25 Reasons Why Living In The Alaskan Bush Is Awesome (And 5 Reasons Why It’s Not)

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The Alaskan bush is unlike anywhere else on earth, and it is an amazing place to live. Life out here is no walk in the park, but there are plenty of reasons why I never want to leave!

25 Reasons Why Living In The Alaskan Bush Is Awesome (And 5 Reasons Why Its Not) SledDogSlow.com

1. Fresh air

Anyone who’s traveled to the country from a big city knows all about fresh air. You can just breathe easier without all the dust, dirt, and car exhaust kicked up from city life. This also helps with reason #2 why living in the Alaskan bush is awesome…

2. The smell

There’s nothing quite like the smell of moss and trees and growing things. No smog out here!

3. No noisy neighbors

There worst thing about neighbors living in the city for me was noise. Cars pulling up and leaving all hours of the day and night, couples fighting, people mowing their lawns ridiculously early on a Sunday morning. There’s none of that in the bush. When our closest neighbors are out, we don’t know unless they call us, even when they are running a chainsaw or driving an excavator!

4. No solicitors

There’s no one coming door to door selling magazines or window tints. Knowing there aren’t any strangers that will come knocking makes it much easier to just be. Unfortunately this also means no girl scout cookies without making a trip to town.

5. Clothing is optional

Yup. I said it. Honestly, I hate clothes. Unless I’m leaving home or having visitors I’m pretty much always naked. I might put on clothes if I expect to get scuffed up doing chores, but if I can avoid getting dressed I do!

6. Almost no bills

Once you get set up (which can be expensive) the monthly bills for bush living are almost nil. Insurance and a phone bill are our only monthly expenses. We buy gas for the generator in the winter, fill up our rigs, buy groceries and the occasional incidentals. Living out here is much cheaper than our lives in the city were.

7. Freedom

There are no HOA’s or building permits in the bush. I can put a garden in my front yard if I want, or paint my cabin lime green. I can do fun, funky things when building that wouldn’t be acceptable inside city limits (check out this cool Alaskan bush house: Goose Creek Tower). There is a lot more freedom to do what you want with your land when living this far out.

8. No bathroom to clean

No scrubbing the toilet bowl when the bathroom is an outhouse! When the bathroom is ‘messy’ you just dig a new hole and move it.

9. No light pollution

If you really want to see the stars, the Alaskan bush is the place to be. The skies are so clear here it’s even possible to see that the night sky isn’t really all black.

10. Northern Lights viewing

The Alaskan bush is also an amazing place to see the northern lights. Clear, dark skies in the middle of nature just add an extra bit of aw to seeing the Aurora Borealis.

11. Adventure

From seeing bears in the driveway, to moose chasing us on 4 wheelers, there is never a dull moment in the bush!

12. Fresh food

Alaskan summers might be short, but the long summer days are good for foraging and gardening. Those long summer days also make for…

13. Giant Vegetables

Having 20 hours (or more) of sunlight a day makes for huge vegetables. Just check out these cabbage at the Alaskan State Fair:

14. Endless summer days

There are lots of places in the bush where the sun doesn’t set at all. There’s a reason why Alaska is called the land of the midnight sun! This leaves lots of time for adventuring and exploring Alaska. This also means lots of daylight to get things done in preparation for winter.

15. Winter sports

Opposite of endless summer days are the short winter days. Luckily these days are filled with snow and snow sports. Snow machining (yes, it’s snow machining here, not snow mobiling) is a huge deal here, both for fun and just to get around. There are lots of places in the Alaskan bush that can only be explored by snow machine in winter due to being marshy bog in summer. There’s also snowkiting (think wind surfing with a snow board), ice climbing, and of course sled dog racing.

16. Blueberries

At least in our little part of the bush, there are blueberries everywhere. And blueberries just make me happy!

17. Fishing and hunting

There is tons of opportunity for hunting and fishing in the Alaskan bush. Depending on where in the bush you are, there is also subsistence hunting and fishing for those who live so far away from cities and towns. This means the regulations are a little different, from extended hunting seasons to greater bag limits depending on what animals are being harvested.

18. Wildlife viewing

There’s nothing quite like being up close with nature. From watching spawning salmon to flying eagles, living in the bush gives ample opportunity for viewing wildlife.

