outside looks much like my brother’s.

A friend’s house a few miles up the road looks the same. It’s beautiful on the inside. But nothing, it appears has been done to the outside since last summer, and like Greg, building things is what the man who owns it does.

I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with this. Building takes time, and always more time than you initially planned. Remember this. Budget can also play a role here, and being as drastically short in funds as I am as I write this, I completely understand.

If I could go back in time one month, I’d likely have ordered all the materials in the specs for my own 12’ x 16’ shed build. Instead, I bought the flooring and I still need to cut and use Yakasuki on them so they’ll be sealed and won’t rot once in the ground.

Right now, it still being the first full week of August 2023, I’m faced with a dilemma. Do I go ahead on and get the flooring done when I don’t have the structure materials for the rest of it, or put the materials toward something else for now?

The rain in July wreaked havoc on my construction planning. Building the foundation and laying the flooring, without being able to close it in this summer, means the OSB tongue and grove board stands a good chance of warping over the 2023-24 winter. So then where will I be?

Mick Whipple, the son of fellow YouTubers Dave (Bushradical) and Brooke (Girl in the Woods) is a stout young man who began building his cabin about three weeks before my arrival in the UP this summer. His mom made a bet with him to get his structure of similar size built before Aug. 1, 2023.

Mick bought all his materials and had them delivered and went to work, he says even working as late as midnight in Alaska, where at this time of the year the sun never sets. Here in the UP, we have working daylight until around 10 pm.

My point is, my budget wasn’t large enough to include the cost of building materials and the living expenses from not being able to get going.

But I also spent funds on amenities we didn’t have last year and things I need to be able to do the work ahead.

For instance, inside our 13’ x 17’ Ozark Trail tent, I now have a rock-solid bed frame for the air mattress I sleep on. And to my back’s delight, I’m not sleeping on the ground. I don’t get as cold at night, I don’t get “wet” from the condensation still gathering on the floor, and I sleep better.

Starting your off-grid journey with a bedframe.

Starting your off-grid journey with a bedframe.

I also made a very sturdy workbench because I needed one for the tool work, woodworking projects I do, and for the new catalog of wooden custom crosses I will make to sell from this website and Etsy.

Once the car got stuck in mid-July, I learned that the Traverse can’t come down here by the tent on the site any longer. And so I also made a 2’ x 4’ cart with 10” wheels to pull around logs, rocks, dirt, and garbage left by my brother’s friends.

I also put sturdy legs on the desk I made last year. The ones from last year I purposely left close to the awning to see how stable they’d become this year. And, as you may have assumed, they didn’t hold up at all. This year, I made the legs out of 4” x 4” PTL posts.

So while those things were not initially in the budget, I built them regardless and have no misgivings for having done so. I am a writer at heart, so I need a place to do that. If you do not sleep well, you have no energy/less energy during the daytime, if you can’t put something in a vise and hold it still while you attempt to drill into it, you stand a darned good chance of ruining the work and cutting yourself. And if you have the back I do, carrying anything more than 10 pounds to any length is not easy.

Again, no misgivings. Those builds were critical toward any kind of a future out here.

Establish Food Production

Plan for a Garden or Greenhouse

Growing your food is an essential aspect of off-grid living. You will need to plan for a garden or greenhouse to grow fruits and vegetables all year round.

Again, north of the 45th parallel, you’re going to find this is not easy. The current Don of Off-Grid-Living on YouTube hands down seems to be Shawn James. He runs two channels. One where he talks (Shawn James) and the second where he mostly works and you watch him for an hour or two at a time (My Self-Reliance.)

Before building the 20’ x 24’ cabin he’s now living in, he put a geodesic greenhouse on his Ontario, Canada wilderness plat.

This last summer, he tore it down.

It got too much for him to manage. So his answer was to expand his outdoor garden and grow more volume instead of year-round.

It will be interesting to see how this works.

I’ve seen another guy, I forget who, and he built a UP greenhouse with commercial grade piping and clear panels and says it’s the only thing he’s found to work in this part of the United States. It didn’t collapse and even in November and December, summer crops were still readying for harvest while there was three feet of snow on the ground outside.

So, the first step in planning your garden is to choose which method to go with. Outside or in a greenhouse.

Then you need to consider the right location on your property, taking into account factors such as sunlight exposure, soil quality, and accessibility to water.

