A Detailed Account of Off-Grid Living in the UP

We made it to the UP

Mastering Off-Grid-living with Donald J. Claxton | The Timberlander.

Mastering Off-Grid-living with Donald J. Claxton | The Timberlander.

After months of planning and anticipation, we finally made it to the UP, ready to embark on 2023’s off-grid living adventure.
The trip up north from Montgomery, Alabama to the UP took two days, and Maycee and I were pooped when we arrived here in Marquette. 
But the air here is divine compared to what others are suffering down South. I never have liked the summers in the South or Texas.

Getting out to the land in the UP

Numerous trees fell this winter because of heavy, wet snow that fell in May.
Getting out to the property was a chore and required my 16-inch Black Max cheapy chainsaw from Walmart that I bought last year. I used that on a good 5-10 trees.
About a quarter of a mile from last year’s camping spot, we came to a large tree across the road that required my Husquavarna 460 Rancher and some help from my neighbor to the south.
After five days in the woods, I still do not have the big tent up.
I bought a new “tee-pee” tent made by Ozark Trail and it’s been accommodating. It is not, however, anything I want to sleep in throughout the summer.
As soon as I get the 10-person tent up, I’ll use the tee-pee tent as a storage unit I’m able to build a 16′ x 12-foot shelter.

Essential Tools for Off-grid Living in the UP

Over the winter months, I gathered a good many tools needed to build several structures on the site.
But I still needed a few others to purchase or have delivered upon our arrival. I have those now and as of Friday, had enough wood delivered to build the foundation of the cabin.
I still need to decide where I’m going to build the thing.
But we now have a 4,500-watt power dual-fuel generator and that’s going to work out nicely.

I am enjoying the quiet of the woods

The UP offers endless possibilities for adventure and personal growth.
There’s no doubt I’m losing many of those pounds I put back on from overwintering and eating ice cream!

Campsite setup continues.

I’m using a weedeater to clear much of the overgrown forest around last year’s site.
This morning, Maycee was excited to have such a large yard to play in.
More clearing today.
Then I must find the right spot for the large tent, get it up, and get the tee-pee moved so we’ve got a better-located situation.

A wolf and a bear

So far Maycee and I have had encounters with wolf tracks and a medium-sized black bear.
The bear took off with Maycee’s crate of food on Saturday.
Saturday afternoon I bought my first can of bear spray.
Maycee is enjoying our return to the UP.

Maycee is enjoying our return to the UP.

Up against the rain tonight

Last night we had a few showers. Tonight it’s supposed to storm here in the UP.
We are not ready for that to happen.
Instead of sitting here pushing a video to YouTube and writing this post, we need to be out in the woods.


So far, 2023’s off-grid living adventure in the UP is proving challenging and rewarding.
From setting up our humble tee-pee tent to acquiring the necessary tools and supplies, I’m learning more about the value of self-sufficiency and resourcefulness.
There’s more content to come.
I’m still underwater, if you will, in getting established on the campsite.

Stay tuned for more. 

Once I get a dozen more things accomplished, I’ll be able to produce more content.
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
If you want to help support my efforts, I’m humbled.
The generosity of readers and viewers is so special.
I graciously receive support via PayPal.me as DonaldJClaxton and Venmo using the same.
If you have a product you want me to test that involves off-grid living and want to ship it, please use the address above.
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 story about us leaving for the UP.

Trip to the UP in 2023

The UP Trip 2023

The Challenges

The car is loaded and Maycee is ready to join me on the UP trip 2023. 

One of the biggest challenges of off-grid living is being self-sufficient.

Despite last year’s tent camping adventure of 13 weeks and four days from July 8 to October 4, 2022, I’m still not anywhere near where I want to be regarding self-sufficiency.

Learning what you don’t know about what you don’t know.

I often tell those who ask that last year’s effort was about learning what I didn’t know about what I didn’t know about off-grid living, woodworking, and the other critical aspects of self-sufficiency.

To succeed at off-grid living one must provide for his/her own food, water, and energy. This can be difficult in a remote area like the UP. But the remoteness is also something I find comforting.