19. No traffic

I always hated sitting in a grid lock, and I flat refused to drive in some cities when we lived in Washington (Seattle for starters). Living in the bush means no traffic because there are no roads. Not everyone owns a 4 wheeler, snow machine or air plane. It cuts out a lot of looky loo traffic when people don’t have the rigs needed to get out here.

20. Getting paid to live here

Did you know you get paid to live in Alaska? There are a lot of rules around it, like having lived in Alaska an entire year, but if you qualify for the Permanent Fund Dividend you could get anywhere from $300-2,000 depending on the year. Getting paid to live where you love? Count me in!

21. Cool summers

I always refer to myself as a desert baby. I’m used to flat, sandy land and hot, dry summers. Our summer this year has barely had a day over 70°. Considering it’s supposed to reach 109° this week where I grew up, I gotta say I’m very happy to be living in the bush.

22. Affordable Land

Land is pretty cheap when it’s hard to get to. As long as you don’t mind a loooooong ‘driveway’, the Alaskan bush is a great place to live. I often call the beach our driveway, and it takes us an hour to get from our cabin to a road, and that’s if we can get to the road at all!

23. Few bugs

Because of Alaska’s long, cold winters, there aren’t many bugs. We have the occasional wasp nest, and a spider or two but nothing like back in Washington. We used to have vegetable fields just covered in spider webs there! It’s nice to be able to walk through the trees and not get a face full of web.

24. Natural silence

With no neighbors, no traffic, and no solicitors the silence is glorious. We’ve got natural forest sounds from birds and squirrels, and when the tide is high we can hear the ocean from our little bit of forest. It’s a little disconcerting to hear ocean in the woods at first, but now it’s one of my favorite sounds here. Not being surrounded by city sounds is an awesome plus to living in the Alaskan bush.

25. You get to tell people you live in the Alaskan bush

People equate living in the bush with being crazy and lucky and crazy lucky. You have to really want to make things work to live out here. As you can see from this list, all the work is so worth it!

Now obviously living in the Alaskan bush isn’t all fun and games, there are a few downsides as well.

1. Mosquitoes

While there aren’t many other bugs out here, mosquitoes are plentiful. And there are a dozen different types as well. Some hurt when they bite, some aren’t noticeable, and some don’t even leave you itching. But they are all in your face, mouth and eyes when you get into certain areas, and Deet is about the only thing that keeps them off you! We also use a SkeeterVac on our homestead, which greatly cuts down on the overall population. Oh, and the mosquitoes can be BIG too!

2. There’s no such thing as a quick trip to the store

If you don’t have everything you need to make pumpkin pie, then you won’t be making it. Living in the bush means living hours from the closest store, and that means no running to grab a gallon of milk. Making a trip to the store takes all day, so it needs to be planned accordingly.

3. Isolation

Even though I like not having full time neighbors, it can be a pain when you need help. Sometimes you just end up spending hours doing something by yourself rather than making your closest neighbor drive 45 minutes to be a second set of hands. Sometimes I have to remind myself that this is the life I wanted and I have to take the bad with the good!

4. Being stuck

At least in our piece of Alaskan bush heaven, there is a lot of being stuck. Summer means no going anywhere during high tide, during the freeze the beach is covered in ice burgs and the inland trail is still too mushy to drive on. We get snowed in sometimes during winter, and during spring break up we end up with a flooded trail and a beach that’s too icy and soft to drive on (this is why we loose vehicles folks).

5. Adventure and catastrophe happen every single day

If you ever think you might want to take a weekend off and lounge about, then living in the bush is not for you. From broken vehicles (once, or twice, or three times), to coming home and finding bears or moose in the yard, owls in the chicken coop, and sharks in the salmon nets.

There isn’t much time to relax out here, but living in the bush is awesome!

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Rookie Mistakes We Made As Beginning Homesteaders

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I’ll be the first to admit that when we first started our homesteading journey, we made a lot of rookie mistakes. We spent to much on things we didn’t need. Then we turned around and didn’t buy things we really should have. We skipped around when adding animals, buildings and tools. That is, until we learned to prioritize better. We have learned a lot of lessons the hard way. Starting a homestead from scratch, and building all our own infrastructure, is much harder than I had ever imagined it could be. Hopefully writing this all down will help you avoid a few of the mistakes we made!

Rookie Mistakes We Made As Beginning Homesteaders - Sled Dog Slow

Our biggest rookie mistake was not planning anything.