If you’re starting out with a small garden plot, make sure you take the time to prepare the soil correctly.

And don’t forget an 8-foot high fence that deer can’t leap over or chipmunks et. al. can’t crawl through and eat all you’re growing before you can harvest and can it for when you’re in the thick of winter and otherwise starving.

Any experienced gardener will tell you that soil preparation is critical for healthy plant growth. Invest time in composting, tilling your land, and adding nutrients to ensure excellent soil health.

A greenhouse can be an excellent way to extend your growing season in colder climates or areas with shorter growing seasons. Consider building one from recycled material or purchase a prefabricated model depending on budget.

That guy in the UP, I’ll do my best to include a link to his video if I can find it before posting, said to hell with all the recycled and self-made stuff. If you don’t want it to collapse, it’s going to take a strong building, heating sources, a way to keep water for the plants from freezing, and a ton of work.

Shawn James took a week off from his geodesic greenhouse at one point and the pump and tub for his water system, if I recall correctly, froze up and things went south from there.

Consider Livestock Options (Chickens, Goats)

Keeping livestock can be another way of adding food production to your off-grid property. Chickens are an excellent option for beginners because they’re easy to care for and produce eggs consistently.

They also provide meat if you decide to raise them for this purpose.

On the other hand, goats are an excellent option if you enjoy fresh milk every day since goats produce more milk than cows per pound of body weight.

They also require less space than cows making them ideal for smaller homesteads. Raising animals requires dedication and effort but can be rewarding when done correctly.

It’s essential to learn how to care properly for each animal before bringing them onto your property and ensure they have plenty of space and nutrients they need to live healthily.

By incorporating livestock into your off-grid lifestyle, it’s possible not only to produce more food but also to reduce feed bills by utilizing otherwise unusable land such as rocky hillsides or overgrown fields.

Greg and Katie (This Off-Grid Life), again, seem to have mastered this area of off-grid living. To me, they’re the authorities I’d follow/will follow when I can get to this point.

But before I can move in this direction, I need to build some fencing.

The day Maycee and I arrived in the woods, I had to clear the two-track of fallen timbers.

Right down the middle of one of the tracks were the unmistakable tracks of a wolf. A sizable one at that.

A few days later, a black bear came into our site and took $70 worth of Eukanuba dog food for Maycee. The whole plastic tub.

Getting 50 meat chickens and 50 egg chickens sounds like a good venture. I could even sell or trade away the eggs.

But between the Big Bad Wolf and Goldilocks’ bears, (My “neighbor” says a momma bear just ran off her three young ones so she could go in-heat and have some more.) I have much to do to make our campsite/compound ready for such advances.

Learn necessary skills

Living off the grid requires a certain level of self-sufficiency. To make the most of your off-grid lifestyle, it’s essential to learn some basic construction and repair skills. These will come in handy when building or retrofitting your home or maintaining your equipment.

I have invested hundreds of hours in watching YouTubers from around the world use Bushcraft skills, log cabins, modular cabins, timber frames, and modern construction techniques to build shelters and facilities on their properties.

I have restocked many of the tools I once had that were stolen/sold after divorcing more than a decade ago.

Rex Kruger on YouTube, has taught me how to make a good many tools, and also taught me ways to find vintage hand tools that can be used without electricity on the cheaper side of things. So I now have chisels and a 1-1/2” slick for timber framing, all kinds of older Stanley planes, a wooden 20” plane, an assortment of axes and hatchets, brace and bits, augers, and more. I also paid a penance to buy his plans for a shave horse and two workbenches.

My son-in-law gave me a couple of his DeWalt tools and batteries during visits to Florida over the winter and those have been godsends.

A Walmart weed eater has done wonders to help “strim” or weed wack the brush and tree saplings along the ground on the compound.

This last weekend, I also used the weed eater to attack the thick thistle berry/ raspberry plants that line the property and the road on the way out to CR 510. People are out on 510 picking the berries every day as a bottle of the jam goes for as much as $12  or more, I’m told.

But they are a threat to me and Maycee for a couple of reasons. 1) they grow four or five feet tall in places, which makes them a good place for wild animals to lie in wait, and 2) black bears love ‘em.

So you can imagine how I feel about there almost being an outer ring of these plants ground around our expanding campsite.

They also have grown over the last 11-plus years to make the width of our easement road ever thinner.