The lack of modern conveniences does not bother me.

On a daily basis, while long-term tent camping on family land in the UP, I found ways to provide myself with water, electricity, or tools I needed.

Since coming out of the woods in October, I’ve been on a steady diet of studying tried and true methods.

The Traverse is F.U.L.L.

Maycee, ready to go to the UP.

Maycee, ready to go to the UP.

When Maycee and I roll out of Montgomery, Alabama today and begin our return trip to the UP, we go with a Chevy Traverse that simply cannot hold another ounce of anything.

I’m bringing dozens of notebooks, sketchbooks, mental notes from hundreds of hours of watching YouTube videos, and the best books on timber framing. Things I had no idea I had no idea about when we drove 26 hours from Dallas to the UP beginning on the morning of July 7, 2022.

Making the switch to off-grid living can be an adjustment for those used to living in a more connected world.

But that’s where the rewards kick in. Headed to the UP of Michigan in a packed car!

Headed to the UP of Michigan in a packed car!

Headed to the UP of Michigan in a packed car!

Headed to the UP of Michigan in a packed car!

Headed to the UP of Michigan in a packed car!

Headed to the UP of Michigan in a packed car!

Headed to the UP of Michigan in a packed car!

The Rewards

There is no master list enumerating all of the rewards associated with off-grid living.

One of the biggest is the sense of freedom and connection to nature that comes from living off the land.

There is always something unpredictable to do. Always.

In the woods, you’re not tied to an office job or a redundant schedule.

Every day begins with a planned agenda that lasts as long as it takes to bump into the unexpected.

I have yet to enjoy days on end sucking in the peace and quiet of the wilderness.

But the reward comes from the feeling of accomplishment. One where you provide for yourself.

When you grow your own food, collect your own water, and get closer to generating your own power, you know that you’re living a sustainable lifestyle.

The People

The people who live off-grid in the UP are a diverse group. Some are retirees who are looking for a simpler way of life. Others are young families who are seeking a more independent existence. And still others are entrepreneurs who are looking to create a new kind of business model.

No matter what their background, the people who live off-grid in the UP share a common passion for living simply and sustainably. They are resourceful, resilient, and creative. They are also fiercely independent and proud of their way of life.

The Future of Off-Grid Living

Off-grid living is becoming increasingly popular, as more and more people are looking for a simpler, more sustainable way of life. The UP is well-positioned to be a leader in this movement, with its abundant natural resources and its community of experienced off-gridders.

As the world becomes more interconnected and technology-dependent, there is a growing desire for people to reconnect with nature and simplify their lives. Off-grid living offers a way to do this, and the UP is the perfect place to start.

The Future of Off-Grid Living in the UP

The future of off-grid living in the UP is bright.

I can’t wait to get there.

About to post this now and hit the road.

Keep in touch.

Follow new videos I’ll be posting to my Timberlander TikTok account and on YouTube.


Back to the UP for the Best in Off-Grid Living in 2023

We are late in heading back to the UP.

An update on the operations, developments, and plans for 2023.

A month longer than planned, Maycee and I long for the 2023 return to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. 

In 2023, we tent camped for 13 weeks and 4 days on my dad’s 40 acres of rural forest land near Marquette, the largest city in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Twenty-four thousand people live in Marquette.

Upon making our return, we will resume our off-grid living adventures. Our time there is anything but a typical Upper Peninsula Michigan vacation.

We don’t spend a great amount of time visiting Upper Peninsula attractions. Of course, other than the ones in the Marquette area.

No matter though. If you check out my YouTube channel you’ll see we have plenty of adventure on our own.

The longer we are away the higher the level of “overwhelm” I feel increases.

Many things delay the road trip to the UP at present.

These include:

  • Finishing the overhaul of donaldjclaxton.com
  • Editing several YouTube videos from last year’s video cache
  • Finishing repair or making of timber frame tools we’ll need when we get there. 
  • Developing some plans to use for timber frame projects to do this year. 
  • Figuring out better ways to supply power and water to our new site in the woods.
  • Getting packed and on the road.

Ugh! But what about more words on the page?! 

