Living in the WoodsPosted on: January 16, 2010
Living in the Woods
I moved to the woods of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan several years ago. Having been born and raised in Detroit and then living in a ‘rural’ community, I wasn’t sure I was prepared for the isolated life I chose. I could never go back now. My mate, Peter, and I were both from Detroit, both the kids of cops. We didn’t know each other back then, but it was one of the things that drew us together. We each understood the stress of that childhood – and the desire to get away from it. Each of us had moved to a quieter rural area, where we met. But that quieter rural wasn’t so rural anymore, and it wasn’t quiet either.
So we moved to the UP. Yes, I know, it was extreme, but not for me – it was perfect. The neighbors were no longer thirty feet away, they were a mile or two or ten miles away. Perfect.
As “Baby Boomers”, we had it all three cars, six TV’s, three VCR’s, car phones, two computers, a boat, two houses, and vacations to the Caribbean twice a year, but something was lacking. A freedom that doesn’t come being tied to a job or a business. So we decided to become…. Homesteaders.
I did not seek out free land and stake a claim. (Personally I think that’s a myth.) So many think that’s what homesteading is all about. It isn’t . It’s being independent. It’s being free.
I purchased 160 acres of hard wood forest, Pete adding another 80 acres a few years later for a total of 240 acres. Together we self-financed and built our dream home in the middle. Well, it was close to the middle. Wanting to cut down as few trees as necessary, we utilized existing old logging trails to select a building site. We first saw the property in October, 1993, when all the Maple trees were golden yellow and the ground cover was still green and lush. From where we parked, it was a five minute walk down an old logging trail, one that had been used by horse-drawn sleds. The music of running water drew me to a small creek. The steep slope created a tiny waterfall, splashing over fallen logs and ancient boulders. I fell in love with the property on sight, and signed the papers on the trunk of the Realtor’s car. Even though I was the one paying cash for the property, I put both names on the deed (there‘s a lesson here). We were a team, and we were both paying out to build the house. Little did I know that exactly ten years later, to the date, I would be signing papers again, with the same Realtor, on the trunk of his car, to sell the property I grew to love.
Of course we had to give up a few things to live in the woods, such as electricity, phones, cable, etc. I’m kidding! Well, almost. There were solar panels that charged a bank of batteries for limited power, and the cellular reception was iffy, but there was a flush toilet and running water. Hey, it was better than a tent, right? I knew concessions would have to be made. After all, we were ten miles from the nearest power lines and over a mile off the nearest county maintained dirt road. Many of our friends and family thought we were,… well, nuts. We had to be crazy to give up civilization for a life of hard work and deep snows, a life of black flies and black nights, a life of peace and quiet and tranquility, a life of independence and self sustenance. I think you can guess what I thought!
The biggest adjustment that I had to make, next to having an ice box instead of a refrigerator, was in heating and cooking. One of the goals was to be as self reliant as possible, and that meant heating and cooking with the wood we gleaned and cut from our own woods.
Cooking on a woodstove has been a real challenge, but since I just love to cook, I adjusted quickly. I forage regularly for wild mushrooms and in-season delicacies such as fiddle heads, cattail flowers and ramps. And I take great pride in the fact that I store my summer harvest by either canning or drying for use during the long and snowy winters.