I was fortunate to have one lumber house deliver that initial flooring wood out here to the woods. If the road isn’t wider the next time I place an order, I fear they may say, “Eh, that was a little too tight out there the last time we delivered and we’re not going to come back if the road is in the same shape.”

So, I have begun working on the end of the road closest to our campsite and will progress outward. Having the road wider will reduce the number of scratches I get on the Traverse while coming and going from here. So that’s good.

What I don’t like about having the road cleaned up and wider is that it will increase the number of those who like to go out two-tracking coming out here. Not all those who are riding around out in the woods on two tracks are up to good deeds. I’ll leave it at that.

Develop skills in basic construction and repair

Learning how to build and repair things is crucial for off-gridders. Unless you have lots of money to spend on professional services, you’ll need to do much of the work yourself.

You can build everything from fences and chicken coops to homes and barns with basic construction skills.

Keep in mind that natural building materials such as straw bale, cob, and rammed earth require different techniques than traditional building methods. And in the case of life out here in the woods of the UP, are pretty much useless.

While I have been learning much about modern construction techniques, I’ve also been learning about timber framing and intend to do a considerable amount of that going forward.

I’ve also studied Bushcraft skills and am employing some of them out here as I move forward.

Venture into gardening or farming practices

Off-grid living often goes hand-in-hand with growing food on your own land. Gardening is an easy way to start producing food for your family sustainably without spending money at the grocery store. It’s also an excellent way to keep busy in nature while connecting with the land around you.

Start small with a few raised garden beds and gradually expand your operation as you gain more experience. If you have more space, consider raising animals such as chickens, goats, or sheep.

Animals can provide food and also help keep your land healthy by fertilizing it with their manure. However, raising animals requires additional knowledge and skills to ensure that they remain healthy and happy in their environment.

Learning new skills can be daunting at first, but with the right attitude and commitment, anyone can learn how to live off-grid sustainably. With these foundational skills under your belt, you’ll be well on your way to achieving true self-sufficiency.

Connect with like-minded individuals

Join online forums or local groups to connect with others living off-grid.

One of the best ways to learn about off-grid living is by connecting with others already living this way.

Online forums and local groups are great resources that can provide invaluable advice and support.

There are online groups like, but I’ve found the most effective tool to get questions answered in a timely manner is to write a short email to any one of the people whom I’ve mentioned above from their YouTube channels. The questions and comments can probably answer a question before you need to email and ask. 

And keep in mind, the YouTubers who are advanced in off-grid living or cabin building or whatever are most likely busy doing just that. They will not have time to read a novel-length email. Make your questions direct and to the point.

Over the weekend, I asked Dave Whipple about the reasons Mick, when clearing his trails, was cutting timbers so close to the ground, making it difficult to use a block and pulley system to remove them. I’ve mostly seen stumps left about three- to four feet high, giving a person plenty of meat to wrap in a chain or pull strap attached to ropes and pulleys and a pickup truck or come along. I asked Dave which made more sense to do.

His answer: “I would look at it like this…. If you plan to pull the stump leave a stump, but if you intend to not pull it, cut it as flush as you can without ruining your tools. Good luck.  DW”

I guess I was overthinking it, but I still wasn’t sure if the flush-cut stump was one that can be pulled out, so I’m glad I asked. I’m also thankful Dave answered.

Additionally, be respectful of other’s opinions even if they don’t align with yours. In local groups, it’s important to attend meetings regularly to establish relationships with other members.

Learn from their experiences.

Off-grid living requires a unique set of skills and knowledge that isn’t always easy to acquire on your own.

By connecting with and studying the work and writings of experienced off-gridders, you can learn from their successes and failures.

This is part of the reason this post is so long. Because it has real, fresh red meat in it, not something generated by AI.

It’s helpful to ask specific questions when seeking advice from others.

Keep in mind that every situation is unique–what works for you may not work for someone else–so it’s important to keep an open mind and be willing to try new things.

In addition to learning practical skills from experienced off-gridders, connecting with like-minded individuals can provide emotional support as well. Off-grid living can be challenging at times, so having a support network can help you through difficult times and celebrate successes along the way.


Starting an off-grid lifestyle is a daunting task. You do not just show up in the woods and viola, you’re up and running. This takes the right mindset, a budget, learning new skills, and considerable planning before jumping into the deep end of the pool.

