My latest field trip, remote places in Alaska.

17 years of intensive study of Alternative Power Production has made me a skeptic in so many ways. It’s not that there isn’t good equipment and decent investments, it’s that there are so many people who would sell you the wrong thing in order to profit off your investment. People in Government are amongst the larger crooks, it’s my opinion, and I feel it’s an educated one.

The end of the road is often the beginning of the Journey.


It took hours by plane, and two days of travel by truck to arrive at the end of the road, and there my journey began.

Eagle’s 2007 Flood is an example of what Nature can deliver, there are high water marks on some buildings, but many were crushed by ice and ground to bits. There’s heavy equipment that was twisted up like a pretzel, and all a reminder of what mother nature can deliver.

Alaska itself is an interesting study, there’s a complex spiderweb of subsidies that makes it difficult to discover the real cost of food, energy, or much of anything.  In areas outside of the Boroughs, there’s no property taxes, and inside the Boroughs, there’s near insanely high fees for things like sewer that are tied to water usage. Water the lawn, or wash the car? Not a good idea, not even if the water is cheap and plentiful.

I have always appreciated the simplicity of evaluating the off grid investment for Electricity, no need to compare the cost of a Kwh from the Mains, as they are not there to make use of. But it’s good to know the price of commercial power nearest your off grid site, just to know what you might be missing or gaining.

On this latest trip, I explored some on my own, in other cases, I was tutored some by my Alaska born friend Chuck F, he opened the doors to houses and homesteads, and small town power plants, and one of the first things I attempted to grasp is what people do in order to live and even thrive at minus 60F and below?

As I have often said, there are two basic plans for living off grid, one is living with a woman, and the other is living off grid without them.  A good study is Jim McGlothlin in Eagle, I instantly liked Jim and had the pleasure of sharing some time with him. He’s a Geologist by trade, a welder by his imagination. I’ve never seen better cabin construction, logs so closely fitted by Jim, that a proton couldn’t be squeezed between any of the logs in his work, but Chuck says it takes him a month to fit a new log. Of course Jim and Chuck have a long list of Jabs for each other.

But like many if not most men in remote areas in Alaska, Jim’s cabin is not so neat and tidy, and it doesn’t bother him at all to tell every person who sets in his guest chair not to squirm around too much, or the chair will fall apart. And that engine block in the corner, and the drill press next to the cookstove, it’s a handy thing, as you can stir a pot while you’re drilling that hole in a part for your gold dredge.

But just down river maybe 15 miles is Andy Bassish and Kate. It’s even more isolated here and how different does he live? I’ve watched the TV show ‘life below zero’, and I’ve wondered, is this the perfect environment to learn what really works and what doesn’t? Does the high cost of fuel, and the extreme effort to get new parts and or repairs cause you to do more research before you make an investment? What feminine touches does Kate bring to the house?

Andy comes off as a ‘hot head’ at times in the TV show, and I wondered how much he really knew and what makes him tick? How much does he think he knows, and is he into  learning from others?

Chuck and I made a run down river to the 70 mile, there we spent an incredible day looking at the geology, fishing, and enjoying a piece of the planet few get to see.  No need to beat the clock, as the sun never really sets this time of year, but it was a decent hour as we arrived to Calico Bluff, and just up from there is Andy and Kate’s place, we decided to stop in, but Andy knew we might do that.

I saw a new wind turbine, and a modest solar PV investment, a thousand watts, maybe a tad more. And a new house under construction.  There’s a comfortable looking temporary house with a comfortable front porch, and a retired 17 year old sled dog napping.  I thought about the 2007 flood, and all that Andy and Kate have done to recover.

It was a very pleasant visit, and I found Andy and Kate gracious hosts who made the time to show us around and explain what they were doing. Andy has done some amazing things, and one was loading an HD24 woodmiser saw mill onto two boats, and moving it down the Yukon to their place. I am very familiar with this mill, I have moved mine down the road, and it will push a truck when you’re stopping! I’m still not sure how he managed to load and unload that mill onto and off of two boats.

But there’s other things to be impressed with, like building a raft in Dawson and bringing a D4 sized Dozer to their place. It may not be as much of an engineering feat, but certainly shows his determination. Plus it’s and old dozer, and you need talent to keep out of trouble, and in his environment you could permanently lose a dozer to the mud.

His choice of equipment was outback for the Solar PV, and the 3KW Wisper wind turbine uses a Xantrex inverter, and all has been reliable so far. Kate did mention that the Wisper can sound like a helicopter at times, and we need factor that the silence in their world is something few of us will ever experience, so to spoil it is a larger sin there.


Kate and Andy's greenhouse  August 2014

Kate and Andy’s greenhouse August 2014

What does Andy have for a Generator? What does he thin he needs? What he has, and what he says he needs tells me he has a lot of hands on experience. Andy is no wannabe Bushman, he is a Bushman, and he is always looking to learn more, no way he’d tell you he knows it all, he is another man in learning mode, as most real DIYers are.

It’s my hope, and I’ll even say a prayer that the river and all of nature is good to both of them the rest of their days. Consider watching life below zero, Andy and Kate are no pretenders.

Years of study on my part, and still so much to learn…




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5 Responses to My latest field trip, remote places in Alaska.

  1. Greg West says:

    Great write up George.
    Those folks up in Alaska and other inhospitable places are made of better stuff than I.
    When we were looking for where to go off grid, the criteria set forth was to try to be somewhat minimalistic while still in relative comfort, so Hawaii seemed much less equipment intensive. Heck, we even bundle up in hoodies and sweat pants most every morning, but then again we came to escape the Houston heat. I reckon our blood is thin.

    When y’all come out to visit us, try to make it in the dead of winter so you can see how we deal with the +48F early morning and +70F day temps. We hope to have the wood stove installed by then.

  2. Paul Bird says:

    Wow George so cool, what an inspiring write up!

    We brits, living like chickens as we do, moan like crazy at the slightest hint of adversity, ‘good grief Lesley why do we pay these power companies, it’s been 5 WHOLE FLIPPING MINUTES THE POWER HAS BEEN OFF!! Yes Bertie, it’s an outrage, flabberghasted.’

    What an education it would be for our young people to have to fend for themselves for a while in this environment, might make some deeper thought processes start! God forbid we think outside the box!! Who knows what that may lead to….

    Very interesting article, I’d love to go see for myself, but I’d never come back. Vermont got it’s hooks into me a while back, came away with a ton of ideas, Alaska would blow my mind.

    Bring on the adversity, it makes us grow backbones and shakes the fairy dust out of our ears!

    • George B. says:

      Paul, I’ll put more of my Adventure up at some point. Great comments Paul, it’s amazing how we DIYers think alike, matters not if we are in UK, CA, NZ, USA, or other places. We will always be better off than the people who so desparetly need their nannies and a wet teat.

  3. Terry Rusell says:

    hey George you still around Terry in Manley Hot Spring ALASKA ,

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