These activities also include generating a massive amount of content before we go to the UP.

I need four more iterations of myself to tie up presentations, tools, and more.

Let me rephrase that. I need four or five others who know much more than me, to work things into shape!

Donald J. Claxton emoji with me at one of my Macs, writing feverishly, and then someone calls....

Donald J. Claxton emoji with me at one of my Macs, overhauling donaldjclaxton.com and creating feverishly; until there’s a distraction! Then the offender gets a special look as I continue to prepare for a return trip to the UP.

Overhauling donaldjclaxton.com by using Divi and WordPress tools.

I’ve been working on overhauling donaldjclaxton.com for months.

Months, I tell you! 

My family and friends as me what I’m doing today: the answer is always the same of late.

I’m working on the website. 

Learning new ways to use the Divi Builder.

In the last month and a half, I’ve learned that many things I was attempting to do with the site were wasting my time.

Many aspects of the Divi Theme Builder, made by Elegant Themes, improved over the last year.

Many of them while Maycee and I were out in the woods. (Disclosure: This link to Elegant Themes website is an affiliate link. If you buy Divi, I may receive compensation from the company at no expense to you.)

This, while the ironic point is, has not been, “easy.”

As with off-grid life, completing one thing requires finishing 20 or 30 more before the intended task.

YouTubers who focus on Divi.

But I have learned much from each of the following YouTubers. Thank you to all, you’ve been so very helpful.

Particularly Mak, and Natalia.

Each YouTube channel will help you get your head around advancements to the Divi Builder.

Speaking of YouTube…

Here’s how to watch last year’s videos from the UP.

Last summer brought an increase in subscribers to my YouTube Channel @DonaldjClaxton.

While overwintering in the South, I thought there’d be much more time to get to the catalog of raw clips needing editing and posting.

Unfortunately, between learning all I can about as much as I could, I’ve not gotten to them yet! But they’re coming.

This summer, I’ll also be adding drone footage from above the trees. (Get an FCC Remote Pilot License aka Part 107 Certificate, and practice flying the thing!)

Timber frame vintage hand tools repair, sharpening, and making

Before going to the woods for the first time in years last summer, I spent an insane number of hours watching Canadian YouTuber Shawn James on his personal channel and on “My Self-Reliance.”

This also included binge-watching Trustin Timber and his Canadian modular log cabin build.

Building a Cabin From Our Own Trees // Spring 2023

To his credit, I’ve emailed Trustin twice and he’s responded in about five minutes each time. I appreciate him making himself available like this. I really, really do.

My 2023 timber frame plans

Over the last six months, viewership of other channels has taught me so much about building timber frame shelters and small projects.

This also has led to finding vintage hand tools via eBay and at any flea market I pass.

I’ve saved tons on buying from these sources.

Tons, I tell ya!

Mr. Chickadee, the best YouTube to watch to learn about timber framing.

Hands down, the best, rugged force in building timber frame anything(s), is Mr. Chickadee. He is an ex-US Marine who moved from California with his wife to a small farm in Kentucky.

This ex-Marine has read every how-to book there must be on the art and skill of timber framing.

Sure, there are commercial enterprises out there offering incredible services, but just as Shawn James and Trustin Timber et al. are you there specializing in building log cabins, Mr. Chickadee rules the roost as far as I’m concerned. Millions of others seem to agree, too.

Mr. Chickadee includes techniques he’s learned and studied by the Japanese, Chinese, and Koreans.

Know how to do a “kerf to the pith” to keep timbers from cracking or checking as the green wood dries out?

He is the only one I’ve found in hours and hours of searching who even knows, and teaches, how to construct one, and he doesn’t even include it on his own channel!

This is not an exaggeration. And it’s the solution to a lot of problems.

What is a kerf to the pith?

Mr. Chickadee claims it is a practice from Southwest Asia. One that’s quite old.

You may not also know that there are structures in Japan, China, and Korea that have stood the test of time.

Estimates say they are 1,300 years old and likely will survive at least another 800 years.

In a nutshell, a “kerf to the pith” is a 3/4’s-inch cut in the southern face of a timber beam or post, that creates a channel for moisture to escape and not cause structural integrity or cosmetic appearances of the wood.