I promise every new day in the woods feels rewarding and fulfilling. If you can get away from the noise of cities, the drama of suburbia, and small-town thinking, you will find yourself asking why you didn’t do this long ago. 

For me, this is a way to take care of myself without needing as much financial support as I’ve needed for the last eight years. Am I outta the woods in this regard yet? Not even close.

But I’m thankful for the new life God is giving me and Maycee. I’m learning, I’m more physically active (though limited), and while the weather is 105° with a higher heat index in Dallas or the South, the high today is supposedly 75°.

The night temperature was in the 50s, so I didn’t need to run the AC all night long to make it comfy enough to get a good night’s rest.

I do not regret the decision to go off-grid. But I do wish the up-front costs, like going on a diet, were not nearly as steep.

Then there is inflation, the constant barrage of bad news on the TV, and the negativity and ridiculousness of the woke that you find on the Internet and in corporate work environments. All that takes a toll on one’s spirit, mind, and outlook, and to me, it eats away and my soul like cancer.

How will we manage this coming winter? I have no idea right now. Staying here doesn’t seem like much of a possibility given the current status of multiple factors, many of them mentioned above.

In no way am I being negative about off-grid living. What I’m providing here is straight from my own experiences of 17 weeks now of trying to reach a point of greater self-sufficiency. Before Maycee and I arrived out here on July 7, 2022, I had no idea there was so much to know about what I didn’t know. With each new day here, I find out there still remain years of ideas, concepts, and techniques that I’ve not even begun to discover I do not know about.

That keeps this fun and interesting as I like to be learning something new every day.

But I’d be lying to you if I said there aren’t days like yesterday, where I woke up tired, kept falling back to sleep and taking naps, and was still so tired. On days like those, when you amble up the hill to your Traverse to put something in the cooler or pull out something you forgot on the last trip, you will find yourself asking yourself, “Is this any fun?”

And you will answer your own question in the same breath.

Check out my post about mastering off-grid living.

Off-grid Living Chores for Exciting Week 3 in the Beautiful UP

The off-grid living chores are piling up, here’s which one’s I’m prioritizing

EDITOR’s NOTE: Yesterday, I posted a video about being stuck in the mud on the property drive. However, in the editing process, the render bar only extended 8 minutes of the whole video. The full-length, which shows how I finally got the car out, is posted below.

Maycee and I are set up, but there is still much to be done and redone.

Like the video below, which only posted 8 minutes worth of Thursday.

Mud Wrestling in Michigan's Upper Peninsula | Week 2 | The Timberlander

The chore list for off-grid living in the UP Week 3

Apologies for leaving y’all hanging yesterday over the eight minutes depicting the trouble I was in yesterday when the 2009 Chvy Traverse got stuck on the hill exiting our property. I’ve included the remedied video below.
A friend asked why we’re dealing with this hill when it’s clearly not a high spot on the land.
Last week, my “neighbor” and I talked about places to put the tents after a number of visits by my local bear friend.
The current campsite isn’t ideal for multiple reasons, but as opposed to the 13 weeks of 2022, it’s actually on our property!
I have a spot on higher ground selected, but I desperately needed to get us into the big tent and out of the teepee before the rains of the last week began. So, I worked to get the best before the rains began and continued and continued and continued.

A break in the rains? Depends on the source.

My iPhone Weather app says there’s no rain expected in the 10-day forecast.
But the NWS on what was KI Sawyer AFB, where I lived multiple times as a kid, says there’s a 50 percent chance of showers Saturday afternoon.
So as for moving the campsie to higher ground and closer to where I’m building the new shed/cabin, I’m not sure that’s all doable between now and tomorrow PM.
Off-grid living chores include cleaning up the mud.

Off-grid living chores include cleaning up the mud.

Highly saturated soil of the Huron Mountains in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

Regardless of where I move the tent, after 16 weeks now out in these woods, I realize that the ground remains saturated pretty much until September.
Even then, there will still be moisture issues on the floor of the tent(s) because it seeps up from the ground and doesn’t ever seem to dry out completely.
This seems to be the one off-grid living chore I can do little to rectify.

Most important off-grid living chore I need to complete is: Get my new shed built.

What I need to make happen more than anything, is to get the darned shed built.
Then we will no longer be plagued by the saturation of the ground, we’ll have more excellent safety from the bear(s) and can do something more with my coolers to keep food in them and not be worried about the bear(s) coming and feasting on the food or us!