Sure we had ideas for what we wanted to do, and we wrote things down, but we never really had a set plan. There was no “house goes here, chickens go here, garden goes here” kind of plan. Not until we had already put the chickens too close to the house. So as we expanded we just threw things where it was convenient right then, rather than were we knew we wanted them permanently. If we had planned better we could have saved ourselves from a lot of the other mistakes. A homestead planning binder is necessary to keep everything organized.

Another mistake we made was jumping in to new things without preparing.

We’d get an idea and go for it. More chickens? Heck yeah. Pigs? Lets do it! Greenhouse and garden? Check! And then the inevitable fail. We wanted everything to work and be productive right away. Kyle was so disappointed to find out our chickens wouldn’t lay until the spring after we purchased them. At least we were able to push our pig order back to this summer, and have learned enough to hold off on beehives and other animals until next year.

We didn’t understand the weather in our new area well either.

Personally, coming from a desert area, I didn’t truly understand what living in a rainforest meant until we were hit by our first rainy season here. A little drowned garden and a lot of mud later, know I know how wet it can be! It also helps to know where the low spots collect so we can avoid building there. We also thought we were prepared for long winters, but they are much longer and darker than I could have imagined!

Also, we made the mistake of not budgeting from the beginning.

We have spent so much money on materials for our homestead, when we should have just invested in a saw mill from the beginning. Small purchases can add up really quickly. We should have figured out sooner that just because something is new doesn’t make it better. At least we have a few places we know to go for cheap homestead goods now!

The biggest lesson we’ve learned in starting our homestead from scratch is that it’s okay to go slow.

There is no reason to push to the point of injury to get everything done in one day. Pacing yourself in the endless work (it is endless) of beginning a homestead is extremely important. There should always be a realistic timeline for goals to be completed. This will save so much frustration down the line.

All things aside, we are still learning on our homestead journey. I’m sure there will be many more mistakes and lessons for us in the future!

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5 Risks When Living Life By The Tides

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5 Risks When Living Life By The Tides - Sled Dog Slow

One of the biggest challenges of where we live is our access. We live off road, and how we get to our home changes by the season. During the fall freeze and spring break up we are stuck on our property. During winter there is a 4 wheeler trail that, depending on the weather, can be driven on with a truck, wheeler, or snow machine. And during the summer, well, during the summer we live life by the tides.

Living life by the tides brings with it certain risks, and a lot of adventure!

Risk Number One: The possibility of getting stuck mid-beach with tide coming in.

We live about 15 miles from the end of the road. This means 15 miles of beach driving that has to be timed just right. The tide also goes right up to the cliff face, and there only two spots between our place and the road that you can get off the beach. There have been several times where we have left our wheeler on the beach and walked home. Either due to break downs or not being able to drive around a rocky point without flooding the engine, missing tide is never fun. There is even the possibility of sitting as far up the cliff as is manageable for several hours to wait out tide if the timing is wrong.

Risk Number Two: Getting Out In Case Of A Medical Emergency

On our beach there are two high tides and two low tides each day. During high tide there is no land access to our property, which means for roughly 8-10 hours a day there is no way to go anywhere. I’ve had one major accident out here already, when I fractured my teeth on the wheeler. Luckily that happened at low tide so I was able to drive right to the hospital. By the time the three hour drive to get there was over, my adrenaline was gone and I was starting to hurt. Having to wait for tide before leaving would have been even worse. Any serious emergency during high tide would require being medevaced out via helicopter. That’s not something I ever want to experience!

Risk Number Three: Damage To Vehicles

Ever seen a completely rusted out vehicle in a junkyard? Salt water does that, and really fast. Driving a car, truck or wheeler on the beach means rinsing it every trip (if possible). Even if the vehicle is rinsed, driving on the beach does serious damage to electrical and metal frames. Beach rigs don’t last half as long as road rigs, but this is the only way to get to our place for half the year!

life by the tides

Risk Number Four: Beach Changes

The beach changes every tide, and I really mean every tide. Rocks are moved, driftwood gets pushed around, and the occasional net (or whale) shows up.  The places that were solid last tide are suddenly soft now. Driving on the beach requires 110% concentration, or you end up with risk number five.

Risk Number Five: Loosing A Vehicle Entirely

We got to experience this one yesterday. There is an interesting combination of water/mud/clay on this beach that basically makes quick sand. There are several trashed vehicles on the beach from people getting stuck in this stuff. We got our new (to us) vehicle stuck, and where unable to pull it out with our come along, winch, and two wheelers. At this point we have to leave it until someone else risks a vehicle on the beach, then we will ask for some help getting it towed back to the road. I don’t have my fingers crossed or anything, but there is always the slight possibility that it may run after having all the fluids flushed. Provided the ocean doesn’t take it completely first.