On a tour of the property he teaches on, Mr. Chickadee points this out, almost as an “Oh, by the way.”

But this is a BIG deal for anyone whose cut wet timber and tried to do something with it.

In fact, many local ordinances across the United States prohibit the use of wood that has a large moisture content.


Because as wet wood, aka, greenwood, ages, the fibers shrink and also may twist.

This cut to the pith of the wood provides a place for the sap and water in a timber post or beam to evaporate out of the wood near the same rate as the wood on the outside.

A kerf to the pitch reduces the chance of cracks and checking happening in large timber posts and beams.

My vintage hand tools collection.

I’ve tapped into a gold mine of treasures in regard to collecting, restoring, and using vintage hand tools.

This includes:

  • Chisels
  • Hatchets
  • Peavey or Kant head–just need to cut a piece of oak when I get to the UP and fashion it to fit
  • Planes
  • Saws

All of them are well over 60 years old and in all probability, closing in or exceeding 100 years.

You see, in the woods, there aren’t all that many trees one can plug into and receive power from. And, to boot, as far off the beaten path our camp sits, there are no power lines either.

So in large part, what I use out there is hand tools. And we all know today’s made-in-China tools aren’t built to last 10 minutes.

Steel and iron may be a lot heavier, but the tools I have weathered time well.

Creating plans for the planned projects for this year.

The summer of 2022 in the UP became a lesson and reminder of what I didn’t know about what I didn’t know.

Maybe you have discovered times in your life when you’ve faced this, too.

We drove into the woods last summer with limited tools and resources. We made good and survived for 13 weeks and four days.

In 2023, I expect to find write the next chapters of  “More About What You Don’t Know About What You Don’t Know.”

2023 Plans 

Last year I found the top of a steep grade where it’d be nice to camp and enjoy the summers.

My plans this year include doing more to establish this site.

These include:

  • Sheds that measure 12′ x 16′ because they do not require permits to add out there in the woods.
  • An outdoor kitchen
  • A shower house
  • Rainwater capture system
  • Expanded solar and electric capabilities
  • Some semblance of a garden
  • Perimeter fencing to keep Maycee in and bears, deer, rodents, and uninvited humans out.

We did without these things last year.

As John Lennon once sang as a member of The Beatles, “Not a second time….”

What to do about off-grid power, water, and waste management.

As I mentioned above, the elephant in the woods comes in the shape of these three elements.

UP power sources in the woods.

Last year we began with absolutely no solar last year.


By the end of the summer, we were using a 300 Watt power portable inverter. This absolutely saved the day.

But I’ve been using the Renogy power needs calculator and come to realize that to do most of what I “need” out in the wood puts me somewhere at 5000 Watt-hours per day.

In essence, that means having a bank of some 50 solar panels to even get close!

That’s not about to happen either. 

This means complementing the power load with additional sources–wind, hydro, and thermal.

Going in this direction also gets tricky because these other sources generate electricity differently from solar.

What I’m saying is you don’t walk out into the woods, plop down a wind turbine, dangle a few wires from a pole, and connect them to the same box that’s feeding a 300 Watt inverter.

So, I’m completing my plans for how to make this work.

Water sources in the woods of the UP

Water is one of the four basic needs of human and dog life.

Last summer, I made a habit of buying more water each time we ventured into Marquette, Michigan, a fair drive from our remote location.

On average, I kept a minimum of 10 gallons on hand at all times. 

That worked for me and Maycee, but this also created limitations.

A couple of times I was able to “shower” by standing out in the rain and giving myself a wash.

Rainwater, even in the summer in the UP, doesn’t get all that hot.

2023 hydration and irrigation plans

Thanks to Katie and Greg from This Off-Grid Life on YouTube, I learned this winter about “ram pumps.”

Katie mentioned that they had seen a video from a family in Panama using one. This led to watching multiple videos of The Nomadic Movement.

How ram pumps work. 

It’s a matter of physics, but basically, hydraulic pressure, free from the need for electricity, pushes captured running water high up a hill and over crazy terrain.