The Week 3 punch list of off-grid living chores

Basically, I need about six more of me working simultaneously to fix what are present liabilities.
Those include:
  • Building the shed
  • Widening the clearing we’re in to see what’s coming before it sees/smells us
  • Making an oak post for my Peavy/Kant to be able to roll logs
  • Making a cart and bench since the car can’t go down into the site for now
  • Getting my 4500 W dual-fuel generator broken in and stored where it can be functional, vent as needed, and stay dry for when the NWS screws up the forecast
  • Getting some timber-framed fencing up to serve at least as a hurdle to straight access to our sleeping area(s) and food storage
  • Taking the strimmer, chainsaws, rakes, tree clippers, etc, and working the nine-tenths-of-a-mile overgrown two-track that leads to our property line so bigger trucks/tractors can get in for deliveries and situations like yesterday.

My “neighbor” has all but said he doesn’t want to come back into our spot in the woods until the road is wider. This is even with his four-wheeler, which as you will see from the new video, saved the day yesterday. Thanks, George, I’m deeply appreciative of your assistance.

Stay tuned. There’s lots more to come!

Yesterday’s link to getting stuck in the mud!

Getting Bad Stuck in the UP Mud July 2023

Great life lessons come from getting stuck in the UP mud.

Today’s video is all about the unpredictable challenges of off-grid living.

Imagine this: you’re living in the beautiful Upper Peninsula of Michigan in the year 2023, embracing self-sustaining practices and enjoying the freedom of being off the grid.

But when you load your Great Pyrenees into the car and try to drive off, to go about your daily routine, disaster strikes.

You find yourself stuck in thick, grimy deep woods UP mud.

Muddy Trials: 3.5 Hours of Off-Grid Struggles in Michigan's Upper Peninsula

Trying to get unstuck

When you practice off-grid living, you’re always trying to get unstuck.

Old habits, issues, emotions, and all the stuff that bugged you in the heart of civilization eventually follows you into the woods.

But today’s situation is unique.

The stuckness is literal.

The “towel method” didn’t work.

Getting stuck in the UP mud and nothing you try gets you unstuck.

Getting stuck in the UP mud and nothing you try gets you unstuck.

The car’s wheels spin hopelessly as the clock ticks away.

Three and a half hours pass and frustration sets in.

The novel writer in me keeps saying, “You’ve crossed the threshold in your story. This is the ‘tests, allies, and enemies’ part.

The hero of my story, me, is faced with the bigger question. Keep going?

You have no choice–keep going.

You try everything, from rocking the vehicle back and forth to using towels wrapped around the front tires, but nothing works.

The mud holds your 2009 Chevy Traverse captive, refusing to let go.

As you pace around, trying to come up with a solution, you realize this is a real-life test of your off-grid capabilities.

Off-grid living’s challenges are not limited to generating your own power or growing your own food; it’s about the resilience to handle unexpected challenges.

You grab a flat shovel because the rounded one is still up on “the ridge.”

You begin digging, paying attention to not puncturing a tire.

The mud splatters, covering your clothes, shoes, and face, but you keep going, fueled by the determination to conquer this muddy obstacle.

You come to realize you’re not going to succeed on your own.

So a mile down the road lives a neighbor, George, who answers the phone.

Only with the help of his four-wheeler, winch, chains, and patience does the car make it up the hill, out of the morass.

You manage to free your vehicle from the clutches of the mud. Driving out of the woods offers a sense of satisfaction, but bathes you in concern.

You now know there are new limitations to what you’re trying to accomplish and Mother Nature isn’t in tune with your plan.

After a good hour to hour and a half of George’s assistance, you realize that self-sufficiency is a lofty goal.

Self-Sufficiency still requires reliance on others.

Others on YouTube talk about significant levels of self-sufficiency.

But the clear evidence is that this is not 100 percent attainable.

In the end, we all need help from others in one way or another.

Life off the grid is not always easy, but it’s these muddy trials that truly test your mettle.

They remind you of the importance of adaptability, resourcefulness, and never giving up.

But they also teach us that good neighbors help us get over the fence hurdles of life.

Thanks, George. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Off-Grid Living 2023: The Timberlander’s Super Cool Project List

Discover the building projects fueling my off-grid living 2023 adventures.

