I don’t want to get too carried away and tell the same stories over and over but I got to see Harry Anderson just yesterday at the Western Washington State Fair. He lived here in Kent, Washington for sixty plus years, but high property taxes and the fact that King County wouldn’t let Harry divide his acreage into 5 acre parcels after paying taxes for so many years drove him to leave the state.
It was perhaps the best thing that’s ever happened to him, and he found a perfect chunk of paradise just outside of Petersburg Alaska. It was like finding his real place on earth, and he pinches himself each morning to make sure it’s real. But our State fair is tradition, and no matter how stubborn a guy is, you don’t give in to tradition.
Harry returns each year to work a booth at the fair, and to visit friends down here. I take certain liberties with our Friendship, like the lie I told him about this little video clip, I guess it’s not a total lie, as I’ll certainly tell “Herk” a mutual friend he can see the video clip at the UtterPower.com YouTube channel, or view it below.
Harry was several years ahead of me in school, and we didn’t meet up until I got out of the Navy. We met at a mutual friend’s house and have enjoyed each other’s company ever since. I remember talking to one of his classmates, she said Harry was always good at math, and always a nice guy. Good at math, and stubborn as hell.
The power company wanted a bit of money to string power back to his piece of property. He told them it was a totally unreasonable amount of money, and he’d never buy power from them if that’s the way it was going to be. Forty years later, Harry was getting by just fine without Puget Power, and still bathing in a shower house below his spring.
As you might have already guessed, this way of life has seasoned Harry for Life in Alaska, and our mutual friends come back from visiting Harry complaining that you can barely get Harry to turn up the heat when your boots are frozen fast to his floor! Harry is a walking encyclopedia of outdoor and survival skills, if you talk to him about chopping wood, you’d have never guessed there was as much science involved. Finding mushrooms, fishing, bee keeping, so many things he knows, and it’s all because he’s structured his life around the pursuit of knowledge and enjoying the things he likes to do versus collecting junk and things none of us really need. While Harry was here in Washington, he taught a number of skills at Green River Community College including fishing, and he even took the kids on field trips to practice their new skills.
There’s lots of advantages to Harry’s style of living, but perhaps one of the more obvious is he doesn’t pay taxes on the knowledge he’s collected, and he’s shed a pretty good sized tax burden down here, in exchange for next to none in Alaska. It’s not that Harry is cheap, he’s really a very generous man, he just doesn’t believe others should tell him how his money is going to be spent.
Over the years, I’ve expressed interest in two things Harry had, and I found both of them delivered to my door as a gift. No way you’ll buy a thing from Harry, and you just need to wait 5, 10 or maybe even 20 years till he needs something… then you deliver it back to his door 🙂
Maybe a visit to Petersburg is in order where I’d likely eat smoked fish till I got tired of it.. is that possible ?
Below is old utterpower content of Harry’s way of living.
All the best,
The Harry Anderson Pages – Making Your Own Power
I met him in the early 70s, He wore his hair close cropped and didn’t pay much attention to what was in style. He was always clean and close shaven, but he didn’t have electricity or running water. We’d visit at a mutual friend’s house and Harry would talk about breaking ice down at the spring house where he took his morning shower.
Through the years I’ve come to know Harry pretty well, He’s mentioned more than once the story about the local power company wanting to charge him an arm and a leg to bring the power into the OLE homestead where he hangs his hat.
It’s probably not more than 1000 feet off a paved road, but the cost of bringing in power was more than Harry was willing to pay. Visiting his place is always fun, when you turn up his drive, you travel through a marsh area that provides privacy and a buffer from the road, you turn left and side hill up about 75 feet above the stream.
Tall Douglas firs, and big Cedar trees grow here, there’s a thick carpet of moss in places, and well worn animal trails leading down to the stream.
Harry has several acres cleared where fruit trees grow, and a garden is planted, the sunlight finds it’s way through the clearing performing its magic. The old cabin looks no different than the first time I saw it thirty years ago.
To the right of the cabin is a shed made of hand split cedar boards. The frame is made of poles peeled long ago. The doors of the shed haven’t been fully closed for some years, Harry’s old Piper Cub doesn’t quite fit, the cowling and wheels hang out the front looking totally out of place. . Harry is going to get around to fixing it some day…. but I think he’s just as likely to pay an electric bill as finish putting the Piper together, Harry is full of surprises, so I’m not placing any bets.
Behind the cabin is an old Merc, with a 63 plate, Harry’s Brother “John” parked it here when he went into the Service, I think he always planned on getting back to pick it up, but you know how things go, a guy gets busy and just never gets around to it.
To the right of the clearing is a Ford pickup, although its covered with moss, it only has 77,000 miles on the odometer, Harry parked it during a gas crunch, and bought a foreign car. I don’t think it’s moved since.
Dropping over the side of the hill towards the marsh, you find a short trail lined with stepping stones, at the end of the path, you find what’s left of the homestead spring house and a shower house.