You can watch the video below for more. They’re not expensive to build, PVC pipe and hoses are probably the greatest costs.

Our MIND BLOWING Off-Grid Water System / diy ram pump install

Aside from the shameless sexual exploitation of this married mom’s nipples, (yesterday morning was a thumbnail of her in purple leggings that featured every nanometer of the place God split her), their ram pump worked and delivers water uphill. If Little Red Riding Hood’s grandma lived in their house in Panama, (not Florida) this would give new meaning to the phrase, “Over the river and through the woods….”

That was a cool video, where do I buy a ram pump and how much are they?

The DIY ram pump in The Nomadic Movement‘s video costs somewhere around $130 US to build. (Seriously, y’all down in Panama, I’m sickened by the regular vulgar exploitation of your wife, Kaylee. Stop it.)

eBay has various-priced ram pumps for sale, pre-made.

This would be a plug-and-play deal, with a little bit of work.

A couple of springs on the land in the Upper Peninsula would lend to this project. 

How close they are to the hill remains to be seen. At one point, I calculated that it was 1,400 feet from one spring I located last year.

I need to find springs closer to the hill if I go in this direction.

The 2023 waste management plan

This goes beyond packing one’s trash.

Yes, I packed our trash and hauled it out.

But aside from walking around with a little trowel all the time for other wastes, well, one of the first things to do upon arrival is to construct a compost toilet.

There are still a few issues to resolve, but for the urine converter, I’ve found a couple of alternatives that will work, for free.

Getting packed and on the road.

Like most living off the grid, I’m loading as much as possible into tubs and wooden crates.

This will make them easier, and more difficult, to all load into my Chevy Traverse.

What won’t cram into one of the containers will stay rolled up or folded and then crammed into gaps.

The critical part is leaving and having enough room in the back for Her Majesty, Maycee Grace.

Maycee is on the large side of most Great Pyrenees. So she takes up about 8 cubic feet, at the least, in the back. If only I could strap her onto the car’s top!

We’ll get things loaded, but it’s going to take some tier-building and effort.

To Conclude

I look forward to leaving the hot and muggy South behind and our return trip to the UP.

My “To Do” list shortens, and then just as many, and more items, appear.

The other day I told Maycee I’m going to reach a point real soon when I rip the scab off, and northward we will be on the way to the UP.

My chores will get done; Not in my time, but in God’s.

Here I witness to you. Since my back injury in May 2016, God has taught me much about patience.

That things happen in his time, not mine.

Many of us seem to find learning to “let go, and let God,” difficult.

A blurred line often exists between “reasonable” and “going too far” with the concept.

Google Bard v. Open.ai’s ChatGPT Advice.

Last Thursday I gave my list of to-dos to the task managers available in Google’s Bard and ChatGPT.

Rest assured, this article was not written by generative artificial intelligence. No, not one word.

I’ve experimented with these products a great deal in 2023. More to follow about this, too.

My point is, however, I’m working my lists in the order of importance suggested by each large language model.

Thanks for reading. Please join my email list, you’ll see a signup form in the footer below.

I look forward to getting to the UP and getting busy.


There’s a cardinal bird attempting to mate with my rearview mirror

Cardinal bird excited about seeing its possible mate in my rearview mirror

Nature is always full of surprises and this cardinal bird is no exception.

It’s spring in the southern United States.

The cardinals and robins have returned to the area over the last month or so.

This one particular bird has spent an inordinate amount of time trying to mate and feed its reflection in my passenger-side rearview mirror.

Video of a cardinal bird attacking my passenger side rearview mirror.

Cardinal Attacking Car Mirror

2023 tent camping preparations underway

This begins the 2023 tent camping video series for DonaldJClaxton.com.

If you like the video, please follow the video over to YouTube and like and subscribe.

I hope you enjoy this particular insight into birding. There are many videos of cardinals doing the same thing on YouTube, however, most are with a single camera.

That kind of thing doesn’t work for me.

I wanted to find a different approach to what many of you can find in your own worlds.

Thanks for checking this out, and come back often. The 2023 tent camping season is underway, at least I’m making preparations for it.