Last Wednesday, my Great Pyrenees, Maycee, and I arrived in the woods of the Upper Peninsula of Mihcigan to begin our off-grid living 2023 adventures. In that time, I have decided on the perfect spot for the 16-foot by 12-foot “shed” to build for immediate shelter and to get us out of our tents.

After a winter of planning and gathering vintage hand tools and a few power tools, too, it’s time to get to work.

This is meant to be a going off grid for beginners starter guide, if you will.

To keep things simple and efficient, I’ve had lumber for the flooring delivered. Sunday I started clearing a new work site.

I can’t stress how much I crave a familiar, safe, and secure environment for us this year. This is a journey of self-sufficiency and personal growth. But we’ve also encountered a new villain for our Season 2 storyline: a young black bear. One that made two visits in and around the site Tuesday.

So, let me share with you many of the projects I have on the list to complete. These include projects that require completion before I can do the bigger tasks. After completing these projects, I’l be able to experiment with alternative power solutions, rainwater capture, and waste management. But none of that happens if these things don’t get done in the right order and as soon as humanly possible.

No stress, right?!

By reading my posts, watching for updates on TikTok, and long-form videos on YouTube, you can be part of this adventure and help shape the direction and success. Let’s make this off-grid living dream a reality together. Let’s embark on this exciting journey into the world of off-grid living in 2023.

Upcoming off-grid living and timber framing projects

My adopted mantra is “simple life, simpler living.”

In order to achieve simpler living, I’m opting for a series of projects to help make the work ahead easier to accomplish.

Finishing site clearing and putting up the tents

I left the UP in October, 2022 unable to pack everything I wanted to take with me for the winter. Some things were left behind in a lean-to.

Heavy, wet snow fell in the Marquette area in May. This brought down a number of trees leading out to the land, but it also collapsed my little structure. No big surprise, but in itself, an experiment. Stronger beams with much greater diameters might have had a better chance.

I won’t make that mistake again.

The snow load for structures in the UP is 70 psf. Most places in America have a much lower load demand requirement.

Cleaning up the mess took a few days, but it’s cleared now.

Where I will set up both tents Wednesday, July 12, 2023.

Where I will set up both tents Wednesday, July 12, 2023.

We have a 10-person tent Maycee and I occupied last summer. I can’t find a level patch of ground to put it up. So I have stuff under a tarp outside and stuff in the car. I’m doing what I can to keep it organized, but not having things where they belong is driving me buggy.

In the meantime, we’re staying in a tee-pee tent.

The temporary off-grid living 2023 tee-pee made by Ozark Trail.

The temporary off-grid living 2023 tee-pee made by Ozark Trail.

Putting up the big tent and us moving in will be of great relief to me. But we’re a ways from that happening, even after another long day of work.

Monday evening brought torrential downpours, thunderstorms, and hail to Marquette.

Sleeping in the tee-pee that night was a little damp.

Did I mention the problem I’m having with a young black bear. 

Monday I decided to put the big tent in a particular spot. With that, I also made plans to move the tee-pee.

I had a good spot picked out Tuesday afternoon.

After hours of clearing two prime sites, I then saw our little black bear friend no more than 40 yards away. I roared at him, trying to “be the bigger bear.” The ursid stopped and looked at me. I roared once more.

It blinked as if it were saying, “That’s all you’ve got?”

So I fired a shot over its head.

The first time, that got it to move. About 15 yards. Then it looked at me once again.

I roared once more.


The bear just sat there looking at me looking at it.

This time I called for Maycee as she did a great job of scaring off the bear(s) we encountered last year.

Calling Maycee made the bear take off; this time running 30-40 yards half-way up the ridge where I really want to put a “shed.”

I called Maycee once more.


The bear stood at the side of the steep incline for a few more seconds and I fired in its direction again.

This made it climb higher up the ridge. No simple feet, let me tell you.

Out of site, I set my focus on my Great Pyrenees. My champion defender.

About five minutes later I found that she’d taken off down the road toward the way out of the woods.

When she heard me honking the horn and starting up the car, she finally came back to me.

All this is necessary to tell because I’d decided to put the new 16′ x 12′ shed/cabin not far from where I saw the bear at first.

But I’d also been planning to put the two tents out there, too.

Getting our supplies inside the tents

Assuming Maycee and I do not get eaten by the bear(s), our supplies need to go into our two tents.

The many supplies that need to go into our tents.