Harry had a boat wench that raised a drum full of water into the air providing water pressure to the shower head, don’t know exactly how he’s got it set up now, but it doesn’t use electricity, that’s for sure.
A few weeks back, Harry dropped over to my place, I was putting a fresh coat of wax on the Chinese Diesel I bought from Joel Koch. I could tell just by looking at Harry that it was love at first sight. Harry ran his hand across the flywheel and moved it slowly till it hit the compression stroke. I didn’t wait for him to ask, I handed him the start handle and pointed out the compression release. “Ok Harry, set that governor control down another quarter inch and lock her down, then wind her up as fast as you can and let go of the compression release”.
Harry wasted no time, as he turned it over I pointed out the “click, click, click” was the fuel injector firing. Harry let go of the compression release and the engine blew two big smoke rings and came to life with a steady idle. Harry stroked the gas tank and fondled the fuel line going down to the fuel filter, he finally looked up and said ” I’ve got to have one of these”.
As of this date, Harry has purchased both the Diesel and a Generator head for his own DIY extended run Generator. Since Harry’s approach to living and problem solving is a little different, you might enjoy following his progress. Maybe he’ll have power in time to celebrate his 60th birthday?
Harry’s new machine still has the Evap cooling in place, but it’s ready for running at low speed for it’s break in. The cooling system will provide hot water for the shower house.
Another Trip to Harry’s on May 10th 2002
After giving considerable thought to the placement of the generator set, Harry decided to remove an old homestead structure and use the poured concrete floor that was under all the rubble. There’s some concern about fuel oil and lube oil getting into the spring so he decided to place a pan under the generator and to build the power house out of block and seal the floor and the bottom row of blocks.
Harry thinks the block house will hold the noise and be a trouble free fire retardant structure. It is also central to the cabin and the spring house where the majority of the electric power will be used.
Here’s the location of the power house, look at the earlier picture and you can see that an old log structure has been cleared away so the concrete floor could be reused.
Note the spring house to the right of the new powerhouse location. Here’s what’s below the spring house, water runs at more than 20 gallons a minute year around from this spring, I don’t know how much drop there is, but I would think this might spin a micro water turbine. Here’s a better view of the powerhouse floor.
December 7, 2002
Harry showed up at my place this week with a progress report on his generator house. He’s planning to be ready any week now; I figure I need to go out and take a picture of what he’s got done.
April 23, 2003
I dropped by Harry’s place to see how he was doing on his generator shed. As a person might expect, if you have waited more than thirty years to install a power source, you can probably wait another year or so to do it the way you want, and the effort should never conflict with fishing, or any other thing you like to do.
As I was driving up; Harry was just about to lift the canoe onto the car rack to go fishing. We talked about his progress, and the design of his generator shed. He shared his concern about rushing into things, and how he thought it was good that he had been proceeding slowly giving himself plenty of time to work out the design and details.
Of greatest concern is the fuel oil and the need to protect his pristine water source that is down hill from the power shed. Harry has decided to place a pan under the engine and fuel system to catch anything that might drip. As a back up to that, he is planning to lay down some saw dust on the down hill side of the shed that would hold any diesel that might run off the slab.
Harry said he knew he was behind schedule, but thought he’d be ready to place the engine and gen set by June… we’ll see.. Picture above showing Harry’s progress. He warns that the six inch block hes decided to work with are not working out the way he wanted, but it’ll make a shed.
Some regular readers may have come back to see how things have progressed on Harry’s installation. One thing for sure, a Man who has lived without electricity for 30 or more years is probably not in a rush to get it. Harry is just about ready for the roof, I didn’t check for moss growing on the blocks, but it’s not far off.
Progress is made! Harry stopped by my shop and asked if I like wild mushrooms? “Sure do I replied”, Harry mentioned that the Trilliums are in bloom, and this is the sign it’s time to look for Morels. I grabbed my coat, and we headed for Harry’s place, we worked the lower end of his property pushing three deer a few hundred feet ahead of us; “I don’t think they like to get too far from Harry’s garden”.
About 45 minutes later; we walked from the woods with pounds of fresh mushrooms, what a great way to spend a lazy warm spring day. It’s just possible that Harry will have his generator set up before the end of summer. In between fishing trips, hunting mushrooms, and his busy social calendar; Harry has laid up a few blocks, and has the roof underway.
Consider how different things are when you don’t spend three quarters of you waking hours working to pay bills. Harry’s worries are more about the deer eating his garden, people discovering his favorite fishing holes, and trying to find out who wrote the unsigned note stuck on his cabin door. Yes…. it’s a different life, and Harry lives it.
So.. what happened to Harry? did he ever get his generator set up? The answer is no, Harry became so disgusted by the rise in his property taxes in King County, Washington, he decided to move to Alaska, his new home is off grid, no power unless you make it..
Harry will likely be right at home in Petersburg Alaska. Want to meet him? Go to the Library, there’s a good chance he’s there reading, and if they allow coffee in there, he’ll have a cup in hand.