Even with all the risks that our beach brings, and the heartache it’s caused, we are still enjoying every minute of living out here!

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Emergency Preparedness

Emergency Preparedness - SledDogSlow.com
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Emergency preparedness is huge when you live as far from town, and the road, as we do. We ended up snowed in for nearly a month after bringing the truck back. Unfortunately when we bring the truck back our 4 wheeler stays at our parking spot, so we’ve been without a vehicle this whole time. We prepared for the possibility of being stuck this winter before the snow came. These are the things we considered:

1. Food

We bought everything in bulk when we last went shopping, stocking up on staple items as well as animal feed. We also have enough dehydrated emergency food kits to last us 3 months if we need it.

2. Water

We haul water to the homestead from a creek roughly a half mile away. We can bring 20 gallons at a time, either on the 4 wheeler or by pulling it on a sled. Then we put it through our homemade gravity water filter (instructions to make your own here), so we always have water. If anything happened to our water filter we also have life straws as a back up.

3. Shelter/Warmth

We heat our cabin with a wood stove. Luckily we had lots of wood stacked up before we got snowed in. It was a good thing since we can’t haul wood easily without the 4 wheeler! We also have a heater big enough to heat our cabin if we ever needed to use it, and a lot of dead standing trees within walking distance of the cabin.

4. Energy

We have 30 gallons of gas that we keep out here. That will last us 2 months if we use the generator every day, and use the 4 wheeler and chainsaw. We also use our generator to charge our battery bank while we use it, then we use that during the day. Our solar panels are getting more sun every day now, but they still don’t give us a full charge yet. We also have a back up generator, just in case something happens to this one, along with extra oil to maintain it (because maintenance matters, see why here).

5. Knowledge

We’ve done a lot of research on surviving, and thriving, out here. Both for everyday things we should know like understanding weather conditions, and emergency things, like finding water depth from plants. We also have lots of books with good survival knowledge in them (see my post on the books we have here). Between our books and cell phone booster, we should be able to look up anything we might need to know.

A photo posted by Katie Sarvela (@sleddogslow) on


It’s important to be prepared for any situations that may come out way out here. We’ve been caught unprepared before (post here), and I never want to do that again! How do you prepare for emergencies?

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Chaga – The King Of Mushrooms

Chaga - The King Of The Mushrooms - SledDogSlow.com
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Have you ever heard of Chaga? I hadn’t until I moved to this area. Chaga, also known as the King of Mushrooms, is a type of parasitic fungi that is found primarily in birch trees. Luckily we are surrounded by birch here on our property. Chaga is well known folk remedy for many illnesses including cancers, cardiovascular diseases and diabetes. People also swear by it as the reason behind their longevity. And it helps that it doesn’t taste bad either, as its slightly vanilla flavored. There are several hospitals now conducting studies on this mushroom and how it affects the human body. We were told about it by our friends, and they took Kyle and I hunting for it so we would be able to identify it ourselves.

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Chaga is an interesting looking fungi that could easily be confused with a burl on a tree. It looks like a spot where the tree has been injured and burned. The outer shell is hard, rough and black, while the inner portion is also hard, it is more of a burnt orange color.

chaga

It is easy to miss when until you find a few pieces, then it seems like it’s everywhere, at least around here anyway! Chaga is best harvested in the fall and winter when it has stored the most nutrients from its host tree. It must be cut carefully away from the tree. Birch trees can actually “bleed” to death, so damage to the tree must be avoided. Leaving a small piece of Chaga attached to the tree will also allow it to grow back, where it can be harvested again in several years. Pieces smaller than a baseball should be left to grow another year before harvesting. While Chaga is a parasite and will eventually kill it’s host tree, it takes years to do so.

To use Chaga most people make a tea out of it. It shouldn’t be heated to boiling as this will produce a burnt flavor. Chaga can be ground up or simply broken into chunks and steeped in hot water. Chaga tea also tastes good when it is cooled or refrigerated. Kyle and I both tried it and liked it. We plan on harvesting more from our property this fall and winter, and will put some up for sale in our Etsy shop, AlaskanWildArts, as we harvest it!

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