The many supplies that need to go into our tents.

And then I can also empty the car of stuff I’m hauling around because I don’t have the current tent space.

Making other amenities–A beginners starter guide 2023

These are tools I need to build, will post to YouTube and TikTok as I go.

Saw horses

The first necessity before moving forward is saw horses. I need at least two and at this writing, I’m not sure if they’re going to be made from lumber or logs. Most likely, there will be sets from both forms of construction.

But I need them to make other projects and to work on logs for subsequent structures and projects on the land this summer.


My simple workbench developed by Rex Krueger, had to stay in Montgomery. There was not any more space in the car when we rolled north.

I need to build a couple of these. One for outside projects on the new quick and dirty site.

I’ll need another for woodworking I do for timber framing, making wooden custom crosses to sell, and a host of other reasons.

This likely is going to be another situation where I have one or two built with lumber and then others that are hand-hewn logs, etc. I am looking forward to using my left- and right-handed bearded hewing axes.

A roller board

To make this I will take a 4″ x 4″ x 2.5-foot beam and put a hole through it so I can attach wheels to opposite ends. From there, I’ll add a 2 x 6″ piece of wood to each side. When I need to move things like osb 4′ x 8′ flooring, I’ll plop them up on the gizmo, and off we’ll go.

This will alleviate the burden on my already bad back, while also ensuring the tongue and grove don’t get dragged through mud or dirt.

A compost toilet

Yeah, a crappy subject.

But try going potty outside with the mosquitoes, flies, and ticks.

I’ve got the toilet seat, buckets, bags, wood chips, and urine separator already. This project also includes plywood siding, more 4 x 4s, and hinges for the lid.

A full-sized bed

The other night at Walmart I bought a blow-up full-sized air mattress.

Last year I slept on the ground in my sleeping bag.

My back, this year, says, “No mas!”

So with some 2 x 4 x 6″s I will build the supports and use more 4 x 4s to make the four posts.

Add in some timber frame-like mortises and tenons and the bed will be as good or better than your favorite bedding place.

And I’ll be sleeping in the woods in it!

Picnic table and desk restoration

The next project is to make a picnic table out of 4″ x 6″ x 8′ boards for the top and seats. I’ll likely use 2 x 4s for the legs and braces.

My desktop made it through the winter under a tarp.

The legs, nailed underneath didn’t fare so well. So I’ll be using some 2 x 4s to shore those up and lock them in place, too, with some cross braces.

Other tools I need to make to do more projects.

For now, I’m just going to list the next “projects” in a list. I’m getting tired and the rain is subsiding for the meantime.

  • A 16-foot ladder
  • A pole for Peavy/Kant
  • Fencing
  • Raised beds
  • Compost bins
  • Flats to keep things off the ground in the stuff off the ground in the storage tent
  • Further clearing of the area

Off course, all these things also include the construction of the initial shed.

Here’s the best part, to me, at least.

I’m not going to be done with any of these things any time soon.

Well, I will be ticking them off the checklist to move on to the next project, but what I mean is that there’s a constant string of projects to keep my mind occupied and to provide video and tutorials about as I go forward.

In my post for Monday, I included information about how for now, I am posting as The Timberlander on TikTok.

I have a new mailing address:
Donald J. Claxton c/o The UPS Store
3224 US Highway 41 N
Box 208
Marquette, MI 49855
Now that you know even more about the projects to come, if you want to help support my efforts, I’m humbled.
Your generosity is so special. In fact, one reader sent $100 via Venmo Tuesday night, and for that, I’m sincerely grateful.
Small miracles of support like that encourage me and also help me keep going.
I graciously receive support via as DonaldJClaxton and Venmo using the same.
What gets lost in the journey to get off the grid is that doing so is not inexpensive.

Sponsor a project or contribute to the effort.

If I’m doing all of this off-grid establishment work, I want to share it with you. Sponsorships and contributions help make that easier to do.
If you have a product or project you want me to test that involves off-grid living and want to ship it or become a sponsor of the building video and posts, please use the address above.
You can also use social media to send DMs.
I really want to do some experiments with solar, wind, and hydropower this summer in the UP.
Not to mention rain-water harvesting, purification, and consumption.
Gardening, building a greenhouse, and so much more.
Here’s a link to the detailed account of my off-grid living efforts so far this summer.
Here’s the link to the story about us leaving for the UP.